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.

2014 sf giants, spring training, photo


Giants Win on TV

It was SoCal TV, but we’ll take it!

3/5 Box Score:

We got our first look at the 2014 Giants today (sans Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Marco Scutaro), who picked up a 3-2 Cactus League win over the Angels (sans Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton) in Scottsdale.

We’re already seven games into the spring slate, so most of us have seen a good chunk of short highlight clips already. But it’s still wild to think this was the first live-broadcast Giants game since last September. Seems like ages ago! I was able to catch today’s action from the second inning on. Let’s discuss it, shall we?

First, the good stuff…

Matt Cain: Cainer tossed his first three innings of the year, and kept up the trend of consistent starting pitching early on. I didn’t see all of his work, but I can tell you he threw a couple of curves in the third inning that were just filthy. He looked sharp, allowing only one baserunner.

Middle Order Bats: No Posey or Belt today, but Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and Mike Morse combined for four hits and three RBI out of the 3-4-5 spots. Pablo really does look great, which may seem like it’s not news since it’s been beaten mercilessly into the ground already. Honestly, it is news. Big news for the Giants. The Panda is in solid playing shape, and he swung the stick impressively against Jered Weaver this afternoon.

Morse laid a pretty mighty cut in the 5th, roping a double down the left field line and scoring Pence from first. Morse is another one who looks very good early.

Heath Hembree: Hembree had an atrocious inning in his first outing of the spring, but his second came with much less drama. Yorvit Torrealba turned one around to lead off the 9th, but Roger Kieschnick made a diving catch in the left-center field gap. After that, Hembree cruised for the final two outs, ending the game with a swinging strike 3 on an elevated fastball.

And to cap it all off, it was another two-hit day from Mark Minicozzi, aka Mr. Inspirational.

Now, the really good stuff…

Why is Jose De Paula on the 40-man roster? Because he’s nasty, that’s why. The offseason signee pitched two innings today, and was very surprising all the way around. His size, surprising. His frame, surprising. His left-handed stuff? Whoa Nellie.

Now, there’s obviously a reason this guy didn’t make it to camp with San Diego this year. He’s got age issues, he’s never pitched in AAA, and he’s pretty unknown. But he flashed some sweet control today, of both a fastball that he ran in on the hands of righties, and a sweeping back-foot breaking ball. Even Hank Schulman said it this afternoon: Remember this guy’s name. If he can continue to harness his stuff like he did today, and keeps pumping mid-90’s heat, he’s a serious threat for a roster spot come April.

Ok, it wasn’t all roses today. Here’s the bad…

Young bats: Between Roger Kieschnick, Nick Noonan and Gary Brown, I’m just not that impressed. Noonan had a hit today, and Kieschnick made that diving grab, but the offense is just looking a little 4A at the moment. Brown does have a few hits this spring, but he struck out in a big situation late in the game, and his swing just doesn’t seem like anything to write home about. I hope I’m wrong.

Younger bats: Included in the late-game substitutions were Andrew Susac, Mac Williamson and Joe Panik. While they only had one AB apiece, none of those AB’s were all that exciting. Mac had runners on the corners and nobody out, but grounded out weakly to the right side. Susac had two men in scoring position, but grounded out to short. Panik led off the 8th, but was also retired weakly.

All three of the kids looked like they were pitched backwards, and that’s something they’ll have to make some adjustments against when they get to AAA/AA respectively. Nobody’s expecting huge things from these guys in camp this year, but it would be cool to see one of them open some eyes before it’s all over.

Finally, the REALLY bad…

I didn’t get to see Ehire Adrianza (he didn’t play)! Bummer!

Overall, it was great to see the squad back in action. Now, I think I can say it officially feels like baseball season.

Spring Battles: Bullpen (Longshots)

Tons of middle-relief guys in camp to sort through, so I figured I’d break the list into two parts: The longshots and the frontrunners. We’ve already looked at the long-relief options, so the rest of these guys are essentially fighting for the final two bullpen spots (probably a 6th/7th inning role).

Erik Cordier | Age 28

MLB: None

MiLB: 573.1 IP, 4 Sv, 4.29 ERA, 1.517 Whip, 1.44 K/BB

Outlook: Career minor leaguer, the Giants gave him a major league deal right around Thanksgiving. Second round pick by the Royals way back when, he finally became a reliever full-time last year for Pittsburgh’s AAA club. His career 5.0 bb/9 is scary, as is his 99 mph fastball. The Giants must think they can get his control figured out. If he performs, don’t be surprised to see him get a shot at some point this year.

Odds: 30%

Kameron Loe | Age 32

MLB: 569 IP, 4.49 ERA, 1.439 Whip, 1.94 K/BB

MiLB: 616.2 IP, 3.52 ERA, 1.281 Whip, 2.76 K/BB

Outlook: There’s a journeyman pitcher in nearly every spring camp across baseball, and Loe looks like he’ll fill that role for the Giants. You might remember him for his 6-foot-8 frame, and he’s bounced around all over baseball – including a stint in Japan a few years back. He spent 2013 pitching for three different organizations, racking up a 7.09 ERA in 20 MLB appearances. Does he have anything left in the tank? We’ll probably find out in the next couple months.

Odds: 25%

Jose De Paula | Age 26

MLB: None

MiLB: 401 IP, 79 GS, 3.82 ERA, 1.262 Whip, 3.57 K/BB

Outlook: Claimed on waivers after the Padres DFA’d him in November. There are questions about his age; Baseball-Reference still lists him as 23, but the Giants have him turning 26 in March. He missed all of 2012 due to apparent visa issues, and made only 14 starts in AA last year. I’m not sure how long he’ll be in MLB camp, as it seems that he still needs minor league seasoning. He’s got very low walk rates and a surprisingly hard fastball. He has the makings of a nice lefty reliever, but I envision the Giants assigning him to a minor league rotation this spring. He’s on the 40-man, so he definitely has an edge over a handful of these guys in camp.

Odds: 25%

Dan Runzler | Age 29

MLB: 72.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 1.507 Whip, 1.77 K/BB

MiLB: 277.1 IP, 23 Sv, 3.70 ERA, 1.428 Whip, 2.07 K/BB

Outlook: It looked like Runzler had a promising future with the Giants back in 2010, but he just wasn’t ever able to control the strike zone as a big leaguer. To make things worse, he’s completely blown up during the past two seasons in Fresno, and was DFA by the organization last fall. For some odd reason, he’s back in Giants camp this spring. It would take some pretty impressive work on his part to make the Opening Day roster, but the Giants could use another lefty, and he has more MLB experience than some of the guys here. For those reasons only, I’ll give him a slight edge over the arms below.

Odds: 25%

Sandy Rosario | Age 28

MLB: 49.1 IP, 4.93 ERA, 1.682 Whip, 1.22 K/BB

MiLB: 342.1 IP, 51 Sv, 3.42 ERA, 1.309 Whip, 4.27 K/BB

Outlook: Rosario bounced around the waiver wire last winter before catching on with the Giants. He really wasn’t bad in his 40+ innings of work for Los Gigantes in 2013, but his K rates didn’t really correlate with his fastball velocity. He was DFA but the organization apparently gave him another opportunity. He’s got to really impress in camp if he wants to snag one of the open relief spots.

Odds: 25%

Juan Gutierrez | Age 30

MLB: 222.2 IP, 24 Sv, 4.65 ERA, 1.406 Whip, 2.24 K/BB

MiLB: 629.1 IP, 5 Sv, 4.32 ERA, 1.438 Whip, 2.15 K/BB

Outlook: He also goes by JC, and I honestly didn’t realize until looking him up that this is the same guy who spent a couple of seasons closing games in Arizona. He’s got quite a bit of big league experience, including 53 appearances in 2013. Frankly, the numbers just aren’t that impressive. Maybe the Giants can straighten him out this spring, but I don’t know if he belongs in a MLB bullpen anymore.

Odds: 25%

Rafael Dolis | Age 26

MLB: 44.1 IP, 4 Sv, 5.48 ERA, 1.556 Whip, 0.96 K/BB

MiLB: 390.1 IP, 21 Sv, 3.69 ERA, 1.409 Whip, 1.59 K/BB

Outlook: He saw considerable action in the Cubs’ bullpen in 2012, but only made 5 MLB appearances last season before a forearm strain essentially cut his year short. He’s a big guy who throws serious heat (96-97), but his career statistics don’t really match up with the scouting reports. He’s definitely an interesting guy to have in camp, but I think he’ll ultimately land in Fresno come Opening Day.

Odds: 25%

Adam Reifer | Age 27

MLB: None

MiLB: 245.1 IP, 63 Sv, 3.45 ERA, 1.276 Whip, 2.23 K/BB

Outlook: I’m going to throw it out there right now. There’s something I like about this guy. For starters, he hails from San Dimas, which is my mom’s hometown and my home away from home during work trips. He’s also a St. Louis product, and we know all about the arms that have graduated from that system recently. The Cards looked to have him on the closer track early in his career, and it seems that he’s had an injury history (missed most of 2011, and the first couple months last season). Eventually, organizations have to make decisions on players, and Reifer found his way over to Miami’s AAA club in 2013. He was excellent, allowing a .143 BAA. Reports say he throws very hard (mid-90’s?). He’s my camp sleeper, and I’ll be following him closely.

Odds: 20%

Brett Bochy | Age 26

MLB: None

MiLB: 148.2 IP, 26 Sv, 2.78 ERA, 0.969 Whip, 4.26 K/BB

Outlook: To his credit, the Skipper’s kid has put together a nice minor league resume in his three years with the organization. But he got knocked around hard in Spring Training last year, and he was passed over in the Rule 5 draft this winter. Obviously, the talent evaluators aren’t very high on his abilities. I do think he’ll get his time in the big leagues someday, but I’d be very, very surprised if that time is Opening Day 2014.

Odds: 15%

Mason Tobin | Age 26

MLB: 5.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 1.875 Whip, 0.0 K/BB

MiLB: 130.2 IP, 21 GS, 3.17 ERA, 1.209 Whip, 1.92 K/BB

Outlook: Came to the organization about this time last year, and spent 2013 in Fresno. He’s a Glendive, MT native (as is most of my girlfriend’s family), and that’s primarily why I included him on the list. He did pitch a couple of innings with Texas in 2011 though, so there’s that. Otherwise, he’s a pretty big longshot to make the 25-man.

Odds: 10%