4/4 MiLB Wrap: Flores Comes out Firing

Well, it sure didn’t take long for Kendry Flores, our #12 Giants prospect and International Man of Mystery to turn heads in the Cal League. 7 innings of 2-hit ball; no-hitter through 5; multiple innings with less than 10 pitches; outpitching Josh Beckett and Julio Urias. Yep, I’d say Flores is off to a solid start.

Between Conner Penfold (who was in attendance down in Rancho) and Joe Ritzo on the radio, Flores was an economical wizard last night. He ran his fastball up to 93 early, and it sounded like he maintained that velocity into the later innings. Ritzo specifically used the term “exploding” to describe Kendry’s heater. That’s exactly how it looked to me during the Giants intrasquad game back in February. Maybe it doesn’t light up the radar gun, but it has some serious late life. Ritzo and Penfold both mentioned Flores’ sharp slider and his changeup, which he used to contain lefties quite well in Augusta last year.

It’s very early, but I’m telling you: watch out for this guy!

Flores final line: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR (allowed)

MiLB Flores Story

*I’m assuming Conner got some video of Flores last night, but I don’t see anything yet. Will link to it if he posts anything.

Here it is: Flores Video, courtesy of Giant Potential

Image

(Flores: SFGiantsphotos.mlblogs.com)

As you know, the Giants minor league rosters are stacked with starting pitching this year. Naturally, Flores wasn’t the only name of note on the docket last night. (5) Clayton Blackburn made his AA debut yesterday morning in a live broadcast game against New Britain. I was able to catch most of his start, and came away impressed as always. It certainly wasn’t a dominant outing for Blackburn, who tossed 70 pitches over 5 innings. But I don’t think any of the big named guys are going to find AA easy this season. Blackburn, Adalberto Mejia and Kyle Crick are 3 of the youngest players in the Eastern League, and they are going to hit some bumps along the way. But it’s all about how you respond, and Blackburn worked out of trouble quite nicely. In the 4th inning (I believe), he worked his way out of a bases loaded, one out jam by inducing a 1-2-3 double play. Again, making the right pitch when it counts is Blackburn’s forte.

Blackburn final line: 5 IP, 5 h, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

Venezuelan lefty (HM) Luis Ysla made his first full-season start for Augusta last night, and it likely wasn’t the performance he had hoped for. He wasn’t particularly hittable (1 H allowed in 3 IP), but he was exceptionally wild. 5 BB to go along with 5 wild pitches… that sounds like a case of nerves to me. David Lee has a very nice scouting report on Ysla in his game wrap, with some quotes from Greenjackets manager Mike Goff. Long story short, Ysla has never pitched on that kind of stage before, and everyone thinks the wildness will subside. I think so too. According to Lee, the lefty worked 90-94 and hit 95 last night while tossing in an impressive slider. Where the heck was this guy hiding for four years?!

Anyway, I highly encourage you to read Lee’s report on Ysla. You can find it here. You should also follow Lee’s coverage through Twitter and the Augusta Chronicle site all season.

Ysla final line: 3 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 3 K

Image

(Blackburn: SFGiantsphotos.mlblogs.com)

Scores:

Fresno 8, Las Vegas 11

Richmond 3, New Britain 4

San Jose 3, Rancho Cucamonga 2

Augusta 6, Charleston 3

Stock Up:

(HM) Brandon Bednar, AUG: 3-4, 2 R – Bednar is hitting .714 through two games for Augusta.

(HM) Matt Lujan, AUG: 4 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K – Lujan won’t get much press, but he’s a guy who could see a ton of time bailing out a young Greenjacket rotation. Lefty has a pretty cool background story as well.

Elliott Blair, SJ: 2-5, 2 R, 3B, HR – Blair started in LF and had a great night at the plate. He’s repeating SJ.

(40) Steven Okert, SJ: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 K – Lefty relief arm sat mid-90’s last night and touched 96. That’s a great sign for the former 4th round pick, whose velocity seemed to disappear in Augusta last season.

(24) Matt Duffy, RCH: 1-4, 2B, 1 RBI – Duffy hit a sac fly and picked up a hustle 2B down the line yesterday. I love his approach at the plate. Confident hitter.

Mark Minicozzi, (38) Chris Dominguez, Tyler Colvin, (3) Andrew Susac; FRS – All 4 Grizzlies hitters had impressive nights. Dominguez and Minicozzi homered, while Colvin and Susac had 3 hits apiece. That Fresno lineup could be pretty potent this year.

Image

(Duffy: SJGiants.mlblogs.com)

Stock down:

Erik Cordier, FRS: 1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K – This seems to be Cordier’s game in a nutshell. Electric stuff, but poor control and sometimes very hittable.

(25) Bryce Bandilla, RCH: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 0 K – Bandilla didn’t last long in his AA debut. The lefty has incredible stuff, but he truly beat himself yesterday.

Up next:

Fresno, 7:05 PM: Edwin Escobar

Richmond, 10:35 AM: Adalberto Mejia

San Jose, 7:05 PM: Joan Gregorio

Augusta, 4:00 PM: Keury Mella

Four international arms on the hill today. Two lefties, two righties, and Gregorio the oldest of the bunch at 22. How’s that for a quartet of “#3 starters?” We still haven’t even seen Kyle Crick yet!

 

Advertisements

Kendry Flores, International Man of Mystery?

Whatever else I had planned today just got put on the backburner. Only a few minutes ago, I noticed something on twitter that I think needs to be addressed. Andrew Cain just retweeted a picture posted by the team’s official account. The picture (originally tweeted yesterday), showed Tim Lincecum standing between – more like slightly in front of – Derek Law and Kendry Flores. Looking at this shot, I was immediately blown away by Flores’ size.

*Note: I can’t get the Twitter pics to upload here, so click on the links over to the right to view them.

Now, Timmy as we know is not a real big guy. He’s athletic, but still only 5-11. Law, while he doesn’t have the most athletic frame in the world, makes The Freak seem even smaller. People, Law is 6-3, 220… and Flores looks every bit as big as him (by my estimation), and even more athletic. Honestly, he looks to me like he’s cut from stone.

The Giants posted another shot this afternoon of some pitchers working in the “stables,” as I like to call them. Kyle Crick is obviously on the far end, with Timmy and Jose Casilla (who left his big bro behind in the DR) in the middle. If I had to guess the pitcher closest to the camera, I’d say it’s Jean Machi, who is looking much leaner himself. My question, then, was “who is the guy next to Crick?” I hadn’t seen the picture of Flores with Lincecum and Law yet, but I did think they had him (Flores) wearing #84. But I also thought it might be non-roster invitee Rafael Dolis (who’s listed at 6-4, 215).

Long story short… when I saw the picture of Flores/Timmy/Law from yesterday, I immediately went back to find the bullpen shot from today. There he was. Same guy, same impressive size, throwing next to 6-4 Cricky. Crick, who has probably the perfect pitcher’s frame, is a tad bit stocky himself. These are just my opinions, of course, but I think Flores looks even bigger than Crick!

So, my question to you, good readers: What in the heck happened to this string-bean kid from the Dominican who’s listed at 6-2, 175 pounds on every website I can find? How often are those things updated? To me, Flores now looks every bit of 6-4, 215, and maybe even bigger! Athletic as all get-out to boot!

Let’s get this straight: A kid who spent his first four professional seasons toying around in short-season ball – with solid peripherals, I might add – absolutely dominated down the stretch in Augusta last summer, his first full-season assignment. There was talk from David Lee of big velocity gains mid-season (up to 95), and the Giants placed him on the 40-man during the winter. He’s 22, in MLB camp, and looks like he’s grown at least two inches and gained a significant amount of weight. He’s got amazing control, and has a weapon in an above average changeup that could really separate him from some of the more heralded fastball-slider guys in the system.

Holy smokes people, how did we not catch wind of this?!

Mysteriously, Nathanial Stoltz (Fangraphs) posted nearly 20 videos of Flores facing individual hitters in a June 5 start (8 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 7 K) that I just now found. It looks like he uploaded them about three weeks ago, as I know they weren’t around when I put together my Flores profile for the Cove Chatter 100. Up to this point, the only footage of Flores I’d ever seen was a far-away video on MiLB.com shot during his 15-K performance late last season. He didn’t look overly huge to me then, but it wasn’t all that easy to tell.

I’ll wrap it up by saying this: If Flores is 1) as big as he looks in those pictures; 2) throws as hard as Lee reported last summer; and 3) has above average command and secondary stuff (see the video of him facing the left-handed hitter for further proof), we could be looking at a monster here. Personally, I can’t wait to read the reports if he gets a few innings of work in during Spring Training. Maybe I’ll even shoot old David Lee a message and ask if he saw the pictures. He’s pretty good about responding to fans.

I know this came out of left field, but I just couldn’t help myself. I’m done with my afternoon rave, but I’ll leave you all with this question: Just who is this mystery man named Kendry Flores, and what does he have in store for 2014?

Cove Chatter 100: #12

Kendry Flores | RHP, 22 yo, 6-2, 175 | IFA 2008 DR | (A) 22 GS, 141.2 IP, 2.73 ERA, 7.2 H/9, 1.1 BB/9, 8.7 K/9

Guys like Flores are the reason I look at the Giants system right now and wonder if they don’t have some of the most pitching depth of any organization in baseball. I’ll admit that I probably could have given him a bump into the top 10, but I am just too high on Keury Mella’s upside right now. Flores, however, really made a name for himself in the season’s second half, and impressed Baseball Pro’s Jason Parks enough for Parks to give him the #4 spot on his Giants top 10.

Flores signed with the organization at age 17, but 2013 was his first shot at full-season ball. He’s really a guy that had flown under the radar for the past few years, earning unimpressive scouting reviews while posting respectable peripheral numbers in various levels of short-season ball. He was solid for Augusta in the first half (11 starts), but really cranked his game up a notch in the second half, logging a 2.60 ERA and a ridiculous 79k/4bb rate over his final 11 starts (72 IP). David Lee of the Augusta Chronicle reported Flores’ velocity solidly in the low-90’s and touching 95 at times. Those reports are quite an improvement over previous reviews that had him sitting high-80’s with his fastball. His dominant second half numbers really do seem to correlate with an increased velocity, and would really excite the front office if true.

Since he had been in the organization for so long, the Giants were forced to protect Flores from the Rule 5 draft with a 40-man spot this winter. They did the same with Edwin Escobar before last season, and I think it’s safe to say they would love to see Flores make an Escobar-type ascent in 2014. It remains to be seen whether Flores will hang at the higher levels, but he’s headed to MLB camp this spring. The Giants will get a great opportunity to evaluate him. Don’t be surprised if he gets the bump to AA Richmond at some point this year, and maybe even as early as Opening Day. At this point, Flores should be considered a very serious prospect in the organization, and a great example of the pitching depth within this system.

They said it: “I can’t make the claim that Flores made the biggest strides of any player in the Giants system…but he has to be near the top of the list. He definitely made the most strides of any GreenJackets player…Flores had plus command/control all season, and that was the No. 1 reason for his success… If his changeup continues to develop and his curveball is right behind, Flores can find success in the upper levels and reach a 4-5 ceiling.” ~ David Lee

Flores video:

Flores 15 K article:

Image

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

Org Pitching: Keep Your Eye on those Greenjackets!

Augusta

The Best:

Chris Stratton – R (23) 3.16 era, 125.1 ip, 8.7 h/9, 3.2 bb/9, 8.5 k/9 – Former 1st round pick has had a good but not great season in Augusta. Maybe he goes to Richmond next year?

Martin Agosta – R (22) 1.97 era, 86.2 ip, 5.5 h/9, 4.2 bb/9, 10.7 k/9 – 2nd round pick has flashed great stuff in first full season, but blisters and dead arm have limited his second half significantly.

Joan Gregorio – R (21) 4.18 era, 66.2 ip, 8.5 h/9, 2.3 bb/9, 10.8 k/9 – 6-foot-7, 180-lb beanpole was apparently throwing mid-90’s before hitting the DL. He’s got a 6.31 era in 7 second half starts, but he’s loaded with potential.

Kendry Flores – R (21) 2.65 era, 135.2 ip, 7.2 h/9, 1.1 bb/9, 8.9 k/9 –5th year in the organization has been a breakout for the young righty. He’s logged 10+ K’s four times in last 10 starts, topping at 15 in 8 innings his last start.

Steven Okert – L (21) 3.00 era, 60 ip, 8.2 h/9, 3.6 bb/9, 8.7 k/9 – 4th round pick last year, 6-foot-3 lefty is having a solid first full season in the pen. Can dial up the heat.

Stephen Johnson – R (22) 8 sv, 3.83 era, 49.1 ip, 7.1 h/9, 5.3 bb/9, 12.0 k/9 – D2 selection from 2012, throws upper 90’s with the fastball. Has been outstanding in the second half.

Ian Gardeck – R (22) 3.00 era, 54.0 ip, 6.8 h/9, 6.0 bb/9, 11.0 k/9 – Another bullpen flamethrower in his first full season. Big strikeout stuff, needs to control it.

Tyler Mizenko – R (23) 24 sv, 2.86 era, 50.1 ip, 7.7 h/9, 3.8 bb/9, 8.8 k/9 – Former closer from Winthrop is big with low to mid-90’s sink. Started the season red-hot, but has spent some time on the DL recently.

Jacob Dunnington – R (22) 3.60 era, 20.0 ip, 7.6 h/9, 4.5 bb/9, 13.0 k/9 – Former undrafted righty had a mysterious injury to start the season, and must be working his arm back to health in Augusta. Spent time in Richmond last year. Big strikeouts definitely a reason to keep an eye on him.

Mason McVay – L (22) 3.90 era, 64.2 ip, 9.3 h/9, 2.4 bb/9, 10.2 k/9 – 6-foot-7 lefty was a 26th round pick last year. Great k/bb ratio, but he’s been hittable in first full season.

The Rest:

Joe Kurrasch – L (22) 3.72 era, 58.0 ip, 9.6 h/9, 2.9 bb/9, 8.7 k/9 – 8th round pick from 2012 has found his niche since promotion from S-K last month. Threw a 2-hitter with 12 K’s in his most recent start.

Jorge Bucardo – R (23) 5 sv, 1.93 era, 42.0 ip, 6.0 h/9, 2.4 bb/9, 7.9 k/9 – Former standout starter missed all of 2011, most of 2012, and a good chunk of 2013 with shoulder injuries. He’s in the pen now, but still could find himself moving up the latter if he can stay healthy.

Joe Biagini – R (23) 5.03 era, 96.2 ip, 9.5 h/9, 3.9 bb/9, 7.4 k/9 – Big, strong righty has had an up and down season in Augusta’s rotation. He hasn’t seen great results since being drafted in 2011, but he’s certainly not a guy to give up on.

Matthew Lujan – L (25) 3.24 era, 72.1 ip, 8.7 h/9, 3.2 bb/9, 7.5 k/9 – Tore his UCL at the end of his senior season at USF, and went undrafted that summer (2011). Giants took a flier on him, and he’s put up nice numbers in parts of 2 seasons. Crafty lefty with very good secondary pitches. Should be interesting to see where he ends up next year.

Overview: This group is highly underrated in my opinion, and has really grown on me this year. Augusta is quietly having a great season in the SALLY, and the pitching staff has been the catalyst. Yes, guys like Crick, Blackburn, and Mejia in San Jose and Escobar in Richmond are younger and get more press, but the Giants have some serious talent at the Low-A level as well.

Naturally, the majority of these guys are products of the 2012 draft, highlighted by top picks Stratton (#1) and Agosta (#2). Among this list, Okert (4), Johnson (6), Kurrasch (8), Gardeck (16), and McVay (26) were all members of the Giants’ 2012 class, while Biagini (26) and Mizenko (28) were 2011 selections. If picking up big-armed bullpen guys like Gardeck, McVay and Mizenko below the 15th round isn’t solid drafting, I don’t know what is.

Among the Giants’ affiliates, San Jose’s rotation has earned the most love this year. And for good reason. But Augusta’s group of Stratton, Agosta, Gregorio, and Flores are nothing to sneeze at. Stratton hasn’t been as dominant as hoped this season, but he definitely hasn’t had a bad year by any means. He’s stayed healthy, and that can’t be overlooked. He still has every bit of upside as guys like Blackburn and Mejia, in my opinion, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he skipped over San Jose next season. He’s 23 and pitched in a major D1 college… it’s time to get him moving!

Agosta has been Augusta’s ace this season, but has battled injuries. Side-by-side, his numbers have been much better than Stratton’s, but Agosta just hasn’t consistently stayed healthy the past couple months. He’ll be an interesting player to watch next year in San Jose. Gregorio and Flores are international prospects who have opened a lot of eyes this year. Gregorio is very tall and can pump the fastball, but he’s been dealing with blister issues. Maybe that’s a cause for his shaky second half? Flores has been in the system a long time, but hasn’t really excelled until this year. Now, he’s flashing big time strikeout stuff. 15 K’s in his last start! And he’s still only 21.

The Greenjackets’ bullpen should be very exciting to watch next year in San Jose. Lots of college power arms from the recent drafts. Okert and McVay from the left side, Johnson, Gardeck and Mizenko from the right. Okert and Johnson probably have the best stuff, but Gardeck isn’t far behind. McVay is towering at 6-7, while Mizenko has used his sinker-slider combo to earn 24 saves this year. None of these 5 are putting up numbers like Heath Hembree did a few years ago or Cody Hall has this season, but they all have shown the ability to be dominant in stretches. I’ll say this: this bullpen has to be one of the best in all of Low-A.

Dunnington and Bucardo are the experienced relief guys who are probably only in Augusta because of recent injuries. Kurrasch, the lefty from Penn State has put together a nice string of starts since coming up from Salem-Keizer, and should definitely be on the radar after a 12-k performance the other day. Lujan and Biagini are a little older than the rest. It sounds like Biagini is a bulldog with good velocity, but he’s been way too hittable at the low levels. Lujan’s story is a new one to me, but he’s a guy I’ll be keeping an eye on now. His Perfect Game profile coming out of high school raved about his secondary stuff, and it sounds like he may have earned a nice draft selection his senior year if not for the TJ surgery. Could be an interesting guy to watch.

Image

Agosta Returns for Red-Hot ‘Jackets

Giants’ top pitching prospect Martin Agosta returned to the mound for Low-A Augusta last night, allowing only one baserunner in three innings of work. Word from David Lee in Augusta was Martin had a 50-pitch limit, which is why he was pulled after the 3rd.  The start was Agosta’s first appearance since July 21 and only his 3rd since the end of June. The month of July was certainly a frustrating one for the righty from Saint Mary’s, as he suffered from both a “dead arm” and a nagging blister. By all accounts, Agosta has been the Greenjackets’ ace this year, which is saying something when you look at the talent in that starting rotation. He’s outperformed guys like Joan Gregorio, Kendry Flores and Chris Stratton, and it really hasn’t been close.

Agosta’s 3 IP, 0 ER, 4 K outing last night lowered his ERA to a ridiculous 1.96 for the season. He’s got 101 K in 85 IP, and if he can manage to get another start in, I really see no reason for him to be in Low-A anymore. I thought both he and Stratton should have been moved to San Jose long ago, but Agosta was hurt and Stratton was a bit inconsistent for a while. Now they both look to be cruising along.

When I checked the Giants’ affiliate rundown on MiLB.com this morning, something really popped out at me. Augusta is 68-51. When did that happen?! If you hadn’t noticed (and I’ll admit I hadn’t), the Jackets are rolling along in the SALLY these days. Even more impressive, they’ve been winning without Agosta or Gregorio. Going back to the last week of July, Augusta has won 15 of its last 18 games. Literally one of the hottest teams in baseball.

So what’s going on with these guys? First, have you seen that pitching staff? We’ve talked about the rotation, but you’ll find just as many big time arms in the bullpen as well. You’ve got the flame-throwing righties, Stephen Johnson and Ian Gardeck. Between the two of them, you’ve got 16 consecutive scoreless IP, with lots of K’s to go around. Then there’s the high-upside lefties, Steven Okert and Mason McVay. Okert is 6’3” with a big heater, while McVay towers at 6’7”. Both have plenty of talent, and Okert has a miniscule 1.19 ERA over his last 10 games. Throw in closer Tyler Mizenko, the over-achieving closer from Winthrop, and you’ve got one hell of a relief corps for hitters in Low-A to deal with. Mizenko has actually been pretty shaky lately, but he still has pretty good numbers overall.

If San Jose fans thought they saw some great pitching this year, they’re right. But I think they’ve got a chance to see another solid crop of arms come through the Cal League next season as well. Make no mistake, the pitching staff is the strength of this team. But I’ll say this about the offense: there are some guys who can’t be written off just yet. I check the Giants’ MiLB box scores on a daily basis, and there are certainly guys at each level that I look for every day. Up until recently, there wasn’t much to look at on the hitting end for Augusta, besides some Dirt Bag named Duffy, who’s now tearing up the Cal League. Lately, though, a few guys have really started to come out of their shell at the plate.

Last 10 games:

OF Charles “Chuckie” Jones: .314/.385/.571, 3 2b, 2 hr, 7 rbi.

1B Joey Rapp: .389/.450/.556, 3 2b, 1 hr, 8 rbi.

SS Alberto Robles: .375/.412/.469, 1 hr, 3 rbi, 5 sb.

As the Jackets look to keep rolling down south, a final note. For a system that most rank near the bottom of the barrel in baseball, the Giants’ MiLB squads below AAA all have winning records. The AZL team is a blistering 34-10. I’m not sure where the system ranks with the rest of MLB, overall record-wise, but I’ll bet there aren’t many systems that have a higher win percentage. Some exciting times are coming folks – we can hope, at least.

Deadline Day

With the trade deadline looming today, it’s still not clear at all whether the Giants will be active. We’ve talked about this before; this could be a great opportunity to strengthen the club going forward, if the right deals are made. It sounds like Sabean is still very interested in finding partners for Javier Lopez and Hunter Pence. Apparently, Pence told the team last night that he’d be open to signing a contract with them in the offseason, even if he is traded today. I’ll tell you what, Pence is a class act… and even if you look at this game strictly from a business perspective, it’s hard not to want guys like that on your team.

Here’s my take on this whole ordeal. If Pence gets traded to a team like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, and goes on to play in or even win another World Series, his love for San Francisco will probably be the last thing on his mind. To put it simply, if the Giants trade him today, don’t expect Pence to be coming back in the offseason. If you trade him, you lose the qualifying offer with draft pick compensation (although he probably would accept the offer and the subject would be a moot point anyway). So, Sabean has some tough decisions to make. If he does swing a deal, he’d better be certain he’s got a realistic option in mind to help make up Pence’s production.

I’m not saying Pence won’t get traded, and he really could fetch us some nice pieces if he is. But I’ll be honest, after giving this a lot of thought lately, I’d rather hold onto him, make a qualifying offer when the season is over, and bring him back on a two or three year deal. He’s not a superstar, but the Giants need his 20-HR bat and diligent work ethic in their clubhouse.

Another note on the trade front. I had no idea the A’s were willing to move Grant Green! They swapped him for Alberto Callaspo last night, and I think the Angels came out with a nice middle infield prospect. I like Green a lot, and wouldn’t have been upset if the Giants threw Scutaro’s name over to Billy Beane… maybe he wouldn’t have been interested, but that would have been a nice swap for the Giants.

****

It was quite a night for Giants pitching, at all levels of the organization. Here’s a quick rundown:

San Francisco – Barry Zito floundered in another road start, and it was reported that he had a closed-door meeting with Bruce Bochy after the game. If the Giants want to get any kind of momentum back in the second half, they’ll probably need to get Zito out of the rotation. Maybe they’re looking to move him to the bullpen for now, but I wouldn’t be shocked if his up and down career with the Giants is coming to a close.

Fresno – Eric Surkamp had an impressive start last night in AAA, going 7 strong with 5 K. He allowed only 3 hits and 1 ER, and walked only 1 batter. Outings like that definitely help build Surkamp’s case for rotation spot in San Francisco down the stretch.

Richmond – Ryan Vogelsong continued his rehab with a start in AA last night, where he looked very good. He opposed Anthony Ranaudo, one of the Red Sox’ top arms, and Vogey won the battle. He threw 5 shutout innings, allowed 5 hits, struck out 3 and surrendered only a single walk. The Giants need a healthy Vogelsong back in the rotation soon, and it sounds like he’s well on his way.

San Jose – Top prospect Kyle Crick took the ball last night after giving up 9 hits in his last outing. This time, he was back to his dominant ways. His line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11K. The 11 strikeouts are a season high for Crick, and possibly a career high too. His fastball was 95-96 according to Joe Ritzo, and was overpowering as always. Crick has now made 10 starts in San Jose, and I don’t think a promotion to Richmond is out of the question at this point.

Augusta – Kendry Flores made sure every level of full-season ball for the Giants had stellar starting pitching last night. The 21 year-old righty is having a very good season in Low-A, and tossed 7.1 shutout innings last night. He allowed 6 hits and struck out 7, without a walk.

That’s what I’d call a pretty impressive night of pitching… with the exception of Zito, of course. But these days, the major league Giants don’t really resemble a team.