Giants Travel To Bakersfield For Three-Game Series

San Jose Giants (6-8) at Bakersfield Blaze (11-3)
San_Jose_Giants157
At Sam Lynn Ballpark

• Thursday, April 17, 7:15 PM
• Friday, April 18, 7:15 PM
• Saturday, April 19, 7:15 PM

Probable Starting Pitching Matchups
Thursday
San Jose – Martin Agosta (0-1, 3.00)
Bakersfield – Wandy Peralta (0-1, 5.19)

Friday
San Jose – Pat Young (1-0, 2.70)
Bakersfield – James Allen (2-0, 5.17)

Saturday
San Jose – Joe Biagini (0-1, 3.86)
Bakersfield – Drew Cisco (1-1, 6.00)

Broadcast Information
The entire series can be heard live on sjgiants.com with Joe Ritzo calling all of the action. Radio broadcasts begin 30 minutes prior to first pitch with The Giants Pregame Show. All 140 games this season will be aired on the club’s official website and through the San Jose Giants Mobile App.

Giants Begin Three-Game Series At Bakersfield Tonight
The San Jose Giants begin a three-game series against the Bakersfield Blaze this evening at Sam Lynn Ballpark. Martin Agosta (0-1, 3.00) is slated to make the start on the mound for the Giants tonight. After the current series versus the Blaze and an off day on Sunday, San Jose returns to Municipal Stadium for a seven-game homestand against Visalia and Bakersfield starting on Monday night.

Last Game
Four Giants pitchers combined to strikeout 19 Inland Empire batters in a 4-3 victory over the 66ers yesterday afternoon at Municipal Stadium. San Jose jumped out to a 4-0 lead after three innings and then held off Inland Empire late to secure the win and take two out of three games in the series. Joan Gregorio picked-up the win for the Giants after setting a career-high with 11 strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. Gregorio allowed two runs (both earned) on five hits and issued two walks. Steven Okert surrendered a run in the top of the ninth, but struck out the side in the frame to record the save. Offensively, Brian Ragira (1-for-3, HR, 2 RBI) smacked a two-run home run, Chris Lofton (2-for-3) contributed two singles and Ben Turner (0-for-2, 2 RBI) hit a pair of sacrifice flies to lead the way.

Two In A Row
The Giants (6-8) have won back-to-back games for the first time since the opening two days of the season (April 3-4). Prior to the consecutive wins, San Jose had dropped a season-high four games in a row. A victory tonight would give the Giants their first three-game win streak this year.

Familiar Opponent
San Jose and Bakersfield will play each other 10 times over an 18-day period from April 10-27. The Blaze won three out of four games at Municipal Stadium last Thursday-Sunday. After the Giants took the opener 5-2, Bakersfield earned victories of 5-2, 11-7 (10 innings) and 10-4 to claim the series. This series marks San Jose’s first visit of the year to Sam Lynn Ballpark. The Blaze return to Municipal Stadium for a three-game set beginning next Friday, April 25.

Galindo’s Hitting Streak At Nine Games
Center fielder Jesus Galindo brings a nine-game hitting streak into tonight’s action. During the streak, Galindo is batting .289 (11-for-38) with three RBI’s. Galindo’s hit streak is the third-longest in the California League this season.

San Francisco Affiliation
This year marks San Jose’s 27th season as an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants – the longest partnership of any team in the California League. Since their inception in 1988, the San Jose Giants have won six league championships (1998, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010). The Giants have qualified for the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons (2004-2013) – a California League record. 163 former San Jose Giants have reached the major leagues, including 117 with San Francisco.

Blair’s Hot Start
Left fielder Elliott Blair is off to an excellent start at the plate this season. Through his first 10 games, Blair is batting a team-leading .351 (13-for-37) with two doubles, one triple, one home run and five RBI’s. Blair is fifth in the league in batting average and has five multi-hit games already this season. Last year in 69 games with the Giants, Blair hit .229 with three home runs and 26 RBI’s.

Top Prospects
Seven players on San Jose’s roster are among the top 30 prospects in the organization according to Baseball America, including four out of the six pitchers in the Giants starting rotation. San Jose players among the top 30 prospects include: pitcher Chris Stratton (#3), outfielder Mac Williamson (#5), pitcher Kendry Flores (#14), pitcher Joan Gregorio (#17), pitcher Martin Agosta (#21), pitcher Steven Okert (#24) and pitcher Stephen Johnson (#28).

Lenn Sakata Back In Orange & Black
Lenn Sakata, the winningest manager in California League history, has returned to the San Jose Giants this season. 2014 marks Sakata’s 10th year in the San Francisco Giants organization (first since 2007) and his seventh season as San Jose’s manager (1999, 2001, 2004-2007, 2014). Entering this year, Sakata has compiled a 466-374 record as the Giants skipper having directed San Jose to the 2001, 2005 and 2007 California League championships. Sakata has won 684 games in 10 seasons as a manager in the California League. After leaving the Giants, Sakata managed two seasons in the Chiba Lotte Marines organization in Japan before spending three years in the Colorado Rockies organization as a minor league manager and hitting coach.

Opponent Notes: Bakersfield Blaze
The Bakersfield Blaze, an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, are in first place in the North Division with an 11-3 record. Bakersfield is 6-1 at home this season. The Blaze rank first in the league in batting average (.305), runs scored (7.6 per game) and stolen bases (26) while they’re fifth in ERA (3.73).

Giants Continue Homestand Against Inland Empire

Inland Empire 66ers (3-8) at San Jose Giants (4-7)

San_Jose_Giants157At Municipal Stadium
• Monday, April 14, 7:00 PM
• Tuesday, April 15, 7:00 PM
• Wednesday, April 16, 12:35 PM

Probable Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday
Inland Empire – Kyle McGowin (0-0, 1.80)
San Jose – Chris Stratton (1-1, 4.50)

Tuesday

Inland Empire – Ryan Crowley (0-2, 10.00)
San Jose – Kendry Flores (1-1, 4.50)

Wednesday
Inland Empire – Alex Keudell (0-1, 3.52)
San Jose – Joan Gregorio (1-0, 1.00)

Broadcast Information
The entire series can be heard live on sjgiants.com and inside Municipal Stadium on 92.9 FM with Joe Ritzo calling all of the action. Radio broadcasts begin 30 minutes prior to first pitch with The Giants Pregame Show. All 140 games this season will be aired on the club’s official website and the San Jose Giants Mobile App. Additionally, every home game is streamed live and available on demand through MiLB.TV.

Giants Begin Three-Game Series Against Inland Empire Tonight

The San Jose Giants continue their homestand this evening with the opener of a three-game series against the Inland Empire 66ers at Municipal Stadium. Chris Stratton (1-1, 4.50) is slated to make the start on the mound for the Giants tonight. San Jose began the homestand by dropping three out of four games to the Bakersfield Blaze in a series that concluded yesterday.

Last Game
Bakersfield secured a series victory over the Giants with a 10-4 win yesterday afternoon. The Blaze took the lead for good with a three-run top of the third before blowing the game open with four runs in the eighth inning. Bakersfield finished the contest with 15 hits and was led by first baseman Marquez Smith, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and three RBI’s. San Jose starter Joe Biagini suffered the loss after yielding four runs (all earned) on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings. Brian Ragira (2-for-4, RBI) and Elliott Blair (2-for-4) had two hits apiece for the Giants in the loss. All nine San Jose starters had at least one hit.

Lost Six Of Seven
Since a 3-1 start, the Giants have lost six out of seven games. San Jose enters tonight’s contest on a season-high tying three-game losing streak. Giants pitchers have allowed a total of 21 runs over the last two games after just 27 runs surrendered in the first nine games of the season.

Championship Series Rematch

This series marks the first meeting between San Jose and Inland Empire since last September’s California League Championship Series. The 66ers swept the Giants last year earning victories of 4-0 and 9-1 in Games One and Two respectively down in San Bernardino before a 3-1 win over San Jose in Game Three at Municipal Stadium. It was the first time since 1999 that the Giants lost the Championship Series (won titles in 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010).

Galindo Extends Hitting Streak To Seven Games
Center fielder Jesus Galindo brings a seven-game hitting streak into tonight’s action. During the streak, Galindo is 9-for-30 (.300) with three RBI’s. Galindo’s four stolen bases this season are tied for the team-lead (Rando Moreno) and tied for fifth in the California League.

Three Under .500
The Giants are three games under .500 for the first time since the 2005 season (4-7 on April 18, 2005).

San Francisco Affiliation
This year marks San Jose’s 27th season as an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants – the longest partnership of any team in the California League. Since their inception in 1988, the San Jose Giants have won six league championships (1998, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010). The Giants have qualified for the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons (2004-2013) – a California League record. 163 former San Jose Giants have reached the major leagues, including 117 with San Francisco.

Top Prospects
Seven players on San Jose’s roster are among the top 30 prospects in the organization according to Baseball America, including four out of the six pitchers in the Giants starting rotation. San Jose players among the top 30 prospects include: pitcher Chris Stratton (#3), outfielder Mac Williamson (#5), pitcher Kendry Flores (#14), pitcher Joan Gregorio (#17), pitcher Martin Agosta (#21), pitcher Steven Okert (#24) and pitcher Stephen Johnson (#28).

Delfino Supplies The Power

Third baseman Mitch Delfino has hit three of San Jose’s five home runs this season. His three homers are tied for third in the California League. Delfino had a two-homer game last Wednesday in Lancaster – the first multi-home run game of his professional career. Last year, Delfino led Augusta (A) with 13 home runs.

Lenn Sakata Back In Orange & Black

Lenn Sakata, the winningest manager in California League history, has returned to the San Jose Giants this season. 2014 marks Sakata’s 10th year in the San Francisco Giants organization (first since 2007) and his seventh season as San Jose’s manager (1999, 2001, 2004-2007, 2014). Entering this year, Sakata has compiled a 466-374 record as the Giants skipper having directed San Jose to the 2001, 2005 and 2007 California League championships. Sakata has won 684 games in 10 seasons as a manager in the California League. After leaving the Giants, Sakata managed two seasons in the Chiba Lotte Marines organization in Japan before spending three years in the Colorado Rockies organization as a minor league manager and hitting coach.

Opponent Notes: Inland Empire 66ers

The Inland Empire 66ers, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, are in last place in the South Division with a 3-8 record. The 66ers are ninth in the California League in batting average (.215), tied for eighth in runs scored (3.5 per game) and fourth in ERA (3.31). Inland Empire is scheduled to play 10 games against San Jose this season, including six at Municipal Stadium.

Giants Host Bakersfield In Home Opener Tonight

Bakersfield Blaze (6-1) at San Jose Giants (3-4)
San_Jose_Giants157
At Municipal Stadium

• Thursday, April 10, 7:00 PM
• Friday, April 11, 7:00 PM
• Saturday, April 12, 5:00 PM
• Sunday, April 13, 1:00 PM

Probable Starting Pitching Matchups
Thursday
Bakersfield – Mike Dennhardt (0-0, 6.75)
San Jose – Joan Gregorio (0-0, 0.00)

Friday
Bakersfield – Ben Lively (1-0, 1.50)
San Jose – Martin Agosta (0-0, —)

Saturday

Bakersfield – Wandy Peralta (0-1, 4.50)
San Jose – Pat Young (1-0, 0.00)

Sunday
Bakersfield – James Allen (1-0, 5.59)
San Jose – Joe Biagini (0-0, 0.00)

Broadcast Information
The games on Thursday and Friday will be televised on Comcast Hometown Network, Channel 104. Both games will be on a tape-delayed basis. Joe Ritzo handles the play-by-play while color commentary duties will be provided by Scott Armstrong on Thursday and Joe Castellano on Friday. The entire series can also be heard live on sjgiants.com and inside Municipal Stadium on 92.9 FM. Radio broadcasts begin 30 minutes prior to first pitch with The Giants Pregame Show. All 140 games this season will be aired on the club’s official website and the San Jose Giants Mobile App. Additionally, every home game is streamed live and available on demand through MiLB.TV.

Giants Host Bakersfield In Home Opener Tonight

The San Jose Giants host the Bakersfield Blaze in their home opener this evening at Municipal Stadium. Tonight marks the first of four straight games for the Giants against the Blaze in this series before the homestand continues with a three-game set versus the Inland Empire 66ers beginning on Monday. Joan Gregorio (0-0, 0.00) is slated to make the start on the mound for the Giants this evening.

Road Trip Review
The Giants posted a 3-4 record during their season-opening road trip that concluded yesterday. San Jose began the year by taking three out of four from the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes before suffering a three-game sweep to the Lancaster JetHawks. The Giants suffered losses to Lancaster of 2-1 on Monday, 4-2 on Tuesday and 9-4 last night. Mitch Delfino hit two homers and drove home all four of San Jose’s runs in yesterday’s defeat. The JetHawks broke the game open with a six-run bottom of the sixth.

Stellar Pitching
Despite losses the last three nights, San Jose is off to an outstanding start on the mound as the Giants rank second in the California League with a 2.69 ERA.

Under .500
With yesterday’s defeat, the Giants fell to under .500 for the first time since the opening week of the 2010 season.

Offensive Report

Catcher Ben Turner (.368, 7-for-19, 2B, 4 RBI), third baseman Mitch Delfino (.345, 10-for-29, 3 HR, 8 RBI) and outfielder Jesus Galindo (.320, 8-for-25, 2B, 4 SB) have been San Jose’s top hitters through the first seven games this season. Delfino has hit three of the Giants’ five home runs. San Jose is hitting .227 as a team overall and has scored a total of only 10 runs over their last five games (1-4 record).

San Francisco Affiliation
This year marks San Jose’s 27th season as an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants – the longest partnership of any team in the California League. Since their inception in 1988, the San Jose Giants have won six league championships (1998, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010). The Giants have qualified for the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons (2004-2013) – a California League record. 163 former San Jose Giants have reached the major leagues, including 117 with San Francisco.

Top Prospects
Seven players on San Jose’s roster are among the top 30 prospects in the organization according to Baseball America, including four out of the six pitchers in the Giants starting rotation. San Jose players among the top 30 prospects include: pitcher Chris Stratton (#3), outfielder Mac Williamson (#5), pitcher Kendry Flores (#14), pitcher Joan Gregorio (#17), pitcher Martin Agosta (#21), pitcher Steven Okert (#24) and pitcher Stephen Johnson (#28).

Williamson Highlights Returnees
Mac Williamson highlights 10 returning players on the Giants opening day roster. Williamson, a third round draft pick in 2012 and a non-roster invitee to major league spring training this year, hit .292 with 25 home runs and 89 RBI’s over 136 games for San Jose last season. He led the team in home runs, RBI’s, runs scored (94), hits (152), walks (51), games played, was second in doubles (31) and third in batting average. His 25 home runs ranked tied for third on San Jose’s single-season list. Williamson hit .331 with 16 home runs after the All-Star break last year. Other returning players from last year’s team are pitchers Jorge Bucardo, Jeff Soptic and Pat Young, catcher/infielder Trevor Brown, infielder Mitch Delfino and outfielders Elliott Blair, Jesus Galindo and Chris Lofton. Young, Delfino and Galindo were added to San Jose’s roster last season at the start of the playoffs. Pitcher Ryan Bradley, a member of San Jose’s 2012 team, has also returned.

Lenn Sakata Back In Orange & Black

Lenn Sakata, the winningest manager in California League history, has returned to the San Jose Giants this season. 2014 marks Sakata’s 10th year in the San Francisco Giants organization (first since 2007) and his seventh season as San Jose’s manager (1999, 2001, 2004-2007, 2014). Entering this year, Sakata has compiled a 466-374 record as the Giants skipper having directed San Jose to the 2001, 2005 and 2007 California League championships. Sakata has won 684 games in 10 seasons as a manager in the California League. After leaving the Giants, Sakata managed two seasons in the Chiba Lotte Marines organization in Japan before spending three years in the Colorado Rockies organization as a minor league manager and hitting coach.

Opponent Notes: Bakersfield Blaze
The Bakersfield Blaze, an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, are off to a 6-1 start this season. Bakersfield swept a four-game series from Modesto to open the year before taking two out of three against Stockton. The Blaze currently lead the league in team batting average (.314) and runs scored (8.0 per game). Tonight marks the first of 16 meetings this season between San Jose and Bakersfield.

Giants Continue Road Trip With Three-Game Series In Lancaster

San Jose Giants (3-1) at Lancaster JetHawks (2-2)

San_Jose_Giants157At The Hangar
• Monday, April 7, 6:30 PM
• Tuesday, April 8, 6:30 PM
• Wednesday, April 9, 6:30 PM

Probable Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday
San Jose – Joe Biagini (0-0, —)
Lancaster – Kyle Westwood (1-0, 2.25)

Tuesday
San Jose – Chris Stratton (1-0, 1.80)
Lancaster – Kyle Smith (0-0, 4.50)

Wednesday

San Jose – Kendry Flores (1-0, 1.29)
Lancaster – Chris Devenski (0-1, 12.00)

Broadcast Information
The entire series can be heard live on sjgiants.com with Joe Ritzo calling all of the action. Broadcasts begin 30 minutes prior to first pitch with The Giants Pregame Show. All 140 games this season will be aired on the club’s official website. Every broadcast is also streamed live on your mobile phone through the San Jose Giants App.

Giants Begin Three-Game Series At Lancaster Monday

The San Jose Giants continue their road trip Monday evening with the opener of a three-game series against the Lancaster JetHawks at The Hangar. Joe Biagini (0-0, —) is slated to make the start on the mound for the Giants on Monday. San Jose opened the season by taking three out of four games from the host Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in a series that concluded Sunday afternoon.

Last Game
The Giants secured a series win over Rancho Cucamonga with a 3-1 victory Sunday afternoon. Pat Young picked-up the win after limiting the Quakes to one unearned run over the first five innings. Young allowed five hits, walked two and struck out four during his outing. Ryan Bradley (2 IP), Steven Okert (1 IP) and Tyler Mizenko (1 IP) then combined for four hitless innings of relief to seal the victory. Mizenko was credited with his second save of the season. Offensively, Ben Turner (3-for-4) had three hits while Blake Miller (1-for-4, 2 RBI) drove home a pair of runs to lead the way. The Giants took the lead for good with a two-run top of the second inning.

Stellar Pitching
San Jose is off to an outstanding start on the mound as the Giants allowed only five runs during their season-opening four-game series at Rancho Cucamonga. San Jose’s team ERA for the series was 0.76 while the Giants held the Quakes to a .160 batting average. San Jose starting pitchers (Chris Stratton, Kendry Flores, Joan Gregorio and Pat Young) combined to allow just two earned runs over 21 innings during the four-game set.

Offensive Report
Catcher Ben Turner (.500, 6-for-12, 2B, 3 RBI), outfielder Elliott Blair (.444, 4-for-9, 3B, HR, 2 RBI), outfielder Jesus Galindo (.333, 6-for-18, 2B, 2 SB) and third baseman Mitch Delfino (.313, 5-for-16, 2B, HR, 3 RBI) were San Jose’s top hitters during the opening series. The Giants hit .259 as a team over the four-game set. San Jose endured an 18 inning scoreless streak offensively that ended in the top of the second yesterday.

San Francisco Affiliation

This year marks San Jose’s 27th season as an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants – the longest partnership of any team in the California League. Since their inception in 1988, the San Jose Giants have won six league championships (1998, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010). The Giants have qualified for the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons (2004-2013) – a California League record. 163 former San Jose Giants have reached the major leagues, including 117 with San Francisco.

2013 Review

The Giants posted the top overall record in the California League last season at 83-57 and won their eighth first half North Division crown in the last nine years. After a first round bye in the playoffs, San Jose defeated the Visalia Rawhide three-games-to-two to claim the North Division title – the Giants’ first since 2010. San Jose was then swept by the Inland Empire 66ers in the best-of-five California League Championship Series. Individually, the Giants had a league-high eight players named to the midseason All-Star team (C Jeff Arnold, LHP Ty Blach, INF Ryan Cavan, LHP Edwin Escobar, OF Devin Harris, LHP Josh Osich, RHP Hunter Strickland and INF Angel Villalona). Blach also received postseason All-Star honors after leading the league with a 2.90 ERA and ranking tied second in wins (12). Blach and outfielder Mac Williamson shared the club’s MVP award. Williamson (T3rd, 25) and Harris (5th, 23) both ranked among the top five in the league in home runs. San Jose finished the year first in the California League in ERA (3.66) and seventh in batting average (.259) and runs scored (690).

Top Prospects

Seven players on San Jose’s opening day roster are among the top 30 prospects in the organization according to Baseball America, including four out of the six pitchers in the Giants starting rotation. San Jose players among the top 30 prospects include: pitcher Chris Stratton (#3), outfielder Mac Williamson (#5), pitcher Kendry Flores (#14), pitcher Joan Gregorio (#17), pitcher Martin Agosta (#21), pitcher Steven Okert (#24) and pitcher Stephen Johnson (#28).

Williamson Highlights Returnees

Mac Williamson highlights 10 returning players on the Giants opening day roster. Williamson, a third round draft pick in 2012 and a non-roster invitee to major league spring training this year, hit .292 with 25 home runs and 89 RBI’s over 136 games for San Jose last season. He led the team in home runs, RBI’s, runs scored (94), hits (152), walks (51), games played, was second in doubles (31) and third in batting average. His 25 home runs ranked tied for third on San Jose’s single-season list. Williamson hit .331 with 16 home runs after the All-Star break last year. Other returning players from last year’s team are pitchers Jorge Bucardo, Jeff Soptic and Pat Young, catcher/infielder Trevor Brown, infielder Mitch Delfino and outfielders Elliott Blair, Jesus Galindo and Chris Lofton. Young, Delfino and Galindo were added to San Jose’s roster last season at the start of the playoffs. Pitcher Ryan Bradley, a member of San Jose’s 2012 team, has also returned.

Lenn Sakata Back In Orange & Black

Lenn Sakata, the winningest manager in California League history, has returned to the San Jose Giants this season. 2014 marks Sakata’s 10th year in the San Francisco Giants organization (first since 2007) and his seventh season as San Jose’s manager (1999, 2001, 2004-2007, 2014). Entering this year, Sakata has compiled a 466-374 record as the Giants skipper having directed San Jose to the 2001, 2005 and 2007 California League championships. Sakata has won 684 games in 10 seasons as a manager in the California League. After leaving the Giants, Sakata managed two seasons in the Chiba Lotte Marines organization in Japan before spending three years in the Colorado Rockies organization as a minor league manager and hitting coach.

High Draft Picks
San Francisco’s top four picks from the 2012 draft are all on San Jose’s opening day roster. Chris Stratton (1st round) is slated to make the opening night start on the mound Thursday evening. Martin Agosta (2nd round) will also work in the Giants starting rotation this season. Stratton (9-3, 3.27 ERA) and Agosta (9-3, 2.06 ERA) both had stellar 2013 campaigns with Class-A Augusta. Williamson (3rd round) is expected to DH for San Jose early this season while Steven Okert (4th round) should be a key member of the bullpen. Additionally, first baseman Brian Ragira, a 4th round selection in last year’s draft, is also on the Giants roster.

Opponent Notes: Lancaster JetHawks

The Lancaster JetHawks, an affiliate of the Houston Astros, split a four-game series with the visiting Lake Elsinore Storm to open their season. Last year, Lancaster posted an 82-58 regular season record winning the first and second half titles in the South Division. The JetHawks were then defeated three-games-to-two by Inland Empire in the South Division Series. San Jose and Lancaster play each other 10 times this season, including six games at The Hangar.

Giants Open Regular Season Thursday At Rancho Cucamonga

San Jose Giants (0-0) at Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (0-0)

San_Jose_Giants157At LoanMart Field
• Thursday, April 3, 7:05 PM
• Friday, April 4, 7:05 PM
• Saturday, April 5, 7:05 PM
• Sunday, April 6, 2:05 PM

Probable Starting Pitching Matchups

Thursday
San Jose – Chris Stratton (0-0, —)
Rancho Cucamonga – Chris Anderson (0-0, —)

Friday
San Jose – Kendry Flores (0-0, —)
Rancho Cucamonga – Julio Urias (0-0, —)

Saturday
San Jose – Joan Gregorio (0-0, —)
Rancho Cucamonga – Lindsey Caughel (0-0, —)

Sunday
San Jose – Pat Young (0-0, —)
Rancho Cucamonga – Tom Windle (0-0, —)

Broadcast Information
The entire series can be heard live on sjgiants.com with Joe Ritzo calling all of the action. Broadcasts begin 30 minutes prior to first pitch with The Giants Pregame Show. All 140 games this season will be aired on the club’s official website. Every broadcast is also streamed live on your mobile phone through the San Jose Giants App.

Giants Begin Regular Season At Rancho Cucamonga Thursday

The San Jose Giants begin the 2014 regular season Thursday evening with the opener of a four-game series against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes at LoanMart Field. After the four games in Rancho Cucamonga, the Giants travel to Lancaster for a three-game series. San Jose’s home opener is scheduled for Thursday, April 10 against the Bakersfield Blaze.

San Francisco Affiliation
This year marks San Jose’s 27th season as an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants – the longest partnership of any team in the California League. Since their inception in 1988, the San Jose Giants have won six league championships (1998, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010). The Giants have qualified for the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons (2004-2013) – a California League record. 163 former San Jose Giants have reached the major leagues, including 117 with San Francisco.

2013 Review
The Giants posted the top overall record in the California League last season at 83-57 and won their eighth first half North Division crown in the last nine years. After a first round bye in the playoffs, San Jose defeated the Visalia Rawhide three-games-to-two to claim the North Division title – the Giants’ first since 2010. San Jose was then swept by the Inland Empire 66ers in the best-of-five California League Championship Series. Individually, the Giants had a league-high eight players named to the midseason All-Star team (C Jeff Arnold, LHP Ty Blach, INF Ryan Cavan, LHP Edwin Escobar, OF Devin Harris, LHP Josh Osich, RHP Hunter Strickland and INF Angel Villalona). Blach also received postseason All-Star honors after leading the league with a 2.90 ERA and ranking tied second in wins (12). Blach and outfielder Mac Williamson shared the club’s MVP award. Williamson (T3rd, 25) and Harris (5th, 23) both ranked among the top five in the league in home runs. San Jose finished the year first in the California League in ERA (3.66) and seventh in batting average (.259) and runs scored (690).

Top Prospects

Seven players on San Jose’s opening day roster are among the top 30 prospects in the organization according to Baseball America, including four out of the six pitchers in the Giants starting rotation. San Jose players among the top 30 prospects include: pitcher Chris Stratton (#3), outfielder Mac Williamson (#5), pitcher Kendry Flores (#14), pitcher Joan Gregorio (#17), pitcher Martin Agosta (#21), pitcher Steven Okert (#24) and pitcher Stephen Johnson (#28).

Williamson Highlights Returnees
Mac Williamson highlights 10 returning players on the Giants opening day roster. Williamson, a third round draft pick in 2012 and a non-roster invitee to major league spring training this year, hit .292 with 25 home runs and 89 RBI’s over 136 games for San Jose last season. He led the team in home runs, RBI’s, runs scored (94), hits (152), walks (51), games played, was second in doubles (31) and third in batting average. His 25 home runs ranked tied for third on San Jose’s single-season list. Williamson hit .331 with 16 home runs after the All-Star break last year. Other returning players from last year’s team are pitchers Jorge Bucardo, Jeff Soptic and Pat Young, catcher/infielder Trevor Brown, infielder Mitch Delfino and outfielders Elliott Blair, Jesus Galindo and Chris Lofton. Young, Delfino and Galindo were added to San Jose’s roster last season at the start of the playoffs. Pitcher Ryan Bradley, a member of San Jose’s 2012 team, has also returned.

Lenn Sakata Back In Orange & Black
Lenn Sakata, the winningest manager in California League history, has returned to the San Jose Giants this season. 2014 marks Sakata’s 10th year in the San Francisco Giants organization (first since 2007) and his seventh season as San Jose’s manager (1999, 2001, 2004-2007, 2014). Entering this year, Sakata has compiled a 466-374 record as the Giants skipper having directed San Jose to the 2001, 2005 and 2007 California League championships. Sakata has won 684 games in 10 seasons as a manager in the California League. After leaving the Giants, Sakata managed two seasons in the Chiba Lotte Marines organization in Japan before spending three years in the Colorado Rockies organization as a minor league manager and hitting coach.

High Draft Picks
San Francisco’s top four picks from the 2012 draft are all on San Jose’s opening day roster. Chris Stratton (1st round) is slated to make the opening night start on the mound Thursday evening. Martin Agosta (2nd round) will also work in the Giants starting rotation this season. Stratton (9-3, 3.27 ERA) and Agosta (9-3, 2.06 ERA) both had stellar 2013 campaigns with Class-A Augusta. Williamson (3rd round) is expected to DH for San Jose early this season while Steven Okert (4th round) should be a key member of the bullpen. Additionally, first baseman Brian Ragira, a 4th round selection in last year’s draft, is also on the Giants roster.

Opponent Notes: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, finished the 2013 regular season with a 65-75 record. P.J. Forbes is set to begin his first season as Rancho Cucamonga’s manager. The Giants and Quakes will play 10 games this season, including seven at LoanMart Field.

Episode 31 – Inside the San Jose Giants


Podcast graphicIn this season preview edition of Inside the San Jose Giants, Joe and Ben breakdown the 2014 roster. The two discuss San Jose’s prospect-laden pitching rotation and starting lineup in advance of the season opener.

San Jose Giants Announce 2014 Roster

Pitchers
Martin Agosta
Joe Biagini
Ryan Bradley
Jorge Bucardo
Kendry Flores
Ian Gardeck
Joan Gregorio
Stephen Johnson
Mason McVay
Tyler Mizenko
Steven Okert
Jeff Soptic
Chris Stratton
Pat Young

Catchers
Trevor Brown
Jesus Navarro
Ben Turner

Infielders
Mitch Delfino
Blake Miller
Rando Moreno
Brian Ragira
Alberto Robles
Ydwin Villegas

Outfielders
Elliott Blair
Jesus Galindo
Chuckie Jones
Chris Lofton
Mac Williamson

*************************************************
San_Jose_Giants157NOTES
* Seven pitchers on the roster worked as starters last season: Agosta, Biagini, Flores, Gregorio and Stratton with Class-A Augusta, Bradley with Double-A Richmond and Young with Short-Season Salem-Keizer. Bradley (2012 season) and Young (2013 playoffs) have prior experience in San Jose. The Giants are expected to use a six-man starting rotation this year.

* Seven players on San Jose’s roster are ranked among Baseball America’s Top 30 San Francisco Giants prospects:
3. Stratton (RHP)
5. Williamson (OF)
14. Flores (RHP)
17. Gregorio (RHP)
21. Agosta (RHP)
24. Okert (LHP)
28. Johnson (RHP)

* Six players on the roster were drafted in the first five rounds: Stratton (1st round, 2012), Agosta (2nd round, 2012), Williamson (3rd round, 2012), Soptic (3rd round, 2011), Ragira (4th round, 2013) and Okert (4th round, 2012).

* Eight players were on San Jose’s team at the conclusion of the 2013 season: Blair, Brown, Delfino, Galindo, Lofton, Soptic, Williamson and Young. Williamson was San Jose’s co-MVP last year. Four others have prior experience with the Giants (Bradley – 2012, Bucardo – 2010 and 2013, Navarro – 2011 & Villegas – 2012 and 2013).

* Flores (RHP) is the only player with San Jose currently on San Francisco’s 40-man roster. Turner (C) and Williamson (OF) were non-roster invitees to big league spring training this year.

Roster Press Release

Spring Training Q&A with Lenn Sakata

Sakata-Q&AWith opening night in just over a week, final preparations for the new season are underway down at spring training. Broadcaster Joe Ritzo caught up with manager Lenn Sakata at the Giants minor league training complex in Scottsdale to get the skipper’s thoughts on the spring, his return to the organization and the expected strengths of this year’s San Jose team.

Joe Ritzo: First Lenn, how does it feel to be back in the Giants organization and specifically as the manager in San Jose?

Lenn Sakata: I’m blessed to be able to come back. A lot of times you don’t get the opportunity to come back once you leave. I was very fortunate that the organization – Dick Tidrow and Brian Sabean – were receptive to the idea of me returning, so I’m grateful to be back as a Giant. I’m equally excited to be a San Jose Giant. I know what it was like to return in 2012 and be sitting on the other side of the field (as the Modesto Nuts manager) and I almost thought I was in the wrong place. To go back now to what’s almost my second home, I’m looking forward to the experience again and I can’t wait for opening day in San Jose.

Ritzo: How did it all come together this past offseason for you to return to the organization?

Sakata:
One, I was let go by the Rockies and there were some openings here. Some other instructors made Bobby Evans and Dick Tidrow aware that I was available, the process started and it all worked out so that I was able to return in the same capacity that I was in back in 2007. I’m excited to be back and looking forward to this year’s team and seeing if we can have the same kind of success that the franchise has had for the last decade.

Ritzo: Is there an adjustment process for you in getting to know all the new players in the Giants organization?

Sakata: I’ve had to do it several times in my career. I started with the A’s and I didn’t know anyone there. Then to the Angels and the same thing. I can remember in 1999 when I started with the Giants and I really didn’t know anybody. I knew more of the coaches than the players. But getting accustomed to these players will hopefully be a very quick study for both me and my players. I try to express to them what my desires are for the way we should play. It takes time, but the sooner we get adjusted to each other, the better it will be.

Ritzo:
It’s the last week of spring training right now and there are still so many guys in camp and players moving around. With that, is it difficult to prepare for the season and implement your plan?

Sakata: Well, I’m doing the best I can. Over the last couple of days, I’ve been in the process of getting the kids accustomed to the way I’m going to give signs and the plays we’re going to have and how we’re going to use them. Everyday, I’m losing some guys to the big league games, but that’s understandable. I think the aptitude of our kids is greatly improved from when I was here last. These are good kids and I’ve enjoyed spring training because of that. I’m anxious to get out there now and have my own team and see where we fit compared to the rest of the league.

Lenn Sakata previously managed in San Jose during the 1999, 2001 and 2004-2007 seasons, winning three league championships

Lenn Sakata previously managed in San Jose during the 1999, 2001 and 2004-2007 seasons, winning three league championships

Ritzo: When you first managed in San Jose, it really got everything rolling for the great success that this franchise has enjoyed (current streak of 10 straight years with a playoff appearance, including four championships during that span). Why do you think San Jose is able to be a consistent winner and compete for championships?

Sakata: I think the ballpark lends itself to kids playing well. I think the atmosphere in our park is better than any in the entire league. The second part is that the Giants have always put good pitching in San Jose. And the tradition of winning has helped perpetuate those successful seasons.

Ritzo:
Last year in Augusta, they were known for great pitching – both starting and relieving. Are you anticipating that to be the strength of your team this season?

Sakata: I hope so. In the past in San Jose, we’ve always had good pitching, whether it was starting or the bullpen, in particular. I think we’ll probably have the same blend of starting and bullpen strength that will carry us. We’re going to have quite a few young guys that are having to make a jump from a lower level, but also some older, more experienced players. The blend should be good. It’s going to come down to pitching and I think we’ll be able to execute in that area.

Ritzo: How about offensively – what can San Jose fans expect from your team this season?

Sakata: Well, I’m still a bit unsure on that because I’m not sure who we’re going to have. I don’t think we’ll have a lot of power, but I’ve had teams in the past that didn’t have much power. We’ll have to use what we have. Knowing how to play is a big influence on the outcomes of games at this level. If you have guys that know how to play moreso than guys on the other teams then you’ll have success. That’s been stressed to them and I’ve been impressed that the kids seem to know how to do the little things. Being competitive is one thing and playing to win, of course, but the bottom line is really the development of the players.

Report from Arizona: San Jose Roster Takes Shape

By Joe Ritzo

street signI returned to minor league camp today and caught the entire “High-A” game between the Giants and A’s. Remember, rosters are far from set with final decisions coming down at the end of this week, so while many of the players mentioned here may end up in San Jose, it’s not a guarantee. With that said, to the game…

* The Giants “High-A” lineup this afternoon:
1. Jesus Galindo, CF
2. Rando Moreno, 2B
3. Mitch Delfino, 3B
4. Brian Ragira, 1B
5. Matt Chavez, DH
6. Shawn Payne, LF
7. Chuckie Jones, RF
8. Trevor Brown, C
9. Blake Miller, SS

* The game ended in a 3-3 tie (nine innings) with the Giants finishing with seven hits. Hitting stars this afternoon were Brown and Jones – two likely regulars on San Jose’s opening day roster. Brown was 2-for-3, including a three-run inside-the-park home run in the fifth inning. On the play, Brown rifled a line drive into left that saw the A’s left fielder slip, fall and then stay on the ground for an extended time. As the center fielder raced back towards the fence to retrieve the ball, Brown, and the two runners in front of him, scampered home. Brown also singled later in the contest. The home run accounted for all of the Giants’ scoring today. Meanwhile, Jones had the loudest contact of the afternoon going 2-for-3. He ripped a double into the left field corner in his first at-bat before delivering a single later in the game.

The primary field at the Giants minor league facility

The primary field at the Giants minor league facility

* Today’s lineup (as opposed to yesterday’s) will probably be much closer to the one fans will see next week when the regular season opens. After not playing yesterday, Delfino was back in at third base, going 0-for-2 before he was pulled halfway through the game. Delfino led Augusta in home runs (13) and RBI’s (76) a season ago before joining San Jose for the playoffs. Jones was called up to the big league game yesterday, but was back today and as mentioned above, had a solid performance offensively. Jones ranked second on the GreenJackets in homers (10) last year coming on strong offensively late in the year. Jones has good size and runs pretty well. Brown was also back with the “High-A” team this afternoon after a day with the big league club. Drafted as a catcher, Brown played mainly second base in 2013, including late in the season when he was promoted to the California League. This year may see him split time between catcher and second. Meanwhile, the speedsters Galindo and Payne started in center field and left field respectively for a second straight day. If he returns to San Jose, Payne will be looking for a bounce back season after hitting just .229 in 73 games with the Giants last year. Payne was Augusta’s top hitter in 2012 when he batted .303 with an organizational-leading 53 stolen bases. Last year, it was Galindo who led the Giants system in steals (48). A Payne-Galindo-Jones outfield would have to be one of the fastest in the California League this year if it comes to fruition.

* Ragira and Miller seem like the most likely position player candidates to jump from Salem-Keizer (Short-Season) to San Jose for the start of the year. Ragira has started at first base and hit fourth in each of the last two exhibition games. He was a combined 0-for-5 with a walk over the two contests, but it appears like he’ll be a key element of San Jose’s lineup this season. Miller was up with the big league team yesterday, but returned today to play shortstop. With last year’s two starting shortstops (Matt Duffy and Kelby Tomlinson) both currently working out with the Double-A team, that may leave an opening for someone new to play the position in San Jose. If it’s Miller, that would be an aggressive promotion after his 25th round draft selection last June out of Western Oregon University. Miller hit .309 with three home runs in 25 games with Salem-Keizer last summer, playing only third and first base. He was, however, a full-time shortstop in college (earning Division II All-American honors) and made a spectacular diving stop today going up the middle to start a 6-4-3 double play. John Polonius, who played for both San Jose and Salem-Keizer last season, started at shortstop for the “High-A” team yesterday.

* There was also a Mac Williamson sighting today in the “High-A” game. Williamson, San Jose’s co-MVP last year after slugging 25 home runs and 31 doubles to go with a .292 batting average, hit in each of the first three innings this afternoon (was inserted into the lineup to bat third in each frame). Williamson flied out to right, lined out sharply to second and then drew a walk in his three plate appearances. Whether today was simply a chance to get Williamson some at-bats in a controlled environment at home or something more remains to be seen.

* Finally, Chavez made his second straight start at DH. Signed out of independent league ball this offseason, Chavez has good size and reportedly can catch, in addition to playing some first base. He was a combined 0-for-5 over the last two exhibition games.

Joan Gregorio allowed one earned run over four innings on Tuesday for the "High-A" team

Joan Gregorio allowed one earned run over four innings on Tuesday for the “High-A” team

* On the mound, prospect Joan Gregorio made the start for the “High-A” team today. Gregorio wasn’t quite as efficient as Chris Stratton yesterday, but still effective. The 6’7″ right-hander, who fashioned a 4.00 ERA in 13 starts with Augusta last season, tossed four innings this afternoon yielding two runs (one earned) on three hits. He walked two (both in his last inning) and struck out two. Gregorio looked to be featuring an impressive fastball that he mainly kept low in the zone. His slider wasn’t nearly as sharp, but he battled through it and stranded multiple runners on base (working through an error) in a lengthy final inning of work.

* Jason Forjet, Steven Okert and Tyler Rogers saw action in relief for the Giants today. Forjet is a familiar name having spent most of last season in a San Jose uniform, working as both an occasional starter and long reliever. This afternoon, Forjet breezed through two scoreless innings allowing just one hit with no walks and one strikeout. If he returns to San Jose this season, Forjet could fill the role of long reliever once again. Okert is expected to be an important part of the Giants bullpen, likely working in the seventh and eighth innings, as he did today. Over his two frames this afternoon, Okert surrendered one run on three hits with no walks and two strikeouts. The left-hander is a former fourth round draft pick and posted a 2.97 ERA in 44 appearances out of the Augusta bullpen a season ago. Rogers then worked the top of the ninth needing minimal pitches to toss a 1-2-3 inning. With his unique submarine-style delivery from the right side, Rogers would certainly give the San Jose bullpen a different look if he makes the club. Rogers was a 10th round draft pick last June and compiled a 3.10 ERA in Salem-Keizer before moving up to the Giants for the California League playoffs in September.

* To review, the seven relievers who pitched for the “High-A” team over the last two days: Ian Gardeck, Ray Black, Jorge Bucardo, Tyler Mizenko, Forjet, Okert and Rogers. Stephen Johnson and Mason McVay, two key members of last year’s Augusta bullpen, also appear to be playing for the “High-A” team right now.

Steven Okert delivers a pitch to an A's hitter in the seventh inning

Steven Okert delivers a pitch to an A’s hitter in the seventh inning

2014 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Relief Pitchers

By Joe Ritzo

2014-Season-PreviewOur season preview series concludes this week with a look at some of the arms that could make up the San Jose Giants bullpen. The Giants possessed several standout relief pitchers in 2013, including lights-out closers Derek Law and Hunter Strickland along with Bryce Bandilla, Cody Hall and Josh Osich. Now looking ahead to this season, the bullpen should once again be a strength of the club as a new crop of talented relievers are likely headed to San Jose.

The 2013 Augusta GreenJackets (Class-A) featured a prospect-laden starting rotation and many, if not all, of those hurlers expected to open this season in San Jose. However, it wasn’t just the starting staff that excelled in Augusta a year ago. An exciting group of relievers helped propel the GreenJackets to numerous close victories en route to the team posting the top regular season record in the South Atlantic League. Augusta’s strength in 2013 could now be San Jose’s strength this year.

Headlining the list of GreenJackets relievers expected to make the jump to the California League is right-handed closer Tyler Mizenko. Mizenko, a former 28th round draft pick, led the South Atlantic League with 25 saves last season. He owned an impressive 2.75 ERA over 48 relief appearances while striking out 50 batters in 52 1/3 innings. Armed with a heavy low-to-mid 90’s sinker and power slider, Mizenko had the highest groundout-to-flyout ratio on the Augusta staff – a trait that should serve him well in the hitter-friendly California League.

In 27 games before the All-Star break last year, Mizenko boasted a remarkable 0.61 ERA yielding just two earned runs in 29 2/3 innings while going 15-for-16 in save opportunities. A rocky stretch in July, which reportedly could be attributed to fatigue and some bad luck inflated Mizenko’s ERA somewhat, but he recovered in August to finish the year strong. Over the first two seasons of his professional career, Mizenko has collected 38 saves and owns a stellar 2.46 ERA.

Mizenko though wasn’t the only one who enjoyed success in the late-innings out of GreenJackets bullpen last season. Right-hander Stephen Johnson, a former sixth round draft pick, was the most dominant arm among the Augusta relief corps down the stretch and almost certainly is ticketed for San Jose this spring. Over his final 15 appearances last year dating back to July, Johnson fired 19 scoreless innings with just six hits allowed and a whopping 28 strikeouts. He spent most of the year as a set-up man before sharing the closing duties with Mizenko late in the campaign.

Johnson features an electric mid 90’s fastball and a plus-slider that helped him log 71 strikeouts in just 52 1/3 innings last season. He recovered from a difficult middle portion of the season to post an overall ERA of 3.61 while limiting the opposition to a .215 batting average and going 8-for-8 in save chances. Of note, Johnson did walk 30 batters (over five per nine innings on average), so improving his control will be a point of emphasis this year.

Fellow right-handed relievers Jorge Bucardo and Ian Gardeck were also key members of the Augusta bullpen last season and should be headed to San Jose. Bucardo has previous California League experience having pitched as a starter with the Giants late in 2010 before battling significant arm injuries the next two years. He returned as a reliever and opened last season in the San Jose bullpen, but quickly found himself on the DL after just five appearances. Once healthy again, Bucardo was sent to Augusta, where he pitched for the remainder of the season.

Bucardo gives the hitter a unique look with a low 3/4 arm slot resulting in significant movement on everything he throws. The veteran was spectacular in Augusta last season posting a 1.84 ERA in 27 games with six saves and a .197 opponents batting average. Bucardo thrived both in middle relief and in the late innings and that versatility should only help the Giants this season.

Meanwhile, Gardeck is another reliever with an overpowering mid 90’s fastball. He averaged well over a strikeout per inning (66 K’s in 56 IP) while logging a solid 3.21 ERA. Gardeck, like Johnson, can struggle with his control (almost 6 1/2 walks per nine innings last year), but when in the strike zone, he’s awfully tough to hit. Gardeck, while working primarily as a sixth-to-eighth inning guy, had a 0.63 ERA in August last season and is poised for a promotion to the California League.

From the left side, the GreenJackets possessed two quality arms last year in Steven Okert and Mason McVay and both could be headed to San Jose this spring. Okert was the highest draft pick in the Augusta bullpen as the southpaw was selected in the fourth round two years ago out of Oklahoma. Using a low 90’s fastball and excellent secondary stuff, Okert compiled a 2.97 ERA in 44 games last season. He struck out 59 batters in 60 2/3 innings and was especially tough on left-handed batters holding them to a paltry .189 average and just one extra-base hit for the entire season. Projecting ahead to this season, Okert could be lockdown left-handed specialist in the late innings for the Giants. He also has the ability to go multiple frames having pitched at least two innings on 15 occasions last year.

McVay led the South Atlantic League with 51 appearances last season, often pitching in longer relief. An imposing presence on the mound at 6’7” and 230 lbs., McVay fashioned a 4.12 ERA and recorded an excellent 75-to-18 strikeout to walk ratio over 67 innings.

The core of Augusta’s bullpen last season was terrific and most, if not all, of those key arms should be headed to San Jose in 2014. The most successful Giants teams over the last decade have all featured outstanding bullpens and this year’s edition has a chance to be right up there with some of the best.

Looking further, potential relievers from last summer’s Salem-Keizer team that could skip over Augusta and jump to San Jose this season include Dan Slania, Tyler Rogers and Eduardo Encinosa. Slania was the first reliever taken by San Francisco in last year’s draft when he was selected in the fifth round. The all-time saves leader at Notre Dame, Slania is a jumbo-sized right-hander at 6’5”, 275 lbs. with a low-to-mid 90’s fastball and two quality offspeed pitches. With only 13 2/3 innings of professional experience, Slania may just head to Augusta to start the year. However, a promotion to the California League could be in the cards giving San Jose yet another impressive late-inning reliever.

Rogers, a submarine-style right-hander would give the Giants bullpen a unique look if he ends up in San Jose. A 10th round pick last June, Rogers logged a 3.10 ERA out of the Salem-Keizer bullpen before joining the Giants for the playoffs (he pitched in just one postseason game with SJ last September). Encinosa, a seventh rounder two years ago out of Miami, throws hard and is tough to hit. Last summer in Salem, he notched a 3.12 ERA and limited the opposition to a meager .143 batting average. It remains to be seen whether Rogers and Encinosa, like Slania, merely move up one level or are tested with an aggressive promotion to San Jose.

Ray Black is another intriguing possibility as he prepares to make his professional debut. Black was selected in the seventh round way back in 2011, but shoulder surgery and a longer-than-expected recovery have resulted in Black having not yet pitched in a pro game. Finally healthy, Black possesses one of the best fastballs in the organization and is a candidate for either the San Jose or Augusta bullpen this spring.

Finally, it’s not unreasonable to expect a pitcher or two to return from last year’s Giants bullpen. Possible returnees could include right-hander Chris Marlowe (3.97 ERA), who thrived as a starter early in the year, but struggled in the second half in relief after a long stint on the DL. Jeff Soptic (6.26 ERA) has a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, but struggled with his control all year in San Jose. Jason Forjet (4.52 ERA) could also return after pitching as both a long reliever and as a starter in 2013. With so many arms still in minor league camp, several personnel decisions still need to be made and thus the Giants bullpen situation likely won’t be solidified until just before the roster is announced in the coming days.

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Report from Arizona: SJ Giants Spring Training Update

By Joe Ritzo

Greetings from Arizona!

It’s crunch-time here at minor league camp as today marked the beginning of the final week of spring exhibition games. By the weekend, the San Jose Giants roster should be set before the 2014 club breaks camp on Sunday. Then of course, next Monday, March 31 is your first opportunity to meet the new team with FanFest at Municipal Stadium set to begin at 5:00 PM.

This afternoon, the Giants “High-A” and “Low-A” clubs hosted exhibition games against the Colorado Rockies’ “High-A” and “Low-A” teams at the Giants baseball complex in Scottsdale. I spent the majority of my time watching the “High-A” team as several of the players who suited up today will likely be heading to San Jose at the end of the week.

Some observations from the “High-A” game, which ended in a 1-1 tie (nine innings).

* The Giants starting lineup:
1. Jesus Galindo, CF
2. Shilo McCall, RF
3. Shawn Payne, LF
4. Brian Ragira, 1B
5. Matt Chavez, DH
6. Ben Turner, C
7. Leo Rojas, 3B
8. Alberto Robles, 2B
9. John Polonius, SS
P – Chris Stratton

* If you’ve been reading my position-by-position previews or listening to recent podcast episodes, some of these names should be familiar. After his postseason call-up last September, Galindo is the expected starting center fielder and leadoff man for San Jose this season. Payne spent most of last year with the Giants before a demotion to Augusta in July. He could very well receive another opportunity in the California League, likely again seeing significant action in left field. Ragira has been the projected starting first baseman after his fourth-round selection in last year’s draft out of Stanford and subsequent solid pro debut over the summer with Salem-Keizer. And finally, Turner handled the bulk of the catching duties during the second half of last season in Augusta and is poised to make the jump to San Jose.

* As for the other starters today, it’ll be interesting to see whether any of them can work themselves up to San Jose this season, whether on the opening day roster or later in the year. Polonius, a middle infielder, played 26 games with the Giants during the middle portion of last season (.221 AVG) before seeing regular time in the Salem-Keizer starting lineup. Robles, another middle infielder, hit .304 in 62 games in Augusta last year, mainly as a part-time player. McCall has intriguing potential as an outfielder, but is only 19 years old and hit just .235 in Salem-Keizer last season. A jump all the way to the California League is probably unlikely. Rojas is primarily a catcher, but played the entire game today at third base. He hit .306 in limited action with the Volcanoes last summer. Finally, Chavez, a catcher/first baseman, was signed out of the independent Freedom Professional Baseball League last offseason. Chavez is a Bay Area native who played in college at the University of San Francisco.

* Second baseman/catcher Trevor Brown, outfielder Chuckie Jones and infielder Blake Miller – three potential regulars for San Jose this season – were called up to the big league team for their exhibition game this afternoon and thus didn’t play today. Mitch Delfino, San Jose’s projected starting third baseman, was present, but not in the lineup and also did not play. Bottom line, today’s “High-A” lineup was almost certainly not an accurate representation of what San Jose’s will look like when the season begins next week.

* Offensively, the Giants were shutdown this afternoon managing just two hits (singles from Robles and Eric Sim, who came off the bench) and one run.

Chris Stratton threw five scoreless innings for the Giants "High-A" team in a minor league exhibition game on Monday

Chris Stratton threw five scoreless innings for the Giants “High-A” team in a minor league exhibition game on Monday

* On the mound, Stratton was the star of the day. San Francisco’s first round draft pick two years ago, Stratton had a solid 2013 campaign in Augusta (9-3, 3.27 ERA in 22 starts) and is expected to make the jump to San Jose this season. On this afternoon, the right-hander twirled five shutout innings with just two hits allowed, no walks and two strikeouts. Stratton faced only one batter over the minimum and recorded several groundball outs.

* Four relievers saw action out of the Giants bullpen today in right-handers Ian Gardeck, Ray Black, Jorge Bucardo and Tyler Mizenko. The quartet all figure to be candidates to make the San Jose opening day roster. Gardeck, who had a 3.21 ERA in 44 games out of the Augusta ‘pen last year, breezed through a scoreless sixth inning. Black featured an electric fastball, but often struggled with his control today. He yielded one run on two hits with a pair of walks, but registered an impressive swinging strikeout on a 3-2 fastball with the bases loaded to end the inning. Black was a seventh-round draft pick two years ago, but has yet to pitch in a professional game due to injury. Bucardo is a familiar face having began last season in the San Jose bullpen before an arm injury forced him to the DL in mid-April. When he returned, Bucardo was sent to Augusta where he dominated during the second half of the season as a set-up man (1.84 ERA in 27 games). Bucardo worked a scoreless eighth inning this afternoon pitching around a leadoff single. Finally, Mizenko was dominant in a 1-2-3 top of the ninth. Mizenko led the South Atlantic League with 25 saves a season ago (2.75 ERA) and is a candidate for the San Jose closing duties this year.

* It’s important to mention that none of these players are guaranteed to open the season in San Jose. These are merely the players who suited up for the “High-A” club this afternoon. As always, the roster situations in minor league camp are fluid, even during the final week of spring training. Several changes will likely occur between now and when players break camp this weekend as the organization makes a bevy of personnel decisions. I’ll have more from minor league camp tomorrow.

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San Jose Giants TV Schedule Announced

CHNThe San Jose Giants and Comcast have joined forces to bring fans a schedule of 20 live television broadcasts during the 2014 season. The games can be viewed live on Comcast Hometown Network (Digital Channel 104) throughout most Northern California regions. After the live broadcast of each contest, all 20 games will be available for cable customers to view through Comcast On Demand Channel 1.

San Jose Giants television broadcasts will feature the play-by-play of “The Voice of the Giants,” Joe Ritzo and the color commentary of Joe Castellano. Ritzo has been calling San Jose Giants games since 2003 while Castellano, a 20-year veteran of the industry, has broadcasted a variety of sports for networks such as NBC, MLB Network and Comcast. Rocky Koplik will also serve as a fill-in color commentator this season.

Highlights of the schedule include San Jose’s home opener on April 10, matchups against the 2013 California League Champion Inland Empire 66ers as well as special Independence Day telecasts on July 4 and July 5 against the rival Stockton Ports. In total, fans will have the opportunity to watch 14 matchups this season against San Jose Giants’ North Division opponents.

The following is Comcast Hometown Network’s San Jose Giants telecast schedule for the 2014 season:

Thursday, April 10: 7:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Friday, April 11: 7:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Friday, April 25: 7:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Sunday, April 27: 1:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Friday, May 9: 7:00 PM vs. Inland Empire 66ers
Saturday, May 10: 5:00 PM vs. Inland Empire 66ers
Wednesday, May 21: 7:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Friday, May 23: 7:00 PM vs. Visalia Rawhide
Wednesday, June 25: 7:00 PM vs. Modesto Nuts
Friday, June 27: 7:00 PM vs. Visalia Rawhide
Saturday, June 28: 6:00 PM vs. Visalia Rawhide
Friday, July 4: 6:30 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Saturday, July 5: 6:30 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Monday, July 7: 7:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Friday, July 18: 7:00 PM vs. Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Saturday, July 19: 5:00 PM vs. Lake Elsinore Storm
Friday, August 1: 7:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Saturday, August 2: 6:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Friday, August 8: 7:00 PM vs. Lancaster JetHawks
Saturday, August 9: 5:00 PM vs. Lancaster JetHawks

*SCHEDULE SUBJECT TO CHANGE

All San Jose Giants home games are also streamed live and available on demand through MiLB.TV. For more details and to sign up for a subscription, log onto sjgiants.com and click on MiLB.TV.

Episode 30 – Inside the San Jose Giants


Inside the San Jose Giants GraphicIn the final podcast before the team arrives at Municipal Stadium, Joe and Ben make starting lineup projections for the 2014 San Jose Giants. The two provide a detailed breakdown of the potential lineup, including top prospects expected to begin the season in San Jose and which position players may return from last year.

2014 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Catcher

By Joe Ritzo

2014-Season-PreviewThe San Jose Giants season preview series continues this week with a look at the catching position. After achieving career-high totals in doubles (26), home runs (13) and RBI’s (61) while doing a stellar job of handling San Jose’s talented pitching staff, last year’s starting catcher Jeff Arnold is almost certainly headed to Double-A Richmond this season. In 2014, the San Jose catching position could be filled from a group of four players who saw time behind the dish in Augusta last season, three of which already have experience in the California League.

Ben Turner is the most likely candidate for the starting catching position in San Jose to begin this season. Turner was a 21st round draft pick in 2012 out of Missouri, where he was a two-time Big 12 All-Academic selection. He spent all of last year in Augusta seeing significant time at both catcher and first base. In 100 games overall, Turner hit .249 with 19 doubles, two home runs and 38 RBI’s. After splitting time between the two positions in the first half, Turner was almost exclusively a catcher after the All-Star break as he settled into a regular role on the team.

Turner is unique in that he’s taller than most catchers (listed at 6’5″). While he didn’t produce much power a season ago, Turner is an excellent defender. In fact, he didn’t commit an error the entire year from behind the plate while also throwing out an impressive 35 percent of attempted basestealers.

Another strength of Turner’s game is that he’ll put the ball in play. Turner finished the 2013 campaign as the toughest player to strikeout in the entire South Atlantic League (one strikeout ever 17.2 at-bats). There was even a stretch over the middle portion of the season that saw Turner go a remarkable 90 consecutive at-bats without a strikeout.

Turner was a non-roster invitee to big league camp this spring, but he’ll need a big year in 2014 to achieve top prospect status. In all likelihood, Turner will bring his top-flight defensive game and contact skills to the California League where he’ll bat in the bottom portion of the lineup and handle another excellent pitching staff.

Two players who served as San Jose’s back-up catcher last year in Eric Sim and Eliezer Zambrano are candidates to return this season. Sim began 2013 in Augusta splitting time behind the dish with Turner throughout the first half. Despite batting just .193 in 63 games with the GreenJackets, Sim received a promotion to the Giants in July. He performed much better offensively in the California League (albeit in a more part-time role as Arnold’s back-up) posting a .276 batting average with 10 RBI’s in 17 games. Sim, who was born in South Korea and spent most of his youth in Canada, was a 27th round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2010. He hit .352 with six home runs in the Arizona Rookie League during the 2011 season.

Zambrano played in 28 games with San Jose last season serving as Arnold’s back-up through July before switching teams with Sim. Zambrano, now 27 years old and entering his ninth professional season, notched a .242 batting average with one home run over 95 at-bats in a Giants uniform last year. He then hit .230 in 20 games with Augusta.

It’s unlikely that both Sim and Zambrano would find themselves on San Jose’s opening day active roster as Turner’s back-up, but the possibility certainly exists that one could return to the California League this year.

The fourth catcher on Augusta’s team a season ago was Trevor Brown, who was profiled in detail on our middle infield preview. A 10th round pick two years ago out of UCLA, Brown was drafted as a catcher by the Giants. He caught in his first pro season with Salem-Keizer, but saw substantially more playing time at second base in 2013, first with Augusta and then down the stretch in San Jose. Brown almost certainly is headed back to the California League, where he could return to the role he filled during the playoffs last year as the club’s primary second baseman. But given his history at the catching position (he caught 14 games overall in 2013), it would not be a surprise if he continued to work some at that spot. If nothing else, Brown’s inclusion on San Jose’s roster would give manager Lenn Sakata added flexibility.

Other catching candidates for San Jose this season including the organization’s top two catching draft picks last June: 12th rounder Ty Ross and 15th rounder Geno Escalante. Ross, out of collegiate powerhouse LSU, hit .243 with 11 doubles in 31 games last summer for Salem-Keizer (Short-Season). Escalante, who was drafted out of Mount Olive College where he was the 2013 Division II National Defensive Player of the Year, split time with Ross in Salem-Keizer batting .300 with eight doubles and one homer in 39 games. Catcher Leonardo Rojas, a 15th round pick in 2012 out of Miami-Dade CC, could also jump to San Jose after batting .306 in 17 games with Salem-Keizer last summer, mainly as a DH.

2014 San Jose Giants Catching Candidates
(2013 regular season statistics are listed)

Trevor Brown, 2B/C
- San Jose: .172 AVG, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB
- Augusta: .250 AVG, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 10 SB

Geno Escalante, C
- Salem-Keizer: .300 AVG, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 0 SB

Leonardo Rojas, C

- Salem-Keizer: .306 AVG, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB

Ty Ross, C
- Salem-Keizer: .243 AVG, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB

Eric Sim, C
- San Jose: .276 AVG, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB
- Augusta: .193 AVG, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 2 SB

Ben Turner, C
- Augusta: .249 AVG, 2 HR, 38 RBI, 4 SB

Eliezer Zambrano, C
- San Jose: .242 AVG, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB
- Augusta: .230 AVG, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB

The 2014 San Jose Giants preview series will conclude next week with a look at the bullpen.

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Spring Training Updates

By Joe Ritzo

cactus-leagueWith only two weeks until San Francisco’s opening day, here are several player updates on the former San Jose Giants at spring training:

Last week saw multiple players sent down to minor league camp as the organization continues to move closer to solidifying the opening day roster. The former SJ Giants reassigned included infielders Chris Dominguez, Adam Duvall and Nick Noonan, outfielders Gary Brown and Roger Kieschnick, catcher Andrew Susac and pitchers Mitch Lively and Hunter Strickland. Noonan and Kieschnick were the only members of the group that were serious contenders for spots on the opening day roster. Noonan, who made the team coming out of camp last year, is 6-for-23 (.261) this spring with two doubles and an RBI. The former first round draft pick has played exclusively second and third base this spring and will likely see significant time at both positions in Fresno to open the season. Meanwhile, Kieschnick has struggled to a .172 batting average this spring. He’s struck out 13 times in 29 at-bats and has yet to produce an extra-base hit. Like Noonan, Kieschnick made his major league debut last season, but will open the 2014 campaign in Fresno.

Among the other reassigned hitters, Brown and Susac received the most playing time. Brown is 5-for-18 (.278) with two RBI’s and two stolen bases this spring. Look for the speedy center fielder to once again play everyday in Fresno as he attempts to bounce back this season. Susac made a positive impression in big league camp going 4-for-15 (.267) with two doubles, a home run, five RBI’s while also drawing four walks. The former San Jose catcher clubbed a home run last Thursday against Texas as part of a 2-for-2 day at the plate. After a solid 2013 campaign in Richmond followed by an impressive performance in the Arizona Fall League, Susac enters this year with high expectations as he likely heads to Triple-A.

Dominguez (3-for-10. 2 RBI), Duvall (2-for-8, HR, RBI) and Lively (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R) received sparse playing time in big league spring games before going down. Strickland, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, has not appeared in a game this spring.

Entering this week, San Francisco has 42 players still in camp, 18 of which are former San Jose Giants. The core group of 10 former San Jose players (Belt, Bumgarner, Cain, Crawford, Lincecum, Posey, Romo, Sanchez, Sandoval, Vogelsong), of course, will be on the opening day roster in two weeks. Eight other former SJ Giants remain in big league camp with hopes of beginning the season in San Francisco:

* Ehire Adrianza: .214 AVG (6-28), 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI
- The shortstop has had some big extra-base hits this spring, including his second home run last Tuesday against Cincinnati. Adrianza though has just two hits in his last 14 at-bats spanning six games. The competition for the final infield spot (with Tony Abreu and perhaps Brandon Hicks) could go down to the final days of camp.

* Jake Dunning: 6 G, 1.42 ERA, 6.1 IP, 1 R, 4 BB, 3 SO
- The former San Jose closer has allowed just one run over 6 1/3 innings this spring spanning six relief appearances. Dunning, who pitched in 29 games with San Francisco last season (2.84 ERA), remains a serious contender for one of the open bullpen spots.

* Edwin Escobar:
4 G, 3 GS, 5.19 ERA, 8.2 IP, 5 R, 8 BB, 3 SO
- Escobar’s third start of the spring came last Saturday against the Mariners and the left-hander struggled a bit yielding four runs (all earned) on five hits over 2 2/3 innings. Prior to that outing, Escobar had surrendered just one hit in his first six innings. A spot in Fresno’s starting rotation to open the season seems probable for Escobar with the opportunity to debut in “The Show” later in the year.

* Heath Hembree: 5 G, 2.25 ERA, 4.0 IP, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 SO
- Hembree has now worked three straight hitless outings, retiring all nine batters he’s faced in the process. Overall this spring, Hembree has allowed just one hit in four innings. Along with Dunning, Hembree is a leading candidate for the final couple of bullpen spots on the roster.

* Derek Law:
4 G, 2.45 ERA, 3.2 IP, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 SO
- Last year’s San Jose closer has made a positive impression this spring after his breakout 2013 season. Law did give up a run in his lone inning last Saturday versus the A’s, but has still allowed only one hit in four innings overall. Law and Escobar are the only remaining 2013 San Jose Giants still in big league camp.

* Mark Minicozzi: .226 AVG (7-31), 2 HR, 2 RBI
- The feel-good story of camp this year after his two early home runs, Minicozzi has slumped of late with just one hit in his last 17 at-bats. Minicozzi has played exclusively first base this spring – perhaps a sign of his role in Fresno to begin the season.

* Juan Perez: .325 AVG (13-40), 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 SB
- Perez continues to impress in his bid to win the fifth outfielder job coming out of camp. Last Saturday against the Mariners, he was 3-for-5 with a double, a home run and a stolen base.

* Dan Runzler:
5 G, 2.70 ERA, 3.1 IP, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 SO
- A non-roster invitee, but with substantial big league experience, Runzler is looking for a bounce back 2014 after struggling in Triple-A a season ago. The hard-throwing lefty has not allowed a run in four out of his five relief appearances.

Entering Monday, the Giants are 11-7-1 through 19 Cactus League games.

2014 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Outfield

By Joe Ritzo

2014-Season-PreviewThe San Jose Giants season preview series continues this week with a look at the outfield. The possibilities are exciting for the Giants this year with several new faces expected to play central roles. One of the fastest players in the system is presumed to take over in center while a handful of power hitters are competing for the corner outfield spots.

In all likelihood, the speedy Jesus Galindo will assume the role of everyday center fielder for San Jose this year. Galindo spent the entire 2013 regular season with Augusta (Class-A) before joining the Giants for the Cal League playoffs. Galindo’s strengths are his speed, his switch-hitting capabilities and defensive prowess in center.

In 89 games with the GreenJackets last year, Galindo hit .273 with an organizational-leading 48 stolen bases (in 54 attempts). In fact, Galindo has stolen at least 40 bases in his last four professional seasons (despite having never played more than 90 games). The 23-year old Venezuelan possesses very little power, having connected for just 12 extra-base hits last year and only three home runs for his entire pro career. However, with the ability to draw a walk combined with plus-speed and excellent base stealing skills, Galindo is a logical candidate to bat leadoff this season in San Jose if he finds himself on the Giants opening day roster. Galindo can still improve defensively in center, but features a strong arm while his speed allows him to get great jumps on fly balls.

In seven California League playoff games last September, Galindo was 6-for-23 (.261) with a triple and three RBI’s.

While Galindo’s presence in center seems almost certain, who fills the corner outfield positions is more of a mystery as the 2014 season approaches. Among outfielders that were in Augusta last season, Chuckie Jones is the most likely candidate to move up with Galindo in 2014. Jones, a seventh round draft pick four years ago out of the high school ranks, is a physical presence on the baseball field at 6’3″ and 235 lbs. Jones has excellent raw power, can run and has experience playing all three outfield positions, although was almost exclusively a right fielder last season. As recently as two years ago, Jones was considered one of the top 20 prospects in the San Francisco farm system.

The downsides for Jones have been low batting averages and high strikeout totals. He began the 2012 season in Augusta, but his struggles were so great that he quickly found himself back in Extended Spring Training before finishing the year in Salem-Keizer (Short-Season level). He received another chance to play in Augusta last season and enjoyed modest success ranking second on the team in home runs (10), doubles (21) and hits (96) and third in RBI’s (51) and runs scored (58). However, Jones, by a large margin, led the GreenJackets in strikeouts (140 K’s in 407 AB’s) and managed just a .230 batting average. Solid power numbers (that could jump up even more in the hitter-friendly California League) and improved overall production at the plate as the season progressed last year (.275 AVG in July, .290 AVG in August) though could be enough to warrant a promotion to San Jose. Despite 2014 marking Jones’ fifth professional season, he is still only 21 years old.

Other potential newcomers to the corner outfield spots in San Jose this season include Tyler Horan and Brian Ragira, two of San Francisco’s top draft picks last June. Horan would be a much-needed left-handed bat in the middle of the San Jose lineup if he proves he’s ready for a promotion to the California League. Listed at 6’1″ and 230 lbs., Horan is big and strong and was one of the top sluggers in the ACC the past few years while playing at Virginia Tech. Horan hit 26 home runs over his last two collegiate seasons (116 games), in addition to a whopping 16 homers in just 41 games in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League after the 2012 campaign. The result of that success was his selection in the eighth round of last year’s draft by the SF Giants.

Last summer in Salem-Keizer, Horan produced solid numbers batting at a .295 clip in 44 games to go with 11 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 25 RBI’s. Horan finished the year strong hitting .319 in August while garnering starts in both left field and right. Now 23 years old, Horan could certainly fit into San Jose’s plans in 2014.

Meanwhile, Ragira was mentioned in last week’s preview as a potential first baseman on this year’s Giants squad. A fourth round pick last June out of Stanford, Ragira was exclusively a first baseman at the collegiate level, but saw more time in the outfield last summer with Salem-Keizer (mainly in RF). Overall in 47 games for the Volcanoes, Ragira posted a .263 batting average to go with 12 doubles, three home runs and 36 RBI’s. Ragira also drew 26 walks resulting in an impressive .371 on-base percentage.

While in college, Ragira hit at least .320 in each of his three seasons, leading Stanford in home runs (8) and RBI’s (42) as a junior. It remains to be seen whether Ragira, who was drafted as a first baseman, continues to work more at that position or if his experience in the outfield last summer in Salem-Keizer is a sign of his future role as a professional. Either way, given his draft pedigree, his success at a top collegiate program and overall solid production last year in the Northwest League, Ragira figures to be a strong contender for the San Jose roster this spring.

Potential outfield returnees to San Jose in 2014 include the versatile Elliott Blair and the speedy Shawn Payne. Blair, who saw substantial time as a center fielder last season in a Giants uniform, could be hard-pressed to earn a promotion to what’s expected to be a crowded Richmond outfield. In 69 games in the California League a year ago, Blair hit .229 with three home runs and 26 RBI’s. The former 46th round draft pick has played all three outfield positions in his pro career, in addition to occasional time at first base.

Payne entered the 2013 campaign with high expectations after leading Augusta in batting average the year prior, to go with a whopping 53 stolen bases. Unfortunately, that production did not lead to much success in the California League as Payne struggled to a .229 batting average and one home run in 73 games last season. Payne hit just .191 in May and .157 in June with the Giants before he was sent down to Augusta. Payne was able to get somewhat back on track down the stretch managing a .259 batting average with 10 doubles and four homers in 36 games for Augusta and will look for another crack at the California League this season. Payne has been exclusively a left fielder over the last two years.

One other potential 2014 San Jose outfielder worth noting is Brett Krill, a former 25th round pick out of UCLA. Krill was penciled into the Giants outfield last year after coming on strong during the second half of 2012 with Augusta. A late-switch during spring training though elevated Krill up to Double-A where he spent the entire 2013 season. In 85 games with the Flying Squirrels, mainly in a reserve outfield role, Krill hit .258 with 10 doubles, two home runs and 28 RBI’s. Krill, who can play either corner outfield position, struggled late in the year batting just .217 after the All-Star break. He could return to Richmond this season or perhaps make the first appearance of his professional career in San Jose.

2014 San Jose Giants Outfield Candidates
(2013 regular season statistics are listed)

Elliott Blair, CF
- San Jose: .229 AVG, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 4 SB

Jesus Galindo, CF
- Augusta: .273 AVG, 1 HR, 25 RBI, 48 SB

Tyler Horan, LF/RF
- Salem-Keizer: .295 AVG, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 4 SB

Chuckie Jones, RF
- Augusta: .236 AVG, 10 HR, 51 RBI, 12 SB

Brett Krill, LF/RF

- Richmond: .258 AVG, 2 HR, 28 RBI, 3 SB

Shawn Payne, LF
- San Jose: .229 AVG, 1 HR, 29 RBI, 21 SB
- Augusta: .259 AVG, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 6 SB

Brian Ragira, OF/1B

- Salem-Keizer: .263 AVG, 3 HR, 36 RBI, 1 SB

The 2014 San Jose Giants preview series will continue next week with a look at the catching position.

2014 San Jose Giants Previews

Corner Infield

Middle Infield

Starting Pitchers

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Former SJ Giants Compete For Roster Spots

By Joe Ritzo

cactus-leagueWith the start of San Francisco’s season only three weeks away, critical spring training games are ahead for the several former San Jose Giants looking to make the opening day roster. Specifically, outfielder Juan Perez and infielder Ehire Adrianza are leading contenders in fierce competitions for final roster spots while Heath Hembree, Jake Dunning and perhaps even Derek Law remain in contention to make the club as relievers.

Entering Monday’s action, San Francisco is 11 games into their spring training schedule. Among the recent former SJ Giants looking to make an opening day roster for the first time, Perez and Adrianza have impressed. Perez, who saw action in 34 games with San Francisco last season, is 7-for-23 (.304) this spring with four doubles and an RBI. The former San Jose outfielder leads the team in spring at-bats, hits and doubles as he establishes himself as a serious contender, if not the leader, for the fifth outfielder role. Fellow former SJ Giant Roger Kieschnick has struggled offensively thus far in spring action with just one hit in 15 at-bats (.067), including eight strikeouts. Tyler Colvin (2-for-9, 2B), who signed with the Giants as a minor league free agent at the start of the spring and has substantial big league experience, is probably Perez’s top competition right now.

Meanwhile, Adrianza has turned heads with his performance offensively through the first two weeks of spring action. The slick-fielding shortstop is 4-for-14 (.286) overall with a triple, a home run and four RBI’s. Adrianza even saw some action at second base last week as he looks to improve his versatility thus increasing his chances of making the roster. Unlike Perez, Adrianza is out of minor league options, so the Giants would risk losing him to another organization if he doesn’t make the team coming out of camp. Adrianza’s top competition for a reserve infield roster spot is Tony Abreu, who played 53 games with San Francisco last season and hit .268. Former SJ Giant Nick Noonan, who impressed last spring to make his first opening day roster, is 3-for-17 (.176) with three singles in exhibition games. Brandon Hicks, a minor league free agent addition last offseason, could also work his way into the competition thanks to six hits in 14 at-bats, including four doubles and a home run.

On the pitching side, Dunning and Hembree both remain in the large competition for the two, or possibly three, open bullpen spots on the opening day roster. Dunning received far more big league time among the two hurlers last year, although Hembree is considered the bigger prospect, especially after setting a Fresno team-record with 31 saves in 2013.

Both Dunning and Hembree have appeared in three games this spring. Dunning has worked a total of three innings with one run and five hits allowed. He’s walked one and struck out two. Dunning picked-up a save last Tuesday against the Rockies. Hembree has surrendered one run and one hit through two innings thus far. He’s walked two and struck out two. Hembree had a rough outing on February 28 against Oakland taking the loss when he uncorked a wild pitch in a tie game allowing the winning run to score. The former San Jose closer though bounced back in his next outing last Wednesday with a 1-2-3 ninth inning versus the Angels to record the save.

With no experience above the Class-A advanced level (although he did excel in the Arizona Fall League last year), it seemed unlikely that Law would be considered for a spot on the opening day roster. And while that’s still probably the case, last year’s San Jose closer has certainly continued his positive momentum though the first couple of weeks of spring games. In two relief appearances thus far, Law has been perfect working a total of two innings with two strikeouts. If nothing else, continued success this spring could allow Law to jump to Triple-A Fresno for the start of the season with a chance to debut in the big leagues later in 2014.

All five spots in San Francisco’s starting rotation are set, but Edwin Escobar also continues to make a name for himself this spring, perhaps setting up a big league debut later in the year. Escobar made his second start of the spring yesterday against the Dodgers tossing three solid innings. The left-hander walked four, but yielded just one hit and one run. Overall in exhibition games, Escobar has worked six innings with only one hit and one run allowed. A spot in Fresno’s starting rotation when minor league rosters are announced seems likely for Escobar.

OTHER SPRING NOTES
* Mark Minicozzi has continued his terrific spring at the plate. The 31-year old, who played in San Jose seven seasons ago before a three-year stint in independent ball, homered for the second time this spring when he went deep last Friday against the Royals. Minicozzi is the first Giant to have hit two home runs in spring action this year. Overall, he’s 6-for-15 (.400) with two homers and two RBI’s. While a spot on the opening day roster still seems unlikely, Minicozzi’s impressive showing thus far should at least garner him a spot on Fresno’s team coming out of camp. It would be Minicozzi’s first taste of Triple-A ball in his career.

* Other former San Jose hitters still in big league camp include Gary Brown (.250, 3-for-12, 2 RBI, SB), Chris Dominguez (.200, 1-for-5), Adam Duvall (.250, 2-for-8, HR, RBI) and Andrew Susac (.200, 2-for-10, 2 2B, 3 RBI). These players aren’t considered candidates to make the opening day roster and should help form the core of Fresno’s team in April.

* Former San Jose Giant Darren Ford is back in the organization. Ford, who last season played for the Pirates Triple-A team, recently signed a minor league deal with the Giants. He’s been assigned to minor league camp, but had a chance to play in yesterday’s big league spring game against the Dodgers going 0-for-2 with a walk. Ford isn’t the only 2009 San Jose outfielder back in the organization as Tyler Graham signed as a minor league free agent in January. Graham is also in minor league camp, but like Ford, was called up for the afternoon yesterday (went 1-for-2 with a double). Ford and Graham, who both have limited major league experience, should add depth to Fresno’s outfield.

* Minor league spring games are scheduled to begin on Wednesday. Here is the exhibition game schedule of the “High-A” team, or the players most likely to begin the season in San Jose.

San Jose Giants Radio Broadcast Information

By Joe Ritzo

The San Jose Giants open the 2014 season on Thursday, April 3

The San Jose Giants open the 2014 season on Thursday, April 3

With only 27 days until the season opener, here’s a reminder that fans will be able to listen to every San Jose Giants game in 2014. Behind what’s expected to be another prospect-laden pitching staff, the Giants will be looking to extend their league-record streak for consecutive playoff appearances while going in search of the franchise’s 12th California League championship.

There are several ways to listen to San Jose Giants baseball this season:

* Of course, every game is streamed live on the club’s official website, sjgiants.com. Radio broadcasts begin 30 minutes prior to first pitch with the Giants Pregame Show as I’ll preview the upcoming contest, take a look around the Giants farm system and bring you inside the clubhouse with an exclusive interview. The San Jose Giants broadcast page can be found here. There’s also a Listen Live link on the right side of this blog under the “Giants Links” section.

* Every broadcast is also streamed live on your mobile phone through the San Jose Giants Mobile App. The San Jose Giants Mobile App is available to download for free in the App StoreSM for your iPad or iPhone or the Android Marketplace.

* If you’re at the ballpark and want to listen to the game, tune your radio dial to 92.9 FM. The live radio broadcast is available on this FM frequency inside the main seating bowl at Municipal Stadium.

* All San Jose Giants home games are also streamed live and available on demand through MiLB.TV. For more details and to sign up for a subscription, log onto sjgiants.com and click on MiLB.TV in the Multimedia tab.

Details of this year’s San Jose Giants television schedule on Comcast Hometown Network are forthcoming.

2013 San Jose Standouts Among First Big League Roster Cuts

By Joe Ritzo

Kyle Crick was one of several 2013 San Jose Giants assigned to minor league camp today

Kyle Crick was one of several 2013 San Jose Giants assigned to minor league camp today

The San Francisco Giants made their first round of roster cuts today as 13 players were sent to minor league camp, including several standouts from last year’s San Jose team. 2013 SJ Giants Jeff Arnold, Ty Blach, Clayton Blackburn, Jose Casilla, Kyle Crick, Angel Villalona and Mac Williamson were among the players that have been assigned to minor league camp.

The cuts aren’t a surprise as these players weren’t in consideration to make San Francisco’s opening day roster and will now get a chance for regular playing time in minor league exhibition games, which are set to begin on Wednesday. In fact, Blach, Blackburn and Crick never appeared in an official big league spring game. Crick did make some headlines earlier this week when he appeared in a “B” game against the Cubs tossing two innings. Reportedly, Crick labored through his first inning yielding one run before striking out the side in a scoreless second inning of work.

Williamson picked-up one single over three at-bats in official spring training action while Arnold was 0-for-1 in limited action. Casilla allowed two runs in 1/3 of an inning in his lone relief appearance. Villalona is the only 40-man member among the group of cuts (the others were all non-roster invitees) and thus had to be placed on a minor league roster today upon his assignment. While it doesn’t guarantee that he’ll open the year with them, it’s notable that Villalona was placed on Triple-A Fresno’s roster today, perhaps signaling that he’ll start the 2014 campaign in the Pacific Coast League. Villalona was 0-for-7 with three strikeouts in big league spring action.

Other former San Jose Giants that were assigned to minor league camp today include infielder Joe Panik (0-for-3) and pitcher Chris Heston (2 IP, 2 R). Ben Turner (0-for-1), San Jose’s likely starting catcher this season after playing in Augusta all of 2013, was also sent down.

54 players remain in Giants big league camp. Pitchers Edwin Escobar and Derek Law are now the only active 2013 San Jose Giants still in camp. Through yesterday’s action, Escobar has worked a total of three no-hit innings spanning two appearances. Law has pitched in just one game thus far tossing a perfect inning of relief last weekend.

2012 San Jose standouts Adam Duvall and Andrew Susac are still participating in big league camp as is 2011 Giants MVP Gary Brown. Former SJ Giants Juan Perez and Roger Kieschnick continue to battle for the fifth outfield spot, Ehire Adrianza and Nick Noonan are still involved in the fight to make the team as reserve infielders while Jake Dunning and Heath Hembree remain contenders for the opening day roster out of the bullpen. Mark Minicozzi also continues to impress with five hits, including a home run, in nine spring at-bats.

Episode 29 – Inside the San Jose Giants


Podcast graphicIn this special season preview podcast episode, Joe and Ben discuss candidates for the 2014 San Jose Giants pitching staff. The two breakdown the exciting group of starting pitchers expected to fill the rotation, which top prospect from last year’s staff could return and who might serve as the club’s closer.

2014 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Corner Infield

By Joe Ritzo

2014-Season-PreviewThe San Jose Giants season preview series continues this week with a look at the first and third base positions. The collection of players who saw action at the corner infield spots for San Jose last year will all likely begin this season in the upper levels of the Giants farm system. Among the candidates to play first and third for San Jose in 2014 include two of Augusta’s best power hitters from a year ago and one of San Francisco’s top draft picks last June.

Mitch Delfino, who joined the SJ Giants from Augusta for the playoffs last September, will likely play third base for the club this season. The former 20th round draft pick out of Cal led the GreenJackets in home runs (13), RBI’s (76) and doubles (25) in 2013 to go with a .270 batting average. After a somewhat sluggish start to the year, Delfino hit .300 after the All-Star break, including .319 in August.

Third baseman Mitch Delfino led Augusta with 13 home runs last season before joining San Jose for the playoffs

Third baseman Mitch Delfino led Augusta with 13 home runs last season before joining San Jose for the playoffs

Delfino is a big, strong right-handed hitter (listed at 6’3″, 200 lbs.) with the potential to put up big numbers with the Giants. It would certainly not be the first time that a player sees an improvement in his power production going from Augusta’s pitcher-friendly ballpark to the hitters paradise that is the California League. Delfino, who committed 13 errors last year, is considered an average defensive player at third base. If he begins this season in San Jose, look for Delfino to establish himself in the middle of the Giants order.

Last September, Delfino played in four out of the eight Giants postseason games. He was 3-for-14 (.214) with three singles.

While it’s highly unlikely that Ryan Cavan, who played 49 games at third base for San Jose last year, would come back to the California League for a third season, it’s not an unreasonable prediction to state that Myles Schroder could return. Schroder will certainly be a strong candidate to make the Double-A Richmond roster this spring after coming on strong in the second half with the Giants last year. The versatile utility man finished the 2013 season with a .296 batting average, 20 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 33 RBI’s and 12 stolen bases in 86 games. Schroder hit .326 in the second half to eventually become the club’s everyday starter at third base down the stretch and into the playoffs (he did struggle in the postseason though going 3-for-27).

If Schroder is squeezed out of a Double-A roster spot this spring, he could once again fill a valuable role with San Jose. Last season, in addition to his time at third base, Schroder saw occasional action at first base, second base and catcher while he also has the ability to play in the outfield.

Other potential third base candidates for the San Jose Giants at the start of the season include Shayne Houck and Brandon Bednar. Houck, a former 29th round draft pick, played 96 games with Augusta last season, but hit just .235. Houck features some power as he connected for 18 doubles and five home runs a year ago while also playing some at first base and corner outfield. His pedestrian batting average may result in a repeat season in Augusta though.

Bednar was mentioned in last week’s middle infield preview as a potential San Jose Giant in 2014. A seventh round draft pick last June out of Florida Gulf Coast University, Bednar hit .272 with six home runs and 34 RBI’s in 50 games for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Short-Season) in 2013. Bednar saw more time at the middle infield positions last summer, but has the ability to play third base and could advance through the system as a utility guy going forward.

Over at first base, look for a new face or two in San Jose this season. 2013 first basemen Angel Villalona, who ended last year in Double-A, and Ricky Oropesa are expected to begin the campaign in the upper levels of the farm system. The duo combined for 22 home runs, 32 doubles and 80 RBI’s in the California League last season.

Joey Rapp, another powerful right-handed hitter (like Delfino), garnered most of the playing time at first base in Augusta a year ago and will be looking to move up to the California League in 2014. In 91 games for the GreenJackets, Rapp posted a .267 batting average to go with 19 doubles, six home runs and 54 RBI’s. The power numbers may not impress for a first baseman, but Rapp missed five weeks during April and May due to a broken finger. The injury may have contributed to Rapp not finding his stride offensively until the second half of the season.

A 28th round pick in 2012 out of the University of Louisiana-Monroe, Rapp hit all six of his home runs with Augusta after the All-Star break. After struggling early, Rapp hit .280 in July and then an impressive .327 during the month of August. His improved production as the season progressed combined with the opening at first base in San Jose should allow Rapp the opportunity to make the roster coming out of camp. Rapp, who is listed at 6’3″ and 220 lbs., led Salem-Keizer and was third in the Northwest League with 11 home runs in 2012. Making more consistent contact will be critical for Rapp as he struck out a whopping 98 times in 344 at-bats a year ago.

Another intriguing possibility for the first base position in San Jose this season is 2013 fourth round pick Brian Ragira. A product of Stanford University, Ragira hit .263 with 12 doubles, three home runs and 36 RBI’s in 47 games with Salem-Keizer last summer after signing his professional contract. Ragira was a standout performer in college earning the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award and batting at least .320 in all three seasons at Stanford. Ragira led the Cardinal in home runs (8) and RBI’s (42) during his final year last spring. Exclusively a first baseman in college, Ragira actually ended last summer playing more corner outfield while in Salem-Keizer. It remains to be seen whether Ragira (who will be profiled more in the outfield preview next week) can jump past Augusta to make it to the Cal League this season and if he continues to play both first base and outfield or settles on one specific position.

Ben Turner, San Jose’s likely starting catcher this season and a non-roster invitee to big league camp, can also play first base. Turner saw action in 37 games at first base with Augusta last year.

2014 San Jose Giants Corner Infield Candidates
(2013 regular season statistics are listed)

Brandon Bednar, 2B/SS/3B
- Salem-Keizer: .272 AVG, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 11 SB

Mitch Delfino, 3B
- Augusta: .270 AVG, 13 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB

Shayne Houck, 3B/1B
- Augusta: .235 AVG, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 1 SB

Brian Ragira, 1B/OF
- Salem-Keizer: .263 AVG, 3 HR, 36 RBI, 1 SB

Joey Rapp, 1B
- Augusta: .267 AVG, 6 HR, 54 RBI, 2 SB

Myles Schroder, 3B
- San Jose: .296 AVG, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 12 SB

The 2014 San Jose Giants preview series will continue next week with a look at the outfield.

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Early Spring Standouts

By Joe Ritzo

SF Giants logoThe San Francisco Giants are four games into their spring training schedule entering this afternoon’s Cactus League tilt against the Padres. Here are a few notable stat lines of some recent former San Jose Giants in big league spring action:

* Ehire Adrianza, SS: .333 AVG (2-6), 3B, HR, 4 RBI
Adrianza’s important spring is off to a good start. He homered in the first game last Wednesday versus Oakland and then produced an RBI triple on Friday against the Brewers. Adrianza is tied for the team lead in RBI’s (with Hector Sanchez) and is one of three Giants to have hit a home run thus far. Adrianza is out of minor league options, so he needs to make the opening day roster or he’ll have to be exposed to waivers (at which point he’d likely be picked up by another team).

* Gary Brown, OF: .500 AVG (2-4), RBI, SB
Brown had a nice game in last Friday’s split-squad contest against the A’s knocking out a pair of singles in three at-bats to go with an RBI and a stolen base. 2014 needs to be a bounce back season for Brown after batting just .231 with Triple-A Fresno last year.

* Adam Duvall, 3B: .250 AVG (1-4), HR, RBI
Duvall has hit 47 home runs over his last two seasons in the minor leagues (including a San Jose record 30 in 2012) and he’s off to a good start with the long ball this spring. The slugging third baseman came off the bench to homer in last Wednesday’s Cactus League opener versus the A’s. Duvall was placed on the 40-man roster last offseason and will be looking to make the Fresno roster coming out of camp this year.

* Edwin Escobar, LHP: 1 GS, 0.00 ERA, 2.0 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO
Escobar, another 40-man roster member, started the split-squad game last Friday against Oakland and delivered two perfect innings of work. The left-hander struck out one in his brief start.

* Derek Law, RHP: 1 G, 0.00 ERA, 1.0 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO
Law’s first relief appearance of the spring was a successful one as he fired a perfect inning out of the bullpen against the Brewers. Law received a non-roster invitation to big league camp after his dominant second half last year’s as San Jose’s closer and then stellar performance in the Arizona Fall League.

* Mark Minicozzi, 1B: .333 AVG (1-3), HR, RBI
The 31-year old veteran isn’t a recent former SJ Giant (he played here in 2006 and 2007), but has been a nice story during the first week of Cactus League games. Minicozzi, who hit .309 with 10 homers in Double-A last year, smacked a solo home run in his first at-bat of the spring last Friday.

* Juan Perez, OF: .500 AVG (4-8), 3 2B
Perez should receive substantial playing time this spring as he competes with Tyler Colvin and Roger Kieschnick for the open fifth outfielder spot. Thus far, the former SJ Giant has performed well with a team-high four hits, including three doubles.

Others: Kieschnick has produced one single through his first three at-bats of the spring … Nick Noonan is 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts while Angel Villalona (0-for-4), Andrew Susac (0-for-3), Joe Panik (0-for-1), Mac Williamson (0-for-1) and Jeff Arnold (0-for-1) are also still looking for their first hits … On the pitching side, Chris Heston worked two innings of relief last Friday yielding two earned runs and three hits while Mitch Lively tossed a scoreless inning of relief in his spring debut.

2014 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Middle Infield

By Joe Ritzo

2014-Season-PreviewThe San Jose Giants season preview series continues this week with a look at the middle infield possibilities. Some familiar faces are in the running to garner significant playing time at second base and shortstop this year for the Giants, including two of the club’s top performers during the playoffs last September.

The San Jose Giants had a revolving door of players up the middle last season. Kelby Tomlinson was the opening day starter at shortstop, but a leg injury suffered in late-April knocked him out of action for two months. Bobby Haney filled in capably for the remainder of the first half before Tomlinson returned in June. A roster shuffle in the levels above San Jose resulted in a July promotion to Double-A for Tomlinson prompting the arrival of Matt Duffy from Augusta. Duffy then excelled in a Giants uniform down the stretch and into the playoffs elevating his prospect status as the season concluded.

Meanwhile, it was Haney that opened 2013 at second base for the Giants before giving way to veterans Ryan Cavan and Brock Bond for the bulk of the season. In mid-August, Trevor Brown joined the club from Augusta and saw nearly all of the action at second base, including a sizzling week offensively during the playoffs.

Now looking ahead to 2014, it’s unlikely that Haney or Cavan would return to the California League for a third season while Bond is no longer in the organization. Spring training could determine whether it’s Tomlinson or Duffy manning the shortstop position for the Giants at the beginning of the season while Brown figures to return as the club’s starting second baseman.

Kelby Tomlinson was San Jose's opening day shortstop last year and could return this season

Kelby Tomlinson was San Jose’s opening day shortstop last year and could return this season

Despite beginning last year as San Jose’s opening day shortstop and leadoff hitter, Tomlinson actually didn’t see much time in the California League in 2013. Between a pair of injuries and a quick promotion to Double-A, Tomlinson played in just 32 games with the Giants. The former 12th round draft pick hit .276 with seven doubles, no home runs, 16 RBI’s and five stolen bases. Tomlinson is a taller shortstop at 6’3″ with solid defensive skills and tremendous speed. He thrived in Rookie-ball three years ago batting at a .357 clip before struggling to a .224 mark as Augusta’s everyday shortstop in 2012. Tomlinson did rank among the South Atlantic League leaders in stolen bases two seasons ago with 36 and would be a viable candidate to bat leadoff, second or ninth should he return to San Jose this year.

Tomlinson has Double-A experience, but managed just a .198 batting average with five doubles and four RBI’s in 33 games for Richmond late last season.

Duffy, a 20th round pick in 2012, burst onto the scene last year in his first full professional season. As Augusta’s primary shortstop, he earned midseason South Atlantic League All-Star honors and was leading the GreenJackets in hitting with a .307 batting average at the time of his late-July promotion to San Jose. He then continued to impress with the Giants posting a .292 average while contributing six doubles, a triple, five home runs and 14 RBI’s in 26 games. Between the two teams last year, Duffy produced 20 doubles, nine homers, 57 RBI’s and 25 stolen bases to go with a .303 batting average and nearly as many walks (52) as strikeouts (57).

Duffy has a similar build to Tomlinson at 6’2″ and 170 lbs., but has far more pop in his bat and could potentially hit in the third spot of the lineup for the Giants should he return. Both players run well with Tomlinson a more dangerous threat to steal a base.

Matt Duffy will likely open the season as the starting shortstop in either San Jose or Richmond

Matt Duffy will likely open the season as the starting shortstop in either San Jose or Richmond

With no other obvious candidates to start at shortstop in Double-A this April, that job would seem to be there for the taking. Will it be Tomlinson, with his previous Double-A experience, getting another crack at the Eastern League out of the gate? Or was Duffy’s breakout 2013, including an impressive showing with the bat down the stretch in San Jose, enough to warrant a promotion to Richmond? Whomever doesn’t win the Richmond job coming out of minor league camp figures to be the leading candidate to start at shortstop for the Giants this season.

A third intriguing shortstop candidate for San Jose this year is 2012 12th round draft pick Jeremy Sy. The Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in his final collegiate season, the start of Sy’s professional career was sidetracked as Tommy John Surgery on his elbow required him to miss the entire 2012 season. He likely would have spent that entire summer in Salem-Keizer, but due to the injury and long rehab process, didn’t make his debut until last June with the Volcanoes.

Fortunately for Sy, he quickly made up for lost time. In 46 games with Salem-Keizer last season, the 5’8″ shortstop, who packs a punch offensively, hit .294. Sy led the Volcanoes in home runs (8), RBI’s (41) and slugging percentage (.518) while ranking third in doubles (12) and stolen bases (13). The only downside to his year was perhaps the 13 errors committed in 34 games at shortstop.

After a four-year collegiate career and a rookie pro season washed out due to injury, Sy is already 24 – a year older than both Tomlinson and Duffy. Given his age and good showing in the Northwest League last summer, it would not be a surprise if Sy is elevated all the way to San Jose this spring – even if Tomlinson or Duffy is also in the California League.

Over at second base, minor league camp opens with Brown figuring to be the most likely candidate to begin the year as San Jose’s starter at the position. Drafted as a catcher two years ago out of UCLA (10th round), Brown saw considerably more time as a second baseman last season. The 6’2″ Southern California native hit .250 with 18 doubles, three home runs, 40 RBI’s and 10 stolen bases in 97 games with Augusta. With three weeks remaining in the regular season, he was promoted to San Jose where he continued to play almost exclusively second base. The numbers weren’t impressive with the Giants as Brown hit just .172 in 14 games, but he managed to end the year on a positive note. Brown had multi-hits in three out of his last five regular season games (helping to overcome a 1-for-28 start) and then led San Jose with a .345 batting average (10-for-29) during the playoffs.

Brown isn’t a big power guy, but he’s proven he can handle the bat well and doesn’t strikeout often. He hit fifth in the order for the Giants in the postseason after batting mainly second or sixth while in Augusta. If Brown does return to San Jose for the start of the 2014 campaign, he’ll look to pick-up right where he left off last September.

Other Giants middle infield candidates include a pair of players who were in Augusta for most, if not all, of last year. Alberto Robles, a native of Venezuela, quietly had a very good season with the GreenJackets. A part-time player early in the year, Robles grew into more of an everyday role in the second half, especially after the promotions of Duffy and Brown to San Jose. In 194 at-bats, Robles hit .304 with nine doubles, two triples, a home run and 21 RBI’s. He also contributed 13 stolen bases. Robles is a versatile player as he basically split time between second base and shortstop last year in Augusta. Given his .300+ batting average in the South Atlantic League, he’ll probably be considered for a spot on San Jose’s roster this spring.

Travious Relaford spent three weeks last July with the Giants and could return to the California League in 2014. Relaford was just 7-for-45 (.156 AVG) in a San Jose uniform and failed to gain much traction anywhere last season after bouncing around between Augusta, San Jose and Richmond. A former 44th round pick, Relaford started and finished the year with the GreenJackets where he posted an overall batting average of .221 and hit two home runs in 48 games. Relaford has played both shortstop and second throughout his pro career with sparse time at third base as well.

Two more middle infield possibilities include a pair players who could make the jump from Salem-Keizer to San Jose. 2012 13th round pick Ryan Jones has been Salem’s primary second baseman the last two seasons. He hit just .227 as a rookie, but improved dramatically last summer when he led the Volcanoes with a .336 batting average. Jones has little power (one HR in two years), but can draw a walk (.429 OBP last season) and committed just four errors in all of 2013. He may just move up one level to Augusta this season, but a jump to San Jose isn’t out of the question.

2013 draftee Brandon Bednar, a utility infielder, may also be considered for a promotion to the California League this spring. Bednar bounced around the infield last summer with Salem-Keizer playing second base (20 games), shortstop (17 games) and third (nine games). He posted a .272 batting average while contributing nine doubles, six home runs, 34 RBI’s and 11 stolen bases. Bednar was a seventh round pick last June out of Florida Gulf Coast University, making him the first collegiate middle infielder taken by San Francisco in the 2013 draft. Bednar’s versatility (he played seven positions in college), relatively high draft status and solid production in Salem-Keizer could result in a jump to San Jose.

Finally, 2013 first round draft pick Christian Arroyo is considered a long shot to open this season in San Jose. The shortstop was the Arizona Rookie League MVP last summer after batting .326 with a .511 slugging percentage in 45 games. Only 18 years old (he’ll turn 19 in May), Arroyo will probably begin the year in Augusta as San Jose fans wait patiently for the opportunity to watch this former top draft pick in action.

2014 San Jose Giants Middle Infield Candidates
(2013 regular season statistics are listed)

Brandon Bednar, 2B/SS/3B
- Salem-Keizer: .272 AVG, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 11 SB

Trevor Brown, 2B
- San Jose: .172 AVG, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB
- Augusta: .250 AVG, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 10 SB

Matt Duffy, SS
- San Jose: .292 AVG, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 3 SB
- Augusta: .307 AVG, 4 HR, 43 RBI, 22 SB

Ryan Jones, 2B
- Salem-Keizer: .336 AVG, 0 HR, 23 RBI, 9 SB

Travious Relaford, SS/2B
- Augusta: .221 AVG, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 10 SB
- San Jose: .156 AVG, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB
- Richmond: .188 AVG, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB

Alberto Robles, SS/2B

- Augusta: .304 AVG, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 13 SB

Jeremy Sy, SS
- Salem-Keizer: .294 AVG, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 13 SB

Kelby Tomlinson, SS
- San Jose: .276 AVG, 0 HR, 16 RBI, 5 SB
- Richmond: .198 AVG, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 3 SB

The 2014 San Jose Giants preview series will continue next week with a look at the corner infield.

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News and Notes: Baseball America’s Top 100, Minor League Camp Starts This Week

By Joe Ritzo

Kyle Crick was ranked #33 on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list last week

Kyle Crick was ranked #33 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list last week

Former San Jose pitchers Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar were both included on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list released last week. Crick checked in at #33 overall while Escobar garnered the #56 ranking. Baseball America projects a 2015 arrival in the major leagues for both hurlers.

Crick was the 18th highest pitcher on Baseball America’s top prospect list. Meanwhile, Escobar was the 28th pitcher and the fifth-highest left-hander. Crick enjoyed a sizable jump in the rankings from last year moving from #66 in BA’s top 100 entering the 2013 campaign to his current place at #33. Escobar was not included among the top 100 last year.

Last season in San Jose, Crick was 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 14 starts. The former supplemental first round draft pick struck out 95 batters and walked 39 in 68 2/3 innings. Escobar, a midseason California League All-Star in 2013, was 3-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 16 games (14 starts) before a July promotion to Double-A Richmond. The southpaw fanned 92 and walked only 17 in 74 2/3 innings with the Giants.

The duo were also ranked on MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list earlier in the offseason with Crick at #32 and Escobar at #95.

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MINOR LEAGUE CAMP STARTS THIS WEEK
San Francisco Giants minor league camp begins this week down in Scottsdale. International players are due to report on Tuesday while all U.S. players must report by Thursday. The first full workout is scheduled for Friday. Giants minor leaguers will then participate in several workouts and intra-squad games over the following days before their exhibition opener on Wednesday, March 12.

Here is the full spring training game schedule for the “High-A” team – the players most likely to begin the season in San Jose.

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OTHER NOTES
* 2012 San Jose pitcher Taylor Rogers announced on twitter last week that he has retired from baseball. Rogers led the 2012 San Jose pitching staff in wins (12), innings pitched (152 2/3) and strikeouts (118). He finished the year with a 4.13 ERA in 27 starts. Rogers, a 25th round pick in 2009 out of Tulane, spent all of last season with Richmond and was 5-9 with a 5.43 ERA in 26 games (18 starts).

* All 2014 San Jose Giants game times have now been announced. San Jose will play 12 afternoon games at Municipal Stadium this year, including all Sunday games in April, May and June, a Memorial Day tilt on May 26, five midweek day games (Wednesday 4/16, Thursday 5/22, Tuesday 6/24, Thursday 7/10, Tuesday 7/22) and the final regular season home contest of the year on Sunday, August 24. All Saturday home games will continue to feature a 5:00 PM start with the exception of June 28 (6:00), July 5 (6:30) and August 2 (6:00). The 2014 schedule, with all home and road start times, can be downloaded here.

* MLB.com has released their January blog rankings and we’re proud to see Inside the San Jose Giants check in at #6 in the “MiLB PRO” category. It’s also ranked first (in page views) among official Minor League team blogs for the month. Thanks to everyone for reading and we look forward to bringing you complete coverage of the 2014 San Jose Giants season in the coming months!

Episode 28 – Inside the San Jose Giants



Podcast graphicWho will lead the San Francisco Giants farm system in home runs this season?

Which former San Jose Giants will make their Major League debuts in 2014?

Who are the “sleeper” prospects in the organization poised to breakout this year?

Joe and Ben tackle these topics as well as make other bold predictions for the 2014 minor league season in the most recent podcast episode. The two also address a few of the Giants big league camp storylines as Spring Training gets underway in Arizona.

2014 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Starting Pitchers

By Joe Ritzo

2014-Season-PreviewOur 2014 San Jose Giants position-by-position preview series begins today with a look at the starting rotation.

Since the club’s inception in 1988, no California League team can match San Jose’s success on the mound. 10 Giants hurlers have won the Cal League Pitcher of the Year award while San Jose has led the league in ERA eight times over the last ten seasons. Last year’s talented staff, led by a prospect-laden starting rotation, paced the California League in earned run average (3.66) and was tops in all of Minor League Baseball in strikeouts (1282). Most of those pitchers are now headed for the upper levels of the farm system, but a new crop of exciting young arms are expected to open the 2014 season with the San Jose Giants.

Top prospect starting pitchers Kyle Crick, Ty Blach, Clayton Blackburn and Adalberto Mejia – the backbone of San Jose’s club on their run to a North Division championship last year – are expected to begin this season with Double-A Richmond. The possible exception from that group could be Mejia as a return to San Jose for the young left-hander would not be a complete surprise.

Mejia enjoyed nice success last season compiling a 3.31 ERA with 89 strikeouts over 87 innings in 16 starts. It was especially impressive considering he opened the campaign as the youngest pitcher in the California League (19) and then missed most of the first half due to a lat injury. Once he returned from the disabled list, Mejia seemed to get stronger as the year progressed turning in multiple quality starts. The most likely scenario has Mejia joining Crick, Blach and Blackburn in Richmond this April to form another star-studded rotation. However, several factors could give the organization some pause as to whether Mejia gets that immediate promotion in 2014, including his youth, the lack of a full season pitched in the Cal League due to injury and his rocky performance in the Arizona Fall League at the end of 2013 (8.47 ERA in 17 IP). It would not be unprecedented for the Giants organization to hold one of their younger, more successful top starting pitching prospects back in San Jose, at least for the opening weeks or months of the season. This personnel decision at the conclusion of spring training in late-March is significant and will help shape both the Richmond and San Jose starting rotations.

The bulk, if not all, of San Jose’s 2014 starting rotation will be filled with new faces, many of which are considered some of the best prospects in the organization. It’s a group of pitchers that are talented enough to once again carry San Jose to the top of the California League.

Last year, San Francisco’s Class A affiliate, the Augusta GreenJackets, posted the best regular season record in the South Atlantic League at 82-55. Augusta, like San Jose, featured a prospect-laden starting rotation with the GreenJackets ranking fourth in the league in ERA at an impressive 3.42. Leading the charge was a quartet of right-handers: San Francisco’s top two draft picks in 2012 Chris Stratton and Martin Agosta and a pair of Dominican-born hurlers Kendry Flores and Joan Gregorio. In all likelihood, these four pitchers will move up the farm system together this season to anchor San Jose’s starting rotation.

All four pitchers have received mention on various SF Giants top 10 prospects lists entering 2014. Stratton, who has been ranked as the #3 prospect in the system by Baseball America (behind Crick and Edwin Escobar), is expected to come to San Jose after fashioning a 9-3 record and a 3.27 ERA in 22 starts a year ago for Augusta. Stratton features a good fastball that generally sits in the 89 to 94 MPH range and complements it with a plus-slider that serves as a strikeout pitch. Armed with four pitches, Stratton (who is listed at 6’3″ and 185 lbs.) can also throw a curve and a change-up – two offerings that he’ll look to improve upon in 2014.

2012 first round draft pick Chris Stratton is a strong candidate to begin this season in San Jose's starting rotation (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

2012 first round draft pick Chris Stratton is a strong candidate to begin this season in San Jose’s starting rotation (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

Stratton, a product of Mississippi State University, was San Francisco’s first round draft pick two years ago as the organization took him with the 21st overall selection. He entered last year with high expectations after winning the SEC Pitcher of the Year award in his final collegiate season. At times in Augusta, Stratton was dominant allowing one or no runs in 11 out of his 22 starts. Stratton struck out 123 batters in 132 innings overall and gave up just five home runs for the entire year – a credit to his quality two-seam fastball that features good downward movement. A lot will be expected of the 23-year old this season and with the California League his most likely destination, SJ Giants fans should get a good look at the latest former first round pitching prospect.

San Francisco went the college starting pitcher route with their first two picks in 2012 as after Stratton’s selection in the first round, it was Northern California native and St. Mary’s product Martin Agosta that received the call in the second round. Like Stratton, Agosta was assigned to Augusta last year for his first full professional season. When healthy, Agosta was as dominant as any pitcher in the South Atlantic League. In 18 starts overall, he boasted a 9-3 record and an impressive 2.06 ERA. Agosta allowed just 57 hits in 91 2/3 innings and struck out 109 with 43 walks. He limited the opposition to a paltry .180 batting average and gave up more than two runs in just three of his starts. For his efforts, Agosta was one of the starting pitchers in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game last June.

Agosta’s fastball, at its best, will sit in the low 90′s with the ability to hit 95. His slider is also an above-average pitch while the continued development of his change-up will be crucial going forward. Agosta, who turns 23 in April, isn’t particularly big (listed at 6’1″, 180 lbs.) and could profile as a reliever down the road. Issues with a dead arm and a blister hampered Agosta during the second half of last season as he made just four starts after the first week of July. Assuming full health at the start of 2014, there will be high expectations for Agosta this season. He was rated the ninth-best prospect in the system by Baseball Prospectus at the end of last year.

While both Stratton and Agosta were solid, and sometimes excellent, in Augusta last season, the most consistent GreenJackets starting pitcher throughout the entire year was Flores. As a 21-year old last season, Flores burst onto the scene posting a 10-6 record with a 2.73 ERA in 22 starts. He featured a remarkable 137-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 141 2/3 innings while limiting the opposition to a .216 batting average. Flores had a 2.87 ERA during the first half and a 2.60 ERA after the All-Star break. His most memorable outing was a 15-strikeout, no-walk effort over eight innings (one run allowed) in late August. In fact, over his last 12 starts totaling 79 2/3 innings, Flores walked just four batters compared to 86 strikeouts. For his efforts, Flores was placed on San Francisco’s 40-man roster at the end of the year.

Kendry Flores was third in the South Atlantic League in strikeouts (137) and fifth in ERA (2.73) last season (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

Kendry Flores was third in the South Atlantic League in strikeouts (137) and fifth in ERA (2.73) last season (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

Flores isn’t a flamethrower as his fastball will sit in the upper 80′s-to-low 90′s range. His curve and change-up also continue to make a lot of progress, but it’s Flores’ command that sets him apart from others. Flores is a fly ball pitcher (gave up a team-high 11 home runs last season), so keeping the ball down in the hitter-friendly California League this year will be a key to his success. With his inclusion on the 40-man roster, there’s no question that much focus will be on Flores this year as he looks to build on his breakout 2013 campaign. Baseball Prospectus ranks Flores as the fourth-best prospect in the system while he checks in at #14 on Baseball America’s Giants list.

The final hurler of the four is Gregorio, who perhaps features the most potential of the group. Gregorio has an incredibly lanky frame as the 22-year old is listed at 6’7″ and just 180 lbs. He missed time last year due to an oblique injury and a blister and thus was limited to only 13 starts. Overall with Augusta, Gregorio logged a 6-3 record with a 4.00 ERA. His secondary numbers were impressive as he struck out a whopping 84 batters in just 69 2/3 innings with just 17 walks and three home runs allowed. On July 18 last year, Gregorio tossed seven no-hit innings with 10 strikeouts and only one walk before leaving the game due to reaching his pitch count limit.

In addition to his size, Gregorio is a unique pitcher in that he possesses different arm slots while maintaining good control – not a particularly comfortable at-bat for a hitter. He owns a low 90′s fastball that can reach 95 MPH with a good slider and improving change-up. All three of his pitches could be plus-offerings in the not so distant future. Gregorio likely just needs more innings (his career-high through four years as a professional is 76 IP) to continue his upward trend as he attempts to tap into his incredible potential. Baseball America ranks Gregorio the 17th best prospect in the system while Baseball Prospectus has him at #8.

If the quartet of Stratton, Agosta, Flores and Gregorio all move up a level to San Jose this season, the Giants starting rotation should once again be one of the most talented in the California League.

It is common though for San Jose to use a six-man starting rotation (as opposed to the more tradition five-man staff), so there could be one of two more spots to fill. Pat Young was promoted to the Giants from Salem-Keizer (Short-Season) for the playoffs last September and is a San Jose starting pitching candidate this year. Young, a 13th round pick in last June’s draft out of Villanova, put together a dominant summer in the Northwest League after signing his professional contract. In eight starts with the Volcanoes, Young owned a sparkling 0.92 ERA yielding just four earned runs in 39 1/3 innings. The 6’7″ right-hander walked nine, struck out 27 and held the league to a .186 batting average.

Pat Young started Game 5 of the North Division Series last September after a promotion from Salem-Keizer

Pat Young started Game 5 of the North Division Series last September after a promotion from Salem-Keizer

2013 San Jose manager Andy Skeels then thrust Young into the spotlight after his promotion starting him in the decisive fifth game of the highly competitive North Division Series against Visalia. Young battled through 3 2/3 innings in the start surrendering two earned runs with one walk and an impressive seven strikeouts (the Giants, of course, won the game 9-5 to advance). With his big frame on the mound, Young showed a low-to-mid 90′s fastball and a quality slider last September. He should open the 2014 season with either San Jose or Augusta.

Nick Vander Tuig made a brief appearance with San Jose last July and is another candidate for the Giants starting rotation this year. Vander Tuig was San Francisco’s sixth round draft pick last June after a standout junior season for national champion UCLA. In 19 starts with the Bruins last spring, Vander Tuig was 14-4 with a 2.16 ERA. He issued only 18 walks all season compared to 93 strikeouts in 129 innings and was the winning pitcher in UCLA’s clinching victory at the College World Series. Due to his heavy workload in college, Vander Tuig saw limited action last summer in Salem-Keizer tossing just 6 2/3 innings, in addition to a spot-start with San Jose.

The scouting report on Vander Tuig includes an 88-to-91 MPH fastball, a slider and a plus change-up. With loads of big game experience in college and pinpoint control, an aggressive promotion to San Jose (much like fellow control-artist Ty Blach last year) for his first full professional season could be in the works.

2013 third round pick Chase Johnson was a reliever at Cal Poly, but has transitioned to a starter as a professional. Last summer in Salem-Keizer, Johnson was 3-2 with a 4.17 ERA in 10 starts. He struck out 37 batters in 41 innings. A strong spring could possibly put Johnson in contention for a spot in San Jose, but he’s likely headed to Augusta. D.J. Snelten, a ninth round pick last year out of Minnesota, dominated in the Arizona Rookie League last summer posting a 1.57 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. He’s another pitcher probably headed to Augusta’s starting rotation, but could perhaps force his way up to the California League. Chris Johnson, a 2012 draftee (17th round) and no relation to Chase, was Salem-Keizer’s top starting pitcher last season recording a 2.49 ERA and a 78-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 83 innings. If the organization wants a left-hander or two in the San Jose starting rotation (assuming neither Mejia or Snelten begin the year in the Cal League), possible candidates include Joe Kurrasch, an eighth rounder out of Penn State in 2012. Kurrasch struggled in Salem-Keizer last season, but enjoyed far more success in Augusta where he posted a 1.78 ERA in 25 1/3 innings. Fellow lefty Matt Lujan was a non-drafted free agent signee two years ago out of USF. Lujan was a bit under-the-radar in Augusta last year, but the numbers were solid as he went 7-0 with a 3.33 ERA in 15 games (12 starts).

2014 San Jose Giants Starting Pitching Candidates
(2013 regular season statistics are listed)

Martin Agosta, RHP
- Augusta: 18 GS, 9-3, 2.06 ERA, 91.2 IP, 43 BB, 109 SO

Kendry Flores, RHP
- Augusta: 22 GS, 10-6, 2.73 ERA, 141.2 IP, 17 BB, 137 SO

Joan Gregorio, RHP
- Augusta: 14 G, 13 GS, 6-3, 4.00 ERA, 69.2 IP, 17 BB, 84 SO

Chase Johnson, RHP
- Salem-Keizer: 10 GS, 3-2, 4.17 ERA, 41.0 IP, 12 BB, 37 SO

Chris Johnson, RHP
- Salem-Keizer: 15 GS, 6-3, 2.49 ERA, 83.0 IP, 8 BB, 78 SO

Joe Kurrasch, LHP
- Augusta: 7 G, 4 GS, 5-0, 1.78 ERA, 25.1 IP, 8 BB, 32 SO
- Salem-Keizer: 9 G, 8 GS, 2-4, 5.03 ERA, 34.0 IP, 12 BB, 25 SO

Matt Lujan, LHP
- Augusta: 15 G, 12 GS, 7-0, 3.33 ERA, 78.1 IP, 28 BB, 64 SO

Adalberto Mejia, LHP
- San Jose: 16 GS, 7-4, 3.31 ERA, 87.0 IP, 23 BB, 89 SO

D.J. Snelten, LHP
- AZL-Giants: 14 G, 6 GS, 3-1, 1.57 ERA, 34.1 IP, 13 BB, 39 SO

Chris Stratton, RHP
- Augusta: 22 GS, 9-3, 3.27 ERA, 132.0 IP, 47 BB, 123 SO

Nick Vander Tuig, RHP
- Salem-Keizer: 3 GS, 0-0, 13.50 ERA, 6.2 IP, 2 BB, 5 SO
- San Jose: 1 GS, 0-0, 11.57 ERA, 2.1 IP, 2 BB, 3 SO

Pat Young, RHP
- Salem-Keizer: 8 GS, 3-1, 0.92 ERA, 39.1 IP, 9 BB, 27 SO

The 2014 San Jose Giants preview series will continue next week with a look at the middle infield.

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Pitchers and Catchers Report Today

By Joe Ritzo

SF Giants logoSan Francisco Giants pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale today signifying the official start of spring training. Here is part 2 of our spring training preview focusing on the former San Jose pitchers in big league camp:

Once again, the expectation is that four out of the five members of the starting rotation will be filled by former San Jose hurlers: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong. Additionally, former SJ reliever Sergio Romo will look to build on a 2013 All-Star season that saw the right-hander collect a career-high 38 saves. After that, there are two other former San Jose pitchers that will enter spring training with realistic hopes of making the opening day roster.

Jake Dunning and Heath Hembree both made their major league debuts last season and are now hoping to break camp with the big club for the first time in their careers. Dunning received far more time in the major leagues among the two and more than held his own compiling a solid 2.84 ERA over 29 relief appearances (25 1/3 IP). A closer while in San Jose, Dunning would likely fill one of the middle relief roles if he makes the team coming out of camp.

Meanwhile, Hembree also was an excellent closer while in the California League and has continued to finish games throughout his professional career. Last year in Triple-A Fresno, the right-hander set a team record with 31 saves and then impressed in San Francisco after a September call-up. In nine games with the major league team late last year, Hembree worked a total of 7 2/3 scoreless innings yielding just four hits with 12 strikeouts. Hembree, now 25 years old, is still regarded as the top relief pitcher prospect in the system. His performance in spring training games could dictate whether he gets an extended look out of the San Francisco bullpen to open the year, likely in middle relief, or is sent back to Fresno to close games.

Other former San Jose relievers in big league camp this spring include non-roster invitees Derek Law, Dan Runzler and Jose Casilla. Law enjoyed a breakout 2013 campaign dominating as San Jose’s closer during the second half before a stellar effort in the Arizona Fall League. Despite his rising prospect status, Law has yet to pitch above the Class-A Advanced level (although he did face advanced hitters in the AFL), so it’s unlikely that he’s competing for a San Francisco bullpen spot this spring. However, a strong effort in front of the big league coaching staff could not only result in an initial assignment to Fresno (instead of Richmond), but help his cause for a big league call-up later in the year.

Runzler is looking to bounce back in 2014 after struggling throughout much of last year in the Fresno bullpen. The hard-throwing left-hander made 72 big league appearances over the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but missed a substantial portion of 2012 due to injury. Runzler followed that with a difficult 2013 in Fresno posting a 5.68 ERA with a whopping 37 walks in just 52 1/3 innings. No longer on the 40-man roster, Runzler has a lot to prove this year and it all starts this spring as he looks to climb back up the reliever depth chart.

Casilla bounced back nicely last season after missing most of 2011 and all of 2012 due to Tommy John Surgery. A key member of last year’s San Jose bullpen, Casilla logged a 3.22 ERA and made 43 appearances remaining healthy for the duration of the season. His stay major league spring training will probably be brief before heading to minor league camp with the hopes of making the Double-A Richmond roster.

Outside of the established big leaguers, the former San Jose starting pitcher who should receive the most time on the mound in big league spring games this year is Edwin Escobar. Escobar shot up the prospect charts in 2013 after a spectacular year with San Jose and Richmond. The left-hander combined for a 2.80 ERA in 24 starts between the two teams with 146 strikeouts compared to just 30 walks in 128 2/3 innings. A member of the 40-man roster, Escobar may get a chance to start a few games this spring and a positive impression could not only result in an opening assignment to Fresno, but a big league call-up later in the season.

Fellow 2013 San Jose starters Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Ty Blach are also in big league camp this spring. The top prospect trio were extended non-roster invitations and may get a handful of appearances in early spring games before likely heading to minor league camp. Expect all three to open the 2014 season in the Richmond starting rotation.

Minor league veterans Chris Heston and Mitch Lively could get a more extended look this spring as they each look to position themselves for a call-up down the road in 2014. Heston, a non-roster invitee, was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year with Richmond in 2012, but struggled mightily in Triple-A last season. In 19 starts with Fresno, the right-hander possessed a high 5.80 ERA with an opponents batting average over .300. Meanwhile, after pitching exclusively as a reliever throughout his career, Lively became a starter last season and led Fresno in innings (124) while compiling a 4.72 ERA. He followed that up by winning the Venezuelan Winter League Pitcher of the Year award last month. Both Heston and Lively are candidates to return to Fresno’s rotation this season and strong performances there could add valuable starting pitching depth to the organization.

Finally, Kendry Flores, a likely member of the 2014 San Jose starting rotation, will participate in his first big league camp this spring. Last year in Augusta (Class-A), Flores dazzled fashioning a 2.73 ERA and a 137-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 22 starts. His reward was inclusion on the 40-man roster and a taste of major league spring training. In all likelihood, Flores will be one of the first to return to minor league camp with an assignment to San Jose possibly to follow.

The San Francisco Giants will open camp with 37 pitchers on their roster.

Spring Training Preview Part 1: A look at the former San Jose hitters in big league camp

San Francisco’s first exhibition game is scheduled for Wednesday, February 26 against the Oakland Athletics in Scottsdale. The 33-game Cactus League schedule concludes on Saturday, March 29 before the regular season opener on Monday, March 31 in Arizona. San Jose’s season is set to begin on Thursday, April 3 at Rancho Cucamonga.

Gearing Up For Spring Training – A look at the former San Jose hitters in big league camp

By Joe Ritzo

SF Giants logoSan Francisco Giants pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale on Friday to signify the official start of spring training. A few days later, all 66 players invited to camp will have arrived with the first full squad workout scheduled for next Wednesday. Of the 66 players, 35 are former San Jose Giants with many of those attempting to earn spots on the opening day roster while others will be appearing in their first big league camp looking to make a good impression.

On the position player side, most of the spots on the opening day roster are already accounted for with former San Jose stars Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford among the players once again expected to play leading roles. However, this spring will give several others an opportunity to shine and perhaps break camp with the big league team for the first time in their careers.

Most notably, former San Jose outfielders Juan Perez and Roger Kieschnick figure to battle this spring for the chance to make the team as a fifth outfielder (behind Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, Michael Morse and Gregor Blanco). Both players saw substantial time in the big leagues during the second half of last season with Perez making a greater impact. A key outfielder on San Jose’s 2010 championship team, Perez played in 34 games last year with San Francisco and hit .258 with five doubles, a home run and eight RBI’s. Perez’s greatest contribution though was made defensively making several standout plays – both with his glove and with his arm. Perez’s versatility in the outfield, specifically his ability to play a capable center or left field at the highest level, certainly figures to help his cause to make the big league roster coming out of camp.

Kieschnick wasn’t quite as impressive as Perez last season managing just a .202 batting average and one extra-base hit in 84 at-bats with the SF Giants. The corner outfielder though has slugged 28 home runs in 156 Triple-A games over the last two years and it’s that power potential that should give him a chance for significant playing time this spring with an opportunity to make the big league team.

Former San Jose Giant MVP Gary Brown was added to San Francisco's 40-man roster last November

Former San Jose Giant MVP Gary Brown was added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster last November

Two other former San Jose outfielders in Gary Brown and Mac Williamson will also participate in big league camp this spring, although neither is a serious candidate to make the opening day roster. Brown is looking towards 2014 as a bounce back year after hitting just .231 with 135 strikeouts and only 17 stolen bases in Fresno last season. Despite his struggles, Brown was placed on the 40-man roster last November. A strong output in big league spring games could give Brown much-needed momentum into the early-season back with Fresno. And with his inclusion on the 40-man roster, Brown’s chances of a big league call-up later in the year are very real if he can improve on his Triple-A production.

Meanwhile, Williamson received a non-roster invitation to big league camp – his first experience in major league spring training. San Jose’s top hitter a season ago (.292 AVG, 25 HR, 89 RBI), Williamson is probably ticketed for the starting right field spot in Double-A Richmond. Before that though, this spring will give the top prospect a chance to impress in front of big league coaches.

On the infield, there is perhaps room for one more former SJ Giant to join the likes of Sandoval, Belt and Crawford on the opening day roster. Last spring, it was Nick Noonan who made an impression and won a spot as a reserve infielder. The former supplemental first round draft pick ended up receiving 105 at-bats in “The Show” over the course of the season producing a .219 batting average with a pair of doubles and five RBI’s. Noonan, who mainly plays second or third, is once again in contention for a roster spot and should garner significant playing time in exhibition games.

Ehire Adrianza is a candidate to make San Francisco's opening day roster

Ehire Adrianza is a candidate to make San Francisco’s opening day roster

One of Noonan’s chief competitors for a possible infield roster spot this spring is another former San Jose Giant: Ehire Adrianza. Adrianza was a September call-up last season and handled himself well in limited playing time down the stretch. A defensive whiz at shortstop, Adrianza’s most memorable moment late last year was actually at the plate when he connected for a home run off of Yankees veteran Andy Pettitte in New York. Adrianza ended the season with four hits, including the home run, in 18 big league at-bats.

Adrianza’s progress this spring will be watched closely. He’s out of minor league options meaning that if the Giants don’t put him on the opening day roster, he’ll be exposed to waivers before being sent down to Fresno. Given his defensive prowess and positive contributions last September, it seems unlikely that Adrianza would go unclaimed if the Giants went this route. Bottom line, this spring is an important one for Adrianza and his future in the San Francisco organization.

Fellow 40-man infield members Adam Duvall and Angel Villalona will also participate in big league camp, however their chances of making the team are far less likely. Duvall, San Jose’s single-season home run record holder (30 HR’s in 2012), spent all of last year in Richmond where he smacked 17 round-trippers in 105 games to go with a .252 batting average. A positive effort this spring should allow Duvall to make the jump to Fresno for the start of the season. Villalona also is a candidate to make Fresno’s opening day roster after launching 22 home runs between San Jose and Richmond a year ago. The first baseman though hit only .231 with 136 strikeouts between the two clubs and will be looking to improve on those numbers in 2014.

Joe Panik is one of several former San Jose hitters to receive a non-roster invitation to big league camp

Joe Panik is one of several former San Jose hitters to receive a non-roster invitation to big league camp

Top prospect infielder Joe Panik received a non-roster invitation to big league camp and should garner a fair amount of playing time in early spring games. Like Duvall, Panik has yet to play above the Double-A level (hit .257 for the Flying Squirrels last year) so a ticket to Fresno for the start of this season is probably his most likely destination. There are still many in the organization that feel Panik can one day become an everyday player at second base in the major leagues, so 2014 is a big year for the former first rounder.

Former San Jose infielders Chris Dominguez and Mark Minicozzi are also in big league camp as non-roster invitees. Dominguez bounced back nicely last year in Fresno connecting for 24 doubles and 15 home runs to go with a .294 batting average as the club’s primary third baseman. Dominguez is an extreme long-shot to make the team, but like many others, a strong spring could help his cause later in the season should roster spots open up. The 31-year old Minicozzi was one of Richmond’s top all-around hitters last year when he hit .309 with 30 doubles, 10 home runs and 66 RBI’s. A spring training invite is a nice reward for Minicozzi (a 2006 San Jose Giant) as he tries to further advance through the system.

Top prospect Andrew Susac will likely open the season with Triple-A Fresno

Top prospect Andrew Susac will likely open the season with Triple-A Fresno

Finally, there’s hopefully little drama at the catching position this spring with former SJ Giants Posey and Hector Sanchez expected to fill the major league roster. All eyes though will be on top prospect and non-roster invitee Andrew Susac throughout major league exhibitions. Regarded as, by far, the top catching prospect in the system, Susac followed a solid 2013 season in Richmond (.256 AVG, 12 HR, .362 OBP) with a stellar performance in the Arizona Fall League. The former second round draft pick will look to take another step forward in 2014 and that begins with a chance to excel in front of the big league coaches this spring. In all likelihood, Susac will open the season as Fresno’s starting catcher.

Also of note, former San Jose catcher Jeff Arnold will start spring training in big league camp as a non-roster invitee. Arnold hit .251 with 26 doubles and 13 homers for the SJ Giants last season while handling the club’s talented pitching staff. Possible 2014 San Jose catcher Ben Turner is also in big league camp. Turner hit just .249 with two home runs for the GreenJackets, but is considered an excellent defensive backstop and was the toughest player to strikeout in the entire South Atlantic League last year (one K every 17 at-bats). Arnold and Turner’s stay in major league spring training will likely be brief before heading back to minor league camp and then eventually assignments to Richmond and San Jose respectively.

Later in the week, I’ll take a look at the former San Jose pitchers in big league camp.

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San Jose Giants To Play 14-Game Spring Training Schedule

By Joe Ritzo

Giants minor league spring training begins February 25

Giants minor league spring training begins February 25

Major league spring training for the San Francisco Giants is set to begin later this week, but what about the minor leaguers in the organization? All players that are not on San Francisco’s 40-man roster or been extended non-roster invitations to big league camp are scheduled to report to Scottsdale during the final week of February before a 2 1/2 week exhibition game slate against other farm teams.

San Francisco’s minor league spring training officially begins on Tuesday, February 25 when all international players are due to report. U.S. players will report on Thursday, February 27 before the first full workout on Friday, February 28. Giants minor leaguers will participate in several workouts and intra-squad games over the following days before their exhibition opener on Wednesday, March 12.

Minor league spring training is an ultra-competitive setting as over 150 players will be fighting for roster spots on the four teams scheduled to begin their seasons in early-April (Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies, Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels, High-A San Jose Giants and Class-A Augusta GreenJackets). Beginning on the 12th, the San Francisco front office will put players on the four individual teams: a Triple-A squad, a Double-A team, a High-A team and a Class-A club. Those four teams will play either a 14-game or 15-game exhibition schedule over the following 2 1/2 weeks against other organizations in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.

Here is the full spring training game schedule for the “High-A” team, or the players most likely to begin the season in San Jose:

Wednesday, March 12 – at Rockies
Thursday, March 13 – vs. Diamondbacks
Friday, March 14 – at Cubs
Monday, March 17 – at Diamondbacks
Tuesday, March 18 – vs. Rockies
Wednesday, March 19 – at Angels
Thursday, March 20 – at Rockies
Friday, March 21 – vs. Angels
Saturday, March 22 – vs. Cubs
Monday, March 24 – vs. Rockies
Tuesday, March 25 – vs. A’s
Wednesday, March 26 – at Rockies
Thursday, March 27 – vs. Angels
Friday, March 28 – at A’s

All games begin at 1:00 PM. Giants home games are played at the Giants Baseball Complex in Scottsdale (8045 E. Camelback Road). Diamondbacks and Rockies home games are in Scottsdale, A’s home games are in Phoenix, Angels home games are in Tempe and Cubs home games are played in Mesa.

12 of San Jose’s 14 spring training games are against teams from the California League with five contests against Modesto (Rockies), three games against Inland Empire (Angels), two games versus Stockton (A’s) and two games against Visalia (Diamondbacks). The two remaining games will be played against Daytona – the Cubs’ High-A affiliate from the Florida State League.

The rosters for the four clubs within the San Francisco farm system during spring training are fluid meaning several players will shift up-and-down throughout the exhibition season. A strong spring training performance during these games can certainly help a player’s cause whether it’s attempting to earn a promotion up the minor league chain or perhaps just make a team out of spring for the first time. Unfortunately, spring training can also have negative consequences for minor league players with a handful likely to be released at various times during March.

An official announcement of the 2014 San Jose Giants roster will not occur until after the final exhibition game.

The San Jose Giants open their 140-game regular season on Thursday, April 3 in Rancho Cucamonga.

Prospect Rankings

By Joe Ritzo

Several former San Jose Giants have found themselves on recently released top prospect lists. Baseball America’s top 30 San Francisco prospects includes 17 players that have suited up for San Jose. Additionally, several others on the list are projected to play in the California League with the Giants this season.

Kyle Crick is the consensus #1 prospect in the Giants farm system entering 2014

Kyle Crick is the consensus #1 prospect in the Giants farm system entering 2014

Baseball America Top 30
(bold indicates former San Jose Giant)
1. Kyle Crick, RHP
2. Edwin Escobar, LHP

3. Chris Stratton, RHP
4. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
5. Mac Williamson, OF

6. Christian Arroyo, SS
7. Heath Hembree, RHP
8. Ty Blach, LHP
9. Joe Panik, 2B
10. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
11. Andrew Susac, C
12. Derek Law, RHP

13. Keury Mella, RHP
14. Kendry Flores, RHP
15. Ryder Jones, 3B
16. Angel Villalona, 1B
17. Joan Gregorio, RHP
18. Ehire Adrianza, SS
19. Gary Brown, OF

20. Mike Kickham, LHP
21. Martin Agosta, RHP
22. Juan Perez, OF
23. Josh Osich, LHP

24. Steven Okert, LHP
25. Chase Johnson, RHP
26. Jose DePaula, LHP
27. Cody Hall, RHP
28. Stephen Johnson, RHP
29. Roger Kieschnick, OF
30. Erik Cordier, RHP

Notes -
* This list is yet another example of how star-studded the 2013 San Jose rotation was – five of the top 10 (Crick, Escobar, Mejia, Blach, Blackburn) were members of the Giants starting staff last year.

* Six players on the top 30 list are projected to begin the 2014 season in San Jose. All six are pitchers headlined by #3 Chris Stratton, San Francisco’s first-round draft pick two years ago. #14 Kendry Flores, #17 Joan Gregorio and #21 Martin Agosta joined Stratton in the Augusta starting rotation a season ago and are expected to move up to San Jose as well. #24 Steven Okert and #28 Stephen Johnson were both key members of the GreenJackets bullpen last year and should also earn promotions to the California League.

* Seven of the top 10 and 20 out of the 30 players overall are pitchers. Crick is #1 for a second straight year.

* Andrew Susac is the lone catcher on the top 30 list. Mac Williamson at #5 is the only outfielder in the top 18 (Gary Brown fell from #4 last year to #19 this year). #16 Angel Villalona is the only first baseman listed.

* Five players on the top 30 list have already seen time in the big leagues: Hembree, Adrianza, Kickham, Perez and Kieschnick.

* In addition to Okert and S. Johnson, relief pitchers on the top 30 list include: #7 Hembree, #12 Law, #23 Osich, #27 Hall and #30 Cordier.

* San Francisco’s top three draft picks from 2013 have also cracked the top 30 in #6 Arroyo (first round), #15 Jones (second round) and #25 C. Johnson (third round). The trio are all projected by Baseball America to open this season with Class-A Augusta.

* The players that saw the biggest jumps in their Baseball America prospect ranking from last year to this year:
- Escobar #14 to #2
- Williamson #15 to #5
- Blach unranked to #8
- Law unranked to #12
- Flores unranked to #14
- Villalona unranked to #16
- Gregorio unranked to #17

************************
Baseball Prospectus has also come out with a top 10 San Francisco Giants prospects list:

1. Kyle Crick, RHP
2. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
3. Edwin Escobar, LHP
4. Kendry Flores, RHP
5. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
6. Andrew Susac, C
7. Keury Mella, RHP
8. Joan Gregorio, RHP
9. Martin Agosta, RHP
10. Ty Blach, LHP

Nine of the 10 players listed here are pitchers with Susac the lone exception. And while Escobar got the nod at #2 behind Crick according to Baseball America, it’s Mejia that garners Baseball Prospectus’ #2 slot. Potential 2014 San Jose starting pitchers Flores, Gregorio and Agosta are all rated in the top 10.

Episode 27 – Inside the San Jose Giants



Inside the San Jose Giants podcastWith spring training right around the corner, Joe and Ben discuss top San Francisco Giants minor league camp storylines on the latest podcast episode. The two analyze where some of the elite starting pitching prospects in the organization could start this season and preview position battles at first base and shortstop. They also examine which recent high draft picks could play in San Jose this year.

Giants Minor League Camp Storylines

By Joe Ritzo

SF Giants logoSpring training gets underway down in Scottsdale in less than two weeks while we’re now under two months from the San Jose Giants season opener. The San Francisco Giants (all members of the 40-man roster plus the 26 non-roster invitees) will hold their first official full team workout of the spring on February 19 while all remaining minor leaguers report to camp by February 27.

With over 160 players expected in minor league camp, there are a bevy of questions regarding personnel and roster decisions. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the major storylines in Giants minor league camp this year, involving both former and potential future San Jose players:

Starting Pitching Prospects

The strength of the Giants farm system right now is unquestionably the deep crop of starting pitching prospects. According to Baseball America, eight out of the top 14 prospects in the organization are starting pitchers. And while a handful of these pitching prospects will begin spring training in big league camp, none are expected to compete for spots on the opening day roster and thus should find themselves back in minor league camp before too long. The big question then becomes, assuming full-health for everyone, where do all of these pitchers land at the beginning of the season? It could be as simple as each starter moving up a level from where they finished in 2013. If that’s the case, look for Edwin Escobar, the closest of the group to the big leagues, to start the year with Triple-A Fresno. The quartet of top prospect starters from last season’s San Jose team – Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Adalberto Mejia and Ty Blach – would jump to Double-A Richmond. Meanwhile, 2013 Augusta headliners Chris Stratton, Martin Agosta, Kendry Flores and Joan Gregorio move to San Jose.

However, projecting the opening day starting rotations in the Giants farm system may not be that simple. Escobar will be under the microscope all spring trying to prove that he’s ready for a promotion to Fresno (not to mention a possible big league debut later in the year) despite just 54 career innings at the Double-A level. Mejia was excellent in the second half last season with San Jose, but missed most of the first half due to injury. At just 20 years old, it would be an aggressive promotion to the Eastern League if that turns out to be his assignment. Meanwhile, perhaps one of the top starters from last year’s Augusta team gains consideration for a jump over San Jose all the way to Richmond. Possible candidates could include Stratton, with his first round pedigree, and Flores, who was placed on the 40-man roster last offseason. How each of these pitchers (who are all listed among Baseball America’s top 30 prospects in the system) fare this spring is a major storyline and it’ll be interesting to see where they all begin their 2014 seasons.

Law And The Relievers
Outside of perhaps Crick, there wasn’t a player in the Giants system that was generating more buzz last October/November than Derek Law. After a dominant second half as San Jose’s closer, Law went to the Arizona Fall League where he fashioned a perfect 0.00 ERA. Law, along with Heath Hembree, are considered the top relief pitcher prospects in the organization right now. Law will initially get an opportunity to pitch in big league camp this spring and if he impresses, might a jump to Fresno and a spot on the fast track be in the works?

The placement of some other relief pitcher prospects this spring is also worth noting. Hard-throwers Cody Hall and Josh Osich were midseason promotions to Richmond last year. Do both return to the Eastern League or show enough this spring to get a look in Fresno right off the bat? Injuries have plagued Bryce Bandilla throughout his pro career, but when healthy, he’s been as dominant as anyone in this system over the last two seasons. Is the talented lefty ready to go this spring and in line for a promotion to Double-A? Augusta’s bullpen was stacked last season as well with the likes of Stephen Johnson (a top 30 prospect), Steven Okert (another top 30 prospect), Tyler Mizenko (All-Star closer), Ian Gardeck and Jorge Bucardo. Do they all move up together this spring and continue the tradition of strong San Jose bullpens?

Starting pitcher Pat Young is one of several players from the 2013 draft class who could open the season in San Jose

Starting pitcher Pat Young is one of several players from the 2013 draft class who could open the season in San Jose

2013 Draft Class – Anyone To San Jose?
The top two picks from last June’s draft – shortstop Christian Arroyo and third baseman Ryder Jones – both excelled in the Arizona Rookie League, but are each still teenagers and thus an aggressive promotion to San Jose seems unlikely. Arroyo and Jones figure to both have an opportunity to make the Class-A Augusta roster this spring. But what about some of the other 2013 draftees – could any of them jump to the California League for the start of the 2014 season? The best bets might be fourth rounder Brian Ragira, an outfielder/first baseman out of Stanford who was second on Salem-Keizer’s club with 36 RBI’s last summer and eighth rounder Tyler Horan, an outfielder out of Virginia Tech who hit .295 for the Volcanoes and has impressive raw power. Utility infielder Brandon Bednar (seventh round) and catcher Ty Ross (12th round) are also candidates after each were drafted out of the college ranks and played key roles in Salem last summer.

On the pitching side, Nick Vander Tuig (sixth round) is a polished right-handed starter out of UCLA and while he has only 10 innings of professional experience, could follow a similar path as Blach and jump to the San Jose rotation for his first full season. Pat Young (13th round) had a 0.92 ERA in eight starts with Salem-Keizer last summer before handling himself well in the playoffs with the Giants. Chase Johnson (third round) was the first pitcher taken by San Francisco in last year’s draft. After working as a reliever in college, Johnson transitioned to the role of a starter last summer with Salem-Keizer and impressed. Meanwhile, Dan Slania (fifth round) is a power arm out of Notre Dame who finished last season as an effective late-inning reliever for the Volcanoes. Which of these players (or others from the 2013 draft class) will perform well enough this spring to warrant a promotion to San Jose?

Shortstops

At the start of spring training, there doesn’t seem to be a clear pecking order for the shortstops in the Giants system. At the highest level, Ehire Adrianza, who is out of options, will be fighting hard in big league camp for a role on the opening day roster. Nick Noonan surprised last spring by earning a spot in San Francisco and will look to do the same this year. Minor league free agent signee Brandon Hicks, another shortstop, has some prior big league experience and is a non-roster invitee. The shortstop job in Fresno probably comes from this group. Beyond that, minor league camp should determine the shortstop logjam throughout the rest of the system.

Matt Duffy, one of the top shortstop prospects in the system, could begin the season in Double-A with a strong spring

Matt Duffy, one of the top shortstop prospects in the system, could begin the season in Double-A with a strong spring

Matt Duffy jumped up the prospect charts with his output last year, both in Augusta, where he was an All-Star, and then San Jose. He has just 34 games of experience in the California League, but with no top prospect blocking his path to Double-A, Duffy figures to have a golden opportunity to make the Richmond roster coming out of spring. Kelby Tomlinson, San Jose’s opening day shortstop in 2013, put up solid numbers in the California League when he was healthy (.276 AVG) before receiving a July promotion to Richmond, where he struggled mightily down the stretch. If Duffy jumps to Richmond, does Tomlinson then come back to San Jose to play short everyday? Jeremy Sy was the primary shortstop at Salem-Keizer last season, where he led the the Volcanoes in home runs (8) and RBI’s (41), but did commit 13 errors in just 34 games. Bednar (6 HR, 34 RBI in Salem) also has shortstop experience. And then there’s Arroyo, who won the Arizona Rookie League MVP award last summer. If Arroyo is ticketed for Augusta, then does that allow Sy and/or Bednar to get an opportunity with San Jose? The shortstop position should be a fascinating development throughout minor league camp next month.

Others
* Angel Villalona is a 40-man member, so he’ll begin the spring in big league camp, but his starting point in 2014 is a question. Villalona hit just .235 in Double-A last year after his midseason promotion from San Jose, but with incredible raw power and his option clock ticking, does he head to Fresno coming out of camp? If Villalona is assigned to Fresno, that would allow Ricky Oropesa to return to Richmond to play first base everyday.

* Keury Mella is a 20-year old right-hander who became the ace starting pitcher (2.25 ERA, 41 K’s in 36 IP) on the AZL-Giants team last summer that won the league championship. Rated the #13 prospect in the system by Baseball America, could Mella jump all the way to Augusta in 2014 with a strong spring training?

* Will there be any surprises with the roster assignments for any of the top hitting prospects in the system? If not, look for Andrew Susac, Joe Panik, Gary Brown and Adam Duvall to headline Fresno’s lineup, Mac Williamson to anchor Richmond’s middle of the order and Arroyo to lead the way in Augusta.

Previewing the 2014 San Jose Giants – What’s Ahead

San_Jose_Giants157By Joe Ritzo

February is upon us which means the start of baseball season is just a few days away. Giants pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks (February 14) while spring training games down in Scottsdale begin at the end of the month. Not long after that, minor league camp kicks off while opening day for the San Jose Giants is in exactly two months.

The blog will be busy in the coming weeks as we get you ready for the start of the season. First and foremost, our next Inside the San Jose Giants Podcast will be ready to go on February 5 with a look at some of the top storylines of Giants minor league camp this spring. The podcast then returns every other Wednesday until the start of the season as Ben Taylor and I will take a closer look at some of the players you can expect to see suit at Municipal Stadium this season.

My 2014 San Jose Giants written preview series will also be coming to this blog over the next several weeks. I’ll have detailed position-by-position breakdowns of a possible opening day SJ Giants roster. The first preview article looks at an expected Giants starting pitching rotation and it will be posted here on Tuesday, February 18. You’ll then be able to find the remaining previews every Tuesday through the conclusion of spring training.

The season preview schedule is as follows:
February 18 – Starting Pitchers
February 25 – Middle Infield
March 4 – Corner Infield
March 11 – Outfield
March 18 – Catcher
March 25 – Bullpen

This all leads up to the official announcement of the 2014 San Jose Giants roster, which we expect will occur over the weekend of March 29/30. Stay tuned for details on a date and time for FanFest at Municipal Stadium, which will be your first opportunity to meet the new team.

The 2014 San Jose Giants schedule will all game times can be found here.

Only 66 days until Opening Night at Municipal Stadium! Field prep is well underway…

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Giants Look To Extend Record Playoff Streak In 2014

By Joe Ritzo

The San Jose Giants have reached the playoffs in a California League record 10 consecutive seasons

The San Jose Giants have reached the playoffs in a California League record 10 consecutive seasons

The San Jose Giants have enjoyed a remarkable run of success over the last decade unmatched by any franchise in the long history of the California League. The Giants became the first team to win four championships (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010) over a six-year span while also establishing a league record with seven straight first half North Division titles from 2005-2011. Then last year, despite falling short in the Championship Series, San Jose set another California League record by reaching the playoffs for a 10th straight season.

San Jose’s current streak of 10 consecutive years of reaching the playoffs eclipsed the Stockton Ports’ run of nine straight seasons from 1985-1993 for the longest in California League history. The Giants’ streak started in 2004 and has included eight first half crowns, five North Division championships and four league titles. San Jose has also finished with the best regular season record in the California League six times during this span, including last year’s 83-57 mark. The Giants have had four different managers during the streak (Lenn Sakata, Steve Decker, Brian Harper and Andy Skeels).

67 San Jose Giants (and counting…) during the 10-year playoff streak have gone onto play in the major leagues. Notable future big leaguers from these San Jose playoff teams:
2004 – Matt Cain, Fred Lewis, Jeremy Accardo, Nate Schierholtz
2005 – Nate Schierholtz, Travis Ishikawa, Kevin Frandsen, Jonathan Sanchez
2006 – Tim Lincecum, Alex Hinshaw, John Bowker, Alfredo Simon
2007 – Pablo Sandoval, Sergio Romo, Travis Ishikawa, Emmanuel Burriss
2008 – Pablo Sandoval, Brett Pill, Dan Otero
2009 – Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford, Conor Gillaspie, Nick Noonan
2010 – Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Juan Perez
2011 – Zack Wheeler, Jake Dunning, Heath Hembree
2012 – None yet
2013 – None yet

In addition to San Jose, the Modesto Nuts are in the midst of a long playoff streak having qualified for the postseason in seven straight seasons. Lake Elsinore’s streak of eight consecutive years in the playoffs ended last season.

Of note, the California League changed their playoff format in 1995 expanding the postseason from four to six teams (first half and second half winners along with a wild card team from each division). From 1959-1978, only two clubs qualified for the playoffs although in those days, there were anywhere from just six-to-eight teams in the entire California League.

Longest Playoff Streaks In California League History
10 years, San Jose Giants, 2004-present
9 years, Stockton Ports, 1985-1993
8 years, Lake Elsinore Storm, 2005-2012
7 years, Modesto Nuts, 2007-present
6 years, San Jose Red Sox, 1949-1954
6 years, Visalia Oaks, 1978-1983
6 years, San Bernardino Stampede/Inland Empire 66ers, 1999-2004

Since becoming a Giants affiliate in 1988, San Jose has reached the postseason 20 times in 26 years. Prior to 1988, the franchise enjoyed just two playoff appearances over a 19-year period (1969-87).

The Giants begin their quest for a league record 11th straight playoff appearance on Thursday, April 3 in Rancho Cucamonga. San Jose starts the year with a seven-game road trip against the Quakes and Lancaster JetHawks before opening the home portion of their schedule on Thursday, April 10.

News and Notes: More Prospect Rankings, Free Agent Updates, FanFest

Edwin Escobar has been named the eighth-best left-handed pitching prospect by MLB.com entering the 2014 season

Edwin Escobar has been named the eighth-best left-handed pitching prospect by MLB.com entering the 2014 season

By Joe Ritzo

Yesterday, I wrote about the inclusion of two former San Jose Giants – Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar – on MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list. Crick was rated as the #32 prospect while Escobar checked in at #95. It marked the second straight year that Crick found himself ranked among the top 100 prospects in the game.

Now looking deeper at MLB.com’s position-by-position prospect rankings, Crick just missed the cut to be included among the top 10 right-handed pitching prospects in baseball, but Escobar and Andrew Susac both received mention. Escobar has been rated the eighth-best left-handed pitching prospect by MLB.com after a terrific 2013 campaign that saw him combine for a 2.81 ERA over 24 starts between San Jose and Double-A Richmond. Escobar, who is already on San Francisco’s 40-man roster, struck out 146 compared to 30 walks in 128 1/3 innings a season ago.

Susac may not have been on the overall top 100 list, but did see his name included among the top 10 catching prospects. According to MLB.com, Susac is considered the #8 catching prospect in baseball entering this year. A former second round draft pick, Susac spent all of 2012 with San Jose before moving to Richmond last season. In 84 games with the Flying Squirrels, Susac hit .256 with 17 doubles, 12 home runs and 46 RBI’s. He also possessed an impressive .362 on-base percentage. Susac followed that up by hitting .360 in 17 Arizona Fall League games.

Susac will participate in big league camp this spring as a non-roster invitee. He and Escobar are strong candidates to both open the 2014 season with Triple-A Fresno.

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MINOR LEAGUE FREE AGENT UPDATES
Former San Jose Giants outfielder Tyler Graham has returned to the organization after a stint playing Independent ball. Graham, who signed a minor league contract with San Francisco earlier this month, was a key member of the 2008 and 2009 San Jose teams combining for a .268 batting average and 75 stolen bases in 157 games over the two seasons. Originally drafted in 2006, Graham spent seven years in the San Francisco farm system before he was designated for assignment (taken off the 40-man roster) early in the 2012 season. The speedy outfielder was then signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks where he would make his major league debut as a September call-up later that year. Graham struck out twice in his only two big league at-bats. Last season, Graham played in a pair of independent leagues – the Atlantic League and the American Association – in addition to a brief stint in the Mexican League.

In eight seasons as a professional, Graham owns a .277 career batting average with 20 home runs and 262 stolen bases. Graham was one of Fresno’s top players in 2011 and could return to the Grizzlies for the start of this season.

In other free agent news, former San Jose Giant Brock Bond has signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Bond played for San Jose in 2008 and then returned to the Giants last season after suffering an oblique injury during spring training. The second baseman hit just .240 with 16 doubles, three home runs and 39 RBI’s in 92 games with San Jose last year. He became a minor league free agent at the end of the season. In 2012, Bond excelled in Fresno ranking second on the team with a .332 batting average. Bond is one of three former San Jose Giants to join the Orioles organization this offseason (Francisco Peguero and Johnny Monell).

Craig Westcott, a standout San Jose starting pitcher during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, has signed with Miami Marlins after he was released by the San Francisco Giants at the end of last season. Westcott was 5-12 with a 4.19 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A Richmond last year.

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SJ GIANTS AT SAN FRANCISCO FANFEST THIS SATURDAY

The San Jose Giants will be taking part in San Francisco Giants Fanfest this Saturday, February 1 at AT&T Park. 2013 San Jose Giants players Devin Harris, Myles Schroder and Mitch Delfino along with members of the San Jose front office and Gigante will be around to get fans excited about the 2014 season. The event is FREE to the public and will run from 10 AM to 3 PM.

For more information, click here.

(All players subject to change without notice)

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SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES

The start of major league spring training is only a few weeks away as San Francisco Giants pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Friday, February 14. All position players must report by Tuesday, February 18. Big league camp will consist of all players on the 40-man roster in addition to those extended non-roster invitations. Several recent former San Jose Giants were extended non-roster invitations to big league camp earlier this month.

For everyone else in the organization, Giants Minor League camp is set to begin on Tuesday, February 25 in Scottsdale with the first full workout slated for Friday, February 28. A full San Jose Giants spring training game schedule is coming soon.

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CALIFORNIA LEAGUE MANAGERS

All 10 California League teams have now announced their coaching staffs for the upcoming 2014 season:

North Division
- Bakersfield Blaze: Pat Kelly (managed Reds’ Rookie-level team in 2013)
- Modesto Nuts: Don Sneddon (head coach of Santa Ana College for last 33 years)
- San Jose Giants: Lenn Sakata (managed in Rockies farm system in 2013)
- Stockton Ports: Ryan Christenson (managed Athletics’ Class-A team in 2013)
- Visalia Rawhide: Robbie Hammock (managed Diamondbacks’ Rookie-level team in 2013)

South Division
- High Desert Mavericks: Eddie Menchaca (managed Mariners’ Class-A team in 2013)
- Inland Empire 66ers: Denny Hocking (managed Angels’ Rookie-level team in 2013)
- Lake Elsinore Storm: Jamie Quirk (was Chicago Cubs bench coach last two years)
- Lancaster JetHawks: Rodney Linares (third season in Lancaster)
- Rancho Cucamonga Quakes: P.J. Forbes (managed Dodgers’ Rookie-level team in 2013)

Linares is the only manager in the league to return to his post from a season ago. Of course, Lenn Sakata has prior managing experience in San Jose as well.

Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar Ranked Among MLB.com’s Top 100 Overall Prospects

By Joe Ritzo

Kyle Crick was named the #32 prospect in baseball by MLB.com last week

Kyle Crick was named the #32 prospect in baseball by MLB.com last week

Former San Jose Giants pitchers Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar received mention on the MLB.com Top 100 prospects list released last week. Crick was rated the #32 prospect overall while Escobar checked in at #95. The two were the only San Francisco Giants prospects to make the list.

Crick missed two months during the first half last season due to an oblique injury, but returned after the All-Star break and dominated the California League. A former supplemental first round draft, Crick fashioned a 1.57 ERA and a 3-1 record in 14 starts with San Jose last year. The 21-year old right-hander struck out a whopping 95 batters in 68 2/3 innings while issuing 39 walks. Crick allowed only one home run for the entire season and limited the opposition to a .201 batting average. He struck out 10 or more batters in five starts and didn’t allow more than three earned runs in any outing.

MLB.com notes that Crick “attacks hitters with his lively mid-90s fastball that reaches 98 mph” and “his breaking ball is a swing-and-miss pitch that looks like a hard, biting slider at its best.” Crick is the 16th highest pitcher on the top 100 list.

At the conclusion of the season, Crick pitched in the Arizona Fall League where he compiled a 2.87 ERA with 24 strikeouts in just 15 2/3 innings. According to MLB.com, Crick was the second-youngest starting pitcher in the AFL this year.

Escobar enjoyed a terrific 2013 campaign with San Jose and Double-A Richmond. The 21-year old left-hander was 3-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 14 starts with the Giants earning midseason California League All-Star honors. Then after an early-July promotion, he logged a 2.67 ERA and a 5-4 record in 10 AA starts. Between the two stops last year, Escobar struck out 146 compared to just 30 walks in 128 2/3 innings.

Escobar’s scouting report on MLB.com describes the young southpaw as someone with “a good feel for pitching and can add or subtract velocity and movement to his low-90s fastball as the situation requires” and “he can throw all of his pitches for strikes and isn’t afraid to use them in any count.”

Crick almost certainly will begin the 2014 season in Richmond while Escobar figures to have an opportunity to open the year in Fresno. Both pitchers will participate in big league spring training.

Last year’s top 100 also included a pair of Giants prospects in Crick (#84) and Gary Brown (#100). Brown (#48) and Francisco Peguero (#98) were top 100 selections two years ago. Brandon Belt received a #17 ranking prior to the 2011 season.

Minnesota Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, has been rated as the #1 overall prospect by MLB.com this year. Other 2013 California League players in the top 100 include: #5 Archie Bradley (RHP, Visalia – Arizona Diamondbacks), #12 Addison Russell (SS, Stockton – Oakland Athletics), #14 Jon Gray (RHP, Modesto – Colorado Rockies), #19 Robert Stephenson (RHP, Bakersfield – Cincinnati Reds), #24 Austin Hedges (C, Lake Elsinore – San Diego Padres), #41 Eddie Butler (RHP, Modesto – Colorado Rockies) and #66 Delino DeShields (OF, Lancaster – Houston Astros).

Former Managers: Where Are They Now?

SJ logoChecking in on the whereabouts of former San Jose Giants managers as the 2014 season approaches:

Many former San Jose managers are still with the Giants as their time in the California League provided a stepping-stone for a higher position in the organization. After directing the Giants in 2008, Steve Decker was elevated to the manager spot in Double-A and then Triple-A before his current position as San Francisco’s Coordinator of Minor League Hitting. Meanwhile, Shane Turner, who managed the San Jose Giants to their first California League championship in 1998, is set to begin his first season as San Francisco’s Director of Player Development replacing Fred Stanley. Turner has been in the Giants organization for 19 years, including most recently as a Player Development Special Assistant.

Former San Jose skippers Ron Wotus (1991-92) and Bill Hayes (2002) have enjoyed lengthy stints on the San Francisco coaching staff. 2014 will mark Wotus’ 17th year on the big league staff as he currently serves as bench coach, while also handling infield defense. Wotus is one of only five individuals since 1900 to serve as a Giants coach for at least 10 years. Hayes has spent the last 11 seasons as San Francisco’s bullpen catcher.

Former San Jose manager Andy Skeels will serve as Triple-A Fresno's hitting coach this season

Former San Jose manager Andy Skeels will serve as Triple-A Fresno’s hitting coach this season

Andy Skeels will serve as hitting coach for San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate Fresno this season. Skeels has been a manager in the Giants farm system for the past six years, leading San Jose in 2009 and from 2011-13, in addition to one season with Double-A Richmond in 2010 and one year with Class-A Augusta (2008). Skeels was last a hitting coach in 2007 with Augusta.

Elsewhere, Duane Espy, the first manager in San Jose Giants history, is expected to continue working in player development for the Colorado Rockies. Espy was a development supervisor for Colorado’s Double-A affiliate Tulsa last year. He managed San Jose during the 1988 and 1989 seasons.

Brian Harper joined the Cubs organization immediately after winning the California League championship with the SJ Giants in 2010. He is set to begin his second year as hitting coach for their Triple-A team Iowa after serving as the manager of the Class-A Advanced Daytona club.

Other former San Jose Giants managers still in baseball include Frank Cacciatore (1997) as hitting coach of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers (Phillies system) and Keith Comstock (2000) as Rehabilitation Pitching Coordinator for the Texas Rangers. Carlos Lezcano (1995-96), who resigned as manager of the Lake Elsinore Storm in the middle of the 2011 season, is currently a manager of a Puerto Rican Winter League team (Cangrejeros de Santurce). Finally, 2003 San Jose skipper Jack Lind is working at the amateur baseball level as an assistant coach at Arizona Christian University working under head coach and former San Francisco Giants pitcher Bill Swift.

Over the 27-year history of the club, the San Jose Giants have had 14 different managers.

For more on this year’s manager, Lenn Sakata, click here.

Projecting the 2014 Roster – High Draft Picks

By Joe Ritzo

San_Jose_Giants157Taking a look at the top 10 rounds of the last two San Francisco Giants drafts and examining which players could end up in San Jose this season.

2013 DRAFT
- 1st round: Christian Arroyo, SS, Hernando HS
- 2nd round: Ryder Jones, 3B, Watauga, HS
- 3rd round: Chase Johnson, RHP, Cal Poly
- 4th round: Brian Ragira, OF/1B, Stanford
- 5th round: Dan Slania, RHP, Notre Dame
- 6th round: Nick Vander Tuig, RHP, UCLA
- 7th round: Brandon Bednar, SS/2B, Florida Gulf Coast
- 8th round: Tyler Horan, OF, Virginia Tech
- 9th round: D.J. Snelten, LHP, Minnesota
- 10th round: Tyler Rogers, RHP, Austin Peay State

Last June marked the first time since 1974 that the San Francisco Giants used their top two draft picks on high school position players. Both Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones thrived in the Arizona Rookie League last summer (Arroyo won the league MVP award), but a jump to San Jose at the start of this season for either seems unlikely. Look for the teenage duo to man the left side of the infield in Augusta (Class A) when minor league rosters are announced at the end of spring training.

The Giants then went to the college ranks with their third through tenth picks. I noted in an earlier article that the chances seem good that outfielders Brian Ragira and/or Tyler Horan could jump to San Jose from Salem-Keizer this season. Both played major college baseball for three seasons and enjoyed some success in the Northwest League last summer. The lack of top-level outfield prospects on last year’s Augusta team also helps each of their causes for a jump to the California League. Fellow position player Brandon Bednar put up solid numbers with the Volcanoes as well (.272 AVG, 6 HR, 34 RBI) seeing action at second base, third base and shortstop. That versatility should prove valuable and could put Bednar in contention for a roster spot in San Jose this spring.

The remainder of the top 10 picks from last June were college pitchers. Chase Johnson, Nick Vander Tuig and D,J, Snelten are each starters. Of the trio, Vander Tuig probably has the best chance to make the San Jose roster coming out of spring training. A polished right-hander, Vander Tuig was one of the star pitchers on UCLA’s national championship team last year. He has only 10 innings of professional experience entering 2014, but with big-game pitching experience from his college days and pinpoint control, he’ll likely be considered for a spot on the Giants staff. Meanwhile, Johnson was the highest drafted of the group and threw well in Salem last summer (3-2, 4.17 ERA in 10 starts). Johnson though was a middle reliever his final season in college and while he may turn out to be a great find for the Giants, he’s still considered fairly raw and will probably build innings in Augusta this year. Snelton, a 6’7” lefty, was a successful starting pitcher at Minnesota, but has yet to pitch above rookie-ball (had a 1.57 ERA in the AZL last summer).

Slania and Rogers are a pair of intriguing relief arms that should open 2014 in either San Jose or Augusta. Slania, a hard-thrower who is listed at 6’5” and 275 lbs., compiled a 3.95 ERA and was a perfect 3-for-3 in save chances over 12 relief appearances with Salem-Keizer last summer. Rogers, a submarine style right-hander, was promoted to San Jose for the playoffs last September after notching a 3.10 ERA in 14 games out of the Volcanoes bullpen. Rogers struggled in his lone playoff appearance with the Giants (2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB). The bullpen was a real strength for Augusta last season and with many of those relievers likely ticketed for San Jose, both Slania and Rogers will have to impress greatly during spring training games to gain consideration for a promotion to the Cal League.

2012 DRAFT
- 1st round: Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State
- 2nd round: Martin Agosta, RHP, St. Mary’s
- 3rd round: Mac Williamson, OF, Wake Forest
- 4th round: Steven Okert, LHP, Oklahoma
- 5th round: Ty Blach, LHP, Creighton
- 6th round: Stephen Johnson, RHP, St. Edward’s
- 7th round: Eduardo Encinosa, RHP, Miami
- 8th round: Joe Kurrasch, LHP, Penn State
- 9th round: Shilo McCall, OF, Piedra Vista HS
- 10th round: Trevor Brown, 2B/C, UCLA

A few of the top 2012 picks have already seen time in San Jose. Of course, Mac Williamson and Ty Blach were stars on last year’s Giants team and both should be headed to Double-A Richmond for the start of this season. Trevor Brown joined San Jose from Augusta last August and after initially struggling, led the Giants in batting average during the playoffs (.345). Drafted as a catcher, Brown saw considerably more action at second base last year. Brown is expected to return to San Jose this season and play a major role on the club.

2012 first round draft pick Chris Stratton could land in San Jose this season (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

2012 first round draft pick Chris Stratton could land in San Jose this season (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

As it relates to the possible composition of the 2014 Giants roster, Chris Stratton and Martin Agosta figure to be the headline names from the 2012 draft class. Stratton was San Francisco’s first round draft pick a year and a half ago after winning the SEC Pitcher of the Year award at Mississippi State. The right-hander spent all of last season in the Augusta rotation where he fashioned a 9-3 record and a 3.27 ERA in 22 starts. Stratton was second on the GreenJackets staff in innings pitched (132) and strikeouts (123). The 23-year old is considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Giants system (Baseball America rated him #3 entering 2014 – behind only Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar) and could be one of the anchors of San Jose’s starting rotation this season. Stratton reportedly features an 89-to-95 MPH fastball with a plus-slider and an improving curve and change-up.

Agosta, who will turn 23 in April, actually outpitched Stratton in Augusta last season, when he was healthy. Agosta logged a 9-3 record with a sparkling 2.06 ERA in 18 starts for the GreenJackets. He also averaged well over a strikeout per inning (109 SO in 91 2/3 IP) while the opposition hit at just a .180 clip against him. Agosta was limited to just four starts after July 5 due to a pair of stints on the disabled list (a blister issue and then suffered from some arm fatigue). Agosta was a starting pitcher in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game last year and along with Stratton, could form a lethal 1-2 punch in the San Jose rotation in 2014.

In addition to Brown, Stratton and Agosta, the most likely players from the top of the 2012 draft class to start the year in San Jose are relievers Steven Okert and Stephen Johnson. Okert was a solid contributor out of the Augusta bullpen last season compiling a 2.97 ERA in 44 games with 59 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. Okert is expected to be one of the top left-handed arms in the Giants ‘pen this spring. He held left-handed batters to a .189 batting average and just one extra-base hit last year. Meanwhile, Johnson features an electric mid 90’s fastball and should join Okert as a reliable late-inning reliever in San Jose. Last season, Johnson possessed a 3.61 ERA and eight saves in 45 games with the Volcanoes. Johnson was at his best late in the year with no runs allowed over his last 15 appearances (19 innings).

Finally, Kurrasch pitched as a starter in both Salem-Keizer (5.03 ERA in 34 IP) and Augusta (1.78 ERA in 25 IP) last season with mixed results. Encinosa (3.12 ERA, .143 opponents average) was tough to hit in the Volcanoes bullpen a year ago and is probably headed to Augusta. McCall, the only high school player taken in the first 10 rounds by the SF Giants in 2012, hit .235 with four home runs in Salem-Keizer and is likely at least a year away from reaching the California League.

Episode 26 – Inside the San Jose Giants


Inside the San Jose Giants podcastIn the first podcast of the new year, Joe and Ben discuss Lenn Sakata’s return as manager of the San Jose Giants. Former San Jose Giant and Cal League All-Star Taylor Wilding also drops by to share some stories of playing under Sakata. Finally, Joe and Ben look at which players from the 2013 San Jose team could return to the club this season.

Former SJ Giants Receive Spring Training Invites

By Joe Ritzo

Ty Blach was one of seven 2013 San Jose Giants extended a non-roster invitation to major league spring training

Ty Blach was one of seven 2013 San Jose Giants extended a non-roster invitation to major league spring training

Seven players who suited up for the San Jose Giants during the 2013 season, including co-team MVP’s Ty Blach and Mac Williamson, received invitations to major league spring training this week. Catcher Jeff Arnold and pitchers Clayton Blackburn, Jose Casilla, Kyle Crick and Derek Law were also extended non-roster invitations to San Francisco’s big league camp.

It’s highly unlikely that any of these players will be considered for spots on San Francisco’s opening day roster as none have played above the Class-A advanced level. However, the experience of participating in major league camp and seeing action in a handful of exhibition games provides a great opportunity to make a positive impression within the organization. Pitchers and catchers are due to report on February 14 with all other position players scheduled to report on February 18. The Giants’ first spring training game is set for February 26 versus the Oakland Athletics.

Five of the seven non-roster invitees from San Jose’s 2013 squad are pitchers, including three members of the Giants’ talented starting rotation. Blach led the California League in ERA last season at 2.90 to go with a stellar 12-4 record. The left-hander, who made his professional debut with San Jose last year after a fifth-round selection in the 2012 draft, walked just 18 hitters compared to 117 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings. A midseason and postseason California League All-Star, Blach allowed two earned runs or fewer in 17 out of his 22 appearances. Blach’s 12 wins were tied for first among all Giants minor leaguers in 2013.

Blackburn fashioned the fourth-best ERA in the California League last season at 3.65 over 23 starts. The right-hander logged a 7-5 record and struck out 138 batters while issuing just 35 walks in 133 innings. Blackburn led the San Jose staff in innings pitched and strikeouts last year.

Crick recovered from an early-season oblique injury to post a spectacular 1.57 ERA and a 3-1 record in 14 starts with San Jose. Regarded as the #1 prospect in the entire organization, the 21-year old right-hander struck out a whopping 95 batters in only 68 2/3 innings last season. Crick surrendered two earned runs or fewer in 13 out of his 14 starts with the Giants and reached double-digits in strikeouts on five occasions.

In all likelihood, the trio of Blach, Blackburn and Crick will anchor the starting rotation for the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels at the beginning of the 2014 season. All three will be making their first appearances in major league camp.

Casilla and Law were members of the San Jose bullpen last season. Casilla bounced back last year after missing most of 2011 and all of 2012 due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John Surgery. The right-hander was a workhorse out of the Giants ‘pen making 43 appearances (second on the team). He compiled a 3.22 ERA with five saves and had the top groundout rate on the pitching staff. Casilla, the younger brother of San Francisco reliever Santiago, was on the 40-man roster prior to suffering his elbow injury in 2011.

Law burst onto the scene last year providing outstanding work as San Jose’s closer during the second half of the season before an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League. Law joined the Giants from Augusta (Class A) in early-July and immediately became the club’s top reliever. In 22 games out of the San Jose bullpen, he posted a 2.10 ERA and was a perfect 11-for-11 in save chances. Law struck out 45 batters in 25 2/3 innings while remarkably issuing only one walk. He then continued his banner year in the high-profile Arizona Fall League boasting a perfect 0.00 ERA over 12 1/3 innings spanning 11 relief appearances.

Mac Williamson has received a big league camp invite after slugging 25 home runs with San Jose last season

Mac Williamson has received a big league camp invite after slugging 25 home runs with San Jose last season

Williamson had the top all-around year offensively for San Jose in 2013 and was rewarded with an invitation to big league camp. The former third round draft pick clubbed 25 home runs with the Giants to rank tied for third on the team’s single-season list. Williamson led San Jose in home runs, RBI’s (89), slugging percentage (.504) and on-base percentage (.375) while ranking second in doubles (31). He finished the campaign with a .292 batting average, including a .331 mark after the All-Star break. Williamson enters 2014 as arguably the top outfield prospect in the Giants system.

Finally, Arnold receives his first big league camp invite after a solid all-around year in the California League. The anchor of last season’s San Jose team defensively, Arnold was the primary catcher of a Giants staff that led the California League in ERA and strikeouts. Offensively, he hit .251 while posting career-high totals of 26 doubles, 13 home runs and 61 RBI’s.

Williamson and Arnold are expected to open the 2014 season in Richmond.

Other former San Jose Giants extended non-roster invitations include pitchers Chris Heston, Mitch Lively and Dan Runzler, catcher Andrew Susac and infielders Chris Dominguez, Mark Minicozzi and Joe Panik. Susac and Panik, a pair of 2012 San Jose Giants, are considered the best prospects among this group. They both participated in big league camp last spring before spending all of 2013 in Richmond.

Of the 26 total non-roster invitees, 14 have once played for the San Jose Giants.

All players on the 40-man roster will also open the spring in big league camp. That includes new additions to the 40-man roster this offseason in former SJ Giants Gary Brown, Adam Duvall and Hunter Strickland. 2013 San Jose standout Edwin Escobar, another member of the 40-man roster, will also be in major league camp. With Escobar, Blach, Blackburn and Crick, four members from last year’s San Jose starting rotation will begin spring training in big league camp.

As of now, San Francisco is set to open camp next month with 65 players (39 players currently on the 40-man roster + the 26 non-roster invitees). As spring training progresses, players will be sent to minor league camp before the Giants set their 25-man opening day roster in advance of their first game on March 31.

Projecting the 2014 Roster – Who makes the jump from Short-Season ball?

By Joe Ritzo

San_Jose_Giants157The bulk of the players on the 2014 opening day roster will have spent last season with Class-A Augusta and/or in San Jose. Recently, I took a look at some of the most likely candidates from the 2013 Giants squad to return to the California League this year.

However, every season there always seem to be a small handful of players that skip straight over Augusta and arrive in San Jose directly from the Short-Season level. Mac Williamson, for example, did it last year and turned in one of the finest offensive seasons in San Jose Giants history.

So, who might those players be in 2014? Here are five prospects that were in Salem-Keizer at the end of last regular season who could jump all the way to the Giants in April:

Tyler Horan, OF

If Horan makes the jump to San Jose this spring, it would be unrealistic to expect him to duplicate the production seen from Williamson. However, there are some interesting comparisons between the two. Both are big, strong corner outfield prospects who played collegiate baseball in the ACC (Horan, who is listed at 6’2″, 232 lbs., went to Virginia Tech). Like Williamson, Horan isn’t particularly young (was on the VT team for four seasons) having turned 23 last month. As for the numbers, Horan wasn’t quite as impressive as Williamson in the Northwest League, but with a lack of outfield prospects in Augusta last season, a chance to make the San Jose roster coming out of spring seems possible.

Horan, an eighth round draft pick in 2013, hit a solid .295 in 44 games with the Volcanoes last summer. He also contributed 11 doubles, three triples, four home runs and stole four bases. After a slow start upon joining the club, Horan finished strong hitting an impressive .319 in August. Additionally, all four of his home runs were hit after August 1. Horan was primarily a left fielder in college, but split time between left and right with Salem-Keizer last season. He led his Virginia Tech team in batting average (.342), doubles (26) and home runs (11) as a redshirt junior last spring. With all of the top power hitters from last year’s Augusta team right-handed, Horan would be a much-needed left-handed power bat in the middle of San Jose’s lineup this season if he proves he’s ready for the jump.

Brian Ragira, OF/1B
With the lack of big-name prospects in last season’s Augusta outfield, Ragira, like Horan, figures to be a candidate for a promotion to San Jose coming out of spring training. Ragira has a Bay Area connection having played collegiately at Stanford before his selection in the fourth round of last June’s draft. The 2011 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, Ragira had a stellar three-year college career. He led Stanford in home runs (8) and RBI’s (42) last spring to go with a .320 batting average playing exclusively first base. He then began his stint with Salem-Keizer last summer as a first baseman before shifting to mainly corner outfield in late-July. In 47 games with the Volcanoes, Ragira finished with a .263 batting average, 12 doubles, three homers and 36 RBI’s. He ended the season second on the club in RBI’s and third in doubles. Ragira also proved he could draw a walk taking 26 free passes to result in a .371 on-base percentage.

Ragira was the first collegiate position player taken by San Francisco in last year’s draft (with Horan not far behind). The organization has shown a tendency in recent years to challenge some of their recent high draftees from the college position player ranks with an assignment to San Jose for their first full professional season. If he ends up in San Jose, Ragira could provide nice versatility as someone who plays left, right and first base.

Jeremy Sy, SS
Arguably Salem-Keizer’s top all-around hitter last season, Sy could be given consideration for a jump to the California League this spring. Sy, a shortstop, was a 12th round pick in the 2012 draft out of Louisiana-Monroe, where he was the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year as a senior. He didn’t make his professional debut until last summer due to injury, but impressed offensively with the Volcanoes. Sy led Salem-Keizer in home runs (8) and RBI’s (41) last year while also producing a .294 batting average, 12 doubles and 13 stolen bases. Sy is already 24 and with last year’s first round draft pick Christian Arroyo likely headed to Augusta, where he’d play shortstop everyday, San Jose could provide an opportunity for Sy to see regular playing time. Furthermore, if Matt Duffy is elevated to Richmond to begin this season, that would further enhance Sy’s chances for a promotion to the California League.

Nick Vander Tuig, RHP
A standout starting pitcher on last year’s national championship UCLA team, Vander Tuig was chosen in the sixth round of the 2013 draft by the San Francisco Giants. With the Bruins last spring, Vander Tuig logged a stellar 14-4 record and a 2.16 ERA in 19 starts. The right-hander isn’t particularly overpowering, but showcased outstanding control with only 18 walks in 129 innings (he struck out 93). With his heavy workload in college, Vander Tuig was understandably fatigued last summer and was limited to just three starts with Salem-Keizer (allowed 10 runs in 6 2/3 innings overall before he was shutdown). The Augusta rotation was loaded last season, but given San Jose has often used a six-man starting staff, there should be room for a starter or two from last year’s Salem-Keizer squad to earn a spot in the Cal League.

Of note, while Vander Tuig didn’t pitch at Municipal Stadium last season and thus may not be a familiar name to San Jose fans, he does have prior California League experience. The 22-year old helped out a short-handed Giants staff last July making a spot-start in a game in Lancaster. He lasted 2 1/3 innings before reaching his pitch count limit and was promptly sent to Salem-Keizer after the game.

Pat Young, RHP

Young will be looking to return to San Jose this spring after joining the club from Salem-Keizer during the playoffs last year. A 13th round draft pick last June out of Villanova, Young earned himself a promotion to the Giants last September after a dominant stint in the Northwest League. In eight starts with the Volcanoes, Young fashioned a spectacular 0.92 ERA yielding just four earned runs in 39 1/3 innings. He walked nine and struck out 27 while holding the opposition to a .186 batting average.

An imposing presence on the mound (6’7″, 220 lbs.), Young was thrust into the spotlight with San Jose as the right-hander was given the ball to start the decisive North Division Series Game 5 against Visalia. Armed with a low-to-mid 90′s fastball, Young handled himself fairly well in the high-pressure start as he struck out seven batters in just 3 2/3 innings while scattering nine hits with two earned runs allowed. Given his dominant work in Salem-Keizer and cup of coffee with San Jose last September, Young figures to be competing for a spot in the Giants rotation this spring.

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Lenn Sakata Returns To Manage San Jose Giants

By Joe Ritzo

Lenn Sakata returns to manage the San Jose Giants in 2014

Lenn Sakata returns to manage the San Jose Giants in 2014

Lenn Sakata has returned to the San Francisco organization and will manage the San Jose Giants in 2014. Sakata replaces Andy Skeels, who will serve as hitting coach for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies this year. The rest of the San Jose coaching staff remains intact from a season ago with Mike Couchee returning as pitching coach and Lipso Nava as hitting coach.

2014 will mark Sakata’s 10th year in the Giants organization and his seventh season as a manager in San Jose (1999, 2001, 2004-2007). His 466 victories at the helm in San Jose are a franchise record. Sakata’s 2001, 2005 and 2007 Giants teams won California League championships.

Sakata left the Giants after the 2007 campaign to manage in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines organization. After a two-year stint in Japan and one season spent out of baseball, Sakata joined the Colorado Rockies in 2011. He served one year as hitting coach for their Class-A affiliate Asheville before spending all of 2012 and a portion of 2013 as manager of the Modesto Nuts in the California League. His 2012 squad defeated San Jose in the first round of the playoffs en route to a berth in the Championship Series, where they ultimately fell to Lancaster. Sakata was fired as Modesto’s skipper by the Rockies last July with the Colorado front office citing the need to have a manager that was more supportive of the organization’s player development philosophy.

Sakata will enter the 2014 season as the winningest manager in California League history with 684 victories over 10 seasons. Sakata also holds league managerial records in championships won (3), playoff appearances (8), playoff series won (10) and playoff games won (33). In addition to his previous tenure in San Jose and most recent stint with Modesto, Sakata has Cal League managing experience with the Bakersfield Blaze in 2000 (when they were a Giants affiliate) and the Modesto A’s in 1989.

Notable future big leaguers who played under Sakata during his prior stints in San Jose include: Jeremy Accardo (2004), Matt Cain (2004), Kevin Frandsen (2005), Travis Ishikawa (2005, 2007), Fred Lewis (2004), Tim Lincecum (2006), Lance Niekro (2001), Sergio Romo (2007), Jonathan Sanchez (2005), Pablo Sandoval (2007), Nate Schierholtz (2004-2005), Jack Taschner (2001) and Ryan Vogelsong (1999).

All six of Sakata’s previous San Jose teams qualified for the playoffs -
1999: 75-65 (reached Championship Series)
2001: 77-63 (won championship – split title with Lake Elsinore)
2004: 74-66 (lost in Mini-Series)
2005: 85-55 (won championship, best record in the league)
2006: 82-58 (best record in the league, lost in Division Series)
2007: 73-67 (won championship)

Prior to managing, Sakata played 11 years in the major leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers (1977-79), Baltimore Orioles (1980-85), Oakland Athletics (1986) and New York Yankees (1987). The former middle infielder hit .230 with 25 home runs and 109 RBI’s over 565 games during his big league career. Sakata won a World Championship with the Orioles in 1983. He was originally a first round draft pick of the Brewers in 1975.

Couchee and Nava are both entering their second seasons with the San Jose Giants. Under Couchee, last year’s Giants pitching staff led the California League ERA (3.66), strikeouts (1282), fewest home runs allowed (103) and was second in shutouts (8).

Quotes

Lenn Sakata: “I am very pleased to be returning to San Jose and be able to wear the Giants uniform again. Out of everything in my career, having a chance to come back to Municipal Stadium and this organization is one of the best things that has happened in my life. I am looking forward to coming back and working with the front office, seeing the fans and continuing the tradition of baseball.”

Shane Turner, San Francisco Giants Director of Player Development: “I am very excited to have Lenn Sakata back with the San Francisco Giants organization. He possesses the three most important aspects of player development: tremendous knowledge of baseball, great teaching ability and an off the charts work ethic. I welcome him back with open arms.”

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New Year News and Notes

By Joe Ritzo

San_Jose_Giants157Happy New Year! 2013 was our first full year keeping up this blog and I want to thank everyone for reading. The response to the articles and podcasts has been tremendous. We look forward to covering another great season of San Jose Giants baseball in the coming months.

An announcement of the 2014 San Jose Giants coaching staff is near, perhaps as soon as this week. Keep checking the blog for more details.

We’re less than three months from opening day… here are some news and notes from around the Giants organization and the California League:

The San Francisco Giants have signed several minor league free agents this offseason, but it’s unlikely that any will find their way to San Jose in 2014, barring injury. Pitchers Erik Cordier and Jose De Paula were signed in November and both placed on the 40-man roster. Cordier was a former second round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals and spent last year as a reliever at the Triple-A level in the Pirates system. DePaula, a former Cal Leaguer with Lake Elsinore (Padres) in 2011, is a starting pitcher having spent last season in Double-A. Both could help the big club at some point in 2014.

Other minor league signees include pitchers Jason Berken, Andrew Carignan, Caleb Clay, Adam Reifer and Casey Weathers. Berken (White Sox organization in ’13) and Clay (Nationals in ’13) are starting pitchers with Triple-A experience. They should each add depth to the organization, especially given the loss of Eric Surkamp, an expected AAA starting arm in 2014, to the White Sox last month. Berken has a 5.36 ERA in 110 career major league appearances, mainly with Baltimore in 2009-11.

Carignan, a reliever, has some previous big league experience with the A’s, but has battled injuries throughout his career and missed all of last season. Reifer was a successful Triple-A reliever in the Marlins system a year ago while Weathers, a former first round pick, was in Double-A with the Cubs two seasons ago before missing all of last year due to injury.

Shortstop Brandon Hicks and third baseman Mario Lisson have also signed minor league deals with the San Francisco Giants organization this offseason. Hicks played for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate in 2013 while Lisson, a former Royals farmhand, hit 12 home runs in the Mexican League last year.

Bottom line, all of these players have substantial experience in the upper levels of the minor leagues and should begin the 2014 season with either the Giants’ Double-A or Triple-A affiliates. As is the case in most seasons, the bulk of San Jose’s opening day roster will be filled with players coming up from Augusta and Salem-Keizer.

——-

A number of former San Jose Giants have been on the move this offseason as well, including several key members of the 2007 California League championship team. Brian Bocock and Emmanuel Burriss, a pair of shortstops from the ’07 club with also big league experience in San Francisco, have signed minor league contracts with the Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals respectively. Bocock, a top defensive player who has struggled offensively throughout his career, hit .175 in Triple-A last year within the Nationals and Pirates systems. Burriss spent seven seasons (2006-12) in the Giants organization before playing for Cincinnati’s Triple-A team last year. By signing with the Nationals, Burriss would have an opportunity to play in his hometown of Washington D.C. if he can return to the big leagues in 2014.

Other moves include Travis Ishikawa, a top contributor on both the 2005 and 2007 championship teams, signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ishikawa bounced around last year playing in the Orioles, Yankees and White Sox organizations seeing action in just seven big league games. Antoan Richardson, the starting center fielder on the ’07 squad, has signed with the Yankees after spending most of 2013 with Minnesota’s Triple-A team. Richardson played briefly in the major leagues with Atlanta in 2011.

Sharlon Schoop, another former San Jose shortstop (2008 team), has signed with the Orioles after missing all of 2013 due to injury (was in the Royals system). Pitcher Henry Sosa (2007) and first baseman C.J. Ziegler (2009) are also back in affiliated ball. Sosa, who debuted in the big leagues with Houston in 2011, has signed with the Dodgers after pitching in Korea last year. Ziegler was a standout in the independent American Association last season (30 home runs) and has inked a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins.

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In other roster news, pitcher Craig Westcott has been released by the San Francisco Giants. Westcott was a spectacular 19-4 with a 2.93 ERA over 37 starts in a San Jose uniform during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He twice earned midseason California League All-Star honors. Then after winning 11 games with Double-A Richmond in 2012, Westcott was just 5-12 with a 4.19 ERA in 27 starts for the Flying Squirrels last year. Edwin Escobar (5-4, 2.67), Jack Snodgrass (12-4, 3.70) and Chris Gloor (9-7, 4.03) enjoyed more success than Westcott in the Richmond rotation last season and each figure to push for spots in Fresno this spring.

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Four California League teams have already announced their managers for the 2014 seasons. All four will be entering their first seasons at the helm of their respective Cal League squads.
- Inland Empire 66ers: Denny Hocking (managed Angels’ Rookie-level team in 2013)
- Rancho Cucamonga Quakes: P.J. Forbes (managed Dodgers’ Rookie-level team in 2013)
- Stockton Ports: Ryan Christenson (managed Athletics’ Class-A team in 2013)
- Visalia Rawhide: Robbie Hammock (managed Diamondbacks’ Rookie-level team in 2013)

Projecting the 2014 Roster – Who could return?

By Joe Ritzo

San_Jose_Giants157The bulk of the 2014 San Jose Giants opening day roster should be filled with new faces as players make the jump from Augusta and Salem-Keizer to the California League. However, there are also always a handful of returnees each year. Here are some players who suited up for San Jose in 2013 that could be back at Municipal Stadium next spring:

Trevor Brown, 2B/C

Brown joined San Jose in mid-August last season after batting at a .250 clip over 97 games with the Augusta GreenJackets as their primary second baseman. The former 10th round draft pick started slow with the Giants managing just one hit in his first 26 at-bats, but manager Andy Skeels kept Brown in the lineup down the stretch and the move paid off. He recorded multi-hits in four out of his last eight regular season games and then boasted a team-leading .345 batting average (10-for-29) during the playoffs. Of note, Brown was primarily a catcher at UCLA and during his 2012 rookie professional season. He shifted to second base during spring training last year which still catching sporadically throughout the season. A return to San Jose, where he can build on his postseason success, seems likely. The question is whether he’ll be asked to catch primarily or continue to work more at second?

Jorge Bucardo, P
Bucardo has spent parts of two seasons with San Jose, first as a top starting pitching prospect late in 2010 and then as a middle reliever early in 2013. Significant arm injuries have derailed Bucardo’s career (he hasn’t worked as a starter since 2010) and last year was no different. The right-hander appeared in five games out of the Giants bullpen in April (4.82 ERA), but then spent nearly two months on the disabled list. When he returned to action, Bucardo found himself in Augusta. And while not returning to San Jose during the second half of last season was probably frustrating, Bucardo made the most of his opportunity as he fashioned a 1.84 ERA and collected six saves over 27 relief appearances for the GreenJackets. When he’s been healthy, Bucardo has enjoyed nice success in the Giants farm system. Perhaps a third time will be the charm for Bucardo in San Jose as he could return and fill an important role out of the Giants bullpen in 2014.

Matt Duffy, SS
Duffy was a South Atlantic League All-Star in Augusta last season after leading the GreenJackets with a .307 batting average. He earned a promotion to San Jose in late-July and continued to shine posting a .292 batting average over 26 games with the Giants. Duffy combined for 20 doubles, nine home runs, 57 RBI’s and 25 stolen bases between the two clubs in 2013 to put himself on the map as one of the top middle infield prospects in the system. He also finished strong as only Brown posted a higher individual batting average than Duffy (.300) during the playoffs last September. Duffy was so impressive in San Jose that he’ll probably be considered for a spot in Double-A Richmond next April despite just a little over a month of California League experience. If he returns to the Giants, Duffy would be a focal point in the lineup, probably batting second or third.

Adalberto Mejia, LHP
Considered one of the top pitching prospects in the organization, it’s more likely that Mejia will open 2014 as a member of Richmond’s starting rotation. After all, he logged an impressive 3.31 ERA in 16 starts with San Jose last season while amassing 89 strikeouts compared to just 23 walks over 87 innings. Several factors though could give the front office some pause when deciding whether Mejia is ready for the Double-A challenge. First, he was the youngest pitcher in the Cal League last season and won’t turn 21 until next June. The jump to Double-A is a big one and the Giants decision-makers will want to be sure he’s ready to face significantly more experienced hitters. Second, a lat injury sustained early in the year limited Mejia to just those 87 innings and thus prevented valuable development time and experience in the Cal League. Third, he was hit hard in the Arizona Fall League, albeit in a small sample size. The bottom line is that Mejia is an elite prospect in this organization right now and he could probably handle a promotion to Richmond at the start of next season. But there is some precedent in the Giants organization for having a much-younger starting pitcher repeat the Cal League (Tim Alderson and Clayton Tanner being two of the most recent examples) and Mejia could potentially follow that pattern.

Kelby Tomlinson, SS

Tomlinson began last season with San Jose and played well when he was healthy posting a .276 batting average in 32 games, in addition to providing solid defense at short. Unfortunately, a pair of leg injuries resulted in two stints on the disabled list – the latter of which knocked Tomlinson out for two months. Despite not gaining much traction in the form of consistent playing time, Tomlinson was promoted to Richmond in July, primarily due to a lack of middle infielders on San Francisco’s Double-A roster. He then struggled mightily in the pitching-rich Eastern League recording just a .198 batting average with only five extra-base hits in 33 games. It seems like a good bet that either Tomlinson or Duffy will open the 2014 season as the starting shortstop for the San Jose Giants with the other getting a shot in Richmond.

Others: Center fielder Jesus Galindo and third baseman Mitch Delfino were promoted to San Jose from Augusta at the start of the playoffs last September and are almost certainly going to open 2014 in the California League. Galindo, who played in the Futures Game this year, hit .273 and stole 48 bases with the GreenJackets while Delfino led Augusta in doubles (25), home runs (13) and RBI’s (76) to go with a .270 batting average. Pitchers Tyler Rogers and Pat Young were also added to San Jose’s roster when the playoffs began, but they both came up from Short-Season Salem-Keizer, so it’s less likely (but certainly still possible) they’ll begin 2014 with the Giants. Rogers had a 3.10 ERA in 14 games out of the Volcanoes bullpen while Young, who started Game 5 of the North Division Series against Visalia, owned a sparkling 0.92 ERA in eight starts for Salem-Keizer. Both Rogers and Young were drafted last June.

Elliott Blair saw substantial time in center field while also playing some first base for the Giants in 2013, but hit just .229 with three homers in 69 games. He could fill a similar role with San Jose next season. Outfielder Shawn Payne will be looking for another shot in the Cal League after batting just .229 in 73 games last season. A standout with Augusta in 2012, Payne was demoted to the GreenJackets last July and rebounded somewhat hitting .259 with four home runs in 36 games played. Catcher Eric Sim joined the Giants from Augusta last July and hit .276 in 17 games as Jeff Arnold’s back-up. Relief pitchers Chris Marlowe (3-2, 3.97 ERA) and Jeff Soptic (3-2, 6.26 ERA) will compete for spots on the Richmond roster during spring training, but one or both may find themselves back in San Jose. Soptic possesses an electric mid-to-upper 90′s fastball, but control issues resulted in 36 walks over 41 2/3 innings. The return of Hunter Strickland also seems possible as the San Jose bullpen could be his first stop on the road back from Tommy John Surgery. Strickland dominated in the California League early last season (0.86 ERA, 9 saves) before a late-May elbow injury ended his year.

Andy Skeels Headed to Fresno

By Joe Ritzo

Former San Jose manager Andy Skeels will serve as Triple-A Fresno's hitting coach in 2014

Former San Jose manager Andy Skeels will serve as Triple-A Fresno’s hitting coach in 2014

The Fresno Grizzlies announced today that former San Jose Giants manager Andy Skeels has joined San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate as hitting coach. Skeels will work under Bob Mariano, who has returned for a third year as Fresno’s manager.

Skeels spent four seasons as the manager of the San Jose Giants. He directed San Jose to the 2009 California League championship and a club-record 93 wins (93-47) in his first year at the helm. The ’09 club has seen 15 of its players reach the major leagues highlighted by Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Brandon Crawford.

Skeels then managed Double-A Richmond in 2010 before returning to San Jose the following season. His 2011 team posted the top regular season record in the Cal League at 90-50 before falling in the North Division Series to Stockton. The 90 victories are fourth-most in the 26-year history of the team.

In 2012 under Skeels, the Giants notched a North Division-best 75-65 record en route to a berth in the playoffs. This year, San Jose finished a league-best 83-57 during the regular season and won the North Division title after a thrilling five-game series victory over Visalia. The Giants were then swept three-games-to-none in the Championship Series by the Inland Empire 66ers.

In his four years as San Jose’s manager, Skeels compiled an overall regular season record of 341-219 (.609). His 341 wins rank second in San Jose Giants history (trailing only Lenn Sakata’s 466). Skeels’ .609 winning percentage is also second all-time among San Jose Giants managers (Ron Wotus .625 over 1991-92).

Overall, Skeels ranks fourth in San Jose franchise history in wins:

1. Lenn Sakata: 466-374 (six seasons; 1999, 2001, 2004-07)
2. Red Marion: 385-311 (five seasons; 1952-54, 1962-63)
3. Marvin Owen: 377-330 (five seasons; 1947-51)
4. Andy Skeels: 341-219 (four seasons; 2009, 2011-13)
5. Rocky Bridges: 222-199 (three seasons; 1964-66)

Skeels last served as a hitting coach in 2007 while with the Class-A Augusta GreenJackets.

Winter Meetings Shane Turner Interview – Inside the San Jose Giants


Inside the San Jose Giants podcastInside the San Jose Giants coverage of the Winter Meetings continues with SFG Productions’ Chris Gargano interviewing new San Francisco Giants Director of Player Development Shane Turner. Turner is entering his 19th year with the San Francisco organization. Joe Ritzo and Ben Taylor continue the discussion with first-hand observations of the Giants’ player development efforts from Municipal Stadium. Stay tuned for future Inside the San Jose Giants podcasts in 2014. For more on upcoming San Francisco Giants podcasts, visit sfgiants.com/podcasts.

Winter Meetings Doug Mapson Interview – Inside the San Jose Giants


Inside the San Jose Giants podcastIn this special Winter Meetings edition of Inside the San Jose Giants, Joe and Ben again collaborate with Chris Gargano of SFG Productions to bring an update from Orlando. Chris speaks with San Francisco Giants National Cross-Checker and 2013 Scout of the Year Doug Mapson who is being honored tonight at the Winter Meetings. Joe and Ben also discuss the role scouts play at the Minor League level and within the San Francisco Giants organization.

Episode 25 – Inside the San Jose Giants


Inside the San Jose Giants podcastIn this special winter meetings edition of Inside the San Jose Giants, Joe Ritzo and Ben Taylor discuss the top 10 prospects in the organization. The two react to Baseball America’s top 10 list and where each player could begin next season. Additionally, Chris Gargano from SFG Productions drops by with an exclusive interview of San Jose Giants Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Mark Wilson with the latest from Orlando and a minor league perspective of the winter meetings. Stay tuned for future SFG Productions podcasts by visiting sfgiants.com/podcasts.

Home Game Times Announced

The San Jose Giants home opener is set for Thursday, April 10 at 7:00 PM

The San Jose Giants home opener is set for Thursday, April 10 at 7:00 PM

The San Jose Giants have announced all of their home game times for the 2014 season. A few highlights from the 70-game schedule:

* The home opener at Municipal Stadium is set for Thursday, April 10 with a 7:00 PM first pitch. Only 121 days away!

* Saturday home games will continue to start at 5:00 PM. The lone exceptions are a 6:00 PM first pitch on Saturday, June 28 and a 6:30 PM start on Saturday, July 5.

* Sunday home games in April, May and June will begin at 1:00 PM. Starting in July, Sunday games shift to a 5:00 PM first pitch. All July and August Sunday home games are 5:00 PM starts with the exception of Sunday, August 24 (the final home game of the regular season) at 1:00 PM.

* The San Jose Giants will host five weekday afternoon games next season:
- Wednesday, April 16 (12:35 PM)
- Thursday, May 22 (11:35 AM) – only home game that starts in the morning
- Tuesday, June 24 (1:35 PM)
- Thursday, July 10 (12:35 PM)
- Tuesday, July 22 (12:35 PM)

* Holiday home games in 2014 include: Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 11 at 1:00 PM), Memorial Day (Monday, May 26 at 2:00 PM) and Independence Day (Friday, July 4 at 6:30 PM).

View the 2014 Schedule

Download the 2014 Schedule (PDF)

Three SJ Giants Named Organizational All-Stars

Mac Williamson was one of three 2013 San Jose Giants named to the MiLB.com San Francisco Organizational All-Star team

Mac Williamson was one of three 2013 San Jose Giants named to the MiLB.com San Francisco Organizational All-Star team

Three 2013 San Jose Giants – outfielders Devin Harris and Mac Williamson and pitcher Ty Blach – were named to the MiLB.com San Francisco Organizational All-Star team today. Of the 12 players represented on the team, eight are former San Jose Giants.

San Jose finished the regular season with a California League-best 83-57 overall record. The Giants won the North Division title for the first time since 2010 before falling in the Championship Series.

The San Francisco farm system posted a cumulative record of 436-324 this year – the top winning percentage (.574) of all 30 organizations. The Giants’ Arizona Rookie League and Dominican Summer League teams both won league championships in 2013. Class-A Augusta and Short-Season Salem-Keizer also reached the playoffs.

Williamson and Harris concluded the 2013 season ranked first and second respectively in the Giants farm system in both home runs and RBI’s. Williamson, a 2012 third round draft pick, hit .292 this year to go with 31 doubles, 25 home runs and 89 RBI’s. The slugging right fielder hit a sizzling .331 with 16 home runs after the All-Star break. His 25 round-trippers overall ranked tied for third both in the California League and on San Jose’s single-season home run list.

Harris enjoyed a breakout 2013 after struggling with San Jose the year prior. His 23 home runs were fifth-most in the Cal League to go with 84 RBI’s and a .258 batting average. Harris also contributed 40 doubles to become the fourth player in San Jose Giants history to hit 40 or more doubles in a season.

Blach was the most consistent starting pitcher on San Jose’s talented staff this year. The left-hander was 12-4 with a California League-best 2.90 ERA in 22 games (20 starts). Blach issued only 18 walks all season to go with 117 strikeouts over 130 1/3 innings. He ranked tied for first in the San Francisco farm system in wins. Blach was also a midseason and postseason California League All-Star in 2013.

Past San Jose Giants recognized by MiLB.com today include Brett Pill (first base), Joe Panik (second base), Chris Dominguez (third base), Johnny Monell (catcher) and Francisco Peguero (outfield). Pill led Triple-A Fresno with 79 RBI’s this year despite playing in just 68 games. He also produced 18 home runs and a .344 batting average. Panik led all Giants second base farmhands in RBI’s (57), doubles (27) and walks (58). He was named to the organizational All-Star team for a third year in a row. Dominguez hit 15 homers to go with 65 RBI’s and a .294 batting average in Fresno. Monell, a standout in Fresno as well, was first among Giants minor league catchers this year in batting average (.275), home runs (20), RBI’s (64) and doubles (27). Finally, Peguero hit .316 in 70 games with the Grizzlies.

Monell was recently traded to the Baltimore Orioles while Peguero is now a free agent.

Jeremy Sy (shortstop – Salem-Keizer), Javier Herrera (utility – Richmond), Chris Johnson (starting pitcher – Salem-Keizer) and Raymundo Montero (relief pitcher – Salem-Keizer) round out the organizational All-Star team.

MiLB.com San Francisco Organizational All-Star Team

C – Johnny Monell, Fresno
1B – Brett Pill, Fresno
2B – Joe Panik, Richmond
3B – Chris Dominguez, Fresno
SS – Jeremy Sy, Salem-Keizer
OF – Devin Harris, San Jose
OF – Francisco Peguero, Fresno
OF – Mac Williamson, San Jose
Utility – Javier Herrera, Richmond
SP (right-handed) – Chris Johnson, Salem-Keizer
SP (left-handed) – Ty Blach, San Jose
RP – Raymundo Montero, Salem-Keizer

MiLB.com Article

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