Down on the Farm: Mac Williamson off to scorching start in Sacramento


Down on the Farm: Mac Williamson off to scorching start in Sacramento

Spring training is a month of baseball where players put together numbers and 97 percent of them get crumpled into a paper ball before Bruce Bochy yells “World B. Free!” and tosses them into a tiny trash can. The three percent that stay on his decision are bigger than his hat. 

When a player makes a fundamental change to his swing and succeeds mightily, the numbers make it to the three percent. Mac Williamson had almost no chance of making the Giants’ Opening Day roster, but it’s time to start looking at his staggering stats. 

“I’m not getting any younger,” Williamson said to Insider Alex Pavlovic at the end of February. “At some point you’ve got to have some success and figure it all out.”

Williamson said that making massive changes to his swing would take time. His goal was to be the player he wants to be in a month two since those quotes. It has now been six weeks and Williamson is playing like a created player in MLB The Show in his fourth stint with the  Sacramento River Cats. 

Debuting his new approach in spring training he learned from Doug Latta — the same instructor who transformed Justin Turner from a player cut by the Mets to a star for the Dodgers — Williamson adapted a high leg kick and low hand placement. The results couldn’t have been better. He hit .318 with four home runs and a 1.061 OPS in the desert. 

Power has always been there for the 27-year-old Williamson, but his swing path saw him pounding balls into the ground. Now with a re-made swing and launch angle that has swept the souls of baseball, Williamson is unleashing what the Giants have known has always been inside of him. 

Williamson’s batting average is now 270 points higher than what he produced in spring training. In the River Cats’ first six games of the year, he is hitting .588. On top of that, five of his 10 hits are either doubles or home runs — three doubles, two home runs — and he's only struck out twice. His 1.784 OPS looks like a typo from someone handed their first calculator.

“In the past I’ve been really active with my shoulders and hands late in the swing instead of just going and attacking the ball,” Williamson said in the same interview with Pavlovic. “I’m trying to just really calm down a lot of that non-essential movement.”

So far, so beyond good. Is this sustainable? Well, not a .588 batting average. But, this is a different case with the powerful outfielder as he drastically changed his approach and swing. If this was the same Williamson starting the season like this fans could reasonably argue that he’s just an older player in Triple-A who is a AAAA player. Maybe that’s true, but now we can take a longer pause when saying maybe not.

At the early stages of the season, the Giants simply don’t have a spot for Williamson right now. Not even the team knows when that could change. For now though, all he can do is continue to show off his new swing and stop, drop and roll when the Human Torch crosses home. 

Around The Horn 

-- Steven Duggar is off to a slow start for the River Cats, but has picked it up the last two games. The center fielder had back-to-back 2-for-4 games. Through five games, he is batting .250 with seven strikeouts and two stolen bases. 

-- Ryan Howard just keeps hitting. The shortstop won't find himself at the top of prospect rankings, instead he's at the top of hitting leaders. Howard hit his first Double-A home run Tuesday and is now hitting .360 for Richmond. 

-- Heliot Ramos is still getting his feet wet in Class A Augusta. The Giants' No. 1 prospect is hitting just .174 in the first five games with eight strikeouts and no walks. Reminder: Ramos is 18 years old.

Chase d'Pitcher? Watch the infielder take the mound for Giants in blowout loss

Chase d'Pitcher? Watch the infielder take the mound for Giants in blowout loss

On April 28, Pablo Sandoval took the mound in a Giants blowout and pitched a perfect inning against the Dodgers.

Nearly four months later, Chase d'Arnaud was called on to pitch in a lost-cause game and almost matched Sandoval.

With the Giants trailing 11-4 in Cincinnati on Sunday, Bruce Bochy had d'Arnaud pitch the bottom of the eighth inning.

The first batter d'Arnaud faced, All-Star third baseman Eugenio Suarez, flew out to right field. Reds right fielder Phillip Ervin ruined d'Arnaud's big for a perfect inning by singling to right. Pinch hitter Preston Tucker followed by flying out to center field. d'Arnaud retired the side by getting second baseman Dilson Herrera to fly out to right field.

Watch the highlights from d'Arnaud's inning of work above.

Giants swept by lowly Reds in Cincinnati, sink deeper into hole

Giants swept by lowly Reds in Cincinnati, sink deeper into hole


CINCINNATI -- Eugenio Suarez and the Cincinnati Reds closed out a nice weekend with another solid day at the plate.

It was quite a response to a tough series against Cleveland.

Suarez hit a two-run homer during Cincinnati's seven-run third inning, and the Reds swept the San Francisco Giants with an 11-4 win on Sunday.

Jose Peraza also hit a two-run homer for last-place Cincinnati, which outscored San Francisco 18-5 in the last two games. Billy Hamilton tripled twice and drove in three runs.

The Reds also swept the Giants in Cincy last season. Nine different Reds scored at least one run, helping Cincinnati bounce back after it was swept by Cleveland.

"Sometimes it is when you play a club," interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "We had a hot Cleveland team, then we get a Giants team that's been struggling with the bats. We got them at the right time."

San Francisco had a chance to sweep Los Angeles before the Dodgers' 12-inning victory on Wednesday night. The Giants then managed just six runs in the sweep by the Reds, extending their slide to four games.

"It's frustrating," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "We didn't hit much, The offense didn't do anything here. We were hoping for more."

Giants left-hander Andrew Suarez (4-9) was tagged for seven runs, five earned, and seven hits in a season-low 2 2/3 innings in the finale.

"I got ahead," Suarez said. "I just couldn't put them away. I didn't have that putaway pitch today. I thought I had good stuff. The location wasn't there."

Giants infielder Chase d'Arnaud worked a scoreless eighth in his first career pitching appearance.

Suarez's career-best 27th homer made it 6-1 in the third. Scooter Gennett hit a two-run triple before Suarez's drive to center.

Curt Casali also had two hits and drove in two runs in Cincinnati's big inning.

"It was an awesome inning," Casali said. "I'm sure I've had two hits in an inning at some point in my career, but not in the big leagues. Any time you put up a crooked number against a club like that, it's important."

Reds right-hander Luis Castillo (7-10) struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings. He was charged with three runs, one earned, and six hits.

"Everything was working for me today," Castillo said. "I was commanding my changeup. My slider was good and I was throwing strikes. I think, like last year, I'm able to throw my pitches in any situation."

Castillo retired 13 straight batters before Stephen Duggar's two-out single in the seventh.

"You look at his velocity," Bochy said, "I don't know of anybody in the National League who throws harder on average, and his changeup was biting. He was on top of his game."

Peraza finished with three hits as Cincinnati closed out a 5-4 homestand. Phillip Ervin had two hits and scored a run.

Brandon Belt became the first first baseman to lead off for the Giants since David Bell on July 6, 2002, at Arizona. Belt went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

Aristides Aquino made his major league debut when he ran for Gennett in the sixth inning. Aquino was recalled from Double-A Pensacola on Friday when Joey Votto was placed on the 10-day disabled list.

The Reds had three triples in one game for the first time since Hamilton, Peraza and Devin Mesoraco tripled against the Dodgers on June 17, 2017. Hamilton is the first Red with two triples in one game since Jay Bruce on May 2, 2015, at Atlanta.

Reds: OF Scott Schebler (strained AC joint in his right shoulder) is set for a rehab assignment with Double-A Pensacola. The Reds hope he will be ready to join them in Chicago during their weekend series with the Cubs.

Giants: LHP Derek Holland (6-8) makes just his second career start against the Mets in Monday's series opener in New York.

Reds: Homer Bailey (1-10) is scheduled to start Monday in Milwaukee. The Reds are 1-15 in Bailey's starts this season.