Cove Chatter 2015 Giants “All-Farm” Team

Christian Arroyo | Photo c/o Larry Goren | Four Seam Images via AP Images
Christian Arroyo | Photo c/o Larry Goren | Four Seam Images via AP Images

Sorry for the major lack of posting lately. Trying to run a classroom and a blog simultaneously has proven very difficult for me over the last month, but I’m working to put a few posts together with the season winding down. I’d never done an organization all-star-type post before, so I thought this would be fun. Just keep in mind, this group is statistic based. This is not an “All-Prospect” team, but more of a prospect “All-Star” team. You will find some of the top prospects in the system on this list, while others will be noticeably absent.

There are no hard and fast “eligibility rules” for this list. Some of these guys are prospects, some graduated to the majors, and others still bounced up and down a bit. Please, don’t get hung up on that kind of stuff. This is supposed to be for enjoyment. So let me know what you think! I did select a 2nd team, but I haven’t done the write-ups for those guys yet. I’ll try to get it posted in the coming days. Thanks for reading!

MVP: Matt Duffy, 3B, San Francisco – .299/.339/.434, 11 HR, 73 RBI, 11 SB, 4.5 WAR | I’m obviously breaking the nonexistent “rules” here as he didn’t spend a day in the minors all year… but I don’t care. Duffy has been the organization’s breakout player for 2015. He’s one of the steadiest bats and gloves in the National League. What a huge win for the farm system, and for us prospect watchers who’ve been rooting for him over the years.

First Team

C: Aramis Garcia, Augusta/San Jose – .264/.342/.431, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 40 CS% | A slow offensive start gave way to a summer surge for Garcia in Augusta, who showed improved defense and one of the strongest arms in the system. He’s a clear top 10 prospect in the organization right now.

1B: Chris Shaw, Salem-Keizer – .287/.360/.551, 12 HR, 30 RBI | Shaw was a 1B/OF at Boston College and one of the best power hitters in the Cape Cod League last summer. The Giants plucked him in the supplemental first round, and he led the short-season NWL in Home Runs despite only playing in 46 games and logging 200 PA. That’s a 36-HR pace over 600 PA, so it’s evident why the Giants believe in his bat.

2B: Kelby Tomlinson, Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (minors) .321/.376/.414, 3 HR, 21 SB | (majors) .275/.338/.362, 1 HR, 5 SB | Kelby looked like a completely new hitter during his second full season in Richmond. The Giants moved him up to Sacramento where he kept on producing at the plate. When Joe Panik went down, I felt very good about KT’s ability to pick up some slack at 2B. After some early defensive jitters, he settled in nicely while giving the Giants steady at-bats almost every night. He was a serious candidate for my “prospect MVP” award.

3B: Miguel Gomez, Salem-Keizer – .319/.331/.442, 6 HR, 52 RBI | The 22 year-old C/DH/3B made his stateside debut after spending three summers in the DSL. He’s a switch-hitter who is extremely aggressive at the plate… and all he did was hit this summer for Salem-Keizer (coming within 1 or 2 games of the all-time NWL hit streak record). He’s still a pretty unknown commodity, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Giants push him to San Jose next spring.

SS: Christian Arroyo, San Jose – .304/.344/.459, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 5 SB | He missed some significant time to injury for the second season in a row, but when he was healthy, all Arroyo did was hit. Ultimately he was the SJ Giants offensive player of the year, and at 20 years old he appears on the fast track to the majors (not that the Giants need any middle-infielders at the moment). AA will be a big test for him next year, but he’s the #1 prospect in the system for me right now.

LF: Hunter Cole, Augusta/San Jose/Richmond – .301/.358/.474, 9 3B, 9 HR, 63 RBI, 7 SB | Strong first full season for the 2014 26th round pick out of Georgia. He spent some time in the infield, but the Giants moved him primarily to RF once he was promoted to AA. With the Giants current MLB/AAA outfield situation, he’ll likely return to Richmond next spring.

CF: Johneshwy Fargas, Augusta – .278/.347/.349, 2 HR, 59 SB | The young, Puerto Rican CF has impact speed and arm strength. If his bat can develop, he’ll likely be one of the top prospects in the system. San Jose should be a good test of his hitting abilities next season, and he still has plenty of time to develop.

RF: Jarrett Parker, Sacramento/San Francisco – (minors) .283/.375/.514, 23 HR, 74 RBI, 20 SB | (majors) .370/.414/1.074, 6 HR. 12 RBI, 1 SB | If this were the all-prospect team, Mac Williamson would have undoubtedly been my pick here. But I’m going on overall performance, and Parker had his best season as a pro for Sacramento this year. Oh, and did I mention he just clubbed THREE HOMERUNS in Oakland?! That’s 29 big flies on the year…. whoa. After looking rather unassuming in his brief MLB stint in June, I’d say Parker’s surge this month has put his name in conversations for next year’s roster.

SP: Chase Johnson, San Jose/Richmond – 124.2 IP, 111 H, 2.82 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 9.3 K/9 | The former Cal Poly reliever took a giant leap forward in his second professional season. He got a small taste of AA late in the year, allowing 24 baserunners and striking out 18 batters in 13.2 IP. He maintained a mid-90’s fastball and hard curveball all season, and his breakout performance puts him among the top arms in the system for me.

SP: Sam Coonrod, Augusta – 111.2 IP, 103 H, 3.14 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 9.2 K/9 | Converted college closer tamed his previous control problems this summer in Augusta. He mixes a sometimes upper-90’s heater with a very good slider. Whether he’s a starter long term is still up for debate, but at the moment Coonrod’s stuff and results are getting rave reviews around the baseball world.

SP: Clayton Blackburn, Sacramento – 123 IP, 127 H, 2.85 ERA, 2.3 BB/9, 7.2 K/9 | Keeping AAA hitters in check is a difficult task for any pitcher, regardless of age. Blackburn is 22 years old and the owner of a PCL ERA crown. He transformed his body over the winter, and the results were obvious as he dominated down the stretch. His fastball won’t ever blow up a radar gun, but his ability to mix speeds and locate his pitches has played at every level in the minors. His next test is a MLB tryout.

RP: Jake Smith, San Jose – 84.1 IP, 50 H, 2.35 ERA, 16 SV, 2.2 BB/9, 12.6 K/9 | Smith was one of the Cal League leaders in strikeouts despite pitching out of the bullpen the entire season. From start to finish, he was a major contributor to a dominant Giants relief corps that made it all the way to the CAL Championship Series. The MLB draft was cut down to 40 rounds a few years ago; Smith was a 48th round selection in 2011. Don’t let that fool you… this guy has a big league arm.

RP: Josh Osich, Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (minors) 41 IP, 26 H, 1.32 ERA, 21 SV, 2.6 BB/9, 9.0 K/9 | (majors) 23.2 IP, 18 H, 1.90 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 9.1 K/9 | Osich’s stuff returned to form this season, and the Giants have reaped the benefits. With Jeremy Affeldt’s contract expiring this winter, Osich might be looking at a full-time MLB job next spring. When he’s right, he’s one of the most electric arms in the bullpen.

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NWL Opening Day: Volcanoes go to Work

Boy, the time sure flies when your MLB club is rolling the way the Giants are this year. Seriously, I wouldn’t blame you if you’d gotten a little behind on the minor league scene this season. Heck, even I’ve had to catch myself up a couple times. There just really haven’t been a ton of standout performances to this point. But we’ve had this conversation before.

So, why are we getting together here today? Because short-season ball begins for the Northwest League tonight, that’s why. For the Giants, it’s the Volcanoes of Salem-Keizer, taking on Vancouver for a 3-game set this weekend. Recent S-K standouts include Jeremy Sy, Chris Johnson, Mac Williamson, Joe Panik, and a handful of others. With the 2014 summer season upon us, I wanted to take a quick look at the team the Giants will be running out there.

Admittedly, this isn’t a star-studded Volcanoes roster by any means at the moment. The headliner of the squad is without a doubt Christian Arroyo, who was pulled off the Augusta roster for injury purposes last month, but ended up in Arizona at extended spring training instead of going back to the SALLY. Arroyo just never could get much traction at the plate for the Greenjackets. That’s a very tough hitter’s environment, but I also wonder if the move off SS didn’t mess with his confidence a bit. I’m still not very impressed by that decision, but that’s a post for another day. You just hope that this move to the NWL will be a positive one for the kid, as he should be the everyday SS, and the team’s main attraction. Don’t forget, he’s still very young.

Aside from Arroyo, there really isn’t much in the way of offensive talent here. Really, there are a lot of guys who are returners to S-K, and a few others who’ve toyed around in Augusta here and there. If you’re looking for upside, Shilo McCall is a guy I’ve been keeping an eye on for a while. If you recall, he was the New Mexico kid the Giants drafted out of high school a couple years back. He’s got a sturdy build and some power potential, but the organization is bringing him along slowly.

The Giants haven’t released much information in the way of draft pick signings to this point, but you’d like to think they’ll get a few of their college guys signed on pretty soon. As it stands right now, this S-K team really doesn’t have anyone standing in the way of players like Aramis Garcia (2nd round) and Dylan Davis (3rd round). Davis being an Oregon State guy, I’d have to imagine they want to get him out there in a hurry. Once he signs, he’ll likely be the Volcanoes starting RF in a hurry. At the moment, there are 3 catchers listed on the roster. Geno Escalante is the guy who interests me the most, but Leo Rojas and Fernando Pujadas are international signings who have intriguing bats. Honestly, Pujadas might have the most offensive upside of the 3. The point here is, none of these guys will block Garcia from putting on the gear every night, if and when the Giants get him to put pen to paper. Once Garcia and Davis get to the ballpark, this will be a much-improved offense.

A few other 2014 draftees who might end up in the NWL by season’s end are Skyler Ewing, Austin Slater, Seth Harrison and Hunter Cole. Those are the guys from the power programs, while most of the other hitters the Giants took were guys from small schools or JuCo’s… those types usually spend the first summer in the AZL.

On the pitching side, I really don’t see a lot to catch my eye. Andrew Leenhouts takes the bump tonight. He was 9-2 for the Volcanoes last year, so the fans will remember his name. Problem is (and we say this all the time here in rookie-league Billings), it’s not a good sign if the fans see your face two years in a row in short-season ball.

A couple other notes on the pitching side: It looks like Ian Gardeck will start the season here on a rehab assignment. Who knows how long he’ll stay with the team, but he’s got the biggest (and maybe the wildest) arm on the roster at the moment. Nick Gonzalez is a nice-sized lefty out of South Florida who looked good in a handful of innings at rookie ball last year. He’s a guy I’d like to see the Giants try to start. Really, the only pitcher here who interests me much is Eury Sanchez. Sanchez is a smaller kid from the Dominican Republic, but he’s got some velocity on his arm, and his K rates have been impressive, albeit in only 45 career innings as a professional. He’s 21, and might be a name to watch.

As new draft picks go, the obvious name you’re looking for is Tyler Beede. I hate to burst your bubble, but I’d be very surprised to see the Artist known as “Young Beedah” make more than a handful of appearances in Oregon this summer, if the Giants even decide to pitch him at all. Vandy is still in the CWS, so Beede can’t even sign his contract yet. He’s got a ton of innings on his arm from the past three seasons, and the Giants might just decide to give him a rest once his college season is over. If you want to see him pitch this year, your best bet might be to check the Omaha schedule on ESPN this weekend.

If I had to throw a couple names out there for drafted pitchers who might show up on the Volcanoes roster this summer, I’d look for guys like Sam Coonrod (5th round), Matt Gage (10th round) out of Siena, or ACC arms Benton Moss and Matt Crownover, if the Giants can get either of them to sign. Gage seems like the best bet to me, a 6-4, 240 pound lefty who seems like he could slot right into that S-K rotation and eat up a few innings.

Ok, that’s a lot of talk for a roster that really doesn’t look all that great on paper. Hey, maybe a few surprises will pop up. Personally, I hope the organization gets Garcia and Davis fitted for uniforms in a hurry, otherwise young Arroyo might be entertaining the fans all by himself out there. If you’re looking for some reports on opening weekend, it sounds like Conner Penfold is headed out there to catch a few games. Give his site a look, as I’m sure some videos will surface by Sunday.

(Randy Ortiz and Christian Arroyo: c/o The Augusta Chronicle)

4/9 MiLB Wrap: Arroyo Leads Augusta Surge

If you’ve been keeping up with these minor league recaps over the past week (I failed to post one yesterday), you’ll notice that I’ve been trying to focus on a different player each night. Unofficially, you might call the featured player a sort of “prospect of the night.” I gave the honor to pitchers over the first four of five days, and have now started to give some attention to the hitting prospects in the organization.

Christian Arroyo, #7 on the Cove Chatter 100 preseason prospects list, is our featured player today. Arroyo broke out of his early slump for Augusta last night, going 3-4 at the plate and starting an 8-run rally in the 3rd with a 2-RBI single up the middle. Coincidentally, last night was also Christian’s first start at SS, as he’d been manning 2B in each of the Greenjackets’ first 6 games. Yesterday also marked another change for the Giants 2013 1st round pick, as the Augusta coaching staff swapped Arroyo and 3B Brandon Bednar in the lineup – Arroyo moved up to the #2 spot, while Bednar dropped from 2 to 3 on a night that saw a few other lineup switches as well.

The Giants know Arroyo can hit, as he proved in taking the AZL MVP last summer. But the jump to full-season ball, and the pitcher-friendly SAL can be a tough one, especially for an 18 year-old kid. Arroyo entered last night with only 2 hits on the young season, so hopefully his 3-hit performance will let him breathe a little easier and get into a groove at the plate. No doubt, Arroyo has a chance to really be a leader for one of the youngest Augusta teams fielded in years.

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(Photo Courtesy of Aroundthefoghorn.com)

Pitching Report

Mitch Lively, FRS: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (8.31 season ERA) – Lively earned his 1st win of the season in an offensive slugfest.

Ty Blach, RCH: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K (2.45 ERA) – Blach’s 1st AA win. I think guys like Blach and Blackburn are going to see their K’s take a hit in Richmond this season, as the hitting is much more advanced. However, I’ll take 6 shutout IP any day of the week.

Kendry Flores, SJ: 5 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (4.50 ERA) – Flores couldn’t replicate his dominant first outing of the season. Sounds like he was pulled in the 6th with two runners on, and both of those runs came in to score.

Chase Johnson, AUG: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 4 K (3.38 ERA) – Johnson gets his first win as a Greenjacket. Through 2 starts, he’s got 9 K and only 2 BB in 10.2 IP. Not too shabby for a seldom-used college reliever.

Stock Up

Gary Brown, FRS: 3-5, 2B, 3B, RBI – Brown is really spraying the ball around early in the year. He’s had a hit in all but one game, and has 3 multiple-hit performances. His average is up to .324 after yesterday.

Adam Duvall, FRS: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 K – Duvall’s second HR of the year was a grand slam. The guy has some major power, and it’s showing up early in the PCL.

Matt Duffy, RCH: 1-5, 2 RBI – Duffy had another nice day at the plate, working a 12-pitch AB his first time up, eventually moving Tyler Graham over to 3rd. His 2-RBI single in the 5th gave Richmond enough of a cushion to lock down a win.

Mac Williamson, SJ: 2-4, 2 R – Mac was off to an ice-cold start to the season, so his first multiple hit game has to feel good.

Mitch Delfino, SJ: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI – Huge night at the plate for Delfino, who now sports a .345 average and 3 big flies on the year. He’s only 23, and he’s a serious 20-HR threat in the Cal League this season.

Leo Rojas, AUG: 3-5, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI – Nice game for Rojas, who the Giants have moved out from behind the dish. Rojas has always shown a pretty nice hack, but he missed quite a bit of 2013 after being popped for PED’s.

Stock Down

George Kontos, FRS: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K – Another rough outing for Kontos, whose ERA over 6 IP is now 13.50.

Mason McVay, SJ: 2 IP, 2 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K – McVay came in for some extended relief, and promptly gave up a grand slam. He also walked two batters, an early trend for Giants minor league relievers.

Cove Chatter 100: #7

Christian Arroyo | SS, 18 yo, 6-1, 180, BR, TR | 2013 Draft – 1 (25) | (AZL) 45 G, 209 PA, .326/.388/.511, .898 OPS, 2 HR, 3 SB, 2 CS, 19 BB, 32 K

The Giants were laughed off the block when they took Arroyo in the first round this summer, but got the last laugh in 2013 when their shortstop took home MVP honors in the Arizona Rookie League two months later. Arroyo is young, confident, and experienced in international competition with Team USA (where he was also the team MVP). He doesn’t profile well defensively or on the bases… the Giants drafted him for his bat, which certainly opened some eyes in Arizona. It remains to be seen how much power will fill in, but I think it’s safe to say the Giants are hoping for a future .275-.300 hitter who they can stick in the top 3 spots of their lineup for years. He’s got a long way to go, and he may have to move off shortstop down the road. But he’s off to an impressive start so far, and Andrew Baggarly even likened his poise and polish to that of another former 1st round pick – Buster Posey.

They said it:  “His value is in his bat, and specifically, his contact skills. Really have to like the extra-base power he showed in the AZL. Overall tools don’t suggest a sky-high ceiling, but I think you could draw some parallels to Posey in terms of his intelligence and polish.” ~ Andrew Baggarly

“…outstanding plate coverage and hand/eye coordination, short crisp swing with bat speed, squares up everything, no problems against plus velocity, hard line drive contact to all fields, gap power, has special ability to square up the ball… The bat is special.” ~ Perfect Game

 Arroyo Video:

(Vimeo.com)

Giants 2014: Second Base

Back to the Giants 2014 series, let’s take a look at second base. To be honest, there seem to be more questions here than answers going into next season… and that really has become a pattern for the position recently (aside from 2012). Can Marco Scutaro stay healthy? Is he too much of a defensive liability to play every day? Will Sabean find him a platoon partner? Another issue to consider here is the logjam of middle-infielders on the 40-man… how will the Giants sort that out?

Lots of questions; we’ll see how many we can answer.

Where it’s been: The story of 2nd base for the Giants in recent years is one that features a mixture of trades, aging vets, organizational fillers, injuries, and (most importantly) big-time performances in the postseason.  It’s been a mixed bag to say the least, and one that’s led to a pair of rings. But the organization has been searching for a long-term answer at the position for quite some time, and will likely continue to do so as it moves toward 2014.

The last player that I’d consider a mainstay at 2nd base in San Francisco was Ray Durham, who played his last year with the club in 2008. Durham was a Giant for roughly five and a half years, and he held his own pretty damn well for the majority of that time. The dude hit 26 home runs in 2006… 26! He was a consistent hitter, and did a pretty good job filling the hole left by Jeff Kent in the mid-2000’s. The Giants tried to replace Durham with homegrown cats Kevin Frandsen, Manny Burriss and Eugenio Velez. We all know how that turned out. Frandsen is really the only one who has had any kind of a decent career, but even he never turned into a true everyday player.

In 2009, Good Panda Pablo Sandoval and his buddies came out of the woodworks under Bruce Bochy, and Sabean set out to find a 2B (among other positions) at the trade deadline. I remember thinking at the time that Frandsen deserved a shot at the full-time gig… that he could hold the position down as well as anybody on the trade market. In my mind, I played Frandsen out to be a Dustin Pedroia grinder type who just needed an opportunity to shine. Now, I wonder what the hell I was thinking back then. Luckily, Sabean did not give the job to Frandsen, instead trading Tim Alderson to Pittsburgh for Freddy Sanchez. That’s right about the time that I was beginning my days as a prospect hound, and nobody excited me more in the organization than Bumgarner and Alderson. I didn’t know exactly how to feel about the deal at first, but it only took a couple Sanchez AB’s with runners on for me to shake any previous doubt. Honestly, I haven’t had a second thought about that trade since. The fact that Alderson never really did anything with the Pirates made it that much easier… but it’s astounding to me that there are people in this world who still question that deal. You’re kidding me, right?

As we’d find out, Freddy was a walking injury waiting to happen. But he (like Edgar Renteria) was healthy long enough in 2010 to help bring home a title, and that’s really all that mattered in the end. It was the injuries after the 2010 World Series that really hurt for Sanchez. Regardless, I’ll always remember him as a good Giant, and part of the band of misfits who shocked the world. Tim Alderson? I can’t say the same.

Freddy’s career as a Giant was effectively over after 58 games in 2011, and the rest of the season was spent trying out a number of different, mostly ineffective options to replace him. Mike Fontenot, Jeff Keppinger, more Burriss, even a Bill Hall sighting… again, 2011 turned into a trash can year in the final month and a half.

The 2012 season saw another vet enter the mix in Ryan Theriot, who played 91 games at 2B, providing somewhat of an improvement over Burriss (whose days with the club were becoming numbered). By the trade deadline, Theriot actually had a pretty good hold on the everyday job. That’s why, if you remember correctly, Scutaro was actually acquired to add depth to the infield, not necessarily to take the 2B job from Theriot. It was a bit of a head-scratcher move at the time, but Scooter sure put a quick stop to any doubt. A .387 average in 45 games…Hardest hitter in the league to strikeout… NLCS MVP… One day, you’re being traded for a minor league middle-infielder with a good-looking wife and almost no professional experience, the next you’re driving in the winning run in the World Series. In 3 months, Scutaro went from being infield depth to postseason hero in San Francisco. The Giants’ marketing team even created a “rain-globe” of him to commemorate Game 7 of the NLCS. Funny game, that baseball…

Where it’s headed: Despite his age, the Giants gave Scutaro a 3-year deal worth $20 million last offseason. But 2013 became a lost season very quickly, and Scutaro battled injuries seemingly all year. With all the talk of the WBC and health issues, I’d have to throw Scutaro into the mix of guys whose seasons were screwed up by the early competition. Throw in the fact that the Giants had a very short offseason, and Scooter really didn’t appear to be in the healthiest condition this spring. He fought problems with his back all summer, and I’d be willing to bet that had a direct impact on his poor defense. Throw in the mallet finger case, and you’re talking about a very rough season. But Marco’s a gamer, and he did his best to play through it all. Despite the injuries, he was still one of the most consistent hitters on the team, flirting with .300 all year. Maybe he doesn’t show much pop anymore, but he still gives you a very solid AB every time out.

So, year one on the Scutaro contract didn’t go all that well. The Giants were short on middle-infield depth for most of the year as well. Tony Abreu was supposed to be the guy that provided that depth, but he spent a good portion of the season on the shelf with injuries. Nick Noonan got a shot out of spring training, and while I thought he was impressive at the plate early on, it became pretty obvious that he wasn’t the right fit. Joaquin Arias played a handful of games at 2nd too, but to me he’s needed more on the left side of the infield (although I’m sure he’d be happy to play anywhere at this point).

All of this leaves quite a few questions surrounding the position going into the offseason. Scutaro still has two years left on his deal, and we know he’s a capable hitter. But he missed 35 games last year, and really doesn’t have the range to play adequate defense on a nightly basis anymore. Even if he is fully healthy, at age 38 I can’t see him being a guy who plays more than 125 games next season. To me, it’s more important to keep him fresh (hopefully for another postseason run) than it is to run him out there every day with nagging injuries. The latter had a bigger impact on the Giants’ struggles this season than most people think. Ryan Theriot gave Bochy a nice infield option off the bench last fall, and I think his absence was felt this year.

It would be very wise of Sabean to find a reliable player this winter who can share time with Scutaro next season. Really, we’re talking about another Theriot-type guy here – someone who understands he’s probably not going to play every day, but who Bochy can trust to run out there if Scutaro struggles or goes down. Ideally, I see a 60-40 split, with Scooter playing roughly 100 games if he’s healthy… Depending on whether Sabes looks outside the organization for help, maybe Scutaro actually comes off the bench. I’m talking about trading for a guy like Brandon Phillips, who’s reportedly on the block in Cincinnati. Phillips would be an obvious upgrade, both offensively and defensively. It’s not out of the question that Scutaro could be unseated at this point, and he’d provide a solid late-game bat off the bench if so. Another trade candidate the Giants could take a look at is Daniel Murphy of the Mets, who would likely play a secondary role if he were acquired. I think Murphy would be a good fit, and Shankbone of “You Gotta Like These Kids” has a nice take on Murphy as a target over on his site (linked to the right).

On the free agent front, there’s really only one player I feel would be worthy of offering a contract to; Omar Infante. Infante’s game profiles pretty similarly to Scutaro’s, but he’s a few years younger, and likely would give you a little better defense. Infante can hit, and he’s got quite a bit of playoff experience. If the Giants were to make him a 2-year offer for $5-7 million a year, I wouldn’t be upset a bit. One other name to keep an eye on is Mark Ellis, who the Dodgers parted ways with recently. He’s another guy who seems to fit the Sabean mold of grinder-type middle infielders… and he’d probably come pretty cheap on a one year deal.

The other piece to consider here is that the Giants have a logjam of middle-infielders on the 40-man roster at the moment. Between Arias, Abreu, Noonan and Ehire Adrianza, you’ve got four guys who could all be vying for one utility infield spot next year. Add in Brett Pill as another potential bench option, and the front office has some personnel decisions to make. Who gets a contract, who doesn’t? Right now, that’s anybody’s guess. Personally, I’d give one of the positions to Arias… he’s been a very valuable player the past couple seasons, and he can play all over the infield. He is due for a slight salary bump though, as is Abreu… Neither one of them is set to make all that much money through arbitration, but the Giants might choose to go cheaper with Adrianza, who’s been a top prospect in the system for quite a while, and is out of minor league options. I’ll take my best guess and say the Giants give one of the backup spots to Arias, package Adrianza with a pitching prospect in a trade (possibly for a guy like Murphy, but maybe a LF as well), and fill the other infield spot with a free agent. Whatever they do, Sabean has made it pretty clear he will be looking for more depth this winter, so I’d definitely expect to see a new face platooning at 2B next season with Scutaro.

Finally, I wanted to touch briefly on the position long-term. The Giants have tried and missed on a handful of players in the organization recently, most notably Frandsen, Velez and Burriss. Not all that long ago, Noonan was drafted very high as an 18 year-old, but his progression really hit a wall in AA. But he kept grinding, and eventually made it to San Francisco. As a guy who the organization once had very lofty expectations for, I’m sure he’ll get a few more chances before it’s all said and done, but I don’t see much of an upside from him anymore.

Another former 2B prospect the Giants had hopes for was Charlie Culberson, who gave the Giants the gift of an NLCS MVP when he was shipped to Colorado for Scutaro last summer.

A bit more recently, the Giants have taken middle infielders as their first round pick in two of the past three drafts. Both were drafted as shortstops, but known more for their bats than their gloves. Joe Panik was moved to 2B full-time this season in Richmond, and is no longer considered the future everyday stalwart that he was even a year ago by many in the scouting world. Personally, I think it’s much too early to write the guy off. No, his numbers in Richmond weren’t spectacular. But many hitters with lofty expectations have been absolutely defeated by the Eastern League. I wouldn’t put Panik among that group. To me, he did enough to earn a promotion to Fresno next year. He’s only 23, and I’d like to see the Giants put him on the 40-man eventually so he has a chance to learn from Scutaro at the highest level. Is Panik an elite prospect? No. He likely won’t ever hit for much power either. But he still showed above average plate discipline last season, and if he can have a bounce back season in Fresno, he could be looking at a potential call-up late next year.

The last player I want to note is Christian Arroyo. Arroyo was drafted as a SS, but like Panik, I’m sure he’ll eventually move to 2B. If he can stay at short, great, but that’s not what most of the scouting world tells us is going to happen. Again, Arroyo was drafted for the bat, not the glove. His pick was also mocked up and down by the baseball world, much like Panik’s. I think it’s safe to say the mocking has subsided for now, as a #2 ranking in the AZL Top 20 by Baseball America this fall has put Arroyo on the map, and likely near the top of most Giants’ prospect rankings. It’s going to take some time, for sure, but the Giants (and all of us) hope that Arroyo’s bat will help him get to the shores of McCovey Cove someday, putting an end to the exhaustive search for a long-term answer at second base.

Prospects in the Press

We’ve got some news on the prospect front for the first time in a while. Jason Cole of Baseball Prospectus posted video from a recent instructional league game between the Giants and A’s. Originally he posted four clips; pitchers Kyle Crick and Keury Mella, and hitters Angel Villalona and Ryder Jones. Later, Cole snuck in a one-inning stint from 3rd round pick Chase Johnson. If you haven’t seen these, I’ll link them here. I definitely recommend checking them out… All are high-quality, HD clips that get right in behind home plate. Pretty sweet views of each pitcher’s breaking pitches!

Crick Video

Mella Video

Johnson Video

Jones Video

Villalona Video

My take: The pitchers were a bit more exciting, as you might have guessed. Pitching is the cream of the crop in this franchise! Crick’s video is the longest, as he throws a few innings. He’s a bit wild at first, surrendering walks and a couple of base hits in the first inning. He settled in pretty nicely in the following frames, and was consistently 94-96 with his fastball. I don’t know about you, but I just love this guy. Do me a favor: watch the Crick video again, then watch this clip of another pitcher the Giants developed a few years back. See any similarities? Pretty awesome stuff if you ask me.

I think Mella’s video was my favorite, and I’ve watched it over a few times. This kid is highly, highly underrated in my opinion. I don’t think it’ll be that way for much longer, though. Look at that frame! Abbreviated windup (a little like David Price), fastball at 93-95, and a filthy breaking ball! Gives up a base hit to the first hitter, then absolutely makes the second guy (Higley) look silly on three pitches. He’d work through the second inning without allowing a baserunner, recording a few K’s in the process. This video was an eye-opener for me, as I still knew relatively little about this kid. Let’s just say he’ll get a nice bump up my offseason rankings. He’s got a long way to go, but that fastball looks goooood going forward. What other starting pitcher in the system throws that hard?

Johnson pitched an inning, losing a long battle with Oakland’s 1st rounder Billy McKinney. McKinney took the walk after spoiling some 3-2 pitches, and the next batter hit an RBI triple to left center. Looked like the CF had trouble getting the ball in, but it was crushed either way. Still, Johnson worked 91-94 with the fastball, and even hit 95 once from what I remember. His breaking ball is a big, over the top curve. Had a little trouble controlling it. The changeup is low 80’s, making for a very nice change of pace from his fastball. You know, for a guy whose 3rd round draft spot prompted some questions in June, Johnson is starting to get some hype at the national level all of a sudden. Baseball America ranked him the #8 player in the NWL in its offseason top 20 list last week. He was the only Salem-Keizer player to make the list, in fact. It’ll be interesting to see what the Giants do with him next year. Augusta? San Jose? Starter? Reliever? Guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

Jones and Villalona’s videos were a little uneventful. I can’t, however, get over how big Angel V. is. He is a serious bopper, and he’s headed to the AFL to put his bat to the test. It looked like he got into one pretty good during this game, but you couldn’t see where the ball landed. Could have been a routine base hit, but I got the impression it was a very long single. Either way, this kid looks like he’s got major league power. Does he have major league contact?

Hopefully Cole will get the chance to shoot a few more Giants before instructional league ends. Those were a lot of fun to check out!

Finally, the Cal League top 20 was released by Baseball America today, and the Giants ran away with it. Crick came it at #3 behind A’s phenom Addison Russell and Rockies hurler Eddie Butler (although MLB.com has Crick #42 in its updated top 100; Butler was ranked in the 80’s). Delino Deshields and Austin Hedges got the 4 and 5 spots, with our own Edwin “Esky” Escobar sliding in at #6. Who came in at #10, you ask? Well, that would be none other than Adalberto Mejia, lefty extraordinaire. Three Giants pitchers in the top 10 gives you a pretty good idea that we fans aren’t the only ones taking notice of these arms anymore. Pretty exciting stuff.

On the back end, Ty Blach came in at #15, Mac Williamson at 18, and Clayton Blackburn rounded it out at 20. Six Giants in the top 20, impressive. I think what surprised me the most here was Blackburn getting the lowest spot among this group. Many in the Giants fan base (myself included) believe Blackburn is a top 5 prospect in the system. Hell, you could make the argument that he’s #2 or 3. So I think this list gives us a pretty good idea about how the rest of the world looks at these pitchers. Also great to see Mac make the list as well, although I don’t know how he could have been left off. He fell a tick short of .300 on the season. Otherwise, his offensive numbers were very, very impressive. This is the cream of the crop in the system, ladies and gents, and they’re moving up to Richmond next year. Escobar may be moving to Fresno… as Sabean says, AA is the true test, not Fresno.

A quick recap on those BA rankings. As Giants affiliates go, I think the Eastern League and PCL are the only leagues that haven’t had top 20’s announced. Not sure if we’ll see anyone from the organization make either of those lists. Panik and Susac probably have the best shot for the EL. Maybe Heath Hembree gets a spot in the PCL 20? 10 Gigantes farmhands have made it onto their respective BA lists. The super 6 in the Cal, Chase Johnson in the NWL, and 3 more from the AZL. Christian Arroyo at #2, Mella at #14, Ryder Jones at #19. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s your 1st, 2nd and 3rd round draft picks all on the top 20 lists for their summer leagues. All of this from a Giants draft class that got laughed off the field by the national pundits in June. Interesting stuff.

That was a lot, but many good things going on in the depths of the Giants system these days. I have a feeling we’ll see a couple more of these kids crack the preseason top 100, but that’s still a long way off. For now, enjoy those videos, and we’ll catch up on the prospect front again soon as the AFL season gets rolling.

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(Conner Penfold/Giant Potential)

Giants are Champs

Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue? The only thing is, these champs play in Scottsdale, not San Francisco, and they earned their crown of the Arizona Rookie League by shutting out the Dodgers… how sweet it is. The game story from MiLB is here, with a big picture of winning pitcher Keury Mella to boot. Mella, the 20 year-old righty with a big fastball, tossed 5 shutout innings. College lefty Nick Gonzalez struck out 6 over the final four innings, and the “juggernaut” Giants finished what they started back in June. Christian Arroyo, Ryder Jones and Christian Paulino were all 2-4 at the dish.

I’ll keep the rest of this pretty brief, but I thought the MiLB article was very interesting. You don’t get a lot of AZL coverage in general, and the quotes from skipper Nestor Rojas (Manager of the Year) about his 18 year-old league MVP Arroyo are promising. People are starting to throw the word “special” around with this kid… after initially scratching my head at the pick (and probably reading too much into pre-draft scouting reports), I’m very excited to see him move to full-season ball next year.

Yes, I realize that rookie ball titles are nothing to get worked up about, and most of the guys on this team won’t even make it to Fresno. But when the varsity team is in the tank, tell me you don’t at least take a longer look at the freshmen squad that’s blowing out the competition. And I think you get an idea about some of the talent the Giants pulled from the lower (and upper) rounds of the draft this year. This team was led by recent draft picks, and most of its top hitters (Arroyo, Jones, Joneswhy Fargas) aren’t even 20 years old.

All of these kids may be many years away from helping a big league club, but I’ll give this caveat: I moved from California to Billings, MT in 2009. Billings is a rookie league town, home to the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League (a Cincinnati affiliate). In my first four summers here, I watched defensive wizard Didi Gregorius (’09), burner Billy Hamilton (’10), strikeout artist Tony Cingrani (’11), and a Bay Area hurler named Robert Stephenson (’12). As of today, three of those four are in the show, and Stephenson has already moved to AA. So I won’t discount the performances of guys like Christian Arroyo and Luis Ysla this year, because you just never know.

Ryder  Jones