Thursday, November 14, 2013

Giants Depth Chart: Starting Pitching

The Giants starting pitching is in a bit of a transition phase. The core of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner is intact for at least 2 more years, but both Matt and Timmy are entering the middle years of their careers with reduced velocity and Madison Bumgarner may be establishing himself as the ace of the staff.  The remaining two slots in the rotation are open and at least 1 of them is almost certain to be filled from outside the organization.

MLB:  Madison Bumgarner  13-9, 2.77, 201.1 IP, 62 BB, 199 K.
           Matt Cain                 8-10, 4.00, 184.1 IP, 55 BB, 158 K.
           Tim Lincecum          10-14, 4.37, 197.2 IP, 76 BB, 193 K.

Bummy is a horse who looks like his is getting stronger as he matures, which I guess is expected.  His delivery looks natural and fairly easy on the arm.  I would worry more about his big time cross step and what it might be doing to his hip.  Cain had his ups and downs.  I think he will bounce back at least partially after a full offseason.  I liked Timmy's conditioning. He appeared to get stronger as the season went along and maintained his weight nicely.  If he keeps after his current nutrition and conditioning program, I think he could emerge much stronger in 2014.

MLB Rotation Options:  Yusmeiro Petit  4-1, 3.56, 48 IP, 11 BB, 47 K.
                                    Guillermo Moscoso  2-2, 5.10, 30 IP, 21 BB, 31 K.

Petit has pitched well in AAA for a couple of years.  He kept that going in the majors after a callup and made a case for himself to be in the mix for a rotation spot in 2014.  He and Moscoso are most likely purely reserve options as I expect the Giants to bring in at least 2 stronger options from outside the organization.

AAA  Mike Kickham(LHP)  7-7, 4.31, 110.2 IP, 49 BB, 90 K's.(MLB  0-3, 10.16, 28.1 IP, 10 BB, 29 K).
          Eric Surkamp(LHP)   7-1, 2.78, 71.1 IP, 20 BB, 54 K
          Justin Fitzgerald(RHP)  2-8, 5.61, 77 IP, 33 BB, 65 K.

Kickham was rushed due to injuries at the MLB level and paid the price.  He did show good looking stuff and is K and BB ratios were strong, but once he started getting hit, he couldn't stop the bleeding.  I would not give up on him at all, but he probably needs another full AAA season to polish up his game.  Surkamp was fresh off TJ surgery.  Too early to give up on him too although he will have to start the season in Fresno.  Fitzgerald is a longshot and may not be in the organization long as younger, better pitchers work their way up from the lower minors.

AA  Edwin Escobar(LHP)  5-4, 2.67, 54 IP, 13 BB, 54 K.
       Chris Gloor(LHP)   9-7, 4.03, 156.1 IP, 41 BB, 121 K.
       Jack Snodgrass(LHP)  12-4, 3.70, 141 IP, 39 BB, 81 K.

Escobar is the rising star here.  He should be in Fresno to start the 2014 season and we could see him break in at the MLB level as early as mid-season should a need arise.  More likely he will pitch the full season in the minors, which is not all bad.  Gloor's season was disappointing for such a pitching-friendly environment. He is about to get washed out to sea by a tidal wave of younger, better talent coming up.  Snodgrass is a groundball/control guy who I think will most likely end up as a lefty specialist.

High A:  Kyle Crick(RHP)  3-1, 1.57, 68.2 IP, 39 BB, 95 K.
              Adalberto Mejia(RHP)  7-4, 3.31, 87 IP, 23 BB, 89 K.
              Clayton Blackburn(RHP)  7-5, 3.65, 133 IP, 35 BB, 138 K.
              Ty Blach(LHP)   12-4, 2.90, 130.1 IP, 18 BB, 117 K

Crick is the consensus #1 Giants prospect.  His innings were limited by an early season oblique strain.  He is getting more IP in the AFL where he got off to a rough start but has not allowed a run in his last 3 appearances while striking out 7 against just 1 BB in 6 IP.  Blackburn, Mejia and Blach rely more on command, and profile as more innings-eating workhorse types.  Other Pitchers who got starts in San Jose include Kelvin Marte(15), Jason Forjet(10) and Austin Fleet(8).  They all have some work to do to get into the conversation as serious prospects.

Low A  Chris Stratton(RHP)  9-3, 3.27, 132 IP, 47 BB, 123 K.
            Kendry Flores(RHP)  10-6, 2.73, 141.2 IP, 17 BB, 137 K.
            Martin Agosta(RHP)  9-3, 2.06, 91.2 IP, 43 BB, 109 K.
            Joan Gregorio(RHP)  6-3, 4.00, 69.2 IP, 17 BB, 84 K.
            Joe Kurrasch(LHP)    5-0, 1.78, 25.1 IP, 8 BB, 32 K.

Stratton is a big of an enigma.  His unexciting numbers at a low level may be mitigated by him working on a two-seam fastball, but there was scant evidence of progress as the season went on.  Agosta was terrific early but then hit the DL with a blister and arm fatigue and was not the same after.  Flores had a breakout season showing strikeout stuff with amazingly low BB rate.  Gregorio ran hot and cold but was dominant at times.  Kurrasch came on strong late in the season.  Other SP's at Augusta included LHP Matt Lujan and RHP Joe Biagini

Short Season   Chase Johnson(RHP)  3-2, 4.17, 41 IP, 12 BB, 37 K.
                      Chris Johnson(RHP)  6-3, 2.49, 83 IP, 8 BB, 78 K.
                      Andrew Leenhouts(LHP)  9-2, 2.39, 71.2 IP, 14 BB, 53 K.
                      Pat Young(RHP)  3-1, 0.92, 39.1 IP, 9 BB, 27 K.
                      Nick Vander Tuig(RHP)  0-0, 13.50, 6.2 IP, 2 BB, 5 K.
                      Reyes Maronta(RHP)  2-2, 4.98, 21.2 IP, 8 BB, 22 K.

Johnson was the 2013 3'rd round pick.  He was lights out for his first 7 starts then hit a wall in his last 3.  He had not pitched many innings in college, so may have hit a wall staminawise.  Chris Johnson is a guy I haven't paid much attention to, but he's a big kid at 6'4", 205 lbs and keeps the ball on the ground.  Leenhouts is a big LHP who is worth keeping an eye on as a sleeper.  Pat Young had an impressive pro debut while The Pitching Dutchman may have been exhausted from pitching in the College World Series.

Rookie AZL  Keury Mella(RHP)  3-2, 2.25, 36 IP, 11 BB, 41 K.
                    Luis Ysla(LHP)      4-0, 2.65, 51 IP, 13 BB, 52 K.
                    Carlos Diaz(LHP)    2-3, 4.99, 39.2 IP, 21 BB, 51 K.
                    Donald Snelton(LHP)  3-1, 1.57, 34.1 IP, 13 BB, 39 K.

Keury Mella is the kid to be excited about here.  If you really want to get your juices flowing look up a video of him pitching in the instructional league.  Oh my!  Covechatter has the video linked somewhere in his blog.  Not sure the name of the original site.  Right now, I believe that Mella is the #2 pitching prospect in the entire organization!  Ysla showed up out of nowhere and was the workhorse of the Arizona Giants staff.  Diaz flashed some strikeout stuff and Snelton is a big college draftee LHP who I am fairly high on.

DSL:  Eber Guzman(RHP, 20 yo)  4-4, 3.34, 70 IP, 24 BB, 59 K
          Jonathan Loaisiga(RHP, 18 yo)  8-1, 2.75, 68.2 IP, 16 BB, 40 K
          Eusebio Encarnacion(RHP, 18 yo)  5-1, 1.72, 68 IP, 12 BB, 49 K.
          Olbis Parra(RHP, 18 yo)   5-3, 4.13, 56.2 IP, 17 BB, 37 K.
          Raffi Vizcaino(RHP, 17 yo)  0-3, 3.80, 47.1 IP, 17 BB, 41 K.
          Michael Santos(RHP, 18 yo) 1-2, 2.75, 19.2 IP, 6 BB, 18 K.
          Reymi Rodriguez(RHP, 18 yo)  7-1, 1.36, 46.1 IP, 23 BB, 49 K.

Not a lot that really stands out here.  Age vs level is important here.  Vizcaino obviously leads the pack in that regard.  Santos is 6'4" and got off to a great start, but was shut down after 4 starts in June.  Rodriguez was used mostly as a reliever but pitched well in a couple of starts, so I'm including him in the SP category.

The Giants organization is well stocked with pitching prospect.  The leading edge of the contingent will hit AA in 2014.  The 2013 draft was hitter heavy, so it may not be a bad idea to go back to pitching in the 2014 draft, which is packed with high-end pitching prospects.


  1. Dr.B, excellent piece.
    Blackburn, is one of the prospects that I am highly intrigued by.
    I am also looking forward to see if Daniel Slania, gets a look at a starting opportunity this year.
    He is a freakin monster.

    Richard in Winnipeg

  2. Thanks for doing this Dr. B. In the world of "going to get passed by", I think you have to wonder if Surkamp and Kickham are close if not in that category. You have Cain and Bumgarner as long term contracts. Escobar is a rising star. Crick is probably not far behind, as we'd expect him to open in AA. If he dominates again, I'm not sure he'd lose a spot to either of the two lefties (especially with Bumgarner and Escobar in the rotation). I'd actually like to see the Giants move Kickham into the pen. We don't have a lot of guys on the left high up, and look how valuable Lopez is right now. Affeldt and Lopez are both getting long in the tooth, and not sure where the new guys come from. Having Kickham at AAA and Snodgrass at AA might prove valuable even if not on a SP level.

    Can't wait for next season.


    1. I'd say Surkamp and Kickham remind me a lot of Correia and Brad Henny, two guys who were OK but got surpassed by much superior talent. That took down two flags!

  3. You know, I can't wait for next season either. Richmond hasn't had this much talent on its pitching staff since Bumgarner and Alderson in 08. Now, you've got at least 4 legitimate talents (if Escobar starts in Fresno) and possibly another if they get aggressive with Stratton. This could definitely be the year to show us the pecking order among the pitching prospects.

    BTW: here is the video of Mella lighting it up in instructs...

    1. Thanks, covechatter.

      Impressive. Perhaps he will gain a couple more MPH on his 4-seam 96-97 MPH.

      Bumgarner, Cain, Crick and Mella..hmmm.

  4. We are '...well stocked with pitching prospects.'

    Romo, Posey and the Panda all jumped from AA, stopping ever briefly at Fresno. Can we look forward to such similar jumps, this time, from our current (starting) pitching prospects?

  5. I've enjoyed this entire series. I do this when I do my draft articles, its a good exercise to know teams strengths and weaknesses. This SP is our strength. Particularly left handed depth. Richmond has been bare bones... until next year. That should be a lot of fun to watch.

  6. Nice post, nice series.

    I think Cain has already bounced back. His PQS rate took a plunge after his Perfecto last season and it stayed similarly low until roughly a year had passed. With small sampling, hard to say exactly where he made the turnaround, but he ended the 2013 season with a string of PQS DOM starts, which he had been unable to do since the Perfecto until then, and which he had been doing in the majors for a few seasons, until the Perfecto. So I think he has already turned the corner.

    Which, with Bumgarner probably still #2 in the rotation since Bochy loves alternating, gives the Giants a very strong 1-2 punch atop the rotation, perhaps one of the best in the majors. Bumgarner was a true ace last season, with his PQS up there with Lincecum's best years, as he is kind of duplicating Cain's strong and steady rise in performance with every season he pitches and learns something new, but starting from a higher starting point. Which means Bumgarner could be scary good within a few years if he continues to progress.

    I think Lincecum too is getting past his turnaround point. I think his acceptance of the need to study hitters before games will yield good results for him during this contract, and he will be a strong #3 for us, and I don't think it is out of the realm of rational thought that he could be part of a three-headed monster atop the Giants rotation, three aces mowing down the opposition, with teams happy to face the #4 and #5 starters instead.

    I like Petit and since we can't stash him in AAA anymore, I think he has at minimum earned the long relief/#1 replacement role for 2014. I would be OK with him as our #5 starter assuming we get a pretty good free agent starter to take the final spot in the rotation. The Giants were able to do well overall as a pitching rotation in prior years when there was one really bad pitcher but four really good starters. I think Petit is capable of more than that, which along with the improvements I expect from Cain and Lincecum in terms of overall seasonal performance, should return the rotation back to its 2009-2012 period of top three performances in the MLB. Still, if the Giants can sign a better starter in free agency, that obviously would be better and I think Petit would kill for us in the long role.

    Good point about the wave of great pitching prospects closing the window of opportunity for pitchers at the top of the system. I think Kickham will eventually end up in a relief role in the majors. He and Osich are the ones I'm hoping will rise to replace our top setup guys - Affeldt and Lopez - at some point. I think Surkamp could end up holding the long-man role, as well as graduating to a set-up role. These three lefties have all had very high K/9 rates that got me excited about their chances in being good relievers for us.

    But starters is the topic here and I basically agree with the rest of your comments you made about our top prospects. I did not know much about the low level guys, so it was great to learn a few names who could make noise later for us. This is the first time I can think of where AAA, AA, and Advanced A levels are stocked with pretty good starters, up and down, and even A-ball looks like it could be good too, depending on how promotions go. This is going to be a Golden Era for the Giants farm system for at least a couple of more years, which hopefully will keep the major league team well stocked into the rest of the decade.

  7. I think the DSL guy to look at is Eusebio Encarnacion. He's not in my Top 15 yet, but I'll be very interested to watch his progress this year.