Reviewing the 2015 Cove Chatter 100 (#50-41)

We’re going through a bit of downtime in the “hot stove” department, so why not take a look at my successes and downfalls from last offseason’s Cove Chatter 100 prospects list. Just a note, the original list can be found here.

For some reason, the “bottom 50” honorable mention links aren’t working right now, so I can only review the top 50. There is one name outside the top 50 that really stands out to me, so much so that I even remember the exact ranking I gave him.

#83: Chris Heston, RHP – I’m always learning lessons in this prospect evaluation business. I don’t think there was any way before spring training (even during spring training?) of predicting Heston’s impact on the MLB team last season. It was definitely apparent in March that he’d taken a big step forward, but the lesson here is any player who makes the Majors at all should probably be considered a top 50 prospect from here on out. Lesson learned. Status: Graduated

#50: Kelby Tomlinson, 2B – Mechanical adjustments to his swing may have saved Tomlinson’s career. In one summer, he went from a fringe-prospect with elite speed to a legitimate MLB second baseman. I’m glad I found a spot for him! Status: Graduated

#49: Hunter Cole, OF – Surprise later-round signing from the 2015 draft had a breakout offensive season for San Jose & Richmond. The college 3B was shifted to a corner OF spot. He doesn’t offer big power at the moment, but seems to have that Giants ability to put bat to ball going for him. Status: Stock Up

#48:  Martin Agosta, RHP – Former 2nd round logged 100 IP for the first time in his injury-riddled career. His K and BB rates were excellent in San Jose, but he had trouble limiting runs in the hitter-friendly Cal League. Status: Stock slightly up

#47: Josh Osich, LHP – The big, hard-throwing southpaw shook off two injured/inconsistent seasons at AA in a big way. A year later, Osich & his 98 mph fastball appear to have a job in Bruce Bochy’s bullpen all but secured. Stock: Graduated

#46: Chase Johnson, RHP – One of the biggest risers in the system, right here. Johnson’s second full season starting saw him holding his mid-90’s velocity late in games. He made it to AA late in the year, and now looks like one of the top arms in the organization. Status: Stock way up

#45: Sam Coonrod, RHP – Like Johnson before him, the Giants converted Coonrod from college closer duties to a starter’s role in Augusta. His numbers were consistent all season, but scouts and opposing managers were blown away by his high-90’s fastball. MLB Pipeline ranked him #5 in the system, and SAL managers voted him Pitcher of the Year. Stock: Way up

#44: Chuckie Jones, OF – Former toolsy prep draftee returned from a 50-game suspension, spent the second part of the year in Augusta, and voluntarily retired at season’s end. Status: Retired

#43: Byron Murray, OF –  Young Bahamas native is a project, but his tools intrigue me. I’ll probably rank him around #50 again this winter. Status: Stock stable

#42: Jonah Arenado, 3B – The Giants challenged him with a full-time job in Augusta, where he held his own despite suffering through a few lengthy slumps. He should be ticketed to replace Ryder Jones at 3B in San Jose, but I wonder if he’s not a 1B long-term. Status: Stock stable

#41: Dylan Brooks, RHP – 6-ft-7 Canadian righty was suspended 50 games for a “drug of abuse” before spending his second summer in Arizona. His numbers aren’t bad, but it’s time to see if he can succeed above rookie ball. Status: Stock stable

Thoughts: Comapre #’s 41-44 with 45-50. Holy smokes, that back-end group looks more like a top 10 list at this point! It just goes to show, no matter how much time you spend watching and researching these guys, prospects ALWAYS surprise you.

I’ll try to keep working on these throughout the month, as well as the roster series… so stay tuned. Thanks for reading!

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

The offseason positional group series continues to the outfield, where there’s sure been a lot of chatter going on lately. How will things shake out? Everyone has an opinion, and I’ll give you mine in due time. But first, let’s take a look at the five guys on the current 40-man.

40-Man Returnees

Hunter Pence: RF, Age 32 – Baseball is such a tough game to predict. Pence played in 52 games last season… who saw that coming? He probably wasn’t going to play every inning of every game forever, but his absence made it rough sledding on the Giants in 2015. Despite that, I feel very good saying Pence will be back with a vengeance next year. Freak injuries happen, but the way he trains, he’s just not the kind of athlete you can keep down for long.

There seems to be a sense of urgency for the Giants to fill LF with a premier name this winter. Personally, I think a lot of people are forgetting the Giants had one of the best lineups in the NL despite Pence missing 100+ games. He’s the heart and soul of the club, he’s got 3 more years on his contract (earning $18.5M per through 2018), and getting him back on the field in 2016 should only improve this team.

Angel Pagan: CF, Age 34 – Pagan played in more than 100 games for the first time since 2012 (his first year after the trade), but his nagging injuries made 2015 easily his poorest season in orange and black. Are the Giants planning to replace him this winter? The local media sure seem to be giving off that impression, although the organization has given no recent indication those rumors are true.

Pagan is in the last year of his contract, and this might sound odd, but I’m not sure how well he fits in with the club anymore. He was basically only healthy for the first and last months of the season (and his numbers certainly show it), but it was pretty clear for most of the summer that Nori Aoki was a superior leadoff hitter, while Gregor Blanco was the better option in CF.

What the Giants plan to do with Pagan, I’m not exactly sure at this time. They obviously know he can be an impact player when he’s healthy, but I’d be surprised if they don’t at least bring in someone to provide more insurance for when he goes down again next year (as we all know he likely will at some point). At this point, CF seems like a much greater concern for me than LF… but we’ll get to that shortly.

Gregor Blanco: LF/CF, Age 31 (turns 32 in December) – Blanco’s 4th year with the Giants was his 4th valuable one with the club, though even he couldn’t avoid the late-season concussion bug that plagued the lineup. Despite missing time in June and eventually being shutdown in September for recurring symptoms, this may have been Blanco’s best season in San Francisco. By all accounts, he was the best CF on the team for most of the year, both offensively and defensively.

Blanco’s most production actually came out of the leadoff spot – where he hit .341 in 22 games started – putting to bed the idea that he can’t handle the #1 spot in the order. He’ll make just shy of $4M in 2016, his last contracted year with the team. Whether he’ll hit .290 again (career .262 average) remains to be seen, but there should be little doubt that he’ll find his 300+ plate appearances again. If he and Pagan are both on the roster again next spring, and there’s no other direct competition for CF, I have no doubt that Blanco will again be the super-utility OF. That will surely upset some folks, but at this point I don’t see Bobby Evans and crew changing their standpoint on the subject.

Jarrett Parker: OF, Age 26 (turns 27 in January) – What a year for Parker, huh? The guy who repeated both High-A and AA while playing in the shadows of Gary Brown for 4 seasons finally got his chance to shine in 2015, and he made the most of it.

I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t see any real future in the bigs for Parker during his first call-up last summer. He went back to Sacramento, however, where he proceeded to tear up the PCL before putting on a September power display with the Giants. His 3-homer game in Oakland was a pretty awesome moment in an otherwise somber final month, and there’s little doubt he made a strong impression on Bochy and the coaching staff.

Parker has always been a 3-true-outcomes type hitter (primarily homeruns, walks and strikeouts), but it was still pretty shocking to see him club 6 big flies in two weeks at the MLB level. Whether he can carry that momentum into the spring and earn a 25-man job remains to be seen at this point, but his power potential and athleticism (he can play a little center) should eventually make him an attractive bench option at the least. Can he earn a greater role in 2016? I won’t call it likely, but it certainly wouldn’t baffle me either.

Mac Williamson: LF, Age 25 – Every good blogger should make a bold prediction, right? Here’s mine: Mac Williamson will be the Giants primary LF for most of 2016. “But the Giants are rumored after Cespedes and Upton!” Personally, I’m not buying it. Do I think Evans will bring someone in to hold the job temporarily like he did with McGehee last year? Sure, and to be honest that’s why I was surprised they declined Aoki’s option. However, I do NOT envision a longterm signing for a LF this winter, next winter, or the next for that matter.

Parker may have left the greater impression at the MLB level this summer, but Mac’s .370 average (with a 1:1 BB/K ratio to boot) in the AFL certainly opened some eyes around the baseball community. That league was littered with guys blowing 95+ (Ray Black!)… the knock on Mac has always been that he wouldn’t make enough contact, yet he’s a near .300 lifetime hitter in the minors. Now the knock is his swing is too flat… that’s bogus, in my humble opinion.

I love this guy’s game. He’s big, strong, athletic, and powerful. Whether he starts the season on the 25-man, I can’t say (though a Duffy-like spring surge could sure force the organization’s hand). But I do believe he’s the future in LF, and I believe the front office’s strategy this winter will match that belief.

Departed from the Organization

Marlon Byrd – $8M was probably a tad too expensive, but Byrd sure made some fans in the organization last summer (he made a fan out of me too). When the team was decimated by injuries, Byrd’s bat really helped them hang around a little longer, and he wasn’t near as bad defensively as reports made him out to be. If it’s February and he hasn’t signed somewhere yet, I’m calling him to see if $5M would bring him back to SF.

Nori Aoki – As I said, a little surprising his option wasn’t picked up. Are the Giants saving that money for a big slugger? More likely they’ll try to use it to lure in Zack Greinke.

Alejandro De Aza – Not much to say here. You really could find worse bench options than De Aza, but it seems pretty unlikely Evans brings him back.

Free Agent Market

The Giants have an opening in LF and plenty of money to spend. Naturally, that connects them to big names like Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, and Alex Gordon. I really don’t buy those rumors. Pitching, pitching, pitching… that’s the priority. But Cespedes is a nice name to dream on for me, and Gordon’s defensive rep would seem to make for a nice fit at AT&T. I truly just don’t see a match here.

Speaking of matches… Ben Zobrist on a 2-year deal sure would tie the room together from this point of view. Problem is, Ben Zobrist isn’t getting a 2-year deal.

This isn’t going to earn me any points with the fanbase, but these are the free agents I think the Giants could have some realistic interest in (keeping in mind the greater need in CF at this point in my opinion): Denard Span (injury issues, doesn’t hit lefties, but a high contact guy who doesn’t strike out… I like him!); Austin Jackson (Boras client, young enough that he’ll likely get more money than the Giants want to spend, strikeout prone); Alex Rios (not sure how much he has to offer at this point, but the org. has had their eye on him before); Justin Ruggiano (reclamation project I’ve always liked); Daniel Nava (recent DFA, Bay Area native, switch hitter); and Drew Stubbs (athletic, usually hits lefties, probably strikes out too much).

The Giants have already signed Kyle Blanks, who if healthy should have the inside track at a roster spot (he’s rarely healthy… not even right now).

Trade Candidates

Evans has suggested the outfield trade market may be more favorable for them. Personally, I’m not seeing it… but you never really know who’s available until a trade goes down. If they want a CF, Billy Hamilton probably could be had for the right price. Baggs was pretty enamored with Cameron Maybin, who is now a Detroit Tiger, but I wasn’t too excited about that idea.

A few other names off the top of my head: Desmond Jennings (buy low), Jay Bruce (bigger ticket).

Two wild ideas for the road:

If the Giants are really looking to get into the Upton/Cespedes market, they could save themselves a couple years and some long term dollars and get similar offensive production by way of Matt Kemp (could he and Tyson Ross be pried away from rebuilding A.J. Preller’s Friars?).

Speaking of rebuilding, the Braves have some bad contracts they’d like toe give up. Nick Swisher is two years removed from his last decent season, he’ll make $15M next year… but could taking him off their hands help land Shelby Miller or Julio Teheran? Just something to consider.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to add your own ideas, or to fire away…

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

Hi everybody. Gosh, it’s been over a month since I started this series with a look at the 40-man catchers. I’m sorry for the hiatus. The sad truth is it’s just tough to find the time these days. Believe me though, my passion for this organization hasn’t ‘waned a bit. That was evident to me tonight when I scrolled down the official roster and saw this:

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 7.16.34 PM

Six infielders, all under 30, all homegrown success stories. Not one of these guys was acquired through trade, rule 5, or other. They were all drafted (Adrianza was signed IFA) and developed as Giants from the very start.

They now form one of the elite infield groups in the bigs, yet not a single one was hyped on draft day. Even Panik, highest drafted among them, was viewed as a first round reach. For someone who has followed this farm system so closely over the years, the success of this group is so rewarding. Let’s take a closer look at them.

As a quick side note, Nick Noonan and Kevin Frandsen have been removed from the 40-man since season’s end. That’s two more former promising Giants draftees, though neither had much of an impact on the club.

Brandon Crawford | Age 28: There’s no doubt B-Craw was a valuable player before 2015, but I think it’s also fair to say he was somewhat of a frustrating player as well. He’d make a highlight play, then turn around and botch a routine grounder. He’d make hard contact for a month straight, then go into a brutal offensive slump for 6 weeks. It always seemed like he was capable of more, and this year he became a star. If not for his September injury, Crawford had a legitimate shot at 25 HR. He’s absolutely deserving of a Gold Glove, as well as a long-term contract. I don’t think he gets the latter, however, and I don’t blame the Giants for waiting a year to see what he does. MLB Trade Rumors (who I defer to with this kind of information) projects him at $5.7M in arbitration this winter, and if he puts up anything close to this season’s 5.6 WAR in 2016, it’ll take some serious dough to get him locked up before his contract year.

Brandon Belt | Age 27: Belt came back from his injury-filled 2014 and settled in for a solid 2015 summer. He was an 18 HR, 3.9 WAR player in only 137 games, but his lingering concussion symptoms from the end of the season have some folks concerned heading into the winter. The guy really can’t seem to catch a break health-wise, so you just hope he can come back completely healthy from all this.

Belt still divides a lot of Gigantes fanatics, and I won’t say he’s my favorite player on the team… but this much I know: the Giants are a much better team with him than without him. If he’s healthy, it’s hard not to envision him topping the 20 HR threshold for the first time. He’s headed into what should be the prime years of his career, but I truly don’t know what his future holds at the moment. He’s got two years of team control left, and although it’s hard to see the organization letting him walk (or trading him!), there’s a few things standing in the way of him getting a long term extension at this point. The obvious elephant in the room is Posey’s potential move to first down the road (not a given in the next 4-5 years for me), but the more subtle barrier is the organization’s drafting of Chris Shaw, arguably the strongest power hitter in the 2015 draft class. Shaw led the short-season NWL in homers this summer and got a lot of positive reviews for his swing in fall instructs. It’s way too early to anoint him the incumbent at 1B, but the situation is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Joe Panik | Age 25: Panik’s sophomore slump took a vacation to the tune of a .312 average, 8 HR, nearly 1:1 BB/K ratio, Gold Glove defense, and a spot in the All-Star game. His lower back had something to say about it though, keeping him out of all but 15 second half games. Whether it’ll be an ongoing issue for him remains to be seen at this point, but at 25 you’d like to think to he’ll make a full recovery. Kelby T. was able to take a bit of the sting out of Panik’s absence, but there’s no doubt Joe’s got impact potential when he’s on the field. He’s been on an absolute offensive tear since the beginning of 2014 in AAA, but it’s easy to forget he was a sub-.260 hitter for Richmond in 2013. A lot of folks slapped a utility label on him that summer, an obvious oversight looking back. The Giants, they kept the faith, and they’re now seeing the player they hoped for when they “reached” in the first round four years ago.

Matt Duffy | Age 24: A 4.9 WAR player in his rookie year, the guy who made us forget about Pablo, and my favorite player in the organization? That’s a big hell yes, to all of the above. Everyone knows the story by now. Light-hitting infielder for Long Beach State, 18th round pick in 2012. He zooms through the minors; gets the call in 2014; helps win a ring; busts his butt in spring training; makes the club; eventually forces Casey McGehee out of a job. In the meantime, he took on a position at which he had no professional experience, learned it at the highest level, and gave tremendous at bats night…after night…after night. Oh, and he won the Willy Mac Award. All in a year’s work for the DuffMan. Now, the question becomes, can he do it again? The league is harsh, and it will adjust. Mark my words… so will Duffy.

Kelby Tomlinson | Age 25: Kelby was a 2011 draftee out of Texas Tech with little fanfare. He was a guy who could hold his own at shortstop and fly around the bases. But he wasn’t supposed to hit, and after posting a .357 average in the AZL that summer, he didn’t. His 2014 season in Richmond was an improvement, but .268 and 1 HR still wasn’t anything to put him on the prospect radar. A tweak in his swing last offseason changed all that, and he took the Eastern League by storm in 2015. Panik’s injury turned out to be an opportunity for Tomlinson to show what he could do. A month later, he’s got two nicknames and a big league gig. Word at the end of the season was he’d be tried out in CF in instructs, and apparently it didn’t go tremendously. I really have no idea whether he’ll see the position at all next year, but I do think his approach and speed will continue to force the organization’s hand. They’d be crazy not to at least give him regular reps in LF next spring, otherwise he’ll lose a ton of playing time as Panik’s backup at 2B.

Ehire Adrianza | Age 26: It’s crazy to think Adrianza’s been with the Giants for 10 years, and he’s only played just over 100 games at the MLB level. He was once considered a top 10 prospect in the system, dubbed a defensive wizard whose bat would always be in question. Personally, I think his defensive abilities have been a bit overplayed, while I don’t think he’s nearly as bad at the plate as he’s been made out to be. He’s one of the few players on the roster who can hold down SS on Crawford’s days off, and that to me gives him a guaranteed spot. The Giants have shown faith in Adrianza, and I believe he’ll reward them for it someday.

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.


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