Organizational Thoughts

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve been able to post on here, but please don’t fret. Cove Chatter is not dead! Baseball season is so crazy, I swear. One minute it’s Opening Day, you blink your eyes and it’s game 25. Holy smokes. I realize I really haven’t had a chance to reflect on things in a while (I really haven’t reflected on the MLB club at all since the first week of the season), so let’s take a few minutes to get caught up.

Giants: 14-10, 1st place NL West

Key Hitters: Angel Pagan, Mike Morse, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey

Key Pitchers: Tim Hudson, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Entire Bullpen

The Gigantes are looking to sweep the Tribe out of AT&T Park today, with Vogey making his 5th start of the season. The starting pitching hasn’t exactly been the strong point of the team so far, but each man in the rotation will have started 5 games after today… that’s a major rarity in baseball this season, and its importance really can’t be overstated. Bumgarner has shown flashes of dominance, but hasn’t quite hit his stride yet. Same for Cain, who has also had some ups and downs. Hudson is without a doubt the early-season ace of this squad, and has been one of the best pitchers in the NL out of the gates. Heck of a signing right there.

The bullpen took some serious heat this winter, but those guys have really picked up the slack this month, especially in Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong’s starts. You really never know what you’re going to get from those two, but the pen has saved the day on many occasions already. Quick trivia question: who leads the team in wins right now? Would you have guessed Jean Machi? Fans seem to dog that guy big time, but he’s sitting 4-0 with a cool 0.84 ERA. Santiago Casilla’s is even better, 0.68; Jeremy Affeldt and Javy Lopez have yet to allow a run, and Sergio Romo is 6/6 in saves. That group is absolutely rolling right now, and their continued health (and performance) will be huge as the season goes along.

On the offensive side, we’ve already seen this team’s peaks and valleys. Pagan has really been the difference-maker in April, and we’re seeing more and more how important he is to this club. Belt is hitting bombs and striking out like crazy. 7 HR in 23 games… is Belter becoming a power hitter? Posey’s bat has been mired in a big slump, but he continues to pump the ball out of the yard as well. I think Buster will be just fine. How about Morse? Another guy who people mocked the Giants up and down for signing… how’s that looking now? I just love that guy; he’s got some of the most impressive right-handed power in baseball, and he’s showing it off big time right now. Stay healthy, Mikey!

On the flip side, Pablo continues to struggle mightily at the dish. This is usually his time of year, but he’s hitting .165. The Panda was supposed to be a lock to have a career year… what will his month of May look like? Hunter Pence looks to be coming out of his own slump, and just in time. The Giants have been missing his bat, and we all know what he’s capable of when he’s hot. Finally, where’s Marco Scutaro? Not that I was expecting him to be on the field at this point, but there’s absolutely no updates on his condition. How did the front office overlook this during the winter? Brandon Hicks looks ok for now, but I don’t see him as a long-term solution. Don’t look now, but Joe Panik is holding his own in Fresno. Even hit his 1st HR of the season a few nights ago.

Overall, I’m very happy with this team right now. They’re hanging around, and staying healthy for the most part, while a good amount the league is not. In all honesty, I think this is one of the better teams in baseball that nobody’s talking about right now. That’s just how we like it, here in Giants Land.

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(SFGiantsphotos.mlblogs.com)

Minor Leagues:

I wanted to touch on the farm system briefly. I entered the season very excited about this system, but I have to admit I’ve been a little letdown early on. We all know about the wealth of starting pitching the Giants have on the farm right now, and a few of those guys have shown up big this month. Joan Gregorio and Kendry Flores have to be the names to watch down in San Jose, and Keury Mella is holding his own in Augusta. Yep, the international guys are taking charge. Esky Escobar is learning how to pitch in Fresno, and his results are starting to get better. I think a lot of people are learning just how tough it is to throw in the PCL. Just ask Mike Kickham!

What’s going on with the Richmond pitching staff? That’s supposed to be the bread and butter of this organization, and the results have been a little disappointing so far. Clayton Blackburn has arguably been the ace of that group through four starts, while Adalberto Mejia is heating up. Ty Blach is keeping runs off the board, but he’s not striking anyone out. Kyle Crick has 14 BB in 12.2 IP. His control has been absolutely MIA lately. I think that’s been a little deflating for me, as I was hoping to see Cricky start hot. Let’s hope he can settle in a little bit, and start pitching deeper into games.

One more name to keep an eye on. Christian Jones, down in Augusta. The Oregon Duck lefty looks very good early on. We knew he had a nice pedigree, but I had no idea he’d be working in a starter’s role at this point. But he is, and the results have looked dang good so far. Jones pitches tonight, and David Lee has him working 88-91 with his fastball, showing a decent curve and a plus-potential changeup. That’s an 18th round pick who slid after having TJ surgery. Nice work on the draft front, Gigantes.

On the offensive side, Gary Brown has probably been the nicest surprise so far. Browny is looking much better in Fresno, and has been a difference-maker to this point. Christian Arroyo is struggling with the bat in Augusta, although Lee says he hits everything. He’s not playing SS (which I think is a mistake), and maybe that’s having an impact on his offensive performance. Mac Williamson is hitting much better in San Jose… I hope he gets to try AA soon. Andy Susac was off to a very nice start in Fresno, but has found himself on the DL. That’s been the theme of his career. Get healthy, kid. Our other sleeper, Matt Duffy, has played well in the Eastern League. The power has been zapped, but his approach at the plate looks good, as do the reports on his defense.

I think that’s enough for one post. Believe me, I’ve missed not writing on here. But sometimes, as we all know, life gets very busy. I’ll try to return soon, but hopefully this will wet your appetite for the time being. Thanks for following Cove Chatter, and go Giants!

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(Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

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4/6 MiLB Wrap: Crick Sharp in First Start

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(Crick: Richmond Flying Squirrels; MiLB.com)

I was able to catch Kyle Crick’s first start for Richmond this morning, which came in the fourth and final game of the Flying Squirrels’ season-opening series in New Britain. Crick, who as most of us around these parts know is the top prospect in the system, worked a very clean 5 innings and earned the win, as his Richmond club won by a final of 8-2.

Crick was in MLB camp this spring, and the only real action he saw was in the pre-spring intrasquad game, as well as the “futures” game the Giants held midway through camp. He really didn’t fare well in that futures game. I thought for sure Crick pitched an inning of actual Cactus League play, but I can’t find his name in the official spring training stats. Either way, the point I’m trying to make here is Cricky didn’t exactly earn rave reviews in his brief action this spring. He showed that his control issues are very real, while a few other names (Flores, Blackburn, Blach) seemed to really improve their stock before the season started.

The only reason I bring the spring stuff up at all is to point out how pleased I was with Crick’s first start today, as I’m sure the organization was as well. He struck out two batters in the first, allowing a double in the process. He surrendered a walk and an RBI double in the second, but he appeared to be in complete control the rest of the way. According to Jon Laaser, the fastball was humming at a steady 95-96. While a couple of them were hit hard, Crick easily blew his heater past a few batters. He also flipped in a couple nifty curves for strike 3. I think that’s what I love about Crick – all 3 of his secondary offerings have the potential to strike you out, depending on the game. Once he gets to the point where he can strike you out with all of them, every night, he’ll be a big leaguer in a hurry.

While we’re used to seeing double-digit strikeouts in Crick’s line score, I’m just happy he didn’t beat himself out there today. Only two walks… now that’s something to get excited about. He threw 74 pitches on the day, and only allowed the one run…a solid overall outing for Crick in his Eastern League debut.

Crick Final Line: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

Pitching Report

Jason Berken, FRS: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

Pat Young, SJ: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R (0 ER), 1 BB, 4 K – Impressive first start for 2013 draftee Young, who stands at 6-foot-7 and might be a real steal from that draft class.

Carlos Diaz, AUG: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 R (2 ER), 1 BB, 5 K – Diaz featured a fastball running up to 92 and an impressive changeup, according to David Lee. He went unscathed through the first 3 innings, but ran into trouble in the 4th.

Video Courtesy of Conner Penfold

Stock Up

Tyler Horan, AUG: 2-4, 2B, RBI – Horan’s bat is starting to heat up. I really thought he would start the year in San Jose with his resume at VA Tech, so I’d like to think he’ll post solid numbers in the SALLY this season.

Ben Turner, SJ: 3-4, 2 R – Turner is hitting .500 over his 1st 3 games. He’s a tall catcher, known more for his defense… so 3-hit games are a great sight to see.

Jarrett Parker, RCH: 2-5, 2B, R, RBI – Parker continues to rake, hitting .556 for the series. I was very impressed with his opposite field approach today.

Gary Brown, FRS: 3-5, 3 R, 2B, 3B, SB – Heck of a game from Brown, who is playing like a true leadoff hitter (and a difference-maker) early on for Fresno.

Joe Panik, FRS: 3-5, R, RBI – All of Panik’s hits were singles, but he’s beginning to show the bat control we were hoping to see more of last season in Richmond.

Video Courtesy of Conner Penfold

Sunday Wrap: Esky Steps Up, Crick Struggles

A few tidbits from a very busy day for the organization. Edwin Escobar, a “class-A pitcher” in the words of Vin Scully (I think he said it about five times, actually) outdueled Clayton Kershaw, no doubt impressing the front office in the process. Escobar certainly wasn’t always sharp, and I wondered whether he would make it out of the 1st inning.

He would ultimately toss four innings, allowing only one run on one hit. His four walks were uncharacteristic, but I can’t blame the guy for being amped up. As DrB noticed even on gametracker, Esky got squeezed on a number of pitches too. A solid outing for the kid against the archrivals, with hopefully many more to come.

Apparently Kyle Crick wasn’t able to work out of trouble in the “futures game” like Escobar was against the Dodgers. Sounds like Cricky was all over the place, and didn’t make it out of the inning. Walks, wild pitches and an infield hit. I believe it was 5 ER altogether…notice, he didn’t get hit hard. He rarely does. As most of us know, it’s all about control for the kid. You can’t beat yourself in this game, and Crick knows that.

A few other notes from today:

Big time homer from Brandon Hicks today. Taking Kershaw deep is a big deal, even in Spring Training.

Pablo looked solid again, both at the plate and in the field. He’s just such a different player when he’s in shape.

Conner Penfold from Giant Potential hit the jackpot today, getting footage of Luis Ysla and Keury mella in minor league camp. Conner was very, very impressed with Ysla, who featured a 3-pitch mix and ran his fastball up to 95… yeah, you read that right. Sounds like there’s plenty of video coming soon on his site, Giant Potential. If I’m not mistaken, that will be the first (and only) video of Ysla on the web.

Penfold also noted some strong performances from Ty Blach (sitting 93-94), Derek Law and Clayton Blackburn today. Seriously, just too much good pitching in this camp. I can’t wait for these guys to get their seasons started next month.

That’s all for this weekend. I’m hoping to have some updates on the camp position battles tomorrow, so stay tuned. Only three more weeks until Opening Day!

Cove Chatter 100: #1

Kyle Crick | RHP, 21 yo, 6-4, 220 | 2011 Draft – 1 (43) | (A+) 14 GS, 68.2 IP, 1.57 ERA, 6.3 H/9, 5.1 BB/9, 12.5 K/9 | (AFL) 7 G, 5 GS, 15.2 IP, 2.87 ERA, 9 H, 11 BB, 24 K

The clear-cut #1 prospect in the system, and a potential top of the rotation arm. Fastball runs 94-98 consistently and is nearly unhittable when it’s on. Still very inexperienced for a professional pitcher, and needs a healthy full season next year in order to keep progressing. His fastball can play at any level right now, but the change/slider/curve combination is a work in progress. He seems to be a calm kid with a good head on his shoulders, and I could see him taking off very soon if he works out his command issues. I think most people forget that he didn’t start pitching full time until the end of his high school career.

I think I’ve made it pretty clear around here just how excited I am about Crick, so I’ll let the rest of the Giants baseball world do the talking.

They said it:

“Explosive stuff…Pitches to an area of the plate rather than a finite location…He’s probably got a better fastball than Matt (Cain) had when he made it to the big leagues.” ~ Giants minor league pitching coordinator Bert Bradley

“…has a chance to have two plus pitches in his fastball and slider, along with a curve and changeup. If the command continues to improve, he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter.” ~ Johnathan Mayo, MLB.com

“He’s got big league stuff right now…He’s a big, strong kid and he has stuff that would play anywhere right now. It’s just a matter of harnessing it a little bit and getting him a little more efficient in the strike zone. If he does that, he can move very, very fast.” ~ San Jose pitching Coach Mike Couchee

“On the mound, he looks so much like Matt Cain if you did not know which one was pitching, you probably could not tell just by looking from the stands, all the way from his physical appearance down to his stance, windup and delivery.” ~ DrB, When the Giants Come to Town

“I don’t even know if I really had (a changeup) at the very beginning of the year…To actually throw it for strikes and dominate with it is a pretty good feeling.” ~ Kyle Crick

Crick 10 K’s Video:

Crick Cove Chatter Article:

Crick SJ Merc Article:

Crick SFGate Article:

A big thank you to everyone for following along throughout this series. It was well worth the time and effort, and I can’t wait to get back to the drawing board this summer for my mid-season list (which won’t be nearly this big). After months of focusing on the minors, it’s time to turn our attention somewhat back to the big leagues, with pitchers and catchers reporting in only a couple weeks. Don’t worry though, there will always be time for prospect talk here at Cove Chatter.

After pitching at Class A San Jose this summer, Kyle  Crick is now in the Arizona Fall League. Photo: Nick Oza, Special To The Chronicle

(Nick Oza)

MLB.com Top 100: Crick Keeps Moving, Escobar Sneaks In

The prospect crew at MLB.com released its top 100 list last night, with a couple of young Gigantes pitchers getting notice. Kyle Crick was a no-brainer here, but I was curious to see just where he’d fit in. He came in at #32, sandwiched between the O’s Kevin “Gas Man” Gausman and Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. All three of those guys were first round picks (Gausman #4 in 2012, Bradley and Crick were supplemental picks in 2011). That’s some pretty sweet company for Crick, who continues to climb the charts.

Obviously there’s some bias on this end, but I’d put the kid up against any other pitcher on the list, and that includes Archie Bradley and Taijuan Walker – the only arms that made the top 10. There’s no doubt Bradley and Walker have the goods, but Walker doesn’t offer much more than Crick does at this point. He’s got a powerful fastball, but really no breaking ball to speak of. Walker gets the edge over Crick in control, but the same argument can be made for nearly all 15 of the pitchers ranked ahead of the Giants #1 guy. I think Crick will refine that command with time… if he continues to develop those secondary pitches, there’s no doubt he’ll be a top 20 prospect in baseball. I already think he’s better than he’s getting credit for, but it’s good to see him crack the top 40. Personally, I think Robert Stephenson from Cincy is the top pitching prospect in the game right now (he came in at 19), but he, like Crick, will have to prove it in AA this season.

Edwin Escobar snuck in toward the back of the list, making it at #95. It’s probably not a huge surprise that Escobar was the other Giants prospect selected, as it’s been pretty unanimous this winter that he’s the #2 player in the system right now. It is good to see the guy get some love though, and I wasn’t sure if the organization would get a second player in, to be honest. If I’m making the list, Andrew Susac gets a spot as well, but I knew he had very slim odds of making it when MLB put him at the back end of its top 10 catchers last week. I’m telling you, it’s going to be that much sweeter when he busts out in Fresno this year.

Back to Escobar. In case you forgot, this guy is 21 years old… and he’s basically the next guy in line for a rotation spot if Vogelsong and Petit can’t hack it (which could certainly happen). Escobar and his three pitch mix are headed for Scottsdale (along with Crick and some of the other exciting young arms), where I’m sure the staff will be watching him closely. Ideally, he’ll get to spend most of the season in Fresno, but if he happens to break through to the bigs, you won’t hear any complaining on this end.

So, Crick and Escobar are the hyped pitchers in the system at the moment, but Kickham, Blackburn, Flores and Blach have a chance to do something about that in camp. Who’ll step up to the plate? Still no hitters to speak of on the national stage, but like I said, I think Susac will have something to say about that. And if Mac Williamson shows his stuff in Richmond this summer, I’d think he’d be a prime candidate to crack the mid-season lists. We shall see.

Offseason Happenings

I thought we’d kick the week off with a little recap of last week’s hot stove action, including the signings of Brian McCann, Jhonny Peralta and Dan Haren over the weekend. Things are starting to really pick up now, so we’ll try to stay in the know here at Cove Chatter.

Giants Updates:

The Giants knocked another item off the to-do list last week with a 3-year, $13M deal for Javier Lopez. Again, Brian Sabean took some pretty good heat from callers on KNBR for signing another 35+ year-old pitcher to a multiple year contract (Tim Hudson being the first). Again, though, I think people are failing to understand the significance of this move… and I’ll be the first to admit I was skeptical a couple months ago about giving any kind of money to a lefty specialist in his upper 30’s. But look closely at the numbers; 2013 was Javy’s best season as a big leaguer. A 1.83 ERA… a .156 batting average against vs lefties. You have to have a guy like this in your bullpen, and Lopez is the best there is right now. He’s a stud, and yet another reason why the Pirates are probably done making trades with Sabean (Jason Schmidt, Freddy Sanchez anyone?). As long as Bochy keeps pulling the right strings and the Giants can keep Lopez’ arm fresh for potential postseason runs, I love the deal. Javy’s the man, and I actually thought it would take more money to bring him back.

Pitching:

Breaking news: Veteran pitchers love the California sunshine and spacious NL West outfields… and can you blame them? If there’s one commodity that’s not in short supply this winter, it’s veteran pitching, and the Golden State NL trio is on the case. The Giants pulled the first card with their two-year deal for Hudson, and the Padres and Dodgers responded with one-year reclamation deals last week. Sand Diego inked Josh Johnson for a year at $8M, and LA signed Dan Haren to a 1-year, $10M contract yesterday afternoon. Both Johnson and Haren wanted to be in California, and both were in at least some form of discussion with the Giants as well. All of these short-term deals could turn out to be major bargains, especially when guys like Jason Vargas are getting four years in the AL. To me, Haren would have been the better fit of the two for Sabean, as Johnson is just too much of an injury risk for a team looking for reliable arms. I think Haren could have a very nice season in LA, and I was hoping he’d join Hudson in a Giants uniform. My guess is Sabes isn’t interested in shelling out $10M for another starter at this point.

With the Haren signing, the Dodgers essentially have a full rotation. Are they still planning on going after David Price? What about Masahiro Tanaka, if he’s posted? I’ve got a slight hunch they’ll still be in on the bidding for Tanaka, but I certainly can’t see them pursuing both of these guys anymore. Of course, it’s not a guarantee that Tanaka will even be available this winter anymore, so Haren could turn out to be an underrated move for LA come April.

So, with some of the middle-tier pitching talent starting to drop, where does that leave the Giants? I guess it depends on what Sabean is looking to spend, but I get the feeling he doesn’t want any “5th starters” in his Opening Day rotation. I like that idea, although I’d say Tim Lincecum is about as close as you can get to a 5th starter these days. It doesn’t sound like Bronson Arroyo is going to be a good fit, as he’s looking for at least three years. Jason Hammel’s name has been tossed around a bit, and he might be a good fit on a short-term deal. Personally, I’d like to see Sabes make a push for a guy like Scott Kazmir, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Giants connected to guys like Bartolo Colon or Paul Maholm on a one-year offer when it all boils down.

Quick Take:

Mets sign Chris Young for 1-year, $7.25M – another possible Giants LF platoon option is off the books, and I don’t understand the Mets’ reasoning in paying out that much money, even on a one year deal. Kind of a head scratcher for a team trying to get out of the cellar.

Indians sign David Murphy for 2-years, $12M – Definitely not on the Sabes winter shopping list, but this deal could impact Cleveland outfielder Drew Stubbs, who looks to be the odd man out. If Stubbs is non-tendered, maybe the Giants look to him on the cheap as a right-handed partner to Gregor Blanco in left. Stubbs strikes out in bunches, but he’s a solid defender with wheels who sports a career .796 OPS vs LHP. Just a thought…

Royals sign Jason Vargas for 4-year, $32M – the AAV isn’t bad at $8M, but I’ll take Hudson and Lincecum and hope for Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar in 2 years rather than giving 4 years to a soft-tossing lefty with a career 4.30 ERA. Don’t get me wrong, Vargas is consistent when healthy, but my gut says Kansas City fans will be fed up with that contract in less than two years.

Yankees sign Brian McCann for 5-year, $85M – The Yankees had Chris Stewart behind the dish for a good chunk of 2013. They’ll also likely be getting a compensation draft pick when Curtis Granderson leaves, so losing their first round pick for McCann shouldn’t have much of an effect. Comparing the McCann deal to the 5-year, $90M whopper the Giants gave Hunter Pence, I’d take Pence over McCann (for the Giants) every time. McCann’s lefty bat should play well in Yankee Stadium. The back end of that contract might look rough, but back ends of contracts usually do.

Cardinals trade David Freese for to the Angels for Peter Bourjos, sign Jhonny Peralta for 4-years, $53M – Freese is a solid but not elite 3B who’s had one great offensive season in his career. Bourjos is a fairly young outfielder with plus defense and injury issues. Considering everything the Cardinals touch these days turns to gold, I’m sure Bourjos will be a star in St. Louis. I guess I’m a little unmoved by this trade, but the Cards did just replace Freese’s production with the Peralta signing. I don’t say this kind of thing very often, but I hope Peralta just tanks for the next four years, or gets suspended for using PED’s again. This is getting to be a little ridiculous, and I’m not exactly seeing the downside for players who use these days. If MLB is serious about getting rid of the problem, they need to step it up… and they need to start by getting rid of A-Rod… for good.

Tigers trade Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler – Wow, I didn’t see this trade coming at all. The Tigers get a solid all-around player in Kinsler. The Rangers get a big slugger to make the women swoon in Arlington. Everything’s bigger in Texas. How long was Prince in Detroit? Two years! He played all 162 both seasons, and was a huge bust in the playoffs. Now his $214M contract is headed for Texas, who seems to be in desperation mode after falling short the past couple years. Don’t get me wrong: I’d take Fielder’s bat in the Giants lineup any day. But that much money for a one-dimensional player? Maybe Uncle Sabes isn’t as crazy as we thought for staying away from these major free agent contracts.

Final thoughts:

A trade for a LF or a minor league contract is looking more and more likely for the Giants at this point, as I’d imagine the rest of the offseason money will be going to a pitcher. This shouldn’t surprise a lot of people, but it will certainly upset them. Yes, it would be ideal to start the season with Blanco as the 4th outfielder, but the (realistic) options just aren’t out there right now.

**Update** Here’s your minor league signing, but it’s not an OF. The Giants signed IF Brandon Hicks this morning. Hicks is a 28 year-old journeyman whose most recent MLB action was in 2012 with Oakland. He’s a former 3rd round pick, has 90 big league at-bats to his name, and is a career .247 hitter in the minors. He did hit 3 HR in 22 games with Oakland, though.

Keep your eyes open in the next couple weeks as we get ready to unveil a major project dedicated to the Giants farm system. I’ve been working on it for a couple months now, and can’t wait to go live with it. Exciting times here at Cove Chatter, folks. As always, thanks for reading.

AFL Wrap Up

Kyle Crick was impressive in another pitchers’ dual in Scottsdale’s final AFL game on Thursday. The right-handed gunner squared off against Aaron Sanchez, who’s the #1 prospect in Toronto’s system… Sanchez had an impressive fall campaign, and he earned the victory with five solid innings for Salt River. Crick was no slouch himself, allowing two walks over three hitless frames. He sent five Rafters’ hitters back to the dugout by way of the strikeout. By all accounts, he was pumping 95+ for the entire outing again, and dialed it up to 98 to get out of a jam in the 3rd inning. He also had an offering that clocked in at 90-91 on the gun… a slider… a cutter? Don’t know, but the kid had a very strong finish to his fall league campaign, and seems to be adding new tools to his belt almost every time out these days.

I figured this would be a good time to look at the final numbers from each of the Giants’ farmhands in the AFL, and maybe take a peak at a few of the other winter league Gigantes if we have time.

2013 Scottsdale Scorpions (10-21)

Kyle Crick: 7 G, 5 GS, 2.87 ERA, 15.2 IP, 9 H, 11 BB, 24 K, 1.28 WHIP

Make no mistake, 15.2 innings does not a dominant pitcher make, but I think the minor league baseball world got a glimpse of Crick’s immense talent this fall. It wasn’t all roses early on, as he was moved to the Scottsdale bullpen after yielding 8 ER on 8 H and 8 BB in his first three starts. Whether the move was made to get Crick ready for the Fall Stars game or send him a message, it wasn’t completely clear… what was clear, however, was the impact that move had on the top prospect in the organization. In his final four appearances, Cricky allowed only one hit, 3 BB, and most importantly, no runs in 9 innings of work. He struck out 12 in that span, and was flat out dominant in his final two starts; he regularly popped the mitt at 95-98 mph. For the short season, he had a .161 batting average against, proving yet again that his stuff is unhittable when it’s on.

Let’s be clear here: Crick is very much a work in progress, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m anointing him the greatest thing since sliced bread. Yes, the similarities to Matt Cain are uncanny, but Crick has a long way to go to live up to those expectations. Do I think he has the goods to get there? Hell yes. But he’s still just a (newly) 21 year-old kid who doesn’t offer much in the secondary pitch department, and often has no idea where the ball is going when it leaves his hand. All we can hope for at this point is a healthy 2014 that allows him the opportunity to increase his workload and experience in Richmond. If that happens, I think he may very well be on the fast track to the show… and I’ll be rooting him on all the way.

Just for fun, I totaled his 2013 numbers, including the Cal League postseason and the AFL… read it and weep: 23 G, 21 GS, 95 IP, 1.80 ERA, 64 H, 2 HR, 53 BB, 132 K.

Ditch the walks, and we’ve got a monster on our hands folks. He’s 21 years old.

Adalberto Mejia: 7 G, 3 GS, 8.47 ERA, 17 IP, 18 H, 8 BB, 14 K, 1.53 WHIP.

Like his buddy Crick, Mejia got off to a rocky start in the AFL. Unlike Crick, Mejia wasn’t ever really able to settle in. His best outing was a relief effort, in which he entered in the second to get Crick out of a bases-loaded jam. All told, the young lefty allowed only one baserunner (and no runs) over 3.1 innings that game, striking out 5 in the process. But that was the highlight for a campaign that saw him allow 18 H and 16 ER in only 17 IP.

Mejia is like most of the other pitchers not named Crick in the Giants’ organization. He has to rely more on control than stuff, and I think the AFL was a great learning experience for him. He flashed a pretty dirty slider at times in San Jose this year, and he’ll need to gain a better feel for it going forward if he wants to make it at the upper levels.

To me, this performance doesn’t set Mejia back, but may show him and the organization what needs to improve. He’s another very young pitcher with a ton of upside, and should easily make every top 10 Giants prospect list out there next spring.

Cody Hall: 9 G, 3.00 ERA, 9 IP, 13 H, 4 BB, 7 K, 1.89 WHIP, 3 HD

Hall definitely wasn’t the most impressive reliever for Scottsdale, and he wasn’t used a whole lot either. But that probably has more to do with his 2013 workload than anything else. Unlike some of the other guys, Hall wasn’t assigned to the AFL to make up for lost time. Instead, he (like teammate Derek Law) was probably given the challenge by the front office to see how he’d handle top competition. I think the Giants see big league dreams in Hall’s near future, and I wouldn’t say he did anything to negate his chances of making it.

I saw him toss an inning in one of the televised games last week, and the dude looks cut from the same cloth and Heath Hembree, with a fastball nearly as impressive. I think he’s in the same boat as a lot of other MiLB power relievers (Hembree included), in that he really just needs to find a consistent secondary pitch to make it. He’s not the youngest guy by any means, but his 2014 numbers don’t lie. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m pretty excited to see some of these big-bodied relievers break through. Hall should be part of that bunch.

Derek Law: 11 G, 0.00 ERA, 12.1 IP, 8 H, 6 BB, 16 K, 1.14 WHIP

If you haven’t heard of Derek Law, it’s time to do some homework. As much as Crick helped raise his stock this fall, Law might have taken the cake as Giants pitchers go. This is a kid who came out of almost complete anonymity to post a ridiculous 102 K in 66.1 IP during the regular season… with 12 BB and a 2.31 ERA, I might add. He also didn’t allow a run in the fall league, and may have earned himself a big boy spring training invite in the process. Law has nearly everything you look for in a polished late-inning reliever… presence, velocity, secondaries, and a heavy ball. His curve is filthy, and his fastball has good sink. It was his funky delivery that turned scouts off at some point in his career, but his professional numbers have grabbed everyone’s attention. If you were reading closely in Baggs’ weekly chat last week, you might have noticed the response he gave to a question about Heath Hembree and potential Giants relievers… there’s a dude out there with as much talent, if not more than Mr. Hembree… yup, the one and only Derek Law. Stock is way up for this kid!

Andrew Susac: 17 G, 50 AB, .360/.507/.480, 2 HR, 16 BB, 11 K, 3 E

Susac has been an injury case for most of his collegiate and professional career, and he missed significant time this season in Richmond. To this point, it seems to me there’s a lot of mixed opinion about the guy on the scouting front. Future starter? Bench player? Will he stick at catcher? Honestly, I think Susac’s performance in the fall may have quieted some of that talk… it impressed me, at least. He led the team in batting average, showed pretty adequate skills behind the dish in the games I saw him catch on TV, and all in all displayed a solid plate approach – one that I think will carry him all the way to the bigs. He even looks a little like Buster Posey when he’s at the plate. Now, is he a potential .300, 25-HR hitter? Doubtful, but a .260 guy with solid on-base skills and 15-20 HR power might not be out of the question. If he can stay healthy, I think he’ll have every chance to earn a job in the majors one day. Will it be with the Giants? That might be the real question to ask.

Angel Villalona: 19 G, 65 AB, .200/.243/.246, 0 HR, 3 BB, 19 K, 2 E

Ok, I promise I’m not just a Giants prospect homer, and I’ll prove it to you here. Villalona did receive some positive reviews on his 1B defense this fall (something that’s always been a big question for him), but maybe that’s because there wasn’t much to say about his offense. He knocked in 7 runs and hit a few doubles, but those were really his only highlights at the plate. I’ll be honest; if the three innings I saw Crick pitch were all I needed to tell me he could be a MLB star, then the handful of AB’s I saw Villalona take this fall were all I needed to know that he may not ever make it. Yes, the power is there, and he proved it in San Jose and Richmond last year. But the plate discipline just isn’t at this point, and he looked absolutely overmatched a few times. I don’t think you can just talk yourself out of being a relentless hacker without sacrificing some of the power that makes you special in the first place. His stock is down, in my opinion, but he’ll have a chance to prove me wrong in the upper minors next year.

Jarret Parker: 17 G, 60 AB, .300/.366/.333, 0 HR, 8 BB, 19 K, 1 SB, 0 E

Parker was a nice surprise this season, and I’ll say the same about his AFL performance. He doesn’t really doesn’t do anything amazingly (although his defense in center was pretty impressive), but he’ll give you a little bit of everything. I’m starting to see him as a type of poor-man’s Hunter Pence. Now he certainly won’t ever be hitting .290 at the major league level, but Parker is a guy who shows you why he was such a high draft pick a few years back… he’s just an all-around ball player, and one who might just stumble his way into a MLB stadium some day. We should get a chance to see how he stacks up with the guy who was drafted ahead of him, Gary Brown, in Fresno next year.

All in all, I’d say 2013 saw a pretty nice showing from Giants prospects in the AFL. I mean, when was the last time you saw a group of Giants pitchers like the four representing the team this season? Add the performances of Crick and Law to what Susac did at the plate, and I’ll call it a successful fall for the orange and black Scorpions, and one that gives us a lot to look forward to for the 2014 regular season.

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