2015 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Starting Pitchers

By Joe Ritzo

san jose giantsOur 2015 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 11 seasons. Looking ahead to this spring, the starting rotation will likely be the strength of the Giants once again. A talented group of hurlers that were in Augusta last season should make the jump to the California League this year. The San Jose rotation may also include San Francisco’s first round pick from last June’s draft and a starter or two returning from the 2014 team.

Behind a deep starting rotation, the Augusta GreenJackets (Giants Class-A affiliate) boasted an excellent 3.56 team ERA last season. Leading the way was left-hander Luis Ysla, who almost certainly will earn a promotion to San Jose where he’d be expected to help anchor the Giants rotation. Ysla, who turns 23 in April, won the South Atlantic League ERA title last year with an impressive mark of 2.45 in 121 1/3 innings. The southpaw averaged nearly a strikeout per inning (115 SO) while issuing 45 walks and limiting the opposition to a .231 batting average. A consistent performer throughout the entire year, Ysla allowed two runs or fewer in 17 out of his 23 starts.

Baseball America recently ranked Ysla as the #21 overall prospect in the Giants farm system and the third-highest left-handed starting pitcher (behind Adalberto Mejia and Ty Blach). Ysla features a fastball primarily in the low 90’s to go with a plus change-up and a developing slider. In two years as a professional, Ysla has enjoyed tremendous success – first in rookie-ball during the summer of 2013 (2.65 ERA in 12 starts) and then last season in Augusta. He’ll look to take another step forward this season, most likely as a member of the San Jose starting rotation.

Top prospect Keury Mella had a combined 3.45 ERA between Augusta and Salem-Keizer last season (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

Top prospect Keury Mella had a combined 3.45 ERA between Augusta and Salem-Keizer last season (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

While Ysla had the lowest ERA of the Augusta starters in 2014, the top prospect from the group was 21-year old right-hander Keury Mella. Armed with a mid 90’s sinking fastball, Mella is a groundball machine who also averaged nearly a strikeout per inning pitched last season while featuring above-average control. Prior to going down with a minor shoulder injury in late-June last year, Mella posted a 3.93 ERA in 12 starts for the GreenJackets. Over 66 1/3 innings, he struck out 63, walked just 13 and surrendered only one home run. In his last start on June 20, Mella struck out 10 batters in just six innings.

After six weeks on the disabled list, Mella returned to action in August and was sent to Short-Season Salem-Keizer, where he made six starts to finish the season. During his time with the Volcanoes, Mella fashioned a 1.83 ERA and struck out 20 batters in 19 2/3 innings. Between the two stops, Mella owned a 2-to-1 groundout-to-flyout ratio – a statistic that should bode well in the hitter-friendly conditions of the California League, should he join San Jose this spring.

In addition to his plus fastball, Mella possesses a sharp curve ball and a quality change-up. He’s rated the #4 overall prospect in the system by Baseball America entering 2015 – ahead of more established minor league pitchers Blach, Mejia and Clayton Blackburn.

Right-hander Joan Gregorio is also expected to open the year in the San Jose rotation. Gregorio began last season with the SJ Giants, but made just five starts in April before going on the disabled list. Initially, Gregorio really impressed logging a 1.88 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings over his first three starts. He was then tagged for 13 runs over his next two appearances resulting in a stint on the DL due to some minor arm fatigue. Gregorio returned three weeks later, but made just one relief outing before going back on the disabled list with a back issue.

40-man roster member Joan Gregorio will likely open this season in the San Jose starting rotation

40-man roster member Joan Gregorio will likely open this season in the San Jose starting rotation

Fortunately, Gregorio was able to get his 2014 season on track when he was sent to Augusta in mid-June. In 12 starts with the GreenJackets during the second half of the season, Gregorio owned a solid 3.57 ERA. He struck out 65 batters in 68 innings while issuing 27 walks and giving up just two homers. In his final start of the season, Gregorio fanned 10 and allowed just three hits and no earned runs over six dominant innings.

Now 23 years old, Gregorio was placed on San Francisco’s 40-man roster this past offseason to protect the right-hander from the Rule 5 draft. Gregorio has been rated the #15 overall prospect in the system by Baseball America entering 2015. In San Jose early last season, he showed a fastball primarily in the low 90’s that could reach 95. His slider was inconsistent, but a very effective pitch when located well.

Two other pitchers from last year’s Augusta rotation also figure to be strong candidates for a promotion to San Jose in left-hander Christian Jones and right-hander Chase Johnson. 2014 was the first full professional season for both hurlers after they were each selected in the prior year’s draft. Jones had the stronger year of the two as in 22 starts for the GreenJackets last season, he notched an impressive 3.33 ERA. Jones struck out 100 and walked just 26 in 110 2/3 innings. A consistent presence in the rotation, he allowed one or no earned runs in 14 out of his 22 starts.

Jones was poised for a high-round selection in the 2012 draft thanks to an excellent sophomore campaign in the University of Oregon starting rotation, but Tommy John surgery wiped out his entire junior season. He returned to action in his senior year pitching exclusively out of the bullpen before the Giants took him in the 18th round. With the injury and rehab fully behind Jones, he enjoyed a solid 2014 season in Augusta and now appears headed for the San Jose rotation. Jones’ sinking fastball reportedly sits right around 90 MPH.

Meanwhile, Johnson was a much higher pick in the 2013 draft as San Francisco selected the right-hander in the third round out of Cal Poly. A reliever in college, the Giants used Johnson almost exclusively as a starter during his first two professional seasons. Last year in 22 starts for Augusta, Johnson logged a 4.57 ERA with 94 strikeouts compared to 40 walks in 110 1/3 innings. After a 5.21 ERA in the first half, Johnson improved to a 4.06 mark after the All-Star break. In his last two starts of the season, he struck out 15 batters over 14 innings with just one run allowed.

Johnson’s best pitch is a fastball that sits primarily in the 92-to-94 MPH range while he also features a slider and a change-up. He possesses a nice pitcher’s frame and has intriguing potential. 2014 wasn’t always easy for Johnson in Augusta, but given his strong finish and third round draft pedigree, a promotion to San Jose seems very possible.

Both Jones and Johnson had better than 2-to-1 groundout-to-flyout ratios in Augusta last season. Johnson is rated the #20 overall prospect in the Giants system by Baseball America while Jones was not ranked in the top 30.

Even if all five of these Augusta starting pitchers move up to San Jose for the start of this season (which is no guarantee), there would likely still be room for another arm among the Giants starting corps. In recent years, San Jose has used a six-man rotation and 2015 will likely see more of the same.

Possible returnees could include right-hander Pat Young. Young, a 13th round pick in the 2013 draft out of Villanova, had an up-and-down first full pro season in the San Jose rotation last season. In 23 starts, he owned a 9-6 record with a 6.13 ERA. Young struck out 93 batters in 111 2/3 innings while the league hit .305 against him. Young had some nice moments with the Giants last year (notably a 4-0 record and a 3.04 ERA in five July starts), but really struggled in the middle portion of the season (7.83 ERA in May, 6.46 ERA in June) and the end (10.53 ERA in August). Back in 2013, Young had a dominant summer in Salem-Keizer compiling a 0.92 ERA in eight starts.

Young has interesting potential with his 6’7” frame and low 90’s fastball. His slider was an effective pitch as well, however Young managed to pitch past the fifth inning only seven times in 23 starts. A return to San Jose seems likely – whether it’s as a starter or out of the bullpen remains a question.

Nick Vander Tuig ended the 2014 season in the San Jose rotation and could return to the Cal League this spring

Nick Vander Tuig ended the 2014 season in the San Jose rotation and could return to the Cal League this spring

Fellow right-hander Nick Vander Tuig is also a candidate to return to the California League. Another 2013 draftee, Vander Tuig was a sixth round pick after a spectacular collegiate career at UCLA. Vander Tuig logged heavy innings in college to help the Bruins claim the national championship, but struggled to find his groove last year in his first full professional season. In six appearances (two starts) with Augusta, Vander Tuig had a lofty 11.17 ERA before going down to the Arizona Rookie League and dominating against much younger competition (0.95 ERA in five starts). He joined San Jose in early-August and finished the year in the Giants rotation. Initially, Vander Tuig threw well posting a 2.12 ERA in his first three starts for San Jose. Unfortunately, he was unable to end the season on a high note logging an 8.40 ERA with 30 hits allowed in his final three starts.

Vander Tuig isn’t a particularly hard thrower as he showed a fastball mainly in the upper 80’s late last season in the California League. He does, however, bring a four-pitch repertoire to the table and has always possessed excellent control throughout his career. Vander Tuig was a star at UCLA (14-4, 2.16 ERA in his last season) and the Giants organization will be looking for him to return to top form in 2015, perhaps in San Jose.

Former second round pick Martin Agosta is another possible returnee to the San Jose rotation. Agosta’s first two full professional seasons were polar opposites. In 2013, he was one of the top pitchers in the South Atlantic League while a member of the Augusta GreenJackets. In 18 starts, he fashioned a 2.06 ERA, struck out 109 in 91 2/3 innings and earned All-Star honors. Expectations were sky high for Agosta entering 2014, but unfortunately the St. Mary’s product had a year to forget.

Agosta began the campaign in the San Jose rotation, but had a 10.55 ERA and more walks than strikeouts in his first seven starts before he was removed from the active roster. After just over a month on the sidelines, Agosta restarted his season in the Arizona Rookie League making four starts. He returned to San Jose in late-July, but continued to struggle against California League hitters. Overall in 11 starts with the Giants last season, Agosta owned a 9.23 ERA with 34 walks and 25 strikeouts in 39 innings.

Agosta’s standing as a former second round pick combined with his dominant 2013 season in the South Atlantic League should give him another opportunity once 2015 begins. Whether that’s in San Jose or at a lower level remains to be seen. Wherever he ends up, there’s no question that Agosta is going to have a lot to prove when this season begins.

Finally, the potential headline name of the San Jose 2015 starting rotation is not someone coming up from Augusta or returning to the club, but instead a pitcher looking to make the jump all the way from Salem-Keizer. 2014 first round draft pick Tyler Beede is another candidate for the SJ Giants starting rotation this April.

2014 first round draft pick Tyler Beede could begin his first full professional season in San Jose (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

2014 first round draft pick Tyler Beede could begin his first full professional season in San Jose (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

The 14th overall pick in last June’s draft, Beede had an outstanding collegiate career at Vanderbilt. As a sophomore in 2013, he was 14-1 with a 2.32 ERA to earn SEC Pitcher of the Year and All-American honors. Last spring, Beede’s ERA climbed to 4.05, but he still managed 116 strikeouts in 113 innings and was the #1 starter on Vanderbilt’s national championship team.

Due to a heavy workload in college, the Giants didn’t push Beede last summer after he signed his professional contract (a $2.6 million bonus). The right-hander threw just 15 innings between the Arizona Rookie League and Salem-Keizer combining for a 2.94 ERA with 18 strikeouts and seven walks. Beede, who turns 22 in May, has an ideal pitcher’s frame at 6’4” and 215 lbs. His fastball sits 92 to 94 MPH and can reach 97. Beede’s curve ball can be a strikeout pitch while his change-up is a legitimate plus offering. On top of all that, Beede has a great feel for pitching.

A promotion to the California League this April would be a big jump for Beede. He’s struggled at times with his control (averaged almost five walks per nine innings during his collegiate career) and has barely pitched as a professional. But given his big-game college experience and first round draft selection, it would not at all be a surprise if Beede opened the season in the San Jose rotation.

Baseball America ranks Beede as the top overall pitching prospect in the entire Giants organization (#2 overall – behind Andrew Susac).

Beede (#1), Mella (#3), Gregorio (#8), Johnson (#10) and Ysla (#11) are all ranked among the top 11 starting pitching prospects in the system by Baseball America to open 2015. Furthermore, the lefty Jones was one of the most consistent starters in the South Atlantic League last season while Agosta, Vander Tuig and Young will attempt to recapture some of the magic from earlier in their careers. All of these pitchers may not start the year with the Giants, but the potential exists for an exciting, prospect-laden starting rotation in San Jose once again.

2015 San Jose Giants Starting Pitching Candidates
(2014 regular season statistics listed)

Martin Agosta, RHP
– San Jose: 11 GS, 3-3, 9.23 ERA, 39.0 IP, 34 BB, 25 SO

Tyler Beede, RHP
– Salem-Keizer: 2 GS, 0-0, 2.70 ERA, 6.2 IP, 3 BB, 7 SO
– AZL-Giants: 4 GS, 0-1, 3.12 ERA, 8.2 IP, 4 BB, 11 SO

Joan Gregorio, RHP
– San Jose: 6 G, 5 GS, 2-2, 6.75 ERA, 22.2 IP, 13 BB, 27 SO
– Augusta: 13 G, 12 GS, 2-7, 3.57 ERA, 68.0 IP, 27 BB, 65 SO

Chase Johnson, RHP
– Augusta: 23 G, 22 GS, 4-7, 4.57 ERA, 110.1 IP, 40 BB, 94 SO

Christian Jones, LHP
– Augusta: 22 GS, 5-9, 3.33 ERA, 110.2 IP, 26 BB, 100 SO

Keury Mella, RHP
– Augusta: 12 GS, 3-3, 3.93 ERA, 66.1 IP, 13 BB, 63 SO
– Salem-Keizer: 6 GS, 1-1, 1.83 ERA, 19.2 IP, 6 BB, 20 SO

Nick Vander Tuig, RHP
– San Jose: 6 GS, 3-2, 5.06 ERA, 32.0 IP, 5 BB, 19 SO
– Augusta: 6 G, 2 GS, 0-0, 11.17 ERA, 9.2 IP, 5 BB, 6 SO

Pat Young, RHP
– San Jose: 24 G, 23 GS, 9-6, 6.13 ERA, 111.2 IP, 47 BB, 93 SO

Luis Ysla, LHP
– Augusta: 24 G, 23 GS, 6-7, 2.45 ERA, 121.1 IP, 45 BB, 115 SO

The 2015 San Jose Giants preview series will continue next Monday with a look at the infield.

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When They Were San Jose Giants: Madison Bumgarner

By Joe Ritzo

Madison Bumgarner had a 1.48 ERA in five starts with the San Jose Giants during the 2009 season

Madison Bumgarner had a 1.48 ERA in five starts with the San Jose Giants during the 2009 season

Our “When They Were San Jose Giants” series concludes this week with 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner. The standout starting pitcher was a major contributor on all three recent San Francisco championship teams, including a legendary performance throughout the postseason last fall. Before he was dominating in the big leagues though, Bumgarner was a top prospect advancing through the Giants farm system. In 2009, he made a brief stop in San Jose and helped the Giants claim a first half division title en route to a championship. Here’s a look back at Bumgarner’s memorable stint in the California League…

By the time Bumgarner was placed on San Jose’s 2009 opening day roster, the young southpaw was already a well-known name among Giants fans. The 10th overall pick two years earlier, Bumgarner started his professional career with a bang in 2008 while playing for Class-A Augusta. In 24 starts with the GreenJackets, Bumgarner fashioned a 15-3 record to go with a spectacular 1.46 ERA. He struck out 164 batters in 141 2/3 innings while issuing just 21 walks and yielding three home runs. The banner year helped Augusta take home the league championship.

Baseball America rated Bumgarner as the #1 overall prospect in the Giants farm system following the 2008 season (even ahead of Buster Posey) noting at the time that, “his fastball is a devastating two-strike pitch when he elevates it,” he’s a “physical, durable beast and a good athlete” and has “all the gifts to be a #1 starter.”

At age 19, Bumgarner made his California League debut when the San Jose Giants hosted the Stockton Ports on April 10, 2009 (second game of the season). There was a palpable buzz around Municipal Stadium as the game began as San Francisco’s #1 prospect (Bumgarner) was making the start and throwing to the #2 prospect in the system (Posey). It was the first time that the duo had worked together in an actual game – a glimpse into the bright future for the two players and the organization as a whole.

It was going to be nearly impossible for Bumgarner to match expectations that night at Muni, but the emerging star dazzled. Facing the club’s top rival, Bumgarner fired six shutout innings allowing just two hits (both singles) with no walks and five strikeouts. Bumgarner didn’t give up a hit in his last three innings and would garner the win as the Giants cruised to a 4-0 victory. Offensively, the biggest hit was supplied by another future big leaguer as Brandon Crawford launched a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Bumgarner faced the Ports again six days later – this time at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. The results, though, were the same. Over five impressive innings in his first road start, the lefty yielded just one unearned run on four hits with a pair of walks and four strikeouts. First base prospect Angel Villalona hit a homer and drove in two runs as San Jose posted a 3-1 victory.

Bumgarner’s winning ways continued in his third start as he faced the Lake Elsinore Storm on April 22 back at Municipal Stadium. Once again, he was in complete control throughout the entire outing. In five innings, Bumgarner surrendered one run, didn’t issue a walk and fanned five. The Giants won easily by an 8-1 margin. Through three starts, Bumgarner was a perfect 3-0 to go with a 0.56 ERA (1 earned run in 16 innings). The top prospect, who was still a teenager, was making it look easy against hitters far older and with more professional experience.

Bumgarner’s only minor hiccup in a San Jose uniform came in his fourth start when the Giants traveled to Lancaster for a late-April series against the JetHawks. Pitching in arguably the most hitter-friendly ballpark in all of Minor League Baseball, Bumgarner endured a humbling experience as Lancaster tagged him for six runs on six hits in just 3 1/3 innings. Bumgarner struck out five in the start and walked one, but didn’t receive much help from his defense as the Giants committed three errors behind their starter leading to four unearned runs. It was rocky start for Bumgarner, but perhaps one that he was able to learn from as he continued his journey towards the big leagues. Meanwhile, the Giants still won the game exploding in the middle and late innings to post a 17-7 victory. Posey homered in the contest while outfield prospect Thomas Neal hit for the cycle.

Bumgarner and Posey walking in from the bullpen together before a game at Municipal Stadium

Bumgarner and Posey walking in from the bullpen together before a game at Municipal Stadium

Bumgarner ended April with a 1.40 ERA in four starts. His next outing came on May 4 when San Jose took on the Modesto Nuts at Municipal Stadium. Bumgarner gave up one run in the first inning, but settled down from there allowing just one unearned run for the remainder of his start. It was a solid bounce back effort after his rough performance in Lancaster. In five innings versus the Nuts, Bumgarner was charged with one earned run on just three hits. He walked one, struck out four and took a hard-luck loss as the Giants were shutout by a 2-0 score. It would turn out to be Bumgarner’s final start in front of the hometown fans at Municipal Stadium.

A day later, San Jose embarked on a season-long 13-game road trip through Bakersfield, Modesto and Visalia. Bumgarner was scheduled to start twice on the trip, but his plans would change. After the first two games in Bakersfield, Bumgarner, along with Crawford, got the call to Double-A Connecticut. The San Francisco front office had already seen enough of Bumgarner in the California League. Even the most prized prospects usually spend at least half of a season with San Jose before moving up to a higher level. For Bumgarner though, it was only one month and five total starts with the Giants.

Clearly Bumgarner was ready for the aggressive promotion as the 19-year old logged an incredible 1.93 ERA and a 9-1 record in 19 starts for Connecticut through the end of the regular season. The Giants then promoted their top prospect again, this time straight to San Francisco. He made his major league debut on September 8, 2009 at AT&T Park against the San Diego Padres – just four months after leaving San Jose. Bumgarner worked 5 1/3 effective innings that night allowing just two runs with a walk and four strikeouts. He then didn’t surrender a run over three relief appearances to close out a truly spectacular season.

With the organization feeling he needed a bit more seasoning, Bumgarner opened 2010 in Triple-A, but again impressed posting a 3.16 ERA and a 7-1 record in 14 starts. By late-June, he was back in the major leagues and this time, it was to stay. San Francisco Giants fans are quite familiar with the story from there. A terrific second half of 2010 before a stellar postseason that included a masterful performance in Game 4 of the World Series in Texas at age 21. Bumgarner’s rise continued with a solid 2011 season before winning 16 games in the Giants rotation the following year. He dazzled again in the World Series in 2012 versus Detroit as San Francisco won their second championship. The 2013 season saw Bumgarner post the lowest regular season ERA of his young career (2.77) and then last year, he truly became the ace of the staff. Following an 18-win, sub-3.00 ERA regular season, Bumgarner put together an historic postseason. A 1.03 ERA in seven playoff appearances last October included three World Series outings in which he threw 21 innings with just one run allowed. Fittingly, it was Bumgarner on the mound in the ninth inning of Game 7, out of the bullpen no less, to close out the Royals and lift the Giants to a third World Championship in five years.

Bumgarner Fun Facts
* Bumgarner (2014) and Pablo Sandoval (2012) are the only former San Jose Giants to have won a World Series MVP.
* In five starts with the San Jose Giants during the 2009 season, Bumgarner was 3-1 with a 1.48 ERA. In 24 1/3 innings, he allowed 20 hits, four earned runs, walked just four and struck out 23. He held the opposition to a .217 batting average.
* In his three starts at Municipal Stadium, Bumgarner had a 1.13 ERA.
* Bumgarner was the youngest pitcher on San Jose’s 2009 team.
* Bumgarner, Posey and relief pitcher Dan Runzler all played for both San Jose and San Francisco in 2009.
* Bumgarner’s career minor league numbers (2008-10): 62 starts, 34-6 record, 2.00 ERA (355 IP, 77 BB, 315 SO).

Bumgarner is one of the very few prospects to have played for both San Jose and San Francisco in the same season

Bumgarner is one of the very few prospects to have played for both San Jose and San Francisco in the same season

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WHEN THEY WERE SAN JOSE GIANTS SERIES

Buster Posey

Hunter Strickland

Travis Ishikawa

Tim Lincecum

Brandon Crawford

Matt Duffy

Brandon Belt

Sergio Romo

Juan Perez

Joe Panik

Episode 46 – Inside the San Jose Giants

Inside the San Jose Giants podcastIt’s the Inside the San Jose Giants predictions podcast! Who will lead the San Francisco Giants farm system in home runs this year? Who are the “sleeper” prospects poised to breakout this season? How many former San Jose Giants will debut in the major leagues in 2015? Who will finish the year ranked as the #1 prospect in the organization? Joe and Ben tackle these topics as well as make other bold predictions for the upcoming minor league season in this podcast episode.

News and Notes: Minor League Camp Begins Next Week, Baseball America Top 100, Former SJ Giants Return

By Joe Ritzo

San Francisco Giants minor league camp begins next week down in Scottsdale. International players are due to report on Wednesday, March 4 while all U.S. players must report by Friday, March 6. The first full workout is scheduled for Saturday, March 7. Giants minor leaguers will then participate in several workouts and intra-squad games over the following days before their exhibition opener on Wednesday, March 18.

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

An official announcement of the 2015 San Jose Giants roster will not occur until after the final exhibition game. Camp breaks on Monday, April 6 with San Jose’s season opener set for Thursday, April 9 in Lancaster.

Giants Minor League Camp Storylines

Former San Jose Giant Andrew Susac was ranked the #88 overall prospect by Baseball America last week

Former San Jose Giant Andrew Susac was ranked the #88 overall prospect by Baseball America last week

BASEBALL AMERICA TOP 100 PROSPECTS
Former San Jose Giants catcher Andrew Susac was included on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list released last week. Susac, the only member of the San Francisco organization to crack the top 100, was ranked at #88 overall.

Susac was the sixth highest catcher on Baseball America’s top prospect list. The former second round draft pick hit .268 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI’s in 63 games for Triple-A Fresno last season before an August promotion to San Francisco. In the big leagues, Susac impressed batting .273 with eight doubles, three homers and 19 RBI’s in 88 at-bats. Susac played for the San Jose Giants during the 2012 season.

Last year, the Giants placed two prospects on Baseball America’s top 100 list: pitchers Kyle Crick (#33) and Edwin Escobar (#56). Escobar debuted in the major leagues late last season with Boston while Crick spent the entire 2014 campaign in Double-A Richmond. Crick (#79) was on the MLB.com Top 100 list last month.

MINOR LEAGUE FREE AGENT UPDATES
Former California League All-Star Kevin Pucetas has returned to the Giants organization. Pucetas became a minor league free agent last July after he was released by the Texas Rangers. Originally a 17th round pick of the San Francisco Giants, Pucetas dazzled in the California League with San Jose during the 2008 season. In 24 starts with the Giants that year, the right-hander fashioned a 10-2 record and a 3.02 ERA. Pucetas advanced as high as Triple-A in the Giants organization before he was traded to Kansas City in October of 2010. After stints in the Royals and Nationals farm systems, Pucetas became a knuckleball pitcher while in the Rangers organization late in 2013. Last season, Pucetas worked as a reliever and between Class-A Hickory and Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach, logged a 4.36 ERA in 53 2/3 innings (51 hits, 33 walks, 32 strikeouts). Pucetas turned 30 last November.

In other minor league free agent news, former SJ Giants Jose Casilla and Skyler Stromsmoe have re-signed with the Giants organization. Casilla, the younger brother of San Francisco closer Santiago, was one of San Jose’s top relievers in 2013. Last year in Richmond, he owned a 3.97 ERA in 41 appearances. The versatile Stromsmoe was a San Jose Giant during the 2009 championship season and briefly again in 2012 and 2013. With the Flying Squirrels last year, Stromsmoe batted .233 with 14 doubles, no homers and 15 RBI’s in 104 games. He made starts at second, third, shortstop, left and center.

As previously reported, former SJ Giants Mark Minicozzi (Nationals) and Nick Noonan (Yankees) signed minor league deals elsewhere earlier in the offseason. Veteran outfielder Tyler Graham, a San Jose Giant in 2008 and 2009 who then returned to the organization last year, has retired. He’s now serving as an assistant coach at Oregon State University. Graham hit .255 with 38 stolen bases for Richmond last season.

OTHER NOTES
* The full 2015 San Jose Giants schedule – with all home and road game times – is now available. The schedule can be downloaded here.

* 2015 San Jose Giants position-by-position season preview articles will begin next week with detailed breakdowns of a possible opening day roster. The first preview article coming next Monday looks at the potential Giants starting rotation. All remaining preview articles will be posted every Monday through the conclusion of spring training.
March 2 – Starting Pitchers
March 9 – Infield
March 16 – Outfield
March 23 – Catcher
March 30 – Bullpen

When They Were San Jose Giants: Buster Posey

By Joe Ritzo

Buster Posey was a standout player on San Jose's 2009 championship team

Buster Posey was a standout player on San Jose’s 2009 championship team

One of 16 former San Jose Giants on San Francisco’s playoff rosters last fall, Buster Posey first made his mark professionally as a standout catcher in the California League. The top prospect and former first round draft pick was the leader of the 2009 San Jose team that set a franchise record for wins on their way to a league championship. His success in the minors jumpstarted a major league career that has already included the NL Rookie of the Year, an MVP award and three World Series. Here’s a look back at Posey’s tenure as a San Jose Giant…

Posey’s most significant impact in San Jose came during the memorable 2009 season, but the emerging star first appeared in the Cal League the previous year. Just three months after his selection in the draft (sixth overall pick) and with only 10 games of professional experience under his belt, Posey joined the Giants for the 2008 California League playoffs. The move of promoting a player to the Class-A Advanced level in the same year he was drafted is incredibly rare in the Giants organization. But Posey, of course, was not your typical player.

The ’08 SJ Giants had won the first half title that year and thus earned a first round bye in the postseason. They opened the playoffs on September 6 at Municipal Stadium with Game One of the best-of-five North Division Series against the Stockton Ports. Posey, in his Cal League debut, found himself in the fifth spot in the lineup while starting at catcher. The Giants trailed most of the night as Stockton built a 3-1 lead before Posey helped bring the home team back. In the bottom of the eighth inning with two on base, Posey ripped a single into right field to score a run cutting the Stockton lead in half. The hit led to an exciting four-run rally as San Jose came-from-behind for a crucial 5-3 victory. Posey, who was removed for a pinch-runner after his key RBI hit, finished 1-for-3.

The next day, Posey went 2-for-4 with an RBI, but the Giants failed to hold a four-run lead and dropped a 7-6 heartbreaker. Stockton carried that momentum back home to win Game Three before the Giants rallied in Game Four to again tie the series. The teams shifted back to Muni for the decisive fifth game but the Ports rolled to a 9-4 victory to end San Jose’s season. For Posey, who went 4-for-17 in the Division Series, it was the end of a long season that had started in the winter at Florida State University. Meanwhile for San Jose Giants fans, it was a sneak peak of some great things to come the following spring.

After a full offseason to rest and his first spring training as a pro, Posey returned to the San Jose Giants for the start of the 2009 campaign. The ’09 SJ Giants opening day lineup featured seven future major leagues such as Brandon Crawford, Conor Gillaspie, Nick Noonan, Roger Kieschnick, Thomas Neal and Darren Ford. But it was Posey, despite having less than 60 at-bats in his professional career, who was the headliner. The major league Giants were coming off of four straight losing seasons and the fan base was desperate for homegrown talent to make their way through the system. Much of that hope resided with Posey. Unlike with any other player in recent memory to come through San Jose, a buzz could be felt throughout Municipal Stadium whenever Posey stepped into the batter’s box and the top prospect did not disappoint.

Posey went from California League All-Star with San Jose in 2009 to National League Rookie of the Year in 2010

Posey went from California League All-Star with San Jose in 2009 to National League Rookie of the Year in 2010

Posey hit fourth in the lineup on opening night as the Giants cruised past Stockton by a 5-1 score. Posey managed just two hits over the first three games of the season before a breakout afternoon in game #4 when he finished 2-for-4 with his first home run in a San Jose uniform – a first-inning two-run blast to deep left. Of note, Crawford had homered earlier in the inning as San Jose eventually went onto win by a 10-0 score to complete a sweep of the season-opening series.

Posey’s big first week continued the next night with Bakersfield in town as the slugging backstop homered again. Two days later, it was another home run for Posey – his third round-tripper in the last four games. After a 3-for-5 effort in Stockton on April 17th, Posey had seen his batting average climb to .471 (16-for-34) through the first nine games.

While it was impossible for Posey to maintain that high of an average over the course of the season, there were rarely any hiccups for the elite prospect throughout the first half. The final two days of a series in High Desert in late-April saw Posey combine for five hits, including two doubles, a home run and six RBI’s. He homered again two days later and would finish April with a .366 batting average and 20 RBI’s in 20 games.

The only slump Posey endured during his time with the SJ Giants was over the first two weeks of May – a 3-for-27 slide spanning nine games that dropped his season average below .300. Meanwhile, San Jose fell out of first place in the North Division standings, but the slump, both for Posey and the team, would not last.

Starting on May 10, Posey would hit safely in 13 out of his next 16 games. From May 18-23 (six games), Posey clubbed three homers, collected a whopping 14 RBI’s and knocked out nine hits. With the hot streak, Posey was back above .300 and the Giants had regained their footing in the first half race.

The contest on May 30 began Posey’s longest hit streak with the Giants – a 10-game run through the second week of June. Posey’s most memorable individual moment with San Jose came during the streak when on Friday, June 5 versus Bakersfield at Municipal Stadium, he stepped to the plate to begin the bottom of the 13th inning and crushed a walk-off solo home run to left center. The homer, Posey’s 10th of the season, was his first walk-off HR as a professional and gave the Giants a critical late-first half win.

After a brief road trip in Bakersfield, San Jose returned to Municipal Stadium for their final homestand of the first half. At the time, the Giants were just one game out of first place. 10 games were left – all against division rivals – with a playoff berth and a first round bye at stake. And with Posey leading the way, San Jose steamrolled through the competition to takeover the division lead. The Giants won five out of the six contests during the last homestand with Posey hitting safely in all six of the games. During the stretch, he rapped out 12 hits in 20 at-bats for a sizzling .600 batting average while also producing three doubles and two RBI’s. Performing at a high level in the season’s biggest games was prevalent even in the early stages of Posey’s professional career.

San Jose then embarked on a road trip to Stockton for their final series of the half. In the third-to-last-game, Posey belted another home run as the Giants secured a key victory. The next night, San Jose won in 10 innings to officially clinch the first half North Division title for a league-record fifth consecutive season. The Giants ended the half with a 42-28 record – two games ahead of Modesto and three games in front of Visalia.

Posey hit .328 with 11 home runs in the first half of the 2009 season and that production was more than enough to earn him All-Star honors. Posey started for the Cal League behind the plate in the California-Carolina League All-Star Game down in Lake Elsinore and went 1-for-2 with an RBI single in the contest (the Cal League won by a 2-1 score).

The general feeling at the time was that Posey’s days as a San Jose Giant were numbered. He had clearly established himself as one of the elite hitters in the league and while it was uncommon for a player in his first full professional season to advance to the upper levels of the system, clearly Posey was not your run-of-the-mill player. He was handling the rigors of catching everyday and calling his own game with ease. Offensively, Posey was perhaps the most feared hitter in the league and just helped the Giants win a division title.

Posey hit .326 with 13 home runs and 58 RBI's in 80 games with the San Jose Giants during the 2009 season

Posey hit .326 with 13 home runs and 58 RBI’s in 80 games with the San Jose Giants during the 2009 season

As it turned out, Posey spent just the first three weeks of the second half with San Jose before receiving a well-deserved promotion. He had multi-hits in five out of his last 10 games while homering twice during the stretch. His final game in a San Jose uniform came on July 13 in Visalia – a 17-1 thrashing of the host Rawhide to complete a four-game sweep. Posey went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles, three runs scored and an RBI that night as San Jose had run out to a 16-3 start to the second half. The Cal League was no match for Posey and the next day he was promoted, not to Double-A, but all the way to Triple-A Fresno.

Posey was clearly on the fast-track to the major leagues. He hit .321 in 35 games with the Grizzlies over the next month and a half before receiving a September call-up to San Francisco. Posey had become one of a very small handful of players in San Jose Giants history to play for San Jose and San Francisco in the same season (Madison Bumgarner accomplished the same feat in 2009).

Posey only received 17 at-bats that September in “The Show” as he played a secondary role on the big league club. He returned to Fresno to begin 2010, but after batting .349 with six home runs in 47 games, it was clear that he had nothing else to prove at the minor league level. Posey was promoted, for good, to San Francisco during the final week of May and what transpired next was the beginning of a truly legendary career in the major leagues. Posey hit .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBI’s in roughly two-thirds of a big league season that summer to win the Rookie of the Year award and propel the franchise to great heights. His overwhelming success continued through the playoffs as the Giants won their first World Championship in 56 years. Since, Posey has taken home an MVP award and won two more titles.

It’s a professional career for Buster Posey that kicked-off in impressive fashion while a member of the San Jose Giants back in 2008 and 2009. Now, still at just age 27, Posey has already established himself as one of the all-time great players in Giants history.

Posey Fun Facts
• Of the 173 former San Jose Giants to have reached the major leagues, Posey is the only one to have won a Most Valuable Player Award. He’s also the only former SJ Giant to have won a Rookie of the Year.
• In addition to his three World Championships in San Francisco, Posey also has a California League championship ring after the 2009 San Jose Giants won the title. 2009 was Posey’s only full season in the minor leagues. At the time of Posey’s promotion to Triple-A, San Jose was 58-31 (.652). The Giants then went 35-16 (.686) for the remainder of the season en route to a team-record 93 wins. Posey had already reached the big leagues when San Jose swept High Desert in September to claim the title.
• In 80 games with the San Jose Giants during the 2009 season, Posey hit .326. He also produced 23 doubles, 13 home runs and 58 RBI’s. Posey walked (45) just as often as he struck out (45) and had a .428 on-base percentage. He was also 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts.
• Prior to opening the ’09 season in San Jose, Posey had played in just 15 games as a professional.
• Posey’s best month with San Jose in 2009 was June when he hit .385. He also hit .366 in April and .357 in July.
• Posey’s batting average with runners in scoring position as a San Jose Giant was .368. It was .410 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
• Posey never played an inning at the Class-A level or the Double-A level on his way to the big leagues (Arizona Rookie League to Short-Season Salem-Keizer to San Jose to Fresno to San Francisco).
• Baseball America rated Posey as the #1 prospect in the California League during the 2009 season.
• Posey is one of 17 players from the 2009 San Jose Giants to have reached the major leagues. Posey, Bumgarner and relief pitcher Dan Runzler played for both San Jose and San Francisco during the 2009 season.

Posey played for both the San Jose and San Francisco Giants in 2009

Posey played for both the San Jose and San Francisco Giants in 2009

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. A few days later, all 62 players invited to camp will have arrived with the first full squad workout scheduled for next Tuesday. Of the 62 players, 34 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 league big camp looking to make a good impression.

There were 14 former San Jose Giants on San Francisco’s World Series winning roster last fall. In all likelihood, there will be a similar number of former SJ Giants on the opening day roster at the end of the spring. In addition to returnees Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, Sergio Romo, Ryan Vogelsong, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, players such as Joe Panik and Travis Ishikawa are near-locks to make the roster after emerging with the club down the stretch last season. Matt Cain is also expected to return to full health for the start of the year after an elbow injury sidelined the workhorse right-hander during the second half of last season.

Ehire Adrianza and Juan Perez made the opening day roster last year with the latter, of course, playing a major role on the club during the playoffs. Players such as Andrew Susac, Matt Duffy and Hunter Strickland will be attempting to make their first opening day roster after each spent all of last October with the big league team. Hector Sanchez, Adam Duvall and Gary Brown have varying levels of prior experience in San Francisco with each looking to put themselves in the conversation for a spot on the team. Meanwhile, top prospects such as Kyle Crick, Steven Okert, Ty Blach and Mac Williamson will look to make a strong impression this spring to help their cause for a call-up later in the year.

A year after winning the World Series, the bulk of San Francisco’s roster is set as spring training gets underway. However, there should be some intriguing competition for the final few position player spots with multiple former SJ Giants among the top candidates.

Adrianza and Duffy figure to be in competition for a reserve infield spot on the opening day roster. Adrianza didn’t play after July 24 last season, but started to come on offensively before his injury and given that he’s out of options, is probably the more likely candidate to make the roster. A top-flight defensive player with substantial experience at shortstop, Adrianza hit .237 with six doubles and no home runs in 97 big league at-bats last season.

Former SJ Giant Matt Duffy will look to make his first big league opening day roster this spring

Former SJ Giant Matt Duffy will look to make his first big league opening day roster this spring

Meanwhile, Duffy was promoted straight from Double-A Richmond to San Francisco just after Adrianza’s season-ending injury last season. And Duffy was so impressive late in the year, primarily as a pinch-hitter, that he was included on the playoff roster and continued to make an impact through October. In 60 regular season at-bats last season with the Giants, Duffy batted .267 with a pair of doubles. Duffy has seen action almost exclusively at shortstop in the minor leagues, but was mainly a second baseman when given an opportunity to play in the field after his call-up last season. Duffy has still yet to play an inning of Triple-A ball in his career. He could force his way back onto the big league roster this spring or the organization could send him down to Sacramento to play everyday.

Duvall is another option to make the roster in a reserve role. The slugging corner infielder smacked 27 home runs in just 91 Triple-A games last season and then went deep three more times over 73 at-bats in San Francisco, but managed just a .192 batting average in “The Show.” Duvall could provide a lift as a much-needed right-handed power bat coming off the bench and will have a lot to prove this spring.

In the outfield, Perez enters another spring fighting for a spot on the opening day roster. Perez made the team coming out of camp last season, but spent the majority of the year shutting back-and-forth between Triple-A and the big leagues. He hit just .170 in 100 major league at-bats last season, but continued to play a strong defensive outfield. His greatest impact was then made in the playoffs when he supplied several big moments coming off the bench before starting Game 7 of the World Series in left field.

If the team decides they want a true fifth outfielder on the roster, then Perez figures to be the leading candidate to again make the team. It is possible though that Ishikawa, a natural first baseman, but someone who gained substantial experience in left during the playoffs last fall, could fill that role with Perez going back to Triple-A. Either way, it’s a big spring for Perez as he attempts to further establish himself at the highest level.

At the catching position, the back-up job appears to be Susac’s to lose after his strong first impression in the big leagues late last season. Regarded by many now as the #1 prospect in the organization, Susac hit .273 with eight doubles and three home runs in 88 at-bats during the regular season before spending the entire postseason on the roster. Given his success combined with Sanchez’s concussion issues last season, it’s expected that Susac will make the opening day roster for the first time in his career. Still, this will serve as an important spring for Susac as he manages those high expectations and looks to continue to show he deserves a spot on the roster.

Meanwhile, Sanchez will look to prove that he’s back at full strength and ready to help the club this season. Sanchez hit just .196 with eight doubles and three home runs in 163 at-bats last season and didn’t see any big league action after July 25.

Hunter Strickland was a September call-up last season before making the playoff roster in October

Hunter Strickland was a September call-up last season before making the playoff roster in October

On the pitching side, there are far fewer former San Jose Giants that are on the cusp of making the opening day roster. The big name to follow will be Strickland, who quickly climbed through the ranks last season. After a promotion straight from Double-A on September 1, Strickland didn’t allow a run in nine big league relief appearances and also notched a key save during the final week of the regular season. He enjoyed more success early in the postseason with another save in Game 2 of the NLDS before a humbling experience throughout the remainder of the playoffs in which he struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark. Still regarded as one of the top relief pitcher prospects in the system and a potential future closer, Strickland enters this spring with visions of making an opening day roster for the first time. A major storyline throughout the March exhibition games will be seeing how Strickland bounces back from his disappointing October.

If all of the veterans are healthy and ready for opening day (notably Cain and Tim Hudson), then there may not be a spot for Strickland on the roster (as then the likes of Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit figure to start the year in the bullpen). Still, even if Strickland doesn’t make the team coming out of camp, he almost certainly will have a role, perhaps a major one, on the 2015 San Francisco Giants eventually.

Top prospect starting pitchers Crick, Blach, Clayton Blackburn, Adalberto Mejia and Chris Stratton will also be in big league camp. None of these hurlers have yet to pitch above the Double-A level, but the spring certainly offers a great opportunity to impress in front of the big league coaching staff. The organization hopes they represent the next wave of great homegrown Giants starting pitchers. Minor league veteran and former SJ Giant standout Chris Heston was a September call-up last season and is almost certainly headed back to Triple-A, but will look for a solid spring to bolster his chances for big league time later in the year.

Former San Jose relievers Cody Hall, Steven Okert and Ray Black will be in camp as well, but all have also yet to pitch above Double-A (and in Black’s case, above the Class-A Advanced level). Relievers though can move quickly through the system and all three are obviously held in high regard by the organization as the spring opens.

A bevy of former San Jose outfielders will also be in big league camp this spring, including Brown, Williamson, Daniel Carbonell and Jarrett Parker. Only Brown has big league experience among this group as a September call-up last year. For Williamson, this spring offers a chance to get back on the field in game situations for the first time since last April when he underwent Tommy John surgery. Carbonell and Parker, like Brown, are on the 40-man roster which figures to increase their chances for a call-up later in the year.

Finally, former San Jose infielders Mitch Delfino and Kelby Tomlinson aren’t in contention for spots on the opening day roster, but will also start the spring in big league camp. Delfino had a solid 2014 season in San Jose and the Giants organization generally lacks for quality third base depth in the upper levels of the system, which should help his cause. Tomlinson, who played both shortstop and second last year in Richmond, led the Eastern League with 49 stolen bases in 2014.

All position players are due to report by Monday. San Francisco’s first spring training game is Tuesday, March 3 versus the Oakland Athletics. The 36-game Cactus League schedule runs through Saturday, April 4. The SF Giants open the regular season on Monday, April 6 at Arizona.

Top Prospects Know The Way To San Jose

By Joe Ritzo

san jose giantsSeveral former San Jose Giants have found themselves on recently released top prospect lists. Baseball America’s top 30 San Francisco prospects includes 19 players who have suited up for San Jose. Additionally, a handful of others on the list are projected to play in the California League with the Giants this season.

BASEBALL AMERICA TOP 30
(Bold indicates former San Jose Giant)
1. Andrew Susac, C
2. Tyler Beede, RHP
3. Kyle Crick, RHP
4. Keury Mella, RHP
5. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
6. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
7. Ty Blach, LHP
8. Hunter Strickland, RHP
9. Matt Duffy, SS

10. Christian Arroyo, SS/2B
11. Mac Williamson, OF
12. Chris Stratton, RHP
13. Adam Duvall, 3B/1B
14. Daniel Carbonell, OF
15. Joan Gregorio, OF

16. Aramis Garcia, C
17. Kendry Flores, RHP
18. Michael Santos, RHP
19. Cody Hall, RHP
20. Chase Johnson, RHP
21. Luis Ysla, LHP
22. Steven Okert, LHP
23. Derek Law, RHP
24. Ray Black, RHP
25. Chris Heston, RHP

26. Luis Castillo, RHP
27. Rodolfo Martinez, RHP
28. Gary Brown, OF
29. Logan Webb, RHP
30. Ryder Jones, SS/3B

Notes -
* It’s a pitching-heavy top 30 list this year. Of the 30 players mentioned by Baseball America, 20 are pitchers, including seven out of the top eight.

* Nine players on the top 30 list figure to be candidates to open the 2015 season with the San Jose Giants headlined by starting pitchers Tyler Beede (#2) and Keury Mella (#4). Beede was San Francisco’s first round draft pick last June (14th overall selection) out of Vanderbilt. He saw limited action late last summer after signing his professional contact with the AZL-Giants (Rookie-level) and Salem-Keizer (Short-Season). Meanwhile, Mella made 18 starts between Augusta (Class-A) and Salem-Keizer in 2014 and was a combined 4-4 with a 3.45 ERA. He struck out 83 and walked just 19 in 86 innings pitched.

* Additional candidates from the top 30 list to begin this season in San Jose include #10 Christian Arroyo, a middle infield prospect drafted in the first round out of high school two years ago. Last season with Salem-Keizer, Arroyo batted .333 to rank second in the Northwest League. #15 Joan Gregorio, #20 Chase Johnson and #21 Luis Ysla are all starting pitchers who could also be ticketed for the Cal League this season, which would give San Jose a prospect-laden rotation. Gregorio opened last year with the Giants (five starts), but spent most of 2014 in Augusta (3.57 ERA). He was placed on the 40-man roster last November. Johnson is a former third round pick (4.57 ERA in Augusta last year) while Ysla led the South Atlantic League with a 2.45 ERA as a member of the Augusta GreenJackets in 2014. #16 Aramis Garcia (a catcher) and #30 Ryder Jones (a third baseman), the last two second round picks of the SF Giants, are possibilities for San Jose’s opening day roster as well. Both Garcia and Jones though ended last season in Salem-Keizer and thus are also strong candidates to begin 2015 in Augusta. Finally, #24 Ray Black spent most of 2014 in the GreenJackets bullpen before a late-August promotion to San Jose. Now on the 40-man roster, Black is ranked by Baseball America as having the best fastball in the farm system (he hit 101 MPH in an appearance at Municipal Stadium last season). He could return to the Cal League this April or be fast-tracked to the upper levels of the system.

* Susac replaces Crick as the #1 prospect in the Giants organization. Susac was ranked #11 entering last season. Susac and Garcia are the only catchers on this year’s top 30 list.

* Only three outfielders crack the top 30 this year (all former San Jose Giants) in #11 Williamson, #14 Carbonell and #28 Brown. The trio will all be in big league camp to start spring training. Most likely, Williamson and Carbonell are headed to Double-A Richmond in April while Brown probably returns to Triple-A.

* Six players on the top 30 list have already seen time in the big leagues: #1 Susac, #8 Strickland, #9 Duffy, #13 Duvall, #25 Heston and #28 Brown.

* Flores (#17) and Castillo (#26) were traded to the Marlins last December in the deal that brought third baseman Casey McGehee to San Francisco. Flores was a member of San Jose’s starting rotation in 2014 while Castillo pitched out of the Augusta bullpen last season and thus could have been an SJ Giant this year.

* 2014 San Jose Giants on the list: #11 Williamson, #12 Stratton, #14 Carbonell, #15 Gregorio, #17 Flores, #22 Okert and #24 Black.

* The players who saw the biggest jumps in their Baseball America prospect ranking from last year to this year:
– Susac #11 to #1
– Mella #13 to #4
– Blackburn #10 to #5
– Strickland unranked to #8
– Duffy unranked to #9
– Duvall unranked to #13
– Hall #27 to #19
– Ysla unranked to #21
– Black unranked to #24

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MLB.com also has a top 20 San Francisco Giants prospects list:

1. Crick
2. Beede
3. Susac
4. Mejia
5. Mella
6. Blach
7. Blackburn
8. Stratton
9. Garcia
10. Okert
11. Ysla
12. Arroyo
13. Strickland
14. Jones
15. Williamson
16. Law
17. Duffy
18. Gregorio
19. Hall
20. Brown

When They Were San Jose Giants: Hunter Strickland

By Joe Ritzo

Hunter Strickland had a 0.86 ERA and was a perfect 9-for-9 in save chances with the San Jose Giants during the 2013 season

Hunter Strickland had a 0.86 ERA and was a perfect 9-for-9 in save chances with the San Jose Giants during the 2013 season

Hunter Strickland began his 2014 season pitching out of the San Jose bullpen as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. By early-September, he had climbed all the way to the major leagues. One of 16 former San Jose Giants on San Francisco’s playoff rosters last fall, Strickland enjoyed a quick rise through the farm system in 2014. Before he became a World Champion though, Strickland had a pair of stints in the California League, including a memorable first half of 2013 in which he earned All-Star honors. Here’s a look back at his tenure as a San Jose Giant…

Originally drafted out of the high school ranks by the Boston Red Sox in 2007, Strickland was primarily a starting pitcher early in his professional career. After 2 1/2 years in the Red Sox system, he was traded to Pittsburgh in July of 2009. His 2010 season then was limited to just 12 appearances before Strickland missed all of 2011 due to shoulder surgery. He returned to action in 2012 and received his first taste of Double-A ball that summer, working exclusively as a reliever for the first time in his career.

Strickland entered the 2013 campaign as a member of Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster, but was designated for assignment just days before the minor league opening day. It was then that the Giants took action as they picked-up Strickland off of waivers and placed him on their own 40-man roster. He was promptly assigned to San Jose and joined the Giants just before their opening day.

Then 25 years old, Strickland made his Giants organizational debut in San Jose’s second game of 2013 – a road contest in Visalia. He took the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Giants trailing 1-0 and fired a hitless frame with one strikeout. San Jose ultimately lost the game, but Strickland showcased an impressive mid 90’s fastball during his outing and appeared poised to play a major role out of the Giants bullpen going forward.

He pitched next four days later in Stockton, this time with the Giants holding onto a lead. He entered in the bottom of the seventh and fired a 1-2-3 inning notching a pair of groundouts and a strikeout as San Jose eventually won the game by a 5-2 score.

Two days later, the Giants opened their home schedule in front of a packed house at Municipal Stadium. In a wildly entertaining game, Strickland was summoned out of the ‘pen in the top of the ninth with the score tied 2-2. He allowed one single in the frame, but promptly struck out the side in dominating fashion to light up the home crowd. The Giants then pushed across a run in the bottom of the ninth to win in walk-off fashion. The result was a win for Strickland in his first-ever game at Municipal Stadium.

It had only been three appearances, but that was all manager Andy Skeels needed to see. From that point forward, Skeels had no hesitation inserting Strickland into the game’s biggest moments, whether it was to close out a contest or keep the score tied. On April 13, Skeels turned to Strickland in the top of the ninth to wrap-up a 1-0 affair against Visalia. Strickland needed just 11 pitches to retire the side as the right-hander didn’t allow a hit, recorded one strikeout and slammed the door on the Rawhide for his first California League save.

On April 20 at Inland Empire, Strickland gave up his first run of the year, but still finished the ninth inning to pick-up another save. Three days later at home versus Modesto, Strickland surrendered a 10th inning solo homer. The long ball temporarily gave the Nuts the lead, but the Giants would answer with a run of their own in the bottom of the frame to extend the contest and get Strickland off the hook. It turned out to be the last run that Strickland would allow for the year out of the San Jose bullpen.

Strickland closed out April with an impressive 1.80 ERA and two saves in 10 relief appearances. He struck out 10 batters in 10 innings while yielding just seven hits. With his sizzling fastball, power slider and pinpoint control, Strickland had already established himself as one of the top relievers in the league. In May though, he took his game to another level.

Strickland collected his first two-inning save of the year on May 2 versus Bakersfield surrendering just one hit with one strikeout and throwing only 18 pitches to preserve a 4-2 Giants victory. In fact, he picked-up a save in four out of his first five appearances in May as San Jose took control of the first half North Division race.

His first back-to-back outings came on May 10 and 11 against the High Desert Mavericks at Municipal Stadium. Over the two appearances, Strickland retired all six batters he faced, including five via the strikeout (he struck out the side in the second of the back-to-back games) to pick-up a pair of saves. It was becoming clear that the Giants had something special in Hunter Strickland.

He recorded back-to-back saves again a week later in Rancho Cucamonga – again not allowing a hit in either appearance. After a perfect inning on May 20 at Inland Empire, Strickland took the mound next on the 23rd as the Giants battled High Desert in Adelanto. Strickland had been perfect in save opportunities for the year up to that point, but things quickly got tense as he tried to maintain a 2-1 advantage. After a leadoff walk and a strikeout, the runner at first stole second base. And then when the throw from catcher Jeff Arnold sailed into center field, the tying run advanced all the way to third. What happened next were all guts on the part of Strickland as he struck out High Desert’s best hitter, Chris Taylor, for the second out before inducing a weak groundout to shortstop to end the game. At the end of the night, Strickland was still perfect in save chances as the Giants recorded a key 2-1 win, but unfortunately for the right-hander, he would not throw another pitch the rest of the season. Strickland’s effort was documented here by Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area:

“Hunter Strickland was in the midst of a dominant season as the closer for San Jose last year, overwhelming hitters in the Single-A California league with his 96 mph fastball, when he felt a pop.

It came on an inside fastball May 23 at High Desert. It came with a runner on third. It came with two outs in the ninth, and the Giants leading by a run.

‘My mentality was that I still had a job to do,’ said Strickland, who walked a lap around the mound before ascending it again. ‘I threw four or five more pitches and felt it pop every time. It just got stiffer and stiffer. It wasn’t unbearable or anything. And I just needed to get one more out.’

Strickland got the out on a grounder, the Giants won and he recorded his ninth save. Then he gave left-handed high fives through the handshake line, his right arm limp at his side. He had Tommy John surgery before the month was out.”

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Strickland (R) returned to San Jose for the California-Carolina League All-Star Game just weeks after undergoing Tommy John surgery

Strickland (R) returned to San Jose for the California-Carolina League All-Star Game just weeks after undergoing Tommy John surgery

Strickland’s season was over, but he made quite the impression as San Jose’s closer during their run to the first half division title. In 20 appearances, he fashioned a 0.86 ERA with just 10 hits and two runs allowed over 21 innings. Strickland walked just five, struck out 23 and was 9-for-9 in save chances. For his efforts, he was named to the midseason California League All-Star team. The All-Star game against the Carolina League was held at Municipal Stadium that June, but of course, Strickland had to watch from the dugout, as he recovered from the elbow surgery that had taken place just a couple of weeks earlier.

Still in the early-stages of his recovery, Strickland actually returned to the San Jose team that September to provide emotional support in the bullpen and in the clubhouse as the team embarked on their playoff run. In thrilling fashion, the Giants outlasted Visalia to win the North Division title, but couldn’t use that momentum to take home the title as Inland Empire swept San Jose in the best-of-five Championship Series.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants continued to show faith in Strickland as they kept him on the 40-man roster as the 2014 season approached. His rehab progressed throughout spring training and the early portion of last season before he was finally ready to pitch in a game. Healthy again, the organization sent Strickland back to the San Jose Giants, where he was expected to spend several weeks before moving up to Double-A.

Almost one year to the day from his fateful night in High Desert, Strickland took the mound on May 20, 2014 as the Giants hosted the Stockton Ports at Muni. He entered in the top of the sixth and allowed one run on two hits in his one inning of work. Strickland struck out one and showed, seemingly, no effects of missing a year as his fastball routinely sat in the mid-to-upper 90’s.

Strickland’s next two appearances later in the homestand were spectacular. He struck out the side in a 1-2-3 frame against Visalia on the 24th. Two days later, he did the same – three more strikeouts in a perfect inning – also against the Rawhide. The original plan had been for Strickland to spend a few weeks in San Jose to ease himself back into action. The flame-throwing reliever though was so impressive that the Giants front office bypassed their plan and decided he was more than ready for a promotion to Double-A.

On May 27, he was assigned to Richmond and a day later, made his Flying Squirrels debut. As one of Richmond’s primary late-inning relievers, Strickland notched a 2.02 ERA and was 11-for-11 in save chances while recording 48 strikeouts compared to just four walks in 35 2/3 innings. He earned a September call-up to San Francisco – remarkably just a little over three months after pitching in San Jose. And in “The Show” that September, Strickland didn’t allow a single run in seven innings. He fanned nine, didn’t walk a batter and collected a key save during the season’s final week at Dodger Stadium against L.A. In spite of having never pitched an inning in Triple-A, and just a year removed from Tommy John surgery, the Giants decided to put Strickland on their playoff roster. And while he endured some growing pains throughout the playoffs, Strickland recorded several key outs early in the postseason, including the winner-take-all wild card contest in Pittsburgh and in the NLDS versus the Nationals. It was Strickland who threw the last pitch in the longest game in Major League Baseball playoff history when he fired a scoreless bottom of the 18th inning at Washington to record the save and give the Giants a commanding 2-0 series lead. A few weeks later, Strickland, who had been in Double-A just two months earlier and a San Jose Giant three months before that, was a World Champion.

Strickland Facts
• Strickland did not allow a run in his last 12 appearances with San Jose in 2013 before the injury. He totaled 13 innings during that span with just four hits allowed, three walks and 15 strikeouts (.098 opponents batting average). He did not surrender a hit in his last seven outings (7 IP, 12 K’s).
• Strickland made 23 relief appearances with the San Jose Giants over the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He combined for a 1-0 record with a 1.13 ERA and was a perfect 9-for-9 in save chances.
• Strickland was one of eight San Jose Giants to be named to the 2013 California League All-Star team.
• Prior to joining San Jose, Strickland had only three career saves in five professional seasons.
• Strickland’s major league debut on September 1, 2014 was only 98 days after he last pitched for San Jose (May 26).

Quotable

Hunter Strickland – San Jose Giants Pregame Show May 24, 2014
On the rehab process…
“It’s never easy to sit and watch your teammates play, but at the same time you have to be supportive and play the cards you were dealt. For the most part, the rehab went by pretty quick. You just have to be positive about it and take it as it goes. I was blessed. I never had any setbacks.”

On the Giants organization keeping him on the 40-man roster throughout his long rehab…
“This is an unbelievable organization and I’m excited to be in this situation and to keep moving forward and eventually help them win a World Series.”

On his role as a reliever after starting earlier in his pro career…
“This role is perfect for me. Being given the closer role last year (in San Jose), it finally feels like I found out who I am. I don’t want to do anything different. I love the pressure.”

San Jose pitching coach Mike Couchee – San Jose Giants Pregame Show May 27, 2014

“I see him picking up right where he left off before he was injured, maybe even a click better than where he was. Obviously Hunter is not a High-A ball pitcher and I think everyone knows that. But it’s important to break him back into it slow. The first night he pitched, it was his first time under the lights in a year. Obviously the stuff and the results are important, but to me, it’s having some of these younger kids see how he approaches the game and how he goes about his business, both during the game and his preparation before the game. He’s the whole package.”

Giants Minor League Camp Schedule

Giants minor league spring training begins March 4

Giants minor league spring training begins March 4

Major league spring training for the San Francisco Giants is set to begin next 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 first week of March before a 2 1/2 week exhibition game slate against other farm teams.

San Francisco’s minor league spring training officially begins on Wednesday, March 4 when all international players are due to report. U.S. players will report on Friday, March 6 before the first full workout on Saturday, March 7. Giants minor leaguers will participate in several workouts and intra-squad games over the following days before their exhibition opener on Wednesday, March 18.

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 Sacramento River Cats, Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels, High-A San Jose Giants and Class-A Augusta GreenJackets). Beginning on the 18th, 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 a 15-game exhibition schedule over the following 2 1/2 weeks against other organizations in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.

Minor leaguers play their spring training home games at the Giants Baseball Complex - a short drive from Scottsdale Stadium

Minor leaguers play their spring training home games at the Giants Baseball Complex – a short drive from Scottsdale Stadium

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 18 – vs. Diamondbacks
Thursday, March 19 – at Rockies
Friday, March 20 – at Brewers
Saturday, March 21 – vs. Athletics
Monday, March 23 – at Angels
Thursday, March 24 – at Cubs
Wednesday, March 25 – vs. Rockies
Thursday, March 26 – vs. Angels
Friday, March 27 – at A’s
Saturday, March 28 – vs. Diamondbacks
Monday, March 30 – at Cubs
Tuesday, March 31 – vs. Angels
Wednesday, April 1 – at Rockies
Thursday, April 2 – vs. Cubs
Friday, April 3 – at Angels

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 and Cubs home games are played in Mesa, Angels home games are in Tempe and Brewers home games are played in Maryvale.

11 of San Jose’s 15 spring training games are against teams from the California League with four contests against Inland Empire (Angels), three games against Modesto (Rockies), two games versus Stockton (Athletics) and two games against Visalia (Diamondbacks). The four remaining games will be played against Myrtle Beach – the Cubs’ High-A affiliate from the Carolina League (three games) and Brevard County – the Brewers’ High-A affiliate from the Florida State League (one game).

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 2015 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 9 in Lancaster.

The primary field at the Giants minor league facility in Scottsdale

The primary field at the Giants minor league facility in Scottsdale

Another field at the Giants minor league facility

Another field at the Giants minor league facility

Episode 45 – 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 this podcast episode. The two address Mac Williamson returning from injury, where some of the elite prospects in the organization could start this season and which relief pitchers end up on the “fast track” to the big leagues in 2015. They also examine which players are in need of a bounce back year and the recent high draft picks who could play in San Jose this season.

Giants Minor League Camp Storylines

By Joe Ritzo

Spring training gets underway in less than two weeks while we’re now exactly two months from the San Jose Giants season opener. The San Francisco Giants (all members of the 40-man roster plus the 22 non-roster invitees) will hold their first official full team workout of the spring on February 24 while all remaining minor leaguers report to camp during the first week of March.

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 primary storylines in Giants minor league camp this year, involving both former and potential future San Jose players:

Mac Williamson's health this spring is a main storyline after he missed the majority of the 2014 season

Mac Williamson’s health this spring is a main storyline after he missed the majority of the 2014 season

Mac Williamson’s Health
Top outfield prospect Mac Williamson missed nearly the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his ailing right elbow. The former third round draft pick enjoyed a stellar 2013 campaign in San Jose when he blasted 25 home runs, collected 89 RBI’s and hit at a .292 clip. By all reports, Williamson is expected to be a full participant in camp this spring. Can he pick-up where he left off and after sitting out for almost a year, does the organization feel he’s ready for the Double-A test right out of the gate?

Kyle Crick – Double-A or Triple-A?
After a dominant second half of 2013 in San Jose, Kyle Crick endured an up-and-down 2014 season with the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels. The positives last year included 111 strikeouts in just 90 innings, a solid .234 opponents batting average and a respectable 3.79 ERA. The negatives: six walks per nine innings and high pitch counts that resulted in an average of just over four innings per start. Crick is still just 22 and remains one of the elite pitching prospects in the system. This spring may help determine whether he receives a promotion to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League or if he’s sent back to Double-A. Crick, like Williamson, is a non-roster invitee to big league camp, but will probably be sent down by the time minor league spring games start in mid-March.

2014 Draft Class – Who Jumps To San Jose?
Every year there are a handful of players who begin their first full professional season with an assignment to San Jose. Blake Miller and Brian Ragira did it in 2014 while Williamson and Ty Blach were among the first-year pros on SJ’s 2013 roster. The Giants took several college players with their early picks last June and many could find their way to the California League this April. Possibilities include first rounder Tyler Beede, a top starting pitching prospect out of Vanderbilt. Catcher Aramis Garcia (2nd round), outfielders Dylan Davis (3rd round) and Austin Slater (8th round) and first baseman Skyler Ewing (6th round) could also make the jump. Which of these players (or others from the 2014 draft class) will perform well enough this spring to warrant a promotion to San Jose?

Which Relievers Are Fast-Tracked?
The San Francisco Giants feature several exciting relief pitcher prospects in their system right now and a few could be placed on the “fast-track” to the big leagues at the conclusion of spring training. Ray Black missed the first three years of his pro career due to arm injuries before finally seeing the field last season. Armed with an upper 90’s fastball that routinely hit triple-digits, Black dominated in Augusta (Class-A) last year, impressed after a late-season promotion to San Jose and is now on the 40-man roster. What does Black show in camp and could it be enough to receive a jump to the upper levels of the system come April? Lefty Steven Okert also had a breakout year in 2014 notching 24 saves between San Jose and Richmond before a standout Arizona Fall League. Like Black, Okert will start in big league camp. Will he then continue his quick rise with a promotion to Triple-A? Cody Hall, Josh Osich, Bryce Bandilla and Tyler Rogers are among some of the other relief pitchers who have had strong stretches over the last couple of years. Relievers can move quickly – remember that Hunter Strickland went from Double-A to the late-innings in San Francisco instantly … could the groundwork be laid this spring for someone to follow a similar path in 2015?

Youngsters
The Giants took a pair of high school position players with their first two picks in 2013: shortstop Christian Arroyo (1st round) and third baseman Ryder Jones (2nd round). Arroyo, who is still just 19 years old, struggled last April in Augusta before a spectacular summer in Salem-Keizer (.333 AVG, 5 HR, 48 RBI). Meanwhile, Jones (age 20) had more success with the GreenJackets, but a mid-summer slump resulted in a demotion to Salem. Will either be considered for a spot on San Jose’s opening day roster this spring or do they need to show more in Augusta first?

Infielder Blake Miller enjoyed a breakout 2014 season in San Jose - now where does he open 2015?

Infielder Blake Miller enjoyed a breakout 2014 season in San Jose – now where does he open 2015?

2014 Breakout Performers – What’s Next?
There were several breakout performers during the 2014 Giants minor league season – now what do they have in store for an encore? 25th round pick Blake Miller came of nowhere to win San Jose’s team-MVP award last year. Miller spent the last month of the season in Double-A where he more than held his own offensively (.304 AVG). Miller has bounced around the infield a bit throughout his career – does he settle in on one position this spring and will he head back to Richmond? Outfielder Tyler Horan smacked 25 home runs between Augusta and San Jose in 2014 (ranked second in the Giants farm system in HR’s) before a playoff promotion to Richmond. The Flying Squirrels outfield could be crowded with exciting prospects this April (Williamson & Daniel Carbonell to name two strong possibilities), does Horan join the group? Brian Ragira emerged in the second half last season in San Jose hitting 14 of his 20 homers after the All-Star break. Was that enough for the first baseman to move up and now get his first taste of Double-A? Middle infielder Kelby Tomlinson led the Eastern League with 49 steals in 2014 and is a non-roster invitee to big league camp. Could a strong spring for Tomlinson result in a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento?

On the pitching side, Joe Kurrasch (3.05 ERA in 15 starts) impressed in the San Jose rotation last season as a breakout performer and will be fighting for a spot on the Richmond staff this spring. Fellow lefty Matt Lujan won 12 games between Augusta and San Jose in 2014 to lead the Giants farm system. He’ll also be pushing for a spot with the Flying Squirrels this spring. Luis Ysla (2.45 ERA in 23 starts) and Christian Jones (3.33 ERA in 22 starts) performed well in the Augusta rotation last season and figure to each be competing for San Jose spots.

Bouncing Back
Conversely, there are a handful of players who endured some struggles in 2014 and will look to this spring as a launching point for a bounce back season. First baseman Angel Villalona is no longer on the 40-man roster, but remains an intriguing prospect due to his powerful bat. He hit just .227 with 10 home runs in Double-A last season. Villalona has played in Richmond the last year and a half – will this spring finally result in a move up to Triple-A? Former third round pick Ricky Oropesa also has struggled to get on track in Double-A (.241 AVG, 5 HR in ’14) and could use a strong spring to help his cause. Martin Agosta, a second round selection in 2012, had a difficult season in San Jose (9.23 ERA in 11 starts) and is in desperate need of a bounce back year. This spring should help determine whether Agosta gets another crack at the California League.

Any Surprises?
Will there be surprises with the roster assignments for any of the top prospects in the system? If not, look for Ty Blach and Clayton Blackburn to anchor the Triple-A Sacramento rotation while Daniel Carbonell and Mac Williamson lead the way in the Double-A Richmond lineup. Meanwhile, top starting pitching prospect Keury Mella should move up to San Jose.

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When They Were San Jose Giants: Travis Ishikawa

By Joe Ritzo

Travis Ishikawa was a member of the 2005 and 2007 San Jose Giants championship teams

Travis Ishikawa was a member of the 2005 and 2007 San Jose Giants championship teams

Travis Ishikawa supplied one of the biggest hits in Giants franchise history last fall when he blasted a walk-off home run in Game 5 of the NLCS to send San Francisco to the World Series. Prior to his playoff heroics and a whirlwind four years from 2011-14 that saw him play for six different organizations, Ishikawa climbed through the Giants farm system as a top first base prospect. He made his first appearance in San Jose over a decade ago and was a member of two California League championship teams. Here’s a look back at Ishikawa’s memorable career as a San Jose Giant….

Ishikawa was originally a 21st round pick of the San Francisco Giants in the 2002 draft out of the high school ranks. Instead of playing college baseball, the Giants were able to convince Ishikawa to sign a large bonus, so his professional career began as an 18-year old in the Arizona Rookie League. It was initially a slow rise for Ishikawa through the farm system as he saw time with Short-Season Salem-Keizer and Class-A Hagerstown in 2003. He returned to Hagerstown in ’04 and was one of their top power hitters before earning a late-season promotion to San Jose.

Still only 20 years old, Ishikawa made his Cal League debut on August 19, 2004 at Municipal Stadium as the Giants hosted the Visalia Oaks. Starting at first base, Ishikawa finished the game 1-for-3 with a double, a walk and an RBI. Four days later in his first-ever road game with the Giants, Ishikawa connected for a pair of doubles and drove in five runs as San Jose outlasted the host Lancaster JetHawks to clinch the North Division Wild Card playoff berth. It would mark the first of a league-record ten straight playoff appearances for the San Jose franchise – a streak that lasted through the 2013 season.

Ishikawa hit his first of many home runs in a San Jose uniform on September 1 – a two-run shot against the Lake Elsinore Storm at Municipal Stadium. In his 16 games with the Giants to end 2004, Ishikawa batted .232 with seven doubles, a home run and 10 RBI’s. Unfortunately, San Jose’s playoff run that September ended with a heartbreaking Game 5 loss to the heavily favored Modesto A’s in the North Division Series. South Bay Giants fans though hadn’t seen the last of Ishikawa.

The 2005 campaign began with high expectations for Ishikawa. After getting a brief taste of the California League at the end of the previous season, he returned to San Jose the following April. The ’05 squad under manager Lenn Sakata featured a powerful starting lineup that included sluggers Nate Schierholtz, Kevin Frandsen, Eddy Martinez-Esteve, Eliezer Alfonzo and Ishikawa. The Giants started slow dropping nine out of their first 11 games with Ishikawa managing just a .189 batting average during the stretch. But as their first baseman got hot, so did the team. Ishikawa settled into the seventh spot in the San Jose lineup and belted three home runs over a five-game span during the final week of April. With Ishikawa helping lead the way, the Giants quickly got out of their funk moving above .500 and not long after that, into first place in the North Division.

Starting exclusively at first base, Ishikawa had several memorable games as San Jose continued their march towards the first half crown. On May 30 against Bakersfield at Muni, Ishikawa was a perfect 3-for-3 with a triple, a home run and five RBI’s. On June 18 versus Modesto, he homered again as part of a five-RBI night at the plate. Three days later with Lancaster in town, Ishikawa produced his first multi-homer game when he smacked two long balls in a Giants victory. For the month of June, Ishikawa hit a sizzling .365 in 21 games with six doubles, five home runs and 18 RBI’s. His OPS for the month was an incredible 1.156. Meanwhile, the Giants ran away with the first half North Division title and secured their berth in the playoffs.

Ishikawa (L) and Nate Schierholtz were two of the offensive leaders on San Jose's record-setting 2005 club

Ishikawa (L) and Nate Schierholtz were two of the offensive leaders on San Jose’s record-setting 2005 club

Despite being one of the youngest players on the San Jose team, Ishikawa continued to impress throughout the second half bolstering his top prospect status. Ishikawa’s six home runs in July were his top mark for a month that season. Ishikawa also enjoyed a nice stretch through early-August producing multi-hits in six out of ten games. On August 25, he slugged his 20th home run of the season as part of a three-hit, four-RBI night in Modesto. Ishikawa then homered in back-to-back games to finish the season increasing his total to 22.

The 2005 San Jose Giants set team records for batting average, runs scored and home runs en route to a league-best 85-55 ledger. Ishikawa’s 22 home runs led the squad while he ranked third in doubles (28) and RBI’s (79) to go with a .282 batting average.

The Giants ultimately won the California League title that September, sweeping Modesto in the Division Series before rallying from an 0-2 deficit to knock off Lake Elsinore in the best-of-five Championship Series. During the playoffs, Ishikawa hit .217 (5-for-23) with a double and four RBI’s.

Ishikawa’s outstanding year in the California League resulted in a promotion to Double-A Connecticut for the start of the 2006 season. And when San Francisco was hit with injuries early in the year, it was Ishikawa that received a surprise promotion to the big leagues all the way from Double-A. He made his major league debut on April 18, 2006 as a pinch-hitter in Arizona and a day later, he came off the bench again and singled for his first hit in “The Show.”

Ishikawa returned to Connecticut after his two-game stint, but then earned a prompt promotion back to the Giants five weeks later. His first start came on May 26 at home against Colorado and Ishikawa made the most of the opportunity knocking out three hits in four at-bats with a pair of doubles and three RBI’s. In 12 games with San Francisco during the 2006 season (all in April, May and June), Ishikawa more than held his own batting at a .292 clip (7-for-24) with four RBI’s.

While Ishikawa had some success during his brief stints in the big leagues in 2006, the rigors of the Eastern League began to catch up with the top prospect. A difficult second half of the ’06 campaign resulted in Ishikawa finishing with just a .232 batting average in 86 games for the Defenders. He returned to Connecticut to start the 2007 season, but the struggles continued. Over 48 games as a repeat player in Double-A, Ishikawa managed only a .214 batting average and three home runs. All of a sudden, despite a successful cup of coffee in San Francisco, Ishikawa’s career had begun to stagnate.

On June 28, 2007, Ishikawa was demoted back to San Jose. The ’07 Giants, still under Sakata, had already clinched a playoff berth after winning their third straight first half North Division title. First base had been shared by several players throughout the first half that season, but it was Ishikawa that was expected to anchor the position for the remainder of the year as he attempted to get his career back on track.

It was a unique situation in that Ishikawa had major league experience, but yet found himself back at the Class-A Advanced level. To his credit, Ishikawa took the demotion in stride. He homered twice in his first week back in a San Jose uniform and had multi-hits five times in his first 11 games. Ishikawa posted a .329 batting average in his first 19 games, primarily batting fifth in the order – one spot ahead of future big leaguer Pablo Sandoval.

While Ishikawa couldn’t maintain a .300 batting average, his power surge continued through late-July and August. He homered in back-to-back games on July 27 and 28 at home versus Lake Elsinore and then went deep two more times the next week on the road. Ishikawa produced his first multi-homer game of the season on August 17 in Modesto when he crushed two round-trippers during a three-hit night. He then connected for three more home runs over the last ten days of the regular season as the Giants looked to build momentum heading into the playoffs.

In 56 games with San Jose during the ’07 season, Ishikawa batted .268 with 15 doubles, 13 home runs and 34 RBI’s. Despite spending the first three months of the year in Double-A, he still ranked third on the club in homers. While Ishikawa and Sandoval were the headliners, that 2007 lineup also included future big leaguers Brian Bocock, Antoan Richardson and Travis Denker.

The 2007 playoffs developed much like 2005 for Ishikawa and the Giants. Just as they did two years earlier, San Jose dispatched of Modesto in the Division Series before battling Lake Elsinore in the final round. And exactly like in ’05, the Giants dropped the first two games of the Championship Series down south to fall into an 0-2 hole. But with Ishikawa helping lead the way offensively, San Jose rallied. The Giants shutout the Storm by a 2-0 score in Game 3 before a convincing 6-1 win in Game 4. The winner-take-all fifth game saw Ishikawa starting at his usual first base position and batting sixth in the order. A run in the bottom of the third gave San Jose the lead that night before Bocock belted a three-run homer in the fourth to make the score 5-1. Then in what turned out to be his final at-bat in a San Jose uniform, Ishikawa provided the exclamation point on another championship season when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning and launched a two-run homer to deep right. The blast extended the lead to 7-1 and the Giants maintained the six-run cushion in the top of the ninth to wrap-up another title.

Overall, Ishikawa homered twice in the ’07 playoffs while collecting five RBI’s and batting .241 over eight games.

The return to San Jose jumpstarted Ishikawa’s career. He returned to Connecticut in 2008 and batted .289 in half a season to earn a promotion to Triple-A Fresno. With the Grizzlies, in less than two months of action, Ishikawa knocked out 16 home runs and hit .310. By mid-August, he was back in the big leagues. Ishikawa then played a central role on the 2009 and 2010 San Francisco teams playing in 236 regular season games over the two seasons. As a back-up first baseman and top pinch-hitter, Ishikawa helped the ’10 Giants claim their first World Championship in 56 years. The journey from there was a difficult one as Ishikawa returned to the minors in 2011 and bounced around between the Brewers, Orioles, Yankees, White Sox and Pirates organizations over the next three seasons. He made Pittsburgh’s opening day roster last April, but by the end of the month, had been designated for assignment.

The Pirates’ loss though was the Giants gain.

Given a second opportunity with San Francisco, Ishikawa took full advantage. After signing with the Giants in late-April, Ishikawa spent nearly three months in Fresno hoping for a chance to earn a call-up. He hit .271 with 11 home runs in 71 games for the Grizzlies last year and during the final week of July, that call finally came – he was once again a San Francisco Giant. Serving as a primary pinch-hitter and occasional starter at first base, Ishikawa provided a significant lift to the Giants down the stretch as the club pushed towards the playoffs. And then when Angel Pagan and Michael Morse suffered significant injuries, it was Ishikawa who moved out to left field during the final week of the regular season. From there, Ishikawa’s legend only grew. As the team’s main left fielder throughout the playoffs, Ishikawa provided numerous clutch hits – none bigger than his walk-off three-run homer to win the pennant – as the Giants claimed their third World Championship in five years.

Ishikawa Notes
• Ishikawa’s 22 home runs with the San Jose Giants in 2005 established a team record for most by a left-handed hitter in a single-season. The record was eventually broken by Roger Kieschnick in 2009 (23 HR).
• Ishikawa played in 199 regular season games with the San Jose Giants during the 2004, 2005 and 2007 seasons. He hit a combined .274 with 50 doubles, eight triples, 36 home runs and 123 RBI’s. Ishikawa ranks fourth in San Jose Giants history in home runs.
• Ishikawa made a name for himself last fall playing left field during the playoffs. Ishikawa never played an inning in the outfield during his three years in San Jose as he was exclusively a first baseman in the California League. Ishikawa’s first action as an outfielder as a professional came in 2011 with Fresno.
• Ishikawa entered the 2005 season ranked as the #10 prospect in the Giants organization according to Baseball America. He moved up to the #4 prospect ranking after his banner ’05 campaign in the California League.

News and Notes: Crick Ranked Among Top 100 Prospects, FanFest, Spring Training Report Dates

By Joe Ritzo

Kyle Crick was ranked #79 on the MLB.com top 100 prospects list last week

Kyle Crick was ranked #79 on the MLB.com top 100 prospects list last week

Former San Jose Giant pitcher Kyle Crick received mention on the MLB.com Top 100 prospects list released last week. Crick, who made the top 100 list for a third straight year, has been rated the #79 overall prospect in baseball.

Crick had a dominant 2013 season in San Jose when he fashioned a 1.57 ERA and a 3-1 record in a 14 starts. The right-hander collected 95 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings while limiting the opposition to a .201 batting average. He struck out at least 10 batters in five out of his last 11 starts.

Last year in Richmond (Double-A), Crick notched a 6-7 record with a 3.79 ERA. Over 90 1/3 innings, the former supplemental first round pick struck out 111 and walked 61 with a .234 opponents batting average. While Crick often proved difficult to hit last season, he pitched past the fifth inning in only five out of his 22 starts.

MLB.com notes that “Crick’s strong build allows him to maintain 93-97 mph on his fastball, which can reach as high as 99 and also features heavy sink” and “when each of his pitches are at their best, Crick has a plus-plus fastball and three solid-or-better secondary offerings.”

Improved command of his pitches and showing the ability to go deeper into games figure to be a major point of emphasis for Crick in 2015. MLB.com adds that “Crick might be the most confounding pitching prospect in baseball” as “his upside and lack of polish remain evident after four years in pro ball.” Crick is a non-roster invitee to major league spring training this year. A major storyline during the spring will be whether the organization pushes Crick up to Triple-A for the start of the season or if he’s sent back to Richmond.

Crick is the only San Francisco Giant prospect on the MLB.com Top 100 list entering this season. Last year, Crick (#32) and Edwin Escobar (#95) were the Giants prospects in the top 100. Escobar is currently in the Boston Red Sox organization after he was traded last July. Crick (#84) and Gary Brown (#100) were top 100 prospects entering 2013. Brandon Belt earned the highest Giants ranking of the last five years when he was the #17 prospect in baseball at the start of 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 for a second straight year.

SJ GIANTS AT SAN FRANCISCO FANFEST THIS SATURDAY
The San Jose Giants will be taking part in San Francisco Giants Fanfest this Saturday, February 7 at AT&T Park. Standout 2014 San Jose first baseman Brian Ragira along with members of the San Jose front office and Gigante will be around to get fans excited about the 2015 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)

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 Wednesday, February 18. All position players must report by Monday, February 23. 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 week.

For everyone else in the organization, Giants Minor League camp is set to begin during the first week of March in Scottsdale. A full San Jose Giants spring training game schedule is coming soon.

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE MANAGERS
Nine of the ten California League teams have now announced their coaching staffs for the upcoming 2015 season:

North Division
* Bakersfield Blaze: Eddie Menchaca
Menchaca was the manager of the High Desert Mavericks last season (66-74 record). With Seattle shifting their affiliation from High Desert to Bakersfield in 2015, Menchaca makes the move as well.

* Modesto Nuts: Fred Ocasio
Ocasio, now is in his 19th year in the Rockies organization, managed Colorado’s Class-A team, the Asheville Tourists, to the South Atlantic League title last season (89-49 record). Has been a manager in the Colorado farm system since 2006.

* San Jose Giants: Russ Morman
For more on new Giants manager Russ Morman click here.

* Stockton Ports: Rick Magnante
Magnante was the manager for the Athletics Class-A team in Beloit last season (55-84 record). He was a scout in the A’s organization for nearly a decade and has been a minor league manager in their organization since 2006.

* Visalia Rawhide: J.R. House
House joins the Rawhide after managing Arizona’s Short-Season affiliate, the Hillsboro Hops, to the Northwest League championship last season (48-28 record). 2015 is only House’s second year as a manager.

South Division
* High Desert Mavericks: Spike Owen
Owen is a first-year manager. He spent the last four seasons on the coaching staff with Texas’ Triple-A affiliate, Round Rock.

* Inland Empire 66ers: Denny Hocking
Hocking returns for his second season as 66ers manager. Last year under Hocking’s leadership, Inland Empire reached the playoffs after winning the second half South Division title (37-33 record). The Sixers were 62-78 overall in 2014. This will be Hocking’s third year as a manager in the Angels system.

* Lake Elsinore Storm: TBD

* Lancaster JetHawks: Omar Lopez
Lopez begins his first year as Lancaster manager and his 17th season in the Astros organization in 2015. Was the skipper for Class-A Quad Cities the last two years where he won the 2013 Midwest League championship.

* Rancho Cucamonga Quakes: Bill Haselman
Haselman joins the Quakes after managing the Dodgers’ Class-A team, Great Lakes, to a 66-73 record last season. Haselman was the manager for Inland Empire in 2013 when the 66ers knocked off the Giants to win the California League title.

Former SJ Giants Receive Spring Training Invites

By Joe Ritzo

2014 California League All-Star Steven Okert received a non-roster invitation to San Francisco's big league camp

2014 California League All-Star Steven Okert received a non-roster invitation to San Francisco’s big league camp

Four players who suited up for the San Jose Giants during the 2014 season – All-Star reliever Steven Okert, former first round pick Chris Stratton, third baseman Mitch Delfino and top prospect outfielder Mac Williamson – received invitations to major league spring training today. Ty Blach, Clayton Blackburn, Kyle Crick and Adalberto Mejia, who all excelled as members of the 2013 San Jose starting rotation, were also extended non-roster invitations to San Francisco’s big league camp.

It’s unlikely that any of these players will be considered for spots on San Francisco’s opening day roster as none have played above the Double-A 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 18 with all other position players scheduled to report on February 23. The Giants’ first spring training game is set for March 3 versus the Oakland Athletics.

Okert burst onto the scene last year as San Jose’s closer collecting a team-high 19 saves to go with a stellar 1.53 ERA in 33 appearances before a promotion to Double-A Richmond. He then logged a 2.73 ERA and five saves in 24 games for the Flying Squirrels. Between the two clubs, Okert struck out 92 and walked just 22 in 68 1/3 innings. The hard-throwing lefty put the finishing touches on his outstanding year in the Arizona Fall League tossing 12 innings with just one run and five hits allowed, one walk and 17 strikeouts. The former fourth round pick embarks on his fourth professional season in 2015 and could open the year in Triple-A Sacramento.

Stratton spent the majority of last season in the San Jose rotation compiling a 7-8 record with a 5.07 ERA in 18 starts. The 20th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Stratton posted impressive strikeout numbers in the California League recording 102 punchouts over just 99 1/3 innings. He was then promoted to Richmond in late-July and fashioned a 3.52 ERA in five starts with the Squirrels.

2014 San Jose third baseman Mitch Delfino will also participate in big league camp this spring

2014 San Jose third baseman Mitch Delfino will also participate in big league camp this spring

Delfino anchored the third base position for the SJ Giants last season. In a team-high 131 games, he batted .289 with 28 doubles, four triples, 12 home runs and 77 RBI’s. Delfino also posted the top third base fielding percentage in the Cal League was honored as San Jose’s Defensive Player of the Year at the end of the season. The former Cal product has hit 25 home runs over the last two years (Augusta in 2013 & SJ in 2014).

Williamson emerged as one of the top position player prospects in the organization after his banner 2013 campaign with the Giants. Two years ago in the Cal League, he blasted 25 home runs to go with 31 doubles, 89 RBI’s and a .292 batting average (.336 after the All-Star break). Williamson was likely ticketed for Richmond to start 2014, but an elbow injury prevented him from playing in the field and thus he was sent back to San Jose to DH-only (the DH is not used in some Double-A games). He continued to impress at the plate last April batting .318 with three homers in 23 games, but the elbow failed to improve and Williamson was forced to undergo season-ending surgery.

Okert, Stratton and Delfino will be making their first appearances in big league camp. Williamson was a non-roster invitee last spring.

The starting pitching quartet of Blach, Blackburn, Crick and Mejia are also headed to major league camp this spring after each spent the entire 2014 season in Double-A. Blach (3.13 ERA) and Blackburn (3.29 ERA) were constantly strong in the Flying Squirrels rotation last year and figure to be the most likely candidates from this group to move up to Triple-A. Blackburn also pitched in the Arizona Fall League last season. Crick had a solid 3.79 ERA and continued to post high strikeout totals last year (111 K’s in 90 1/3 innings), but he also issued 61 walks and averaged just over four innings per start. Whether Crick receives a promotion to Sacramento or is sent back to Richmond will be a major storyline coming out of camp. Meanwhile, Mejia owned a pedestrian 4.67 ERA in the Squirrels rotation last season, but finished strong posting a 3.09 ERA in seven starts after July 1. He’ll serve a 50-game suspension to start the year for violating baseball’s drug policy.

Crick (#3), Blackburn (#5), Mejia (#6) and Blach (#7) were all ranked among the top seven prospects in the San Francisco organization by Baseball America last week.

Infielder Kelby Tomlinson, a San Jose Giant in 2013, also received an invitation to big league camp. Tomlinson, who played both second base and shortstop in Richmond last season, batted .268 in 126 games for the Flying Squirrels with one home run and 32 RBI’s. He led the Eastern League with 49 stolen bases.

Blach, Blackburn and Crick were each non-roster invitees last spring as well. Mejia and Tomlinson received their first invitation.

Of the 22 total non-roster invitees, nine have once played for the San Jose Giants.

All players on the 40-man roster will also open the spring in big league camp, which includes 2014 SJ Giants Ray Black, Daniel Carbonell and Joan Gregorio.

As of now, San Francisco is set to open camp next month with 62 players (the 40 players currently on the 40-man roster + the 22 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 April 6.

When They Were San Jose Giants: Tim Lincecum

By Joe Ritzo

Tim Lincecum made seven starts with the San Jose Giants during the 2006 season on his way to big league stardom

Tim Lincecum made seven starts with the San Jose Giants during the 2006 season on his way to big league stardom

One of 16 former San Jose Giants on San Francisco’s playoff rosters last fall, Tim Lincecum first made his mark at the professional level while in the California League. Then a top prospect and just months removed from his first round draft selection, Lincecum dominated on the mound as a San Jose Giant to jumpstart a pro career that has seen him win three World Championships, two Cy Young Awards, throw two no-hitters and be named to four All-Star teams. Here’s a look back at Lincecum’s brief, but memorable stint in the California League…

Lincecum was the 10th overall pick in the 2006 draft out of the University of Washington, where he was considered one of the top pitchers in Pac-10 baseball history. After signing with the Giants, Lincecum was sent to Short-Season Salem-Keizer. He made just two starts with the Volcanoes totaling four innings before a quick promotion to the Cal League. During San Jose’s great run of success over the last decade, it’s been an uncommon occurrence for a prospect to play in San Jose in the same year he was drafted. Buster Posey did it in September of 2008 when he was added to the SJ Giants playoff roster just three months after draft day. Two years earlier, it was Lincecum who was elevated to the California League – less than two months after his selection in the ’06 draft.

At the major league level, the San Francisco Giants were suffering through their second straight losing season and the fan base was desperately looking for the next homegrown impact player. It was no surprise then that considerable hype surrounded Lincecum’s California League debut as he took the ball on August 5, 2006 at Municipal Stadium against the Bakersfield Blaze. Lincecum’s first start in a San Jose uniform was brief as he surrendered a solo home run in the top of the second before yielding two more runs in the third. During his 2 2/3-inning appearance, the top prospect gave up three runs on three hits, but showed an electrifying fastball and a sharp biting curve that helped result in five strikeouts. San Jose rallied in the contest, ultimately winning by a 9-4 margin as Lincecum received a no-decision.

Five days later, Lincecum pitched on the road in the Cal League for the first time as he faced off against the Inland Empire 66ers down in San Bernardino. The organization was showing caution with their prized prospect limiting his pitches after a heavy workload in the spring at Washington. However despite dealing with that strict pitch count, Lincecum looked far more comfortable on the hill. The right-hander fired 3 2/3 scoreless innings versus the Sixers allowing just one hit with six strikeouts – the first of five straight dominant starts to end the regular season with the San Jose Giants.

On August 16 in Bakersfield, Lincecum recorded his first ever win at the professional level. He gave up a two-run home run in the bottom of the first, but settled down to dominate the Blaze over the next five frames. When Lincecum left the contest, he had worked six strong innings with just two runs and three hits allowed, one walk and seven strikeouts. The Giants won by a 5-2 final.

With momentum at his back, Lincecum took his game up a notch through late-August and into September. Back home on 8/22, Lincecum racked up an impressive 10 strikeouts in just 4 2/3 innings against the Stockton Ports (two runs allowed). Five days later in Visalia, he dazzled once again striking out 11 in 5 2/3 innings while allowing just one hit and no runs. During that start against the Oaks, Lincecum retired 17 out of the 20 batters he faced.

Lincecum then put the finishing touches on an outstanding debut regular season as a professional on September 1 at Stockton. Over five scoreless innings, he fanned nine more batters while yielding just one hit with three walks. The outing lowered his California League ERA to 1.95.

Under manager Lenn Sakata, the 2006 San Jose Giants won the first half North Division title to secure their trip to the playoffs. Now with Lincecum leading the way, it was no surprise to see the former first round pick take the mound in Game One of the North Division Series against Visalia.

Lincecum gave up a single run in the top of the second inning of the playoff opener as the Oaks took an early 1-0 lead, but that was all the visitors would muster against the San Jose ace. Lincecum completely shutdown Visalia over the next five frames as the Giants pushed across three runs to take the lead. When the dust had settled, Lincecum fired a career-high seven innings with just one run and five hits allowed. He walked one and struck out 10. It was a wildly successful postseason debut for Lincecum and not the first time he would excel with a championship on the line.

San Jose won Game One by a 3-2 score, but unfortunately would manage just one more victory for the remainder of the series as Visalia claimed the North Division title and advanced to the next round. That meant Lincecum wouldn’t get a chance to pitch again for the SJ Giants, but he had clearly left his mark and had shown that the future was very bright.

The following spring, Lincecum dazzled in big league camp and received a promotion straight to Triple-A Fresno to start the ’07 season. His AAA numbers were even better than what he accomplished in San Jose. Lincecum fashioned a 0.29 ERA in five Pacific Coast League starts and by the first week of May, he was a big leaguer. And after his first few starts in a San Francisco uniform, it was clear that Lincecum was not going to be returning to the minor leagues anytime soon. He enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign that spring and summer in the SF Giants rotation, which vaulted him to back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009. The next season, of course, Lincecum was the ace pitcher on San Francisco’s first-ever World Series winning team. Now a three-time champion, Lincecum embarks on his ninth season as a San Francisco Giant in 2015.

Lincecum Notes
• Including the postseason, Lincecum made seven starts with the San Jose Giants. He was 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA. In 34 2/3 innings, Lincecum allowed just 18 hits, gave up seven earned runs, walked 13 and struck out a whopping 58. He held the opposition to a .148 batting average.
• Lincecum averaged a remarkable 15 strikeouts per nine innings with San Jose.
• In his last four starts, Lincecum faced 77 hitters and struck out 40 of them.
• After his dominant summer in the California League, Lincecum was rated the #1 prospect in the entire San Francisco organization by Baseball America.
• Lincecum made only 14 starts in the minor leagues (seven of which came with San Jose) prior to his call-up to San Francisco in May of 2007.
• Lincecum is the only former SJ Giant to have won the Cy Young Award.

Quotable

San Jose manager Lenn Sakata remembering Tim Lincecum, June 26, 2014 (the day after Lincecum’s second no-hitter):

“He came into San Jose before a day game and I’m walking through the tunnel to the field and I see this kid in a uniform and he looked like the bat boy! He wasn’t an impressive physical specimen. He got his first start a couple days later and my eye balls fell out of my head. I had never seen anybody throw like that – have that much velocity and the arsenal he had was overpowering. Timmy was very, very impressive and in, my mind, one of the three or four guys I’ve seen come into this league that I knew was going to be a big league pitcher.”

Lincecum had a 1.82 ERA and struck out 58 batters in just 34 2/3 innings as a San Jose Giant

Lincecum had a 1.82 ERA and struck out 58 batters in just 34 2/3 innings as a San Jose Giant

Prospect Rankings

SF Giants logoBy Joe Ritzo

Several former San Jose Giants have found themselves on recently released top prospect lists. Baseball America’s top 10 San Francisco prospects features seven players who have suited up for the San Jose Giants, including #1 overall prospect Andrew Susac.

Baseball America Top 10 SF Giants Prospects
1. Andrew Susac, C
2. Tyler Beede, RHP
3. Kyle Crick, RHP
4. Keury Mella, RHP
5. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
6. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
7. Ty Blach, LHP
8. Hunter Strickland, RHP
9. Matt Duffy, SS
10. Christian Arroyo, 2B/SS

Andrew Susac has been ranked the #1 prospect in the Giants organization by Baseball America

Andrew Susac has been ranked the #1 prospect in the Giants organization by Baseball America

* Seven consecutive pitchers follow Susac, six of which are starters. Susac (#1), Duffy (#9) and Arroyo (#10) are the only position players on the top 10 list.

* Susac was not ranked in Baseball America’s top 10 in each of the last two years. He was BA’s #13 Giants prospect after his 2012 season in San Jose before moving up slightly to #11 after his 2013 campaign with Double-A Richmond.

* The 2013 San Jose Giants were known for their outstanding starting rotation. Four members of that starting staff are ranked in this year’s top 10: Crick (#3), Blackburn (#5), Mejia (#6) and Blach (#7). Mejia will serve a 50-game suspension to begin the 2015 season, but the remaining three figure to compete for spots in the Triple-A Sacramento rotation this spring.

* Susac (#1), Strickland (#8) and Duffy (#9) are the only players among the top 10 with major league experience. They each have rookie eligibility in the big leagues in 2015 and thus still qualify for top prospect lists.

* The three players on the list who have yet to play in San Jose – Beede (#2), Mella (#4) and Arroyo (#10) – are all candidates to see time in the California League this season. Beede, the highest-ranked pitcher, was San Francisco’s first round draft pick last June. The former Vanderbilt standout enters the year with only 15 1/3 innings of experience at the professional level. Mella, another starting pitcher, logged a 3.45 ERA in 18 starts between Augusta (Class-A) and Salem-Keizer (Short-Season) last season. Arroyo, a first round pick in 2013, is still only 19 years old. Last season with Salem-Keizer, he hit .333 to rank second in the Northwest League.

* Edwin Escobar (traded to Boston), Chris Stratton (dropped out), Mac Williamson (dropped out), Heath Hembree (traded to Boston) and Joe Panik (graduated to big leagues) were in last year’s BA Giants Top 10, but are not ranked entering this season.

Here are two other notable top prospect lists:

Relief pitcher Steven Okert enjoyed a breakout 2014 season and is now receiving top 10 prospect mention

Relief pitcher Steven Okert enjoyed a breakout 2014 season and is now receiving top 10 prospect mention

Baseball Prospectus
1. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
2. Kyle Crick, RHP
3. Andrew Susac, C
4. Tyler Beede, RHP
5. Keury Mella, RHP
6. Christian Arroyo, 2B/SS
7. Steven Okert, LHP
8. Hunter Strickland, RHP
9. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
10. Ty Blach, LHP

Minor League Ball
1. Andrew Susac, C
2. Kyle Crick, RHP
3. Keury Mella, RHP
4. Tyler Beede, RHP
5. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
6. Christian Arroyo, 2B/SS
7. Mac Williamson, OF
8. Ty Blach, LHP
9. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
10. Steven Okert, LHP

* Mejia grabs the top spot on Baseball Prospectus’ list while Susac is #1 according to Minor League Ball. 2014 California League All-Star Steven Okert, absent from Baseball America’s top 10, is listed on both of these rankings at #7 (BP) and #10 (MLB). Former San Jose outfielder Mac Williamson, who missed most of 2014 due to an elbow injury, also checks in at #7 on Minor League Ball’s list.

Finally, here are the top 10 lists from your Inside the San Jose Giants co-hosts, myself and Ben Taylor:

Former San Jose Giant Kyle Crick enters 2015 as one of the top pitching prospects in the system

Former San Jose Giant Kyle Crick enters 2015 as one of the top pitching prospects in the system

Joe Ritzo’s Top 10
1. Kyle Crick, RHP
2. Tyler Beede, RHP
3. Andrew Susac, C
4. Christian Arroyo, 2B/SS
5. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
6. Mac Williamson, OF
7. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
8. Daniel Carbonell, OF
9. Keury Mella, RHP
10. Hunter Strickland, RHP

Ben Taylor’s Top 10
1. Kyle Crick, RHP
2. Andrew Susac, C
3. Keury Mella, RHP
4. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
5. Tyler Beede, RHP
6. Christian Arroyo, 2B/SS
7. Ty Blach, LHP
8. Mac Williamson, OF
9. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
10. Hunter Strickland, RHP

We discuss our top 10 lists on the latest podcast episode.

Giants Look To Extend League Record Streak Of Consecutive Winning Seasons In 2015

By Joe Ritzo

The San Jose Giants enter 2015 having posted a league-record 11 straight winning seasons

The San Jose Giants enter 2015 having posted a league-record 11 straight winning seasons

The San Jose Giants will enter the 2015 campaign having posted a remarkable 11 consecutive winning seasons. The streak, which began in 2004, is the longest in both franchise and California League history.

Last year, the Giants failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2003, but still managed a 73-67 overall mark to extend their streak of finishing with an above .500 record. The 2014 San Jose Giants were at one point eight games under .500 (12-20 on May 5) and were still below the .500 mark as late as July 8 (44-45).

The incredible run of 11 straight winning seasons includes four California League championships (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010), five North Division titles and eight first half championships. During the streak, San Jose has set league records for consecutive first half division crowns (seven in a row; 2005-2011) and consecutive playoff appearances (10 years in a row; 2004-2013).

The California League dates back to 1941. Here are the longest streaks of consecutive winning seasons in league history:
11 seasons, San Jose Giants, 2004-present
9 seasons, San Jose Giants, 1988-96
9 seasons, Modesto A’s, 1992-2000
9 seasons, Stockton Ports, 1985-93
8 seasons, San Jose Red Sox/JoSox, 1949-56
7 seasons, Modesto Nuts, 2007-13

San Jose’s best record during the 11-year run was their 93-47 mark in 2009. The 73-67 finishes in 2007 and 2014 are the lowest win totals over the course of the streak.

78 San Jose Giants (and counting…) during the 11-year streak have gone onto play in the major leagues. Notable future big leaguers from these winning San Jose 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, Ehire Adrianza
2011 – Zack Wheeler, Heath Hembree, Ehire Adrianza, Chris Dominguez
2012 – Joe Panik, Andrew Susac, Adam Duvall
2013 – Matt Duffy, Hunter Strickland
2014 – Hunter Strickland

Since becoming a San Francisco Giants affiliate in 1988, San Jose has posted a winning record 23 times in 27 seasons. The San Jose franchise had seven straight losing seasons prior to 1988.

The Giants begin their quest for a league record 12th straight winning season on Thursday, April 9 in Lancaster. San Jose starts the year with a seven-game road trip against the JetHawks and Visalia Rawhide before opening the home portion of their schedule on Thursday, April 16 (vs. Bakersfield).

When They Were San Jose Giants: Brandon Crawford

By Joe Ritzo

Brandon Crawford batted .371 with six home runs in 25 games with the San Jose Giants during the 2009 season

Brandon Crawford batted .371 with six home runs in 25 games with the San Jose Giants during the 2009 season

A key contributor to San Francisco’s championship run last fall was homegrown shortstop Brandon Crawford. One of 16 former San Jose Giants on the playoff rosters in 2014, Crawford has been a major part of the last two World Championship teams. However, before he was winning titles on baseball’s biggest stage, Crawford was working his way through the Giants minor league system where he also helped win two championships in San Jose. Here’s a look back at his time in the California League…

A fourth round pick in 2008 out of UCLA, Crawford had just five games of professional experience under his belt when he joined the San Jose Giants on opening day 2009. When San Jose began their season on April 9 versus Stockton at rainy Municipal Stadium, Crawford found himself in the #2 spot in the batting order and starting at his usual shortstop position. That 2009 SJ Giants opening day lineup featured seven future major leaguers as Buster Posey, Nick Noonan, Conor Gillaspie, Roger Kieschnick, Thomas Neal and Darren Ford joined Crawford as players that would ultimately reach “The Show.” The Giants won the contest by a 5-1 score with Crawford reaching base three times on a double and a pair of walks.

Crawford started his first full professional season red-hot at the plate as San Jose’s prospect-laden club vaulted into first place. In the second game of the season (a night with Madison Bumgarner on the mound), Crawford belted a two-run home run as the Giants blanked the Ports 4-0. Two days later, Crawford homered again as part of a 3-for-3, 2 RBI effort at the plate. In fact, Crawford hit safely in his first seven games with San Jose, batting at a .500 clip (14-for-28) during the span. Often it can take first-year players awhile to adjust to the rigors of the California League, but Crawford immediately found his comfort zone and was getting on base regularly in front of the power bats of Posey, Gillaspie and Kieschnick.

Crawford never slowed up throughout April in a San Jose uniform. Perhaps his most memorable individual moment during the opening month came on the 18th in Stockton when he stepped to plate in the top of the 11th inning of a 3-3 tie and smacked a two-out, two-run home run to give the Giants a 5-3 lead. Crawford then homered in back-to-back games on the 22nd (in San Jose) and 23rd (in High Desert) for his fourth and fifth round-trippers of the season. He produced four straight multi-hit games a few days later on the road trip to raise his batting average to a cool .385.

As May began, the Crawford juggernaut didn’t let up. He homered on the first day of the month – a shutout win at home against Modesto. After an 0-for-4 the next night, Crawford rattled off four straight multi-hit games again. The last of those four contests came on May 6 in Bakersfield – a 2-for-6 night in a 10-4 Giants victory – which would turn out to be his final game in San Jose for the year. The following day, Crawford was headed to Double-A Connecticut. It was a near unprecedented move for a first-year pro in the Giants organization to spend so little time in San Jose before moving up to the Double-A level (Crawford was promoted with Bumgarner although Posey stayed back in SJ for another two months). Crawford’s numbers, however, spoke for themselves. In 25 games (all at shortstop), he hit .371 with two doubles, two triples, six home runs and 17 RBI’s. Crawford owned a slugging percentage of .600 and a staggering 1.045 OPS.

When Crawford departed just shy of the midway point of the first half, the Giants possessed a 17-10 overall record. San Jose would eventually go onto win the first half North Division title to secure their spot in the playoffs. And despite several of the top early performers no longer with the team, the Giants used that first round bye to sweep through the playoffs and take home a California League championship.

San Jose Giants fans though hadn’t seen the last of Brandon Crawford.

Crawford spent the remainder of the 2009 season in Double-A and batted .258 with four home runs in 108 games. He returned to the Eastern League to open 2010 (now in Richmond as the Giants had changed their Double-A affiliate), but managed just a .241 batting average in 79 games before suffering a broken hand in early-July. The injury sidelined Crawford for nearly two months, and once healthy, the organization decided to send the top prospect back to San Jose.

The 2010 Giants had already clinched a playoff berth after winning a first half division title, but were suffering through a sub-.500 second half. Crawford would provide a much-needed boost with the playoffs approaching. He was added to the roster during the final week of the regular season and played in five games to close out the year, collecting three hits in 18 at-bats.

The 2010 Cal League playoffs produced Crawford’s most memorable moments in a San Jose uniform. With the slick-fielding Ehire Adrianza having anchored the shortstop position all year for the Giants, manager Brian Harper moved Crawford to third base for the postseason. In a lineup that included future big leaguers Adrianza, Juan Perez, Charlie Culberson, Francisco Peguero and Johnny Monell, it was Crawford that stood out during San Jose’s run to the championship that September.

Crawford's most memorable hit as an SJ Giant was an 11th inning grand slam in Game 3 of the 2010 Championship Series

Crawford’s most memorable hit as an SJ Giant was an 11th inning grand slam in Game 3 of the 2010 Championship Series

In eight postseason games, Crawford hit a team-leading .357 (10-for-28) with a double, two home runs and club-high eight RBI’s. Crawford saved his best for last as his two home runs came in the Giants’ final two wins. In Game Three of the Championship Series down in Rancho Cucamonga, Crawford belted a grand slam in the top of the 11th inning – one of the biggest home runs in franchise history – to lift San Jose to a 12-7 victory and a 2-1 series lead. Then in the decisive fifth game two nights later, Crawford again went yard in dramatic fashion as the temporary third baseman smacked a two-run home run in the top of the second to give the Giants an early lead. Crawford would reach four times in the contest also producing a single, drawing two walks and even dropping down a sacrifice bunt as part of a 2-for-3 night. In perhaps the greatest game in team history, San Jose outlasted the Quakes by a 7-6 score in 10 innings to claim back-to-back titles.

Crawford’s contributions to both California League championships came in very different ways. He laid the groundwork early in 2009 on a prospect-rich team helping the Giants clinch an early playoff berth before departing for Double-A. Then in 2010 as he recovered from a significant injury, it was Crawford slamming the door on Rancho Cucamonga with two memorable home runs as San Jose took home another title.

In all likelihood, Crawford would have opened the 2011 season in Triple-A, but he was once again sidetracked by an injury. A broken finger sustained during spring training resulted in Crawford starting the year on the disabled list. When he was ready to go, instead of going straight to Fresno, it was back in San Jose for essentially a do-over on his spring training. As the Giants’ shortstop once again, Crawford spent two weeks back in the California League throughout May and enjoyed a lot of success at the plate and in the field. Offensively, he batted .322 with five doubles, a triple, three home runs and 15 RBI’s. At shortstop, Crawford played flawless defense not committing a single error.

On May 25, 2011, Crawford was starting at DH and batting second in the order as San Jose took on the Bakersfield Blaze down at Sam Lynn Ballpark. Unfazed by a stiff wind blowing straight in that was knocking down every fly ball in sight, Crawford peppered the outfield fence with two doubles off the wall. Then in the seventh inning, he crushed a home run over the fence in center helping the Giants to a 5-1 victory.

Meanwhile, that very day up in San Francisco, Buster Posey suffered his gruesome season-ending leg injury as the Giants lost an extra-inning heartbreaker to the Marlins. Shortstop Mike Fontenot also was hurt in the game and needed to go on the disabled list. Crawford’s stint in San Jose was probably coming to an end regardless as he was clearly ready for the challenge of Triple-A. But with the big club severely lacking for healthy position players, Crawford received the phone call late that night in Bakersfield and in a surprising move, was on his way straight to the major leagues.

While he did have significant Double-A experience, the promotion still sent shockwaves through the organization. Crawford, playing for the San Jose Giants one day, was then a San Francisco Giant less than 24 hours later. He didn’t play that next afternoon against the Marlins, but the following night in Milwaukee, Crawford made his major league debut starting at shortstop and batting seventh. And once again, he showed he had a flair for the dramatic. In his third ever at-bat, Crawford stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and belted a grand slam to right. He had become only the sixth player in major league history to hit a grand slam in his first ever game.

From there, Crawford bounced back-and-forth between SF and Fresno for the remainder of the 2011 season. In 2012, he took hold of the shortstop position with the Giants for good and played a central role in the club’s championship run. This past fall, there was another memorable Crawford grand slam as he cleared the bases with a shot to right field during the winner-take-all wild card game in Pittsburgh. Less than a month later, Crawford was a two-time World Series champion.

Crawford Facts
• Despite owning some of the most memorable moments in team history, Crawford only played in 52 career games with the San Jose Giants over the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons.
• His combined regular season batting average (44 games) in the California League was .335. He hit nine home runs and had 33 RBI’s.
• Crawford’s only starts at a position other than shortstop during his professional career (minor league and major league) were at third base late in the 2010 season with San Jose.
• Crawford had multi-hits in nine out of his last 12 games with the SJ Giants in 2009.
• The attendance in Bakersfield for Crawford’s last Cal League game (5/25/11) was 519. Two days later for his MLB debut in Milwaukee, it was 37,034.
• Yesterday was Crawford’s birthday. He turned 28.

Crawford was promoted directly from San Jose to San Francisco in May of 2011

Crawford was promoted directly from San Jose to San Francisco in May of 2011

Projecting the 2015 Roster – Who makes the jump from Short-Season ball?

By Joe Ritzo

The majority of the players on the 2015 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 2014 Giants squad to return to the California League this year.

However, every season there are always a small handful of players that skip straight over Augusta and arrive in San Jose directly from the Short-Season level. Blake Miller and Brian Ragira, for example, did it last year and each were standout performers in the Giants lineup.

Who might those players be in 2015? Here are five prospects that were in Salem-Keizer at the end of last season who could jump all the way to the SJ Giants in April:

Former first round pick Christian Arroyo could make the jump to San Jose this year (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

Former first round pick Christian Arroyo could make the jump to San Jose this year (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

Christian Arroyo, SS
Arroyo was San Francisco’s first round draft pick in 2013 (25th overall selection) out of the high school ranks. Still only 19 years old (will turn 20 in May), Arroyo is considered one of the top position player prospects in the Giants farm system. He won the Arizona Rookie League MVP award in the summer of 2013 after hitting .326 with 18 doubles, five triples, two homers and 39 RBI’s in 45 games. Expectations were high for Arroyo entering 2014, but he struggled in Augusta to open the year batting just .203 in 31 games before suffering a sprained thumb. Once healthy again, Arroyo was sent down to Salem-Keizer, where he shined during the second half of the season. As the Volcanoes’ everyday shortstop last year, Arroyo ranked second in the Northwest League with a .333 batting average. The top prospect also produced five homers, 14 doubles and 48 RBI’s in 58 games. Arroyo is obviously still very young and the organization could put him back in Augusta to start this season. However, given his overwhelming success the last two summers, first in rookie-ball and then Salem-Keizer, and the lack of top-flight middle infield prospects in Augusta last season, it would not be a surprise if Arroyo earns a spot on San Jose’s opening day roster this spring.

Tyler Beede, RHP
Beede is another former first round pick as San Francisco took the hard-throwing right-handed pitcher 14th overall last June. Beede has little professional experience as the Giants held him back last summer after a heavy workload at Vanderbilt. He only threw 8 2/3 innings in the Arizona Rookie League after signing before just 6 2/3 innings on the mound with Salem-Keizer to end the season. Between the two stops, Beede combined for a 2.94 ERA, 18 strikeouts and seven walks in 15 1/3 innings. Regarded as one of the top prospects in the organization, Beede had a standout career at Vanderbilt. As a sophomore in ’13, he logged a 14-1 record with a 2.32 ERA and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award (college baseball’s highest individual honor). Last year as a junior, his ERA climbed to 4.05, but he maintained his strikeout-per-inning average while lowering his walk rate (he did average over 4 1/2 walks per nine innings at Vanderbilt). Beede features electric stuff with a fastball between 92 and 97 MPH and two off-speed offerings (curve & change) that also serve as strikeout pitches. A first round pick out of high school as well (in 2011), Beede could move quickly through the system, especially if he can limit his walks. Beginning his first full professional season in San Jose, where he’d anchor the Giants rotation, is possible.

Skyler Ewing, 1B
Salem-Keizer’s starting first baseman and cleanup hitter last summer, Ewing is another strong candidate to make the jump to San Jose for the start of this season. A powerful right-handed hitter, Ewing led the Volcanoes with eight home runs (in 51 games) and was second in RBI’s with 31 (behind only Arroyo). He also hit .291 and walked (36) more than he struck out (28) while ranking third in the Northwest League with a .417 on-base percentage. Ewing was San Francisco’s sixth round pick last June out of Rice. As a junior with the Owls last spring, he finished second in Conference USA in home runs (9). Prior to his final collegiate season, he was an All-Star in the Cape Cod League, where he also won the home run derby. The two players who saw the bulk of the playing time at first base in Augusta last season struggled offensively, so if the organization decides to promote Ragira to Double-A Richmond, a spot as San Jose’s opening day first baseman could be Ewing’s to lose this spring.

Aramis Garcia, C
The Giants haven’t been afraid to push their top position player prospects drafted out of college to the California League for their first full season. Ewing is a candidate to hold that distinction in 2015 and so is Garcia. San Francisco’s second round pick last June, Garcia joined Salem-Keizer in early-August and served as the Volcanoes’ primary catcher during the final month of the season. His numbers were somewhat pedestrian (granted in a small sample size) as Garcia managed just a .229 batting average with two home runs in 20 games. At Florida International University though, Garcia hit .368 with eight home runs in his final season to earn the Conference USA Player of the Year award. Garcia, who turned 22 this month, is considered an offense-first catcher and will enter 2015 with high expectations. He should open the year either in Augusta or San Jose.

Austin Slater, OF
Slater is yet another college position player who could open his first full pro season as a San Jose Giant. An eighth round pick last June out of Stanford, Slater was added to Salem-Keizer’s roster in late-July and shined as the Volcanoes’ primary right fielder. In 29 games, he hit an impressive .347 while also producing six doubles, two home runs, 23 RBI’s and seven stolen bases. At one point in early-August, Slater delivered six straight multi-hit games. Slater also made starts in center field with Salem-Keizer and can play left if needed. In his final season at Stanford last spring, he batted .341. Augusta had only two outfielders hit above .260 last season (and one of those was Tyler Horan, who has already come through San Jose) which could open the door for Slater to jump to the California League for the start of the 2015 campaign.

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When They Were San Jose Giants: Matt Duffy

By Joe Ritzo

Matt Duffy played in 34 games for the San Jose Giants late in 2013 and hit .294 with five home runs and 19 RBI's

Matt Duffy played in 34 games for the San Jose Giants late in 2013 and hit .294 with five home runs and 19 RBI’s

Our “When They Were San Jose Giants” series continues this week with infielder Matt Duffy. Duffy was one of 16 former SJ Giants on San Francisco’s playoff rosters last fall and played a key role off the bench in helping the Giants win their third World Series in five years. A former 18th round draft pick, Duffy burst onto the scene professionally with a breakout 2013 season that included a successful stint in San Jose. Here’s a look back at his time in the California League…

Duffy actually spent most of the 2013 season in Class-A Augusta, where he batted .307 in 78 games to earn South Atlantic League All-Star honors. Meanwhile, behind a prospect-laden pitching staff, San Jose had already clinched a playoff berth after winning the first half North Division title. The Giants though were in need of a jolt to their lineup for the stretch run and on July 22, Duffy provided that much-needed lift when he joined the club from Augusta.

Duffy enjoyed a successful debut game with San Jose when the Giants hosted the Stockton Ports at Municipal Stadium on the 22nd. Batting second in the order and starting at shortstop, Duffy smacked a double into the right-center field gap in his first at-bat. He finished the night 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles and an RBI as the Giants rolled to a 10-5 victory.

The next day, San Jose embarked on a long road trip and Duffy continued to impress. He produced a two-hit game in Lancaster on July 25 before a 3-for-5 effort two days later in Stockton. On the 28th, Duffy belted his first Cal League home run when he connected for a solo shot against the Ports at Banner Island Ballpark.

Duffy maintained his hot streak through early-August showing surprising power from the #2 spot in the lineup. The emerging top prospect crushed home runs in back-to-back games on August 2 and 3 in Bakersfield while combining for six hits and four RBI’s during the two contests. Through his first 12 games in San Jose, Duffy boasted an excellent .367 batting average, three home runs and an OPS over 1.000.

The only thing that slowed Duffy down during his tenure with the Giants was a minor leg injury sustained in the middle portion of August that sidelined the infielder for 10 days. He still managed to hit another home run on August 29 at home against Visalia as part of a 2-for-5, 3 RBI night at the plate. Duffy, in fact, had seven RBI’s in his last four regular season games, hitting safely in each contest.

Duffy concluded the regular season with a .292 batting average over 26 games for San Jose. He produced six doubles, a triple, five home runs, 14 RBI’s and three stolen bases.

San Francisco fans saw Duffy have success during the playoff run last October, but his first experience in the postseason as a professional actually came in the California League. Duffy started all eight games of the 2013 playoffs for San Jose at shortstop and ranked second on the team in postseason hits (9), batting average (.300) and RBI’s (5). In the decisive fifth game of the North Division Series against Visalia on September 11, Duffy knocked out two hits in four at-bats and drove in a pair of runs as the Giants claimed a 10-5 victory to advance. Unfortunately, the club fell short of their ultimate team goal as Inland Empire then swept San Jose in the best-of-five Championship Series.

It was still a banner 2013 season for Duffy, first in Augusta and then concluding as a playoff star for the San Jose Giants. Despite only 34 games of experience in the California League, Duffy earned himself a promotion to Double-A Richmond for the start of the 2014 campaign. The aggressive promotion clearly paid off as Duffy won the Eastern League batting title last year with a .332 average in 97 games. On August 1, he made his major league debut in New York against the Mets, batting second and starting at second base. He finished the game 1-for-4 with a single and an RBI.

Even though he was only a year removed from playing in San Jose, Duffy showed he was more than ready to contribute at the highest level. In 60 at-bats with San Francisco last season, Duffy hit .267 with a pair of doubles and eight RBI’s. He was 6-for-16 as a pinch-hitter (.375 AVG) and owned a .400 overall batting average against left-handed pitchers (12-for-30). Duffy added another hit in the playoffs coming off the bench, supplied outstanding baserunning to score a late run in an NLCS game in St. Louis and is now a World Series champion.

Duffy File
• Duffy was the first player from the 2013 San Jose Giants team to reach the major leagues (Hunter Strickland and Edwin Escobar have since debuted).
• Including the playoffs, Duffy hit .294 with the San Jose Giants with five home runs and 19 RBI’s in 34 games.
• Duffy hit a combined .303 between San Jose and Augusta in 2013 with 20 doubles, nine homers, 57 RBI’s and 25 stolen bases.
• Duffy also showed he could handle left-handed pitching in the California League with a .391 batting average against the southpaws.
• Duffy made starts at second base, shortstop and third base while in San Francisco during the final three months of the 2014 season. In San Jose, however, he was exclusively a shortstop. In fact, Duffy played only three games at second base total over his first three seasons in the minor leagues before starting at the position in his big league debut game.
• Today (January 15) is Matt Duffy’s birthday. He turns 24.

Quotable

San Jose manager Andy Skeels upon Duffy’s arrival in San Jose (July 2013):
“Matt’s a grinder. He’s a Long Beach State kid and comes ready to play everyday. I’m hopeful he comes in here, gets some big hits and anchors the top part of our lineup so the big guys behind him have at-bats with runners in scoring position. Duffy is a kid we have a lot of confidence in.”

Duffy debuted in the major leagues (August 1, 2014) less than one year after playing in San Jose

Duffy debuted in the major leagues (August 1, 2014) less than one year after playing in San Jose

Episode 44 – Inside the San Jose Giants

Inside the San Jose Giants podcastIn this highly anticipated episode of Inside the San Jose Giants, Joe and Ben make their annual top 10 San Francisco Giants prospect lists. Their in-depth analysis includes a breakdown of the top performers in the Giants’ system, a lively debate on who should be the #2 prospect behind Kyle Crick and a glimpse of the up-and-coming young players likely headed to San Jose in the future.

Projecting the 2015 Roster – High Draft Picks

By Joe Ritzo

SF Giants logoTaking 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.

2014 DRAFT
1st round: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
2nd round: Aramis Garcia, C, Florida International
3rd round: Dylan Davis, OF, Oregon State
4th round: Logan Webb, RHP, Rocklin HS
5th round: Sam Coonrod, RHP, Southern Illinois
6th round: Skyler Ewing, 1B, Rice
7th round: Seth Harrison, OF, Louisiana-Lafayette
8th round: Austin Slater, OF, Stanford
9th round: Stetson Woods, RHP, Liberty HS
10th round: Matt Gage, LHP, Siena

Tyler Beede would be the headline player on San Jose’s 2015 roster if the starting pitcher opens the year with the Giants. The 14th overall pick in last June’s draft, Beede has little professional experience as the organization limited the right-hander to just 15 1/3 innings between Salem-Keizer (Short-Season) and the AZL-Giants (Rookie) last summer due to a heavy workload in college.

Last year's first round pick Tyler Beede could open the 2015 season with the San Jose Giants (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

Last year’s first round pick Tyler Beede could open the 2015 season with the San Jose Giants (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

At Vanderbilt, Beede was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award (college baseball’s highest individual honor) as a sophomore when he posted a 14-1 record with a 2.32 ERA. As a junior last spring, he owned a 4.05 ERA, struck out 116 batters in 113 innings and was a key contributor during Vanderbilt’s run to the national championship. Widely considered one of the top 5 prospects in the entire Giants farm system, Beede figures to open the 2015 campaign with either San Jose or Augusta.

The Giants took college position players with their second, third, sixth, seventh and eighth round picks last June and all likely will be competing for spots on San Jose’s roster this spring. The first position player taken by the club in last year’s draft was second rounder Aramis Garcia – a catcher out of Florida International University. Garcia is an offense-first catcher who hit .368 with eight home runs in his final collegiate season to win Conference USA Player of the Year honors. In 20 games last summer in Salem-Keizer, he posted a .229 batting average to go with two home runs and 12 RBI’s. The last time the organization selected a college catcher in the second round, it was Andrew Susac in 2011. The following spring, Susac opened his first full professional season as San Jose’s primary backstop. We’ll see if Garcia follows a similar path.

Sixth rounder Skyler Ewing, out of Rice University, also figures to be a strong candidate to start this season with the San Jose Giants. Ewing is a power-hitting first baseman who made an impressive professional debut last summer at Salem-Keizer. Ewing led the Volcanoes with eight home runs and was second in RBI’s with 31 (in 51 games) to go with a .291 batting average. A patient hitter, Ewing walked a whopping 36 times and owned a .417 on-base percentage. If last year’s San Jose first baseman, Brian Ragira, is promoted to Double-A Richmond, Ewing is the logical replacement.

A trio of outfielders in Dylan Davis (third round), Seth Harrison (seventh round) and Austin Slater (eighth round) are also candidates to end up in San Jose this season. It’s unlikely that all three would be on the opening day roster, but one or two could find their way to the California League this April. Slater, who played nearby at Stanford, had the most impressive pro debut of the three. In 29 games with Salem-Keizer, Slater hit a team-leading .347 with six doubles, two homers, 23 RBI’s and seven steals. Slater was primarily a right fielder, but also saw some action in center with S-K and can play left. Davis was the highest draft pick of the trio, but struggled the most as he managed just a .200 batting average in 23 games with the Volcanoes. Davis has tremendous power (he did hit four home runs with S-K) and a big arm in right field. Finally, Harrison is a speedy center fielder who hit leadoff for Salem-Keizer last summer. In 37 games, he posted a .266 batting average with 10 doubles, no home runs and 11 stolen bases. A lack of standout outfielders in Augusta last season combined with the draft status of these players could definitely result in one or two (if not more) opening this season with the San Jose Giants.

As for the remainder of the top 10 round draft picks, fourth rounder Logan Webb and ninth rounder Stetson Woods, a pair of right-handed pitchers, are still teenagers and likely still at least a year away from the California League. Meanwhile, fifth rounder Sam Coonrod and tenth rounder Matt Gage were both college draftees, but each pitched in the Arizona Rookie League last summer and are probably ticketed for Augusta in 2015.

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, 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

There are some familiar faces on this list as Brian Ragira, Nick Vander Tuig, Brandon Bednar, Tyler Horan and Tyler Rogers all played in San Jose last season. Vander Tuig, a former top starting pitcher at UCLA, was added to the Giants roster in early-August and made six starts compiling a 3-2 record with a 5.06 ERA. He’s a strong candidate to return to the Giants rotation this spring. Bednar came up from Augusta last July and batted .241 with five homers in 48 games. A versatile player, Bednar made starts at all four infield positions with San Jose after his promotion. He’ll likely be an everyday player for the SJ Giants in 2015. Horan and Rogers were promoted to Richmond for their playoff run last September and each almost certainly will start this season back in the Eastern League. Meanwhile, Ragira led the SJ Giants with 20 home runs and 82 RBI’s in 2014 (.260 AVG) and will also be looking for a promotion to Double-A.

2013 first round pick Christian Arroyo will look to make the jump to San Jose this year (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

2013 first round pick Christian Arroyo will look to make the jump to San Jose this year (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

The top of the 2013 draft list features a pair of young infielders in Christian Arroyo (first round) and Ryder Jones (second round). It was the first time since 1974 that the San Francisco Giants used their top two draft picks on high school position players. Arroyo has had a standout start to his pro career as he won the Arizona Rookie League MVP award in 2013 before batting .333 in 58 games as Salem-Keizer’s everyday shortstop last summer. Arroyo produced 14 doubles, five home runs, 48 RBI’s and six steals with the Volcanoes and is considered one of the top position player prospects in the system. He struggled during a brief, early stint in Augusta (.203 AVG in 31 games) last season, but was so impressive in Salem-Keizer during the second half that a promotion all the way to San Jose for the start of 2015 is a possibility. Arroyo is still just 19 years old (will turn 20 in May).

Jones is a little older (turns 21 in June), but is probably less likely of the two top picks to start the season in San Jose. A third baseman primarily, Jones had an up-and-down year, first with Augusta (91 games) and then Salem-Keizer (27 games). Between the two stops, he hit a combined .225 with 10 home runs and 67 RBI’s.

Rounding out the list are three pitchers – all drafted out of the college ranks. Third rounder Chase Johnson was a reliever at Cal Poly, but has transitioned to the role of starting pitcher in the pros. He had some nice moments in the Augusta rotation last season, but at times struggled with his consistency. Over 22 starts, Johnson logged a 4.57 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 40 walks in 110 1/3 innings. He’ll likely be considered for a spot in the San Jose rotation this spring. Fifth rounder Dan Slania led Augusta with 12 saves last season to go with a 3.99 ERA in 43 relief appearances. He then actually was promoted all the way to Richmond for the stretch run and allowed just one earned run in 11 innings for the Flying Squirrels. Slania, an outstanding closer at Notre Dame, could return to Richmond or get his first taste of San Jose this season. Finally, lefty D.J. Snelten posted a 1.23 ERA in 20 games out of the Augusta bullpen last season.

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Russ Morman Named 2015 San Jose Giants Manager

By Joe Ritzo

Russ Morman has been named manager of the San Jose Giants after serving in the same role with Double-A Richmond last year

Russ Morman has been named manager of the San Jose Giants after serving in the same role with Double-A Richmond last year

Russ Morman has been named manager of the San Jose Giants for the 2015 season. Morman, 52, enters his sixth year with the San Francisco Giants organization and second season as a manager. In 2014, he served as manager of Double-A Richmond and directed the Flying Squirrels to a 79-63 record and a West Division championship. Last year’s Richmond squad, which included many members from San Jose’s 2013 North Division championship team, advanced to the Eastern League Championship Series where they were swept by the Binghamton Mets.

Morman has spent the previous five seasons at the Double-A and Triple-A levels within the Giants organization, so 2015 will mark his first year at San Jose in any capacity. Prior to last year’s stint as Richmond’s manager, he spent three years (2011-13) as hitting coach for Triple-A Fresno. He joined the organization in 2010 as hitting coach for Richmond.

Morman played professionally for 17 seasons from 1983 to 1999, spending parts of nine years in the major leagues with the White Sox (1986, 1988-89), Royals (1990-91) and Marlins (1994-97). A former first baseman and outfielder, Morman was a first round selection (28th overall pick) in the 1983 draft by the White Sox after earning All-American honors at Wichita State University. In 207 career big league games, he hit .249 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI’s. Morman’s most significant action came during his 1986 rookie season with the White Sox when he batted .252 with four homers and 17 RBI’s in 49 games. His final year in the major leagues was in 1997 when he played in four games for the World Champion Marlins.

Morman enjoyed great success as a player in the minor leagues hitting 207 career home runs, including 180 at the Triple-A level. Morman hit over .300 in Triple-A for six straight seasons from 1992 to 1997. His best year came in 1995 at age 35 with Triple-A Charlotte (Marlins system) when he hit 33 home runs, collected 99 RBI’s and batted .319.

Morman retired following the 1999 season and immediately went into coaching. He served two seasons as manager of the Kane County Cougars (Marlins Class-A affiliate) from 2000-01 directing both teams to the playoffs. In 2001 under Morman’s leadership, Kane County posted an 88-50 record and claimed the Midwest League championship. After a year out of baseball in 2002, Morman returned to the game in ’03 and was manager of the Augusta GreenJackets (then a Red Sox Class-A affiliate) going 49-87. He then spent the next four seasons as hitting coach for the Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox Double-A) from 2004-07. In 2008, he became the hitting coach for Triple-A Pawtucket (Red Sox affiliate) and served two years there before joining the Giants organization in 2010.

Morman is the 15th manager in the 28-year history of the San Jose Giants.

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. Both Couchee and Nava enter their third seasons with the San Jose Giants.

When They Were San Jose Giants: Brandon Belt

By Joe Ritzo

Brandon Belt hit .383 with 10 home runs, 62 RBI's and 18 stolen bases in 77 games for the San Jose Giants during the 2010 season

Brandon Belt hit .383 with 10 home runs, 62 RBI’s and 18 stolen bases in 77 games for the San Jose Giants during the 2010 season

16 former San Jose Giants were on San Francisco’s playoff rosters last fall helping lead the club to their third World Championship in the last five years. A key component of the title run was first baseman Brandon Belt. Four years earlier, Belt began his professional career with the San Jose Giants and burst onto the scene to immediately become one of the top prospects in the organization. Here’s a look back at Belt’s memorable 2010 season in the California League…

Belt was selected in the fifth round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Texas, but didn’t debut professionally until opening day 2010 with the San Jose Giants. While it’s not uncommon for a player drafted out of the college ranks to spend his first full pro season with San Jose, there’s often a learning curve as they adjust to the rigors of a 140-game schedule. Most of these players enjoy far more success later in the season, but clearly Belt was ready for the challenge of the California League right off the bat.

When the San Jose Giants opened their season on April 8 in Modesto, Belt found himself batting fourth in the batting order. San Jose was coming off of a record-breaking championship campaign (93-47 record in 2009) and expectations were once again high for the club. Future major leaguers Ehire Adrianza, Charlie Culberson, Francisco Peguero and Johnny Monell joined Belt in the opening day lineup while Juan Perez also played a central role on the team offensively.

Meanwhile, the adjustment process for Belt lasted all of three games. During his first three pro contests, Belt went hitless in eight at-bats. It marked the only time during his stint in a San Jose uniform that the slugging first baseman went more than two games without a hit. In game four, Belt’s domination of Cal League pitching began. He finished 3-for-3 in the contest with four RBI’s and a walk. The next night, the Giants opened their home schedule against Visalia and Belt again was spectacular knocking out three more hits in four at-bats, including a fourth-inning home run against future big leaguer Josh Collmenter.

The back-to-back three-hit nights jumpstarted a hot streak for Belt that saw the emerging star hit safely in 18 straight games through April 30. During the streak, Belt had multi-hits nine times, including four three-hit games. He homered in back-to-back contests in Bakersfield on April 23 and 24 while he finished the opening month with a sizzling batting average of .463. Looking deeper at Belt’s first month as a professional, he produced eight doubles, three home runs and 17 RBI’s in 21 games while drawing more walks (12) than strikeouts (5). His on-base percentage was .563 while his OPS was an incredible 1.259.

Outside of the first three games, the closest thing Belt had to a slump in San Jose was a five-game stretch in early-May where he managed just two hits in 15 at-bats. The “slump” dropped his average to .415.

Despite Belt’s torrid hitting, the Giants as a team weren’t yet gaining much traction in the standings. A May 12 loss in Visalia dropped San Jose below .500 (15-16) and into fourth place. The following night though Belt and his teammates erupted. Still facing the Rawhide, the Giants set a team record with 26 hits in a 21-9 rout. Individually, Belt collected four hits in his six at-bats with a pair of doubles and four RBI’s. The game proved to be a turning point for the club as other hitters joined Belt with hot streaks of their own that carried through the remainder of the first half.

For the month of May, Belt hit .317 with one home run in 30 games – by far his lowest monthly batting average with the San Jose Giants. A memorable four-game series in Bakersfield from June 3-6 saw Belt record multi-hits in all four contests. He ended the series 9-for-13 with a home run and seven RBI’s to raise his season average to .388.

After an 0-for-4 night on June 8, Belt rattled off another long streak as he hit safely in 16 straight games through the final week of the month. Behind Belt’s red-hot hitting, the Giants climbed into first place in the North Division and spent the entire first half of June padding their lead.

Belt then saved his best individual performance for the night San Jose clinched. On June 15 in High Desert, needing just one win to wrap-up the division, Belt smacked two home runs as part of a 4-for-5, 6-RBI night. The Giants outlasted the Mavericks 15-11 with Belt’s three-run homer in the top of the ninth providing much-needed insurance. By the end of the game, Belt’s average had crept to .394.

A slam-dunk All-Star pick, Belt ended the first half with a .392 batting average and nine home runs. He started at first base for the California League in the All-Star Game and it was very apparent that a promotion was forthcoming, despite his inexperience in the professional game. On June 30 in Visalia, Belt went 3-for-5 with a triple and three RBI’s. On July 1 back at home versus Lancaster, he collected two more hits in three at-bats. The following day, he was promoted to Double-A Richmond.

Belt was a California League All-Star with the San Jose Giants

Belt was a California League All-Star with the San Jose Giants

At the time of his promotion, Belt was leading the California League with a .383 batting average. In 77 games played, he produced 28 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs and 62 RBI’s. He walked (58) more than he struck out (50) and owned an incredible .492 on-base percentage (1.121 OPS). And for good measure, he also stole 18 bases in 25 attempts.

The San Jose Giants would ultimately go onto win the California League championship that September with a dramatic series win over the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes to take the title. Belt was long gone by then, but his impact was certainly felt thanks to his significant contributions throughout the first half that propelled the Giants into the playoffs.

Belt’s 2010 campaign will go down as one of the best ever by a Giants minor leaguer. He continued his success in Double-A batting .337 with nine homers in 46 games for the Flying Squirrels. In late-August, he was promoted again, this time to Triple-A Fresno, where he spent the last two weeks of the season. Between his three stops in 2010, Belt combined for 23 home runs, 43 doubles, 112 RBI’s and a .352 batting average in 136 games. His meteoric rise continued in 2011 when he made San Francisco’s opening day roster and then homered in his second-ever big league game (at Dodger Stadium, no less). He bounced back-and-forth between the big leagues and Triple-A throughout the year, but by 2012, he was in San Francisco to stay and was a key member of the World Series run. Two years later, Belt was a World Champion once again.

The Belt File
• After going hitless in his first three games with San Jose, Belt had at least one hit in 62 out of his next 74 games before his promotion to Richmond.
• His hitting streaks of 18 and 16 games were the second and third-longest by a San Jose player in 2010 (Peguero – 20 games). During his 18-game hitting streak from April 11-30, Belt hit .525 with 17 RBI’s.
• Even though he maintained a high batting average, Belt actually endured a long homerless streak with the San Jose Giants. The All-Star went 35 straight games without a long ball from April 25 to May 30. He then homered seven times in his last 27 games.
• Belt’s .383 batting average would be the highest single-season mark in San Jose Giants history if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Mark Leonard holds the record when he hit .345 in 1988. Belt was 44 plate appearances shy of qualifying.
• Belt hit .406 against right-handed pitching with San Jose and .379 with runners in scoring position.

Home Game Times Announced

The Giants have introduced new 6:30 PM start times for nine midweek evening games in April and May

The Giants have introduced new 6:30 PM start times for nine midweek evening games in April and May

The San Jose Giants have announced all of their home game times for the 2015 season. A few highlights from the 70-game schedule:

HOME OPENER
The home opener at Municipal Stadium is set for Thursday, April 16 with a 7:00 PM first pitch. Only 99 days away!

SWITCH TO 6:30 IN APRIL AND MAY
The notable change this year is the switch to 6:30 PM start times for most Monday through Wednesday home dates in April and May only. Thursdays and Fridays during the opening two months remain as 7:00 PM starts.

SATURDAYS
Saturday home games will continue to start at 5:00 PM. The lone exceptions are in the second half: Saturday, June 27 (6:00 PM), Saturday, July 4 (6:30 PM), Saturday, August 1 (6:00 PM) and Saturday, August 15 (6:00 PM).

SUNDAYS
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. July and August Sunday home games are 5:00 PM starts with the exception of Sunday, July 5 at 6:30 PM (Independence Day weekend) and Sunday, August 23 at 1:00 PM (final weekend home game of the regular season).

MIDWEEK AFTERNOON BASEBALL
The San Jose Giants will host five weekday afternoon games this season:
– Wednesday, April 22 (12:30 PM)
– Thursday, May 21 (11:30 AM)
– Wednesday, June 10 (12:30 PM)
– Tuesday, July 21 (12:30 PM)
– Thursday, August 13 (12:30 PM)

HOLIDAYS AT MUNI
Holiday home games in 2015 include: Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 10 at 1:00 PM), Memorial Day (Monday, May 25 at 2:00 PM), Father’s Day (Sunday, June 21 at 1:00 PM) and Independence Day (Saturday, July 4 at 6:30 PM).

HOME FINALE
The home schedule closes on Thursday, September 3 (7:00 PM).

View the 2015 Schedule

Download the 2015 Schedule (PDF)

The San Jose Giants home opener is set for Thursday, April 16 at 7:00 PM

The San Jose Giants home opener is set for Thursday, April 16 at 7:00 PM

Projecting the 2015 Roster – Who could return?

By Joe Ritzo

san jose giantsThe bulk of the 2015 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 2014 that could be back at Municipal Stadium this spring:

Martin Agosta, RHP
Agosta entered last year with high expectations after his 2013 All-Star campaign in Augusta. Unfortunately, the former second round pick never got on track with San Jose in 2014 posting a 9.23 ERA over 11 starts with more walks (34) than strikeouts (25). He spent over two months on the disabled list during the middle portion of the season in attempt to straighten out his mechanics, add velocity to his fastball and regain the bite to his offspeed stuff, but was only slightly improved upon his return late in the year. Agosta enters 2015 with a lot to prove. Given his draft status and what he showed in the South Atlantic League two years ago (2.06 ERA in 18 starts), he almost certainly will get the opportunity to demonstrate that 2014 was a fluke.

Brandon Bednar, INF
Bednar was a key member of San Jose’s team over the final two months last season. After batting a solid .275 in 74 games for Augusta, Bednar was promoted to the Giants in early-July. He showed his versatility making starts at all four infield positions while in San Jose (shortstop – 24 games, second base – 10 games, first base – six games, third base – six games) while often batting in the middle of the order. Bednar, a former seventh round draft pick, got off to a strong start in the California League batting .300 during the month of July, but a difficult August (.175 AVG) will likely result in his return to San Jose this spring. Bednar has some pop (five home runs in 48 games with the Giants) and his ability to play all over the infield could make him an invaluable part of the 2015 San Jose squad.

Joan Gregorio, RHP
Despite an up-and-down 2014, Gregorio was added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster this offseason and remains one of the top starting pitching prospects in the system. The 6’7″ right-hander burst out of the gates in the San Jose rotation last spring registering 22 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings to go with a 1.88 ERA over his first three starts, but things went downhill fast. After yielding 13 runs over his next two outings, Gregorio landed on the DL to work on his mechanics. He returned three weeks later, but made just one appearance before a back injury put him on the disabled list again. Once healthy, Gregorio was sent down to Augusta, where he finished the season. His numbers in the South Atlantic League were solid (3.57 ERA in 12 starts, 65 K’s in 68 IP) and all signs point towards the 23-year old getting another crack at the San Jose rotation when the 2015 season begins.

Chuckie Jones, OF
Jones served as San Jose’s everyday right fielder last season playing in a team-high tying 131 games. As has been the case throughout his professional career, Jones struggled early in the season with the bat. He was hitting only .222 with little power on June 1 before gradually turning his season around with a steady effort over the final three months. For the year, the slugging outfielder managed a .256 batting average to go with 19 doubles, 15 home runs, 66 RBI’s and 17 stolen bases. Despite having already spent five seasons in pro ball, Jones was actually the youngest position player on San Jose’s team for most of last year (turned 22 last July). Jones has always featured intriguing potential of power and speed while he’s frequently been one of the youngest players on his team, but high strikeout totals (he led SJ with 150 K’s) and pedestrian batting averages have prevented a quick rise through the system. His slightly improved second half last season could be enough to push Jones up to Double-A this spring, but with the expected glut of outfielders on the Richmond roster and the up-and-down nature of his year in San Jose, it would not be a surprise if he returns to the California League.

Others: Other potential returning starting pitchers this year could include Joe Biagini, Nick Vander Tuig and Pat Young. Of the trio, Biagini would figure to have the best chance to move up to Richmond as the right-hander led the San Jose staff with 10 wins in 2014 to go with a 4.01 ERA over 23 starts. The trade of Kendry Flores to the Marlins last month along with Adalberto Mejia’s 50-game suspension to begin the year also likely opens a couple of spots in the Flying Squirrels rotation for perhaps Biagini.

Vander Tuig joined the Giants in early-August and had some nice moments in the rotation to close out the year. In his six starts, the former UCLA star logged a 5.06 ERA with five walks and 19 strikeouts in 32 innings. A sixth round pick in 2013, Vander Tuig is a strong candidate to return to San Jose. Meanwhile, Young spent the entire 2014 campaign in the Giants rotation, but struggled with his consistency (9-6, 6.13 ERA in 23 starts). After a terrific July that saw him post a 4-0 record with a 3.04 ERA over five starts, Young struggled to close the year logging a 10.53 ERA in his five August starts. He’ll very likely be back with the Giants in 2015.

Hard-throwing reliever Ray Black was promoted from Augusta for the final week and a half of 2014 and made quite an impact. Showcasing an upper 90’s fastball (that topped out at 101 MPH), Black struck out seven and gave up just one hit in four innings out of the Giants bullpen. This was after he struck out an incredible 64 batters in just 31 1/3 innings with Augusta (3.73 ERA). Clearly San Francisco took notice as Black was placed on the 40-man roster this offseason. 2015 could be a fast-track year through the system for Black, but a return to San Jose to open the campaign is a possibility. Fellow hard-thrower Jeff Soptic improved his ERA in the Cal League from 6.26 in 2013 to 4.60 in 2014, but walked a batter per inning last season. Ian Gardeck can also bring it into the upper 90’s, but had a 9.38 ERA over 17 appearances in an injury-plagued year with the Giants. Mason McVay was a solid contributor out of the San Jose bullpen much of 2014 amassing 83 strikeouts in 72 innings to go with a 4.38 ERA, but competition for spots in the Richmond bullpen this spring will be fierce.

Catcher Trevor Brown was a key member of San Jose’s playoff run in 2013, but often struggled with the bat last year as he hit just .215 with two home runs in 54 games. Brown can also play first and second base and is a candidate to return to San Jose. Middle infielder Rando Moreno was on the Giants opening day roster last April, but managed just a .218 batting average in 27 games before a demotion to Augusta. His struggles offensively continued in the South Atlantic League, but the switch-hitter has tremendous speed (26 steals in ’14) and could find his way back to San Jose.

Outfielder Jesus Galindo may have done enough to warrant a promotion to Richmond, but depending on how the outfield depth chart shakes out in the upper levels of the system, could end up returning to the Cal League. Galindo hit .268 in 101 games for the Giants and led the team with 31 stolen bases from the leadoff spot in the lineup. The oft-injured center fielder missed the last month of the season with a knee issue. First baseman Brian Ragira led the Giants in home runs (20) and RBI’s (82) last year and thus is probably more likely to go to Double-A than come back to San Jose, but a few factors could result in a return. Notably, Ragira did struggle with the bat in the first half (.224 AVG, 5 HR), struck out a lot (second on the team with 127) and committed 16 errors at first base. 2014 was Ragira’s first full pro season and the organization may want to see him refine some aspects of his game before taking a shot at the tough Eastern League. Then again, a .297 batting average and 15 home runs after the All-Star break could easily be enough to push Ragira to Richmond this April.

Finally, don’t discount the possibility of Mac Williamson starting a third straight season in San Jose. Williamson was the Giants’ co-MVP in 2013 when he blasted 25 homers, drove in 89 runs and hit .292. The top prospect returned to the Giants for the start of 2014 as he nursed an elbow injury that prevented him from playing in the field. While he continued to succeed at the plate, the elbow didn’t respond and ultimately required season-ending Tommy John surgery. Williamson is unquestionably ready for the Double-A test, but after missing almost the entire 2014 season, it’s possible the organization could ease him back into action with a brief stint in San Jose before moving him up the ladder.

News and Notes: Standout San Jose Pitcher Traded

By Joe Ritzo

Kendry Flores, traded to Miami on Friday, led the 2014 San Jose staff in strikeouts (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

Kendry Flores, traded to Miami on Friday, led the 2014 San Jose staff in strikeouts (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

Kendry Flores, a top starting pitcher on San Jose’s staff last season, was one of two San Francisco minor leaguers traded to Miami on Friday when the Giants acquired third baseman Casey McGehee. McGehee is expected to fill the void left by Pablo Sandoval after the former SJ Giant signed with the Boston Red Sox earlier in the offseason.

Flores, who turned 23 last month, spent all of last season with the San Jose Giants. He entered the year with high expectations after his banner 2013 campaign in Augusta that resulted in the right-hander being added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster. Flores started his season in the California League with a flourish as he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning at Rancho Cucamonga in his first outing before striking out nine over six scoreless frames in his home debut a week later. After an uneven month of May (7.66 ERA in five starts), Flores impressed throughout June (2.59 ERA) and July (2.22 ERA).

Additional highlights to his year with San Jose included a 13 strikeout performance on June 22 in Visalia and a spectacular effort at first-place Stockton on July 11 that saw him surrender just two hits and one run over seven innings. Flores’ season ended on August 6 when he left his start in Bakersfield after experiencing shoulder discomfort. The injury wasn’t overly serious, but with less than a month remaining in the regular season, there wasn’t enough time in the year for him to return to the active roster.

In his 20 starts overall, Flores fashioned a 4.09 ERA and a 4-6 record. His 112 strikeouts (in 105 1/3 innings) led the San Jose staff while he issued just 32 walks and limited the opposition to a .249 batting average. Flores struck out at least eight batters in five of his starts and allowed two runs or fewer in 11 out of his 20 outings. His ERA in eight starts after the All-Star break was a stellar 2.60. Flores featured a fastball primarily in the low 90’s while in San Jose to go with a cutter, a curve and an excellent change-up.

In all likelihood, Flores would have began the 2015 season in the Double-A Richmond rotation. For reference, the Marlins Double-A team is the Jacksonville Suns of the Southern League – Flores’ probable 2015 destination. Meanwhile, if not for the trade, Castillo, who posted a 3.07 ERA and 10 saves for the GreenJackets in 2014, probably would have been a member of the San Jose bullpen next year.

OKERT NAMED TO AFL TOP PROSPECT TEAM
The honors keep rolling in for relief pitcher Steven Okert. The lone All-Star from last season’s San Jose team, Okert excelled in Double-A to finish the year before a standout performance in the Arizona Fall League. In 10 appearances for the Scottsdale Scorpions this fall, Okert notched an impressive 0.75 ERA yielding just one run and five hits over 12 innings. He also struck out 17 batters and issued only one walk. For his efforts, Okert was named to the Arizona Fall League Top Prospect team earlier this month.

The 22-man Top Prospects team is voted on by AFL managers and coaches, taking into consideration the players’ performances during the fall and their projected futures in the major leagues. Okert was the only Giants prospect selected to the team.

Yankees first base prospect Greg Byrd was named the league’s Most Valuable Player.

2014 AFL Top Prospects Team

MINICOZZI SIGNS WITH NATIONALS
A week after free agent Nick Noonan signed a minor league deal with the Yankees, another former San Jose Giants infielder is on the move as veteran Mark Minicozzi has inked a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals. Minicozzi, 31, became a minor league free agent at the end of the 2014 season. He spent seven years in the San Francisco organization over two separate stints (2005-08, 2012-14).

Minicozzi was the everyday second baseman on San Jose’s 2006 playoff team when he hit .282 with four home runs and 77 RBI’s. After struggling in Double-A the following season, he returned to the Giants late in 2007 and served as the club’s third baseman down the stretch in helping the club to the California League championship. Minicozzi was named Championship Series MVP that September.

After missing all of 2008 due to injury and a whirlwind three-year stint bouncing around various independent league teams, Minicozzi returned to the Giants organization in May of 2012. He won the Eastern League batting title with Richmond in 2013 (.309 AVG) and finally got his first taste of Triple-A ball this season when as a 31-year old playing for Fresno, he hit a solid .298 with 12 homers and 62 RBI’s in 89 games. Minicozzi actually returned to San Jose briefly last season playing in eight games with the Giants as part of a rehab assignment.

ODDS AND ENDS
* Former San Jose first baseman Angel Villalona was outrighted off the San Francisco 40-man roster today to make room for Sergio Romo, who re-signed with the club. Villalona remains in the organization, but is no longer on the 40-man roster. The 2013 California League All-Star hit just .227 with 10 home runs and 54 RBI’s in 101 games for Richmond last season.

* Three California League teams have already announced their managers for the 2015 season:
– Inland Empire 66ers: Denny Hocking returning as manager
– Lancaster JetHawks: Omar Lopez (managed Astros Class-A team in 2014)
– Stockton Ports: Rick Magnante (managed Athletics Class-A team in 2014)

When They Were San Jose Giants: Sergio Romo

By Joe Ritzo

Sergio Romo closing out the 2007 championship for the San Jose Giants.  Five years later, he did the same with San Francisco.

Sergio Romo closing out the 2007 championship for the San Jose Giants. Five years later, he did the same with San Francisco.

It was announced this week that free agent pitcher Sergio Romo had agreed to a two-year deal to remain with the San Francisco Giants. Romo is one of the select few players to have been a member of all three recent World Championship teams as the right-hander has been a steady presence in the late innings out of the Giants bullpen. Prior to his time in the big leagues, Romo climbed through the San Francisco farm system, including a memorable year on San Jose’s 2007 championship squad. Here’s a look back at his season in the California League…

A 28th round pick by the San Francisco Giants in the 2005 draft, Romo was actually a starting pitcher primarily over his first two professional seasons. He opened the 2007 campaign at Extended Spring Training before joining a first-place San Jose team in mid-May, where he was expected to be used out of the bullpen.

On May 14 against Modesto, Romo made his California League debut when he entered the contest to begin the top of the seventh with the Giants clinging to a 1-0 lead. Romo’s first impression in front of the hometown fans at Municipal Stadium was a strong one as he tossed two scoreless innings with just one single allowed, no walks and three strikeouts to preserve the one-run advantage. The Giants won the game by the 1-0 margin and Romo never looked back in what became one of the most dominant seasons by a San Jose reliever in club history.

Many of Romo’s early appearances with the Giants were of the two-inning variety as he often bridged the gap between the starting pitcher and All-Star closer Taylor Wilding. He began his tenure in the Cal League by working 11 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run. Romo struck out 12 and yielded just four hits during that span as the Giants maintained their standing as a first place club.

On the third-to-last-day of the first half with San Jose needing just one victory to claim the division, Romo worked a scoreless top of the ninth inning to keep the Giants down 3-1 to the visiting Nuts. Then in the bottom of the inning, San Jose staged a dramatic rally scoring three times for a walk-off 4-3 win and a first half North Division title. Romo was credited with the win and he would finish the half with a solid 2.25 ERA over 14 relief appearances.

The second half began much like how the first half ended for Romo – often pitching in a set-up role and having tremendous success. A minor blip occurred in a July 2 home game against the Lake Elsinore Storm when future major leaguer David Freese smacked a two-run homer off of Romo. It was one of only four home runs allowed by Romo during the entire season and the reliever still managed to pick-up the win in the contest as the Giants hung on for an 8-7 victory.

The significance of that outing for Romo as that it marked the last time he would give up an earned run until the final weekend of the season. Four days later in Modesto, Romo fired a 1-2-3 inning – the first of 14 straight relief appearances without a run allowed.

Wilding was eventually promoted to Double-A and Romo assumed the role of closer in mid-July. The role seemed to suit the 24-year old right-hander as Romo collected saves in five straight outings late in the month and into the first week of August. During those five appearances, Romo worked a total of 7 2/3 scoreless innings, gave up just three hits and struck out a whopping 16 batters.

He continued to thrive late in ballgames throughout August as his season ERA dropped below two. Romo finally gave up a run on August 15 in Stockton, but it was hardly his fault as a throwing error committed with two outs in the bottom of the ninth allowed the game-winning tally to score. Unfazed, Romo notched four more saves before the season ended surrendering no runs in those outings.

Finally on September 2 – the penultimate game of the regular season – Romo allowed a 10th inning solo home run. It was the first earned run that he had given up since that July 2 appearance – exactly two months earlier. The stretch included a remarkable 34 consecutive innings with no earned runs allowed. And even after Romo gave up the 10th inning solo shot, the Giants recovered to score twice in the bottom of the frame to make the reliever the winning pitcher.

Romo concluded the regular season with a spectacular 1.36 ERA in 41 appearances. He logged a 6-2 record, collected nine saves and had an amazing 106-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 66 1/3 innings. Romo also limited the opposition to a paltry .155 batting average.

Romo’s success continued into the playoffs as the ace reliever successfully converted all three of his postseason save opportunities, including the clinching game of the North Division Series in Visalia and a must-win Game 3 of the Championship Series at home versus Lake Elsinore.

There was little drama late in the decisive fifth game of the final series as the Giants held a 7-1, ninth-inning lead. It was no surprise though to see Romo on the mound looking to close it out. He began the inning by inducing a groundout and then registered consecutive strikeouts to clinch the championship for San Jose. The catcher who squeezed the final out behind the dish: none other than Pablo Sandoval – another future three-time World Series champion. The game ended with Giants pitchers combining to retire the last 19 Lake Elsinore hitters.

After his banner year with San Jose, where arguably he was the most dominant reliever in the California League during the second half, Romo earned a promotion to Double-A Connecticut for the start of the 2008 season. He served as the Defenders’ closer during the first half of the year before a call-up to San Francisco, skipping the Triple-A level entirely. Romo’s debut in the major leagues occurred on June 26, 2008 – less than 10 months after closing out a championship at Municipal Stadium. By May of 2009, Romo was in the big leagues to stay and a season later, he was serving as a dominant set-up man to Brian Wilson on San Francisco’s first World Championship team. In October of 2012, it was Romo on the mound for the final out of a World Series – five years after he sealed a championship with the San Jose Giants.

The Romo File
• How good was Sergio Romo’s second half in San Jose? How about a 0.85 ERA in 27 appearances with an incredible 81 strikeouts in just 42 1/3 innings (four earned runs allowed).
• During the month of August in the California League, Romo owned a perfect 0.00 ERA with 36 strikeouts and just three walks in 20 innings.
• Over his first two professional seasons (2005 in Salem-Keizer and 2006 in Augusta), 24 out of his 46 outings were as a starter. Then came Romo’s breakout 2007 as a late-inning reliever in San Jose. He never worked as a starter again.
• Right-handed batters hit just .162 against Romo in the California League. Lefties managed just a .143 batting average.
• Despite not joining the team until mid-May and working exclusively out of the bullpen, Romo’s 106 strikeouts for the season ranked fourth on the staff.
• In four postseason appearances, Romo’s ERA was 0.00. He struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings with two hits allowed and no walks. A preview of things to come.

Sergio Romo had a 1.36 ERA, nine saves and 106 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings with San Jose during the 2007 season

Sergio Romo had a 1.36 ERA, nine saves and 106 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings with San Jose during the 2007 season

Former SJ Giants On The Move

By Joe Ritzo

Nick Noonan, the starting second baseman on San Jose's 2009 championship team, has signed a minor league deal with the Yankees

Nick Noonan, the starting second baseman on San Jose’s 2009 championship team, has signed a minor league deal with the Yankees

Free agent season is upon us. Moves at the major league level have been well publicized, notably Pablo Sandoval ending his tenure as a Giant and signing a contract with the Boston Red Sox. Meanwhile, there are a handful of other former San Jose Giants who are on the move this offseason after recently signing minor league deals.

Headlining the list of minor league free agents who have signed this offseason is infielder Nick Noonan, who inked a deal with the New York Yankees earlier this month. A former top prospect in the Giants organization, Noonan was one of six first round draft picks by San Francisco in 2007. Of note, among the six, only World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner now remains in the organization (Tim Alderson pitched last year in the Orioles and A’s organizations, Charlie Culberson and Jackson Williams were Colorado Rockies last season and Wendell Fairley is out of baseball).

Noonan was the everyday second baseman on San Jose’s record-setting 2009 championship team when as a 20-year old, he hit .259 with 26 doubles, seven home runs and 64 RBI’s over 124 games. Noonan opened the 2009 campaign as the #5 prospect in the Giants system according to Baseball America (fellow top 10 prospects Bumgarner, Alderson, Buster Posey, Angel Villalona, Conor Gillaspie and Scott Barnes were also on the ’09 squad). Additionally, Noonan played in 28 games late in the 2011 season with San Jose.

Noonan made San Francisco’s opening day roster in 2013 and spent the entire season shuttling back-and-forth between the big leagues and Triple-A. In 105 at-bats that year in San Francisco, Noonan hit just .219 with a pair of doubles and five RBI’s. Unfortunately for the infielder, he hasn’t returned to the major leagues having spent the entire 2014 season back in Triple-A, where he hit only .237 in 104 games. Declared a minor league free agent at the end of the season, Noonan is now a member of the Yankees organization.

There are several other former San Jose Giants with big league experience who are on the move this offseason. Catcher Johnny Monell (SJ Giant in 2009-10), who played at the Triple-A level in the Orioles and Dodgers organizations this season, has signed a minor league deal with the New York Mets. Monell has 81 career minor league home runs and a .264 batting average over eight seasons. He was a September call-up in San Francisco during the 2013 season playing in eight big league games. Monell was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2010 California League Championship Series when the Giants outlasted the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes to claim the title.

Outfielder Antoan Richardson (SJ Giant in 2007), who famously scored the game-winning run as a pinch-runner on Derek Jeter’s final hit last September, has signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. Richardson has spent time in the Braves, Orioles, Twins and Yankees organizations since leaving the Giants after the 2009 season. He’s played in 22 career games in the major leagues (20 at-bats) in 2011 (Atlanta) and 2014 (Yankees).

Former San Jose pitchers Joe Paterson (2008 in SJ) and Ryan Verdugo (2009 and 2010 in SJ) are also on the move this offseason. Paterson, who was picked-up by the Diamondbacks from the Giants in the Rule 5 draft after the 2010 season, has signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals. The side-arming lefty was a key member of the Arizona bullpen in 2011 (2.91 ERA in 62 games), but has struggled to stay in the big leagues ever since (only 11 appearances with the Diamondbacks over the last three seasons) having spent the majority of the time in Triple-A. Meanwhile, Verdugo, who pitched in Triple-A for the Royals and Red Sox this season, has signed with the Oakland Athletics. Verdugo has one game of major league experience (a spot-start with Kansas City in 2012).

Finally, former San Jose hurlers Mitch Lively (2009 and 2011 in SJ) and Dan Turpen (2008 and 2009 in SJ) have re-signed with the Nationals and Twins respectively. Lively has 272 career appearances in eight minor league seasons, but has yet to reach “The Show.” He had a 3.86 ERA with Triple-A Syracuse in 2014. Turpen pitched out of the Double-A New Britain bullpen this year and posted a 4.48 ERA in 40 games.

While none of these players will likely be considered “favorites” to make their respective team’s opening day rosters, all figure to be right on the doorstep for major league time in 2015.

When They Were San Jose Giants: Juan Perez

By Joe Ritzo

Juan Perez was a California League All-Star with the San Jose Giants in 2010

Juan Perez was a California League All-Star with the San Jose Giants in 2010

16 former San Jose Giants were on San Francisco’s playoff rosters this fall helping the club to their third World Championship in the last five years. While he didn’t spend the entire season in the big leagues, a key component of the title run was the contribution from outfielder Juan Perez.

Perez made the opening day roster this year, but saw little playing time throughout April and May before bouncing back-and-forth between San Francisco and Triple-A Fresno during the summer months. While in the PCL, Perez performed well batting over .300, but was rarely more than a late-inning defensive replacement in the big leagues. However once rosters expanded on September 1, Perez was in San Francisco to stay and when Angel Pagan went down with a season-ending injury a couple of weeks later (to go with Michael Morse’s existing injury issues), Perez’s playing time gradually increased. Despite a batting average under .200 in “The Show,” Perez made the playoff roster. He provided a pair of key hits off the bench during the NLCS before going 3-for-12 with three RBI’s in the World Series. Postseason highlights included a double off the wall late in Game 5 as the Giants built their lead over Kansas City and a start in left field for the decisive Game 7. But before all of his contributions this year in San Francisco, Perez had to climb through the Giants farm system. Here’s a look back at his memorable season with San Jose in 2010, when he helped the minor league Giants to a California League championship…

A native of the Dominican Republic, Perez went to high school in New York before attending Western Oklahoma State where he was a JC All-American. San Francisco selected him in the 13th round of the 2008 draft and he made his professional debut the following season with the Class-A Augusta GreenJackets. Despite hitting just .244 in the South Atlantic League that year, Perez received a promotion to San Jose for the start of the 2010 campaign. Primarily a second baseman in his rookie pro season, the organization determined that Perez was to play in the outfield exclusively during his year in the California League. Not considered one of the elite hitting prospects in the system at the time, Perez was going to have to prove himself and gain notice while in a San Jose uniform.

Perez wasn’t in the lineup on opening night in what would turn out to be a rare occurrence during the season in which he didn’t play. He made his Cal League debut the next day (April 9, 2010) batting sixth in the order and starting in center field. Future big leaguers Brandon Belt, Ehire Adrianza, Francisco Peguero and Johnny Monell were also in the lineup that night. And while it may have been uncertain at the time if Perez was to be an everyday player on this San Jose team, his red-hot start made it almost impossible for manager Brian Harper to take him out of the lineup going forward.

Perez had multi-hits in six out of his first 14 games as he made starts regularly in both center and right field. By the end of April, he was hitting .324 and had firmly established himself on the club, often batting either leadoff or second in the order. May was an even better month for Perez as he hit a cool .355 with 10 doubles, four triples, three home runs and 18 RBI’s in 30 games. He also stole 10 bases and along with Belt, were the driving forces offensively behind San Jose taking a commanding lead in the first half standings.

One of the top all-around hitters in the league during the first half, Perez was recognized as a midseason California League All-Star. He ended the half with an impressive .327 batting average to go with 21 doubles, seven homers and 34 RBI’s. The Giants posted a 45-25 record in the first half winning the division by a whopping eight games.

The make-up of the team changed considerably just after the All-Star break as Belt and some of the top pitchers were promoted to Double-A. Perez stayed back in San Jose though and while his offensive output wasn’t quite as high as in the first half, he remained a key cog for the ballclub. Primarily a leadoff hitter throughout the middle months of the season, Harper ultimately settled on Perez in the two-hole behind Peguero and ahead of Jose Flores, Monell and Charlie Culberson for the club’s final stretch.

After struggling somewhat in July (.246 AVG), Perez turned it back around and hit .315 in August as the Giants began to build momentum for their playoff run. Arguably Perez’s top individual moment of the regular season was a walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning on August 24 against Visalia to lift San Jose to a 5-4 victory.

Perez entered the last game of the regular season batting .299, but managed just one hit in five at-bats during the finale to fall just short of the magical .300 mark. His final stats included a .298 batting average, 37 doubles, 10 triples, 13 home runs, 63 RBI’s and 17 stolen bases. He ranked first on the Giants in runs scored (83), doubles and games played (131) while finishing second in hits (164) and triples and fourth in home runs and batting average.

The 2010 San Jose Giants won the California League championship with a dramatic Game 5 victory in Rancho Cucamonga

The 2010 San Jose Giants won the California League championship with a dramatic Game 5 victory in Rancho Cucamonga

Perez struggled offensively throughout the playoffs batting just .162 (6-for-37) in the eight Giants postseason games, but he would deliver arguably the biggest hit of the season for the club. With the decisive fifth game of the Championship Series tied 6-6 in the top of the 10th inning down in Rancho Cucamonga, Perez stepped to the plate with one out and grounded a triple down the right field line – one of two extra-base hits he produced in the playoffs. Following a pair of walks that loaded the bases, Perez then scored the championship-winning run when Culberson hit a sacrifice fly to right. With the Giants ahead 7-6, reliever Jason Stoffel closed out the Quakes in the bottom of the 10th stranding future big league superstar Mike Trout at third base to end the game. It marked the first time in San Jose franchise history that the team won back-to-back league titles (2009-10).

After his stellar year in the California League, Perez garnered a much-deserved promotion to Richmond for the start of the 2011 season. After two full years in Double-A, Perez received his first taste of Triple-A ball to open the 2013 campaign. In June of that year, he debuted in the major leagues and a season later, he was on the field when the San Francisco Giants claimed their third World Championship.

Perez Notes

• Perez made 81 starts in the leadoff spot in the lineup with San Jose – tops on the club in 2010. He had a .373 batting average when leading off an inning.
• While left field was his primary position during the 2014 MLB playoffs, Perez made just one start in left while a member of the San Jose Giants. He played 67 games in center and 59 games in right. After playing mainly second base a year earlier in Augusta, he didn’t play an inning in the infield with the SJ Giants.
• Perez was one of five San Jose Giants named to the midseason California League All-Star team joining Belt and pitchers Justin Fitzgerald, Eric Surkamp and Craig Westcott. All three hurlers are no longer in the San Francisco organization.
• Perez’s 10th inning triple in the memorable Game 5 down in Rancho Cucamonga was his only hit in six at-bats that night.
• Perez’s 13 home runs in San Jose are still the most he’s hit in a season during his professional career (six years).

Juan Perez (middle) with Francisco Peguero (left) and Ehire Adrianza (right) during the 2010 season

Juan Perez (middle) with Francisco Peguero (left) and Ehire Adrianza (right) during the 2010 season

Episode 43 – Inside the San Jose Giants

podcastgraphicIt’s Inside the San Jose Giants from the Winter Meetings! In this special podcast episode from San Diego, Joe and Ben describe the sights and sounds of the meetings while offering insight from a minor league perspective. Additionally, the two reflect on San Jose winning the 2014 Larry MacPhail Award, symbolizing the top promotional effort in Minor League Baseball. The final podcast of the year concludes with a montage of Joe and Ben’s favorite San Jose Giants highlights from 2014.

When They Were San Jose Giants: Joe Panik

By Joe Ritzo

Joe Panik was a standout player for the San Jose Giants in 2012 on his way to the big leagues

Joe Panik was a standout player for the San Jose Giants in 2012 on his way to the big leagues

16 former San Jose Giants were on San Francisco’s playoff rosters this fall helping lead the club to their third World Championship in the last five years. Despite not beginning the season in the major leagues, a vital contributor to the team’s success was rookie Joe Panik.

Panik emerged in August taking over the starting second base position while producing offensively from the second spot in the order. He batted over .300 during the regular season then came through with several key hits in the playoffs. His most memorable moment of the World Series was arguably the spectacular double play he started at second base early in Game 7. Panik’s success on baseball’s biggest stage has already made him a fan-favorite in San Francisco, but San Jose Giants fans remember his rise through the system and the impact he made in the California League. Let’s take a look back at Panik’s stint as a San Jose Giant…

Panik was sent to San Jose for the start of the 2012 season, where he was expected to help anchor a starting lineup that included other prospects Andrew Susac, Adam Duvall and Ricky Oropesa. Expectations were high for Panik, a late first round pick (29th overall selection) just a year earlier. He had burst onto the scene in the summer of 2011 earning Northwest League MVP honors while playing shortstop for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. On opening day 2012 as the Giants started their season in Modesto, Panik found himself batting third in the order (behind Susac and ahead of Duvall) and playing at his familiar shortstop position.

Panik started fast in a San Jose uniform as the club moved into first place in the North Division. The New York native hit .324 in his first nine games and had a stretch of six straight contests with at least one RBI in early-April. But then for the first time in his brief professional career, the New York native went into a slump. A 5-for-32 slide to end April dropped his overall batting average to .221. While his defense remained solid at shortstop, the grind of his first full season and facing the advanced pitchers that the Cal League had to offer resulted in a somewhat frustrating first half at the plate. On June 7, Panik was hitting just .238 as the club went into a tailspin and ultimately fell out of the top spot in the first half standings.

However, Panik persevered and began to display signs of his first round pedigree as June progressed. While the Giants had fallen out of the first half race, Panik hit safely in his last eight games before the All-Star break. He ended the half with a .257 batting average, 17 doubles, two homers and 30 RBI’s. Despite struggling at times with the bat, Panik still walked (32) more than he struck out (24) showing the ability to work counts and put the ball in play on a regular basis. A move out of the third spot in the lineup and up to the #2 hole also seemed to benefit Panik setting the stage for a memorable second half in the California League.

Panik homered in each of his first two games coming out of the All-Star break. He combined for six hits in those two contests down in Visalia and never looked back on his way to becoming one of the top hitters in the league. Two and three-hit games were the norm for the emerging star as Panik hit .280 in June before batting .303 during July – his first month with an average over the .300 mark. In fact, Panik produced multi-hits in eight out of 13 games to close July.

The surge continued into August for the San Jose shortstop. A 4-for-5, HR, 3 RBI game in Stockton on August 7 was followed by a perfect 4-for-4, HR, 2 RBI effort the next night at Banner Island Ballpark. When Panik singled in his first plate appearance on August 9 against the Ports, he had collected hits in an incredible eight consecutive at-bats – the longest streak by a Giants player for the season. At the start of the series, Panik’s average sat at .279. By the end of the three-game set, it had to risen to .293.

From there, the only question was whether Panik would have enough to get to the magical .300 mark. The hot hitting continued, but despite five straight multi-hit games during the final week of the regular season, Panik fell just short as he ended the year at .297 – still a remarkable rise from where he was just three months earlier.

Behind Panik’s impressive output from the second spot in the lineup, and other notable individual accomplishments from the likes of Duvall, Susac, Oropesa and Jarrett Parker, the Giants secured the Wild Card and ended the regular season with the top overall record in the North Division (75-65). Panik hit a sizzling .379 in August with an outstanding .940 OPS. After batting .257 in the first half, he hit .337 with five home runs and 46 RBI’s over 64 games in the second half. A clutch performer throughout the year, Panik’s .324 batting average with runners in scoring position was second on the club. He also struck out only eight times in 142 at-bats w/RISP offering a preview for SF Giants fans of how tough an out he can be during the biggest spots of the game.

His second half success was more than enough to earn a promotion to Double-A Richmond for the start of the 2013 season. Just a little over a year later, Panik debuted in the big leagues and the rest was history.

Joe Panik Fun Facts

• Panik, of course, made a name for himself in San Francisco this season as the club’s savior at second base. In San Jose two seasons earlier though, Panik didn’t play a single inning at second. All 122 of his games played in the field were at the shortstop position.
• Panik and Adam Duvall shared San Jose’s team MVP award in 2012. Panik was also honored as the club’s Defensive Player of the Year. He committed just two errors in his last 32 games. Panik was recognized as the top defensive shortstop in the California League by league managers in a survey conducted by Baseball America.
• Panik was the only player on San Jose’s team to end the season with more walks (58) than strikeouts (54).
• Panik’s 159 hits were third in the California League and his 93 runs scored were fifth. He also ranked as the toughest player to strikeout in the league (one K every 11.2 at-bats).
• San Jose lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2012, but Panik still shined as he led the team with a .417 postseason batting average (5-for-12).

Quotes

San Jose manager Andy Skeels on Joe Panik at the end of the 2012 season:
“Joe drove in some big runs for us all year. He uses the entire field well and is able to get a lot of his hits with two strikes. He was also very solid defensively.”

San Jose hitting coach Gary Davenport on Panik in August of 2012:
“ I think he’s one of the best hitters in our organization. We knew he was capable of this consistent level of hitting. He had some bad luck early in the year and now those balls are falling in for him. I also don’t think he’s put as much pressure on himself now compared to early in the season. We’re very, very happy with Joe.”

San Jose Coordinator of Minor League Hitting Steve Decker on Panik in April of 2012:
“Joe is a very polished player and there’s a reason we took him in the first round last year. He has a lot of ability at the plate to do multiple things. He’s very coachable and can apply things quickly. The Joe Panik’s and Buster Posey’s of the world are very easy on coaches because once we show them something, they’ve got it. Joe has multiple weapons – he can beat you with a walk, can beat you with a single, with a double and can take you deep occasionally. He’s well ahead of the game for his age.”

Joe Panik June 22, 2012 SJ Giants pregame radio interview:
“I think in the first half I was able to get an understanding with how everything works and I’m expecting big things from myself and the team in the second half.”

“The coaches are keeping things simple for me – just reminding me of the things that make me a good hitter. I’m trying to be aggressive early in the count and as a #2 hitter, you’re trained to be a tough out. You don’t want to give away any at-bats. You want to foul off tough pitches and not strikeout. I want to put balls in play and move guys over, especially as a #2 hitter. That’s my mindset.”

“There’s always pressure from the outside, people are depending on you, but I try to push that all aside. As a ballplayer, you put enough pressure on yourself to do well. Once the lights turn on, it’s a game now.”

Joe Panik July 31, 2012 SJ Giants pregame radio interview:
“I’m feeling really comfortable and relaxed at the plate. I’m not trying to do too much. Just trying to get on base and let the big guys behind me do their work.”

As San Jose's shortstop in 2012, Panik hit .297 with 27 doubles, seven home runs and 76 RBI's to earn co-team MVP honors

As San Jose’s shortstop in 2012, Panik hit .297 with 27 doubles, seven home runs and 76 RBI’s to earn co-team MVP honors

Winter League Updates

By Joe Ritzo

Updating the former San Jose Giants playing in the various winter leagues:

Venezuela

Former SJ Giant pitcher Jack Snodgrass has logged 39 innings in winter ball

Former SJ Giant pitcher Jack Snodgrass has logged 39 innings in winter ball

* Ehire Adrianza: .184, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .262 OBP
– Recently joined a Venezuelan Winter League team after SF’s World Series run … Is 7-for-38 with a double in his first 10 games (first action since late-July) … Playing almost exclusively second base.

* Chris Dominguez: .308, 0 HR, 4 RBI, .372 SLG
– Has hit for a good average this winter, although little power (five doubles, no homers in 78 AB’s) … Has made starts at first base, third base and right field … Last played on November 16.

* Austin Fleet: 3-1, 5.85 ERA, 20.0 IP, 9 BB, 15 SO
– Has made six starts and one relief appearance … Best start came on October 31 (5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 SO) … Struck out seven in 5 1/3 innings on November 7.

* Cody Hall: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 12 SV, 17.1 IP, 3 BB, 16 SO
– The Giants winter ball star this year … 12 saves rank second in the league … Has not allowed an earned run in 17 1/3 innings … Surrendered just six hits (.105 opponents batting average) … Was added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster last month.

* Kelvin Marte: 0-0, 20.25 ERA, 2.2 IP, 1 BB, 4 SO
– Lefty starter made his winter ball debut last week yielding six runs over 2 2/3 innings.

* Mark Minicozzi: .345, 3 HR, 15 RBI, .478 SLG
– Ranks fourth in the VWL in batting average … Also first in on-base percentage (.479) … Has walked (29) more than he’s struck out (23) … Owns a .957 OPS … Has cooled off a bit lately after hitting .435 in his first 20 games … Is a minor league free agent.

* Edwin Quirarte: 0-1, 2.25 ERA, 4.0 IP, 0 BB, 3 SO
– Another minor league free agent this offseason … Has surrendered one earned run in four innings of relief.

* Hector Sanchez: .225, 1 HR, 3 RBI, .300 SLG
– Returned to action this winter after an injury-plagued 2014 season … Has played in 10 games and is 9-for-40 with a home run … Has only seen time at first base and DH.

* Jack Snodgrass: 2-3, 5.08 ERA, 39.0 IP, 14 BB, 23 SO
– Leads all Giants pitchers in innings pitched this winter … Owns a 5.08 ERA in nine starts … Had a 3.18 ERA in his first five starts, but has struggled of late (7.71 ERA last four starts) … Logged 131 1/3 innings during the 2014 regular season with Double-A Richmond (11-6, 3.56 ERA).

The Venezuelan Winter League regular season concludes December 30.


Dominican Republic

* Angel Villalona: .067, 0 HR, 2 RBI
– Has played in five games this winter and is 1-for-15 with a double and a pair of RBI’s.

The Dominican Winter League regular season concludes December 21.

Recent San Jose Pitchers Added To San Francisco’s 40-Man Roster

By Joe Ritzo

SF Giants logoFour pitchers from the last two San Jose Giants teams were added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster yesterday. 2013 standout relievers Derek Law and Cody Hall, who both pitched for Double-A Richmond this season, were placed on the 40-man. Additionally, Ray Black and Joan Gregorio, two right-handers from this year’s San Jose squad, were also added.

Law burst onto the scene in 2013 when he split the year between Augusta and San Jose. As a member of the SJ Giants during the second half of the season, he fashioned a 2.10 ERA, was a perfect 11-for-11 in save opportunities and owned a staggering 45-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He then excelled in the Arizona Fall League not allowing an earned run over 12 innings to put himself in position for a huge 2014 season.

Law was a non-roster invitee to big league camp this past spring and was so impressive that he wasn’t sent down to the minors until the final weekend. He was ultimately assigned to Double-A Richmond where he notched a 2.57 ERA, converted 13 out of 14 save chances and collected 29 strikeouts in 28 innings. Unfortunately, Law suffered an elbow injury in early-June that required Tommy John surgery, which ended his season. Given the timeline of the procedure, Giants fans probably shouldn’t expect Law back on the field in minor league games until towards the middle portion of next year. Despite the injury though, Law is still considered one of the top relief pitcher prospects in the system, a distinction confirmed with his 40-man roster inclusion.

Law, who turned 24 last September, was originally a ninth round pick in the 2011 draft out of Miami Dade Community College. While in San Jose, the right-hander possessed pinpoint control of a low-to-mid 90’s fastball to go with a wipe-out slider.

Hall pitched briefly for San Jose late in 2012 before returning to the Giants the following season. In 2013, he logged an outstanding 1.34 ERA with San Jose over 26 relief appearances – mainly as a set-up man. Hall struck out a whopping 48 batters and issued just seven walks in 33 2/3 innings while limiting the opposition to a .130 batting average. Over his last 29 2/3 innings in a San Jose uniform, Hall allowed a grand total of just one run.

Hall was promoted to Richmond in late-June of that season and has spent the last year and a half with the Flying Squirrels. While not quite as dominant in Double-A, the 26-year old has still been very effective combining for a 2.88 ERA, 19 saves and 84 strikeouts in 78 innings over the last two seasons in the Eastern League. If there were any questions in the organization about whether Hall should be placed on the 40-man roster this offseason, those were probably nullified thanks to his current performance in Winter ball down in Venezuela. Working as a closer this winter league season, Hall has put up spectacular numbers as he boasts a perfect 0.00 ERA in 15 1/3 innings with just four hits allowed, 15 strikeouts and a league-high 10 saves.

Like Law, Hall has good control of an explosive fastball. While in the California League, Hall would often sit in the mid to upper 90’s with the pitch. The development of his off-speed stuff will be paramount to his further advancement in the organization. Hall, a 19th rounder in 2011, was considered a raw and inexperienced pitching prospect when the Giants drafted him out of Southern University. He’ll almost certainly open next season in the Triple-A Sacramento bullpen and Law could eventually join him there once he’s back at full strength.

Meanwhile, Black and Gregorio each spent a small portion of the 2014 season in San Jose and are candidates to return to the California League next year. Black, like Law and Hall was drafted in 2011 out of the college ranks (seventh round, University of Pittsburgh), but has taken a very different path as a professional. Black suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder that required surgery and a long recovery process forced him to sit out both the 2012 and 2013 minor league seasons. He finally debuted professionally this year and the results were impressive, to say the least. Working on a strict schedule in an effort to get him through the year without any significant injury setbacks (never pitching more than one inning + multiple days off in between outings), he fanned 71 batters in 35 1/3 innings, mainly in Augusta, for an incredible 18.1 strikeouts per nine innings total. His overall ERA finished at 3.57 to go with a microscopic .140 opponents batting average, 16 walks and just one home run allowed.

Black was promoted to San Jose in late-August for the Giants’ playoff push and made four relief appearances in the Cal League yielding just one hit and one run to go with seven strikeouts over four innings. He showcased an electric 97-to-101 MPH fastball with a plus-slider that also served as a strikeout pitch. Now with a full year under his belt, look for the organization to perhaps turn Black loose a bit next season with a greater number of appearances in more high-leverage situations. Whether he picks up where he left off and returns to San Jose or garners an immediate opportunity to pitch in Double-A next April will be a major storyline next spring. Armed with two dominant pitches, if Black can stay healthy going forward, he could shoot through the farm system in the coming months.

2014 San Jose Giant Joan Gregorio was added to San Francisco's 40-man roster this week

2014 San Jose Giant Joan Gregorio was added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster this week

Finally, Gregorio is the only one of the quartet that has been used as a starter. With a lean 6’7″ frame, Gregorio possesses a low 90’s fastball and an intriguing mix of offspeed pitches that can dazzle at times, but also lack consistency. He started the 2014 season in the San Jose rotation and made a strong initial impression posting a 1.88 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings over his first three starts. Back-to-back rough starts (13 total runs allowed) though put Gregorio on the DL as he attempted to work through mechanical issues with his delivery. He returned to action three weeks later, but made just one relief appearance before going back on the disabled list with a sore back. Once finally healthy again, Gregorio was sent to Augusta, where he spent the entire second half. To his credit, Gregorio rebounded nicely in the South Atlantic League (his second stint as a GreenJacket) notching a 3.57 ERA in 12 starts with 65 strikeouts in 68 innings.

Gregorio still has a long ways to go in his effort to reach the big leagues, but the right-hander oozes potential and with his new 40-man status, should get every opportunity in the coming years to prove himself and move up the ladder. Look for Gregorio to get another shot at the California League in 2015, where he would be one of the headline starters in the San Jose rotation.

Currently, the San Francisco Giants have filled all 40 spots on their 40-man roster. 26 of the 40 are former San Jose Giants. San Francisco’s current 40-man roster can be found here.

With the inclusion of these players on the 40-man roster, not only do they greatly increase their chances for an eventual big league call-up, but the organization has now protected them from other teams in the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

Players signed at age 18 or younger (high school draftees and most international signees) must be added to the 40-man roster after five years or they become at risk to be drafted by another organization through the Rule 5 process. Players that are signed at 19 or older (college draftees) have to be protected after four years or they also become eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft. For example, Law, Hall and Black were all drafted out of the college ranks in 2011 and have completed their fourth seasons in the minor leagues. Gregorio, who just finished his fifth season in the organization, was signed as an 18-year old by the San Francisco Giants back in 2010.

It costs teams $50,000 to add a Rule 5 player to their roster. However, the team must then keep that player on the major league roster all season, otherwise they have to offer the player back to their original team for half the price ($25,000). There are also Triple-A and Double-A phases to the Rule 5 draft with price tags of $12,000 and $4,000 respectively, however most eligible minor leaguers are protected on reserve minor league lists.

The Rule 5 draft is scheduled for December 11 at Baseball’s Winter Meetings in San Diego.

Notable Rule 5 eligible players left unprotected by the San Francisco Giants include pitchers Bryce Bandilla, Tyler Mizenko, Josh Osich and Jack Snodgrass, catcher Jeff Arnold, infielders Ricky Oropesa and Kelby Tomlinson and outfielders Jesus Galindo, Devin Harris and Chuckie Jones. The Giants though haven’t lost a player in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft since 2010 (Joe Paterson to Arizona). Top minor league prospects such as Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Ty Blach, Steven Okert, Chris Stratton and Mac Williamson are not yet Rule 5 eligible and thus don’t need to be protected on the 40-man roster this offseason.

Episode 42 – Inside the San Jose Giants

Inside the San Jose Giants podcastIn this podcast episode, Joe and Ben wrap-up the Arizona Fall League with a review of how the Giants prospects fared. The two also discuss which former San Jose Giants could make their major league debuts in 2015.

Giants Players Finish Arizona Fall League Season

By Joe Ritzo

Steven Okert struck out 17 batters in 12 innings and had a 0.75 ERA in the Arizona Fall League

Steven Okert struck out 17 batters in 12 innings and had a 0.75 ERA in the Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League season has come to a close for Giants prospects with the bullpen duo of Steven Okert and Tyler Rogers providing the top highlights this year. Okert put the finishing touches on a spectacular 2014 season as the lefty was nearly unhittable in the late innings for the Scottsdale Scorpions while Rogers was also a steady performer in relief to greatly improve his prospect status. Meanwhile, several others in the Giants farm system gained valuable experience against top competition this fall as they gear up for the new season next spring.

Okert was unquestionably the headline performer among Giants prospects in the AFL. After leading the farm system with 24 saves this season (19 in San Jose, five in Richmond), Okert fashioned a 0.75 ERA in 10 relief appearances for the Scorpions. In his 12 innings pitched this fall, Okert surrendered only one run and five hits. The southpaw also issued just one walk while registering 17 strikeouts. Addtionally, Okert converted his only save opportunity and in the AFL Fall Stars Game a couple of weeks ago, struck out the lone batter he faced.

Over his last six outings, Okert retired 18 out of the 19 batters he faced. Overall, he limited the opposition to a paltry .119 batting average this fall. A former fourth round pick out of Oklahoma, Okert has no doubt shot up the prospect charts in the Giants organization with his magnificent 2014 season. He is arguably now the top left-handed relief pitcher prospect in the system and could be in the mix for a big league debut at some point in 2015. In all likelihood, Okert will receive an invitation to major league camp next spring before opening the regular season with Triple-A Sacramento.

While Okert’s performance in the fall league was outstanding, he was not the only Giants prospect to impress out of the Scottsdale bullpen. The submarine throwing Rogers compiled a 2.13 ERA over 10 relief appearances. In 12 2/3 innings, the right-hander yielded 15 hits, three earned runs while issuing just two walks and striking out seven.

2014 was Rogers’ first full professional season after his selection in the 10th round of the 2013 draft out of Austin Peay State University. It was a busy year as Rogers logged 89 2/3 relief innings during the regular season (1.81 ERA), primarily with San Jose. In fact, over his last 25 2/3 innings with the Giants to conclude the year, Rogers yielded just one earned run. For his efforts, Rogers earned a promotion to Richmond for their playoff run in September before excelling in the fall league. Look for Rogers to return to the upper levels of the farm system next April, perhaps as a key remember of the Flying Squirrels bullpen. Rogers doesn’t possess overwhelming velocity out of the bullpen, but his funky delivery is clearly paying dividends as he’s shown the ability to come into games and get groundball outs while working multiple innings.

Meanwhile, top starting pitching prospect Clayton Blackburn also pitched in the fall league. A San Jose Giant during the 2013 season, Blackburn was limited to 18 starts in Richmond this year due to injury. He posted a solid 3.29 ERA and the fall league then allowed the right-hander to make up for some lost time and get a few more innings under his belt before the end of the season.

Working out of the bullpen in the AFL, Blackburn made six appearances totaling 11 2/3 innings with a 5.40 ERA. The right-hander, who is known for possessing excellent control, didn’t issue a single walk while recording nine strikeouts. Blackburn figures to be a candidate for a promotion to Triple-A when next season begins.

Daniel Carbonell hit .344 in 21 games with San Jose this season before gaining experience in the AFL

Daniel Carbonell hit .344 in 21 games with San Jose this season before gaining experience in the AFL

On the hitting side, the trio of Giants prospects struggled this fall season, albeit in a small sample size of results. Playing roughly every other day, outfielder Daniel Carbonell hit .190 in 58 at-bats while producing one triple, one home run and six RBI’s. Carbonell, who played center field with San Jose to close out the 2014 campaign, made starts at all three outfield positions this fall. Somewhat surprisingly, Carbonell didn’t register a stolen base (0-for-1) while he struck out 16 times compared to drawing just two walks. At one point during the fall season, he did notch a hit in 10 out of 11 games played.

Look for Carbonell, who finished the minor league season on Richmond’s playoff roster, to open next year in the upper levels of the farm system. Carbonell signed a major league contract with the San Francisco Giants last June.

Infielders Blake Miller and Kelby Tomlinson also represented the Giants in the AFL this year. Miller, San Jose’s 2014 Most Valuable Player, hit .193 in 57 at-bats to go with one double, five RBI’s and one stolen base. He showed his versatility this fall season making starts at second base, third base and shortstop for the Scorpions. Miller, who was promoted to Richmond in early-August, will likely return to the Flying Squirrels next spring. The former 25th round draft pick hit .299 with eight homers and 73 RBI’s in 96 games during his fantastic 2014 season with San Jose.

Tomlinson, who took Matt Duffy’s spot on the Scottsdale roster after San Francisco’s World Series run overlapped with the majority of the AFL season, produced just seven hits in 63 at-bats for a .118 batting average. Tomlinson delivered one double, one triple and three RBI’s, but his eight stolen bases (in nine attempts) ranked second on the team and tied for fourth in the league.

A San Jose Giant in 2013, Tomlinson batted .268 with one home run and 49 steals as an everyday player up the middle for Richmond this season.

As a team, the Scorpions struggled this fall as their 12-20 record was worst among the six Arizona Fall League squads. Scottsdale was an even 9-9 on October 27 before losing 11 out of their last 14 games.

Minor League Free Agents

By Joe Ritzo

SF Giants logoA minor leaguer is eligible for free agency six years after his first season in the organization, provided the player is not on the 40-man roster. Last week, Baseball America posted a complete list of the minor leaguers that have been declared free agents. 21 players within the San Francisco organization were listed, 10 of which are former members of the San Jose Giants.

Jorge Bucardo, RHP
Former top starting pitching prospect in the system before missing all of 2011 due to injury (has been used as a reliever since). Had brief stints with San Jose in 2010 and 2013 before spending most of this year in the California League. Made 33 relief appearances with the Giants this season and owned a 3.81 ERA. Career ERA (seven seasons) sits at an impressive 2.92.

Jose Casilla, RHP
Was placed on San Francisco’s 40-man roster after his standout 2010 season as a closer in Augusta, but missed most of 2011 and all of 2012 due to Tommy John Surgery and was subsequently removed. Returned to the mound with San Jose in 2013 and was one of the top relievers on the club (3.22 ERA, 5 SV in 43 games). Got his first crack at Double-A this year and fashioned a 3.97 ERA in 41 appearances for the Flying Squirrels. Is the younger brother of SF Giants closer Santiago.

Tyler Graham, OF

A San Jose Giant in 2008 and 2009, Graham has bounced around in recent years. The speedy outfielder was one of Fresno’s (AAA) top hitters in ’10 and ’11 before a two-year stint in the Diamondbacks organization. Garnered two big league at-bats with Arizona late in 2012. Played in the Mexican League in ’13 before returning to the Giants this year. Now 30 years old, was Richmond’s primary center fielder this season and batted .255 with three homers and 27 RBI’s in 106 games. Ranked third in the Eastern League with 38 stolen bases. Has 264 steals in his eight-year minor league career.

Tyler LaTorre, C

Veteran back-up catcher at the minor league level. Was a catcher on San Jose’s 2006 and 2008 teams. Has bounced back-and-forth between Double-A and Triple-A since 2009. Played in 58 games this year, mainly with Richmond, and hit .268 with one home run and 14 RBI’s.

Mark Minicozzi, 1B/OF

The well-traveled Minicozzi was a SJ Giant in 2006 and 2007, spent three years playing Independent League ball (2009-11), returned to the Giants organization in 2012 and finally made it to Triple-A for the first time this season. 31-year old first baseman/left fielder hit .298 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI’s over 89 games for Fresno in 2014. Won the Eastern League batting title (.309 AVG) while playing for Richmond last year. Has continued his success offensively in winter ball as he currently leads the Venezuelan Winter League in hitting.

Jesus Navarro, C

Career back-up catcher has played in just 137 games over eight minor league seasons. Played for San Jose briefly in 2011 and 2014. Spent the 2013 season as one of the back-up catchers for Richmond.

Nick Noonan, INF

Noonan made San Francisco’s opening day roster in 2013, but hit just .219 with two extra-base hits in 105 at-bats for the big league Giants last year. Now off the 40-man roster, the former supplemental first round pick spent all of this season in Fresno and batted .237 with three home runs and 24 RBI’s in 104 games. Saw most of his action this year at the shortstop position. Was the starting second baseman on San Jose’s 2009 record-breaking championship team.

Edwin Quirarte, RHP
Quirarte was a key reliever on San Jose’s 2010 title team and has spent the last four seasons working out of the Richmond bullpen. Despite having a fair amount of success in the Eastern League, has yet to advance to the Triple-A level. Posted a 3.18 ERA in 2012 with the Squirrels, a 2.61 ERA in 2013 and a 3.23 ERA this year.

Skyler Stromsmoe, INF/OF
Veteran utility player spent the 2009 season in San Jose and also had brief stints in the California League in 2012 and 2013. Played in a career-high 104 games with Richmond this year and hit .233 with 14 doubles, no homers and 15 RBI’s. Spent most of the 2012 campaign with Fresno. The 30-year old started games at six different positions this season (second, third, short, left, center and right).

Eliezer Zambrano, C

Primarily a back-up catcher over his nine-year minor league career. Zambrano spent most of 2013 with San Jose before serving as one of Richmond’s backstops this year (.268 AVG in 60 games).

The full list of minor league free agents can be found here.

Earlier in the offseason, former San Jose Giants LHP Kelvin Marte and OF Darren Ford re-signed with San Francisco thereby foregoing impending minor league free agency. Both Marte and Ford finished last season playing for Triple-A Fresno.

The next significant personnel decisions this offseason involving minor leaguers will be determining who is added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster. The deadline to set the roster and thus protect players from the upcoming Rule 5 draft is November 20. College players drafted in 2011 and high school draftees and most international players signed in 2010 that are currently not on the 40-man roster will be Rule 5 draft eligible for the first time this year. The Rule 5 draft will be held on December 11 at Baseball’s Winter Meetings.

There are currently 37 players on San Francisco’s 40-man roster.

Former SJ Giants Playing Winter Ball

By Joe Ritzo

2012 Cal League All-Star Jack Snodgrass has a 3.18 ERA in five winter league starts

2012 Cal League All-Star Jack Snodgrass has a 3.18 ERA in five winter league starts

The World Series is over and play in the Arizona Fall League is winding down, but baseball is still in the air. A handful of former San Jose Giants are currently involved with their winter league seasons as players look to finish 2014 on a high note and build momentum heading into spring training. Notable early winter ball performances include Mark Minicozzi leading the Venezuelan League in hitting, Cody Hall excelling in the late innings and Jack Snodgrass continuing to impress as a starting pitcher.

The bulk of former SJ Giants in winter ball this year are currently playing in the Venezuelan Winter League. The well-traveled Minicozzi, a standout on San Jose’s 2006 team and also a member of the 2007 Cal League championship squad, is batting .409 in 26 games for Aguilas de Zuila. In addition to leading the league in batting average, Minicozzi is tops in on-base percentage (.527), first in walks (22), tied for second in hits (36) and fourth in slugging (.545). The 31-year old, who is playing exclusively first base this winter, has also produced six doubles, two home runs and 13 RBI’s.

After a three-year stint playing Independent ball, Minicozzi returned to the Giants organization in 2012. He won a batting title while playing for Double-A Richmond last year before earning his first taste of Triple-A this season. In 89 games with Fresno, Minicozzi hit .298 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI’s splitting time between first base and left field. Minicozzi is currently a Minor League free agent.

The headliner on the mound in winter ball this year has been Hall, who has dominated as the closer for Caribes de Anzoategui. Hall’s eight saves lead the Venezuelan Winter League while he’s yet to surrender an earned run over 12 1/3 innings. Remarkably, Hall has allowed only three batters to reach base this winter: 2 hits and 1 walk. The league is batting a paltry .051 against him while he’s registered 13 strikeouts.

Hall, who turns 27 in January, pitched out of the San Jose bullpen late in 2012 and during the first half of 2013 before a promotion to Richmond. He’s spent the last season and a half working out of the Flying Squirrels bullpen compiling a 3.14 ERA in 47 appearances this year. Hall’s 11 saves in 2014 ranked tied for second on the Richmond squad. Hall has averaged 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings during his minor league career. After a solid campaign with Richmond this year combined with his spectacular effort thus far in Winter ball, Hall figures to have positioned himself nicely for a promotion to Triple-A next spring.

Former San Jose starters Snodgrass and Austin Fleet are also pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League. Snodgrass, the lone SJ Giant to be named to the 2012 Cal League All-Star team, has made five starts for Caribes de Anzoategui. Overall, the lefty is 2-1 with a solid 3.18 ERA. He’s fanned 11 and walked just six over 22 2/3 innings while holding the opposition to a .225 batting average. His best start thus far of the winter league season came on October 24 when he fired five scoreless innings with just one hit allowed and four strikeouts.

Snodgrass’ 11 wins during the 2014 regular season tied for the Richmond team lead. He fashioned a 3.56 ERA in 22 starts while his 131 innings ranked second on the club.

Fleet is a perfect 3-0 in five appearances (four starts) this winter. The 27-year old right-hander owns a 4.60 ERA with 11 strikeouts and six walks in 15 2/3 innings. A San Jose Giant in 2013, Fleet split time between Richmond and Fresno this year. In seven starts with the Grizzlies to end the season, he compiled a 4-2 record and a 3.95 ERA.

After making his major league debut this September, Chris Dominguez has found his way to Venezuela to continue his 2014 season. The versatile slugger boasts a .328 batting average in 16 games with four doubles, no home runs and four RBI’s. Dominguez was a 20-20 guy in Fresno this year knocking out 21 home runs to go with 21 stolen bases (.274 AVG). His only hit in 17 big league at-bats after a September call-up was a home run. This winter, Dominguez is seeing most of his playing time at first base or right field. He ranks second on Navegantes del Magallanes in batting average.

Finally, Angel Villalona is currently playing in the Dominican Winter League. Villalona, an All-Star in the California League with San Jose during the 2013 season, is 1-for-11 with a double and a pair of RBI’s in his first three games this winter. A member of San Francisco’s 40-man roster, Villalona hit .227 with 10 homers and 54 RBI’s in 101 games with Richmond this year. He’ll be looking for an opportunity at the Triple-A level next season.

“Inside the San Jose Giants” will continue to track these players throughout the winter league season. Regular season play in each winter league concludes in late-December, although some players do not continue with their team for the entire schedule and instead return to the United States.

With the Arizona Fall League season set to conclude this weekend, look for our Giants AFL review early next week.

Next Crop Of Former SJ Giants Look To Debut In 2015

By Joe Ritzo / Voice of the San Jose Giants

Over the 27-year history of the San Jose Giants, 173 former players have reached the major leagues. In 2014, it was 11 players who once called Municipal Stadium home that made it to “The Show” for the first time. Eight of those debuted in San Francisco, notably Joe Panik, Andrew Susac, Matt Duffy and Hunter Strickland, who helped the Giants claim their third World Championship in the last five years. Now looking ahead to 2015, there’s a new crop of former SJ Giants that are looking to achieve their big league dreams.

Here’s a list of 10 former San Jose players who could make their debut next season with the San Francisco Giants:

2013 San Jose standout Ty Blach is a candidate to make his major league debut next season

2013 San Jose standout Ty Blach is a candidate to make his major league debut next season

Ty Blach, LHP
The Giants are hoping Blach is part of the next wave of top starting pitching prospects to make an impact at the big league level, perhaps as soon as the 2015 season. The former fifth round pick won the Cal League ERA title with San Jose in 2013 – his rookie professional season. This year, Blach wasn’t quite as dominant while pitching for Double-A Richmond, but still turned in a solid year. The left-hander, who is known for possessing pinpoint control, boasted the fifth-lowest ERA in the Eastern League at 3.13 in 25 starts. Blach struck out just 91 batters in 141 innings, but also issued only 39 walks. He almost certainly will be elevated to Triple-A Sacramento for the start of 2015.

Clayton Blackburn, RHP
Blackburn is another top starting pitching prospect in the organization that figures to have a chance to reach the big leagues before the end of the 2015 season. The right-hander, who will turn 22 in January, has excelled at every level during his professional career. A 16th round draft pick in 2011 out of high school, Blackburn ranked among the Cal League leaders in ERA with San Jose during the 2013 campaign. This year, he moved up to Richmond and fashioned a 3.29 ERA in 18 starts to go with an impressive 85-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 93 innings. Neither Blach nor Blackburn boast overpowering fastballs, but each can bring it well into the low 90’s with outstanding control. Like Blach, Blackburn should receive a major test with a promotion to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this season. If he impresses, a late-season call-up could be in the cards.

Top prospect outfielder Daniel Carbonell signed a major league deal with San Francisco last June

Top prospect outfielder Daniel Carbonell signed a major league deal with San Francisco last June

Daniel Carbonell, OF
Signed last June after defecting from Cuba, Carbonell immediately became one of the top position player prospects in the system. A speedy outfielder with a good arm and emerging power, Carbonell dazzled during a three-week stint in the California League to close out the 2014 regular season. In 21 games for San Jose this year, playing exclusively center field, Carbonell hit a sizzling .344 and contributed three triples, three home runs and seven stolen bases. He then earned a promotion to Richmond for their playoff run in September before continuing his season in the Arizona Fall League. It remains to be seen where Carbonell will open the 2015 campaign (Richmond or Sacramento being the most likely destinations), but his progress will certainly be monitored closely wherever he lands. Carbonell is already on the 40-man roster (having signed a major league deal), which greatly increases his chances for a call-up at some point next year.

Kyle Crick, RHP

2014 was an up-and-down year for Crick, who entered the season widely considered the #1 prospect in the farm system. A right-handed starting pitcher with an electric mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, Crick limited Eastern League hitters to a .234 batting average while striking out an impressive 111 batters over just 90 1/3 innings. Crick’s final ERA of 3.79 was also solid. The downside to his year was continued issues with control as the former first round pick walked a whopping 60 hitters or roughly six batters per nine innings. High pitch counts also prevented Crick from even reaching the five-inning mark in half of his 22 starts. The bar has been set high for Crick due to his draft standing, strikeout stuff and prototypical starting pitcher’s frame. If he can show even modest improvement with his command, the sky is the limit in the big leagues, whether it be as a front-line starting pitcher or perhaps a late-inning reliever. If he can take significant steps forward in Triple-A next year, a debut in San Francisco shouldn’t be far behind.

Cody Hall, RHP
Hall has somewhat flown under the radar as a relief pitcher prospect in the system, but 2015 could very well see the right-hander reach “The Show.” Over the first four years of his professional career, Hall has collected 46 saves and boasts a 2.31 ERA while averaging well over a strikeout per inning (238 SO in 186 IP). This season in Richmond, Hall logged a 3.14 ERA and was tied for second on the club with 11 saves. Armed with a mid 90’s fastball, Hall should earn his first taste of Triple-A ball to open 2015. Continued development of his offspeed pitches may determine whether he gets an opportunity to move up to San Francisco before the year is over.

Derek Law, RHP
Law enjoyed a breakout 2013 season that put the right-hander at the top of the organization’s relief pitcher prospects list. After a stellar second half as San Jose’s closer, Law dominated in the Arizona Fall League last year. He then earned an invite to big league camp and was so impressive there, that he remained on the roster until the final round of cuts just before opening day. Law, who throws his fastball in the low-to-mid 90’s to go with a devastating breaking ball and a funky, deceptive delivery, was assigned to Richmond at the start of the year. He was putting together another standout effort (2.57 ERA, 13-for-14 in save opportunities, 29 strikeouts in 28 innings) before an elbow injury in early-June resulted in season-ending Tommy John surgery. Law won’t be ready for game action when the 2015 season begins, but could he follow a similar path to Hunter Strickland’s this year once he’s healthy? Law, like Strickland did this year, will look to pick-up right where he left off around midseason. And if he continues to dominate, just as he showed pre-injury, a chance to pitch in San Francisco before the end of year seems very possible.

Steven Okert had a breakout 2014 season that saw the lefty collect 24 saves between San Jose and Richmond

Steven Okert had a breakout 2014 season that saw the lefty collect 24 saves between San Jose and Richmond

Steven Okert, LHP
Yet another relief pitcher in the upper levels of the system who figures to have a great opportunity to reach AT&T Park in 2015. Okert’s breakout year in the minors was this season as the hard-throwing lefty emerged as San Jose’s closer in the first half and amassed 19 saves to go with a 1.53 ERA and 54 strikeouts in just 35 innings. He continued to impress after a midseason promotion to Richmond (2.73 ERA, five saves, 38 K’s in 33 IP) and is currently throwing well in the Arizona Fall League. Okert, who can reach 95-96 MPH with his fastball, probably doesn’t project as a closer in the big leagues, but could be a valuable mid-to-late inning lefty reliever in the not-so-distant future. He’ll probably open next season in Triple-A.

Jarrett Parker, OF

Parker actually was in the big leagues for a day this August, but never got into the game and was promptly sent back to the minor leagues. It’s been a roller coaster ride for the former second round pick during the first four years of his professional career. Parker, who can play all three outfield positions, has hit 61 career home runs and stolen 73 bases, but a pedestrian .255 batting average and high strikeout totals have often held him back. He finally earned a trip to Triple-A for the final month of this season and held his own batting .278 with three homers in 24 games. A return to the PCL to open 2015 is likely for Parker, where he could put up some huge power numbers. If the contact rates can improve, even slightly, a chance to actually play in a major league game next year is very possible. Parker is still on the 40-man roster.

Angel Villalona, 1B
Villalona was on this list last year, but a 2014 debut didn’t pan out as the slugging first baseman hit just .227 with Double-A Richmond. The power numbers for Villalona were also modest (18 doubles, 10 home runs, 54 RBI’s), but he remains on the 40-man roster and with still another option year to use. There’s no denying his incredible raw power, however the organization is still waiting to see if he can put it all together at the minor league level. Might a promotion to the more hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League help his efforts? Wherever he lands next spring, it’s an enormously pivotal year for Villalona. If he can deliver that much-desired breakout season and with time ticking on his option clock, Villalona could finally reach the bigs in 2015.

Mac Williamson is one of the top power hitting prospects in the Giants farm system

Mac Williamson is one of the top power hitting prospects in the Giants farm system

Mac Williamson, OF
2014 was a trying year for Williamson, but he’s expected to bounce back next season and continue his rise through the organization. A former third round draft pick, Williamson exceled with San Jose in 2013 where he clubbed 31 doubles and 25 home runs to go with a .292 batting average (.331 after the All-Star break). Elbow issues though brought the power-hitting corner outfielder back to San Jose for the start of 2014 where he was to DH only with the hope of returning to full strength and then moving up Richmond once ready to play the field. Despite performing well once again offensively throughout April, the elbow never responded and Williamson underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery. Looking forward, Williamson should be ready to go for spring training next year and his first opportunity to play in the upper levels of the organization won’t be far behind. The challenge of the Eastern League, especially after missing almost an entire season, won’t be easy. However if he performs well, Williamson could move quickly through the system with an outside chance at a late-season call-up to San Francisco.

Others To Consider: RHP Ray Black, RHP Kendry Flores, INF Blake Miller, 1B/OF Mark Minicozzi, LHP Josh Osich, RHP Tyler Rogers

Last Year’s List

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Arizona Fall League Update 11/3

afl_logoAn update on former San Jose Giants currently playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League:

PITCHERS
Clayton Blackburn: 5 games, 1-1, 4.50 ERA (5 ER/10.0 IP), 0 BB, 7 SO
Tyler Mizenko: 1 game, 0-0, 13.50 ERA (1 ER/0.2 IP), 2 BB, 0 SO
Steven Okert: 7 games, 0-0, 1.00 ERA (1 ER/9.0 IP), 1 BB, 11 SO
Tyler Rogers: 6 games, 0-0, 2.25 ERA (2 ER/8.0 IP), 1 BB, 4 SO

Notes… Okert continues to be the Giants star of the AFL this fall. The left-hander has surrendered only one run and four hits in nine innings of relief while boasting an 11-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Okert, who has also converted his only save opportunity, has not allowed a baserunner in his last three outings (3 IP).

Okert was the only Giants prospect to participate in last Saturday’s AFL Fall Stars Game. Pitching for the victorious East Division, Okert struck out the only batter he faced while closing out the eighth inning.

Rogers also continues to impress this fall with just two runs and six hits allowed in eight innings. The 2014 San Jose relief standout gave up two runs in two innings on October 22, but has recovered to toss a scoreless frame in each of his last two appearances.

Meanwhile, Blackburn, normally a starter, has been used exclusively out of the bullpen this fall season. The right-hander has pitched three innings with two runs allowed in each of his last two outings. Overall, Blackburn has struck out seven and walked none over 10 innings pitched (5 R).

HITTERS

Daniel Carbonell: .205 AVG (8-39), 1 HR, 5 RBI
Blake Miller: .175 AVG (7-40), 4 RBI
Kelby Tomlinson: .136 AVG (6-44), 2 RBI, 6 SB

Notes… It’s a relatively small sample size, but the trio of Giants hitters have largely struggled thus far in the AFL. Carbonell has performed the best, but with a batting average at just .205. He’s the only one of the three to have hit a home run. Somewhat surprisingly, the speedy Carbonell has not attempted a stolen base yet this fall. Carbonell has hit safely in eight out of his last nine games (although with just one hit in each of those eight contests).

Miller has just one hit in his last 15 at-bats as his AFL batting average has dipped to .175. Miller’s lone extra-base hit is a double. The infielder hit a combined .300 in 122 games with San Jose and Double-A Richmond this season (29 doubles, 6 triples, 8 home runs, 85 RBI’s).

Tomlinson, who was Matt Duffy’s replacement on the roster, produced back-to-back two-hit games last week, but is still hitting just .136 overall. Tomlinson’s six stolen bases (in seven attempts) rank second on the Scorpions and tied for fourth in the league. Tomlinson had 49 steals with Richmond this year to lead the Eastern League.

At the start of play on Monday, Scottsdale owns a record of 10-12. The Scorpions sit in third place in the three-team East Division – 5 1/2 games out of first. 10 games remain with the regular season concluding on November 13.

Episode 41 – Inside the San Jose Giants

Inside the San Jose Giants GraphicIn this World Series Championship episode, Joe and Ben highlight the 16 former San Jose Giants impact on San Francisco’s run to the title. From Madison Bumgarner’s historic pitching effort to Joe Panik’s emergence at second base, Pablo Sandoval’s postseason prowess and Travis Ishikawa’s pennant clinching home run there were many standouts who first made a name for themselves at Municipal Stadium.

Future SF Giants Propelled San Jose In Winner-Take-All Games

The 2010 San Jose Giants won a winner-take-all championship game behind contributions from Juan Perez and Brandon Crawford

The 2010 San Jose Giants won a winner-take-all championship game behind contributions from Juan Perez and Brandon Crawford

The San Francisco Giants are gearing up for Game 7 of the World Series tonight in Kansas City. Several players on the World Series roster have already had success in winner-take-all championship games during their professional careers. San Jose Giants fans may remember Travis Ishikawa and Sergio Romo leading the charge in the decisive fifth game of the ’07 Championship Series. And in 2010 down in Rancho Cucamonga, it was Juan Perez and Brandon Crawford that had defining final game moments during the extra-inning victory over the Quakes. Lets take a brief look back…

2007 – Winner-Take-All Game 5 vs. Lake Elsinore at Municipal Stadium
A convincing 7-1 Giants victory over the Storm to claim the title. Pitching led the way for the home team as four San Jose hurlers combined on a two-hitter. Of note, closer Sergio Romo finished the contest with a perfect ninth inning. He completed the game with an emphatic strikeout with none other than Pablo Sandoval behind the plate catching the last pitch. Offensively, Travis Ishikawa, who started the game at first base, had one of the biggest hits of the night when he connected for a two-run home run. Sandoval also finished 1-for-4.

2010 – Winner-Take-All Game 5 at Rancho Cucamonga

Perhaps the most memorable game in San Jose Giants franchise history. In the decisive Game 5 of the Championship Series down in Rancho Cucamonga, the Giants scored a thrilling 7-6, 10-inning victory over the host Quakes to secure the club’s first-ever back-to-back titles. Future SF Giant Juan Perez scored the game-winning run in the top of the 10th for San Jose. With the score tied, Perez led off the frame with a triple down the right field line and eventually scored on a Charlie Culberson sacrifice fly. It was Perez’s only hit in six at-bats that night. Brandon Crawford also made a significant impact as the future San Francisco shortstop got San Jose on the board with a second-inning two-run homer (Crawford had hit an 11th inning grand slam two days earlier in the Game 3 Giants win). Crawford ended the night 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI’s and a sacrifice bunt.

News and Notes: Okert To Play In Fall Stars Game

By Joe Ritzo

Steven Okert's banner 2014 season continues as the lefty reliever was selected for the AFL Fall Stars Game

Steven Okert’s banner 2014 season continues as the lefty reliever was selected for the AFL Fall Stars Game

Rosters for the Fall Stars Game, the annual All-Star Game in the Arizona Fall League, were announced today with former San Jose Giant Steven Okert selected to participate in the contest. Okert, San Jose’s Relief Pitcher of the Year this season and a California League All-Star, is the lone representative from the San Francisco organization in the game.

The AFL Fall Stars Game is scheduled for this Saturday, November 1 at 4:00 PM PDT and will be televised live on MLB Network.

His inclusion on the Fall Stars Game roster is another impressive accomplishment for Okert during his 2014 breakout season. The former fourth round draft pick out of Oklahoma began the year as a middle reliever in San Jose before emerging as the club’s closer in late-April. A standout first half earned Okert a spot on the Cal League All-Star team before a promotion to Double-A Richmond early in the second half. Between the two teams, Okert compiled a 2.11 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings. His 24 saves (19 in SJ, five in Richmond) led the entire Giants farm system. Armed with a low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a plus-slider, Okert will certainly open the 2015 campaign regarded as one of the top relief pitcher prospects in the organization.

Okert has been impressive through the first three weeks of the AFL season. He’s tossed seven innings out of the Scottsdale bullpen surrendering just one run on four hits with one walk and nine strikeouts. He’s also collected one save.

EDIT- Clayton Blackburn was originally on the Fall Stars Game roster released by MLB.com, but now no longer appears

MINOR LEAGUE FREE AGENTS
Once the World Series concludes, free agent season begins around baseball, not only with the high-profile major league talent, but also at the minor league level. Several former San Jose Giants that played in the upper levels of the system this year will officially declare free agency next month (players can become a free agent after their seventh season in the minor leagues).

However, two former SJ Giants due to become free agents in November have already decided to re-sign with San Francisco. Veteran left-handed starting pitcher Kelvin Marte, who was also free agent last offseason and re-signed with the Giants, played in San Jose over four years from 2010-13. His 20 wins in a SJ Giant uniform rank tied for fifth in team history. This season, Marte made 21 starts between Richmond (AA) and Fresno (AAA) combining for a 9-5 record and a 4.31 ERA over 123 1/3 innings.

Outfielder Darren Ford has also already re-signed with the organization after a successful season in Fresno. Ford, the starting center fielder on San Jose’s 2009 championship team, has 33 games of major league experience with San Francisco during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. After stints in the Mariners (2012) and Pirates (2013) systems, Ford returned to the Giants earlier this year. He spent the entire 2014 campaign at the Triple-A level and posted solid numbers batting .283 with three homers and 27 RBI’s in 107 games. Known for his top flight speed, Ford ranked second on the Grizzlies with 35 stolen bases.

A full list of Giants minor league free agents will be available next month.

EARLY WINTER LEAGUE STANDOUT
Winter league season is underway and a former San Jose relief pitcher is off to a scorching hot start in Venezuela. Cody Hall, a top SJ reliever in 2012 and 2013, leads the Venezuelan Winter League with six saves through early action. Hall also owns a perfect 0.00 ERA having not allowed an earned run over 9 1/3 innings. The right-hander has surrendered just two hits, walked one and struck out 11.

Hall had a 3.14 ERA and 11 saves out of the Richmond bullpen this year and will be looking to make the jump to Triple-A Sacramento next spring.

2015 Schedule – An Early Look

san jose giants2015 marks the 28th season of San Jose’s affiliation with the San Francisco Giants. The 140-game regular season is scheduled to begin on Thursday, April 9 in Lancaster with the home opener at Municipal Stadium set for Thursday, April 16 versus Bakersfield. Here’s an early look at some 2015 schedule highlights:

* Holiday home games next year on Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 10), Memorial Day (Monday, May 25), Father’s Day (Sunday, June 21) and Independence Day (Saturday, July 4).

* As was the case in 2014, the Giants will open the year and end the season on the road. San Jose begins the 2015 campaign with a four-game series against defending league champion Lancaster before a three-game set versus the ’14 North Division champs Visalia.

* The April 9 start date to the season is the latest in the California League in six years. Additionally, the April 16 home opener for the Giants next season is their latest home opener in 10 years dating back to 2005.

* The Giants’ most frequent opponent in 2015: the Bakersfield Blaze (Mariners affiliate) at 27 games. San Jose opens their home schedule against the Blaze and also finishes the regular season with a four-game set in Bakersfield over Labor Day weekend. The schedule features an unbalanced slate against North Division foes with 27 games versus Bakersfield, 22 games against Modesto (Rockies), 20 games versus Stockton (A’s) and 19 games against Visalia (Diamondbacks).

* San Jose plays 52 games against teams from the South Division (up from 44 games in 2014). Lancaster (Astros) and Inland Empire (Angels) each make two trips to Municipal Stadium next year while High Desert (Rangers), Lake Elsinore (Padres) and Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers) play just one series in San Jose.

* San Jose’s longest homestand is seven games. Their longest road trip is also seven games in length.

* The Giants are at Municipal Stadium during just one weekend in April and two weekends in May before home-heavy months of June and July. San Jose plays 15 home games in June, including three out of the four weekends. The Giants’ 16 home games in July is their highest monthly total of the season. San Jose has two home weekends in July and three more in August. The home schedule concludes on Thursday, September 3.

* San Jose has a busy stretch at home during the middle portion of the campaign as they play 22 out of 29 games at Municipal Stadium from June 18 through July 21.

* Schedule oddity: the Giants travel to Adelanto for a series against South Division opponent High Desert in back-to-back road trips (May 27-29 and June 11-14).

* The 2015 California-Carolina League All-Star Game will be hosted by the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Tuesday, June 23.

* Giants home game times are expected to be announced before the end of the year.

View the 2015 San Jose Giants Schedule

Download the 2015 San Jose Giants Schedule (PDF)

Ticket Information

The San Jose Giants open the 2015 season on Thursday, April 9

The San Jose Giants open the 2015 season on Thursday, April 9

Updating the Record Book

san jose giantsUpdating the San Jose Giants record book (1988-2014) after the 2014 season:

– INDIVIDUAL SINGLE-SEASON RECORDS –

Appearances
1. Phil McCormick (2012) – 61
2. Jimmy Myers (1990) – 60
T3. Tyler Mizenko (2014), Luke Anderson (2001), Mark Dewey (1989) - 59

Mizenko’s 59 appearances out of the bullpen this year ranks tied for third in a single-season in San Jose Giants history. If not for a week spent on the disabled list in late-July, Mizenko likely would have broken Phil McCormick’s team record.

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– INDIVIDUAL CAREER RECORDS –

Triples

T1. Julio Cordido, Nate Schierholtz – 17
T3. Tim Garland, Francisco Peguero – 16
5. Chris Lofton – 15

Lofton hit three triples in 20 games with the Giants this year before he was sent down to Augusta. Lofton hit 12 triples over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, so his career total now stands at 15 – fifth-most in team history and just two behind the spot.

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– TEAM RECORDS –

Saves
T1. 48 (2011, 2013)
3. 47 (2006)
4. 46 (1998)
5. 45 (2014)

San Jose’s 45 saves this season rank as the fifth-most by a Giants club in team history. Steven Okert (19), Tyler Mizenko (14) and Bryce Bandilla (8) combined for 41 of the 45 saves.

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– INDIVIDUAL SINGLE-GAME RECORDS –

Hits

– Mac Williamson (April 24), Jesus Galindo (June 28) and Brian Ragira (August 27) each produced a five-hit game this season to tie the Giants single-game record. 33 different players in the 27-year history of the team have now had five hits in a game.

*************************************

– OTHER –

* After posting a 73-67 record this season, Lenn Sakata now owns 539 career victories as manager of the San Jose Giants. Sakata was already the franchise leader in wins at the start of the 2014 season. His overall record in seven seasons as manager of the San Jose Giants is 539-441 (.550). Sakata’s 757 career wins (San Jose 1999, 2001, 2004-07, 2014; Modesto 1989, 2012-13; Bakersfield 2000) are the most by a manager in California League history.

* With 73 victories this year, the Giants have now posted a winning record in 11 straight seasons (2004-2014) – a franchise record. San Jose has had a losing record just four times in their 27-year history (1997, 2000, 2002, 2003). The Giants’ league record streak of reaching the playoffs did end at 10 seasons this year.

* San Jose’s regular season home attendance of 200,124 in 2014 was the sixth-highest yearly total in team history (record: 222,547 in 2011).

14 Former San Jose Giants On World Series Roster

The World Series begins today with 14 former San Jose Giants on San Francisco’s roster:

1924__mlb_world_series-primary-2014PITCHERS
Madison Bumgarner
Tim Lincecum
Sergio Romo
Hunter Strickland
Ryan Vogelsong

CATCHERS
Buster Posey
Andrew Susac

INFIELDERS
Brandon Belt
Brandon Crawford
Matt Duffy
Joe Panik
Pablo Sandoval

OUTFIELDERS
Travis Ishikawa
Juan Perez

The complete 25-man roster is unchanged from the NLCS.

By comparison, there were 10 former San Jose Giants on both the 2010 and 2012 World Series rosters.

Here is the list of 19 former San Jose Giants that have won a World Series:
Clay Bellinger, 2000 New York Yankees
Brandon Belt, 2012 San Francisco
Madison Bumgarner, 2010 and 2012 San Francisco
Matt Cain, 2010 and 2012 San Francisco
Brandon Crawford, 2012 San Francisco
Keith Foulke, 2004 Boston
Travis Ishikawa, 2010 San Francisco
Tim Lincecum, 2010 and 2012 San Francisco
Doug Mirabelli, 2004 and 2007 Boston
Bill Mueller, 2004 Boston
Mike Myers, 2004 Boston
Buster Posey, 2010 and 2012 San Francisco
Sergio Romo, 2010 and 2012 San Francisco
Hector Sanchez, 2012 San Francisco
Jonathan Sanchez, 2010 San Francisco
Pablo Sandoval, 2010 and 2012 San Francisco
Nate Schierholtz, 2010 San Francisco
Ryan Vogelsong, 2012 San Francisco
Brian Wilson, 2010 San Francisco
(Players listed were on respective team’s World Series roster)

Of the 14 on this year’s World Series roster, nine have already won a title (Belt, Bumgarner x2, Crawford, Ishikawa, Lincecum x2, Posey x2, Romo x2, Sandoval x2, Vogelsong). Duffy, Panik, Perez, Strickland and Susac are attempting to win their first championship.

WORLD SERIES SCHEDULE (all games begin at 5:07 PM PDT)
Game 1 – Tuesday 10/21 at Kansas City
Game 2 – Wednesday 10/22 at Kansas City
Game 3 – Friday 10/24 at San Francisco
Game 4 – Saturday 10/25 at San Francisco
Game 5 – Sunday 10/26 at San Francisco *
Game 6 – Tuesday 10/28 at Kansas City *
Game 7 – Wednesday 10/29 at Kansas City *

* if necessary

Arizona Fall League Update 10/20

afl_logoAn update on former San Jose Giants currently playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League:

HITTERS
Daniel Carbonell: .200 AVG (5-25), HR, 4 RBI
Blake Miller: .235 AVG (4-17), 2B, 3 RBI
Kelby Tomlinson: .043 AVG (1-23), RBI, 4 SB

Notes… Top prospect Daniel Carbonell smacked his first home run of the AFL season last Tuesday against Mesa – a three-run shot in the third inning of a 10-7 win. After going 0-for-4 in his first start, Carbonell has hit safely in his last five games (one hit in each of those contests). Overall, he’s 5-for-25 with a home run, seven strikeouts, no stolen base attempts and two errors in the outfield. Carbonell has already made starts at all three outfield positions.

2014 San Jose MVP Blake Miller is attempting to put the finishing touches on a terrific season. Through his first five AFL games, Miller is 4-for-17 with a double and three RBI’s. Miller has made three starts at second base and one start at third base thus far.

2013 San Jose Giants infielder Kelby Tomlinson has struggled in the early-going with just one hit in his first 23 at-bats. Tomlinson’s four stolen bases are second on the team.

PITCHERS
Clayton Blackburn: 2 games, 0-0, 4.50 ERA (1 ER/2.0 IP), 0 BB, 1 SO
Tyler Mizenko: 1 game, 0-0, 13.50 ERA (1 ER/0.2 IP), 2 BB, 0 SO
Steven Okert: 4 games, 0-0, 1.50 ERA (1 ER/6.0 IP), 1 BB, 9 SO, 1 SV
Tyler Rogers: 3 games, 0-0, 0.00 ERA (0 ER/4.0 IP), 0 BB, 3 SO

Notes…
2014 San Jose Relief Pitcher of the Year Steven Okert has been the early AFL standout. Okert has struck out nine batters in just six innings with only one run allowed and one walk. He picked-up his first save of the AFL season last Monday with a scoreless ninth inning. Okert’s 24 saves during the 2014 regular season led the entire Giants minor league system.

Tyler Rogers has also impressed in early AFL action after a standout 2014 campaign in the California League. The right-hander has appeared in three games thus far and has allowed only one baserunner over four scoreless innings. Rogers retired all six batters he faced against Surprise last Wednesday before a 1-2-3 inning in his most recent outing on Saturday versus Peoria.

Fellow 2014 San Jose reliever Tyler Mizenko has pitched in just one game in the AFL yielding one run over 2/3 of an inning. Meanwhile, top 2013 San Jose starting pitcher Clayton Blackburn has been working out of the bullpen in the fall league. Through two relief appearances, Blackburn has tossed two innings with one run allowed and one strikeout. Blackburn fashioned a 3.29 ERA in 18 starts with Double-A Richmond this season.

Scottsdale has been a streaky team through the first two weeks of AFL play. The Scorpions won four games in a row to improve their record to 5-2 before a four-game losing streak that dropped the club to its current mark of 5-6. Scottsdale is in third place in the three-team East Division – 2 1/2 games out of first. The 32-game AFL regular season runs through November 13.

A Look Back: When They Were San Jose Giants

By Joe Ritzo

SF Giants logoThe San Francisco Giants are one win away from claiming their third National League pennant in the last five years. 16 former San Jose Giants have been on the playoff rosters this October with several playing leading roles, from Madison Bumgarner’s dominance on the mound to Buster Posey’s clutch hitting and Brandon Belt’s memorable 18th inning home run. Rookies such as Joe Panik, Matt Duffy and Hunter Strickland along with veterans Travis Ishikawa and Sergio Romo, among others, have also made significant contributions during the postseason run.

Before their successes on baseball’s biggest stage though, these 16 players were making their mark in the California League, whether it be with a big playoff home run, an All-Star nod or a spectacular pitching performance. Take a look back now at when they were prospects and some of their notable individual accomplishments while playing for the San Jose Giants.

The 16 former San Jose Giants that have been on San Francisco’s playoff rosters this year…

Brandon Belt hit .383 with the San Jose Giants during the 2010 championship season

Brandon Belt hit .383 with the San Jose Giants during the 2010 championship season

Brandon Belt: Made his professional debut with the San Jose Giants when he was placed on the 2010 opening day roster. Torched the California League to the tune of a .383 batting average in 77 games while also contributing 28 doubles, 10 home runs and 62 RBI’s (1.120 OPS). Had a memorable two-homer, six-RBI game the night San Jose clinched the first half North Division title (Giants eventually won Cal League championship). Was leading the league in hitting at the time of his promotion to Double-A in early-July.

Gary Brown: The top hitter on San Jose’s 2011 team that finished with the best record in the California League. Hit an impressive .336 with 34 doubles, 13 triples, 14 home runs, 80 RBI’s and 53 stolen bases. Ended the year on a 16-game hitting streak and was named the California League Rookie of the Year (award given to the top player in the league who is in his first professional season).

Madison Bumgarner: Opened the 2009 season in San Jose, but made just five starts in the California League before a promotion to Double-A. Had a spectacular 1.48 ERA with the Giants while registering 23 strikeouts compared to just four walks in 24 1/3 innings. Oh, and he was only 19 years old at the time. With Buster Posey as his catcher, fired six scoreless innings with just two hits allowed in his Cal League debut to pick-up the win (April 10, 2009 at Municipal Stadium).

Brandon Crawford:
Had three separate, and relatively brief, stints in San Jose before making his major league debut. Was the Giants’ 2009 opening day shortstop and hit a sizzling .371 with six home runs in 25 games before a quick promotion to Double-A. Suffered an injury with Richmond midway through the 2010 season and upon his return to good health, was transferred back to San Jose late in the year. Supplied two of the biggest hits in the 2010 Championship Series in Rancho Cucamonga blasting an 11th inning grand slam during Game 3 before a home run early in the decisive fifth game. Then after another injury sustained during spring training the following year, was added to San Jose’s roster in mid-May. Batted .322 in 14 games and in an unprecedented move, was promoted all the way to San Francisco.

Matt Duffy: His stay in the California League was shorter than most on this list. Joined the Giants in late-July of the 2013 season and would finish the year in the California League. As the club’s primary shortstop down the stretch, hit a solid .292 while producing six doubles and five home runs over 26 games. Was at his best during the playoffs as San Jose won the North Division title. Batted .300 in eight postseason games and was second on the club with five RBI’s.

Adam Duvall:
Set the San Jose Giants team record for home runs with 30 as the club’s everyday third baseman in 2012 (previous record was 26 HR). Also produced 24 doubles, 100 RBI’s and hit .258 while in the California League. Had a stretch of five straight games with a home run in August and reached the 30-homer/100-RBI mark with a round-tripper during the final game of the regular season.

Travis Ishikawa was on the 2005 and 2007 San Jose Giants championship teams

Travis Ishikawa was on the 2005 and 2007 San Jose Giants championship teams

Travis Ishikawa: Like Crawford, played on three different San Jose teams, two of which won Cal League titles. Earned a late-season promotion to the Giants in 2004 before returning to the club to start the following season. Was a top performer on the 2005 San Jose team that still holds most of the franchise’s offensive records. Led the squad with 22 home runs while also contributing 79 RBI’s and a .282 batting average as the Giants rolled to a league championship. Struggles in Double-A during the 2006 and first half of the 2007 seasons brought Ishikawa back to San Jose for the second half of ’07, where he helped the Giants to another California League crown. Hit .268 with 13 home runs in 56 games. Homered during the decisive fifth game of the 2007 Championship Series at Municipal Stadium. His 36 career home runs rank fourth on San Jose’s all-time list.

Tim Lincecum: Joined San Jose just two months after his selection in the first round of the 2006 draft. His stay in the Cal League was brief, but memorable as the top prospect logged a 1.95 ERA in his six starts with strikeout numbers off the charts. Fanned 48 batters in just 27 innings while limiting the opposition to a paltry .135 batting average. Had a start in late-August in which he struck out 11 and gave up just one hit and no runs in five innings. Also was the winning pitcher after a dominant effort in Game 1 of the North Division Series.

Joe Panik: Spent his entire first full professional season with San Jose in 2012. Started slow offensively before catching fire during the second half en route to earning co-team MVP honors. Finished the season with a .297 batting average, 27 doubles, seven home runs and 76 RBI’s in 130 games. Walked more than he struck out. Posted a .337 batting average after the All-Star break and had a stretch of eight consecutive at-bats with a hit in August. 2012 San Jose team notched the best overall record in the North Division.

Juan Perez: While Belt and Crawford may have grabbed most of the headlines on the 2010 championship team, Perez was arguably the most consistent offensive performer from start-to-finish that year. Played in a team-high 131 games and batted .298 with 37 doubles, 10 triples, 13 home runs, 63 RBI’s and 17 stolen bases. In the decisive fifth game of the Championship Series in Rancho Cucamonga, tripled with the score tied in the top of the 10th and scored the game-winning run.

Buster Posey was rated the #1 prospect in the California League while in San Jose during the 2009 season

Buster Posey was rated the #1 prospect in the California League while in San Jose during the 2009 season

Buster Posey: A member of San Jose’s stacked 2009 team that set a club record for wins (93-47) on their way to a California League title. An All-Star catcher with the Giants and widely considered the top prospect in the league that year. Hit an impressive .326 in 80 games before a mid-July promotion all the way to Triple-A Fresno. Also contributed 23 doubles, 13 home runs and 58 RBI’s. Most memorable hit with the San Jose Giants was a 13th inning walk-off home run in early-June while the club was in the thick of the first half division race.

Sergio Romo: Perhaps the most dominant reliever in the California League during the 2007 season. Fashioned a 1.36 ERA and nine saves in 41 relief appearances to help the Giants to the championship. Emerged as the club’s closer during the second half and was a perfect 3-for-3 in save opportunities during the playoffs without allowing a run. Was on the mound when San Jose won the title recording a strikeout to finish the game (sound familiar?). Ended the regular season with a whopping 106 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 66 innings.

Pablo Sandoval: A key contributor on both the 2007 San Jose championship team and the 2008 club. Of note, never played an inning of third base while in the California League – was mainly a catcher with San Jose while also seeing some action at first base. Hit .287 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI’s in 102 games during the ’07 campaign. Was the catcher when Sergio Romo registered a strikeout to end the Championship Series. Despite solid numbers, returned to the Giants the next season and took the Cal League by storm. Was batting .359 with 25 doubles, 12 homers and 59 RBI’s in 68 games when he was promoted to Double-A at the All-Star break in June (would finish the season in San Francisco).

Hunter Strickland was a California League All-Star in 2013 after fashioning a 0.86 ERA with nine saves

Hunter Strickland was a California League All-Star in 2013 after fashioning a 0.86 ERA with nine saves

Hunter Strickland: Was picked-up by San Francisco off waivers from Pittsburgh at the beginning of the 2013 season and was immediately assigned to San Jose. Took just a couple of weeks before emerging as San Jose’s closer and was arguably the top reliever in the league throughout the first half of the season. Compiled a microscopic 0.86 ERA and was a perfect 9-for-9 in save opportunities in his 20 relief appearances. Unfortunately, suffered an elbow injury during a late-May appearance (yet still finished the game to record the save) that required season-ending Tommy John surgery. Upon returning to full strength a year later (May of 2014), was sent back to San Jose and pitched in just three games before a call-up to Double-A.

Andrew Susac: Was a 2011 draftee, but didn’t begin his professional career until he was assigned to San Jose at the start of the 2012 season. Struggled offensively throughout the first four months of the year as he adjusted to the professional game, but finished strong posting a .333 batting average in August to help the Giants reach the playoffs. Ended the year at .244 with nine home runs and 52 RBI’s. Strong finish to the campaign propelled Susac to Double-A in 2013, where he enjoyed more success and established himself as one of the top prospects in the system.

Ryan Vogelsong: Originally drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 1998, was a member of two San Jose teams on his way up to the big leagues. Pitched briefly for the Giants late in 1998 before returning to the California League to start the ’99 campaign. Made 17 starts between the two seasons and compiled a 3.55 ERA and 4-4 record. Helped the 1999 San Jose Giants team reach the playoffs, but had already been promoted to Double-A by the time the postseason began.

News and Notes: Giants In The NLCS

By Joe Ritzo

Madison Bumgarner in 2009 with the San Jose Giants

Madison Bumgarner in 2009 with the San Jose Giants

Behind a strong core of former San Jose Giants, San Francisco returns home this week having split the first two games of the National League Championship Series in St. Louis. Another standout pitching performance from Madison Bumgarner led the Giants to a Game 1 victory before the Cardinals connected for four home runs in Game 2 to even the series.

14 former San Jose Giants were placed on the NLCS roster before Game 1 – one fewer than the Division Series (Gary Brown was removed in favor of the now-healthy Michael Morse). Bumgarner continued his standout postseason in the NLCS opener tossing 7 2/3 scoreless innings with four hits allowed, just one walk and seven strikeouts to pick-up the win. The ace lefty, who already owns two World Series rings, boasts a career postseason ERA of 2.58 while he’s now set a MLB playoff record with 26 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings on the road.

Other former San Jose Giants standouts in the 3-0 Game 1 victory included Pablo Sandoval (3-for-4, 2B) and Travis Ishikawa (2-for-3, RBI). Brandon Belt also had a productive night at the plate with a single, a pair of walks and a key sacrifice fly.

In Game 2, the Giants suffered a heartbreaking 5-4 loss when Cardinals second baseman Kolton Wong launched a ninth-inning solo home run off of Sergio Romo. The top of the ninth, however, saw a bevy of former San Jose Giants come together to produce the tying run extending the game. Singles from former SJ players Andrew Susac and Juan Perez started the rally before Joe Panik drew a critical two-out walk. Pinch-runner Matt Duffy then remarkably scored from second base on a wild pitch to tie the game. Duffy’s rise through the system has been nothing short of incredible as the shortstop finished the 2013 season in San Jose and now, just over a year later, dazzled the baseball world on the biggest stage with his savvy baserunning abilities to tie a playoff game in the ninth inning.

MLB Statcast analysis of Duffy’s Game 2 baserunning

12 of the 14 former San Jose Giants on the NLCS roster have already appeared in the series with Ryan Vogelsong (scheduled Game 4 starter) and Tim Lincecum the only exceptions. The best-of-seven series continues with Game 3 on Tuesday afternoon at AT&T Park.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE UNDERWAY
The excitement over the former San Jose Giants in the MLB playoffs is understandably grabbing most of the headlines, but the Arizona Fall League season opened last week as well. Seven former SJ Giants are on the Scottsdale Scorpions roster with this year’s Relief Pitcher of the Year Steven Okert off to the strongest start. Over two relief appearances, Okert has worked three scoreless innings with just one hit allowed and five strikeouts. During the 2014 regular season, Okert collected 24 saves (San Jose + Richmond) to lead the entire Giants minor league system.

Offensively, 2014 San Jose MVP Blake Miller is 2-for-7 with a pair of singles and an RBI over his first two games. Top outfield prospect Daniel Carbonell is off to a slow start with just two hits (both singles) in 13 at-bats while he’s already struck out six times. 2013 SJ Giant Kelby Tomlinson is hitless in his first eight at-bats.

Reliever Tyler Rogers fired a scoreless inning in his first appearance while Clayton Blackburn and Tyler Mizenko have yet to pitch in a game.

The Scorpions own a record of 3-2.

LATE START
The 2015 San Jose Giants schedule is now available. The Inside the San Jose Giants Blog will have a further analysis of the schedule at a later date. It is notable, however, that the 2015 season will not begin until April 9 – the latest start date for a California League season in six years. Additionally, the April 16 home opener for the Giants next season is their latest home opener in 10 years dating back to 2005 (April 21).

Five SJ Giants Named Organizational All-Stars

2014_Organizational_All_Sta_xeejzbwl_w0w71czdFive 2014 San Jose Giants – Mitch Delfino, Tyler Horan, Matt Lujan, Blake Miller and Steven Okert – were named to the MiLB.com San Francisco Organizational All-Star team announced this week. Of the 12 players represented on the team, 11 are former San Jose Giants.

The San Francisco farm system posted a cumulative record of 400-365 (.523) this year – the eighth-best winning percentage among the 30 organizations. Double-A Richmond, the Giants’ Arizona Rookie League and Dominican Summer League teams each qualified for the playoffs. The Flying Squirrels reached the Championship Series of the Eastern League Playoffs. Triple-A Fresno, San Jose, Class-A Augusta and Short-Season Salem-Keizer did not reach the postseason in 2014.

DSL-Giants: 46-23 (.667) – lost in semifinals
AZL-Giants: 34-22 (.607) – lost in championship game
Richmond: 79-63 (.556) – lost in championship series
San Jose: 73-67 (.521)
Salem-Keizer: 38-38 (.500)
Fresno: 68-76 (.472)
Augusta: 62-76 (.449)

Miller headlines the list of 2014 San Jose position players named to the organizational All-Star team after earning team MVP honors and then finishing the season with Richmond. Miller hit a combined .300 between the Giants and Flying Squirrels – third-highest in the system among qualifying hitters. His 85 RBI’s ranked tied for second in the system while he also contributed 29 doubles, six triples and eight home runs this year.

Delfino anchored the third base position for San Jose during the 2014 season en route to earning an organizational All-Star nod. In 131 games with the Giants, Delfino posted a .289 batting average, clubbed 28 doubles, 12 home runs and collected 77 RBI’s. He ranked eighth in the organization in hitting and was the fourth-toughest player to strikeout in the California League. Delfino also enjoyed a terrific season defensively with his .950 fielding percentage placing first among California League third basemen.

Horan spent the majority of the season in Augusta earning South Atlantic League All-Star honors before joining the Giants in early-August. He finished the campaign ranked second in the San Francisco farm system in home runs (25), fifth in RBI’s (81) and ninth in the batting average (.284). The outfielder smacked an impressive 10 home runs in just 28 games for San Jose to go with a .321 batting average and a 1.046 OPS.

Lujan and Okert represent the San Jose pitchers to earn recognition on the organizational All-Star team. Lujan, like Horan, was a midseason South Atlantic League All-Star in Augusta this year. He was promoted to the Giants in late-June and finished the year in the San Jose starting rotation. Over 22 starts between the two clubs, Lujan fashioned a stellar 12-4 record with a 2.81 ERA. He struck out 135 and walked just 44 in 141 innings. On the organizational leaderboard, Lujan ranked tied for first in wins, first in strikeouts and third (among qualifying pitchers) in ERA.

Finally, Okert emerged as San Jose’s closer during the first half and was the club’s lone representative on the midseason California League All-Star team. After notching 19 saves to go with a 1.53 ERA while pitching for the Giants, Okert was promoted to Richmond in late-June. Between the two clubs, Okert amassed a Giants farm system-high 24 saves and 92 strikeouts in just 68 1/3 innings.

Past San Jose Giants recognized by MiLB.com this week include Adam Duvall (first base), Matt Duffy (shortstop), Gary Brown (outfield), Chris Dominguez (outfield), Mark Minicozzi (utility) and Chris Heston (pitcher). Duvall led the system in home runs (27) and RBI’s (90) despite multiple stints in San Francisco this year. Duffy won the Eastern League batting title in Richmond after hitting at a .332 clip (also led the organization). Brown ranked third in the system in stolen bases (36) to go with a .271 batting average and 10 home runs in Fresno. Dominguez was a 20-20 guy for the Grizzlies this year, connecting for 21 home runs to go with 21 stolen bases. He was tied for second in the Giants minor league system in RBI’s (85) and third in home runs. Minicozzi’s .306 batting average this season, mainly in Fresno, was second only to Duffy in the organization while Heston was 12-9 with a 3.38 ERA in 28 starts for the Grizzlies.

DSL-Giants catcher Miguel Gomez rounds out the organizational All-Star team.

MiLB.com San Francisco Organizational All-Star Team

C – Miguel Gomez, DSL-Giants
1B – Adam Duvall, Fresno
2B – Blake Miller, San Jose/Richmond
3B – Mitch Delfino, San Jose
SS – Matt Duffy, Richmond
OF – Gary Brown, Fresno
OF – Chris Dominguez, Fresno
OF – Tyler Horan, Augusta/San Jose
Utility – Mark Minicozzi, Fresno
SP (right-handed) – Chris Heston, Fresno
SP (left-handed) – Matt Lujan, Augusta/San Jose
RP – Steven Okert, San Jose/Richmond

MiLB.com Article

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