Five arms who missed the top 30 cut. Videos of Johnson and Hall are courtesy of Conner Penfold (Giant Potential). Video of Castillo is courtesy of Nathaniel Stoltz (Fangraphs).
Jose De Paula, LHP, Age 26
Fresno (AAA): 26.2 IP, 5.06, 34 H, 9 BB, 22 K, .306 BAA
If De Paula isn’t a name you’re totally familiar with, don’t feel bad. If you recall, though, the Giants claimed him off waivers from San Diego last year around Thanksgiving, giving him a spot on the 40-man. At 26, he’s not exactly a blue-chip prospect. But I gave him a spot here because I was so blown away by what I saw in spring training, that I really believe he has the tools to be a solid reliever in the majors. De Paula’s a Dominican native who’s been in pro ball since 2007, but has missed significant amounts of time to injuries and visa problems. He’s got a lean build and a powerful arm from the left side, but he’s not unlike Mike Kickham in that the stats haven’t always matched the stuff. He’s only made 9 appearances (5 starts) in Fresno this year, and he’s allowed 15 ER in those 26.2 IP. So, obviously he still has a ways to go. But I like his 91-95 mph fastball, and his sweeping curve was absolutely unhittable to lefties at times this spring. I think the Giants would be wise to keep working him strictly out of the bullpen to see if they can’t get some better results.
*Fast-forward to the 1:00 mark on the video below to see some clips of De Paula and some comments from Bochy.
Christian Jones, LHP, Age 23
Augusta (A): 59.2 IP, 2.72, 46 H, 13 BB, 57 K, .213 BAA
Jones might be the most intriguing story among pitchers in the Giants farm system this year. Here’s a guy that had an impressive sophomore season as a starter at Oregon (followed by an All-Star worthy Cape Cod campaign that summer), but ended up having Tommy John surgery and missing his junior season. He returned to the hill in 2013 but pitched strictly out of the bullpen for the Ducks. The Giants nabbed Jones in the 18th round of the draft that summer, and decided to give him a look in the Augusta rotation. He’s responded with a 2.72 ERA over 12 starts, including a dominant 7-inning outing in his first start after the SALLY All-Star game. He’s striking out nearly a batter an inning, and he’s only allowed 13 walks in 59 IP. His stuff isn’t overpowering, but David Lee reports that he’s developed a 2-seamer this year to go along with the 4-seam. Between the two fastballs, he ranges 87-92 from the left side, and features an average slider and a changeup with plus potential. Right now, he’s pitching like an advanced college pitcher should in low-A… but for a guy who hadn’t started in three years, color me impressed. He’s definitely worth keeping an eye on going forward, as I think he’s a very nice sleeper in this system.
Stephen Johnson, RHP, Age 22
San Jose (A+): 32 IP, 3.66, 31 H, 20 BB, 30 K .256 BAA
I gave him a #26 ranking in my offseason Top 50, and looking back that was probably a bit generous. He’s a former 6th round pick from D2 St. Edwards, and a guy who made a name for himself pumping 100 mph fastballs in college. Nowadays, he works comfortably at 92-96, and adds in a nice wipeout slider to boot. If you haven’t seen the video Conner Penfold took of him in minor league spring training, I’ve posted it below. For a guy who’s listed at 6-4, 205, Johnson looks lanky to me. The big concern is his delivery, which just looks uncomfortable on his arm. But he hasn’t had any major arm troubles in his pitching career that I’m familiar with. His issues are more in the command department, where he owns a career BB/9 of 5.5. This season, he’s issued 20 BB in 32 IP for San Jose – but 13 of those came in April. He’s actually been very impressive in May and June, combing for a 2.70 ERA and 21k/7bb in 23.1 IP. He keeps the ball down, and if he can ever shake the command problems, we could be looking at a nice late-inning arm here.
Luis Castillo, RHP, Age 21
Augusta (A): 27.1 IP, 3.29, 32 H, 14 BB, 25 K, .291 BAA
Castillo is a curious prospect. He’s been strictly a reliever in his 2+ years with the organization; he repeated the DSL after throwing 54 innings as a 19 year-old in 2012; and he was assigned straight to Augusta after his second season pitching overseas. This kid throws major, major gas, although I haven’t seen any velocity reports from Augusta beat writer David Lee this season. At any rate, the Giants don’t just send guys from the DSL to full-season ball unless they think very highly of them. Castillo isn’t a very big guy, but he’s a little lanky at 6-2, 170. You can hear in the video below that he threw a changeup at 83, and in a couple of the other clips from Nathanial Stoltz on Youtube Castillo’s FB clocks in at 95 and 96. Man-o! He’s allowed 14 free passes in 27.1 IP as Augusta’s closer this year, so obviously the Giants would like to see him improve his command. If he can, that fastball could get him moving through the organization rather quickly.
Cody Hall, RHP, Age 26
Richmond (AA): 31 IP, 3.19, 28 H, 8 BB, 40 K, .241 BAA
Hall is a guy, in my opinion, that has been pretty overlooked in the organization. He was a college senior out of Southern U. when the Giants drafted him in 2011 (19th round). This is his third full season as a professional, and he earned a promotion in each of his first two. Between the second half of last year and the first half of 2014, he’s now made 49 appearances in Richmond, where the results have been pretty darn impressive (67 K, 16 BB in 57.1 IP). He, like a few of his hard-throwing teammates in the Squirrels’ bullpen, got off to a rough start this spring. But he’s settled in nicely since April, and has seen his ERA drop and K’s rise since replacing the injured Derek Law in the closer’s spot. If he keeps pitching like this, I’d have to think he’ll work his way to Fresno at some point this summer. Hall has a major league fastball that works mid-90’s, but at this point he’s likely still trying to find a reliable secondary offering. If he does, he’s got back back of the bullpen potential.