4/7 MiLB Wrap: Susac on Fire

While Fresno’s first week of play hasn’t yielded the best results (1-4 record), the Grizzlies offense is certainly not to blame for the early struggles. The Giants AAA bats have been hot out of the gates, nobody more so than catcher Andrew Susac. Susac, who made a name for himself this offseason in the AFL and again during spring training, opened his Fresno campaign with multiple hits in each of his first three games. After a day off Sunday, Susac was back in the lineup against Salt Lake last night.

Last month during Cactus League play, Rangers lefty Michael Kirkman found out exactly what can happen when you float a hanger over the plate to Susac in a 3-ball count. Andrew drilled Kirkman’s offering into the stands in left field… an absolute moonshot.

Last night, Bees’ lefty (and former MLB pitcher) Justin Thomas learned the hard way not to throw Susac a “get-it-in” fastball over the heart of the plate. 3-0 count…green light…liftoff. Like he did to Kirkman, Susac tattooed Wilson’s pitch over the wall in left field (see video below), his first HR of the young season. It was his only hit of the game, but the young catcher now sits at .500 (8-16) through four contests, with 2 BB and (very important for him) only 1 K so far.

Despite the attention he garnered this winter, Susac might just be the best prospect nobody’s talking about. For the life of me, I don’t know how he’s not on any top 100 lists. From the looks of it, I don’t think he really minds… but I do think he’s about to force scouts and writers into having more of those conversations. The season is very, very young, and he still needs to prove he can stay healthy. But right now, Susac looks primed to have the big offensive season many of us were hoping for.

MiLB Roundup

Fresno (1-4): At SLC | L 5-4

Richmond (2-2): At Bowie | PPD

San Jose (3-2): At Lancaster | L 3-2

Augusta (2-2): At Savannah | PPD

Stock Up

Joe Biagini, SJ: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K – Great line from Biagini, a 23 yo UC Davis righty who logged a 5.03 ERA in 20 starts for Augusta last year. The San Jose starters were very impressive in their first turn through the rotation.

Steven Okert, SJ: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 K – Another solid inning of work from the lefty, who has 3 holds and has yet to allow a run.

Joe Panik, FRS: 2-4, 3B, RBI – Panik has 5 hits in Fresno’s last two games, and is batting .350 (7-20) on the season. He’s also drawn 3 walks to only 2 strikeouts early on.

Stock Down

Mac Williamson, SJ: 0-4 – I really like Mac, and have a hard time putting him here. But his 1-17 start to the season (.059) really makes me wonder if his shoulder injury isn’t having some effects on his performance at the plate. Maybe it’d be wise to give him a couple days off to rest at this point?

Chris Heston, FRS: 4 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K – Heston was off to a good start in his first outing of the season, but Salt Lake lit him up pretty good in the 4th inning (his last of the night). The righty had high expectations going into last season, bust just hasn’t been able to get comfortable in AAA.

What’s Ahead

Augusta at Savannah: Gm1 2:35 pm – Nick Vander Tuig (1st start)

Augusta at Savannah: Gm2 TBD – Starter TBD

San Jose at Lancaster: 6:30 pm – Chris Stratton (1-0, 1.80)

Richmond at Bowie: Gm1 2:35 pm – Kelvin Marte (1st start)

Richmond at Bowie: Gm2 TBD – Jack Snodgrass (1st start)

Fresno at SLC: 5:35 pm – Starter TBD

Today’s Notes

With the two rainouts yesterday, today is a busy day in the Giants organization, as both Richmond and Augusta play double-headers.

Augusta’s official page lists Jake Smith as today’s game 1 starter, and doesn’t have a pitcher listed for game 2. However, David Lee was told yesterday that 2013 draftees Nick Vander Tuig and Christian Jones are the next two starters in line. That makes more sense to me, as Smith has already been used in relief two or three times.

You might remember Vander Tuig as the winning pitcher for UCLA in last year’s National Championship game. Jones is a little lesser known, but was a starter at Oregon before having Tommy John surgery. He pitched solely in relief during his senior season for the Ducks, and was used as such by the Giants in short-season ball last summer. He’s a lefty with good size and a low-90’s fastball, so I’m excited to see how fares as a starter.

One other note about Augusta. I clearly remember lefty DJ Snelten’s name on the roster last week, but he’s nowhere to be found now. I was expecting him to be one of the Greenjackets’ starters. Don’t really know what’s going on there.

In San Jose, the rotation turns back over today, with Stratton taking the hill for the second time this year. That means Martin Agosta will not make a start in this turn. A quick check of the roster showed Agosta’s name on the 7-day DL. Again, no idea what happened there, as I thought he was fully healthy entering the season. Hopefully he’s activated soon.

Finally, a Javier Herrera sighting in Fresno. Herrera was apparently activated a few days ago, logging 1 AB each on 4/5 and 4/6. Last night, he was in the lineup as the DH and went 0-5. He was another guy I was curious about, but I’m glad to see him in AAA, where they’re a little short on outfielders.

Augusta’s Official Roster

Conner Penfold, sly dog reporter, had these out a couple days ago, before the announcements were even made. As of this morning, it looks like each of the four full-season clubs has an article up on their sites with the official rosters. So let’s take a look at them, one by one.

Just for fun, the names in bold are players who I correctly predicted in February during my roster projection series. Here are my complete Augusta picks. Keep in mind I only predicted a 25-man roster. Each of these official announcements includes a few extra players who will likely be placed on the reserve “taxi squad” once the season begins this week.

Here’s [Augusta Chronicle writer] David Lee’s summary of the Greenjackets 2014 roster.

Greenjackets – SAL (A)

C: Ty Ross: 12th round pick out of LSU. Good defense and OBP with some pop. Should start.

C: Eric Sim: Returns to Augusta. Great defensive catcher, but hasn’t hit much since rookie ball.

C: Gabriel Cornier: 21 yo Venezuelan native; first look at full-season ball. Has nailed 42% of career baserunners.

IF: Christian Arroyo: Big things expected from 1st round pick. Should be everyday SS.

IF: Ryder Jones: 2nd round pick, looking to keep ground with Arroyo. Will start at 3B, could play some SS.

IF: Brandon Bednar: 7th round pick out of FGCU. Hit 6 HR in AZL after only hitting 2 in 3 college seasons. 6-foot-5 super utility type.

IF: Leo Rojas: International catcher suspended for most of last season. Has a good bat, but likely a DH & corner IF now.

IF: Ryan Tuntland: 29th round pick out of WVU. Good on-base skills, might play some 1B.

IF: Matt Chavez: 25 yo Bay Area native, signed this winter from indy league. Known for his bat and arm.

OF: Tyler Horan: 8th round pick has huge power, but might not hit for average. Surprised he’s not in San Jose.

OF: Randy Ortiz: DR native, athletic CF. Has speed and takes some walks. Maybe he hits leadoff?

OF: Rafael Rodriguez: Conner P. said RafRod’s bat looked a little slow this spring. 3rd trip to the SALLY, still only 21.

OF: Shawne Payne: Returns to the SALLY. Maybe he moves to SJ when Mac leaves for Richmond.

OF: Christian Paulino: 22 yo utility guy hasn’t played above rookie ball.

P: Keury Mella: Staff headliner. Can’t wait to see this kid pitch in the SALLY. Mid-90’s heat with sink.

P: Luis Ysla: Signed for $7.5K last year, now looks like he could shoot up the ranks. 92-95 from the left side; looks more polished than Mella.

P: Chase Johnson: 3rd round pick, and another guy who’ll run his FB up to 95. College reliever with a starter’s arsenal.

P: Nick Vander Tuig: When your #4 starter was the ace of a national champion, you’ve got a very good pitching staff.

P: DJ Snelten: Tall lefty with velocity and some feel for his breaking ball. He’s another 2013 draftee to keep your eye on.

P: Carlos Diaz: 20 yo Colombian southpaw has strikeout stuff. Could be the team’s #6 starter.

P: Jacob Smith: Former 48th round pick has an 11.8 k/9 as a pro. Maybe a sleeper to keep an eye on.

P: Carlos Alvarado: 6-ft-4 righty with 5 years of rookie ball experience. Great peripherals last year, but he’s 24 yo.

P: Steven Messner: Undrafted lefty out of CSU San Marcos. Signed this spring. Could start or work long-relief.

P: Raymundo Montero: Righty had a tremendous season as S-K’s closer. He’ll be old for the league though.

P: Tyler Rogers: 10th round pick, submarine guy. Gives the pen a nice change of pace.

P: Christian Jones: 6-ft-3 Oregon lefty is going to surprise some people. TJ surgery hurt his draft stock, but he’s got a nice arsenal.

P: Luis Castillo: Word is he was throwing 98-99 in DSL last year, and the numbers back it up.

P: Ray Black: Ray Black lives! And he throws high-90’s heat, with sporadic control.

P: Dan Slania: Should be the team’s closer. Hefty righty goes 92-96 with his FB. Could move up to SJ this year.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/76124475″>Dan Slania, RHP, San Francisco Giants Fall Instructional League – October 1, 2013</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user3214266″>Jason Cole</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Outlook: I guess 6 pitchers and 5 hitters… that’s, not too hot. But there are definitely some surprises here. I thought for sure Horan, Vander Tuig and Slania would start the year in San Jose. I’m pretty excited about this group as a whole. This was a very good team last year, and I can see them challenging again in 2014. I love that pitching staff. Velocity in the rotation, and even greater velocity in the back of the bullpen. These guys are going to blow smoke.

Augusta is nowhere near San Francisco, but we’ve seen just how quickly guys can move up the ranks. Edwin Escobar was a Greenjacket in 2012. He’s on the brink of the majors. Heck, Derek Law started last year in Augusta. Look at him now!

I’m keeping my eyes on the kids, Arroyo and Ryder Jones. But they probably won’t be going anywhere. If I had to pick a guy that could move quickly, I’d look at that bullpen again. Black, Slania, Castillo. There’s some major heat in those right arms. If you live in or around Augusta, GA, you have to go see Mella and Ysla. They’ll be worth the price of admission, in my opinion!

Org Pitching: Keep Your Eye on those Greenjackets!


The Best:

Chris Stratton – R (23) 3.16 era, 125.1 ip, 8.7 h/9, 3.2 bb/9, 8.5 k/9 – Former 1st round pick has had a good but not great season in Augusta. Maybe he goes to Richmond next year?

Martin Agosta – R (22) 1.97 era, 86.2 ip, 5.5 h/9, 4.2 bb/9, 10.7 k/9 – 2nd round pick has flashed great stuff in first full season, but blisters and dead arm have limited his second half significantly.

Joan Gregorio – R (21) 4.18 era, 66.2 ip, 8.5 h/9, 2.3 bb/9, 10.8 k/9 – 6-foot-7, 180-lb beanpole was apparently throwing mid-90’s before hitting the DL. He’s got a 6.31 era in 7 second half starts, but he’s loaded with potential.

Kendry Flores – R (21) 2.65 era, 135.2 ip, 7.2 h/9, 1.1 bb/9, 8.9 k/9 –5th year in the organization has been a breakout for the young righty. He’s logged 10+ K’s four times in last 10 starts, topping at 15 in 8 innings his last start.

Steven Okert – L (21) 3.00 era, 60 ip, 8.2 h/9, 3.6 bb/9, 8.7 k/9 – 4th round pick last year, 6-foot-3 lefty is having a solid first full season in the pen. Can dial up the heat.

Stephen Johnson – R (22) 8 sv, 3.83 era, 49.1 ip, 7.1 h/9, 5.3 bb/9, 12.0 k/9 – D2 selection from 2012, throws upper 90’s with the fastball. Has been outstanding in the second half.

Ian Gardeck – R (22) 3.00 era, 54.0 ip, 6.8 h/9, 6.0 bb/9, 11.0 k/9 – Another bullpen flamethrower in his first full season. Big strikeout stuff, needs to control it.

Tyler Mizenko – R (23) 24 sv, 2.86 era, 50.1 ip, 7.7 h/9, 3.8 bb/9, 8.8 k/9 – Former closer from Winthrop is big with low to mid-90’s sink. Started the season red-hot, but has spent some time on the DL recently.

Jacob Dunnington – R (22) 3.60 era, 20.0 ip, 7.6 h/9, 4.5 bb/9, 13.0 k/9 – Former undrafted righty had a mysterious injury to start the season, and must be working his arm back to health in Augusta. Spent time in Richmond last year. Big strikeouts definitely a reason to keep an eye on him.

Mason McVay – L (22) 3.90 era, 64.2 ip, 9.3 h/9, 2.4 bb/9, 10.2 k/9 – 6-foot-7 lefty was a 26th round pick last year. Great k/bb ratio, but he’s been hittable in first full season.

The Rest:

Joe Kurrasch – L (22) 3.72 era, 58.0 ip, 9.6 h/9, 2.9 bb/9, 8.7 k/9 – 8th round pick from 2012 has found his niche since promotion from S-K last month. Threw a 2-hitter with 12 K’s in his most recent start.

Jorge Bucardo – R (23) 5 sv, 1.93 era, 42.0 ip, 6.0 h/9, 2.4 bb/9, 7.9 k/9 – Former standout starter missed all of 2011, most of 2012, and a good chunk of 2013 with shoulder injuries. He’s in the pen now, but still could find himself moving up the latter if he can stay healthy.

Joe Biagini – R (23) 5.03 era, 96.2 ip, 9.5 h/9, 3.9 bb/9, 7.4 k/9 – Big, strong righty has had an up and down season in Augusta’s rotation. He hasn’t seen great results since being drafted in 2011, but he’s certainly not a guy to give up on.

Matthew Lujan – L (25) 3.24 era, 72.1 ip, 8.7 h/9, 3.2 bb/9, 7.5 k/9 – Tore his UCL at the end of his senior season at USF, and went undrafted that summer (2011). Giants took a flier on him, and he’s put up nice numbers in parts of 2 seasons. Crafty lefty with very good secondary pitches. Should be interesting to see where he ends up next year.

Overview: This group is highly underrated in my opinion, and has really grown on me this year. Augusta is quietly having a great season in the SALLY, and the pitching staff has been the catalyst. Yes, guys like Crick, Blackburn, and Mejia in San Jose and Escobar in Richmond are younger and get more press, but the Giants have some serious talent at the Low-A level as well.

Naturally, the majority of these guys are products of the 2012 draft, highlighted by top picks Stratton (#1) and Agosta (#2). Among this list, Okert (4), Johnson (6), Kurrasch (8), Gardeck (16), and McVay (26) were all members of the Giants’ 2012 class, while Biagini (26) and Mizenko (28) were 2011 selections. If picking up big-armed bullpen guys like Gardeck, McVay and Mizenko below the 15th round isn’t solid drafting, I don’t know what is.

Among the Giants’ affiliates, San Jose’s rotation has earned the most love this year. And for good reason. But Augusta’s group of Stratton, Agosta, Gregorio, and Flores are nothing to sneeze at. Stratton hasn’t been as dominant as hoped this season, but he definitely hasn’t had a bad year by any means. He’s stayed healthy, and that can’t be overlooked. He still has every bit of upside as guys like Blackburn and Mejia, in my opinion, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he skipped over San Jose next season. He’s 23 and pitched in a major D1 college… it’s time to get him moving!

Agosta has been Augusta’s ace this season, but has battled injuries. Side-by-side, his numbers have been much better than Stratton’s, but Agosta just hasn’t consistently stayed healthy the past couple months. He’ll be an interesting player to watch next year in San Jose. Gregorio and Flores are international prospects who have opened a lot of eyes this year. Gregorio is very tall and can pump the fastball, but he’s been dealing with blister issues. Maybe that’s a cause for his shaky second half? Flores has been in the system a long time, but hasn’t really excelled until this year. Now, he’s flashing big time strikeout stuff. 15 K’s in his last start! And he’s still only 21.

The Greenjackets’ bullpen should be very exciting to watch next year in San Jose. Lots of college power arms from the recent drafts. Okert and McVay from the left side, Johnson, Gardeck and Mizenko from the right. Okert and Johnson probably have the best stuff, but Gardeck isn’t far behind. McVay is towering at 6-7, while Mizenko has used his sinker-slider combo to earn 24 saves this year. None of these 5 are putting up numbers like Heath Hembree did a few years ago or Cody Hall has this season, but they all have shown the ability to be dominant in stretches. I’ll say this: this bullpen has to be one of the best in all of Low-A.

Dunnington and Bucardo are the experienced relief guys who are probably only in Augusta because of recent injuries. Kurrasch, the lefty from Penn State has put together a nice string of starts since coming up from Salem-Keizer, and should definitely be on the radar after a 12-k performance the other day. Lujan and Biagini are a little older than the rest. It sounds like Biagini is a bulldog with good velocity, but he’s been way too hittable at the low levels. Lujan’s story is a new one to me, but he’s a guy I’ll be keeping an eye on now. His Perfect Game profile coming out of high school raved about his secondary stuff, and it sounds like he may have earned a nice draft selection his senior year if not for the TJ surgery. Could be an interesting guy to watch.


Agosta Returns for Red-Hot ‘Jackets

Giants’ top pitching prospect Martin Agosta returned to the mound for Low-A Augusta last night, allowing only one baserunner in three innings of work. Word from David Lee in Augusta was Martin had a 50-pitch limit, which is why he was pulled after the 3rd.  The start was Agosta’s first appearance since July 21 and only his 3rd since the end of June. The month of July was certainly a frustrating one for the righty from Saint Mary’s, as he suffered from both a “dead arm” and a nagging blister. By all accounts, Agosta has been the Greenjackets’ ace this year, which is saying something when you look at the talent in that starting rotation. He’s outperformed guys like Joan Gregorio, Kendry Flores and Chris Stratton, and it really hasn’t been close.

Agosta’s 3 IP, 0 ER, 4 K outing last night lowered his ERA to a ridiculous 1.96 for the season. He’s got 101 K in 85 IP, and if he can manage to get another start in, I really see no reason for him to be in Low-A anymore. I thought both he and Stratton should have been moved to San Jose long ago, but Agosta was hurt and Stratton was a bit inconsistent for a while. Now they both look to be cruising along.

When I checked the Giants’ affiliate rundown on MiLB.com this morning, something really popped out at me. Augusta is 68-51. When did that happen?! If you hadn’t noticed (and I’ll admit I hadn’t), the Jackets are rolling along in the SALLY these days. Even more impressive, they’ve been winning without Agosta or Gregorio. Going back to the last week of July, Augusta has won 15 of its last 18 games. Literally one of the hottest teams in baseball.

So what’s going on with these guys? First, have you seen that pitching staff? We’ve talked about the rotation, but you’ll find just as many big time arms in the bullpen as well. You’ve got the flame-throwing righties, Stephen Johnson and Ian Gardeck. Between the two of them, you’ve got 16 consecutive scoreless IP, with lots of K’s to go around. Then there’s the high-upside lefties, Steven Okert and Mason McVay. Okert is 6’3” with a big heater, while McVay towers at 6’7”. Both have plenty of talent, and Okert has a miniscule 1.19 ERA over his last 10 games. Throw in closer Tyler Mizenko, the over-achieving closer from Winthrop, and you’ve got one hell of a relief corps for hitters in Low-A to deal with. Mizenko has actually been pretty shaky lately, but he still has pretty good numbers overall.

If San Jose fans thought they saw some great pitching this year, they’re right. But I think they’ve got a chance to see another solid crop of arms come through the Cal League next season as well. Make no mistake, the pitching staff is the strength of this team. But I’ll say this about the offense: there are some guys who can’t be written off just yet. I check the Giants’ MiLB box scores on a daily basis, and there are certainly guys at each level that I look for every day. Up until recently, there wasn’t much to look at on the hitting end for Augusta, besides some Dirt Bag named Duffy, who’s now tearing up the Cal League. Lately, though, a few guys have really started to come out of their shell at the plate.

Last 10 games:

OF Charles “Chuckie” Jones: .314/.385/.571, 3 2b, 2 hr, 7 rbi.

1B Joey Rapp: .389/.450/.556, 3 2b, 1 hr, 8 rbi.

SS Alberto Robles: .375/.412/.469, 1 hr, 3 rbi, 5 sb.

As the Jackets look to keep rolling down south, a final note. For a system that most rank near the bottom of the barrel in baseball, the Giants’ MiLB squads below AAA all have winning records. The AZL team is a blistering 34-10. I’m not sure where the system ranks with the rest of MLB, overall record-wise, but I’ll bet there aren’t many systems that have a higher win percentage. Some exciting times are coming folks – we can hope, at least.

MiLB Two Up, One Down

August 1

Two Up

Clayton Blackburn, RHP |San Jose: 1 GS, 8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (89 pitches)

Great pitching has been the theme this summer for the Giants’ top prospects, and it continued yesterday with Blackburn in San Jose. The #3 prospect on our mid-season top 40 has been on a roll lately, and has thrown 8 innings in each of his last two starts. After taking a no-hitter into the 7th in his last start, Blackburn cruised through the Visalia lineup last night to the tune of 1 ER in 8 IP. The visitors came out hacking, which made for a very economical night for the Giants’ young righty, who only needed 89 pitches to get through the 8th. Between July and August, Blackburn has now tossed five straight quality starts, allowing only 6 ER in 34 IP during that span.

Adam Duvall, 3B | Richmond: 2-5, HR.

The Giants’ #22 prospect found his stroke this week, hitting his 3rd HR in as many nights against the Portland Seadogs yesterday in AA. The power surge has to be a confidence booster for Duvall, who’s shown few signs of life since returning from a thumb injury that cost him most of April and May. Duvall, the former Louisville Cardinal, may have some of the most power in the organization. He hit 52 HR between Augusta and San Jose in the last two seasons, and now has 12 this year in Richmond. He’s not striking out as much in 2013, which is nice, but I don’t think the Giants will give him a promotion to Fresno next year unless he can raise his average to the .260 range and continue to show some pop. Maybe the recent streak of big flies will get his bat going again.

One Down

Tyler Mizenko, RHP | Augusta: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K.

Mizenko (#37 on the top 40) is the closer for Augusta, and his July struggles seem to have carried over into August. The Greenjackets played a double-header last night, completing a suspended game from earlier in the year before playing their regularly scheduled contest against Charleston. Mizenko replaced Joan Gregorio in the 5th inning of game 2, and allowed four runs to cross the plate. Two of those runs were credited to Gregorio, who left the game with a blister issue. Replacing an injured starter in the 5th seems like an odd assignment for the closer, and maybe that affected Mizenko a bit. Regardless, he has really struggled over the last month after allowing only 4 ER in his first 31 appearances this year.

Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects: #3

#3. Clayton Blackburn – RHP, 20 yo, Hi-A: Blackburn is an Oklahoma product who the Giants drafted out of high school in 2011. His commitment to OU and the fact that he doesn’t possess elite velocity probably scared most teams away, and the Giants snagged him in the 16th round. The Giants offered Blackburn the money needed to break his commitment to Oklahoma, and the under-the-radar righty showed right away that he was indeed one of the top prep pitchers in his class. In 33.1 IP in the Arizona League, Blackburn logged an eye-popping 1.08 ERA to go along with 30 K and 3 BB. The next season, he was assigned to Augusta along with sandwich pick Kyle Crick. While the more well-known Crick struggled with command, Blackburn dominated competition of mostly two-and-three-year older players. As a 19 year-old, he made 22 starts, going 8-4 with a 2.54 ERA and 143 K in 131 IP. Those are outstanding numbers by themselves, but when you factor in that he only walked 18 batters, the performance becomes even more special.

Blackburn, in his second full season as a professional, is now 20 years old and one of the most coveted prospects in the Giants’ organization. He’s a big-bodied pitcher who looks bigger in person than his height and weight lead on (6’3”, 220 lb). His athleticism and velocity are his biggest knocks, but every report I’ve read lists his fastball as low 90’s that can hit 93 with sink, which is nothing to sneeze at. Where he really makes his living is with above average off-speed stuff and excellent command of the strike zone. He’s shown from his first summer with the Giants that he knows how to pitch, which is often the missing link for many hurlers who offer more powerful stuff but less control. He offers a nice four-pitch mix, and sounds like the kind of guy who can throw any pitch and any time, which is very advanced for his age.

In 16 starts at San Jose this year, Blackburn hasn’t produced at the level he did in Augusta, which would have been very difficult to replicate. He’s got a 5-4 record with a 4.35 ERA, and he’s certainly taken his lumps. However, for a young player pitching in a known hitter’s-league, his H/9 and K/9 are nearly identical to what they were in 2012. Even his BB/9 of 2.6 (up from 1.2 a year ago) is still very good. Overall, I would think the Giants have to be pleased with how he’s handled himself this season. All players will struggle eventually (and need to), but the fact that Blackburn has maintained his great peripheral numbers (H, K, BB) says a lot about his determination. Whether the Giants decide to promote him to AA next season or start him back in San Jose for the first part of the year, his prospect star remains very bright.

Top MiLB Pitchers Dominate

A little update from the arms on the farm…

Joan Gregorio, the towering 21 year-old righty from the Dominican Republic (and the number 23 prospect on my mid-season list), put on a show last night in Augusta. Gregorio is having a very good year for the Giants’ Low-A affiliate, but last night he unleashed his full arsenal in what has to be the best game of his professional career.

Here’s Joan’s line last night against the Lakewood BlueClaws: 7 IP 0 H 0 ER 1 BB 10 K. Seven no-hit innings – wow!  Gregorio’s been very steady all season, but he’s been exceptional in his last two starts: 13 IP 4 H 1 ER 3 BB 19 K. If he keeps pitching like this, you’d have to wonder if he’ll get the call to San Jose before the season is over.

David Lee of the Augusta Chronicle was pretty impressed by the performance, and I’d recommend reading his article here. He notes, among other things, Gregorio pumping mid-90’s fastballs while dominating against a mostly-lefty lineup.

In case you missed it, here’s my review of Joan Gregorio from a couple weeks ago.

In other news, Edwin Escobar earned his first win at AA Richmond last night, with a line of 6.2 IP 6 H 1 ER 0 BB 8 K.  Pretty impressive numbers for the talented lefty, who’s also only 21.

Not to be outdone, check out what fellow lefty Adalberto Mejia did in San Jose last night: 5.2, 2 H 0 ER, 2 BB 9 K… Man, are these guys rolling or what? Pretty solid night for some of the Giants’ top minor league arms.

Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects: #4

#4. Martin Agosta – RHP, 22 yo, Lo-A: Agosta was the Giants’ 2nd round pick in 2012. He’s another NorCal kid who grew up in Sacramento before attending St. Mary’s College, where he ranks 3rd all-time in wins and 6th in career strikeouts. He made 38 career starts for the Gaels, racking up a 3.25 career ERA. He was especially steady his final (junior) year, posting a 9-2 record with a 2.18 ERA. He struck out 95 and walked 27 in 103 IP. Agosta stands at 6’1”, 180 lb, but looks like a slightly taller Tim Lincecum in pictures I’ve seen of him. Agosta, like 2012 1st round pick Chris Stratton, works in the low 90’s with his fastball, but can pump it up to 95 from time to time. He mixes the fastball with a nice curve and changeup, and is pretty polished at this point, as he’s made evident this season.

After tossing only a handful of innings at Salem-Keizer last summer, Agosta was assigned to Lo-A Augusta for the start of 2013. In a year when the Giants didn’t have as much pitching talent in the low minors, Agosta and Stratton would likely have been slotted in the San Jose rotation. However, there really just wasn’t room for everybody. While Stratton hasn’t met expectations yet this year, Agosta has truly shown the performance you’d like to see from a top college pitcher playing in Lo-A. Through 14 starts, he’s 7-3 with a 2.18 ERA. He’s struck out 92 hitters in only 74 IP, though he’s walked 32. Aside from the walks, those are dominant numbers. He’d been cruising until recently, when he started going through some concerning injury issues. He looked out of whack in a start on June 22, and was pulled after one inning with what coaches were calling dead arm… That’s not good. After taking a couple weeks off, he returned to the mound for 4.2, but left with a blister issue. He’s now on the DL.

Agosta’s injury situation is definitely worth keeping an eye on, but if he can manage to get back on track before the season is over, he should be ready for San Jose very soon. The Giants are hoping he can be a middle of the rotation starter in a few years.