4/7 MiLB Wrap: Susac on Fire

While Fresno’s first week of play hasn’t yielded the best results (1-4 record), the Grizzlies offense is certainly not to blame for the early struggles. The Giants AAA bats have been hot out of the gates, nobody more so than catcher Andrew Susac. Susac, who made a name for himself this offseason in the AFL and again during spring training, opened his Fresno campaign with multiple hits in each of his first three games. After a day off Sunday, Susac was back in the lineup against Salt Lake last night.

Last month during Cactus League play, Rangers lefty Michael Kirkman found out exactly what can happen when you float a hanger over the plate to Susac in a 3-ball count. Andrew drilled Kirkman’s offering into the stands in left field… an absolute moonshot.

Last night, Bees’ lefty (and former MLB pitcher) Justin Thomas learned the hard way not to throw Susac a “get-it-in” fastball over the heart of the plate. 3-0 count…green light…liftoff. Like he did to Kirkman, Susac tattooed Wilson’s pitch over the wall in left field (see video below), his first HR of the young season. It was his only hit of the game, but the young catcher now sits at .500 (8-16) through four contests, with 2 BB and (very important for him) only 1 K so far.

Despite the attention he garnered this winter, Susac might just be the best prospect nobody’s talking about. For the life of me, I don’t know how he’s not on any top 100 lists. From the looks of it, I don’t think he really minds… but I do think he’s about to force scouts and writers into having more of those conversations. The season is very, very young, and he still needs to prove he can stay healthy. But right now, Susac looks primed to have the big offensive season many of us were hoping for.

MiLB Roundup

Fresno (1-4): At SLC | L 5-4

Richmond (2-2): At Bowie | PPD

San Jose (3-2): At Lancaster | L 3-2

Augusta (2-2): At Savannah | PPD

Stock Up

Joe Biagini, SJ: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K – Great line from Biagini, a 23 yo UC Davis righty who logged a 5.03 ERA in 20 starts for Augusta last year. The San Jose starters were very impressive in their first turn through the rotation.

Steven Okert, SJ: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 K – Another solid inning of work from the lefty, who has 3 holds and has yet to allow a run.

Joe Panik, FRS: 2-4, 3B, RBI – Panik has 5 hits in Fresno’s last two games, and is batting .350 (7-20) on the season. He’s also drawn 3 walks to only 2 strikeouts early on.

Stock Down

Mac Williamson, SJ: 0-4 – I really like Mac, and have a hard time putting him here. But his 1-17 start to the season (.059) really makes me wonder if his shoulder injury isn’t having some effects on his performance at the plate. Maybe it’d be wise to give him a couple days off to rest at this point?

Chris Heston, FRS: 4 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K – Heston was off to a good start in his first outing of the season, but Salt Lake lit him up pretty good in the 4th inning (his last of the night). The righty had high expectations going into last season, bust just hasn’t been able to get comfortable in AAA.

What’s Ahead

Augusta at Savannah: Gm1 2:35 pm – Nick Vander Tuig (1st start)

Augusta at Savannah: Gm2 TBD – Starter TBD

San Jose at Lancaster: 6:30 pm – Chris Stratton (1-0, 1.80)

Richmond at Bowie: Gm1 2:35 pm – Kelvin Marte (1st start)

Richmond at Bowie: Gm2 TBD – Jack Snodgrass (1st start)

Fresno at SLC: 5:35 pm – Starter TBD

Today’s Notes

With the two rainouts yesterday, today is a busy day in the Giants organization, as both Richmond and Augusta play double-headers.

Augusta’s official page lists Jake Smith as today’s game 1 starter, and doesn’t have a pitcher listed for game 2. However, David Lee was told yesterday that 2013 draftees Nick Vander Tuig and Christian Jones are the next two starters in line. That makes more sense to me, as Smith has already been used in relief two or three times.

You might remember Vander Tuig as the winning pitcher for UCLA in last year’s National Championship game. Jones is a little lesser known, but was a starter at Oregon before having Tommy John surgery. He pitched solely in relief during his senior season for the Ducks, and was used as such by the Giants in short-season ball last summer. He’s a lefty with good size and a low-90’s fastball, so I’m excited to see how fares as a starter.

One other note about Augusta. I clearly remember lefty DJ Snelten’s name on the roster last week, but he’s nowhere to be found now. I was expecting him to be one of the Greenjackets’ starters. Don’t really know what’s going on there.

In San Jose, the rotation turns back over today, with Stratton taking the hill for the second time this year. That means Martin Agosta will not make a start in this turn. A quick check of the roster showed Agosta’s name on the 7-day DL. Again, no idea what happened there, as I thought he was fully healthy entering the season. Hopefully he’s activated soon.

Finally, a Javier Herrera sighting in Fresno. Herrera was apparently activated a few days ago, logging 1 AB each on 4/5 and 4/6. Last night, he was in the lineup as the DH and went 0-5. He was another guy I was curious about, but I’m glad to see him in AAA, where they’re a little short on outfielders.

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Cove Chatter 100: #28

Nick Vander Tuig | RHP, 21 yo, 6-3, 190 | 2013 Draft – 6

(AZL) 1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 BB, 2 K

(A-) 3 GS, 6.2 IP, 13.50 ERA, 15 H, 2 BB, 5 K

(A+) 1 GS, 2.1 IP, 11.57 ERA, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 K

The third pitcher taken by the Giants in the 2012 draft was Ty Blach (5th round), a lesser known pitcher – but a workhorse no less – out of Creighton. The next year, the Giants’ third pitcher selected in the draft was this kid, Nick Vander Tuig (6th round). Vander Tuig is a NorCal native (Oakdale) and Tommy John survivor who’s known more for his advanced control, but like Blach he’s not some creampuff lobbing fastballs over at 86. These guys know what they’re doing on the hill. Vander Tuig was a workhorse himself, and the ace of the National Champion UCLA staff last year. His 2013 line went as such: 19 GS, 14-4, 2.16, 129 IP, 18 BB, 93 K. He was also the winning pitcher in the National Championship, twirling an 8-inning beauty against Hunter Renfroe’s Mississippi State Bulldogs.

The Giants took it easy on him last summer after his extended college workload, but they liked him enough to send him up to San Jose in a spot start. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him start next year back in the Cal League, but there will be a lot of arms fighting for those spots. If anyone could turn out to be the Blach of 2014, I would put my money on this guy. Personally, I think this could be the steal of the draft. To come up nails like that in the biggest game of your amateur career, that’s the kind of competitiveness you look for in a player… and that title game performance actually came after the Giants had selected him. Impressive stuff.

They said it: “Vander Tuig commands four pitches well. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and his best pitch is his straight changeup, which has the potential to be a plus offering. His breaking balls are still developing, giving him a chance to be a solid back-of-the rotation starter.” ~ MLB.com

Vander Tuig video:
UCLA Profile:

(College Baseball Today/Eric Sorenson)

Org Pitching: Salem-Keizer

Dan Slania – R (21): 3.95 era, 13.2 ip, 8.6 h/9, 2.0 bb/9, 9.2 k/9 – 5th round pick from Notre Dame this year. Big body (6-5, 255), hard thrower. Nice fastball-slider combination. Maybe San Jose next year?

Eduardo (EJ) Enicinosa – R (22): 3.12 era, 17.1 ip, 4.2 h/9, 5.2 bb/9, 10.9 k/9 – Giants took him with 7th pick in 2012. Another 6-foot-5 bullpen power arm with control issues. Why is he only pitching sparingly in short-season ball?

Chase Johnson – R (21): 3.88 era, 46.1 ip, 8.0 h/9, 2.5 bb/9, 8.5 k/9 – First pitcher taken in the 2013 draft. Former Cal Poly closer, now a starter. Low to mid-90’s sinking fastball.

Cameron McVey – R (24): 3.19 era, 42.1 ip, 7.2 h/9, 3.0 bb/9, 10.2 k/9 – 3rd 6-foot-5 righty bullpen arm on this list. 22nd round pick last year out of tiny Biola (CA) College. Should help form a strong pen in Augusta next year.

Nick Vander Tuig – R (21): 11.70 era, 10.0 ip, 17.1 h/9, 3.6 bb/9, 9.0 k/9 – 6th round pick, led UCLA to CWS title this summer. Low 90’s fastball with great control. Definitely a sleeper.

Pat Young – R (21): 1.22 era, 44.1 ip, 6.1 h/9, 2.0 bb/9, 6.5 k/9 – 6-foot-5 starter from Villanova has been a nice surprise in S-K this summer. 13th round pick with a funky, but deceptive delivery.

Christian Jones – L (22): 2.84 era, 19.0 ip, 8.1 h/9, 1.5 bb/9, 8.5 k/9 – Oregon lefty was 18th round pick in June. Sturdy frame. Giants loaded up on relievers in this draft.

Tyler Rogers – R (22): 2.30 era, 27.1 ip, 7.2 h/9, 4.0 bb/9, 10.2 k/9 – 10th round pick this season. College senior with good size. Signed for $7.5k. Off to a surprisingly good start to pro career.

Chris Johnson – R (22): 2.49 era, 83.0 ip, 7.0 h/9, 0.9 bb/9, 8.5 k/9 – Repeat performer in the NWL. Much better numbers this time around, with only 8 BB in 83 IP.

Andrew Leenhouts – L (23): 2.39 era, 71.2 ip, 8.5 h/9, 1.8 bb/9, 6.7 k/9 – Crafty lefty with sub-90’s velocity. 23rd round pick last season, leads the Volcanoes in wins this year.

Overview: It is my opinion that the Giants had a very good draft this summer, and I think we’ve already seen some proof of that in the 2nd half of the season. The high school picks have led the AZL team to a dominant championship this summer, while Salem-Keizer’s been no slouch in the NWL. All of the pitchers on this list were drafted either this year or last, and they make up a quite unheralded, but strong staff.

While the starting pitching has been good all summer, it’s the bullpen arms that are likely to be the quick movers in this system. Slania is a monster who brings the heat, and there were talks of the Giants making him a starter when they took him in the 5th round in June’s draft. Looks like the front office is satisfied with him out of the pen for now. He might make some top 20 Giants’ lists this winter. Encinosa and McVey are high-upside guys who I’ve spotted on a few lists already. McVey is a little older, but he’s only in his second pro season. Encinosa is closer material, but he hasn’t logged many innings this year. I’m not sure why.

Jones and Rogers are the other relievers on this list. Jones is a 6-foot-3 lefty from the University of Oregon (and a NorCal kid from Danville) who missed all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Once a top of the rotation starter with electric stuff, he worked almost exclusively out of the pen this spring in Eugene. If he can stay healthy, maybe the Giants give him another chance to start down the road.

Rogers, the Giants’ 10th round pick, signed for $7,500, obviously well below the slot value for a pick that high. I really don’t know what kind of stuff he offers, but he’s a 6-foot-5 kid who’s pitched very well in his 27.1 innings out of the pen this summer.

The rest of these guys make up the team’s starting rotation, and I have included them because each has seen some form of success in his their short professional careers. All 5 are college draft picks. Chase Johnson is the highest drafted (although his 3rd round selection was seen as a reach by many) of the group. He’s a former closer who the Giants are trying in a starting role.

To me, Chase has the most upside of the S-K rotation, although Vander Tuig might turn out to be the steady big league starter of the group. The UCLA ace was impressive in this year’s College World Series. If you saw his title clinching performance against Mississippi State, you know how dominant he was. 8 shutout innings in the biggest game of your career? I’ll take that guy on my team any day.

Vander Tuig hasn’t done well in his short stint as a professional (which included a spot start in San Jose), but it’s likely that his arm was pretty worn out after the college postseason. Either way, he’s a polished pitcher with great command, and I still think he could be the one from this group to bypass Augusta and start in San Jose next year.

Of course, Chase Johnson and Vander Tuig could turn out to be busts or organizational fillers. You never know, and that’s just the nature of the game. But those two will likely garner the most buzz from this crop of starters. The other three guys all have one thing in common: size. Young is 6-foot-5, Chris Johnson is 6-4, and Leenhouts is 6-3. Leenhouts and Johnson are second-year pros who have been steady members of the S-K rotation all summer. Johnson’s k/bb ratio of 78/8 is impressive, while the crafty lefty Leenhouts posted a 2.39 ERA in his 71 IP. Young is a product of the 2013 draft, and has only allowed 4 ER in 8 starts with the Volcanoes. He’s a lanky guy with a funky delivery, but he’s been impressive in his short time as a pro.

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MiLB Two Up, One Down

August 12

Two Up

Leo Rojas, C, Salem-Keizer: 4-5, 2 2b, 1 r, 2 rbi

Rojas, a 15th round selection in 2012 out of Miami Dade CC, recently made his 2013 debut after sitting out 50 games for a violation of MLB’s banned substance policy. He’s played in all of four games this year, and is 8-11 over the last three days, including a HR and 7 RBI. Last night, he was the DH for Salem-Keizer, and helped lead the way to an exciting 11-10 win over Everett.

Christian Arroyo, SS, Arizona Giants: 3-3, 1 2b, 3 r, 2 rbi.

The Giants’ rookie league affiliate continues to roll in Arizona, and 1st round pick Arroyo continues to be one of its strongest hitters. The shortstop has been consistent at the plate all summer since making his professional debut, and his 3-hit effort last night pushed his batting average near .300 again.

One Down

Nick Vander Tuig, RHP, Salem-Keizer: 1.2 ip, 6 h, 6 er, 1 bb, 1 k.

Vander Tuig was the Giants’ 6th round draft choice this summer, and is having a rocky start to his professional career. Last night, Everett knocked him around pretty good to the tune of 6 runs before he could make it out of the 2nd inning. If you recall, Vander Tuig was a College World Series hero this summer for UCLA, dominating South Carolina in the championship game. He was also the Bruins’ workhorse this year, and the Giants are likely being very careful with him. At this point, it seems like he may be tiring a bit after a long college season.

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Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects (31-35)

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-UCLA vs Arizona

#31. Tyler Hollick – OF, 20 yo, SS-A: Canadian-born, 14th round pick out of junior college in ’12. He hit .301 with 21 steals in 2012 AZL, and is off to a fast start in Salem-Keizer this summer. Has blazing speed and gap power. Definitely could move up this list.

#32. Kendry Flores – RHP, 21 yo, Lo-A: Minor league vet at age 21 (signed at 17), solid numbers in first year of full-season ball. Career bb/9 of 2.3 in 287 innings pitched.

#33. Nick Vander Tuig – RHP, 22 yo: 6th round pick. Very unfamiliar with this kid before his clutch performance in the CWS clincher last night – 8 innings of shutout ball to win a championship.  He’s not a big guy and doesn’t throw very hard, but he has great command and he’s got quite a resume coming out of UCLA. He’s also from NorCal and a big Giants fan! I think he could be a real sleeper in this system.

#34. Ehire Adrianza – SS, 23 yo, AA: He’s been in the org. since ’06 and he’s still only 23. Elite defense, but really hasn’t ever hit. Was once a top prospect in the organization.

#35. Dan Slania – RHP, 21 yo: 5th round pick this year, big, hard-throwing closer from Notre Dame. Should fit right in with the other talented bullpen arms in the system.