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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Updates on the Top Prospects, #1-10

It’s been a month since we finished our mid-season top prospects list, so I wanted to take a few minutes to look at how these guys are holding up through the summer. There are certainly a few guys who’ve helped or hurt their stock big time, and I’m constantly re-evaluating the system. Luckily, the top 5 guys are all doing fairly well, although I don’t know that they’ll all be able to keep their lofty spots in the organization come off-season rankings… not if guys like Edwin Escobar have anything to say about it.

#1 Kyle Crick, RHP, San Jose | 11 gs, 1-1, 1.78 era, 50.2 ip, 38 h, 32 bb, 69 k.

Crick has been inconsistent with his control at times, but his fastball is baffling Cal League hitters this summer, and he’s keeping runs off the board. If he can stay healthy, I don’t think an Arizona Fall League assignment would be out of the question for Crick this year.

#2 Chris Stratton, RHP, Augusta | 19 gs, 8-3, 3.11 era, 113 ip, 107 h, 41 bb, 114 k.

I thought Stratton might get a second-half promotion to San Jose, but it looks like he’ll be staying in Augusta for the remainder of the season. While there are certainly other pitchers in the system whose stars have shone brighter than his right now, Stratton has actually been very consistent. He’s also been better lately, allowing only 2 ER over his last four starts.

#3 Clayton Blackburn, RHP, San Jose | 20 gs, 7-5, 3.62 era, 117 ip, 97 h, 28 bb, 119 k.

Blackburn has lived up to his workhorse reputation this year in San Jose, giving the Giants a competitive effort on the mound every 5th day. With guys like Crick, Escobar and Mejia pitching around him this year, it’s been very easy to overlook Blackburn. But that would be a huge mistake, as the 20 year-old has really been on a tear lately. He’s 5-2 with a 2.80 ERA over his last 10 starts. I would say his stock is holding strong.

#4 Martin Agosta, RHP, Augusta | 15 gs, 8-3, 2.03 era, 79.2 ip, 49 h, 34 bb, 97 k.

Agosta has been dominant when he’s been on the mound this season. His 49 hits allowed and 97 K’s in 79 innings indicate his dominant stuff, but durability has been an issue in the past couple of months for the 2nd round pick. He’s made only 5 starts since June 1, and is currently on the DL with a blister. He’s already missed some time with dead arm this summer, so his health is definitely a concern right now. But I’m sure the Giants would really like to get his electric arm back on the mound sooner rather than later.

#5 Mac Williamson, OF, San Jose | 115 g, .277/.360, 20 hr, 67 rbi, 42 bb, 115 k, 9 sb.

Mac has done nothing to hurt his value this summer after a slow start to his first full professional season this spring. He hit .320 in June and .321 in July, with a combined 13 HR. He’s cooled off a bit in August so far, but his bat and defensive skills make him one of the top position player prospects in the system. The real test for Williamson will obviously be Richmond, but his season in San Jose has been pretty impressive.

#6 Andrew Susac, C, Richmond | 84 g, .256/.362, 12 hr, 56 rbi, 42 bb, 68 k.

Susac’s season thus far has been pretty consistent with his overall scouting report. He’s shown power while posting an OBP 100 points higher than his average, yet battled injuries for most of the summer in Richmond. This may seem like a simple analysis, but Susac really has had a nice season, especially for a guy who hit only .244 with 9 HR in San Jose last year. The former 2nd round pick is coming along nicely, both at the plate and behind it. If he can just keep himself on the field with more consistency, I’d think he could be ready to break out in Fresno next year.

#7 Gary Brown, CF, Fresno | 115 g, .230/.289, 12 hr, 46 rbi, 29 bb, 115 k, 13 sb.

Brown’s stock is fading pretty quickly these days. After a terribly cold start in Fresno, the former top prospect heated up in June, adding the long ball to his repertoire. However, his bat has gone cold again, to the tune of .233 in July and .247 in August. The Giants could really use his elite defense in San Francisco, but his bat just hasn’t developed as hoped to this point. Maybe he needs another season to make some adjustments at the dish.

#8 Joe Panik, 2B, Richmond | 117 g, .266/.341, 4 hr, 47 rbi, 50 bb, 50 k, 10 sb.

Panik is another curious case for the Giants and their top hitting prospects. He’s had his ups and downs in Richmond this season. After going ice cold in June, he’s finally starting to get his average up again with a .368 line in August. He continues to show excellent plate discipline, as well as a lack of power. He’s probably done enough at this point to move out of the dreaded Eastern League next season, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll hit enough to play every day in the big leagues.

#9 Gustavo Cabrera, CF, DSL | 44 g, .231/.375, 0 hr, 14 rbi, 28 bb, 45 k, 17 sb.

Cabrera, the 17 year-old bonus baby, has held his own in his first taste of professional baseball. After hitting .200 in the month of June, he posted a .413 OBP in July, and is 8-23 so far in August. Cabrera’s ability to take a walk and steal a base should make the Giants feel good about his game so far. Not incredible numbers for a top prospect, but for a kid who’s as young and raw as he is, I think he’s doing just fine.

#10 Heath Hembree, RHP, Fresno | 47 g, 26 sv, 4.15 era, 47.2 ip, 47 h, 15 bb, 58 k.

Hembree has been anointed the Giants’ closer of the future at times during his minor league career, but he seems to have stalled in AAA. After spending most of the season in Fresno last year, he’s been stuck in the Pacific Coast League again this year as well. The Giants needed bullpen help badly while Santiago Casilla was out, but never called Hembree’s name. Hembree’s ERA isn’t amazing, but I think he’s done enough to earn a call to the show. Not sure what the hold-up is at this point.

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MiLB Two Up, One Down

August 1

Two Up

Clayton Blackburn, RHP |San Jose: 1 GS, 8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (89 pitches)

Great pitching has been the theme this summer for the Giants’ top prospects, and it continued yesterday with Blackburn in San Jose. The #3 prospect on our mid-season top 40 has been on a roll lately, and has thrown 8 innings in each of his last two starts. After taking a no-hitter into the 7th in his last start, Blackburn cruised through the Visalia lineup last night to the tune of 1 ER in 8 IP. The visitors came out hacking, which made for a very economical night for the Giants’ young righty, who only needed 89 pitches to get through the 8th. Between July and August, Blackburn has now tossed five straight quality starts, allowing only 6 ER in 34 IP during that span.

Adam Duvall, 3B | Richmond: 2-5, HR.

The Giants’ #22 prospect found his stroke this week, hitting his 3rd HR in as many nights against the Portland Seadogs yesterday in AA. The power surge has to be a confidence booster for Duvall, who’s shown few signs of life since returning from a thumb injury that cost him most of April and May. Duvall, the former Louisville Cardinal, may have some of the most power in the organization. He hit 52 HR between Augusta and San Jose in the last two seasons, and now has 12 this year in Richmond. He’s not striking out as much in 2013, which is nice, but I don’t think the Giants will give him a promotion to Fresno next year unless he can raise his average to the .260 range and continue to show some pop. Maybe the recent streak of big flies will get his bat going again.

One Down

Tyler Mizenko, RHP | Augusta: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K.

Mizenko (#37 on the top 40) is the closer for Augusta, and his July struggles seem to have carried over into August. The Greenjackets played a double-header last night, completing a suspended game from earlier in the year before playing their regularly scheduled contest against Charleston. Mizenko replaced Joan Gregorio in the 5th inning of game 2, and allowed four runs to cross the plate. Two of those runs were credited to Gregorio, who left the game with a blister issue. Replacing an injured starter in the 5th seems like an odd assignment for the closer, and maybe that affected Mizenko a bit. Regardless, he has really struggled over the last month after allowing only 4 ER in his first 31 appearances this year.

Minor League Report: 2 up, 1 down

July 26, 2013

Just wanted to give a quick update on a few prospects from our mid-season top 40. I’ll try to do these updates from time to time, just to check in on some of the notable performances from the farm. I thought it might be beneficial to list a couple of guys who did well, as well as one or two who had a rough night. These will be brief, but if you’d like a full daily recap of the Giants’ minor league affiliates, check out whenthegiantscometotown.blogspot.com, where DrB is full of great insights.

Two Up

Clayton Blackburn, RHP | San Jose (#3 on our list): 8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K.

Blackburn has been on a tear in Hi-A lately, and continued his hot streak with one of the best starts of his young career. He took a perfect game into the 7th, retiring the first 20 Lancaster hitters before allowing a double. He induced 10 groundouts on the night, pitching 8 innings strong. That’s four straight starts of 6 IP, 2 ER or less for Blackburn, who seems to be turning the corner in San Jose.

Gustavo Cabrera, OF, | DSL Giants (#9): 2-5, 2B.

Cabrera is the Giants’ 2012 prize international signee. At 17 years old, he’s in his first season of professional ball, playing in the Dominican Summer League. Understandably, his hitting numbers have been pretty poor this summer, but he seems to be catching fire all of a sudden. He’s got 6 hits and 2 2B over his last three games, and sports a very nice .356 OBP for the season. He’s got all kinds of tools, so it’ll be interesting to see if his recent hitting streak continues.

One Down

Mike Kickham, LHP | Fresno (#12): 0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HR.

Kickham’s season is spiraling downward in a hurry these days. He didn’t make it out of the first inning last night, racking up 42 pitches and allowing a HR before getting the hook. His ERA in Fresno is now 5.29 for the season, and he’s allowed 5 ER or more in three of his last six starts. This has to be frustrating for the lefty, who would probably still be in the majors if not for his control issues.

Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects: #1

Well, it’s been almost a month since we started this project, and we’re finally down to #1. If you’ve been following along, I want to thank you for your support, and welcome any feedback or insight you may have about any of these players. This is by far the most comprehensive list I’ve ever put together. I’ve learned so much about the Giants’ farm system during the process, as I hope you have too. Now that it’s complete, I already feel like there are changes to be made, players I missed, etc, so I’m hoping to put together another list (maybe 50 this time) at the end of the season. Until then, you can be sure there will be plenty more posts on the prospect front, including updates on many of the guys we’ve covered here, and maybe some profiles of some lesser known players in the system. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this series!

#1. Kyle Crick – RHP, 20 yo, Hi-A: Surprise! Ok, so there really wasn’t a lot of suspense around this pick, and there shouldn’t be. Kyle Crick is the bell cow of the farm, and you’ll find him ranked #1 on probably 99% of Giants’ prospect lists. Crick is a big, power righty who hails from Texas. He’s got a classic pitcher’s frame at 6’4, 220 lbs, and owns an elite fastball that he can run up to 98 mph. He’s the most promising pitching prospect the Giants have had since Zack Wheeler left the system.

The Giants drafted Crick with their 1st round “sandwich” pick in 2011 out of Sherman (TX) High School and assigned him to rookie ball in Arizona. He made only seven appearances that summer, but Sabean and co. knew what they had, and Crick began 2012 in Lo-A Augusta alongside fellow 2011 high school draftee Clayton Blackburn. Neither disappointed. In 23 games (22 starts), Crick dominated the SALLY (South Atlantic League), posting a 2.51 ERA and 128 K in 111.1 IP, good for a 10.3 K/9. However, he also walked a hefty 67 batters (5.4 BB/9) and tossed 13 wild pitches.

Crick’s performance in Augusta earned the raw 20 year-old a spot at the top of a stacked rotation this year in San Jose, as well as a #66 ranking on Baseball America’s preseason top 100. If he could continue to pump his fastball by hitters and cut down his walks, many felt that he could begin to move quickly up the ladder, much like Matt Cain did as a top prospect in 2004. With Crick’s electric stuff, it certainly wasn’t out of the question. Crick strained his oblique in only his third start of the 2013 season, however, and missed two months. He returned to San Jose’s rotation exactly one month ago, and in five starts since the injury, his numbers have been absolutely mind-boggling. In 25 IP, he’s allowed only 3 ER, good for a 1.07 ERA. He’s struck out 38 hitters, including 10 on two separate occasions. While his mid-90’s fastball and sharp breaking ball have been devastating on Cal League hitters to the tune of a 13.0 K/9, he still hasn’t overcome his signature wildness, as he’s surrendered 10 walks over his last 10 innings, and owns a staggering BB/9 of 6.2 on the year. For the season, he’s amassed a razor-thin 1.04 ERA with 50 K and 24 BB in 34 IP.

Crick’s performance over the past month has certainly earned him his share of accolades, including a trip to the Future’s Game in New York and a spot on the BA mid-season Top 50. It’s clear that most of the hitters at Hi-A cannot handle his fastball, but his high walk rates are still a little alarming. Luckily, he’s got two months to prove he can command the strike zone better. He’s young for the level, and the Giants don’t need to rush him. What amazes me about Crick is his ability to keep runs off the board, despite the high number of base runners he allows. For a kid his age who doesn’t always know where the ball is going when it leaves his hand, that’s pretty impressive. Without the walks, he’s been pretty much unhittable this season. If he can continue to miss bats, I’d have to think we’ll see him in Richmond next year. If you’ve watched him pitch at all, it’s uncanny how much he resembles Matt Cain. Both are built very similarly, both have compact, easily repeatable deliveries, and both are fastball/slider power pitchers. Can you see why the Giants are so excited about this kid yet?

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