Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring Training Game Wrap: Giants 10 BrewCrew 9

The Giants won a slugfest against the BrewCrew in Maryvale 10-9 with all kinds of crazy $#@& going on. Let's get right to the key lines:

Darren Ford- 0 for 4. Ford was the starting CF today and didn't do so hot.

Mike Fontenot- 1 for 4, 2B, BB. Fontenot was the starting SS today and made an error. No word on his range.

Mark DeRosa- 2 for 3, HR(1). DeRosa is hitting .750 in the early going and definitely making some kind of statement. He's played mostly 2B, but that's obviously Freddy's position when he's healthy.

Travis Ishikawa- 2 for 3, 2B. Travis must know he has the most tenuous spot on the roster, well, except for Aaron Rowand that is, he's not going to make this decision easy. On the other hand, he may be creating a trade market for himself. He's listed as the LF today. Is that for real? Interesting!

Brandon Belt- 3 for 5, 2 2B. O M G !!! This kid has absolutely raked at every level. After a couple of quiet appearances, he got the start at 1B today and, well, he raked! If the Giants wanted him to beat the door down, he took a pretty good whack with a sledgehammer today! Right now, this roster looks like it's headed for a train wreck. A good train wreck, mind you, but a train wreck nonetheless. If this keeps up to the end of spring training, there is going to be carnage!

Nate Schierholtz- 2 for 3. Nate is hitting .375 in the early going and making a case to stay on the roster.

Barry Zito- 1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 2 K's. I understand that Zito is a slow starter and spring training games, especially the first game don't mean anything, but after the embarrassment of being left off the postseason roster, I thought maybe Zeets just might come to camp a bit better prepared and with a sense of urgency. Well, we got the same old Zito we have all come to know all too well. We'll probably end up with double digit Quality Starts again, but this just looks like his heart really isn't in it. Probably an unfair criticism, but man, we've got at least 3 more years of this?

Jason Stoffel- 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Stoffel came in and got the K to get Zito out of the 2'nd inning.

Jeff Suppan- 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's. Maybe Suppan will pitch well enough to make himself trade bait? Or, he might make a nice option at the back of the bullpen for long relief and emergency starting. The NL West ballparks are taylor made for his style of pitching.

Javier Lopez- 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 1 K, BS, W. These kinds of outings are common for relievers early in ST. They don't mean too much unless you're fighting for that last spot in the bullpen which Lopez is not.

Sergio Romo- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Romo's second scoreless outing of the spring.

Marc Kroon- 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Not gonna make the team this way.

Tim LIncecum makes his second start of the spring tomorrow against the Cubbies in Scottsdale. Look for him to add in a few split-changes and generally be a bit sharper this time out.

Man, when was the last time any of you can remember this kind of competition for this many roster spots in Spring Training?

Addendum: Great write up in Extra Baggs about Cody Ross. The best part was about Matt Cain confronting him about his bat flipping the day he joined the team. Nice contrast in styles there. Key quote: "Even as a 20 year old rookie, Cain was old school." How great is that anyway? Sabean again stated that Belt would most likely start the season in Fresno, but but still left to door open just a crack. I think he most likely will start the season in Fresno, but better it be a surprise if he makes the Giants than a surprise if he gets sent down.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spring Training Game Wrap: D'Backs 4 Giants 3

The Giants suffered their first loss of the 2011 Cactus League season, but a lot of really good things happened before Jose Casilla and Alex Hinshaw, two pitchers who don't figure to be on the 25 man active roster on opening day, gave up 4 runs in the bottom of the 8'th inning. Key lines:

Aaron Rowand- 0 for 4. This kind of day isn't what's going to win the starting CF job back for Rowand. Baggs apparently has some info on this issue in his Notebook post today, but I haven't seen it yet. Will keep you posted when it's available.

Buster Posey- 2 for 3, 2B. Posey's out was a drive down the RF line that was caught at the warning track. I mean, this guy puts all 90 degrees of the field in play when he hits! He also threw out the lead runner on a double steal attempt. Great stuff!!

Cody Ross- 2 for 3. How great is it to have another tough out in the lineup?

Pablo Sandoval- 1 for 3, HR(2). Baggs says this was a tremendous shot on an 0-2 pitch that would have easily been a splash hit in SF. Pablo seems locked in right now. I know it's only spring, but it's better than having him flailing up there.

Emmanuel Burriss and Ryan Rohlinger had an RBI single each in the second inning.

Matt Cain- 2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Cainer was reportedly hitting 90-91 MPH and locating well. I think his BB rate is going to stay way down this year. He's really matured as a pitcher.

Ryan Vogelsong- 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K's. Vogelsong sawed off a couple of bats and looked quite sharp. Maybe he will be the emergency backup starter in Fresno?

Matt Yourkin- 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Another guy in the mix for emergency starter work.

Santiago Casilla- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Mid-season form! Unfortunately, little bro Jose was not in mid-season form, nor was Alex Hinshaw.

Again, final scores in spring training are meaningless. Individual performances and health do matter and the Giants really "won" this game by that standard.

Barry Zito gets his first spring start tomorrow against the BrewCrew in Maryvale. I would expect to see Jeff Suppan get some work in here at some point too. I think it's interesting that Vogelsong and Yourkin got a 2 inning stint in before Suppan and Brian Lawrence.

Addendum: Nothing to see in Baggs' Notebook re. the Rowand situation. He talked to Rowand who basically said he worked hard this offseason and will play to the best of his ability and he will deal with whatever happens. He loves playing with Andres Torres.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- Honorable Mention Part III

Kelvin Marte LHP. BD: 11/24/1987. 6'0". 180 lb. B-L, T-L. 3 levels: 1-0, 4.06, 37.2 IP, 14 BB, 28 K's. Although he has been in the organization since 2007, Marte has pitched very few innings apparently limited by injuries. Early on, he put up very interesting K and BB numbers. 2011 should be a key test of his ability and durability. I would expect to see him in San Jose.

Ari Ronick LHP. BD: 3/25/1986. 6'4", 205 lbs. B-L, T-L. A+: 0-2, 10.80, 8.1 iP, 7 BB, 6 K's. Ronick is a big LHP out of Univ. of Portland. Pitched well in 2009 for Augusta but go lit up in 3 appearances for SJ. His last game was 5/21. I'll guess he had TJ surgery so should see him back maybe in short season ball. He's getting awfully old to be starting a comeback from TJ though. TJ doesn't seem to be a big problem for young prospects or established MLB'ers, but in older prospects, it's awfully tough to beat the old age clock and while rehabbing TJ.

Aaron King LHP. BD: 4/27/1989. 6'4", 205 lbs. B-L, T-L. A+: 1-2, 7.57, 27.1 IP, 16 BB, 30 K's. Short Season(Salem-Keizer): 0-0, 3.05, 20.2 IP, 29 BB, 31 K's. King has always struggled with his control. In 2010, he quit struggling and completely lost it. He's still fairly young and those K rates indicated he has good stuff if he can ever harness it. Love the size.

Nick Liles OF. BD: 7/23/1987. 6'0", 165 lbs. B-R, T-R. Low A: .316/.361/.387, 29 SB, 11 CS. Hit .378 over his last 10 games. In prior years, a guy like Liles would have easily made the Top 50. This year, he's a bit lost in the Giants crowded OF picture. We'll see if there is room for him to play in SJ this year.

Luke Anders 1B. BD: 10/2/1986. 6'6", 225 lbs. B-L, T-L. Low A: .285/.340/.443, 14 HR. Those numbers aren't terrible, but they also aren't too promising for a 24 year old in low A ball whose only position is first base.

Ydwin Villegas SS. BD: 9/1/1990. 5'10". 165 lbs. B-S, T-R. Low A: .189/.215/.242. Villegas was overmatched in Low A ball at age 19 which is really too old to be overmatched at this level. According to Baggs' writeup in the BA Prospect Handbook, Villegas is a superior defensive SS who rivals Adrianza and Crawford with the glove. He moved over to 2B in instructional league with Adrianza at shortstop and the two were so specacular on defense they had the Giants coaches slapping their foreheads in amazement! That kind of defense will earn Villegas second and third chances with the bat, but more seasons of a .189 BA won't get it done. I would expect to see him back in Augusta with Jurica jumping over him to San Jose in 2011.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spring Training Game Wrap: Giants 8 Dodgers 3

Several Giants hitters made noise at the plate while the pitchers got their work in without giving up too much damage as the Giants clubbed half of a split Dodgers squad 8-3. Key lines:

Andres Torres- 2 for 3, 2B. The double was just to the left of center almost 430 ft away.

Mark DeRosa- 3 for 3. The wrist doesn't seem to be bothering DeRosa in the early spring.

Pablo Sandoval- 2 for 3, HR. The early returns on Pablo's offseason program are encouraging.

Nate Shierholtz- 1 for 3, 3B.

Jonathan Sanchez- 1.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Sanchez threw 11 of 15 pitches for strikes.

Clayton Tanner- 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K's, GO/AO= 3/3. You can interpret a line like this two ways: 1. He got lucky and the batters hit the balls where fielders could catch them. 2. He throws both a 4 seam and 2 seam fastball that keeps hitters off balance and produces a mix of FB's and GB's. More likely it's #1, but we'll see.

Guillermo Mota- 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 0 K's. Probably a bit more important for a guy on a minor league contract to look good from the get-go, but this will probably not determine whether Mota makes the team or not.

The Giants take on the D'Backs tomorrow in the new facility they Snakes share with the Rockies in Scottsdale. Not sure if the storm we're just getting over here is Southern California will be a factor there yet, but if it is the weather could be real ugly, maybe even snow! Matt Cain is the scheduled starter tomorrow. For those of you who remember, former Giants farmhand Ryan Vogelsong, who was traded to the Pirates in the Jason Schmidt deal, is scheduled to follow Cain on the hill.

College Corner: Friday Starter Rundown

There was all kinds of good stuff going on the second Friday of the college baseball season:

Gerrit Cole's start was suspended after 1 inning due to rain. Well, THAT wasn't good!

Vanderbilt edged Stanford 2-1. Sonny Gray- 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 6 K's. Oh yeah, Austin Wilson went 0 for 4. Jason Esposito went 1 for 3 with a CS.

TCU topped CS Fullerton 4-1. Matt Purke's start was pushed back to Sunday due to a blister, but TCU's Saturday man, Kyle Winkler stepped up: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K's. Winkler reportedly has good stuff, but typically low K's, due to lack of a wipeout pitch. He's reportedly working on a slider that may develop into a K pitch. Noe Ramirez got touched up early, but had a good line for CS Fullerton: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 8 K's.

Texas blanked Hawaii 2-0: Taylor Jungmann- 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K's. Jungmann now has two consecutive CG shutouts with 18 K's and just 1 BB.

Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 15 K's! Hultzen also hit cleanup and went 3 for 4.

A couple of pitchers raised their stocks a lot as Texas A&M outlasted Gonzaga 1-0 in 11 innings. John Stilson was A&M's closer last year: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K's. He reportedly has a FB that goes 91-94 and a wipeout changeup. His line over 2 starts is 15 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 18 K's. Ryan Carpenter is a big LHP, 6'5", 225 lbs, with a low-mid 90's FB who hasn't been able to get results on the field. Last night he went 7.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 K's.

Oregon's Tyler Anderson tried to got 1 inning too long as St Mary's scored 3 runs in the 8'th for a 3-2 win. His final line was quite good though: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 12 K's.

Long Beach State edged out Arizona 2-1. Andrew Gagnon, LBSU: 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K's. Kurt Heyer, AU: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K's.

GA Tech stomped St John's 13-0. Mark Pope: 6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K's.

UC Irvine dominated Southern 6-1. Matt Summers, UCI: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K's.

Sam Gaviglio of Oregon State pitched a CG 2-0 shutout against a very good Connecticut team: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K's. Gaviigo had a down year in 2010 after winning Freshman All-America honors in 2009 with a line of 10-1, 2.73, 62.2 IP, 9 BB, 55 K's. He slipped to 3-4, 5.60, 62.2 IP, 23 BB, 45 K's in 2010. He did have one 13 K game in 2010, so we'll see if he can sustain it this year.

Here's a sleeper to watch out for: Nick Tropeono is a 6'4", 205 lb RHP from Joe Nathan's alma mater, NY Stony Brook. Last year he went 8-4 with a 2.44 ERA while striking out 106 in 99.2 IP. Last night, he went 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K's in Stony Brook's first game of the season.

Sophomore Dan Langfield of Memphis: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 16 K's. Had 47 K's in 39 IP as a freshman.

Sophomore RHP Chris Beck of Georgia Southern: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 12 K's.
Season line: 1-0, 1.38, 13 IP, 3 BB, 19 K's. He's a burly 6'3", 220 lb

My man Ricky Oropesa went 1 for 3 with 2 BB's against Rice and one of my sleepers, Brandon Meredith went 2 for 4, 2 2B, BB for SDSU. Watch out for freshman 3B Kris Bryant of San Diego who went 2 for 4 with 2 dingers last night. Bryant already has 3 HR's on young season.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Spring Training Game Wrap: Giants 7 D'Backs 6

Buster Posey picked up right where he left off last season leading the Giants offense to a 7-6 win over the D'Backs in the Cactus League opener. The convetional wisdom is the pitchers are ahead of the hitters at his stage, but Timmy and MadBum seemed to be easing back into action as the D'Backs scored put some early runs on the board. Key lines:

Andres Torres- 0 for 1, 2 BB, 2 R. Playing the leadoff role to perfection.

Buster Posey- 2 for 3, 2B. OMG! What can I say?

Pat Burrell- 1 for 3, 2B.

Aaron Rowand- 1 for 3, 2B. The Rowand/Torres/Burrell/Ross situation will be interesting to watch develop. Not sure whether to root for Rowand to do well so some other team will want to trade for him or whether to root for him to do poorly so Bochy isn't tempted to make him the starting CF and move Torres to RF or LF and start a musical chairs with Ross and Burrell.

Gary Brown and Darren Ford had SB's in pinch running roles.

Emmanuel Burriss committed a throwing error from 2B.

Tim Lincecum- 1.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Timmy's delivery requires fine tuning and he may not have been dialing it up to full throttle just yet.

Madison Bumgarner- 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Looks like Timmy and MadBum were just trying to throw strikes as all but two of their combined pitches found the zone.

Javier Lopez- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.

Sergio Romo- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K's.

Jonathan Sanchez takes the mound tomorrow against half of a Dodgers split squad. Aubrey Huff is expected to start at 1B despite a recent sore wrist.

Addendum: Baggs has some important notes over on Extra Baggs:

Timmy's FB was sitting at 93 MPH. He didn't throw any split-changes. Did throw some sliders. Timmy apparently wants to do a better job of establishing the fastball this year.

MadBum ranged from 88-92 but mostly 91-92 MPH. Also a good sign for the future.

Sergio Romo has added a sinking 2 seamer to his repertoire and got a nice ground out from Miguel Montero. Romo sought out Jeremy Affeldt on how to grip the sinker and it's apparently working like a charm. Romo was stung by the dingers he gave up in the post-season and wants a pitch that will help him keep the ball in the park.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- Honorable Mention Part II

David Mixon RHP. BD: 9/10/1984. 6'3", 190 lbs. B-R, T-R. AA: 11-7, 3.50, 156.2 IP, 38 BB, 112 K's, GO/AO= 1.66. Older prospect. Mainstay of the Richmond rotation last year. Doesn't miss many bats, but doesn't walk many and has a GB tendency. Fringe prospect. May sniff a cup of coffee at some point.

Wilmin Rodriguez LHP. BD: 5/13/1985. 6'2", 210 lbs. B-L, T-L. AA: 0-1, 3.51, 25.2 IP, 14 BB, 12 K's. Low A: 4-3, 3.81, 28.1 IP, 9 BB, 20 K's. I saw him pitch in the Cal League championship series in Rancho Cucamonga. He looks bigger than his listed dimensions. Hard throwing LHP. His stuff looks better than his stats would lead you to believe. Has been kicking around the organization for a long time, though.

David Quinowski LHP. BD: 4/23/1986. 5'10", 170 lbs. B-L, T-L. A+: 3-2, 2.32, 42.2 IP, 13 BB, 51 K's. AA: 2-0, 2.84, 12.2 IP, 5 BB, 14 K's. Q is a graduate of Redlands HS where I live, so I have a rooting interest in him. Lost a year to TJ. Pitched very well at 2 levels in 2010. Unimpressive size and velocity, but has always put up interesting numbers. Wouldn't count him out as an eventual LOOGY bullpen guy at the MLB level.

Michael Main RHP. BD: 12/14/1988. 6'1", 170 lbs. B-R, T-R. A+(Rangers): 5-3, 3.45, 91.1 IP, 21 BB, 72 K's. AA(Giants): 0-3, 13.83, 13.2 IP, 14 BB, 7 K's. Former first round draft pick of the Rangers. Came over in the Bengie Molina trade. The Giants promoted him to AA with disastrous results. Had hip surgery this offseason, so maybe he was hurting? Gotta think he has a high ceiling if he can get healthy and get his stuff together.

Drew Biery 3B. BD: 5/14/1986. 6'2", 215 lbs. B-R, T-R. A+: .249/.322/.396, 14 HR. Disappointing season after a great pro debut in Salem-Keizer. Decent walk rates and power holds out a sliver of hope.

Michael Sandoval 1B. BD: 7/8/1981. 5'11", 205 lbs. B-R, T-R. A+: .269/.331/.397. Pablo's bro. Looks like he could be a twin. Listed as a OF, but played almost exclusively 1B in San Jose. Probably an organizational player. I included him because of his pedigree.

James Simmons OF. BD: 9/3/1985. 6'3", 190 lbs. B-R, T-R. A+: .252/.339/.448, 12 HR, 19 SB. I believe Simmons might be the best athlete in the organization. After watching him closely in several games last year, I have concluded that he absolutely cannot hit a breaking ball and probably never will. Swings a tiny toothpick of a bat. Might benefit from a bigger stick.

Justin Fitzgerald RHP. BD: 3/3/1986. 6'5", 225 lbs. B-R, T-R. A+: 10-6, 3.45, 146 IP, 46 BB, 116 K's, GO/AO= 1.64. Local kid out of Cloverdale and UC Davis. Converted College closer. Did well in his first starting role for San Jose. FB topped out at 90 MPH in the game I saw. Did well enough to justify a look at higher levels.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- Honorable Mention Part I

Ryan Rohlinger IF. BD: 10/7/1983. 6'0", 195 lbs. B-R, T-R. AAA: .311/.392/.477, 8 HR. MLB: .200/.294/.200 in 15 AB. Good season in AAA. Has never hit in several brief MLB looks. Likely to be currently at his ceiling as an emergency reserve utility option.

Brock Bond 2B. BD: 9/11/1985. 5'11", 185 lb. B-S, T-R. AAA: .285/.397/.372. AA: .261/.320/.370. A lot of Giants fans who also like sabermetic analysis love Bond because he has consistently put up great OBP's. That seems to be his only real skill though. The Giants currently view him as an organizational player to send where he's needed in the minors.

Jackson Williams C. BD: 5/14/1986. 5'11", 200 lb. B-R, T-R. AA: .192/.317/.280. AAA: .224/.327/.352. Defense first catcher. It doesn't look like he will ever hit enough to play in MLB, even as a backup, although the bar for backup catchers is awfully low so he could eventually catch on somewhere a la Eli Whiteside.

Mike McBryde OF/RHP? BD: 3/22/1985. 6'1", 215. B-R, T-R. AAA: .243/.273/.419, 3 HR in 74 AB. Toolsy CF with speed and a great arm, McBryde has battled injuries throughout his pro career setting back the development of his bat. With the Giants OF situation increasingly crowded, it may be time to take the mound and see what he can do there.

Darren Ford OF. BD: 10/1/1985. 5'9", 190 lb. B-R, T-R. AA: .251/.315/.365, 37 SB. Darren's main tool is speed, maybe the best in the organization. His mad dash around the bases on a pinch-running assignment may well have saved the season for the Giants in early September. Wouldn't be terrible as speed/defensive 5'th OF option right now. Will need to hit better to make it in MLB though.

Henry Sosa RHP. BD: 7/28/1985. 6'1", 200 lb. B-R, T-R. AAA: 7-8, 4.07, 115 IP, 55 BB, 83 K. DWL: 2-0, 5.95, 19.2 IP, 13 BB, 16 K. No longer a young prospect. Seems to be going backward in terms of K rates and his BB rates have not improved. Maybe all the injuries are taking their toll? Too much talent to write off, but heading in the wrong direction right now.

Waldis Joaquin RHP. BD: 12/25/1986. 6'0", 240 lbs. B-R, T-R. MLB: 0-0, 9.64, 4.2 IP, 7 BB, 2 K. AAA: 1-2, 4.93, 34.2 IP, 22 BB, 33 K's. Another guy who isn't young anymore and heading in the wrong direction. Will have to solve severe control issues to be a serious prospect. Released by the Giants, claimed by ChiSox, refused to report to the Sox becoming a FA and re-signing with SF. I wonder what that's all about?

Matt Yourkin LHP. BD: 7/4/1981. 6'3", 225 lb. B-R, T-L. AAA: 7-8, 4.24, 136 IP, 39 BB, 110 K. Minor league veteran with nice size for a LHP. Could be in the mix as an emergency SP option in the event of an injury at the MLB level. We'll all have to hope that doesn't become necessary!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #48 Juan Perez #49 Caleb Hougesen #50 Tyler Graham

#48 Juan Perez OF. BD: 11/13/1986. 5'11", 185 lbs. B-R, T-R.

A+: .298/.337/.472, 37 2B, 10 3B, 13 HR, 17 SB, 15 CS.

Juan Perez hit a lot of HR's at Western Oklahoma State JC and the Giants took him in the 13'th round of the 2008 draft. In person, he looks even smaller than his listed dimensions, but puts a surprising charge in the ball for a guy his size. He's also very fast and covers a ton of ground in CF even displacing Francisco Peguero, who isn't slow, to RF. He'll have to keep proving it at higher levels because of his size and age, but could eventually make a nice reserve OF for some team, or even turn out to be an Andres Torres type who defies the odds.

#49 Caleb Hougesen 3B. BD: 11/17/1991. 6'1", 215 lbs. B-R, T-R.


Hougheson was a HS player who the Giants took a later round flier on and ended up signing. I don't have any information except a few scattered pictures on sites like He looks like a very solidly built young man! I just really like the strategy the Giants are employing of taking a few fliers on HS players like this later in the draft and wanted to show that by including Hougheson on the list, even without any other information.

#50 Tyler Graham, OF. BD: 1/25/1984. 6'0", 180 lbs. B- R, T-R.

AAA: .343/.393/.440, 23 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 35 SB, 11 CS.

Graham has had his ups and downs in the organization. Prior to 2010, he had hot streaks but we never able to sustain it for a whole season. His main tool is speed. He just needs to keep hitting well enough to use it. He's getting awfully old to be a prospect, but hey, there's always Andres Torres who figured it out late. Value is enhanced by the ability to play CF. Could be a 5'th OF for somebody. Main reason to include him here at the end of the list was to acknowledge his good season which went largely unnoticed.

That concludes the discussion part of my 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects list. I will continue with abbreviated comments on the Honorable Mentions and the "Dominican Dandies" over the next few days and try to get it wrapped up before Spring Training heats up.

Monday, February 21, 2011

College Corner: Weekend 1 Wrap

There were several interesting pitching performances on Saturday and Sunday showing it's not all about the Friday Starters:

Trevor Bauer who is not a Friday Starter only because Gerrit Cole is on the same team had a great game Saturday against San Francisco: 7.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 10 K's.

Arizona junior RHP Kyle Simon had a dominating start too: 7.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 13 K's. He's a big kid at 6'5", 225 lbs. His previous high for K's was 6. Was this a breakout game or was it just North Dakota State?

Alex Meyer, the big kid from Kentucky who is being projected late in the first round: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 13 K's!

There were several interesting starts by freshmen you may remember from last spring's draft discussions:

Karston Whitson, Florida- 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K's.

Dylan Covey- 7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 7 K's.

Kevin Gausman, LSU- 5.2 IP, 2 R, 0 BB, 6 K's.

On the offensive side, my man Ricky Oropesa got off to a solid start with a 3 for 7 with 2 doubles weekend for USC.

Mikie Mahtook of LSU went nuts going 4 for 9 with 4 HR's.

UNC SS Levi Michael had a great weekend against strong competition in Southern California going 8 for 15 with a 2B, 3B and 3 SB's.

Jason Esposito? 4 for 13 with a 2B and 3 SB's.

Another SS prospect, Joe Panik of St John's 6 for 15, 2B, SB.

South Carolina's Jackie Bradley, who won't be there when the Giants draft: 7 for 12, 3 2B, SB.

Here's another sleeper: Drew Martinez, CF Memphis: 7 for 14, 2 2B, 4 SB.

How about my sleeper picks from Friday night?

Matt Fleishman, Villanova- 8 for 12, 3 2B, 3B, 2 BB, SB.

Brandon Meredith, SDSU- 5 for 11, 2B, 3B, HR, 2 BB. Hit for the cycle on the weekend!

What about Austin Wilson's debut for Stanford? 6 for 12, HR. Pretty good, don't you think?

Any other notable performances?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #45 Wendell Fairley #46 Leonardo Fuentes #47 Marvin Barrios

#45 Wendell Fairley, OF. BD: 3.17/1988. 6'2", 195 lbs. B-L, T-R.

A+: .292/.362/.343, 1 HR, 10 SB, 6 CS.

Wendell Fairley had a nice BA and showed good plate discipline at San Jose, but almost no power. He didn't hit his first and only HR of the regular season until August 30 with only 6 games to go. I saw him early in the season at Lake Elsinore and he took very tentative, defensive swings looking like he was just trying to make contact. When I saw him again in the Cal League championship series in Rancho Cucamonga, he showed a more aggressive approach. He turned smartly on one ball and pulled it out of the park over the RF fence. Fairley looks like too good an athlete to give up on just yet, but his progress has been painfully slow and the Giants OF situation is a lot more crowded than it was when he was drafted in 2007. I would think he moves up to AA which will either make or break him. With the way Giants hitting prospects react to AA, the latter seems much more likely, but that's what I thought about John Bowker too, not that Bowker has exactly made it in the majors yet.

#46 Leonardo Fuentes, OF. BD: 11/29/1992. 6'4", 215 lb. B-R, T-R.

DSL: .240/.340/.380, 14 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR in 200 AB.

I usually don't put DSL prospects in my top 50 list reserving them for a separate category that I call "Dominican Dandies." Fuentes is an exception because he was one of two international prospects the Giants signed to mid 6 figure bonuses last offseason. Fuentes has tremendous size, showed a good patience at the plate with decent power, but had trouble making consistent contact as you would expect from a 17 year old power hitter. If he ever reaches his ceiling he will be a monster. I expect to see him in Arizona this summer.

#47 Marvin Barrios, RHP. BD: 9/23/1992. 6'3", 145 lbs. B-R, T-R.

DSL: 2-2, 1.87, 33.2 IP, 9 BB, 30 K.

Barrios was the other mid 6 figure international bonus baby from 2009. I was 6'3", 145 lbs once upon a time, and let me tell you THAT is skinny! I'm talking concentration camp skinny! The kid put up fine numbers in his pro debut for the DSL Giants though. Look for him in Arizona this summer. Hopefully he'll fill out that frame pretty soon!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

College Corner: First Friday

There was lots of great pitching on the first Friday night of the 2011 college baseball season in spite of several rainouts in Southern California. Let's go to the rundown:

Matt Purke, LHP, TCU: 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K. Good to see TCU being conservative with their prized prospect.

Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K's. His opponent, Matt Lujan of San Francisco put up a nice line too: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 9 K's. Lujan is a senior LHP.

Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K's.

Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 10 K's.

Ricky Oropesa and USC were rained out.

I've already found a couple of sleepers for the later rounds:

Brandon Meredith OF San Diego State: Now a junior, Meredith was the first high schooler to hit a ball out of Petco Park. He's always been able to hit. He's a big burly fellow with a barrel chest listed at 6'2", 225 lbs who played 1B is fresman season at SDSU then moved to RF last year. He has more speed than you'd think from a kid his size and has a strong throwing arm. He was projected as a third baseman out of HS. In terms of size, he reminds me a lot of Thomas Neal and Chuckie Jones from among current Giants prospects. Here's his batting lines from his first two seasons:

2009: .309/.415/.465, 7 HR.
2010: .383/.486/.542, 7 HR, 9 SB.

In last night's 12-9 loss to Winthrop, Meredith had a great game going 3 for 5, 2B, HR.

He's not listed in BA's College Top 100. Could be a nice sleeper pick in round 5 or 6. I'll be following him closely this year.

Villanova might have another nice sleeper hitter after producing Matt Szczur last year. This year it's Matt Fleishman, OF. Last night, Matt put up a line of 4 for 5, 2 2B while batting cleanup for the Wildcats. The line caught my eye so I looked up his prior stats. In one year of JC ball in 2009 he put up a line of .315/.371/.582 with 7 HR. Last year, he hit .276/.359/.439 with 3 HR while missing a month of the season with an illness. He's 6'2", 200 lb. Look for a breakout this year and a mid-round draft.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #43 Edwin Escobar #44 Austin Fleet

#43 Edwin Escobar, LHP. BD: 4/22/1992. 6'1", 185 lb. B-L, T- L.

Short Season(Salem-Keizer): 2-4, 4.86, 63 IP, 40 BB, 69 K. VWL: 1-0, 2.82, 22.1 IP, 16 BB, 14 K.

Edwin Escobar came over from the Texas Rangers organization just as the season was starting in exchange for the Rangers right to keep Ben Snyder. Pitching in the NWL at age 18, he was one of the youngest players in the league and more than held his own. The K/9 is there. Obviously he needs to work on his control. Baggs was asked about him in the BA Q/A and said he didn't make BA's Giants top 30 due to lack of dominant stuff. I would think the next stop is Low A Augusta. Seems like a nice pickup for losing a Rule 5 player.

#44 Austin Fleet, RHP. BD: 4/17/1987. 6'1", 175 lb. B-R, T-R.

Rookie AZL: 6-3, 2.65, 51 IP, 8 BB, 65 K. College(Coastal Carolina): 6-2, 2.85, 60 IP, 19 BB, 58 K's, 8 Saves.

Fleet was a college closer for a highly ranked D1 program. The Giants converted him to starting after the draft. Maybe it's because they didn't want to have a double stressor on him while they were stretching him out, but Rookie ball is way too low a level for a big time college closer to start at. He put up dominant numbers which you would expect him to at this level. BA's pre-draft scouting report had him with a 93-94 MPH fastball with solid sink. He was a starter for 3 years at Coastal Carolina before being moved to the bullpen for his senior season.

Friday, February 18, 2011

College Corner: The College Season Starts!

The college baseball season kicks off today on a very rainy evening in Southern California. Here are some of the things I will be watching in college baseball this season:

Ricky Oropesa- My man Ricky is starting his junior season at USC. He's going to be playing 3B. If he's successful fielding the position, it should help his draft stock. The burning question is whether the new college bat limitations will suppress his power nunbers, which are his main selling point, or will they separate Ricky's true power from the pretenders? I'm betting on the latter, but we'll see. BTW, for those of you who don't remember, I work with Ricky's mom, so am a huge fan.

The Draft- I always watch college baseball with an eye on the draft, especially for who the Giants might draft. Since they are drafting #29, they obviously aren't in line for a lot of the Friday night starting studs like Gerrit Cole, Matt Purke, Taylor Jungmann and Sonny Gray. Here's some of the names I think might be available when the Giants make their pick, in no particular order:

Jason Esposito, 3B, Vanderbilt- nice combination of power, speed and fielding.

My man, Ricky Oropesa, 3B/1B, USC- Power to spare. Much more athletic and a better all-around hitter than he's given credit for.

Tony Zych, SP, Louisville- Hard thrower with closer potential.

BA Vollmuth, SS/3B, Southern Mississippi- Big college SS with power. Will probably move to 3B in the pros, but has enough bat that he would be a great prospect even at the corner. May be there in the supplemental first round or even round 2.

Alex Meyer, RHP, Kentucky- A giant of a pitcher, 6'9" 220 lb with a big fastball. Hasn't had success in college, but the scouts like him.

Other pitchers- Andrew Chafin LHP Kent State(mid 90's FB), Austin Wood RHP USC(has hit 99 MPH), Noe Ramirez RHP, Cal State Fullerton(polished college pitcher with great command of multiple pitches).

Other hitters- Zach Cone OF, Georgia, Mikie Mahtook OF LSU, Levi Michael SS UNC, Harold Martinez 3B Miami.

Stanford Freshmen- I became really fascinated by Austin Wilson and Brian Ragira as high schoolers from reading I will be watching their progress at Stanford with interest.

Friday Night Starters- I like to scroll through the college boxscores after the Friday games and look at the pitching lines. You find some pretty amazing stuff. That's where I first found out about Tim Lincecum! I particularly pay attention to double digit strikeouts. If the BB's are 2 or less, it's even better! Those are dominating performances and tend to be good predictors of future success in the pros.

Non-Pac 10 California schools- Nothing against the Pac 10. I love the Pac 10! It's just that there is an amazing amount of great college baseball in California outside the Pac 10: Long Beach State, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, Cal Poly SLO, San Francisco, Fresno State, UCSB......the list goes on and on....Pepperdine, Cal State Northridge, UC Davis. Great way to find gems that will be drafted in the later rounds on draft day.

Anything you will be watching for?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #41 Ryan Cavan #42 Chris Lofton

#41 Ryan Cavan, 2B. BD: 6/28/1987. 5'10", 180 lb. B-S, T-R.

Low A: .283/.352/.451, 17 HR, 12 SB.

Ryan Cavan moved over to 2B from SS. Once again, he got red hot at the end of the season putting up a .395 BA over his last 10 games. His stat line showed plate discipline, power and some speed. I hadn't noticed that he is a switch-hitter before. The only negative I can see is his age. At 23, you really want to see your true prospects higher in the organization. With Charlie Culberson and Nick Noonan battling over AAA and AA, Cavan will most likely be the keystone sacker for San Jose where he will get a chance to show off his offensive skills in a hitter-friendly environment. Gotta root for any player to come out of UCSB. Love those non- Pac 10 California schools!

#42 Chris Lofton, OF. BD: 5/20/1990. 6'1", 175 lb. B-L, T-R.

Short Season(Salem-Keizer): .268/.350/.343, 15 SB.

Lofton was drafted in round 9 out of JC ball and put up a nice line for S-K. It would have been even better except for a .229 slump over his last 10 games. He's a slap and boogie guy who has some room to fill out his frame. With Gary Brown and Chuckie Jones likely slated for San Jose and Augusta respectively, Lofton may be the odd man out for CF playing time as Brown and Jones will obviously get first consideration. Jarrett Parker is in the mix too. The Giants organizational OF situation has gone from being nearly barren to being ultra-competitive in just 2 seasons.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #38 Craig Wescott #39 Eric Surkamp #40 Jason Stoffel

#38 Craig Westcott, RHP. BD: 3/1/1986. 6'4", 225 lbs. B-L, T- R.

A+: 6-0, 1.83, 68.2 IP, 32 BB, 53 K's GO/AO= 1.52. AA: 3-3, 5.13, 66.2 IP, 28 BB, 48 K's GO/AO= 1.35.

The Giants like to draft big RHP's out of small college programs later in the draft. Westcott fits the mold to a T. He was not as successful after his promotion to AA, but seemed to get a bit better as he acclimated to the higher level. Over his last 10 starts, his numbers were a little more like San Jose: 3-2, 4.99, 52.1 IP, 20 BB, 41 K. If all the guys who signed minor league deals end up pitching for Fresno to start the season, Westcott will likely start out back in Richmond for another try at dominating AA. His ceiling is purely #5 starter/long relief and fringy at that.

#39 Eric Surkamp, LHP. BD: 7/16/1987. 6'4", 190 lbs. B-L, T-L.

A+: 4-2, 3.11, 101.1 IP, 22 BB, 108 K.

I'm pretty sure some of you are outraged at this placement for Surkamp. I have to admit that if I was doing the list today, I would probably rank him higher. The K and BB numbers at San Jose are certainly impressive. I've never been as high as some on Eric Surkamp and here's why. I believe that pitching starts with the fastball. Surkamp has a great curveball and a good changeup, but his fastball is fringy at best, although he reportedly did have it up to as high as 92 before his season was cut short by a very serious sounding hip injury that required surgery. Apparently his college coaches didn't want him to throw the fastball because his curveball was so good he could get college hitters out by just throwing that. You can't get away with that in the major leagues! Eric has reportedly been working on both velocity and command of his heater in the pros. The Giants were reportedly planning to promote him to Richmond immediately after the game he was injured in. My low ranking was a combination of thinking his stuff may not hold up at higher levels and the seriousness of the hip injury. Surkamp as said his hip feels great and he'll be ready for Spring Training. Hopefully that means he can continue to develop the fastball and prove me wrong.

#40 Jason Stoffel, RHP. BD: 9/15/1988. 6'2", 220 lbs. B-R, T-R.

A+: 2-4, 4.80, 50.2 IP, 24 BB, 66 K, GO/AO= 1.77, 25 Saves. AFL: 1-0, 5.27, 13.2 IP, 4 BB, 11 K's.

The first time I saw Jason Stoffel pitch, my first reaction was that he must have ADHD or something. He never stopped moving on the mound, appeared impatient, wanted to throw the next pitch the second he got it back from the catcher. He started out looking pretty good with a fastball up in the 92-94 MPH range. He got through the first inning OK, but gave up a couple of seeing eye hits in his second inning of work. After that, you could see the velocity dropping with each successive batter who made louder and louder contact off nothing but ever straightening fastballs. My impression then was that he needed to slow down, learn a secondary pitch or two and build up his stamina before thinking about getting on the closer fast-track.

Later, in the Cal League Championship series, he got hit pretty hard again, but he had slowed his pace down considerably and he was throwing more breaking balls that didn't look half bad. He showed more inconsistency in the AFL.

I do admit his K, BB and groundball numbers actually look pretty good and he certainly has the physical tools. I still think he needs to slow it down, pitch in longer outings and work on developing his secondary pitches. He does that and maybe he ends up as a serviceable setup man. He has a strong physical resemblance to Tyler Walker, though maybe not as obese.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #36 Roger Kieschnick #37 Clayton Tanner

#36 Roger Kieschnick, OF. BD: 1/21/1987. 6'3", 215 lb. B-L, T- R.

AA: .251/.305/.368, 4 HR in 223 AB.

Roger Kieschnick had a terrific season for San Jose in 2009, but like so many other position prospects over the years he struggled at AA. The season was complicated by back problems and he shut it down after the July 3 game. Prior to that, he had hit .317 over the prior 10 games. At this point, I'm not sure what to make of him. His first task is to prove he can stay healthy. Back problems tend to be chronic and recurrent. After that, he'll have to compete in a much more crowded OF picture. He still has serious power potential as well as the ability to hit for average as well as the speed and arm to play RF, so it's way too early to count him out. He just needs to get healthy and stay healthy or the herd will go thundering on past him.

#37 Clayton Tanner, LHP. BD: 12/5/1987. 6'2", 210 lbs. B-L, T-L.

AA: 9-9, 3.68, 149 IP, 64 BB, 79 K, GO/AO= 1.79.

Clayton Tanner didn't pitch badly for AA Richmond last year, but those K and BB numbers are horrific. He partially makes up for it with a GB tendency, but 1.79 isn't all that for a minor leaguer. I'd be willing to bet that major league hitters would elevate a lot of those GB's. Those are Jeff Suppan numbers except at AA instead of the majors! It's probably time to advance Clayton to AAA and let him sink or swim, but I'm afraid those numbers translate into batting practice for the other team in the PCL. The one mitigating factor is that Giants pitching prospects have tended to have a strange drop in their K rates at AA lately. It didn't seem to mean much for Madison Bumgarner, but it heralded disaster for Tim Alderson. We'll see how Tanner's story turns out soon enough.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #34 Matt Graham, #35 Brandon Allen

#34 Matt Graham, RHP. BD: 5/1/1990. 6'4", 225 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Rookie AZL: 1-0, 5.63, 8 IP, 5 BB, 8 K's, GO/AO= 2.50. Short Season(Salem-Keizer): 0-3, 6.85, 22.1 IP, 10 BB, 19 K, GO/AO= 2.43.

I know some of you were waiting with bated breath to see what I have to say about Matt Graham. Well the truth is, I don't really know a whole lot! He's a big burly Texas HS pitcher whose stock dropped in the 2009 draft due to inconsistent velocity. The Giants took him in the 6'th round. The general consensus on him seemed to be that he had a lot of potential but would be a project. His 2010 performance, in a small sample size, didn't do anything to dispel that notion. I would deduce from his numbers that he pounds the strike zone with a heavy, sinking fastball, and needs to develop better secondary stuff to make himself less hittable. He remains a high ceiling, high risk prospect.

#35 Brandon Allen, RHP. BD: 8/15/1991. 6'6", 190 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Rookie AZL: 0-0, 7.94, 5.2 IP, 4 BB, 6 K's.

Similar story to Graham but from the 2010 draft. The Giants, under the direction of John Barr, seem to have an early pattern of drafting a few HS players down in the draft and then signing them for a relatively small, but above-slot bonuses. Allen was taken in round 18 and signed for $110 K. He's a little taller and a little thinner than Graham and comes out of Florida. He made just a cameo appearance in 2010 with way too small a sample size to get any read on him at all. Most of the damage to his ERA came in his last appearance as the AZL Cubs scored 3 runs in 2/3 IP. Brandon is yet another high ceiling, high risk arm in the system. I really like the strategy of stockpiling these kinds of arms. It only takes one to hit it big every 4 or 5 years to make it a really good investment.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #33 Reiner Roibal

#33 Reiner Roibal, RHP. BD: 1/19/1989. 6'2", 215 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Rookie AZL: 2-0, 2.08, 8.2 IP, 5 BB, 14 K, GO/AO=2.00.

Reiner Roibal was a star on the Cuban National Team who defected after the 2008-09 season. He had a mixed track record in Cuba. He reportedly featured a mid 90's fastball. The Giants signed him for about $500 K in the spring of 2010. He only pitched a few innings for Arizona with the strong K/9 and a GB tendency but with a lot of walks in an extremely small sample size. Someone asked Baggs about him in the BA Giants Prospects chat. He indicated that his stuff wasn't as impressive as advertised once he got to Arizona. It will be interesting to see where he turns up in 2011. Given his age and international experience it would be disappointing if it was not at least at Low A Augusta.

I found some pics by searching his name on Google Images. He looks younger than 22 yo and reminds me a bit of Russ Ortiz.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #32 Dan Burkhart

#32 Dan Burkhart, C. BD: 3/6/1989. 5'11", 215 lbs. B-L, T-R.

Rookie AZL: .333/.455/.687 in 18 AB. Short Season(Salem-Keizer): .328/.389/.375 in 64 AB. College(Ohio State): .354/.468/.481.

Burkhart is a lefty hitting catcher from a good D1 baseball program. Produced mainly doubles power in college. Probably got the Giants attention by hitting .295 in the Cape Cod League, a pretty tough place for hitters. Probably doesn't have much projection, if any, in his body. Projects as a backup if he makes it to the majors, but again, a LH hitting backup catcher has a lot of value.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #31 Carter Jurica

#31 Carter Jurica, SS. BD: 9/23/1988. 5"11", 185 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Short Season(Salem-Keizer): .216/.282/.322, 4 HR, 10 SB. College(Kansas State): .363/.447/.624, 13 HR, 18 SB.

Carter Jurica was drafted in the 3'rd round of the 2010 draft out of Kansas State. He got off to a slow start in pro ball, struggling to make consistent contact. His Isos weren't terrible, and he finished on an up note hitting .317 over his last 10 games. A lot of people had never heard of him before he was drafted, including me, but he improved significantly in each of his 3 college seasons and put up good offensive numbers in his junior season even by college standards.

I'm guessing some of you think this ranking is way too high, and it may be. Part of it is his draft rank and part of it is his college numbers. Yes, I know college numbers mean about as much as Fresno numbers, but they were pretty good, even for college. I'm giving him a mulligan on his slow start and a #31 ranking isn't all that high anyway. Not sure where we'll see him next year, but I don't see anyone blocking his way to San Jose. That's where you would expect a 3'rd round draft pick out of a major college program to start his first full season. He'll have to show something in 2011 to remain on the prospect map though.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #30 Hector Sanchez

#30 Hector Sanchez, C. BD: 11/17/1989. 5'11", 235 lbs. B-S, T-R.

Low A: .274/.336/.394, 5 HR.

Hector Sanchez has intrigued Giants prospect watchers by putting up >.400 OBP's in the DSL and AZL over previous 3 seasons. While his numbers weren't bad in Augusta in 2010, the OBP didn't approach what he's done at lower levels and the power did not develop as yet. At 20 yo, he was age appropriate for the league and a switch-hitting catcher prospect is always someone who projects to have value even if he's a career backup. Sanchez is also helped by a reputation for good defense. His weight has been creeping up as he's gotten older, and he has always had a "soft" body, so that's an issue too. He split time behind the plate with Tommy Joseph in 2010 and the Giants have given indication that Joseph may be ahead of Sanchez on the catching prospect depth chart. Sanchez has lefty hitting catcher pushing him in Dan Burkhart, so it will be interesting to see where and how much he plays in 2011.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #29 Jake Dunning

#29 Jake Dunning, RHP. BD: 8/12/1988. 6'4", 188 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Short Season(Salem-Keizer): 1-0, 2.95, 36.2 IP, 8 BB, 46 K, GO/AO= 1.82.

Jake Dunning was drafted as a shortstop in 2009 out of Indiana U. He played 23 games as a position player for the AZL Giants that year and pitched just 1 inning allowing 1 ER. The Giants apparently liked what they saw on the mound and he came out as a pitcher in 2010 and put up some impressive numbers for Salem-Keizer.

Baseball America named Jake the #20 prospect in the Northwest League for 2010. Their scouting report has his fastball in the 92-95 range with a slider and changeup that show potential but need polish. His size and stuff have drawn comparisons to another converted shortstop named Joe Nathan. There is some thought that the Giants might try him at starter. I'll guess he goes to San Jose if he stays as a reliever and to Augusta if they convert him to starter.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #28 Jacob Dunnington

#28 Jacob Dunnington, RHP. BD: 2/2/1991. 6'2", 160 lb. B-L, T-R

Rookie AZL: 3-0, 0.63, 28.2 IP, 15 BB, 45 K, 3 Saves.

Here's a story that is almost too good to be true. Jacob Dunnington went undrafted after his HS senior season in Redmond, WA. That means that major league teams apparently thought 1500 players were better than him in the 2009 draft. I'm not sure why he went undrafted, but I've read that he had a late growth spurt his senior year and picked up an extra 5 MPH on the fastball after the draft. Apparently the Giants had a scout who was on the ball and they signed him as an undrafted FA in the fall of 2009. Now, it's not that unusual to sign undrafted FA's out of indy leagues or college after the draft, but it's almost unheard of to sign a HS kid after the draft. These kids usually want to go to college of junior college to try and improve their stock rather than sign for essentially nothing.

As you can see, even though Dunnington is a bit taller than Timmy, he has a slight build for a pitcher. Like Timmy, he hails from Washington state, and he even bats L and throw R like Timmy! He reportedly has a fastball in the 92 MPH range. Otherwise, scouting reports are sketchy. He certainly put up impressive K numbers in the AZL. His walk rate could be better, but was compensated for by the K rate which gave him a K/BB of about 3-1. He pitched exclusively in relief with some Save opportunities.

At 19, he's on the old side for a HS signee getting his first pro experience. I'm guessing he shows up in Augusta in some capacity, probably the bullpen. He has room to fill out the frame, so could gain even more velocity as he gets stronger. We'll see if he stays in the bullpen or gets a chance to start somewhere down the line.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #27 Jorge Bucardo

#27 Jorge Bucardo, RHP. BD: 10/18/1989. 6'1", 155 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Low A: 9-4, 2.21, 114 IP, 31 BB, 95 K, GO/AO= 2.17. A+: 2-2, 4.42, 38.2 IP, 19 BB, 26 K, GO/AO=1.75.

Jorge Bucardo was just listed as the top pitcher in the Giants organization by Jonathan Mayo of, so I'm probably ranking him way too low here, once again. Bucardo had a very good season for Augusta at age 20 so he was fairly young for the league even though it was low A. He struggled a bit after his promotion to San Jose, but it was late in the season and he may have been worn down by then.

His numbers were similar to what he's put up in the past, decent K and BB rates with an extreme GB tendency. My problem with Bucardo is how that holds up at higher levels. Extreme GB pitchers are not all that uncommon in the low minors. The percentage who can maintain it at AAA and MLB is miniscule. They can be very good pitchers at higher levels but not very many make it that far. What you see more commonly are pitchers who were big strikeout pitchers in the low minors who learn to keep it on the ground at higher levels. Those are the guys who are more likely to make it. I haven't done an exhaustive study of the backgrounds of MLB pitchers so can't prove it, but that's my impression.

Bucardo has a wiry frame and a slinging low 3/4's or even sidearm delivery. He should start the season in San Jose where he will be again fairly young for the league. The Cal League is a tough place to pitch so it will be a good test for him. If he does well, I'll be forced to move him much higher on next year's list.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #26 Jose Valdez

#26 Jose Valdez, RHP. BD: 8/1/1988. 6"7", 250 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Low A: 4-3, 3.30, 60 IP, 37 BB, 68 K's, GO/AO= 1.61.

Jose Valdez has been in the organization since 2006 when he was listed as 6'7" and something like 170 lbs and was a wild 17 year old in the AZL. He's obviously filled out his frame since then. He also missed the entire 2008 season with TJ surgery, so 2010 was his first full season since going under the knife.

I haven't read any recent scouting reports. BA listed him as a top 20 prospect in the AZL and reported a mid 90's fastball with sink and run with very raw secondary stuff. Last year, he just kept getting stronger and stronger as the season went along finishing with a 1.62 ERA over his last 10 appearances. I expect him to be working out of SJ's bullpen in 2011. He is always a threat to have a breakout season and rocket up the system a la Dan Runzler in 2009.

If you are interested, go to, click on images and search for Jose Valdez Giants. You'll find a couple of pics. What an awesome physical presence!

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #25 Carlos Willoughby

#25 Carlos Willoughby, 2B. BD: 11/12/1988. 5'10" 170 lbs. B-S, T-R.

Rookie AZL: .295/.372/.432, 23 SB, 4 CS.

Carlos Willoughby is a name that has intrigued me for several years. He put up very similar numbers down in the DSL as the Giants inexplicably kept him down there for 3 frustrating seasons. He has no power, but the combination of high BA, even higher OBP and speed give him perfect leadoff numbers all coming from a middle infield position. Why the Giants have held him back so long I don't know. Given the fact that he's always played 2B rather than SS makes me think it's probably due to problems on defense.

Remember Marcus Sanders and how excited some of us were about similar numbers he put up in the low minors? Man, I can just close my eyes and imagine what having a guy like that leading off for the Giants would be like. Not that Andres Torres isn't a heckuva leadoff batter, but if they had a guy with these numbers they could just put him at the top and slide Torres down to #2 or even #3 where he'd be even more valuable!

I've gotta think Willoughby starts out 2011 at Augusta. If not, there has to be something terribly wrong that I'm completely missing, probably defense.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fantasy Focus: Ranking Matt Cain Part III- It's not Matt, It's the Giants!

The great Matt Cain debate flared anew after smoldering for just a few days when Dave Cameron of posted a piece with data supporting the thesis that not only does Matt Cain have some control over his HR/FB, but a large contingent of Giants pitchers from over the last 10 years have apparently been able to control theirs too! While my main goal is to help others see the greatness in Matt Cain that I see, I have to say I feel just a bit of personal vindication as I have been saying that I think the Giants have an organizational pitching philosophy that suppresses HR's for a long time.

It has been virtually dogma in the sabermetric community that over a large enough sample size, all pitchers will have approximately the same HR/FB, therefore the more flyballs you allow, the more HR's you give up. While it is true that in general flyball pitchers give up a few more HR's than GB pitchers, they don't give up as many more as you would expect from a purely random distribution. I believe the reason for this is that most HR's don't come off good pitches and are not just random flyballs that happen to carry over the fence. In fact, most HR's are hit off "mistake" pitches like hanging sinkers, hanging breaking balls or fastballs down the middle of the strike zone. These mistake pitches get crushed. They are no doubters! I know when I am at a game, I can tell almost immediately if a ball is going out of the park. It just has a different trajectory than a deep flyball that gets caught at the warning track.

If you have a really good fastball, like Matt Cain, you really don't have to worry about it getting taken deep. You can keep on pounding it in there until the batter swings and misses, or hits a harmless flyball. Just my observations based on watching a whole lot of games on TV, including replays along with commentary from Kruk, most of Matt Cain's HR's are not given up off the high fastball which produces most of his flyouts. They come off breaking balls that he hangs in the strike zone and they really get pounded.

So, while Matt Cain keeps his HR/FB rate down by pounding the fastball up in the zone, those flyballs also keep his BABIP down because they are more sure outs than groundballs that might find their way between infielders. This is why, in addition to his low HR rates, he also has ridiculously low Batting Averages Against and why he is able to keep his ERA low despite the pedestrian K/9 and BB/9.

In addition to all of the great things Matt Cain does, there is also an organization wide tendency to low HR rates that goes beyond park factors. At the same time, the Giants have tended to have high BB rates over the same period of time. Putting it all together, I believe the Giants teach their pitchers to not "give in" to hitters even if that means walking a few more. When they have a runner or two on base and get behind the hitter, instead of coming in with a pitch in the middle of the strike zone they insist on making their pitch, keeping it on the corners where the hitters can't make solid contact. If the batter walks, hey, it's only a walk! They'll get the next batter!

I can't prove any of this other than to cite my extensive observation of Giants games and listening to Kruk's explanations of things, but it appears that as analysts are delving more and more into PitchFx data, some of these observations are being confirmed by hard data!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #24 Chris Dominguez

#24 Chris Dominguez, 3B. BD: 11/22/1986. 6'3", 215 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Low A: .272/.326/.456, 32 2B, 4 3B, 21 HR, 14 SB. PWL: .357/.438/.500 in 28 AB.

Chris Dominguez was the other prospect at Augusta with "light tower" power. After starting out 2009 red hot after the draft and then struggling mightily at Salem-Keizer, I really thought a BA down below the Mendoza line was a possibility in 2010. I kept waiting for him to go into his terminal slump and he never did, staying quite consistent throughout the season. He's old for his level, but power hitters sometimes develop late. He'll have to keep proving it at every level and time is not on his side, but the ceiling is pretty high.

His other major asset is his throwing arm which some scouts think is the best of any 3'rd base prospect. I suppose there is always pitching if he can't keep up with the hitting. He is somebody who steadily improved in college and showed improvement in his second pro season too, so I wouldn't count him out just yet.

I expect Chris to be the starting 3B in San Jose this year.

Hot Stove Update: Projecting the Pitching

Yesterday we looked at a projected outcome to the 2011 season from the Giants offense using a new projection used by called RotoChamp. Let's take a look at what the pitching might do:


Tim Lincecum: 17-8, 2.93, 217 IP, 75 BB, 242 K's.

Matt Cain: 16-9, 3.25, 220 IP, 68 BB, 176 K's.

Jonathan Sanchez: 11-10, 4.05, 184 IP, 93 BB, 196 K's.

Madison Bumgarner: 11-9, 3.84, 175 IP, 41 BB, 137 K's.

Barry Zito: 9-9, 4.44, 180 IP, 78 BB, 136 K's.


Brian Wilson: 3-3, 2.48, 72 IP, 26 BB, 87 K's, 37 Saves.

Sergio Romo(Bill James): 5-2, 2.29, 59 IP, 15 BB, 64 K's.

Jeremy Affeldt: 2-2, 3.20, 53 IP, 25 BB, 48 K's, 4 Saves.

Santiago Casilla(Bill James): 4-4, 3.86, 77 IP, 37 BB, 76 K's.

Ramon Ramirez: 3-3, 3.72, 69 IP, 28 BB, 50 K's.

Javier Lopez(Bill James): 3-3, 4.11, 57 IP, 25 BB, 36 K's.

Guillermo Mota(Bill James): 3-3, 3.49, 49 IP, 19 BB, 38 K's.

Jeff Suppan(Bill James): 4-6, 5.17, 94 IP, 33 BB, 50 K's.

Dan Runzler(Marcel): 3-2, 3.86, 42 IP, 18 BB, 40 K's.

If you take the Starters plus the 7 most likely relievers, you get a record of 90-65 which leaves 7 games unaccounted for. If you add in Runzler you get to 93-67 with just 2 games unaccounted for. Of course, it's highly unlikely that a team goes a whole season using only 13 pitchers. W-L are the toughest to project. The tendency of all projections systems is to regress to .500 because they are so unpredictable. I think Giants fans would not be too surprised or unhappy with a 93-94 win season. Given the projections we are seeing for the Giants offense, if you take W-L out of the pitching projections, the Giants could easily do better than 93-94 wins.

Of the specific projections here, I think Sanchez is a bit pessimistic. Lincecum and Cain are about right on ERA but maybe a bit optimistic on W-L. Romo is very optimistic. Lopez is pessimistic and Ramirez optimistic. I think I would flip-flop their ERA's.

What do you think?

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #23 Johnny Monell

#23 Johnny Monell, C. BD: 3/27/1986. 5'11", 205 lbs. B-L, T-R.

A+: .273/.350/.487, 19 HR, 12 SB. PWL: .203/.250/.356, 2 HR in 59 AB.

Johnny Monell is one of my favorite Giants prospects. He's slowly worked his way up the chain and struggled with some injuries along the way. I thought he might have a breakout season last year for San Jose. He did have a very good season though maybe not quite a breakout. He's an offense-first catcher who bats lefthanded, but he's worked hard on defense and is improving in that aspect of his game. He's likely ticketed for AA Richmond in 2011 and it will be a huge challenge. At his age, he can't afford any setbacks and will have to do well enough to earn a promotion to AAA by 2012 at the latest. He'd make a very nice backup to Buster Posey with the lefthanded bat.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Signings, Links and Projecting the Offense

Giants made an international signing today, Simon Mercedes, an 18 yo RHP from the Dominican Prospect League. Mercedes participatate in the DPL All-Star Game today recording a line of 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K's. He reportedly has a fastball that runs 90-94 MPH and a sharp curveball. Not much other info available, but it's good to see the Giants still engaged in the international market.

The Giants also signed Justin Christian to a minor league contract. Christian is a 31 year old OF who has also played SS and 2B. He has recently been in the Yankees system putting up a line of .289/.366/.435 with 22 steals mostly in AA. He played in the Mexican Pacific League this fall and winter with a line of .356/.452/.561 with 22 doubles, 10 HR, 24 SB. He has excellent plate discipline with a K/BB of approximately 1 in addition to the excellent OBP's. Sounds like he could be another Andres Torres if the Giants can find a place for him.

Check out Splashing Pumpkins linked over on the left hand side of this blog. They are doing some interviews of Giants players at a pre-fanfest event yesterday. Some interesting questions and responses from Madison Bumgarner, Darren Ford and Javier Lopez so far.

Check out a fanpost by Goofus over on also linked to the left. He attended a pre-fanfest event too and has some interesting notes. Most touching to me was his story about Andres Torres choking back tears when he was asked how if felt to win a World Series with the Giants after struggling on the fringes of the major leagues for so long.

Fangraphs is posting a new projection system on their site for all the players called RotoChamp. I looked through some of them and kind of liked what I saw. Much better than MARCEL which IMO is just ridiculously skewed to league averages. They seem to be closest to Bill James, although ZIPS isn't too far off for most players. I thought I would post a hypothetical lineup and roster along with RotoChamp projections for each player to give an educated guess at how the season might turn out:


Andres Torres: .262/.337/.483, 44 2B, 11 3B, 19 HR, 90 R, 60 RBI, 27 SB in 557 AB.

Freddy Sanchez: .286/.331/.395, 27 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 69 R, 54 RBI in 501 AB.

Aubrey Huff: .287/.372/.488, 35 2B, 4 3B, 23 HR, 93 R, 95 RBI in 555 AB's.

Buster Posey: .309/.361/.504, 28 2B, 2 3B, 22 HR, 79 R, 84 RBI in 502 AB.

Pat Burrell: .243/.349.450, 21 2B, 1 3B, 20 HR, 65 R, 60 RBI in 402 AB.

Pablo Sandoval: .290/.347/.457, 36 2B, 4 3B, 16 HR, 73 R, 78 RBI in 551 AB.

Miguel Tejada: .291/.331/.417, 29 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 70 R, 74 RBI in 581 AB.

Cody Ross: .272/.327/.445, 28 2B, 2 3B, 17 HR, 59 R, 64 RBI in 481 AB.

Reserves: ( RotoChamp not available, used Bill James for reserves).

Eli Whiteside: .229/.276/.376, 8 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 18 R, 20 RBI in 170 AB.

Mike Fontenot: .278/.344/.404, 23 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 44 R, 40 RBI in 356 AB.

Travis Ishikawa: .268/.336/.432, 12 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 29 R, 33 RBI in 213 AB.

Mark DeRosa: .266/.345/.424, 14 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 48 R, 36 RBI in 311 AB.

Nate Schierholtz: .279/.326/.438, 15 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 30 R, 26 RBI in 226 AB.

Aaron Rowand: .262/.319.416, 14 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 34 R, 36 RBI in 281 AB.

Brandon Belt(ZIPS): .266/.357/.440, 32 2B, 8 3B, 14 HR, 79 R, 80 RBI in 516 AB's.(Belt will either start or not make the team at all. I think he will most likely go to Fresno to start the season).

If the Giants keep 12 pitchers and there are no injuries in Spring Training, 1 of the reserves will have to go. I am still of the opinion that Aaron Rowand will not be on the 25 man roster as of opening day.

I don't think Fontenot gets that many AB's if Freddy Sanchez and Miggy are both healthy especially with Derosa on the team. I wouldn't be shocked to see DeRosa traded if he looks healthy this spring. That would keep the Giants from having to eat Rowand's contract. I think DeRosa is more tradeable than Rowand. If Belt makes the team, Travis is gone.

I think we would all be happy if the season turned out this way for the offense. It's amazing how balanced the team is. The projection is very optimistic for Torres and moderately optimistic for Pablo. The rest of it is close to best case scenario, but very doable for everybody.

I'll cover the pitchers in a later post.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #22 Steve Edlefsen

#22 Steve Edlefsen, RHP. BD: 6/27/1985. 6'2", 195 lb. B-S, T- R.

AAA: 7-2, 2.38, 64.1 IP, 34 BB, 50 K, GO/AO= 3.19. VWL: 1-0, 1.69, 16 IP, 8 BB, 7 K, GO/AO= 2.00.

Edlefsen was a utility IF in college at Nebraska, but the Giants drafted him as a pitcher in the 16'th round of the 2007 draft. He's worked his way up through the system on the middle reliever track. His calling card is an extreme ability to keep the ball on the ground. He's had decent K rates and walks way too many batters, but the groundballs allow him to get away with it.

He has an unorthodox delivery, no windup, slide step, sidearm. It's very hard for batters to time his pitches. From the numbers it's easy to deduce that his ball has crazy sink and he reportedly has a sharp slider that was once rated as best in the organization by BA. Velocity has been reported to be as high as 92 MPH.

He will likely start the season back in Fresno. Given the ups and downs and inevitable injuries in a 162 game season, there is a fair chance of him being called up to SF at some point during the season, although Dan Runzler would likely be called up first. Although he's getting old to be a prospect, he will likely have a fringy MLB career as a back of the pen reliever.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Do the Yankees Want Barry Zito?

This morning, Jonah Keri over on caused a bit of a stir by proposing that the Yankees should trade for Barry Zito. The thought was precipitated by the announcement that Andy Pettitte was officially retiring. That leaves the Yankees a bit short on MLB quality SP's, particularly from the lefthanded side of the ship. This turn of events leaves the Yankees with a starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett and bunch of no-names for the the last 2 spots, unless you think Joba Chamberlain is starter material. None of the current candidates are LHP's.

Why the panic over LHP's? Two things: 1. The ridiculously short porch in Yankee Stadium has always dictated that the Yanks be strong from the left side. 2. Their main AL East rivals, the Red Sox lean strongly to the left in their batting order including the two big name acquisitions, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. The Yanks had already been dealt a major blow when the guy everyone expected them to sign, Cliff Lee, went to Philadelphia instead. The Yanks can probably thank some of their hooligan fans who spit and threw beer at Mrs. Lee for that embarrassment. It probably didn't hurt the Yanks too much to try and wait out Pettitte because there really weren't any other LHP options on the FA market. On the other hand, quite a few decent RHP's got signed by other teams during the long wait. Now the Yanks are clearly in a bind despite brave talk that they can go with internal options if they have to, that rotation just isn't what you see on a playoff contender, let alone a team that is looking to win it all. The Yankees are reportedly drawing up a list of possible trade target including Scott Kazmir and Gio Gonzalez, which brings us to Barry Zito.

Zito's name has not been mentioned in any serious trade rumors. Jonah Keri's piece was basically a fan/writer with an idea. The basic line of reasoning isn't too far-fetched. Zito has one of the most maligned contracts in all of baseball and everybody assumes the Giants would jump at the chance to unload it. The Yankees seem to have unlimited financial resources. They can and have taken on bad contracts to upgrade positions. Then Keri hedged his bets by throwing out the notion of the Giants paying a half of Zito's remaining contract. Whoa there! Say what? I think that was the sound of Brian Sabean hanging up the phone!

I very much doubt that the Giants would trade Barry Zito and his entire contract right now, but I'm darn sure that they would not do any trade that required them to pay half his salary going forward. Here's why: Zito is being paid approximately $18 M per year. For the last two seasons, he's been a 2 WAR pitcher. Market price in MLB right now is approximately $5 M/WAR. In order for the Giants to replace Barry Zito in the rotation, they would have to pay somebody about $10 M unless they had a prospect ready to take over, which they don't. If they pay half of Zito's salary, $9 M and then turn around and pay a replacement $10 M, they end up with a similar pitcher and $1 M higher cost! The other problem with that scenario is there are no such pitchers even available anymore. If there were, the Yankees would be signing them as I write this! Yes, they Giants could trade prospects for the replacement, but those prospects have monetary value too, to say nothing of their talent value. Bottom line, the Giants are not going to be trading Barry Zito and picking up part of his salary!

That brings us to the question of whether the Giants would give Zito and his entire contract away to the Yanks just to get rid of it. Well, you still have the problem that they currently have no replacements within the organization and none on the FA market. Last time I checked, the Giants were acting like they're going to try to repeat as World Series winners. The Giants aren't going to compete with the Dodgers upgraded rotation or the Rockies rising stars by downgrading their pitching rotation! Now, you could argue that downgrading the rotation this year would be worth the possibility of upgrading it or perhaps make it easier to hang onto their young pitching stars in future years. That reasoning makes perfect sense to a stat nerd/armchair GM like us, but the Giants are geared up to try and win again this year. They aren't going to scuttle those plans for some theoretical future benefit. Bottom line: I find it extremely doubtful that the Giants would trade Zito to the Yankees even if the Yanks picked up his entire salary.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #21 Ryan Verdugo

#21 Ryan Verdugo, LHP. BD: 4/10/1987. 6'0", 195 lbs. B-L, T-L.

Low A: 4-1, 2.25, 32 IP, 14 BB, 50 K's. A+: 4-0, 1.47, 30.2 IP, 19 BB, 44 K's. AFL: 4-1, 2.45, 22 IP, 16 BB, 26 K's.

Ryan Verdugo had quite season in 2010 racking up a K/9 of 13.41 at two levels, pitching mostly in relief. His BB/9 was not nearly as strong, but the high K rate enabled him to maintain a K/BB close to 3 which is pretty good. After the season, the Giants sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he started 7 games, his longest outing being 4 IP. His K and BB numbers were not impressive there, but he maintained his success in preventing earned runs. Keep in mind that the Arizona Fall League is historically a very extreme hitter's league.

I saw Ryan pitch a couple of times in Cal League games. He is unimpressive from a physical standpoint, but showed a fastball with some pop that ran 89-93 MPH, a sharp breaking ball and a changeup. Hard to tell when you are in the stands, but I'd bet that he has a cutter in his repertoire too.

It looks like the Giants want to convert Ryan into a starter. Given his age, if they really think he is a prospect, he should start the season in Richmond rather than back in San Jose. I suppose that his AFL performance might be enough to get him a ticket to Fresno, but Richmond seems like his most likely destination to start 2011.

Fantasy Focus: Ranking Matt Cain(Addendum)

The great debate about Matt Cain, his xFIP and his HR/FB ratio, exploded across the internet again yesterday with multiple articles on both sides of the issue with long threads of comments following each article. The spark was a post by Paapfly who looked at Cain's stuff and theorized that his success is based on a rising fastball that induces a lot more popups than the average fastball. xFIP enthusiasts in the sabermetric community seem to a a bit touchy about Matt Cain these days. Dave Cameron posted a study looking at several pitchers who had below average HR/FB 5 years in a row and found that they subsequently regressed close to the mean. Unfortunately, Dave did his math wrong and all but two of his examples actually maintained a HR/FB significantly below league average and the two who didn't saw their careers completely fall apart, probably due to age/injury/loss of skills. Dave later admitted way down in the comments that his math was wrong. He went back and changed the numbers in his original post but failed to acknowledge that the new numbers lead to a much different conclusion. I've already weighed in on the subject in a previous post, but I'll just add two comments here that have clarified in my mind over the last 24 hours:

1. If HR/FB is truly a random occurrence that regresses to a league mean of about 10.5%, regressions should include numbers on both sides of the mean. The pitchers Dave Cameron cited did have a rise in their HR/FB, but continued to maintain a ratio significantly below league mean which strengthens the argument those pitchers, like Matt Cain, possessed a skill which allowed them to suppress HR/FB.

2. Matt Cain's HR/FB has been > 1 SD below the league mean for 5 years in a row. In any single season, there is a 12% chance that any pitcher would fall out of 1 SD to any given side of the mean. The probability of maintaining that variance for 5 consecutive seasons is 0.12 to the 5'th power, or about 1.7/100,000. I'm pretty sure there have not been 100,000 pitchers in the entire history of baseball! Yes, Matt Cain may have been insanely lucky over the last 5 years, but it's much more likely that he possesses a skill at suppressing HR/FB.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #20 Jose Casilla

#20 Jose Casilla, RHP. BD: 5/21/1989. 6'1", 180 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Low A: 4-1, 1.16, 54.1 IP, 17 BB, 41 K's, GO/AO= 2.46, 14 Save.

Jose Casilla has always put up interesting looking stat lines, but has never pitched a lot. He arrived in Arizona in 2008 after two seasons in the DSL. He was a starter at first and put up a line of 3-1, 1.59, 22.2 IP, 1 BB, 19 K's, GO/AO= 2.27. I seem to remember that he went on the DL with arm soreness, but never required surgery. When he came back, the Giants moved him to the bullpen, most likely to limit his IP, and he's basically worked as a closer at each level since. He's always maintained a K/9 of just below 9 with a low BB/9 and an extreme ground ball tendency.

Jose was promoted to San Jose for the Cal League playoffs this last year and I got to see him pitch in Rancho Cucamonga. He he is a bit short for a pitcher with a stocky build. He has a sinking fastball that goes 89-92 and a sharp slider that the RC hitters were flailing at. BA recently named him as having the best slider in the organization, so that agrees with my observations.

The next stop would seem to be San Jose, although I could see the Giants jumping him to Richmond. Although sinker-slider pitchers can be effective closers, I see him as more of a typical 7'th or 8'th inning guy. It seems like he would make a good "stress situation" reliever where you bring him in with runners on base when you need either a K or a groundball DP to get out of the inning. He's Santiago Casilla's baby bro. I think there is a high probability of Jose having a decent MLB career as a setup reliever.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #19 Heath Hembree

#19 Heath Hembree, RHP. BD: 1/13/1989. 6'4", 210 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Rookie AZL: 0-0, 0.82, 11 IP, 0 BB, 22 K's. 3 Saves. College(College of Charleston): 5-3, 6.52, 29 IP, 18 BB, 42 K's, 4 Saves.

Heath is actually Hembree's middle name, so you may find him under Richard Hembree when you are searching for information about him. He's a big, hard throwing righty who had some command issues in college. He had a big jump in velocity during his 2010 college season. He as at 87-89 MPH in 2009, improved to 91-94 early last year and then to 94-99 mph. In one game he wowed the scouts by sitting at 98 MPH for 8 consecutive pitches! He also has a cutter that goes 84-88 and could be a dominating pitch against wood bats. His scouting report mentions that he has very long fingers which would be perfect for adding a splitter to his repertoire. BA ranked him as the #16 prospect in the AZL, a bit unusual for them to rank a college draftee. Their scouting report had his fastball at 93-98 MPH and him using a power slider there. I wonder if it wasn't really a cutter? They also said he has the makings of an effective changeup that he was going to work on during instructional league.

Despite his command problems in college, he showed no such issues in his pro debut. Wow! A K/9 of 18? 0, that's zero, BB's? Small sample size and probably too low a level for his skills, but still.....

Needless to say, this is a prospect with future closer potential who should move very fast through the system. Since he already has a dominating FB and a cutter, if he can add a decent splitter or changeup in instructionals, he's an exception to my rule of not letting closer prospects close in the lower minors. With that arsenal, he should take the fastest track to the majors he can get on!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #18 Kendry Flores

#18 Kendry Flores, RHP. BD: 11/24/1991. 6"2", 175 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Rookie AZL: 5-4, 3.60, 55 IP, 13 BB, 56 K's, GO/AO= 1.27.

I had Kendry Flores on my Dominican Dandies list last year after a fine 17 yo campaign in the DSL: 7-2, 2.18, 66 IP, 24 BB, 57 K, GO/AO- 1.85. He handled the advancement to the states with aplomb improving on his K/9 and BB/9 in the process. His last 10 games were especially sparkling: 5-2, 1.47, 43 IP, 6 BB, 41 K's. The first thing I look at in the stat lines of a young pitching prospect is K/9, but the second is BB/9. While Kendry's K/9 is certainly adequate, it's the great control for a kid so young that really jumps out at you.

There's not a lot of information out there on Kendry's stuff, but he reportedly had a fastball in the low-mid 90's with a pretty good changeup and a slurvy breaking ball.

If go to, Kendry's picture is on the page that comes up. The sites author, Joe Pun has several pics of him, but you have to wade through a ton of pictures to find him.

Assignment options include going to Augusta as a 19 yo or staying back in extended ST and moving up to Salem-Keizer. I would tend to favor Augusta where the competition is actually more age appropriate than in the NWL.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #17 Mike Kickham

#17 Mike Kickham, LHP. BD: 12/12/1988. 6'4", 205 lbs. B-L, T-L.

Rookie AZL: 0-0, 11.57, 2.1 IP, 2 BB, 3 K's. College(Missouri State): 4-9, 5.25, 96 IP, 30 BB, 103 K's. MINK League(Sedalia Bombers): 3-0, 0.29, 24 IP, 7 BB, 42 K's. 2 hits allowed!

Mike Kickham is sort of a mirror image of Seth Rosin. A big LHP from a respected college program whose K and BB numbers were far better than his ERA. Drafted in the 6'th round, the Giants had to work a bit harder to get him signed as he was a draft eligible sophomore giving him an extra years of leverage. A dominating performance in the MINK collegiate summer league convinced the Giants to spring for a well above-slot bonus of $410 K. He was signed pretty late so only made a brief appearance in pro ball at the end of the season. Between college and the summer league, he had already pitched a lot of innings.

Mike throws a hard fastball that goes 88-92 and has touched 94. He also features both a true slider and an overhand curve as well as a decent changeup.

Kickham may be a bit of a project, but has a high ceiling and the potential to be a fast mover. I want to say he should start out in San Jose, but that rotation might be getting a bit crowded. Since he only had one year of D1 college experience, the Giants may want to start him more slowly in Augusta and let him put it all together before promoting him. We'll see. Another nice sleeper/breakout pitching prospect in the organization.

It's not really a video, but on there's an extended interview with Mike on a Springfield, MO radio station. One recurring theme we seem to hear time after time from prospects who the Giants draft is that they seem to be very secretive about who they are interested in drafting. Kickham said there were about 5 teams calling and expressing interest, then all of a sudden the Giants came out of the blue and grabbed him in the 6'th round.