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.