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Giants minor league review: One big salute to Sacramento

/ by Dalton Johnson
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Thairo Estrada

The spotlight shines brighter on the Giants' lower levels in the minor leagues. Both the San Jose Giants and Eugene Emeralds are full of young talent vying for playoff berths as the season winds down.

But this week, we're going to shift the focus to Triple-A and tip our caps to the Sacramento River Cats. 

The River Cats were crowned Triple-A champions in 2019. That's a great honor, one that the players and coaching staff should always cherish. It also isn't the sole purpose of a Triple-A affiliate. 

Entering Tuesday, the River Cats are 46-58. They're in fourth place of the Triple-A West's West Division and 15.5 games back of first place. Yeah, Sacramento won't be seeing the playoffs. And yet, the River Cats have had a much bigger impact on the Giants than two seasons ago.

Gabe Kapler's squad has played the roster shuffle game between Sacramento and San Francisco perfectly. The River Cats' coaching staff and the players' ability to always be ready for their opportunity deserve a big chunk of credit as well. Truthfully, we could have published this at multiple points throughout the season. 

Instead, we've waited until the stretch run. Below are three players who have been up and down between the two levels and deserve recognition after recently rejoining the Giants. There of course could have been more players listed as well.

Thairo Estrada

Estrada now has played 44 games for the River Cats and 42 for the Giants this season. He's Example A of having two baseball homes with one goal in mind: Winning a World Series for the Giants. 

 

Between the two teams, Estrada has played five positions -- shortstop, second base, third base, left field and right field. Estrada dominated at the Triple-A level at the plate, batting .362 with nine home runs and a 1.019 OPS. On Monday, Estrada had his first multi-homer game in the bigs, giving him a career-high six homers with the Giants. 

The 25-year-old now is slashing .273/.328/.464 for the Giants this season. All of those are career highs after two previous seasons with the New York Yankees. Not bad for someone who signed a minor league contract in April.

Steven Duggar

Back on June 27, Duggar was batting .326 for the Giants with six home runs and a .974 OPS. It looked like the speedy center fielder finally figured it out in the bigs and was set to be an everyday player in San Francisco. And then, the league figured him out, putting Duggar in a huge slump. 

From June 28 through Aug. 5, Duggar played in 32 games and started in 22. Over that span, he hit just .182 with one home run and 29 strikeouts. The Giants then sent Duggar back down to Triple-A, where he improved his approach and hitting offspeed. From Aug. 9 through Sept. 3, Duggar hit .279 with a .765 OPS in Sacramento. 

On Sunday, his hard work paid off in a major way with a two-run triple in the second inning off Los Angeles Dodgers ace Walker Buehler to give the Giants the lead.

Duggar then went 2-for-5 in the Giants' 10-5 win over the Colorado Rockies on Monday. Whether it's his glove, his bat or his speed, Duggar should have a big role for the Giants in the final month of the season.

Mauricio Dubon

Dubon deserves a ton of credit. He served as the Giants' Opening Day center fielder and looked to have a big season after batting .274 with a .726 OPS last year while playing in 54 games during the shortened season. But Dubon dealt with some tough luck and struggled at the plate, slashing .234/.272/.373 on June 27. 

He was then sent down to Sacramento all the way until Sept. 2. Whenever the Giants needed an infielder, they turned to Estrada instead of Dubon. He easily could have played the blame game. That wasn't the case, though. 

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Over 47 games with the River Cats, Dubon hit .326 with an .860 OPS while primarily playing shortstop. Dubon went just 1-for-8 in his first three games (two starts) back in the big leagues before going 3-for-4 with two RBI and a double in Monday's win. 

Dubon is just one example of a player who stayed ready at any moment. The list is long and deserves recognition as the Giants battle for their first NL West title since 2012.

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