Sacramento River Cats

The Giants’ future, with Beede and Arroyo, opens season with River Cats

Giants pitcher Tyler Beede works against the A’s in the first inning of an preseason game Saturday in Oakland. Beede will start the season with the River Cats but feels confident he can contribute if called up to the majors.
Giants pitcher Tyler Beede works against the A’s in the first inning of an preseason game Saturday in Oakland. Beede will start the season with the River Cats but feels confident he can contribute if called up to the majors. The Associated Press

Tyler Beede already knew he’d be opening this season at Triple-A Sacramento, but his last assignment of spring training with the Giants was a significant one.

The Giants tabbed Beede, their top pitching prospect, to start the final game of the Bay Bridge preseason series on Saturday against the A’s at the Coliseum. It was a chance for the 23-year-old right-hander to toe a major-league mound in front of 30,000 people – and even Beede was curious how he would react.

“I really just tried to be aware of all my emotions that day,” Beede said this week. “As I got ready for the game I was super excited, but really calm at the same time.

“Those first couple innings went exceedingly quick for some reason. And it gave me an opportunity to step back and reflect on my stuff, and how I could compete at that level.”

For Beede, that scenario may not be far off. Beede will be in a River Cats uniform when they open the Triple-A season Thursday against Tacoma at Raley Field. But he is one of a few players on Sacramento’s roster for whom San Francisco appears tantalizingly close – just 90 miles and a phone call away.

Beede, the Giants organization’s top-rated prospect by Baseball America, will be making his Triple-A debut along with infielder Christian Arroyo, the team’s top hitting prospect, and Jae-gyun Hwang, the Korean Baseball Organization All-Star who made a quick impression in his first major-league camp with the Giants this spring.

Players with major-league experience – such as relievers Josh Osich and Steven Okert, infielder Kelby Tomlinson and catcher Trevor Brown (currently on the disabled list) – join a mix of prospects and older veterans to make up an intriguing roster under manager Dave Brundage, who will manage his 12th season in Triple A and first in the Giants system.

Few are as intriguing as Beede, the 14th overall pick in the 2014 who won an ERA title last season in the Eastern League with Double-A Richmond. Beede has never pitched a game above Double-A. Yet as spring training began, Giants executive vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean said on KNBR he believes Beede is “going to be in the big leagues before we blink our eye.”

Beede went 8-7 with a 2.81 ERA last season at Richmond, flashing a mid-90s fastball and posting a 2.55 strikeout-to-walk ratio that reflected the emphasis he put on having better command after college. He continued to impress this spring, compiling a 0.96 ERA over his first six Cactus League outings and finishing with a 2.03 mark.

With Ty Blach battling veteran Matt Cain for the No. 5 spot in the Giants rotation, the Opening Day roster had no opening for Beede. But that didn’t stop manager Bruce Bochy from discussing the possibility of calling up Beede this season – a step Beede said he’s ready to take.

“I know that team is loaded with great arms, and so is Triple A here,” Beede said at the River Cats’ media day Monday. “But I think, on an individual level, I do feel confident I could go up there and contribute – not necessarily based on what I did in spring training but just based on how I’m feeling. I feel confident where my stuff’s at.”

Arroyo’s call may be less imminent. The 21-year-old infielder is already on the radar of many Giants fans, especially after he hit .556 with two homers in big-league camp a year ago. But Arroyo has yet to play above Double A and currently has his path to the majors blocked by an established Giants infield.

I think we’re going to play a good brand of baseball.

River Cats manager Dave Brundage

Drafted as a shortstop, Arroyo’s immediate future appears to be at third base, where the Giants have Eduardo Nunez signed only through this season. Arroyo said he still expects to play different positions in Sacramento.

“That’s kind of always been the plan for me,” Arroyo said. “I think versatility is huge – especially in the Giants’ organization. ... It gives you that many more opportunities to move around and possibly help out a team.”

Arroyo batted .274 last season at Richmond with three home runs and 49 RBIs. He also had 36 doubles, third-most in the Eastern League. Going from a league that features many pitcher-friendly parks to one that favors hitters, Arroyo said he will keep the same approach.

“I’m not a power guy,” Arroyo said. “I’m not going to hit 30 home runs in a year – at least not yet. I’m still learning a little bit about my swing and a little bit about pitch locations and zone hitting, and just kind of really refining my approach.

“I’ve talked to a lot of our scouts and they say, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s not that big of a deal, power’s the last tool to come.’ For me it’s just staying consistent and barreling balls and getting backspin.”

Arroyo isn’t the only River Cats player who will move around the diamond defensively. Brundage said Hwang, Tomlinson and third baseman Ryder Jones are among those ticketed for multiple positions. Hwang, who hit .333 with five home runs this spring with the Giants, will play both first and third base and could also see time in left field – a position Hwang said he never played in Korea, but where the Giants could have a need.

“With our versatility guys will bounce around,” Brundage said. “But defensively we have a lot of average-to-above-average players, and I think that’ll bode well for our pitching.

“I think we’re going to play a good brand of baseball… I think players understand that I like to play aggressively. We’re going to make mistakes along the way but we’re going to make them aggressively. It’ll be a fun brand of baseball to watch.”