Cove Chatter 100: #30

Hunter Strickland | RHP, 25 yo, 6-4, 220 | 2007 Draft – 18 (Boston) | (A+) 20 G, 21 IP, 9 SV, 0.86 ERA, 4.3 H/9, 2.1 BB/9, 9.9 K/9

Another bid-bodied power righty. Drafted out of high school many years ago by the Red Sox but never really caught on. The Giants claimed him from Pittsburgh in the offseason and sent him to San Jose. He was absolutely embarrassing Cal League hitters with upper-90’s heat this year before Tommy John surgery cut his season short. The Giants like his arm, and it looks like they’ll keep him around to see how he bounces back from the injury. He’s on the 40-man roster, and it sounds like the organization had visions of him on the big league club before he went down.

They said it: “There were some in the organization who felt Strickland could have reached the majors this year if he had stayed healthy, so the Giants certainly weren’t going to give up on his arm.” ~ Alex Pavlovic

Strickland video:

Image

(J. Meric/Getty Images North America)

Advertisements

40-Man Shakeup

Quite a bit to get caught up on here, starting with the Giants’ recent roster moves. Teams had until midnight last night to protect players eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft. It’s kind of a complicated deal, and one I don’t entirely feel like researching or explaining. From what I understand, though, any player drafted out of college in 2010 or earlier, or an international player signed before 2009, are eligible for the Rule 5… I’m still not sure where players drafted out of high school fit in the mix, but oh well. So, how do you protect a player from being drafted by another team? You place him on your 40-man roster, that’s how. So that’s what was going on last night.

The Giants are pretty conservative with their 40-man spots. Once the roster is set, it usually doesn’t change much during the season. Other teams, (the Seattle Mariners are one I know of) are constantly adding and removing players from their 40-man.

On to last night’s roster changes…

Additions: Gary Brown, Adam Duvall, Kendry Flores, Hunter Strickland

Subtractions: Guillermo Moscoso

40-Man Roster Total: 40

Thoughts: Brown and Flores were pretty obvious candidates to be added. Despite Brown’s struggles this season, teams generally don’t just let a first round pick go unprotected unless he’s done absolutely nothing as a professional. Brown was still considered a top-5 prospect in the system by most people heading into last season. Now, he finds himself in the middle of a logjam of outfielders in Fresno, likely including Jarret Parker (who the Giants did not protect). Make no mistake though, Brown’s stock is way down, and this will easily be his most important season since he entered the organization. He really hasn’t been the same player since he was in San Jose two years ago, so he’s got a lot to prove in 2014.

Flores was a given because of his eligibility to be taken in the Rule 5, much like Edwin Escobar last season. Flores is about 5 months older than Escobar, but had a breakout season in Augusta. Now, we’re seeing scouting reports of his fastball touching 95 and his changeup looking like an above-average pitch. Watch out for Flores going forward, and don’t be surprised if he starts moving quickly now that he’s on the 40-man.

Duvall was likely battling Parker for one of the last spots on the roster. According to Baggs, the Giants had a scout at the AFL who wasn’t real impressed with Parker, the former second round pick. That scout does see a MLB future for Duvall, though, and that’s probably why Duvall was protected. Personally, I think the Giants made the right choice. Both players showed good power in Richmond this year, but Duvall totes some of the greatest raw power in the organization. His defense needs some shaping up. Parker, on the other hand, is a CF with good defense and an iffy bat. The Giants have a group of those players in their organization already. And honestly, I don’t think Parker will be taken in the Rule 5 anyway… definitely not in the major league portion of the draft, and maybe not even in the minor league portion.

The last pitching spot went to Strickland, who was signed as a minor league free agent last season and had Tommy John surgery about midway through 2013. This was probably the biggest surprise move, as Strickland’s in his 3rd organization since being drafted in 2007. He’s 25, and we don’t even know when he’ll pitch next season… but he’s also built in the mold of Heath Hembree and Cody Hall, with a mid to upper-90’s heater in his arsenal. The Giants love their relievers at 6-foot-4, 220, and they love that big fastball. Listening to Joe Ritzo’s podcast at SJGiants.com the other day, I was taken by surprise when Joe said Strickland could have been on his way to the Show before the elbow injury this season. Baggs repeated that sentiment in his roster recap last night. So, apparently the Giants see big things for Strickland, and the roster protection would definitely support that notion. We’ll see how much he pitches next year though…

One more thought here: The addition of Strickland was likely in front of Brett Bochy, who’s now eligible for the Rule 5. I’m sure the skipper’s kid is a little bummed out about that, and I don’t blame him. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see someone snag him in the MLB portion of the draft. He would have to spend the season on that team’s 25-man roster, but I could definitely see him helping a team’s bullpen… look at the contributions Dan Otero made in Oakland this year. Bochy has worked his butt off and had some pretty successful seasons. He deserves a chance to prove himself somewhere.

For now, the Giants’ 40-man is full… that will change very soon if a Javier Lopez deal is in place. In that case, Baggs thinks Jose Mijares will get the boot. We know that Mr. Sabean would still like to get his hands on another starting pitcher, a left fielder, and probably even a middle infielder, so there are certainly a few guys on the squad whose spots still aren’t safe. Tony Abreu? Brett Pill? Ehire Adrianza? The organization will have to sort out some of those infielders… and those outfield spots are starting to get a little crowded as well, so a trade or two wouldn’t surprise me a bit. Would a package of Adrianza and Francisco Peguero net Justin Ruggiano or Drew Stubbs? It should be interesting to see how things play out this winter.

Finally, here’s a look at the 40-man as it stands now:

Catchers (3) – Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez, Johnny Monell

Infielders (11) – Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, Marco Scutaro, Brandon Belt, Ehire Adrianza, Brett Pill, Tony Abreu, Joaquin Arias, Nick Noonan, Angel Villalona, Adam Duvall

Outfielders (7) – Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, Juan Perez, Francisco Peguero, Roger Kieschnick, Gary Brown

Starting Pitchers (9) – Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, Yusmeiro Petit, Mike Kickham, Eric Surkamp, Edwin Escobar, Kendry Flores

Relief Pitchers (10) – Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Heath Hembree, Jean Machi, Jose Mijares, Sandy Rosario, George Kontos, Jake Dunning, Hunter Strickland

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…

Image