Spring Battles: Bullpen (Longshots)

Tons of middle-relief guys in camp to sort through, so I figured I’d break the list into two parts: The longshots and the frontrunners. We’ve already looked at the long-relief options, so the rest of these guys are essentially fighting for the final two bullpen spots (probably a 6th/7th inning role).

Erik Cordier | Age 28

MLB: None

MiLB: 573.1 IP, 4 Sv, 4.29 ERA, 1.517 Whip, 1.44 K/BB

Outlook: Career minor leaguer, the Giants gave him a major league deal right around Thanksgiving. Second round pick by the Royals way back when, he finally became a reliever full-time last year for Pittsburgh’s AAA club. His career 5.0 bb/9 is scary, as is his 99 mph fastball. The Giants must think they can get his control figured out. If he performs, don’t be surprised to see him get a shot at some point this year.

Odds: 30%

Kameron Loe | Age 32

MLB: 569 IP, 4.49 ERA, 1.439 Whip, 1.94 K/BB

MiLB: 616.2 IP, 3.52 ERA, 1.281 Whip, 2.76 K/BB

Outlook: There’s a journeyman pitcher in nearly every spring camp across baseball, and Loe looks like he’ll fill that role for the Giants. You might remember him for his 6-foot-8 frame, and he’s bounced around all over baseball – including a stint in Japan a few years back. He spent 2013 pitching for three different organizations, racking up a 7.09 ERA in 20 MLB appearances. Does he have anything left in the tank? We’ll probably find out in the next couple months.

Odds: 25%

Jose De Paula | Age 26

MLB: None

MiLB: 401 IP, 79 GS, 3.82 ERA, 1.262 Whip, 3.57 K/BB

Outlook: Claimed on waivers after the Padres DFA’d him in November. There are questions about his age; Baseball-Reference still lists him as 23, but the Giants have him turning 26 in March. He missed all of 2012 due to apparent visa issues, and made only 14 starts in AA last year. I’m not sure how long he’ll be in MLB camp, as it seems that he still needs minor league seasoning. He’s got very low walk rates and a surprisingly hard fastball. He has the makings of a nice lefty reliever, but I envision the Giants assigning him to a minor league rotation this spring. He’s on the 40-man, so he definitely has an edge over a handful of these guys in camp.

Odds: 25%

Dan Runzler | Age 29

MLB: 72.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 1.507 Whip, 1.77 K/BB

MiLB: 277.1 IP, 23 Sv, 3.70 ERA, 1.428 Whip, 2.07 K/BB

Outlook: It looked like Runzler had a promising future with the Giants back in 2010, but he just wasn’t ever able to control the strike zone as a big leaguer. To make things worse, he’s completely blown up during the past two seasons in Fresno, and was DFA by the organization last fall. For some odd reason, he’s back in Giants camp this spring. It would take some pretty impressive work on his part to make the Opening Day roster, but the Giants could use another lefty, and he has more MLB experience than some of the guys here. For those reasons only, I’ll give him a slight edge over the arms below.

Odds: 25%

Sandy Rosario | Age 28

MLB: 49.1 IP, 4.93 ERA, 1.682 Whip, 1.22 K/BB

MiLB: 342.1 IP, 51 Sv, 3.42 ERA, 1.309 Whip, 4.27 K/BB

Outlook: Rosario bounced around the waiver wire last winter before catching on with the Giants. He really wasn’t bad in his 40+ innings of work for Los Gigantes in 2013, but his K rates didn’t really correlate with his fastball velocity. He was DFA but the organization apparently gave him another opportunity. He’s got to really impress in camp if he wants to snag one of the open relief spots.

Odds: 25%

Juan Gutierrez | Age 30

MLB: 222.2 IP, 24 Sv, 4.65 ERA, 1.406 Whip, 2.24 K/BB

MiLB: 629.1 IP, 5 Sv, 4.32 ERA, 1.438 Whip, 2.15 K/BB

Outlook: He also goes by JC, and I honestly didn’t realize until looking him up that this is the same guy who spent a couple of seasons closing games in Arizona. He’s got quite a bit of big league experience, including 53 appearances in 2013. Frankly, the numbers just aren’t that impressive. Maybe the Giants can straighten him out this spring, but I don’t know if he belongs in a MLB bullpen anymore.

Odds: 25%

Rafael Dolis | Age 26

MLB: 44.1 IP, 4 Sv, 5.48 ERA, 1.556 Whip, 0.96 K/BB

MiLB: 390.1 IP, 21 Sv, 3.69 ERA, 1.409 Whip, 1.59 K/BB

Outlook: He saw considerable action in the Cubs’ bullpen in 2012, but only made 5 MLB appearances last season before a forearm strain essentially cut his year short. He’s a big guy who throws serious heat (96-97), but his career statistics don’t really match up with the scouting reports. He’s definitely an interesting guy to have in camp, but I think he’ll ultimately land in Fresno come Opening Day.

Odds: 25%

Adam Reifer | Age 27

MLB: None

MiLB: 245.1 IP, 63 Sv, 3.45 ERA, 1.276 Whip, 2.23 K/BB

Outlook: I’m going to throw it out there right now. There’s something I like about this guy. For starters, he hails from San Dimas, which is my mom’s hometown and my home away from home during work trips. He’s also a St. Louis product, and we know all about the arms that have graduated from that system recently. The Cards looked to have him on the closer track early in his career, and it seems that he’s had an injury history (missed most of 2011, and the first couple months last season). Eventually, organizations have to make decisions on players, and Reifer found his way over to Miami’s AAA club in 2013. He was excellent, allowing a .143 BAA. Reports say he throws very hard (mid-90’s?). He’s my camp sleeper, and I’ll be following him closely.

Odds: 20%

Brett Bochy | Age 26

MLB: None

MiLB: 148.2 IP, 26 Sv, 2.78 ERA, 0.969 Whip, 4.26 K/BB

Outlook: To his credit, the Skipper’s kid has put together a nice minor league resume in his three years with the organization. But he got knocked around hard in Spring Training last year, and he was passed over in the Rule 5 draft this winter. Obviously, the talent evaluators aren’t very high on his abilities. I do think he’ll get his time in the big leagues someday, but I’d be very, very surprised if that time is Opening Day 2014.

Odds: 15%

Mason Tobin | Age 26

MLB: 5.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 1.875 Whip, 0.0 K/BB

MiLB: 130.2 IP, 21 GS, 3.17 ERA, 1.209 Whip, 1.92 K/BB

Outlook: Came to the organization about this time last year, and spent 2013 in Fresno. He’s a Glendive, MT native (as is most of my girlfriend’s family), and that’s primarily why I included him on the list. He did pitch a couple of innings with Texas in 2011 though, so there’s that. Otherwise, he’s a pretty big longshot to make the 25-man.

Odds: 10%

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Organizational Pitching Depth: Grizzly Edition

The Giants have learned the hard way this season that there’s no such thing as too much pitching. Viewed as pitching gurus over the past few seasons, the Giants’ brass saw their 2013 staff fall far short of expectations due to a combination of inconsistency and injury, with fatigue almost certainly lending a hand as well. While we’ve seen first-hand that there aren’t any major impact arms on the way to San Francisco at the current time, the organization is still loaded with pitching talent in the lower minors. That being said, I thought we’d take a look at some of the noteworthy pitchers from each level in the Giants’ farm system, beginning with Fresno. I’ve added their current stats, as well as a quick blurb and a positional overview at the end. I hope this series will show that the Giants do still know how to find and develop pitching talent, and still have as many solid prospects as ever in the system – even a few at the higher levels as well. As always, I appreciate any feedback, and would love your response to my thoughts.

*The player’s name is followed by the arm they throw with, followed by their age in parenthesis. Statistics are for the entire season and combine levels.

FRESNO

The Top

Heath Hembree – R (24): 27 sv, 4.07 era, 48.2 ip, 8.9 h/9, 2.8 bb/9, 10.7 k/9 – Still throws the big fastball by hitters, but he’s giving up too many hits. Needs a 40-man spot to open up before he can get a call to the show.

Mike Kickham – L (24): 5.36 era, 122.2 ip, 9.5 h/9, 4.0 bb/9, 7.5 k/9 – Electric but wild. ML debut didn’t go so well. Pitching better in Fresno of late.

Eric Surkamp – L (26): 3.65 era, 66.2 ip, 8.2 h/9, 2.3 bb/9, 7.3 k/9 – Recovering nicely from TJ surgery. Knocked around in emergency ML start against Cincy. Hoping to challenge for SF rotation spot next spring.

The Rest

Jake DunningR (25): 1.95 era, 60 ip, 8.5 h/9, 2.5 bb/9, 7.5 k/9 – Looked good in his time with the big club this summer. Could be back in SF next month.

Dan RunzlerL (28): 5.81 era, 48 ip, 9.4 h/9, 5.8 bb/9, 8.4 k/9High velocity arm from the left side, but can’t seem to control it anymore. How much longer will the Giants keep him in the system?

Justin Fitzgerald – R (27): 3.74 era, 91.1 ip, 9.8 h/9, 3.3 bb/9, 8.7 k/9 – Started season in AA. Pitch to contact guy from UC Davis. Long shot, but he’s made adjustments at every level.

Brett Bochy – R (25): 1 sv, 4.12 era, 48 ip, 8.2 h/9, 2.6 bb/9, 9.2 k/9 – Manager’s kid has advanced through each level in the system, but needs to keep making adjustments if he wants a shot someday.

Overview: The Giants’ top pitching talent is obviously in the lower minors, but there are still some guys on the Fresno staff who could impact the Giants as soon as September. Surkamp and Kickham will certainly be given an opportunity to earn a roster spot next spring. Surkamp looks to follow the path of another crafty lefty on his way out of the Bay Area, Zito. Kickham needs to harness his control, otherwise I see him as a poor man’s Johnathan Sanchez. Hembree should be in San Francisco at this point, and I’m really not sure why he wasn’t put on the 40-man. He’s still very much a top prospect, but you don’t throw high 90-s your whole career, so it’s time to see what he’s got. Dunning will likely be back soon, fighting for a pen spot next year. Bochy and Fitzgerald are long shots. Runzler is runzling out of time.

Coming Soon to a Park Near You?

**Edit** Sounds like Pill and Kieschnick have been called up from Fresno this afternoon. Per Baggs, they’ll be in Philly tomorrow. Tanaka optioned, Abreu to DL… and Giants’ beat writers are full of __it, as usual.

With the trade deadline soon approaching and the Giants on one of their worst slides in recent memory, there’s so much uncertainty surrounding the team right now. While I have a hard time believing that nobody from the current 25-man roster will be traded in the next couple days, I truly don’t think we’ll see any big deals involving guys like Lincecum, Sandoval, Romo and most notably, Pence.

There are a number of factors that go into this train of thought, ranging from contract status, market value, trade return, comments from Brian Sabean himself, and, not to be forgotten, the player’s popularity with the fans. At this point, though, the season seems lost. Barring a miracle, the Giants will likely finish the year in the bottom-third of the standings. That being said, this team is in dire need of some changes. The current group, despite its huge achievements in the past, is putting a pretty awful product on the field these days. That is something the front office will need to change, as soon as possible preferably.

The Giants haven’t had a season like this since 2008, and it got me thinking: there sure are a lot of interesting guys on the squad in Fresno this year. Even if Sabean doesn’t make any big splashes on the trade front, we’re certain to see a few familiar faces get called up from AAA at some point. I’d bet we’ll see a couple new faces as well. Just my opinion here, but if you’re out of the race, it’s time to see what you’ve got going into next season. Some of these guys have earned the chance to get an extended look. Others would just be fun to see for some of us prospect-watchers.

I put together a list of the guys who are potential August/September call-ups, in order of most likely to get the call (my opinion). There are quite a few names, and for now we’ll keep it at AAA guys. It’s not likely anyone below Fresno would get a look, but I guess you never know. Maybe Mark Minicozzi or Javier Herrera from AA? My guess is no, but as Kruk says, stranger things have happened.

Brett Pill: 95% – Pill hasn’t gotten much of a shot this year, but I’d think he’s a lock for a call-up, just to add some pop off the bench. He crushes AAA pitching, but he doesn’t look like he can hit the big league breaker. I’d still like to see him get regular AB’s for a month, but that would require Belt on the bench or in the OF. Not likely.

Jake Dunning: 92% – Dunning pitched well in 19 innings with the Giants, but was sent down to make room for Joaquin Arias and newly-acquired Guillermo Moscoso. He’s got a nice fastball and shows a pretty cool head. He’ll probably be back at some point as long as he doesn’t melt in Fresno (a la Mike Kickham).

Hector Sanchez: 90% – Sanchez played a big role in last year’s World Series run, providing offense when Posey needed a break. This season, he pulled a Sandoval and showed up out of shape. He’s back in Fresno after injuries and inconsistency in SF, but I’d be shocked if he’s not called up when rosters expand in September.

Nick Noonan: 85% – Noonan has paid his dues in the minors. He flashed some nice plate discipline back in April after making the Opening Day lineup. He’s been passed over by Arias and Tony Abreu, but I’d like to see him get another shot.

Eric Surkamp: 85% – Surkamp got knocked around in his first ML action post-Tommy John surgery, but I’d say he’s a good bet for some September action if the Giants choose to rest Cain and Bumgarner.

Francisco Peguero: 75% – Peguero got a big league sniff last year, and earned another call-up early this season. The Giants didn’t give him much of a leash, and he hasn’t been back since. If he can stay healthy in Fresno, he’s another guy who needs a chance to prove himself in the outfield.

Heath Hembree: 70% – The Giants say he doesn’t have a secondary pitch, but I really think it’s time to see what Hembree DOES have, and that’s a mid-90’s heater. If you can’t give him a chance now, you might as well trade him.

Roger Kieschnick: 70% – Kieschnick would have gotten called up in 2012, but he suffered a season-ending injury. He’s been hurt a lot in his pro career, but he’s another guy who deserves a chance to show what he can do. He’s got power and a nice outfield arm, and I’m ready to see it.

Mike Kickham: 65% – Kickham has kind of fallen off the table lately in Fresno, and that may cost him a shot at getting back to AT&T Park. But it really would behoove the Giants to see if he can’t work some of his kinks out in September.

Juan Perez: 60% – Perez provided a nice spark during his brief debut in June. He played the best CF on the team, giving up his body for amazing catches and firing runners out at second, third and home. He couldn’t really hit, but I’ll say this: when he was in the lineup, I was watching to see what he’d do next. Might have to wait for Peguero and Kieschnick before he gets another shot now, though.

Dan Runzler: 45% – Runzler had a great spring, but hasn’t pitched all that well in Fresno. His strong, erratic left arm has major league stuff. If the team needs a lefty, I’d say he gets some consideration.

Gary Brown: 40% – Brown hasn’t really earned a call-up at this point, but maybe he gets a cup of coffee in September. The Giants really need their former top prospect to start hitting, and soon.

Brett Bochy: 35% – Bochy probably could have been in San Francisco this year if not for injuries and a shaky start to his season. He’s nothing fancy, but he’s closed games before, and it’d be pretty cool to see father Bruce and son Brett on the AT&T mound together.

Justin Fitzgerald: 30% – Fitzgerald is a 5th starter type and a UC Davis grad. He’s 27 and struggling in Fresno, but I’d have to think his name has at least been mentioned a couple times in talks for a spot starter.

Chris Dominguez: 25% – Dominguez seems to have changed his approach at the plate this year. He’s hitting for higher average but less power, and reportedly has a cannon at third. He’s been a strikeout machine since being drafted out of Louisville, but maybe he forces his hand in September?

Ehire Adrianza: 20% – Adrianza is a classic all-glove, no-hit shortstop. His elite defense has had him ranked in the Giants top 10 prospects in the past. He’s now one step away from the bigs. He’s still pretty young, so there’s no rush, but if he can hit at all, he’s got at least a utility job waiting for him down the road.

Johnny Monell: 15% – Monell is a catcher/1B with tremendous power, but he’s a terrible defender by most accounts. It’d be interesting to see if his left-handed bat could play at AT&T.