Cove Chatter 2016 Top Prospects: #26-29

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.

Updates on the Farm

It’s been a while since we took an extended look at the Giants farm system… turns out we didn’t miss much. Seriously, though, it’s a dang good thing the MLB team has been so entertaining this season, because there really just haven’t been many standout performances on the prospect front to this point. As a blogger who threw out some major criticism of the national pundits for calling the Giants system a middle-to-back-end group, I’ve been very disappointed in how the first couple months has gone for the organization. Coming into the year, there were a number of players I was expecting great things from, and so far that just hasn’t happened.

Chris Stratton, Martin Agosta, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo, Kendry Flores… where are you?

That being said, there are certainly some standout performances from the early months of the season that are definitely worth mentioning, so I thought we’d take a little time to recognize these guys for their strong play. So far, I would say the two most intriguing storylines from the farm system have come from middle infielders and bullpen arms. Let’s take a look at some of these guys who’ve stood out.

Middle Infielders

Joe Panik, AAA: Panik took some heat for his performance in Richmond last season, but I think it’s safe to say he’s back to his usual ways this year in Fresno. At the moment, he’s sporting a .321/.389/.424 line, with 3 long balls, and a stellar 23 BB/26 K ratio. While I think it’d be nice to see him steal a few bases like he did his first couple seasons with the organization, I think the Giants have to be quite happy with the former 1st rounder’s year to this point. Panik can handle the bat, and I think he’s still got an outside chance at winning the starting 2B job next spring. He’s hitting .385 over his last 10 games.

Matt Duffy, AA: Duffy is a stud, what else really is there to say? I profiled the former Long Beach Dirtbag mid-season last year, as he was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise weak Augusta lineup. The Giants promoted him to San Jose for the stretch run, and decided to bump him aggressively to Richmond out of spring training this year. For two months, he’s made the front office look like geniuses. .323/.383/.399 to date (.359/.435/.410 last 10), with 10 2B and 12 SB. He’s not going to hit for a lot of power, but Duffy, like Panik, has an advanced approach at the dish. Initially, I wasn’t sure he had the track record to stick at shortstop, but he received pretty glowing reviews out there this spring, and it doesn’t seem he’s done anything to this point to hurt his stock at short.

Blake Miller, Hi-A: Maybe my favorite player in the entire organization, right here. Miller was the starting SS at Sac State from day 1 as a freshman, and he held his own offensively for two seasons. He eventually went back to where he came from (Oregon), and promptly destroyed the GNAC in his final two years for D2 Western Oregon. The Giants took him fairly late in the 2013 draft, to little fanfare. Now, he’s a 6-ft-3 jack of all trades infielder and one of the best hitters for San Jose. .307/.359/.497, 6 HR, 42 RBI. He’s strikeout-prone, 24 years old, and not necessarily the slickest fielding shortstop around, but I think Miller has a chance to really surprise people on his way up the ladder. He’s off to a great start so far.

Bullpen Arms

Dan Runzler, AAA: 6th year in Fresno for lefty Dan. He’s not on the 40-man roster anymore, but the Giants are going to need another lefty relief arm at some point this season. It might be sooner than you think, with David Huff starting to stumble of late. Runzler still walks more hitters than he should (16 in 26 IP), but he’s easily been one of the most reliable bullpen arms for the Grizzlies this season. 26 IP, 1.04 ERA, 1 HR, 16 BB, 32 K. If he can keep up this performance, and maybe limit those walks a bit (pretty please?), Dan might finally find himself in San Francisco again… After such a long and bumpy ride, that would be pretty sweet to see.

Derek Law, AA: Law was the story of spring training, and he’s quietly biding his time as the closer in Richmond. May wasn’t as kind on him as April, but overall he’s still sporting a 2.96 ERA and 12 saves in 24 IP. He’s walked 8 batters and allowed 7 ER in his last 10 appearances, so the league is starting make some adjustments, it would seem. At this point, June could be a big month for young Derek, as we’ll see whether he gets his control back in order. We know he’s got the goods to pitch in the show, but these two months are his only experience in the upper minors. If he can iron things out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Fresno by late summer, with a chance to help the big club if the need arises.

Steven Okert, Hi-A: Okert has arguably been the best pitcher, starter or relief, in the organization this season. The former 4th round southpaw didn’t earn the best reviews last year in Augusta, but you knew he had the ability to do pretty well if he could get his fastball back to where it was in college. Well, it looks like he has, and that deadly fastball/slider combo has been wreaking havoc on the Cal League through two months. On a team with a handful of solid bullpen options, Okert claimed the closer’s job early on, and hasn’t looked back. He’s got 16 saves, and has racked up 47 K (11 BB) in only 29.2 IP. He’s allowed 4 runs all year, good to the tune of a 1.21 ERA. Okert was billed as a guy who could move fast when the Giants drafted him in 2012, and I could see that happen this summer. Richmond’s bullpen hasn’t lived up to its billing yet, and Okert has been nails since day one. Look out for this guy.

Ray Black, Lo-A: Black is finally back! And he just might be the comeback story of the year for the franchise. After going MIA for two full seasons after the Giants drafted him, he finally surfaced (multiple surgeries later) this spring in Arizona, bringing 100 mph gas along with a wipeout slider. He made an appearance for Augusta on Opening Day, but promptly hit the DL with shoulder stiffness the next day. It looks like he’s got that shoulder under control for the moment, and has been impressive in 9 outings since returning to action a month ago. At this point, Black just needs professional experience. If he’s healthy, it’s obvious he has major league quality stuff. He’s definitely a name to watch as the season progresses.

There you go. Seven worthy names from the first two months of minor league ball on the Giants farm. That’s about all the time I have for now, but I did want to toss in a few guys who I didn’t have time for today.

Other 2014 Standouts:

Fresno: Adam Duvall, Andrew Susac, Chris Dominguez

Richmond: Tyler Graham, Angel Villalona, Mario Lisson, Ty Blach

San Jose: Jesus Galindo, Mitch Delfino, Mason McVay

Augusta: Ryder Jones, Tyler Horan, Matt Lujan, Luis Ysla, Christian Jones, Jake Smith

*Bonus Coverage: Here’s a quick shot of Ryder Jones cranking one out for Augusta last week. Enjoy!

Final Exhibition Cancelled; 25-Man Roster Set

No, we don’t have baseball today, as the final tune-up game of the spring was cancelled due to rain. That’s probably a good thing, and here’s two reasons why: 1) The Giants seem to have left their bats in Arizona (not a problem, they’ll be there to pick them up on Monday!). 2) The toilets are overflowing in Oakland. Yeah… Billy Beane, men amongst boys, right? Ok, I shouldn’t knock Billy for that – stuff like that really falls on the owner. But come on! You’ve won two straight division titles, and you can’t even get a fully functioning plumbing system? I know one man who wouldn’t stand for that kind of nonsense… his name is Brian. 

Anyway, enough about that. No baseball today, but we do have a finalized 25-man roster! There weren’t any major surprises, but I’ll admit I really wasn’t sure who would get the final bullpen spot (in Jeremy Affeldt’s absence). Turns out it went to JC Gutierrez, who I tagged with a whopping 25% chance of making the Opening Day roster back in February. Just goes to show, you NEVER know what might shake out during spring training. Gutierrez pumps a 95 mph fastball and has big league experience, so he’s the guy for now. The real question is, how long will he last?

No, I wasn’t shocked that Gutierrez got the final spot over Law. I’m not really all that bummed either, to be honest with you. Law has the goods, as he proved to the world over the past month. When he does get to the Show someday, he’ll be a fun one to watch. But he’s never pitched above high-A, and most guys just don’t jump from the California League to the Major Leagues overnight. So Law was assigned to AA this afternoon, which I think surprises me even more than the news of him not making the MLB club. I thought for sure the organization would want him close by in Fresno. Richmond is a long way from the Bay Area, but Sabean has already made it clear that he’d jump a guy straight from AA if he thought the player was ready… so this isn’t a setback for Law in the least.

Speaking of the minor leagues, Conner Penfold apparently has the lowdown on the Giants farm clubs, and has rosters posted for all 4 full-season affiliates over at his site. No official rosters have been released yet, but these definitely look like the real deal. They also make my early spring roster projections look somewhat silly, but I was prepared for that. You can be darn sure I’ll be working on some reaction pieces to those minor league squads in the next couple of days.

Anyway, you shouldn’t be surprised to know that Brandon Hicks and Ehire Adrianza made the Opening Day roster. That was all but settled when Scutaro had another flare-up in his back and Tony Abreu was released. For the record, I gave Hicks a 2 in 10 initial shot at making this club about 6 weeks ago. Silly me. Hitting .400+ will definitely up your odds.

You might have been a little shocked to hear that Abreu is now headed to Fresno. Apparently he cleared waivers last week.

What about that final outfield spot, you ask? Juan Perez had that bad boy locked up three weeks ago. Tyler Colvin is headed to Fresno, while Roger Kieschnick was DFA to make room for one of Hicks or Gutierrez. I wonder if Roger will clear waivers and end up in Fresno too. I honestly couldn’t tell you. But jeez, it just goes to show how quick your window can close. He’s a good athlete, and I think he’ll have a MLB career at some point. How long it lasts, well, that obviously might not be up to him.

So here you go, 25 men to don the orange and black on Monday evening in Phoenix. Take a good, long look at this group. Does it inspire confidence? That’s your call. We all have our own opinions. But I can tell you this… that group will definitely change as we move throughout the season. Heck, it may only look like this for two weeks. We really can’t tell at this point. As long as the core players don’t change (get injured), I think the Giants will be in fine shape.  Either way, spring training is over folks, and another regular season is here. We made it!

Giants (25) 

C (2) Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez

IF (6) Brandon Belt, Joaquin Arias, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Hicks, Ehire Adrianza

OF (5) Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, Michael Morse, Gregor Blanco, Juan Perez

SP (5) Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong

RP (7) Yusmeiro Petit, David Huff, JC Gutierrez, Jean Machi, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo

*From Joe Ritzo: 12 of the 25 are former San Jose Giants. That is so impressive to me. Let the experts put the Giants farm system in the bottom third of the league all they want. When nearly 50% of your MLB roster played at your high-A affiliate, you’re doing something right. The Giants know it, I know it, and you know it. What else is there to say?



“Never Give the Hitter Too Much Credit”

Good evening, folks. Cactus League play rolls on, and our beloved Gigantes evened their record (that doesn’t count) to 3-3 today. Solid performances at the plate from 5th OF competitors Juan Perez, Tyler Colvin and Gary Brown. Colvin has been showing a nice stroke, but Perez certainly isn’t giving that spot up for free. Brandon Belt had another two hits today – Belt is the Spring Training champion every season… will this be the year he carries it into April?

Good outings on the mound from Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Edwin Escobar today. Bumgarner looks to be on a mission this year, but I guess you could say the same thing about each of these guys every season. Solid work overall from the starting pitchers early on. You can’t ask for much more than that.

For any MLBtv subscribers out there, the first televised Giants game is tomorrow at noon PST. It’s Matt Cain’s first go-around of the New Year, and I’ll definitely be tuning in. Looking forward to it!

A couple of links before we wrap it up:

Baggarly Law Story – From today, Baggs tells the story of Derek Law’s pop Joe (a follower of Cove Chatter on Twitter… Thanks Mr. Law!). The elder Law made it to the show, but unfortunately never entered the stat books. Years later, his son is living by the mantra, “never give the hitter too much credit,” and D-Law looks ready to break through.

Baggs Bumgarner Story – Also from today, Bumgarner (3 months younger than me) playing the mentor role for some of the kids in camp. Bummy taught Mike Kickham how to throw a cutter. Speaking of lefties not to forget about…

That’s all for tonight. Keep grinding away, everyone. Less than a month until Opening Day.

Wednesday Chat Roundups, Gustavo Update, and Draft Drama

Just a hodge-podge of camp talk for this Thursday morning. Cactus League opener is less than a week away! The full squad has reported, save Santiago Casilla and Jose De Paula, who are stuck in the DR. I still don’t understand how the younger Casilla is in camp, but Santiago can’t get a visa. Are these guys required to go home in the offseason? If not, why would you voluntarily put yourself through that hassle? But I digress…

In other news, Brandon Belt and the Giants got a deal done at midnight Tuesday in a Florida hotel room. That could sound very shady, taken out of context. The agreement was for $2.9M, a slight win for Belt. The whole situation was sort of comical in the way it played out. As someone who flies pretty frequently for work, having to board a cross-country flight for a one night stay sounds awful. But for a measly $3M, you could put me on a Cessna and fly me to a remote part of Canada for all I care. Belt sounds happy about the whole thing (as he should be), and that’s all that really matters.

Chat Roundup

Both Baggarly and Pavlovic had mid-day chats at their respective sites yesterday, so I thought we’d touch on a few of the more interesting topics. First, it turns out I’m not off my rocker in regards to Kendry Flores’ size…

Comment From Cove Chatter: “Could Kendry Flores be this year’s Esky, ascending through the system after being placed on the 40-man? A couple pictures I’ve seen have Flores looking MUCH bigger than 6-ft-2, 175 as he is listed. What have you heard on him?”

Andrew Baggarly: “I agree Flores is not 175 pounds. I heard the stuff isn’t as firm. Flores doesn’t have the same ceiling as Escobar. He is definitely an intriguing arm, though.”

So, I guess there’s some work to be done on the hype machine, but I don’t necessarily think David Lee’s increased velocity reports from last summer have made all the rounds yet… which really doesn’t make sense to me. If a kid adds a good chunk of weight/muscles, sees a pretty dramatic increase and velocity, and puts up the second half peripherals that Flores did last year, I’d think everyone would be talking about it.

Baggs on Derek Law and the bullpen situation:

I still think he’s a longshot but we’ll see him at some point this season. You never want to go straight to the kids on opening day unless you’re utterly convinced they’re ready. As promising as the stuff is, Law hasn’t pitched above A ball. Seems like teams prefer to let a Kontos or a Machi begin in the bullpen, and if they don’t work out, then you have fallback options in the minors.”

Speaking of Law, Hank Schulman had a nice piece on him in the Chronicle yesterday. It’s pretty cool to see these young guys getting a lot of attention so early. I really don’t remember that being the case in camp last spring. There was a lot of talk about Heath Hembree and Gary Brown, but that was just about it. It’s becoming pretty apparent how the organization feels about this new group.

A few other noteworthy quotes from yesterday:

Baggs: “I’m keeping an eye on Joe Panik. This will be a big year for him. I still think he could be a Freddy Sanchez-type. And if Scutaro really does continue to wind down, there could be a great opportunity for Panik in the near future.”

Pavs: (When asked if we’ll see Panik in SF this season) “I think so … there’s not much in his way, is there? I talked to Joe for a long time today. He dropped some weight because he felt he was missing a little quickness last year. Still a really mature kid, with a nice swing and good feel for the game. He’s a guy to watch this spring.”

Baggs: (On Gary Brown) “Really interested to see what changes he made to his swing mechanics. Talked to him briefly and he said he doesn’t even want to think about last year, much less talk about it. He sees the positives of being on the 40-man roster and getting a fresh start. It is very hard not to root for Gary. He has a great personality. But I think he’d probably agree that he can’t let his effort waver from one day to the next. Scouts who watched a lot of him have pointed that out to me.”

Pavs: I’m an Adrianza fan, but the Giants don’t exactly need a defensive whiz at shortstop …”

Baggs: (On Angel Villalona) Saw him today. Yes they still see major league power and no, it’s not too late.”

Finally, Pavs sneaks in tremendous compliment about Andrew Susac, when asked a question about Quiroz:Yes, he’s a perfect fit there. My guess is that Susac would get most the playing time, but Quiroz is a great guy to have a couple hours away, just in case. Susac, by the way, looks fantastic.”

Like I said, TONS of love for the kids going around this spring, as well as some solid reports about the MLB guys. It’s so early right now, but I’m really liking the vibe of this camp. You’d have to think the minor leaguers are jacked up to learn from the vets, and I’ll bet some of those kids end up impressing the heck out of their superiors. I know that’s how it’s supposed to work in a big league camp, but it certainly doesn’t always turn out that way. Take this for what it’s worth, but I think this team could do big things in 2014.

Gustavo Update

Gustavo Cabrera’s health is a major concern for most of us at the moment, but we hadn’t really heard anything on him since his surgery took place (November?). Well, someone asked Baggs about the kid on Twitter this morning, and the response wasn’t what I’d hoped for. At this point, it doesn’t sound like Gustavo will play at all in 2014.

That’s a big blow for a guy who had tons of upside. Essentially, Cabrera and Nathanael Javier will both lose the entire season… and Cabrera’s situation is much more concerning. I guess it’s time for the Giants international scouts to get back out there and look for the next big thing. Bummer.

Draft Drama

If you missed this last night, Aaron Fitt from BA is all over the Phillies right now, after learning the team accused its 2013 5th round pick of violating NCAA policies regarding financial representation. That pick, Oregon State lefty Ben Wetzler, didn’t sign with Philly. He’s now suspended indefinitely. The Phils also did this with their 6th round pick from last year. I’m not going to go into all of the details here, but I would recommend reading Fitt’s article if you have time.

Essentially, what the Phillies did here was break an unwritten rule of MLB draft code… and they PO’d a lot of people in the process. The reason I bring this up is because Philly has the 7th pick in this summer’s draft, and there’s already talk about prospective picks not wanting to be selected by the organization. That could have huge ramifications in June, and potentially even push another top-end prospect closer to #14 and the Giants. Interesting stuff.

As someone who greatly values education and students’ rights, I am not a fan of the NCAA. For an organization that is supposed to have the student-athlete’s best interest at heart, that is one governing body that seems to only care about the cold, hard cash. It’s disappointing, really, and this Phillies fiasco just paints another picture of bone-headed rules that just don’t add up (my opinion, of course). End of rant!

Ok, that’s all for this morning folks. I don’t know about you, but I sure can’t wait for Spring Training games to start. I’m loving all the news and pictures lately, but nothing beats the sound of play-by-play on the radio on a sunny spring afternoon. Well, I guess being there in person would beat it, but you get the point…

Six more days!

Cove Chatter 100: #15

Derek Law | RHP, 23 yo, 6-3, 218 | 2011 Draft – 9 |

(AZL) 5.2 IP 3.18 ERA, 4 H, 1 BB, 9 K

(Low A) 19 G, 35 IP, 2.31 ERA, 3 SV, 6.9 H/9, 2.6 BB/9, 12.3 K/9

(A+) 22 G, 25.2 IP, 2.10 ERA, 11 SV, 7.0 H/9, 0.4 BB/9, 15.8 K/9

(AFL) 11 G, 12.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 8 H, 6 BB, 16 K

There are nice surprises every year, in every farm system across baseball. The Giants had numerous surprise performances this year, and maybe none better than Law’s ascent onto the national scene. Sometimes, it’s the overlooked guy who rises to the top, which is exactly what happened with Law in the Augusta bullpen this year. With names like Stephen Johnson, Steven Okert and Mason McVay around him, Law seemed to get buried a bit. Heck, even Tyler Mizenko and Ian Gardeck were getting more press than he was at the beginning of the season (Law’s second in the Sally). Ultimately though, the Giants – and the rest of the baseball world – couldn’t ignore him any longer.

Law’s second-half performance was one of the best campaigns we’d seen from a San Jose reliever since Heath Hembree in 2011. While Law’s ERA wasn’t eye-popping by any means (2.10), his 45k/1bb ratio was absolutely insane. So the Giants sent him to the AFL, where he didn’t allow a run, and now he’s on his way to MLB camp… just one year after beginning his season in Augusta. Impressive stuff.

So, what’s this kid’s deal? The BA quote below (which contains a quote from a scout within) puts his game in a pretty nice box. “Downhill with funk and finish.” Now THAT is a scouting report. What does it mean? Watch the video I linked below from the AFL and you’ll find out. If you’re strapped for time, start it at the 0:35 mark. Three pitches – fastball, curve, slider – and it’s over for that hitter. That’s what the Giants will be looking for in Scottsdale this spring. A reliever with a fastball that hits 95-96 (Bernie Pleskoff says it’s more 92-94 in the article below), three off-speed pitches (throws a change as well), and excellent control… how in the world did this guy get so overlooked?

At this point, I would think the only real issue for Law is staying healthy. Not in the sense that he has an injury track record, but his odd arm action really is something worth keeping an eye on. So far, he hasn’t seemed to have any problems staying healthy or repeating his delivery, but he does have a pretty violent delivery. As long as he’s healthy though, I don’t see why Law couldn’t become a solid MLB pitcher. Whether he starts the season in San Francisco remains to be seen, but he might be a candidate to skip over AA completely.

Personally, I’d like to see them stretch Law and his four-pitch mix out a bit. While he hasn’t started a single game as a professional, it looks like he was a starter in college at Miami Dade CC… where he saw pretty fantastic results, as you might expect. Ultimately, the Giants will do what’s best for him, but that kind of stuff seems like it could make Law at least a decent starter. Just a thought. If he can become a steady contributor to the bullpen in the next couple of years, I’d have no problem with that either.

They said it: “Law vexes hitters with an extremely downhill fastball, an ability to elevate it, a bigger breaking curveball and a solid slider…’He’s downhill with funk and finish, and his breaking ball is filthy,’ said an NL pro scout.” ~ JJ Cooper, Baseball America

Law Pleskoff article:

Law AFL video:

Derek  Law

(Bill Mitchell)

AFL Wrap Up

Kyle Crick was impressive in another pitchers’ dual in Scottsdale’s final AFL game on Thursday. The right-handed gunner squared off against Aaron Sanchez, who’s the #1 prospect in Toronto’s system… Sanchez had an impressive fall campaign, and he earned the victory with five solid innings for Salt River. Crick was no slouch himself, allowing two walks over three hitless frames. He sent five Rafters’ hitters back to the dugout by way of the strikeout. By all accounts, he was pumping 95+ for the entire outing again, and dialed it up to 98 to get out of a jam in the 3rd inning. He also had an offering that clocked in at 90-91 on the gun… a slider… a cutter? Don’t know, but the kid had a very strong finish to his fall league campaign, and seems to be adding new tools to his belt almost every time out these days.

I figured this would be a good time to look at the final numbers from each of the Giants’ farmhands in the AFL, and maybe take a peak at a few of the other winter league Gigantes if we have time.

2013 Scottsdale Scorpions (10-21)

Kyle Crick: 7 G, 5 GS, 2.87 ERA, 15.2 IP, 9 H, 11 BB, 24 K, 1.28 WHIP

Make no mistake, 15.2 innings does not a dominant pitcher make, but I think the minor league baseball world got a glimpse of Crick’s immense talent this fall. It wasn’t all roses early on, as he was moved to the Scottsdale bullpen after yielding 8 ER on 8 H and 8 BB in his first three starts. Whether the move was made to get Crick ready for the Fall Stars game or send him a message, it wasn’t completely clear… what was clear, however, was the impact that move had on the top prospect in the organization. In his final four appearances, Cricky allowed only one hit, 3 BB, and most importantly, no runs in 9 innings of work. He struck out 12 in that span, and was flat out dominant in his final two starts; he regularly popped the mitt at 95-98 mph. For the short season, he had a .161 batting average against, proving yet again that his stuff is unhittable when it’s on.

Let’s be clear here: Crick is very much a work in progress, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m anointing him the greatest thing since sliced bread. Yes, the similarities to Matt Cain are uncanny, but Crick has a long way to go to live up to those expectations. Do I think he has the goods to get there? Hell yes. But he’s still just a (newly) 21 year-old kid who doesn’t offer much in the secondary pitch department, and often has no idea where the ball is going when it leaves his hand. All we can hope for at this point is a healthy 2014 that allows him the opportunity to increase his workload and experience in Richmond. If that happens, I think he may very well be on the fast track to the show… and I’ll be rooting him on all the way.

Just for fun, I totaled his 2013 numbers, including the Cal League postseason and the AFL… read it and weep: 23 G, 21 GS, 95 IP, 1.80 ERA, 64 H, 2 HR, 53 BB, 132 K.

Ditch the walks, and we’ve got a monster on our hands folks. He’s 21 years old.

Adalberto Mejia: 7 G, 3 GS, 8.47 ERA, 17 IP, 18 H, 8 BB, 14 K, 1.53 WHIP.

Like his buddy Crick, Mejia got off to a rocky start in the AFL. Unlike Crick, Mejia wasn’t ever really able to settle in. His best outing was a relief effort, in which he entered in the second to get Crick out of a bases-loaded jam. All told, the young lefty allowed only one baserunner (and no runs) over 3.1 innings that game, striking out 5 in the process. But that was the highlight for a campaign that saw him allow 18 H and 16 ER in only 17 IP.

Mejia is like most of the other pitchers not named Crick in the Giants’ organization. He has to rely more on control than stuff, and I think the AFL was a great learning experience for him. He flashed a pretty dirty slider at times in San Jose this year, and he’ll need to gain a better feel for it going forward if he wants to make it at the upper levels.

To me, this performance doesn’t set Mejia back, but may show him and the organization what needs to improve. He’s another very young pitcher with a ton of upside, and should easily make every top 10 Giants prospect list out there next spring.

Cody Hall: 9 G, 3.00 ERA, 9 IP, 13 H, 4 BB, 7 K, 1.89 WHIP, 3 HD

Hall definitely wasn’t the most impressive reliever for Scottsdale, and he wasn’t used a whole lot either. But that probably has more to do with his 2013 workload than anything else. Unlike some of the other guys, Hall wasn’t assigned to the AFL to make up for lost time. Instead, he (like teammate Derek Law) was probably given the challenge by the front office to see how he’d handle top competition. I think the Giants see big league dreams in Hall’s near future, and I wouldn’t say he did anything to negate his chances of making it.

I saw him toss an inning in one of the televised games last week, and the dude looks cut from the same cloth and Heath Hembree, with a fastball nearly as impressive. I think he’s in the same boat as a lot of other MiLB power relievers (Hembree included), in that he really just needs to find a consistent secondary pitch to make it. He’s not the youngest guy by any means, but his 2014 numbers don’t lie. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m pretty excited to see some of these big-bodied relievers break through. Hall should be part of that bunch.

Derek Law: 11 G, 0.00 ERA, 12.1 IP, 8 H, 6 BB, 16 K, 1.14 WHIP

If you haven’t heard of Derek Law, it’s time to do some homework. As much as Crick helped raise his stock this fall, Law might have taken the cake as Giants pitchers go. This is a kid who came out of almost complete anonymity to post a ridiculous 102 K in 66.1 IP during the regular season… with 12 BB and a 2.31 ERA, I might add. He also didn’t allow a run in the fall league, and may have earned himself a big boy spring training invite in the process. Law has nearly everything you look for in a polished late-inning reliever… presence, velocity, secondaries, and a heavy ball. His curve is filthy, and his fastball has good sink. It was his funky delivery that turned scouts off at some point in his career, but his professional numbers have grabbed everyone’s attention. If you were reading closely in Baggs’ weekly chat last week, you might have noticed the response he gave to a question about Heath Hembree and potential Giants relievers… there’s a dude out there with as much talent, if not more than Mr. Hembree… yup, the one and only Derek Law. Stock is way up for this kid!

Andrew Susac: 17 G, 50 AB, .360/.507/.480, 2 HR, 16 BB, 11 K, 3 E

Susac has been an injury case for most of his collegiate and professional career, and he missed significant time this season in Richmond. To this point, it seems to me there’s a lot of mixed opinion about the guy on the scouting front. Future starter? Bench player? Will he stick at catcher? Honestly, I think Susac’s performance in the fall may have quieted some of that talk… it impressed me, at least. He led the team in batting average, showed pretty adequate skills behind the dish in the games I saw him catch on TV, and all in all displayed a solid plate approach – one that I think will carry him all the way to the bigs. He even looks a little like Buster Posey when he’s at the plate. Now, is he a potential .300, 25-HR hitter? Doubtful, but a .260 guy with solid on-base skills and 15-20 HR power might not be out of the question. If he can stay healthy, I think he’ll have every chance to earn a job in the majors one day. Will it be with the Giants? That might be the real question to ask.

Angel Villalona: 19 G, 65 AB, .200/.243/.246, 0 HR, 3 BB, 19 K, 2 E

Ok, I promise I’m not just a Giants prospect homer, and I’ll prove it to you here. Villalona did receive some positive reviews on his 1B defense this fall (something that’s always been a big question for him), but maybe that’s because there wasn’t much to say about his offense. He knocked in 7 runs and hit a few doubles, but those were really his only highlights at the plate. I’ll be honest; if the three innings I saw Crick pitch were all I needed to tell me he could be a MLB star, then the handful of AB’s I saw Villalona take this fall were all I needed to know that he may not ever make it. Yes, the power is there, and he proved it in San Jose and Richmond last year. But the plate discipline just isn’t at this point, and he looked absolutely overmatched a few times. I don’t think you can just talk yourself out of being a relentless hacker without sacrificing some of the power that makes you special in the first place. His stock is down, in my opinion, but he’ll have a chance to prove me wrong in the upper minors next year.

Jarret Parker: 17 G, 60 AB, .300/.366/.333, 0 HR, 8 BB, 19 K, 1 SB, 0 E

Parker was a nice surprise this season, and I’ll say the same about his AFL performance. He doesn’t really doesn’t do anything amazingly (although his defense in center was pretty impressive), but he’ll give you a little bit of everything. I’m starting to see him as a type of poor-man’s Hunter Pence. Now he certainly won’t ever be hitting .290 at the major league level, but Parker is a guy who shows you why he was such a high draft pick a few years back… he’s just an all-around ball player, and one who might just stumble his way into a MLB stadium some day. We should get a chance to see how he stacks up with the guy who was drafted ahead of him, Gary Brown, in Fresno next year.

All in all, I’d say 2013 saw a pretty nice showing from Giants prospects in the AFL. I mean, when was the last time you saw a group of Giants pitchers like the four representing the team this season? Add the performances of Crick and Law to what Susac did at the plate, and I’ll call it a successful fall for the orange and black Scorpions, and one that gives us a lot to look forward to for the 2014 regular season.


Scenes from the AFL

Just wanted to give a quick tip for those interested in Crick and the boys in the Arizona Fall League. Conner Penfold over at made the trip out to the desert to get some footage of the Giants prospects, and he’s got some sweet new video up from the last couple of days. He also has a write-up from each of the games he attended… so far, there’s video posted of every Giant farmhand except Cody Hall and Derek Law. As of the 8th inning in Peoria today, neither of the two relievers have pitched. I’ve seen a few clips on Law before, but Hall is a guy I’d be very interested to watch. Just how hard does he throw that fastball? Kyle Crick, who is working out of the pen in preparation for the AFL All-Star game, tossed two scoreless innings today, and his ERA has crept down to 4.66.

More about the videos. In Crick’s one inning of work, he’s rocking the heater. To me, he seems to really increase his pace when he’s in a groove. I love pitchers who do that, a la Tim Lincecum in his prime. My favorite part of that Crick footage though? Mr. Colin Moran, pride of North Carolina… grab some pine, meat! A side note here: I recently watched the “Homegrown Giants” feature that was produced as part of the “Inside the Clubhouse” series by the Giants media team. This one was released in September, but I hadn’t seen it before. Very cool stuff. Posey, Romo, the All-Star Game in New York… but it follows Crick around for a bit, and gives quite a bit of insight on the Giants’ player development philosophy. If you haven’t seen it, I’d definitely recommend setting 20 minutes aside to check it out. Here’s the link. In regards to Crick, I’ve just got to say, I really admire the kid, and I think the Giants have another future stud on their hands. Everyone involved understands what he needs to do to make it, but I get the feeling nobody thinks he can’t get there. He’s an intelligent young man – confident and incredibly talented… and I really am excited about his future.

Jarrett Parker is quite a bit slimmer than I thought. He’s listed at 6-4, 210 pounds, but he doesn’t look it to me. We know he strikes out at incredible rates, but he puts on a pretty spirited AB too. He gets deep into counts, takes his share of walks, and hits for a good amount of power. Sounds like he covers a ton of ground out in center as well. His lefty bat will need to find those gaps at AT&T if he wants to make it as a big leaguer, but hey, the guy is a former 2nd round pick, he’s probably headed to Fresno next year, and the organization sent him to Arizona to run with the big dogs. They’ve got their eye on him, and as far as I know they’re still looking for someone in the organization to grab ahold of left field…

Adalberto Mejia made his first start of the fall yesterday and got knocked around a bit in 2.1 innings of work. The first inning got off to a rough start after DeShields battled for a walk right out of the gate. Personally, I thought Mr. Mejia had him beat with an 0-2 slider that snapped in at the knees (4th pitch of the AB)… but he didn’t get the call and couldn’t put him away. DeShields is a tough out, and Mejia is still just a young kid gaining some tremendous experience this fall. He really wasn’t that wild, he just couldn’t quite find the zone… and he left some pitches up, which will get you run pretty quickly against competition like that.

A couple more thoughts on the young lefty. Wow, he’s a big-bodied kid! Very similar body type to Clayton Blackburn, in my humble opinion. If you’ve never been over to Giant Potential, I’d highly recommend clicking on the video section of the blog. Penfold gets some great footage, in full-on HD quality. In a previous piece about Mejia, he talks about him throwing a back-foot slider that’s very Bumgarner-esque. It didn’t look to me like he threw too many of them in the AFL clip, but that 0-2 pitch to DeShields was nasty. If he can hone that sucker in, the sky is absolutely the limit for him.

Andrew Susac and Angel Villalona went hitless, but Angel V. did put together some tough AB’s. Personally, I’d like to see the Giants challenge him with a Fresno assignment this season and see if he can hang. His time out of the country definitely set him back a bit in terms of professional development, but he showed the power potential in Richmond. So I say send him to AAA and see if he can swim. If not, he’s back in Richmond. If he does, look out ladies and gents!

Susac is a player I’m growing fonder of by the day. Small sample sizes in the AFL aren’t anything to get too worked up about, but the more digging I do on this guy, the more I like. In my eyes, he’s got a legitimate major league bat. Maybe not a big batting average guy, but he’s patient, powerful, and seems to have a real calm at the dish. If he’s even average defensively, the Giants have their excuse to get Buster Posey out of the gear. Speaking of Posey, I couldn’t help but notice Susac has a few tendencies in his batting stance and swing that remind me a lot of Buster… even the leg kick in his load. Now, I hope nobody reads too much into this comment, I’m not saying anything about Susac being the hitter/player Posey is. But I do think the kid has the potential to have a solid MLB career if he can change his injury-prone ways, and I hope he does so with the Giants. Is it crazy to say Susac is a bit of a sleeper in the organization?

Lastly, I just wanted to note that the blog hasn’t been as active lately. I apologize for that, but I hope you will stick around, as I’ve been working on some very big projects on the minor league front. I’m learning more and more about the Giants farm system every day, and I hope to start sharing some of these things pretty soon. I know they will be worth the wait.