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! 

 

 

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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.

Waiting for the Imaginary Hot Streak

Gosh, I’ve been itching to write lately, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day right now. But I’m definitely having some baseball withdrawals, so it’s time to get a few thoughts out there. 

The Giants have really yanked us around this year, haven’t they? I’ve been thinking a lot about this season, and I’m beginning to wonder if we aren’t all just waiting around for some hot streak that isn’t coming. Am I the only one who feels this way?

There were signs of life from the offense today, and a sweet comeback on a day that looked all but lost. Hey, that wildcard spot is right there for the taking. Honestly though, I need to see so much more than a Saturday afternoon rally to make me believe in this club right now. The Giants haven’t won back to back home games since June 6-7. June 6-7! Ouch.

Look, a lot of things have gone against this club in 2014, just as they did in 2013. Injuries, slumps, what have you. But if this team fails to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season, it has to be time for some changes. If things continue down this path, I can think of a couple players who might be prime trade candidates this winter… If Sabean decides it’s time to explore that route. 

There are 40 games left for these guys to turn it around. That’s plenty of time to make a run. Will they? Not unless they show some more consistency. Morse’s bat finally seems to have awaken, and that could be a great sign. Mike absolutely carried this offense in April and May. Can he do that again?

On a very positive note, I love what I’m seeing from the kids right now. Joe Panik can play this game. Bochy should stick him in the 2 hole in the lineup tomorrow, and keep him there for the rest of the season. When the Giants were making their run in 2012, Pagan and Scutaro were a lethal combination at the top of the order. Between those two, the pitching staff had the luxury of working with early leads almost every night. What made Scutaro so special? Aside from him hitting at a .360 something clip, he was essentially an artist at the plate. He was nearly impossible to strike out, and he could split the infield gaps something fierce. Panik is in the midst of his first major league hot streak. He can hit, he can take a walk, and he should be the 2 hitter. It’s a small sample size, but I wonder what all those critics who questioned the Giants on draft day 2011 have to say about Mr. Panik now. 

There’s so much more to talk about, and I’d love to get into some minor league thoughts, but that’s is all I’ve got for tonight. Thank you to those who have been patient, both to me and Los Gigantes. Don’t forget that anything can happen over 40 games. Does this team have enough to push themselves to the finish? We shall see.

Joe Panik   

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Roster Moves in Waves

The Giants took one on the chin from the Bums last night, and likely have an uphill battle against Clayton Kershaw tonight. But that’s not the focus of this post. No, we’re gathered here today to play catchup after a busy 48 hours for the Giants 40-man roster. Sticking with the theme from my post last weekend, here’s a few thoughts on the latest moves… “quick hits” style.

First, the big one. The Giants traded for Jake Peavy this morning, sending Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree to Boston in exchange for the veteran righty. With Hector getting dinged last night, you knew a roster move was coming this morning. Without any clear DFA candidates on the 40-man, I wondered if some kind of deal might go down to free up some space. I checked Twitter about 10 minutes later, and the Giants were hot on the trade trail.

Peavy this year: 20 GS 124 IP 4.72 ERA 7.3 K/9 3.3 BB/9 20 HR. Obviously, this hasn’t been his best year. But go back to 2012 and you’ve got an All-Star who tossed 219 innings to the tune of a 3.37 ERA for the White Sox. He’s a 33 year-old former ace who’ll be a free agent at the end of the season. The Giants needed someone to take Matt Cain’s spot in the rotation, and Peavy fits the bill.

Thoughts on Hembree and Escobar: Some have said the Giants gave up too much. I honestly don’t see it that way. Both of these guys will be MLB arms at some point. No doubt about that. But I honestly don’t see either making a real impact in the majors. Esky lit the world on fire last year, but righties were absolutely pummeling him this year in the PCL. For a top prospect in the organization, his season was very alarming. Hembree’s stock has really cooled off in the past couple seasons. Admittedly, I wanted to see more of him. But you kind of got the sense the Giants didn’t see a ton of value in him anymore. I wish both of them well, but I think it was a pretty fair deal.

Do the Giants have one more trade in them this week? I think they do. Sounds like the Phillies were scouting Kyle Crick last night (career high 11 K). Are the Giants going to use Crick to try for Utley? I honestly don’t know how to feel about that one…

Other roster moves: yesterday was the 2B shuffle. Scutaro and Adrianza to the DL; Dan Uggla and Tony Abreu to the MLB club. Nick Noonan and Jose De Paula were DFA. The only issue I have here is with Abreu. Personally, I don’t see any reason for him to be on the roster, especially if Panik is healthy enough to play. I guess the front office didn’t have much else to pick from. Hopefully Adrianza can get his hamstring right and get back to the majors soon. He was starting to look pretty confident at the plate.

Saved the best for last here. Andrew Susac is headed to the Show, the second highly-rated pick from the 2011 draft to make his debut for the Giants this year (Joe Panik). I am obviously excited for him, but it’s hard not to be concerned about Hector Sanchez. Hector took a foul straight off the mast last night, and he’s on the 7-day concussion DL with Belt. The Giants can’t seem to catch a break lately, injury-wise. 

As for Susac, he’s hitting .268 with 10 HR in 213 AB for Fresno this year. He’s had two DL stints in 2014, and that’s been the big story of his career to this point. I love the kid’s bat. Hitting .311 against lefties this year… the best lefty in baseball happens to be on the hill tonight against the Giants, with another good one in Ryu to start tomorrow. How aggressive does the coaching staff get with Susac here? Either way, Susac’s promotion is an exciting time for northern CA and specifically the Sacramento area. Give ‘em hell, Andy!

Susac

 

Giants Mid-Season Top Prospects

Again, my apologies for not being timely or thorough with this project. Sometimes life just gets in the way! As promised though, here is the list I put together about a month ago, with a little blip on the players I wasn’t able to profile.

One note here: I didn’t want to change my original rankings from last month, but if I had to do it over, Mikey Edie (#23) and Steven Okert (#21) are two players who are making some serious cases for a higher ranking.

1. Kyle Crick, RHP, AA: Crick’s stock has plummeted in the eyes of some – not me. He’s young, healthy, and needs to continue logging innings. Best raw stuff in the system, but control is the big issue.  He has the slight edge over Beede for top prospect in the organization right now, but next year should help sort things out.

2. Tyler Beede, RHP, AZL: Beede’s signing was delayed because Vandy took down the College World Series. He’s a big, strong, power pitcher who got top 10 and even some top 5 draft consideration before conference play. He should start his pro career sometime this week, and like Crick will need to focus on his command.

3. Andrew Susac, C, AAA: Susac has again missed time due to multiple injuries, but he’s been red-hot offensively this month (.302, 4 HR in 43 AB) after struggling in June. He may never be the best defensive catcher in baseball, but recent reports say he is improving behind the dish. The Giants greatest offensive prospect will surely have his name come up in trade talks. Will the Giants bite?

4. Keury Mella, RHP, Low A: He was in my preseason top 10, with the potential to shoot up depending on how he performed in full-season ball. Well, shoot up he did. Through 12 starts, he logged a 3.93 ERA and 63K/13BB in 66 IP for Augusta. He struck out 10 on June 20, and hasn’t made an appearance since. According to beat writer David Lee (who has proclaimed himself the bus driver of the Mella bandwagon), Keury was sent to Arizona with an undisclosed injury. You hope that it isn’t an arm issue, but I’m worried that he won’t pitch again this year. Either way, he’s solidified himself as a top prospect in this organization in my book.

Video c/o Conner Penfold

5. Joe Panik, 2B, MLB: Posted a .321 average in 74 games with Fresno before getting the call all prospects dream of. He’s currently 13-61 (.213) in the big leagues, and has shown a solid glove and range at 2B. If the Giants can’t swing a deal for a major upgrade at the deadline, I believe Panik is capable of helping this club down the stretch. I still see a future as an everyday starter for a guy that took his knocks last year in AA.

6. Edwin Escobar, LHP, AAA: I struggled with this ranking, but Escobar just hasn’t produced the consistent results in Fresno this year I was hoping for. He’s been durable, throwing 105 innings in 19 starts. He hasn’t, however, been consistent. We’ve seen flashes of the pitcher he can be, but his .338 BAA and 15 HR allowed against righties really makes me question whether he’ll be a starter at the MLB level. He’s very young for AAA, but I’m sure the Giants would like to see some 2nd half adjustments.

Escobar Futures Game Article

7. Adalberto Mejia, LHP, AA: One of the youngest pitchers in the Eastern League has shown his age and inexperience this year. Like Escobar, the consistency just hasn’t been there for Mejia. His peripheral stats really aren’t far off his career averages, but a 5.52 ERA just isn’t going to cut it. The kid is big, durable, and left-handed though, so I’m sure he’ll get plenty of opportunities to succeed.

8. Clayton Blackburn, RHP, AA: Blackburn has struggled with injuries for the first time in his career this season, and finds himself back on the DL after making only two starts since his last bout with injury. Scouts knock his body and lack of a premium fastball, but my gut says he’s still got a future as an MLB starter ahead of him. Let’s hope he can get back on the mound again very soon.

9. Ty Blach, LHP, AA: While his younger rotation mates in Richmond have battled some demons this year, Blach has been a model of consistency (again). He’s currently got a 2.95 ERA through 18 starts, and his walk rates are impressive, albeit more than he posted in all of 2013. His low strikeout totals (63 in 97.2 IP) make you question whether his stuff will hold up at the highest levels, but I have a crazy feeling he’ll end up having the best career of anyone on that highly-touted Richmond staff.

10. Mac Williamson, RF, DL: Mac’s injury was the heartbreak of the year for me, as I was very excited to see how he hit in Richmond. He won’t play again this year after having Tommy John surgery, but he should be ready to roll by next spring, where he’ll be 24 in AA. He will likely always have high strikeout rates, but if the power and athleticism can play in the Eastern League, I think the Giants have a serious offensive prospect on their hands.

11. Kendry Flores, RHP, High A: Flores is one of my favorite arms in the organization. He had a rough time in his first couples months as a Cal-Leaguer, allowing 9 HR through 10 starts. For the last month and a half, however, he’s been flat-out dominant. Take out his ERA and here’s what you get for the season: 17 GS, 91.1 IP, 28 BB, 100 K. Couple that with the fact that he’s allowed only 4 ER in 3 July starts, and I think this guy is on track for a huge second half. Nobody’s talking about him, but they will be soon.

12. Aramis Garcia, C, AZL: Garcia was the Giants 2nd round pick in June, and he signed on the dotted line early last week. Admittedly, I’m not in love with this draft class (yet), but I did really like the Garcia pick. Coming from a smaller school like FIU, it’s certainly not a done deal that he’ll hit, but he has the potential to be a solid all-around catcher if he does. I’m envisioning less power but more batting average than Susac if things come together. Garcia should debut soon.

13. Derek Law, RHP, AA: In the year of Tommy John, Law was the big pitcher to go down in the Giants system. He was having a solid season as the closer in Richmond before coming off the mound with forearm tightness on June 8. We know this kid has the stuff to be a late-inning reliever in the majors, but we’ll have to be patient over the next year while he works his way back from surgery.

14. Matt Duffy, SS, AA: Duffy is a gamer, and I had an incredibly hard time not ranking him higher than this. The guy is hitting .344/.411/.453 as a 23 year old in his first season at AA. How is nobody talking about him?! Well, I can tell you we’re talking about him around here. This guy hits everywhere he goes, and he’s 20/23 stealing bases this year on top of it. I’m not sure if it’ll happen, but I’d love to see Duffy in Fresno by season’s end.

15. Adam Duvall, 3B, AAA: He’s on his way back to the Show with Belt hitting the DL, and is hitting .302 with 26 HR for the season in Fresno. Duvall has already shown he can take an MLB pitcher deep. Can he do it consistently? This might be a great time to find out. As much as I love what he’s doing offensively, I’m not sure his defensive skills will ever allow him to be an NL regular. For that reason, I can see him being included in a trade this summer, as his value may never be higher than it is now.

16. Luis Ysla, LHP, Low A: Ysla is a name you likely won’t see on other lists, but he’s one of the most underrated prospects in the system in my book. The Giants signed him for dirt cheap out of Venezuela at the age of 19, and he’s been nothing but impressive since debuting last summer in Arizona. This year, he’s survived some bouts of wildness while anchoring a pretty good Augusta rotation. The now 21 year old southpaw can run his fastball up to 96, and he truly does have the stuff to pitch in the big leagues. Whether he can refine his secondary offerings and hone in his control will likely determine whether he’ll be a starter at the higher levels.

17. Christian Arroyo, 2B/SS, Short Season A: Arroyo has had a tough first season as a pro, and this ranking reflects those struggles. He was moved off of shortstop in Augusta in favor of Ryder Jones from day 1, and I truly think that had a greater effect on him offensively than most realize. Arroyo just wasn’t really able to find a rhythm offensively, although David Lee reported that he was squaring up the ball quite frequently. He suffered a thumb injury and was eventually re-assigned to Salem-Keizer, where he’s been playing SS and hitting well. He’ll get another shot in the SALLY next year, but for now I’m being cautious with the kid.

18. Ryder Jones, SS/3B, Low A: Jones has done what Arroyo wasn’t able to this year, staying healthy and in the Augusta lineup. He is, however, struggling mightily at the dish right now, hitting only .103 in his last 10 games and .095 for the month. David Lee had a nice writeup on Jones recently, reminding all of us just how much of a grind it can be for a high school draftee in his first full year of pro ball. He’s got 7 HR on the year (he hit 5 in May alone), but the errors have been piling up lately as well. Obviously, it’s much too early to determine what the Giants have in either Jones or Arroyo.

19. Chris Stratton, RHP, High A

20. Joan Gregorio, RHP, Low A

No’s 21-25No’s 26-30

HM HittersHM Pitchers

 

Post-Break Jottings

Howdy, folks. It’s been a little hectic around here lately, between the move from Montana to the Golden State and settling into a new career. We’re well overdue for a check-in, so I thought I’d offer up a few thoughts about Los Gigantes. This will be more of a “quick-hits” type post than lengthy paragraphs. Sometimes it’s just easier to get everything out that way.

First, an admission on the mid-season prospect rankings: It seems I bit off way more than I could chew this time around. My apologies for not being timely, but I am planning to release my overall list (hopefully with a couple thoughts on each player) very soon.

Another screw-up on my part: I nearly bought tickets for last Sunday’s game before talking myself out of it (the seats were rather expensive… people must love their bobble-heads). My cousin and his wife were there. They got to see history, and we missed out. But I look at it this way. I’ll probably never get to see something like that again, but neither will he, or you, or anyone else! Either way, huge win heading into the break.

Props to the Giants for starting the “2nd half” off right. Friday’s win was a thing of beauty. Saturday was methodical. A sweep was there for the taking today, but 2 of 3 in Miami this time of year works just fine for me. The G’s played great ball this weekend. 

Injury updates: Pagan’s out through the All-Star break now, and Belt is back on the DL with a concussion stemming from a fluke accident in warm-ups. Get healthy, Belter. For the meantime, Adam Duvall is headed back to the bigs. The kid has been confident with the bat since returning to Fresno, and I’d play him every day while he’s up. 

It’s great to have Scutaro back on the squad! Personally, I’d save him for pinch-hit opportunities in September, when the division is really on the line. Don’t burn that back out in July!

Some trade news: The big names swirling around are Zobrist and Utley, while there hasn’t been much talk about Dan Murphy. As of this weekend, Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Aviles are Giants targets. I think Aviles is a great fit, and the type of under-valued player that Sabean usually looks for this time of year. I still really like Zobrist… and I don’t believe the David Price rumors for a second.

Roster issues: Whether or not Sabean lands a big fish, it’s time to add some depth to this club. Injuries have hit, and the role players just aren’t pulling their weight. I don’t see the point in having both Arias and Adrianza on this team. Adrianza is younger, cheaper, and likely has more potential. No hard feelings, but I’d like to see Arias replaced. 

We also seem to be in 2013 mode with Pagan out and Blanco seeing most of the playing time in CF. What should be done about that? Does Colvin get more time out there… Does Pence move to center… do the Giants try Gary Brown as a RHH platoon partner? I was ridiculed for this on Twitter last week, but the Cubs are a team willing to part with just about anyone not in their future plans. A guy like Ruggiano could probably be had for pretty cheap. Would Bonafacio be worth a look? There has to be something better than watching Blanco struggle offensively every game.

Lastly, the Giants are in a wonderful position right now. Remember, baseball isn’t a sprint. This baby is a marathon. Tune out the negativity, and glance at the standings. It’s going to be a true fight to the finish with LA, and I’m looking forward to it. 

Mid-Season Prospects: #19

19. Chris Stratton, RHP, San Jose (High A)

2014: 16 GS, 87.1 IP, 4.95, 88 H, 35 BB, 92 K

You might see this ranking and wonder how a credible blogger could drop a 1st round pick (and Baseball America’s #3 Giants prospect) almost out of the organization’s top 20. But Stratton has just been too inconsistent for my liking since he turned pro, and I really feel every player I have ranked above him has a great case to be there.

So, what’s the deal with this guy, who the Giants were thrilled to draft 20th overall just a couple summers ago? Honestly, I don’t know, because I’ve never seen him pitch in person. But I have a pretty good idea, based on the reports that are out there. Stratton peaked during his junior year at Mississippi State, and entered the draft as a power arm, pairing a plus slider with a FB that hit 95 most outings. But that velocity seems to have dropped off pretty significantly since he entered the organization. More often than not, you hear/read about him working more 87-91 with his FB. His slider is still a strikeout pitch, as you can see by his increased K rate this year in the Cal League. But with that kind of velocity, he has to really show great command, which he hasn’t in his career thus far. As painful as this is to say, if you throw his SEC and 1st round pedigree out the window, and evaluate him solely for what he’s done the past couple years, he really doesn’t look like a top prospect.

I’ll say this about Stratton: he’s pitched much better in spurts lately. 5 of his last 10 outings have been quality starts, and he’s got 22 K in his last 3 starts (15.1 IP). He’s shown some flashes of the dominant pitcher the Giants were hoping for. He was even clocked up to 93 in his most recent start, which is another positive sign. If he can make strides in his command, the Giants will give him every opportunity to make it to the big leagues in a couple years. The problem is, he’s almost 24 years old in High A. For me, everything adds up to a player whose prospect status has really slipped.

(Video c/o Conner Penfold)

Mid-Season Prospects: #20

20. Joan Gregorio, RHP, Augusta (A)

2014: SJ – 6 G (5 GS), 22.2 IP, 6.75, 27 H, 13 BB, 27 K
2014: AUG – 4 G (3 GS), 14.2 IP, 4.30, 8 H, 2 BB, 14 K

Gregorio is a lanky 6-ft-7 righty with a ton of upside who’s taken a step backward in 2014. Like many of his rotation mates in San Jose, he just hasn’t performed up to expectations this year. In fact, Gregorio was actually reassigned to Augusta after returning from an early-season injury. Really, for someone who showed great durability on the mound in his first 3 summers with the organization, he’s had a tough time staying healthy in his 1+ full-season campaigns. But it’s not just injuries that have hurt his stock this year. He walked 13 batters in 22.2 IP with San Jose, which is pretty eye-opening for a guy who allowed only 17 BB all of 2013. As is the case with any tall pitcher, you have to wonder whether he lost feel for his arm slot. That is my best guess at this point.

He throws a fastball that can reach mid-90’s when it’s on, and his go-to secondary pitch is his changeup. Greogorio was dominant in stretches for Augusta last year, and his 11 K performance (5.2 IP) for San Jose in April told me he definitely still has the stuff. Right now, he’s got to take a step back and try to regain that stuff, as well as his confidence. Hopefully he can work his way back to the Cal League before the season ends. He’s got easy velocity and a solid 3-pitch mix, and I could still see him making the bigs as a reliever if his body and mechanics don’t hold up as a starter.

(Video c/o Conner Penfold)

 

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