Org Pitching: Keep Your Eye on those Greenjackets!

Augusta

The Best:

Chris Stratton – R (23) 3.16 era, 125.1 ip, 8.7 h/9, 3.2 bb/9, 8.5 k/9 – Former 1st round pick has had a good but not great season in Augusta. Maybe he goes to Richmond next year?

Martin Agosta – R (22) 1.97 era, 86.2 ip, 5.5 h/9, 4.2 bb/9, 10.7 k/9 – 2nd round pick has flashed great stuff in first full season, but blisters and dead arm have limited his second half significantly.

Joan Gregorio – R (21) 4.18 era, 66.2 ip, 8.5 h/9, 2.3 bb/9, 10.8 k/9 – 6-foot-7, 180-lb beanpole was apparently throwing mid-90’s before hitting the DL. He’s got a 6.31 era in 7 second half starts, but he’s loaded with potential.

Kendry Flores – R (21) 2.65 era, 135.2 ip, 7.2 h/9, 1.1 bb/9, 8.9 k/9 –5th year in the organization has been a breakout for the young righty. He’s logged 10+ K’s four times in last 10 starts, topping at 15 in 8 innings his last start.

Steven Okert – L (21) 3.00 era, 60 ip, 8.2 h/9, 3.6 bb/9, 8.7 k/9 – 4th round pick last year, 6-foot-3 lefty is having a solid first full season in the pen. Can dial up the heat.

Stephen Johnson – R (22) 8 sv, 3.83 era, 49.1 ip, 7.1 h/9, 5.3 bb/9, 12.0 k/9 – D2 selection from 2012, throws upper 90’s with the fastball. Has been outstanding in the second half.

Ian Gardeck – R (22) 3.00 era, 54.0 ip, 6.8 h/9, 6.0 bb/9, 11.0 k/9 – Another bullpen flamethrower in his first full season. Big strikeout stuff, needs to control it.

Tyler Mizenko – R (23) 24 sv, 2.86 era, 50.1 ip, 7.7 h/9, 3.8 bb/9, 8.8 k/9 – Former closer from Winthrop is big with low to mid-90’s sink. Started the season red-hot, but has spent some time on the DL recently.

Jacob Dunnington – R (22) 3.60 era, 20.0 ip, 7.6 h/9, 4.5 bb/9, 13.0 k/9 – Former undrafted righty had a mysterious injury to start the season, and must be working his arm back to health in Augusta. Spent time in Richmond last year. Big strikeouts definitely a reason to keep an eye on him.

Mason McVay – L (22) 3.90 era, 64.2 ip, 9.3 h/9, 2.4 bb/9, 10.2 k/9 – 6-foot-7 lefty was a 26th round pick last year. Great k/bb ratio, but he’s been hittable in first full season.

The Rest:

Joe Kurrasch – L (22) 3.72 era, 58.0 ip, 9.6 h/9, 2.9 bb/9, 8.7 k/9 – 8th round pick from 2012 has found his niche since promotion from S-K last month. Threw a 2-hitter with 12 K’s in his most recent start.

Jorge Bucardo – R (23) 5 sv, 1.93 era, 42.0 ip, 6.0 h/9, 2.4 bb/9, 7.9 k/9 – Former standout starter missed all of 2011, most of 2012, and a good chunk of 2013 with shoulder injuries. He’s in the pen now, but still could find himself moving up the latter if he can stay healthy.

Joe Biagini – R (23) 5.03 era, 96.2 ip, 9.5 h/9, 3.9 bb/9, 7.4 k/9 – Big, strong righty has had an up and down season in Augusta’s rotation. He hasn’t seen great results since being drafted in 2011, but he’s certainly not a guy to give up on.

Matthew Lujan – L (25) 3.24 era, 72.1 ip, 8.7 h/9, 3.2 bb/9, 7.5 k/9 – Tore his UCL at the end of his senior season at USF, and went undrafted that summer (2011). Giants took a flier on him, and he’s put up nice numbers in parts of 2 seasons. Crafty lefty with very good secondary pitches. Should be interesting to see where he ends up next year.

Overview: This group is highly underrated in my opinion, and has really grown on me this year. Augusta is quietly having a great season in the SALLY, and the pitching staff has been the catalyst. Yes, guys like Crick, Blackburn, and Mejia in San Jose and Escobar in Richmond are younger and get more press, but the Giants have some serious talent at the Low-A level as well.

Naturally, the majority of these guys are products of the 2012 draft, highlighted by top picks Stratton (#1) and Agosta (#2). Among this list, Okert (4), Johnson (6), Kurrasch (8), Gardeck (16), and McVay (26) were all members of the Giants’ 2012 class, while Biagini (26) and Mizenko (28) were 2011 selections. If picking up big-armed bullpen guys like Gardeck, McVay and Mizenko below the 15th round isn’t solid drafting, I don’t know what is.

Among the Giants’ affiliates, San Jose’s rotation has earned the most love this year. And for good reason. But Augusta’s group of Stratton, Agosta, Gregorio, and Flores are nothing to sneeze at. Stratton hasn’t been as dominant as hoped this season, but he definitely hasn’t had a bad year by any means. He’s stayed healthy, and that can’t be overlooked. He still has every bit of upside as guys like Blackburn and Mejia, in my opinion, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he skipped over San Jose next season. He’s 23 and pitched in a major D1 college… it’s time to get him moving!

Agosta has been Augusta’s ace this season, but has battled injuries. Side-by-side, his numbers have been much better than Stratton’s, but Agosta just hasn’t consistently stayed healthy the past couple months. He’ll be an interesting player to watch next year in San Jose. Gregorio and Flores are international prospects who have opened a lot of eyes this year. Gregorio is very tall and can pump the fastball, but he’s been dealing with blister issues. Maybe that’s a cause for his shaky second half? Flores has been in the system a long time, but hasn’t really excelled until this year. Now, he’s flashing big time strikeout stuff. 15 K’s in his last start! And he’s still only 21.

The Greenjackets’ bullpen should be very exciting to watch next year in San Jose. Lots of college power arms from the recent drafts. Okert and McVay from the left side, Johnson, Gardeck and Mizenko from the right. Okert and Johnson probably have the best stuff, but Gardeck isn’t far behind. McVay is towering at 6-7, while Mizenko has used his sinker-slider combo to earn 24 saves this year. None of these 5 are putting up numbers like Heath Hembree did a few years ago or Cody Hall has this season, but they all have shown the ability to be dominant in stretches. I’ll say this: this bullpen has to be one of the best in all of Low-A.

Dunnington and Bucardo are the experienced relief guys who are probably only in Augusta because of recent injuries. Kurrasch, the lefty from Penn State has put together a nice string of starts since coming up from Salem-Keizer, and should definitely be on the radar after a 12-k performance the other day. Lujan and Biagini are a little older than the rest. It sounds like Biagini is a bulldog with good velocity, but he’s been way too hittable at the low levels. Lujan’s story is a new one to me, but he’s a guy I’ll be keeping an eye on now. His Perfect Game profile coming out of high school raved about his secondary stuff, and it sounds like he may have earned a nice draft selection his senior year if not for the TJ surgery. Could be an interesting guy to watch.

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Agosta Returns for Red-Hot ‘Jackets

Giants’ top pitching prospect Martin Agosta returned to the mound for Low-A Augusta last night, allowing only one baserunner in three innings of work. Word from David Lee in Augusta was Martin had a 50-pitch limit, which is why he was pulled after the 3rd.  The start was Agosta’s first appearance since July 21 and only his 3rd since the end of June. The month of July was certainly a frustrating one for the righty from Saint Mary’s, as he suffered from both a “dead arm” and a nagging blister. By all accounts, Agosta has been the Greenjackets’ ace this year, which is saying something when you look at the talent in that starting rotation. He’s outperformed guys like Joan Gregorio, Kendry Flores and Chris Stratton, and it really hasn’t been close.

Agosta’s 3 IP, 0 ER, 4 K outing last night lowered his ERA to a ridiculous 1.96 for the season. He’s got 101 K in 85 IP, and if he can manage to get another start in, I really see no reason for him to be in Low-A anymore. I thought both he and Stratton should have been moved to San Jose long ago, but Agosta was hurt and Stratton was a bit inconsistent for a while. Now they both look to be cruising along.

When I checked the Giants’ affiliate rundown on MiLB.com this morning, something really popped out at me. Augusta is 68-51. When did that happen?! If you hadn’t noticed (and I’ll admit I hadn’t), the Jackets are rolling along in the SALLY these days. Even more impressive, they’ve been winning without Agosta or Gregorio. Going back to the last week of July, Augusta has won 15 of its last 18 games. Literally one of the hottest teams in baseball.

So what’s going on with these guys? First, have you seen that pitching staff? We’ve talked about the rotation, but you’ll find just as many big time arms in the bullpen as well. You’ve got the flame-throwing righties, Stephen Johnson and Ian Gardeck. Between the two of them, you’ve got 16 consecutive scoreless IP, with lots of K’s to go around. Then there’s the high-upside lefties, Steven Okert and Mason McVay. Okert is 6’3” with a big heater, while McVay towers at 6’7”. Both have plenty of talent, and Okert has a miniscule 1.19 ERA over his last 10 games. Throw in closer Tyler Mizenko, the over-achieving closer from Winthrop, and you’ve got one hell of a relief corps for hitters in Low-A to deal with. Mizenko has actually been pretty shaky lately, but he still has pretty good numbers overall.

If San Jose fans thought they saw some great pitching this year, they’re right. But I think they’ve got a chance to see another solid crop of arms come through the Cal League next season as well. Make no mistake, the pitching staff is the strength of this team. But I’ll say this about the offense: there are some guys who can’t be written off just yet. I check the Giants’ MiLB box scores on a daily basis, and there are certainly guys at each level that I look for every day. Up until recently, there wasn’t much to look at on the hitting end for Augusta, besides some Dirt Bag named Duffy, who’s now tearing up the Cal League. Lately, though, a few guys have really started to come out of their shell at the plate.

Last 10 games:

OF Charles “Chuckie” Jones: .314/.385/.571, 3 2b, 2 hr, 7 rbi.

1B Joey Rapp: .389/.450/.556, 3 2b, 1 hr, 8 rbi.

SS Alberto Robles: .375/.412/.469, 1 hr, 3 rbi, 5 sb.

As the Jackets look to keep rolling down south, a final note. For a system that most rank near the bottom of the barrel in baseball, the Giants’ MiLB squads below AAA all have winning records. The AZL team is a blistering 34-10. I’m not sure where the system ranks with the rest of MLB, overall record-wise, but I’ll bet there aren’t many systems that have a higher win percentage. Some exciting times are coming folks – we can hope, at least.

Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects: #20

#20. Stephen Johnson – RHP, 22 yo, Lo-A: This list is full of bullpen arms with big fastballs. What separates Johnson from some of the other guys here is his velocity, which was regularly hitting 100 on the gun during his days at D-II St. Edwards. The Giants took him with a 6th round pick in the ’12 draft, but I’m not sure if he’s still lighting up triple digit heat or not. He’s been used strictly out of the bullpen as a pro, and really hasn’t had a ton of success in the low levels. With that type of fastball, he’s going to have a high k-rate, which he does this year (11.4 k/9). But his walk/9 rate of 5.3 is way too high, and a 5.57 ERA in 32 innings makes you think he doesn’t have much of a breaking ball at this point. If he can develop one at some point, however, he may take off. You don’t find guys who can crank it up like that too often.