At the beginning of every baseball season, pitchers typically are ahead of hitters. The same can be said of Giants prospects in the Arizona Fall League.
Hitters must find timing early on to catch up to a 95-mph fastball, then adjust to an 88-mph slider one pitch later. With the AFL being an extension of the minor league season, you would think hitters and pitchers would be on more of an even playing field. Through the first two weeks, that’s far from the truth for the seven Giants prospects on the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Between four pitchers — Garrett Williams, Melvin Adon, Sam Wolff and Chase Johnson — the quadruplet has a 1.79 ERA in 25.1 innings pitched. On the other hand, the trio of Heath Quinn, C.J. Hinojosa and Matt Winn is batting .109 with seven hits in 64 at-bats.
Let’s get back to the good. It all starts with Williams, who was dominant in his third start in the desert against the Mesa Solar Sox. Over four innings, Williams didn’t allow a hit or a run while walking three and striking out four.
"The first two outings were a little struggle for me," Williams said Tuesday to MLB.com. "So I really wished to speed up my tempo, pound the zone and attack the strike zone."
After walking Daz Cameron to start the bottom of the first, Williams struck out the next batter and ended the inning with a double play. The rest of his outing was filled with strikeouts, along with walks and groundouts sprinkled in.
The left-hander struck out the first two batters of the second inning before issuing two consecutive walks and sitting down the third out of the inning on his fourth strikeout. He then followed that with two strikeouts and a groundout in the third inning.
Williams’ final inning of the day started with his seventh strikeout and ended with two consecutive groundouts. Led by Williams’ stellar start, the Scorpions didn’t allow a hit until the leadoff batter in the bottom of the 10th inning of their 2-1 win.
"I think that's a big, big role for [the starter] to set that tempo and the tone of the game." Williams said. "The guys behind me did an awesome job. An all-around great performance from the pitching staff.”
No other Giants pitching prospects took the mound in the win, but all the three hitters were in the starting lineup. Quinn, Hinojosa and Winn went a combined 0 for 10 with eight strikeouts. At least it wasn’t 10 strikeouts.
When asked about seeing homegrown hitters such as Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik and Steven Duggar find success in San Francisco, Quinn told MLB.com: "Seeing their success gives me hope that one day I can be up there with them. I've just got to keep trying to get better and work my way up. I've just got to keep focusing on the little things and try to get better each year.”
There’s still three weeks to go in the AFL, but Giants hitting prospects have a long way to go before catching up to those toeing the rubber.