Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #3 Zack Wheeler

#3 Zack Wheeler. Low A 3-3, 3.99, 58.2 IP, 38 BB, 70 K's, GO/AO= 2.61.

As OGC has pointed out, players drafted in the top 10 of the first round have a much greater chance of becoming star, or impact, players than players drafted later. Actually, the odds are even better for a top 5 pick. The chances of success drop off exponentially from about pick 5 on. Unless you are the Yankees, pretty much all teams go through up and down cycles and a lot of that has to do with the draft. Teams doing well draft later and their farm systems tend to fade in the ensuing years. When a team hits a down cycle and gets a high pick or two, it is imperative that they make the most of it. Even top 5 picks are not slam dunks to become stars.

The Giants went through one of these down cycles starting in 2005 and the "reward" was a series of top 10 picks starting in 2006. Fortunately for us Giants fans, the Giants have been historically successful during this run. Tim Lincecum! Madison Bumgarner! Buster Posey! Zack Wheeler was the last of these top 10 picks taken 6'th overall in the 2009 draft. Zack Wheeler has a lot to live up to! Naturally, Giants fans might have gotten the idea that first round draft picks just waltz into the majors within 2 years of being drafted, which might be why not a few Giants fans seem to think that Wheeler's first professional season was a disappointment and his stock is down.

Wheeler's 2010 season for Low A Augusta started out with some extreme wildness in his first game. He continued to walk more batters than you'd like to see, but he really settled down quickly and then got progressively stronger as the year went along, interrupted by about a 6 week layoff for a torn fingernail. Let's take a closer look at the numbers:

K/9=10.71. This is an excellent number and indicative of superior stuff.

GO/AO= 2.61. Also an excellent number. It's not all that unusual for a young pitcher to get a lot of K's or for a young pitcher to get a lot of ground ball outs. What is unusual is for a young pitcher to do both! Remember "King Felix" Hernandez? What got everybody so excited was his ability to get both K's and GB's, a rare, deadly combination.

ERA Splits: April- 6.23. May- 3.95. July- 2.70. August- 2.66. Notice the improvement each month! I put a lot of stock in Prospects showing improvement as a season progresses. The difference between improvement over the course of the season and starting out hot with later regression cannot be overstated.

When ranking prospects, one has to consider both eventual ceiling and proximity to the majors. Obviously, a player closer to the majors is more likely reach his ceiling, whatever that ceiling is, than a player in the lower minors. I tend to weigh eventual ceiling more heavily than proximity to the majors. That creates a dilemma when comparing players like Brandon Belt and Zack Wheeler. Wheeler was the highest ranking prospect in the Giants system last year who has not graduated to the majors. Despite the early wildness and the injury, Wheeler did nothing to diminish his eventual ceiling as a prospect. The injury was not to his arm, and if anything his secondary stats suggest that his ceiling may be even higher than we thought when he was drafted. The question then, really, is not whether Wheeler stock has decreased, but whether Belt's stock rose so much that he surpassed Wheeler. I still think that Wheeler has the highest ceiling of any prospect in the Giants system, but Belt's ceiling is pretty sweet too, and Belt could be in the majors as soon at 2011 while Wheeler obviously has a way to go, leaving him open to injuries or regression. In my mind, it's a close call. Stay tuned!

How would you rank Zack Wheeler in relation to Brandon Belt?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Juan Uribe Crosses Over To the Dark Side

Juan Uribe signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 3 years/$21 million. Here's a few reasons why this will not end happily for Uribe or the Dodgers(except of course for Uribe being set financially for life which is a very good thing for him):

Dodger fans will not even notice the jazz hands(yeah, they are that oblivious).

Dodger fans don't know anything about the Ooooreeebaaaaayyyy! chant.

It's going to be harder for him to hit HR's there, about his only offensive positive.(Thanks to OGC for pointing this one out, but yes, the prevailing breeze at Dodger Stadium, when there is one, is from left to right).

He's going to have to face Giants pitchers in 18 games(likely at least 15% of the games he plays).

No way that body plays the middle IF full time for 3 seasons.

Uribe adds a lot of outs to a lineup that already makes a lot of them.

Yes, this leaves the Giants in a bit of a bind, and that seems to be Ned Colletti's major motivation in life right now. Uribe was the simplest solution to a, hopefully, temporary problem at SS for the Giants. I've never thought of Uribe as a full time shortstop, but he almost convinced me with some pretty stellar play there coming down the stretch and in the postseason. Signing Uribe for 3 full seasons, though, was not a good idea and we should all be quite happy Ned Colletti was apparently so obsessed with messing with his former mentor, that he took a swan dive going overboard making Uribe an offer he knew the Giants would not match.

It's going to be fascinating to see who ends up as the Giants SS for 2011. Right now the feverish speculation on the internet is Derek Jeter. To waste as few words as possible, Derek Jeter is not coming to SF! Jose Reyes is not coming to SF! My guess, and IMO the right thing for Sabes to do is bring in the best available 1 year stopgap at the best price available. Here's how I break it down:

1. Ryan Theriot will almost certainly be non-tendered now. He doesn't have Uribe's power, but he would be an upgrade in BA, OBP and gives you a few SB's. I have to believe he would be a better defender, even though UZR is kind to Uribe. Theriot may have several suitors though.

2. O-Cab. Nothing exciting here, just plugging a hole, but he'd give you solid D and not be a disaster at the plate.

3. Miggy T. A shell of his former self, but still might not be terrible. I don't like his lack of range at SS though. That's why he is choice #3 here.

4. Edgar Renteria. Only if the price is right, which would be no more than $1 million. I like him better as a backup, but he might be able to hold down the position long enough to get Brandon Crawford a half season worth of AB's in Fresno.

5. Jason Bartlett or JJ Hardy. Only if non-tendered and the Giants don't have to give up anything in trade. Trading talent and then having to pay arbitration salary just doesn't give you enough added value over options #1-4. If either are non-tendered though they would immediately jump up to at least #2 on the list with Hardy possibly #1.

Sabes is going to earn his pay on this decision! He's already passed on test by not blinking on going more than 2 years on Uribe. I think he can afford to wait it out a bit longer. He can still has room to let the market come to him. It will be fascinating to see how it shakes out.

How do you think it sorts out?

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #2 Madison Bumgarner

#2 Madison Bumgarner: AAA 7-1, 3.16, 82.2 IP, 22 BB, 59 K's MLB 7-6, 3.00, 111 IP, 26 BB, 86 K's.
Postseason 2-0, 2.18, 20.2 IP, 5 BB, 18 K's.

Madison Bumgarner was the Giants first, first round pick in 2007, #10 overall. I wasn't happy with the pick. At the time, the Giants organization was desperate for hitters. I was stumping for either Beau Mills or Jason Heyward. Mills, obviously, would have been a mistake. It's a close call whether they Giants are better off with MadBum or Heyward, but as things stand now, I'm not at all sorry they took Bumgarner. For one thing, it's very doubtful that the Giants would have gotten through the postseason without MadBum even it they had Heyward instead, so I'll trade whatever happens in the future for this one partial season of Bumgarner any day.

In 2008, Bumgarner had possibly the best season any pitching prospect has ever had pitching for low A Augusta: 15-3, 1.46, 141.2 IP, 21 BB, 164 K's. He reportedly was working with a fastball that ran in the mid 90's with impeccable command on both sides of the plate. His secondary stuff was reported to be raw, but he was working on it.

He started off 2009 in San Jose and in 5 games put up similar numbers: 3-1, 1.48, 24.1 IP, 4 BB, 23 K's. He was promoted to AA Connecticut where he dominated in his first start, but then something didn't seem right. His K rate went way down and his walk rate went way up. The results were still good: 9-1, 1.93, 107 IP, 30 BB, 69 K's. For prospect watchers, though, the secondary stats were cause for concern. He came up to SF in September and got into 4 games including one start that went reasonably well: 0-0, 1.80, 10 IP, 3 BB, 10 K's. To the surprise and dismay of a lot of Giants fans, the velocity on his fastball was only 88-90 mph, although he appeared to have more advanced secondary stuff than what we had been led to believe. The difference in velocity, though, was the difference between a good pitcher and a potential ace and one couldn't help be feel some disappointment as well as concern over what caused the velocity drop. The official explanation from the Giants was a mechanical flaw that could be easily worked out.

Bumgarner came to spring training in 2010 amid much anticipation and some anxiety over his velocity. It was still down and got lit up. He was sent down to Fresno amid comments from Brian Sabean about getting married in the offseason and being out of shape. He got shelled in his first two starts for Fresno and full scale panic had set in. His stat lines in Fresno started improving. When Todd Wellemeyer went down with an injury, MadBum got the call. His velocity was better at 90-92 mph on the fastball and his secondary stuff was much better. He got progressively stronger as the season went along and made several really clutch starts down the stretch. By the end of the season, his fastball velocity has climbed back to the 92-94 MPH range, but could still be inconsistent, especially later in games.

The lingering memory of Madison Bumgarner's rookie season couldn't be much better. The postseason performance was outstanding. In Game 4 of the World Series, it was downright dominating against a righthanded heavy Texas Rangers lineup. He was still coming at them with 94 MPH darts on the corners of the plate through 8 innings before Bruce Bochy wisely let Brian Wilson finish it off. Possibly even more impressive, though was his clutch performance out of the bullpen in the NLCS going 2 IP, against the best that Philadelphia had to offer. His velocity was a bit off at 90-92 and he got into trouble both innings, but kept his cool and pitched his way out of it both times. In one of the innings, when a runner reached 3B with only 1 out, Bum told Aubrey Huff not to worry, he would strike out the next batter and get the next batter after that out and the Giants would be out of the inning. He did just that!

Madison Bumgarner can be a very good major league pitcher with ordinary velocity. If he can maintain a fastball in the 92-94 range with his command and secondary stuff, he can be a dominant ace. He's crazy big and already has impeccable command, something that is very rare in a hard throwing LHP. What excites me the most about MadBum, though, is his attitude. This kid may look like a country bumpkin out there, but behind that facade is a deadly competitor. Bum's quietness is different than Matt Cain's. Cain is just unflappable and incredibly determined. Bumgarner has, as Bruce Springsteen would say, the cold hard look of a cobra! This guy isn't just determined to win, he's determined to destroy his opponents. He will be a Giant for at least the next 6 seasons. By the end of that time, assuming no major injuries, he could very well be the #1 starter on the team, if not in all of baseball. The Giants are very fortunate to have Madison Bumgarner!

Again, graduation takes him off the 2011 prospect list, but how much better is it to have him pitching for the Giants?

PS: I'm still not sure what caused the mysterious drop in velocity. It may be multiple factors. He was clearly working on secondary stuff and may have unconsciously been gripping the fastball a bit tighter. The fact that he progressively gained velocity as the season went on, combined with reports of him running in the stands with Matt Cain between starts tends to lend credence to the deconditioning theory. It will be something interesting to watch going forward. Again, with his command and rapidly improving secondary stuff, he can be a good pitcher without the velocity. With the velocity, though, he can be an ace!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #1 Buster Posey

Kicking off our rundown of LAST YEAR'S Top 50 Giants Prospects, we'll start off at the top, the easy ones first. The mission of a farm system is not to win minor league championships or to be #1 on BA's organizational rankings every year. The mission of a farm system is to produce major league ballplayers for the MLB team they are affiliated with. It isn't often that a farm system produces the way the Giants system produce in 2010 as their #1 and #2 prospects both graduated to the majors and impacted a run to a World Series title. Not only that, both players appear poised to deliver star quality performances for years to come. It really doesn't get any better than that for prospect watchers!

#1 Buster Posey: AAA- .349/.442/.552 with 6 HR's, 172 AB's. MLB- .305/.357/.505 with 18 HR's in 406 AB's.

Everybody knows what Buster accomplished after he arrived in the majors. The performance earned him a very deserved NL Rookie of the Year. The season was capped off by leading the Giants to their first World Series championship since coming to SF. Man, it sure feels good to say that! I don't think I'm ever going to get tired of it! There is still some lingering discontent over the Giants handling of Buster's transition to the majors. The argument is he should have played more in his 2009 September callup and he should have been the Giants starting catcher out of the gate in 2010. I believe the Giants handled him just right. Here is a summary of my argument:

1. The 2009 callup was mainly for the mental exercise. Get comfortable with the MLB atmosphere. Observe MLB catchers in action. Look, listen, learn.

2. I don't know enough about the nuances of catching to know whether Buster was ready at the beginning of 2010 or not. John Klima, at baseballbeginnings.com, who I think does know what to look for, has said that as of the Arizona Fall League in 2009, Buster wasn't ready to catch MLB pitching on the level of the Giants pitchers elite stuff. I admit I don't know what that means, but I'm guessing it has to do with blocking balls in the dirt and possibly game calling.

3. The Giants didn't call up Buster until his manager in Fresno, Steve Decker, gave the green light and said he was ready. Decker is a former MLB catcher himself and should know a thing or two about when a catcher is ready, certainly a lot more than me, or the fans who are criticizing the timing.

4. The results speak for themselves. You can't argue with success! We will never know what would have happened had Buster started the season as the Giants starting catcher. We do know what actually did happen and you can't write a script with a better outcome!

5. Thanks to the idiosyncracies of the agreement between MLB and the Players Association, we are assured that Buster will remain a Giant for at least 6 more seasons. Had he started the season in SF, it would be 5 seasons. The Giants gained a full year of Buster Posey at the cost of 6 weeks. I'll take that deal any day!

Things to be slightly concerned about going forward: 1. Sophomore slump. MLB pitchers may detect a weakness that Buster will have to re-adjust to. I have confidence in his ability to make adjustments going forward. 2. Stamina. Buster wore down at the end of 2009 and looked awfully tired at times at the end of 2010. The delay in making him the everyday catcher may have preserved him just long enough to get him through the postseason. I believe the Giants need to upgrade their backup catcher position to ensure that Buster gets the days off he needs to stay strong throughout the season.

Beyond that, barring injury, another thing I worry about due to the position he plays, Buster is a MLB star, a cornerstone player who will be a Giant deep into the decade.

Buster won't be on the 2011 Top Prospects list because he has graduated to the majors. The Giants organizational rankings will suffer because of it, but the MLB team will prosper and that is the whole purpose of having a farm system in the first place!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Victor Martinez, Jon Garland

A little late on this one. Victor Martinez signed a 4 year/$50 M contract with the Detroit Tigers. As a full time catcher, Victor Martinez would be an elite player. As it is, Detroit is expecting him to the the primary DH, back-up first baseman and catch 2-3 times/week. Martinez will likely be a full time DH by the time the contract is done. Expect his numbers to suffer a bit playing in Detroit. I was thinking Martinez and Posey might make a nice catcher/first base tandem, but I like the deal the Giants got with Aubry Huff a lot better.

The Dodgers signed Jon Garland to a 1 year/$5 million contract with incentives and a mutual option for 2012. Garland is an innings eating workhorse who thrives in the west coast ballparks. With this signing, Ned Colletti has the Dodgers rotation set for 2011 and it's a good one: Billingsley, Kershaw, Kuroda, Lilly and Garland. Billz and Kershaw are potential aces who haven't quite gotten there yet. Kuroda is a strong #3 who has missed a few starts in his tenure with the Dodgers, but can be lights out when fully healthy. Lilly is getting by on junk at this point. You have to think that a flyball pitcher whose FB tops out at 86 MPH is living on borrowed time. 3 years/$33 M is a might rich contract for that, but he may be a solid #4 for at least 1 more season.

Colletti still hasn't addressed the bullpen, but the rotation should get the Dodgers deep into the vast majority of games, helping to mask the weak bullpen. Colletti also has major issues in the lineup that need to be addressed. Still, the rotation alone will make the Dodgers a formidable opponent in 2011.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Blast From the Past: Reggie Smith

Hey gang! There is a great read over on The Hardball Times entitled Card Corner: Topp's top 60 and Reggie Smith.

There's a Hardball Times link over on the right hand side of this blog. If that doesn't work for you, try


I remember the one season Reggie Smith played for the Giants. I was never sure what happened to him after that. Sounds like he had a pretty wild time over in Japan. Anyway, the featured card is Reggie Smith's 1983 Topps card from the 1 season he played for the Giants. Lots of great stuff in there including some nice things to say about Candlestick Park!

Highly recommended to check it out.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Down on the Farm: Review of Dr B's 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospects

Before we get to my 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects list, which will come sometime after the Winter Meetings, I thought it would be interesting to review last year's list. I'll start out by simply re-posting the list and over the next several days, make comments about each specific player. PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A REVIEW OF LAST YEAR'S LIST!

1. Buster Posey
2. Madison Bumgarner
3. Zack Wheeler
4. Thomas Neal
5. Rafael Rodriguez
6. Brandon Crawford
7. Roger Kieschnick
8. Tommy Joseph
9. Nick Noonan
10. Francisco Peguero
11. Hector Sanchez
12. Edward Concepcion
13. Dan Runzler
14. Waldis Joaquin
15. Jason Stoffel
16. Clayton Tanner
17. Darren Ford
18. Conor Gillaspie
19. Ehire Adrianza
20. Chris Dominguez
21. Ydwin Villegas
22. Henry Sosa
23. Jose Casilla
24. Matt Graham
25. Brett Pill
26. Johnny Monell
27. Steve Edelfsen
28. Kevin Pucetas
29. Joe Paterson
30. Brock Bond
31. Dan Turpen
32. Mike McBryde
33. Craig Clark
34. Paul Oseguera
35. Kyle Nicholson
36. Eric Surkamp
37. Ari Ronick
38. Josh Mazzola
39. Wendell Fairley
40. Charlie Culberson
41. Aaron King
42. Andy Reichard
43. Chris Wilson
44. Ryan Verdugo
45. Evan Crawford
46. Drew Biery
47. Ryan Cavan
48. Jorge Bucardo
49. Jose Valdez
50. Wilber Bucardo

Honorable Mention: David Quinowski, Dan Griffin, Chris Gloor, Jeremy Toole, Craig Westcott, Leonardo Ochoa, Sundrendy Windster, Julio Izturis, Cameron Lamb, Jason Jarvis, Kaohi Downing, Audy Santana.

Dominican Dandies: Carlos Willoughby, Jose De La Cruz, Jesus Galindo, Kendry Flores, Ariel Hernandez.


The major omission, obviously, was Brandon Belt. To be honest, I completely forgot about him. Remember, he had yet to play in a professional game when this list was made up and there was really nothing in his college resume to suggest he would have the kind of breakout he did. He is currently the front-runner to be #1 on the 2011 list!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Burning Question #4: What Does the Future Hold for Aaron Rowand?

Aaron Rowand's career would make an almost perfect case study for Sports Management 101 on what type of player to not sign to a long term contract. I mean, it's all there: Career year, playing in favorable ballparks, age, reckless style of play risking injury, unorthodox, even bizarre swing mechanics. The Giants signed Aaron Rowand to a 5 year, $60 M contract before the 2008 season. He was coming off a sensational season with the Philadelphia Phillies in which he had hit 27 home runs. The Giants were in desperate need of hitting in the aftermath of Barry Bonds non-retirement. They had been spurned the previous year by Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano and the 2008 class was much thinner. Surprisingly, a lot of Giants fans were not terribly upset by the signing. Most of the ones who did question it fretted more about the length of the contract than whether Rowand would produce in the short term. Yes, they reasoned, Rowand's numbers might slip a little playing in AT&T Park, or whatever it was named at the time, but he'd still be good for 20-25 HR's, a much needed addition to a lineup almost devoid of power.

What those fans, and apparently the Giants, failed to account for is that Rowand's numbers would not be taking a hit from his career year of 2007, but much more likely from his more average two prior years.

2005: .270/.329/.407 with 13 HR's.
2006: .262/.321/.425 with 12 HR's in 109 games.

Hmmm.....a 10% park effects hit on those numbers doesn't look so hot, eh? A popular sentiment amongst Giants fans is that Aaron Rowand has been a bust from the very beginning of his contract. Well, if the Giants were expecting him to repeat his 2007 season every year of the contract, they would have signed him for $20 M/year as that's what his 2007 season was worth. In fact, the $12 M they paid him was not too far off from his value if he had repeated his prior 2 seasons, and he pretty much did:

2008: .271/.339/.410 with 13 HR's
2009: .261/.319/.419 with 15 HR's.

When adjusted for park effects, those two seasons were actually a bit better than his 2005/2006 seasons. His WAR, according to fangraphs.com was 2.5 in 2009 worth $11.2 M. His WAR of 1.4 in 2008 was held down by an inexplicably poor UZR which is known to be innacurate over sample sizes of less than 3 seasons, so it is likely that Rowand came very close to earning his salary his first two seasons of his SF Giants contract.

That brings us to 2010 and a lost season. Rowand actually started out 2010 in fairly good fashion. After 10 games, he was hitting .304/.333/.457. In the 10'th game of the season, Rowand got hit flush in the left orbit by a Vicente Padilla fastball. In typical Rowand Gamer fashion, he probably came back too early, but had a horrible May going .194/.228/.370. He recovered in June and July hitting .273/.344/.436 and .286/.338/.397. Good BA's for him, but he was not hitting for power and his playing time was already starting to diminish with Andres Torres playing a bigger and bigger role on the team and Brian Sabean making acquisitions for the title run right and left. With diminished playing time, he numbers cratered in August and September and he finished with a career worst season of .230/.281/.319.

If Aaron Rowand were to be the starting CF for the Giants in 2011, there is a decent chance that he could come close to a 2.5 WAR season, what he would need to earn his salary. The problem is, the Giants have moved on. The desperate need for hitters in 2008 is no longer as acute. Andres Torres is a better CF both defensively and offensively, barring a major regression for Torres, and Rowand just doesn't hit enough, even with optimistic projections to be a starting LF even in the NL West. I don't think there is a Giants fan alive who doesn't think that some combination of Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell and Brandon Belt woudn't be a superior LF option than Aaron Rowand. I don't think there is a Giants fan alive who doesn't think an OF of Andres Torres, Cody Ross and the aformentioned combination wouldn't be superior to any combination including Aaron Rowand.

So, where does that leave Rowand? There is no way the Giants are going to get any salary relief in a trade of Aaron Rowand. Brian Sabean flat out said that Rowand would be nearly impossible to trade because of the contract situation. Say what you will about Sabean, but he has always called it straight at his post-season press conferences. The Giants have two choices with Aaron Rowand: 1. Release him and eat the last two years of his contract, or 2. Keep him as a very expensive 5'th OF. As long as Rowand is willing to accept that role, and as long as he is not blocking a better option, it's probably better to keep him as insurance against a huge regression by Andres Torres or Cody Ross, both of which are very possible.

Signing Aaron Rowand for $12 M/season was not a significant mistake. Signing him for more than 3 years was.

BTW: The Giants announced today the re-signing of Aubrey Huff for 2 years/$22 M with $2 M in the form of a team option for $10 M in year 3. Aubrey Huff is a much better bet to outperform that contract than Aaron Rowand was to perform up to his when he was signed. Almost perfect contract for Huff!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Down on the Farm: Final AFL Stats and More

The 2010 Arizona Fall League ended yesterday with the Scottsdale Scorpions defeating the Peoria Javalinas 3-2 to win the championship game:

Charlie Culberson- 0 for 4, 2 E.
Brandon Belt- 0 for 2, BB, HBP, E.
Conor Gillaspie- 1 for 4.
Joe Paterson- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K's.
Dan Runzler- 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.

Final stat lines for the Giants prospects who particiapted in the AFL this year:

Brandon Belt- .372/.427/.616, 1 HR, 5 3B, 8 2B, 9 BB in 89 AB's.
Charlie Culberson- .366/.394/.591, 2 HR, 2 3B, 11 2B in 93 AB's.
Conor Gillaspie- .306/.350/597, 5 HR, 6 2B in 72 AB's.

Ryan Verdugo- 4-1, 2.45, 22 IP, 16 BB, 26 K's.
Joe Paterson- 0-0, 2.70, 10 IP, 2 BB, 14 K's.
Jason Stoffel- 1-0, 5.27, 13.2 IP, 4 BB, 11 K's.
Dan Runzler- 1-0, 0.00, 3 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 3 K's.

I would say that Belt, Culberson and Gillaspie all helped their stock as prospects with their AFL performances. Verdugo had a successful transition to starting, but needs to get his walk rate down for sustained success. Joe Paterson's stock as a left reliever was enhanced. Jason Stoffel continued to be inconsistent, although his K and BB rates looked much better than his ERA in a very small sample size. Runzler was basically just getting in some work and neither helped nor hurt his stock.

Two other notable performances in the AFL:

Dustin Ackley, a Mariners prospect and first round draft pick from last year won the AFL MVP award with a line of .424/.581/.758 with 4 HR, 10 2B, 5 SB in 66 AB's(92 PA's).

Bryce Harper, the much hyped #1 overall draft pick this year by the Washington Nationals played on the Scottsdale Scorpions team and performed well in just 9 games: .343/.410/.629 with 1 HR, 2 3B, 3 2B in 35 AB's.

There was an interesting note in baseballbeginnings.com mailbag today from someone who sounded like a relative of Seth Rosin, the Giants 4'th round draft pick in the 2010 draft. Rosin had been shut down after a rough outing on August 12 after just 9 appearances for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. It seems that there is no injury involved. He was just fatigued from the long college season. He hit 96 MPH during the S-K season. He is working on a conditioning program this offseason and looking forward to being ready for spring training. That is good news indeed. John Klima of baseballbeginnings.com is very high on Rosin. He's got great size, excellent velocity and comes out if a respected D1 college program. He is somebody who has a chance to move fast in the organization, hopefully helping to replenish a system recently depleted of pitching prospects at the higher levels due to trades and graduations to the majors.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Clint Barmes to the Astros

The Houston Astros traded RHP Felipe Paulino to the Colorado Rockies for SS/2B Clint Barmes. This is a strange trade. I have to say I was surprised when I saw it. The trade makes some sense for the Astros in that they needed to upgrade their middle infield, and Barmes is an upgrade for them at a relatively inexpensive $$$ value. The part I don't like for the Astros is giving up Paulino, a pitcher with great looking stuff and better peripheral stats than ERA who just hasn't seemed to be able to put it all together. Maybe Paulino never gets it together, but SP's with 95 MPH fastballs don't grow on trees. If he ever does get it together, he has top of the rotation stuff. The shortstop market is extremely thin though and I'm pretty sure the asking prices for Marco Scuturo and Jason Bartlett just went up, a lot! For his part, Barmes gets into a situation where he will get a lot more PT and at his favored position, SS. On the other hand, he won't be playing half his games in Coors Field.

Colorado doesn't lose much in that they are stacked at middle IF and Barmes was likely to be non-tendered anyway. Although Paulino has a pretty sweet looking upside, Colorado doesn't seem to be the most likely place in the world for him to put it together, so I'm not sure Colorado really gets anything that's going to help them here.

The biggest winner in all this would seem to be Barmes. The two teams involved come out pretty close to neutral. Paulino would seem to be the biggest loser as I don't see him shaking his underachiever reputation pitching half his games in Coors Field.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Burning Question #3: What Does the Future Hold for Pablo Sandoval?

I still remember the first time I saw a picture of Pablo Sandoval. After an undistinguished performance in Rookie League as a 17 year old catcher, Pablo had hit .330 against older competition as an 18 year old in the Short Season Northwest League where he had been moved to 3B to help develop his bat. Needless to say, a prospect watcher like me was eager to find out more about this kid. Then, Baseball America came out with their League Top 10 Prospects and Pablo made the list for the NWL. BA had a picture with the write up. OMG! What a shock! I was stunned! His listed dimensions were 5'11", 180 lbs. Maybe just a tad small for a catcher, but OK for a third baseman. What was clear from the picture was that Pablo was no 180 lbs! Maybe 280, but defintely not 180! After a lot of discussion on the internet the consensus estimate was that Pablo weighed somewhere between 220 lbs and 240 lbs, but I still tend to believe he was closer to 260.

Our worst fears seemed to be confirmed the following season when Pablo struggled to a .631 OPS while being moved to first base. At this point, a lot of prospect watchers were ready to write him off. I saved a spot near the bottom of my Top 50 prospects list because the Giants still seemed to be working with him.

I saw Pablo in person for the first time the following season in San Jose. I saw a couple of games that season and Pablo played catcher in one and first base in the other. He was still huge, but surprisingly agile. His hitting was still not that impressive, but significantly better with an OPS of .476. Around this time, there was a lot of discussion about Pablo's alarmingly low walk rates. Late in the season I witnessed Pablo hit one of the longest HR's I have ever seen off James McDonald, the Dodger's prospect. It hit high up on the netting behind the right-centerfield wall that keeps HR balls from going out onto E Street in San Bernardino. I left that game thinking Pablo might have a lot more power potential than it had appeared up to that point.

Pablo returned to San Jose to start the 2008 season at age 21 and went on a tear with a slash line of .359/.412/.597 with 12 HR in just 68 games. He continued raking after a promotion to AA Connecticut, .337/.364/.549 with 8 more HR's in 44 games. He kept right on going after a promotion to San Francisco, .345/.357/.490. Giants fans were not just impressed by his numbers but also by his enthusiasm which was contagious and seemed to wake up a moribund Giants team. Pablo was still a very large man, but concerns about his weight faded into the background as his athleticism continued to show through.

2009 was the stuff of baseball legend for Pablo. Swinging at practically everything thrown at him, he also squared up practically everything and tore up opposing pitching with a line of .330/.387/.556 wtih 25 HR's. Somehow he still managed to draw 52 BB's and concerns about his plate discipline faded some more. Maybe he was just that rare player, like Vlad Guerrero, who simply could hit everything he could reach with his bat, and hit it hard. His weight, although still alarmingly high became more of a novelty. Barry Zito thought he looked like Kung Fu Panda running the bases and the nickname stuck. A booming business in Panda gear raked in hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars for the Giants merchandising department.

While few observers believed that Pablo would repeat his 2009 numbers in 2010, it was widely assumed that he would hit close to .300 with power. The only question seemed to be what position he would play as he had played C, 3B, and 1B up to that point. An offseason conditioning and nutrition program called Camp Panda was widely publicized, but when Pablo showed up to spring training, if anything, he looked even bigger than in 2009. With the acquisition of Aubrey Huff, the re-signing of Bengie Molina and with Buster Posey knocking on the door, Pablo settled in at 3B.

Pablo had his moments in 2010, but he also had agonizingly long stretches where he looked absolutely lost at the plate. Pitchers started routinely throwing him high fastballs, often up around his eyes, that he could neither lay off nor hit. Clearly frustrated and pressing, he expanded his strike zone even further. When he did make contact, it was weak contact with countless pop ups for outs and even worse, seemingly countless GIDP's. He appeared to be gaining even more weight, right before our eyes! Word got out of personal problems. Maybe too much partying had cost him his marriage and a divorce was in progress. At one point, Pablo had to take several days off to fly to his native Venezuela to sign divorce and custody papers, which couldn't have been a pleasant experience in any way. A temporarily improved approach at the plate disintegrated again.

With his weight appearing to balloon, his fielding at 3B, which had actually been pretty good, started to deteriorate. By the end of the World Series, he had become a liability both at the plate and fielding his position and he as benched in favor of Mike Fontenot and later Juan Uribe with Edgar Renteria taking over at SS. The rest is history!

After the World Series celebration died down, Brian Sabean went public with his concerns about Pablo revealing that Manager Bruce Bochy had told him he would be sent down to the minors if he did not get himself into better shape in the offseason. Pablo would participate in a diet and fitness program near San Diego in the offseason. So, what can we expect from Pablo Sandoval next season?

Despite his unusual size and shape, Pablo is an exceptionally gifted athlete with seemingly limitless potential. With that in mind, one certainly would not want to sell him short. He went through a similar struggle, at least at the plate, back in Augusta in the minors at age 19 and worked his way out of it, although it took a couple of seasons. As a very young man, he had the insight and determination to realize any future in baseball, at the positions he was likely to be able to play, would require him to throw right-handed. Pablo, a natural lefthander, taught himself to throw righthanded. How many kids do something like that, and all on their own? So Pablo has some definite strengths going for him.

My concern for Pablo is that his weight will become more and more of an issue as he gets older. He appears to have a familial and lifelong tendency to be overweight. He was already grossly overweight as a teenager. Whether due to metabolic syndrome, leptin deficiency, or simply overeating, the natural history of teenage obesity is even further weight gain in the 3'rd and 4'th decades of life. A weight loss program lasting a few weeks is not going to make a dent in Pablo's weight long term. As with the ill-fated Camp Panda, he will gain the weight back, and more, within a very short time. To control his weight, Pablo Sandoval will need to make changes in his diet and lifestyle that he lives every day for the rest of his life, or at least his career. It is not impossible. People do it all the time. The vast majority, however, are not able to overcome whatever is driving them to be overweight. You never want to give up on a talent like Pablo Sandoval, but I have to say I am not holding out any expectations of a significantly slimmed down Panda come spring training.

Sandoval is still pre-arbitration, so it costs the Giants essentially nothing to see if he can get back to his Panda days, although hopefully not his Panda shape! He is certainly not someone the Giants would want to invest a long term contract in at this point, but for the league minimum salary, you have to find out what he can do. The Giants will just have to make sure they have a backup plan in place.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Uggla to the Braves; Davis to the Jays

Yesterday, the Florida Marlins continued their roster adjustment by trading Dan Uggla to the Atlanta Braves. At first glance this trade appears to be very one-sided, and from at least one perspective it is. Uggla is a very good player. He has hit 30 or more HR's 4 seasons in a row, something only 3 other players have done in that time. His hitting, er slugging, more than make up for his subpar defense at 2B. He is a reliable 5 WAR player, and those don't just grow on trees. Uggla is worth much more as a player than the two players who the Marlins acquired, combined.

There is another way of looking at this though. The Marlins were going to lose Dan Uggla anyway. He turned down multiple very reasonable offers to the point where it became obvious that he just didn't want to sign a long term contract at all with them. I wonder if that may have had anything to do with conversations he had with his good friend Cody Ross about what it's like to play for a championship contender? At any rate, the Marlins were being forced into going to arbitration with Uggla just to keep him for 1 more season and they were clearly not willing to do that. With the deadline for offering arbitration looming, they had to move fast with every other team in baseball knowing they had to trade Uggla. Under those circumstances, the Marlins made out pretty well. They got a replacement second baseman who played in the 2010 All-Star game and who is cost controlled for awhile. They also got a LOOGY reliever to add to the stable of RH relievers they have stockpiled via other trades.

As for the Braves, they added a middle of the order RH bat to a lineup that leaned fairly heavily to the left, something the Giants were able exploit in the playoffs. What will be interesting is whether Uggla signs a long term contract with Atlanta or if he is determined to test free agency in 2012.

Trader Billy struck again, trading former Giant Rajai Davis to the Toronto Blue Jays for a couple of pitching prospects who project as relief pitchers. As you might remember, Davis went on a tear with Oakland after Billy Beane picked him up on waivers from the Giants in 2009. Davis stole a lot of bases again in 2010, but his hitting regressed a lot and he was the odd man out after the A's traded for David DeJesus. Some Giants fans were understandably upset with Brian Sabean for letting Davis go, but from today's perspective, if it came down to Davis or Andres Torres, the Giants kept the right guy. It's a little tough to see how Rajai Davis fits in with the Toronto Blue Jays other than giving them a 4'th OF option in case Fred Lewis leaves. On the other hand, Lewis and Davis might make a nice #4, #5 OF combo for the Jays.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Down on the Farm: AFL Highlights


Brandon Belt- 2 for 5, 2B.
Conor Gillaspie- 2 for 5, HR(3).
Charlie Culberson- 1 for 4, BB.


Conor Gillaspie- 0 for 4.
Jason Stoffel- 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.


Charlie Culberson- 0 for 5, BB.
Brandon Belt- 3 for 4, 2B, 3B, 2 BB.
Dan Runzler- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.


Brandon Belt- 0 for 4.
Conor Gillaspie- 1 for 4, 2B.
Ryan Verdugo- 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K's.


Charlie Culberson- 2 for 4, 2B
Brandon Belt- 2 for 4, 3B
Dan Runzler- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K's.


Conor Gillaspie- 3 for 4, HR(4).
Jason Stoffel- 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K.


Brandon Belt- 3 for 4, 2B, 3B, BB. BA= .392.
Charlie Culberson- 1 for 5. BA= .378.
Conor Gillaspie- 3 for 4, 2 2B, HR(5), HBP. BA= .314.
Dan Runzler- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K's.

Belt has continued to just rake. His 5 triples lead the AFL. Culberson has cooled off a bit, but has had a fine AFL campaign. He leads the AFL with 11 doubles. The guy who has really turned it on as the AFL has progressed is Conor Gillaspie. Conor's 5 dingers leads the AFL! Verdugo continues to rack up impressive K numbers. He is tied for the league lead in Wins and leads in K's with 25, 1 more than Scott Barnes(remember him?). Verdugo's 25 K's are over 19 IP, while Barnes has 24 in 21.2 IP. Stoffel is still running hot and cold. Runzler appears to be just getting in some work. Remember, the AFL is a very small sample size and generally hitter friendly.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Buster Posey: National League Rookie of the Year!

The Giants have a long and storied history of players making dramatic entries into Major League Baseball. Willie Mays led a dramatic comeback by a Giants team that culminated in the "Shot Heard Round the World" by Bobby Thomson in 1951 with Mays hitting his first major league HR off Warren Spahn. In 1959, Willie McCovey went 4 for 4 with 2 triples in his first major league game. Juan Marichal pitched a 1 hit complete game shutout in his first game. Bobby Bonds hit a grand slam HR to beat the Dodgers in 1968. Dave Kingman went nuts in his first MLB weekend against the Pittburgh Pirates in 1971. John "The Count" Montefusco bragged about beating the Dodgers and then backed up his words by actually doing it in 1975. Will "The Thrill" Clark took Nolan Ryan deep in his very first major league AB. Against that backdrop, to be the first Giant to win NL ROY since The Count in 1975 is quite an accomplishment. I was pleased to see that Buster paid homage to that history in his conference call after the award was announced.

Buster did not have quite the dramatic first game that some of his predecessors had, but his impact on the Giants winning their first World Series in 56 years and their first ever since moving to San Francisco cannot be overstated. His performance in Milwaukee coming off that horrifying 15 inning loss to Colorado might have saved the season right there. The 21 game hitting streak was equally impressive and impactful. My own moment to remember came in Los Angeles in a game I attended. The Giants were trailing the Dodgers 4-0 in the 7'th inning and Buster got their first run with a towering blast 2/3's of the way up the LF pavilion in left-centerfield. For those of you familiar with Dodger Stadium, that is one impressive blast! That HR gave me a glimmer of hope that the Giants might come back to win that game and the Giants must have felt the same way because they did just that with 3 more HR's capped by Juan Uribe's 2 run game winner in the 9'th inning.

It wasn't just the hitting either. Posey carried himself like a leader from day one, not in an arrogant way but with quiet confidence. After the trade that brought Chris Ray to the Giants, he was standing kind of alone in the Giants dugout, like he wasn't sure he belonged. Buster made it a point to walk over, stick out his hand and introduce himself. He wasn't afraid to go out to the mound to calm down a shaky pitcher. On defense, there was the obvious cannon for an arm gunning down runners. A whole folklore sprang up among Giants fans with a video from his college days making the rounds showing him gunning down a baserunner then appearing to mouth the words "I ain't havin' it!" Buster denies having said that, but the legend lives on.

Whether or not a catcher's game calling and receiving skills make a difference in pitching performance is a hotly debated subject. Buster has turned me into a believer. Of course, the Giants pitchers might have gotten stronger as the season progressed no matter who was catching, but the difference was so noticeable, so dramatic with the trend starting within days of Buster taking over the starting catcher job. I'll just mention some things I noticed that may explain the difference. Bengie Molina almost never called for "climbing the ladder" calling for the high fastball with 2 strikes on the batter. Buster loves climbing the ladder. You can see him fairly bursting with excitement as he comes up a bit out of his crouch and holds that glove up in the strike zone! It's a great strategy, especially given the skills of the Giants pitchers. Specifically with Brian Wilson, Buster gives him a better target, especially on the outside corner to LH batters. Bengie used to set up clear outside the strike zone while Busters puts his glove right on the edge of the plate. All Brian has to do is hit the glove to get the strike. When Wilson puts that 98 MPH bad boy on the black, lefthanded hitters are overmatched!

2010 was an exceptional year for rookies. There may have been as many as 10 performances worthy of ROY in many other years. Buster's own teammate, Madison Bumgarner, was outstanding and got stronger as the season went along. Pittsburgh had Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata. The Cubs had Starlin Castro. The Cardinals had Jaime Garcia. The Braves had Johnny Venters. The two standouts were Buster Posey and Jason Heyward of the Braves. Some observers felt that Heyward should get the award because he played the entire season, whereas Buster wasn't called up until May. Heyward was certainly a worthy candidate. I've been a huge Jason Heyward fan since I wanted the Giants to draft him ahead of Madison Bumgarner in 2007. As it turns out, I was wrong about Bumgarner, but having Buster and Jason Heyward come up in the same year would be mighty sweet too! I just don't think Heyward took over the Braves the way Buster took over the Giants. Make no mistake, even with all the incredible pitching talent, and veteran leadership of Aubrey Huff and Juan Uribe, the Giants became Buster's team the day Bengie Molina was traded. I know intangibles are laughed by many analysts these days, but when you combine almost identical offensive output with the defense at a premium position and yes, the leadership, Buster was the National League Rookie of the Year! Pretty easy call, actually.

Congratulations, Buster Posey!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Burning Question #2: Who's Plays Shortstop?

Maybe this should have been Burning Question #1, because of all the items on Brian Sabean's to do list this offseason, filling the shortstop position may be both the most important and most difficult. If the Spring Training started tomorrow, the Giants would go to camp with the shortstop depth chart of 1. Mike Fontenot. 2. Emmanuel Burriss 3. Ryan Rohlinger, or something like that. You can put the names in a hat and draw them at random. That's a significant downgrade for a team on which shortstop was the weakest position by the end of last season, not exactly the depth chart of a defending World Series championship team.

To make matters worse, the free agent market isn't exactly overflowing with shortstop talent. Juan Uribe, who isn't anybody's vision of an ideal shortstop is easily the cream of the crop, well, at least if you eliminate Derek Jeter from consideration. Uribe doesn't look like a shortstop, huge upper body with spindly legs, especially from the knees down. He also doesn't hit for a high average and he doesn't draw a lot of walks. What Uribe does is hit home runs, enough to make him a valuable #6 or #7 hitter. That's a lot more than you can say for most shortstops. On defense, a cannon for an arm makes up for limited range. At low priced 1 year contracts like he has had with the Giants the last two years, Uribe is a godsend to a roster. On a multiyear contract for $ several million, he doesn't look so good.

The problem for the Giants is that Uribe is no longer flying under anybody's radar. The St. Louis Cardinals have essentially announced that they are looking for an offensive upgrade at shortstop, and wouldn't Uribe fill that bill! Many baseball prognosticators have already penciled him into Cincinnati's roster, and there could be a few others hoping to catch a little of the Giants magic dust. So it's quite possible, even likely that rather than being the bargain he has been for the Giants the last 2 years, Juan Uribe will be signed to one of the most overpriced contracts of this offseason. So, what are the Giants fallback options?

Here's where Brian Sabean may have the biggest test of his entire tenure as GM of the Giants, finding a shortstop for next season if another team gets blinded by the shiny World Series trophy they saw Uribe holding. Here are some possible options:

In House:

There is the aforementioned Burriss and Rohlinger plus Mike Fontenot, assuming Fontenot is tendered a contract. Fontenot is primarily a second baseman and his fielding deficiencies at shortstop would be exposed in an every day role, just like they were exposed at 3B in the post season. Neither Burriss nor Rohlinger has shown they can hit MLB pitching at even the Mendoza line, although Burriss brings intriguing speed to the table.

Brandon Crawford is the guy who the Giants appear to hope is the shortstop of the future. Unforunately, he was injured for a big chunk of 2010 leaving him at least a half season of minor league AB's short of being ready to play in the majors.

Ehire Adrianza has a nice future as a fielder, but struggled at the plate in A ball. He's clearly not ready!

Free Agents:

Once you get past Juan Uribe, the pickings are slim indeed. Edgar Renteria could be brought back at a lower salary, say $1-2 million, but nobody thinks he is anything more than a part time player at this point. It may be worth the risk hoping he makes it to mid-season and Crawford is ready by then, but clearly not plan A.

Orlando Cabrera has made a career lately out of being a one season option. He might be the best of the rest, but really?

JJ Hardy might be non-tendered by the Twins, and thus might be available in trade for not too much. He might make a nice reclamation project.

A quick perusal of the list of minor league free agents shows nobody obviously better than Burriss or Rohlinger. Luis Rodriguez from the White Sox organization had an Andres Torres-like breakout last year in AAA, but he played almost exclusively 2B leading one to suspect that he is no longer a shortstop.

There is some talk that Ryan Theriot could be non-tendered by the Dodgers. He would be an interesting option, especially if his buddy Mike Fontenot stays on with the Giants as a utility infielder.

Trades: Unfortunately this is where Sabean is probably going to have to find next year's shortstop if Uribe goes elsewhere.

There has been some speculation that Stephen Drew may be available, but there really has been no indication that he actually is. In any event, the D'Backs would be looking for a haul in return, and they might not trade him within the division at any price. Drew would be a perfect fit, though.

Jason Bartlett had a down year and the Rays are looking to shed payroll. They have a couple of younger, cheaper options in Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez, so Bartlett might be available on the cheap. The Rays are looking for cheap bullpen help and the Giants could help them with that. Bartlett isn't a great fielder nor a great hitter, but he has enough speed to be a SB threat, something the Giants could use more of.

Boston has a logjam at SS with Marco Scuturo signed last year as a FA, but Jed Lowrie ready to take over. They may be open to trading one or the other. Neither would be cheap in terms of who the Giants would have to give up though.

There are rumors that the White Sox are listening to offers for Gordon Beckham. He played mostly 2B last year, but played an adequate SS in 2009. He is pre-arbitration eligible, and would be a nice high ceiling pickup if the Giants could put together a package for him.

The Yankees are almost desperate to upgrade their bullpen. They have proclaimed that Eduardo Nunez is the heir Derek Jeter at shortstop, but one has to think that is just a pathetic attempt at posturing in Jeter's salary negotiations. Nunez should be available for a decent reliever. He might not be much of an upgrade over Emmanuel Burriss or Brandon Crawford though.

Am I missing anyone? Who do you think will be the Giants starting shortstop next season?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Burning Question #1: Can the Giants Re-Sign Aubrey Huff?

As last year's offseason started to wind down, the Giants and Aubrey Huff were like the nerd and the ugly girl at the school dance, both left with no one else wanting them. Uh, well uh, OK. Wanna dance? Then, something amazing happened. The nerd threw his pocket protector into the trash, spiked his hair and started cutting some very nifty moves out on the dance floor. The girl took off her glasses, went in the ladies room to put on some makeup and came out looking gorgeous. The new couple went on to be named Homecoming King and Queen and lived happily ever after. Well, the Homecoming thing is true, but we don't know if they lived happily ever after yet.

Even though he was the Giants 3'rd option behind Nick Johnson and Adam LaRoche, and even though their offer was insultingly low for a guy who had hit over 30 HR's in 2008 and a couple of other times in his career, Aubrey Huff embraced the Giants, their organization and their fans like they had just given him an 8 year $127 million contract. At a time when many fans were cursing the team and clamoring for the entire management team to be fired, Huff proclaimed to whoever would listen that he was thrilled to be here because for the first time in his pro career, he felt like he had a chance to be on a winning team! He certainly did his part too! A guy who had a reputation for being overweight, out of shape and a terrible fielder got into the best shape of his life, proclaimed that he was the best athlete on the team and could play virtually any position he was asked. You know what? He just might have been right!

Huff's offensive stat line was very good, .290/.385/.506 with 26 HR's. He even stole 7 bases without getting caught once! As good as that line was, Huff had put up similar lines several times before. That wasn't the surprising part. What made him so much more valuable than he had ever been was that he was suddenly a plus defender, both at first base and the OF. All that added up to a WAR(Wins Above Replacement, as calculated by fangraphs.com) of 5.7 a full 1.7 more than his previous best(in case you are looking for some perspective on what a WAR of 5.7 means, Josh Hamilton led all of baseball with 8.0 and Aubrey Huff had the 17'th highest non-pitching WAR in baseball). That's pretty close to elite status. fangraphs.com estimates that Huff's performance last year was worth $22.5 million while the Giants paid him just $3 million, the biggest bargain in baseball not named Andres Torres, but that's a whole other story.

Here's where the lived happily ever after part starts to unravel. There are a lot of teams out there who are all too aware of the Giants success. Winning the World Series has this way of drawing the wannabe's out of the woodwork. The Giants have announced that they know they are going to have to raise their payroll for next year, but with a lot of young pitching talent suddenly becoming very expensive, and with Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand's contracts still accounting for over half of many teams' payrolls, the Giants just might not be able to outbid some of the wannabe teams out there who aren't blessed with that kind of pitching talent and may have jack to outbid the Giants even at a bumped up payroll. MLB Traderumors is reporting that several teams have already made Huff offers, possibly the Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays, White Sox and even the Rangers who are in the market for a guy who can play first base, left field and DH a bit.

So, what happens if the unthinkable occurs. What if the ugly girl turned gorgeous decides to run off with the dude who shows up with the cool motorcycle and ride off into the sunset leaving the still somewhat nerdy guy standing with his hands in his pockets? Well, all is not lost! Mind you, the Giants are highly, highly unlikely to replace Aubrey Huff's 5.7 WAR, but remember, it is also highly, highly unlikely that Aubrey Huff repeats his 5.7 WAR! Sure, at 33 years old, it's possible that he's kicked it into another gear, but it's much more likely that he just had a career year. After all, he's averaged just a little over 2 WAR/season over his career and the 5.7 exceeded his previous high by almost 2! So, what are the options if the unthinkable does happen?

In House Options:

The Giants have a pretty interesting prospect who can play both first base and corner OF, just like Aubrey Huff named Brandon Belt who is starting to generate a lot of national buzz and may just be ready to play MLB by next season. While not exactly dismantling the team, finally winning the ring may give the Giants enough cover with their fan base to "go young" and bring along a position player or two.

Then there is Travis Ishikawa who will be entering his age 27 season, the beginning of most player's prime years. Travis is a stellar defensive first baseman who might just be poised for a breakout season. If he isn't, Belt might well be ready by the time it's obvious it isn't going to happen for Travis.

Let's not forget about Pablo Sandoval, who might be more likely to rebound at the plate if he is playing first base than 3'rd. Even in the terrible season he had last year, Pablo still showed flashes of what he is capable of pounding long drives into the gaps and over the wall at AT&T Park. Hopefully he gets himself in better shape over the winter and can contribute at first or third base in a big way next year.

Free Agents:

I'm assuming that if the Giants can't compete in the Aubrey Huff sweepstakes, they aren't going to get Paul Konerko, Victor Martinez or Adam Dunn either. Here's an idea! Adam LaRoche recently had his option declined by the Arizona Diamondbacks and is a free agent. LaRoche did hit 25 HR's with 100 RBI's for the D'Backs last year. He may just be kicking himself for turning up his nose at last year's Giants offer and be willing to try the Huff route with them if he's the odd man out when the Hot Stove starts to die down. LaRoche only plays first base, which limits his value, and he doesn't hit for as high a BA or OBP as Huff at his best, but his career has been more stable and he can be a very productive bat in the middle of a lineup. Carlos Pena, a guy who can hit HR's in bunches, may find his value limited by his characteristically low batting averages. Others who might have a chance to be next year's Aubrey Huff? How about Troy Glaus, Xavier Nady or Lyle Overbay?

Trades: It's pretty unlikely that the Giants are going to get a low cost, name first baseman without having to give up too much in trade, I'm talking about a Jonathan Sanchez or Matt Cain who would leave a gaping hole in the Giants greatest strength if either were traded. Don't expect Prince Fielder or AGone to be coming to SF in a blockbuster trade! Here's an idea that may be flying under the radar: The Angels seem to have soured on Mike Napoli. Napoli is a guy who is capable of hitting 25-30 HR's and could play first base while occasionally spelling Buster Posey behind the plate. The Angels need to bolster their bullpen, so a reliever and a prospect might be all it would take to land a Napoli. I'm sure there are other possibilties out there, but that's all I can think of tonight. Time to get to bed!

Do you think Aubrey Huff will be re-signed?

Hot Stove Update: Padres Trade for Cameron Maybin

The Padres and Marlins completed a trade today with the Padres acquiring CF Cameron Maybin for 2 RP's, Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica

The Padres have been looking for a speedy OF to patrol the vast domain of Petco Park for some time. Tony Gwynn Jr has the speed to track down drives in the alleys, but has no bat whatsoever. Other guys who can hit don't quite have the speed or chops to play CF, especially in that park. Maybin has been a much anticipated prospect for seemingly as long as I can remember.

Originally drafted into the Detroit Tigers organization, Maybin put up an intriguing combination of near- .400 OBP's and 25+ SB's in the lower minors that made prospect watchers drool. His power numbers, while never great, seemed to be good enough to keep pitchers honest and help him maintain his OBP. Maybin's detractors pointed to his consistently extreme groundball rates and worried that his power would never develop and his BA might not hold up at higher levels where the fielding was better.

Maybin was traded to Florida when the Tigers acquired Miggy Cabrera. Maybin got a late callup in 2008 at performed well in a very small sample size. He was penciled in as Florida's starting CF in 2009, but flopped and was sent back to the minors. He stayed up for good last year, but only achieved a slash line of .234/.302/.361 with 8 HR's and 9 SB's in 315 PA's over 82 games. He was rapidly becoming the odd man out in Florida's OF with the emergence of Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, Chris Coghlan and Scott Cousins, so was expendable to the Marlins.

Florida's bullpen was a shambles last year and needed a serious upgrade. The Marlins achieved a big part of that goal in one trade by acquiring two hard throwing RHP's who were part of San Diego's seemingly endless parade of flame-throwers out of their bullpen last year. San Diego obviously felt they had enough pitching depth to use some of it to fill a nagging need.

I'm going to give the thumbs up on this trade to Florida and a thumbs down to San Diego. Maybin's slightly negative UZR from 2010 would suggest that he may not be the CF answer in Petco and the other spacious OF's in the NL West. He continues to have an extreme GB tendency which will limit his power potential which is likely to be non-existent playing in the NL West anyway. Yes, some of those ground balls will go on through for base-hits, but MLB fielders will turn the vast majority of them into outs. San Diego may be able to replace Webb and Mujica in the bullpen, but more likely their depth will be adversely affected turning their greatest strength into merely good.

Florida obviously improves here giving up their 5'th OF at best while creating instant respectability for their tattered bullpen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Trader Billy

Once upon a time, the San Diego Padres had a manager/GM named Jack McKeon who seemed to make trades for the sake of making trades. His nickname, Trader Jack! In recent years, Billy Beane, GM of the Bay Bridge rivals Oakland A's has made a whole series of trades starting with the dismantling of the Big Three of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito that have not exactly left the A's in better shape than when he started. Of course, that doesn't stop all the "Billy is God" sycophants who, because they claim to understand sabermetrics, hold themselves in contempt of other mere fans, from proclaiming after each and every Billy Beane trade that it is all part of some master plan to achieve world domination.

It comes as no surprise then that Trader Billy would get the old Hot Stove fired up with the first signing and first major trade of the offseason. It all started with news that the A's had made the high bid on Japanese pitcher, Hisashi Iwakuma. That left some people scratching their heads because Oakland was already loaded with good young starting pitchers. Now, I will give Billy Beane credit for thinking ahead, maybe more than any other GM. I don't happen to think that he always thinks ahead correctly, but he does think ahead! Within hours of the news that the A's had won the bidding for Iwakuma, Billy traded a couple of pitchers, Vin Mazzaro and minor leaguer Justin Marks to the KC Royals for OF David DeJesus.

David DeJesus is a bit of an enigma. He has long been regareded as having elite potential, but he has never really come close to achieving that level of performance and he has tended to be inconsistent. He has hit for average at times but has also had seasons where he was well under .300. He does draw a lot of walks for a good OBP, which Billy likes, but he has never hit 15 HR's nor has he ever stolen 15 bases in any single season. On defense, DeJesus' UZR's have also been inconsistent, but he is reputed to be a solid defender with above average range in the OF. DeJesus' salary will be $6 million next season, but he will almost certainly test his luck in the FA market next offseason, so Oakland is likely getting him for just one season.

As for the pitchers involved, Iwakuma would seem to be a solid bet to be an upgrade over Mazzaro while Marks has a limited ceiling but a decent chance to eventually be a #4 or 5 MLB starter. Mazzaro's contract is under team control for 5 more seasons while Marks has 3 more seasons before he is Rule 5 eligible and then would have 3 more options after that, so KC has plenty of time to develop him, although he is projected to be a fairly fast mover.

With the signing and trade, Billy Beane gives the A's 2 clear upgrades at SP and OF. DeJesus is probably never going to live up to his perceived potential, and will likely have slightly worse offensive numbers in Oakland than KC. On the other hand, like the Giants, the A's pitch and defend well enough that even a small upgrade on offense might be a big difference maker. From KC's perspective, they add to their pitching depth and get long term cost control for a player they would almost certainly lose after next season anyway, but you've got to think they could have gotten more for DeJesus if they had waited out the FA market until after Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth signed or even waited until next year's trade deadline to deal him. Worst case scenario, KC keeps him all season and then gets compensatory draft picks after he leaves for free agency next offseason. A deadline trade and/or compensation draft picks is likely to be figuring prominently in Billy Beane's thinking here too.

I haven't always been a fan of Billy Beane's trades, and I despise the "Billy is God" mentality in many corners of the baseball oriented internet, but I have to give him a solid thumbs up for the presumed Iwakuma signing and the David DeJesus trade. I'll give Dayton Moore and the KC Royals a thumbs down for not getting nearly enough return for DeJesus.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Down on the Farm: AFL Highlights


Brandon Belt- 2 for 5, 2B. BA= .365.
Charlie Culberson- 1 for 4, BB. BA= .408.
Conor Gillaspie- 2 for 5, HR(3). BA= .278.

11-06-2010(AFL All-Star Game)

Charlie Culberson- 1 for 3.
Brandon Belt- 0 for 2, 3 BB.


Charlie Culberson- 2 for 6.
Brandon Belt- 1 for 3, 3B, 2 BB.
Joe Paterson- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's. ERA= 3.00.


Charlie Culberson- 3 for 4, 2 2B.
Conor Gillaspie- 1 for 2, 2B, BB.
Ryan Verdugo- 3 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 1 K. ERA= 3.00.
Jason Stoffel- 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 K. ERA= 6.10.


Conor Gillaspie- 2 for 4.


Charlie Culberson- 0 for 4.
Brandon Belt- 2 for 3, HR, BB.
Jason Stoffel- 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.
Joe Paterson- 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.


Charlie Culberson- 0 for 5.
Brandon Belt- 3 for 5, 2B.
Conor Gillaspie- 1 for 4, 2B.

After a slow start to his AFL campaign, Gillaspie has come on a bit even showing some power with 3 dingers. Culberson had a couple of 0'fers, but then started raking again. Belt drew raves from several observers, including John Sickels, for his plate discipline in the All-Star game. One of his outs required a great catch by the opposing CF. The pitchers continue to have their ups and downs.

John Klima over at baseballbeginnings.com checked out the Arizona Instructional Leagues. He was impressed by the power of Chris Dominguez and opined that he thinks Chris can make it in the majors. He also singled out Rafael Rodriguez for his athleticism and projectable frame. This is interesting because a guy who goes by the handle of fla-giant has been really thrashing RafRod on mccoveychronicles.com and minorleagueball.com. Nobody is perfect on these things, but I've read enough of Klima's stuff to be of the opinion that he knows what he is talking about. I'll leave it at that. Klima also mentions Jarrett Parker saying he had either grown taller or lost weight since he last saw him. He still thinks Parker can project for power if he fills out his frame a bit.

Bacci was asking about Shawon Dunston Jr. Check out today's post on baseballbeginnings.com which features him. Great looking athlete. Everything he does seems high effort. Lots of extraneous movement at the plate and in the field. I'm thinking this kid might be best off going to college. Needs to settle down and let the game come to him.

There is still some uncertainty over whether Japanese SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be posted by his Japanese team. The Giants would be an obvious fit. He plays SS and 2B over in Japan, but I've read that he should have no problem playing SS in MLB. He hit .346 over there with 20+ SB's and 20 HR's several years in a row and is just 26 years old. The Giants hired a Pacific Rim scout a few years ago, but have never made any significant signings from that region. With the dearth of SS options on the market, I would think the Giants have to at least be considering making a play for this guy. Other teams who might be interested include the Seattle Mariners and LA Angels. The biggest factor holding the Giants back might be Brian Sabean's almost obsessive aversion to getting burned twice at the same thing. Speaking of which, wasn't Shinjo's first name Tsuyoshi?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

State of the Giants: What Do We Do Now?

There is a famous movie scene near the end of The Candidate where the candidate, played by Robert Redford, turns to his campaign advisor after being elected Senator from California and asks, "What Do We Do Now? That seems like a useful metaphor for what a lot of Giants fans are thinking right about now. So much of our identity as fans has been tied up in the "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" history of the Giants, a lot of us don't quite know what to do with this newfound exhilaration of finally winning the World Series. Yes, the Giants won the World Series! As great as being able to say that is, it still feels just a bit strange and unfamiliar.

As the euphoria slowly dies down and the offseason schedule forces decisions to be made about the team's roster for next year, the realization hits that we are less than 4 months away from starting the grind all over again. How will the new team look? How will the season feel? Will there be the same urgency to try and repeat as champions as there was to win it for the first time in San Francisco Giants history? You start to realize that while the Giants win in 2010 will stand in the record books forever, the team itself, as well as winning, is temporary, with the quest to win again never ending. One of my favorite quotes of all time comes courtesy of Duane Thomas, a former All Pro running back for the Dallas Cowboys and notorious 49'ers nemesis. After the Cowpokes had won a Superbowl game, he said, "If it's the ultimate game, why do they play it again next year?" Needless to say, that didn't exactly endear him to his coach, the team or the NFL. They ran his butt out of the league in no time.

So, what do we do now?

Winning the World Series once is crazy hard, let alone winning it back-to-back. As we all know, this was the Giants first win since the team move to San Francisco 52 years ago, but prior to that the Giants franchise won 5 times as the New York Giants, so the franchise has won it 6 times total. By way of comparison, there are just 6 franchises who have won as many IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE SPORT! Less than half of all current major league teams have even played in as many as 6 World Series contests IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE SPORT! In the 107 year history of the World Series, only 8 non-Yankee teams have ever repeated as champions, and it's only happened 3 times since 1930, the '92-'93 Blue Jays, '75-'76 Reds and the '72-'74 Oakland A's.

Remember the Angels team that won over the Giants in 2002? That team spent crazy amounts of money trying to duplicate that accomplishment over the next 8 seasons. THEY SIGNED VLAD for crying out loud! They haven't won it, or even really come close since. It just takes an incredible level of talent to win a World Series, but just having the talent is usually not enough. You also have to have an incredible passion, perseverance, and yes, a lot of luck to survive a marathon 162 game schedule and then 3 grueling series' against other teams with similar levels of talent who want it just as bad as you do. To sustain that level of intensity for a second season in a row without the Yankees' overwhelming resources is, as the data suggests, virtually impossible. The Giants might field a team that is just as good as this year's team, or even better, and still not win it again. They could make the playoffs for the next 10 years in a row and not win it again in that time.

So, what do we do now?

One thing the World Series highlighted, and didn't change, is the Giants core of young home-grown players. Much has been made of the Giants as a group of castoffs and misfits, but that narrative only goes so far. Yes, there were a lot of "dumpster dives" on the team who made enormous contributions, but at it's core, the team has what might be the best homegrown talent ikn baseball. That it is concentrated in pitching may have been overlooked by many observers, but it's no less a fact and no less important. In fact, the opposite may be true, that it's much more important to have dominant young pitching than a core of great positions players or even a mix, as the Dodgers are finding out.

The Giants position in the future pecking order of baseball goes beyond the young core of players currently at the MLB level. The Giants have a strong and involved ownership group, buffering them against catastrophe like has befallen the Dodgers one-man ownership. They have a great ballpark, maybe the best in baseball, that is a destination attraction for casual fans or even non-fans. I know quite a few people who aren't even baseball fans, let alone Giants fans, who go to games in SF just to have the experience of that stadium! Better yet, the Giants are one of the few teams in baseball who own their own park. It will be paid off soon, leaving ownership with a windfall that will keep the team financially competitive with all but possibly the Yankees for years and even decades to come.

The Giants still have a strong farm system despite the recent remarkable run of graduations to the MLB club. The system if fed by a top notch scouting and player development department which promises to keep the flow of talent coming for years to come

Taken as a totality, the San Francisco Giants are as well positioned for the future as any team in baseball. That will likely not translate into a World Series Championship every year. In fact, there's no guarantees it will ever happen again, but it does make it likely that they will contend every year for the forseeable future. As we all know, you can't win a World Series without making the playoffs first so another World Series banner or two is a lot more than just a pipe dream. What the Giants need to do is stay on course with building the team from within. It has to be a never-ending process, but as long as it continues, the castoffs and misfits will only complete the picture, not be the whole picture or even the main subject of the picture.

As the offseason moves along, I will comment regularly bout moves that affect the roster as well as take an in-depth look at the farm system. I will post DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects starting after the Winter Meetings. I may not be posting every day as I have done in the past, but check back regularly for new postings. The hiatus after the World Series should be the longest I go without new material moving forward.

Again, thanks to everybody who visits this blog, especially those who comment. It has been, and continues to be, one of the more rewarding endeavors of my life to start this blog and watch a community start to grow up around it.

Go Giants!! World Series winners 2010!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Game Wrap: World Series Game 5- Giants 3 Rangers 1 The Giants Win the World Series!

Well, they did it! Timmy went out there and showed all those Cliff Lee bandwagoners who's really boss completely shutting down the Rangers vaunted offense for 6 innings, long enough for Edgar Renteria to win a World Series MVP Trophy with a game winning 3 run HR in the top of the 7'th inning. Nelson Cruz took Timmy deep in the bottom of the inning, but it was too little too late. Timmy finished the 8'th without further damage and then Brian Wilson mowed down the last 3 Rangers batters in the 9'th inning to close it out. The Giants Win the World Series!!! How sweet it is! Key lines:

Edgar Renteria- 1 for 3, HR! That's it for the offense, really. Cody Ross and Juan Uribe led off the 7'th with back-to-back singles. Huff Daddy laid down a surprise perfect sac bunt. It all looked like it was for naught when Burrell struck out yet again, but then Rent came to the plate after telling Andres Torres he was going to hit it out. He did! 3 run jack for the game winner and the World Series clincher. Renteria was worth every penny of the $18 Million the Giants paid him over the last 2 seasons and then some! World Series MVP and well deserved!

Tim Lincecum- 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 10 K's. Oh my! Facing a much better lineup, I believe Timmy was more dominant than in Game 1 of the NLDS. Halfway through the bottom of the second inning, I looked around at my family, knocked on wood and said, "Timmy is on fire tonight!" Right then, I figured that if the Giants could just get him a run or two that was all they would need. It took until the 7'th inning, but they got him 3 and that was more than enough!

Brian Wilson- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's, Save. Wilson just kept getting more and more dominant as the season and the playoffs went along. He might just be the most dominant closer in baseball right now. Alternate take: Does anyone else get the feeling that Brian Wilson sometimes loads the bases and goes to 3-2 counts just to keep things interesting? I mean, I think he understood that the last two games in the World Series was not the time to mess around and he just came in a blew people away at will! Either way, gotta love the guy!

Cliff Lee- 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 6 K's. What's with the Cliff Lee fixation out there anyway? I mean, I just scanned through the fangraphs.com game chat and Dave Cameron, who has to be the most condescending guy who doesn't know a darn thing about baseball I've ever read, was going on and on about how great Lee's stuff was. Said the Rangers had a 60-40 chance of winning tonight. Someone asked him if the ratio would be reversed if the starting pitchers were reversed. His reply? Yes! or maybe 50-50. I mean, here's a website and a guy who claim pride in ignoring small sample sizes, yet they are gaga over a guy who pitched great in a couple of playoff games yet dis a two time Cy Young Award winner and a 3 time NL Strikeout leader! Just unbelieveable! 2 innings into this game I was about 90% sure Lee was the guy who was going to crack first, and he sure was!

What can I say? With the Win, the 2010 San Francisco Giants win the World Series for the first time since moving to San Francisco in 1958. It's the first Championship for the franchise in my lifetime and the first in my 45 years of being a Giants fan. Lefty Malo has an interesting post about what it will be like to be a Giants fan now that they have won it. I'll worry about that another day! Today, I'm a happy man! No game tomorrow!

I started this blog last offseason, at least in part because I believed this team was headed in the right direction, and had a chance to be very good as soon as this year. I finally got sick of being ridiculed on other Giants fansites for saying just that. I like to think that maybe my blog was a good luck charm for this team. Hey, it's as good an explanation as any, right? I just know that I've been a passionate fan for 45 years and have stuck with this team through thick and thin. I haven't always defended management. I even called for Brian Sabean to be fired after he deliberately punted a draft pick to sign Michael Tucker, which went 180 degrees against everything I believe about how a team should be built. This year, I knew they were headed in the right direction and knew they had a chance to be very good. It's been an unbelieveable experience chronicling my thoughts on Giants baseball through this amazing, wonderful season.

I'm going to take a day or two to digest the whole experience and then decide where to go from here. Barring some unforseen catastrophe, I believe the Giants are poised for their greatest era with a great core of young players and a strong scouting department and farm system. They won't win it every year, but they will be in contention for a long time. As we all know, you can't win the World Series without getting there first!

Thanks to everybody who faithfully followed along all season. Stay tuned for word on the future of the blog. I promise I won't keep you waiting long, but I need a couple of days to let it all sink in. Thanks again everybody!