2016 Giants: What’s the [Infield] Plan?

Hi everybody. Gosh, it’s been over a month since I started this series with a look at the 40-man catchers. I’m sorry for the hiatus. The sad truth is it’s just tough to find the time these days. Believe me though, my passion for this organization hasn’t ‘waned a bit. That was evident to me tonight when I scrolled down the official roster and saw this:

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 7.16.34 PM

Six infielders, all under 30, all homegrown success stories. Not one of these guys was acquired through trade, rule 5, or other. They were all drafted (Adrianza was signed IFA) and developed as Giants from the very start.

They now form one of the elite infield groups in the bigs, yet not a single one was hyped on draft day. Even Panik, highest drafted among them, was viewed as a first round reach. For someone who has followed this farm system so closely over the years, the success of this group is so rewarding. Let’s take a closer look at them.

As a quick side note, Nick Noonan and Kevin Frandsen have been removed from the 40-man since season’s end. That’s two more former promising Giants draftees, though neither had much of an impact on the club.

Brandon Crawford | Age 28: There’s no doubt B-Craw was a valuable player before 2015, but I think it’s also fair to say he was somewhat of a frustrating player as well. He’d make a highlight play, then turn around and botch a routine grounder. He’d make hard contact for a month straight, then go into a brutal offensive slump for 6 weeks. It always seemed like he was capable of more, and this year he became a star. If not for his September injury, Crawford had a legitimate shot at 25 HR. He’s absolutely deserving of a Gold Glove, as well as a long-term contract. I don’t think he gets the latter, however, and I don’t blame the Giants for waiting a year to see what he does. MLB Trade Rumors (who I defer to with this kind of information) projects him at $5.7M in arbitration this winter, and if he puts up anything close to this season’s 5.6 WAR in 2016, it’ll take some serious dough to get him locked up before his contract year.

Brandon Belt | Age 27: Belt came back from his injury-filled 2014 and settled in for a solid 2015 summer. He was an 18 HR, 3.9 WAR player in only 137 games, but his lingering concussion symptoms from the end of the season have some folks concerned heading into the winter. The guy really can’t seem to catch a break health-wise, so you just hope he can come back completely healthy from all this.

Belt still divides a lot of Gigantes fanatics, and I won’t say he’s my favorite player on the team… but this much I know: the Giants are a much better team with him than without him. If he’s healthy, it’s hard not to envision him topping the 20 HR threshold for the first time. He’s headed into what should be the prime years of his career, but I truly don’t know what his future holds at the moment. He’s got two years of team control left, and although it’s hard to see the organization letting him walk (or trading him!), there’s a few things standing in the way of him getting a long term extension at this point. The obvious elephant in the room is Posey’s potential move to first down the road (not a given in the next 4-5 years for me), but the more subtle barrier is the organization’s drafting of Chris Shaw, arguably the strongest power hitter in the 2015 draft class. Shaw led the short-season NWL in homers this summer and got a lot of positive reviews for his swing in fall instructs. It’s way too early to anoint him the incumbent at 1B, but the situation is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Joe Panik | Age 25: Panik’s sophomore slump took a vacation to the tune of a .312 average, 8 HR, nearly 1:1 BB/K ratio, Gold Glove defense, and a spot in the All-Star game. His lower back had something to say about it though, keeping him out of all but 15 second half games. Whether it’ll be an ongoing issue for him remains to be seen at this point, but at 25 you’d like to think to he’ll make a full recovery. Kelby T. was able to take a bit of the sting out of Panik’s absence, but there’s no doubt Joe’s got impact potential when he’s on the field. He’s been on an absolute offensive tear since the beginning of 2014 in AAA, but it’s easy to forget he was a sub-.260 hitter for Richmond in 2013. A lot of folks slapped a utility label on him that summer, an obvious oversight looking back. The Giants, they kept the faith, and they’re now seeing the player they hoped for when they “reached” in the first round four years ago.

Matt Duffy | Age 24: A 4.9 WAR player in his rookie year, the guy who made us forget about Pablo, and my favorite player in the organization? That’s a big hell yes, to all of the above. Everyone knows the story by now. Light-hitting infielder for Long Beach State, 18th round pick in 2012. He zooms through the minors; gets the call in 2014; helps win a ring; busts his butt in spring training; makes the club; eventually forces Casey McGehee out of a job. In the meantime, he took on a position at which he had no professional experience, learned it at the highest level, and gave tremendous at bats night…after night…after night. Oh, and he won the Willy Mac Award. All in a year’s work for the DuffMan. Now, the question becomes, can he do it again? The league is harsh, and it will adjust. Mark my words… so will Duffy.

Kelby Tomlinson | Age 25: Kelby was a 2011 draftee out of Texas Tech with little fanfare. He was a guy who could hold his own at shortstop and fly around the bases. But he wasn’t supposed to hit, and after posting a .357 average in the AZL that summer, he didn’t. His 2014 season in Richmond was an improvement, but .268 and 1 HR still wasn’t anything to put him on the prospect radar. A tweak in his swing last offseason changed all that, and he took the Eastern League by storm in 2015. Panik’s injury turned out to be an opportunity for Tomlinson to show what he could do. A month later, he’s got two nicknames and a big league gig. Word at the end of the season was he’d be tried out in CF in instructs, and apparently it didn’t go tremendously. I really have no idea whether he’ll see the position at all next year, but I do think his approach and speed will continue to force the organization’s hand. They’d be crazy not to at least give him regular reps in LF next spring, otherwise he’ll lose a ton of playing time as Panik’s backup at 2B.

Ehire Adrianza | Age 26: It’s crazy to think Adrianza’s been with the Giants for 10 years, and he’s only played just over 100 games at the MLB level. He was once considered a top 10 prospect in the system, dubbed a defensive wizard whose bat would always be in question. Personally, I think his defensive abilities have been a bit overplayed, while I don’t think he’s nearly as bad at the plate as he’s been made out to be. He’s one of the few players on the roster who can hold down SS on Crawford’s days off, and that to me gives him a guaranteed spot. The Giants have shown faith in Adrianza, and I believe he’ll reward them for it someday.

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Matt Duffy and the Evolution of a Baseball Fan

I always wanted to be a quarterback…

Growing up in northern California, my early childhood was filled with 49ers red and gold. Steve Young was my idol, and at 7 years old I thought life began and ended with football. Little did I know I would end up 5-ft-7, skinny, and slow. Ironically, I never played a day of organized tackle football, and the quarterback dream died before it ever really began. Either way, I was a football kid through and through during the early years.

My first memory of Giants baseball came at a pretty young age as well. I remember watching part of a game with my babysitter’s husband, a die-hard fan who had one of those black 80’s (this was during the 90’s, mind you) Giants “Starter” jackets littered with dozens of commemorative pins. I couldn’t tell you who they were playing that day, but I’ll never forget the name of the pitcher on the mound for the orange and black. How can you forget a name like William VanLandingham? I vividly remember him slinging pitch after pitch at an opposing batter who simply kept fouling them off, one after the other.

My babysitter's husband had one of these bad boys.
My babysitter’s husband had one of these bad boys.

I’d say I really started following Giants baseball in the late-90’s. I was young, but I still remember most of the names who played during that time. I had a Barry Bonds poster on my wall for most of my childhood, but it wasn’t until I attended my first game (at an infant Pac Bell Park) in 2001 that I really became a fan. I went with a good buddy for his [12th] birthday, and talk about an experience. Front row seats right behind the Giants bullpen… still the best seats I’ve ever had at any game.

It was August 2nd, and Jason Schmidt was the starter that night – his first start with the Giants after being traded from Pittsburgh, who also just happened to be in town. Schmitty tossed his warm-ups 10 feet in front of us, and when he was done the bullpen catcher dropped the ball right in my glove. A half hour into my first ever big league ballgame, I was hooked for life. My buddy Russ would get a ball that day too (a foul dribbler off the bat of Benito Santiago), as his grandpa did too (an Andres Galarraga foul that Aaron Fultz threw into the stands). Three of the four of us went home with a baseball that night; Schmidt was brilliant; Bonds hit a majestic shot into the Cove, and Felix Rodriguez glove-fived me as Robb Nen nailed down the final out. For a kid in middle school at his first major sporting event, it was an absolutely magical experience. One I certainly hope to share with my own future kids someday.

Continue reading “Matt Duffy and the Evolution of a Baseball Fan”

Cove Chatter 2015 Giants “All-Farm” Team

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

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

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

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

First Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updating Joe Panik and Matt Duffy’s Scouting Grades

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while. It’s always interesting to look back on a player’s scouting reports, grades, etc. It’s downright fun to do it when those players are turning heads and surprising the heck out of people all over MLB. So what do you say we rethink those grades for Panik & Duffy, two of the sweetest-swinging young players in the Giants lineup?

Joe Panik has now played over a full season’s worth of games in his MLB career, hitting a cool .307/.361/.411 in 710 PA. This season he’s at .309/.374/.443 with 25 2B and 7 HR. His season K% is 9.9, BB% is 8.8. His 2015 season adjusted to 650 PA (per Baseball-Ref) is .309, 41 2B, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 61 BB & 70 K. Pretty nice, huh?

The Duff Man has played 124 career MLB games (coming into today), and has logged a .299/.337/.439 slash with 9 HR in those 412 PA. He’s played 3/4 of those games in 2015, hitting .304/.343/.462 with 17 2B and 9 HR. He walks 4.3% of the time, strikes out in 17.3%. His HR% this year is 2.6. He’s also literally one of the most valuable rookies in all of baseball this season, making folks forget about a certain Panda pretty darn quickly.

So, how did the scouting reports read before these two were breakout MLB players? Obviously there was a lot more information readily available for Panik, who was considered a potential supplemental pick in the 2011 draft. Reports on Duffy were pretty sparse before he torched the Eastern League last season. I did find some prospect grades though, which I have included with a few old quotes from this site and others around the web.

Continue reading “Updating Joe Panik and Matt Duffy’s Scouting Grades”

Updates on the Farm

It’s been a while since we took an extended look at the Giants farm system… turns out we didn’t miss much. Seriously, though, it’s a dang good thing the MLB team has been so entertaining this season, because there really just haven’t been many standout performances on the prospect front to this point. As a blogger who threw out some major criticism of the national pundits for calling the Giants system a middle-to-back-end group, I’ve been very disappointed in how the first couple months has gone for the organization. Coming into the year, there were a number of players I was expecting great things from, and so far that just hasn’t happened.

Chris Stratton, Martin Agosta, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo, Kendry Flores… where are you?

That being said, there are certainly some standout performances from the early months of the season that are definitely worth mentioning, so I thought we’d take a little time to recognize these guys for their strong play. So far, I would say the two most intriguing storylines from the farm system have come from middle infielders and bullpen arms. Let’s take a look at some of these guys who’ve stood out.

Middle Infielders

Joe Panik, AAA: Panik took some heat for his performance in Richmond last season, but I think it’s safe to say he’s back to his usual ways this year in Fresno. At the moment, he’s sporting a .321/.389/.424 line, with 3 long balls, and a stellar 23 BB/26 K ratio. While I think it’d be nice to see him steal a few bases like he did his first couple seasons with the organization, I think the Giants have to be quite happy with the former 1st rounder’s year to this point. Panik can handle the bat, and I think he’s still got an outside chance at winning the starting 2B job next spring. He’s hitting .385 over his last 10 games.

Matt Duffy, AA: Duffy is a stud, what else really is there to say? I profiled the former Long Beach Dirtbag mid-season last year, as he was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise weak Augusta lineup. The Giants promoted him to San Jose for the stretch run, and decided to bump him aggressively to Richmond out of spring training this year. For two months, he’s made the front office look like geniuses. .323/.383/.399 to date (.359/.435/.410 last 10), with 10 2B and 12 SB. He’s not going to hit for a lot of power, but Duffy, like Panik, has an advanced approach at the dish. Initially, I wasn’t sure he had the track record to stick at shortstop, but he received pretty glowing reviews out there this spring, and it doesn’t seem he’s done anything to this point to hurt his stock at short.

Blake Miller, Hi-A: Maybe my favorite player in the entire organization, right here. Miller was the starting SS at Sac State from day 1 as a freshman, and he held his own offensively for two seasons. He eventually went back to where he came from (Oregon), and promptly destroyed the GNAC in his final two years for D2 Western Oregon. The Giants took him fairly late in the 2013 draft, to little fanfare. Now, he’s a 6-ft-3 jack of all trades infielder and one of the best hitters for San Jose. .307/.359/.497, 6 HR, 42 RBI. He’s strikeout-prone, 24 years old, and not necessarily the slickest fielding shortstop around, but I think Miller has a chance to really surprise people on his way up the ladder. He’s off to a great start so far.

Bullpen Arms

Dan Runzler, AAA: 6th year in Fresno for lefty Dan. He’s not on the 40-man roster anymore, but the Giants are going to need another lefty relief arm at some point this season. It might be sooner than you think, with David Huff starting to stumble of late. Runzler still walks more hitters than he should (16 in 26 IP), but he’s easily been one of the most reliable bullpen arms for the Grizzlies this season. 26 IP, 1.04 ERA, 1 HR, 16 BB, 32 K. If he can keep up this performance, and maybe limit those walks a bit (pretty please?), Dan might finally find himself in San Francisco again… After such a long and bumpy ride, that would be pretty sweet to see.

Derek Law, AA: Law was the story of spring training, and he’s quietly biding his time as the closer in Richmond. May wasn’t as kind on him as April, but overall he’s still sporting a 2.96 ERA and 12 saves in 24 IP. He’s walked 8 batters and allowed 7 ER in his last 10 appearances, so the league is starting make some adjustments, it would seem. At this point, June could be a big month for young Derek, as we’ll see whether he gets his control back in order. We know he’s got the goods to pitch in the show, but these two months are his only experience in the upper minors. If he can iron things out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Fresno by late summer, with a chance to help the big club if the need arises.

Steven Okert, Hi-A: Okert has arguably been the best pitcher, starter or relief, in the organization this season. The former 4th round southpaw didn’t earn the best reviews last year in Augusta, but you knew he had the ability to do pretty well if he could get his fastball back to where it was in college. Well, it looks like he has, and that deadly fastball/slider combo has been wreaking havoc on the Cal League through two months. On a team with a handful of solid bullpen options, Okert claimed the closer’s job early on, and hasn’t looked back. He’s got 16 saves, and has racked up 47 K (11 BB) in only 29.2 IP. He’s allowed 4 runs all year, good to the tune of a 1.21 ERA. Okert was billed as a guy who could move fast when the Giants drafted him in 2012, and I could see that happen this summer. Richmond’s bullpen hasn’t lived up to its billing yet, and Okert has been nails since day one. Look out for this guy.

Ray Black, Lo-A: Black is finally back! And he just might be the comeback story of the year for the franchise. After going MIA for two full seasons after the Giants drafted him, he finally surfaced (multiple surgeries later) this spring in Arizona, bringing 100 mph gas along with a wipeout slider. He made an appearance for Augusta on Opening Day, but promptly hit the DL with shoulder stiffness the next day. It looks like he’s got that shoulder under control for the moment, and has been impressive in 9 outings since returning to action a month ago. At this point, Black just needs professional experience. If he’s healthy, it’s obvious he has major league quality stuff. He’s definitely a name to watch as the season progresses.

There you go. Seven worthy names from the first two months of minor league ball on the Giants farm. That’s about all the time I have for now, but I did want to toss in a few guys who I didn’t have time for today.

Other 2014 Standouts:

Fresno: Adam Duvall, Andrew Susac, Chris Dominguez

Richmond: Tyler Graham, Angel Villalona, Mario Lisson, Ty Blach

San Jose: Jesus Galindo, Mitch Delfino, Mason McVay

Augusta: Ryder Jones, Tyler Horan, Matt Lujan, Luis Ysla, Christian Jones, Jake Smith

*Bonus Coverage: Here’s a quick shot of Ryder Jones cranking one out for Augusta last week. Enjoy!

Cove Chatter 100: #24

Matt Duffy | SS, 23 yo, 6-2, 170, BR, TR | 2012 Draft – 18 | (A) 78 G, 339 PA, .307/.405/.418, .823 OPS, 4 HR, 22 SB, 6 CS, 45 BB, 41 K | (A+) 26 G, 115 PA, .292/.342/.509, .852 OPS, 5 HR, 3 SB, 1 CS, 7 BB, 16 K

Duffy was easily the most consistent hitter in Augusta last summer, but he really burst onto the scene after his promotion to San Jose. He’s a jack-of-all-trades type who can take a walk and swipe a bag, but I think I’m most impressed with his ability to drive the ball. Watch those videos – now that’s a pretty good-looking swing (and great bat speed!) for a guy billed as a light-hitting utility infielder out of college. He certainly wasn’t young for the SALLY, but he just seems like a guy who has confidence in his abilities, which we already saw with his move to San Jose. The reports say he can hold his own in the field while playing multiple positions as well.

I wrote a pretty detailed piece on Duffy last summer, and I have to admit I really like the guy’s game. If he can maintain his solid walk rates while stealing a few bags and adding even some gap power, he could become a valuable big leaguer down the road. A few have mentioned this already, but there’s a chance we’ll see him in Richmond next year. Can he get over the Eastern League hurdle? I’d say the former Dirtbag has a fighter’s chance.

They said it: “Duffy won’t wow you with tools, but he’s a hard-nosed player with a feel for the game and an approach at the plate…his type of profile often makes it in utility form. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.” ~ David Lee, Augusta Chronicle 

Duffy home-run:

Duffy BP:

Image

(Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images)

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.