Thursday, September 18, 2014

Down on the Farm: AA Richmond Flying Squirrels 2014 Season Review

AA is generally considered to be the Prospect Level, the level where you find the best prospects in an organization.  It's where the men are separated from the boys, so to speak.  It's kind of like New York:  If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.  Most top prospects who do well in AA are less than a calender year from making The Show

The Richmond Flying Squirrels did have their share of top prospects heading into 2014, but the lion's share of the buzz was for the young pitchers graduating from High A San Jose.  The class was led by Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Adalberto Mejia with former college draftee, Ty Blach, also considered a serious prospect.  In the bullpen, Derek Law came in with a huge amount of buzz after putting up astonishing numbers for San Jose.  On the offensive side of the field, the only significant non-holdover was Matt Duffy, and he was not generating much interest except for, ahem, certain obscure corners of the internet.

AA "Rookies":

Matt Duffy(SS)- .332/.398/.444, 20 SB.  Duffy was an obscure late round college draftee, the kind that usually end up as roster filler in the minors.  He hit very well at 2 levels in 2013.  You had to think the most likely scenario is that the big bad Eastern League would expose him for what he really was, an organizational player.  All he did was lead all of AA baseball in BA, snag a midseason callup, and become one of the more valuable bats off the bench down the stretch of heated pennant race.  If that doesn't put you on the map as a prospect, I'm not sure what would.  Matt Duffy!

Devin Harris(OF)- .256/.310/.437, 13 HR.  Harris has been in the organization a long time, but those are respectable numbers for AA and the EL.

Myles Schroder(C/UT)- .254/.305/.367, 5 HR, 11 SB.  Schroder probably increased his value marginally by playing quite a bit of catcher.  Remains fringy as a possible utility prospect.

Ty Blach(LHP)- 8-8, 3.13, 141 IP, 39 BB, 91 K's.  Blach pitched well, probably the best of the pitching prospects, but you have to wonder about those K and BB rates.

Adalberto Mejia(LHP)- 7-9, 4.67, 108 IP, 31 BB, 82 K's.  Not an impressive line, but Mejia finished the season with a 3.22 ERA over his last 10 starts, including QS in his last 4 consecutive starts including 2 postseason starts.  He was also one of the youngest players in the EL.

Clayton Blackburn(RHP)- 5-6, 3.29, 93 IP, 20 BB, 85 K's.  Blackburn missed some time with injury, but pitched very well when fully healthy including a few dominant starts.

Kyle Crick(RHP)- 6-7, 3.79, 90.1 IP, 67 BB, 111 K's.  Crick flashed brilliance but was wildly inconsistent with severe bouts of poor command.  He pitched out of the bullpen in the EL playoffs and you have to wonder if the Giants are thinking that may be where his future lies.  I hope they don't give up on him as a starter just yet.

Derek Law(RHP)- 2-0, 2.57, 28 IP, 14 BB, 29 K's, 13 Saves.  After a breakthrough season for San Jose in 2013, Law had high expectation coming into 2014 with Richmond.  He pitched very well until suffering a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery.  Expect him back about midseason next year, like Hunter Strickland this year.


Kelby Tomlinson(2B/SS)- .268/.340/.323, 49 SB.  Were it not for Matt Duffy's astonishing performance, Tomlinson would have had the most interesting line from the Richmond lineup.  I have to day I did not see 49 SB's coming.  Even though he played mostly 2B, he is also an excellent defensive SS who could have a future in MLB as a utility IF.

Angel Villalona(1B)- .227/.290/.381, 10 HR.  Angel V started out strong numbers but went into a deep mid-season slump after missing some time with injury.  He started hitting again right at the end of the season.  Villalona may still have the highest ceiling bat in the organization and the Giants have at least 2 options left, so can afford to be patient.

Jarrett Parker(OF)- .275/.370/.463, 12 HR, 11 SB.  2 seasons in High A and 2 more in AA is a rough way to go, especially for a college draftee.  Parker seemed to make progress and got a brief callup mid-season followed by an assignment to AAA Fresno.  He will probably start 2015 in Sacramento where he will need to rake to get noticed.

Ricky Oropesa(3B/1B)- .241/.315/.330, 5 HR.  This was Ricky's second try in Richmond.  Very rough season to say the least.  Seemed to be the odd man out at the corner IF positions between him,
Angel V and Mario Lisson. Not sure where he goes or what he does from here.

Jack Snodgrass(LHP)- 11-6, 3.56, 131.1 IP, 41 BB's, 86 K's.  Snodgrass probably earned himself a look in AAA next year.  Fringy SP prospect, might be a future lefty specialist.

Austin Fleet(RHP)- 8-1, 2.78, 97 IP, 36 BB, 86 K's.  Fleet earned a callup to Fresno and pitched well there too.  Hopefully he gets gig in Sacramento to start next season.

Kelvin Marte(LHP)- 8-3, 3.83, 87 IP, 23 BB, 55 K's.  Marte also got a callup to Fresno.  He has a low 90's FB and a nice changeup and breaking ball to go with it.  Has a chance to be a back-of-the-rotaton MLB starter depending on his command.

Cody Hall(RHP)- 1-4, 3.14, 51.2 IP, 14 BB, 57 K's, 13 Saves.  Hall was kind of the forgotten man this year with all the excitement generate by Law early and Strickland and Cordier late, but those are very nice numbers.

Venezuela Winter League Signee:

Mario Lisson(3B)- .266/.370/.467, 18 HR, 11 SB.  Lisson was this year's signee from the VWL.  He played well for Richmond and may have bought himself a promo to Sacramento next year.

Late to the Party:

Blake Miller(2B/UT)- .304/.373/.402, 92 AB.  Miller has hit at every level he's played at in his pro career.  He made the transition from High A to AA look easy.  Where are the Giants going to put all these scrappy MI types?

Chris Stratton(RHP)- 1-1, 3.52, 23 IP, 12 BB, 18 K's.  The enigmatic former first round draft pick got a late season callup to Richmond from San Jose.  Those are good numbers but not quite what you hope for from a first rounder.

Hunter Strickland- 1-1, 2.02, 35.2 IP, 21 BB, 48 K's, 11 Saves.  Strickland started the season on the DL but more than made up for it when he came back from Tommy John surgery.  His performance earned him a September callup to the Giants where he has dazzled with a high 90's and occasional triple digit FB.  Should have a chance to make the Giants opening day roster in 2015 if not this year's postseason roster!

Steven Okert(LHP)- 1-0, 2.73, 33 IP, 11 BB, 38 K's, 5 Saves.  Started the year in San Jose.  For those of you worried about what the Giants will do for lefty relievers when Affeldt and Lopez are done, Steven Okert is your anxiety medication.  Expect to see him in Sacramento next year where he will be a bus ride away from AT&T Park.


  1. I am curious on who will be the starting pitchers for the Squirrels:

    Chris Stratton, Matt Lujan, Joe Kurrasch, Kendry Flores, Joe Biagini, Pat Young, Adalberto Mejia and Joan Gregorio.

    Any ideas who makes it? Feel free to add some names.

    1. Sorry. I was assuming that Crick, Blackburn and Blach would reach AAA. Maybe I am wrong and a few of them will repeat. Blackburn is still young but you have to love his control. 85K/20BB. He only allowed 1 HR in 93 IP.

    2. Crick is a real mystery, I guess.

      Starter? Reliever? Stay for a whole year healthy and repeat in Richmond? Go to Sacramento?

    3. I would like to think the reliever thing was only for the playoffs. Turning him into a reliever will kill his value as a prospect. I would almost rather package him in a trade for a 3B, SP or LF than to make him a reliever. With Law, Hall, Okert, Cordier, Strickland, etc I think we are stacked on the reliever front. Crick has a lot of potential but his control has always been an issue. 111K/61BB is not the greatest ratio. Way too many walks and 12 wild pitches. I still think there is value there but definitely not as much as last year.

    4. Going with Mejia, Flores, Stratton, Crick, Lujan, and one of the above candidates or some dark horse that enters the organization over winter.

      And for Blackburn, yeah 1 HR all year. And it came late also. That'll help out a pitcher's FIP.

    5. Crick is still very young.

      Is he even 21? How many more years do we before risking exposing him?

    6. Crick has one more season before he has to be added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

    7. I don't see much point in keeping Ty Blach in AA another year and Blackburn is probably ready to try AAA, especially after pitching in the AFL this fall. I think Mejia and Crick could possibly use another season in AA, probably Stratton too. As for who would come up from the lower minors to fill out the rotation? Maybe Biagini and Lujan?

    8. Sacramento - formerly Fresno :-( might look like this in the early going:

      Blackburn-Blach-Heston?-Snodgrass?-Fleet?-Mystery Man?

    9. I will say there is no chance the Giants have converted Crick to a reliever full time at this point. I also think he'll be heading to AAA next year. To me, it wasn't the competition that beat him. His mechanics are doing him in. But his overall line sure looks a lot prettier than Mejia's.

      I would think a rotation of Mejia, Stratton, Flores and some combination of the Lujan/Kurrasch/Biagini/Snodgrass crew would give Richmond a pretty decent shot at competing again. I'd like to see more from each of those guys, but especially Flores and Mejia. Maybe Mejia comes out and dominates with a year of EL experience under his belt?