Boy, the time sure flies when your MLB club is rolling the way the Giants are this year. Seriously, I wouldn’t blame you if you’d gotten a little behind on the minor league scene this season. Heck, even I’ve had to catch myself up a couple times. There just really haven’t been a ton of standout performances to this point. But we’ve had this conversation before.
So, why are we getting together here today? Because short-season ball begins for the Northwest League tonight, that’s why. For the Giants, it’s the Volcanoes of Salem-Keizer, taking on Vancouver for a 3-game set this weekend. Recent S-K standouts include Jeremy Sy, Chris Johnson, Mac Williamson, Joe Panik, and a handful of others. With the 2014 summer season upon us, I wanted to take a quick look at the team the Giants will be running out there.
Admittedly, this isn’t a star-studded Volcanoes roster by any means at the moment. The headliner of the squad is without a doubt Christian Arroyo, who was pulled off the Augusta roster for injury purposes last month, but ended up in Arizona at extended spring training instead of going back to the SALLY. Arroyo just never could get much traction at the plate for the Greenjackets. That’s a very tough hitter’s environment, but I also wonder if the move off SS didn’t mess with his confidence a bit. I’m still not very impressed by that decision, but that’s a post for another day. You just hope that this move to the NWL will be a positive one for the kid, as he should be the everyday SS, and the team’s main attraction. Don’t forget, he’s still very young.
Aside from Arroyo, there really isn’t much in the way of offensive talent here. Really, there are a lot of guys who are returners to S-K, and a few others who’ve toyed around in Augusta here and there. If you’re looking for upside, Shilo McCall is a guy I’ve been keeping an eye on for a while. If you recall, he was the New Mexico kid the Giants drafted out of high school a couple years back. He’s got a sturdy build and some power potential, but the organization is bringing him along slowly.
The Giants haven’t released much information in the way of draft pick signings to this point, but you’d like to think they’ll get a few of their college guys signed on pretty soon. As it stands right now, this S-K team really doesn’t have anyone standing in the way of players like Aramis Garcia (2nd round) and Dylan Davis (3rd round). Davis being an Oregon State guy, I’d have to imagine they want to get him out there in a hurry. Once he signs, he’ll likely be the Volcanoes starting RF in a hurry. At the moment, there are 3 catchers listed on the roster. Geno Escalante is the guy who interests me the most, but Leo Rojas and Fernando Pujadas are international signings who have intriguing bats. Honestly, Pujadas might have the most offensive upside of the 3. The point here is, none of these guys will block Garcia from putting on the gear every night, if and when the Giants get him to put pen to paper. Once Garcia and Davis get to the ballpark, this will be a much-improved offense.
A few other 2014 draftees who might end up in the NWL by season’s end are Skyler Ewing, Austin Slater, Seth Harrison and Hunter Cole. Those are the guys from the power programs, while most of the other hitters the Giants took were guys from small schools or JuCo’s… those types usually spend the first summer in the AZL.
On the pitching side, I really don’t see a lot to catch my eye. Andrew Leenhouts takes the bump tonight. He was 9-2 for the Volcanoes last year, so the fans will remember his name. Problem is (and we say this all the time here in rookie-league Billings), it’s not a good sign if the fans see your face two years in a row in short-season ball.
A couple other notes on the pitching side: It looks like Ian Gardeck will start the season here on a rehab assignment. Who knows how long he’ll stay with the team, but he’s got the biggest (and maybe the wildest) arm on the roster at the moment. Nick Gonzalez is a nice-sized lefty out of South Florida who looked good in a handful of innings at rookie ball last year. He’s a guy I’d like to see the Giants try to start. Really, the only pitcher here who interests me much is Eury Sanchez. Sanchez is a smaller kid from the Dominican Republic, but he’s got some velocity on his arm, and his K rates have been impressive, albeit in only 45 career innings as a professional. He’s 21, and might be a name to watch.
As new draft picks go, the obvious name you’re looking for is Tyler Beede. I hate to burst your bubble, but I’d be very surprised to see the Artist known as “Young Beedah” make more than a handful of appearances in Oregon this summer, if the Giants even decide to pitch him at all. Vandy is still in the CWS, so Beede can’t even sign his contract yet. He’s got a ton of innings on his arm from the past three seasons, and the Giants might just decide to give him a rest once his college season is over. If you want to see him pitch this year, your best bet might be to check the Omaha schedule on ESPN this weekend.
If I had to throw a couple names out there for drafted pitchers who might show up on the Volcanoes roster this summer, I’d look for guys like Sam Coonrod (5th round), Matt Gage (10th round) out of Siena, or ACC arms Benton Moss and Matt Crownover, if the Giants can get either of them to sign. Gage seems like the best bet to me, a 6-4, 240 pound lefty who seems like he could slot right into that S-K rotation and eat up a few innings.
Ok, that’s a lot of talk for a roster that really doesn’t look all that great on paper. Hey, maybe a few surprises will pop up. Personally, I hope the organization gets Garcia and Davis fitted for uniforms in a hurry, otherwise young Arroyo might be entertaining the fans all by himself out there. If you’re looking for some reports on opening weekend, it sounds like Conner Penfold is headed out there to catch a few games. Give his site a look, as I’m sure some videos will surface by Sunday.
(Randy Ortiz and Christian Arroyo: c/o The Augusta Chronicle)