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

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(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

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(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.

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(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!

 

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Updated Camp Battles (Part 1) and a Luis Ysla Sighting

Eleven games down, and only three weeks remaining until Opening Day. I thought this might be a good time for a little update on the position battles front. As you’d expect, there have certainly been a few risers and fallers. A couple of surprise names have also thrown their hats into the ring, making these competitions even juicier.

Remember, we’re looking at five positions here. One reserve outfielder, one reserve infielder, and three bullpen spots. I’ve broken those pitching positions into long-relief and middle-relief, just as I did in my original position battle series. We’ll break down the position player spots here, then look at the bullpen battles in the next post.

Outfield

Tyler Colvin: 9 AB, .222, 1 2B, 0 BB, 3 K | Odds: 60% (65% pre-spring) | Trending: Down

Outlook: Nothing real exciting yet from Colvin so far, who’s been held out of action for a few days with a minor injury. I still think he’s the frontrunner if shows some power, but Perez is closing the gap.

Juan Perez: 23 AB, .304, 4 2B, 1 RBI, 5 BB, 4 K | Odds: 55% (45% pre-spring) | Trending: Up

Outlook: He owns the most AB of anyone in camp, and he’s been very impressive (.906 OPS) so far. He hasn’t tried to steal any bases yet, and he did have one big misplay in the outfield. But his patience at the plate is a nice surprise, and he’s definitely putting some heat on Colvin early.

Roger Kieschnick: 15 AB, .067, 3 BB, 8 K | Odds: 20% (20% pre-spring) | Trending: Down

Outlook: He wasn’t really expected to make the team out of camp anyway, but Roger’s really been struggling at the plate (only one hit in 15 AB so far). Considering he’s an offensive-minded player, you’d really like to see him flash some of that power before camp breaks.

Infield

Ehire Adrianza: 14 AB, .286, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K | Odds: 75% (50%) | Trending: (Way) Up

OutlooK: Sometimes it’s hard to put Spring Training in perspective. Think of it this way: Adrianza has essentially logged less than 4 full games worth of AB this month. However, I don’t think there’s been a cooler customer in Giants camp. The dude fields with the best of them, and he’s been constantly turning heads at the plate. I think he makes the team, and wouldn’t be shocked if he’s the Opening Day 2B (if Scutaro isn’t ready to start the year).

Tony Abreu: 20 AB, .250, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K | Odds: 60% (60%) | Trending: Stable

Outlook: Abreu hasn’t done anything wrong, so much as Adrianza has just done everything right so far. Before camp, I gave Abreu the slight edge in this battle. Now, I think he’s got an uphill fight to catch young Ehire. He’s healthy, and he’ll get every chance to show he’s worthy. I’m not convinced Scutaro will be healthy for Opening Day. In that case, I believe both Abreu and Adrianza would make the team.

Brandon Hicks: 14 AB, .429, 4 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K | Odds: 45% (20%) | Trending: Up

Outlook: I said before camp that Hicks was an interesting player to watch for his pop at the plate and versatility in the field. Turns out I was right (doesn’t happen often!), as Hicks suddenly has everyone’s attention after launching a 2-run shot off Clayton Kershaw yesterday. The Giants really could use some power off the bench, and I think Hicks could provide that. Don’t give up on him just yet.

Nick Noonan: 17 AB, .176, 1 BB, 4 K | Odds: 25% (25) | Trending: Stable

Not much to update on Noonan here. He’s off to a slow start, but he was a pretty big longshot this spring anyway. Fresno will likely be his April landing spot.

Other notes: Barry Bonds, back in Giants orange and black… the way it should be.

Mike Morse and Hunter Pence are back in the lineup after sitting out a couple days to some (hopefully) minor dings. Actually, both of them just crossed home plate on Pablo’s 2-rbi single off Jeff Samardzija.

Matt Cain is dealing today. He’s perfect through 5 with 7 K’s. Think Cainer isn’t out to make a statement this year?

I’ll leave you with this: Finally, there is actual video of lefty pitcher Luis Ysla, and it’s high-quality footage. Big ups to Conner Penfold, who might have just uncovered a future big leaguer. Ysla, the little-known Venezuelan prospect, went 91-95 with his fastball, flashed a tight slider and an impressive changeup. Only one player made solid contact, and that was recent draftee Jonah Arenado. Otherwise, Ysla looked good.

I’m not sure how Ysla stayed off the radar for so long, but he’s a Giant now, potentially headed for full-season ball, and might have a big year in store. Please, go visit Giant Potential and check that clip out. I hope you like pitching, because there’s going to be plenty of it this summer.

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: The Rookies

As I said in a recent post, almost every player on a rookie league team is an unknown. Rather than listing every pitcher and his stats here, we’ll just highlight a handful of guys from the American (Arizona League) rookie team, as well as a few from the Dominican Summer League squad.

AZL Giants:

Keury Mella – R (20): 2.25 era, 36 ip, 10.5 h/9, 2.8 bb/9, 10.2 k/9 – Dominican righty has a good build, an above average fastball, and the highest upside on the staff. Very underrated prospect who should get the bump to full-season ball next year.

Luis Ysla – L (21): 2.65 era, 51 ip, 6.7 h/9, 2.3 bb/9, 9.2 k/9 – Arguably the staff ace for the juggernaut AZL Giants. First-year pro out of Venezuela, and very unknown. Moving up to Augusta next year?

Dylan Brooks – R (18): 6.14 era, 7.1 ip, 7.4 k/9, 13.5 bb/9, 9.8 k/9 – 6-foot-7, 230-pound Canadian was drafted in the 30th round out of high school this season. One of the youngest players on the team. Electric, but very raw stuff.

DJ Snelten – L (21): 1.57 era, 34.1 ip, 7.1 h/9, 3.4 bb/9, 10.2 k/9 – 9th round selection in this year’s draft. Was a top 150 prospect in BA’s pre-draft ranking, so the Giants may have gotten a nice steal. Throws mid-90’s from left side.

Nick Jones – L (21): 1.93 era, 18.2 ip, 4.3 h/9, 4.3 bb/9, 8.7 k/9 – 14th round pick this summer. 6-6, 220-pound juco lefty. Closed out a couple of games for the young Giants.

Luis Pino – R (18): 3.94 era, 29.2 ip, 9.1 h/9, 5.5 bb/9, 7.9 k/9 – Mexican righty spent last summer in DSL, this summer in AZL. BB rates climbed a bit, but he’s holding his own for a young kid.

Carlos Diaz – L (19): 4.99 era, 39.2 ip, 9.8 h/9, 4.8 bb/9, 11.6 k/9 – Colombian lefty posted very respectable numbers during 2 seasons in DSL. Impressive 51 K’s in 39 IP for AZL team this summer. Slender build, but another baby to keep an eye on.

Eury Sanchez – R (20): 1.12 era, 16 ip, 6.8 h/9, 2.2 bb/9, 14.6 k/9 – Between DSL (’12) and AZL (’13), he owns a 1.19 era and 14 saves in 45.1 ip. Smaller at 5-10, 175, but career 12.3 k/9 shows he’s got something hitters can’t handle.

Nick Gonzalez – L (21): 1.04 era, 17.1 ip, 3.1 h/9, 1.6 bb/9, 8.8 k/9 – USF (South Florida) lefty was a 24th round pick in June. Probably should have been in S-K, but the numbers are still very impressive in a small sample size. Another lefty with size.

Rayan Hernandez – R (17): 8.31 era, 8.2 ip, 14.5 h/9, 6.2 bb/9, 8.3 k/9 – Youngest pitcher on the staff, 34th round pick out of Puerto Rico. He’s a large kid (6-4, 230). Appeared in 9 contests without much success this summer.

Overview: This is only part of the crew that breezed through the AZL with ease this summer, en route to a shutout of the Dodgers for a championship. Performance-wise, Ysla was the rotation ace. Stuff-wise, Mella sounds like he has the highest upside. Those two should be in Augusta next year, but the Giants aren’t always the most aggressive with pitcher placement, so don’t be too shocked to see Ysla sitting out until summer ball. You can rank the rest of these guys how you see fit. There’s high school draft picks, college lefties, international babies… and a ton of height. Snelten could be a big sleeper if he continues to work as a starter next season. Hernandez is very young, and very large. Some of these kiddos won’t ever see AA, but maybe some make it to the show. You never know at this level.

DSL Giants

Michael Santos – R (18): 2.75 era, 19.2 ip, 8.2 h/9, 2.7 bb/9, 8.2 k/9 – 6-foot-4 with high upside signed for $250k in 2012. Made 4 starts this June before getting shut down the rest of the season. Scouts like his fastball/curve combination.

Jose Morel – R (19): 1.22 era, 59 ip, 7.3 h/9, 0.9 bb/9, 8.4 k/9 – Repeat performer in the DSL. Worked as a swing-man this year, pitching 3 or 4 innings at a time. Last appearance was only start of the year: 7 ip, 2 h, 0 er, 0 bb, 7 k. Hmmm…

Reymi Rodriguez – R (19): 1.36 era, 46.1 ip, 4.7 h/9, 4.5 bb/9, 9.5 k/9 – Pitched primarily out of the bullpen in debut season. Numbers seem to indicate he’s got electric stuff.

Luis Castillo – R (20): 20 sv, 0.64 era, 28.1 ip, 4.8 h/9, 1.0 bb/9, 10.8 k/9 – Oldest pitcher on the staff, and a repeat performer in the league. Impressive numbers nonetheless.

Eusebio Encarnacion – R (19): 1.72 era, 68 ip, 7.4 h/9, 1.6 bb/9, 6.5 k/9 – Debut season. Slender build, but put together a nice campaign as a starter. Impressive control numbers.

Jonathan Loaisiga – R (18): 2.75 era, 68.2 ip, 7.9 h/9, 2.1 bb/9, 5.2 k/9 – Unknown? His height and weight aren’t even listed on the roster! Don’t know how to pronounce the name, but a very good debut summer, albeit with very low strikeout totals.

Raffi Vizcaino – R (17): 3.80 era, 47.1 ip, 8.7 h/9, 3.2 bb/9, 7.8 k/9 – Youngest pitcher on the team. Saw his best (5 ip, 2 h, 0 er, 10 k) and worst (4.1 ip, 12 h, 8 er) performances in his last two outings of the season.

Overview: Other than the big-bonus righty Santos at the top, there’s really no way to rank these guys. Most of them have good enough numbers to earn a trip to Arizona next summer, I would think. Morel’s 2-hitter over 7 innings in his final appearance looks good. Castillo has the best numbers, by far, but he’s also one of the older guys on the team… how much that matters is up to you. If we’re going by physical attributes, I’ll take Rodriguez, whose numbers look very enticing. Remember, this team went 45-22 this year, so there’s definitely some talent overseas. Call me a year from now, and I’m sure a couple of these guys won’t even be making a dent. Maybe we get a couple of AZL breakouts in the group next summer, too?

Arroyo Named MVP

Giants’ 2013 first round pick Christian Arroyo was named MVP of the Arizona Rookie League today. 2nd round pick Ryder Jones, catcher Fernando Pujadas and 21 year-old lefty Luis Ysla were also named to the AZL All-Star team, while Giants’ skipper Nestor Rojas took Manager of the Year. The Giants, led primarily by young 2013 draft picks, finished first in the regular season standings at 41-14 this summer. They earned a bye into the AZL semi-finals, which will be played tomorrow. I don’t know exactly how rookie league playoffs are formatted, but having a bye certainly doesn’t hurt.

If I’m Arroyo, I accept that MVP award with a hearty “F-You” to the draft scouts who called me the biggest reach of the first round. That “reach” logged a .326/.388/.511 line with 2 HR, 18 2B and 39 RBI in 45 games this summer while manning shortstop for the first-place Giants. According to MiLB.com, his OPS (.898), doubles and RBI were best in the AZL this year. He also tied the league lead in slugging. If you want to read the brief article, you can find it here.

We know the Giants have plenty of pitching depth in the lower levels of the system. But I don’t think many people realize the Giants are also starting to build a nice base of position player talent as well, although many of those guys are very far off. We can hope that Jones and Arroyo, the gems of this year’s draft, continue to push each other (if they are assigned to the same level next year). The same goes for international babies Gustavo Cabrera and Nat Javier, college bats Tyler Horan, Brandon Bednar and Brian Ragira, as well as 2013 high school draftees like Jonah Arenado and John Riley.

The Giants may have gambled on some of these guys, but I think Arroyo’s play this summer shut a lot of people up, and hopefully showed some “experts” that Bobby Evans, Brian Sabean and crew may know a thing or two about scouting talent. Keep those bats coming, fella’s.