Matt Duffy and the Evolution of a Baseball Fan

I always wanted to be a quarterback…

Growing up in northern California, my early childhood was filled with 49ers red and gold. Steve Young was my idol, and at 7 years old I thought life began and ended with football. Little did I know I would end up 5-ft-7, skinny, and slow. Ironically, I never played a day of organized tackle football, and the quarterback dream died before it ever really began. Either way, I was a football kid through and through during the early years.

My first memory of Giants baseball came at a pretty young age as well. I remember watching part of a game with my babysitter’s husband, a die-hard fan who had one of those black 80’s (this was during the 90’s, mind you) Giants “Starter” jackets littered with dozens of commemorative pins. I couldn’t tell you who they were playing that day, but I’ll never forget the name of the pitcher on the mound for the orange and black. How can you forget a name like William VanLandingham? I vividly remember him slinging pitch after pitch at an opposing batter who simply kept fouling them off, one after the other.

My babysitter's husband had one of these bad boys.

My babysitter’s husband had one of these bad boys.

I’d say I really started following Giants baseball in the late-90’s. I was young, but I still remember most of the names who played during that time. I had a Barry Bonds poster on my wall for most of my childhood, but it wasn’t until I attended my first game (at an infant Pac Bell Park) in 2001 that I really became a fan. I went with a good buddy for his [12th] birthday, and talk about an experience. Front row seats right behind the Giants bullpen… still the best seats I’ve ever had at any game.

It was August 2nd, and Jason Schmidt was the starter that night – his first start with the Giants after being traded from Pittsburgh, who also just happened to be in town. Schmitty tossed his warm-ups 10 feet in front of us, and when he was done the bullpen catcher dropped the ball right in my glove. A half hour into my first ever big league ballgame, I was hooked for life. My buddy Russ would get a ball that day too (a foul dribbler off the bat of Benito Santiago), as his grandpa did too (an Andres Galarraga foul that Aaron Fultz threw into the stands). Three of the four of us went home with a baseball that night; Schmidt was brilliant; Bonds hit a majestic shot into the Cove, and Felix Rodriguez glove-fived me as Robb Nen nailed down the final out. For a kid in middle school at his first major sporting event, it was an absolutely magical experience. One I certainly hope to share with my own future kids someday.


2016 Giants: What’s the [Catcher] Plan?

First in a series of late-season/offseason posts concerning current 40-man players, as well as a few other relevant names both inside and outside the organization. I’ll try to address contract status, current and future production, projected playing time for next season, and whatever else I feel is pertinent to the 2016 team.

Let’s start with the backstops, a position where the Giants are still incredibly talented. While Posey is still the man, a surprising new name has emerged from the farm system, adding to what was already one of the deepest positional groups in the organization.

6.1 WAR? Good luck telling him to play a different position!

6.1 WAR? Good luck telling him to play a different position!

Buster Posey | Age 28: One of the elite talents in the game, and arguably getting better. Considering the resume he already boasts, it’s pretty darn impressive that Buster lowered his K% to 8.5 (career mark of 12.3%), while walking more than he struck out in 2015. Behind the dish, he raised his caught-stealing rate to 36%, best since his shortened 2011 season.

He’ll get a nice bump in pay next year, up to $20M. He’ll follow 2016 with 5 consecutive seasons at $21.4M before an option in 2022. A lot of folks are still asking how much longer he’ll catch full time at that price. My response to that: don’t expect anything different in the immediate future. He’s started 38 games at 1B to date this season, and I’d say that’s probably right about on par with what we’ll see next year. Until another catcher in the organization proves he’s capable of forcing the organization’s hand, Buster will be the team’s main attraction and its starting catcher.

Andrew Susac | Age 25: There was a lot of excitement surrounding Susac this year, but it’s hard to look at his first full MLB season as anything but a disappointment. It’s very hard to get into a rhythm when you aren’t playing consistently, but Susac did log 120 PA during the first half. He hit only .239, and then made only 5 starts after the All-Star break. Injuries have been a theme throughout his playing career, even dating back to his college days. They cut his 2015 campaign short, and it really is a bummer for him, as he’d probably be seeing most of the playing time that is currently going to Trevor Brown. Susac is young, cheap, and talented offensively. Though he’s probably very intriguing to some teams around the league, I’ll say the Giants aren’t trading him this winter. He’ll have to stay healthy and produce a little more though if he ever wants to unseat Posey behind the dish.

Hector Sanchez | Age 25: It’s hard to believe Hector is still only 25. It’s also hard to envision him having much of a future with the organization when 2014 was the last season he hit over .200. He’s team controlled through 2019 and arbitration-eligible again this winter (he earned $800K this year). There’s nothing wrong with having catchers with MLB experience in AAA, but at Hector’s relatively young age, I’m beginning to wonder if he’s better off asking for a trade to get out from behind Posey and Susac.

Trevor Brown | Age 23: The Giants went heavy on college pitching at the top of the 2012 draft, but it’s the hitters who’ve made the most noise from that class so far. By chance and injuries, Brown joined Matt Duffy (and later Mac Williamson) as the first members of that crop to reach the majors, and he’s played well enough this month to earn a longer look. 9-31 (.290) with 3 BB, 5 RBI, a stolen base, and respectable pitch-calling behind the plate in 10 games has earned him some press time – and even a little love from the coaching staff. The versatile backstop may not profile as a starter, but I can see a backup MLB gig in his future. Now, the question is “What do they do with all these catchers?” Maybe Brown shares time with Hector again next season in Sacramento, but maybe his September in the big leagues gives the organization some flexibility to explore a trade this offseason.

Jackson Williams | Age 29: Bringing Jackson Williams back to the organization (and calling him up in September) gave the Giants two first-round catchers on the active roster, drafted in back-to-back years no less. The difference? Posey was a top 5 pick in 2008, and Williams was the 5th first round pick in 2007 by the Giants alone. Still, it’s noteworthy that four of those six picks made it to the majors (the other was Charlie “Marco Scutaro” Culberson), and three of them (Bumgarner, Noonan and Williams) are all on the current Giants roster. That seems like it could be the answer to an obscure Giants-related trivia question. Either way, Jax has logged only 23 MLB plate appearances, and I have no idea if he’ll be in camp with the team next season or not.

On Deck: In my next post, I’ll analyze the young, talented, and ever-increasing group of infielders on the Giants 40-man roster. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

2015 Giants “All-Farm” Second Team

Here’s the next round of organizational All Stars in my eyes. Again, this is not an “All Prospect Team.” I’m not sure if I’ll make an honorable mention list, or if these are the honorable mentions. I’m beginning to work on an offseason roster plan series, and will eventually do some prospect ranking write-ups as the winter progresses. Either way, I plan to be more active during the off months for sure. I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

C: Trevor Brown, Sacramento/San Francisco – (minors) .261/.319/.343, 2 HR, 27% CS | (majors) .263/.333/.368, 1 SB, 29% CS | The athletic, versatile backstop spent the whole minor league season in Sacramento. He also played primarily catcher for the first time in his professional career (he’s also played some 1B and 2B). He’s now making the most of his September opportunity, and it sounds like the coaching staff is taking notice.

1B: Ricky Oropesa, Richmond – .254/.311/.424, 17 HR, 76 RBI | Oropesa’s 3rd try at AA proved to be his best one. He set a career high in homers while mixing torrid months with ice-cold ones. I don’t expect the Giants to protect him on the 40-man this winter, so he may be an interesting minor league Rule 5 player… Most likely, though, he’ll be in Sacramento next season, where 20 HR certainly isn’t out of the question.

2B: Austin Slater, San Jose/Richmond – .294/.334/.381, 3 HR, 5 SB | The Giants moved the former Stanford outfielder to the infield this season in what looks to be preparation for a super-utility role. Slater hasn’t shown much power in his short pro career yet, but he sure has shown an ability to put bat to ball. And if Matt Duffy taught us anything this season, it’s that players truly can develop power at the Major League level. For the moment, Slater and fellow 2014 draftee Hunter Cole are zooming up the organizational ladder.

3B: Jonah Arenado, Augusta – .264/.293/.367, 9 HR, 62 RBI, 29 E | While big brother Nolan has become the premier 3B in the National League, Jonah still has quite a ways to go if he’s going to unseat Matt Duffy at AT&T Park. His 29 errors really make you wonder if he’ll stick at the hot corner long term, but his offensive season in the SALLY is nothing to sneeze at. He’s only 20, and has a chance to do some damage in San Jose next year.

SS: Rando Moreno, Richmond – .275/.324/.340 | Moreno is an intriguing player. He had a mini breakout in 2013, struggled mightily after a big jump to San Jose last season, then resurfaced as the starting SS for Richmond this year. Once he took the job, he really didn’t give it up. He’s only 23, and very well could be another respectable bat & glove middle infielder in a couple years.

OF: Ryan Lollis, San Jose/Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (majors) 2-12, 1 SB | (minors) .340/.402/.472, 5 HR, 10 SB | Lollis scorched the ball at each minor league stop this year, and the Giants rewarded the 7-year vet with a MLB call-up. What the future holds for him, I really don’t know. Regardless, it was a very nice season for Lollis.

CF: Ronnie Jebavy, Salem-Keizer – .263/.303/.419, 4 3B, 8 HR, 23 SB | For someone who really went deep with draft coverage this year, Jebavy was a name that completely slid past me. It was hard not to be impressed with his college pedigree at Middle Tennessee though, and he kept his successful 2015 rolling right on through his professional debut. His speed and highlight-reel defense are a given, but finishing top 5 in the NWL in big flies was a nice cherry on top. A definite name to follow.

OF: Mac Williamson, Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (majors) 5-15, 1 RBI | (minors) .275/.368/.433, 13 HR, 73 RBI, 4 SB | After missing most of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Mac bounced back with a very nice season between AA and AAA. He earned himself a late-September MLB gig in the process too. Mac is a big, strong, athletic player. Maybe one of the most athletic people I’ve ever seen in person. He can (and will) hit the long ball. But I think he prides himself on the rest of his game… hitting for average, making plays in the outfield, throwing runners out. Hitting .293 in the Eastern League was pretty darn impressive for me. He’ll probably start next year in Sacramento, where he could put up huge offensive numbers.

SP: Tyler Beede, San Jose/Richmond – 124.2 IP, 113 H, 3.97 ERA, 44 BB, 86 K | Beede’s first professional season was a bit up and down, but I think he needs to be recognized for overhauling his game and zooming to AA in the process. Learning new pitches at that level can’t be easy, and the Vandy kid showed some very promising stuff for most of the year. The scouting reports were pretty positive as well. There’s a lot to like with this kid going forward.

SP: Jordan Johnson, AZL/Salem-Keizer/San Jose – 59.1 IP, 58 H, 3.19 ERA, 11 BB, 71 K | Johnson was the surprise arm of the summer in the organization. A guy who did little during his college career at CSU Northridge, he popped up in Arizona throwing bullets mid-season. It didn’t take long for him to get to San Jose, which is where he’ll likely begin next season. He’s got a 6-ft-3 frame and a mid-90’s fastball. Are we looking at the pitching version of Matt Duffy here?

SP: Joe Biagini, Richmond, 130.1 IP, 112 H, 2.42 ERA, 34 BB, 84 K | Big Joe, the former Davis Aggie, was a workhorse all season in Richmond. He pounds the ball on the ground and can run his fastball up in the mid-90’s. It might be in a relief role, but I think we could see this guy in San Francisco some day.

RP: Ray Black, San Jose – 25 IP, 13 H, 2.88 ERA, 25 BB, 51 K | A year later, and Black is still throwing Aroldis Chapman-status heaters. Unfortunately he’s still struggling to command his stuff, and the Giants are still being very careful with him. He’s on the 40-man roster, so I’d say there’s a real chance we see him in the majors next season.

RP: Mike Broadway, Sacramento/San Francisco – (majors) 16 IP, 10 ER, 7 BB, 13 K | (minors) 48.1 IP, 25 H, 0.93 ERA, 8 BB, 64 | The 11-year minor league journeyman had an incredibly dominant season in Sacramento this year, but was unable to convert his stuff into success during his short MLB stints. I’d like to see them re-up his contract, as 98 mph fastballs truly don’t grow on trees.

Cove Chatter 2015 Giants “All-Farm” Team

Christian Arroyo | Photo c/o Larry Goren | Four Seam Images via AP Images

Christian Arroyo | Photo c/o Larry Goren | Four Seam Images via AP Images

Sorry for the major lack of posting lately. Trying to run a classroom and a blog simultaneously has proven very difficult for me over the last month, but I’m working to put a few posts together with the season winding down. I’d never done an organization all-star-type post before, so I thought this would be fun. Just keep in mind, this group is statistic based. This is not an “All-Prospect” team, but more of a prospect “All-Star” team. You will find some of the top prospects in the system on this list, while others will be noticeably absent.

There are no hard and fast “eligibility rules” for this list. Some of these guys are prospects, some graduated to the majors, and others still bounced up and down a bit. Please, don’t get hung up on that kind of stuff. This is supposed to be for enjoyment. So let me know what you think! I did select a 2nd team, but I haven’t done the write-ups for those guys yet. I’ll try to get it posted in the coming days. Thanks for reading!

MVP: Matt Duffy, 3B, San Francisco – .299/.339/.434, 11 HR, 73 RBI, 11 SB, 4.5 WAR | I’m obviously breaking the nonexistent “rules” here as he didn’t spend a day in the minors all year… but I don’t care. Duffy has been the organization’s breakout player for 2015. He’s one of the steadiest bats and gloves in the National League. What a huge win for the farm system, and for us prospect watchers who’ve been rooting for him over the years.

First Team

C: Aramis Garcia, Augusta/San Jose – .264/.342/.431, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 40 CS% | A slow offensive start gave way to a summer surge for Garcia in Augusta, who showed improved defense and one of the strongest arms in the system. He’s a clear top 10 prospect in the organization right now.

1B: Chris Shaw, Salem-Keizer – .287/.360/.551, 12 HR, 30 RBI | Shaw was a 1B/OF at Boston College and one of the best power hitters in the Cape Cod League last summer. The Giants plucked him in the supplemental first round, and he led the short-season NWL in Home Runs despite only playing in 46 games and logging 200 PA. That’s a 36-HR pace over 600 PA, so it’s evident why the Giants believe in his bat.

2B: Kelby Tomlinson, Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (minors) .321/.376/.414, 3 HR, 21 SB | (majors) .275/.338/.362, 1 HR, 5 SB | Kelby looked like a completely new hitter during his second full season in Richmond. The Giants moved him up to Sacramento where he kept on producing at the plate. When Joe Panik went down, I felt very good about KT’s ability to pick up some slack at 2B. After some early defensive jitters, he settled in nicely while giving the Giants steady at-bats almost every night. He was a serious candidate for my “prospect MVP” award.

3B: Miguel Gomez, Salem-Keizer – .319/.331/.442, 6 HR, 52 RBI | The 22 year-old C/DH/3B made his stateside debut after spending three summers in the DSL. He’s a switch-hitter who is extremely aggressive at the plate… and all he did was hit this summer for Salem-Keizer (coming within 1 or 2 games of the all-time NWL hit streak record). He’s still a pretty unknown commodity, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Giants push him to San Jose next spring.

SS: Christian Arroyo, San Jose – .304/.344/.459, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 5 SB | He missed some significant time to injury for the second season in a row, but when he was healthy, all Arroyo did was hit. Ultimately he was the SJ Giants offensive player of the year, and at 20 years old he appears on the fast track to the majors (not that the Giants need any middle-infielders at the moment). AA will be a big test for him next year, but he’s the #1 prospect in the system for me right now.

LF: Hunter Cole, Augusta/San Jose/Richmond – .301/.358/.474, 9 3B, 9 HR, 63 RBI, 7 SB | Strong first full season for the 2014 26th round pick out of Georgia. He spent some time in the infield, but the Giants moved him primarily to RF once he was promoted to AA. With the Giants current MLB/AAA outfield situation, he’ll likely return to Richmond next spring.

CF: Johneshwy Fargas, Augusta – .278/.347/.349, 2 HR, 59 SB | The young, Puerto Rican CF has impact speed and arm strength. If his bat can develop, he’ll likely be one of the top prospects in the system. San Jose should be a good test of his hitting abilities next season, and he still has plenty of time to develop.

RF: Jarrett Parker, Sacramento/San Francisco – (minors) .283/.375/.514, 23 HR, 74 RBI, 20 SB | (majors) .370/.414/1.074, 6 HR. 12 RBI, 1 SB | If this were the all-prospect team, Mac Williamson would have undoubtedly been my pick here. But I’m going on overall performance, and Parker had his best season as a pro for Sacramento this year. Oh, and did I mention he just clubbed THREE HOMERUNS in Oakland?! That’s 29 big flies on the year…. whoa. After looking rather unassuming in his brief MLB stint in June, I’d say Parker’s surge this month has put his name in conversations for next year’s roster.

SP: Chase Johnson, San Jose/Richmond – 124.2 IP, 111 H, 2.82 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 9.3 K/9 | The former Cal Poly reliever took a giant leap forward in his second professional season. He got a small taste of AA late in the year, allowing 24 baserunners and striking out 18 batters in 13.2 IP. He maintained a mid-90’s fastball and hard curveball all season, and his breakout performance puts him among the top arms in the system for me.

SP: Sam Coonrod, Augusta – 111.2 IP, 103 H, 3.14 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 9.2 K/9 | Converted college closer tamed his previous control problems this summer in Augusta. He mixes a sometimes upper-90’s heater with a very good slider. Whether he’s a starter long term is still up for debate, but at the moment Coonrod’s stuff and results are getting rave reviews around the baseball world.

SP: Clayton Blackburn, Sacramento – 123 IP, 127 H, 2.85 ERA, 2.3 BB/9, 7.2 K/9 | Keeping AAA hitters in check is a difficult task for any pitcher, regardless of age. Blackburn is 22 years old and the owner of a PCL ERA crown. He transformed his body over the winter, and the results were obvious as he dominated down the stretch. His fastball won’t ever blow up a radar gun, but his ability to mix speeds and locate his pitches has played at every level in the minors. His next test is a MLB tryout.

RP: Jake Smith, San Jose – 84.1 IP, 50 H, 2.35 ERA, 16 SV, 2.2 BB/9, 12.6 K/9 | Smith was one of the Cal League leaders in strikeouts despite pitching out of the bullpen the entire season. From start to finish, he was a major contributor to a dominant Giants relief corps that made it all the way to the CAL Championship Series. The MLB draft was cut down to 40 rounds a few years ago; Smith was a 48th round selection in 2011. Don’t let that fool you… this guy has a big league arm.

RP: Josh Osich, Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (minors) 41 IP, 26 H, 1.32 ERA, 21 SV, 2.6 BB/9, 9.0 K/9 | (majors) 23.2 IP, 18 H, 1.90 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 9.1 K/9 | Osich’s stuff returned to form this season, and the Giants have reaped the benefits. With Jeremy Affeldt’s contract expiring this winter, Osich might be looking at a full-time MLB job next spring. When he’s right, he’s one of the most electric arms in the bullpen.

Chase Johnson Deals for San Jose

Tim Hudson and Andrew Susac were supposed to be the main attractions last night at San Jose Municipal Stadium. Turns out a Giants prospect was ready to steal the show. Huddy made his first rehab appearance, allowing only one hit and striking out two over a clean 2.2 shutout innings. Susac spent the whole night behind the dish and went 2-4 with a HR at the plate. In reality, it was a good night for both rehabbing big leaguers. But Chase Johnson, who would have been the regular starting pitcher, entered the game in the 4th and had easily the most dominant pitching performance by a Giants farmhand this season.

During his 6 innings of relief last night, Johnson allowed only 3 hits, walked one batter, and kept Lancaster off the bases with 14 strikeouts! This from a guy who had never struck out more than 9 in his professional career. Just a week after profiling another “Johnson” in the San Jose rotation (newbie right-hander Jordan), Chase Johnson’s already rising stock now appears to be soaring.

Remember, Chase was the Giants 3rd round pick in 2013. He was essentially a money-saving pick who signed under slot and allowed some flexibility for the two prep hitters drafted before him, Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones. At the time of the draft, Johnson was a little used reliever at Cal Poly who could run his fastball up to 97 in short spurts. He started some during his freshman season, was moved to full-time closer as a sophomore, and ultimately lost the job (for unknown reasons) to Reed Reiley during his final year in college. He made only 15 appearances as a junior, but the Giants love their hard-throwing college relievers, and were all over him that June. I profiled him that summer as he was transitioned immediately into a starting role in the organization.

Later that summer (2013), then Baseball Prospectus writer Jason Cole posted some video of Johnson in an instructional league game that caught my eye. This was an eye-opener for me, as Chase showed a solid low-90’s fastball, a diving curve and a pretty good changeup. When Baseball America named him a top 10 prospect in the Northwest League that summer, it became pretty apparent that there was some real potential in that right arm.

After an inconsistent season as a full-time starter in Augusta last year (110 IP, 4.57, 40 BB, 94 K), Johnson has flourished in San Jose in 2015. One thing he’s been able to do his entire professional career is induce groundballs, which he’s done this season to a (career low, but still impressive) tune of 1.61 groundout to air out rate per Now, he’s combining the ability to get those grounders with an overpowering mid-90’s fastball. The same guy who was topping out at 94 or 95 as a starter is now running his heater up to 97-98 at times, and has been doing it nearly all season for the Giants.

Over his last 10 outings – including last night’s relief appearance – Johnson is 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA over 56.1 innings. He owns a 63/18 K/BB rate during that span. For the season, his K/9 is now at an even 9.0 (111 K in 111 IP). His ERA has been dwindling all year, and is now down to 2.43. He’s also not allowing many baserunners, as his WHIP has crept down to 1.16. For a guy who just made it into the’s recently-released Giants top 30 prospects list, I think there’s serious some re-evaluating going on here.For me, Johnson is clearly a top 10 prospect in the organization at this point.

Baseball is a funny game. Sometimes the guys who get all the press don’t show the results, while the guys with the results don’t get near the amount of press. Chase Johnson has shown the stuff this year; It’s about time he starts getting the press.

Prospect Watch: A New Arm to Follow

Madison Bumgarner is being enshrined into the Augusta Greenjackets Hall of Fame. MadBum absolutely demolished the South Atlantic League (SALLY) as a flame-throwing 19 year old in 2008. It was that dude, and that performance, which I credit today for hooking me on minor league baseball and prospecting. Before Bumgarner, I literally had never seen a minor league boxscore.

That was seven summers ago, and I’ve been checking MiLB’s boxscores nearly every day since. Since starting this blog, I’ve watched countless video of Giants prospects, whether through Youtube or more recently. Prospecting is a lot of Google searching, scouring the comments section of websites, and digging up old reports and profiles that 98% of baseball fans could care less about. But for me these days (thanks to a weak internet connection), it’s still mostly checking boxscores.

Yes, sifting through boxscores can feel a little tedious after a while. But the longer you do it, the more you really start to understand what a “wow” performance really looks like. And with the amount of prospect information and scouting that’s available via Twitter these days, “scouting a boxscore” is taking on a bit more meaning.

All that being said, there’s a new name to follow in the organization.

Jordan Johnson is a right-handed pitcher the Giants selected in the 23rd round of last summer’s (2014) draft. I wrote an extensive review of that Gigantes class, and here’s what I had to say about Johnson at the time: “Pitchability righty who obviously had some sort of major injury that kept him out for nearly two full seasons. Originally from Elk Grove, drafted by the Rockies (42nd round) coming out of high school.”

Turns out that major injury was elbow-related, as he reportedly had Tommy John surgery. He returned for his junior season, but his season really wasn’t one that jumps out at you. 72.2 IP, 4.33 ERA, 15 BB and 39 K. So the Giants plucked him in the late rounds and gave him just 3 appearances in the AZL for the rest of the summer.

Jordan Johnson. Who is this guy?! Credit;

Jordan Johnson. Who is this guy?! Credit;

Sometime in the past calendar year, it appears that Johnson woke up one day and started throwing the best stuff of his life. The 21 year-old righty (who at 6-3, 175 I envision looking a bit like Matt Duffy on a mound) returned to the AZL where made 7 starts. He worked his pitch count up methodically with each new start, and peaked with a 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K outing on July 17. I don’t care who you are or when you were drafted, performances like that in professional ball make people take notice… and the organization did.

10 days later, Johnson is in Salem-Keizer where he’d make his one and only start. Just a few days after that, a spot opens up in the San Jose rotation with the trade of power arm Keury Mella, and guess who gets the first show? Jordan Johnson. Now, I’ve been following these things long enough to know that when the Giants return a college draftee to the AZL, it’s usually not a good thing. But when they jump the same player to the Cal League after only one game in short-season A-ball, that’s something worth taking notice of.

So what’s the deal with this Jordan Johnson? Well, he went out in his San Jose debut and was pretty dominant against Modesto. 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K. Yeah, I’d say that’s how you want to show up and announce your presence. When you combine all three of his stops this summer, you’ve got a 2.12 ERA over 34 IP, with 46 K and only 2 BB. Dang!

This is all good and well, but anybody can have one great start in High-A ball. There’s got to me something more here, right? Well yes, there actually is. According to SJ broadcaster Joe Ritzo and independent Twitter scout Chris Kusiolek, Johnson was throwing some major cheddar in Modesto last night. He sat 93-96 most of the night and reportedly even touched 98. 98! Ritzo added that he was throwing a plus changeup as well, and retired 11 of the last 12 hitters he faced. Wait, this guy was drafted WHEN?! Apparently the Giants MiLB pitching coordinator (Bert Bradley I believe) was in attendance. I’d have to think Johnson left one heck of an impression.

Ok, it’s never a great idea to base your opinions on one performance, regardless of the level. Considering Jose Reyes, the last right-hander I got excited about this season, has racked up a 7+ ERA in San Jose since crushing the SALLY in the first month of the season, there’s certainly reason to take caution here. But Reyes is 24, had been in the org since 2010, and really hadn’t ever shown much. Johnson is 21 with much less professional experience. And again, he hucked a 98 mph fastball last night. All I know is, I’ve seen & heard enough to be very intrigued by this guy. Safe to say I’ll be tuning in the next time Jordan Johnson steps on a pitching mound.

Updating Joe Panik and Matt Duffy’s Scouting Grades

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while. It’s always interesting to look back on a player’s scouting reports, grades, etc. It’s downright fun to do it when those players are turning heads and surprising the heck out of people all over MLB. So what do you say we rethink those grades for Panik & Duffy, two of the sweetest-swinging young players in the Giants lineup?

Joe Panik has now played over a full season’s worth of games in his MLB career, hitting a cool .307/.361/.411 in 710 PA. This season he’s at .309/.374/.443 with 25 2B and 7 HR. His season K% is 9.9, BB% is 8.8. His 2015 season adjusted to 650 PA (per Baseball-Ref) is .309, 41 2B, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 61 BB & 70 K. Pretty nice, huh?

The Duff Man has played 124 career MLB games (coming into today), and has logged a .299/.337/.439 slash with 9 HR in those 412 PA. He’s played 3/4 of those games in 2015, hitting .304/.343/.462 with 17 2B and 9 HR. He walks 4.3% of the time, strikes out in 17.3%. His HR% this year is 2.6. He’s also literally one of the most valuable rookies in all of baseball this season, making folks forget about a certain Panda pretty darn quickly.

So, how did the scouting reports read before these two were breakout MLB players? Obviously there was a lot more information readily available for Panik, who was considered a potential supplemental pick in the 2011 draft. Reports on Duffy were pretty sparse before he torched the Eastern League last season. I did find some prospect grades though, which I have included with a few old quotes from this site and others around the web.


Giants Trade Mella & Duvall for Mike Leake

Mike Leake, your newest SF Giant.

Mike Leake, your newest SF Giant.

Just when we started to wonder if the Giants were going to fall silent at the deadline (amid lots of promising dialogue from Bobby Evans, Brian Sabean & even Bruce Bochy), the talks heated up quickly last night and landed them Reds righty Mike Leake. Here are a few thoughts on the deal.

I absolutely love this deal for the Giants. No, Leake is not Cole Hamels, who the Giants apparently made a strong push for. No, Leake is not David Price, who realistically probably had very little chance of becoming a Giant anyway. To me though, Leake is a guy to get excited about in his own right. He’s a 6 year MLB vet and he’s only 27. How many players can you say that about? Sure, he’s technically a rental player, but we’ve heard all about him growing up a Giants fan, and Baggs made it pretty apparent the Giants have wanted him for a while. If Leake has success over the next two months in San Francisco (I believe he will), it seems very realistic to me that he’ll be a Giant for the next 5 years.

I said last week this season reminded me of 2012 in that the Giants seemed a a piece short of having a very good club (they needed a hitter in 2012, starting pitcher this year). I suggested Jeff Samardzija, a solid player who’d never earned a long-term contract, as a possible trade-and-extend candidate. Turns out Mike Leake was the guy, and I’d love it if he decided to stay with us for a while.

A couple more notes on Leake. He’s a sinkerballer who should give the Giants gold-glove caliber infield plenty of opportunities to show off. His numbers don’t jump out at you at first glance, but you have to remember he’s spent his whole career in the most lively yard outside of Colorado. This season alone, he’s a 2.28 pitcher on the road, as opposed to 4.93 at home. Think he’s excited about coming to AT&T Park? He’s durable, he’s consistent, and he was good enough that he didn’t spend a SINGLE DAY in the minors. He was a top 10 pick and an absolute legend at Arizona State. Oh, and he can hit! Yeah, I guess you could say I’m excited to bring him in.

The Giants parted with Keury Mella and Adam Duvall, and I’ve seen some frustration about giving up Mella. As someone who’s followed (and really liked) Mella since his first days coming over from the DSL, I’ll give you my take. I think Mella is a solid prospect. If I hadn’t been so high on Kyle Crick last year, I would have rated Mella #1 in the system, just as did a few days ago.

To me, Mella is not the top prospect in this system at this point, despite what people read online. It’s obvious the Giants value Tyler Beede higher, and I wager they put guys like Christian Arroyo and Mac Williamson right up there as untouchable types for them as well. Would I have rather seen another pitcher dealt than Mella? Of course. Mella is an MLB arm. He always has been for me. But his delivery isn’t clean, he’s had some shoulder scares, and his results have been a bit inconsistent for someone with a 96 mph sinker in A-ball. I wish him well, but I can’t confidently project him as a pitcher who will have a better career than Mike Leake at this point.

A few people have suggested to me that Adam Duvall should have started for the Giants. I don’t see it that way. They definitely gave him an opportunity to show what he could do as a 3B (a very quick look, no doubt), but they decided he wasn’t fit to play the position. So he’s purely a 1B in their eyes. While he just may have more raw power than Brandon Belt, his defense and ability to put the ball in play certainly can’t match up to Belt. Personally, I’m surprised the Reds took Duvall in this deal, as they’ve already got franchise players at both infield corners.

If Duvall can find a way to get some playing time in Cincy, he should love hitting in that park. I saw his power firsthand just two nights ago, and it’s real. I would love to see him get a chance to DH for a rebuilding AL club, but for now he’ll try to catch on with the Reds. There were no plans for him in SF, so hopefully this move is better for him in the long run.

Again, I really love this deal for the Giants, who have made so many “ho-hum” deadline deals that have turned to gold in the past few years. Despite Leake not being in the same class as Price & Hamels, I think his impact on this club could be tremendous over the next couple months. I’m thrilled Evans bolstered the rotation, and I can’t wait for Leake to put the jersey on. Obviously I wish Mella and Duvall all the best.

Thanks for reading, and go Giants!


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