Richmond Official Roster

Flying Squirrels MiLB Roster

Cove Chatter Predictions

Names in bold were guys I correctly guessed in February.

Richmond – EL (AA)

C: Jeff Arnold: 26 yo vet plays a very important role in the organization. Fine defensive C, showed some nice power in SJ last year.

C: Myles Schroder: Versatile guy has played a lot more infield than C in his career. Hard to think he’ll spend much time behind the dish with this staff.

C: Eliezer Zambrano: 9th year in the system. Bat has never really developed, but he’ll likely fill in for Arnold from time to time.

IF: Matt Duffy: Excited to see him here. Turned heads in first full pro season last year. Great bat speed, underrated abilities as a SS.

IF: Mario Lisson: Offseason signee showed some mammoth power in the VWL. Good defensive 3B, former promising KC prospect.

IF: Ricky Oropesa: Looks like Ricky might see some time at 3B with Angel V. on the squad. Can he adjust to AA pitching this year?

IF: Skyler Stromsmoe: MiLB journeyman back in Richmond for 4th time. Literally a baseball Swiss Army Knife… has played every position (including pitcher) except C.

IF: Kelby Tomlinson: Former 12th round pick should see time at both MIF spots. Struggled offensively during his time in Richmond last year.

IF: Angel Villalona: Thought he might start the year in Fresno. Crazy power, but very poor plate discipline. His clock is ticking, so they could be aggressive with him.

OF: Tyler Graham: Montana boy returns to the Giants. Speedster that never put things together at the plate. Met his mom last year. Great family. Keep chasing that dream Tyler!

OF: Brett Krill: 2010 pick has seen offense decline both years since breaking out in S-K in 2011.

OF: Ryan Lollis: 27 yo CF is an organizational player, but seems to hold his own at the plate wherever he plays.

OF: Jarrett Parker: Parker made his mark on the final day of spring training, but returns to Richmond. Does he move up when Mac joins the club?

P: Kyle Crick: He’s the #4 starter in the rotation, but the obvious headliner of the staff. 3 potential plus pitches, but command is the key. Could blow the doors off if he can limit the walks.

P: Clayton Blackburn: Clayton “Old pro in a young man’s body” Blackburn. What more can you say? This could be the year he sees the K totals drop a bit, but I think he competes for a promotion to Fresno before the season ends.

P: Ty Blach: Getting the Opening Day nod tonight, a reward for a tremendous 2013 season in SJ. Was very impressed with him this spring… stock is WAY up!

P: Adalberto Mejia: Young lefty will likely be the baby of the Eastern League. Has the size and improving stuff, but got knocked around some in the AFL. How will he respond to experienced AA hitters?

P: Jack Snodgrass: Veteran lefty returns to Richmond after posting very respectable #’s there in 2013. Probably deserved a promotion, but will certainly help mentor this young staff.

P: Kelvin Marte: 8th year in the org for the 26 yo southpaw. Will pitch in the back end of the rotation. Has always shown above average command.

P: Austin Fleet: Fleet moves down from Fresno, and likely back into the bullpen after posting impressive #’s in his first stint as a starter last year.

P: Bryce Bandilla: Electric lefty and original “Dog Pound” member. Can he stay healthy?

P: Jose Casilla: Santiago’s younger bro got some good press in camp this spring. He’s a physical and mechanical clone of his brother, but his fastball isn’t as big. Still, he’s an arm to watch on this team.

P: Cody Hall: Another Dog Pound guy. Major breakout in 2013. Mid-90’s fastball, secondary’s are a work in progress. A solid 1st half could send him to AAA.

P: Edwin Quirarte: Former 5th round pick looks like he’s become an organizational player. 4th assignment to Richmond, where he’s been a reliable bullpen arm.

P: Phil McCormick: Late round pick in 2011 returns for 2nd season in AA. Good #’s in 2013, but walk rates were high.

P: Josh Osich: Another big lefty with heat and a history of injuries. Tore through the Cal League last year before slowing down a bit in Richmond. Should make a push for Fresno this season.

P: Derek Law: I was very surprised to see Law sent to Richmond instead of Fresno. It makes sense though, as he’s never pitched above High-A. If you don’t know the book on this kid by now, look him up. Filthy!

Analysis: Pitching!!! (Sorry, I’m trying to get this and a quick Fresno roster post up today). One of the best staffs, top to bottom, in minor league baseball. Simple enough?

Hitters I’m excited for: Duffy, Angel V, (Healthy) Mac Williamson… and Mario Lisson! Let’s see what that power can do in the tough Eastern League.

Not the best offense you’ll find out there, but the pitching should be more than enough to keep this team in the AA playoff hunt. Should be a fun one to watch… and their game tonight is broadcast on MiLB.tv. Good luck Ty Blach!

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Org Pitching Part II: Richmond

Continuing the look at the noteworthy arms in the Giants’ system… Flying Squirrel edition.

Richmond

Edwin Escobar – L (21): 2.78 era, 116.2 ip, 8.0 h/9, 1.8 bb/9, 10.2 k/9 – First of the San Jose starters to get the bump to AA. Low 90’s fastball with excellent control, could be in Major League camp next spring.

Cody Hall – R (25): 9 sv, 1.31 era, 55 ip, 4.1 h/9, 2.3 bb/9, 11.5 k/9 – Big, power arm has thrived in the closer role since his promotion from SJ. May move quickly.

Josh Osich – L (24): 14 sv, 3.84 era, 61 ip, 8.0 h/9, 2.8 bb/9, 10.0 k/9 – Flame-throwing lefty was dominant in SJ, but has struggled since moving to AA.

Jose Valdez – R (25): 4.74 era, 49.1 ip, 9.7 h/9, 7.7 bb/9, 8.8 k/9 – 6 foot 7 monster. 78 K’s in 57 IP last year at San Jose. Major control issues this season.

Scott Shuman – R (25): 25 g, 10.55 era, 21.2 ip, 5.9 h/9, 16.5 bb/9, 15.6 k/9 – Rule 5 draft pick who throws serious heat, gives up few hits, but has absolutely no idea where the ball is going.

Edwin Quirarte – R (26): 10 sv, 2.67 era, 60.2 ip, 8.6 h/9, 3.6 bb/9, 5.3 k/9 – Former 5th round pick, doesn’t have amazing stuff, but induces tons of grounders. May be a useful bullpen arm for a Major League team one day.

Phil McCormick – L (24): 3 sv, 3.44 era, 49.2 ip, 7.8 h/9, 5.3 bb/9, 8.9 k/9 – Crafty lefty with sink and deception. Big groundball rates, but the walks have inflated this season.

Chris Gloor – L (26): 3.56 era, 139 ip, 8.9 h/9, 2.5 bb/9, 6.9 k/9 – 6 foot 6, big-bodied lefty. Second year in AA, first full season as a starter. Should get a chance in Fresno next year.

Overview: A team that began the season with little high-end pitching talent has seen three of the top arms in the system promoted from San Jose. Escobar may be the Giants’ breakout candidate of the year, and he seems to be getting stronger. Will he compete for a big league rotation spot next spring? Hall and Osich are two of the organization’s big bullpen arms. Hall may surpass Heath Hembree, while Osich needs to work out some kinks. All 3 are big bodies that feature elite velocity. The rest of these guys are long shots. Valdez and Shuman are wildcards – big arms with no control. Quirarte was once a future closer candidate, but he doesn’t seem to have the stuff to strike out professional hitters. Maybe he gets a shot in a middle-relief role someday. If McCormick can continue to induce the grounders, could he work himself up as a situational lefty? Gloor is a grinder who should be in AAA next season.

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Prospect Spotlight: Javier Herrera

Ok, so Javier Herrera is certainly not your traditional minor league “prospect,” but he’s put up impressive numbers in AA this year, and he’s a player I’m very intrigued by. So let’s take a closer look…

Javier Herrera: 28 yo, AA

Pos: OF

HT, WT, B/T: 5-11 225 | RR

2013: 102 g, .302/.381/.495, 28 2b, 13 hr, 57 rbi, 18 sb/6 cs, 42 bb/86 k

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Herrera is a 28 year-old outfielder who the Giants signed prior to the 2013 season. He’s been a professional baseball player for a very long time, signing with the A’s as an international free agent back in 2001. He’s battled some very significant injuries during his career, and has been out of minor league baseball entirely for multiple years at a time. At this point, the “minor league journeyman” label would certainly fit Herrera well. So why am I taking the time to look at him at all, you ask. Frankly, when you’re having the kind of season at the plate in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League that he is, you’re worth discussing in my opinion.

Herrera is a native of Caracas, Venezuela, and signed his first professional contract at the age of 16. He played in the Dominican Summer League in 2002, and made his US debut in the Arizona Rookie League in 2003 at age 18. He hit .230 in 18 games that summer, and the A’s sent him to Vancouver in the short-season Northwest League the following summer (2004). Herrera broke out in Vancouver, posting a .331 mark with 12 HR, and was only caught stealing once in 24 attempts. He also displayed impressive defensive abilities and a very strong outfield arm, and his performance earned him the #68 spot on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects heading into 2005.

Herrera’s first full season in professional ball saw him in Low-A Kane County, where he hit .274 with 13 HR and 26 SB in 94 games. The A’s must have been impressed, because they bumped him all the way to AAA for a brief stint at the end of the year. He didn’t disappoint, hitting .417 with a HR in 5 games with Sacramento. At this point, Herrera’s stock was at its peak. He entered 2006 as the #2 prospect in Oakland’s system and the #74 prospect in MLB. The A’s added him to the 40-man roster and gave him an invite to big league Spring Training. At 20 years-old, it appeared he was on the fast track to the majors…then everything came unraveled.

Herrera never made it to Opening Day in 2006, as it was announced at the end of Spring Training that he needed Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire season, and never made it back to Sacramento. In 2009, he was either released or injured (maybe both), and only logged 2 at-bats on the year. 2010 saw him in the short-lived independent Golden Baseball League, and he was out of baseball with hamstring issues in 2011. He was back in independent ball again last season, where he posted a combined .319/.397/.523 line with 14 HR and 78 RBI with two clubs in the Frontier League. Herrera’s tools impressed the Giants, who signed him to a deal in the offseason.

The Giants assigned Herrera to AA Richmond this year, where he’s put up consistent numbers at the plate all year. He’s posted an average of .298 or better each month, and had a 1.016 OPS in June. His first-half campaign earned him a spot in the Eastern League All-Star game, where he was named MVP after hitting a 3-run HR off Anthony Ranaudo in the first inning. He hasn’t hit as well since the break, but still owns a .299 average for the season, with 13 HR and 18 SB. In a lineup with guys like Andrew Susac, Joe Panik, Adam Duvall, and now slugger Angel Villalona, Herrera’s name is very easy to overlook in the box scores. However, he and fellow minor league journeyman Mark Minicozzi have been the Flying Squirrels’ best hitters by far this year. It makes sense, as Minicozzi is 30 and Herrera is 28, but there’s a big difference in the two veterans. While Minicozzi is a former 17th round pick of the Giants, Herrera was once a budding star.

Most observers might consider Herrera organizational filler, but there’s much more to his story. If you pull up his profile on Baseball America, you see a bevvy of Oakland’s organizational “best tools” selections from 2004 to 2008. During those years, Herrera was given multiple “best athlete,” “best outfield arm,” and “best defensive outfielder” honors in the system. When you see that, you can’t help but dream on the kind of player Herrera could have been (and maybe could still be). Health issues kept him out of minor league baseball for the past four years, but they didn’t scare off the Giants. If he can continue to produce in the difficult Eastern League, you’d have to think he’ll be in Fresno for next season.

 In baseball, they say you never give up on tools. Herrera has certainly showcased his tools in Richmond this year, and may be turning into a nice resurrection story if he can stay healthy. The Giants have gotten contributions from so many castoff type players lately: Where would they be without the efforts of Arias, Blanco, Vogelsong, or Gaudin? Unlike these players, Herrera has never been to the big leagues. But he’s in an organization that needs outfield depth, and he seems to be in the prime of his career. If the Giants get desperate come September, and they don’t mind fiddling with the 40-man roster a little bit, I wouldn’t be completely shocked to see them take a chance on a guy who offers some pop, speed and defensive ability. Not to mention, one who’s out to show the world what he can do. 

MiLB Two Up, One Down

August 1

Two Up

Clayton Blackburn, RHP |San Jose: 1 GS, 8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (89 pitches)

Great pitching has been the theme this summer for the Giants’ top prospects, and it continued yesterday with Blackburn in San Jose. The #3 prospect on our mid-season top 40 has been on a roll lately, and has thrown 8 innings in each of his last two starts. After taking a no-hitter into the 7th in his last start, Blackburn cruised through the Visalia lineup last night to the tune of 1 ER in 8 IP. The visitors came out hacking, which made for a very economical night for the Giants’ young righty, who only needed 89 pitches to get through the 8th. Between July and August, Blackburn has now tossed five straight quality starts, allowing only 6 ER in 34 IP during that span.

Adam Duvall, 3B | Richmond: 2-5, HR.

The Giants’ #22 prospect found his stroke this week, hitting his 3rd HR in as many nights against the Portland Seadogs yesterday in AA. The power surge has to be a confidence booster for Duvall, who’s shown few signs of life since returning from a thumb injury that cost him most of April and May. Duvall, the former Louisville Cardinal, may have some of the most power in the organization. He hit 52 HR between Augusta and San Jose in the last two seasons, and now has 12 this year in Richmond. He’s not striking out as much in 2013, which is nice, but I don’t think the Giants will give him a promotion to Fresno next year unless he can raise his average to the .260 range and continue to show some pop. Maybe the recent streak of big flies will get his bat going again.

One Down

Tyler Mizenko, RHP | Augusta: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K.

Mizenko (#37 on the top 40) is the closer for Augusta, and his July struggles seem to have carried over into August. The Greenjackets played a double-header last night, completing a suspended game from earlier in the year before playing their regularly scheduled contest against Charleston. Mizenko replaced Joan Gregorio in the 5th inning of game 2, and allowed four runs to cross the plate. Two of those runs were credited to Gregorio, who left the game with a blister issue. Replacing an injured starter in the 5th seems like an odd assignment for the closer, and maybe that affected Mizenko a bit. Regardless, he has really struggled over the last month after allowing only 4 ER in his first 31 appearances this year.

Top MiLB Pitchers Dominate

A little update from the arms on the farm…

Joan Gregorio, the towering 21 year-old righty from the Dominican Republic (and the number 23 prospect on my mid-season list), put on a show last night in Augusta. Gregorio is having a very good year for the Giants’ Low-A affiliate, but last night he unleashed his full arsenal in what has to be the best game of his professional career.

Here’s Joan’s line last night against the Lakewood BlueClaws: 7 IP 0 H 0 ER 1 BB 10 K. Seven no-hit innings – wow!  Gregorio’s been very steady all season, but he’s been exceptional in his last two starts: 13 IP 4 H 1 ER 3 BB 19 K. If he keeps pitching like this, you’d have to wonder if he’ll get the call to San Jose before the season is over.

David Lee of the Augusta Chronicle was pretty impressed by the performance, and I’d recommend reading his article here. He notes, among other things, Gregorio pumping mid-90’s fastballs while dominating against a mostly-lefty lineup.

In case you missed it, here’s my review of Joan Gregorio from a couple weeks ago.

In other news, Edwin Escobar earned his first win at AA Richmond last night, with a line of 6.2 IP 6 H 1 ER 0 BB 8 K.  Pretty impressive numbers for the talented lefty, who’s also only 21.

Not to be outdone, check out what fellow lefty Adalberto Mejia did in San Jose last night: 5.2, 2 H 0 ER, 2 BB 9 K… Man, are these guys rolling or what? Pretty solid night for some of the Giants’ top minor league arms.

Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects: #6

#6. Andrew Susac – C, 23 yo, AA: Susac is a NorCal kid who graduated from Jesuit High before playing two years at Oregon State. The Giants took him with a second round pick in 2011, and after trading away fellow catching prospect Tommy Joseph in the Pence deal last year, Susac is now the top option for replacing Posey behind the dish if/when the Giants change Buster’s position some day.

Susac began his professional career at Hi-A last season, where he certainly had an up-and-down performance while learning the craft of pro catcher (which is not an easy one). He hit .244 with 9 hr in 102 games – certainly not incredible numbers for a highly-touted prospect. But the Giants showed faith in the kid by promoting him to AA this year, and he’s proven them right so far. Through 70 games, he’s hit .265 with 11 hr, 16 2b and a .373 OBP, and was named to the Eastern League’s mid-season All-Star team. His OPS has improved from .731 in San Jose to .862 this year in Richmond – which is opposite of what happens to most hitters in the Giants’ organization. He’d been on the DL since July 1 with a finger injury, but went 1-4 with a 2b and an rbi tonight.

Susac’s performance at the plate this year is great news for the Giants’ front office, as it was thought that he may repeat Hi-A before the season. Obviously he’s not Buster, but he still profiles as an everyday catcher with a strong arm behind the dish and the ability to hit for above average power (there aren’t a lot of those to go around the majors these days). He has shown that he can take a walk, and if he can stay healthy for the rest of the year, he could land in Fresno by Opening Day next season.

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Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects: #7

#7. Gary Brown – CF, 24 yo, AAA: Brown, like Joe Panik, is a former first round pick who’s seen his stock drop recently. Brown was the Giants’ top prospect as recently as last year, but that distinction is now reserved for pitcher Kyle Crick. As far as position players go, Brown is still rated very high, but I think there are a couple of guys who have moved ahead of him. Drafted in 2010 out of Cal State-Fullerton, his calling has always been speed, contact and defense (the speed being his elite-level tool.) The Giants drafted him with the intention that he’d be their CF and leadoff hitter for many years, as his quirky bat flashed .300 potential with gap power. He did nothing to dispel those beliefs during his first full season of pro ball, hitting .336 with 14 HR, 13 3B, 34 2B and 53 SB for San Jose in 2011. That performance earned him a #38 ranking on the Baseball America Top 100 prior to the 2012 season. Visions of Brown winning the starting CF gig in San Francisco by 2013 filled the heads of many Giants’ fans.

Those lofty visions have faded a bit since then, as Brown’s numbers took a hit in Richmond last season, and his performance through the first half in Fresno has been disappointing so far. He’s seen his OPS dip from .925 (’11) to .731 (’12) to .724 (’13) over a three-year span. He also saw his SB dip to 33 last season and only 12 through 92 games at AAA this year. For a guy with elite speed, 12-21 in SB attempts is a bit concerning. While Brown has not hit for average this season, he does have 11 home runs, including 8 in the month of June alone. He’s already broken his career high for strikeouts in roughly half a season, however, so maybe he’s changed his approach at the plate. Whatever the case, the Giants have said that he’ll need to prove he can hit righties if he wants to play in the big leagues. His defense and arm are still very good, but it’s the bat that might end up keeping him from being a MLB starter. Brown is an old-school type of guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder, and I think he will eventually find a way to prove those who jumped off his bandwagon wrong.