Cove Chatter 2015 Giants “All-Farm” Team

Christian Arroyo | Photo c/o Larry Goren | Four Seam Images via AP Images
Christian Arroyo | Photo c/o Larry Goren | Four Seam Images via AP Images

Sorry for the major lack of posting lately. Trying to run a classroom and a blog simultaneously has proven very difficult for me over the last month, but I’m working to put a few posts together with the season winding down. I’d never done an organization all-star-type post before, so I thought this would be fun. Just keep in mind, this group is statistic based. This is not an “All-Prospect” team, but more of a prospect “All-Star” team. You will find some of the top prospects in the system on this list, while others will be noticeably absent.

There are no hard and fast “eligibility rules” for this list. Some of these guys are prospects, some graduated to the majors, and others still bounced up and down a bit. Please, don’t get hung up on that kind of stuff. This is supposed to be for enjoyment. So let me know what you think! I did select a 2nd team, but I haven’t done the write-ups for those guys yet. I’ll try to get it posted in the coming days. Thanks for reading!

MVP: Matt Duffy, 3B, San Francisco – .299/.339/.434, 11 HR, 73 RBI, 11 SB, 4.5 WAR | I’m obviously breaking the nonexistent “rules” here as he didn’t spend a day in the minors all year… but I don’t care. Duffy has been the organization’s breakout player for 2015. He’s one of the steadiest bats and gloves in the National League. What a huge win for the farm system, and for us prospect watchers who’ve been rooting for him over the years.

First Team

C: Aramis Garcia, Augusta/San Jose – .264/.342/.431, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 40 CS% | A slow offensive start gave way to a summer surge for Garcia in Augusta, who showed improved defense and one of the strongest arms in the system. He’s a clear top 10 prospect in the organization right now.

1B: Chris Shaw, Salem-Keizer – .287/.360/.551, 12 HR, 30 RBI | Shaw was a 1B/OF at Boston College and one of the best power hitters in the Cape Cod League last summer. The Giants plucked him in the supplemental first round, and he led the short-season NWL in Home Runs despite only playing in 46 games and logging 200 PA. That’s a 36-HR pace over 600 PA, so it’s evident why the Giants believe in his bat.

2B: Kelby Tomlinson, Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (minors) .321/.376/.414, 3 HR, 21 SB | (majors) .275/.338/.362, 1 HR, 5 SB | Kelby looked like a completely new hitter during his second full season in Richmond. The Giants moved him up to Sacramento where he kept on producing at the plate. When Joe Panik went down, I felt very good about KT’s ability to pick up some slack at 2B. After some early defensive jitters, he settled in nicely while giving the Giants steady at-bats almost every night. He was a serious candidate for my “prospect MVP” award.

3B: Miguel Gomez, Salem-Keizer – .319/.331/.442, 6 HR, 52 RBI | The 22 year-old C/DH/3B made his stateside debut after spending three summers in the DSL. He’s a switch-hitter who is extremely aggressive at the plate… and all he did was hit this summer for Salem-Keizer (coming within 1 or 2 games of the all-time NWL hit streak record). He’s still a pretty unknown commodity, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Giants push him to San Jose next spring.

SS: Christian Arroyo, San Jose – .304/.344/.459, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 5 SB | He missed some significant time to injury for the second season in a row, but when he was healthy, all Arroyo did was hit. Ultimately he was the SJ Giants offensive player of the year, and at 20 years old he appears on the fast track to the majors (not that the Giants need any middle-infielders at the moment). AA will be a big test for him next year, but he’s the #1 prospect in the system for me right now.

LF: Hunter Cole, Augusta/San Jose/Richmond – .301/.358/.474, 9 3B, 9 HR, 63 RBI, 7 SB | Strong first full season for the 2014 26th round pick out of Georgia. He spent some time in the infield, but the Giants moved him primarily to RF once he was promoted to AA. With the Giants current MLB/AAA outfield situation, he’ll likely return to Richmond next spring.

CF: Johneshwy Fargas, Augusta – .278/.347/.349, 2 HR, 59 SB | The young, Puerto Rican CF has impact speed and arm strength. If his bat can develop, he’ll likely be one of the top prospects in the system. San Jose should be a good test of his hitting abilities next season, and he still has plenty of time to develop.

RF: Jarrett Parker, Sacramento/San Francisco – (minors) .283/.375/.514, 23 HR, 74 RBI, 20 SB | (majors) .370/.414/1.074, 6 HR. 12 RBI, 1 SB | If this were the all-prospect team, Mac Williamson would have undoubtedly been my pick here. But I’m going on overall performance, and Parker had his best season as a pro for Sacramento this year. Oh, and did I mention he just clubbed THREE HOMERUNS in Oakland?! That’s 29 big flies on the year…. whoa. After looking rather unassuming in his brief MLB stint in June, I’d say Parker’s surge this month has put his name in conversations for next year’s roster.

SP: Chase Johnson, San Jose/Richmond – 124.2 IP, 111 H, 2.82 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 9.3 K/9 | The former Cal Poly reliever took a giant leap forward in his second professional season. He got a small taste of AA late in the year, allowing 24 baserunners and striking out 18 batters in 13.2 IP. He maintained a mid-90’s fastball and hard curveball all season, and his breakout performance puts him among the top arms in the system for me.

SP: Sam Coonrod, Augusta – 111.2 IP, 103 H, 3.14 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 9.2 K/9 | Converted college closer tamed his previous control problems this summer in Augusta. He mixes a sometimes upper-90’s heater with a very good slider. Whether he’s a starter long term is still up for debate, but at the moment Coonrod’s stuff and results are getting rave reviews around the baseball world.

SP: Clayton Blackburn, Sacramento – 123 IP, 127 H, 2.85 ERA, 2.3 BB/9, 7.2 K/9 | Keeping AAA hitters in check is a difficult task for any pitcher, regardless of age. Blackburn is 22 years old and the owner of a PCL ERA crown. He transformed his body over the winter, and the results were obvious as he dominated down the stretch. His fastball won’t ever blow up a radar gun, but his ability to mix speeds and locate his pitches has played at every level in the minors. His next test is a MLB tryout.

RP: Jake Smith, San Jose – 84.1 IP, 50 H, 2.35 ERA, 16 SV, 2.2 BB/9, 12.6 K/9 | Smith was one of the Cal League leaders in strikeouts despite pitching out of the bullpen the entire season. From start to finish, he was a major contributor to a dominant Giants relief corps that made it all the way to the CAL Championship Series. The MLB draft was cut down to 40 rounds a few years ago; Smith was a 48th round selection in 2011. Don’t let that fool you… this guy has a big league arm.

RP: Josh Osich, Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (minors) 41 IP, 26 H, 1.32 ERA, 21 SV, 2.6 BB/9, 9.0 K/9 | (majors) 23.2 IP, 18 H, 1.90 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 9.1 K/9 | Osich’s stuff returned to form this season, and the Giants have reaped the benefits. With Jeremy Affeldt’s contract expiring this winter, Osich might be looking at a full-time MLB job next spring. When he’s right, he’s one of the most electric arms in the bullpen.

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Cove Chatter 100: #18

Josh Osich | LHP, 25 yo, 6-2, 230 | 2011 Draft – 6 | (A+) 42.1 IP, 2.45 ERA, 12 SV, 7.1 h/9, 2.2 bb/9, 10.8 k/9 | (AA) 29.2 IP, 4.85 ERA, 3 SV, 7.9 h/9, 3.6 bb/9, 8.5 k/9

The top lefty reliever in the organization (in the opinion of this blogger). Former 6th round pick was an electric starter at Oregon State, where he threw a no-hitter while outpitching UCLA’s Trevor Bauer in 2011. Osich has only started two games as a professional, but has spent most of his time in a closer’s role. He was sent back to San Jose for 2013, and was starting to torch hitters by mid-season, when he and Cody Hall were summoned to Richmond. Osich didn’t see the same success initially in the Eastern League as Hall, but eventually settled down to a 2.84 ERA over 12 August appearances. I’ve heard that his usual mid-90’s velocity started to fade a bit down the stretch, but that shouldn’t be all that surprising after a long season of work. I remember reading a tweet from a fellow San Jose pitcher that he was throwing an easy 97 back in May.

Osich has as much raw stuff as any pitcher in the organization, with above average control, but he’s really been an injury case throughout most of his playing career (Tommy John in 2010, elbow issues before the draft, only 32 IP in 2012). To me, he seems to have a very violent delivery. I have no idea if that’s contributed to his arm injuries at all, but it certainly could have had some impact. His body of work in 2013 has to be a very welcome sight for the front office.

He’s supposedly ticketed for MLB spring training, and the Giants could use another lefty in the pen. He’ll most likely start the year in either Fresno or Richmond, but the organization has to be hoping his fastball – and arm – are ready to roll come late February.

They said it: “Osich features a mid 90’s fastball, two excellent off-speed pitches and as a left-hander, could move quickly next year if he excels in Richmond and/or Fresno.” ~ Joe Ritzo, San Jose Giants broadcaster

Osich video:

Osich college:

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(Barry Cola, San Jose Giants)

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…

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Organization Pitching Depth Recap

Over the past few weeks, we broke down some of the top pitchers for each team in the Giants’ minor league system. We covered a lot. 70 arms to be exact. 48 righties, 22 southpaws. There are others in the organization, but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Even after profiling 70 guys, I’m sure I still missed a few potential sleepers in there, but I think we’ve covered most of the meat.

I learned a ton about the organization while doing this series. I hope you did as well, or at least enjoyed catching up on a few guys you hadn’t given much attention recently. I’ll say this about the Giants: They have pitching. Not a ton of it is major league ready, which was definitely a factor in this season’s struggles. But they do have a wealth of arms below AAA, and it’ll be interesting to see who makes the jump to the next level. Are Cody Hall and Edwin Escobar in the bigs next year? Does Hembree win a spot out of Spring Training? Will the San Jose rotation of 2013 be as successful as the Richmond rotation of 2014? Is Kyle Crick in Fresno this time next season? How about the Augusta staff? Who separates themselves from this year’s draft class? Are Mella and Ysla for real? Lots of questions, and all good ones. You can’t have too much pitching, ever.

I decided to write this recap of the entire pitching series because I felt like there should be a place where we can tie all these posts together. Also, I wanted a spot where each of these pieces could be easily found. So here are the team links if you need a refresher.

AAA Fresno

AA Richmond

A+ San Jose

A Augusta

A-ss Salem-Keizer

Rookie Leagues

So, 70 pitchers that may or may not be the future of Giants baseball. One potential ace (Crick), lots of potential valuable pieces, both starters and relievers. The overlying trend for the top starters tends to be control above velocity, while some of the bullpen guys can definitely dial up the heat.

If I had to rank the top guys right now, it’d probably look something like this:

RH Starters

Kyle Crick

Clayton Blackburn

Chris Stratton

Martin Agosta

Keury Mella

Sleeper: Joan Gregorio

LH Starters

Edwin Escobar

Adalberto Mejia

Eric Surkamp

Ty Blach

Mike Kickham

Sleeper: Luis Ysla

RH Pen

Heath Hembree

Cody Hall

Derek Law

Dan Slania

Stephen Johnson

Sleeper: Ian Gardeck

LH Pen

Josh Osich

Bryce Bandilla

Mason McVay

Steven Okert

Nick Jones

Sleeper: Nick Gonzalez

There’s your top 24. If you can get 4-6 regular players and a few trade pieces out of that crop (which I think the Giants can), I’d consider it a successful group. Next season should be a big one for the hurlers, that’s for sure. As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated. I’m hoping to do a few more of these throughout the winter, looking at position-player depth in the organization. Thanks for reading, and go Giants.

Org Pitching Part II: Richmond

Continuing the look at the noteworthy arms in the Giants’ system… Flying Squirrel edition.

Richmond

Edwin Escobar – L (21): 2.78 era, 116.2 ip, 8.0 h/9, 1.8 bb/9, 10.2 k/9 – First of the San Jose starters to get the bump to AA. Low 90’s fastball with excellent control, could be in Major League camp next spring.

Cody Hall – R (25): 9 sv, 1.31 era, 55 ip, 4.1 h/9, 2.3 bb/9, 11.5 k/9 – Big, power arm has thrived in the closer role since his promotion from SJ. May move quickly.

Josh Osich – L (24): 14 sv, 3.84 era, 61 ip, 8.0 h/9, 2.8 bb/9, 10.0 k/9 – Flame-throwing lefty was dominant in SJ, but has struggled since moving to AA.

Jose Valdez – R (25): 4.74 era, 49.1 ip, 9.7 h/9, 7.7 bb/9, 8.8 k/9 – 6 foot 7 monster. 78 K’s in 57 IP last year at San Jose. Major control issues this season.

Scott Shuman – R (25): 25 g, 10.55 era, 21.2 ip, 5.9 h/9, 16.5 bb/9, 15.6 k/9 – Rule 5 draft pick who throws serious heat, gives up few hits, but has absolutely no idea where the ball is going.

Edwin Quirarte – R (26): 10 sv, 2.67 era, 60.2 ip, 8.6 h/9, 3.6 bb/9, 5.3 k/9 – Former 5th round pick, doesn’t have amazing stuff, but induces tons of grounders. May be a useful bullpen arm for a Major League team one day.

Phil McCormick – L (24): 3 sv, 3.44 era, 49.2 ip, 7.8 h/9, 5.3 bb/9, 8.9 k/9 – Crafty lefty with sink and deception. Big groundball rates, but the walks have inflated this season.

Chris Gloor – L (26): 3.56 era, 139 ip, 8.9 h/9, 2.5 bb/9, 6.9 k/9 – 6 foot 6, big-bodied lefty. Second year in AA, first full season as a starter. Should get a chance in Fresno next year.

Overview: A team that began the season with little high-end pitching talent has seen three of the top arms in the system promoted from San Jose. Escobar may be the Giants’ breakout candidate of the year, and he seems to be getting stronger. Will he compete for a big league rotation spot next spring? Hall and Osich are two of the organization’s big bullpen arms. Hall may surpass Heath Hembree, while Osich needs to work out some kinks. All 3 are big bodies that feature elite velocity. The rest of these guys are long shots. Valdez and Shuman are wildcards – big arms with no control. Quirarte was once a future closer candidate, but he doesn’t seem to have the stuff to strike out professional hitters. Maybe he gets a shot in a middle-relief role someday. If McCormick can continue to induce the grounders, could he work himself up as a situational lefty? Gloor is a grinder who should be in AAA next season.

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Escobar Keeps Rolling

If you missed it, 21 year-old Edwin Escobar (#17 on our Cove Chatter Top 40 prospects) continued his dominance in AA Richmond Friday night. The Venezuelan lefty has been impressive since his promotion from San Jose in mid-July. On Friday, he threw 7 shutout innings against New Hampshire, allowing only one baserunner (a ground ball single) while striking out six. It was Escobar’s second straight start of 7-inning shutout ball. The game recap didn’t go into much detail, but it sounds like he spent most of the night blowing fastballs by New Hampshire’s lineup, and induced quite a few groundouts. There’s a video clip of Escobar in his previous start on the Richmond homepage. In the short clip, he strikes out an Akron hitter with three fastballs. He works from a low three-quarter release, and is definitely a strike thrower.

Escobar now has five AA starts under his belt, and owns a 2.32 ERA in 31 IP. His k/bb rate is very good as well – 32/5. Escobar was the first pitcher from the highly-touted San Jose rotation to earn a promotion, and his impressive start in Richmond is very good news for a Giants organization badly in need of pitching in the upper minors.

Escobar isn’t the only top prospect that’s been promoted to AA this season, so I thought we’d check in on the progress of the other new Flying Squirrels.

Angel Villalona: 1B | 33 g, .250, 7 2b, 6 hr, 25 rbi, 5 bb, 35 – Villalona’s power has shown up so far in the EL, but plate discipline is still a major issue. Only hitting .189 over his last 10 games.

Cody Hall: RHP | 11 g, 16 ip, 2-0, 1.69 era, 3 bb, 14 k, 5 sv – Hall has been Richmond’s closer since his promotion from San Jose, and has been dominant. He and his fastball are moving up the ranks quickly. 

Josh Osich: LHP | 10 g, 12 ip, 0-2, 7.50 era, 8 bb, 14 k, 2 sv – Osich hasn’t had the same success as his hard-throwing partner Hall so far, but he can be unhittable when he’s on. We’ll see if he can settle down a bit in the season’s final months.

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Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects: #13

13. Josh Osich – LHP, 24 yo, AA: How sweet would it be to see Heath Hembree lighting it up from the right side and Josh Osich from the left in the next couple years? The Giants drafted Osich in the 6th round of the 2011 draft out of Oregon State. He offered some of the best power stuff in the draft that year, and likely would have been a first round pick if not for having Tommy John surgery in 2010. Osich was both a starter and reliever in college, but has pitched strictly out of the bullpen for the Giants. He’s got a big body, and can dial his fastball up around 97-98 from the left side. He posted a 3.62 ERA in 32 innings last season for San Jose (his first season of pro ball), and the Giants had him return to Hi-A for the first half this year as well. In 40 innings of work this season, he racked up 48 strikeouts and 12 saves to go along with a 2.45 ERA. By the all-star break, Osich was beginning to embarrass hitters with his fastball, and he’s now been promoted to AA for the second half. He’s a little older than you’d like a top prospect, but if he can stay healthy and keep cranking that fastball up, he’s not that away from a call-up.