“Prospect Game” Notes: Pitchers Rule the Day

Most of the time, I really wish I didn’t have a desk job. It’s really not my style. Every once in a while though, I am very thankful for that desk job. Today was one of those times. Spending a frigid morning (with over a foot of snow on the ground) sitting inside, watching the future of Giants baseball on my iPad? Don’t mind if I do.

Much to my surprise, the Giants aired a live broadcast of the “prospects” (intrasquad) game this morning. Now THAT is how you turn a day around pretty quickly folks. The game was originally supposed to go three innings, but they ended up extending it to four… I don’t think anyone minded.

I took a few notes while watching, and thought I’d share them for those of you who weren’t able to catch the action (or didn’t know it was being broadcast online). Just a few players or events that caught my eye. I’m sure you can probably find a replay of the coverage on the Giants homepage somewhere, and Alex Pavlovic also has some videos up on his blog.

Pitchers

Pitchers and catchers are the first to report to camp (most of the time), so I know we shouldn’t expect the hitters to be on the same level with them at this point. But my goodness, this game was a “Who’s Who” among arms in the organization. As each new pitcher took the field, he seemed even more impressive than the last. Edwin Escobar and Kyle Crick were the respective starters, but the rest of the order followed as such: Clayton Blackburn, Kendry Flores, Ty Blach, Jose Casilla, Brett Bochy, and Derek Law. I’ve compiled some thoughts on a few of these guys.

Edwin Escobar

(Escobar/SFGiants Photos)

Escobar had the task of throwing out the first pitch of the season in true game action, and I thought he fared just fine. Not the most impressive performance of the day, but he did work himself out of a little jam. After retiring the first two batters (Perez and Blanco), he served up a double to Adam Duvall (who crushed it), then ran one too far inside to Mac Williamson. Did you know Mac had 21 HBP last year? That’s wild, but he wore one in his first unofficial AB of 2014, putting two on with two out for Escobar. Esky bounced back to get Mark Minicozzi on an infield pop-up, ending the inning.

Crick: The young hurler looked like he was popping the mitt as usual. The camera angles weren’t always great, so I really can’t tell you if he threw a breaking ball. I’d guess one or two. He did leave a couple of pitches up, but each of those resulted in fly-outs. It was a 1-2-3 inning for Cricky, pretty uneventful.

Escobar and Crick were supposed to be the headliners, but I truly thought the next three guys stole the show. Blackburn looked like an old pro on the mound. I couldn’t tell if he showed his curve, but he was painting corners regardless. He started his outing with a “3-pitch see-ya” of Brandon Hicks, then ended it with a strikeout of Andrew Susac. Nice, quick work from the 21 year-old kid.

Flores, while he didn’t look so hulking in live action, sure has an impressive arsenal. He’s lanky, and looks like he’s got more room to fill out. But man, his fastball gets on the hitter quick. Giants VP of Scouting and Player Development, Jeremy Shelley was one of the guys giving feedback during the webcast (along with Marty Lurie and Chris from SFGLive), and he plugged Flores as a guy who’s mostly 88-91. But it seemed quicker than that to me, and even Lurie made a comment about Flores’ stuff humming. Either way, Kendry was sharp, and blew a couple of pitches past Angel Villalona on his way to a strikeout.

Flores was followed by Blach, who might have had the best stuff of the day. We didn’t get any reports on his velocity, but he was popping the mitt as well. The location was impressive, and he sent Blanco back to the dugout looking at a fastball on the outside corner.

Of the three relievers (Casilla, Bochy, Law), I actually thought Bochy looked the most impressive. He’s definitely a veteran, and he knows what he’s doing on the mound. Casilla has good stuff, and his mechanics are so similar to his brother’s it’s uncanny. Law lost the strikezone for a minute, and even allowed a walk… a real rarity for the kid. He wasn’t overpowering, but I thought he was fine.

Ty Blach

(Ty Blach/SFGiants Photos)

It’s hard not to get excited about what these guys are doing right now. They all look very poised already, and Lurie and Shelley mentioned as much on the air. I seriously think a guy like Flores could pitch at AA with his current repertoire, while the other guys all seem AAA-ready to me. With Crick, you obviously need to build up his strength and command, but he’s got MLB stuff right now. This could be a special group, folks.

Other Thoughts

This was definitely a pitching-dominated contest, but there were a few other noteworthy plays as well, including some very nice defense. Brown made the first out of the game with a sliding catch in center field, but also made a bone-headed play on the bases in the final inning, getting doubled-off at first on a lazy flyball. The play wasn’t a hit and run, so I guess Brown just misjudged the ball. It was a mental mistake either way, and Jeremy Shelley didn’t sound real thrilled on the air afterward (to be honest though, Shelley didn’t sound real excited about anything… to me, his personality came off a little bland). Brown had led off the inning against Law, swatting a curveball between the first and second-basemen.

Jeff Arnold and Ben Turner were the game’s two backstops, with Susac and Guillermo Quiroz in the respective DH spots. Arnold singled up the middle in one of his AB’s, while Turner made a nice catch over the dugout railing.

There wasn’t a whole lot of offense to go around, but Joe Panik looked good in his final AB, rapping a single to right. Duvall’s double off Escobar was impressive as well. That dude looks like he can seriously rake. The game ended in a scoreless tie, as Roger Kieschnick was nailed trying to score the winning run at home (by a wide margin) for the final out. Overall, it was a very fun experience for me, getting to watch so many of the organization’s top prospects go at it on the same field. I’m a little biased, but I saw some solid future big leaguers out there today. More than anything, it was just so nice to finally watch some baseball!

Joe Panik

(Panik/SFGiants Photos)

MLB News

Almost immediately following the scrimmage, the Skipper announced his 2014 rotation, which I’m sure you’re probably already aware of if you have a Twitter account. Turns out the lefty will get the ball on Opening Day, with Cain and Hudson to follow. Before today, I would have predicted it as Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Hudson and Vogelsong. Not that it really matters in the long-run, but I was pretty surprised to see Bummy get the nod. That’s awesome for him, and he certainly earned it.

One last note here. How many clubs can say they’ve sent three homegrown aces in as many seasons to the mound for Opening Day? Lincecum in 2012, Cain 2013, and now Bumgarner – 24 years young – in 2014. That makes me proud to be a Giants fan, as I hope it does you as well.

Just in case you forgot, Spring Training starts tomorrow, folks. Yep, our wait is finally over.

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7 thoughts on ““Prospect Game” Notes: Pitchers Rule the Day”

  1. Great report, thanks from someone who wasn’t aware it was available. I did happen to notice some tweets from Schulman on this during the day and recall Flores name was prominently noted, but as you noted, it sounds like all our pitchers shined nicely on the mound.

    Great to hear about Bochy. I’ve been hoping he could make the big leagues and spend a season with his dad, but the bullpen has been so crowded with talent, hard to break in. And he’s getting kind of old too. Good luck to him!

    1. Bochy looked solid. I think he gets his chance this season. If Dan Otero can make it, there’s got to be a spot for Bochy out there as well. The pitching was very impressive all around, as was the defense. Kendry Flores is a very nice development. I think he’ll move quick through San Jose this year, and end up in Richmond by mid-season. I know we’re only talking about 1 inning of work here, but you can just tell these guys have something special.

  2. Super job. You did a great job of describing the highlights of the day. Other then the bases boner, it sounds like Gary Brown got off to a good start. I enjoyed your pieces on the ST battles as well. I’m rooting for Brown.

    1. Thanks a lot. Brown’s performance seemed to epitomize the scouting report. Slick defense, ability to put the ball in play, but mental errors on the bases. I really hope he gets it turned around this year… I know he has it in him.

  3. Excellent! Also I enjoyed your back of the roster position battle series, just didn’t comment. Gary Brown needs to stop being a goofball and get his head in the game. Nice to see all the pitchers starting strong.

    1. Thanks Shankbone. Happy Cactus League opener! My thoughts exactly about Brown. It was a major head-shaking moment when he was doubled off… even in a meaningless scrimmage, that can’t happen.

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