Cove Chatter 2016 Top Prospects: #26-29

Stratton
Stratton | Photo Credit: Ralph Thompson/Sacramento River Cats

#26: Chris Stratton, RHP, Age 25: The former SEC ace has plugged along through the organization since 2012, but the results just haven’t matched the potential for a top 20 draft pick. Stratton’s a taller guy (6-3) with a track record of taking the ball (topping 120 IP in each of his 3 full seasons), and the Giants still think highly of him. He’s also a man of tremendous character, and someone who it’s nearly impossible to root against. He made 17 starts in AAA last year, and I have little doubt he’ll be a big leaguer at some point down the road.

At this point, however, there are many reasons why I can’t rank Stratton higher on the list. For one, his velocity as a professional hasn’t approached what it was during his junior year at Mississippi State. It’s certainly worth bringing up the concussion he suffered on the field just weeks after his pro debut, but for whatever reason, he’s mostly been a 2-seam guy topping out around 92 since draft day. Stratton does still have one of the better sliders in the system, but one of the knocks on him is that he’s had trouble establishing the inside part of the plate. Right now, it’s hard to determine whether he ultimately lands in the back of a MLB rotation, the middle of a bullpen (I envision him a bit in the George Kontos mold), or whether he spends most of his career in AAA. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can tell you I’m sure rooting for him to outperform the expectations.

#27: Joan Gregorio, RHP, Age 24: For someone who closely monitors box scores at every level of the system, I have to admit I kind of fell asleep on Gregorio last year. I was well aware of his profile (6-ft-7 string bean with a 92-96 fastball), but I lost track of him a bit when the Giants sent him to pitch in the Richmond bullpen one season after failing to establish himself in San Jose. The move was almost certainly the product of Gregorio being placed on the 40-man roster for Rule 5 protection last winter, as the organization likely wanted to see if he could compete at the upper levels.

It turns out he can, and his overall numbers in the Eastern League really weren’t bad (78.2 IP, 3.09, 3.7 bb/9, 8.2 k/9). He was actually placed into the Squirrels’ rotation toward the end of the year, and logged a 2.34 ERA in 42.1 IP (9 starts). What’s holding Gregorio back at this point is his durability, and it’s been a trend throughout his career. He’s been in the organization for 6 years, yet he’s pitched only 439 innings. He’s almost 24, and though it’s hard to see him becoming a front-line pitcher at this point, you have to believe Gregorio could still provide value as a back-end starter or hard-throwing reliever, especially if he can manage to finally put some weight on his frame.

Derek Law
Law | Photo Credit: Unknown

#28: Derek Law, RHP, Age 25: Law came out of nowhere to dominate the Cal League in 2013, and was so close to making the Giants 25-man roster out of spring training in 2014. Instead he was assigned to close games in Richmond, where he did until forearm stiffness and Tommy John surgery ultimately cost him the next calendar year.

Law returned to the AA closer’s role last summer, and despite a few inconsistent outings he still maintained an solid 4.0 k/bb mark. The 6-ft-2 righty and former 9th round pick attacks hitters with a jerky rotation that features a Johnny Cueto-like upper body rotation and an over the top release. Before his surgery, his fastball was reported in the low-90’s and reaching 96, but his biggest weapon was arguably his biting curveball. It’s a thing of beauty when he locates it. The lost season definitely hurt his stock some, but I think Law still has late-inning MLB potential in his arm, and I think we’ll be hearing from him again in 2016.

#29: C.J. Hinojosa, SS, Age 21: The Giants drafted Univ. of Texas SS Hinojosa with their 11th round pick in what some analysts are calling THE sleeper pick of the 2015 draft. The shorter (some sites list him at 5-9, others 5-11) middle infielder has been on the professional radar since his high school days, when he was regarded as one of the better defensive SS in the class. His hard commitment to Texas slid him to the 26th round, where the Astros took a flier on the local kid.

Hinojosa locked down the Longhorns’ shortstop gig from the minute he stepped on campus, starting 172 games at the position during his 3 year career. He hit .309 as a freshman, and looked to be headed for college stardom. He couldn’t keep it up over the next two seasons, though, as his average fell slightly in 2014, then took a major dip last summer (.242). He did hit 7 HR as a junior though, after hitting only 4 combined the previous two years.

Once signed, the Giants sent Hinojosa straight to Salem-Keizer. He hit well there, flirting with .300 while knocking 5 HR in only 200 PA. He didn’t walk or strike out much, but also committed 14 errors before an injury cut his season short. Overall, he reminds me some of Brandon Crawford… a guy with major draft hype who didn’t quite perform up to it in college. He doesn’t have Crawford’s size, and I don’t know much about his defense, but he’s definitely one of the more intriguing names to follow from the 2015 class.

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Cove Chatter 100: #9

Chris Stratton | RHP, 23 yo, 6-3, 186 | 2012 Draft – 1 (20) | (A) 22 GS, 132 IP, 3.27 ERA, 128 H, 47 BB, 123 K

Stratton could be as high as #3 on the list, or not in the top 10 at all, depending on who you ask. His fastball is arguably second best in the organization among starters right now (hitting 95 at times), and his slider earns rave reviews. He’s got an easy windup, a great college resume, and the potential to be a solid professional starter. But his numbers in Augusta this year didn’t resemble those of a top SEC pitcher. He spent a good portion of the season working on a 2-seam fastball, and that may explain his down performance to an extent. Obviously, down is a relative term, as he did have a few tremendous starts in the SALLY. But his full body of work just doesn’t match up to what you’d normally expect from someone with his pedigree. For now I’ll keep Stratton behind the quartet of younger starters who’ve excelled at higher levels, with the understanding that he could be a big mover in 2014 if his full repertoire is unleashed.

“Stratton could have started his first full season as a pro in San Jose and been just fine…slider is a true out pitch…It might take a few less-than-stellar outings in a higher level for him to establish inside on a more consistent basis.” ~ David Lee, Augusta Chronicle

Stratton Video:

(Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images)

Fire up the Stove

As of yesterday, the options for Andres Torres and Barry Zito have officially been declined, making them free agents. No shocker there. Both guys had their time in the sun with the club, but it was time for the Giants to move on. Neither guy really made any significant contributions all season, when both were expected to play somewhat significant roles… the organization can’t let that happen next year.

The free agency period is nearly upon us. The exclusive negotiating window teams have with their potential free agents will end in the next day or so, at which point the offseason will officially begin. As it stands, Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong’s status with the Gigantes is still very much up in the air. In his live chat last week, Baggs’ stated what most of us know on the Lopez front: there’s mutual interest, but no deal is in place. Javy’s been a huge (and underrated) piece in Bruce Bochy’s bullpen since he came over from Pittsburgh, and I expect there’ll be a deal announced shortly… probably another two years for the lefty extraordinaire. The Giants specifically didn’t trade him at the deadline because they wanted to bring him back. Generally, when a player and the club have mutual interest, a deal gets done.  I’ll say this though: if Lopez doesn’t sign, there are a few other intriguing lefties out there. A guy I’ve always liked is JP Howell. He had a very good year for the Dodgers, and he’s only 30.

As for Vogey, Baggs has been indicating for a while that the Giants won’t pick up the $6.5 million option for next year, but they’ll renegotiate a cheaper deal. There hasn’t been much talk either way so far, which isn’t all that surprising when it comes to Sabean doing business… but I did find the comments on from Vogey’s agent last week interesting. I can’t seem to find the article now. Essentially, that there hadn’t been any contact from the Giants yet… Can you picture Vogelsong sitting by his phone, staring intently, waiting for the call to come in? Me neither, but it really didn’t sound like there’d been a whole lot of communication. Vogey wants to come back, but Sabean would be absolutely nuts to give him anything more than $1 million at this point. If they could come to some reasonable terms, I’d gladly have him back to compete with Petit/Surkamp/Kickham for the 5th starter spot. I wouldn’t expect anything more than that at this point.

With Lopez and Vogey being the last remaining free agents-to-be on the club at the moment, the Giants aren’t going to be offering any qualifying offers. There’s some significance here, as at one point they could have potentially been looking at a couple of potential first round picks… but they weren’t willing to take the chance of losing Hunter Pence or Tim Lincecum to free agency. I have to admit, the more I think about the Timmy situation, the more I wish they would have waited and made the qualifying offer. It’s all water under the bridge at this point, though. The Giants will take their 14th pick in next year’s draft, and they’ll like it.

A few more offseason thoughts here. CSN has had a few free agent power rankings posts on their site lately. If I remember right, they basically copied and pasted the left field, starting pitcher, and relief pitcher rankings from hardballtalk.com. I want to address the site comments on these posts. It’s amazing to me how unrealistic or distorted a view people have on Sabean, the Giants and their offseason agenda. The front office has said numerous times already that they aren’t going to sacrifice their first round pick, which is not protected. So… Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo are out of the picture, as are any other players who receive a qualifying offer. If you aren’t familiar with the qualifying offer and draft pick compensation, take a look at this article from SB Nation. Pretty good explanation of the process.

Also, you have to look at the market for free agency. There’s not much talent out there this year. Cano, Ellsbury, and Choo are going to make some major green. Even if you take the qualifying offer out of the equation, when’s the last time Sabes forked out $100 million for a free agent not named Barry Zito? It’s not the way he does business, and the Giants have already committed nearly $130 million to the payroll for next season. Barring something very unforeseen (like a hard push for Masahiro Tanaka), Sabean has already spent his big money for the offseason. As hard as it is for those of us who support the orange and black to watch what the Dodgers are doing down in La-La Land, you have to understand the way the Giants do business. Every team has holes that need to be filled, and while the Dodgers may be willing to empty their pockets and farm system to acquire talent, the Giants just don’t play that game. They never have. You may disagree with the way they do business (as I do from time to time), but this club won the World Series only one year ago. Sabean is banking on his key players from 2012 having a bounceback season in 2014, despite his comments about windows closing.

Personally, I don’t see any indications that the Giants will be in on Tanaka. I don’t think they’ll even make the final three teams involved. The estimates being tossed around for his services are pretty outrageous, but there are teams willing to spend that kind of dough. Tanaka could be a game-changer, but I’m really not getting my hopes up anymore. I’d bank more on a Bronson Arroyo or AJ Burnett. Maybe Sabes ponies up a bit more for a guy like Ubaldo Jimenez.

One thing I do expect to take place this winter is a trade or two. Every indication I’ve gotten is that the Giants don’t think too highly of the free agent class (and how can they?). If that’s the case, maybe they’ll put some packages together to land a pitcher or left fielder. But who do they trade? Other than Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar and Adalberto Mejia (all mentioned by Baggs last week as “untouchable”), I’d think every other minor leaguer in the organization is available. I think Clayton Blackburn could be a nice trade piece… Add Joan Gregorio and Chris Stratton to that list, as well as any of the high-octane relievers. Stratton is a guy I’d like to hold onto, though. On the hitting side, I’d have to think Sabean would listen on anyone. I’d like to see Susac and Williamson be off limits, but those are probably the two most coveted guys. Either way, the Giants understand the limitations of modern-day free agency, and may try to get creative in strengthening the roster.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to talk about in the coming weeks, but that’s all for now. The hot stove is almost upon us, so things should start to get interesting (or not interesting, depending on your expectations) very soon.

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Different Paths

The Cardinals are headed back to the World Series, congratulations to them. A year after being handled thoroughly in Game 7 at AT&T, the birds gave it to the Dodgers in similar 9-0 fashion. St Louis is becoming one of the premiere dynasties in the game. It’s bittersweet stuff, I tell you what. But think of it this way: if not for Zito, Scutaro and the Rev. Pence, we’re watching the Cardinals in the Series for the 3rd year in a row. We Giants fans won’t ever give back the memories, but the gold standard has clearly been set in St. Louis over the past 10 years. This is what we expect in Giants’ nation too. Make it so, Sabes.

Flashback to June 2012 – the Cardinals are on the board for the 19th pick in the first round. The orange and black crew are right behind them, ready to snag one of two right-handed college aces: Michael Wacha or Chris Stratton. Wacha, 6-foot-6 Texas A&M Aggie, goes to St. Louis at 19. Solid pick for a solid organization. Not long after, Stratton falls off the board to Los Gigantes, another solid pick from another solid organization. Fast forward to May 2013. Wacha tosses a 2-hitter over 7 strong… in his big league debut… less than a year removed from his college career. Fast tracked to the show. Stratton is still in low-A, working on a two-seam and sacrificing some velocity. Two guys, drafted one pick apart, on such different roads. Remarkable.

Back to present day, the Dodgers are all set to play for a shot at the Series. Cy Kershaw on the bump for game 6… against a rookie? Put that one in the bag. But wait a minute… 2-hitter over 7 for Wacha Wacha Wacha – 7 earnies on 10 hits for Kershaw, and a 48 pitch 4th inning! Baseball is a humbling game, folks. If you saw this one coming, you’re either lying through your teeth, or your crazy. This blog was not created to put down teams or players (even the Dodgers), and it’s hard not to feel for Kershaw. Make no mistake, he’s one of the elite, and he’s going to be a major thorn for the Giants for many years. But he didn’t have his stuff tonight, and he got no help from Mr. Puig, who was humbled quickly tonight. A great season for the Dodgers, but I think I speak for all of Giants Nation when I say we can exhale a bit. There will be no rings in LA this year, but there’s much work to be done if the Giants want to compete in the west next year.

Back to Wacha, rookie and now NLCS MVP. The Cardinals just keep finding these guys. The Giants have their next wave of arms waiting in the wings. Not as many 97-98-99’s on the gun as these starters St. Louis is running out there, but a group that’s starting to gain recognition in its own right. Crick, Blackburn, Escobar, Mejia, Blach… Stratton? Where does he fit in? Every player develops differently, but it’s hard not to question why the #1 pick from an SEC school spent his entire season in Augusta. There talent above him in the organization is great, but I think it’s up to the Giants now to give Stratton a challenge. Forget San Jose – get him a Flying Squirrel’s hat and see how that fastball/slider combo look in the Eastern League. He’s not getting any younger, and the guy taken one pick ahead of him is playing for a ring… in the show.

Stratton

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: Keep Your Eye on those Greenjackets!

Augusta

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.

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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.