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?

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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Speculating on Next Year’s Giants (Part 3)

I had to cut Part 2 a little short, so let’s start by finishing the conversation regarding the Giants’ LF situation for 2015. There is no doubt that every team in baseball who can afford him (and even some of those who can’t) will be bidding for Yasmani Tomas’ services. The Giants have gone down to the wire on Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo, but there were ultimately beat out on both occasions. Setting the highest bid for Tomas would be the wise thing to do in my opinion, but that certainly doesn’t mean it will happen. If the Giants do not feel Tomas is worth the money, or they are outbid, they’ll still likely need to add a player to at least platoon with Gregor Blanco in LF.

I’ve come up with a handful of other names that I’m putting on my official “watch list” for Brian Sabean in his pursuit of an OF this winter. I’ll preface this by saying I don’t think the organization will be bringing back Mike Morse, who despite his struggles played a very big role in leading this team to a 1st place start in the season’s early-going. So, if Sabes decides to hit he free agency market as he did with Morse last winter, I’ll say Nori Aoki and Chris Denorfia are possible targets. Aoki would cost a bit more, but he’d likely move Blanco back into a bench role. Denorfia would strictly be a platoon candidate, as would potential trade candidates Justin Ruggiano and Drew Stubbs. Both of those names came up quite a bit around the Giants blog world last year, and both of those guys hit LHP very well for their respective new teams. I would think that Sabean could swing a deal for either if he were so inclined.

Finally, I’ve got one other name on my mind. On the surface, he’s really not a great fit for the 2015 Giants, and I really see no reason why the Giants would look at acquiring him in a trade. But he plays for a team that has totally overhauled its outfield, and he’s one of my favorite scrappers in the league. Daniel Nava. Despite his age, I’d take Nava as my LF for a couple years.

So, there you go. My gut says the Giants will finally step up and make a big international splash by winning the rights for Yasmani Tomas. If they don’t, however, they’ll have to get a little creative to find productivity in LF… and they may also want to look a little harder at bringing back Pablo Sandoval.

Moving along. This post was supposed to be about my predicted bench for next year’s team. So here it is, along with a few potential 40-man guys in the minors who could/should be ready to help at some point during the season.

2015 Giants: Bench

C Andrew Susac (R) – Susac got absolutely no love from the national prospecting folks during his trek through the minors, but most of us around here knew he could be a special player. Well, I think I’m even more excited about his potential after seeing him play in the majors for the past couple months. With Buster as the team headliner, I’d be willing to bet the Giants will hear some very intriguing trade offers this year for Susac. They didn’t bite at the deadline, and they’d be crazy to bite now. They absolutely have to find playing time for this kid next year, and I have a sneaking hunch that he’ll force their hand sooner than later.

IF Joaquin Arias (R) – Signed a 2-year deal before the year, but still hit poorly enough to nearly earn a DFA by mid-season. I really think his recent surge saved his job, and there’s no reason to think the Giants won’t bring him back again next year. If Pablo leaves, he could be counted on even more. Personally, I’d like to see him in a reserve role, and nothing more.

IF Ehire Adrianza (S) - It’s easy to forget about Adrianza after his hammy essentially ruined his season, but he’s still very much in the mix for a roster spot next year. Between Crawford, Panik, Duffy and Adrianza, the Giants have a bit of a surplus of middle infielders all of a sudden. If the organization goes shopping for an OF this winter, I’d peg Adrianza as a guy who could be part of a deal. If not, he’ll battle Duffy for a utility spot, and his options situation could be the deciding factor on Opening Day.

OF Gregor Blanco (L) – Blanco takes a lot of heat, but he’s been great value for the Giants. If the Giants sign Tomas, he’ll return to the bench. If not, he’ll almost certainly form half of a platoon next year.

1B/LF Travis Ishikawa (L) – Just a complete shot in the dark here, but there’s really no way to predict the 25th man on the team. It could be a player who isn’t even in the org right now, but I’ll guess that Sabean and co. appreciate what Ishi has given them this fall.

AAA/AA Support

C Hector Sanchez (S) – Quite a few more questions than answers with Sanchez right now. Will he be healthy for next year? Will he catch again? Will the Giants trade him? Either way, I don’t think there’s any argument that Susac is the #2 guy at this point. Maybe the team decides to carry 3 catchers out of the gate… but I kind of see Hector as the odd man out at this point.

1B Adam Duvall (R) – A lot of people are talking about Duvall as an option at 3B if Pablo leaves. I don’t see the Giants putting him at the hot corner in a MLB game. You like the power, and injuries do happen, but I think he’s in Sacramento again for most of the year.

IF Matt Duffy (R) – Duffy is already proving that he can hang in the majors. He’s going to the AFL this year, where he may just open some more eyes. Do the Giants feel strongly enough to give him the starting 3B gig if Pablo leaves? My gut says no, and that he opens the year in AAA where he can play more consistently.

CF Daniel Carbonell (R) – The Giants need a backup plan for Angel Pagan, and I think they’ve found it in Carbonell. Talk about an underrated signing! In his first couple months as a pro, he’s already showing that he has impact potential. Future leadoff hitter and the heir apparent to Pagan in CF? I think there’s a shot, folks. He’s also going to the AFL. Will he stand out or be just another face in the crowd? Keep your fingers crossed!

That’s all for now. Let’s chat about next year’s rotation in Post 4. If you’re keeping up, thanks for reading!

Speculating on Next Year’s Giants (Part 2)

We looked at the 2015 Opening Day infield in Part 1. Now we’ll look at the outfield, complete with a major new addition roaming around Bonds’ old patch of sod…

Starting Outfield

RF Hunter Pence (R) – Not much to say here. Pence was one of Sabean’s greatest deadline deals with the Giants, and his contract is looking like the bargain of the 2013 offseason (Jose Abreu might have something to say about that, but we’ll get to him a little later). Pence needs to pick it up offensively if the Giants want to do anything in October, but generally speaking, he’s one of the best RF in baseball at the moment.

CF Angel Pagan (S) – Will Pagan ever stay healthy for a full season again? The team’s record when he plays vs when he’s out is incredible, and if they go one-and-done next week, Pagan’s absence will be a key factor. I expect him out there next April, but the organization needs a backup plan. Fortunately, I think they’ve got one in the making that we’ll discuss later.

LF Yasmani Tomas (R) – FA (8 yr-$95M) Here it is folks, here’s the splash you’re looking for. I believe most of the people who stop by this blog frequently are already up to speed on Tomas, but if you aren’t, here’s the study guide version: he’s the most recent Cuban defector, a 6-1, 240 pound outfielder with supposed 70-grade right-handed power. He wasn’t a superstar in Cuba, and there’s questions about his ability to make consistent contact. If you recall, there were similar questions about Jose Abreu last winter. Would he even hit .240? Would he be able to do anything but DH? Folks, the Giants were reportedly beaten out for Abreu because the White Sox offered one more year on the contract. How exactly would that .314/.379/.574 line and 35 big flies look in the Giants lineup right now?

If you’re staying current on the Cuban signees situation, Rusney Castillo is already making impact plays in Boston, and he signed less than two months ago! The guy literally hit a ball out of Fenway Park last night… like into the stadium parking lot. The Giants went right down to the wire on Castillo as well, but again just missed. The player they did sign, Daniel Carbonell, has already shown that he might just be a diamond in the rough, and I’m sure Sabean and staff will be watching Carbonell closely in fall instructs and the AFL next month.

What does all this mean for the Giants and Tomas? It means it’s time to step up and make something happen. Enough dabbling around in the waters. When you have the opportunity to land a 23 year old player with a chance to hit 20+ homers a year, you don’t get stingy with the checkbook. I think the Abreu and Castillo bidding wars have proven that, and the Giants are ready to go large for Tomas. If it takes 8 years and $100M, I still make the final bid. No, he’s not a proven commodity, and the Giants have historically shied away from such players. But I will pose this question to you: Do you think the Dodgers, White Sox and Red Sox are feeling bad about the respective long-term contracts they signed for Puig, Abreu and Castillo? Do you think the Yankees are kicking themselves for spending so much coin on Masahiro Tanaka? I don’t think so either. So, if I’m the man in charge, I thank Pablo Sandoval for everything he’s done for the organization, and I take my money to Cuba.

Gut feeling on this one, but I think the Giants are in the right place and the right time with Tomas.

In Part 3 of this series, I’ll take a look at the bench predictions for next year.

Speculating on Next Year’s Giants (Part 1)

Am I the only one who feels like the Giants have only won 5 games this month? Hopefully all the celebrating the other night loosened this team up a bit, but it really seems like they have no life as we head toward the only month that matters in this sport. While my gut tells me that losing Angel Pagan for the year is too much to overcome, my heart reminds me that this group has been up against the wall before. It’ll be a major uphill battle, but you can’t count these guys out until it truly is over. As a fan base, we are incredibly lucky to have our team headed back to the postseason. But it still just feels like they could have (maybe should have) done so much more this year.

With all of that being said, I’ve been playing around with ideas for the makeup of next year’s club, and I wanted to share some of those today. Obviously, a deep postseason run could really change what happens for this franchise in the offseason, as we’ve seen with both of the Giants World Series teams. However, I feel that I’ve put together a pretty reasonable squad, based on what I know about Brian Sabean’s style and the organization as a whole right now.

I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not much of a roster speculation kind of guy (or not usually confident enough to put it out there for the world to see). So whether you think I’m onto something or utterly wrong, I’d love to hear your feedback. Anyway, here’s my way too early prediction for the 2015 Giants (with some possible backup plans added in as well).

25-man Roster

C Buster Posey (R) – If Posey plays the final two games of the regular season (which aren’t likely), he’ll finish with 148 games played for the third straight year. He started 109 games behind the dish this year, and I’d be willing to wager the Giants will likely keep him around that total for next year as well. Buster is an absolute stud, and it would seem that he could be an easy .300-25-100 guy if he played 155 games a year at another position. But I will say there is almost no chance he plays even an inning at 3B next year.

1B Brandon Belt (L) - We all see Belt’s potential, and the guy was dealt a very bad break this year. If he’s healthy next season, there’s no reason he can’t be a productive everyday player. However, I don’t see Belt (at this point) as a guy who’s going to keep Posey from playing 20-30 games a year at 1B. Move him to left field? I don’t see the organization making that happen.

2B Joe Panik (L) – Panik is my second baseman all the way, and he should be yours as well. Want to see a young kid with a chance to hit .275-.300+ and provide solid defensive for the next 6 years? Here he is.

SS Brandon Crawford (L) – Crawford contributed almost nothing for the months of July and August, and I was calling for him to be replaced in the lineup. Shows how much I know, as he’s come back with a .379 mark in September. He hits at the very bottom of the order most nights, and he’s got nearly as many RBI as Sandoval. He’ll be arbitration-eligible next year, but I don’t think the team has any plans of moving him this winter (as I previously suggested this season).

3B Alberto Callaspo (S) – FA (2y-$10M) – Ok, let me have it folks. I admitted on Twitter last night that my projected 3B wasn’t at all a fancy name. So here’s the deal: Objectively speaking, I think the Giants want to bring Pablo back. They’ve given every indication that they’re going to try. They know the market is barren, and the internal options aren’t very realistic. But Sabean and his staff aren’t crazy, despite what the average fan might think. Pablo’s career just doesn’t add up to a 5-year, $100M (or more) deal. We all know it, and they know it. So I say they’ll drop the qualifying offer on him, offer 4-60 and hold tight. Baseball is a wealthy, wealthy sport, and 4-60 will not be enough for the Panda and his less-than-stellar agent. As of right now, I think he’s gone… but that could change depending on what next month looks like.

So, enter Callaspo, a free agent who could probably be had for relatively cheap. He’s 31, and he’s having a very below average offensive season in Oakland. However, he’s a switch hitter and a guy that knows how to handle the bat (he’s walked 322 times to only 331 strikeouts in his career). He hasn’t played a ton of 3B in the past couple years, but I don’t see him as a player who’d kill you at the position. The way I see it, Callaspo is a guy who’d be a solid signing if Pablo stays, as he could be a jack of all trades in the infield. If Pablo goes, there simply isn’t a long term answer out there. Not one the Giants are willing to dish out cash for. Could the org look at a platoon of Arias and someone like Matt Duffy? Sure, but that doesn’t really seem like their style to me. I’m not ruling out a trade for a guy like Casey McGehee in Chicago, but my money is still on a free agent stopgap type coming in to fill the role. Ideal? No. But my 2015 Giants are addressing the offense in other areas, and hoping to get league average production from the hot corner at this point.

I’d say this a great place to break. Part 2 will discuss next year’s starting outfield, as well as the bench. Thanks for reading.

Cove Chatter Top 50 Season Review (#50-45)

Looking back at the 2014 performances of my top 50 Giants prospects from last winter. While many of these guys wouldn’t make the top 50 next year, 7 of them ended up in the majors this year. In that light, I think I have to look at this season as a very positive one overall (especially when you consider the contributions of guys Joe Panik, Andrew Susac, Adam Duvall and Matt Duffy). We’ll hit on the first few tonight, then try to keep knocking them out over the next week or so.

50. Gustavo Cabrera – The potential 5-tool stud CF didn’t swing a bat this season, at least not that I know of. There have been absolutely no updates on his injury situation (he nearly cut his hand off last November) this year. Until we hear otherwise, I think he needs to be left off any prospect lists at this point.

49. Rando Moreno – Skinny middle infielder with a strong glove was given a mildly aggressive assignment to San Jose this year, but he simply couldn’t get going offensively. He was eventually sent back to Augusta, where he hit .197 with 1 HR. He did steal 26 bags this year, but the stock is definitely way down.

48. Chris Dominguez – The 27 year-old had a solid season for Fresno, including an impressive 21 HR/21 SB mark. The Giants added him to the 40-man roster this month and has made his MLB debut. His skillset (big power, big arm, defensive versatility) will always be intriguing, but this month could well be the only major league action he ever sees in a Giants’ uniform (even with Pablo potentially leaving this offseason).

47. Ian Gardeck – Hard-throwing righty began the season in San Jose and was eventually shut down (either for performance or injury issues). He spent some time with Salem-Keizer before returning to the Cal League for a handful of games at the end of the year. He’s got one of the harder fastballs in the system, but a 6.99 ERA and more walks than IP definitely don’t help his stock for next season.

46. Chris Marlowe – Marlowe was a 5th rounder from the Panik/Crick/Susac class of 2011, and he paired a pretty decent fastball with one of the better breaking balls in the system. He either retired or was released from the organization (maybe both?) before the season started.

45. Ricky Oropesa – Another high pick (3rd round) from 2011, he struggled offensively in his second go around with AA Richmond. Stock is way down after hitting .241 with 5 HR in 349 AB for the year.

Dominguez

(Dominguez: c/o sfgiantsphotos.mlblogs.com)

Saturday Showdown

Good morning folks. Sorry for the hiatus. Writing has been a challenge lately (obviously), but it’s also been killing me not to post something about this team, which has become one of the hottest clubs in all of baseball. Remember, I’m always active on Twitter, even when I don’t have the time to blog. I’ve added more tweets to the feed on the right-hand column of this page. If you’re ever curious about something, or just wanting to chat Giants baseball, please send me a message!

Here’s a 6-pack of topics for this Saturday morning:

1. The Dodgers were a national favorite to win the NL West this year, and many of the pundits picked them to represent the NL in the World Series as well. They are a solid club, no doubt, and one that will not be going away anytime soon. But time and time again, when these two bitter rivals get together, I am reminded why my loyalty stands with the team in orange and black. Clayton Kershaw is probably the only player in that entire organization who I respect, and even he is a little arrogant for my taste. Regardless of what the standings say (and it’s getting oh-so close), I’ll take Sabean, Bochy, Bumgarner, Posey and the rest of the Giants P’s over Colleti, Mattingly, Puig, Gonzalez, etc. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

2. Nothing like a Friday night showdown with the division on the line. Just a complete beatdown last night, and a great time for Brandon Crawford to (hopefully) get hot. I’ve talked previously about how Crawford could be a trade candidate. I still feel like he could net the Giants a decent haul, and 2B/SS is looking like somewhat of a surplus for the organization right now, but I’ll admit that it would be tough to part ways with a SS who has 9 HR and 62 RBI. You take out the batting average, and Craw has had a very nice season at the dish.

3. Last night sent a very strong message to LA and the rest of the baseball world, but it will still be incredibly difficult to earn a series win with Greinke and Kershaw taking the bump the next two days. The Giants can’t have a letdown this weekend after the big performance last night. If they have to play for one run, so be it. Do whatever it takes!

4. Blanco, Arias, and now Crawford are all riding hot streaks offensively right now. And how about Travis Ishikawa? The Giants continually go with what they know, and they have shown continued faith in every player on the 25-man roster. Most of us fans (myself included) would have sent Arias packing long ago. There were also loads of people who wanted Blanco out as well. I brought up Ishikawa’s name a couple months ago when he was hitting well for Fresno. I was ridiculed on Twitter for even mentioning him. It just goes to show, it’s a good thing that none of us are running the organization. Sabean, Evans, Bochy and the crew know exactly what they are doing… but they didn’t have to prove that to us, did they?

5. This team has absolutely come together, and I can’t help but think that Joe Panik’s month of August had a huge hand in saving the season. Yes, the Peavy trade has played a major role as well, but Panik has quite literally taken over the part of Marco Scutaro, circa 2012. You can’t strike him out, and he gives you a tremendous AB each time up. He’s been surprisingly strong in the infield too. Frankly, I haven’t seen a Giants rookie hitter make things look so easy since Buster in 2010. Before that, Pablo in 2008. Before that? Who knows… maybe Will Clark? Point is, Panik was written off by the majority of baseball after last season. Now, he’s helping carry this team to the postseason. Pretty cool for a guy with a ceiling of utility infielder, huh?

6. Minor league seasons are officially over, with Richmond being swept out of the EL championship series yesterday. The Squirrels got some solid pitching from Mejia, Blach, Stratton and company, but couldn’t get much going in the way of offense in the postseason. Great season for the AA club though, and I think they’ll be very good again next year. With a potential starting OF of Carbonell, Mac Williamson and Tyler Horan, there’s certainly a lot to look forward to.

One for the road: The Giants teased us all year long, but it’s really starting to look like this club has what it takes to go deep into the playoffs. The stars are stepping up, the rookies have been tremendous, and the role players are hot. If they can get Morse and Belt healthy, this could be a scary club heading into October. Let’s just say this: if I’m the rest of baseball, I don’t want to see the Giants in the postseason. I’m all in with this club, and I hope you are too.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday Morning 6-Pack

Here’s a 6-pack of Giants topics to get your weekend started on the right foot. Actually, the Giants already helped us get it started last night with easily one of their best wins of the year. 10 game win streaks? How about a 10-spot on the road?! It won’t get any easier today, but last night sure seemed like a statement victory from a team that really needed one. 

1. Joe Panik was never a “hyped” prospect. Not on the day he was drafted. Not when he hit over .340 in his first professional summer. Especially not when he struggled offensively in AA. And not when he caught fire at the dish in Fresno this summer. Joe Panik has 144 MLB plate appearances… and he’s a .316 hitter, with solid BB/K rates, 6 extra base hits, a fine infield glove/arm, and now a clutch 400+ foot home run. The pundits can keep their hype. I’ll take Panik for the next 5 years.

2. Andrew Susac, the pride of Roseville… owner of a big league, opposite field home run. He’s hitting .286 in 8 games this month. He’ll start today against Strasburg, but I believe he should be starting at least 3 times a week right now. Between Belt’s concussions and Posey’s “chronic hip injury,” it seems obvious to me that both of the catchers should be in the lineup as much as possible. Ishikawa has provided a nice little boost this week, but I’d put Posey at 1B for the next 5 games and not think twice about it.

3. Sticking with the roster/lineup theme here: Brandon Crawford is hitting .196 against RHP and .290 against lefties for the year. He owns a .179 average this month after posting a .173 mark in July. He made his 18th error on a routine grounder yesterday. So, I ask you, why is Matt Duffy sitting on the bench? Duffy could hit .175, I guarantee you that. But I think he, like Panik, could provide a little spark to the lineup right now. Just a thought.

4. On the farm: Speaking of Duffy… there seems to be another totally under-the-radar Giants prospect hitting his way onto the scene. If you visit Cove Chatter often, then Blake Miller isn’t a new name to you. But he might just be another draft win for the Giants. No, his .344 average in Richmond won’t last forever. But when anybody puts up the kind of numbers Miller has this year, let alone a 25th round pick, you have to take notice. He strikes out more than Duffy, and he’s a little older. But he’s also bigger and has more power, and for the last three months, all this kid has done is hit. Apparently he was the best hitter for Sac State as a true freshman. That’s before he transferred to D2 Western Oregon. He’s probably the kind of guy who will have to grind twice as hard all the way through, but the fact that he was called to replace Duffy in Richmond… and that he hasn’t missed a beat at the plate since, tells me the front office is taking notice.

5. Ray Black and his 100 mph heater are in San Jose now. I hope the Little Giants have a televised game soon, because I can’t wait to watch this guy pitch. 64 K in 31 IP… wow. San Jose is making a push for the playoffs, and the recent additions of Daniel Carbonell and Tyler Horan have really helped boost that lineup. Now Black and Jake Smith should bolster an already solid bullpen. The only person I feel bad for in this ordeal is Augusta’s David Lee, who no longer gets to watch the best fastball in the minors.  

6. Clayton Blackburn has his groove back. Last night, he followed up his 11-K masterpiece with a 9-K outing over 7 shutout innings. His last two starts look like this: 15 IP, 9 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 20 K. As excited as I was for Panik and Susac to reach Fresno (and the majors) this year, that’s how pumped up I am about Blackburn, Blach and likely Crick getting their shot in AAA next season. 

One for the Road: Salem-Keizer lost last night, but the Giants NWL club is still right in the thick of things in the second half. Having Keury Mella rehabbing on your club surely doesn’t hurt your cause, I’ll say that… and word on the street is Tyler Beede is Oregon-bound as well. But it’s that Volcano lineup that has me excited right now. Christian Arroyo, Aramis Garcia, Ryder Jones, Austin Slater, Dylan Davis, Skyler Ewing, Johneshwy Fargas, Hunter Cole… this team has very little offensive talent when the summer season started. Now they’re a powerhouse at the plate. The Giants have plucked some very underrated hitters from the last two drafts, and we’re seeing some nice early returns. The fact that most of these guys could end up together in San Jose next season is exciting. Frankly, I’ll be a bit irked if the organization doesn’t send Arroyo and Jones to the Cal League with these college bats. I’d keep this group together as long as I could.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend everyone! 

 

 

Minor League Quick Hits

The Giants farm system took a lot of heat in the offseason, and then didn’t exactly start the year on fire. Things have really turned around in the 2nd half, however. Here’s a few names, notes, and other talking points about the organization’s prospects.

1. The Giants supposedly can’t develop a hitter to save their lives. Yet Joe Panik, Adam Duvall, Andrew Susac and Matt Duffy are all major leaguers right now. Mark this down: You could start Susac, Panik and Duffy every game for the rest of the year, and I’d be willing to wager you’d have a competitive team. I LOVE what those guys are doing.

2. Clayton Blackburn put together the pitching performance of the year for the organization yesterday. 8 shutout innings, 3 H, no walks and 11 strikeouts. It’s outings like that in the upper minors which take a prospect’s status to the next level. Blackburn has been injured for a good portion of the season, so yesterday’s gem was a huge development.

3. More on Blackburn: I caught about 5 minutes of the start on MiLB tv. His breaking ball was dominant. What stood out most to me, however, was his body. He appears to be in much better shape (to my untrained eye) now than he was earlier in the year.

4. People should be, and soon likely will be talking about Cuban signee Daniel Carbonell. He’s got the chance to be a game-changer for this organization… speed, defense, and an impressive swing. Hopefully his early performance will motivate the front office to take a harder look at Cuban sensation Rusney Castillo – high price tag or not.

5. To the naked eye, the 2014 draft class doesn’t look like anything special. But it’s a group that is growing on me. Obviously, the success of the class hinges on Tyler Beede. But the Giants took some very interesting players with college picks (bats) Aramis Garcia, Austin Slater, Dylan Davis, Skyler Ewing, Hunter Cole and Richard Amion, and (arms) Sam Coonrod, Connor Kaden, Matt Gage, and Greg Brody. Some of those guys are off to pretty nice starts this summer. I think I’m most interested in the prep picks the organization made this year. Guys like Logan Webb and Stetson Woods, Byron Murray, Luis Lacen and Kevin Rivera. These aren’t the sexy names among the draft, but if one of them can develop into something, it will be a huge win for the farm system. Keep an eye on this class (and last year’s) going forward. 

6. With the Giants rather uncharacteristically promoting so many rookie hitters to the big leagues this season, I’ve been thinking a lot about prospect evaluation, specifically for this organization. As bloggers and fans, we often try to find that one magical statistic that separates the great minor leaguers from the average ones. Because, as we know, the majority of prospects in a system at any given time will never see a MLB clubhouse. Some people will argue that average is the all-important number to watch for hitters, while K rates are viewed as a major indicator for pitchers. But, in the Giants case, I’m starting to find that maybe the most important indicator to how the organization views its minor leaguers is service time.

What do I mean by this? Well, if you look at the 4 players (Duffy, Susac, Panik, Duvall) who the Giants have promoted and played at the MLB level this year, they all have a couple things in common. None of the 4 ever spent more than one season at a level, regardless of their performance that year (remember that Susac didn’t exactly light the world on fire in San Jose. Same for Panik last year in Richmond). Actually, Duffy is the outlier of this group, as he was promoted in-season to San Jose last year, and then aggressively assigned to Richmond for 2014. Long story short, we don’t see any players who repeated levels here. But most telling, in my opinion, is the time (or lack thereof) that each player spent in AAA. Think about it. Panik, Duvall and Susac were all in their first season with Fresno. Duffy had never even played in AAA before the Giants summoned him from Richmond. It’s becoming rather apparent to me that the Giants view their prospects’ performance in AA as the true indicator of whether they are ready to play in the majors. I know Brian Sabean mentioned something along the lines of this last winter when asked about Kyle Crick and the other AA arms, and it’s now looking very obvious at the moment – at least on the hitting side.

Matt Duffy

(The Duff Man: Mike Stobe, Getty Images)

I guess what I’m trying to say here is this: If you’re looking to evaluate a prospect (say for ranking purposes or general discussion), there are 3 things to look closely at. Did the player ever repeat a level? Was he ever promoted in-season? And maybe most importantly, has he spent more than one full season in Fresno. If you can answer yes to either the first or third questions, then odds are the Giants don’t view those players as future impact talent. And being promoted in-season? Well, that would certainly seem to indicate the organization’s feelings about a prospect, but it doesn’t always guarantee they’ll make the final jump. We have two very recent examples of that in Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree. Both of them were in-season promotion players, and guys who sped their way to AAA. But Hembree had already spent way too much time in Fresno to be considered a top prospect, and it was becoming clear that Escobar would not be a candidate for a promotion to the majors this year. So, by my estimation, neither player was viewed very highly by the organization… and that was proven to be true when Sabean dealt them for Jake Peavy. Want a good example of Sabes getting value for a prospect (or two) that he isn’t crazy about? There it is.

Wow. That turned out to be much, much more than just a “quick hit.” But I think it’s very relevant to what we talk about all the time on this blog, as well as others. If the Giants view a player as MLB impact caliber, they will nearly always promote him in his first season at AAA. If you have time, take a look at all of the players on the current 25-man (or DL) that the Giants developed… Posey, Sandoval, Belt, Crawford, Adrianza, Duffy, Susac, Duvall, Panik, Romo, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Cain… How much time did they play for Fresno? Hint: not much. So, much as it pains me to say it, it’s pretty clear at this point that Gary Brown doesn’t have a future with the organization. But you probably already knew that. 

Anyway, I hope you found this as interesting as I did. I’d been thinking about it for some time, and wanted to share my thoughts. If you take away anything, it’s this: don’t believe everything you read out there… the Giants CAN AND DO develop hitters! 

7. Last, but most definitely not least: I know I don’t have the biggest following out there, but I hope that I have earned enough credibility in the Giants’ prospecting world to make a recommendation. Most of you probably already know this, but if not, then you absolutely MUST make Giant Potential a daily stop on your list. In a year’s time (I know he’s had the site longer, but I’ve only been following for about a year), Conner Penfold has transformed this site into the most unbiased and comprehensive place for all things Giants prospects. There simply is no better site out there for daily coverage, video, etc. of the Giants farm. MLB Pipeline has upped its game in the past couple years, but in my opinion even they don’t hold a candle to what Conner is doing with his site. I’m lucky to consider him a pal in the Giants “blogosphere,” and I think it’s finally time to give him the credit he is due for the awesome work he’s been doing. I sure enjoy following along, and I hope all of you will as well.

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