Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Down on the Farm: AAA Midseason Review

We are right around the half way point in the full season minor leagues for 2014, so I thought it might be a good time to review the first half of the season for each level looking at what has gone well and what has not gone so well.  We'll start with the AAA Fresno Grizzlies.  Fresno actually has more legitimate prospects this year than most years as Fresno has historically been a place for the Giants to stash veteran backups to use in case of injuries and other needs that may arise during the season.  Some people refer to these types of players as AAAA players and they are generally not considered true prospects.

One such player who got his callup and has made an impact is Tyler Colvin who was signed in the offseason but got off to a slow start in spring training.  Other players riding the "Fresno Shuttle" are OF Juan Perez and relievers George Kontos and Jake Dunning.

With the AAAA players and "shuttle" riders out of the way, let's take a look at what some of the key prospects have done:

Joe Panik, 2B, B-L, T-R.  .314/.375/.440, 5 HR, BB% 8.1, K% 10.7.  Going into the season, Edwin Escobar was probably considered the top AAA prospect by most Giants prospect watchers.  Panik was coming off a tough year in AA Richmond and his stock had fallen in most eyes despite maintaining an excellent K/BB.  The good K/BB has continued in Fresno, but he has been peppering the field with basehits, albeit still without a lot of power.  On the other hand, power is not a required element for a middle infielder and the Giants lineup currently does not lack for hitters with power, so Panik is still in good shape on that score.  With the Giants second base situation somewhat unsettled and Brandon Hughes' strikeouts piling up, Panik could get the call anytime, but the Giants are also likely to look for a veteran 2B on the trade market as the trade deadline approaches.  Depending on who they would acquire, Panik could compete for a starting 2B job next spring.

Adam Duvall, 3B/1B, B-R, T-R.  .294/.358/.628, 21 HR, 13 E.  Duvall has crushed it for Fresno this year, his first at the AAA level.  Unfortunately, he is very much blocked at the MLB level barring injury.  The 13 errors in just 59 games have almost certainly not gone unnoticed by the Giants brass.  His first opportunity to compete for a MLB job would be next spring and only of Pablo ends up leaving via free agency.  I believe Adam Duvall's bat will play at the MLB level, but possibly for another organization.

Andrew Susac, C, B-R, T-R.  .278/.376.,487, 6 HR, 34 Games.  Susac has hit very well when healthy, which unfortunately has not been often enough.  His bat is good enough that the Giants might want to consider trying him at an alternate position if he continues to get beaten up behind the plate.

Gary Brown, CF, B-R, T-R.  .267/.315/.383, 4 HR, 7 SB, 11 CS.  Brown has been doing pretty much what he did last year, hacking his way to a mediocre average with little power while getting thrown out on the basepaths a lot.  That is not a recipe for getting called up to the majors!  It's not quite too late for Brownie, but the Fat Lady can be hurt warming up her vocal cords behind the stage.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to see how he fits into the Giants plans even as a reserve OF.

Chris Dominguez, 3B/OF, B-R, T-R.  .272/.295/.443, 8 HR, 13 SB.  Dominguez is an interesting player.  He appears to be consciously trying to hit for a higher average and is succeeding.  He is still not drawing walks and striking out at a frightful rate.  It is difficult to see him making enough contact at the MLB level to stay afloat.  He might eventually have a Brandon Hicks type 2 months of success before the pitchers get a book on him and the strikeouts climb out of sight.

Edwin Escobar, LHP.  3-6, 5.26, 75.1 IP, 26 BB, 69 K.  Escobar has had a few strong starts but has also had a lot of stinkers.  Right now, he is not consistent enough to consider calling up even in case of injury to a MLB starter.  He is still quite young, though, and has time to refine his game.

Mike Kickham, LHP.  5-5, 4.16, 71.1 IP, 32 BB, 58 K's.  Kickham is an example of why the Giants might not be the Pitcher Whisperers everyone credits them with being.  After a year and a half at AAA with a few MLB starts thrown in the mix, he has apparently made no progress in improving his command or approach to pitching out of trouble.  He does have pretty good stuff, though, so there is always the possibility it would all suddenly come together for him.

Dan Runzler, LHP.  1-1, 1.15, 31.1 IP, 17 BB, 37 K's.  Runzler is a AAAA pitcher who may also be a legitimate prospect.  His numbers so far should give him consideration for a callup if another bullpen opening occurs.

Brett Bochy, RHP.  2-3, 3.03, 32.2 IP, 16 BB, 25 K.  The soft-tossing Son of Melonhead, AKA Melonhead Jr. is more than holding his own in the very tough PCL environment.  I'll be surprised if he gets called up this year, but next year is a possibility.

Heath Hembree, RHP.  0-1, 3.51, 25.2 IP, 9 BB,  28 K, 12 Saves.  Fresno's principle closer has been a bit too inconsistent to merit a callup.  He remains an option going forward if needs arise in the bullpen.

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