Down on the Farm: Do Giants have their next Matt Duffy in the minors?

Tim Cattera/

Down on the Farm: Do Giants have their next Matt Duffy in the minors?

San Jose Giants play-by-play broadcaster Joe Ritzo knows San Francisco's Advanced Single-A affiliate as well as anyone. This season, he's taking in the play of a talented outfield with top organizational prospects such as the Giants' first pick in 2016, Bryan Reynolds, and the powerful Heath Quinn. 

While he of course has his eyes on the big names, there's an under-the-radar prospect in San Jose that Ritzo has become quite fond of. 

"I really like the young shortstop here, Ryan Howard," Ritzo told Alex Pavlovic on The Giants Insider Podcast. "He flies under the radar here because of Reynolds and Quinn and the outfielders, but all he does is hit." 

That last statement has been particluarly true with Howard this season. Fans witnessed Madison Bumgarner get surprisingly rocked to nine runs in four innings during his rehab start on Wednesday at San Jose Municipal Stadium. As that was far from predictable, Howard's line for the night was. He went 2-for-3 with a double and one RBI. 

Howard's approach to the game brings back memories to Ritzo of two names that should certainly catch the attention of Giants fans. 

"It reminds me of a Christian Arroyo or a Matt Duffy where he's not hitting a bunch of home runs, but he's finding ways to put balls in play," Ritzo says. "He's really hard to strikeout this year and he's just a good, hard-nosed player who does everything the right way."

After a 3-for-3 night on Thursday, Howard has now racked up 102 hits in 74 games, which ranks second in the California League. He owns a .328 batting average (also second in the California League), .360 on-base percentage and a .415 slugging percentage. As Ritzo says, Howard is far from a power hitter, but he has knocked six balls over the fence to go along with nine doubles this season. 

On defense, Howard is seen as an average shortstop. After only playing one position last season, Howard has also found time at third base this year in 23 games, but has seven errors at the hot corner to only two in 50 games at shortstop. 

For his pure hit ability and his long-term position not completely locked in, there's another player he reminds Ritzo of that forced his way up to the Giants this year. 

"Maybe he's someone like an Austin Slater where if you keep hitting .300 every year, eventually you're going to get a shot," said Ritzo.

The Giants liked Howard so much, they drafted him twice. As a sophomore-eligible player the Giants tried to grab him in the 31st round of the 2015 draft, but he played with the collegiate national team instead and returned to Missouri. That was clearly the right call and the Giants stayed on their guy, selecting him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. 

"It's the kind of player the Giants have had a lot of success drafting," says Ritzo, an understatement to say the least with the organization's recent history of drafting middle infielders.

Duffy was never close to a name on a prospect list. Joe Panik didn't garner a bunch of talk either. Ranking systems have been friendlier to Arroyo, yet even he hasn't been seen as a prized prospect despite making the bigs this year at 21 years old. 

If you look at Baseball America, Howard is nowhere among the Giants' top 30 prospects. For MLB Pipeline, he's No. 30. Like Duffy and other Giants infielders have proven in the past, none of this matters. If you hit, that's all that counts. Luckily for Howard, that's all he's been doing for San Jose. 

Around The Horn 

-- ICYMI: Here are the top Giants minor leaguers from June. Yes, 35-year-old Justin Ruggiano made the list.

-- Melvin Upton Jr. joined for the Sacramento River Cats for the first time on July 1. He went 0-for-3 and is apparently dealing with yet another injury after just one game. 

-- Jarrett Parker is struggling in his rehab with the River Cats. The outfielder is now only hitting .208 in 14 games with Sacramento. 

Dodgers lose Justin Turner to broken wrist after getting hit by pitch vs A's


Dodgers lose Justin Turner to broken wrist after getting hit by pitch vs A's

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles third baseman Justin Turner's broken left wrist is expected to heal without surgery, according to Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts.

Turner was hurt Monday when hit by a pitch from Oakland's Kendall Graveman.

Turner arrived at the Dodgers spring training facility with a cast over his wrist Tuesday morning and was scheduled to see a hand specialist for an estimate of the time he could miss.

"We know that it's not a surgery thing, it's just essentially time," Roberts said. "That's the initial thought. That could change but that's what I've heard."

Turner hit .322 with 21 homers and 71 RBIs last year and was a first-time All-Star. He had 14 RBIs against the Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series and was voted MVP.

The Dodgers appear poised to move Logan Forsythe from second base to third in Turner's absence and have Enrique Hernandez and Chase Utley share time at second.

"It obviously makes a lot of sense to have Logan over there a lot more at third, and to kind of put together some guys at second base, and leave Chris (Taylor) in center field," Roberts said.

Backup catcher Austin Barnes also could see time at second base.

Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts


Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants moved closer to setting their opening day roster on Monday when they made a significant round of cuts to their spring training roster. 

A total of 15 players were reassigned or optioned, bringing the total to 31 players remaining in camp. Many of the players cut Monday entered the spring competing for jobs. 

In the outfield, Mac Williamson and Austin Slater were optioned to Triple-A and Chris Shaw was reassigned to minor league camp. Williamson had a huge spring and was the likeliest of the trio to push for an opening day spot, but he'll start his year in the minors. Steven Duggar was not among the cuts, and he remains an option to make the team, with the Giants also looking at Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker for backup spots. Hernandez and Parker are out of minor league options. 

Tyler Beede was optioned and Andrew Suarez was reassigned to minor league camp, leaving three players vying for the final two rotation spots. Ty Blach and Chris Stratton have been the favorites all along, although both struggled the last time out and Derek Holland has had a strong spring. 

Both backup catchers -- Trevor Brown and Hector Sanchez -- were reassigned, along with Orlando Calixte, who saw time in the big leagues last year. Joan Gregorio, Jose Valdez, Justin O'Conner and Kyle Jensen were also reassigned. Chase d'Arnaud, who appeared to be making a strong push, was on the list, too, leaving Josh Rutledge as the only competition for Kelby Tomlinson for the final infield spot. 

Finally, Derek Law and Roberto Gomez were optioned to Triple-A. Josh Osich remains and appears the frontrunner for a bullpen job. Julian Fernandez, the Rule 5 pick, also remains in camp. 

The Giants break camp on Friday.