Sunday, March 30, 2014

State Of The Gigantes As 2014 Takes The Bump

ST ends with a wimper, Bay Bridge series is rained out.  Timmy takes a ball off that rubber band body of his, ends up OK the day before.  Lincecum is a horse.  The question is will he adjust and keep his head in the game?  That's the season right there.  A return to even half form from Timmy and the Giants are in good shape.  If its bidness as usual like 2012-13, and its a pretty muddy situation.  That was the big gamble they took.

Brian Sabean's talk about "windows" at the end of last season was a tad obscure, and his talk of re-setting was belied immediately by basically getting the band back together, replacing Zito with Hudson and then adding Michael Morse at the insistence of Mean Bruce Bochy.  That's the offseason?  Well, as I often say with the Giants, if you can point a specific example to criticize and present a viable choice that was on the table, then you're allowed to bitch about it.  Most decisions do not have clear choices.

I think the one aspect they had a chance to improve was to backup Sandoval and Scutaro, and I thought it was an important move to do.

Here's one I have: the Giants flirted with Omar Infante, possibly dangling the LF job to him.  It might have become "too rich"- the Royals have him on a 4/30MM contract with an option/buyout.  That is ages 32-35.  Infante can play all over the field, generally gives you a good at bat as a high contact hitter.  Having him instead of Morse would make Scutaro coverage a easier to handle, you miss out on possible power surges but you don't have to sweat the defense.

Any talk of money is ridiculous.  The Giants have the richest owner in MLB.  They are among the most valuable franchises.  They are swimming in sell outs, merchandising that is among the tops in the game, and have one of the most rabid fanbases in MLB.  They consistently squeeze money out of season ticket holders.  They need to put the best product on the field.  A contract like Infante is a drop in the bucket.  

A jack of all trades guy is a great thing.  The Giants offense will miss Scutaro's bat.  But there is an advantage here, every replacement brings better defense to the table.  Ehire Adrianza could be in the "plus" level of defending, Arias is adequate at 2B/SS and good at 3B, and Brandon Hicks is a good defender as well.  The bat is where the question lies.  And apparently Bruce Bochy wants more offense on the field, he's talked about platooning Brandon Crawford some against lefties.  This isn't anything new, but I always watch what Bochy does, not what he says.  Between stumping for Morse and this talk, it appears Bochy might be on an offensive kick.

The bullpen: get 100% Jeremy Affeldt, because your talents are needed.  Its telling that David Huff and Yusmeiro Petit both made it - that is a "let's cover our bases on Timmy/Vogey" move.  Here is Baggs Story on it, Jean Machi and Juan Gutierrez make it as well.  If you were predicting at the end of last year, you wouldn't guess that Huff or Gutierrez would be anywhere near the pen.  Such as it is, I have a feeling that there will be a lot of roster moves this year.  Heath Hembree is still not ready for the big time, and Derek Law just barely missed it, heading to Richmond, a club that is stacked.  Them Squirrels gonna be Flying High!

Juan Carlos Perez makes it!  I really like that move, he brings great range, a fabulous arm and some undercover pop to the table.  He hasn't been able to take a walk, but Perez is going to be a good option off the bench once Bochy needs to get Morse out of the game.

If you're reading this, you most likely already have checked out Penfold's great work, here are the assignments to the full season minors rosters. He has high quality video on his site, and has a great balanced matter of fact delivery.  Excellent Giants blog!  Bookmark it and check frequently.

Quick thoughts on the assignments:

Roger Kieschnick DFA'd to make room for Hicks/Gutierrez.  Will he clear?  I think he will.  Tony Abreu already cleared and is assigned to Fresno.

Augusta: rotation of Ysla, Mella, Chase Johnson, Nick Vander Tuig and DJ Snelten.  2 hard throwing Dandies mixed in with the cream of the 2013 college pitcher draft.  The fact that the Giants only have a few spots open is going to really improve the quality and depth of all rotations.  Luis Ysla is a great watch, and Kuery Mella might have the best fastball after Crick.

Pen arm to watch: Christian Jones, if I had to pick just one.

Hitters to watch: unlike most recent years, the Augusta team has some big boppers.  Christian Arroyo, Ryder Jones and Brandon Bednar are the cream of the 2013 draft class, along with Tyler Horan.  With the excellent pitching and some good hitters, Augusta is going to be a big threat in the league.  Shawn Payne repeats again, he maybe getting victimized by the depth in the system.

Sleeper hitter to watch: my guy Ryan Tuntland draws the 3B job.  Nice work Viking Warrior!

Ty Ross is also a big time sleeper, catch and throw guy with pop, he gets to hitting and he'll be a guy with good chances to make the show.

San Jose: rotation of Agosta, Stratton, Gregorio, Pat Young, Kendry Flores and possibly UC Davis Aggie Joe Biagini.  Of note: Bobby Evans said that they seriously considered sending Flores to Richmond.  He might have been a numbers game victim as well.  The SJ staff isn't quite as headlined as it was last year, but this is still loaded for bear.  Pat Young impressed enough to edge out all the pitchers drafted before him.  I got that prediction right, this guy has a great sinking fastball, the Giants might have popped a reliever label guy who just needs a bit of polish and another pitch and then look out.  Gregorio and Young are both tall guys, they get to repeating their delivery and they are both top 5 in the system.  And don't get me started on Martin Agosta.  Chris Stratton was in the 91-94 range according to Joe Ritzo, this is a great development.

Pen arm to watch: Mason McVay.  Let's see if he gets stretched out.

Hitters to watch: Brian Ragira draws the SJ assignment, maybe they didn't have enough room for both him and Horan.  The OF seems light to me with Chuckie Jones and Jesus Galindo headlining.  Very fast, good defensive coverage, joining Lofton and Blair.   The other surprise is Blake Miller, a very unheralded 2013 pick, getting the SS jobby.  Keep an eye on that lad for sure.  Mac Williamson has some undisclosed injury that is keeping him from fielding.  Hope it isn't serious, he'll be Richmond bound before too long.

Sleeper hitter: Miller.  I love stories like his, its why I blog about this stuff.

Richmond: The Giants have the nutz, best rotation in the entire minor leagues.  Live it, love it.  Crick.  Blackburn.  Mejia.  Blach.  Missing the last lefty in Escobar, most likely Jack Snodgrass will be the sub.  Hey, I called this guy a sleeper a couple years back, got laughed at.  He's in AA grinding!  That's good work.

Pen arm to watch: Dog Pound Baby!  Osich, Hall, Law, Bandilla.  Best STAFF in the entire minors.

Hitters to watch: Jeff Arnold joins his mates, unheralded pitcher whisperer.  Takes a walk, will punish mistake pitchers.  Oropesa AND Villalona draw assignments.  Will one of these big guys play 3B?  Parker gets to repeat, he has some good hair, I'll give him that.  Mario Lisson, plucked from shredding the VWL, is this years aged vet like Javier Herrera last year.  Lets see what happens with him, he went on an absolute tear in winter ball.  Good defensive 3B rep.  The OF is a bit light with Graham, Lollis and Krill joining Parker.

Sleeper hitter: MATT DUFFY!  This is awesome news for a ballplayer I've been watching since LBS.  Duffy is playing a strong SS, he is hitting the ball with authority and has earned a very aggressive assignment.  To me this is THE story of assignments.  To quote Han Solo: "Great, now don't get cocky kid".  In prospect watching I think its always important to see the guys the Greybeards single out with quick promotion and tough assignments.  Duffy has this in spades.  Very excited about this.  He is 23 years young, and in the Big Bad Eastern.  Take that, age/level worry warts!

Fresno: a collection of a bunch of top picks.  But the rotation first: Edwin Escobar, he might not be long for AAA also.  Mike Kickham, trying to break through that glass ceiling.  A third lefty, one D-Train, who pitched well in camp.  Chris Heston is still around, control righty.  Mitch Lively has his rabid fans, he led the VWL in ERA this winter.  All eyes on Edwin!

Pen arm to watch: I predicted Hembree would have his hands full with competition from below.  Derek Law proved that.  Hembree and Jake Dunning gives the Giants immediate help in the case of injury and ineffectiveness.  They are joined by 100 MPH guy Erik Cordier, who is on a Major League contract.  And Dan Runzler.  And George Kontos.  One of the most experienced pens in the high minors, and one that should give some relief, to slip a pun in.

Hitters to watch: Gary Brown.  Joe Panik.  Andrew Susac.  Adam Duvall.  Chris Dominguez.  Tony Abreu.... Darren Ford?!!  Will Roger Kieschnick slip through to join them?  Tyler Colvin.

I still believe in Gary Brown.  He's way off the fast track, and yet he is very fast.

The guy to watch for breakthough is Susac.  I have a feeling the Grizzlies will be putting up some serious numbers this year.  And they also have a great story in Mark Minicozzi.  Duvall, Dominguez and Mark M have enough going they stalled Ricky O and Angel V in Richmond.  All have light tower BP power, its just about getting it in game situations.

The Giants minors are going to be a lot of fun to watch.  I think there is a good chance of help coming when injuries take their toll. 

Games count!  That is a relief after a long winter.


  1. What a relief indeed. If the Giants want to compete, even win the division again this season, I think it comes down to 3 key guys. Cain, Posey and Pablo. If Cain and Bumgarner both post sub-3 ERA's (which they can), they'll be right in the thick of it. You know Buster is determined to bring his 2012 bat to the party... can he? I wouldn't put it past him. We know what we're going to get from Pence, so if Pablo (or Belt for that matter) steps up, you've got a fierce middle of the order. It's those guys who I think can take a good team and make it a great team.

    Lots of good stuff in the minors this year. So much pitching! I can't decide which rotation I like best, but there's likely to be at least two starting pitchers worth keeping tabs on every night. More often than not, it'll be 3 big name guys. When Escobar pitches, there'll be a legit prospect going at all 4 full-season teams. That's insane.

    1. That is right, the Giants have a lot of bats with big potential. And I hope the team defense tightens up, particularly the pitchers. On that note, maybe Timmy Hudson will make a difference, he really takes pride in his D and he is a motivation type guy.

      I see a big improvement in Augusta, which has been a bit of a backwater. Richmond always has a few, but that is multiplied, SJ is usually the crown jewel and this year is no different, and Fresno has guys who can strive, perform, get lucky and get to 2nd and King.

      I agree, pitching is insane. Except for big time names with high money draft pedigree, the Giants compete with everybody quite well. I really don't know any team I would switch places with once you get past the first 2 names, and even that I'm reluctant, because I love Crick, the lefties, and good old prove out Clayton Blackburn.

  2. Agreed, Giants organizational pitching seems off the charts. Really hoping all that talent gels over the next few seasons.

    In regards to Gary Brown, I hadn't realized until the past year or so that his hitting mechanics truly are a bit off. Guess I was a little blinded by the other tools.

    It's easy to believe when you first hear of MLB hitting coaches messing with player mechanics that they're meddling- like, why tinker with something that's served a player well enough to make it to pro ball in the first place? But the other side of that is always that to some degree, you have to trust that an organization's hitting gurus recognize mechanical flaws that hinder success at the highest levels.

    Looking more closely at Brown hitting videos, it's evident he does need some small but super-important adjusting if he's going to survive MLB pitching with any kind of serviceable average. Or even make the Show at all. He does have quick hands and good bat speed, but IMO this will only translate into the occasional and inevitable bat/ball collision that gets him to a bag, if he does make it to the top.

    Gary starts with his hands very close to his body, and very low. Maybe he's thinking he's creating a shorter path to the ball, but I believe the result is that it's leaving behind too much movement to get his hands into a ready position to start his forward swing. In effect, a longer path to the ball. Additionally, and maybe more importantly, he initiates the hands-loading movement too late in the pitcher's delivery, which exacerbates the 'hands position' issue. All of which translates to being behind on both pitch recognition, and sufficient time for making the micro-adjustments to his bat path necessary for consistent contact. Not a good recipe for successful big league hitting. Regardless, Brown needs a fix, and fast. This is obviously turning into a sink-or-swim situation for him.

    As a side note, you can see the same issues with Bubba Starling, the young Royals OF'r who was signed for $7.5M in 2011. He's struggled mightily with his hitting since his signing, and to date has only reached low-A. The echoes of "bust" are being heard everywhere. Blows me away how the smallest of changes that are causing his headaches aren't being fixed. Not that it's easy, but 3 years later...

    Sorry for the OT ramble, Shankbone... thanks for the posting opp.

    1. That's no OT, that's good stuff. I have always thought Brown's superior athletic ability would eventually win out against that tough mistress muscle memory. But so much is floating around in a vague blend of competition, self-belief, guesswork... And it seems like the smallest of margins can make and break. But for teams making the picks, its a lot of cashish. The only "what ifs" I have heard about Brown are big overslot guys. Is it worth it to go pay the B-team guys who didn't go top ten big top ten money? I don't know if that's the smart move.

      The way the game speeds up every level, its truly amazing. You can be an absolutely amazing baseball player, and at every level the speed will humble you. Some take longer than others. So where do the Giants go wrong? In believing they can make the adjustments? In the inability to make the adjustments? 6th tool evaluation? There are a lot of articles about the Cards now, and a few with the Pirates, all about valuing velocity and athleticism. We'll see where it lands, they are definitely hyped orgs right now. But I don't really see much difference with what the Giants put down, except they've been winning longer than the Pirates and bigger than the Cards. And on the Cards note, the difference of one pick can make and break. Michael Wacha versus Chris Stratton is a pretty big deal at the moment. Let's see how round 2 goes, and the same with Downtown Gary Brown in his 4th pro season, more or less.

  3. Good to hear Strattons velocity is back to that pre draft range. 91-94 is way better than 88-91. If he maintains that and can combine that premium slider with even and average change, then watch out! His 'just' average season last year really held the farm back. If he can get back on track then it is going to be hard for the pundits to keep the snark coming (I'm looking at you KLaw).

    1. This is the big question. The Giants need a victory sooner than later on the farm. Its been 4 years in the wilderness with the back 20. And I'm sure they are working hard right now preparing for D-day in June, when they have their best shot since they took Zach with a K, the Belt and some other assorted characters. It will be interesting to see how the Cards much hyped class will hold up against Brandon and some trade value. Stratton will be comped to Wacha for a long time, hope 2nd year ball treats him better.

    2. I hear ya on the victory front. I think we have a couple breaking down the gates in Law, Hembree, and Escobar. That Richmond rotation is going to be something to keep an eye on. I fully expect Crick to spend a full year at Richmond and Fresno, but would not be surprised to see one of Blach, Blackburn, or Mejia finish the year in AAA.

      On the hitting front I think Panik and Susac are going to piss on the PCL. Both have an advanced approach that is going to play so well there.

      Big if, but if all the kids play up to their potential, our farm is gonna be loaded. The haters are doing their best to keep the hype from overflowing (Still looking at you KLaw), but more numbers like the ones our arms put up last year and they will be fighting a useless battle. Mix in a top 14 pick and we should be riding pretty.

    3. Yes, good news indeed. Appears that Stratton is all better now that he's over his serious concussion that hampered his off-season preparation for last season. Maybe we'll get to see the four average to good pitches that he was touted to have when we drafted him, that would be exciting for our system if he can get back on track.

      My bet would be on Blackburn being the first to get the push to AAA, though Blach being older is another strong possibility.

      Yeah, I think Panik and Susac will explode in the PCL. Hopefully Brown can join the party.

      And it won't need all our kids playing up to their potential, that's the great thing, we have so many who are just percolating just under the surface that it just takes a few of them to reach their potential to break things wide open for us, whether Escobar, Blackburn, Crick, Mejia, Blach, Stratton, Agosta, Flores, etc., we have a numbers game going for us where even if most of them don't hit, we'll still have a bushel full of shiny prospects who will finally get the rankers to realize what a sweet farm system we have right now.