Friday, December 31, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #35 Kyle Nicholson #36 Eric Surkamp #37 Ari Ronick #38 Josh Mazzola

#35 Kyle Nicholson, RHP. A+: 7-9, 6.13, 119 IP, 19 BB, 85 K's, GO/AO= 1.58.

Nicholson got knocked around pretty good in the Cal League. He's a pretty standard sinker-slider guy with FB topping out at 90 MPH in a couple of games I saw him pitch. While his K, BB and groundball stats aren't terrible, it's pretty tough to project a MLB career for him based on this performance and what I saw. Might be worth seeing what he does in a more pitcher-friendly league in AA.

#36 Eric Surkamp, LHP. A+: 4-2, 3.11, 101.1 IP, 22 BB, 108 K, GO/AO- 0.87.

Surkamp put up very nice looking numbers for San Jose before going down with a hip injury. He reportedly recently underwent arthroscopic hip surgery and should be ready for spring training. He's a 3 pitch pitcher with a deceptive high 80's fastball, a biting curveball that is his best pitch, and an average changeup according to last year's BA scouting report. Hopefully he's healthy and ready to move up to AA in 2011. Ceiling is probably a #3 starter, on an average team, #5 in the current Giants rotation.

#37 Ari Ronick, LHP. A+: 0-2, 10.80, 8.1 IP, 7 BB, 6 K's.

Ronick's season was ended by an elbow injury. I haven't seen word of any surgery, but it wouldn't surprise me if he had TJ an will be out until about mid-season. One factoid I ran across while trying to find more info about the injury is that Ronick is a nephew of Laker's coach Phil Jackson.

#38 Josh Mazzola, 3B/1B. DNP. Mazzola went down with an injury after being assigned to San Jose's roster out of spring training but before the season started. I don't know more than that, but he missed the entire season. He was an undrafted FA and was already old for his levels, so this has to be a major blow to his future.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #31 Dan Turpen #32 Mike McBryde #33 Craig Clark #34 Paul Oseguera

We're in the middle of a string of washouts here. We'll try to move through them quickly and spend more time on some interesting names lower down on the list and in Honorable Mentions/Dominican Dandies.

#31 Dan Turpen, RHP. AA(Richmond): 5-5, 4.09, 50.2 IP, 19 BB, 42 K's, GO/AO= 1.89. AA(Portland): 2-1, 4.91, 18.1 IP, 9 BB, 18 K's, GO/AO= 0.94. AFL: 0-1, 5.40, 11.2 IP, 6 BB, 10 K's.

Turpen is Joe Paterson's buddy from Oregon State. A big RHP, he doesn't throw has hard as he looks like he should. 88-90 on the FB when I saw him pitch in 2009 for San Jose. Last year's AA numbers are uninteresting. He was traded mid-season for Ramon Ramirez who helped the Giants a lot down the stretch, so this trade looks like a winner for the Giants. He was picked up by the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft at the recent baseball Winter Meetings.

#32 Mike McBryde, OF. AAA: .243/.273/.419 with 3 HR's in 74 AB's.

McBryde got hit on the hand by a pitch in the May 5 game resulting in a fracture, and that was the end of his season. McBryde is a CF prospect with nice tools including an arm strong enough to pitch with and some speed. He's been beset by a string of injuries his entire career and will be 26 years old next season. With the Giants suddenly awash in CF prospects, it might be time for Mike to make his long awaited move to the pitching mound.

#33 Craig Clark, LHP. AAA: 2-3, 4.01, 42.2 IP, 21 BB, 23 K's. Low A: 3-3, 5.21, 46.2 IP, 13 BB, 43 K's.

Major disappointing season for Clark who had gone 16-2 with a 2.86 ERA for San Jose in 2009. I'm not sure what the deal was with him being sent down to Augusta. Was it a rehab assignment that never got untracked? Did the Giants already see him as just an organizational pitcher to fill in wherever needed? He's always been old for his level and has always had fringy stuff, so it's probably no surprise. At age 26, his future looks cloudy at this point.

#34 Paul Oseguera, LHP. Released.

I saw Oseguera pitch for San Jose in 2009 and liked what I saw, so I was surprised the Giants released him in spring training. He has a long history of injuries. I'm guessing he had another one and he was getting too old to reasonably come back yet again.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #28 Kevin Pucetas; #29 Joe Paterson; #30 Brock Bond

#28 Kevin Pucetas, RHP. AAA: 5-7, 5.69, 136 IP, 61 BB, 95 K's, GO/AO= 1.09.

Kevin Pucetas failed to completely recover from his late season collapse in 2009. He pitched well in 2010 spring training, but again got worse as the season went along. He was always a fairly low-ceiling guy despite pitching well at lower levels and even at AAA level early in 2009, but at this point he is probably a longshot at ever having a significant MLB career. He was traded to the KC Royals after the season as the PTBNL for Jose Guillen. KC has a ton of excellent pitching prospects coming along, but maybe there is a window in 2011 during which Kevin can gain a toehold in the majors.

#29 Joe Paterson, LHP. A+: 1-0, 0.82, 11 IP, 2 BB, 15 K's, GO/AO= 3.25. AAA: 4-3, 3.48, 54.1 IP, 24 BB, 49 K's, GO/AO= 1.56. AFL: 0-0, 2.25, 12 IP, 2 BB, 14 K's, GO/AO= 4.00.

Paterson has put up great looking numbers ever since being drafted in round 10 in 2007 out of Oregon State. I was surprised when the Giants left him unprotected in the 2010 Rule 5 draft, electing instead to keep Alex Hinshaw on the 40 man roster. Sure enough, the D'Backs grabbed him. Paterson will probably never be more than a lefthanded option out of the bullpen, but I expect him to make the D'Backs 25 man roster out of spring training and stick through the season. If that happens, he's a D'Back! Were he to return to the Giants, he would be stuck behind Affeldt, Lopez, Dan Runzler and apparently Alex Hinshaw in the organizational depth chart for LH relief pitchers.

#30 Brock Bond, 2B. AAA: .285/.397/.372, 9 SB, 4 CS. AA: .261/.320/.370.

Brock Bond has developed something of a cult following among Giants prospect watchers on the internet, mainly because he has always put up excellent OBP's. Many sites had him ranked a lot higher than #30. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a whole lot else going for him than OBP, no power, little speed, poor range, weak arm. The Giants sent a loud message that they regard him as an organizational player when they sent him down to AA so a parade of other players could get time at 2B in Fresno. For those of you who like to dream, Bond could turn into a switch-hitting version of David Eckstein, but at this point he is near the back of a long line in the Giants organizational depth chart at 2B.

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #27 Steve Edlefsen

Wow! Judging from the spirited discussions of the Community Prospect List over on, interest should be building for the 2011 version of my Giants Top 50 Prospects. Go check it out!

#27 Steve Edelfsen, RHP. AAA: 7-2, 2.38, 64.1 IP, 34 BB, 50 K's, GO/AO= 3.19, 6 Saves. VWL: 1-0, 1.69, 15 IP, 8 BB, 7 K's, GO/AO= 2.00.

Steve Edlefsen gets the job done with unimpressive K and BB numbers, but makes up for it with an extreme ground ball rate which he has been able to maintain throughout his pro career. The PCL tends to be tough on ground ball pitchers because sinkers don't sink in some of the hot, dry, high altitude settings. Edlefsen has an abrupt sidearm delivery a lot like former Giants prospect Adam Cowart, but he gets much more velocity than Cowart. He combines the sinker with a slider that was once rated best in the organization by BA. The abruptness of his delivery makes it very difficult for batters to time his pitches. The Giants thought highly enough of his performance that they added him to the 40 man roster in preference to Joe Paterson to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. It would be nice to see his walk rate come down, but if the ground ball tendencies hold up in the PCL, they should also hold up in the coastal ballparks of the NL West. He should be one of the first in line for a callup if the Giants need help in the bullpen in 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #26 Johnny Monell

#26 Johnny Monell, C. A+: .273/.350/.487 with 19 HR's. AAA: .200/.294/.400 in 15 AB's. PWL: .203/.250/.356 with 2 HR's in 59 AB's.

Johnny Monell was my pick for breakout prospect before the 2010 season. Maybe it wasn't quite a breakout, but he put up some very impressive numbers as the starting catcher for the San Jose Giants. He hit better as the season went along, moving into the cleanup spot in the batting order after Brandon Belt's promotion and winning the MVP of the Cal League Championship Series. Monell has always been an offense-first catcher, but San Jose Manager Brian Harper is a former MLB catcher and worked with Monell on his D. Gotta be rooting for Monell to make it. His father played professional baseball for 17 seasons without ever making it to the majors. A lefthanded hitting catcher with some pop would be a perfect backup for Buster Posey in SF or could become a very valuable trade chip.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #25 Brett Pill

#25 Brett Pill, 1B. AAA: .275/.319/.433 with 34 2B, 16 HR.

Brett Pill went into the 2010 season with a bit of a buzz due to his breakout 2009 season in AA Connecticut, a notoriously difficult stop for most Giants hitting prospects, in which he put up a line of .298/.348/.480 with 37 2B and 19 HR's. Since most hitting prospects tend to hit significantly better after their promotion to AAA Fresno, Pill's line there in 2010 was a disappointment. The fact that his post all-star BA was almost 50 points lower than his pre all-star BA didn't help matters. In the meantime, both Buster Posey and Brandon Belt roared past him on the Giants 1B depth chart. The fact that the Giants dropped him from the 40 man roster in order to protect other players from the Rule 5 draft shows how much his stock dropped. BTW, I have to admit I don't quite understand what happened when the Giants outrighted him back to the Fresno roster. I always though that once a player was on the 40 man roster he couldn't be dropped without clearing waivers, but there is no mention of waivers in the news releases about Pill's demotion. Players have come back from being dropped from the 40 man roster before, but I can't say I recall any off the top of my head and I'm pretty sure it doesn't happen very often. Pill turned 26 years old after the season so time is not on his side at all.

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #24 Matthew Graham

#24 Matthew Graham, RHP. Short Season: 0-3, 6.85, 22.1 IP, 10 BB, 19 K's, GO/AO= 2.43. Rookie AZL: 1-0, 5.63, 8 IP, 5 BB, 8 K's, GO/AO= 2.50.

Since John Barr took over as Scouting Director, the Giants seem to be starting a pattern of taking a raw, high upside high school pitcher somewhere about rounds 6-10. Graham is one of those, taken in round 6, 2009. He's a typical Texas pitcher, tall and big-boned at 6'4", 225 lbs. He turned 20 early in the season, which is one reason why the Giants may have started him out in short season ball, but it was his first professional action. Despite the high ERA's, there are some things to like here. He's an extreme groundball pitcher with a decent K rate. He needs to cut down on the walks and likely needs better secondary stuff to get less hard contact. Drafting these kinds of players in rounds 6-10 is a smart way to go. If even one out of 5 hit their ceiling, heck, if even 1 out of 10 do, it's a great return for those rounds of the draft. At this point Graham is still a wild card prospect, very high ceiling, but also high risk of being a bust. I would think the Giants will have him in some role in Augusta next season. He will probably have a similar ranking on my 2011 list.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #23 Jose Casilla

#23 Jose Casilla, RHP. Low A: 4-1, 1.16, 54.1 IP, 17 BB, 41 K's, GO/AO= 2.46, 14 Saves.

Casilla is the brother of Giants reliever Santiago Casilla. Jose has put up interesting numbers for quite awhile in the Giants system. The Giants have treated him with kid gloves in terms of total IP. He served as a closer for Augusta and again put up some serious numbers in limited IP. The package of a an extreme groundball tendency with decent K's and good walk rates looks like it should play at higher levels, including MLB. The Giants promoted him to San Jose for the Cal League Playoffs and he performed well. I saw him pitch in Rancho Cucamonga during the championship series and this is what I saw: 1. Sinking fastball that ran 89-92 with possibly one pitch as high as 94. This was more of a contact pitch than a swing an miss pitch and a couple of balls were hit hard. 2. A sharp breaking ball that RC batters couldn't hit. He'll turn 22 on 5/21. I imagine he will start the season in San Jose, but wouldn't be shocked if he skipped a level to AA. I see him as a middle relief/setup man at the MLB level. He should be adept at inducing DP's to get out of jams with less than 2 outs. Will probably move up in my 2011 list.

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #22 Henry Sosa

#22 Henry Sosa, RHP. AAA: 7-8, 4.07, 115 IP, 55 BB, 83 K's. DWL: 2-0, 5.95, 19.3 IP, 13 BB, 16 K.

It seems like just about forever since Henry Sosa had something of a breakout in 2007 going 6-0 with a 0.73 ERA for Augusta and then holding his own after a promotion to San Jose. Since then he's had a series of injuries, first a torn patellar tendon and then a torn pectoral muscle from doing too many post-game pushups. He's also failed to make progress in lowering his walk rate which was pretty ugly looking last year. He hasn't been better this winter in the DWL, which is usually a pitcher's league. Sosa has a quick fastball that darts a bit, but it's not a stand alone fastball. He needs control/command and he needs better secondary stuff. The Giants have a good track record with pitching prospects so you'd think somebody in the organization would find something to tweak, but right now Sosa is treading water and will likely drop close to the bottom of next year's Top 50.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #21 Ydwin Villegas

Gotta pick up the pace a bit to get this done in time to get the 2011 list done before the season starts!

#21 Ydwin Villegas, SS. Low A: .189/.215/.242.

Well, we made it all the way down to #21 before we got to a complete bust of a season. That's the silver lining here, because there just isn't any way to spin the season Villegas had as a success. He kind of showed up out of nowhere in Arizona in 2009 and put up a BA of .300+ and then hit .375 in 8 AB's with Salem-Keizer. It seemed like he would take his place on the shortstop prospect ladder behind Crawford and Adrianza. Alas, he was completely overmatched in Augusta. No average, no walks, lots of K's, no power, no speed. I guess you don't want to write off a 19 year old who can play shortstop, but I have a tough time seeing how I'm going to fit him into a 2011 Top 50 list.

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #20 Chris Dominguez

#20 Chris Dominguez, 3B. Low A: .272/.326/.456 with 32 2B, 4 3B, 21 HR, 14 SB, 7 CS.

Chris Dominguez might have the most power of any prospect in the Giants organization. He also struggles mightily to make contact with the baseball. Still, his 2010 season was much better than I feared it might be. I thought there was a real possibility that he could hit <.220 and be off the prospect map entirely. Instead, he maintained a steady BA throughout the season, finished strong and put up very impressive power numbers along the way. Augusta's home ballpark is very tough on power hitters. He also cut his K rate from 28% of PA's to 22%. He played the season at age 23, which is way old for low A ball. On the other hand, it was just his first full pro season and power hitters often develop late. He showed steady improvement in college and has shown signs of development in the pros. I'm looking forward to seeing him in the Cal League in 2011. With Pablo Sandoval and Conor Gillaspie ahead of him on the organizational 3B depth chart, the Giants can afford to be patient with him.

BTW, Chris is hitting .429 in 14 AB's in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

BTW, he also has one of the strongest throwing arms in the organization. I have seen some scouting reports that project him as a plus defender at 3B

Friday, December 24, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #19 Ehire Adrianza

#19 Ehire Adrianza, SS. A+: .256/.333/.348, 33 SB, 15 CS

Adrianza put up almost identical offensive numbers for San Jose in 2010 as he did for Augusta in 2009 except his SB's took a big jump from 7 to 33. He is a superlative defensive shortstop who cut down in his errors considerably and went something like the last 6 weeks of the season without committing at error. The only question about him is his bat. He has shown a consistent ability to control the strike zone, but not much else.

Having seen him play several times in person, I can certainly see why the scouts love him. He's on the tall side for a middle infielder at 6'1" and has all kinds of projectability in his body. I estimate he can easily carry another 20 lbs on his frame. He played most of the season at age 20, so he has some time to fill out and find his power potential. If he does, I think he's the Giants shortstop of future. Brandon Crawford is probably closer to the majors, but I like Adrianza's ceiling better. I think he will eventually develop at least doubles power, if not more. Combined with his plate discipline, speed and defense, that's a very nice package there.

I think I will probably rank him higher in the next list. If he moves up to AA and puts up similar numbers in Richmond, his stock will rise even further.

Hot Tip: Willie's Giant Christmas Present

Hey team! You have to check this one out! Willie Mays biographer, James Hirsch, ran a piece in the Wall Street Journal about Willie's reaction to the Giants winning the World Series. I knew Willie was ill and unable to throw out the first pitch at one of the games in SF and I was concerned about him. I was hoping he was well enough to be watching from somewhere. Looks like he just had a real bad cold and is OK. Whew! Hard to believe Willie is almost 80 years old.

Sorry I don't know how to make this a direct link. If that doesn't work, you can just google Willie's Giant Christmas Present and it will be the first thing to come up.

Must read for any long time Giants fan, and even for younger ones!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #18 Conor Gillaspie

#18 Conor Gillaspie, 3B. AA: .287/.335/.420 with 25 2B, 8 3B, 8 HR. AFL: .306/.350/.597 with 5 HR in 72 AB.

Conor Gillaspie is on a forced fast track to either the majors or the waiver wire due to signing a MLB contract when he was drafted. Normally, a team can keep a prospect in the minors 4 seasons before exposing him to the Rule 5 draft, at which point they can protect him by adding him to the 40 man roster. Once added to the 40 man roster, they have 3 years worth of options before they have to keep him on the 25 man active roster or expose him to waivers. With Conor Gillaspie, the option clock started the first season after he was drafted. What that means is, he will have to make the 25 man active roster by the spring of 2012, or the Giants will have to put him on waivers, allowing other teams a chance to claim him, before sending him down.

As a .400+ hitting 3B in college, Conor seemed like a good bet to beat those odds and be a major leaguer with room to spare. It hasn't quite worked out that way. He hasn't been terrible in the minors, but neither has he put up the kind of numbers that make you think he is, or should be, on any kind of fast track to the majors. .287 is a good BA for the Eastern League and he's starting to show a bit of power. His AFL performance was kind of a breakout, but a very small sample size and the AFL is notorious hitter's league.

Conor's fortunes may well be tied in a negative way to Pablo Sandoval's. If Sandoval has another bad year and washes out of the Majors, Conor might be the guy the Giants try next at 3B. If Pablo rebounds and looks like he can play 3B for a few more years, then the only opening would be at first base and it's even tougher to see Conor developing the kind of power you want from a first baseman. If Pablo has a good season, look for Conor Gillaspie to be packaged in a trade before the Giants have to expose him to waivers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #17 Darren Ford

#17 Darren Ford, OF. AA: .251/.315/.365, 20 2B, 9 3B, 5 HR, 37 SB, 15 CS in 463 AB's.

It was a rough year for Darren Ford in many ways, but somehow he managed to add his name to a long list of players the Giants might not have won the World Series without. The year started off with an offseason incident in which Darren, who was working for a car dealership, reported being held up at gunpoint and robbed of a bag of cash he was delivering to the bank for the dealership. A couple of months later, near the beginning of the season, he was arrested and charged with making a false police report and with theft of the cash in the bag. At that point, you had to figure Darren's baseball career was pretty much toast. He isn't exactly young for a prospect and I figured he would be suspended until his legal situation was resolved, minimum of 1 full lost season. He played the whole season after all. I'm not sure where his legal proceedings are at this point. He is currently playing winter ball in Venezuela where he's managed just a .063 BA in 32 AB's.

Coming off a great 2009 season in the Cal League, Darren's AA season in Richmond was a disappointment. Somewhat surprisingly, he was one of the first minor leaguers called up for September and may have won the season for the Giants in his very first MLB appearance. The game was against the Colorado Rockies on September 1, game 3 of the series. The Giants had lost the first game 2-1, in what seemed like a season-destroying loss when Carlos Gonzalez hit a broken bat RBI triple and then came around to score on a throwing error by Freddy Sanchez. Game 2 went to the Giants and they desperately needed to take game 3 to win the series and possibly gain ground on the Pesky Padres who were in the midst of their 10 game losing streak.

Tim Lincecum and Ubaldo Jimenez hooked up in a classic pitching duel between two aces, and the score was tied 1-1 going to the bottom of the 8'th inning. Mike Fontenot led off the inning with a walk. Bruce Bochy, made one of his best moves of the season by bringing in Darren Ford to pinch run. Tim Lincecum sacrificed him to second. With Andres Torres batting, Jimenez threw a wild pitch and Darren took off for 3B. Miguel Olivo quickly recovered the ball and thought he had a chance to get Darren but threw wide left and the ball went into LF. Darren jumped up and raced home with what proved to be the winning run. It's quite possible, even likely, that a slower runner might not have advanced to 3B on the WP nor come home on the throwing error by Olivo. Had the Giants lost this game, it is quite possible, even likely, that they would not have won the NL West.

Darren Ford's final MLB line for the season was 7 G, 0 AB, 1 R, 2 SB, 1 CS. That one run may well have saved the season for the Giants! That 1 run made the trade of Ray Durham to the Brewers for Darren Ford a success even if Darren never makes another appearance in a Giants uniform.

Darren will undoubtedly start the 2011 season in the minors. Hopefully he has a better season at the plate. With the Giants logjam in the OF, plus OF prospects like Thomas Neal, Gary Brown and Francisco Peguero coming along fast, Ford would not seem to have much of a future in SF. I think he can help a team out as a 5'th OF for defense and speed. It just might have to be with another team. If that is the case, he will be remembered as a Good Giant, maybe the best career a player ever had without even so much as 1 AB!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #16 Clayton Tanner

#16 Clayton Tanner, LHP. AA: 9-9, 3.68, 149 IP, 64 BB, 79 K, GO/AO= 1.79.

I'm not sure what to make of Clayton Tanner's 2010 season. He pitched decently, but that K/BB is just horrific. It's partially made up for by the groundball tendency, but still.... It's hard to imagine stuff that produced a line like that in AA holding up at higher levels. One thought is that Tanner's season continues a trend in which pitching prospects see their K rates drop significantly in AA. In Madison Bumgarner's case, it turned out to not mean too much. He was probably just working on some things and got his mechanics messed up a bit in the process. In the case of Tim Alderson, it was a harbinger of tougher times ahead.

Tanner physically looks a lot like Noah Lowry, has similar stuff and this is certainly a Lowryesque line. The thing about Noah Lowry is I'm not sure he cracks the current Giants rotation, even at his best! It wouldn't shock me to see Clayton repeat AA at age 23 in 2011. Not impossibly old, but not exactly on the fast track either. I have to say I see him eventually getting traded out of the organization.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #13 Dan Runzler, #14 Waldis Joaquin, #15 Jason Stoffel

We'll do the reliever 3-pack together.

#13 Dan Runzler, LHP. MLB: 3-0, 3.03, 32.2 IP, 20 BB, 37 K's.

Runzler is still below 50 IP at the MLB level, but I believe he has officially graduated based on appearances or time on the 25 man roster. I'm not really an expert on those rules. I'm going to count him as graduated, so he won't be on the 2011 list. Runzler overcame residual wildness and a mid-season strained oblique to pitch well in limited action for the Giants in 2010, one of many players the Giants probably wouldn't have won the WS without. It's probably not an omen, but Brian Wilson suffered an oblique strain early in his Giants career. Right now, Runzler is #3 on the LHP relief depth chart behind Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez. He will start the season in Fresno, possibly as a starting pitcher as insurance in case of injury. Dude has the stuff to be a closer someday. He just needs to tamp down the wildness just a bit more.

#14 Waldis Joaquin, RHP. MLB: 0-0, 9.64, 4.2 IP, 7 BB, 2 K's. AAA 1-2, 4.93, 34.2 IP, 22 BB, 33 K's.

Another guy with great velocity who has trouble finding the strike zone. Joaquin had a strange odyssey this season. He made the 25 man roster early on but couldn't throw strikes to save his life. Sent down to Fresno, he saw limited action including 5 starts with mixed results. After the season, he was waived from the 40 man roster to make room for players the Giants wanted to protect from the Rule 5 draft. He was claimed by the White Sox, but refused the claim and opted for free agency. I didn't even know a player could do that! I guess you learn something new every day! He eventually signed a minor league deal with the Giants. All this is interesting because the Giants are loaded to the gills with bullpen options. I mean, Waldis will not even be the first injury replacement option now that Guillermo Mota has signed a minor league deal. I wonder if the Giants promised him a chance to be a starter in Fresno and that's why he signed. That seems like his best bet at this point.

#15 Jason Stoffel, RHP. A+: 2-4, 4.80, 50.2 IP, 24 BB, 66 K's, 25 Saves, GO/AO= 1.77. AFL: 1-0, 5.27, 13.2 IP, 4 BB, 11 K's, GO/AO= 2.00.

Jason Stoffel seemed like a guy who could fast track to majors as a reliever with his closer experience in college. He got roughed up a bit in the Cal League, probably bumping him off the fast track. the K/9 is there, but the control/command is not. I saw him pitch twice. He does have a good hard fastball that might be a bit straight. He tends to rush things and try to work too fast. He pitched in bad luck both times I saw him, but tended to dig himself deeper once he got into trouble. He seemed to lose velocity rapidly in the second inning of work. Once the velocity went down, the lucky hits turned into screaming line drives. The second time I saw him he slowed was in the playoff finals against Ranch Cucamonga. He was more deliberate in this game and seemed to throw more and better quality off-speed stuff. His strong points are velocity, K/9 and ground ball rates. Negatives are poor control and stamina. IMO, the Giants need to make him work more innings at a time, maybe even as a starter to build his stamina and force him to diversify his pitch arsenal. Certainly still has a high ceiling, but lots of questions about whether he will ever reach it.

Hot Stove Update: Zack Grienke to the BrewCrew

The full trade is RHP Zack Grienke from the KC Royals to the Milwaukee Brewers for SS Alcides Escobar, OF Lorenzo Cain, RHP Jeremy Jeffress and RHP Jake Odirizzi. I have to say I like the trade from both sides, but unlike most commentators, I like it a bit more from the Royals side.

On the surface, the trade gives the BrewCrew a solid rotation, while not quite in the same class as the Giants or Phillies, makes them very competitive with second tier rotations like the Dodgers, Braves, Reds and Cards: Grienke, Gallardo, Marcum, Wolf and Narveson. The big question is which version of Zack Grienke are the Brewers getting, the Cy Young winner from 2009 or the guy who went 10-14 with a 4+ ERA last year? While the most likely answer is somewhere in between, it's not an automatic that Grienke is their #1 guy for the next 2 years or that he will be a $13 M/yr pitchers over those 2 years.

I don't mind the Brewers giving up young players and prospects if they are going for it now. The one chip they gave up that I think hurts just a bit is the SS, Escobar. Some of the commenters on other internet baseball sites are saying he's already a bust with the bat, but go look up the first 1-3 year stats on some historical all-star field-first shortstops like Dave Concepcion and Omar Vizquel who eventually became more than adequate hitters. Next, look up how many highly ranked, MLB ready shortstops are out there on the top prospect lists coming out. I did that when I was trying to see if there was anybody out there the Giants might be able to trade for. The list is not a long one! The Brewers got a stopgap back for at least 1 season, but will now probably have to struggle to fill the position for years to come.

From the Royals side, Grienke was coming off a down year and was demanding a trade. They didn't have to trade him, but they also couldn't risk a further eroding of his value with another down year either. The Royals have a monster farm system and are going to be a very good team in 1 to 3 years. One way or another, Grienke was not going to be part of that future good team. As loaded as KC's farm system is, they didn't have anybody who definitely projected as their future SS or CF and you can never have too much pitching.

Escobar is already a plus defender at an elite position. The D should get better as he learns the nuances of the position at the MLB level. His OBP was just .288, but with a BA of .239, that can easily get up into the .320-.330 range if he can get his BA up to .270 which his likely projection. With just that much offense, he should become a 3+ WAR player in the near future. Just to show you how much I like Escobar, for awhile this offseason is I was holding out a slim hope that the Giants could make a trade for him if the Brewers had soured on him.

I've always liked Lorenzo Cain and not just because he carries the same surname as our favorite Giants pitcher. Cain has always brought a big toolbox with him. At the very least, he'll be a positive defender in CF. His offensive record in the minors has been spotty. He will likely continue to be alternatingly spectacular and frustrating. Again, natural CF's don't grow on trees and this was a hole in KC's future.

Jeremy Jeffress has a 100 MPH fastball that he has struggled to control. He's also missed some development time with a couple of drug suspensions for Marijuana. Let me just say that while I don't advocate using Marijuana, especially if you do it by inhaling smoke into your lungs, I don't think it's as addictive as Nicotine nor as dangerous as alcohol. Like all substances including food, it has the potential for overuse and abuse, but probably should not be illegal and should be treated differently by MLB than violations for PED's and harder drugs. Assuming Jeffress can avoid a lifetime ban, he looks like a Closer in the making, and possibly as early as 2011. He was blowing hitters away in the Arizona Fall League.

Odirizzi is a former first round draft pick who has done nothing in the pros to diminish his standing as a prospect. He is still probably at least 2 years away, but gives the Royals yet another high ceiling prospect in their system. You can never have too much pitching!

Summary: Win-win here, but I like the trade slightly better for KC.

PS: If you think the internet community has been unfairly critical of Brian Sabean, you should read what most of them have to say about Dayton Moore. I see some parallels here. Moore has had a lot of trades and FA signings not work out the way fans hoped, and that is probably a negative. On the other hand, KC has never had a basic core strong enough for a quick turnaround. Moore's plan and mandate was/is to build the team through scouting, drafting and the farm system. He has quietly built the best farm system in baseball, and it's not at all a close call. Some commentators like Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus are going so far as to call it the best in history! The KC Royals are going to have very good team within the next 3 years and when that happens, all those people making jokes about how Moore and Omar Minaya battling for the title of worst GM in baseball are going to start singing a different tune.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #12 Edward Concepcion

#12 Edward Concepcion. Short Season: 3-7, 6.39, 63.1 IP, 46 BB, 57 K's, GO/AO- 1.33.

I guess I was desperate to find a high ceiling pitcher to list after a long run of hitters and over-reached. Concepcion had been reported to have a mid-high 90's fastball with promising secondary stuff. Clearly this was not what we had in mind when we placed him this high. A disappointing season. For those of you who like silver linings though, there are a few to be found:

1. K/9=8.1

2. Positive GO/AO, though not as impressive as his 2010 line.

3. If you throw out 3 horrific outings, 7/25, 7/31, 8/5, the ERA goes down to a much more respectable 4.41.

4. He recovered from that 3 game nightmare to pitch decently over his last 6 appearances. I like prospects who show they can come back from adversity.

In the 2011 list, Concepcion will probably be one of those guys I include at the back end who have been disappointments but have too much potential to completely write off. Right now though, he's just another live arm in the system.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #11 Hector Sanchez

#11 Hector Sanchez. Low A .274/.336/.394 with 5 HR's.

In retrospect, this was probably too aggressive a placement for Hector on my 2010 Giants Top Prospects list. Then again, catchers who can hit even a little from both sides of the plate have incredible value. Just ask Dioner Navarro! Anyway, I think this is actually a fairly respectable season considering he didn't turn 21 until November, so was age appropriate for the level. It's just that the regression in plate discipline and lack of power development was just a bit disappointing. I'm still pretty optimistic about Hector's future, just maybe not quite as much so as before this year, but that was probably unrealistic anyway. Where will Hector play in 2011? Logic would have him moving up to San Jose and continuing his platoon with Tommy Joseph. Fla-Giant has picked up some talk of him repeating Augusta while Joseph moves up to SJ possibly along with Dan Burkhart. We'll see.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #10 Francisco Peguero

#10 Francisco Peguero. A+ .329/.358/.488 10 HR, 16 3B, 19 2B, 40 SB, 22 CS. in 510 AB's

Well, now that the Cliff Lee furor has started to die down, maybe we can get back to looking at prospects. Francisco Peguero had another stellar season for San Jose on the heels of a combined .353 BA over two levels in 2009. He showed a progression of power with 16 triples vs 5 and 10 HR's vs just 1. Peguero is your classic "tools" player with great "projectability." I saw Peguero 4 times this year and really liked what I saw. He's very athletic looking and has a bone structure that looks like it can still support at least 10-20 lbs more weight and still be athletic looking. I would estimate that the power progression will continue as he fills out that frame. He will need that power. Whlle he can play CF, he played mostly RF for SJ as Juan Perez was apparently the superior defensive CF. In Peguero's favor, he did display enough arm for RF. He's got plenty of speed as you can see from all the triples, and SB's, but he needs to work on being a smarter basestealer as you can see from too many CS. His other main fault is a persistant unwillingness to take walks. That won't matter as long as he can hit .329 or more, but may become a problem as the pitching gets better at higher levels. I'm thinking this guy may actually not be a leadoff hitter though. After he fills out and his power is fully developed I could easily see him hitting in the 3 hole. He will likely move up into the top 5 Giants prospects on the 2011 list. One tough question will be his relative placement vs Gary Brown who is a very similar player.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Cliff Lee to the Phillies

Cliff Lee's surprising decision to sign a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies exploded on the baseball scene with a mushroom cloud full of fallout extending to virtually every team in baseball. The initial reaction from just about everybody who is not a Giants fan or Giants beat writer to declare the Phillies' to have the best pitching rotation in the history of baseball and immediately award them the 2011 World Series Championship. No need to play the games, just add up the WAR's and give out the trophy. Any other outcome is just luck anyway! I mean has no less than 4 articles all written by Dave Cameron, the guy who declared that first, Roy Halladay and second, Cliff Lee to be unbeatable in the playoffs, all pretty much saying the same thing in a different way. So what do we make of the baseball equivalent of the dawning of the nuclear age? Let's take a look at the fallout:

The Phillies now have themselves a very impressive pitching rotation, especially in the top 4 slots. Is it the best in baseball? I don't know about that. A website like simply projects what each pitcher's WAR is going to be and, well, that settles that. Just remember, WAR is a complex, calculated state with almost innumerable variables and weightings. Fangraphs WAR may not necessarily be someone else's WAR. In's WAR calculations, league and park factors are weighted heavily, too heavily IMO. Players, especially pitchers, are penalized for playing in the NL West, which is perceived to be the weakest division in baseball. Well, I'm not really sure that is true! Philadelphia pitchers automatically get a head start in WAR points for pitching in a bandbox. Well, that assumes the Giants pitchers wouldn't be able to duplicate their numbers if they were magically transplanted to Philadelphia and I'm not at all sure that is true either! Match up the Giants and Phillies in a 7 game series, and I still call it even money and wouldn't hesitate to bet on the Giants.

Remember how the Giants lefthanded pitchers dominated the Phillies lefty-leaning lineup in the NLCS? Well, this signing virtually guarantees an even more lefty leaning lineup as the Phils are out of money and looking to shed Joe Blanton's salary. Lefthanded hitting Domonic Brown is Jayson Werth's replacement in RF, come hell or high water.

The fallout goes way beyond the Phillies and Giants though. The obvious losers in all this are the two teams who thought they had at least a 50% chance of signing Lee, the Yankees and Rangers. The Yankees needed Cliff Lee and needed him badly. Andy Petitte is, once again threatening to retire and isn't the pitcher he once was anyway. The Red Sox have a very lefthanded heavy lineup and Yankee Stadium has a short RF porch. Lee was going to be the great equalizer. Well, THAT didn't work out! Texas is now left with a gaping hole in their rotation with no good way to fill it. They can try to sign Rafael Soriano to close and convert Neftali Feliz to starter or they can trade even more of their now depleted farm system for a starter. Problem is now that the Giants have shown the world just how valuable pitching is, teams are hoarding their pitching like crazy. Just ask the Phillies! And the Dodgers!

The Boston Red Sox, who have already had a pretty darn good offseason, just had an even better one. As I said before, keeping Cliff Lee out of a Yankee uniform takes away the evil empire's main chance of counteracting Boston's lefty heavy lineup. Meanwhile, the Yankee fans who spit on Cliff's wife must be thinking about moving to another country for their personal safety as it appears that may have been a real factor is Lee's now obvious distaste for signing with the Yankees.

The rest of the NL East can't be happy with this. Although the Phillies remain beatable in a 7 game series, they will win a ton of games in the regular season because their pitching will dominate a lot of teams who can't counter with pitching like the Giants. So, a titanic NLCS rematch becomes a very likely possibility.

Carl Pavano is now the best pitcher on the free agent market, making the Twins goal of re-signing him more difficult and likely much more expensive. Pavano is a good pitcher, but is also now the #1 candidate to end up with the most overvalued contract of the offseason.

Zack Grienke just got a lot more likely to be traded with the KC Royals a lot more likely to get a valuable package in return. Other teams with pitching to trade may well find the return more tempting. The Giants may be responsible for making pitching an overvalued commodity!

What do other fallout do you see from the Cliff Lee signing?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #9 Nick Noonan

#9 Nick Noonan. AA .237/.280/.304 with 3 HR, 7 SB in 372 AB.

Not too many positives to find in that line! As with so many Giants hitting prospects that have come before him, Nick Noonan struggled mightily in AA. I don't know if it's the weather, the home stadiums, the league or the players just aren't as good as we hoped, but Giants hitting prospects just disappear down a trapdoor when they hit AA. As one would expect, Nick struggled in April, but looked like he was getting his feet under him in May hitting .284. Alas, it was all downhill from there. He missed most of June with an injury then hit just .239 in July and an even worse .210 in August. Word is he may have tried to come back too soon from a hammy and battled it all season.

On the positive side, Nick didn't turn 21 until the season was underway which is still somewhat young for the level. He could repeat the level for whole season and still be on a nice career track. For the time being, Charlie Culberson has clearly passed him on the organizational depth chart at 2B, but remember, Culberson has yet to play a game at AA level. Nick Noonan will drop significantly in the 2011 prospects list, but it's way too early to write him off. It will be interesting to see where Noonan and Culberson are assigned to begin the season.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #8 Tommy Joseph

#8 Tommy Joseph. Low A- .236/.290/.401 with 16 HR in 436 AB.

Tommy Joseph's calling card is "light-tower" power. Hitting 16 HR's in his first professional season played at age 18 did not diminish that impression. Some analysts are calling Joseph's season a disappointment. I would not characterize it as such. Yes, he had an OBP under .300, which put a big hit on his OPS, but his IsoOBP of .054 was not horrible and it is extremely rare for a HS draftee to show that kind of power this early in their career, and even rarer to combine it with good plate discipline(not saying Tommy's was good, just if it was we'd be talking about the next Mike Piazza). Tommy also got better as the season progressed:

Pre All-Star: .211/.281/.333 with 6 HR's in 213 AB.
Post All-Star: .260/.298/.466 with 10 HR's in 223 AB.

There are still legitimate questions about his athleticism and what positions he might or might not play, but I would rate his first professional season a success, or at least something to build on. I would think we'll see him in San Jose in 2011 where he will continue to catch, play some 1b and DH, much like Pablo Sandoval when he was there. He should come in very close to the same position in my 2011 Top 50 Giants Prospects list.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Winter Meetings Wrap

As expected, the Giants didn't do much at the Winter Meetings in Florida. That is a good thing! Brian Sabean was like a man who got all his Christmas shopping done before Black Friday and could avoid the crowds of people trampling each other. Sabes and Bochy were able to spend their time basking in the warm sunshine of a World Series championship while everybody else shivered in the cold Florida air.

The Giants will go into next season with their championship team virtually intact. There are still some complaining that this was a team that barely won the NL West. What they forget is the Giants team that finished the season was a much better team than the one that started the season. The team that finished the season is the one coming back next year.

The Giants lost Joe Paterson in the Rule 5 draft to the division rival D'Backs. Paterson pitched well in the very tough AAA PCL last year as well as the Arizona Fall League. The D'Backs' bullpen is a shambles. Paterson will likely stick on their 25 man roster and be lost to the Giants. Personally, I would have droppped Alex Hinshaw from the 40 man roster to protect Paterson, but with Affeldt, Lopez and Runzler all coming back, it's probably no great loss.

The Giants lost Jake Blackwood to the Padres in the AAA phase. Blackwood is the indy league star who signed with the Giants late in the season. He never played a game as a member of the Giants organization. So long, Jake. We hardly knew ye! Don't be shocked if Blackwood is the Padres starting 2B next spring.

The Giants made 3 picks in the AAA phase of the Rule 5 Draft. I like this approach because there is no return rule in the minor league phases which allows the Giants time to evaluate these players over the course of a full season. The most interesting pick was catcher Dashenko Ricardo out of the Baltimore organization. This one was a bit of a head scratcher, Ricardo hit just .187 in 32 games last year, but then it came out that the Giants like his arm and are going to try converting him to pitching! I like that! Other picks in the AAA phase were Justin Dowdy from the Rays' organization. He's a LHP with a low ERA in limited action last year. The Giants also took Matthew Sartor who was just 4-9 with a 4.30 ERA at two levels last year, but had 71 K's in 58.2 IP.

Some thoughts on non-Giants activity at the Winter Meetings:

I've already commented on the Jayson Werth signing by the Nationals and the Adrian Gonzalez trade to Boston.

Boston brought along of Brink's Truck full of cash to the meetings and outmuscled the Angels for Carl Crawford. Boston now has a lineup that rivals any in baseball, including the Yankees. It leans heavily lefthanded though. Boston also did not upgrade their starting pitching and did nothing to address a very shaky bullpen. I've been musing about how the Giants might fare against Boston in a hypothetical, but quite possible 2011 World Series. I think the Giants would win, especially if they had the home field advantage. AT&T is tough on lefthanded sluggers, especially if they are not familiar with it, and we've all seen the magic of how Bruce Bochy can manipulate a pitching staff to neutralize a lineup that leans too heavily either way.

Angels fans have to be disappointed in their team's performance at the Winter Meetings. The Angels let it be known they were willing to spend and went in as favorites to land Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano and possibly Adrian Beltre. They came away with lefty setup man Scott Downs. They are now competing to overpay Beltre and are apparently out of the running for Soriano. Once the Werth signing went down, the Angels had to know their 6 year/$108 M offer to Crawford wouldn't get it done. Either they gave up at that point, or were delusional about what it would take to sign him.

The Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays made an interesting trade, RHP Shaun Marcum for 2B prospect Brett Lawrie. The Brewers desperately needed to upgrade their pitching rotation and got a real quality starter in Marcum. Alex Anthopoulos, who has made several quirky trades, apparently thought Marcum was expendable as he has Kyle Drabek, Deck McGuire and Asher Wociechowski lined up behind him. Lawrie has been a highly regarded hitting prospect, but is not a lock to stick at 2B and seems to have developed some attitude problems of late. He refused to play in the Arizona Fall League and some unflattering photos were posted on his Facebook page. Let's just say he doesn't appear to be the kind of guy you'd want your daughter dating. We'll call this trade a win for the BrewCrew.

The Dodgers continued to add depth to their starting pitching re-signing Vicente Padilla who can be stashed as a long reliever until he is needed in the rotation. One website speculated that the Dodgers may be thinking of trading Chad Billingsley for an elite hitter. One rumor at the Winter Meetings that go shot down quickly was James Loney and Jonathan Broxton to the Brewers for Prince Fielder. The Dodgers still need major upgrades at first base and LF, as well as better seasons out of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Replacing Theriot with Uribe and Russell Martin with Barajas upgraded their power, but added an awful lot of outs to their lineup.

What are your thoughts on the Winter Meetings?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #7 Roger Kieschnick

#7 Roger Kieschnick AA .251/.305/.368 with 4 HR in 223 AB's

After a stellar 2009 season in A+ San Jose in which he put up a line of .296/.345/.532 with 23 HR's, Roger Kieschnick looked like he might be on the fast track to the majors. Unfortunately, he had a rough season in 2010. Roger actually got off to a decent start in AA hitting .289 in April. He had a horrible month of May hitting just .190. He seemed to recover a bit in June with a .286 BA, but then came out of his second game in July after 1 AB and never returned to the lineup with some sort of back injury or ailment. I did a quick google search and came up empty on any information regarding the injury. Back injuries can be unpredictable. They can heal up and never cause a problem again, or they can become chronic and debilitating. Anybody remember a guy named Dallas McPherson?

Aside from a lack of power and a poor to mediocre walk rate, Roger really only had 1 really bad month. He lost out on the part of the season where Eastern League hitters usually heat up, so we don't know what he might have done the rest of the way. He will definitely drop significantly in the 2011 Top Prospect lists, but should not be written off completely. He got great size, is a good athlete and has shown tremendous power potential. At this point, his career outcome will probably be determined by the health of his back, so he could be back in the top 10 by this time next year or he could be off the list altogether. 2011 will be an important year for Roger Kieschnick.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hot Tip: Brian Sabean's Comments on Brandon Belt

Hey team! Check out today's post by Carl Steward on Extra Baggs. You can find the link over on the left hand side of this blog. Keep in mind that Brian Sabean never, ever makes positive comments about prospects. Heck, he couldn't even find anything good to say about Buster Posey before he came up for good! Go read if for yourself. All I can say is this is very uncharacteristic of Brian Sabean. Either Brandon Belt is the is going to make all of us forget that Will Clark was ever a Giant, or he's going to be the biggest disappointment in the history of the franchise. Sounds to me like if Belt comes out raking in Spring training, he's going to be the starting first baseman and there's going to be a lot of dominoes fall on the roster.

Hot Stove Update: McCourt's Marital Agreement Invalidated

In a ruling that could have a huge impact on the future of the Dodgers, and by extension, the Giants, NL West and MLB, the judge in the McCourt divorce proceedings ruled that a marital agreement signed by the couple was invalid. It really wasn't hard to see this one coming. The agreement itself had 6 signed copies, 3 of which specified that the Dodgers were owned solely by Frank McCourt and 3 that did not. During testimony on the subject, Frank McCourt's lawyer admitted to adding in the sole ownership language after the documents were signed. The only surprising part of the ruling is that it took 100 pages of writing to make! It seems to me it could have been made in two short sentences: The document was doctored. It's invalid!

The ruling does not directly address the issue of who owns the Dodgers, but absent a formal agreement, it's hard to see how Frank can make much of a case that the team is not family owned. Jamie had a title of VP and clearly was making important decisions about the team. At the very least, it would seem that she has a right to 50% of the team's value. The complicating part is the team will likely have much more value in the future than it does right now.

I have to admit that I'm not versed in divorce or property law, but in short, it seems like this ruling will most likely lead to the team being sold so the assets can be equally divided. To make it even more complicated, apparently one of the potential buyers out there is a group of investors headed by Jamie McCourt! On the other hand, Frank McCourt appears to be out there all by himself with his attorneys. What's bad for the Dodgers is that it appears likely that Frank McCourt is going to do everything he can to keep from either selling the team or giving up control of it. I can see a real possibility of the team going into bankruptcy by the time it's all said and done.

The strange part of all this is I think the Dodgers might well be better run with Jamie McCourt in charge. From everything I've read, she doesn't seem like a nice person, but I always thought she was the brains behind the operation. Frank seems like an affable bloke who was along for the ride, kind of like Michael Huffington(remember him?)

The best case scenario for the Dodgers and MLB, but probably not for the Giants and their fans, would be for a group led by Peter O'Malley and backed by Patron Saint of all things LA Eli Broad to buy the team. I'm not sure, but I think MLB has some say in who buys a team. I would think that MLB would back the O'Malley/Broad group over Jamie McCourt without having to deliberate on it very long. The thought of a Dodger team with Peter O'Malley and backed by Eli Broad's ultra-mega bucks is just plain frightening to any long time Giants fan.

Stay tuned. This could get even more interesting!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #6 Brandon Crawford

#6 Brandon Crawford, SS. AA .241/.337/.375 with 7 HR's in 291 AB's. A+ .167/.250/.222 in 18 AB's.

I was hoping 2010 would be a breakout year for Brandon Crawford, or at least good enough to put him in position to compete for the starting SS job in SF with Edgar Renteria's contract expiring. Although he had his moments, Crawford's season never really took off in AA Richmond and he eventually missed a large chunk of the season with a broken hand. I caught him in the Cal League playoffs and he hit a game winning grand slam HR to straightaway CF, but otherwise kind of struggled at the plate, at least in that game. Crawford is an excellent athlete and could probably step in and play the position in SF right now. The question is, and always has been, the hit tool. As a hitter, Crawford is generally regarded as having a high ceiling, but with some question whether he will ever reach it. He tends to be inconsistent. I would point out that his pre-injury IsoOBP(OBP-BA) is quite good. I feel like if the plate discipline is there, the hitting will eventually come around. If nothing else, he can contribute by drawing walks to get on base even if the BA remains fairly low. I could picture him having a Stephen Drew-like career, at least what Drew has done so far, which may be a bit disappointing for Drew, but is actually pretty darn good for the SS position.

Crawford needs at least another year of seasoning before he is ready for the show. That might not have been the case had it not been for the injury, but probably. I would like to see him be the starting SS in Fresno, but he might be back in Richmond to start the season. Since Tejada is on a 1 year contract, Crawford should have an opportunity in 2012 if he can put together a solid effort in 2011. He may drop a notch or two in this year's Top 50 Giants Prospects list.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Jayson Werth to the Nationals

Yesterday, on the eve of MLB's Winter Meetings, the Washington Nationals dropped a bomb that left a smoking crater in the payroll plans of some MLB baseball teams. Ironically, Werth's contract is almost identical to the one for Barry Zito that Giants fans have chafed over for 4 long years and are likely to for at least 3 more even longer ones, 7 years/$126 million!

Although I am kind of glad to see someone finally outspend the Red Sox for a player they really wanted, this contract also makes me mad. Coupled with the earlier trade of San Diego icon Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, it makes me even madder. Something is very fishy in baseball! I can accept that the Yankees have more money to spend than any other team, and by a lot. What I don't understand is why a team in Boston with an ancient stadium seems to have almost as much jack to spend on players as the Yankees, but teams in other cities/metropolitan areas of comparable size apparently do not. Teams complain that they have to have new stadiums to get enough revenues to pay for players, but Boston has Fenway Park and San Diego has a stadium less than 10 years old!

Then, at team like the Nationals, who have claimed for years they can't afford top players suddenly drop $126 M on a guy like Werth. Now, don't get me wrong. Jayson Werth is an excellent ballplayer. He's put up 3 consecutive 5 WAR years which is pretty hard to do. Jayson Werth will very likely make the Nationals a better team, at least for the next 2-3 years. On the other hand, Jayson Werth is not a cornerstone player, IMO. I can understand giving a contract like that to a special player, one who has won an MVP or two and is likely to make the HOF someday. Jayson Werth is not going to win any MVP's and is not going to ever be in the HOF! Take that to the bank! Jayson Werth is a good player. He is not a great player, a special player, the kind you use up quarter or even a 5'th of your payroll on. That is completely ignoring the fact that the last 3 years of the this contract are likely to make Barry Zito's look good by comparison. Think Aaron Rowand here folks!

With a mountain of evidence out there that you don't have to sign contracts like this to build a winner, plus multiple examples of contracts like this one becoming total busts and millstones around the team's neck, you have to conclude that either owners are supremely stupid, or ownership of teams like the San Diego Padres are playing possum with their finances. I mean, Adrian Gonzalez is the type of player you would have to seriously consider giving a contract like this too. What he has accomplished in playing in the worst park for hitters in baseball, plus 18 other games per year in San Francisco and LA two other pitcher's parks, well, there just aren't many players out there capable of coming close to that kind of production!

I don't pretend to know all that much about the finances of MLB. It seems to be a fairly common belief that even the worst of teams in the worst of stadium situations have the jack for a $40 M payroll before they even sell one ticket or one beer or 1 hot dog! How then, can a team like the Padres, with a brand new stadium and decent attendance can't keep their star player, perhaps one of only 5 or 6 players in all of baseball capable of putting up that kind of production in that park and yet a team like the Nats can plunk down $126 M on Jayson Werth, who is good, but not half the player that Adrian Gonzalez is.

Whatever is is that's driving this insanity needs to be fixed in the next contract with the Player's Association.

PS: It's not at all hard to see why Scott Boras recommends that all of his clients go to free agency. There is always a team out there who will fork it over. The startling thing about the Werth contract is that Boras, who is notorious for not letting his clients sign until he has shopped every offer around at least twice, didn't even bother to ask if any other team wanted to match. He just told Jayson to go ahead and sign as quickly as he possibly could. Rumor has it that the Nats offer was 3 years longer and twice the total money than the second highest bidder.

PS2: The biggest losers in all this have to be the St Louis Cardinals. I mean, if Jayson Werth gets this much, and A Gone gets what it looks like he will get, what on earth will Albert Pujols' price be? Then again, I have totally stopped believing that any MLB team has any need to limit their payroll whatsoever. I mean, when the Cardinals signed Matt Holliday to that contract, which Werth's contract makes look like a steal, that had to tell you something. The Cardinals are sitting on some kind of stash and they aren't in exactly the largest market in baseball.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #5 Rafael Rodriguez

#5 Rafael Rodriguez Short Season: .163/.250/.209 43 AB's. Rookie: .301/.323/.398 with 2 HR's 123 AB's.

RafRod, as he has become known among Giants prospect watchers, was a bit of a mixed bag in his second professional season after signing a 7 figure bonus as a 16 year old in 2008. He started the season in Salem-Keizer playing against mostly college draftees in either their first or second years of professional experience. He as overmatched, although in a very small sample size. He went on the DL with a back strain and resurfaced in Arizona back in Rookie ball. He hit .301 including .342 over his last 10 games, and hit a couple of HR's compared to zero in 2009. He failed to show the strike zone control from 2009 as he struck out 23 times against just 5 BB's. He has drawn some criticism in the blogosphere, particularly from a guy who goes by the handle of fla-giant who has completely written him off as a prospect and made comments like he is "dead to me." RafRod has always been labeled as a raw talent, but fla-giant has criticized him for lack of athleticism and weak musculature. This is a theme that has been picked up on some other Giants oriented websites and the herd mentality has taken hold. RafRod has been all but written off as a prospect in some circles.

I'm not ready to jump on that bandwagon just yet. I'll just make a few points in rebuttal:

1. RafRod just turned 18 yo in mid-season which means this would likely have been just drafted out of high school had he been from the USA, and quite possibly would not be seeing his first professional action until next season. Seems like that's awfully early to be writing off a prospect who just hit .300 in an age appropriate league.

2. I've never seen RafRod play in person, nor are there more than the sketchiest of scouting reports available, at least that I've been able to find. I have seen pictures of him in action posted on and I found a couple of videos of him on youtube that I'll post here. I'm not a scout, but he looks athletic to me. Yeah, he's a bit on the lanky side, but at age 17 or 18, you want to see some room for filling out the frame. Not to disparage Chuckie Jones as a prospect, but I would be more worried about a kid built like that, with absolutely no room to fill out than I would a lanky kid like RafRod.

(hope I have those right, if not, just google video for Rafael Rodriguez Giants).

3. Fla-giants has made some pretty bold statements, but I have not seen any basis for why he is making them. Is it based on his personal observation? Scouting reports he has read? One source that think is reasonably reliable and knowledgeable is John Klima of He made a scouting trip to the Arizona Instructional League this fall and mentioned RafRod as one of 3 prospects who impressed him, specifically mentioning his tools and projection. I will be interested to see what Andy Baggerly has to say when he writes up his Giants Top 30 Prospects list for BA. He gets most of his info from talking to Giants coaches and player development people. Until then, I'll go with Klima's observations.

I'm not sure exactly where I'm going to rank RafRod in my 2011 list. Based on performance at essentially the same age, I'd have to rank him behind Chuckie Jones, but I have questions about Jones' body long term. I actually like a kid with RafRod's build better in the long run. I could see RafRod dropping a few notches behind Jones, Culberson, Tommy Joseph and a few others. I still think he is top 10-15 at the least, and that has more to do with others moving up than RafRod moving down in my estimation. I would think he should be assigned to Augusta in 2011 where he would be playing with and against a higher percentage of kids close to his age than in the Northwest League.

What do you think?

Blast From the Past: RIP Ron Santo

The baseball heroes of my childhood are starting to die off. That is something that makes me sad. Ron Santo passed away this week at the age of 70, not a particularly advanced age in these times, but Santo overcame a lot to live that long.

Back in the 1960's, before free agency, most players, especially good ones played their entire careers with one team. I can still remember whole lineups from the '60's because they were the same year after year. Back then, the Cubs had a pretty good team, not as good as the Giants, of course, but a pretty good team. Their lineup looked something like this for several years running:

SS Don Kessinger
2B Glen Beckert
LF Billy Williams
1B Ernie Banks
3b Ron Santo
C Randy Hundley
CF Adolfo Phillips

They also had Ferguson Jenkins, Bill Hands, Ken Holtzman on the mound with Phil Regan, the "Vulture" as one of the first true closers in the game. Ron Santo was a key member of those Cubs teams, a perennnial all-star. He may have been the best third baseman in the game for the decade of the '60's. Many analysts believe that Santo is the best position player to have not made the Hall of Fame, a close call with pitcher Bert Blyleven for best overall.

What I remember most about Santo, and what comes out if you look up his stat page is his incredible consistency. For 13 seasons, from 1961-1973 he averaged 25 HR's with a BA of .280 and an OBP of .360 and never strayed too far from those numbers in any given season.

There are several things that have likely contributed to keeping Santo out of the HOF all these years. For one thing, he was not a flashy player and his consistency worked against him as he never led the league in anything except OBP while consistently finishing in the top 10 or top 20 in many categories. For another, the Cubs never went to the post-season in his career, something that gets a player a lot of attention outside their home city. The 1969 Cubs were probably the best team in the NL, but suffered an epic collapse down the stretch and lost the NL East title to the eventual WS champions, the Amazin' Mets.

Thirdly, he career was relatively short which held down some of the counting stats that get a player almost automatic consideration for the HOF. Santo may have contributed to the truncation of his career through some irrascibility. He often clashed with his Cubs Manager, Leo Durocher. After the 1973 season, in which Santo hit 20 HR's, the Cubs wanted to rebuild their team and had a young third baseman named Bill Madlock coming along. They worked out a trade to the Angels, but Santo exercised his newly acguired 10/5 privileges to veto the trade. He told the Cubs he would only approve a trade to one team, the crosstown Chicago White Sox. The White Sox gave up some pretty good players to get Santo, but didn't really have a place for him to play. They tried him at 2B, but he just didn't have the range for the position and struggled. He retired at the end of the season. Whether he could have put up a few more 20 HR seasons with the Angels and run up his counting stats, we'll never know, but had he done so, he would likely be in the HOF by now.

What makes Santo's story all the more remarkable is that he played his entire career and lived the vast majority of his life with type I diabetes. In case you are not aware, diabetes is incredibly destructive to the human body, gumming up the tiny arteries that supply blood cells carrying oxygen to the cells of the eyes, nerves, skin and kidneys causing those organs to fail long before their normal shelf life. I have personally seen many young diabetics with severe damage to their organs in their teens and twenties. Back in the 1960's, modern insulin preparations, insulin pumps, self testing of blood, and hemoglobin A1C's were unheard of. The primary goal of treatment was often to keep the patient out of hypoglycemia or insulin shock. As long as patients were not in diabetic ketoacidosis and not having hypoglycemia, most physicians thought they were doing great. For a baseball player to have a full career playing at a HOF or near-HOF level and then go on to live to age 70 and eventually die from another disease in that age is simply remarkable.

I don't know if Ron Santo will ever be voted into the HOF. If he is, it is a shame that he did not live to see that day. He is a member of my personal Hall of Fame, though.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hot Stove Update: A Gone!

The Padres today did what they had been threatening to do for some time now, traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox for 3 prospects and the proverbial PTBNL. For the last 2-3 years, AGone was the one and only player in the Padres lineup to give opposing pitchers cause for concern. Not that he was as good as Barry Bonds, but it was a similar situation in that AGone really stood out in that lineup, just head and shoulders above everybody else. Last year seemed like a bit of a down year for Gonzalez, but even then, his line of .298/.393/.511 with 31 HR's was stellar, especially considering his home park, Petco, is easily the toughest in baseball for hitters. The second highest HR total on the team belonged to Ryan Ludwick with 17 and only 6 of those were hit as a Padre. To put it simply, the Padres lineup without Adrian Gonzalez is a wasteland! It is easily the worst in baseball.

Gonzalez was not going to be a Padre past 2011. Padres management had a meeting with his agents and concluded that they would not be able to sign him to an affordable contract extension. That put the Padres in a bind. After all, they only missed the playoffs by 2 games in 2010. Do they make another run while Gonzalez is still inexpensive and then lose him to free agency, or do they get what they can for him now? Obviously, the Padres decided they could get more now. Part of what may have driven this is the soon to expire agreement with the Player's Association. It is widely assumed that the next agreeement will significantly change free agent compensation if not eliminate it entirely.

So, let's look at what the Padres got in return for their star player:

1. Casey Kelly, RHP. Kelly is a former first round draft pick who has vacillated between shortstop and pitching. Finally committed to pitching full time in 2010, he had a rough time of AA ball posting a 5.31 ERA. In his favor are peripheral stats that look much better, age of 20 in AA ball and good scouting reports. He reportedly has a fastball that goes 88-93 MPH plus a decent curveball and changeup. He is a groundball pitcher, but his groundball rate has diminished at higher levels. Kelly is a good prospect, though not great. He is highly unlikely to pitch in the majors in 2011 and one has to wonder how he will fare in the PCL. He will likely have a major league career of some sort, but is not a slam dunk major leaguer let alone a sure thing to be a star.

2. Anthony Rizzo, 1B- Rizzo played in A+ and AA at age 20. He showed excellent power hitting 25 HR's between two levels. He does have contact issues though and hit just .248 and .263 with K rates of 27.4% and 24.2%. Again, Rizzo won't be replacing AGone at first base in 2011 and is not a lock to ever stick as a major leaguer, especially in Petco with power being his only real tool.

3. Reymond Fuentes, OF- First round draft choice in 2009 out of Puerto Rico. Fuentes' main asset is speed, something the Padres seem to be intent on acquiring more of. He was 19 years old last year in low A ball putting up a line of .270/.328/.377 with 42 SB's in 47 tries. Fuentes has a chance to possibly become Juan Pierre with slightly more power, but it will not likely be soon if ever.

4. PTBNL- Word is it will not be a highly ranked prospect.

If I'm a Padres fan, I have to be disappointed with the return for AGone. Padres GM Jed Hoyer worked for the BoSox before taking the Padres job. You have to wonder if he is overvaluing these prospects because he is familiar with them. It just seems like when you trade a player of AGone's caliber, even if he is only low cost for one more season, you have to get at least one player who is ready to contribute right away, maybe a Jed Lowrie or at least a grade A prospect.

I know the Padres performed a lot better than most people, including me, thought they would last year, but Adrian Gonzalez was a huge part of that. Without him, the Padres are little better than a AAA team, even with a couple of fine young starting pitchers in their rotation.

Addendum: Apparently the trade is contingent upon the Red Sox and Gonzalez agreeing on a contract extension. I would assume that the BoSox are fairly confident they can get this done. It is not a well kept secret what AGone's expectations are, Ryan Howard's contract seems to be the starting point for the discussion. Not many teams out there who are both in need of a first baseman and have the jack to sign such a contract. That may have played a role in suppressing his trade value.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #4 Thomas Neal

#4 Thomas Neal. AA .291/.359/.440 with 12 HR.

After Thomas Neal's monster breakout season with San Jose in 2009, it was a good bet that no matter what he did on AA in 2010, it would have been a disappointment. While his season didn't come anywhere close to the numbers he put up in San Jose, they actually weren't bad either, and they got better as the season went along. Anyone who wasn't expecting some regression doesn't understand the difference between A ball and AA ball nor the difference in league effects. The EL is a notorious pitcher's league and the stadium in Richmond, much like the one in Norwich, CT might be the toughest in the league. Neal hit 10 of his 12 HR's in other parks and his away OPS was almost .100 higher, mostly due to better power numbers. True, Brandon Belt's numbers didn't suffer significantly after his move up to AA, but Belt had one of the better seasons any hitting prospect has ever had. It was that freakishly good! Neal's slash line from June 1 on was a very respectable .310/.370/.480. While Belt has clearly leapfrogged over him in the prospect rankings, that has more to do with how great Belt's season was then how bad Neal's was.

Thomas Neal should move up to AAA Fresno this year. Given the difference in environment, he should put up some pretty big numbers. Then again, not everyone stays true to form in terms of their response to league factors, so Neal is going to have to prove it on the field, just like Belt is going to have to prove that last year wasn't a fluke. I still see Thomas Neal as the Giants LF of the future. His bat still reminds me a lot of a pretty good hitter from the past, Jim Ray Hart. It seems Thomas Neal has a new nickname out there, Thomas the Tank Engine. Well, I still call him Thomas Neal, The Real Deal!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hot Stove Uptdate: Keeping the Gang Together

The Giants just showed that they are really not tied to some predetermined payroll and are willing to do what it takes to keep a winner together. The Giants signed Mike Fontenot to a contract extension to avoid going to arbitration(so that IS what those discussions with his agent were about!). Chris Ray was not tendered a contract and is now a free agent. All 6 of the Giants other arbitration eligible players were offered arbitration. The only player missing from last year's playoff roster is Juan Uribe, and he's been replaced by something about as close to being Juan Uribe without actually being him as you can get. I guess I'm forgetting Guillermo Mota who is a free agent, but I don't think anyone seriously expected him to be back. So here's the roster as it stands now:

5 SP's: LIncecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Zito

6 RP's: Wilson, Romo, Affeldt, Casilla, Ramirez, Lopez

2 C: Posey, Whiteside

6 IF: Huff, Sanchez, Tejada, Sandoval, Fontenot, Ishikawa

6 OF's: Torres, Ross, Rowand, Burrell, Nate, DeRosa

The Giants will probably want to carry 7 relievers, so one of the position players may be the odd man out. I have a feeling Rowand is not going to be on the team come Opening Day. Another possibility, of course, is that Pablo goes to Fresno, but early reports on his conditioning program are encouraging. I would like to see the Giants upgrade their backup catcher position. Other than that, I'd say the Giants offseason is pretty much complete except for the negotiations with the arbitration guys.

What do you think the rest of the Giants offseason will look like?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hot Stove Uptdate: Miggy T Is a Giant and Pat the Bat Is Back

Man, the shortstop market sure revved up to warp speed after the Dodgers signed Juan Uribe. Next domino was Ned trading Theriot to St Louis for Blake Hawksworth. Blake Hawksworth? Didn't the Dodgers bullpen just get WEAKER with the addtion of Blake Hawksworth? Rumors had the Giants in on Jason Bartlett, but then it looked like the O's were starting a bidding war and Sabes must have said, "No bidding war, we're outa here!" which is exactly what he should have said!

I really like the Miggy T signing. Maybe a slight overpay but.....

1 year contract. Check!

No prospects given up. Check!

Great clubhouse guy. Check!

Popular in the local community. Check!

Tejada might not hit as many HR's as Uribe did last year, but he will hit for a higher average and will hit a few dingers too. Does not have great range, but is surehanded. Giants pitching gets a lot of K's and has strong flyball tendencies, so the defensive limitations will account for a very small number of extra runs allowed. If it doesn't work out, hey, they are only out 1 year's worth of salary. If Crawford or Adrianza come on like gangbusters, he won't be blocking them next year.

Sounds like Pat the Bat is coming back on a "discounted" 1 year deal. Again, very little risk in a 1 year deal. If used like Bochy used him last year, taking him out after his 3'rd or 4'th AB if the Giants had a lead, he could easily contribute 30 HR's while limiting his defensive liability in the field. Besides, I thought he played OK D in LF last year. The number of runs he allowed above a defensive LF was a very small number.

Next on Sabean's offseason list: Decide which of the arbitration eligible guys to tender contracts too. I'm guessing the discussions Sabes had with Fontenot's agent(who also happens to be Jeter's agent) was to try to work out a contract before the arbitration deadline because Sabes doesn't want to risk arbitration.

After the tender deadline, I think the Giants offseason is done.