Sunday, October 22, 2017

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Nick Madrigal

Nick Madrigal is a college middle infielder for Oregon State who might have the best hit tool in the entire draft.  He's small at just 5'7", 160 lbs but is strong and athletic with a high baseball IQ and has displayed leadership skills from an early age.  He is a ballfield rat with a high intensity level.

On Video, he has a high leg kick but his stature gives him a naturally short path to the ball.  His Frame looks like it could easily carry an additional 15-20 lbs of muscle so there may be some power upside.  He's reportedly a fast, smart runner with excellent range on the field. The only minus is arm strength which is probably not enough to play on the left side of the IF at higher levels.  The bat should play at 2B, though.  Here is his stat line from 2017:

.380/.449/.532, 20 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 16 SB, 27 BB, 16 K, 237 AB.

Notice the reversed K/BB.  Think of him as a right-handed version of Joe Panik.

One more interesting tidbit:  He is apparently a wizard bat handler who, when battling a hand injury reached base 4 times against Yale on bunts!

Although he could be a terrific value in the middle of the first round, I would be disappointed to see the Giants spend a #2 overall on him.

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DrB's 2018 Draft Board:

1. Jarred Kelenic, OF, HS.
2. Nander De Sedas, SS, HS.
3. Kumar Rocker, RHP, HS.
4. Ethan Hankins, RHP, HS.
5. Brady Singer, RHP, College(Florida).
6. Nick Madrigal, 2B, College(Oregon St).
7. Brice Turang, SS, HS.

Hot Stove Update: Coaching Carousel

We are supposed to hit triple digit temperatures here in SoCal today and tomorrow, but the Giants fired up their winter hot stove yesterday with the bombshell announcement that pitching coach Dave Righetti is being reassigned to a front office role along with longtime bullpen coach Mark Gardner and assistant hitting coach Steve Decker who also were given "Special Assistant" titles.  Earlier, they announced that Shane Turner will also be a Special Assistant for pro scouting while former Giant David Bell will be the new Director of Player Personnel which apparently is synonymous with Player Development, the role Turner is vacating.

Rumors swirled around other members of the coaching staff.  GM Bobby Evans reportedly interviewed Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis who might be a replacement for either 3B coach Phil Nevin, who is reportedly in the running for the Phillies' manager job or Hitting Coach Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens who may also be in the running for a manager job with another team.  According to some reports, Bench Coach Ron Wotus may be a candidate for yet another "Special Assistant" job, and you have to wonder what all those Special Assistants are going to be actually doing.  Meulens, who some observers see as a possible successor to Manager Bruce Bochy may be in line for Bench Coach as the next stepping stone for the managers job.  It remains unclear why Ron Wotus it treated like he is radioactive when it comes to managing jobs in or out of the Giants organization.

Got all that?  Good! It's really hard to write about coaching changes because even knowledgeable fans know so little about what makes a good or bad coach.  There is even little agreement among professional analysts how much difference coaches make in player performance.  I'll offer some thoughts.

The Righetti move is the biggest surprise.  Of all the coaches, he seemed to be the most untouchable after serving in the position for 18 years under 3 different managers.  All I can say is that Giants pitching seemed to perform noticeably better after he took over as pitching coach.  He also seemed to be instrumental in helping several young Giants pitchers make adjustments at the MLB level helping to launch All-Star careers.  Examples would include Matt Cain's skipped start in his first full season and triumphant return to the mound, I think that was against the A's.  And who can forget Madison Bumgarner's announcement after a delayed start in the postseason that he had been "fixed?"  Again, we don't know how much those processes played out.  Shawn Estes shed some light in a Postgame Live segment with the observation that Righetti's expertise was more in how to set up and attack hitters while Mark Gardner was actually more involved with mechanical adjustments.  Whatever the case, it was a combination that worked well for a long time, until the last 1.5 seasons when something caused the pitching staff, particularly the bullpen, to fall off a cliff.  It will be most interesting to see who takes Righetti's place as pitching coach.  The beat writers seem to think Evans is looking for someone more "analytical", and it's unclear exactly what that means.  Brian Bannister is a guy who seems to be respected in Sabermetrically oriented websites.  Beyond that, I would not hazard a guess.

The Giants seem to really like bringing former Giants players back into the organization, and Chili Davis would likely be a popular choice among fans.  If he is being considered to replace Bam Bam as hitting coach, that would be interesting seeing as how the Red Sox had a power outage of their own this past season.  Coming to SF as Hitting Coach would be a lateral move for Davis, but 3B Coach could be seen as a promotion.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Giants Depth Charts: Centerfield

If you take Giants management at their word in their end-of-season press conference, and there is no history of them ever straying too far from from what they say in that yearly forum, centerfield is the position most likely to get an upgrade from outside the organization this winter.  This means that last year's starter at the position, Denard Span, will almost certainly not be playing the position in 2018, whether that is due to a move to LF, a trade out of the organization or some other destination.  Gorkys Hernandez is left standing at the top of the current depth chart pending the expected addition.  Jarrett Parker could probably play there in a pinch, but otherwise, that's it for the MLB 40 man roster.

AAA:  Steven Duggar has been drawing raves for his CF defense, both in August for the Sacramento River Cats and now the AFL Scottsdale Scorpions.  His bat seemed a bit rusty after missing most of the season with an injury, but the Giants seem to think he could take over CF with just a bit more seasoning.  From their history and public statements, don't expect them to hand him the job in spring training, though.  Slade Heathcott is an intriguing name on he current Sacramento roster.  I am not sure if this means he is signed for next season or if he is a minor league FA.  Heathcott was steady all season for AA Richmond but did not really get traction after a late season promo to Sacramento.

AA:  There are no CF listed on the current Richmond Roster.  Caleb Gindl finished the season as their starting CF, but he seems to have disappeared.

High A:  2017 2'nd round draft pick, Bryan Reynolds, had a fine first full pro season playing all 3 OF positions for San Jose.  Analysts are divided on whether he can play CF at the MLB level.  Ronnie Jebavy keeps bumping more highly ranked prospects out of CF with his sensational defense but he has never found traction with his bat.

Low A:  Johneshwy Fargas and Ashford Fulmer are still looking for traction on their pro careers and are probably organizational players at this point.

Short Season:  Malique Ziegler has tools and got off to a great start for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes but totally collapsed in the second half casting a huge dark cloud over his future. Was it injury?  Fatigue?  Pitchers finding his holes?  Bryce Johnson played CF in college but played mostly LF for S-K.

Rookie AZL:  If Heliot Ramos, the Giants 2017 first round draft pick, is not their CF of the future, I will be one disappointed and sad Giants fan.  It will take some time to get there, but he's the #1 Giants prospect in my book right now.  Nick Hill is probably already on organizational player.

DSL:  Jose Patino has not made much progress while repeating the DSL twice.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Nander De Sedas

Nander De Sedas, SS, HS.  6'1", 190 lbs.  B-S, T-R.  De Sedas is a HS SS from the same prep school as Francisco Lindor.  De Sedas is bigger and stronger than Lindor and may have the tools to stick at SS.  He started switch-hitting last year and is already proficient from both sides of the plate.  Here are the PG numbers:

60 Yard Dash:  6.67.
Arm:  96 MPH IF.
Exit Velocity:  94 MPH.
Time to Impact:  .102(excellent!).

Here are some scouting comments, also from PG:

Strong athletic build.
Outstanding defensive actions.
Plus range in all directions.
Very quick exchange and release.
Switch-hitter, legit from both sides.

On top of all that, if this kid reaches the majors, he will be in serious contention for the greatest name in the history of MLB!  In a SS smackdown with Brice Turang, at least based on what I've seen, I'll take De Sedas in a heartbeat.  I would even have to think twice before I put Jarred Kelenic ahead of him!  Brian Sabean once said that his draft philosophy was to draft shortstops then move them to where they are needed. He also has a longstanding love for switch-hitters.  I can see the Giants taking this kid at #2 overall.

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DrB's 2018 Draft Board:

1.  Jarred Kelenic, OF, HS.
2.  Nander De Sedas, SS, HS.
3.  Kumar Rocker, RHP, HS.
4.  Ethan Hankins, RHP, HS.
5.  Brady Singer, RHP, College(Florida).
6.  Brice Turang, SS, HS.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Giants Depth Charts: Shortstop

The Giants shortstop position is pretty much set in stone for the forseeable future with Brandon Crawford having 4 years left on his contract. Depth at the MLB level is provided by Kelby Tomlinson and Orlando Calixte.  Christian Arroyo, whose future is at another position, could probably play the position and Ryder Jones could even fill in for a dire emergency.

AAA:  I think Juniel Querecuto is a minor league FA, so the AAA position is open.

AA:  CJ Hinojosa had a pretty good season for Richmond in a traditionally tough environment for Giants positional prospects.  He should be ready to move up to AAA.  Carlos Garcia and Rando Moreno are organizational players.

High A:  Ryan Howard came within 1 game of taking a .300 BA wire-to-wire for San Jose and looks to be ready for the AA challenge.

Low A:  Brandon Van Horn is a project whose scouting reports favor his defense over offense, but he showed some stick during a month long hot streak and might be ready to take on the next level in San Jose.

Short Season:  I'm still at least slightly bullish on Manuel Geraldo who has had a couple of good short seasons, but now he needs to get over the Augusta hump on what will be his 3'rd try.  The Giants have allowed players in similar situations to bypass Augusta which is not out of the question for Geraldo.

Rookie AZL:  Nico Giarratano is an undersized scrapper who didn't hit much for USF and whose bat did not impress in rookie ball which is too low for a college draftee.  Francisco Medina, Jose Rivero and Hector Santiago are all looking for traction on their pro careers.

DSL:  Ghordy Santos is an intriguing prospect who the Giants paid a $300 K bonus to, the maximum allowed during their penalty phase for overspending on Lucius Fox.  He got off to a slow start, but hit .321 in August.  Enoch Watts has an interesting name but didn't do much else to garner attention.

The Giants have a fairly solid line of shortstop prospects lined up at each level although there is unlikely to be a need at the MLB level for at least the next 2-3 seasons.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Postseason Watch: The Buster Posey Rule Is A Good Rule

Well, the Hated Ones beat The Team With the Most Insufferable Overrated Manager In Baseball in Game 1 of the NLCS.  Man, I want the Cubs to beat the Dodgers in this series because, well, the Dodgers! But good God!  It is so hard to root for anything remotely associated with Joe Maddon, the most overrated, smug, arrogant, loudmouthed manager since Tommy Lasorda.

Maddon as livid over a play that ended up not impacting the outcome of the game when Wilson Contreras stuck is foot and leg out hockey goalie style before he had the ball to block home plate with  Charlie Culberson bearing down on him.  Contreras' foot kept Culberson's hand from touching home plate, and Contreras applied the tag as Culberson kneeled in the dirt on the other side of the plate.  The call on the field was Out.  The replay officials called Culberson Safe invoking the "Buster Posey Rule".

Ron Darling in the broadcast booth went nuts and spent the rest of the game complaining about how the rule negated a "great baseball play."  Maddon came out, ranted at the on-field ump, who is not the guy who made the call, waved his arm around, clearly dropped an F-bomb if you were reading lips and got tossed.  After the game, Maddon said he did not like the rule and he also thought the rule was not interpreted correctly.

As much as I don't want the Dodgers to win this series, the rule was interpreted correctly and it is a good rule.  Let's rewind and show this play without the "Buster Posey Rule."  Contreras sticks his leg out.  Culberson, knowing Contreras will do that, goes shoulder first into Conteras' leg and foot trying to displace it enough to get to Home Plate destroying a young star catcher's ankle in the process.  Or Culberson aims for Contreras' chest hoping to jar the ball loose causing one or both of them to suffer a concussion on the play.

Those are the outcomes the "Buster Posey Rule" was designed to prevent.  The rule worked perfectly as nobody was hurt and the replay call was correct.  If the Out call was allowed to stand, the next time the situation arose, the runner would know he had to blow up the catcher in order to score the run.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Brice Turang

Brice Turang is a HS SS out of Corona, CA.  I believe he is the son of Brian Turang who had a brief major league career with the Mariners in 1993-94.  Brice is on the small side at 6'0", 165 lbs, B-L, T-R.  For a guy who is listed at the #1 draft prospect on some early rankings, there isn't a lot of information out there about him.  He apparently skipped the PG showcase where they do all the measurements.  One video I saw had him 3.97 to 1B on a bunt and 4.2 on a swing.  I think that is pretty good.  We don't seem to have any 60 yd dash times nor any throwing velocities.  I have seen scouting reports that question whether he has the arm for SS.  If he has speed, I suppose he could play CF.  His swing reminds me of Corey Seager's which is pretty good, except Seager is listed at 6'4", 220 lbs.

This kid is awfully small and I'm not sold that there is a lot of projectability there and there is information which I consider vital to scouting HS talent that is missing, at least from the sources I know about.  I'm going to say he is at best a second tier draft prospect without further information.

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DrB's 2018 Draft Board:

1.  Jarred Kelenic, OF, HS.
2. Kumar Rocker, RHP, HS.
3.  Ethan Hankins, RHP, HS.
4.  Brady Singer, RHP, College(Florida).
5.  Brice Turang, SS, HS(likely to fall further as we profile more prospects).

Scouting the Offseason: Are the Giants Going to Trade for Giancarlo?

Once upon a time, there was a very good power-hitting rightfielder named Vladimir Guerrero.  He was a free agent who seemed like a perfect fit for the Giants who were nearing the end of the Barry Bonds era and had not been competitive in RF for several seasons.  In his end of the season press conference, Brian Sabean told everybody to calm down and not expect any big free agent signings.  The fit seemed so obvious that speculation continued.  Fans on message boards wrote long posts with spreadsheets detailing how Vlad would fit into the Giants self-imposed salary cap(There was not "luxury tax" cap back then, but the Giants ownership, while not exactly cheap, was notorious for it's fiscal discipline).  There was vague talk of a "rainy day fund" that could be used for a "special" player.   I got caught up in that and wrote a few posts of my own.  Another fan politely pointed out to me that in his memory, Brian Sabean had never done anything different that what he said he would do.  Sure enough, Vlad went to the Angels while the Giants signed Michael Tucker with bonus money saved from a punted first round draft pick.  The internet based portion of the fanbase did not react well and Sabes called them the "lunatic fringe."  Whooo boy!  Those were the days!

14 years and 3 championship seasons later, we find ourselves nearing the end of another era.  The Giants need power.  They need a rightfielder.  Their ownership has lots of money.  Giancarlo Stanton appears to be available to any team willing to take on his entire contract.  The Giants are rumored to be interested.....except for one small detail.  The Giants had another end-of-season press conference.  While Bobby Evans is now the GM, Brian Sabean was still on the dais.  Guess what they said!  The Giants are going after a defensive CF and they prefer the trade market to the free agent market.

14 years after Brian Sabean kept his word to not sign Vlad Guerrero, Giants management still has not ever deviated significantly from what they said they would or would not do at that press conference.  I don't know why that would change now.  The message was loud and clear:

1.  The Giants still think pitching and defense will win games, especially in their ballpark.

2.  They are unlikely to go significantly over the "luxury tax" cap despite talk of not letting it get in the way of the "right" player, thus the trade over FA scenario.

3.  They are not likely to acquire a corner OF like JD Martinez or Giancarlo Stanton.

4.  I don't think they will punt a draft pick again after Larry Baer took pains to point out that the "luxury tax" penalty includes draft pick and international signing penalties which would impact talent acquisition and development.

Much as I would love it if they did, and I am not going to say there is a zero percent chance, I am not holding my breath until the Giants trade for Giancarlo Stanton.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Blast From the Past: Bad Memories

I seldom go off topic, but I have a personal story to tell which I think is relevant, so bear with me.  It was September 19, 1964.  I was 8 years old and had just started 3'rd grade.   We lived in a small house on 3 acres on a hill on the outskirts of a tiny college town, Angwin, in the mountains above St Helena in Napa County.  My dad taught chemistry at the small faith-based college there.  I was still only vaguely aware that San Francisco had a professional baseball team called the Giants and a famous player named Willie Mays.  As a kid, I used to worry about a lot of things that didn't seem to bother other kids.  One of them was wildfire.  There were always lots of them in the summers but they were usually small and only rarely burned houses.  I had seen pictures of fires "topping out" in pine forests and we had a lot of pine trees up on the mountain.  It just seemed to me a matter of time before a fire got going in the forest, caught a gust of wind and burned down the whole mountain!

There was an airstrip on the mountain behind the college.  Every summer they would install a tank for mixing fire retardant and bring in 3 small biplanes to deliver it to the fires in the local area.  When I see DC 10's dropping long strips of retardant nowadays, it's almost laughable to remember how small and pathetic those little biplanes were, but I felt safer with them around.

That day, the weather was unusually hot and dry.  As evening approached, a breeze started to rustle the trees, but it was not a cool ocean breeze like we had on most days.  It was a warm, dry breeze.  The biplanes had been flying to the north all day but I had not seen any smoke.  I recall walking around our property as the sun was setting and seeing a column of smoke directly to the north.  I remember wishing the biplanes could fly at night.  It seemed to be a fair distance away and the fire sirens did not go off, so even though the thought of going to bed with a wildfire burning made me a bit uneasy, I wasn't much more worried than I ever was.  I vaguely recall waking up a couple of times during the night and hearing the wind blowing pretty hard, but still no sirens.

When I awoke the next morning, it seemed like all hell had broken loose, and quite literally.  The wind was howling so hard, it stripped the leaves off the liquid amber tree in our yard leaving the stems attached to the tree!  There was a wall of smoke to the north blowing directly west.  My mother made a some phone calls and turned on the radio.  The fire had started the day before near the base of Mt St Helena.  The fire authorities thought they had it under control, but it had flared up in the evening.  That was the smoke I saw before I went to bed.  Driven by that hellacious wind, the fire burned right through Calistoga to the outskirts of Santa Rosa in one night.  I had a few classmates from school who commute up from Calistoga and I learned they had evacuated with only enough time to grab a few clothes.  Of course, the biplanes were of no use as they could not fly in that kind of wind.  They were pathetically way too small for that job anyway.

The winds gradually died down but the offshore flow remained for several days.  It seemed like a month!  The south flank of the fire kept advancing toward Angwin.  At one point, we could see the flames from our property.  Calls went out for volunteers from the community to help out on the fire lines.  My dad went for a night shift.  I was so scared, but I was already knew how to use an ax to chop wood and I didn't see why I couldn't go too!  That was a long night.  I was afraid if the wind shifted back to a onshore flow, it would blow the fire right at us, but my dad assured me that an ocean flow would bring cooler, wetter air which would help suppress the fire.  He was right. One morning we woke up to fog and the fire was essentially out.

As you can probably tell, I still have a touch of PTSD from that experience.  I did not know that fire had a name until I researched it on the internet after the Middletown fire and I found some 50 year anniversary stories from the Napa Register.  It was the Hanley Fire.  Look it up.  It must have followed an eerily similar path as the current fire that burned from Calistoga to Santa Rosa.

Any readers here remember the Hanley Fire of 1964?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Giants 2018 Depth Charts: Third Base

Raise your hand if you predicted this time last year that Pablo Sandoval would be the Giants starting 3B at the end of the 2017 season.  Yeah, I didn't think so.  Since the Giants have an option on Sandoval at the league minimum salary for 2018, and because Ryder Jones and Christian Arroyo need more salt in Sacramento and because the Giants are going to spend all their offseason money on a CF, it's pretty much a given that Pablo Sandoval will begin the 2018 season as the Giants starting 3B with Arroyo and Jones next in line when they show they deserve another shot.

AAA:  I don't think Jae-Gyun Hwang is going to be back next year, so there is no 3B at the AAA level other than the aforementioned Ryder Jones and Christian Arroyo.

AA:  Brandon Bednar and TJ Bennett are organizational players at this point.

High A:  Jonah Arenado has a promising bat, but I've seen him play 3B and he ain't no third baseman.  Just my opinion.

Low A:  Michael Bernal has a little pop in his bat, but not a lot else to recommend him.

Short Season:  Shane Matheny is an interesting bat from the 2017 draft who may surprise some people on 2018.  He's one of my sleeper picks.  Junior Amion just can't seem to get traction on his career.

Rookie AZL:  Jacob Gonzalez has a more advanced bat than Heliot Ramos, but may be defensively challenged at 3B.

DSL:  Samuel Jorge showed flashes, but his overall record makes him appropriate for repeating the DSL.

The burning question here is whether Christian Arroyo or Ryder Jones is the Giants 3B of the future and how soon will they be ready to take over the position and be an asset?  If either of them are, it would make sense to not pursue a long term FA deal  or a major trade for a 3B and just let Pablo be the placeholder.  Best case scenario, IMO, is if Arroyo takes over the job early in 2017 and doesn't let it go.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Jarred Kelenic

Jarred Kelenic is a HS OF/LHP from Wisconsin who might be the best position prospect in the 2018 draft.  He is a muscular 6'1", 196 lbs, B-L, T-L with 5 tools.  Here are some numbers:

FB:  91 MPH.  OF Throw:  96 MPH.

60 yd dash:  6.57.

Exit Velocity: 96 MPH.

Perfect Game raves about him:  "CF range and speed.  RF throwing arm.  Highest level defensive OF."  "Big Power when he turns on the ball.  Will let is travel and drive it into the gaps."

On video, he looks bigger than his listed dimensions.  He generates tremendous bat speed with a minimum of extraneous movements.

The first comp that entered my mind looking at the videos....dare I say this?  A left-handed Mike Trout!  That could be his ceiling.  More likely outcome would be something more along the lines of Lenny Dykstra(hopefully the player, not the person).

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DrB's 2018 Draft Board:

1.  Jarred Kelenic, OF, HS.
2.  Kumar Rocker, RHP, HS.
3.  Ethan Hankins, RHP, HS.
4.  Brady Singer, RHP, College(Florida).

IMO, you could put these names in any order and have a strong argument.  All things being otherwise equal, I think you have to go with the position player over the pitchers, which is why I have Kelenic #1 here.  You could also make the argument that if all 4 are approximately equal, you address organizational needs, which for the Giants is pitching.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Scouting the Offseason: More Numbers

MLBTR has released their annual Arbitration Projections which are generally accurate.  Here is a list of Giants arbitration eligible players with their projected arbitration salary:

Will Smith LHP- $2.5 M

Cory Gearrin RHP- $1.6 M

Sam Dyson RHP- $4.6 M

Joe Panik 2B- $3.5 M

Tim Federowicz C- $1.3 M

Hunter Strickland RHP- $1.7 M

Total- $15.2 M

Comments:

-Smith, Gearrin, Panik and Strickland are no-brainers.

-Much as I am a Fedex fan, I don't think the Giants want to pay him $1.3 M.  Non-tender.

-I'm on the fence with Dyson.   I mean, he was OK as long as the Rangers were paying most of his salary, but $4.6 M?  Isn't that a bit rich for what he gives them?  Those last 2 Blown Saves were not what you want to see from a guy you are going to entrust the setup and backup Closer roles to.  On the other hand, who do they put in that role?

-Should the Giants go 1 year at a time with Panik or try for a long term team-friendly deal in exchange for security?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Giants Depth Charts: Second Base

Joe Panik has a stranglehold on the starting 2B job.  He is entering his arbitration years, but the Giants still have time before they have to offer him a longterm contract.  Look for them to negotiate a 2-5 year deal to avoid arbitration if they can get Panik to accept team-friendly terms in exchange for security.  Depth at the MLB level is provided by Kelby Tomlinson and Miguel Gomez who is technically still a prospect with an intriguing bat and a questionable glove.

AAA:  Ali Castillo and Juan Ciriaco are strictly organizational players and are likely minor league FA's.

AA:  Myles Schroder is the only 2B listed on the roster with Rando Moreno, TJ Bennett and Brandon Bednar having some experience at the position.  All 4 are organizational players.

High A:  Jalen Miller did not put up great numbers but held his own at age 20, about 3 years under the league average.  Miller is a kid who could break out sometime in the next 2 seasons.

Low A:  Kelvin Beltre was the starting 2B for the full season and got a full season's worth of desperately needed AB's.  He needs to continue to stay healthy.  Tyler Brown's playing time has been severely limited, apparently by injuries.

Short Season:  Orlando Garcia is from Kelby Tomlinson's alma mater.  He shows intriguing power at the plate.  Kevin Rivera regressed possibly due to injury.

Rookie AZL:  DSL graduate Robert Antunez and 2017 draftee Kyle McPherson failed to make in impact although McPherson caught fire in the playoff final series against the Cubs.

DSL:  Aynesber Sivira played several positions but is listed as a 2B. He started strong but faded in the last month.  He did steal 23 bases.  Andrew Carabello, Wascar DeLeon and Martin Doria also logged playing time at 2B without showing much, at least in the stat page.

A relatively thin position in the minors but not a lot of need at the MLB level.

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Kumar Rocker

I have to confess that when I first heard about Kumar Rocker, my mental picture was of a football lineman throwing a baseball hard.  Maybe a future Closer?  When I dug into it more and watched several videos, Rocker is more like an edge rusher throwing a baseball which is a truly impressive sight!  Ethan Hankins is an exciting prospect for what he can become.  Rocker is exciting for what he already is.  While projection and upside are important considerations in scouting, If a prospect is already monstrously strong and hitting 98 MPH, projection and upside become moot issues.  We're already there!

Kumar is the son of College Football hall of famer Tracy Rocker and has a football player's body.  Outside linebacker is the position that seems to come most often to scouts minds.  At 6'5", 250 lbs, of big bones and muscle, think of a more physical version of last year's #3 overall pick, Hunter Greene.  If you watch videos of him pitching, he's lot more than just a physical specimen.  He uses his massively strong lower have to drive and easy delivery with good extension producing a fastball that explodes over the plate.  He backs that up with a sharp breaking slider and an emerging changeup.  Here is Perfect Game's scouting report:

"Physically imposing build.  Lots of lower half strength.  Low effort delivery.  Arm is fast, loose and easy.  Shows fastball command and can spot it up to both sides of the plate.  Mid-80's slider flashes sharpness.  Feel for spinning it.  Developing changeup with sinking action."

On the PG update:  "Up to 98 and now with a power breaking ball.  Fun to watch him pitch.  Dominant summer.  PG All-American."  PG has him as the top prospect in the current prep class.  He is a good student and is committed to Vanderbilt, but should sign if he's a top 5-10 pick which he easily should be barring injury.

I have to say I am blown away by this kid.  No dis to Ethan Hankins, but I'll take the present physicality over projection in a second.  Kumar is a big kid, but I see the body aging well.  He should become a SP who can take the ball every 5 games and pitch deep into games year after year.

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So, with 3 pitching draft prospect profiled so far, I'll start my draft board.  This board will be a living organism that changes as we add more profiles and go into the 2018 season and approach the draft.

DrB's 2018 Draft Board:

1. Kumar Rocker, RHP, HS.
2. Ethan Hankins, RHP, HS.
3. Brady Singer, RHP, College(Florida).

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Scouting the Offseason: Centerfield

The Giants brass has publicly identified upgrading defense in CF to be their #1 priority this offseason.  If it comes with an offensive upgrade, fine, but they won't sacrifice defense for offense.  They have also said they prefer to trade and want to get younger, which would seem to rule out Lorenzo Cain(more on him later).

Remember when the Giants had Gregor Blanco and every offseason they started with the presumption that he was a 4'th OF and every year he was a starting OF by the end of the season and into the postseason?  The Giants might be in a similar position with Gorkys Hernandez.  If you look at his Def for the season, you see a negative number, but that number includes the innings he played LF which comes with a positional penalty.  If you dig a bit deeper and look up his UZR for CF only, he is a positive defensive CF with a UZR/150 of 7.5.  He also OPS'd .735 over the last 4 months of the season.  He is having surgery to remove bone spurs or chips or something from his wrist this offseason, so that might make the Giants not want to count on him, but I think Gorkys' numbers provide a floor for what the Giants should be looking for if they want to invest money or prospects in a CF upgrade.

With that floor in mind, I sorted Fangraphs Leaders page for players with 100 or more innings played in CF last year by UZR/150.  There were only 17 players with better UZR/150 than Gorkys.  Here they are with CF Innings, UZR/150 and OPS:

Juan Lagares- 566.2, 24.7, .661.  Definitely an upgrade on D, but can't hit his way out of a paper bag.  I'll take Gorkys.  Mets would probably be willing to trade him.

Brett Phillips- 177, 20.9, .799.  Brewers are not trading Brett Phillips!

Tyler Collins- 199.2, 19.4, .611.  SSS on the UZR and doesn't hit at all.

Scott Schebler- 117.2, 17.5, .791.  Very small sample in CF.  Would the UZR hold up over a full season?

Ian Happ- 346.2, 17.0, .842.  I don't think the Cubs would trade Ian Happ, but Happ might make them think Albert Almora is expendable.  Almora's UZR is not better than Gorkys', but it is in positive territory.  He also hits better and has upside.

Michael Taylor- 940.1, 16.9, .806(19 HR, 17 SB).  Taylor is an interesting name here.  With Adam Eaton coming back next year and Victor Robles about ready to graduate to the majors, the Nats just might be willing to trade Taylor.  He won't come cheap and they might prefer to hang onto him even if he is their 4'th OF.  He's worth a tire kick or two.

Tommy Pham- 281.1, 13.7, .931.  Cardinals have a surplus of OF's, but they are more likely to want to trade Randal Grichuk or Steven Piscotty.

Aaron Hicks- 440.2, 13.5, .847.  Doubt the Yankees would trade Hicks but he'd be a nice target if they would consider it.  There's a pretty big park adjustment on offense here,

Byron Buxton- 1143, 13.1, .728.  The Twins are not going to give up on Buxton this soon.

Franchy Cordero- 192, 11.6, .699.  Young, but if he's really any good, the Padres will hang onto him.

Cameron Maybin- 450.2, 10.0, .683(10 HR).  Maybin is a FA.  He's getting a bit old and has never been able to stay healthy.  He should be fairly cheap, though, and he could provide depth and be a placeholder for Steven Duggar or Bryan Reynolds.

Billy Hamilton- 1175, 10.0, .634(59 SB).  Ron Wotus may have tipped the Giants hand in a recent interview when he brought up Hamilton as an example of the type of player the Giants want in CF.  He does not hit as well as Gorkys and his UZR/150 is only 2.5 better.   He does bring vroom though.

Leury Garcia- 406, 9.6, .739.  We're getting into territory where we would want an offensive upgrade.  I don't see Garcia as that.

Odubel Herrera- 1144, 9.3, .778.  A nice offensive upgrade on paper, but there's a significant park adjustment.

Zack Granite- 174, 8.8, .611.  SSS barely an upgrade on D and there's no stick.

Jarrad Dyson- 771.2, 8.6, .674(28 SB).  Billy Hamilton lite.  Should be an affordable FA, but is he really an upgrade over Gorkys?

Bradley Zimmer- 697.2, 8.4, .692.  Not an immediate upgrade, but interesting upside here.  Not sure if Cleveland would trade him.

Gorkys Hernandez- 331.1, 7.5, .652.  Slashed .295/.358/.377(OPS .735) after May 31. 12 SB.

Kevin Pillar- 1343.1, 7.4, .704(16 HR).  Not a defensive upgrade on Gorkys and the power would take a big hit in AT&T Park.

Albert Almora- 643, 2.3, .782.  Like his upside.

Randall Grichuk- 29, 16.1, .758.  UZR/150 was -1.7 in CF in 2016 and only played 29 innings in CF in 2017.  Hits dingers.  Probably available in trade.

Who would you like to see the Giants target for CF in 2018?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Giants Organizational Depth Charts: First Base

Brandon Belt is still the incumbent first baseman, but we have to wonder if those days may be numbered as Buster Posey played a lot more first base after Belt suffered yet another concussion with Nick Hundley taking more games as the starting catcher.  Both Buster and Manager Bruce Bochy seemed to like that arrangement, so it's possible the Giants brass may view Belt and his contract as expendable.  Pablo Sandoval can slide over to 1B when needed.  Ryder Jones got quite a bit of playing time there late in the season, but was never able to show that his bat is ready to handle MLB pitching.

AAA:  Ryan Lollis is the only 1B listed on the current Sacramento Roster and he is strictly an organizational minor league player.  Chris Shaw played LF all season but has played enough 1B that he could come up and play the position regularly if needed.  His bat seems to be about ready and is good enough to play at 1B.

AA:  Two career minor leaguers, KC Hobson and Jerry Sands are listed on the current Richmond roster.  I believe they are both minor league FA's and may or may not be in the organization next season.

High A:  Dillon Dobson showed some power for San Jose but struggled to make consistent contact.  Jonah Arenado wants to be a 3B and mostly played there in 2017, but looks more like a 1B to my eye.

Low A:  Jose Vizcaino Jr has had trouble finding traction on his pro career due to injuries.  Maybe he can find a full season of AB's in San Jose next season?  Skyler Ewing filled in at 1B when he wasn't catching.

Short Season:  2016 draftee, Ryan Kirby, didn't stick in Augusta but thrived after being moved to Salem-Keizer when their season opened.  Maybe he'll get another chance in Augusta next season?

Rookie AZL:  3 DSL graduates shared the 1B position for the AZL Giants, none of them making a strong case for promotion next spring.  I was impressed by Angeddy Almanzar's 2016 DSL campaign but he struggled in Arizona.  Nathanael Javier had his best season as a pro, but he's starting to get a bit long in the tooth for rookie ball.  Beicker Mendoza had his moments but overall struggled.

DSL:  Ismael Alcantara is one of two 1B listed on the current DSL Giants roster.  He was a $300 K bonus baby but appeared in just 3 games at the start of the season.  I assume he suffered some sort of injury and missed the rest of the season.  Omar Medina hit under .200.

Overall, first base is extremely thin in the Giants organization.  It is supposed to be an easy position to fill, but that has not been historically true for the Giants.  Brandon Belt has given the position the most stability in recent memory.   Would the Giants consider drafting a Seth Beer if they think he is the best and most advanced hitter in the draft?

Scouting the 2018 Draft: RHP Ethan Hankins

Ethan Hankins is a prep pitcher from Georgia who is at or near the top of most early draft rankings.  He's on the tall side of ideal pitcher's height at 6'6" and an unfilled out thin youthful frame at 200 lbs. He's gotten lot of attention in scouting mags like BA for dominant showcase performances including one this summer where it pitched 9 perfect frames and struck out the first 6 batters he faced.

His FB tops out at 98 MPH per PG's bio, but sits in the mid-90's.  He relies on the FB, but has enough of a curve to steal and early strike or put away a hitter.  He's also working on a changeup.

On video, he works fast and is already changing tempo in games even flirting with a few quick pitches.  He stays fairly upright throughout his motion without a lot of leg drive.  Arm extension is excellent and the delivery is easy with a mid-3/4 release point which should provide good ball movement as well as downward plane.

This kid has a high ceiling with a ton of room to fill out.  He does need to get stronger and I'm not sure it's a slam dunk he will.  Physical development and avoiding injury are the only major question marks here, the latter being a given for all pitchers.  I could see an argument for him going #1 overall,  but there is significant risk as with all HS pitchers.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Scouting the Offseason: Priorities

The Giants top brass held their annual end-of-season press conference discussing the just-ended season and what they plan to do about it.  I could not find  a full transcript of the conference so I'll be paraphrasing the takeaway quotes reported by the beat writers as well as some of their interpretations.

The top priority this offseason is improving outfield defense.  I agree this needs to be done as the Giants got out-BABIP'd this season and some of that is attributable to poor OF defense, 47 runs worth by one metric.

Larry Baer said that the Giants are willing to go over the Competitive Balance Tax threshold for the right player, but they prefer to stay under.  This means you can expect them to add about $15 M to the currently signed roster.  Although this may disappoint fans who are hoping for a Giancarlo Stanton trade or a JD Martinez signing, I don't have a problem with it.  The Giants won 3 championships without acquiring those types of players.  They can do it again and I am willing to wait a couple more seasons for it to happen.

In a likely corollary to Larry Baer's comments, Bobby Evans made it clear he wants to add players by trade rather than free agency.  The beats seem to think the primary target will be a defense oriented CF with Denard Span moving to LF and Hunter Pence's role a question mark.  Ron Wotus may have provided a window into the Giants thinking in a recent interview where he talked about how many runs a CF like Billy Hamilton could save.

Bruce Bochy is frustrated that he did not get longer looks at some of the Giants top prospects such as Christian Arroyo and Austin Slater due to injuries.  True to form, it does not sound like the Giants are ready to hand starting jobs to prospects next spring.  This may be a mistake in the long run.

My take on all of this is yes, the Giants need better OF defense, but they need more power too.  The game has changed dramatically in just 3 seasons since the last championship.  OF defense does not help you if the other teams are hitting half again as many HR's.  As I have said in the past, the two positions where they can add significant power are 3B and LF.  Moving Denard Span to LF may help the OF D, but it won't fix the power outage.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Giants Organizational Depth Charts: Catcher

Like the sands in an hourglass, time is slowly but surely running out on the catching part of Buster Posey's career, which makes the Giants Catcher of the Future search take on a bit more urgency.  Here is my take on the Giants catching depth chart at the end of the 2017 season:

MLB:  Buster Posey is still the first string catcher, but that is not nearly as set in stone as it was even 1 month ago.  Nick Hundley is a free agent, so is not on the depth chart, but by the end of the season, he was playing catcher at least as much as Buster.  Bruce Bochy seemed to be almost gushy over his newfound ability to use Buster at first base more often, and you know what?  Buster seemed to be enjoying it too!  He definitely hits better when his legs get some relief from the squaaaaaat.

With Hundley hitting free agency, Tim Federowicz takes over the back up catcher spot on the depth chart, at least until the Giants re-sign Nick Hundley.  I do wish someone would "Fedex" a serious shot at being at least a backup at the MLB level.  Count me as a "Fedex" fan.

AAA:  Not really anyone at this level to give serious depth.  Trevor Brown has MLB experience but slumped to a sub-.200 BA.  The oft-injured Jeff Arnold likewise hit under .200.

AA:  Aramis Garcia finally got the call up from San Jose and held his own amidst the toughest transition after AAA-MLB in baseball.  Consider Garcia the Giants Catcher of the Future until further notice.

High A:  Matt Winn doesn't hit for a high BA, but has a little bit of pop in the bat.  He has a rep for maturity and handling pitchers.  Has a chance to be a backup MLB catcher.

Low A:  Skyler Ewing, who did a bit of catching in college, is trying to salvage his career from behind the plate after failing to hit well enough to move up as a 1B.  He probably did well enough in this trial to move up the ladder as a catcher.  The longterm odds are against him, though.

Short Season:  Rob Calabrese, a 2017 draftee made it to Salem-Keizer and showed flashes of the offense he generated at a small college program.  He's a project.

Rookie:  Ricardo Genoves is just 18 yo and drew raves from scouts in his stateside debut.  If Aramis Garcia falters on his way to the major leagues, Genoves is probably the next best hope, but it will take a few years to develop him.  Jeffery Parra is more of a project who I am cautiously optimistic about.

DSL:  Nobody hit over .200 at catcher in 2017.

Overall this is a thin position entering a transition at the MLB level and the search for Buster Posey's successor takes on some urgency.  The Giants have a lot riding on the development of Aramis Garcia and Ricardo Genoves.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Brady Singer

No sooner had the 2018 draft order been settled than Baseball America published their first Mock Draft with RHP Brady Singer going #1 overall to the Detroit Tigers.  By the way, BA had the Giants taking HS RHP Ethan Hankins at #2.  Between now and the draft, Singer will play his junior season for the Florida Gators college team.

Brady Singer was drafted in the second round out of high school by the Toronto Blue Jays who didn't like something they saw in his physical and he ended up not signing and going to college.  He pitched well out of the Gators bullpen his freshman year then stepped not the rotation last season giving Florida tremendous pitching depth. He really stepped it up in the College playoffs and World Series with a string of dominant starts.  Here are Singer's college stat lines:

2016:  2-2, 4.95, 43.2 IP, 17 BB, 38 K.
2017:  9-5, 3.21, 126 IP, 32 BB, 129 K.

Singer stands 6'5", 200 lbs.  He throws a mid-90's FB, a sharp slider and a changeup.  On video, he has a rather abrupt acceleration, a medium length stride and a whippy low 3/4 delivery that is somewhat on the violent side with an abrupt deceleration.  I"m no expert on pitching mechanics but I don't see a lot of leg drive and I do see a lot of stress on the arm, especially the shoulder.  I have seen his arm angle compared to Aaron Nola and I agree, but his tempo is much faster than Nola's.

The arm angle should create a lot of ball movement, especially for his slider, which I could see being romoesque, but I worry about the durability of what looks like a high stress delivery.  Keith Law sees him as a future reliever, probably due to the effort in the delivery.

I would project Brady Singer to be the most likely player in the draft to make the quickest impact at the MLB level, but I worry about the durability.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Scouting the Offseason: By the Numbers

Giants management, from Larry Baer to Bruce Bochy is saying their roster needs some major changes.  Bruce Bochy talked about attacking the offseason and being aggressive.  Yet, the current roster and MLB rules have some restrictions that give them little flexibility as the Giants have a large core of players signed to big, lengthy contracts and MLB rules for exceeding the Competitive Balance Tax threshold are more severe than ever.  So how much wiggle room do the Giants have?

Here are some numbers taken from Cot's Baseball Contracts Tax Tracker:

For CBT purposes, the Giants have $155+ M committed to 9 players.  That does not include the option for Matt Moore which would add $9 M.  It also does not include arbitration salaries for 4 players: Joe Panik, Hunter Strickland, Will Smith and Cory Gearrin which could add another $10-$12 M(my wild guess).  That gets us to $175+ M for 14 players.  Add in another $6 M for the remaining minimum salary guys and you have $180 M.  The CBT threshold for 2018 is $197 M.  So, the Giants have 3 choices:  1.  They can limit their spending to about $15 M worth of added payroll this offseason and stay around the CBT limit.  2.  They can try to shed payroll to give themselves more room to spend.  The obvious candidates for cost cutting would be Matt Moore who they could release and Brandon Belt who they could trade.  Bobby Evans has already said they will pick up Moore's option and it is doubtful they can trade Belt and his full salary until he proves he is fully recovered from his concussion.  3.  They can choose to ignore the CBT threshold and simply pay the penalties a la the Dodgers of the past few seasons.  The problem with this strategy is the penalties are more than just money now.  They include the loss or lowering of draft picks which can ultimately impact organizational talent levels.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Game Wrap 10/1/2017: Giants 5 Padres 4

The Giants fell short of winning the right to select first in the 2018 MLB Rule 4 Draft, a dubious honor they didn't seem to want any part of anyway.  Pablo Sandoval hit a walk-off HR in the bottom of the 9'th inning to complete a Giants comeback from a 4-1 deficit as several players achieved some personal milestones and stated their cases for next year in the process.  Key Lines:

Buster Posey 1B- 1 for 1, 2B, BB.  BA= .320.  I'm guessing it was no coincidence that Buster came out of the game when his BA hit exactly .320.

Brandon Crawford SS- 2 for 4, 2B.  BA= .253.   It was a down year for Crawford overall, quite likely in large part due to a tragedy in his family, but he finished with 2 strong months plus 1 day to give hope for a much better campaign in 2018.

Pablo Sandoval- 3B/1B- 1 for 4, HR(9).  BA= .220.  From September 8, Pablo hit .296 with 5 doubles and 3 HR's in 54 AB's and stated his case for opening the 2018 season as the Giants starting 3B.  The Giants can keep him around by exercising an option for the major league minimum salary with Boston paying the rest of what he is owed on his longterm deal with them.  The Giants should, and almost certainly will, pick up the option.  I would think Pablo's place in their plans next spring will depend largely on his ability to keep himself in playing shape.

Again, it might just be me, but I thought that Pablo initially gained some poundage after coming back to SF but then slimmed down again by the end of the season.

Johnny Cueto RHP- 5 IP, 12 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 4.52.  It will be a big surprise if Johnny Cueto opts out of his contract although the current market for pitching makes it a non-no-brainer.  If he does not opt out, the Giants owe him something like $84 M over the next 4 seasons, something I am not sure they were counting on.  They have to hope this was just a down year and he'll bounce back next season.  Have to think the anxiety of getting his dad to the states and setting up care for him through most of spring training had something to do with his regression this season.

Ty Blach LHP- 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 4.78.  Whether it is competing for the 5'th starter role or the multi-inning reliever role, gotta think Blach is in the Giants plans for next season.

Steven Okert LHP- 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 5.67.  Okert's  ERA from September 1 on was 1.69 in 12 appearances covering 5.2 IP.  Definitely kept himself in the conversation for a lefty specialist role next season.

Cory Gearrin RHP- 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K. ERA= 1.99.  Gearrin faced and retired 1 batter to get his ERA below 2.00 then came out of the game.  Again, probably no coincidence he came out after the 1 batter.

Hunter Strickland RHP- 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 2.64.  A reliever who can put up a 2.64 ERA while pitching over 60 innings has value, either to the Giants or another team.  Strick still struggles a bit against lefty hitting.

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The Giants Win coupled with the Tigers loss to the Twins put them in a tie for the worse record in MLB.  Since the Tigers had a worse record last year, I think by just 1 game, they get the #1 overall draft pick while the Giants will pick second.  At this point, it looks like a fairly trivial issue as there is currently no consensus #1 overall draft pick for 2018.  Last time the Giants drafted #2 overall they picked some guy named Will Clark.

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That's it folks!  Next Game Wrap will be the first exhibition game of Spring Training 2018.  Hang around this offseason for prospect reviews, Giants organizational depth charts, scouting reports on draft prospects, Hot Stove updates and finally Dr'B's annual Giants Top 50 Prospects for 2018.