Three in Five; Giants Win it All!

Video of the final out:

What a night. What a series. What a month. What a year… What an organization!

Maybe they make us pull our hair out from time to time, but they sure have made us the most blessed fan base in American professional sports during the last five years. The leadership has stayed the same during that time, the core players mostly intact. The story lines are always changing, but this team perseveres something fierce regardless of its roster makeup. That comes from the top.

What will you remember this year? For me, it’s Crawford’s granny in Pittsburgh; Belt’s bomb in the 18th in DC; Ishi’s shot; Bumgarner’s poise. Tonight it was Panik’s incredible diving stab and flip; again Bummy’s poise; and finally, Pablo’s Scutaro moment, making the final out and sprawling onto his back. That will be a hard one to forget, regardless of what jersey the Panda buttons up next year!

You knew Bum would pitch tonight. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind we’d see him. But 5 innings? 5 of the most heart-thumping, intense innings of his life? Madison Bumgarner literally put this team on his back, and carried them to victory in the biggest moment of his life. While you and I were yelling at our TV’s, this legend of a southpaw was pitching like he was back in Augusta, GA, circa 2008. 270 IP for the season, and he looked like he could have tossed 300 without flinching. He’s 25. 25! 3 rings and a World Series MVP trophy on his mantle… just like Pablo.

Pablo WS

I had an old college buddy (a fellow teacher and die-hard Giants fan) from Montana send me a congratulatory text tonight. I checked to see when we’d talked last. Turns out I sent a congrats text his way, two years ago to the day. I wonder what the occasion was. Winning does funny things, but it also brings people together. And for that I will be forever thankful.

There’s nothing like being a Giants fan these days. You can’t explain it to fans of other teams. We have literally become the most frustrating organization in baseball. Ask me how much I care. Seriously, ask me. ESPN called this the “Worst World Series Ever,” even before it started. I hope they forgot to tune in… idiots.

2014 World Series Champions. Let that sink in for a minute. Congratulations, Giants Nation! Enjoy your celebration, wherever you may be. It’s been one hell of a ride.

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Join the Giants World Series Discussion on Padlet!

Just learned about this site at an educational technology conference this weekend, but my buddy and I thought it would work very well for sports fan forums as well. Padlet is like an online bulletin board. You can browse articles, videos, and pretty much anything else you can link to the board. You can also leave comments and post your own material to the page. Simply just double-click anywhere on the board to get started. I’ll be posting on this page tonight for Game 5, and I hope you’ll join me!

http://padlet.com/wall/y2pit5wwecsu

The Only Game in Town

I’ve found that (for me at least) the biggest moments are often the hardest to write about. The Giants are in Kansas City as we speak, mentally and physically preparing themselves for the final stand… and here I am, stumbling to coherently put my thoughts into words. But my goodness, what a run this has been!

This is the 25th anniversary of the Bay Bridge Series, you know. In mid-May, it seemed like the stars could align to bring the Series back to the Bay Area. On August 1, it was all but determined that Oakland would be carrying the AL flag, while the (excuse my pun) faults were starting to show through at 2nd and King in The City. How many times do we say it? This baseball, she’s a funny game.

On the eve of the Giants 3rd Fall Classic in the last half-decade, I wanted to share some thoughts that I’ve gathered about this organization, from the men who pull the strings down to the guys who put the mitts and cleats on every night. It is truly a difficult task for the rest of the baseball world to understand our situation as fans of this franchise. Between all the successes (and there have been so, so many in its history, both long ago and more recently), they’ve also made us wonder what in the heck was going on? They certainly aren’t world-beaters, and they’re not a star-laden team. Their best players (Posey and Bumgarner) are among the top young talents in the game, yet they aren’t a group that seeks the limelight. Forever the underdogs, you know they prefer it that way… everyone from Brian Sabean to Mike Krukow to the author of this blog hopes like hell that the baseball world continues to sell them short. There is absolutely nothing like a chip on the collective shoulder to push a team to great heights.

So here we are. The Giants, injury-riddled and barely treading water in September, are doing it again. Have they not become the most frustrating team for opposing franchises in baseball? Just when the engine seems ready to stall, they somehow find a gear before continuing the long trek to the summit. 18 inning marathons… walk-off wins on errors… rallies without hits… just HOW do they do it? A little bit of luck here and there, sure. But if these past five years have taught us anything, it’s that clubhouse chemistry goes a long, long way this time of year. From the rookies like Duffy, Panik and Susac to the gritty vets like Vogey, Peavy and Hudson, these guys love playing with each other. They love playing for Bruce Bochy. And they think think the world of those high-energy, quirky sellout crowds at AT&T Park every night. No matter which way you look at it, the Giants have one hell of a great thing going these days. And this franchise has sure figured out how to wreck a party or two this time of year as well. Just ask St. Louis.

When you win two rings like Sabean and Bochy have, especially in such a short amount of time, you get my benefit of the doubt. As far as I’m concerned, there are still way too many Sabean naysayers out there. He’s not a progressive-thinker. He complains too much about the budget. He favors his own guys too often. In my eyes, he’s built the classiest organization in baseball, and he’s done it all after saying goodbye to one of the game’s all-time legends (and lightning rods) in Barry Bonds. Sabean has his quirks, and he has definitely irked some folks in the business. But how many GM’s spend their nights dreaming of the October success he’s had? The attendance records, the oddly successful team PR campaigns… He’s helped build all of it.

The dynamic duo celebrating... another... pennant. Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle

The dynamic duo celebrating… another… pennant. Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle

But I’ll admit I was still incredibly angry at one point this season. I made it pretty clear via Twitter (stupid social media) that I felt there were offensive upgrades available on July 31, and that Sabean was essentially punting the season away by sitting on his hands. Belt and Pagan were injured, and the team was headed south in a hurry. But it was the one and only move that Sabes made the weekend before the deadline, and the players he stayed true to in his own system, that made all the difference. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can tell you this with some confidence: Giants fans likely won’t miss Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree all that much. Hembree had been passed up for promotion too many times to be considered a serious prospect in the organization, and Escobar had been beaten around pretty good in the PCL this season.

Those guys netted Jake Peavy, and Peavy turned out to be one of the major reasons the Giants even found their way into the postseason.

As tempting as a trade for Asdrubal Cabrera, Daniel Murphy or Ben Zobrist sounded at the time, this fan base would have had some serious moping to do in the next few years if Panik and Susac were shipped to another organization. Those kids, along with Duffy and a few others, returned credibility to a farm system that had been knocked left and right by the national pundits during the offseason. Save for a few loopy Giants bloggers (you can put me in that class), there wasn’t much hope for a system that hadn’t produced much talent since the Posey/Bumgarner/Belt days. I love what these guys are doing. Susac’s pinch-hit… Duffy’s gutsy base running (Matt Duffy!)… Panik’s first AT&T Park home run coming in the frickin’ clinching game of the NLCS. You have got to love these kids. Just ask DrB and Shankbone.Panik HR

It’s not a World Series post if you don’t mention Travis Ishikawa. My goodness, dude. What a story. Baseball, much like life, can bring you to your knees. It can also lift you back up when you least expect it. From an early-season DFA to a non 40-man AAA player, to late-season Belt replacement, to left fielder on the fly in the postseason. Sabean loves to reward guys who’ve contributed in the orange and black. I was laughed off the block in May when I suggested that Ishikawa was a nice pickup to stash away for late in the season just in case. One commenter told me he had bridges he wanted to sell me. Well, you can’t underestimate the power of MLB experience in this game. The guys who have been there before usually get the chances. Ishikawa gets thrust into a messy outfield situation in October, and he runs with it. If the Giants are leading late in Game 5, Bochy puts Perez out there. In a situation where you’re losing late in a huge postseason game, you go with the offense and sacrifice something on defense. And in the bottom of the 9th, when a rusty young (very talented) starting pitcher is hurling fastballs without a clue as to where they’re going, you sit dead-red on a mistake and swing like it’s your last day as a big leaguer. In all the great memories I have as a Giants fan in the last decade and a half, there may not have been one as awesome as Ishi’s walk-off. What a moment for him, and for this franchise. Travis Ishikawa. Postseason hero, and Giant for life.

I wanted to touch on a couple thoughts about the World Series itself. Most are calling “Destiny vs Dynasty,” while an idiot in Bristol, CT billed it as the “Worst World Series Ever.” What a crock. The Royals are young, confident and hungry. Like the Giants, they’ve overcome the odds and beaten some very good opponents this month. Unlike the Giants, they haven’t lost a single game this postseason. They’ll send Big Game James to the bump in front of a raucous crowd in KC, but his performance to this point doesn’t look very Big Game to me. Madison Bumgarner, country strong and 25 years young, has pitched 31 innings in these playoffs. With a  frickin’ 1.42 ERA. I really like the Giants chances in this one, and I’m very intrigued to see what will happen in KC if the Royals drop Game 1. All you have to do is take one game to knock the good vibes down a bit. Somehow or another, the Giants are always the underdog. But I’d be lying through my teeth if I told you i wasn’t confident in their chances. Don’t get me wrong, I expect a great series. The Royals, like the Giants, don’t get to this point without showing the ability to come back late in games and nail down late leads. You have to score early on them, and keep their “rabbits” off the bases. But I’m still expecting a 3rd ring in five years. Nothing less will suffice.

We’re at 1,500 words and I’ve barely mentioned Skipper Bochy, and how he’s out-managed the hell out of every opponent he faced in October (again). While Clint Hurdle was failing to utilize his bullpen matchups in Pittsburgh; while Matt Williams was watching his team play 9 extra innings from the clubhouse after GETTING HIMSELF TOSSED FROM A PLAYOFF GAME; while Mike Matheny was clenching his teeth with a wild starting pitcher on the hill in the bottom of the 9th in an elimination game, Bochy calmly won the battle. Replacing your closer in the 9th inning with a bases loaded, 2-out situation? That was one of the gutsiest, and wisest moves I’ve seen from a manager this time of year. Game plans go awry in October, and you have to be ready to adjust. Bochy does it better than anyone else. He’s not perfect, but he makes the right moves when it counts. We’ve come to expect it from him, and I expect no less this week.

It’s time to wrap this monster up, folks. If you’re still reading, thank you so much. When I started this blog last summer, I wondered if I’d ever get to write about another title. Less than two years later, here we are again. Win or lose this week, I’ll tell you this: I love this damn franchise. Kruk and Kuip have taught me the game of baseball, and I’d give anything to sit down and listen to them tell old stories just once. Madison Bumgarner and his obliteration of the 2008 South Atlantic League are the reason why I am the prospect follower I am today. Buster Posey is a man of high integrity. He’s a family-first, quiet but intimidating leader. If you want to model your life after someone, Posey’s not a bad choice. Future Derek Jeter? You won’t here any arguments from me. Seriously though, this team is full of guys (Pence, Pablo, Crawford, Belt, Morse, Blanco, Affeldt, Romo, Peavy, Huddy, Vogey, Timmy, on and on) you WANT to root for… and I think that in itself has been just as rewarding as the on-field success. What a great time to be a Giants fan.

Huddy loving the October run. C/O SFGiants Photos

Huddy loving the October run. C/O SFGiants Photos

I’ll leave you with these parting words. Mute the tv this week. Crank up KNBR. Tune out the national writer noise, and turn to the beat writer and fan perspective for your coverage. Enjoy the hell out of this run, people. We may never see one like it again. The Giants are the only game in town, the only game left on the docket for the 3rd time in five years.

Dynasty indeed.

Travis Ishikawa, Postseason Hero!

Words can’t even describe how I’m feeling right now. Maybe they will tomorrow!

For the time being, check out this little tidbit I dug up from late May. I knew it was in the archives somewhere!

I wish I could post some of the replies here. Let’s just say, a few folks questioned my intelligence. Five odd months later, he did this…

The 2014 San Francisco Giants. World Series bound.

#RallyPencils and Walk-off Wins

Back and forth we go at AT&T. The Cards relievers can’t throw strikes. So far the bats aren’t taking advantage. This one has another thrilling-finish feel to it. At this point, I expect nothing less from this series. How great is it to have postseason baseball back in our lives? My goodness.

Times have been a little crazy lately; I’ve been scuffling with the opportunity for a post. I hear Daniel Carbonell hit a big home run in the AFL yesterday. Now THAT’s what I like to hear!

Anyway, I’ve got a little something I wanted to share with you all here. Things have changed so much in my life over the past 6 months, but Cove Chatter has remained a constant. I now find myself blessed to be working at a great school, with some awesome colleagues and an incredibly eager group of 4th graders. The kids picked up on my love of SF sports almost from day one, and I can tell you that orange and black run rampant around our campus these days… the Giants are the first thing my class asks me about every morning. As Shankbone says, You Gotta Like These Kids!

We had a little bit of fun in the classroom yesterday before the big game, as I rewarded the kids with some Giants “Rally Pencils.” I also spent some time teaching them the Yes Movement (yes, I do actually find time for academics)… they’ve gotten pretty good, if I do say so myself. Some budding Giants fans here, I tell ya! Wouldn’t you know it, those #RallyPencils came through in the bottom of the 10th.

Ultimately, we put it all together for a fun little Giants pump-up video, which I promised the kids I’d send to the Giants. We’ll see how that ends up, but I’ll give it heck anyway. I hope you enjoy the video. As always, thanks for reading… and go Giants!

The Giants… Know October

Same old story, am I right? National media gives the Giants none chance of taking down the Nationals, the best team in the NL. Giants find a way with gutsy pitching, surviving an 18-inning thriller in the process. Just as they lost game 3 on Madison Bumgarner’s errant throw to 3B on the bunt play, they won the clincher last night on a wild pitch.

Look, we all know great pitching wins postseason games, and Peavy, Hudson and Vogey were absolute beasts in this series. But I would say playing mistake-free ball (and out-managing your opponent) might be right up at the top of the priority list this time of year. Bochy had a questionable call last night with Strickland pitching to Bryce Harper, but for the series he completely put Matt Williams to bed. These are not new storylines folks. The Giants have done this before. But for some crazy reason, people always count them out.

Speechless (c/o SFGiants Photos)

Speechless (c/o SFGiants Photos)

They score 9 runs in 4 games (really 5 games), and still knock off the #1 seed in the league. 25-10 in postseason games dating back to 2010. Yep, the Giants know how to win this time of year.

And so it goes, for the 3rd time in 5 years, the orange and black are playing for a shot at the Fall Classic, while the Dodgers go back to the drawing board once again. Does it get any better than this?!

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What to do while we wait for the NLCS to begin in St. Louis this Saturday night? Can I take you up on some minor league news? The AFL kicked off last night for the Giants affiliate (Scottsdale), and yesterday morning I previewed the prospects the organization sent to Arizona. The Scorpions won their opener against Salt River, and to be honest I could care less about the score. My concern is focused on the individual players. Blake Miller and Steven Okert saw the only action among Giants farmhands, Miller starting at 2B and batting 1-4 (with 2 K) out of the 9 spot. Okert pitched a clean 8th inning, striking out 1 and not allowing a run.

As of this moment, the Scorpions are tied with Mark Appel and (#1 prospect in MLB) Byron Buxton’s Salt River club. Kelby Tomlinson is batting 7th and playing 3B (a new position for him). He’s 0-2 with an RBI tonight. I’d look for Tomlinson to play all over the infield.

No AFL for Mr. Panik (c/o SFGiants Photos)

No AFL for Mr. Panik (c/o SFGiants Photos)

I expect Clayton Blackburn to start the 3rd game for Scottsdale (tomorrow afternoon), but I haven’t seen any probable pitching reports. The early development for me is the lack of action for Daniel Carbonell. I had just assumed he would be the starting CF,   but that position seems to belong (at least for the moment) to Phillies prospect Roman Quinn, a 2011 prep draftee whose career stats don’t jump out at me. Carbonell will get his chances, and I’m sure there are politics that go into AFL playing time just like every other athletic league in this world, but I would really like to see the Giants Cuban signee win that position battle at some point this month. In the meantime, I’ll keep you updated!

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In other prospect news, MiLB.com released its Giants organizational “All-Stars” for 2014 today. This is not a list of the best prospects in the system, but more the ones who had the best statistical performances among their positions. The writer who put together the Giants list, Ash Marshall, added in some comments from Assistant VP Bobby Evans on each player. You can find the entire list HERE.

Adam Duvall made it, as did Gary Brown, Matt Duffy, Chris Dominguez and Chris Heston. Those guys have all graduated from their prospect status at this point for me. The two names that jumped out at me were: Tyler Horan, who had a very big year at the plate, and has a chance to move quickly if he can produce next spring, and Miguel Gomez, a switch-hitting catcher who tore up the Dominican Rookie League in his 3rd attempt. To me, a 21 year-old in the DSL has very little chance… but Evans had some interesting comments about the kid. Maybe a name to watch for next year.

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If you’ve made it this far, I’ll end with an exciting update… exciting to me, at least. Over the past year and a half, I have learned both how difficult and rewarding it can be to run a quality blog. As I’ve made clear in the past few months, there often just isn’t enough time in a day to get a post in. During that time, I’ve also been connected with some awesome, awesome Giants bloggers. And truly, I spend much more time these days reading their work than I do writing here.

So I asked myself a question: Is there a place where a devoted Giants fan can go to get both daily fan and media perspective? Sure, we all check in with our favorite blogs, as well as the beat writer and newspaper sites… but I truly can’t think of any site out there that I’d call a “one-stop-shop” for all things Giants news. CSN tries, but they run so much fluff that I hardly check in over there anymore.

So…. here’s my grand idea, folks. I’ve created a Facebook page (I think many more people are on Facebook than Twitter, and Facebook allows for more interaction in my opinion) where I hope to connect fans, from the casual Joe to the most loyal of followers, to non-stop Giants perspective. I’ve already linked NLDS reaction posts from some blogs and newspaper sites. I’m really excited about this, and with time (and your support) I hope it takes off into a full-fledged Giants community. I have no plans of shutting down Cove Chatter, and at some point I’ll even think about linking some of my own posts there… but for right now, I think this is something a little less time-consuming that I can put my efforts into. I truly hope you’ll give it a look and a “like.”  If you’re interested in stopping by, here’s the link: Facebook.com/sfgblogs

Game 4, AFL Opening Day on the Horizon

**Updated with Tyler Rogers on the AFL roster (Cordier is not).

In other words, you could call this a very big day for the organization. But I don’t have to tell you that.

Things were set up perfectly for the Giants to end Washington’s season yesterday. MadBum on the hill, the home crowd rocking behind him, and a 2 PM local start… on a channel that millions of people don’t get on their cable package (nice one, MLB). Goofy start times often lead to goofy events on the field. Am I surprised Game 3 was decided by a bunt and ensuing two-run error? Not really.

Maybe the Giants just need some night time October magic at the Yard to bring this series home. They turn to Ryan Vogelsong tonight. The same guy who had a 5+ ERA and no velocity this time last year now takes the bump in arguably the most important home game of the year. On paper, Vogey and Gio Gonzalez is a mismatch… but you won’t see me underestimate the veteran righty this time around. Bring it home, Ryan.

Sandoval c/o sfgiantsphotos.mlblogs.com

Sandoval c/o sfgiantsphotos.mlblogs.com

If the Nats take Game 4, things get very serious for Los Gigantes, there’s no doubt about that. Heck, this team has run hot and cold all year long. Is it possible the offense never wakes up here, and the Nats win 3 in a row to end our season on a sour note? Sure it is. The Giants have been teasing us since May. But when you stop and look at all the obstacle this team has had to hurdle to make it to this point, it’s hard not to be so proud of their efforts. No Cain, no Scutaro, no Pagan, no Morse…essentially no Lincecum… 5 rookies on the roster… Travis Ishikawa starting in left field. How in the world are they still in this thing?

Yesterday’s loss dropped the Giants postseason record to 24-10 since 2010. When October rolls around, this organization steps up in a big way. When will the rest of the world finally wake up and realize the Giants are among the elite teams in this game?

Finally, an idea for a struggling offense going up against a tough lefty tonight: Play Gary Brown. Start him in CF, and bat him leadoff. Gregor Blanco is 1-13 in this series, and he refuses to hit the ball on the ground. Brown is certainly not an all-world hitter, but his speed could change the game tonight. We all know Blanco hits so much better in the 7 hole. Right now, he’s not an effective leadoff hitter. Give Brown a chance.

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Some news and notes on the minor league front. Today is Opening Day for the Arizona Fall League. The Giants have 7 players on the Scottsdale roster – 4 pitchers and 3 position players. Matt Duffy and Hunter Strickland were supposed to be ticketed for Arizona, but obviously they’ve got some bigger fish to fry in the NLDS. Seriously, I can’t even begin to tell you how fulfilling the success of these young guys has been for me this year. Panik, Susac, Duffy, Duvall, Strickland… Gary Brown even made the postseason roster! Pretty cool for a group that was knocked constantly by the national publications before the season.

Anyway, Duffy and Strickland have been replaced on the Scottsdale roster by Kelby Tomlinson and Tyler Mizenko, respectively. Tomlinson stole 49 bases this year in Richmond. He plays excellent defense in the infield. Here’s another one from that 2011 Giants draft class that’s starting to look better and better. Tomlinson has some tools. Will he hit? Mizenko had a good, not great year in San Jose. He’s a low-90’s sinkerballer who has saved 52 games in his minor league career. Another 2011 pick, 28th round… exact same as… Sergio Romo.

The rest of the Giants AFL crew consists of:

Clayton Blackburn, who looks like he could be the #2 pitcher on the roster behind Pittsburgh’s young phenom Tyler Glasnow.

Steven Okert and Tyler Rogers out of the bullpen. Okert throws gas from the left side, along with a sharp slider. He was the Derek Law of the Giants farm this season. Rogers is a 2013 10th rounder from Austin Peay. He’s tall and lanky with a sweet sidearm (almost submarine) delivery. He spent most of the season in San Jose, and allowed only 18 ER in 89.2 IP all year.

Cuban signee Daniel Carbonell. Stud athlete with a chance to be the heir to Angel Pagan in CF. I’m very interested to see how he does. Will he stand out, or just be another face in the crowd?

Blake Miller. Tall infielder who hit .300 between San Jose and Richmond this year. 25th round pick, Division 2 GNAC gamer, and another gem the Giants found in the mold of Matt Duffy. Miller might be my favorite player in the organization right now… I’m rooting hard for this guy.

So there’s your squad. Certainly not the sexiest names in the system right now, but Blackburn and Carbonell really have a chance to put the Giants back on the map with a solid AFL campaign. Andrew Susac and Kyle Crick were the headliners last year. Susac led the league in hitting, Crick had a major coming-out party in a start on MLB Network. Who will lead the charge this fall?

Blake Miller

Blake Miller (Photo: Courtesy of Barry Colla)

Cove Chatter Top 50 Season Review (#44-40)

Giants are headed to Pittsburgh. I don’t care if it is just one game, it feels great to be back in the postseason. The road warriors have all the playoff experience in this matchup, and it’s time to put it to use. Can’t wait for Wednesday.

Taking a little break from the 25-man speculation to continue our review of the preseason Cove Chatter Top 50.

44. Jarrett Parker – Earned a MLB promotion along with Matt Duffy, but never made it onto the field in his incredibly brief career. It’s easy to forget he was such a high draft pick (2nd round 2010), but Parker certainly has some tools to offer. He likely won’t ever make enough contact to be a big league regular, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him smack 20+ HR next year in AAA.

43. Dylan Brooks – 6 foot 7 Canadian righty is being brought along slowly, but I really like what he did in the AZL this summer. 45 K in 34 IP, but he also walked 15. He’s young for his draft class, but I get the feeling he’s a mature beyond his years type of arm. Low-90’s fastball with that type of frame? Maybe it’s time to fly him out to Augusta next year and see how he responds.

42. Jonah Arenado – While his brother looks like a star in the making in Denver, the younger Arenado hasn’t quite taken the next step in his development with the Giants. He’s young, no doubt, but his K rates were a little concerning this summer in rookie ball. Believe me, I’m not writing him off at all, but I’d like to see him make some strides next year.

41. EJ Encinosa - I was expecting the big righty to make a strong jump this year, but he pitched only 26 innings for Salem-Keizer. I’m not really sure what the deal is, as he’s a former 7th round pick out of Miami. He’s 23… does he finally break camp in a full-season league next year?

Steven Okert: milb.com

Steven Okert: milb.com

40. Steven Okert – Stock was a bit down after a good but not great 2013 in Augusta. Turned things around in a hurry with a Derek Law-type campaign in the Cal League. Lefties who throw 96 can move QUICKLY, and Okert is speeding his way up the organizational ladder now after striking out 92 hitters in 68 innings between SJ and Richmond this season. Stock is way up at the moment.

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