Chase Johnson Deals for San Jose

Tim Hudson and Andrew Susac were supposed to be the main attractions last night at San Jose Municipal Stadium. Turns out a Giants prospect was ready to steal the show. Huddy made his first rehab appearance, allowing only one hit and striking out two over a clean 2.2 shutout innings. Susac spent the whole night behind the dish and went 2-4 with a HR at the plate. In reality, it was a good night for both rehabbing big leaguers. But Chase Johnson, who would have been the regular starting pitcher, entered the game in the 4th and had easily the most dominant pitching performance by a Giants farmhand this season.

During his 6 innings of relief last night, Johnson allowed only 3 hits, walked one batter, and kept Lancaster off the bases with 14 strikeouts! This from a guy who had never struck out more than 9 in his professional career. Just a week after profiling another “Johnson” in the San Jose rotation (newbie right-hander Jordan), Chase Johnson’s already rising stock now appears to be soaring.

Remember, Chase was the Giants 3rd round pick in 2013. He was essentially a money-saving pick who signed under slot and allowed some flexibility for the two prep hitters drafted before him, Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones. At the time of the draft, Johnson was a little used reliever at Cal Poly who could run his fastball up to 97 in short spurts. He started some during his freshman season, was moved to full-time closer as a sophomore, and ultimately lost the job (for unknown reasons) to Reed Reiley during his final year in college. He made only 15 appearances as a junior, but the Giants love their hard-throwing college relievers, and were all over him that June. I profiled him that summer as he was transitioned immediately into a starting role in the organization.

Later that summer (2013), then Baseball Prospectus writer Jason Cole posted some video of Johnson in an instructional league game that caught my eye. This was an eye-opener for me, as Chase showed a solid low-90’s fastball, a diving curve and a pretty good changeup. When Baseball America named him a top 10 prospect in the Northwest League that summer, it became pretty apparent that there was some real potential in that right arm.

After an inconsistent season as a full-time starter in Augusta last year (110 IP, 4.57, 40 BB, 94 K), Johnson has flourished in San Jose in 2015. One thing he’s been able to do his entire professional career is induce groundballs, which he’s done this season to a (career low, but still impressive) tune of 1.61 groundout to air out rate per MiLB.com. Now, he’s combining the ability to get those grounders with an overpowering mid-90’s fastball. The same guy who was topping out at 94 or 95 as a starter is now running his heater up to 97-98 at times, and has been doing it nearly all season for the Giants.

Over his last 10 outings – including last night’s relief appearance – Johnson is 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA over 56.1 innings. He owns a 63/18 K/BB rate during that span. For the season, his K/9 is now at an even 9.0 (111 K in 111 IP). His ERA has been dwindling all year, and is now down to 2.43. He’s also not allowing many baserunners, as his WHIP has crept down to 1.16. For a guy who just made it into the MLB.com’s recently-released Giants top 30 prospects list, I think there’s serious some re-evaluating going on here.For me, Johnson is clearly a top 10 prospect in the organization at this point.

Baseball is a funny game. Sometimes the guys who get all the press don’t show the results, while the guys with the results don’t get near the amount of press. Chase Johnson has shown the stuff this year; It’s about time he starts getting the press.

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Prospect Watch: A New Arm to Follow

Madison Bumgarner is being enshrined into the Augusta Greenjackets Hall of Fame. MadBum absolutely demolished the South Atlantic League (SALLY) as a flame-throwing 19 year old in 2008. It was that dude, and that performance, which I credit today for hooking me on minor league baseball and prospecting. Before Bumgarner, I literally had never seen a minor league boxscore.

That was seven summers ago, and I’ve been checking MiLB’s boxscores nearly every day since. Since starting this blog, I’ve watched countless video of Giants prospects, whether through Youtube or MiLB.tv more recently. Prospecting is a lot of Google searching, scouring the comments section of websites, and digging up old reports and profiles that 98% of baseball fans could care less about. But for me these days (thanks to a weak internet connection), it’s still mostly checking boxscores.

Yes, sifting through boxscores can feel a little tedious after a while. But the longer you do it, the more you really start to understand what a “wow” performance really looks like. And with the amount of prospect information and scouting that’s available via Twitter these days, “scouting a boxscore” is taking on a bit more meaning.

All that being said, there’s a new name to follow in the organization.

Jordan Johnson is a right-handed pitcher the Giants selected in the 23rd round of last summer’s (2014) draft. I wrote an extensive review of that Gigantes class, and here’s what I had to say about Johnson at the time: “Pitchability righty who obviously had some sort of major injury that kept him out for nearly two full seasons. Originally from Elk Grove, drafted by the Rockies (42nd round) coming out of high school.”

Turns out that major injury was elbow-related, as he reportedly had Tommy John surgery. He returned for his junior season, but his season really wasn’t one that jumps out at you. 72.2 IP, 4.33 ERA, 15 BB and 39 K. So the Giants plucked him in the late rounds and gave him just 3 appearances in the AZL for the rest of the summer.

Jordan Johnson. Who is this guy?! Credit; MiLB.com
Jordan Johnson. Who is this guy?! Credit; MiLB.com

Sometime in the past calendar year, it appears that Johnson woke up one day and started throwing the best stuff of his life. The 21 year-old righty (who at 6-3, 175 I envision looking a bit like Matt Duffy on a mound) returned to the AZL where made 7 starts. He worked his pitch count up methodically with each new start, and peaked with a 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K outing on July 17. I don’t care who you are or when you were drafted, performances like that in professional ball make people take notice… and the organization did.

10 days later, Johnson is in Salem-Keizer where he’d make his one and only start. Just a few days after that, a spot opens up in the San Jose rotation with the trade of power arm Keury Mella, and guess who gets the first show? Jordan Johnson. Now, I’ve been following these things long enough to know that when the Giants return a college draftee to the AZL, it’s usually not a good thing. But when they jump the same player to the Cal League after only one game in short-season A-ball, that’s something worth taking notice of.

So what’s the deal with this Jordan Johnson? Well, he went out in his San Jose debut and was pretty dominant against Modesto. 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K. Yeah, I’d say that’s how you want to show up and announce your presence. When you combine all three of his stops this summer, you’ve got a 2.12 ERA over 34 IP, with 46 K and only 2 BB. Dang!

This is all good and well, but anybody can have one great start in High-A ball. There’s got to me something more here, right? Well yes, there actually is. According to SJ broadcaster Joe Ritzo and independent Twitter scout Chris Kusiolek, Johnson was throwing some major cheddar in Modesto last night. He sat 93-96 most of the night and reportedly even touched 98. 98! Ritzo added that he was throwing a plus changeup as well, and retired 11 of the last 12 hitters he faced. Wait, this guy was drafted WHEN?! Apparently the Giants MiLB pitching coordinator (Bert Bradley I believe) was in attendance. I’d have to think Johnson left one heck of an impression.

Ok, it’s never a great idea to base your opinions on one performance, regardless of the level. Considering Jose Reyes, the last right-hander I got excited about this season, has racked up a 7+ ERA in San Jose since crushing the SALLY in the first month of the season, there’s certainly reason to take caution here. But Reyes is 24, had been in the org since 2010, and really hadn’t ever shown much. Johnson is 21 with much less professional experience. And again, he hucked a 98 mph fastball last night. All I know is, I’ve seen & heard enough to be very intrigued by this guy. Safe to say I’ll be tuning in the next time Jordan Johnson steps on a pitching mound.

San Jose’s Official Roster

SJGiants.com roster

Cove Chatter San Jose predictions

*Remember, names in bold are guys who were on my San Jose prediction. A little better accuracy here. 6 hitters and 11 pitchers, not too shabby. 

San Jose – CAL (A+)

C: Trevor Brown: Versatile player who will likely play 2B as well. Promoted from Augusta last year, looked great at the plate in CAL playoffs.

C: Ben Turner: Tall catcher with a great defensive rep. Should see plenty of starts.

C: Jesus Navarro: Mexican native looks like an insurance policy and probably won’t play much.

IF: Mitch Delfino: Former Cal 3B has a ton of pop. Could be a 20+ HR candidate this year.

IF: Blake Miller: D2 GNAC MVP last year, now he’s in San Jose. Can play multiple positions, including SS.

IF: Rando Moreno: Skinny MIF is a confident player, both in the field and at the plate. Moving up after only playing 13 G in Augusta last year.

IF: Brian Ragira: Top college hitter from the 2013 draft. He’s a bit of a mystery though. Very toolsy player. Looks like he’ll be everyday 1B.

IF: Alberto Robles: .300 hitter in 217 PA for Augusta last year. Should share infield time with Miller and Moreno.

IF: Ydwin Villegas: 6-year vet of the system is coming down from Fresno. He’s a defensive whiz, but only a .223 career hitter.

OF: Elliott Blair: 26 yo utility player returns to San Jose, likely in a reserve role.

OF: Jesus Galindo: Greatest base-stealer in the organization was promoted for CAL postseason in 2013. He should start in CF, but his bat is still a question mark.

OF: Chuckie Jones: Chuckie could be a big time breakout candidate in San Jose this year. He’s very raw, but showed some nice 2nd half power last season.

OF: Chris Lofton: Returns to San Jose for a 3rd straight season. He does a little of everything, but doesn’t really have any standout tools.

OF: Mac Williamson: Starting the season on a rehab assignment of sorts in San Jose, where he should be able to DH. Hopefully he’ll be healthy and in Richmond soon.

P: Chris Stratton: Former 1st round pick should be the Opening Day starter. Will he push for a mid-season promotion this year?

P: Kendry Flores: Looked bigger and stronger in spring camp. He was nearly assigned to Richmond, which is no surprise to this blogger.

P: Martin Agosta: Was dominant when not injured last year. Has the stuff to be the ace of this staff, but needs to stay healthy.

P: Joan Gregorio: A monster of a human being. A #4 starter with mid-90’s heat and control? Yep, this is a stacked rotation. Missed a lot of 2013 with injury.

P: Pat Young: 2013 draft pick. Listed at 6-ft-5; looks more like 6-7. Low 90’s fastball with sink… not your everyday #5 starter.

P: Joe Biagini: Made 20 starts in Augusta in 2013, with less than stellar results. Should be a starter on this club, but he’ll need to hold up his end of the deal.

P: Ryan Bradley: Son of Giants MiLB Pitching Coordinator. 25 yo lefty spent 2013 in Richmond.

P: Jorge Bucardo: Former promising prospect looks to keep the comeback trail alive in the bullpen. Career has been injury-marred so far.

P: Ian Gardeck: Big righty with mid-90’s velocity. Doesn’t always know where it’s going.

P: Stephen Johnson: Maybe the most promising reliever on this roster. Used to throw 100, now works 92-95. Owns a nasty frisbee slider, as well as a funky delivery and inconsistent control.

P: Mason McVay: 6-7 lefty with above average velocity and control. He gives up a few more hits than you’d like, but could have a big season.

P: Tyler Mizenko: Augusta’s closer a year ago, should battle for the spot again this year. Low-90’s sinkerballer.

P: Steven Okert: Former 4th round pick could make it as a lefty specialist one day, if not a legitimate middle-reliever. LHH were .189 against him last season.

P: Jeff Soptic: 6-6 righty was acquired for Connor Gillaspie a year ago. Has good stuff, but lots of trouble harnessing it.

Outlook: To me, this year’s San Jose team has a very similar makeup to the 2013 group. There are some intriguing players on the offensive side, but this will undoubtedly be a pitching-led club. That seems to a very common trend in the organization this spring, sans maybe Fresno and the MLB Giants.

I have been saying all along that this rotation has a chance to be just as good as last year’s group, but I think I have changed my stance a bit this spring. It’s no knock on these starters at all, but you just don’t see 5 pitchers do what Kyle Crick and his mates did – in the Cal League no less – every season. I do think any one of the top 5 in this rotation (Stratton, Agosta, Flores, Gregorio, Young) could have a huge season, catapulting himself to Richmond. But to predict the same success as last year’s group might be going a little far at this point.

As far as talent, Gregorio might have the highest upside on that staff… and he’s probably #4 in the rotation. That’s impressive. I’m looking for something more from Stratton this year, as I’m sure the Giants are. Yes, he was good last year. But they want him to be great, not just good.

The guy I’m really watching is Flores. I’ve already raved about him enough this offseason, but I think he’s going to push the envelope big time. He’s already on the 40-man, so we know he has the chance to move quickly if he excels. He’s looking bigger and stronger this spring. He’ll constantly be trying to prove people wrong who say he’s pitching with just average stuff, but I think he’s got something in store for those folks. If the velocity increases are real, he could be a stud.

I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with Williamson, other than that he’s got an injury that’s prevented him from throwing. So… possibly a shoulder deal? I do know that he’s still able to hit, and it sounds like he’s been hitting well. Hopefully he gets back to full health soon, but this team should benefit from having his bat in the lineup early.

The rest of the offense will likely go as guys like Ragira, Delfino and Galindo go. Don’t sleep on Chuckie Jones, who came on strong late last year. I’m also very interested to see how the playing time at 2B and SS shakes out. Moreno is a player I’m keeping my eye on, as is Miller. One year, you’re playing at D2 Western Oregon. The next, you’re taking hacks in big league spring training and going straight to high-A. I talked to the head coach at the university I work for (another GNAC school), and he thinks the Giants got a steal with Miller. I believe him.

SJ Staff

(L-R: Flores, Stratton, Gregorio, Young, Biagini, Agosta. Photo c/o: Joe Ritzo’s Twitter)

*Note: Click on the picture above for a larger view. My goodness, Gregorio and Young are big guys. Martin Agosta is the shrimp of the group, and he’s 6-foot-1 for crying out loud!

 

 

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.

San Jose Season Recap: Part 1

The San Jose Giants were swept out of the Cal League championship series by Inland Empire, ending their season a couple nights ago with a 3-1 loss. The Giants were the last remaining minor league affiliate of the MLB Giants still in play, and were seeking to bring a title home after winning the deciding game against Visalia in the league semifinals. San Jose’s bats went cold in the championship series, though, as Ricky Oropesa and company were held to only 2 runs and a .133 average (per MiLB.com) in three games. The Giants certainly had to be the favorites in this series, as Inland Empire entered the postseason despite a sub-.500 regular season record.

This seems to be a case of a team (Inland Empire) getting hot at the right time, as often happens in playoff play in every sport, but I’m sure a championship sweep is not what Kyle Crick and his teammates had in mind. Either way, the Giants had another superb season, and remain one of the most successful clubs in minor league baseball. They finished the regular season 83-57, the best overall record in the Cal League.

Let’s take a look back at the season that was for the Giants’ high-A affiliate.

The storyline entering the season for San Jose was the starting pitching, and it remained the focal point of the club all year. The rotation was the backbone of this team, and on Opening Day featured highly touted 2011 prep draft picks Crick and Clayton Blackburn, along with international lefties Edwin Escobar (acquired from Texas in 2010) and Adalberto Mejia. All four were 20 years old or younger entering the season, with loads of promise.

While it was thought by most that top 2012 picks Chris Stratton and Martin Agosta would be joining the quartet of under-21 prospects in San Jose, the Giants brass decided to fill the final rotation spot with Ty Blach, an unheralded southpaw taken in the 5th round of the 2012 draft out of Creighton. Stratton and Agosta, though higher selections, were assigned to Augusta for Opening Day.

The rotation of Crick, Blackburn, Escobar, Mejia, and Blach entered the season with very high expectations. Aside from a couple of injuries that kept Crick and Mejia out for extended periods early in the year, the group didn’t disappoint.

2013 with SJ

Crick: 14 gs, 3-1, 1.57 era, 6.3 h/9, 5.1 bb/9, 12.5 k/9

Blackburn: 23 gs, 7-5, 3.65 era, 7.5 h/9, 2.4 bb/9, 9.3 k/9

Escobar: 16 g (14 gs), 3-4, 2.89 era, 8.2 h/9, 2.0 bb/9, 11.1 k/9

Mejia: 16 gs, 7-4, 3.31 era, 7.8 h/9, 2.4 bb/9, 9.2 k/9

Blach: 22 g (20 gs), 12-4, 2.90 era, 8.6 h/9, 1.2 bb/9, 8.1 k/9

Impressive stuff. Escobar, who may be the Giants’ breakout prospect of the year, was the lone member of San Jose’s rotation to get a midseason bump to AA Richmond. He was just as good after the promotion, logging a 2.67 ERA over 10 starts while averaging a strikeout per inning. Overall, Escobar finished the season with 146 K (10.2 k/9) and 30 BB (2.1 BB/9) in 128.2 IP. He’s moving very quickly through the organization all of a sudden, and he’s already on the 40-man roster to boot. In other words, don’t be surprised if he gets an invite to big league Spring Training next year. If he shows his stuff, we could see him in San Francisco sooner rather than later. My guess is that the Giants want to see how he holds up in the bandboxes of the PCL before they get too crazy with him. Either way, this Venezuelan lefty should easily be on every Giant top 10 list out there, if not most top 5’s.

Kyle Crick’s season was cut significantly short by an oblique strain in this third start. Honestly, I think the injury is the only thing that kept him from joining Escobar in Richmond. He was the staff ace in the second half, and opened the postseason with an absolute gem in game 2 against Visalia – a 3-hitter over 7 scoreless innings, with 8 K and 0 BB. Crick is the crown jewel of the system, “Mr. Untouchable” in the trade market. His fastball was too big for the Cal League in July and August, and he’ll get a chance to see how it matches up with some top talent in the AFL this fall. If he can get a handle on his wild cannon next year in Richmond, I say he’s knocking on Fresno’s door by mid-season.

Blackburn was steady-Eddie for most of the season. Got knocked around a few times, but kept the very good K/BB rates that he’s shown ever since the Giants stole him in the 16th round two years ago. He’s an old pro in a young man’s body, and he’ll take his game to AA with the rest of the bunch next year, still only 20 years old. As is Mejia, the 6-foot-3 Dominican lefty nobody’s talking about. But they should be, and I think they will by next season, if he can keep plugging along. He’s got as much upside or more than Blackburn, and the Giants liked him enough to give him a spot start in Fresno this year. He’s very unknown to the mainstream group, but I think that’ll change soon. Like Crick, Mejia missed some time to injury this year, and gets to spend his fall in the AFL with the big dogs.

Blach is the forgotten man in this group, but he had one hell of a season for anybody, let alone a guy who wasn’t even the second-most hyped pitcher in the Giants’ 2012 draft class. While Stratton and Agosta got all the press, Blach made an impact from the very start, and eventually earned San Jose team MVP honors in the process. He’s not fancy, and he’s just a tad older than the rest of this group, but his walk rates were insane. All. Season. Long. If it were any other year, Blach would be a household name after the season he put up, but for now he’ll hopefully continue to do his thing under the radar in Richmond in 2014.

Wow, got a little long-winded there. That’s a lot of talk about 5 guys. But those 5 are some of the best and brightest horses in the Giants’ minor league stable. They’ll make up the best rotation fans of the Richmond Flying Squirrels have ever seen next season, maybe to be joined by Chris Stratton if the brass so chooses.

We’ll shorten it up a bit on the bullpen, which featured partial seasons from a handful of very talented arms. Cody Hall and Josh Osich burned through the Cal League before taking their talents to AA mid-year. Osich struggled to get his feet under him in Richmond while Hall thrived for most of the second half. Both guys have a chance to be nice pieces in Bochy’s pen in the next couple years. Another partial season came from oft-injured Bryce Bandilla, whose 14.6 K/9 was the best in the organization this year. The big lefty lasted only 44.1 innings though, the same exact amount he tossed in 2012 before succumbing to injuries.

Hunter Strickland, a 24 year-old former Red Sox farmhand, made it only 21 innings before his arm failed him. He had 9 saves and a 0.86 ERA when he went under the knife for Tommy John surgery. It looks like the Giants want to keep him around, but I have no idea when he’ll be back on a mound.

Derek Law was called up from Augusta in July, and absolutely dominated as San Jose’s closer in the final months of the season. In 25.2 IP with the little Giants, he saved 11 games to the tune of a 2.10 ERA. He fanned 45 hitters and walked just one. Try that on for size! Law has pitched very well since the Giants drafted him in 2011, and he’s another underrated guy who is starting to make some noise.

Chris Marlowe is the final pitcher of interest to us here, and the only one who doesn’t fit the mold of beefy power arm like the rest of these relief guys. Marlowe runs his fastball low 90’s, but supposedly has the best curve in the organization. He made 7 starts for San Jose, but spent most of his season in the pen. His overall numbers aren’t bad, but I don’t think he did enough to earn a promotion. Richmond’s roster is going to be mighty crowded next year as it is.

Ok, I think that’s enough for one night. Can you tell how I felt about this pitching staff? Can’t forget about Mac and the San Jose bats though! I’ll have to get to them another night. I can only hope this was enough to keep your appetite wet for the rest of the story…

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Org Pitching Review: Little Giants

San Jose Giants

The Best:

Kyle Crick – R (20): 1.75 era, 56.2 ip, 6.5 h/9, 5.6 bb/9, 12.5 k/9 – Oblique injury limited his season significantly, but Crick has been nearly unhittable for the second year in a row. Still working on the control while blowing hitters away with the fastball.

Clayton Blackburn – R (20): 3.61 era, 122 ip, 7.6 h/9, 2.3 bb/9, 9.1 k/9 – Blackburn struggled a bit early on in the Cal League, but he’s rebounded to put together another very nice year. Old pro in a young man’s body.

Adalberto Mejia – L (20): 3.45 era, 78.1 ip, 7.9 h/9, 2.5 bb/9, 8.7 k/9 – Dominican lefty is another exciting prospect who’s shined in San Jose. Career bb/9 of 1.8. He’s young with lots of talent.

Ty Blach – L (22): 2.95 era, 119 ip, 8.8 h/9, 1.1 bb/9, 8.2 k/9 – First pro season has been a huge success for the college lefty. 15 walks in 119 ip… wow.

Bryce Bandilla – L (23): 5 sv, 3.48 era, 44 ip, 5.1 h/9, 4.7 bb/9, 14.7 k/9 – Bandilla is a power lefty with filthy stuff. Staggering k/9. Staying healthy is his biggest concern at this point.

Derek Law – R (22): 12 sv, 2.31 era, 58.1 ip, 6.8 h/9, 1.7 bb/9, 13.4 k/9 – Has thrived as San Jose’s closer with Bandilla out. Since promotion from Augusta, he’s got 30 k and 0 bb in 17 ip. A definite bullpen sleeper.

The Rest:

Chris Marlowe – R (23): 3.93 era, 71 ip, 8.9 h/9, 4.2 bb/9, 6.8 k/9 – Best curve in the system. Now pitching in relief.

Kelvin Marte – R (25): 3.72 era, 92 ip, 9.2 h/9, 1.6 bb/9, 6.9 k/9 – Pro since 2007, having a nice year in San Jose. Great control. Next year could be huge for him.

Hunter Strickland – R (24): 9 sv, 0.86 era, 21 ip, 4.3 h/9, 2.1 bb/9, 9.9 k/9 – Former Red Sox farmhand is out for the season with TJ surgery. Another big bullpen arm who the Giants want to keep around.

Jose Casilla – R (24): 3.43 era, 57.2 ip, 10.6 h/9, 2.0 bb/9, 6.1 k/9 – Santiago’s younger brother is back after missing all of 2012, and is still young enough to make some noise.

Stephen Harrold – R (24): 3.72 era, 48.1 ip, 8.6 h/9, 3.4 bb/9, 7.6 k/9 – Pitched in the Arizona Fall League (2011). Has good stuff, but hasn’t advanced as well as hoped since.

Jeff Soptic – R (22): 5.89 era, 36.2 ip, 9.3 h/9, 7.4 bb/9, 10.3 k/9 – 6 foot 6 righty has an electric arm and the typical control issues that follow. Former White Sox 3rd round pick.

Austin Fleet – R (26): 3.75 era, 105.2 ip, 8.4 h/9, 2.6 bb/9, 7.7 k/9 – Starting for the first time since 2010. Has spent time in Fresno and San Jose, and could be back in the former next year.

Overview: This is the meat of the system, even with Escobar, Hall and Osich moving up mid-season to Richmond. Between, Crick, Blackburn and Mejia, you have three of the youngest, highest upside starters in the organization. Crick is the gem, and he is unhittable at times. He has to keep working on his offspeed stuff and command, but he has a chance to be very good. Blackburn lacks the plus velocity of Crick, but he’s got twice the command. His secondary stuff is above average, and most consider him the Giants’ number 2 or 3 prospect in the system. Mejia has missed some time with injury this year, but he’s had a solid year overall. He works low 90’s with a good slider from the left side. Like Crick and Blackburn, he’s a baby with tons of upside. Those 3 are some of the youngest players in the California League… and some of the most talented. All 3 should be in Richmond next season.

Ty Blach always seems to get left out of the discussion, but his numbers are very impressive. While higher 2012 draft picks Stratton and Agosta are still in Augusta, Blach has put together a stellar campaign in his first professional season. I’d probably rank him in the top 20 overall for the system right now, and he’s definitely one of the top 5 LHP starters.

The Giants have a ton of power bullpen arms in the system, and Bandilla and Law are the San Jose representatives. Bandilla has incredible strikeout numbers, but he’s been hurt an awful lot in his career. Law is a guy who’s a little under the radar, but he’s putting up quite the campaign this year. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on. Marlowe has been up and down this year, and is now working from the pen. He’s got nice velocity to go with the big curve, but he’s not striking out many hitters in High-A.

The rest of this group features a mixed bag, with international minor league vets like Marte, who still has a chance to put it together, and TJ surgery guys like Strickland and Casilla. Harrold was sent to the AFL in 2011, so the Giants obviously have their eye on him. Soptic is a big-bodied project, and Fleet is a converted reliever who should get another look in Fresno next season.

This group of guys has made San Jose one of the top minor league teams again this year. While Richmond will house an impressive pitching staff next season, the High-A Giants won’t be too bad off themselves. Augusta’s staff, which will move up next year, isn’t as far behind the current San Jose pitchers as most would assume.

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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.