AFL Wrap Up

Kyle Crick was impressive in another pitchers’ dual in Scottsdale’s final AFL game on Thursday. The right-handed gunner squared off against Aaron Sanchez, who’s the #1 prospect in Toronto’s system… Sanchez had an impressive fall campaign, and he earned the victory with five solid innings for Salt River. Crick was no slouch himself, allowing two walks over three hitless frames. He sent five Rafters’ hitters back to the dugout by way of the strikeout. By all accounts, he was pumping 95+ for the entire outing again, and dialed it up to 98 to get out of a jam in the 3rd inning. He also had an offering that clocked in at 90-91 on the gun… a slider… a cutter? Don’t know, but the kid had a very strong finish to his fall league campaign, and seems to be adding new tools to his belt almost every time out these days.

I figured this would be a good time to look at the final numbers from each of the Giants’ farmhands in the AFL, and maybe take a peak at a few of the other winter league Gigantes if we have time.

2013 Scottsdale Scorpions (10-21)

Kyle Crick: 7 G, 5 GS, 2.87 ERA, 15.2 IP, 9 H, 11 BB, 24 K, 1.28 WHIP

Make no mistake, 15.2 innings does not a dominant pitcher make, but I think the minor league baseball world got a glimpse of Crick’s immense talent this fall. It wasn’t all roses early on, as he was moved to the Scottsdale bullpen after yielding 8 ER on 8 H and 8 BB in his first three starts. Whether the move was made to get Crick ready for the Fall Stars game or send him a message, it wasn’t completely clear… what was clear, however, was the impact that move had on the top prospect in the organization. In his final four appearances, Cricky allowed only one hit, 3 BB, and most importantly, no runs in 9 innings of work. He struck out 12 in that span, and was flat out dominant in his final two starts; he regularly popped the mitt at 95-98 mph. For the short season, he had a .161 batting average against, proving yet again that his stuff is unhittable when it’s on.

Let’s be clear here: Crick is very much a work in progress, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m anointing him the greatest thing since sliced bread. Yes, the similarities to Matt Cain are uncanny, but Crick has a long way to go to live up to those expectations. Do I think he has the goods to get there? Hell yes. But he’s still just a (newly) 21 year-old kid who doesn’t offer much in the secondary pitch department, and often has no idea where the ball is going when it leaves his hand. All we can hope for at this point is a healthy 2014 that allows him the opportunity to increase his workload and experience in Richmond. If that happens, I think he may very well be on the fast track to the show… and I’ll be rooting him on all the way.

Just for fun, I totaled his 2013 numbers, including the Cal League postseason and the AFL… read it and weep: 23 G, 21 GS, 95 IP, 1.80 ERA, 64 H, 2 HR, 53 BB, 132 K.

Ditch the walks, and we’ve got a monster on our hands folks. He’s 21 years old.

Adalberto Mejia: 7 G, 3 GS, 8.47 ERA, 17 IP, 18 H, 8 BB, 14 K, 1.53 WHIP.

Like his buddy Crick, Mejia got off to a rocky start in the AFL. Unlike Crick, Mejia wasn’t ever really able to settle in. His best outing was a relief effort, in which he entered in the second to get Crick out of a bases-loaded jam. All told, the young lefty allowed only one baserunner (and no runs) over 3.1 innings that game, striking out 5 in the process. But that was the highlight for a campaign that saw him allow 18 H and 16 ER in only 17 IP.

Mejia is like most of the other pitchers not named Crick in the Giants’ organization. He has to rely more on control than stuff, and I think the AFL was a great learning experience for him. He flashed a pretty dirty slider at times in San Jose this year, and he’ll need to gain a better feel for it going forward if he wants to make it at the upper levels.

To me, this performance doesn’t set Mejia back, but may show him and the organization what needs to improve. He’s another very young pitcher with a ton of upside, and should easily make every top 10 Giants prospect list out there next spring.

Cody Hall: 9 G, 3.00 ERA, 9 IP, 13 H, 4 BB, 7 K, 1.89 WHIP, 3 HD

Hall definitely wasn’t the most impressive reliever for Scottsdale, and he wasn’t used a whole lot either. But that probably has more to do with his 2013 workload than anything else. Unlike some of the other guys, Hall wasn’t assigned to the AFL to make up for lost time. Instead, he (like teammate Derek Law) was probably given the challenge by the front office to see how he’d handle top competition. I think the Giants see big league dreams in Hall’s near future, and I wouldn’t say he did anything to negate his chances of making it.

I saw him toss an inning in one of the televised games last week, and the dude looks cut from the same cloth and Heath Hembree, with a fastball nearly as impressive. I think he’s in the same boat as a lot of other MiLB power relievers (Hembree included), in that he really just needs to find a consistent secondary pitch to make it. He’s not the youngest guy by any means, but his 2014 numbers don’t lie. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m pretty excited to see some of these big-bodied relievers break through. Hall should be part of that bunch.

Derek Law: 11 G, 0.00 ERA, 12.1 IP, 8 H, 6 BB, 16 K, 1.14 WHIP

If you haven’t heard of Derek Law, it’s time to do some homework. As much as Crick helped raise his stock this fall, Law might have taken the cake as Giants pitchers go. This is a kid who came out of almost complete anonymity to post a ridiculous 102 K in 66.1 IP during the regular season… with 12 BB and a 2.31 ERA, I might add. He also didn’t allow a run in the fall league, and may have earned himself a big boy spring training invite in the process. Law has nearly everything you look for in a polished late-inning reliever… presence, velocity, secondaries, and a heavy ball. His curve is filthy, and his fastball has good sink. It was his funky delivery that turned scouts off at some point in his career, but his professional numbers have grabbed everyone’s attention. If you were reading closely in Baggs’ weekly chat last week, you might have noticed the response he gave to a question about Heath Hembree and potential Giants relievers… there’s a dude out there with as much talent, if not more than Mr. Hembree… yup, the one and only Derek Law. Stock is way up for this kid!

Andrew Susac: 17 G, 50 AB, .360/.507/.480, 2 HR, 16 BB, 11 K, 3 E

Susac has been an injury case for most of his collegiate and professional career, and he missed significant time this season in Richmond. To this point, it seems to me there’s a lot of mixed opinion about the guy on the scouting front. Future starter? Bench player? Will he stick at catcher? Honestly, I think Susac’s performance in the fall may have quieted some of that talk… it impressed me, at least. He led the team in batting average, showed pretty adequate skills behind the dish in the games I saw him catch on TV, and all in all displayed a solid plate approach – one that I think will carry him all the way to the bigs. He even looks a little like Buster Posey when he’s at the plate. Now, is he a potential .300, 25-HR hitter? Doubtful, but a .260 guy with solid on-base skills and 15-20 HR power might not be out of the question. If he can stay healthy, I think he’ll have every chance to earn a job in the majors one day. Will it be with the Giants? That might be the real question to ask.

Angel Villalona: 19 G, 65 AB, .200/.243/.246, 0 HR, 3 BB, 19 K, 2 E

Ok, I promise I’m not just a Giants prospect homer, and I’ll prove it to you here. Villalona did receive some positive reviews on his 1B defense this fall (something that’s always been a big question for him), but maybe that’s because there wasn’t much to say about his offense. He knocked in 7 runs and hit a few doubles, but those were really his only highlights at the plate. I’ll be honest; if the three innings I saw Crick pitch were all I needed to tell me he could be a MLB star, then the handful of AB’s I saw Villalona take this fall were all I needed to know that he may not ever make it. Yes, the power is there, and he proved it in San Jose and Richmond last year. But the plate discipline just isn’t at this point, and he looked absolutely overmatched a few times. I don’t think you can just talk yourself out of being a relentless hacker without sacrificing some of the power that makes you special in the first place. His stock is down, in my opinion, but he’ll have a chance to prove me wrong in the upper minors next year.

Jarret Parker: 17 G, 60 AB, .300/.366/.333, 0 HR, 8 BB, 19 K, 1 SB, 0 E

Parker was a nice surprise this season, and I’ll say the same about his AFL performance. He doesn’t really doesn’t do anything amazingly (although his defense in center was pretty impressive), but he’ll give you a little bit of everything. I’m starting to see him as a type of poor-man’s Hunter Pence. Now he certainly won’t ever be hitting .290 at the major league level, but Parker is a guy who shows you why he was such a high draft pick a few years back… he’s just an all-around ball player, and one who might just stumble his way into a MLB stadium some day. We should get a chance to see how he stacks up with the guy who was drafted ahead of him, Gary Brown, in Fresno next year.

All in all, I’d say 2013 saw a pretty nice showing from Giants prospects in the AFL. I mean, when was the last time you saw a group of Giants pitchers like the four representing the team this season? Add the performances of Crick and Law to what Susac did at the plate, and I’ll call it a successful fall for the orange and black Scorpions, and one that gives us a lot to look forward to for the 2014 regular season.

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13 thoughts on “AFL Wrap Up”

  1. I saw that 90-91 MPH pitch in the Cal League playoff game I saw him in. I was sitting over to the side, so could not see the horizontal movement on it, but it didn’t move much vertically. I’m not so sure it isn’t….wait for this…..a changeup! I could be misremembering, but I think I read somewhere shortly after that it was exactly that. It could be a cutter too, but I would expect the cutter to be a few MPH faster, like maybe 92-93 or so.

    1. Wow, that’s a HARD changeup. Very Strasburg-esque. I don’t think he throws a cutter, but that’s what was being reported by one of the Baseball America guys at the game the other day. I think people forget how good his change has been at times.

      I would love the opportunity to watch Crick in person, but don’t think that’ll happen until he’s a big leaguer some day… I’ll be looking forward to it.

  2. It’s kinda funny or odd that Villalona has, for his career, a 5% walk rate and a 3% HBP rate. Some might say, “Well, that’s 8%. His HBP makes up for his not walking much.”
    Tell ya what I think, I think both figures indicate he is not recognizing the pitch on time. At the time he got in trouble he had about a 3% walk rate in 810 PA’s at the A level. I thought then he was hopeless. This wasn’t the scout’s fault. He was signed at 16 so how could they know what they were gatting?
    The Giants have obviously been working on him so his walk rate improved at AA but then everything else suffered.
    Win some, lose some.

    1. I agree with you completely on pitch recognition… From what I’ve seen (not much, admittedly), I really don’t think Angel V has the eye or patience to lay off the breaking pitches out of the zone. You can’t just learn that over night… you either have it, or you don’t in my opinion. But the Giants must have some pretty high hopes for him, or they wouldn’t have sent him to the AFL. I’ll say his HR totals were impressive this year, but, as you say, they won’t carry over to The Show if he can’t recognize pitches early.

      1. I have seen Angel V play both before his legal troubles began and after. His pitch recognition skills, while still a work in progress, are greatly improved from when I first saw him play.

        The problem, for him and the Giants is he only has one option left, unless they get an extra one for the year he had to stay in the DR. He then would have to make the MLB club or be exposed to waivers.

        Just my opinion, but I love his swing. When he makes contact it is hard contact! I think he will always be a big strikeout guy but baseball history is full of guys who struck out a ton, yet hit 40 or more HR’s a season. Maybe a guy who hits .230 with 40 HR’s is not your cup of tea, but a guy like that has value in MLB.

        I would recommend patience with him and don’t do any premature writing off. Let’s hope the Giants figure out some way to beat the options clock.

      2. I will admit, I don’t know that I have 40-HR hopes for him. I know his power potential is through the roof, but will he ever make enough contact to come anywhere close to that total? I guess only time will tell, but I would be ecstatic if he turned into a MLB HR hitter who manned 1B every day. Right now, I think he has a lot of work to do to get there… but I certainly will not write him off!

        I forgot that he was placed on the 40-man roster. That does complicate things a bit, but it should also mean that he will get every chance to prove himself if he continues to hit HR in Richmond next season.

  3. Nice wrap up, KG. Would love to see Crick and Law get a sniff of the bigs late in 2014. It would be nice for the G’s to follow part of the Cardinal’s blueprint. Get guys like Crick experience out of a big league pen in Sep.

    Dump Villalona. He’s just going to take AB’s from a more disciplined athlete at some level.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, and thanks for reading. Crick hurling heat out of the bullpen? I could handle that! I think we definitely could see some hard throwers helping out soon, with Hembree and maybe Cody Hall and Derek Law. I think Law is going to open some eyes next spring.

      Villalona has a long way to go, and I’m not very high on him anymore either. But I do think he’ll get plenty of opportunities… If he can hit at all, he could be valuable… I just don’t know that he’ll make enough contact.

  4. A monster on our hands. We had similar writeups. Kyle Crick is awesome. Law is seriously impressive. The Giants have some good pieces on the farm, its just one guy hyped a lot more than everything else.

  5. Nice wrap-up! Susac and Law opened up some eyes this fall. And generally, I don’t think very many prospects hurt their chances playing in the AFL.

    Speaking of hurting, Villalona has mostly gotten good reviews of his defense since he has been playing pro ball. In fact, many considered him plus defensively at 1B, in spite of his size. Most of the talk about him early on was that he had 40-home run power with good defense, but would strike out a lot. He’s getting there, he was on a 30-35 HR pace with San Jose (20 AB/HR rate) and we need to remember that he’s still only 22 YO plus was playing in power dampening EL for a good part of the season (plus was adjusting as well to the higher level). His youth accounts for some of the extra strikeouts because he has less experience than many of the pitchers he’s facing.

    Assuming he only has one option left, I have to think he would be promoted to AAA, if only to get away from the EL and put him in a more offense oriented environment, they have very little time then to evaluate him. But if he somehow has two options, he’s probably repeating AA, he didn’t hit all that well there, Ishikawa was held back and I think he hit better than Angel there.

    He’s always going to be striking out a lot. His e-ticket is his natural power that he’s been able to unleash easily. Think of him like Adam Dunn, only without the walks. Dunn over a 5 year period hit 40+ homers each year. If you kill the walks, that probably drops Angel around 100 points off his OBP. Dunn had a .915 OPS during that period (while also striking out a lot) so that would put Angel around the low .800 OPS range. That’s valuable at 1B, particularly if he’s good defensively.

    1. I would absolutely have Angel V on my team if he were able to provide solid defense and 30 HR power at first base! I have also seen some of the positive reviews on his defense lately, so that would seem to indicate to me that the Giants are essentially watching to see if he’ll make enough contact… otherwise, his game is mostly MLB ready.

      Here’s why I am down a bit on Villalona: as the AFL season went on, I was hoping to see him adjust a bit… he never did. In fact, he seemed to get worse and worse at the plate as pitchers figured out they didn’t have to pitch in the strike zone to get him out. The games I saw on TV were pretty rough. I know the talent is in there, and he is still young and very much inexperienced, but I’d still like to see him win the adjustment to pitchers, rather than the opposite. That’s what I’ll be looking for in 2014.

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