More Moves (with Video!)

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. It’s time to get caught up on some recent Giants roster moves, as there have been plenty in the past couple days. Some are more prominent than others, and there are already plenty of reaction pieces out there, so I’ll keep my thoughts brief. I’ve also done a little searching and found some video on each of the players involved in the recent slew of moves, which is nice because there’s not always a ton of clips out there.

Vogey’s Back:

First, reports came out just a few minutes ago that Ryan Vogelsong’s one-year deal is done, pending the customary physical. I haven’t seen anything describing the official terms of the contract, but rumors were that he’d earn somewhere around $3M in guaranteed money, with incentives taking it to more than $6.5M (the total for his 2014 option the Giants declined a couple weeks ago). If those numbers hold true, it’s a head scratcher to me why they didn’t just pick up his option in the first place.

At this point, it would appear that Sabean has filled his rotation for next season. He did so in a hurry, like usual. Considering that we knew Sabes wanted a 1-year deal for his 5th starter, and that the Giants had been connected to Vogey all along, this really shouldn’t be a big surprise. But I would be lying if I said I was completely satisfied with the move. With so many short-term options still available in the pitching market, I’m a little disappointed in the front office for closing the rotation door so quickly. When you consider Vogelsong’s 2013 season was pretty abysmal, I’m just not a big fan of bringing him back. Granted, this contract could turn out to be a steal if he even comes close to his 2012 performance next season. At 36 years old, I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. Honestly, I would have preferred a one-year flier on a guy like Phil Hughes to Vogelsong, but Hughes probably wouldn’t have come as cheap. Whatever, I guess…

Make no mistake about it: the Giants brought Vogey back because they think he’s capable of looking like this again. But, don’t forget those 93’s and 94’s had dipped to 88’s and 89’s this September. The only time he looked good all season was in the WBC start I watched in March, so maybe the short offseason really did screw him up. Only time will tell, but for now I think it’s safe to say the 5th spot in the rotation is Vogelsong’s to lose.

DFA:

A couple nights ago, we learned that two players had been DFA’d, making room for two new additions to the 40-man roster. For Johnny Monell and Francisco “Frankie Peggs” Peguero, it’s probably so long Gigantes. For pitchers Jose De Paula and Eric Cordier, it’s welcome to San Francisco, home of two world titles in four years.

Let’s be clear here. Monell had absolutely no future with the Giants. He was called up for a cup of coffee (and maybe a little showcase?) in September, but his age and defense are working against him in a big way. He’ll get picked up for his left-handed power (see this video), but he’s probably destined to a part-time DH role. Of course, I’ll be rooting for him.

The Giants have a logjam of AAA outfield types, and one or two of them were bound to bite the dust. It just happened to be Peguero that got the first call, but don’t be surprised if Roger Kieschnick’s phone rings too. Juan Perez passed both guys this year, and neither was all that impressive in their brief MLB action. If Peguero is claimed, there’ll be some upset fans out there, of that I am certain. The dude got only 46 PA in two seasons, which isn’t nearly enough to form an opinion. But we know how the Giants roll: if they give you an opportunity, you’d better damn well show them something. To me, all Peguero showed was the inability to take a pitch. He didn’t do himself any favors, and looked pretty rough in the majority of his AB’s. Of course, some fans will forget the bad, and remember his only good swing in a Giants uniform when they abuse Sabean for cutting ties.

Don’t get me wrong, the guy has nice speed, and maybe he’ll catch on with someone. But I just didn’t see him fitting into the Giants long-term plans.

40-Man Adds:

So, the newbies… De Paula is a lefty who earned a spring training invite in San Diego last year. That’s pretty good for a 23 year-old, as he is so listed on Baseball Reference. It’s not so exciting, however, for a 25 year-old, as he’s listed on SFGiants.com. Which one is it? Pretty certain it’s 25, and he’s already missed a season due to visa issues. He’s never been above AA, and doesn’t pitch all that well against righties. Maybe a future reliever? Here’s some video from his time in the Cal League.

Cordier (how do you pronounce that?) has bounced around a few organizations, but had a pretty nice season for Pittsburgh’s AAA club this year. He’s a big 27 year-old, throws major gas, and doesn’t seem to have any clue where it’s going. Don’t believe me? Watch the first three pitches from this AFL video in 2011. Yowzers. The Giants are loading up on flame-throwing bullpen arms, and I can’t say I disapprove. If Cordier can find the mitt, he may finally break through to the big leagues next season. And he should be fun to watch!

Gosh dang it, I rambled again. It’s a work in progress, friends. That’s all for now though, as we get closer to the winter meetings. Will Sabean swing a deal for an OF or a utility player? We can certainly hope. For now, the pitching staff looks to be locked up, so things could get pretty quiet on the Gigantes front heading forward.

Monell

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Giant Pride

Even in last place, a win against the Dodgers feels good. Friday night, Madison Bumgarner topped Clayton Kershaw. The Giants never beat Kershaw. Last night, the Giants obliterated Ricky Nolasco. The Giants never beat Nolasco. 19 runs on 22 hits from a last-place team, on the road against its first-place archrivals? We’ll take that any day.

I’m not writing this to try and stir anything up with the Dodgers. The records are what they are, and LA will be the ones playing in October this year. The Giants are simply trying to move out of the cellar in the season’s final weeks. But I’ll tell you this: when your last-place rival comes into your house, prevents you from clinching the division, and sets a stadium-record for runs scored while beating you up and down the diamond, it can’t feel good. And for a season like the one the Giants are having, you take small victories where you can find them.

The Giants were awful in the month of June, and it ruined their season. Most of us know that. But it was their play in July and August that frustrated me even more. After falling out of contention mid-season, there was no way they could’ve played any worse. But in all honesty, they didn’t play a whole lot better either. Think about it; when is the last time the Giants went on a nice winning streak this season? Frankly, they soured me with their lifeless play in July and August more than they did with their terrible defense and pitching in June.

I point all of this out not to frustrate anyone, but to make a point that the Giants are finally playing better baseball in the month of September. Not amazing baseball, but better. They’ve won 5 of their last 7, and they’ve been very competitive in Los Angeles this weekend. Everything came together last night for a Giants’ offense that has been looking better of late as well.

Giants 19, Dodgers 3. The most runs by one team (including the Dodgers) in Dodger Stadium history. A grand slam and career high 7 RBI for Hunter Pence, who should have been locked up in August, and will now likely cost the Giants at least $80 million over 5 years. That’s a lot of money. Pence in the month of September? 54 AB, .407, 7 HR, 22 RBI. He’s a streaky son of a gun, but he can play, and the Giants would be fools to let him enter free agency without signing a deal. Sounds like they’ve begun talks, and Hunter has all the leverage in this one.

Brandon Belt came to the party last night too. 5 hits, a home run, and 6 RBI in a SUPPORTING act from Belt, who’s a .289 hitter with 16 HR for the season. I was frustrated with Belt for quite a while, and I’ll admit I feel very foolish about it now. When a guy hits .352 with 23 HR in his first minor league season, you start envisioning big things. I think big things are coming for Belt, it just took him a little longer to get going than the impatient fans (myself included) expected. With an offseason to rest and a fresh slate heading into 2014, a 1-5 lineup of Pagan, Scutaro, Belt, Posey, and Pence could do some real damage. If Pablo can put together a healthy season and Brian Sabean can find a regular to man LF, that could be a dangerous lineup. But Belt is my 3-hitter going forward, and he’s become a different hitter in the second half. Good for him.

The highlight of the night for me was the late innings, when the Giants’ backups continued to tack on runs. 7 of them in the last 3 frames, to be exact. Ehire Adrianza had his first hit as a big leaguer, as did Johnny Monell. Great to see from a couple of guys who rode the bus for a long time down in the minors. Adrianza looks like he can handle the bat a bit, and we all know he’s got the glove-work. I think Monell’s bat can play a bit too, and he didn’t look awful behind the dish to me, as his scouting reports would lead one to believe.

Heath Hembree continues to look good on the mound in his debut action. Hasn’t given up a run yet, although the plus velocity hasn’t been there yet. Maybe he works 93-94 now? But I was hoping to see some 97’s as well.

Overall, this was a night to feel proud if you’re a Giants fan, and we haven’t had many of those this season. If they can win today and take 3 of 4 from the Dodgers in LA, it’ll feel very, very good.

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Minors Roundup: Fresno

Minor League regular seasons are winding down (the rookie leagues have already finished), and many of the Giants’ affiliates are headed for the postseason. There’s a lot going on in general with the farm these days, so I thought we’d play a little catch-up for each squad.

A quick side note: I haven’t finished the series on pitching in the organization, as I’ve yet to cover the short-season teams. Once you get down to those levels, though, basically everyone except for the occasional 24 year-old who’s never made it out of rookie ball is a realistic prospect. I say this because most of these guys are new draft picks or international signings. They haven’t really had any time to either improve or blow their stock yet. Keeping this in mind, I’ll probably find a way to look at just a few of the noteworthy pitchers at these levels, rather than logging stats for all 50-60 of them. So… maybe we’ll look at 5 or 6 from Salem-Keizer and 3 or 4 from the rookie league clubs. Anyway, I hope the pitching series has been as much of a learning experience for you as it has been for me, and I hope to have it wrapped up soon.

Back to the MiLB updates:

Fresno: 65-74, Eliminated from playoff contention.

The AAA Griz have four games left to play this year. At that point, they’ll send a handful of players up to San Francisco for expanded roster season, or Christmas for last place MLB teams. Among the group, Heath Hembree and Ehire Adrianza will be making their Major League debuts. Hembree had a very rough outing last week, surrendering 5 hits and 3 ER in 1.2 IP. That’s the only blip he’s had on his radar this month, though. The hard-throwing righty has 30 saves this season for Fresno, and it’s about damn time his blazing heater gets a look on a big league mound. Adrianza was once a top 10 prospect in the system. He’s always had elite defensive skills, but it’s his bat that’s finally come to the party this season. I’ll admit I had all but written this kid off until recently. Taking a closer look, I realize that was a mistake. Yes, he’s been in the system for ages, but Adrianza is still only 24. He likely won’t ever hit for power, but he’s got an OBP of .342 over his MiLB career. In 41 games with Fresno this summer, he’s hitting .297 with 23 BB and 31 K. If he can hit a little bit at the big league level, he’ll be a valuable player.

So, Hembree and Adrianza (both 24) are headed for the show, along with Juan Perez, Nick Noonan, Jake Dunning… Alex Pavlovic says you can probably add Surkamp and Kontos to that list. No stars, but a lot of role players. Hembree has shown he can close at every level of the minors. The Giants need more velocity in that pen. Adrianza can pick it. Can he hit? Perez may be the best defensive CF in the entire system, with a cannon attached to his right shoulder. Can he hit? Surkamp needs a few big league starts down the stretch. Dunning has been lights out in Fresno, and looked good in San Francisco earlier in the year.

Those are your September reinforcements. Who does that leave on the 40-man?

Pitchers – Dan Runzler and Edwin Escobar, as well as the injured (Affeldt, Cain, Gaudin). Runzler hasn’t really earned a promotion this season. Escobar is the one to dream on here, but I’d say a call-up is pretty wishful thinking. MLB spring training next year? Yes, please.

Infield – Tony Abreu, Angel Villalona. Abreu is technically still on the DL, but he’s been rehabbing in Fresno. He should be promoted at some point next month. Villalona has put himself back on the map this year with his bat. 21 HR between San Jose and Richmond. Big power, but very little plate discipline. In 49 games at AA: 55k/8bb. The Giants are sending Angel to the Arizona Fall League. Can you imagine if he takes a couple of top pitchers deep?

Outfield – Tanaka is the only one left here, and he’s not really even an OF. He’s worked hard all year, but I think the Giants saw all they needed from him in July. Does he get one final chance? There’s just not enough room these days. Big league dreams may be over.

Gary Brown entered the season as Fresno’s top prospect by a pretty wide margin. Where does all of this leave him? Try this on for size… in 40 games post All-Star break, he’s hitting .201 with 8 extra base hits (2 HR) and 4 RBI. He’s stolen 4 of 6 bases, and struck out 37 times. Ouch. Brown is hitting .230 for the season (.217 vs. righty’s), and needs to completely regroup this offseason.

A couple of guys who had nice seasons at the plate, but likely won’t make their MLB debuts this year:

Chris Dominguez: 128 g, .296/.337/.799 (ops), 14 hr, 5 3b, 60 rbi, 23 bb, 110 k – Dominguez has tons of power and a very strong arm at third base. Contact has always been his big issue, although he did very well to keep his average around .300 this year. The power numbers are down, but the average is up. He seems to be of the Francisco Peguero, Juan Perez plate discipline group though… hack, hack, hack.

Johnny Monell: 117 g, .281/.370/.876, 20 hr, 63 rbi, 57 bb, 102 k, 6 sb – Monell is a 27 year-old catcher who’s been in the organization since 2007. He’s always been known for his left-handed bat, but this was his best season as a professional. The 57 walks are nice to see, as is the long-ball power. Why isn’t he a major leaguer? Defense. He’s a catcher who doesn’t catch all that well, and I don’t know that he can really play anywhere else on the diamond either. Like Dominguez, though, he deserves a shot, and I wonder how his bat would play in the show.

Wow, this went on a little longer than I was expecting. I think that gives us a pretty good look at things in Fresno. I’ll have to get to Richmond later.

Coming Soon to a Park Near You?

**Edit** Sounds like Pill and Kieschnick have been called up from Fresno this afternoon. Per Baggs, they’ll be in Philly tomorrow. Tanaka optioned, Abreu to DL… and Giants’ beat writers are full of __it, as usual.

With the trade deadline soon approaching and the Giants on one of their worst slides in recent memory, there’s so much uncertainty surrounding the team right now. While I have a hard time believing that nobody from the current 25-man roster will be traded in the next couple days, I truly don’t think we’ll see any big deals involving guys like Lincecum, Sandoval, Romo and most notably, Pence.

There are a number of factors that go into this train of thought, ranging from contract status, market value, trade return, comments from Brian Sabean himself, and, not to be forgotten, the player’s popularity with the fans. At this point, though, the season seems lost. Barring a miracle, the Giants will likely finish the year in the bottom-third of the standings. That being said, this team is in dire need of some changes. The current group, despite its huge achievements in the past, is putting a pretty awful product on the field these days. That is something the front office will need to change, as soon as possible preferably.

The Giants haven’t had a season like this since 2008, and it got me thinking: there sure are a lot of interesting guys on the squad in Fresno this year. Even if Sabean doesn’t make any big splashes on the trade front, we’re certain to see a few familiar faces get called up from AAA at some point. I’d bet we’ll see a couple new faces as well. Just my opinion here, but if you’re out of the race, it’s time to see what you’ve got going into next season. Some of these guys have earned the chance to get an extended look. Others would just be fun to see for some of us prospect-watchers.

I put together a list of the guys who are potential August/September call-ups, in order of most likely to get the call (my opinion). There are quite a few names, and for now we’ll keep it at AAA guys. It’s not likely anyone below Fresno would get a look, but I guess you never know. Maybe Mark Minicozzi or Javier Herrera from AA? My guess is no, but as Kruk says, stranger things have happened.

Brett Pill: 95% – Pill hasn’t gotten much of a shot this year, but I’d think he’s a lock for a call-up, just to add some pop off the bench. He crushes AAA pitching, but he doesn’t look like he can hit the big league breaker. I’d still like to see him get regular AB’s for a month, but that would require Belt on the bench or in the OF. Not likely.

Jake Dunning: 92% – Dunning pitched well in 19 innings with the Giants, but was sent down to make room for Joaquin Arias and newly-acquired Guillermo Moscoso. He’s got a nice fastball and shows a pretty cool head. He’ll probably be back at some point as long as he doesn’t melt in Fresno (a la Mike Kickham).

Hector Sanchez: 90% – Sanchez played a big role in last year’s World Series run, providing offense when Posey needed a break. This season, he pulled a Sandoval and showed up out of shape. He’s back in Fresno after injuries and inconsistency in SF, but I’d be shocked if he’s not called up when rosters expand in September.

Nick Noonan: 85% – Noonan has paid his dues in the minors. He flashed some nice plate discipline back in April after making the Opening Day lineup. He’s been passed over by Arias and Tony Abreu, but I’d like to see him get another shot.

Eric Surkamp: 85% – Surkamp got knocked around in his first ML action post-Tommy John surgery, but I’d say he’s a good bet for some September action if the Giants choose to rest Cain and Bumgarner.

Francisco Peguero: 75% – Peguero got a big league sniff last year, and earned another call-up early this season. The Giants didn’t give him much of a leash, and he hasn’t been back since. If he can stay healthy in Fresno, he’s another guy who needs a chance to prove himself in the outfield.

Heath Hembree: 70% – The Giants say he doesn’t have a secondary pitch, but I really think it’s time to see what Hembree DOES have, and that’s a mid-90’s heater. If you can’t give him a chance now, you might as well trade him.

Roger Kieschnick: 70% – Kieschnick would have gotten called up in 2012, but he suffered a season-ending injury. He’s been hurt a lot in his pro career, but he’s another guy who deserves a chance to show what he can do. He’s got power and a nice outfield arm, and I’m ready to see it.

Mike Kickham: 65% – Kickham has kind of fallen off the table lately in Fresno, and that may cost him a shot at getting back to AT&T Park. But it really would behoove the Giants to see if he can’t work some of his kinks out in September.

Juan Perez: 60% – Perez provided a nice spark during his brief debut in June. He played the best CF on the team, giving up his body for amazing catches and firing runners out at second, third and home. He couldn’t really hit, but I’ll say this: when he was in the lineup, I was watching to see what he’d do next. Might have to wait for Peguero and Kieschnick before he gets another shot now, though.

Dan Runzler: 45% – Runzler had a great spring, but hasn’t pitched all that well in Fresno. His strong, erratic left arm has major league stuff. If the team needs a lefty, I’d say he gets some consideration.

Gary Brown: 40% – Brown hasn’t really earned a call-up at this point, but maybe he gets a cup of coffee in September. The Giants really need their former top prospect to start hitting, and soon.

Brett Bochy: 35% – Bochy probably could have been in San Francisco this year if not for injuries and a shaky start to his season. He’s nothing fancy, but he’s closed games before, and it’d be pretty cool to see father Bruce and son Brett on the AT&T mound together.

Justin Fitzgerald: 30% – Fitzgerald is a 5th starter type and a UC Davis grad. He’s 27 and struggling in Fresno, but I’d have to think his name has at least been mentioned a couple times in talks for a spot starter.

Chris Dominguez: 25% – Dominguez seems to have changed his approach at the plate this year. He’s hitting for higher average but less power, and reportedly has a cannon at third. He’s been a strikeout machine since being drafted out of Louisville, but maybe he forces his hand in September?

Ehire Adrianza: 20% – Adrianza is a classic all-glove, no-hit shortstop. His elite defense has had him ranked in the Giants top 10 prospects in the past. He’s now one step away from the bigs. He’s still pretty young, so there’s no rush, but if he can hit at all, he’s got at least a utility job waiting for him down the road.

Johnny Monell: 15% – Monell is a catcher/1B with tremendous power, but he’s a terrible defender by most accounts. It’d be interesting to see if his left-handed bat could play at AT&T.