Updates on the Farm

It’s been a while since we took an extended look at the Giants farm system… turns out we didn’t miss much. Seriously, though, it’s a dang good thing the MLB team has been so entertaining this season, because there really just haven’t been many standout performances on the prospect front to this point. As a blogger who threw out some major criticism of the national pundits for calling the Giants system a middle-to-back-end group, I’ve been very disappointed in how the first couple months has gone for the organization. Coming into the year, there were a number of players I was expecting great things from, and so far that just hasn’t happened.

Chris Stratton, Martin Agosta, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo, Kendry Flores… where are you?

That being said, there are certainly some standout performances from the early months of the season that are definitely worth mentioning, so I thought we’d take a little time to recognize these guys for their strong play. So far, I would say the two most intriguing storylines from the farm system have come from middle infielders and bullpen arms. Let’s take a look at some of these guys who’ve stood out.

Middle Infielders

Joe Panik, AAA: Panik took some heat for his performance in Richmond last season, but I think it’s safe to say he’s back to his usual ways this year in Fresno. At the moment, he’s sporting a .321/.389/.424 line, with 3 long balls, and a stellar 23 BB/26 K ratio. While I think it’d be nice to see him steal a few bases like he did his first couple seasons with the organization, I think the Giants have to be quite happy with the former 1st rounder’s year to this point. Panik can handle the bat, and I think he’s still got an outside chance at winning the starting 2B job next spring. He’s hitting .385 over his last 10 games.

Matt Duffy, AA: Duffy is a stud, what else really is there to say? I profiled the former Long Beach Dirtbag mid-season last year, as he was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise weak Augusta lineup. The Giants promoted him to San Jose for the stretch run, and decided to bump him aggressively to Richmond out of spring training this year. For two months, he’s made the front office look like geniuses. .323/.383/.399 to date (.359/.435/.410 last 10), with 10 2B and 12 SB. He’s not going to hit for a lot of power, but Duffy, like Panik, has an advanced approach at the dish. Initially, I wasn’t sure he had the track record to stick at shortstop, but he received pretty glowing reviews out there this spring, and it doesn’t seem he’s done anything to this point to hurt his stock at short.

Blake Miller, Hi-A: Maybe my favorite player in the entire organization, right here. Miller was the starting SS at Sac State from day 1 as a freshman, and he held his own offensively for two seasons. He eventually went back to where he came from (Oregon), and promptly destroyed the GNAC in his final two years for D2 Western Oregon. The Giants took him fairly late in the 2013 draft, to little fanfare. Now, he’s a 6-ft-3 jack of all trades infielder and one of the best hitters for San Jose. .307/.359/.497, 6 HR, 42 RBI. He’s strikeout-prone, 24 years old, and not necessarily the slickest fielding shortstop around, but I think Miller has a chance to really surprise people on his way up the ladder. He’s off to a great start so far.

Bullpen Arms

Dan Runzler, AAA: 6th year in Fresno for lefty Dan. He’s not on the 40-man roster anymore, but the Giants are going to need another lefty relief arm at some point this season. It might be sooner than you think, with David Huff starting to stumble of late. Runzler still walks more hitters than he should (16 in 26 IP), but he’s easily been one of the most reliable bullpen arms for the Grizzlies this season. 26 IP, 1.04 ERA, 1 HR, 16 BB, 32 K. If he can keep up this performance, and maybe limit those walks a bit (pretty please?), Dan might finally find himself in San Francisco again… After such a long and bumpy ride, that would be pretty sweet to see.

Derek Law, AA: Law was the story of spring training, and he’s quietly biding his time as the closer in Richmond. May wasn’t as kind on him as April, but overall he’s still sporting a 2.96 ERA and 12 saves in 24 IP. He’s walked 8 batters and allowed 7 ER in his last 10 appearances, so the league is starting make some adjustments, it would seem. At this point, June could be a big month for young Derek, as we’ll see whether he gets his control back in order. We know he’s got the goods to pitch in the show, but these two months are his only experience in the upper minors. If he can iron things out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Fresno by late summer, with a chance to help the big club if the need arises.

Steven Okert, Hi-A: Okert has arguably been the best pitcher, starter or relief, in the organization this season. The former 4th round southpaw didn’t earn the best reviews last year in Augusta, but you knew he had the ability to do pretty well if he could get his fastball back to where it was in college. Well, it looks like he has, and that deadly fastball/slider combo has been wreaking havoc on the Cal League through two months. On a team with a handful of solid bullpen options, Okert claimed the closer’s job early on, and hasn’t looked back. He’s got 16 saves, and has racked up 47 K (11 BB) in only 29.2 IP. He’s allowed 4 runs all year, good to the tune of a 1.21 ERA. Okert was billed as a guy who could move fast when the Giants drafted him in 2012, and I could see that happen this summer. Richmond’s bullpen hasn’t lived up to its billing yet, and Okert has been nails since day one. Look out for this guy.

Ray Black, Lo-A: Black is finally back! And he just might be the comeback story of the year for the franchise. After going MIA for two full seasons after the Giants drafted him, he finally surfaced (multiple surgeries later) this spring in Arizona, bringing 100 mph gas along with a wipeout slider. He made an appearance for Augusta on Opening Day, but promptly hit the DL with shoulder stiffness the next day. It looks like he’s got that shoulder under control for the moment, and has been impressive in 9 outings since returning to action a month ago. At this point, Black just needs professional experience. If he’s healthy, it’s obvious he has major league quality stuff. He’s definitely a name to watch as the season progresses.

There you go. Seven worthy names from the first two months of minor league ball on the Giants farm. That’s about all the time I have for now, but I did want to toss in a few guys who I didn’t have time for today.

Other 2014 Standouts:

Fresno: Adam Duvall, Andrew Susac, Chris Dominguez

Richmond: Tyler Graham, Angel Villalona, Mario Lisson, Ty Blach

San Jose: Jesus Galindo, Mitch Delfino, Mason McVay

Augusta: Ryder Jones, Tyler Horan, Matt Lujan, Luis Ysla, Christian Jones, Jake Smith

*Bonus Coverage: Here’s a quick shot of Ryder Jones cranking one out for Augusta last week. Enjoy!

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Cove Chatter 100 Honorable Mention: The Draftees

These are 2013 draft picks who didn’t make the top 50. The Giants were mocked by many in the baseball media for their selection of Christian Arroyo in the 1st round of this year’s draft… that ended pretty quickly once Arroyo took the field. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve read one national review that was complementary of the Giants draft (although there aren’t many reviews to begin with, admittedly). If I remember right, Keith Law even said that he’d place this Giants’ class among the bottom of MLB. I think he’s way off base, as were the sneers about the Arroyo pick. If you look closely at the following 10 players (who aren’t even among the headliners of the class), and consider where they were selected, I think you’ll find there’s some real value here. The Giants know were very intentional with this group, which has seriously grown on me over the past few months. Keep these names in mind, because I think you’ll see a couple of them turn some heads next season.

PS: If you have a little extra time, I’d encourage you to click on some of the links… some are video (if I could find any), some just articles, but I think they’re all worthwhile.

Eugene Escalante | C, 22 yo, 5-10, 185, BR, TR | 2013 Draft – 15 | (A-) 39 G, 151 PA, .300/.777, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 11 BB, 34 K

He goes by Geno, and he’s my sleeper from the 2013 draft. D2 defensive player of the year at Mount Olive College, where he hit .399 and had a 46-game hitting streak during his final two collegiate seasons. NorCal kid from Fairfield was drafted out of high school. Attended and played at Cal State Fullerton for a year before transferring to Chipola JC, where he played one season as well. He’ll have to compete for time within the organization with Ross, but it sounds like their defensive abilities may be pretty even, and I’d give a slight edge to Escalante with the bat at this point. Here’s the thing I love about this guy: I couldn’t tell you if he’s offensive or defensive-minded at the moment… maybe he’s both! A D1 talent who slipped because he played D2 ball? I really like the pick.

Escalante Link:

Pat Young | RHP, 21 yo, 6-5, 200 | 2013 Draft – 13 | (AZL, A-) 10 G, 9 GS, 44.1 IP, 1.22 ERA, 30 H, 10 BB, 32 K

Villanova righty had an impressive professional debut this summer with Salem-Keizer. Earned a spot in San Jose’s playoff rotation, and may wind up there again next spring. Features a low-90’s fastball and an odd delivery from his 6-foot-5 frame.

Young Video:

Brandon Bednar | SS, 21 yo, 6-4, 185, BR, TR | 2013 Draft – 7 | (A-, AZL) 51 G, 230 PA, .270/.737, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 11 SB, 15 BB, 28 K

Tall, versatile middle-infielder was a star at Florida Gulf Coast. Displayed a nice bit of power at the plate for Salem-Keizer this summer. Could become a super-utility type of player.

Bednar FGCU Profile:

Christian Jones | LHP, 22 yo, 6-3, 210 | 2013 Draft – 18 | (R, A-) 15 G, 19 IP, 2.84 ERA, 17 H, 4 BB, 18 K

Oregon lefty had solid draft stock in 2012 before having TJ surgery. Could be a nice steal from the 18th round this summer.

Jones Video:

Ty Ross | C, 21 yo, 6-1, 200, BR, TR | 2013 Draft – 12 | (A-, AZL) 34 G, 130 PA, .237/.655, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB, 12 BB, 22 K

Drafted as a junior out of LSU this summer. Has solid skills behind the dish, as well as some pop in his bat. Saw his average drop to .211 at LSU last year, so he seems to profile more as a Jackson Williams type.

Ross Article:

Nick Jones | LHP, 22 yo, 6-6, 215 | 2013 Draft – 14 | (AZL) 17 G, 18.2 IP, 1.93 ERA, 9 H, 9 BB, 18 K

Tall lefty was JUCO All-American and a stud two-way player at Chattahoochie Valley CC. He led his club in almost every offensive category, and was also the team’s closer. The Giants liked him better on the mound. Videos show him bringing a couple different arm slots, including some sidearm funk. With his size, he could be another southpaw sleeper to follow from this class.

Jones Video:

Garrett Hughes | LHP, 22, 6-9, 230 | 2013 Draft – 19 | (AZL) 9 G, 7.2 IP, 4.70 ERA, 8 H, 8 BB, 7 K

The Giants took a number of tall pitchers in this year’s draft, none taller than 6-foot-9 Hughes. The giant Stanford lefty features a fastball that runs 88-91 with a curve and changeup, and has been on the MLB radar since his high school days in southern California. He seems to be strictly a reliever, but could be pretty nasty on lefties with his downhill movement.

Hughes Article:

Nick Gonzalez | LHP, 21 yo, 6-4, 220 | 2013 Draft – 24 | (AZL) 7 G, 17.1 IP, 1.04 ERA, 6 H, 3 BB, 17 K

Impressive debut for the 21 year-old lefty from South Florida, allowing only 9 baserunners in 17 IP in the Arizona League. It’s not much of a sample size, but he’s got the perfect frame for a power lefty. He’s an intriguing player, and it’s quite possible the Giants got a steal for a pick that late in the draft.

Gonzalez USF:

Tyler Rogers | RHP, 22 yo, 6-5, 187 | 2013 Draft – 10 | (A-, AZL) 20 G, 27.1 IP, 2.30 ERA, 22 H, 12 BB, 31 K

Senior sign from Austin Peay in the 10th round of the draft. He’s a tall, lanky submariner. He tied the NCAA D1 single-season record with 23 saves this year, working a 1.63 ERA for the season. In the Giants world, we call this guy a gamer. He’ll have to stretch that $7.5K signing bonus and work twice as hard if he wants to make it to the top.

Rogers Video:

Blake Miller | SS, 23 yo, 6-3, 195, BR, TR | 2013 Draft – 25 | (A-,AZL) 41 G, 161 PA, .281/.800, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 3 SB, 19 BB, 31 K

25th round pick from D2 Western Oregon. Began college career at Sac State.  Was the GNAC MVP, West Region Hitter of the Year, and started all 54 games for WOU in 2013. He posted solid offensive numbers in Salem-Keizer (his hometown) this summer after being drafted. Talent can come from anywhere, and the Giants have had their eye on D2 grinders the past couple years. As a former GNAC athlete, I’ll be rooting for him big time.

Miller Article:

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Geno Escalante