Updated Camp Battles (Part 2): Long Reliever

Updated Camp Battles (Part 2): Long Reliever

This might be the most wide-open battle in camp at the moment. With the front runners struggling early, a couple of dark horse candidates have emerged as real threats to win the long-man spot.

Yusmeiro Petit:  12.60 ERA, 5 IP, 14 H, 1 BB, 2 K | Odds: 60% (80% pre-spring) | Trending: Down

Outlook: Petit had a job to lose this spring, and so far he’s heading that way. While it’s a very small sample size, he’s been very hittable in almost all of his outings. There’s still time to iron out the wrinkles, but I don’t think he’s guaranteed the spot by any means unless he shows some improvement.

David Huff: 9.00 ERA, 1 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 K | Odds: 50% (40% pre-spring) | Trending: Stable

Outlook: His odds of making the team have risen, but that’s more an effect of Petit’s struggles than Huff’s performance. The lefty made his spring debut over the weekend, and looked a little rusty after missing some time to shoulder stiffness. He’s nothing spectacular, but the Giants like his versatility. He’s definitely in the running for this spot if he can show some consistency in the next few weeks.

Edwin Escobar: 1.50 ERA, 6 IP, 1 H, 5 BB, 1 K |Odds: 40% (N/A) | Trending: Up

Outlook: Ideally, the Giants would like Escobar to start the season in AAA, a stop he’s never experienced before. That’s probably still his likely destination, but Esky isn’t going away without a fight. He stepped up big in his start against Clayton Kershaw last weekend, working through some control issues and only allowing one run over 3 IP. I didn’t even include him in my pre-spring battles series, as I honestly didn’t think he was in the running for this spot. He’s definitely in the mix now.

Jose De Paula: 0.00 ERA, 4 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 4 K | Odds: N/A (25% pre-spring) | Trending: Up

**Update: Assigned to minor league camp.

Outlook: Offseason waiver claim wasn’t really even in consideration for the long-man spot when camp opened (I had him in the bullpen group as a lefty specialist). Four appearances later, De Paula’s got some folks talking about him. He features a 92-94 fastball from the left side, as well as a hard breaking ball and a nice changeup. In the outing that I watched, he was filthy for two innings. Lefties are very valuable out of the bullpen, so watch out for this guy going forward.

Jason Berken: 4.50 ERA, 6 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 3 K | Odds: N/A (N/A) | Trending: Stable

**Assigned to minor league camp.

Outlook: Another guy who wasn’t really in the mix when camp broke. He’s not flashy, but Berken has MLB experience, and was solid in 3 IP against LA over the weekend. Like I said, this spot is wide open at the moment right now, and stranger things have happened. Don’t forget about him.

Mike Kickham: No stats | Odds: N/A (25% pre-spring) | Trending: Down

**Assigned to minor league camp.

Kickham hasn’t appeared in any Cactus League games yet, although I think he’s pitched an inning or two in “B” games. I don’t recall what injury had been holding him back, but I’m curious to see what his stuff looks like this spring. Sounds like he throws a cutter now, but you can’t win a job from the bench, so he needs to get going.

2014 sf giants, spring training, photo

(SFGiantsphotos.mlblogs.com)

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Updated Camp Battles (Part 1) and a Luis Ysla Sighting

Eleven games down, and only three weeks remaining until Opening Day. I thought this might be a good time for a little update on the position battles front. As you’d expect, there have certainly been a few risers and fallers. A couple of surprise names have also thrown their hats into the ring, making these competitions even juicier.

Remember, we’re looking at five positions here. One reserve outfielder, one reserve infielder, and three bullpen spots. I’ve broken those pitching positions into long-relief and middle-relief, just as I did in my original position battle series. We’ll break down the position player spots here, then look at the bullpen battles in the next post.

Outfield

Tyler Colvin: 9 AB, .222, 1 2B, 0 BB, 3 K | Odds: 60% (65% pre-spring) | Trending: Down

Outlook: Nothing real exciting yet from Colvin so far, who’s been held out of action for a few days with a minor injury. I still think he’s the frontrunner if shows some power, but Perez is closing the gap.

Juan Perez: 23 AB, .304, 4 2B, 1 RBI, 5 BB, 4 K | Odds: 55% (45% pre-spring) | Trending: Up

Outlook: He owns the most AB of anyone in camp, and he’s been very impressive (.906 OPS) so far. He hasn’t tried to steal any bases yet, and he did have one big misplay in the outfield. But his patience at the plate is a nice surprise, and he’s definitely putting some heat on Colvin early.

Roger Kieschnick: 15 AB, .067, 3 BB, 8 K | Odds: 20% (20% pre-spring) | Trending: Down

Outlook: He wasn’t really expected to make the team out of camp anyway, but Roger’s really been struggling at the plate (only one hit in 15 AB so far). Considering he’s an offensive-minded player, you’d really like to see him flash some of that power before camp breaks.

Infield

Ehire Adrianza: 14 AB, .286, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K | Odds: 75% (50%) | Trending: (Way) Up

OutlooK: Sometimes it’s hard to put Spring Training in perspective. Think of it this way: Adrianza has essentially logged less than 4 full games worth of AB this month. However, I don’t think there’s been a cooler customer in Giants camp. The dude fields with the best of them, and he’s been constantly turning heads at the plate. I think he makes the team, and wouldn’t be shocked if he’s the Opening Day 2B (if Scutaro isn’t ready to start the year).

Tony Abreu: 20 AB, .250, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K | Odds: 60% (60%) | Trending: Stable

Outlook: Abreu hasn’t done anything wrong, so much as Adrianza has just done everything right so far. Before camp, I gave Abreu the slight edge in this battle. Now, I think he’s got an uphill fight to catch young Ehire. He’s healthy, and he’ll get every chance to show he’s worthy. I’m not convinced Scutaro will be healthy for Opening Day. In that case, I believe both Abreu and Adrianza would make the team.

Brandon Hicks: 14 AB, .429, 4 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K | Odds: 45% (20%) | Trending: Up

Outlook: I said before camp that Hicks was an interesting player to watch for his pop at the plate and versatility in the field. Turns out I was right (doesn’t happen often!), as Hicks suddenly has everyone’s attention after launching a 2-run shot off Clayton Kershaw yesterday. The Giants really could use some power off the bench, and I think Hicks could provide that. Don’t give up on him just yet.

Nick Noonan: 17 AB, .176, 1 BB, 4 K | Odds: 25% (25) | Trending: Stable

Not much to update on Noonan here. He’s off to a slow start, but he was a pretty big longshot this spring anyway. Fresno will likely be his April landing spot.

Other notes: Barry Bonds, back in Giants orange and black… the way it should be.

Mike Morse and Hunter Pence are back in the lineup after sitting out a couple days to some (hopefully) minor dings. Actually, both of them just crossed home plate on Pablo’s 2-rbi single off Jeff Samardzija.

Matt Cain is dealing today. He’s perfect through 5 with 7 K’s. Think Cainer isn’t out to make a statement this year?

I’ll leave you with this: Finally, there is actual video of lefty pitcher Luis Ysla, and it’s high-quality footage. Big ups to Conner Penfold, who might have just uncovered a future big leaguer. Ysla, the little-known Venezuelan prospect, went 91-95 with his fastball, flashed a tight slider and an impressive changeup. Only one player made solid contact, and that was recent draftee Jonah Arenado. Otherwise, Ysla looked good.

I’m not sure how Ysla stayed off the radar for so long, but he’s a Giant now, potentially headed for full-season ball, and might have a big year in store. Please, go visit Giant Potential and check that clip out. I hope you like pitching, because there’s going to be plenty of it this summer.

Sunday Wrap: Esky Steps Up, Crick Struggles

A few tidbits from a very busy day for the organization. Edwin Escobar, a “class-A pitcher” in the words of Vin Scully (I think he said it about five times, actually) outdueled Clayton Kershaw, no doubt impressing the front office in the process. Escobar certainly wasn’t always sharp, and I wondered whether he would make it out of the 1st inning.

He would ultimately toss four innings, allowing only one run on one hit. His four walks were uncharacteristic, but I can’t blame the guy for being amped up. As DrB noticed even on gametracker, Esky got squeezed on a number of pitches too. A solid outing for the kid against the archrivals, with hopefully many more to come.

Apparently Kyle Crick wasn’t able to work out of trouble in the “futures game” like Escobar was against the Dodgers. Sounds like Cricky was all over the place, and didn’t make it out of the inning. Walks, wild pitches and an infield hit. I believe it was 5 ER altogether…notice, he didn’t get hit hard. He rarely does. As most of us know, it’s all about control for the kid. You can’t beat yourself in this game, and Crick knows that.

A few other notes from today:

Big time homer from Brandon Hicks today. Taking Kershaw deep is a big deal, even in Spring Training.

Pablo looked solid again, both at the plate and in the field. He’s just such a different player when he’s in shape.

Conner Penfold from Giant Potential hit the jackpot today, getting footage of Luis Ysla and Keury mella in minor league camp. Conner was very, very impressed with Ysla, who featured a 3-pitch mix and ran his fastball up to 95… yeah, you read that right. Sounds like there’s plenty of video coming soon on his site, Giant Potential. If I’m not mistaken, that will be the first (and only) video of Ysla on the web.

Penfold also noted some strong performances from Ty Blach (sitting 93-94), Derek Law and Clayton Blackburn today. Seriously, just too much good pitching in this camp. I can’t wait for these guys to get their seasons started next month.

That’s all for this weekend. I’m hoping to have some updates on the camp position battles tomorrow, so stay tuned. Only three more weeks until Opening Day!

Giants Thumped by Seattle

Ok, maybe thumped is an understatement. But hey, turns out I didn’t miss much of a game yesterday. Not for the Giants, who surrendered 18 runs on 18 hits to the Mariners. The pitching had been pretty solid lately, but all good things must end. The way I look at it, if you’re going to have a game like this, you might as well get it out of the way when the scores still don’t matter.

A couple of notes here. There’s a lot of chatter about Ryan Vogelsong’s outing yesterday, as you would expect when a guy who struggled the previous season gets tagged for 7 runs in less than 3 innings of work. Yes, it would be very easy to look at Vogey’s line and ask if he’s got anything left in the tank. But having this blog has taught me more than anything not to settle for the easy answer – to look a little deeper.

Vogey gave up two 1st inning home runs, one to Brad Miller and the other to Michael Saunders. Both were two-run shots. I’ve watched the video of those home runs a few times, and I honestly didn’t see anything to be concerned about. The location really wasn’t bad. Both pitches were low and inside to a lefty hitter, and both hitters beat the pitch. And I’m not even sure either of those balls would be homers in any NL West park. They certainly wouldn’t have been in either AT&T or Safeco (the Mariners’ home). Both balls looked very wind-aided to me, especially Saunders’.

Long story short, I don’t think anyone should start sounding the alarm on Vogelsong after that performance yesterday. Does he have the same velocity he once did? Nope. Can he get by with 87-90? Maybe, but it’s way, way too early to make that determination right now.

These are just my opinions, and of course you may have a different one. But enough about that. So the Giants got waxed by a split-squad Mariners’ team that also put up 9 runs on the Dodgers last night, to the tune of four more home runs (2 from overweight Jesus Montero).

You know, the M’s did this last spring, and it really didn’t carry over to the regular season at all. A good friend of mine is a big Seattle fan, so I do pull for them. But unfortunately, 29 teams play their home games outside of Arizona, and you have to wonder if the Mariners’ front office even knows what it’s doing anymore… trying to build an offense with a bunch of thumpers to play in a severe pitchers park doesn’t sound like the best idea in the world to me.

Yesterday was a day to forget for all of us. So yes, let’s look ahead. Today is an exciting day for the organization, as Madison Bumgarner and Kyle Crick square off in a “futures game” intrasquad matchup. That should be a fun one, and I would imagine you’ll be able to find some video from that game over at Giant Potential when all is said and done. Conner P. is down in AZ right now, and he’s been giving us some sweet updates and footage from Giants minor league camp. Remember, his site is linked on the right.

In the day’s main event, we get to see Edwin Escobar match up with Clayton Kershaw. And guess what, it’s another MLBtv broadcast. I’m pretty stoked for this one, as it’ll be my first real look at Escobar. With Yusmeiro Petit struggling big time and David Huff still on the shelf, this is a huge opportunity for Esky to jump into the running for that long-man spot. Good luck, kid.

That’s all for now. I hope everyone has a relaxing, baseball-filled Sunday. And remember, today’s games start at 1 pm on the west coast, and 2 pm for those of us out here in Big Sky Country. 

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(SFGiantsPhotos.MLBBlogs.com)

March 6 & 7: Sights, Sounds and Thoughts

As the wheels keep turning, Giants pitchers keep twirling… 

March 6: Reds | W 3-2

March 7: Royals | W 5-0

Headlines

Tim’s Terrific: Hudson – 3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER; Lincecum – 3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER

Bomb’s away! Pablo and Pence go yard for 1st time.

Other Thoughts

Minicozzi keeps hitting; Battles wage on for reserve IF/OF spots; Law rocks in relief.

Lastly, the Giants trimmed their MLB camp squad by 13 this week. Most of the kids are back in minor league camp. Edwin Escobar, Derek Law, and Andrew Susac stick around. Angel Villalona was optioned to AAA (what does that mean in Spring Training?). The surprise for me was Rafael Dolis. He throws heat, and I wonder if he’ll stay in the organization.

The Giants have some big talent coming down the pipe. They know that, we know that. In my opinion, there’s a bright future ahead for some of these guys. But the organization means serious business this spring. The kids will get their time to shine one day. For now, there are some tight battles still to play out for the 25-man roster, and many of the guys vying for those spots have stepped up early.

There are great vibes coming from Giants camp right now. The records and stats aren’t real, but the effort, consistency and attitudes are. I like where this team is right now. 

One last note: tomorrow’s game against the M’s will be televised on CSN Bay Area. Tune in if you can, and let me know how it goes! I’ll be in an airport, but those are the breaks. Plenty more TV games to come…

Giants Win on TV

It was SoCal TV, but we’ll take it!

3/5 Box Score:

We got our first look at the 2014 Giants today (sans Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Marco Scutaro), who picked up a 3-2 Cactus League win over the Angels (sans Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton) in Scottsdale.

We’re already seven games into the spring slate, so most of us have seen a good chunk of short highlight clips already. But it’s still wild to think this was the first live-broadcast Giants game since last September. Seems like ages ago! I was able to catch today’s action from the second inning on. Let’s discuss it, shall we?

First, the good stuff…

Matt Cain: Cainer tossed his first three innings of the year, and kept up the trend of consistent starting pitching early on. I didn’t see all of his work, but I can tell you he threw a couple of curves in the third inning that were just filthy. He looked sharp, allowing only one baserunner.

Middle Order Bats: No Posey or Belt today, but Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and Mike Morse combined for four hits and three RBI out of the 3-4-5 spots. Pablo really does look great, which may seem like it’s not news since it’s been beaten mercilessly into the ground already. Honestly, it is news. Big news for the Giants. The Panda is in solid playing shape, and he swung the stick impressively against Jered Weaver this afternoon.

Morse laid a pretty mighty cut in the 5th, roping a double down the left field line and scoring Pence from first. Morse is another one who looks very good early.

Heath Hembree: Hembree had an atrocious inning in his first outing of the spring, but his second came with much less drama. Yorvit Torrealba turned one around to lead off the 9th, but Roger Kieschnick made a diving catch in the left-center field gap. After that, Hembree cruised for the final two outs, ending the game with a swinging strike 3 on an elevated fastball.

And to cap it all off, it was another two-hit day from Mark Minicozzi, aka Mr. Inspirational.

Now, the really good stuff…

Why is Jose De Paula on the 40-man roster? Because he’s nasty, that’s why. The offseason signee pitched two innings today, and was very surprising all the way around. His size, surprising. His frame, surprising. His left-handed stuff? Whoa Nellie.

Now, there’s obviously a reason this guy didn’t make it to camp with San Diego this year. He’s got age issues, he’s never pitched in AAA, and he’s pretty unknown. But he flashed some sweet control today, of both a fastball that he ran in on the hands of righties, and a sweeping back-foot breaking ball. Even Hank Schulman said it this afternoon: Remember this guy’s name. If he can continue to harness his stuff like he did today, and keeps pumping mid-90’s heat, he’s a serious threat for a roster spot come April.

Ok, it wasn’t all roses today. Here’s the bad…

Young bats: Between Roger Kieschnick, Nick Noonan and Gary Brown, I’m just not that impressed. Noonan had a hit today, and Kieschnick made that diving grab, but the offense is just looking a little 4A at the moment. Brown does have a few hits this spring, but he struck out in a big situation late in the game, and his swing just doesn’t seem like anything to write home about. I hope I’m wrong.

Younger bats: Included in the late-game substitutions were Andrew Susac, Mac Williamson and Joe Panik. While they only had one AB apiece, none of those AB’s were all that exciting. Mac had runners on the corners and nobody out, but grounded out weakly to the right side. Susac had two men in scoring position, but grounded out to short. Panik led off the 8th, but was also retired weakly.

All three of the kids looked like they were pitched backwards, and that’s something they’ll have to make some adjustments against when they get to AAA/AA respectively. Nobody’s expecting huge things from these guys in camp this year, but it would be cool to see one of them open some eyes before it’s all over.

Finally, the REALLY bad…

I didn’t get to see Ehire Adrianza (he didn’t play)! Bummer!

Overall, it was great to see the squad back in action. Now, I think I can say it officially feels like baseball season.

“Never Give the Hitter Too Much Credit”

Good evening, folks. Cactus League play rolls on, and our beloved Gigantes evened their record (that doesn’t count) to 3-3 today. Solid performances at the plate from 5th OF competitors Juan Perez, Tyler Colvin and Gary Brown. Colvin has been showing a nice stroke, but Perez certainly isn’t giving that spot up for free. Brandon Belt had another two hits today – Belt is the Spring Training champion every season… will this be the year he carries it into April?

Good outings on the mound from Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Edwin Escobar today. Bumgarner looks to be on a mission this year, but I guess you could say the same thing about each of these guys every season. Solid work overall from the starting pitchers early on. You can’t ask for much more than that.

For any MLBtv subscribers out there, the first televised Giants game is tomorrow at noon PST. It’s Matt Cain’s first go-around of the New Year, and I’ll definitely be tuning in. Looking forward to it!

A couple of links before we wrap it up:

Baggarly Law Story – From today, Baggs tells the story of Derek Law’s pop Joe (a follower of Cove Chatter on Twitter… Thanks Mr. Law!). The elder Law made it to the show, but unfortunately never entered the stat books. Years later, his son is living by the mantra, “never give the hitter too much credit,” and D-Law looks ready to break through.

Baggs Bumgarner Story – Also from today, Bumgarner (3 months younger than me) playing the mentor role for some of the kids in camp. Bummy taught Mike Kickham how to throw a cutter. Speaking of lefties not to forget about…

That’s all for tonight. Keep grinding away, everyone. Less than a month until Opening Day.