Cove Chatter 100: #25

Bryce Bandilla | LHP, 23 yo, 6-4, 235 | 2011 Draft – 4 | (A+) 38 G, 44.1 IP, 3.65 ERA, 5.3 H/9, 5.1 BB/9, 14.6 K/9

We made it to the top 25, the meat of the system. There may not be a pitcher with better stuff in the organization. Bandilla (that’s Ban-DILL-a) has top-notch velocity and a wild arm from the left side. He’s also incredibly injury-prone, and has missed significant time in his first two full seasons with the Giants (elbow and ankle in 2012, but I can’t remember what he injured this year… can’t find it on the net, either). He was turning heads this year in the San Jose pen – racking up strikeouts in bunches – before the injury bug bit again, all but ending his season in July. Will he overcome the control and injury issues? If so, he could become a lethal member of the Giants bullpen down the road. Between Bandilla and Josh Osich, the organization has two large, impact southpaws…and maybe the most oft-injured pitchers in the system. Those two should be working together in Richmond next season.

They said it: “Bandilla has plus to plus-plus velocity from the left side. He can pitch as high as 97 mph and will routinely work from 93-95 mph. He struggles to throw strikes at times and must improve his consistency…his future likely resides in the bullpen as a potential setup reliever.” ~ Mark Anderson, Baseball Prospect Nation

Bandilla video:

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San Jose Season Recap: Part 1

The San Jose Giants were swept out of the Cal League championship series by Inland Empire, ending their season a couple nights ago with a 3-1 loss. The Giants were the last remaining minor league affiliate of the MLB Giants still in play, and were seeking to bring a title home after winning the deciding game against Visalia in the league semifinals. San Jose’s bats went cold in the championship series, though, as Ricky Oropesa and company were held to only 2 runs and a .133 average (per MiLB.com) in three games. The Giants certainly had to be the favorites in this series, as Inland Empire entered the postseason despite a sub-.500 regular season record.

This seems to be a case of a team (Inland Empire) getting hot at the right time, as often happens in playoff play in every sport, but I’m sure a championship sweep is not what Kyle Crick and his teammates had in mind. Either way, the Giants had another superb season, and remain one of the most successful clubs in minor league baseball. They finished the regular season 83-57, the best overall record in the Cal League.

Let’s take a look back at the season that was for the Giants’ high-A affiliate.

The storyline entering the season for San Jose was the starting pitching, and it remained the focal point of the club all year. The rotation was the backbone of this team, and on Opening Day featured highly touted 2011 prep draft picks Crick and Clayton Blackburn, along with international lefties Edwin Escobar (acquired from Texas in 2010) and Adalberto Mejia. All four were 20 years old or younger entering the season, with loads of promise.

While it was thought by most that top 2012 picks Chris Stratton and Martin Agosta would be joining the quartet of under-21 prospects in San Jose, the Giants brass decided to fill the final rotation spot with Ty Blach, an unheralded southpaw taken in the 5th round of the 2012 draft out of Creighton. Stratton and Agosta, though higher selections, were assigned to Augusta for Opening Day.

The rotation of Crick, Blackburn, Escobar, Mejia, and Blach entered the season with very high expectations. Aside from a couple of injuries that kept Crick and Mejia out for extended periods early in the year, the group didn’t disappoint.

2013 with SJ

Crick: 14 gs, 3-1, 1.57 era, 6.3 h/9, 5.1 bb/9, 12.5 k/9

Blackburn: 23 gs, 7-5, 3.65 era, 7.5 h/9, 2.4 bb/9, 9.3 k/9

Escobar: 16 g (14 gs), 3-4, 2.89 era, 8.2 h/9, 2.0 bb/9, 11.1 k/9

Mejia: 16 gs, 7-4, 3.31 era, 7.8 h/9, 2.4 bb/9, 9.2 k/9

Blach: 22 g (20 gs), 12-4, 2.90 era, 8.6 h/9, 1.2 bb/9, 8.1 k/9

Impressive stuff. Escobar, who may be the Giants’ breakout prospect of the year, was the lone member of San Jose’s rotation to get a midseason bump to AA Richmond. He was just as good after the promotion, logging a 2.67 ERA over 10 starts while averaging a strikeout per inning. Overall, Escobar finished the season with 146 K (10.2 k/9) and 30 BB (2.1 BB/9) in 128.2 IP. He’s moving very quickly through the organization all of a sudden, and he’s already on the 40-man roster to boot. In other words, don’t be surprised if he gets an invite to big league Spring Training next year. If he shows his stuff, we could see him in San Francisco sooner rather than later. My guess is that the Giants want to see how he holds up in the bandboxes of the PCL before they get too crazy with him. Either way, this Venezuelan lefty should easily be on every Giant top 10 list out there, if not most top 5’s.

Kyle Crick’s season was cut significantly short by an oblique strain in this third start. Honestly, I think the injury is the only thing that kept him from joining Escobar in Richmond. He was the staff ace in the second half, and opened the postseason with an absolute gem in game 2 against Visalia – a 3-hitter over 7 scoreless innings, with 8 K and 0 BB. Crick is the crown jewel of the system, “Mr. Untouchable” in the trade market. His fastball was too big for the Cal League in July and August, and he’ll get a chance to see how it matches up with some top talent in the AFL this fall. If he can get a handle on his wild cannon next year in Richmond, I say he’s knocking on Fresno’s door by mid-season.

Blackburn was steady-Eddie for most of the season. Got knocked around a few times, but kept the very good K/BB rates that he’s shown ever since the Giants stole him in the 16th round two years ago. He’s an old pro in a young man’s body, and he’ll take his game to AA with the rest of the bunch next year, still only 20 years old. As is Mejia, the 6-foot-3 Dominican lefty nobody’s talking about. But they should be, and I think they will by next season, if he can keep plugging along. He’s got as much upside or more than Blackburn, and the Giants liked him enough to give him a spot start in Fresno this year. He’s very unknown to the mainstream group, but I think that’ll change soon. Like Crick, Mejia missed some time to injury this year, and gets to spend his fall in the AFL with the big dogs.

Blach is the forgotten man in this group, but he had one hell of a season for anybody, let alone a guy who wasn’t even the second-most hyped pitcher in the Giants’ 2012 draft class. While Stratton and Agosta got all the press, Blach made an impact from the very start, and eventually earned San Jose team MVP honors in the process. He’s not fancy, and he’s just a tad older than the rest of this group, but his walk rates were insane. All. Season. Long. If it were any other year, Blach would be a household name after the season he put up, but for now he’ll hopefully continue to do his thing under the radar in Richmond in 2014.

Wow, got a little long-winded there. That’s a lot of talk about 5 guys. But those 5 are some of the best and brightest horses in the Giants’ minor league stable. They’ll make up the best rotation fans of the Richmond Flying Squirrels have ever seen next season, maybe to be joined by Chris Stratton if the brass so chooses.

We’ll shorten it up a bit on the bullpen, which featured partial seasons from a handful of very talented arms. Cody Hall and Josh Osich burned through the Cal League before taking their talents to AA mid-year. Osich struggled to get his feet under him in Richmond while Hall thrived for most of the second half. Both guys have a chance to be nice pieces in Bochy’s pen in the next couple years. Another partial season came from oft-injured Bryce Bandilla, whose 14.6 K/9 was the best in the organization this year. The big lefty lasted only 44.1 innings though, the same exact amount he tossed in 2012 before succumbing to injuries.

Hunter Strickland, a 24 year-old former Red Sox farmhand, made it only 21 innings before his arm failed him. He had 9 saves and a 0.86 ERA when he went under the knife for Tommy John surgery. It looks like the Giants want to keep him around, but I have no idea when he’ll be back on a mound.

Derek Law was called up from Augusta in July, and absolutely dominated as San Jose’s closer in the final months of the season. In 25.2 IP with the little Giants, he saved 11 games to the tune of a 2.10 ERA. He fanned 45 hitters and walked just one. Try that on for size! Law has pitched very well since the Giants drafted him in 2011, and he’s another underrated guy who is starting to make some noise.

Chris Marlowe is the final pitcher of interest to us here, and the only one who doesn’t fit the mold of beefy power arm like the rest of these relief guys. Marlowe runs his fastball low 90’s, but supposedly has the best curve in the organization. He made 7 starts for San Jose, but spent most of his season in the pen. His overall numbers aren’t bad, but I don’t think he did enough to earn a promotion. Richmond’s roster is going to be mighty crowded next year as it is.

Ok, I think that’s enough for one night. Can you tell how I felt about this pitching staff? Can’t forget about Mac and the San Jose bats though! I’ll have to get to them another night. I can only hope this was enough to keep your appetite wet for the rest of the story…

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Organization Pitching Depth Recap

Over the past few weeks, we broke down some of the top pitchers for each team in the Giants’ minor league system. We covered a lot. 70 arms to be exact. 48 righties, 22 southpaws. There are others in the organization, but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Even after profiling 70 guys, I’m sure I still missed a few potential sleepers in there, but I think we’ve covered most of the meat.

I learned a ton about the organization while doing this series. I hope you did as well, or at least enjoyed catching up on a few guys you hadn’t given much attention recently. I’ll say this about the Giants: They have pitching. Not a ton of it is major league ready, which was definitely a factor in this season’s struggles. But they do have a wealth of arms below AAA, and it’ll be interesting to see who makes the jump to the next level. Are Cody Hall and Edwin Escobar in the bigs next year? Does Hembree win a spot out of Spring Training? Will the San Jose rotation of 2013 be as successful as the Richmond rotation of 2014? Is Kyle Crick in Fresno this time next season? How about the Augusta staff? Who separates themselves from this year’s draft class? Are Mella and Ysla for real? Lots of questions, and all good ones. You can’t have too much pitching, ever.

I decided to write this recap of the entire pitching series because I felt like there should be a place where we can tie all these posts together. Also, I wanted a spot where each of these pieces could be easily found. So here are the team links if you need a refresher.

AAA Fresno

AA Richmond

A+ San Jose

A Augusta

A-ss Salem-Keizer

Rookie Leagues

So, 70 pitchers that may or may not be the future of Giants baseball. One potential ace (Crick), lots of potential valuable pieces, both starters and relievers. The overlying trend for the top starters tends to be control above velocity, while some of the bullpen guys can definitely dial up the heat.

If I had to rank the top guys right now, it’d probably look something like this:

RH Starters

Kyle Crick

Clayton Blackburn

Chris Stratton

Martin Agosta

Keury Mella

Sleeper: Joan Gregorio

LH Starters

Edwin Escobar

Adalberto Mejia

Eric Surkamp

Ty Blach

Mike Kickham

Sleeper: Luis Ysla

RH Pen

Heath Hembree

Cody Hall

Derek Law

Dan Slania

Stephen Johnson

Sleeper: Ian Gardeck

LH Pen

Josh Osich

Bryce Bandilla

Mason McVay

Steven Okert

Nick Jones

Sleeper: Nick Gonzalez

There’s your top 24. If you can get 4-6 regular players and a few trade pieces out of that crop (which I think the Giants can), I’d consider it a successful group. Next season should be a big one for the hurlers, that’s for sure. As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated. I’m hoping to do a few more of these throughout the winter, looking at position-player depth in the organization. Thanks for reading, and go Giants.

Org Pitching Review: Little Giants

San Jose Giants

The Best:

Kyle Crick – R (20): 1.75 era, 56.2 ip, 6.5 h/9, 5.6 bb/9, 12.5 k/9 – Oblique injury limited his season significantly, but Crick has been nearly unhittable for the second year in a row. Still working on the control while blowing hitters away with the fastball.

Clayton Blackburn – R (20): 3.61 era, 122 ip, 7.6 h/9, 2.3 bb/9, 9.1 k/9 – Blackburn struggled a bit early on in the Cal League, but he’s rebounded to put together another very nice year. Old pro in a young man’s body.

Adalberto Mejia – L (20): 3.45 era, 78.1 ip, 7.9 h/9, 2.5 bb/9, 8.7 k/9 – Dominican lefty is another exciting prospect who’s shined in San Jose. Career bb/9 of 1.8. He’s young with lots of talent.

Ty Blach – L (22): 2.95 era, 119 ip, 8.8 h/9, 1.1 bb/9, 8.2 k/9 – First pro season has been a huge success for the college lefty. 15 walks in 119 ip… wow.

Bryce Bandilla – L (23): 5 sv, 3.48 era, 44 ip, 5.1 h/9, 4.7 bb/9, 14.7 k/9 – Bandilla is a power lefty with filthy stuff. Staggering k/9. Staying healthy is his biggest concern at this point.

Derek Law – R (22): 12 sv, 2.31 era, 58.1 ip, 6.8 h/9, 1.7 bb/9, 13.4 k/9 – Has thrived as San Jose’s closer with Bandilla out. Since promotion from Augusta, he’s got 30 k and 0 bb in 17 ip. A definite bullpen sleeper.

The Rest:

Chris Marlowe – R (23): 3.93 era, 71 ip, 8.9 h/9, 4.2 bb/9, 6.8 k/9 – Best curve in the system. Now pitching in relief.

Kelvin Marte – R (25): 3.72 era, 92 ip, 9.2 h/9, 1.6 bb/9, 6.9 k/9 – Pro since 2007, having a nice year in San Jose. Great control. Next year could be huge for him.

Hunter Strickland – R (24): 9 sv, 0.86 era, 21 ip, 4.3 h/9, 2.1 bb/9, 9.9 k/9 – Former Red Sox farmhand is out for the season with TJ surgery. Another big bullpen arm who the Giants want to keep around.

Jose Casilla – R (24): 3.43 era, 57.2 ip, 10.6 h/9, 2.0 bb/9, 6.1 k/9 – Santiago’s younger brother is back after missing all of 2012, and is still young enough to make some noise.

Stephen Harrold – R (24): 3.72 era, 48.1 ip, 8.6 h/9, 3.4 bb/9, 7.6 k/9 – Pitched in the Arizona Fall League (2011). Has good stuff, but hasn’t advanced as well as hoped since.

Jeff Soptic – R (22): 5.89 era, 36.2 ip, 9.3 h/9, 7.4 bb/9, 10.3 k/9 – 6 foot 6 righty has an electric arm and the typical control issues that follow. Former White Sox 3rd round pick.

Austin Fleet – R (26): 3.75 era, 105.2 ip, 8.4 h/9, 2.6 bb/9, 7.7 k/9 – Starting for the first time since 2010. Has spent time in Fresno and San Jose, and could be back in the former next year.

Overview: This is the meat of the system, even with Escobar, Hall and Osich moving up mid-season to Richmond. Between, Crick, Blackburn and Mejia, you have three of the youngest, highest upside starters in the organization. Crick is the gem, and he is unhittable at times. He has to keep working on his offspeed stuff and command, but he has a chance to be very good. Blackburn lacks the plus velocity of Crick, but he’s got twice the command. His secondary stuff is above average, and most consider him the Giants’ number 2 or 3 prospect in the system. Mejia has missed some time with injury this year, but he’s had a solid year overall. He works low 90’s with a good slider from the left side. Like Crick and Blackburn, he’s a baby with tons of upside. Those 3 are some of the youngest players in the California League… and some of the most talented. All 3 should be in Richmond next season.

Ty Blach always seems to get left out of the discussion, but his numbers are very impressive. While higher 2012 draft picks Stratton and Agosta are still in Augusta, Blach has put together a stellar campaign in his first professional season. I’d probably rank him in the top 20 overall for the system right now, and he’s definitely one of the top 5 LHP starters.

The Giants have a ton of power bullpen arms in the system, and Bandilla and Law are the San Jose representatives. Bandilla has incredible strikeout numbers, but he’s been hurt an awful lot in his career. Law is a guy who’s a little under the radar, but he’s putting up quite the campaign this year. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on. Marlowe has been up and down this year, and is now working from the pen. He’s got nice velocity to go with the big curve, but he’s not striking out many hitters in High-A.

The rest of this group features a mixed bag, with international minor league vets like Marte, who still has a chance to put it together, and TJ surgery guys like Strickland and Casilla. Harrold was sent to the AFL in 2011, so the Giants obviously have their eye on him. Soptic is a big-bodied project, and Fleet is a converted reliever who should get another look in Fresno next season.

This group of guys has made San Jose one of the top minor league teams again this year. While Richmond will house an impressive pitching staff next season, the High-A Giants won’t be too bad off themselves. Augusta’s staff, which will move up next year, isn’t as far behind the current San Jose pitchers as most would assume.

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Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects (21-22)

#21A: Bryce Bandilla – LHP, 23 yo, Hi-A: A bit of a caveat here, as I realized way too late that I had forgotten Bandilla. Rather than re-ordering the entire list, I decided to make him the first player outside the top 20. Bandilla is a sturdy lefty (6’4”, 235) drafted out of the University of Arizona in 2011. After using him primarily as a starter in his first professional season, the Giants decided to move him to the bullpen full-time this year. He’s been a strikeout machine in San Jose, sitting down 69 batters in 41 innings. He’s also walked 22, and owns a 4.7 bb/9 through his first 99 career innings, so he may not always know where the ball is going. 97 mph f from the left side will certainly make up for the lack of control at this point.

#21B. Adam Duvall – 3B, 24 yo, AA: Duvall is a hitter in the Giants organization who is really growing on me. The Giants took him in the 11th round of the 2010 draft out of Louisville, and he’s hit for big power at every stop he’s made. He opened a lot of eyes with a 30-HR campaign in Hi-A San Jose last season, and he really started the year on a tear in AA Richmond this year.  He missed quite a bit of time with an injury, and his numbers have evened out since returning, but 7 HR and an .815 OPS in the pitcher-heavy Eastern League are still very promising numbers. He’s considered a below-average defender at third, but his bat could make him a productive first-baseman if the Giants decide to move him there.

#22. Angel Villalona – 1B, 22 yo, AA: Villalona earned a franchise record $2.1 million signing bonus as a 16 year-old from the Dominican Republic in what seems like ages ago. He was a Baseball America top-50 prospect with elite power potential as recently as 2009, but missed 3 years of development after involving himself in a murder scandal in the DR. The Giants weren’t willing to give up on their large investment, who played the first half of 2013 in San Jose  and showed some of the same power he was known for as a “baby.” If he can develop some plate discipline, Villalona still has a chance to work his way up the ladder.