2015 Giants “All-Farm” Second Team

Here’s the next round of organizational All Stars in my eyes. Again, this is not an “All Prospect Team.” I’m not sure if I’ll make an honorable mention list, or if these are the honorable mentions. I’m beginning to work on an offseason roster plan series, and will eventually do some prospect ranking write-ups as the winter progresses. Either way, I plan to be more active during the off months for sure. I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

C: Trevor Brown, Sacramento/San Francisco – (minors) .261/.319/.343, 2 HR, 27% CS | (majors) .263/.333/.368, 1 SB, 29% CS | The athletic, versatile backstop spent the whole minor league season in Sacramento. He also played primarily catcher for the first time in his professional career (he’s also played some 1B and 2B). He’s now making the most of his September opportunity, and it sounds like the coaching staff is taking notice.

1B: Ricky Oropesa, Richmond – .254/.311/.424, 17 HR, 76 RBI | Oropesa’s 3rd try at AA proved to be his best one. He set a career high in homers while mixing torrid months with ice-cold ones. I don’t expect the Giants to protect him on the 40-man this winter, so he may be an interesting minor league Rule 5 player… Most likely, though, he’ll be in Sacramento next season, where 20 HR certainly isn’t out of the question.

2B: Austin Slater, San Jose/Richmond – .294/.334/.381, 3 HR, 5 SB | The Giants moved the former Stanford outfielder to the infield this season in what looks to be preparation for a super-utility role. Slater hasn’t shown much power in his short pro career yet, but he sure has shown an ability to put bat to ball. And if Matt Duffy taught us anything this season, it’s that players truly can develop power at the Major League level. For the moment, Slater and fellow 2014 draftee Hunter Cole are zooming up the organizational ladder.

3B: Jonah Arenado, Augusta – .264/.293/.367, 9 HR, 62 RBI, 29 E | While big brother Nolan has become the premier 3B in the National League, Jonah still has quite a ways to go if he’s going to unseat Matt Duffy at AT&T Park. His 29 errors really make you wonder if he’ll stick at the hot corner long term, but his offensive season in the SALLY is nothing to sneeze at. He’s only 20, and has a chance to do some damage in San Jose next year.

SS: Rando Moreno, Richmond – .275/.324/.340 | Moreno is an intriguing player. He had a mini breakout in 2013, struggled mightily after a big jump to San Jose last season, then resurfaced as the starting SS for Richmond this year. Once he took the job, he really didn’t give it up. He’s only 23, and very well could be another respectable bat & glove middle infielder in a couple years.

OF: Ryan Lollis, San Jose/Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (majors) 2-12, 1 SB | (minors) .340/.402/.472, 5 HR, 10 SB | Lollis scorched the ball at each minor league stop this year, and the Giants rewarded the 7-year vet with a MLB call-up. What the future holds for him, I really don’t know. Regardless, it was a very nice season for Lollis.

CF: Ronnie Jebavy, Salem-Keizer – .263/.303/.419, 4 3B, 8 HR, 23 SB | For someone who really went deep with draft coverage this year, Jebavy was a name that completely slid past me. It was hard not to be impressed with his college pedigree at Middle Tennessee though, and he kept his successful 2015 rolling right on through his professional debut. His speed and highlight-reel defense are a given, but finishing top 5 in the NWL in big flies was a nice cherry on top. A definite name to follow.

OF: Mac Williamson, Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (majors) 5-15, 1 RBI | (minors) .275/.368/.433, 13 HR, 73 RBI, 4 SB | After missing most of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Mac bounced back with a very nice season between AA and AAA. He earned himself a late-September MLB gig in the process too. Mac is a big, strong, athletic player. Maybe one of the most athletic people I’ve ever seen in person. He can (and will) hit the long ball. But I think he prides himself on the rest of his game… hitting for average, making plays in the outfield, throwing runners out. Hitting .293 in the Eastern League was pretty darn impressive for me. He’ll probably start next year in Sacramento, where he could put up huge offensive numbers.

SP: Tyler Beede, San Jose/Richmond – 124.2 IP, 113 H, 3.97 ERA, 44 BB, 86 K | Beede’s first professional season was a bit up and down, but I think he needs to be recognized for overhauling his game and zooming to AA in the process. Learning new pitches at that level can’t be easy, and the Vandy kid showed some very promising stuff for most of the year. The scouting reports were pretty positive as well. There’s a lot to like with this kid going forward.

SP: Jordan Johnson, AZL/Salem-Keizer/San Jose – 59.1 IP, 58 H, 3.19 ERA, 11 BB, 71 K | Johnson was the surprise arm of the summer in the organization. A guy who did little during his college career at CSU Northridge, he popped up in Arizona throwing bullets mid-season. It didn’t take long for him to get to San Jose, which is where he’ll likely begin next season. He’s got a 6-ft-3 frame and a mid-90’s fastball. Are we looking at the pitching version of Matt Duffy here?

SP: Joe Biagini, Richmond, 130.1 IP, 112 H, 2.42 ERA, 34 BB, 84 K | Big Joe, the former Davis Aggie, was a workhorse all season in Richmond. He pounds the ball on the ground and can run his fastball up in the mid-90’s. It might be in a relief role, but I think we could see this guy in San Francisco some day.

RP: Ray Black, San Jose – 25 IP, 13 H, 2.88 ERA, 25 BB, 51 K | A year later, and Black is still throwing Aroldis Chapman-status heaters. Unfortunately he’s still struggling to command his stuff, and the Giants are still being very careful with him. He’s on the 40-man roster, so I’d say there’s a real chance we see him in the majors next season.

RP: Mike Broadway, Sacramento/San Francisco – (majors) 16 IP, 10 ER, 7 BB, 13 K | (minors) 48.1 IP, 25 H, 0.93 ERA, 8 BB, 64 | The 11-year minor league journeyman had an incredibly dominant season in Sacramento this year, but was unable to convert his stuff into success during his short MLB stints. I’d like to see them re-up his contract, as 98 mph fastballs truly don’t grow on trees.

Advertisements

Cove Chatter 100: #6

Mac Williamson | OF, 23 yo, 6-5, 240, BR, TR | 2012 Draft – 3 | (A+) 136 G, 599 PA, .292/.375/.504, .879 OPS, 25 HR, 10 SB, 1 CS, 51 BB, 132 K

Mac burst onto the scene in Salem-Keizer after the Giants took him in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, and he continued to excel in San Jose in his first full season as a pro. After a bit of a slow start in the season’s first couple months, he picked it up big time as spring turned to summer. He was probably the best hitter in all the Cal League during the second half, posting a .331/.408/.578 line with 16 HR.

Williamson is solidly built and very athletic, with enough speed and a strong arm to hold his own in a corner outfield position. He quietly swiped 10 bags this year, but it’s his powerful bat that will carry him to the majors, as he’s got some of the most power potential in the system. The Giants invited him to MLB spring training, so they obviously think highly of him. If he has a strong showing in Scottsdale and makes consistent contact this season in Richmond, Williamson could find himself on the fast track to the show.

They said it: “There is something about him that makes me sit up and take notice. Power. That’s what it is. I think Williamson will ultimately offer the Giants a commodity currently in short supply. Power. It’s a wonderful tool.” ~ Bernie Pleskoff, MLB.com

Williamson Video:

Mac  Williamson

(Conner Penfold/Giant Potential)

Mac Williamson and the Eastern League Plunge

This is kind of an unusual post for me. I’ve been doing quite a bit of number crunching lately, and I wanted to share some of my findings. Long story short, it’s prospect ranking season, and I didn’t feel that Mac Williamson was getting the credit he had earned with his play in San Jose this season. I said as much in the comments over at DrB’s site, “When the Giants Come to Town” (Note: DrB has Mac #5 in his Giants top 50, so I certainly wasn’t complaining about his ranking there). Before you mock me, I’ll make it clear that I am fully aware of the hitter-friendly tendencies in the High-A Cal League, as well as the pitching-driven AA Eastern League. But I have seen a lot of unfair knocks on Williamson lately around the web… many from Giants fans. The old write off of, “He had a good year in San Jose, but there’s no way he holds up against the advanced pitching in AA.”

So, I wanted to know, just what are Mr. Williamson’s chances of excelling next year in Richmond? I also wondered whether the fact that Mac’s a right-handed hitter would help his chances, as it seemed to me (complete speculation) that lefty hitters had struggled more than righties in Richmond in recent years.

Here’s what I did in my attempt to answer these questions. Using Baseball Reference, I found 20 samples (10 right-handed, 10 left) of recent Giants prospects who’d played in both San Jose and Richmond, and measured the average decrease – or, rarely, increase – in their OPS. In all, I compared nearly 20,000 total plate appearances over five seasons, and I’ll admit the results were pretty eye-opening (and even somewhat promising).

A few things to keep in mind:

Players whose names are italicized have MLB service time.

The chart is sorted by the final column, which is the difference in OPS between SJ and Richmond. The players whose OPS dropped the least (or rose) are at the top.

The Giants AA affiliate moved Richmond in 2010, so I didn’t use any AA statistics from before that time (i.e. no Brett Pill).

I only included players who were right around or younger than league average (*Johnny Monell was 25 at AA in 2011). Essentially, nearly all of these guys were considered “prospects” at the time.

The ages/years listed are from the player’s season with Richmond. I did not include their age/year with San Jose. The average age of an Eastern League hitter from 2010-2013 was 24.4. The average age of a Cal League hitter in the same time was 22.7.

For players who repeated either San Jose or Richmond, I usually included their first season at each level. *The two exceptions to this are Angel Villalona, whose 2009 season at San Jose I omitted, and Roger Kieschnick, because his first stint in Richmond was cut short to injury. Kieschnick is also one of the prominent players that Williamson gets compared to, so I thought it beneficial to include both of his seasons in AA. For this reason, you’ll see his name twice (compared against his 2009 SJ season in both instances).

The average Eastern League OPS from 2010-2013 was .723.

The Average OPS in the Cal League from 2009-2013 was .767.

That should give you enough information to understand these numbers. If you have any questions about my thought-process or additions for me to consider, please don’t hesitate to address them in the comments section.

RH Hitters

Year

Age

PA (Rch)

OPS (Rch)

PA (SJ)

OPS (SJ)

Diff

Susac

2013

23

310

0.820

426

0.731

0.089

Villalona

2013

22

209

0.686

309

0.711

-0.025

Duvall

2013

24

430

0.785

598

0.814

-0.029

Joseph

2012

20

335

0.705

560

0.787

-0.082

Peguero

2011

23

296

0.763

538

0.846

-0.083

Culberson

2011

22

587

0.675

551

0.797

-0.122

Perez

2011

24

497

0.684

596

0.809

-0.125

Dominguez

2011

24

313

0.675

279

0.802

-0.127

Brown

2012

23

610

0.731

638

0.925

-0.194

Neal

2011

22

585

0.799

559

1.01

-0.211

RHH Totals

22.7

4172

0.732

5054

0.823

-0.091

LH Hitters

Year

Age

PA (Rch)

OPS (Rch)

PA (SJ)

OPS (SJ)

Diff

Parker

2013

24

524

0.785

571

0.757

0.028

Gillaspie

2010

22

540

0.754

530

0.750

0.004

Belt

2010

22

201

1.036

333

1.121

-0.085

Panik

2013

22

599

0.68

605

0.77

-0.090

Monell

2011

25

441

0.728

472

0.837

-0.109

Kieschnick

2011

24

501

0.737

563

0.876

-0.139

Noonan

2010

21

406

0.584

530

0.727

-0.143

Oropesa

2013

23

259

0.562

583

0.763

-0.201

Kieschnick

2010

23

246

0.673

563

0.876

-0.203

Crawford

2010

22

342

0.712

119

1.045

-0.333

LHH Totals

22.8

4059

0.725

4869

0.852

-0.127

All Hitters

8231

0.729

9923

0.837

-0.108

Findings:

First off, I forgot how good Thomas Neal’s season in San Jose was. Holy smokes! On the flip side, Gary Brown in Richmond, yikes…

To the heart of the matter, though. These 19 players were once (or still are) some of the top hitting prospects in the organization. As a whole, this group was 70 points above average in the Cal League. In Richmond, 14 of the 19 were at least a full year younger than the Eastern League average, and as a group they (all 19) had an OPS 6 points above the league average. So, despite them losing 108 points in OPS (on average) from SJ to Richmond, 11 of these guys were still above average hitters in the Eastern. So the prognosis isn’t all bad. But wow, lefty hitters really take a hit in making the jump. Even in his second – and more successful – stint in AA, Kieschnick’s OPS still dropped 139 points from what he’d done in San Jose. On the surface, it appears that lefties really don’t struggle in Richmond any more than righties do, as I wouldn’t consider a 7 point difference to be all that dramatic. But, if you remove Brandon Belt’s 1.036, it drops the average OPS for the group down to .714… that’s below league average, and quite a bit lower than the average for the righties as well. So, for some reason, lefties do tend to have a harder time in Richmond. Especially when you consider that they fare better (on average) than righties in San Jose. If you remove Brandon Crawford’s inflated OPS in 119 PA, it drops the lefty average to .831, but that’s still higher than the .823 RHH mark.

One other thing I will note that caught my eye here. You’ll notice that the three top spots for righties and the top lefty are all 2013 Flying Squirrels. That’s some pretty sweet stuff, especially for an organization that gets knocked for its lack of impact bats. I know Susac didn’t play much in the second half, but can you see why people around these parts are getting excited about him? An 89 point spike from SJ to Richmond is very, very impressive. What about Parker and Duvall? What the heck are those guys doing? Don’t they know their numbers were supposed to fall off in the monster Eastern? Maybe those power numbers shouldn’t be taken too lightly… a .785 OPS in the EL is nothing to sneeze at.

Finally, Mr. Mac Williamson, the focus of our study… Mac began last season at 22 years old (turned 23 in July), and compiled an .879 OPS. The age factor isn’t really a big deal to me, but it should be noted that he’ll be a little young for the EL next year. His OPS in SJ was better than all but four of the guys on this list. So, how will the jump affect him? Until the games are played next summer, none of us can really know for sure. But based on the 8,000+ PA in Richmond of top Giants prospects before him, I’d say it wouldn’t be a shock to see Mac’s OPS drop 100 points. His BA and OBP are likely to take a hit, but if he can maintain a slugging % above .475, he should be just fine. Mostly, he just needs to stay healthy and take his hacks. If the average drops near the Mendoza line, then it might be time to panic.

Here’s my take. If Williamson struggles in AA, he certainly won’t have been the first Giants prospect to do so. He’s set such a high bar for himself in SJ that he certainly has a lot to live up to in the coming years. But if Susac, Parker and Duvall can all post an OPS of .785+, I think Mac will be all right. If he posts anything north of .850, it’ll be time to get very excited. For now, I’ll look for something in the neighborhood of .795-.815 with about 17 HR, and cross my fingers for anything better. So, I guess I would say yes, Williamson could certainly conquer the Eastern League, even if his numbers won’t blow anyone away. In my opinion, he’s one of the premier hitting prospects in the organization… and I hope to be saying that again next winter.

Mac  Williamson

(Kenny Karst/MiLB.com)

Fire up the Stove

As of yesterday, the options for Andres Torres and Barry Zito have officially been declined, making them free agents. No shocker there. Both guys had their time in the sun with the club, but it was time for the Giants to move on. Neither guy really made any significant contributions all season, when both were expected to play somewhat significant roles… the organization can’t let that happen next year.

The free agency period is nearly upon us. The exclusive negotiating window teams have with their potential free agents will end in the next day or so, at which point the offseason will officially begin. As it stands, Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong’s status with the Gigantes is still very much up in the air. In his live chat last week, Baggs’ stated what most of us know on the Lopez front: there’s mutual interest, but no deal is in place. Javy’s been a huge (and underrated) piece in Bruce Bochy’s bullpen since he came over from Pittsburgh, and I expect there’ll be a deal announced shortly… probably another two years for the lefty extraordinaire. The Giants specifically didn’t trade him at the deadline because they wanted to bring him back. Generally, when a player and the club have mutual interest, a deal gets done.  I’ll say this though: if Lopez doesn’t sign, there are a few other intriguing lefties out there. A guy I’ve always liked is JP Howell. He had a very good year for the Dodgers, and he’s only 30.

As for Vogey, Baggs has been indicating for a while that the Giants won’t pick up the $6.5 million option for next year, but they’ll renegotiate a cheaper deal. There hasn’t been much talk either way so far, which isn’t all that surprising when it comes to Sabean doing business… but I did find the comments on from Vogey’s agent last week interesting. I can’t seem to find the article now. Essentially, that there hadn’t been any contact from the Giants yet… Can you picture Vogelsong sitting by his phone, staring intently, waiting for the call to come in? Me neither, but it really didn’t sound like there’d been a whole lot of communication. Vogey wants to come back, but Sabean would be absolutely nuts to give him anything more than $1 million at this point. If they could come to some reasonable terms, I’d gladly have him back to compete with Petit/Surkamp/Kickham for the 5th starter spot. I wouldn’t expect anything more than that at this point.

With Lopez and Vogey being the last remaining free agents-to-be on the club at the moment, the Giants aren’t going to be offering any qualifying offers. There’s some significance here, as at one point they could have potentially been looking at a couple of potential first round picks… but they weren’t willing to take the chance of losing Hunter Pence or Tim Lincecum to free agency. I have to admit, the more I think about the Timmy situation, the more I wish they would have waited and made the qualifying offer. It’s all water under the bridge at this point, though. The Giants will take their 14th pick in next year’s draft, and they’ll like it.

A few more offseason thoughts here. CSN has had a few free agent power rankings posts on their site lately. If I remember right, they basically copied and pasted the left field, starting pitcher, and relief pitcher rankings from hardballtalk.com. I want to address the site comments on these posts. It’s amazing to me how unrealistic or distorted a view people have on Sabean, the Giants and their offseason agenda. The front office has said numerous times already that they aren’t going to sacrifice their first round pick, which is not protected. So… Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo are out of the picture, as are any other players who receive a qualifying offer. If you aren’t familiar with the qualifying offer and draft pick compensation, take a look at this article from SB Nation. Pretty good explanation of the process.

Also, you have to look at the market for free agency. There’s not much talent out there this year. Cano, Ellsbury, and Choo are going to make some major green. Even if you take the qualifying offer out of the equation, when’s the last time Sabes forked out $100 million for a free agent not named Barry Zito? It’s not the way he does business, and the Giants have already committed nearly $130 million to the payroll for next season. Barring something very unforeseen (like a hard push for Masahiro Tanaka), Sabean has already spent his big money for the offseason. As hard as it is for those of us who support the orange and black to watch what the Dodgers are doing down in La-La Land, you have to understand the way the Giants do business. Every team has holes that need to be filled, and while the Dodgers may be willing to empty their pockets and farm system to acquire talent, the Giants just don’t play that game. They never have. You may disagree with the way they do business (as I do from time to time), but this club won the World Series only one year ago. Sabean is banking on his key players from 2012 having a bounceback season in 2014, despite his comments about windows closing.

Personally, I don’t see any indications that the Giants will be in on Tanaka. I don’t think they’ll even make the final three teams involved. The estimates being tossed around for his services are pretty outrageous, but there are teams willing to spend that kind of dough. Tanaka could be a game-changer, but I’m really not getting my hopes up anymore. I’d bank more on a Bronson Arroyo or AJ Burnett. Maybe Sabes ponies up a bit more for a guy like Ubaldo Jimenez.

One thing I do expect to take place this winter is a trade or two. Every indication I’ve gotten is that the Giants don’t think too highly of the free agent class (and how can they?). If that’s the case, maybe they’ll put some packages together to land a pitcher or left fielder. But who do they trade? Other than Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar and Adalberto Mejia (all mentioned by Baggs last week as “untouchable”), I’d think every other minor leaguer in the organization is available. I think Clayton Blackburn could be a nice trade piece… Add Joan Gregorio and Chris Stratton to that list, as well as any of the high-octane relievers. Stratton is a guy I’d like to hold onto, though. On the hitting side, I’d have to think Sabean would listen on anyone. I’d like to see Susac and Williamson be off limits, but those are probably the two most coveted guys. Either way, the Giants understand the limitations of modern-day free agency, and may try to get creative in strengthening the roster.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to talk about in the coming weeks, but that’s all for now. The hot stove is almost upon us, so things should start to get interesting (or not interesting, depending on your expectations) very soon.

Image

Giants 2014: Right Field

We’ll kick the “state of the franchise” series off with the most secure position in the Giants organization right now: right field. You may know this area as the Pence Territory, and for good reason, as it’s hard to see anyone unseating Hunter as the everyday RF at AT&T Park for the foreseeable future. Pence is the most recent Giant to earn a major contract, as he was locked up last week for $90 million over the next 5 years. Odds are, he’ll spend most if not all of those 5 years as the Giants’ everyday right fielder.

I call right field the most secure position in the organization for a few reasons, and we’ll address some of them in future posts. But I think the biggest proof I have is the fact that Pence started EVERY game this year. All 162, good times or bad. I think he played all but something like 16 innings this season. In this generation, that kind of durability is incredible. It’s also invaluable. There are certainly a few positions on this team that are unsettled going into the offseason (more than you’d think, actually), but right field is not one of them. Barring an unforeseen injury, you can pencil Pence’s name in the middle of the lineup card and the #9 on the scoresheet for the long haul.

There’s really no debate here, and that is a very good thing for an organization facing a difficult offseason. Pence was priority #1, and the Giants locked him up before he could test the waters of free agency. A little rich, maybe, but it’s a deal the Giants had to get done. You can’t go into the offseason with holes at both corners of your outfield… you just can’t. Pence banked on his torrid September, and he really had all the leverage in negotiations. He would have gotten his money somewhere, and it’s a good thing he got it in-house.

The Pence deal gives the Giants another centerpiece to build around, but right field hasn’t always been a strength for this team. In fact, it had been quite a carousel prior to Pence arriving last summer. AT&T Park is a difficult right field to play; it’s one that definitely takes some getting used to. But other than Nate the Great, the Giants really haven’t had much consistency in front of the Levi’s Splash Landing wall (or whoever the hell sponsors it now) in recent years.

Where it’s been: We’ll start in 2009, the beginning of the 4-year stretch of winning seasons. That was Randy Winn’s last year… seems like yesterday, right? Winn wasn’t cutting it, so the Giants gave their homegrown kid Schierholtz a shot. That was Nate’s first significant playing time, and really the job was his to lose for the better part of 3 years. Unfortunately for him, he managed to lose it just about every year! But Nate played RF in San Francisco like nobody else, with a cannon for an arm. He just couldn’t ever get the bat to play on an everyday basis, and in 2010 we saw guys like Bowker, Huff, Cody Ross and the memorable brief stint from Jose Guillen. Of course, we all know how that season ended. History, folks.

In the first title defense year, RF was Nate’s job again, with Ross platooning from time to time. Then came the Posey injury, and eventually the move that thousands still cannot get over to this day: Wheeler for Beltran. The Giants were one of the top teams in the NL at that point, even without Posey. Lights out pitching from some guy named Vogelsong, but a miserable offense. They had to do something, so they gave Nate’s job to Beltran. I thought it was a solid move at the time. If I remember correctly, Wheeler wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire at that point. Injuries, wildness, inconsistency… but yes, the upside was there. We all knew it, the Giants knew it. The Mets knew it too. In my book, if you can use a minor league talent to acquire a perennial all-star in a contending season, you do it. Every time. Of course, you’d like to re-sign that player in the offseason in a perfect world. Alas, it didn’t work out, Beltran got hurt, took some heat and signed with St. Louis on a bargain of a deal in the offseason, where he’s got one ring and is working on another. He looks good in red, while Wheeler looks good in blue. That’s the one people will never let Sabean live down, but it’s water under the bridge to me. Sorry if that offends you.

Sabean spent that offseason making his outfield over. Savvy trades, new faces in center and left. Nate the Great patrolling right again, and showing spurts. New guy Gregor Blanco got a little time out there too. Nate wasn’t too happy with his role, and this time he didn’t just lose his job at the deadline; he lost his uniform as well. For the second year in a row, the Giants used July 31 to upgrade in right field. This time, they got a player who fans could rally around, a guy who would be a clubhouse leader. I don’t think season-saving motivational speeches were written into Pence’s contract. Even though he wasn’t sporting the .285 lifetime average he’d brought to the Bay Area, he always seemed to be in the middle of the big moments.

The Giants wanted Pence back for title defense, part II, but they weren’t willing to lock him up long term. Nobody had been willing during his consistent, productive career. He took the qualifying offer and returned for another year to the city that embraced him. It certainly wasn’t a guarantee that he’d get another new deal with the Giants this year, however. Remember the trade deadline? There were many teams knocking on the door, but the Giants didn’t budge. Personally, I think they wanted him back all along. If there were doubters out there, he put them to bed with a September for the ages. In 99 AB, he went .293 with 11 HR and 32 RBI… and it earned him $90 million and a permanent place to call home for the first time in his career.

Where it’s going: There are people who certainly will look at Pence’s contract and scoff. Yes, when the team was scuffling in July, he was a .242 hitter with only 1 HR. But he always finds a way to get his production in. Is he incredibly streaky? Yes. Is he the greatest defender? No. Does he lose his plate discipline entirely at times? Yup. But Pence is the type of player whose game can’t be summed up by one statistic. He does a little bit of everything. He hits for average, he owns some of the most raw power in all of baseball, he makes athletic plays in the outfield, and he steals bases at a very high percentage. For the first time in his career, he’s a 20-20 player. He hit .293 with runners in scoring position this year. He hit .309 against lefties. He hit 18 of his 27 HR versus divisional opponents. At 30 years old, his line of .283/.339/.822 is nearly identical to his career mark. Consistency is so important in baseball. Yes, he has his flaws. He’s not an elite hitter, and never will be. But he is a 5-tool player, and I’ll take the upside any day. You know what you’re going to get when you put him on the field… hard work 24/7.

So, Pence is a Giant until he’s 35, with a full no-trade clause. In a different time, maybe his talents are worth $40 million instead of 90. But that’s not how baseball operates anymore. The Giants needed Pence. Had he left, I just don’t see a realistic way where they could have made up for his production. We’ll talk more about some of the outfield options on the market this year when we get to LF in the series. Having Pence locked up now also means one less position the Giants need to plan for in the immediate future. Big Mac Williamson is the top corner outfielder in the system, and could be in the bigs by 2015 if he can pass the big Eastern League test next year. If he does, he’ll almost definitely be in left field, with the other OF spots locked up. That bodes well for the Giants.

So, the Giants enter 2014 and beyond with an every day RF, and it’s likely that you will see him out there every single day. You can also likely pencil him in for 20 HR and 80-90 RBI while you’re at it. Five more years of Hunter Pence, and finally some stability in right for the Giants. It’s about time.

Image

Prospects in the Press

We’ve got some news on the prospect front for the first time in a while. Jason Cole of Baseball Prospectus posted video from a recent instructional league game between the Giants and A’s. Originally he posted four clips; pitchers Kyle Crick and Keury Mella, and hitters Angel Villalona and Ryder Jones. Later, Cole snuck in a one-inning stint from 3rd round pick Chase Johnson. If you haven’t seen these, I’ll link them here. I definitely recommend checking them out… All are high-quality, HD clips that get right in behind home plate. Pretty sweet views of each pitcher’s breaking pitches!

Crick Video

Mella Video

Johnson Video

Jones Video

Villalona Video

My take: The pitchers were a bit more exciting, as you might have guessed. Pitching is the cream of the crop in this franchise! Crick’s video is the longest, as he throws a few innings. He’s a bit wild at first, surrendering walks and a couple of base hits in the first inning. He settled in pretty nicely in the following frames, and was consistently 94-96 with his fastball. I don’t know about you, but I just love this guy. Do me a favor: watch the Crick video again, then watch this clip of another pitcher the Giants developed a few years back. See any similarities? Pretty awesome stuff if you ask me.

I think Mella’s video was my favorite, and I’ve watched it over a few times. This kid is highly, highly underrated in my opinion. I don’t think it’ll be that way for much longer, though. Look at that frame! Abbreviated windup (a little like David Price), fastball at 93-95, and a filthy breaking ball! Gives up a base hit to the first hitter, then absolutely makes the second guy (Higley) look silly on three pitches. He’d work through the second inning without allowing a baserunner, recording a few K’s in the process. This video was an eye-opener for me, as I still knew relatively little about this kid. Let’s just say he’ll get a nice bump up my offseason rankings. He’s got a long way to go, but that fastball looks goooood going forward. What other starting pitcher in the system throws that hard?

Johnson pitched an inning, losing a long battle with Oakland’s 1st rounder Billy McKinney. McKinney took the walk after spoiling some 3-2 pitches, and the next batter hit an RBI triple to left center. Looked like the CF had trouble getting the ball in, but it was crushed either way. Still, Johnson worked 91-94 with the fastball, and even hit 95 once from what I remember. His breaking ball is a big, over the top curve. Had a little trouble controlling it. The changeup is low 80’s, making for a very nice change of pace from his fastball. You know, for a guy whose 3rd round draft spot prompted some questions in June, Johnson is starting to get some hype at the national level all of a sudden. Baseball America ranked him the #8 player in the NWL in its offseason top 20 list last week. He was the only Salem-Keizer player to make the list, in fact. It’ll be interesting to see what the Giants do with him next year. Augusta? San Jose? Starter? Reliever? Guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

Jones and Villalona’s videos were a little uneventful. I can’t, however, get over how big Angel V. is. He is a serious bopper, and he’s headed to the AFL to put his bat to the test. It looked like he got into one pretty good during this game, but you couldn’t see where the ball landed. Could have been a routine base hit, but I got the impression it was a very long single. Either way, this kid looks like he’s got major league power. Does he have major league contact?

Hopefully Cole will get the chance to shoot a few more Giants before instructional league ends. Those were a lot of fun to check out!

Finally, the Cal League top 20 was released by Baseball America today, and the Giants ran away with it. Crick came it at #3 behind A’s phenom Addison Russell and Rockies hurler Eddie Butler (although MLB.com has Crick #42 in its updated top 100; Butler was ranked in the 80’s). Delino Deshields and Austin Hedges got the 4 and 5 spots, with our own Edwin “Esky” Escobar sliding in at #6. Who came in at #10, you ask? Well, that would be none other than Adalberto Mejia, lefty extraordinaire. Three Giants pitchers in the top 10 gives you a pretty good idea that we fans aren’t the only ones taking notice of these arms anymore. Pretty exciting stuff.

On the back end, Ty Blach came in at #15, Mac Williamson at 18, and Clayton Blackburn rounded it out at 20. Six Giants in the top 20, impressive. I think what surprised me the most here was Blackburn getting the lowest spot among this group. Many in the Giants fan base (myself included) believe Blackburn is a top 5 prospect in the system. Hell, you could make the argument that he’s #2 or 3. So I think this list gives us a pretty good idea about how the rest of the world looks at these pitchers. Also great to see Mac make the list as well, although I don’t know how he could have been left off. He fell a tick short of .300 on the season. Otherwise, his offensive numbers were very, very impressive. This is the cream of the crop in the system, ladies and gents, and they’re moving up to Richmond next year. Escobar may be moving to Fresno… as Sabean says, AA is the true test, not Fresno.

A quick recap on those BA rankings. As Giants affiliates go, I think the Eastern League and PCL are the only leagues that haven’t had top 20’s announced. Not sure if we’ll see anyone from the organization make either of those lists. Panik and Susac probably have the best shot for the EL. Maybe Heath Hembree gets a spot in the PCL 20? 10 Gigantes farmhands have made it onto their respective BA lists. The super 6 in the Cal, Chase Johnson in the NWL, and 3 more from the AZL. Christian Arroyo at #2, Mella at #14, Ryder Jones at #19. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s your 1st, 2nd and 3rd round draft picks all on the top 20 lists for their summer leagues. All of this from a Giants draft class that got laughed off the field by the national pundits in June. Interesting stuff.

That was a lot, but many good things going on in the depths of the Giants system these days. I have a feeling we’ll see a couple more of these kids crack the preseason top 100, but that’s still a long way off. For now, enjoy those videos, and we’ll catch up on the prospect front again soon as the AFL season gets rolling.

Image

(Conner Penfold/Giant Potential)

San Jose Season Recap: The Bats

We’ve already covered San Jose’s pitching staff here (a couple times, actually), so we need to wrap things up with the position-player talent for the High-A Giants, who advanced to the Cal League Championship series, where they were swept by Inland Empire. San Jose’s bats didn’t make a whole lot of noise in the finals – 2 runs in 3 games to be exact. This was a little surprising, as a handful of guys had hit very well in the league semi’s. It should be noted, however, that three of San Jose’s regular postseason lineup spots were filled by guys who’d spent all or most of the regular season down in Augusta. CF Jesus Galindo and 3B/DH Mitch Delfino were called up at the start of the postseason, while Trevor Brown, a 2B and C, was promoted to San Jose very late in the season. While those three combined had almost no experience at the advanced-A ball level, I’m sure the Giants were still expecting to compete a little better in the series finals.

Let’s not kid ourselves here; San Jose was a team led by its pitching staff most of the year. You can’t begin to talk about the Little Giants without mentioning names like Crick, Blackburn and Mejia – who we’ve already discussed at length. But you also can’t talk about this team without getting into Mac Williamson, who was the biggest offensive mover in the system this year, by far. Mac was the Giants’ 3rd round pick out of Wake Forest last summer, and one of the only hitters from the 2012 class to bypass Augusta completely. How ironic is it that Williamson and Ty Blach – the only starting pitcher from the 2012 draft to debut in San Jose this year – ended up earning team MVP awards?

After Mac’s impressive performance last summer with Salem-Keizer (33 g, .321, 9 hr) there were definitely some high expectations for the 22 year-old RF entering the season. But you never can be quite certain what you’re going to get from a hitter who is given an aggressive assignment in his first full season. There were some growing pains early on, including a .244 average in April and a .228 mark in May, with 6 big flies in his first 51 games. The months that followed, however, would elevate him to the top of many Giants’ prospects lists. It went something like this…

June: 27 g, .320, 6 hr, 1.009 ops.

July: 29 g, .321, 7 hr, .946.

August: 27 g, .356, 6 hr, 1.068.

Yep, that’ll do it. In the month of August alone Mac slugged .625. He finished the regular season with a line of .292/.375/.504, 25 hr, 89 rbi and 10 sb. The obvious concern is his contact rate, and the 132 k’s in 136 games. But he also walked 51 times, including 26 after July 1. Next season in Richmond will be his big challenge. If he makes it out alive, the Giants could have their LF of the future (assuming Hunter Pence is in right for the next handful of years) arriving rather quickly. There’s no guarantee he’ll cruise through AA, and it’s probably a better bet that he’ll take his lumps. Personally, I think Williamson is the type of talent that can make adjustments needed to beat the big bad Eastern League (we already saw him adjust midseason this year). He’s the top- rated position-player in the organization in my eyes, and I think he’ll be in Fresno by 2015.

The list of high-end hitting talent on the San Jose roster pretty much begins and ends with Mac. Angel Villalona, the 23 year-old former top Dominican 1B, spent 73 games with the Giants before trading spots with Ricky Oropesa in Richmond. Villalona actually raised his average a tick with the Flying Squirrels, but showed terrible plate discipline while slugging 22 HR between the two levels. Between Mac and Angel V., you’ve got two of the most powerful bats in the entire organization. Williamson is the much more refined hitter (though not a tremendous contact guy himself), but Villalona’s bat should play at the MLB level someday. In what role, we don’t yet know.

Oropesa had a nice first full season in San Jose in 2012, but was swallowed up in Richmond this year, as many before him have been. After hitting .207 with 6 HR in 66 games at AA, Ricky saw much better results in the friendly confines of the Cal League. He finished the year a .249 hitter with 14 HR and 61 RBI in combined efforts. He also hit 4 long balls in a 4 game span during the semifinals against Visalia. Maybe he’ll get a running start at it in Richmond next year?

We obviously can’t mention everyone here, and there really weren’t too many notable hitters on this squad in 2013. But one guy who definitely deserves some attention is Matt Duffy, the shortstop who we profiled earlier this summer after his midseason promotion from Augusta. Although he missed a little time in August with an injury, he was a very consistent top-of-the-order bat all season long, no matter who he was playing for. After logging a .307, 4 HR, 22 SB mark with 78 games for the Greenjackets, Duffy hit .292 and knocked 5 balls out of the yard in 26 games for San Jose. Overall, his 52bb/57k performance for the season looks very Joe Panik-esque. With Panik likely moving up to Fresno next season, don’t be surprised to see Duffy manning the middle-infield in Richmond. He’s definitely a sleeper candidate in this system.

Finally, a couple other under-the-radar guys who had nice seasons:

Devin Harris: Harris is 25, and a former 8th round pick of the Orioles in 2009. He didn’t sign, and the Giants plucked him all the way down in the 48th round of the 2010 draft. I have no idea what caused the 40-round discrepancy. After hitting .215 with Augusta and San Jose in 2012, he followed up with a very nice campaign in 2013 for the Giants, launching 23 HR while driving in 84 runs. Will his power play at higher levels? Doubtful, but Harris was still the only guy not named Williamson with a 20-HR season in San Jose this year.

Myles Schroder: I’ll be honest. I know absolutely nothing about Schroder, other than what Baseball-Reference tells me. He’s a 5-11 righty who the Giants drafted in 2007 (27th round). He hit .296 with 6 HR and 6 3B in 86 games this year (he must have suffered a long-term injury, as he played in only 24 contests for Augusta last year). It looks like he’s played every position in the infield, including catcher, as well as a little LF during his professional career. I also know this: Dr B. of “When the Giants Come to Town” raved about him late in the year, so I might just have to do a little more digging on the guy…

That’s it. San Jose baseball, 2013. Again one of the elite clubs in all of minor league ball. Just fell a tad short of a championship. Will we see a few big leaguers from this group some day? I would answer that with an emphatic YES, but it may be heavier on the pitching side. Thanks for reading.