4/5 MiLB Wrap: Strong Debut for Mella

Another night, another impressive performance for a starting pitcher in the Giants’ system. With four extremely talented international pitchers making their debut for a new club yesterday, it was Augusta righty Keury Mella who came away turning heads. Mella, the 20 year-old Dominican whose name really started getting some press this winter, tossed 5 solid innings in the Greenjackets’ 6-3 win over Charleston.

Last night’s start was Mella’s first for a full-season affiliate, and as always Augusta beat writer David Lee had a solid recap of the outing. According to Lee, Mella’s heavy fastball ran 91-94 (with more 94’s than 91’s). Lee actually described that fastball as having the weight of “a gazillion bowling balls.” I’d say that’s pretty heavy! The kid also showed a changeup and breaking ball, both with plus potential according to Lee. You can read the full recap here.

Personally, I became an instant fan of Mella’s game after watching that clip of him during the instructional league this winter. That’s all it took. Apparently, Lee was in the same boat after seeing 5 innings last night, saying, “Baseball Prospectus labeled Mella a No. 2 ceiling, and I might be crazy to go along with it after seeing him one time, but I’m willing to take that risk. This kid seems to be the real deal.”

Mella Final Line: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

Video Courtesy of Giant Potential

Pitching Roundup:

Mella wasn’t the only high upside Giants pitcher to make his debut yesterday. In San Jose, towering Joan Gregorio was impressive in 4 innings of work, throwing a 92-94 fastball and a sharp slider. He didn’t allow a run, and was likely pulled for pitch count reasons.

Gregorio Line: 4 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

Lefty Adalberto Mejia made his first start for AA Richmond yesterday, allowing 3 ER in 5 IP. Mejia, the youngest pitcher in the Eastern League, was putting 96’s on the stadium radar gun, according to Squirrels’ media man Jon Laaser (that’s pronounced LAZER). Maybe that gun in New Britain was a little hot, but either way, Mejia was bringing some heat yesterday! The 6-foot-3 lefty came out for the 6th inning, where he allowed 2 of his 3 ER and didn’t record an out.

Mejia Line: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

The fourth and final performance of the night belonged to Edwin Escobar, whose initial AAA outing didn’t fare so well. Pitching in Las Vegas, one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the minors, Esky was tagged for 5 R (4 ER) and 10 H during 4.2 IP. It’s no secret that the PCL can be one of the most difficult leagues for a young pitcher to adjust to, especially when coming directly from the Eastern League. I think Escobar will be fine, but he’s likely not going to be pitching shutouts every time out.

Escobar Line: 4.2 IP, 10 H, 5 R (4 ER), 1 BB, 4 K

Video Courtesy of Nathaniel Stoltz

I promise, we’re going to spend some more time focusing on hitters in the organization as the season goes on. But right now, there are so many big name pitchers making their respective debuts, it’s hard not to focus on them. Some of the noteworthy offensive performances from Giants prospects last night include Andrew Susac, who remains red-hot after driving in the go-ahead runs in the 9th for Fresno last night. The catcher is hitting .583 in his first 3 games. Jarrett Parker had another big day for Richmond, tallying 4 hits and a HR. Parker’s hitting .615 early, and you have to wonder if he’ll be promoted to Fresno when Mac Williamson moves up from San Jose.

Angel Villalona hit his first HR of the season for Richmond yesterday, while a host of other hitters contributed to the Squirrels’ 13-3 win. In Augusta, Randy Ortiz was 2-4 with a 3B. Ortiz is a pretty unknown guy, so I’m hoping to get a little more information on him in the near future. Tyler Horan had a 2-hit game for the Greenjackets as well.

Finally, if you’re a subscriber to MiLB.tv, you’ll be able to catch Kyle Crick’s first start for Richmond this morning. That game starts at 10:35 AM on the west coast. I’ll tell you, I purchased that package last year, and really didn’t use it as much as I’d have liked. With all the talented pitching in the organization this season, I had to buy it again. It’s $50 for the season or $12.99 monthly, and I think any Giants minor league fan would get their money’s worth this season.

Richmond and Augusta still don’t have home video broadcasts (how is that possible in 2014?), but other teams in their respective leagues do. Richmond’s 4-game series against New Britain this week has been broadcast, and I believe Augusta has some games that’ll be available later in the month. It looks like all of Fresno’s games this month can be watched, and San Jose has a video feed for all of its home games. In other words, lots of opportunities to watch the organization’s top prospects this year!

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Updated Camp Battles (Part 2): Long Reliever

Updated Camp Battles (Part 2): Long Reliever

This might be the most wide-open battle in camp at the moment. With the front runners struggling early, a couple of dark horse candidates have emerged as real threats to win the long-man spot.

Yusmeiro Petit:  12.60 ERA, 5 IP, 14 H, 1 BB, 2 K | Odds: 60% (80% pre-spring) | Trending: Down

Outlook: Petit had a job to lose this spring, and so far he’s heading that way. While it’s a very small sample size, he’s been very hittable in almost all of his outings. There’s still time to iron out the wrinkles, but I don’t think he’s guaranteed the spot by any means unless he shows some improvement.

David Huff: 9.00 ERA, 1 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 K | Odds: 50% (40% pre-spring) | Trending: Stable

Outlook: His odds of making the team have risen, but that’s more an effect of Petit’s struggles than Huff’s performance. The lefty made his spring debut over the weekend, and looked a little rusty after missing some time to shoulder stiffness. He’s nothing spectacular, but the Giants like his versatility. He’s definitely in the running for this spot if he can show some consistency in the next few weeks.

Edwin Escobar: 1.50 ERA, 6 IP, 1 H, 5 BB, 1 K |Odds: 40% (N/A) | Trending: Up

Outlook: Ideally, the Giants would like Escobar to start the season in AAA, a stop he’s never experienced before. That’s probably still his likely destination, but Esky isn’t going away without a fight. He stepped up big in his start against Clayton Kershaw last weekend, working through some control issues and only allowing one run over 3 IP. I didn’t even include him in my pre-spring battles series, as I honestly didn’t think he was in the running for this spot. He’s definitely in the mix now.

Jose De Paula: 0.00 ERA, 4 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 4 K | Odds: N/A (25% pre-spring) | Trending: Up

**Update: Assigned to minor league camp.

Outlook: Offseason waiver claim wasn’t really even in consideration for the long-man spot when camp opened (I had him in the bullpen group as a lefty specialist). Four appearances later, De Paula’s got some folks talking about him. He features a 92-94 fastball from the left side, as well as a hard breaking ball and a nice changeup. In the outing that I watched, he was filthy for two innings. Lefties are very valuable out of the bullpen, so watch out for this guy going forward.

Jason Berken: 4.50 ERA, 6 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 3 K | Odds: N/A (N/A) | Trending: Stable

**Assigned to minor league camp.

Outlook: Another guy who wasn’t really in the mix when camp broke. He’s not flashy, but Berken has MLB experience, and was solid in 3 IP against LA over the weekend. Like I said, this spot is wide open at the moment right now, and stranger things have happened. Don’t forget about him.

Mike Kickham: No stats | Odds: N/A (25% pre-spring) | Trending: Down

**Assigned to minor league camp.

Kickham hasn’t appeared in any Cactus League games yet, although I think he’s pitched an inning or two in “B” games. I don’t recall what injury had been holding him back, but I’m curious to see what his stuff looks like this spring. Sounds like he throws a cutter now, but you can’t win a job from the bench, so he needs to get going.

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(SFGiantsphotos.mlblogs.com)

Sunday Wrap: Esky Steps Up, Crick Struggles

A few tidbits from a very busy day for the organization. Edwin Escobar, a “class-A pitcher” in the words of Vin Scully (I think he said it about five times, actually) outdueled Clayton Kershaw, no doubt impressing the front office in the process. Escobar certainly wasn’t always sharp, and I wondered whether he would make it out of the 1st inning.

He would ultimately toss four innings, allowing only one run on one hit. His four walks were uncharacteristic, but I can’t blame the guy for being amped up. As DrB noticed even on gametracker, Esky got squeezed on a number of pitches too. A solid outing for the kid against the archrivals, with hopefully many more to come.

Apparently Kyle Crick wasn’t able to work out of trouble in the “futures game” like Escobar was against the Dodgers. Sounds like Cricky was all over the place, and didn’t make it out of the inning. Walks, wild pitches and an infield hit. I believe it was 5 ER altogether…notice, he didn’t get hit hard. He rarely does. As most of us know, it’s all about control for the kid. You can’t beat yourself in this game, and Crick knows that.

A few other notes from today:

Big time homer from Brandon Hicks today. Taking Kershaw deep is a big deal, even in Spring Training.

Pablo looked solid again, both at the plate and in the field. He’s just such a different player when he’s in shape.

Conner Penfold from Giant Potential hit the jackpot today, getting footage of Luis Ysla and Keury mella in minor league camp. Conner was very, very impressed with Ysla, who featured a 3-pitch mix and ran his fastball up to 95… yeah, you read that right. Sounds like there’s plenty of video coming soon on his site, Giant Potential. If I’m not mistaken, that will be the first (and only) video of Ysla on the web.

Penfold also noted some strong performances from Ty Blach (sitting 93-94), Derek Law and Clayton Blackburn today. Seriously, just too much good pitching in this camp. I can’t wait for these guys to get their seasons started next month.

That’s all for this weekend. I’m hoping to have some updates on the camp position battles tomorrow, so stay tuned. Only three more weeks until Opening Day!

Giants Thumped by Seattle

Ok, maybe thumped is an understatement. But hey, turns out I didn’t miss much of a game yesterday. Not for the Giants, who surrendered 18 runs on 18 hits to the Mariners. The pitching had been pretty solid lately, but all good things must end. The way I look at it, if you’re going to have a game like this, you might as well get it out of the way when the scores still don’t matter.

A couple of notes here. There’s a lot of chatter about Ryan Vogelsong’s outing yesterday, as you would expect when a guy who struggled the previous season gets tagged for 7 runs in less than 3 innings of work. Yes, it would be very easy to look at Vogey’s line and ask if he’s got anything left in the tank. But having this blog has taught me more than anything not to settle for the easy answer – to look a little deeper.

Vogey gave up two 1st inning home runs, one to Brad Miller and the other to Michael Saunders. Both were two-run shots. I’ve watched the video of those home runs a few times, and I honestly didn’t see anything to be concerned about. The location really wasn’t bad. Both pitches were low and inside to a lefty hitter, and both hitters beat the pitch. And I’m not even sure either of those balls would be homers in any NL West park. They certainly wouldn’t have been in either AT&T or Safeco (the Mariners’ home). Both balls looked very wind-aided to me, especially Saunders’.

Long story short, I don’t think anyone should start sounding the alarm on Vogelsong after that performance yesterday. Does he have the same velocity he once did? Nope. Can he get by with 87-90? Maybe, but it’s way, way too early to make that determination right now.

These are just my opinions, and of course you may have a different one. But enough about that. So the Giants got waxed by a split-squad Mariners’ team that also put up 9 runs on the Dodgers last night, to the tune of four more home runs (2 from overweight Jesus Montero).

You know, the M’s did this last spring, and it really didn’t carry over to the regular season at all. A good friend of mine is a big Seattle fan, so I do pull for them. But unfortunately, 29 teams play their home games outside of Arizona, and you have to wonder if the Mariners’ front office even knows what it’s doing anymore… trying to build an offense with a bunch of thumpers to play in a severe pitchers park doesn’t sound like the best idea in the world to me.

Yesterday was a day to forget for all of us. So yes, let’s look ahead. Today is an exciting day for the organization, as Madison Bumgarner and Kyle Crick square off in a “futures game” intrasquad matchup. That should be a fun one, and I would imagine you’ll be able to find some video from that game over at Giant Potential when all is said and done. Conner P. is down in AZ right now, and he’s been giving us some sweet updates and footage from Giants minor league camp. Remember, his site is linked on the right.

In the day’s main event, we get to see Edwin Escobar match up with Clayton Kershaw. And guess what, it’s another MLBtv broadcast. I’m pretty stoked for this one, as it’ll be my first real look at Escobar. With Yusmeiro Petit struggling big time and David Huff still on the shelf, this is a huge opportunity for Esky to jump into the running for that long-man spot. Good luck, kid.

That’s all for now. I hope everyone has a relaxing, baseball-filled Sunday. And remember, today’s games start at 1 pm on the west coast, and 2 pm for those of us out here in Big Sky Country. 

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(SFGiantsPhotos.MLBBlogs.com)

Early Camp Chatter

Not a whole lot of excitement during the first weekend of Giants camp. Let’s see, Pablo looks fit (we already knew that from the pictures this winter), Hector Sanchez has shed some pounds himself, Morse and Hudson are healthy and fitting in nicely. We’re hearing all the things we want to hear this time of year. I have no problem with that. For this group, at this stage, I feel like no news is good news.

We’ll see how everyone holds up once the actual games start in a couple weeks, but right now I’m sensing a good vibe from this crew. A ton of the position players were already in camp on Friday (Posey, Pablo, Morse, Pence, among others), and that’s a good thing to see. The early attitude seems to be very professional, but you know there are a few personalities on this team who will make sure things stay light when they need to. You have to have a nice mixture of personalities in athletics to balance each other out, and this roster seems like it could form a very cohesive group.

As for our kids, Alex Pavlovic has some video of guys like Edwin Escobar, Kyle Crick, Ty Blach and Derek Law throwing bullpens, but the footage is very far away. Not too exciting in my opinion, but here’s the link:

Here’s a pretty cool piece from Andy Baggarly today on Escobar. I know the organization and Baggs himself have mentioned Esky at different times this winter, but I’ve got to think this is the first major article I’ve ever seen dedicated to Escobar. Pretty sweet stuff, as he was essentially a no-name guy this time last year.

Actually, I remember reading the lengthy Escobar vs Mejia debate over at DrB’s site last year during prospect rankings season… how many Giants fans do you think were talking at length about those two guys last offseason? My guess: not many, as the majority of the attention was on Crick and Blackburn. So, I guess you could say it is very rewarding to see guys like Escobar getting big-league mention, especially for the small number of “die-hards” who were excited about him way before the beats started telling his story.

Here’s a snippet from that piece… straight from the Skipper’s mouth to Baggs’ notepad: “He (Escobar) has a different look about him this spring. I think he sees he’s a guy who’s in the mix and also knocking on the door right now. He’s coming out of the chute throwing the ball better than last spring.”

Escobar Interview

That, my friends, is what you like to hear.

Hopefully more tomorrow, including the biggest question looming for los Gigantes this spring. The days are getting brighter…

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(Photo: Henry Schulman/SFGate.com)

Cove Chatter 100: #2

Edwin Escobar | LHP, 21 yo, 6-2, 200 | IFA 2008 VZ (Tex)

(A+) 16 G, 14 GS, 74.2 IP, 2.89 ERA, 8.2 H/9, 2.0 BB/9, 11.1 K/9

(AA) 10 GS, 54 IP, 2.67 ERA, 7.3 H/9, 2.2 BB/9, 9.0 K/9

(VWL) 18 G, 3 GS, 26 IP, 3.46 ERA, 29 H, 13 BB, 19 K

One of the biggest risers in the Giants system last year. Came to the organization in 2010 Ben Snyder trade. That swap could work out as one of Sabean’s all-time underrated moves if Escobar keeps progressing. Fastball tops out a tick below 95 from a three-quarter release, and secondary pitches seem to be farther along than the rest of his 2013 San Jose rotation mates. Slurvy breaking ball could use some work, but he’s got great control of all his pitches. Earned a midseason promotion to AA and didn’t miss a beat. A veteran in terms of professional experience, he should start the season in Fresno and could be ready for a shot in the big leagues very soon.

They said it: “He’s got that good swing-and-miss fastball, which astonishes me… It’s 90 to 94 and pretty straight, but he knows how to pitch with it and mix speeds with it.” ~ Andrew Susac

Escobar Article:

(Real Life Studios)

MLB.com Top 100: Crick Keeps Moving, Escobar Sneaks In

The prospect crew at MLB.com released its top 100 list last night, with a couple of young Gigantes pitchers getting notice. Kyle Crick was a no-brainer here, but I was curious to see just where he’d fit in. He came in at #32, sandwiched between the O’s Kevin “Gas Man” Gausman and Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. All three of those guys were first round picks (Gausman #4 in 2012, Bradley and Crick were supplemental picks in 2011). That’s some pretty sweet company for Crick, who continues to climb the charts.

Obviously there’s some bias on this end, but I’d put the kid up against any other pitcher on the list, and that includes Archie Bradley and Taijuan Walker – the only arms that made the top 10. There’s no doubt Bradley and Walker have the goods, but Walker doesn’t offer much more than Crick does at this point. He’s got a powerful fastball, but really no breaking ball to speak of. Walker gets the edge over Crick in control, but the same argument can be made for nearly all 15 of the pitchers ranked ahead of the Giants #1 guy. I think Crick will refine that command with time… if he continues to develop those secondary pitches, there’s no doubt he’ll be a top 20 prospect in baseball. I already think he’s better than he’s getting credit for, but it’s good to see him crack the top 40. Personally, I think Robert Stephenson from Cincy is the top pitching prospect in the game right now (he came in at 19), but he, like Crick, will have to prove it in AA this season.

Edwin Escobar snuck in toward the back of the list, making it at #95. It’s probably not a huge surprise that Escobar was the other Giants prospect selected, as it’s been pretty unanimous this winter that he’s the #2 player in the system right now. It is good to see the guy get some love though, and I wasn’t sure if the organization would get a second player in, to be honest. If I’m making the list, Andrew Susac gets a spot as well, but I knew he had very slim odds of making it when MLB put him at the back end of its top 10 catchers last week. I’m telling you, it’s going to be that much sweeter when he busts out in Fresno this year.

Back to Escobar. In case you forgot, this guy is 21 years old… and he’s basically the next guy in line for a rotation spot if Vogelsong and Petit can’t hack it (which could certainly happen). Escobar and his three pitch mix are headed for Scottsdale (along with Crick and some of the other exciting young arms), where I’m sure the staff will be watching him closely. Ideally, he’ll get to spend most of the season in Fresno, but if he happens to break through to the bigs, you won’t hear any complaining on this end.

So, Crick and Escobar are the hyped pitchers in the system at the moment, but Kickham, Blackburn, Flores and Blach have a chance to do something about that in camp. Who’ll step up to the plate? Still no hitters to speak of on the national stage, but like I said, I think Susac will have something to say about that. And if Mac Williamson shows his stuff in Richmond this summer, I’d think he’d be a prime candidate to crack the mid-season lists. We shall see.