Sunday, December 30, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #12: Ricky Oropesa

Ricky Oropesa, 1B.  DOB:  12/15/1989.  6'3", 225 lbs.  B-L, T-R.

High A:  .263/.338/.425, 30 2B, 3 3B, 16 HR, 10.1% BB, 25.7% K.
AFL:      .234/.373/.362, 2 HR, 18.6% BB, 27.1% K.

First the obligatory disclosure.  I have never claimed to be in unbiased reporter in any of my writings, but I work with Ricky's mom and have followed his career closely since he was a junior in HS, so I am particularly biased in regards to him.  You can take my opinions for what they are worth and certainly have a right to hold and express your own, in a constructive way, of course.

Brian Sabean has been vocal in the last few years that he does not think the Giants will be able to convince power hitters to come to SF as free agents, so they will have to draft and develop their own.  Since the arrival of John Barr as scouting director, the Giants have followed a now familiar pattern of drafting up-the-middle players in round 1 and then look for at least one power hitter in the next 2-3 rounds.  The result has been a modest infusion of prospects with potential to develop into MLB power hitters, but who also have some flaws that could derail those efforts.  It appears the hope is by adding 1-2 per draft, 1 or 2 will eventually make it.

Ricky Oropesa may be the most promising of these players currently in the Giants system.  He has a pedigree, coming out of a Pac 10 program, a conference that tends to be known more for it's pitching and plays at a very high level.  In addition to his power, Ricky has also shown solid plate discipline and the ability to take walks.  The Giants challenged him by assigning him to high A San Jose for his first professional experience and he responded with a successful season finishing just behind the more experienced Adam Duvall in RBI's with 99.  The Giants rewarded him with an assignment to the Arizona Fall League, a league generally reserved for top prospects with AA and AAA experience.   Again, he hit a couple of HR's and drew a lot of walks.

A lot of people have focused on a relatively low BA and his strikeout rate and consigned his 2012 season to the failure bin.  I beg to differ for the following reasons:

1.  As I already mentioned, high A ball is an aggressive placement for even a college draftee's first professional experience.

2.  While the Cal League is a hitters league overall, San Jose is no better than neutral and specifically suppresses LH power due to what I have read is a prevailing headwind from RF.

3.  Selective hitters are going to have higher strikeout rates precisely because they go deeper into counts and you can't get to strike 3 without getting to strike 2 first!  It's really a very simple mathematical concept that the "OBP is Everything" crowd generally does not comprehend.  They can't have it both ways.  If they want higher walk rates, they have to be willing to accept the higher K rates that go along with it.  The same mathematical dynamic also suppresses BA's as the walks do nothing to help your BA but the K's make it harder due to the necessity of generating a higher BABIP.  OK, maybe if you are more selective, you will hit better pitches and have a higher BABIP, but it seldom works out that way.  Also, it's mighty tough to get a good pitch to hit with 2 strikes.

Having said all that, I do think Ricky may need to become a bit less selective at the plate in order to cut down on a pretty steep K rate, but a change in approach carries risks too and he might be better off being a 3 true outcomes guy.  But, it doesn't really matter what I think, now, does it?  Here's some quotes from Fred Stanley in his recent interview with Joe Ritzo on

"Ricky is a big strong kid.  He was starting to figure out how they were pitching him.  He had a pretty solid year.  I think if you asked him, he'll tell you he'd like to cut down on his strikouts a little bit.  But when you're a strong guy and have the opportunity to hit 30 home runs, you're going to strikeout some.  He learned a little bit about himself this year."

"Oropesa is learning to play first base.  There are a lot of things going on with your footwork around the bag.  J.T. Snow, Will Clark, Russ Morman have been working with him.  He's received a lot of instruction.  Every time he came out on the field during (fall) instructional league, he had an assignment on what we were working on for that day....That would have been tough during the regular season because you're playing 150 games and travelling.  You don't want to wear everyone out.  Instructional league was a time where we really bore down on him and he made really good progress."

AA is Ricky's probable assignment for 2013. It will be a very big challenge, especially in those first 1-2 months when the weather is still cold and he faces a lot of pitchers with way more professional experience.  What he has to do, in my mind, is keep his head above water and show improvement.  He's not young for his level but he's not old either.  If he simply keeps his head above water, he has time to build on that in 2014.  Hopefully he does a lot better than that!


  1. I like the Giants approach to their prospects. I think the culture has changed some in the last few years. Part of this might be Bobby Evans realizing how much fans follow the minors. Bow Tie Bill paid a lot of attention to the farm. The Giants bought up San Jose, partly as a hedge to the A's, but I think they know they have something special, and that fans respond to home grown players in a unique way. I know for myself ever since 2006 drafting Timmy and changing the approach got my fire for the Giants rekindled big time.

    So Ricky O doesn't have the best BA. I don't think its stellar, but its also not the end of the world. He was among the league leaders in several categories, including RBIs, walks, games, ABs, doubles and yes, strikeouts. I like how Stanley phrased his response about everything. Even if interwebz fans or the guys who get paid to write about prospects get impatient, the Giants have shown a willingness to embrace each prospect as moving at their own pace, and to look for what a guy can do right instead of picking them apart. I like that.

    Rooting hard for Ricky to succeed in the Eastern. Your involvement with his family makes it a little personal. Fight the good fight on that front! I think his cockiness, walk rate and obvious plus power do him good. He'll get chances, because power is in short supply not only in this organization but across MLB. I do think the contact issues are a pretty big knock, and he'll have to do something good in the Eastern. Get those ABs and grind.

  2. Dig these awesomely long writeups about the lesser known prospects Doc. Things like interviews with Stanley and different obscure but important FO characters are really interesting things to add to a knowledge base for these different prospects.

    I must admit I had cast Ricky as quite the long shot until reading your writeup here. Now, must say, I'm back on the Oropresa train. I've definitely noticed the eastern league to be particularly harsh on power/slugging prospects. Hopefully Ricky is putting in the extra offseason work - he definitely has a chance to move off the back burner with a good season at AA.

  3. Ricky had a good season overall, as DrB noted. I liked his progression as the season went on:

    As you can see at the link, his home batting line of .260/.322/.426/.748 is worse than his road of .266/.349/.427/.776, which is in line with the supposition of home being harder than road. A study by MLB's prospect expert, Mayo, found that strikeout rates in SJ was significantly higher. Ricky had 28.8% K% in SJ, 23.2% on the road.

    I liked his progression by month (OPS): .688; .780; .984; .484; .852. Except for his bad July, his latter months were much better. I would note that he had a more clearer progression with his K% by month: 30.6%; 31.0%; 25.2%; 20.8%; 22.6%. Yes, his worse month for OPS was his best month for K%, showing how much bad luck he had that month.

    I think people forget how hard the minors are for players who have more flaws than the top prospects. They will have their ups and downs during the season and what we should be looking for is a progression as the season goes on. Ricky did progress nicely with his strikeout rate. I would also point out that while he was caught looking early on, it dropped a lot by season's end, accounting for most of the large drop in K%.

    He had a good season, not all hitters will avoid strikeouts, it is what they do when they hit the ball that matters more, as long as they can also avoid strikeouts enough. And by season's end, he got them much lower (though not ideally lower). And that is fine, he's not a top prospect, he will have his bumps and bustouts.

    Looking forward to seeing how he handles AA, power is really damped down there, so he will have to adjust.

  4. I like the Giants approach under John Barr to draft players with tools that have the potential to translate well in the major leagues. Thats why I like the Ricky Orepesa pick because of his power potential. If Ricky O can develop into a 30 hr hitter as Stanley suggested, the Giants will have themselves an everyday 1st baseman. An everyday MLB 1st baseman should be hitting 20-30 hrs a season. I'm thinking the Giants will need Brandon Belt to hit 15+ homers this season, if they don't sign another bat to play LF..


    1. I think limiting your corner fielders choices by how many homers they hit is not the right approach. Better would be to compare with the average batting line for a position player playing there, and ideally you look at where you can slot the player so that he is above average at that lineup position, like with us, Posey is a legit cleanup hitter, so we don't need our 1B to be that big power homerun hitter.

  5. OGC

    I agree that you cannot look at home runs only for corner infielders. The starting 1st baseman in the major leagues in 2012 averaged 21 hrs 80 rbis .268 BA .795 OPS. I see Ricky O has a power hitting 1st baseman if he's going to make the Show. Brandon Belt might be a different type of hitter who uses the whole field but had a nice year for.the Giants. I'm thinking about 1st baseman like James Loney & Casey Kotchman who are not big home run hitters or run producers so their hitting is below average for MLB 1st baseman


    1. The Giants are either stupid or way ahead of the curve in that they have never conceded defense at the corner IF or OF positions. They will take a great hitter at those positions but they won't tolerate one who can't flash the leather or race down a ball in the gap or make the great throw when needed.

  6. Drb, I agree with that. Did you see how many Giants highlights they had on MLB network on thier top 50 defensive plays of 2012 show. How is RIcky O's defense at 1st base? I hoping to see him have a good year in AA offensively then we will see what happens. Happy new year!


    1. Ricky moves around quite well despite his size. He's working hard on some of the technical aspects of first base D. I think he can be an above average defender there.