Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blast From the Past: Tony Cloninger's Two Grand Slams

The first ballgame I ever listened to on the radio was in 1965, but it wasn't until 1966 that I started following baseball and listening to games on a regular basis. As I listened to Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons call the games, I slowly started to get a sense of the history of the game, the seasons, the rhythms and how it all fit together. The first time I had the sense that I was experiencing something special, something historic, and that it could happen at any moment, was on July 3, 1966.

My family lived way out in the mountains of Napa County. We didn't have TV, didn't get a daily newspaper, and my mother only listened to the classical music station on the radio. I didn't have my own transistor radio, but if I was lucky enough to know when a game was on, my parents would let me sit in an old car we had parked under a tree on our property and listen to games on the car radio. Yeah, I know it's weird but that's how it was. At other times, I'd take a bat and ball and head out to the oat field behind our property and hit balls to nobody. I'd hit it and then go chase it down, come back and hit it again. I'd pretend to be players on the Giants team and work my way through the lineup, hitting right-handed if it was Willie Mays turn to hit, and lefthanded if it was Willie McCovey's. Even though I never played organized baseball, I can still hit just as well lefthanded as righthanded, something I've always been proud of. But, I digress......

I don't remember how I knew there would be a game on Sunday, July 3, 1966, but I did and I was very excited. I wasn't allowed to go out to the old car and listen until the family had finished lunch, and lunch was a bit late that day. By the time I got out to the car, turned on the radio and found KSFO on the dial, I was dismayed to hear Russ announce the end of the first inning and say the score was 7-0 Braves. 7-0 Braves! The game was over before it got started, at least for me! I had been looking forward to this game, and I loved the sound of the announcers calling the game, and I wasn't about to be denied this opportunity, so I kept listening. Somewhere along the way, I picked up that Joe Torre had hit a 3 run homer in the first inning and the pitcher of all things, Tony Cloninger, had hit a grand slam! The Giants pulled most of their starting players early, and Ray Sadecki came in to pitch mom-up. I kept listening. In the fourth inning, the Braves loaded the bases again and who should come to the plate but Tony Cloninger. Blam! He hits another grand slam! The score was now 13-0, and Tony Cloninger had set a record by hitting two grand slam home runs in one game. I kept listening. Russ and Lon kept talking about the marvel of the two grand slams, probably because there wasn't anything else going on in the game to talk about. The Giants scratched out 3 runs and the Braves added 4 more including a RBI single by Cloninger in the 9'th inning. Another record, 9 RBI's in one game for a pitcher. Those records still stand to this day. The final score was 17-3!

Even though it was an embarrassing defeat for my Giants, that game is as vivid in my memory now as it was the next day. I have won several sports trivia quizzes by knowing Tony Cloninger's name as the pitcher who accomplished those feats that day. To this day, I absolutely hate arriving or tuning into a game even one pitch late. I am always uncomfortable leaving a game early even if the score is ridiculously lopsided. You just never know when history might be made in front of your eyes or ears.

Giants Top 50 Prospects #25: Brett Pill

#25 Brett Pill. 1B. B-R, T-R. BD: 09-09-1984. 6'4", 215 lbs.

2009 Stats: AA- .298/.348/.480, 19 HR's, 37 doubles. VWL: .303/.385/.517, 5 HR's, 4 Doubles in 89 AB's.

Brett Pill has followed a very similar career path as John Bowker. Here are Pill's stat lines for the past 3 years compared with Bowker's at the same stage of his career:


2007: Low A Augusta- .269/.321/.416, 10 HR's, 47 doubles.
2008: High A San Jose- .266/.321/.395, 9 HR's, 32 doubles.
2009: AA Connecticut- .298/.348/.480, 19 HR's, 37 doubles.


2005- High A San Jose- .267/.319/.414, 13 HR's, 27 doubles.
2006- High A San Jose- .284/.337/.424, 7 HR's, 32 doubles.
2007- AA Connecticut- .307/.363/.523, 22 HR's, 35 doubles.

Bowker jumped directly from Short Season to High A and stayed there 2 seasons, otherwise the numbers would be almost eerily similar. Pill's K rates have been lower, but that hasn't translated into better production. So, where does that leave Brett Pill as a prospect? Probably within the same tier as Bowker, Nate Schierholtz and Travis Ishikawa, guys who are going to have to prove they belong in the majors when they take over for an injured vet, or get a chance to play in a window before a more highly touted prospect comes along. Brian Sabean has historically put stock in winter ball performances, an Pill seems to have helped himself with a strong showing in Venezuela while Bowker complained about security and got himself sent home with a quad injury. Pill should be the starting first baseman in Fresno with an opportunity to challenge for the MLB first base job in 2011, sooner if there are injuries or other unforseen circumstances. I like the fact that he has kept hitting doubles while bringing his HR numbers up which means he is doing more than just hitting the balls that were doubles a little farther.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Minor League Report: BA Chats

A few notes from Jim Callis' BA chat from yesterday, 01-28-2010:

He thinks Buster Posey should stay at catcher.

Top 5 pitching prospects are Strasburg, Feliz, Matusz, Bumgarner, Drabek.

Callis' personal Top 10: Strasburg, Heyward, Stanton, Montero, Alvarez, Ackley, Feliz, Posey, Matusz, Bumgarner.

Not concerned about Bum's loss of velocity(I wish I could say the same).

We'll see Buster Posey in the majors in June.

All Day Chats today, 01-29-2010:

Jim Callis: Tommy Joseph should start out in Augusta this year. He was a "bit of a steal" for the Giants in round 2.

Not quite as high on Noonan as in the past, but still likes him. Young for leagues. Can be a solid regular.

Zack Wheeler "wasn't too far off" from Top 50. Should be there next year.

JJ Cooper:

Thomas Neal looks to be a "middle of the order guy" in the future.

Giants system would be bottom third without Posey and Bumgarner, but "you can say that about a lot of systems."

Darren Ford is the fastest player in the minor leagues, "90 on a scale of 20-80 if the speedometer went that high."

Sounds more concerned about Bum's velocity than Callis.

From Tim Alderson's comments, it sounds like the Pirates have a much more regimented player development program than the Giants. Unclear whether he thinks that is good or bad.

That's about it so far. Will keep monitoring as the Chats are still in progress.

Fantasy Impact: Third Base

Third base is a fairly strong position in shallower leagues, but once you go past 12 team leagues, the quality drops off dramatically and you will have to scrap for production from the position. There is a wide variety of strengths vs weaknesses to choose from. Here's my current 3B board:

1. Alex Rodriguez- has become a bit of an injury risk, but still one of the elite hitters in the game and still probably a first round draft pick. Stole 14 bases even with a bum hip!

2. Evan Longoria- Excellent hitter in a great lineup. Need to look elsewhere for steals, but elite power production and doesn't hurt you much in BA.

3. Ryan Zimmerman- Emerging superstar in an underrated lineup.

4. Kevin Youkilis- Production you can almost take to the bank. First base eligibility gives him nice versatility.

5. Aramis Ramirez- Should come back healthy. Good for 30+ HR's if he does.

6. Pablo Sandoval- Never quite know what to expect in a hitter's second full season, but Sandoval is a pure hitter. Think of him as Vlad Guerrero's Mini-Me. Saddled with a bad lineup around him, which limits his Runs/RBI's.

7. David Wright- Inexplicable power outage last year. Was it injuries? The ballpark? 2010 will be a crucial year.

8. Chone Figgins- Generally overvalued in fantasy leagues because of Steals chasers. Gives excellent value in Runs, BA, Steals but forces you to find HR's and RBI's elsewhere.

9. Mark Reynolds- Why in the world would I rank a guy with 44 HR's and 24 SB's this low? Because he hurts you in BA. You can make up production in counting stats at other positions, but because BA is an average stat, players like Reynolds, Uggla and Dunn drag the entire team down in that category. I can find HR's and SB's elsewhere. I'm not willing to concede BA.

10. Jorge Cantu- Also has first base eligibility. Poor defense may limit playing time.

11. Chipper Jones- Should bounce back some from last season, but has become a 5 day a week player. You lose production on his off-days.

12. Casey Blake- Might be the most underrated player at this position. Can probably pick him up at the tail end of shallow drafts.

13. Adrian Beltre- look for a major boost in production moving to Fenway.

14. Gordon Beckham- Loses SS eligibility, but plays in a favorable hitters park and a pretty good lineup.

15. Kevin Kouzmanoff- Used to hitting in tough ballparks and will stay in the lineup due to his defense.

Newcomers to monitor closely: David Freeze(Cards), Brandon Wood( Angels), Brett Wallace(Blue Jays), Pedro Alvarez(Pirates).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #24: Matt Graham

#24 Matt Graham. RHP. BD: 05-01-1990. 6'3", 195 lbs.(BA), 6'4", 215 lbs.(MLB).

2009 Stats: DNP(signed too late).

Drafted out of high school, Graham was seen early as a potential first rounder, but inconistency in mechanics led to inconsistency in velocity and quality of pitches. When his stock dropped, the Giants grabbed him in round 6 of the 2009 draft and paid a $500 K bonus to keep him from going to college at North Carolina. Graham has had games where he sat 90-93 MPH with a peak of 95, and showed a power curveball. If the Giants can iron out the kinks, they could have first-round quality pitching prospect to add to Zach Wheeler out of this draft. The Giants might be conservative with him and start him out in Arizona Rookie League. He turns 20 yo early in the season, so he's older than most HS draftees at the same stage. He's been described as having a "Roger Clemens-type body."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #23: Jose Casilla

#23 Jose Casilla. RHP. BD: 05-21-1989. 6'1", 190 lbs.

2009 Stats: Salem-Keizer(Short Season)- 1-1, 1.67, 27 IP, 9 BB, 31 K's, GO/AO= 2.77, 12 Saves.

I don't really know a lot about Casilla except what can be deduced from his stat lines which have been quite exciting, except for small sample sizes. His progress has been hampered somewhat by injuries. Used exclusively as the closer for S-K last summer, he again showed a terrific K/9, decent BB/9 and a great ground ball ratio. I would extrapolate from this that he has a hard, sinking fastball with enough secondary stuff to put hitters away, a somewhat rare and much sought after combination. He's the kid brother of recently signed relief pitcher Santiago Casilla, something I didn't know until the signing when it was mentioned in one of the news stories about the signing. My own opinion is that minor league closers don't get enough innings to grow as pitchers, so I hope they give him more multi-inning roles in the future. I'll guess he will be on the Augusta roster to start the 2010 season.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #22: Henry Sosa

#22 Henry Sosa. RHP. BD: 07-28-1985. 6'2", 195 lbs.

2009 Stats: AA- 6-0, 2.36, 72.1 IP, 25 BB, 44 K's.

Henry Sosa is becoming somewhat of an enigma with a series of injuries threatening to derail a most promising career. Sosa was putting up a good season in AA, albeit one with uninspiring secondary stats when it was prematurely ended by another injury, this time a torn right shoulder muscle. Coming on the heels of a torn patellar tendon and a torn pectoral muscle, you have to start wondering if Sosa doesn't just have poor protoplasm, like Kurt Ainsworth. While none of the individual injuries is career threatening by itself, the accumulation might well be. Sosa would undoubtedly be ranked a lot higher were it not for last season's injury, but the potential ceiling keeps him from dropping out of sight completely. Not sure if he'll pitch in AA or AAA in 2010. I expect him to move to the bullpen either way. It would seem that he must both pitch well and avoid another injury to keep his career alive, but if he can accomplish both, he should move up in next year's list.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #21: Ydwin Villegas

#21 Ydwin Villegas. SS. B-S, T-R. BD: 09-01-1990. 5'10", 165 lbs.

2009 Stats: AZL(Rookie)- .302/.345/.352, 12 SB's, 3 CS. Salem Keizer(Short Season)- .375/.444/.375 in 8 AB's.

Ydwin Villegas is a slick fielding SS who produced a nice BA with some speed, but little power for the Arizona League Giants, essentially a younger version of Ehire Adrianza. Since he didn't turn 19 until the end of the season, he is likely to have considerable upside. I rated him behind Adrianza because they are essentially the same player, but Adrianza is farther up the ladder. The question I have is where will Villegas play in 2010? With Adrianza apparently ticketed for San Jose, that leaves the Giants with a choice of Villegas or Ryan Cavan and his power potential for Augusta. I have no idea what the Giants are thinking. If it was up to me, I think I'd put Cavan in Augusta with Villegas in extended spring training and then Salem-Keizer. We'll see.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #20: Chris Dominguez

#20 Chris Dominguez. 3B. B-R, T-R. BD: 11-22-1986. 6'3", 215 lbs.

2009 Stats: AZL(Rookie)- .306/.375/.528, 2 HR's in 36 AB's. Salem-Keizer(Short Season)- .254/.298/.442, 9 HR's, 11 SB's, 2 CS in 181 AB's.

Perhaps no other player in the Giants system has a higher ceiling or a lower floor than Chris Dominguez. Blessed with tremendous raw power, a great throwing arm, and enough speed to steal some bases, he also struggles mightily to make contact. With limited range at 3B, he may have to move to 1B, but if he can hit at all, he will probably hit well enough to bea plus hitter at first base too. It's a little unclear where he is going to play in 2010. Logically, a 3'rd round college draftee would be pushed to high A San Jose, but Fred Stanley didn't mention him in his recent interview with while projecting Drew Biery for that slot. My guess is Chris will play 3B/1B/DH for Augusta while the Giants try to get him to strike out less often. His combination of tools/skills reminds me a lot of Dave Kingman. I'm not sure if that is good or bad. Dominguez could be a very useful player if he can stick at 3B and hit 6'th or 7'th in a batting order.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Giants Draft Review: 2003

I'm going to do a series of Giants draft reviews. BA has Draft Databases back to 2003 so we'll start there. I will only list players who signed. I will list the Round, Overall Draft Rank, Players, Position, Current Status:

1. 22. David Aardsma, RHP. Closer for Seattle Mariners. Mishandled by the Giants who tried to rush him into the closer's role vacated by Robb Nen. Traded to the Cubs along with Jerome Williams for LaTroy Hawkins in 2005. Inconsistent career since then, but currently the Closer in Seattle.

1S. 34. Craig Whitaker, RHP. Still in the organization as a reliever. Pitched for AA CT last year. Has a 2010 Spring Training invite.

2. 55. Todd Jennings, C. I'm not sure if he is still in the organization or not. Good athlete, but too small to catch. Numerous injuries.

2. 63. Nate Schierholtz, 3B. Converted to OF. Seems to be #1 on the Giants RF depth chart right now.

3. 93. Brian Buscher, 3B. Grabbed by Minnesota a couple of years ago in the Rule 5 draft. Has played some in the majors.

4. 123. Brooks McNivan, RHP. Released last year.

5. 153. Mike Wagner, OF. Released a couple of years ago.

6. 183. Billy Sadler, RHP. Had a cup of coffee in the majors. Released last year. Good stuff, could never control it.

7. 213. Pat Misch, LHP. Released last year. Picked up by the Mets and pitched some very good games in the majors late last year. Could stick as the Mets #5 starter in 2010.

8. 243. Tim Hutting, SS. Released. Out of baseball.

9. 273. Kellen Ludwig, RHP. Released. Out of baseball.

10. 303. Jesse Schmidt, OF. Released. Out of baseball.

11. 333. Jeff Peterson, RHP. Released. Out of baseball.

12. 363. Ryan Sadowski, RHP. Pitched in the majors last year after RJ got hurt. Released after the season. Going to Japan.

13. 393. Nick Conte, C. Released. Out of baseball.

14. 423. Spider Martin, RHP. Released. Out of baseball.

15. 453. Ben Thurmond, RHP. Released. Out of baseball. Bad elbow.

16. 483. Mike Mooney, OF. Played last year for AA CT. Organizational player at this point.

17. 513. Marcus Sanders, SS. Signed in 2004 as a draft and follow. Showed great promise as a speedster with a good OBP early on. Career ruined by mulitiple shoulder injuries and surgeries. Shoulder originally injured playing football in high school.

18. 543. Patrick Dobson, OF. Released. Out of baseball.

19. 573. Jon Coutlangus, OF. Converted to LHP. He was added to the 40 man roster at one point and then DFA'd the same year. Picked up by Cincinnati, he has pitched in the majors.

23. 693. Mike Kunes, LHP. Released. Out of baseball.

24. 723. Brian Wilson, RHP. Giants current Closer! Had Tommy John surgery pre-draft causing his stock to drop. The Giants drafted him anyway and he has done a nice job of solidifying the closer position.

30. 903. Derek Barrows, 3B. I have no recollection of him playing in the organization. Out of baseball?

33. 993. Travis Nesmith, LHP. Released. Out of baseball.

36. 1083. Tim Alvarez, LHP. Released. Out of baseball.

Right now, I'd grade this draft a C+ with Brian Wilson being the big success story. It could go up to a B or better depending on how Nate Schierholtz does with his opportunity. If you count Aardsma's success with Seattle, it might rate a B+.

Giants Top 50 Prospects #19: Ehire Adrianza

#19 Ehire Adrianza. SS. B-S, T-R. BD: 08-21-1989. 6'1", 155 lbs.

2009 Stats: Low A- .258/.333/.327, 7 SB, 1 CS.

#19 is quite a bit lower than BA's list which has Adrianza in the top 10. The Giants still think he is going to be a plus fielder despite 30 errors last season. His bat may be projectable as he fills out his frame. Right now, an IsoOBP of .075 is about the only thing he has to recommend him. The Giants seem to see Brandon Crawford as their SS of the future, but Adrianza is a solid #2 on the depth chart. Slated to be the starting SS for San Jose in 2010, Ehire Adrianza will definitely be worth a trip to the ballpark when the Giants come to town.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Freddy Sanchez' Shoulder Surgery

I guess it's no mystery why the Giants were keeping a lid on this one. Yeah, it's his left shoulder and he's righthanded, but don't you need that front shoulder to forcefully bring that bat through the 'zone? I've defended the Alderson/Sanchez trade, but this is starting to seem like a Coen brothers movie where bad stuff just keeps getting worse and worse no matter how frantically people try to dig themselves out. Talk about due diligence! Isn't this giving a whole new meaning to the term? Maybe this explains why Sabes kept on signing people who can play 2B all offseason. Let's see, Sanchez, Uribe, DeRosa, Frandsen? Yeah, I think we have that position covered!

Hot Stove Update: Odds and Ends

Is there a worse run team in baseball than the Mets(shall we call them the Mess?). They enabled the Angels to pull off the impossible task of unloading Gary Matthews Jr, one of the worst players in baseball over the last 2 years. Sarge Jr is even getting a $500 K raise out of the deal! Oh, the Angels are paying all but $2 M of the his contract, you say? The only problem is that Matthews Jr. contract value, as estimated by, was a NEGATIVE $3.6 M and $3.8 M the last two years respectively! Talk about blocking prospects, it looks like Fernando Martinez might never play in a Mets uniform again! Endy Chavez, Randy Winn and Reed Johnson are all still available, can all play CF, and all would likely be better values.

Jesus Guzman was released by the Giants to make room on the 40 man roster for Bengie Molina. Apparently the Giants are still holding out hope of trading Kevin Frandsen or Fred Lewis before the season starts, and valued Alex Hinshaw's arm in the bullpen mix over Guzman. I would think there is some team out there who should take a flier on Guzman. His hitting numbers in the minors are just too good to pass up. It probably won't be the A's with Billy Beane's newfound obsession with defensive metrics, although Guzman is essentially the same player as Jake Fox who Billy traded for earlier this offseason.

Speaking of the A's, Grant Desme, their #8 ranked prospect announced his retirement from baseball to become a PRIEST! This after Desme absolutely tore up the Arizona Fall League and appeared to be an a fast track to the majors. Now, be it far from me to criticize a man for following the call of God, but the ability to hit a pitched baseball is a God-given talent that very few people on Earth possess. If Desme wanted to make an impact for the Lord, just think of the difference between a former minor league star and a MLB player! Just my opinion. There has to be more to this story!

The Roy Halladay deal may haunt the Phillies for years to come. It seems they already have $130 M tied up in salary for 2011 and may not be able to afford Jayson Werth. That wouldn't be so bad if they still had Michael Taylor, but it's no sure thing that Domonic Brown will be ready by then.

Noah Lowry is reportedly close to signing with a team. Just a guess that it's not the Giants. Too bad. I'd love to see him in camp with the Giants come spring training. Even without the burned bridges, he probably has a better chance of sticking with another team.

Doug Davis was on my wish list for #5 starter for the Giants, but probably not at the $4.25 M plus option with $1M buyout he got from the Brewers. I guess there are just a lot of teams out there who are more desperate for pitching than the Giants.

Terrific move by the Cincinnati Reds to sign Jose Arredondo to a minor league deal. Arredondo will miss the entire 2010 season with TJ surgery, but the Reds can pay him a minor league salary while he rehabs then add him to the 40 man roster next offseason giving them a very nice bullpen option for 2011.

Hot Stove Update: Bengie Molina Fallout

The Bengie Molina signing has gotten ripped across the internet from respected bloggers like Grant on to random sites like The common themes seem to be: 1. Bengie is blocking Buster Posey. 2. His OBP is so terrible it negates everything that he might do well. 3. He's so slow on the bases it's too painful to watch. I'll defend the signing with a few points:

1. It's only a 1 year deal, so he's really not blocking anybody. I'm sure Buster could play in the majors now if he had to, but It's also likely he would have a considerable adjustment period. Now the Giants can bring him along at his own pace and don't to risk "Super Two" status like Timmy.

2. While the Giants need a better team OBP, they weren't going to find it at the catcher position this year. Buster will probably eventually be a very tough out, but it's fairly hard to put up a .300+ OBP if your BA is .220 which Buster's could well be for a considerable time.

3. OBP is not the end-all, be-all of hitting. While Rod Barajas and Yorvit Torrealba, the only other veteran catching options available, had career years in 2009, Bengie has hit at least 15 HR's for the last 5 years. It's more than just HR's too. Bengie has added 33 and 25 doubles the last two seasons. Doubles? You mean Bengie can actually run past first base on a ball in play? You'd never guess it from the negative hyperbole reverberating through the blogosphere. He's been a consistent RBI producer. OK, go ahead and sneer at RBI's. The RBI's were not just because Bengie batted 4'th. In addition to the HR's and doubles, Bengie has led MLB in Sac Flies the last two seasons with 11. Getting those runners home from 3B is crucial, especially on a team with pitching like the Giants. Bengie's done it 22 times in the last 2 years. No, Bengie is not a cleanup hitter on a good hitting team, but it's not his fault the Giants didn't have a MLB quality cleanup hitter. Bengie will almost certainly bat lower in the order this year, I project him to bat 6'th where his low OBP will hurt less and his power and RBI skills will be welcome.

4. If the Giants were going to go with a veteran catcher for 1 year, it's much better to go with the guy who already knows the pitching staff unless the replacement is an order of magnitude better in other areas, which Barajas and Torrealba are not.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #18: Conor Gillaspie

#18 Conor Gillaspie. 3B. B-R, T-R. BD: 07-18-1987. 6'1", 200 lbs.

2009 Stats: High A- .286/.364/.386, 4 HR's, 31 doubles.

For a supplemental first round draft pick who hit over .400 in college, Conor Gillaspie had a disappointing season in 2009. While his BA wasn't terrible, he showed very little power and struggled on defense. One explanation, from Giants Director of Player Development Fred Stanley, is that Conor's knowledge of the strike zone was too good for high A ball. The theory is that he had a lot of strikes called on pitches that were actually out of the strike zone, and would have been balls with better umpiring. His IsoOBP of .078 was good, so maybe there is something to it. He'll have to be able to handle umps giving pitchers the benefit of the doubt when he's a rookie in the big leagues, though.

I saw Conor play 3 times last season. The most worrisome part of his game is on defense. He looks quite awkward at 3B and appears to struggle to make routine throws. The 3'rd time I saw him, he made several routine plays without incident and looked a bit more confident. He reportedly voluntarily went to Arizona Instructionals in the fall to work on his defense, so maybe it will come around.

I would project Conor to be a Bill Mueller/Dave Magadan type of hitter with a high BA, marginal power, marginal defender. If he can play a passable 3B, he can have a solid MLB career if he can consistently hit >.300. He'll start 2010 at AA Richmond.

Giants Top 50 Prospects #17: Darren Ford

#16 Darren Ford. B-R, T-R. BD: 10-01-1985. 5'11", 195 lbs.

2009 Stats: High A: .300/.386/.463, 9 HR's, 35 SB's, 12 CS.

Darren Ford was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers organization in the Ray Durham trade. He hit just .219 over 38 games after being assigned to San Jose after the trade. Blessed with great speed, the Giants thought they might enhance his value as a CF/leadoff man by having him switch-hit. That experiment didn't go well as his Batting Average, again with San Jose, plummeted to .173 in May and .189 in June of 2009. Ford went back to hitting just righthanded and he got red hot going .352, .348 and .455 in July, August and September even showing a bit of power which had not been evident in the past. Darren has always shown an ability to take a walk and that tendency continued last year with a .086 IsoOBP. I saw him play 3 times last season. He is a tremendous athlete with a great ballplayer's physique. I don't think I have ever seen a player run out a triple or go from first to third faster and that includes Fred Lewis who is pretty darn fast himself. The big question is whether he can keep the hitting going. The last 3 months of 2009 represented a huge jump from anything he had done prior. Was it a breakout or a fluke? The Giants were apparently impressed enough to add him to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. We'll seen when he goes to AA Richmond for 2010.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Santiago Casilla

Several minor league deals involving the Giants and ex-Giants players:

Giants signed RHP Santiago Casilla to a minor league deal. I like this move. Casilla was hampered by injuries last season and struggled to a 5+ ERA, but had ERA's of 4.44 and 3.93 with good K rates the prior two seasons with Oakland. At one point in 2008 there was speculation that he might move into the closer role with the A's. His pitch repertoire is listed as 73% fastballs at 94.2 MPH, 20% sliders at 83.8 MPH and 6% changeups at 84.7 MPH, from April 2009. It looks like he could use a bit more velocity differential on the changeup. I would put his chances of making the Giants bullpen at >50%.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #16: Clayton Tanner

#16 Clayton Tanner. LHP. BD: 12-05-1987. 6'1", 202 lbs.

2009 Stats: 12-6, 3.17, 139.1 IP, 42 BB, 121 K's, GO/AO= 1.46.

Drafted in the 3'rd round of the 2006 draft out of high school, Tanner has been working his way up the ladder. 2009 was his second season at San Jose. I like that decision as he is still not old for his level and it gave him a chance to stretch out from 117 IP to 139 IP and polish his stuff a bit. He had kind of run out of gas in 2008 while finishing strong despite the greater number of IP in 2009. Tanner features a low 90's fastball with good sink, a nice downward breaking curveball and a decent change up. On the mound, he looks a lot like Noah Lowry, except Noah was a flyball pitcher and Tanner is a GB pitcher. With another couple of years to polish up his game, I think Clayton Tanner has the potential to be a #3 MLB starter. He should begin the 2010 season in AA Richmond.

Hot Stove Update: Bengie Molina Re-Signs With Giants

It's not a big surprise that the Giants signed a veteran catcher for 1 year to buy some more time for Buster Posey, but not many people were expecting it to be Bengie Molina who seemed locked into the Mets all offseason. The longer the Mets negotiations dragged on, and seemed to get more rancorous, the more I started to suspect that Bengie just might decide his best bet was to come back to the Giants for 1 year. Of course, after the Giants signed Aubrey Huff, I didn't think there was enough $$$$ left to sign anything more than a backup. It would seem that the Giants breathed a huge sigh of relief when Timmy didn't submit an arbitration request of $23 M and decided that they had the $$ for Bengie.

I like the move. Bengie can still contribute and should be much better accepted by the fans if he doesn't have to bat cleanup. The Giants need to rest him more often this year.

Now the Giants have a chance to prove that they are serious about contending for a playoff spot and thus a Championship. They need to make two more moves: 1. Sign Jon Garland as the #5 starter. 2. Sign Kiko Calero for the bullpen. They make those two moves and I'm ready to make them my favorite for the NL West.

Giants Top 50 Prospects Addendum: Waldis Joaquin, Dan Runzler

The Hardball Times has a listing of Best Average Velocities by players who made their MLB debut in 2009:

3. Waldis Joaquin-97.0 MPH.

5. Dan Runzler-96.7 MPH.

The even break it down to 4 seam FB vs 2 seam. Joaquin's is a 4 seamer. His 2 seamer was in the top 10 at 96.7 MPH while Runzler's two seamer was faster than his 4 seamer which came in at 95.3 MPH.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #15: Jason Stoffel

#15 Jason Stoffel. RHP. BD: 09-15-1988. 6'2", 225 lbs.

2009 Stats: AZL(rookie)- 0-0, 1.86, 9.2 IP, 0 BB, 6 K's. Salem-Keizer(short-season)- 1-0, 0.00, 10.1 IP, 1 BB, 13 K's.

The Giants drafted Jason Stoffel in the 4'th round of the 2009 draft. His stock slipped from almost certain first-rounder during his junior season at Arizona where he was the closer. His K/9 dropped into single digits while his BB/9 rose above 4 as did his ERA. He features a 93-95 MPH fastball and a slider that can be "unhittable." BA's predraft scouting report blamed his Junior season struggles on inconsistency saying he tended to lose focus in more low-leverage situations. He certainly didn't show any such inconsistency in two stops in the Giants system after turning pro. He looks like a classic Giants pitching prospect project. I would expect to see him start the season as San Jose's closer and he could rocket to the top as fast as Dan Runzler last season, although it might be better to take it slow with him and use him in multi-inning situations to build his pitching repertoire and experience.

Blast From the Past: Bob Shaw

The first game I ever listened to on the radio was pitched by Bob Shaw for the Giants. I'm pretty sure it was during the '65 season. It was an evening game in New York against the Mets. I was about 9 years old. My family was driving from Yosemite to Southern California on a road trip vacation to visit relatives. My dad was trying to find something on the radio to keep him awake while driving. He found the game and left it on, possibly at my urging, because my dad was never interested in sports. There was just something about the way Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons were describing the action that caught my imagination. I was forever hooked as a baseball fan from that day on. I don't remember too much about the game, but the Giants won 2-1. For awhile, it seemed like every game I listened to had Bob Shaw pitching for the Giants. It wouldn't be until the following mid-season that I would get to listen to a game Juan Marichal pitched. More on that later.

Bob Shaw came to the Giants before the 1964 season in a trade with the Milwaukee Braves for Felipe Alou, among others. He was a journeyman RHP who managed to put together 3 or 4 pretty good seasons in a 10 season career. Prior to pitching for the Braves, he was a member of the Go-Go White Sox who lost to the Dodgers in the 1959 World Series. Shaw pitched two of those games winning one against none other than Sandy Koufax, and losing one. He had played in college, something of a rarity back in those days, and was known as a bit of a flake. He broke in with the Detroit Tigers. When the Tigers sent him back to the minors, he refused to go. After staring them down for 10 days, they traded him to the White Sox where his career flourished and he got to play in a WS. One time, after getting into a contract dispute with the White Sox ownership, he climbed on the roof of Comiskey Park and shouted down at fans coming into the Stadium, "What are you doing here, they're going to lose!", or something to that effect. He was also known for getting called for 5 balks in one inning in 1963 while pitching for Milwaukee.

Shaw was always suspected of throwing a spitball, not an entirely unusual situation in those days. Most baseball pitchers back then probably threw some type of illegal pitch. It wasn't until the late '60's when pitching became so dominant that baseball cracked down and started disallowing pitchers to go to their mouths on the mound. Shaw always denied throwing a spitter. He said that if opposing hitters thought he was, it just gave him an advantage with his conventional pitches because they were distracted. In his book, Gaylord Perry identified Shaw as the person who taught him the spitter. Shaw allegedly worked with Perry through the '64 and '65 seasons helping him perfect the pitch. Perry had his breakout season in 1966. Shaw was sold to the Mets during the '66 season after posting a 1-4 record with a 6.25 ERA in 13 appearances.

Bob Shaw was used mostly in relief in '64 after coming to the Giants, but moved into a fulltime starter role one game into the '65 season. He went on to post a 16-9 record with an ERA of 2.64 as the Giants second best pitcher that year after Juan Marichal. I remember his games tended to be laborious affairs. I don't think anyone kept track of pitch counts in those days, but it seemed like Shaw went to 3-2 on almost every batter he faced. Ultimately, he didn't strike out or walk very many batters, he just took his time getting them to put the ball in play. I remember the first time I listened to a Juan Marichal game, the difference was striking. Juan would jump ahead of the hitters and put them away quickly rarely getting to 3 balls in the count. Juan's games were much more crisp, fast moving and fun to listen to. Shaw was a classic contact pitcher whose success was largely dependent on what happened to the ball after it was put in play, in other words, luck. He would have a great season followed by 2-3 mediocre ones then another great season. Less than 2 years after his stellar '65 season, he was out of baseball for good.

Shaw was an avid student of pitching mechanics. He wrote a book called Pitching that can still be purchased on There were 4 copies available when I looked. The add has several testimonials from little league coach types about how they used the book in their coaching to great success. He was the pitching coach for the Milwaukee Brewers until he "resigned" in 1973. He was criticized for tinkering too much with the pitchers deliveries and blamed for ruining at least one Brewers pitcher's career. On the other hand, Jim Colburn credited Shaw with turning his career around. Shaw retired to Jupiter, Florida and continued to teach pitching in baseball clinics and camps. He was an avid investor in the stock market and in real estate. He was honored at US Cellular Field in Chicago, along with the other 1959 White Sox when the Sox played in the WS in 2005. That is the last reference I could find on him. I assume he is still alive and living in Florida. Born in 1933, he will be 77 sometime this year.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #14: Waldis Joaquin

#14 Waldis Joaquin. RHP. BD: 12-25-1986. 6'2", 190 lbs.

2009 Stats: AA- 4-5, 2.67, 54 IP, 28 BB, 40 K's. AAA- 1-0, 0.00, 10 IP, 2 BB, 16 K's. MLB- 0-0, 4.22, 10.2 IP, 7 BB, 12 K's. Dominican Winter League- 1-0, 2.35, 15.1 IP, 3 BB, 15 K's.

Waldis Joaquin is the right-handed bookend to Dan Runzler, a fireballer with great K rates and marginal walk rates. Joaquin first came to attention in 2005 when as an 18 year old, he made BA's AZL top 20 list along with Sharon Martis. Their scouting report had him hitting 98 MPH 8 times in one 3-inning stint near the end of the season. He missed the entire 2006 season with TJ surgery, then went 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in 38 IP for Salem-Keizer in 2007. 2008 was a bit of a struggle in Augusta and San Jose with ERA's >4, good K rates, but poor walk rates. I saw him pitch in Lake Elsinore near the end of the 2008 season and his fastball was sitting at 94 MPH with a pronounced run that seemed to contribute to his control struggles. He also appeared to have a hard slider and a change-up to my eye. The Giants moved him up to AA to start last season where he had a better ERA, but not as impressive secondary stats. The Giants must have really liked his stuff, because he still got a late season promo to Fresno where he was absolutely lights out. He showed flashes of brilliance in 10 MLB appearances. I caught a couple on TV where he was hitting 98-100 MPH with sink and run on his fastball. Again, he was successful in missing bats, but walked too many. The secondary stats were much better in winter ball. Based on the player movement this winter, it would seem that the Giants are planning on him starting 2010 in the MLB bullpen, where if he can harness that talent he should be a dominant setup man in short order. He is a somewhat rare combination of high velocity, high K, groundball pitcher that should play very well in the majors. Felix Hernandez is the comp. for that combo.

Fantasy Impact: Second Base

Second base has become a very deep position, possibly the deepest in the sport. There is more firepower at the top of the first base rankings, but you can get decent production from second base much farther down the list. I mean a guy like Clint Barmes, who hit 23 HR's, stole 12 bases with 76 RBI's and 69 Runs, solid 5 category production is ranked #31 in one 2010 fantasy baseball publication. If you want power, SB's, Batting Average or some combination of all categories, you can find it at the second base position, and you can find it late in the draft or even on the FA market even in 15 or even 20 team leagues. Here is my ranking:

1. Chase Utley- Little comment necessary.

2. Ian Kinsler- His BA fell off to .251 last year, but should bounce back. Elite production in all other categories.

3. Brian Roberts- Reliably great production in BA, SB's and Runs. Adequate in RBI's and HR's.

4. Dustin Pedroia- Was down a tick last year and still gave 5 category production.

5. Ben Zobrist- The MVP of baseball last year by WAR(Wins Above Replacement). That's helped alot by his defense, but a .948 OPS ain't too shabby. He'll be the full time 2B for TB after the Iwamura trade.

6. Brandon Phillips- reliable 5 category production with breakout potential.

7. Robinson Cano- Recovered nicely from a down year in 2008 and should continue to get better. Can't beat the park or lineup he plays in either.

8. Aaron Hill- Broke out last year after in injury in 2008. Should continue to produce if he stays healthy.

9. Asdrubal Cabrera- Career on the upward trajectory. Becoming a 5 category threat.

10. Dan Uggla- Won't give you much in SB's or BA, but his combination of plate discipline and power give you great production in Runs, HR's and RBI's.

11. Jose Lopez- Power increasing every year. Posted 25 HR's last year. Willl probably eventually move off 2B, but still has eligibility for 2010.

12. Howie Kendrick- Got sent down to the minors at one point last year, but came back strong to finish in double digits for HR's and SB's with a .291 BA. My breakout candidate for 2B in 2010.

13. Martin Prado- Should be the starting 2B for Atlanta all season. Reliable for BA and decent power. Everything else plays off that.

14. Clint Barmes- Should be the starting 2B for Colorado. The BA is shaky, but with 20+ HR's and double digit SB's he's a decent late round or FA pickup.

15. Ian Stewart- Will be Colorado's starting 3B, but should still have 2B eligibility. Has 30+ HR potential, but the BA is scary.

Honorable mention: Placido Polanco, Felipe Lopez, Skip Schumacher, Chris Gets, Orlando Hudson, Akinori Iwamura, Kaz Matsui, Rickie Weeks, Luis Castillo, Alberto Callaspo, Casey McGehee, Kelly Johnson, Freddy Sanchez.

Don't be afraid to wait on drafting a second baseman until the very end of the draft. There will still be quality there as well as on the FA market after the season starts.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #13: Dan Runzler

#13 Dan Runzler. LHP. BD: 03-30-1985. 6'4", 215 lbs.

2009 Stats: Low A: 1-1, 0.68, 26.1 IP, 13 BB, 45 K's. High A: 1-0, 0.84, 21.1 IP, 4 BB, 26 K's. AA: 3-0, 0.96, 9.1 IP, 7 BB, 11 K's.
AAA: 0-1, 0.00, 2 IP, 0 H, 1 K. MLB: 0-0, 1.04, 8.2 IP, 5 BB, 11 K's.

Dan Runzler was what has become a signature Giants late round draft pick out of UC Riverside in 2007. He had relatively few IP, a high ERA, but a big time fastball and prodigious K rates. The problem was he walked way too many batters. The Giants think they can fix pitchers like this, and sometimes they are right. Runzler pitched inconsistently his first two pro seasons still showing great K rates, but also struggling with his control.

It's a challenge to really get a handle on Runzler's 2009 season. He started off in Augusta where our old friend Steve Kline took Dan under his wing. He still walked his share of batters, but something seemed to click and he blew away hitters with a K/9 of 15.4! He then ripped through 3 more levels and ended up with a callup to the majors where he continued to pitch successfully. His sample sizes at each stop were miniscule, and even his composite record was relatively small. What he did record though was spectacular, K/9=12.42 and BB/9=3.78.

The Giants seem enthralled with Runzler and appear to be counting on him for a major role in the bullpen in 2010. He certainly has the tools to be a dominant reliever, but the continued significant walk rates are a bit worrisome that he could regress to his career long struggles. Hopefully Kline will continue to work with him early in spring training to consolidate the lessons from last season.

Hot Stove Update: Giants #5 Starter?

As it stands right now, Madison Bumgarner is the Giants #5 starter going into the season. Most of us who saw "MadBum" pitch last September probably are not terribly comfortable with that thought. "MadBum's" pitched OK, but his velocity was quite disappointing and it looked like his secondary stuff has a long ways to go. Now, if us fans are thinking that, it is highly doubtful that Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy, two guys who are notoriously gunshy about committing to rookies at the start of a season, are liking this plan any better, if as well. No, I'd wager a fairly large amount of $$ that Brian Sabean is posturing, waiting out the offseason and plans to scavenge the remaining bits of meat off the carcass of this year's free agent class, dumpster diving if you will. The Giants are not going to spend as much as $1 M on a veteran 5'th starter option, but neither are they going to go to Spring Training without veteran options either. Let's take a look at who is still available, and who will likely fit the profile:

Erik Bedard: Coming off an injury. Baltimore is reportedly kicking the tires. Doubtful fit for the Giants. If he can convince a team he is healthy, will command more than $1 M, and if he's not, then why would you want to sign him at all?

Kris Benson: Might be worth a minor league deal, but hasn't pitched effectively since 2006. Probably not worth the trouble. Is he still married to the ex-stripper?

Bartolo Colon: Released by CWS in July 2009. I don't know the state of his health, but he didn't pitch terrible for the ChiSox. Can't be counted on to pitch a full season, but might make it long enough to give MadBum a bit more seasoning.

Jose Contreras: Helped the Rockies down the stretch last year. Has been flirting with going to Japan, so will probably want too much money. Not my first choice anyway.

Doug Davis: For some reason I really want this guy. I think he puts up decent numbers in SF. Seems to have 4 midwest teams interested, so his price is unlikely to fall into the Giants range.

Adam Eaton: No thank you.

Shawn Estes: No thank you.

Jon Garland: Another option I really like. I think the Dodgers are still interested, so unlikely to fall into Giants price range.

Mike Hampton: Hasn't pitched a full season since 2004. Not sure of his current health status. Would consider if healthy and the price is right.

Livan Hernandez: This one is unlikely to happen. Would be unpopular with fans and he clashed with Rags during his prior stint with the Giants. He did have Quality Starts in 6 of his last 10 games last season. Got blasted in the other 4 to run up his ERA. Not sure what more you want from a cheap #5 starter.

Braden Looper: Another journeyman, innings eating grinder who will give you some quality starts. Someone will give him >$1 M to pitch.

Noah Lowry: Would love to see him in Spring Training on a minor league deal, but the bridges seem to be burned.

Pedro Martinez: I would love this, but won't pitch for peanuts.

Vicente Padilla: Dodgers still interested and will be overpriced due to flukey stint last September.

Joel Piniero: Good pitcher, but is looking for more $$$$.

Ben Sheets: If he can convince teams he's healthy, will command more $$$.

John Smoltz: Might be a good fit. Would he pitch for low $$$? Probably not.

CM Wang: Might have to take a minimum contract to prove he's healthy.

Jarrod Washburn: I don't like this guy at any price, but would eat some innings as a placeholder.

Todd Wellemeyer: Another innings eater. Might come cheap.

Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez: Not even listed as a MLB free agent. Put up this line in the Venezuelan Winter League: 1-2, 3.27, 33 IP, 15 BB, 27 K's. You know he wants to pitch. Would probably sign for almost any price.

"In-House Options:

Joe Martinez: I know I'd like to see Joey get another shot. We'd still have MadBum as a backup plan.

Steve Johnson: Rule 5 draftee, so has to stick on the 25 man roster or be offered back to Baltimore. Worked as a starter at 3 stops in the minors last year with a combined line of 12-7, 3.41, 145.1 IP, 62 BB, 154 K's. 4 pitch repertoire without a single out pitch might be more suited for starting than relieving, but his he a better option than Martinez?

Kevin Pucetas: Would have been the odds on favorite had he not stumbled badly down the stretch last season for Fresno. Will have to prove it was just fatigue.

Convert a reliever: This might be an option if the Giants sign another reliever such as Kiko Calero. My choice would be Sergio Romo. Waldis Joaquin has started in the not so distant past too. Doubt the Giants see this as an option. It's too far outside the box.

Do you like any of these guys, or should we just roll the dice with Madison Bumgarner?

Hot Stove Update: A's-Padres Trade

I still haven't decided if Billy Beane is a genius or the biggest fraud of any GM in baseball, but the man sure makes the offseason interesting! If anyone had doubts about Billy's commitment to UZR, he empatically answered them by shipping Scott Hairston back to the Padres along with Aaron Cunningham for Kevin Kouzmanoff and prospect Eric Sogard. Billy accomplished two things with this trade: 1. He continued balancing his roster by trading from a surplus of OF's for a couple of IF's, including his biggest need, 3B. 2. He made a full commitment to defense, and the newer sabermetrics that measure it by keeping his 3 strongest defensive OF's. Billy didn't really need Hairston as a backup plan after he acquired Michael Taylor earlier in the offseason anyway.

The trade makes less sense for San Diego. Are Chase Headley and Scott Hairston really better than Kous and Headley at 3B and LF respectively? Maybe Hairston is a better defender in LF, which is important in Petco, but the Pads have better defensive OF's if defense is what they wanted.

The biggest losers in this trade are the Giants and Giants fans, since Scott Hairston is Giant Killer #1!

Fantasy Impact: Petco and McAfee Stadium are both very tough on hitters, so there is little impact from moving Kous and Hairston. The move would appear to give Rajai Davis an unconstested starting job in LF for the A's, so fantasy owners looking for steals may feel more comfortable drafting him. It also move Michael Taylor up the depth chart, so if any of the A's CF types prove to have no bat, Taylor would likely be next in line. Taylor should have an immediate impact as soon as he is called up.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #12: Edward Concepcion

12. Edward Concepcion. RHP. BD: 10-03-1988. 6'3", 190 lbs.

2009 Stats: AZL Rookie- 4-3, 4.61, 54.2 IP, 26 BB, 70 K's, GO/AO= 2.26.

Concepcion was a bit old for the AZL at age 20, although not excessively so. The Giants brought him along slowly with parts of 3 seasons in the DSL prior to bringing him to Arizona. That's probably not a bad idea for handling the early career of a power pitcher. Concepcion was flying under the radar in the Giants organization until the guy from noticed him hitting 97 MPH on the radar gun in Arizona one night. He posted his feelings of excitement on his blog and it got picked up by other Giants fans on other blog/websites. Then BA ranked him #13 on their AZL Top 20 Prospects list with a scouting report that confirmed the velocity. BA had him topping out at 98 MPH. His pitching coach, Mike Caldwell was quoted as believing he will eventually hit 100 MPH! Caldwell worked with him in simplifying his mechanics and rival scouts and managers felt he made tremendous progress during the summer.

Two things stand out about his record: 1. The K rate. I use a K/9= 9 as my benchmark for judging a pitching prospect's ceiling and Concepcion is well above that. While the BB/9 isn't stellar, but not hopelessly high either. 2. GO/AO. A power pitcher with a high K rate doesn't have to be a groundball pitcher to excell, but if you combine Concepcion's velocity, K rate and GO/AO, you have the potential of a special pitcher. Felix Hernandez would be the comp for that type of combination. I use a GO/AO of 2.00 as my benchmark for excellence for a pitcher in the lower minors. Again, Concepcion is well above that.

I would think he should be assigned as a starter in low A Augusta this spring. A very exciting prospect!

Thoughts on Mark McGwire, PED's and the Hall of Fame

We had a request to discuss the recent admission by Mark McGwire that he had used PED's, and what impact that admission should have on his candidacy for the Hall of Fame. It's a subject I would prefer not to deal with, but an old hero of mine, Jack Clark just weighed in: with a blistering critique. I mean, what else would you expect from Jack "The Ripper" who was a stand up guy if there ever was one! Andy Van Slyke was a bit less severe in his criticism, but quite critical nevertheless. Darryl Strawberry had a more blase attitude in this interview: I guess I'm a bit late to the party as Grant at also commented today, and I know he really hates this subject. It's a hard subject for a baseball fan. We fans are much more comfortable looking at statistics and using them to build mental shrines to our favorite players, whereas PED's involve disciplines like ethics, law and values. Or, maybe it's all just about the statistics as in PED's messing them up? The following are some thoughts, somewhat random, on the subject:

I remember the first time I became aware of the PED issue. Steve Prefontaine was a hero of mine as a teenager. I remember hoping he would do well in the long distance races in the Olympics, something that American runners didn't do very often. He was obliterated by Finnish runner Lasse Viren. Afterwards, there were allegations that Viren had "blood doped", undergoing phlebotomy, saving the blood and then re-transfusing it just before the race to increase his oxygen carrying capacity. I remember how frustrated I felt that maybe "Pre" might have won an Olympic Gold Medal had other competitors not had an unfair advantage. Of course, the thought never occurred to me that "Pre" himself might have done the same thing, with less success!

Personally, I abhor the whole notion of PED's. There is just something about the idea that competitors use the talent they are born with and through that gift, with or without hard work become winners. It's what draws me to sports as a spectator. The minute you stop believing that what you are seeing is real, like Professional Wrestling for instance, it becomes a lot less interesting, like a giant cartoon or something. I also abhor the idea that young athletes feel that the only way they can succeed is to use PED's themselves. While, if used carefully, these substances are probably not as harmful as some would make them out to be, they are certainly not benign. All drugs have side effects and a certain percentage of users are going to get bitten, bad.

I'm not convinced that PED's make as much difference in performance as it would seem on the surface. Yes, they produce muscle mass in prodigious amounts, but there are a lot of muscle bound people out there who couldn't hit a baseball to save their lives. Henry Aaron somehow managed to hit 755 HR's in his career and was not a big man. Ditto Willie Mays and his 660. If I am not mistaken, players back in the day did not even lift weights because it was believed that increased muscle mass would limit flexibility and quickness which were believed to be much more important tools for hitting a baseball. PED's don't enhance vision, eye-hand coordination, or timing. It's not like hitters were the only ones using either. The average pitcher in the '60's didn't throw 90 MPH, and I'm pretty sure Willie and Hank never had to face someone like Eric Gagne in the 9'th innings. So, while I have to acknowledge that there were some pretty unbelieveable records set in the "Steroids Era." I tend to lean towards Darryl Strawberry's take on this one.

PED's are nothing new either. Caffeine is a PED. Nicotine is a PED. "Greenies" are PED's. We laugh now at the thought of Doc Ellis throwing a no-no while high on LSD, but did the enhanced perception the drug caused created a "perfect storm" experience that enabled Doc to "see" the plate as 4 feet wide and 10 feet away? Who knows? I am quite sure that PED's in one form or another have been part of the game since it's inception. That doesn't make it alright. If society reaches a consensus that anabolic steroids are an unfair advantage while nicotine is not, then society has every right to expect that baseball will ban the unfair drug and enforce it. What's not clear is exactly when society reached that consensus in regards to baseball players like Mark McGwire.

Cheating is not new to the game either. Gaylord Perry has admitted that he built a Hall of Fame career on an illegal pitch. Numerous other pitchers who are either in the HOF or close to it were suspected of "doctoring" the ball during their careers. Hitters have been caught illegally altering their bats from time to time. So, why all the outrage about "cheating" with PED's? Somehow many of us have a twisted admiration for a scrappy kid who maybe wasn't all that talented, but found an ingenious way to conceal a slimy substance and beat the "big boys." Most of us have a natural resentment, and root against the big kid with bulging muscles at best, and if we found out he got them artificially, well then, it's downright hatred inducing!

Those of us who religiously follow baseball do so, in part, because of the highly statistical nature of the game. We want to believe that we can compare the statistics recorded by our childhood heroes with the baseball greats of the past. Hank Aaron's career HR record was really better than Babe Ruth's! Nolan Ryan's strikeout record was really better than Walter Johnson's. PED's completely destroy that illusion. Of course, statistics from year-to-year, career-to-career and era-to-era have never really been comparable. There have been dead-ball eras and rabbit-ball eras. Talent has been diluted by wars, careers interrupted. You can't compare records from the late 60's and the early 60's, or records from the "60's and the 1920's any more than you can compare the records of the "Steroid Era" with the "Amphetamine Era".

So, what is my position on PED's and the Hall of Fame?

1. PED's should be banned from the game, and the rules should be enforced with a rigorous testing program. I detest the invasion of privacy, but the players brought it on themselves by not holding each other accountable.

2. I agree with Grant at that all players should be considered for the HOF. We can't just wipe out a whole era of statistics from baseball history. The era should be taken into account. 500 HR's accumulated mostly during the late 1990's and early 2000's just doesn't mean as much as 500 HR's has in the past, and a guy like Rafael Palmeiro might not quite have what it takes to be a HOF'er.

3. There should be an exhibit in the HOF about the "Steroid Era" and the possible impact it had on the game.

4. Gaylord Perry should remain in the HOF, but his use of an illegal pitch to enhance his career should be acknowledged.

5. Pete Rose should be voted in and inducted into the Hall of Fame. He should not be allowed to seek employment in Major League Baseball.

It's all opinion, and you know what they say about opinions.......

What do you think?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #11: Hector Sanchez

#11 Hector Sanchez. B-S, T-R. BD: 11-17-1989. 6'0", 185 lbs.

2009 Stats: AZL(Rookie): .299/.403/.410.

Hector Sanchez quietly caught the attention of Giants prospect watchers the past two seasons while playing in the Dominican Summer League by hitting for average, putting up great OBP's and showing a bit of pop in his bat. He didn't show much power in Arizona, but the .403 OBP against a .299 BA really stands out. He has been listed as a catcher, but seemed to also play some first base. Big difference there! You have to have a great bat to play first base in the majors(unless, of course, you play for the Giants). Then came this quote in the scouting report for his #15 ranking among AZL prospects by BA: "Sanchez's strength is his defense." Hello Hector Sanchez! He led the AZL in CS% at 45. He "blocks balls well and has made strides in game callling." So there it is, a switch-hitting catcher with great plate discipline who projects to have some power? I'll take two please! I would think that Sanchez will be the starting catcher for low A Augusta this year, and I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #10: Francisco Peguero

10. Francisco Peguero. OF. B-R, T-R. BD: 06-01-1988. 6'0", 175 lbs.

2009 Stats: Salem-Keizer- .394/.421/.465 with 7 SB, 0 CS. Low A- .340/.359/.437 with 15 SB, 5 CS. High A- Cal League Playoff MVP. DWL- .284/.304/.388 with 3 SB, 0 CS in 67 AB.

Francisco Peguero had something of a breakout season in 2009. Not that he hadn't played well at other levels, it's just that the BA's this time were quite spectacular and at high enough levels for people to take notice. He was apparently old enough when the Giants signed him in 2006 that he was Rule 5 eligible after 4 professional seasons, and the Giants felt the need to protect him by adding him to the 40 man MLB roster. He reportedly plays with tremendous enthusiasm and won the Most Inspirational Player award in the Giants Fall Instructional League. On defense he can cover CF and reportedly has a "plus-plus" arm. The only missing tool is hitting for power.

The one major caution is that like Panda at a similar stage of his career, Peguero never sees a pitch he thinks he can't hit. He only drew 8 walks in 317 PA's! I guess he really believes you can't walk off the island! For a player who profiles almost strictly as a leadoff hitter, the walk rates are a real concern and will have to be improved on at some point.

Francisco Peguero will almost certainly be the starting CF for the San Jose Giants to begin the 2010 season.

Draft Grades

BA did an analysis of the 2005-2008 drafts assigning letter grades to each year for each MLB team and then calculating a GPA based on the standard weighting for letter grades. The Giants scored 3 straight A's from 2006-2008 after a C in 2005, the year their first pick was in the 4'th round! The Red Sox tied the Giants with a GPA of 3.5. I was surprised to see the Dodgers grade out as well as they did with a 3.25. The Oakland A's? 2.75. The grades were based on players signed. The Giants were obviously helped by having high draft positions, but several clubs who consistently drafted as high, or higher, than the Giants did not grade out nearly as well: Orioles- 2.88. Pirates- 2.50. Rockies- 2.50. Nationals- 2.38. Royals- 2.38.

In the write up, BA points out that even without their top 3 picks in 2005, the Giants still had a respectable draft: Sergio Romo(round 28), Joe Martinez(round 12), Alex Hinshaw(round 15) and Thomas Neal(round 36). If Neal is what I think he is, this draft may still end up as a grade A in the future!

Dick Tidrow was scouting director for 2005-2007 with John Barr coming aboard for the 2008 draft, so those who want to say that the current success of the farm system is all attributable to John Barr are simply wrong. Take the success of these drafts, add in the increased international activity, and the explanation for the Giants great core of young players and a top 5 ranked farm system 2 years in a row is obvious. I have long dreamed of the day when the Giants would once again be a great organization like back in the 60's when they were pumping out prospects like Bobby Bonds, George Foster, Gary Mathews and Garry Maddox. It looks like we're finally there. Let's all hope the current crop wins a championship or two for the Giants and not other teams like the Giants of old.

I have been contemplating doing a series of in-depth draft reviews. Maybe this article will spur me to do it. What do readers think?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #9: Nick Noonan

#9 Nick Noonan. 2B. B-L, T-R. BD: 05-04-1989. 6'0", 180 lbs.

2009 Stats: High A- .259/.330/.397 with 7 HR, 8 Triples, 26 doubles, 9 SB, 5 CS.

Nick Noonan did not have a great season in 2009, but let me point some reasons why it was not the disaster it may appear on the surface:

1. He was 20 years old playing in a league where most of the players are at least 2-3 years older.

2. His IsoOBP increased by .035 from the previous season in Augusta, indicating a significant improvement in plate discipline.

3. He finished the season strong. After posting BA's of .236 in May and .232 in June, he went .256 in July, .292 in August and .310 in 7 games in September.

The nice thing about drafting high school players is that there is more time to work through adjustments to new levels. As a young player for the level, Nick Noonan took a little longer to adjust, but demonstrated improvement in one vital area from the previous season and improvement throughout the season at the new level. Given his draft level, the Giants will give him every opportunity to succeed. He showed enough that he will almost certainly move on to AA for his age 21 season where he will still be young for the level.

One more point. Andy Baggerly originally had him in his Top 10, based on his conversations with Giants coaches development staff. BA's editors insisted that he drop Noonan in favor of Ehire Adrianza. While the Giants may be fairly criticized for lack of judgement about position players, how the organization views a player should not be ignored as it has an important impact on opportunities for advancement in the future.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #8: Tommy Joseph

#8 Tommy Joseph. C. B-R, T-R. BD: 07-16-1991. 6'1", 210 lbs.

2009 stats: DNP

Tommy Joseph was one of the top power-hitting prospects in the 2009 draft making a name for himself by holding his own in a HR contest that included the non-human Bryce Harper. It's unclear why he fell to the Giants in the second round, but when they looked up at their draft board and saw him still there, they grabbed him and signed him to bonus of a bit more than $700K.

The real buzz about Joseph started when a video of him hitting a HR in an Arizona Instructional League game showed up at and on He showed patience at the plate, waited for his pitch and then walloped it out of the park with a short, compact yet powerful swing that got Giants fans, starved for a power hitter, to salivating in anticipation. It was apparently more than just that one HR too. Andy Baggerly in his BA Scouting Report: "Nobody inspired more buzz among Giants coaches in instructional league than Joseph, who put on a tape-measure show in Arizona.

His swing should adjust quickly to wood bats, and his bat should play at 1B if he can't stick at catcher.

Hot Stove Update: Aubrey Huff Signs With the Giants

The Giants signed the lefthanded bat they were looking for in Aubrey Huff. Huff is 33 years old, has spent time with the Rays, Astros, Tigers and Orioles. He has hit well, and hit for power, while playing 1B, 3B, LF and RF, but has also struggled on defense at all positions and has had some down years.

The first question is which Aubrey Huff are the Giants getting? The one who hit .304/.360/.552 with 32 HR's in 2008, or the one who hit .241/.310/.384 with just 15 HR's in 2009? Given Giants fans experience with these things, we have to assume it's closer the the 2009 version, which means we've just signed a poor fielding version of Travis Ishikawa for a lot more money than Travis will cost. On the other hand, if we get just an average Aubrey Huff with a .812 OPS, it should be a definite upgrade to the offense giving the Giants a respectable lineup.

The next question is where is he going to play? It makes no sense to play him at 3B where Pablo is better on defense. The last time he played in the OF was 2006, so it would seem that he will play first base with Pablo staying at 3B, DeRosa manning LF, and Uribe waiting for someone to get hurt. Travis gets thrown under the bus, but he was already under the bus with the DeRosa and Uribe signings. The nice part of this, at least for us Nate Schierholtz fans, is that it seems like only a very remote possibility that Huff plays RF, or that the Giants sign another FA OF to block Nate. It would seem likely that Huff will only start against RHP's with Pablo moving to 1B and Uribe to 3B against LHP's.

The Giants may sign a catcher and potential #5 starter on the cheap, but they are likely done with major additions to the team at this point. So, here is the likely starting lineup on opening day(assuming a RHP for the opponent):

CF Aaron Rowand
2B Fred Sanchez
LF Mark DeRosa
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Aubrey Huff
RF Nate Schierholtz
SS Edgar Renteria
C Buster Posey
P Tim Lincecum

Fantasy Impact: Aside from Pablo Sandoval, I recommend staying away from the Giants offensive situation entirely until roles are better defined. There is just too much opportunity for Bochy to mix, match and platoon thus costing fantasy players valuable Plate Appearances.(See my earlier post re. the "Hidden Stat").

Hot Stove Update: Aroldis Chapman to the Reds!

The winners of the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes are the Cincinnati Reds! For those of you who don't know, Aroldis Chapman is the fireballing young LHP who recently defected from Cuba after making a name for himself in the World Baseball Classic. This signing is somewhat surprising in that it was widely assumed that the $$$ it would take to sign him would eliminate all but a few high revenue teams from consideration, and Cincinnati, in particular, was widely rumored to be looking to downsize their payroll let alone make a high profile free agent signing.

The concensus on Chapman seems to be that he is breathtakingly talented, but still a bit raw with difficulty controlling his exceptional stuff. That stuff includes a fastball that sits in the mid-high 90's and has reportedly touched 102 MPH! He also has a breaking pitch and changeup that are less exceptional. I looked up some videos of him pitching on He's a tall gangly kid who looks like he can fill out his frame a bit more. His windup and delivery remind me most of CC Sabathia. I saw him throw the fastball both up in the zone and at the knees with a lot of movement, mostly armside run. His breaking pitch was kind of flat and sweeping, I guess you would call it a slurve, and I saw several batters reaching for offspeed stuff, so he apparently does have some deception going with that.

The contract is intriguing, a MLB deal for 6 years, $30M, heavily backloaded with deferred money out to 10 years. The MLB contract means he immediately goes on the 40 man MLB roster. He can still be sent to the minors, but he has to stick with the 25 man roster in the 4'th year with the organization. If it takes him 3 years to reach the major leagues, it will be a very bad deal for the Reds as they will only have him 3 more seasons in which an ordinary prospect would not be eligible for arbitration and thus paid <$1 M/yr. The Reds are obviously counting on him pitching in Cincinnati no later than the beginning of the 2011 season and thus using the contract to pay for his arbitration years. The Reds have shown a willingness to be aggressive with young fireballing pitchers in Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez, so don't be surprised his Chapman is in their starting rotation come April.

Fantasy Impact: If you are in a deep keeper league, Chapman is a player you will want to consider immediately, although not as one of your top 2 or 3 pitchers. If you are in a more shallow keeper league, or a year-to-year league, you will want to moniter him very closely. If it looks like he will open the season in Cincinnati, he is eminently draftable. If he goes to the minors, monitor his progress closely and pick him up as soon as it looks like he might get called up.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #7: Roger Kieshnick

#7 Roger Kieschnick. OF. B-L, T-R. BD: 01-21-1987. 6'3", 215 lbs.

2009 Stats: High A- .296/.345/.532 with 23 HR, 37 doubles, 8 triples, 9 SB, 1 CS.

Roger Kieschnick has a major league pedigree. He is the cousin of Brooks Kieschnick who a Pitcher/OF who played both ways at Univ. of Texas and in MLB. He showed atheticism and power in college at Texas Tech, but he fell to the 3'rd round of the 2008 draft due because his BA slipped from .359 his freshman season to .301 and .305 the next two, which is not very good for a college hitter using metal bats. Roger's first professional competition was in the Hawaiian Winter Baseball League where he seemed to fit the mold by hitting several HR's but struggling to make contact and keep his BA up. The Giants were aggressive with him and assigned him to high A ball in San Jose where he stayed all season, probably for the same reasons Thomas Neal stayed. He responded with the expected power, but the BA of .296 was a nice surprise. His K rate is still somewhat of a concern, but 23% is not impossibly high, especially for a power hitter. Moving up to AA will be a big test, but Roger looks like he has the power to hit balls into the Bay, and the speed and athleticism to cover RF in AT&T Park in the not too distant future.

Hot Stove Update: Vlad Guerrero, How the Mighty Have Fallen?

Vladimir Guerrero has agreed to terms with the Texas Rangers, reportedly 1 year/$5M with a $1 M mutual option for 2011. That's right, $5 M/yr! Now, 35 is not young for a ballplayer, but it's also not extremely old by today's standards. Yes, Vlad missed a lot of time last year. He probably can't play in the field any more. Yes, his numbers had been slowly declining before last year, but Vlad Guerrero? $5 M/yr?

The offseason before the 2004 season was one of the craziest in memory for Giants fans, and possibly one of the most disastrous, although if you are at all familiar with Giants history, they have had way more than their share of disastrous offseasons. Vlad Guerrero was a free agent. Giants fans had long been eyeing Vlad as the perfect lineup complement to Barry Bonds. It seemed so perfect. Barry was nearing the end of his career. Vlad was still early in the prime of his. Vlad would protect Barry in the lineup for 3-4 seasons and then take the mantle of Franchise Player when Barry retired. There were clues that just maybe it might happen. Why else would Brian Sabean personally fly to Florida to beg Felipe Alou, Vlad's old manager from the Expos, and beg him to accept the job of managing the Giants? Giants oriented message boards were clogged with seemingly endless financial calculations showing how a roster, including Vlad and Barry Bonds could be constructed and still fit into the Giants payroll parameters.

You know the rest of the story. The Giants never even made Vlad an offer! Instead, they traded 3 pitchers to Minnesota for AJ Pierzynski, actually dumped a first round draft pick to sign Michael Tucker to play RF, and added SP Brett Tomko for good measure. Brian Sabean forever alienated the Giants hardcore fans by referring to them as the "Lunatic Fringe," a term many still refer to themselves as with pride.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Vlad would have signed with the Giants even if they had made the highest offer. It was rumored that Vlad was not enamored with Felipe Alou as manager back in Montreal, and after seeing Felipe in action for 4 years as the Giants manager, it's not hard to see why. Vlad may also have not wanted to come to SF to play second fiddle to Barry Bonds. It's also no guarantee that the Giants would have won a championship with Vlad and Barry. After all, they had 5 hall of famers on the team in the 1960's and didn't win squat! An OF of Barry Bonds in LF, Marquis Grissom in CF and Vlad in RF would have given up a ton of doubles and triples up the alleys in AT&T park or whatever it was called at the time. But, Giants fans will always wonder what might have been, and quietly curse Brian Sabean under their breath, or maybe not so quietly and not under their breath! Remember 2004? Remember game #161 in Dodger Stadium? Vlad Guerrero had a line of .337/.391/.598 with 39 HR's for the Angels that year. We'll never know if that line next to Barry's .362/.609/.812 would have been better than then combined efforts of AJ Pierzynski, Michael Tucker, Brett Tomko and a few relievers, but a lot of us are convinced that it would have.

In terms of $$ value, Vlad earned his pay with the Angels. A great hitter, he was never a good fielder despite having a cannon for an arm in RF. His defense was a negative that got progressively stronger over the course of the contract. Still, by estimates, Vlad came within about $5 M of earning his pay over the course of the contract. The Giants clearly could have afforded him. The Angels only paid him $12 M/yr the first two years of the contract. That's Aaron Rowand money! Between his years in Montreal, his relatively modest contract with the Angels, and now this, Vlad Guerrero, over the course of his career may be one of the most underpaid players in baseball history.

Fantasy Impact: Having only played 2 games in the field last year, Vlad may lose OF eligibility in a lot of leagues which limits him to a Utility spot on a fantasy roster. He loves hitting in Texas, though, with a career SLG% of something like .650 there! I expect him to thrive as a full time DH. If he is available in the early-mid rounds of your fantasy draft, don't forget him. He's probably more valuable than whoever you think is going to have a breakout season this year.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #6: Brandon Crawford

#6: Brandon Crawford. SS. B-L, T-R. BD: 01-21-1987. 6'2", 200 lbs.

2009 stats: High A: .371/.445./.600 with 6 HR's in 105 AB's. AA: .258/.294/.365 with 4 HR's in 392 AB's. AFL: .312/.396/.455 with 2 HR's in 77 AB's.

The Giants have used their round 3/4 draft choices the last couple of years to take highly rated college players whose stock dropped for one reason or another. Brandon Crawford was a preseason college All-American going into his 2008 junior season at UCLA and widely considered a sure-fire first round draft pick after putting up a line of .335/.405/.504 with 7 HR's. He is an exceptional athlete and a plus defender at SS with an arm strong enough to be a pitcher. Then, he had a terrible Cape Cod league season and struggled for most of the 2008 college season, but finished stronger: .302/.394/.491 with 7 HR's. The Giants drafted him in the 4'th round. He got into just 4 games in Arizona with 6 hits in 14 AB's, and just one game for short season Salem-Keizer before his season ended with an injury.

The Giants showed confidence in him by placing him in high A San Jose for the 2009 season and he responded by tearing up the league. They showed even more confidence with an early season promotion to AA Connecticut, a very difficult environment for hitters. His line there was not nearly as exciting, but he did cut his K's down to <25% from a frightful nearly 30% rate in San Jose. The Giants again showed their confidence in him by sending him to the prestigious Arizona Fall League where he was competing with the top AA and AAA talents in baseball. He responded with a very solid campaign.

I'm not sure if the Giants will start Brandon off back in AA or at AAA Fresno for 2010, but they are behaving like they see him as the SS of the future. With Edgar Renteria's contract expiring after this season, 2011 would be a perfect fit for Brandon to take over the reigns. The Giants don't like to just hand positions over to rookies, but if they are serious about building this team from within, they have to stop blocking their prospects by signing mediocre veterans. Brandon grew up in the Bay Area, born in Mountain View and went to HS in Pleasanton. It would be a great story for him to be the starting SS for the future SF Giants.

Blast From the Past: Jim Ray Hart

Several readers have commented on the shout out to Jim Ray Hart in my biographical sketch. I thought I would do a retrospective on Jim Ray's career, and maybe start a series looking at some of the less well-known Giants of yesteryear.

JIm Ray Hart was signed by the Giants as an amateur free agent in 1960 out of Hookerton, NC. He had a rather rough introduction to major league baseball in 1963 at the age of 21, when in his second MLB AB, he was hit by a Bob Gibson fastball that broke his left scapula. In his fourth game back from that injury, he was beaned by Curt Simmons and sat out the rest of the season. Injuries would continue to play a major role in Jim Ray's career. In 1964, he was coming into second base against the Dodgers and Maury Wills skulled him with a relay throw that hit him square in the forehead. Hospitalized overnight for observation, Jim Ray came back to play the next day. I remember listening to the second game of a doubleheader in 1966, I think, when the Giants needed a hit late in the game. Jim Ray had suffered a hand injury in game 1, and came up as a pinch-hitter in that spot with his thumb bandaged, delivering the key hit that the Giants needed. Another shoulder injury in 1969 contributed to the rapid decline of his career, although injuries may not have played the key role most biographies attribute to them.

For 5 seasons, from 1964-1968, Jim Ray Hart could hold his own in any discussion of who were the best Giants players, even in who the best hitters in baseball were!:

1964: .286/.342/.498 with 31 HR's.
1965: .299/.349/.487 with 23 HR's, 30 doubles and 6 triples.
1966: .285/.342/.510 with 33 HR's.
1967: .289/.373/.509 with 29 HR's.
1968: .258/.323/.444 with 23 HR's. Remember, 1968 was The Year of the Pitcher after which they lowered the mounds and made other rule changes.

During this run, Jim Ray finished second to Richie Allen in the 1964 Rookie of the Year voting. He was top 20 in MVP voting in '64, '65 and '67, and played in the All-Star game in 1966. He was league top 10 in many offensive categories during that run. On July 8, 1970, long after his career had started to decline, Jim Ray showed that he had something left by hitting for the cycle including a HR and triple with 6 RBI's in ONE INNING! Jim Ray was not a good fielder, and hated playing third base. "It's just too damn close to the hitter," is one quote attributed to him. Although he made a lot of errors, and seemed to have limited range, he was involved in 24 DP's in two of his seasons, which is a lot for a third baseman. I remember as a kid not understanding why the shortstop was considered part of a double play combination because it seemed like all the Giants DP's were started by Jimmy Ray from 3B!

Ages 27-32 are the peak years for most baseball players, but Jim Ray's playing time started to fall way off in 1969 at age 27, and he was out of baseball by 1974 at the age of 32. The mid-late 60's were part of a second "dead ball era" in baseball which may have also held down his offensive stats. Another factor in holding down his stats was the wind at Candlestick Park. In the afternoon and evenings, the wind would blow straight out to RF, sometimes at gale force, which tended to blow balls hit to straightaway LF out toward CF where they would be easily caught by the centerfielder. Willie Mays could compensate for this by driving the ball to right-center and RF, but Jim Ray was a dead pull hitter, and it affected his numbers. I found a chart of his Home-Road Splits:

PA: Overall- 4236, Home- 1987, Road- 2249.
HR: Overall- 170, Home- 72, Road- 98.
BA: Overall- .278, Home- .258, Road- .296.
OBP: Overall- .345, Home- .329, Road- .360
SLG%: Overall- .467, Home- .430, Road- .500!

While his relatively short career has been often attributed to an accumulation of injuries, another factor probably played a much larger role. I found an article from Baseball Digest, June 1991 where Jim Ray talked about what might have been had he not had an addiction to alcohol. He admitted that in later years, he was much more interested in collecting his paycheck for drinking money than in playing the game, and often came to the park hung over or drunk. At one point in his life, he lost everything and was basically on the streets of SF picking up lost change just to buy drinks. He passed out on a flight to Toronto for an old-timer's game, and that was the wake-up call he needed to get his life back. He entered and successfully completed a rehab program in San Mateo. As of the 1991 Baseball Digest article, Jim Ray was sober, working at a warehouse in Sacramento, and living there with his family. That is the last reference I was able to find in my internet search.

How much could the Giants use a hitter like Jim Ray Hart now? When I see Giants prospect Thomas Neal play, he reminds me a lot of Jim Ray, the stocky yet athletic build, the ability to hit for average, power and plate discipline. The Giants will be very fortunate if Thomas has a career resembling Jim Ray Hart's. Hopefully, Thomas will take better care of himself and enjoy a much longer career.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Top 50 Prospects #5: Rafael Rodriguez

#5 Rafael Rodriguez. OF. B-R, T-R. BD: 07-13-1992. 6'5", 198 lbs.

2009 Stats: AZL: .299/.392/.362.

This is where I diverge from Andy Baggerly's list for Baseball America. Yes, I know Dan Runzler has a high 90's fastball. I'm also impressed that he sped through 4 levels of play to pitch successfully in the majors last September. I know he has a great chance to be a member of the Giants bullpen this season. Still, he's a reliever who will probably peak as a setup man. Yes, he's almost a sure bet to reach that peak, but that's his peak.

Don't worry about RaffyRod's lack of power. He was a 16 year old kid who has a long way to go to grow into his body. The power will almost certainly develop. Look instead at his plate discipline at such a young age. You just don't see that very often. It's going to take a few years, but the sky is the limit for this kid! Not sure if the Giants will think he's ready for full season ball this year, but it would sure be interesting and exciting to see him in Augusta.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Whither Dr. B?

Thanks to tedfordfan for giving the blog a fanshot on "MCC" is pretty much the gold standard of Giants oriented blogs. Grant writes very insightful, funny, intelligent posts and gets great participation from the community.

Just to set the record straight, my disappearance from MCC had nothing to do with any dissatisfaction with the site or any debate I was involved in. I am quite computer and internet illiterate. My daughter had to help me set up this blog. When MCC went to SBNATION, it required a re-registration. For some reason, it wouldn't accept my registration, and I was never able to figure out how to navigate back in. At the time, I was extremely busy with family and work responsibilities and decided to confine my posting to message board. Even there, I posted much less frequently than before. I have continued to be an active reader of MCC and vote in the polls.

I eventually decided that I wanted to try my own blog whether anyone read it or not. It is very gratifying that people are starting to find When the Giants Come to Town.... and seem to appreciate it. I hope to keep on providing interesting and challenging material in the future. My goal is to write at least one new post per day for at least 1 year and then re-assess at that time.

One more record to set straight: In the 2007 draft, Beau Mills was my first choice, but I really liked Jason Heyward a lot. His scouting video reminded me of a young Willie McCovey! I favored Mills because the Giants desperately needed bats at the MLB level and I thought the college draftee would be ready sooner. As it turned out, Bumgarner was a better choice than Mills, but Heyward is looking like he was the best pick in that entire draft by a fairly large margin.

Anyway, check out It's a great website. Just make sure you bring game if you plan to post over there. They'll eat you alive if you don't.

Giants Top 50 Prospects #4: Thomas Neal

#4 Thomas Neal. OF. B-R, T-R. BD: 08-17-1987. 6'1", 205 lbs.

2008 Stats: High A: .337/.431/.579 with 22 HR's. Arizona Fall League: .284/.384/.392 with 12 SB's in 74 AB's.

Thomas Neal had a true breakout season in 2008. Drafted out of Poway(CA) HS in 2005, he played a season of JC ball at Riverside City College and then signed with the Giants as a draft and follow just before the 2006 draft. He was still 18 at the time, so he did not need to be added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft this year. Neal has always played well, when he played, in the Giants system, but missed a lot of time to injury. Finally healthy in 2008, he hit .276 with 15 HR's and excellent plate discipline for low A Augusta. He seemed to be on the verge of a breakout season in 2009 and he did not disappoint. On top of he breakout offensive numbers, he showed excellent OF defense leading the Cal League in OF assists from LF with the San Jose Giants. Then, to top it off, he showed a whole other side in the Arizona Fall League by running wild on the bases finishing second in the league with 12 SB's in just 79 AB's.

So what we have here is a 5 tool player, hitting, hitting for power, catching, throwing, running. Add in the excellent plate discipline and you have as close to a can't miss prospect as you can get, provided he stays healthy. The only mystery is why he spent the whole season in San Jose. The most likely reason is the Giants ownership of the San Jose Giants franchise, the interest in the A's moving to San Jose and the Giants wanting to deliver a Cal League Championship. With that out of the way, Neal should start 2010 in AA Richmond. If he continues to rake there, he could easily be in SF by the end of the season. Barring injury, I believe Thomas Neal is the Giants LF of the future. His size and hitting prowess remind me of an underrated Giants player from the 1960's, Jim Ray Hart, except Thomas seems to be a much more well rounded player.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #3: Zack Wheeler

#3: Zack Wheeler. RHP. BD: 05-30-1990. 6'3", 180 lbs.

2009 Stats: DNP(signed too late).

I went back and forth between Wheeler and Thomas Neal for the #3 slot. His first round pedigree and the Giants history of success with pitching prospects finally tipped the scale. The Giants zeroed in on Zack Wheeler for their first round pick in the 2009 amateur draft, #6 overall. They scouted him extensively including reports of Brian Sabean making a personal scouting trip. The Giants have a long track record of knowing how to scout pitchers, so we have every reason to be optimistic about young Mr. Wheeler's future. He is reportedly still growing and now stands at more than 6'4" with whispers that he might eventually top out at 6'6"! Given that, his low-mid 90's fastball may stand to add some velocity. He already has a fairly advanced breaking ball and changeup. Look for him on the low A Augusta roster this year.

Hot Stove Update: Matt Holliday Signs

So Matt Holliday signs with the Cardinals for 7 years, $120 M, with $2M/yr deferred to be paid out until 2029. 2029! Now, Matt Holliday is a good player, probably the best available in this year's FA class, but 7 years, $120 M? Were the Cardinals bidding against anyone but themselves? Jason Bay signed with the Mets for what, $66 M? Holliday is better than Jason Bay, but $54 M better? Man, I don't know!

This deal has all kinds of downstream implications:

1. You don't sign Matt Holliday to this kind of contract, and then turn around and let Albert Pujols walk. You just don't!

2. If Matt Holliday is worth 7 years, $120 M, Pujols is worth at least 8 years, $200 M, right? That's at least $40 M/year tied up in just two players.....for a long, long time!

3. Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter will be looking to get paid soon too.

That means the Cards are counting on a major rebound in the economy, or they are planning on making do with a whole lot of very cheap players surrounding a very expensive core.

I must say though, that $40 M/year for Holliday and Pujols looks like a whole lot better deal for the Cards than $30 M/yr for Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand!

Fantasy Impact: Minimal. The Cards play in a fairly neutral park. Holliday should remain a solid second or third round draft choice for the next several years.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Giants Top 50 Prospects #2: Madison Bumgarner

2. Madison Bumgarner. LHP. BD: 08-01-1989, 6'4", 215 lbs.

2009 stats: High A: 3-1, 1.48, 24.1 IP, 4 BB, 23 K's. AA: 9-1, 1.93, 107 IP, 30 BB, 69 K's. MLB: 0-0, 1.80, 10 IP, 3 BB, 10 K's.

After putting up astounding numbers for low A Augusta in 2008, Bumgarner picked up right where he left off in San Jose during a brief early season stint. He continued to get stellar results in a jump to AA, but suffered a noticeable drop in K/9. Giants fans were somewhat disappointed to see radar gun readings consistently in the high 80's upon his arrival in San Francisco for a late season call up. Still, he got excellent results in 4 appearances including one emergency start. The drop in velocity has been attributed to late season fatigue. Recently Bobby Evans hinted that it was due to a purposeful mechanical change that could be changed back with a return of low-mid 90's velocity. I have some concerns about the exaggerated cross-step he uses in terms of injury risk, but at this point "MadBum" seems destined for a successful MLB career. The Giants lack of activity in regards to signing a #5 starter has led to a sense that Bumgarner may be penciled into that role now, contrary to early offseason statements by Brian Sabean. Still, I find it hard to believe that the Giants will go to Spring Training without signing a veteran option for 5'th starter, but it may be someone on a minor league contract.

Hot Stove Update: Uribe Signs, RJ Retires

Jose Uribe officially re-signed with the Giants today. Nice job of waiting him out by Brian Sabean, 1 year, $3.5 M, no option.

Some of the speculation/information from Giants beat writers is not adding up. "Uribe could play primarily at 3B, moving DeRosa to LF." "The Giants are still seeking a lefthanded bat, either a first baseman or OF." It would seem almost certain that either DeRosa or Uribe is going to be the starting 3B, which means that Pablo has to move to first base, which means that the lefthanded bat the Giants are seeking isn't going to be playing first base. The most logical placements would seem to be Uribe at 3B, DeRosa in LF and Panda at 1B. Rowand is a lock for CF, so that leaves RF as the only place to put a lefthanded bat, which means that Nate Schierholtz is getting thrown under the bus.

I haven't always been a Randy Johnson fan. He was big, ugly and scary, and he didn't play for the Giants. I just didn't like the guy, especially when he pitched for the D'Backs! RJ is one of those guys who you hate when he is on the other team, and love when he is on your team. He was a shadow of his HOF self during his brief tenure with the Giants, but he did win 8 games, which is 3 more than the Giants #5 starters won in all of 2008. I am also convinced that he had a huge impact on the Giants young pitchers, giving them a confidence and tenacity that they might have lacked just a bit before his arrival. He was a good Giant. I am glad he got win #300 during his time here. He's a lock for the HOF and deservedly so.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fantasy Impact: First Base

Baseball's best power hitters are found at the first base position. First base is deep and fantasy owners should have no trouble getting a very productive hitter for the position. One thing to remember in fantasy drafts is that many owners will draft 2 or even 3 first basemen and roster the extras at IF or Utility positions to maximize offensive production. While many of baseball's elite hitters can be found fairly deep, the talent level drops dramatically after the top 18-20 first basemen, so if you wait too long, you might find yourself stuck with Travis Ishikawa, which puts you at a pretty severe disadvantage compared to teams with Albert Pujols, Miggy Cabrera and Prince Fielder on their rosters. Here's my list of the top fantasy first basemen:

1. Albert Pujols- #1 overall on most draft boards, and deservedly so. Even stole 16 bases last season!

2. Prince Fielder- Elite HR hitter and run producer who won't hurt you on Batting Average.

3. Mark Teixeira- Got off to a slow start with the Yankees. Now that he is settled in, could really bust out in that Yankee lineup and RF porch in home ballpark.

4. Miguel Cabrera- Won't get quite as many HR's as Ryan Howard, but makes up for it in Batting Average.

5. Ryan Howard- Has some downside on Batting Average but is an elite producer in 3 categories.

6. Adrian Gonzalez- Have to be concerned about the home ballpark, but AGone hasn't let that hold him back yet. Has improved his HR numbers 4 years in a row.

7. Joey Votto- Brilliant young hitter who is still improving. Should be even better after overcoming depression and anxiety related to his father's sudden death.

8. Pablo Sandoval- Should have dual eligibility with 3B in most leagues.

9. Derrick Lee- Steady producer in a good lineup.

10. Justin Morneau- Another reliable producer. Stress fracture in back should be fully healed, but mild concern about recurrence of back problems.

11. Kendry Morales- Stepped right in and filled the vacancy lefty by Mark Teixeira. The Angels obviously knew something when they traded Casey Kotchman for 2 months of Teixeira.

12. Lance Berkman- Had a down year for him in 2009, but that's still pretty good. Expect a rebound, but Berkman may not be the type of player who is productive late in his career.

13. Billy Butler- Finally started to hit like everyone expected him to. 2010 could be a true breakout year.

14. Kevin Youkilis- The "Greek God of Walks" is a notch below the elite hitters, but has been rock steady for years. Dual eligibility at 3B makes him a great choice for IF or Utility positions.

15. Carlos Pena- Great power and run producing numbers, but kills you on Batting Average. I tend to stay away from players like that, especially since Batting Average is not a counting stat, it's hard for your other players to make up that deficit.

16. Paul Konerko- underrated. You probably don't want him as your regular first sacker but can make a nice utility guy.

17. Adam LaRoche- See Paul Konerko

18. James Loney- See Paul Konerko. Power has been disappointing, but hits for a decent average and still produces runs.

19. Todd Helton- Finally healthy last year. Valuable as a utility player if he remains so.

20. Jorge Cantu- Also underrated. Dual eligibility at 3B.

20. Nick Johnson- If he can stay healthy, should thrive in Yankee Stadium and the Yankee lineup.

Regression alert! Garrett Jones, Russell Branyan.

Possible Rookies worth monitoring: Brett Wallace(if Toronto can trade Overbay), Logan Morrison, Chris Carter(Oakland).

Sleeper alert: Travis Ishikawa. If he can shake off the young player jitters and produce anything close to what he did in his home ballpark, could be a very surprising player. If the Giants sign a veteran first baseman like LaRoche though, Travis is done.