By Joe RitzoWith only 27 days until the season opener, here’s a reminder that fans will be able to listen to every San Jose Giants game in 2014. Behind what’s expected to be another prospect-laden pitching staff, the Giants will be looking to extend their league-record streak for consecutive playoff appearances while going in search of the franchise’s 12th California League championship.
There are several ways to listen to San Jose Giants baseball this season:
* Of course, every game is streamed live on the club’s official website, sjgiants.com. Radio broadcasts begin 30 minutes prior to first pitch with the Giants Pregame Show as I’ll preview the upcoming contest, take a look around the Giants farm system and bring you inside the clubhouse with an exclusive interview. The San Jose Giants broadcast page can be found here. There’s also a Listen Live link on the right side of this blog under the “Giants Links” section.
* Every broadcast is also streamed live on your mobile phone through the San Jose Giants Mobile App. The San Jose Giants Mobile App is available to download for free in the App StoreSM for your iPad or iPhone or the Android Marketplace.
* If you’re at the ballpark and want to listen to the game, tune your radio dial to 92.9 FM. The live radio broadcast is available on this FM frequency inside the main seating bowl at Municipal Stadium.
* All San Jose Giants home games are also streamed live and available on demand through MiLB.TV. For more details and to sign up for a subscription, log onto sjgiants.com and click on MiLB.TV in the Multimedia tab.
Details of this year’s San Jose Giants television schedule on Comcast Hometown Network are forthcoming.
By Joe RitzoThe San Francisco Giants made their first round of roster cuts today as 13 players were sent to minor league camp, including several standouts from last year’s San Jose team. 2013 SJ Giants Jeff Arnold, Ty Blach, Clayton Blackburn, Jose Casilla, Kyle Crick, Angel Villalona and Mac Williamson were among the players that have been assigned to minor league camp.
The cuts aren’t a surprise as these players weren’t in consideration to make San Francisco’s opening day roster and will now get a chance for regular playing time in minor league exhibition games, which are set to begin on Wednesday. In fact, Blach, Blackburn and Crick never appeared in an official big league spring game. Crick did make some headlines earlier this week when he appeared in a “B” game against the Cubs tossing two innings. Reportedly, Crick labored through his first inning yielding one run before striking out the side in a scoreless second inning of work.
Williamson picked-up one single over three at-bats in official spring training action while Arnold was 0-for-1 in limited action. Casilla allowed two runs in 1/3 of an inning in his lone relief appearance. Villalona is the only 40-man member among the group of cuts (the others were all non-roster invitees) and thus had to be placed on a minor league roster today upon his assignment. While it doesn’t guarantee that he’ll open the year with them, it’s notable that Villalona was placed on Triple-A Fresno’s roster today, perhaps signaling that he’ll start the 2014 campaign in the Pacific Coast League. Villalona was 0-for-7 with three strikeouts in big league spring action.
Other former San Jose Giants that were assigned to minor league camp today include infielder Joe Panik (0-for-3) and pitcher Chris Heston (2 IP, 2 R). Ben Turner (0-for-1), San Jose’s likely starting catcher this season after playing in Augusta all of 2013, was also sent down.
54 players remain in Giants big league camp. Pitchers Edwin Escobar and Derek Law are now the only active 2013 San Jose Giants still in camp. Through yesterday’s action, Escobar has worked a total of three no-hit innings spanning two appearances. Law has pitched in just one game thus far tossing a perfect inning of relief last weekend.
2012 San Jose standouts Adam Duvall and Andrew Susac are still participating in big league camp as is 2011 Giants MVP Gary Brown. Former SJ Giants Juan Perez and Roger Kieschnick continue to battle for the fifth outfield spot, Ehire Adrianza and Nick Noonan are still involved in the fight to make the team as reserve infielders while Jake Dunning and Heath Hembree remain contenders for the opening day roster out of the bullpen. Mark Minicozzi also continues to impress with five hits, including a home run, in nine spring at-bats.
By Joe Ritzo
The San Jose Giants season preview series continues this week with a look at the first and third base positions. The collection of players who saw action at the corner infield spots for San Jose last year will all likely begin this season in the upper levels of the Giants farm system. Among the candidates to play first and third for San Jose in 2014 include two of Augusta’s best power hitters from a year ago and one of San Francisco’s top draft picks last June.
Mitch Delfino, who joined the SJ Giants from Augusta for the playoffs last September, will likely play third base for the club this season. The former 20th round draft pick out of Cal led the GreenJackets in home runs (13), RBI’s (76) and doubles (25) in 2013 to go with a .270 batting average. After a somewhat sluggish start to the year, Delfino hit .300 after the All-Star break, including .319 in August.Delfino is a big, strong right-handed hitter (listed at 6’3″, 200 lbs.) with the potential to put up big numbers with the Giants. It would certainly not be the first time that a player sees an improvement in his power production going from Augusta’s pitcher-friendly ballpark to the hitters paradise that is the California League. Delfino, who committed 13 errors last year, is considered an average defensive player at third base. If he begins this season in San Jose, look for Delfino to establish himself in the middle of the Giants order.
Last September, Delfino played in four out of the eight Giants postseason games. He was 3-for-14 (.214) with three singles.
While it’s highly unlikely that Ryan Cavan, who played 49 games at third base for San Jose last year, would come back to the California League for a third season, it’s not an unreasonable prediction to state that Myles Schroder could return. Schroder will certainly be a strong candidate to make the Double-A Richmond roster this spring after coming on strong in the second half with the Giants last year. The versatile utility man finished the 2013 season with a .296 batting average, 20 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 33 RBI’s and 12 stolen bases in 86 games. Schroder hit .326 in the second half to eventually become the club’s everyday starter at third base down the stretch and into the playoffs (he did struggle in the postseason though going 3-for-27).
If Schroder is squeezed out of a Double-A roster spot this spring, he could once again fill a valuable role with San Jose. Last season, in addition to his time at third base, Schroder saw occasional action at first base, second base and catcher while he also has the ability to play in the outfield.
Other potential third base candidates for the San Jose Giants at the start of the season include Shayne Houck and Brandon Bednar. Houck, a former 29th round draft pick, played 96 games with Augusta last season, but hit just .235. Houck features some power as he connected for 18 doubles and five home runs a year ago while also playing some at first base and corner outfield. His pedestrian batting average may result in a repeat season in Augusta though.
Bednar was mentioned in last week’s middle infield preview as a potential San Jose Giant in 2014. A seventh round draft pick last June out of Florida Gulf Coast University, Bednar hit .272 with six home runs and 34 RBI’s in 50 games for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Short-Season) in 2013. Bednar saw more time at the middle infield positions last summer, but has the ability to play third base and could advance through the system as a utility guy going forward.
Over at first base, look for a new face or two in San Jose this season. 2013 first basemen Angel Villalona, who ended last year in Double-A, and Ricky Oropesa are expected to begin the campaign in the upper levels of the farm system. The duo combined for 22 home runs, 32 doubles and 80 RBI’s in the California League last season.
Joey Rapp, another powerful right-handed hitter (like Delfino), garnered most of the playing time at first base in Augusta a year ago and will be looking to move up to the California League in 2014. In 91 games for the GreenJackets, Rapp posted a .267 batting average to go with 19 doubles, six home runs and 54 RBI’s. The power numbers may not impress for a first baseman, but Rapp missed five weeks during April and May due to a broken finger. The injury may have contributed to Rapp not finding his stride offensively until the second half of the season.
A 28th round pick in 2012 out of the University of Louisiana-Monroe, Rapp hit all six of his home runs with Augusta after the All-Star break. After struggling early, Rapp hit .280 in July and then an impressive .327 during the month of August. His improved production as the season progressed combined with the opening at first base in San Jose should allow Rapp the opportunity to make the roster coming out of camp. Rapp, who is listed at 6’3″ and 220 lbs., led Salem-Keizer and was third in the Northwest League with 11 home runs in 2012. Making more consistent contact will be critical for Rapp as he struck out a whopping 98 times in 344 at-bats a year ago.
Another intriguing possibility for the first base position in San Jose this season is 2013 fourth round pick Brian Ragira. A product of Stanford University, Ragira hit .263 with 12 doubles, three home runs and 36 RBI’s in 47 games with Salem-Keizer last summer after signing his professional contract. Ragira was a standout performer in college earning the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award and batting at least .320 in all three seasons at Stanford. Ragira led the Cardinal in home runs (8) and RBI’s (42) during his final year last spring. Exclusively a first baseman in college, Ragira actually ended last summer playing more corner outfield while in Salem-Keizer. It remains to be seen whether Ragira (who will be profiled more in the outfield preview next week) can jump past Augusta to make it to the Cal League this season and if he continues to play both first base and outfield or settles on one specific position.
Ben Turner, San Jose’s likely starting catcher this season and a non-roster invitee to big league camp, can also play first base. Turner saw action in 37 games at first base with Augusta last year.
2014 San Jose Giants Corner Infield Candidates
(2013 regular season statistics are listed)
Brandon Bednar, 2B/SS/3B
- Salem-Keizer: .272 AVG, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 11 SB
Mitch Delfino, 3B
- Augusta: .270 AVG, 13 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB
Shayne Houck, 3B/1B
- Augusta: .235 AVG, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 1 SB
Brian Ragira, 1B/OF
- Salem-Keizer: .263 AVG, 3 HR, 36 RBI, 1 SB
Joey Rapp, 1B
- Augusta: .267 AVG, 6 HR, 54 RBI, 2 SB
Myles Schroder, 3B
- San Jose: .296 AVG, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 12 SB
The 2014 San Jose Giants preview series will continue next week with a look at the outfield.
By Joe Ritzo
The San Francisco Giants are four games into their spring training schedule entering this afternoon’s Cactus League tilt against the Padres. Here are a few notable stat lines of some recent former San Jose Giants in big league spring action:
* Ehire Adrianza, SS: .333 AVG (2-6), 3B, HR, 4 RBI
Adrianza’s important spring is off to a good start. He homered in the first game last Wednesday versus Oakland and then produced an RBI triple on Friday against the Brewers. Adrianza is tied for the team lead in RBI’s (with Hector Sanchez) and is one of three Giants to have hit a home run thus far. Adrianza is out of minor league options, so he needs to make the opening day roster or he’ll have to be exposed to waivers (at which point he’d likely be picked up by another team).
* Gary Brown, OF: .500 AVG (2-4), RBI, SB
Brown had a nice game in last Friday’s split-squad contest against the A’s knocking out a pair of singles in three at-bats to go with an RBI and a stolen base. 2014 needs to be a bounce back season for Brown after batting just .231 with Triple-A Fresno last year.
* Adam Duvall, 3B: .250 AVG (1-4), HR, RBI
Duvall has hit 47 home runs over his last two seasons in the minor leagues (including a San Jose record 30 in 2012) and he’s off to a good start with the long ball this spring. The slugging third baseman came off the bench to homer in last Wednesday’s Cactus League opener versus the A’s. Duvall was placed on the 40-man roster last offseason and will be looking to make the Fresno roster coming out of camp this year.
* Edwin Escobar, LHP: 1 GS, 0.00 ERA, 2.0 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO
Escobar, another 40-man roster member, started the split-squad game last Friday against Oakland and delivered two perfect innings of work. The left-hander struck out one in his brief start.
* Derek Law, RHP: 1 G, 0.00 ERA, 1.0 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO
Law’s first relief appearance of the spring was a successful one as he fired a perfect inning out of the bullpen against the Brewers. Law received a non-roster invitation to big league camp after his dominant second half last year’s as San Jose’s closer and then stellar performance in the Arizona Fall League.
* Mark Minicozzi, 1B: .333 AVG (1-3), HR, RBI
The 31-year old veteran isn’t a recent former SJ Giant (he played here in 2006 and 2007), but has been a nice story during the first week of Cactus League games. Minicozzi, who hit .309 with 10 homers in Double-A last year, smacked a solo home run in his first at-bat of the spring last Friday.
* Juan Perez, OF: .500 AVG (4-8), 3 2B
Perez should receive substantial playing time this spring as he competes with Tyler Colvin and Roger Kieschnick for the open fifth outfielder spot. Thus far, the former SJ Giant has performed well with a team-high four hits, including three doubles.
Others: Kieschnick has produced one single through his first three at-bats of the spring … Nick Noonan is 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts while Angel Villalona (0-for-4), Andrew Susac (0-for-3), Joe Panik (0-for-1), Mac Williamson (0-for-1) and Jeff Arnold (0-for-1) are also still looking for their first hits … On the pitching side, Chris Heston worked two innings of relief last Friday yielding two earned runs and three hits while Mitch Lively tossed a scoreless inning of relief in his spring debut.
By Joe Ritzo
The San Jose Giants season preview series continues this week with a look at the middle infield possibilities. Some familiar faces are in the running to garner significant playing time at second base and shortstop this year for the Giants, including two of the club’s top performers during the playoffs last September.
The San Jose Giants had a revolving door of players up the middle last season. Kelby Tomlinson was the opening day starter at shortstop, but a leg injury suffered in late-April knocked him out of action for two months. Bobby Haney filled in capably for the remainder of the first half before Tomlinson returned in June. A roster shuffle in the levels above San Jose resulted in a July promotion to Double-A for Tomlinson prompting the arrival of Matt Duffy from Augusta. Duffy then excelled in a Giants uniform down the stretch and into the playoffs elevating his prospect status as the season concluded.
Meanwhile, it was Haney that opened 2013 at second base for the Giants before giving way to veterans Ryan Cavan and Brock Bond for the bulk of the season. In mid-August, Trevor Brown joined the club from Augusta and saw nearly all of the action at second base, including a sizzling week offensively during the playoffs.
Now looking ahead to 2014, it’s unlikely that Haney or Cavan would return to the California League for a third season while Bond is no longer in the organization. Spring training could determine whether it’s Tomlinson or Duffy manning the shortstop position for the Giants at the beginning of the season while Brown figures to return as the club’s starting second baseman.Despite beginning last year as San Jose’s opening day shortstop and leadoff hitter, Tomlinson actually didn’t see much time in the California League in 2013. Between a pair of injuries and a quick promotion to Double-A, Tomlinson played in just 32 games with the Giants. The former 12th round draft pick hit .276 with seven doubles, no home runs, 16 RBI’s and five stolen bases. Tomlinson is a taller shortstop at 6’3″ with solid defensive skills and tremendous speed. He thrived in Rookie-ball three years ago batting at a .357 clip before struggling to a .224 mark as Augusta’s everyday shortstop in 2012. Tomlinson did rank among the South Atlantic League leaders in stolen bases two seasons ago with 36 and would be a viable candidate to bat leadoff, second or ninth should he return to San Jose this year.
Tomlinson has Double-A experience, but managed just a .198 batting average with five doubles and four RBI’s in 33 games for Richmond late last season.
Duffy, a 20th round pick in 2012, burst onto the scene last year in his first full professional season. As Augusta’s primary shortstop, he earned midseason South Atlantic League All-Star honors and was leading the GreenJackets in hitting with a .307 batting average at the time of his late-July promotion to San Jose. He then continued to impress with the Giants posting a .292 average while contributing six doubles, a triple, five home runs and 14 RBI’s in 26 games. Between the two teams last year, Duffy produced 20 doubles, nine homers, 57 RBI’s and 25 stolen bases to go with a .303 batting average and nearly as many walks (52) as strikeouts (57).
Duffy has a similar build to Tomlinson at 6’2″ and 170 lbs., but has far more pop in his bat and could potentially hit in the third spot of the lineup for the Giants should he return. Both players run well with Tomlinson a more dangerous threat to steal a base.With no other obvious candidates to start at shortstop in Double-A this April, that job would seem to be there for the taking. Will it be Tomlinson, with his previous Double-A experience, getting another crack at the Eastern League out of the gate? Or was Duffy’s breakout 2013, including an impressive showing with the bat down the stretch in San Jose, enough to warrant a promotion to Richmond? Whomever doesn’t win the Richmond job coming out of minor league camp figures to be the leading candidate to start at shortstop for the Giants this season.
A third intriguing shortstop candidate for San Jose this year is 2012 12th round draft pick Jeremy Sy. The Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in his final collegiate season, the start of Sy’s professional career was sidetracked as Tommy John Surgery on his elbow required him to miss the entire 2012 season. He likely would have spent that entire summer in Salem-Keizer, but due to the injury and long rehab process, didn’t make his debut until last June with the Volcanoes.
Fortunately for Sy, he quickly made up for lost time. In 46 games with Salem-Keizer last season, the 5’8″ shortstop, who packs a punch offensively, hit .294. Sy led the Volcanoes in home runs (8), RBI’s (41) and slugging percentage (.518) while ranking third in doubles (12) and stolen bases (13). The only downside to his year was perhaps the 13 errors committed in 34 games at shortstop.
After a four-year collegiate career and a rookie pro season washed out due to injury, Sy is already 24 – a year older than both Tomlinson and Duffy. Given his age and good showing in the Northwest League last summer, it would not be a surprise if Sy is elevated all the way to San Jose this spring – even if Tomlinson or Duffy is also in the California League.
Over at second base, minor league camp opens with Brown figuring to be the most likely candidate to begin the year as San Jose’s starter at the position. Drafted as a catcher two years ago out of UCLA (10th round), Brown saw considerably more time as a second baseman last season. The 6’2″ Southern California native hit .250 with 18 doubles, three home runs, 40 RBI’s and 10 stolen bases in 97 games with Augusta. With three weeks remaining in the regular season, he was promoted to San Jose where he continued to play almost exclusively second base. The numbers weren’t impressive with the Giants as Brown hit just .172 in 14 games, but he managed to end the year on a positive note. Brown had multi-hits in three out of his last five regular season games (helping to overcome a 1-for-28 start) and then led San Jose with a .345 batting average (10-for-29) during the playoffs.
Brown isn’t a big power guy, but he’s proven he can handle the bat well and doesn’t strikeout often. He hit fifth in the order for the Giants in the postseason after batting mainly second or sixth while in Augusta. If Brown does return to San Jose for the start of the 2014 campaign, he’ll look to pick-up right where he left off last September.
Other Giants middle infield candidates include a pair of players who were in Augusta for most, if not all, of last year. Alberto Robles, a native of Venezuela, quietly had a very good season with the GreenJackets. A part-time player early in the year, Robles grew into more of an everyday role in the second half, especially after the promotions of Duffy and Brown to San Jose. In 194 at-bats, Robles hit .304 with nine doubles, two triples, a home run and 21 RBI’s. He also contributed 13 stolen bases. Robles is a versatile player as he basically split time between second base and shortstop last year in Augusta. Given his .300+ batting average in the South Atlantic League, he’ll probably be considered for a spot on San Jose’s roster this spring.
Travious Relaford spent three weeks last July with the Giants and could return to the California League in 2014. Relaford was just 7-for-45 (.156 AVG) in a San Jose uniform and failed to gain much traction anywhere last season after bouncing around between Augusta, San Jose and Richmond. A former 44th round pick, Relaford started and finished the year with the GreenJackets where he posted an overall batting average of .221 and hit two home runs in 48 games. Relaford has played both shortstop and second throughout his pro career with sparse time at third base as well.
Two more middle infield possibilities include a pair players who could make the jump from Salem-Keizer to San Jose. 2012 13th round pick Ryan Jones has been Salem’s primary second baseman the last two seasons. He hit just .227 as a rookie, but improved dramatically last summer when he led the Volcanoes with a .336 batting average. Jones has little power (one HR in two years), but can draw a walk (.429 OBP last season) and committed just four errors in all of 2013. He may just move up one level to Augusta this season, but a jump to San Jose isn’t out of the question.
2013 draftee Brandon Bednar, a utility infielder, may also be considered for a promotion to the California League this spring. Bednar bounced around the infield last summer with Salem-Keizer playing second base (20 games), shortstop (17 games) and third (nine games). He posted a .272 batting average while contributing nine doubles, six home runs, 34 RBI’s and 11 stolen bases. Bednar was a seventh round pick last June out of Florida Gulf Coast University, making him the first collegiate middle infielder taken by San Francisco in the 2013 draft. Bednar’s versatility (he played seven positions in college), relatively high draft status and solid production in Salem-Keizer could result in a jump to San Jose.
Finally, 2013 first round draft pick Christian Arroyo is considered a long shot to open this season in San Jose. The shortstop was the Arizona Rookie League MVP last summer after batting .326 with a .511 slugging percentage in 45 games. Only 18 years old (he’ll turn 19 in May), Arroyo will probably begin the year in Augusta as San Jose fans wait patiently for the opportunity to watch this former top draft pick in action.
2014 San Jose Giants Middle Infield Candidates
(2013 regular season statistics are listed)
Brandon Bednar, 2B/SS/3B
- Salem-Keizer: .272 AVG, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 11 SB
Trevor Brown, 2B
- San Jose: .172 AVG, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB
- Augusta: .250 AVG, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 10 SB
Matt Duffy, SS
- San Jose: .292 AVG, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 3 SB
- Augusta: .307 AVG, 4 HR, 43 RBI, 22 SB
Ryan Jones, 2B
- Salem-Keizer: .336 AVG, 0 HR, 23 RBI, 9 SB
Travious Relaford, SS/2B
- Augusta: .221 AVG, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 10 SB
- San Jose: .156 AVG, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB
- Richmond: .188 AVG, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB
Alberto Robles, SS/2B
- Augusta: .304 AVG, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 13 SB
Jeremy Sy, SS
- Salem-Keizer: .294 AVG, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 13 SB
Kelby Tomlinson, SS
- San Jose: .276 AVG, 0 HR, 16 RBI, 5 SB
- Richmond: .198 AVG, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 3 SB
The 2014 San Jose Giants preview series will continue next week with a look at the corner infield.
By Joe RitzoFormer San Jose pitchers Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar were both included on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list released last week. Crick checked in at #33 overall while Escobar garnered the #56 ranking. Baseball America projects a 2015 arrival in the major leagues for both hurlers.
Crick was the 18th highest pitcher on Baseball America’s top prospect list. Meanwhile, Escobar was the 28th pitcher and the fifth-highest left-hander. Crick enjoyed a sizable jump in the rankings from last year moving from #66 in BA’s top 100 entering the 2013 campaign to his current place at #33. Escobar was not included among the top 100 last year.
Last season in San Jose, Crick was 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 14 starts. The former supplemental first round draft pick struck out 95 batters and walked 39 in 68 2/3 innings. Escobar, a midseason California League All-Star in 2013, was 3-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 16 games (14 starts) before a July promotion to Double-A Richmond. The southpaw fanned 92 and walked only 17 in 74 2/3 innings with the Giants.
The duo were also ranked on MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list earlier in the offseason with Crick at #32 and Escobar at #95.
MINOR LEAGUE CAMP STARTS THIS WEEK
San Francisco Giants minor league camp begins this week down in Scottsdale. International players are due to report on Tuesday while all U.S. players must report by Thursday. The first full workout is scheduled for Friday. Giants minor leaguers will then participate in several workouts and intra-squad games over the following days before their exhibition opener on Wednesday, March 12.
Here is the full spring training game schedule for the “High-A” team – the players most likely to begin the season in San Jose.
* 2012 San Jose pitcher Taylor Rogers announced on twitter last week that he has retired from baseball. Rogers led the 2012 San Jose pitching staff in wins (12), innings pitched (152 2/3) and strikeouts (118). He finished the year with a 4.13 ERA in 27 starts. Rogers, a 25th round pick in 2009 out of Tulane, spent all of last season with Richmond and was 5-9 with a 5.43 ERA in 26 games (18 starts).
* All 2014 San Jose Giants game times have now been announced. San Jose will play 12 afternoon games at Municipal Stadium this year, including all Sunday games in April, May and June, a Memorial Day tilt on May 26, five midweek day games (Wednesday 4/16, Thursday 5/22, Tuesday 6/24, Thursday 7/10, Tuesday 7/22) and the final regular season home contest of the year on Sunday, August 24. All Saturday home games will continue to feature a 5:00 PM start with the exception of June 28 (6:00), July 5 (6:30) and August 2 (6:00). The 2014 schedule, with all home and road start times, can be downloaded here.
* MLB.com has released their January blog rankings and we’re proud to see Inside the San Jose Giants check in at #6 in the “MiLB PRO” category. It’s also ranked first (in page views) among official Minor League team blogs for the month. Thanks to everyone for reading and we look forward to bringing you complete coverage of the 2014 San Jose Giants season in the coming months!
Who will lead the San Francisco Giants farm system in home runs this season?
Which former San Jose Giants will make their Major League debuts in 2014?
Who are the “sleeper” prospects in the organization poised to breakout this year?
Joe and Ben tackle these topics as well as make other bold predictions for the 2014 minor league season in the most recent podcast episode. The two also address a few of the Giants big league camp storylines as Spring Training gets underway in Arizona.
By Joe Ritzo
Our 2014 San Jose Giants position-by-position preview series begins today with a look at the starting rotation.
Since the club’s inception in 1988, no California League team can match San Jose’s success on the mound. 10 Giants hurlers have won the Cal League Pitcher of the Year award while San Jose has led the league in ERA eight times over the last ten seasons. Last year’s talented staff, led by a prospect-laden starting rotation, paced the California League in earned run average (3.66) and was tops in all of Minor League Baseball in strikeouts (1282). Most of those pitchers are now headed for the upper levels of the farm system, but a new crop of exciting young arms are expected to open the 2014 season with the San Jose Giants.
Top prospect starting pitchers Kyle Crick, Ty Blach, Clayton Blackburn and Adalberto Mejia – the backbone of San Jose’s club on their run to a North Division championship last year – are expected to begin this season with Double-A Richmond. The possible exception from that group could be Mejia as a return to San Jose for the young left-hander would not be a complete surprise.
Mejia enjoyed nice success last season compiling a 3.31 ERA with 89 strikeouts over 87 innings in 16 starts. It was especially impressive considering he opened the campaign as the youngest pitcher in the California League (19) and then missed most of the first half due to a lat injury. Once he returned from the disabled list, Mejia seemed to get stronger as the year progressed turning in multiple quality starts. The most likely scenario has Mejia joining Crick, Blach and Blackburn in Richmond this April to form another star-studded rotation. However, several factors could give the organization some pause as to whether Mejia gets that immediate promotion in 2014, including his youth, the lack of a full season pitched in the Cal League due to injury and his rocky performance in the Arizona Fall League at the end of 2013 (8.47 ERA in 17 IP). It would not be unprecedented for the Giants organization to hold one of their younger, more successful top starting pitching prospects back in San Jose, at least for the opening weeks or months of the season. This personnel decision at the conclusion of spring training in late-March is significant and will help shape both the Richmond and San Jose starting rotations.
The bulk, if not all, of San Jose’s 2014 starting rotation will be filled with new faces, many of which are considered some of the best prospects in the organization. It’s a group of pitchers that are talented enough to once again carry San Jose to the top of the California League.
Last year, San Francisco’s Class A affiliate, the Augusta GreenJackets, posted the best regular season record in the South Atlantic League at 82-55. Augusta, like San Jose, featured a prospect-laden starting rotation with the GreenJackets ranking fourth in the league in ERA at an impressive 3.42. Leading the charge was a quartet of right-handers: San Francisco’s top two draft picks in 2012 Chris Stratton and Martin Agosta and a pair of Dominican-born hurlers Kendry Flores and Joan Gregorio. In all likelihood, these four pitchers will move up the farm system together this season to anchor San Jose’s starting rotation.
All four pitchers have received mention on various SF Giants top 10 prospects lists entering 2014. Stratton, who has been ranked as the #3 prospect in the system by Baseball America (behind Crick and Edwin Escobar), is expected to come to San Jose after fashioning a 9-3 record and a 3.27 ERA in 22 starts a year ago for Augusta. Stratton features a good fastball that generally sits in the 89 to 94 MPH range and complements it with a plus-slider that serves as a strikeout pitch. Armed with four pitches, Stratton (who is listed at 6’3″ and 185 lbs.) can also throw a curve and a change-up – two offerings that he’ll look to improve upon in 2014.Stratton, a product of Mississippi State University, was San Francisco’s first round draft pick two years ago as the organization took him with the 21st overall selection. He entered last year with high expectations after winning the SEC Pitcher of the Year award in his final collegiate season. At times in Augusta, Stratton was dominant allowing one or no runs in 11 out of his 22 starts. Stratton struck out 123 batters in 132 innings overall and gave up just five home runs for the entire year – a credit to his quality two-seam fastball that features good downward movement. A lot will be expected of the 23-year old this season and with the California League his most likely destination, SJ Giants fans should get a good look at the latest former first round pitching prospect.
San Francisco went the college starting pitcher route with their first two picks in 2012 as after Stratton’s selection in the first round, it was Northern California native and St. Mary’s product Martin Agosta that received the call in the second round. Like Stratton, Agosta was assigned to Augusta last year for his first full professional season. When healthy, Agosta was as dominant as any pitcher in the South Atlantic League. In 18 starts overall, he boasted a 9-3 record and an impressive 2.06 ERA. Agosta allowed just 57 hits in 91 2/3 innings and struck out 109 with 43 walks. He limited the opposition to a paltry .180 batting average and gave up more than two runs in just three of his starts. For his efforts, Agosta was one of the starting pitchers in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game last June.
Agosta’s fastball, at its best, will sit in the low 90′s with the ability to hit 95. His slider is also an above-average pitch while the continued development of his change-up will be crucial going forward. Agosta, who turns 23 in April, isn’t particularly big (listed at 6’1″, 180 lbs.) and could profile as a reliever down the road. Issues with a dead arm and a blister hampered Agosta during the second half of last season as he made just four starts after the first week of July. Assuming full health at the start of 2014, there will be high expectations for Agosta this season. He was rated the ninth-best prospect in the system by Baseball Prospectus at the end of last year.
While both Stratton and Agosta were solid, and sometimes excellent, in Augusta last season, the most consistent GreenJackets starting pitcher throughout the entire year was Flores. As a 21-year old last season, Flores burst onto the scene posting a 10-6 record with a 2.73 ERA in 22 starts. He featured a remarkable 137-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 141 2/3 innings while limiting the opposition to a .216 batting average. Flores had a 2.87 ERA during the first half and a 2.60 ERA after the All-Star break. His most memorable outing was a 15-strikeout, no-walk effort over eight innings (one run allowed) in late August. In fact, over his last 12 starts totaling 79 2/3 innings, Flores walked just four batters compared to 86 strikeouts. For his efforts, Flores was placed on San Francisco’s 40-man roster at the end of the year.Flores isn’t a flamethrower as his fastball will sit in the upper 80′s-to-low 90′s range. His curve and change-up also continue to make a lot of progress, but it’s Flores’ command that sets him apart from others. Flores is a fly ball pitcher (gave up a team-high 11 home runs last season), so keeping the ball down in the hitter-friendly California League this year will be a key to his success. With his inclusion on the 40-man roster, there’s no question that much focus will be on Flores this year as he looks to build on his breakout 2013 campaign. Baseball Prospectus ranks Flores as the fourth-best prospect in the system while he checks in at #14 on Baseball America’s Giants list.
The final hurler of the four is Gregorio, who perhaps features the most potential of the group. Gregorio has an incredibly lanky frame as the 22-year old is listed at 6’7″ and just 180 lbs. He missed time last year due to an oblique injury and a blister and thus was limited to only 13 starts. Overall with Augusta, Gregorio logged a 6-3 record with a 4.00 ERA. His secondary numbers were impressive as he struck out a whopping 84 batters in just 69 2/3 innings with just 17 walks and three home runs allowed. On July 18 last year, Gregorio tossed seven no-hit innings with 10 strikeouts and only one walk before leaving the game due to reaching his pitch count limit.
In addition to his size, Gregorio is a unique pitcher in that he possesses different arm slots while maintaining good control – not a particularly comfortable at-bat for a hitter. He owns a low 90′s fastball that can reach 95 MPH with a good slider and improving change-up. All three of his pitches could be plus-offerings in the not so distant future. Gregorio likely just needs more innings (his career-high through four years as a professional is 76 IP) to continue his upward trend as he attempts to tap into his incredible potential. Baseball America ranks Gregorio the 17th best prospect in the system while Baseball Prospectus has him at #8.
If the quartet of Stratton, Agosta, Flores and Gregorio all move up a level to San Jose this season, the Giants starting rotation should once again be one of the most talented in the California League.
It is common though for San Jose to use a six-man starting rotation (as opposed to the more tradition five-man staff), so there could be one of two more spots to fill. Pat Young was promoted to the Giants from Salem-Keizer (Short-Season) for the playoffs last September and is a San Jose starting pitching candidate this year. Young, a 13th round pick in last June’s draft out of Villanova, put together a dominant summer in the Northwest League after signing his professional contract. In eight starts with the Volcanoes, Young owned a sparkling 0.92 ERA yielding just four earned runs in 39 1/3 innings. The 6’7″ right-hander walked nine, struck out 27 and held the league to a .186 batting average.2013 San Jose manager Andy Skeels then thrust Young into the spotlight after his promotion starting him in the decisive fifth game of the highly competitive North Division Series against Visalia. Young battled through 3 2/3 innings in the start surrendering two earned runs with one walk and an impressive seven strikeouts (the Giants, of course, won the game 9-5 to advance). With his big frame on the mound, Young showed a low-to-mid 90′s fastball and a quality slider last September. He should open the 2014 season with either San Jose or Augusta.
Nick Vander Tuig made a brief appearance with San Jose last July and is another candidate for the Giants starting rotation this year. Vander Tuig was San Francisco’s sixth round draft pick last June after a standout junior season for national champion UCLA. In 19 starts with the Bruins last spring, Vander Tuig was 14-4 with a 2.16 ERA. He issued only 18 walks all season compared to 93 strikeouts in 129 innings and was the winning pitcher in UCLA’s clinching victory at the College World Series. Due to his heavy workload in college, Vander Tuig saw limited action last summer in Salem-Keizer tossing just 6 2/3 innings, in addition to a spot-start with San Jose.
The scouting report on Vander Tuig includes an 88-to-91 MPH fastball, a slider and a plus change-up. With loads of big game experience in college and pinpoint control, an aggressive promotion to San Jose (much like fellow control-artist Ty Blach last year) for his first full professional season could be in the works.
2013 third round pick Chase Johnson was a reliever at Cal Poly, but has transitioned to a starter as a professional. Last summer in Salem-Keizer, Johnson was 3-2 with a 4.17 ERA in 10 starts. He struck out 37 batters in 41 innings. A strong spring could possibly put Johnson in contention for a spot in San Jose, but he’s likely headed to Augusta. D.J. Snelten, a ninth round pick last year out of Minnesota, dominated in the Arizona Rookie League last summer posting a 1.57 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. He’s another pitcher probably headed to Augusta’s starting rotation, but could perhaps force his way up to the California League. Chris Johnson, a 2012 draftee (17th round) and no relation to Chase, was Salem-Keizer’s top starting pitcher last season recording a 2.49 ERA and a 78-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 83 innings. If the organization wants a left-hander or two in the San Jose starting rotation (assuming neither Mejia or Snelten begin the year in the Cal League), possible candidates include Joe Kurrasch, an eighth rounder out of Penn State in 2012. Kurrasch struggled in Salem-Keizer last season, but enjoyed far more success in Augusta where he posted a 1.78 ERA in 25 1/3 innings. Fellow lefty Matt Lujan was a non-drafted free agent signee two years ago out of USF. Lujan was a bit under-the-radar in Augusta last year, but the numbers were solid as he went 7-0 with a 3.33 ERA in 15 games (12 starts).
2014 San Jose Giants Starting Pitching Candidates
(2013 regular season statistics are listed)
Martin Agosta, RHP
- Augusta: 18 GS, 9-3, 2.06 ERA, 91.2 IP, 43 BB, 109 SO
Kendry Flores, RHP
- Augusta: 22 GS, 10-6, 2.73 ERA, 141.2 IP, 17 BB, 137 SO
Joan Gregorio, RHP
- Augusta: 14 G, 13 GS, 6-3, 4.00 ERA, 69.2 IP, 17 BB, 84 SO
Chase Johnson, RHP
- Salem-Keizer: 10 GS, 3-2, 4.17 ERA, 41.0 IP, 12 BB, 37 SO
Chris Johnson, RHP
- Salem-Keizer: 15 GS, 6-3, 2.49 ERA, 83.0 IP, 8 BB, 78 SO
Joe Kurrasch, LHP
- Augusta: 7 G, 4 GS, 5-0, 1.78 ERA, 25.1 IP, 8 BB, 32 SO
- Salem-Keizer: 9 G, 8 GS, 2-4, 5.03 ERA, 34.0 IP, 12 BB, 25 SO
Matt Lujan, LHP
- Augusta: 15 G, 12 GS, 7-0, 3.33 ERA, 78.1 IP, 28 BB, 64 SO
Adalberto Mejia, LHP
- San Jose: 16 GS, 7-4, 3.31 ERA, 87.0 IP, 23 BB, 89 SO
D.J. Snelten, LHP
- AZL-Giants: 14 G, 6 GS, 3-1, 1.57 ERA, 34.1 IP, 13 BB, 39 SO
Chris Stratton, RHP
- Augusta: 22 GS, 9-3, 3.27 ERA, 132.0 IP, 47 BB, 123 SO
Nick Vander Tuig, RHP
- Salem-Keizer: 3 GS, 0-0, 13.50 ERA, 6.2 IP, 2 BB, 5 SO
- San Jose: 1 GS, 0-0, 11.57 ERA, 2.1 IP, 2 BB, 3 SO
Pat Young, RHP
- Salem-Keizer: 8 GS, 3-1, 0.92 ERA, 39.1 IP, 9 BB, 27 SO
The 2014 San Jose Giants preview series will continue next week with a look at the middle infield.
By Joe Ritzo
San Francisco Giants pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale today signifying the official start of spring training. Here is part 2 of our spring training preview focusing on the former San Jose pitchers in big league camp:
Once again, the expectation is that four out of the five members of the starting rotation will be filled by former San Jose hurlers: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong. Additionally, former SJ reliever Sergio Romo will look to build on a 2013 All-Star season that saw the right-hander collect a career-high 38 saves. After that, there are two other former San Jose pitchers that will enter spring training with realistic hopes of making the opening day roster.
Jake Dunning and Heath Hembree both made their major league debuts last season and are now hoping to break camp with the big club for the first time in their careers. Dunning received far more time in the major leagues among the two and more than held his own compiling a solid 2.84 ERA over 29 relief appearances (25 1/3 IP). A closer while in San Jose, Dunning would likely fill one of the middle relief roles if he makes the team coming out of camp.
Meanwhile, Hembree also was an excellent closer while in the California League and has continued to finish games throughout his professional career. Last year in Triple-A Fresno, the right-hander set a team record with 31 saves and then impressed in San Francisco after a September call-up. In nine games with the major league team late last year, Hembree worked a total of 7 2/3 scoreless innings yielding just four hits with 12 strikeouts. Hembree, now 25 years old, is still regarded as the top relief pitcher prospect in the system. His performance in spring training games could dictate whether he gets an extended look out of the San Francisco bullpen to open the year, likely in middle relief, or is sent back to Fresno to close games.
Other former San Jose relievers in big league camp this spring include non-roster invitees Derek Law, Dan Runzler and Jose Casilla. Law enjoyed a breakout 2013 campaign dominating as San Jose’s closer during the second half before a stellar effort in the Arizona Fall League. Despite his rising prospect status, Law has yet to pitch above the Class-A Advanced level (although he did face advanced hitters in the AFL), so it’s unlikely that he’s competing for a San Francisco bullpen spot this spring. However, a strong effort in front of the big league coaching staff could not only result in an initial assignment to Fresno (instead of Richmond), but help his cause for a big league call-up later in the year.
Runzler is looking to bounce back in 2014 after struggling throughout much of last year in the Fresno bullpen. The hard-throwing left-hander made 72 big league appearances over the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but missed a substantial portion of 2012 due to injury. Runzler followed that with a difficult 2013 in Fresno posting a 5.68 ERA with a whopping 37 walks in just 52 1/3 innings. No longer on the 40-man roster, Runzler has a lot to prove this year and it all starts this spring as he looks to climb back up the reliever depth chart.
Casilla bounced back nicely last season after missing most of 2011 and all of 2012 due to Tommy John Surgery. A key member of last year’s San Jose bullpen, Casilla logged a 3.22 ERA and made 43 appearances remaining healthy for the duration of the season. His stay major league spring training will probably be brief before heading to minor league camp with the hopes of making the Double-A Richmond roster.
Outside of the established big leaguers, the former San Jose starting pitcher who should receive the most time on the mound in big league spring games this year is Edwin Escobar. Escobar shot up the prospect charts in 2013 after a spectacular year with San Jose and Richmond. The left-hander combined for a 2.80 ERA in 24 starts between the two teams with 146 strikeouts compared to just 30 walks in 128 2/3 innings. A member of the 40-man roster, Escobar may get a chance to start a few games this spring and a positive impression could not only result in an opening assignment to Fresno, but a big league call-up later in the season.
Fellow 2013 San Jose starters Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Ty Blach are also in big league camp this spring. The top prospect trio were extended non-roster invitations and may get a handful of appearances in early spring games before likely heading to minor league camp. Expect all three to open the 2014 season in the Richmond starting rotation.
Minor league veterans Chris Heston and Mitch Lively could get a more extended look this spring as they each look to position themselves for a call-up down the road in 2014. Heston, a non-roster invitee, was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year with Richmond in 2012, but struggled mightily in Triple-A last season. In 19 starts with Fresno, the right-hander possessed a high 5.80 ERA with an opponents batting average over .300. Meanwhile, after pitching exclusively as a reliever throughout his career, Lively became a starter last season and led Fresno in innings (124) while compiling a 4.72 ERA. He followed that up by winning the Venezuelan Winter League Pitcher of the Year award last month. Both Heston and Lively are candidates to return to Fresno’s rotation this season and strong performances there could add valuable starting pitching depth to the organization.
Finally, Kendry Flores, a likely member of the 2014 San Jose starting rotation, will participate in his first big league camp this spring. Last year in Augusta (Class-A), Flores dazzled fashioning a 2.73 ERA and a 137-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 22 starts. His reward was inclusion on the 40-man roster and a taste of major league spring training. In all likelihood, Flores will be one of the first to return to minor league camp with an assignment to San Jose possibly to follow.
The San Francisco Giants will open camp with 37 pitchers on their roster.
San Francisco’s first exhibition game is scheduled for Wednesday, February 26 against the Oakland Athletics in Scottsdale. The 33-game Cactus League schedule concludes on Saturday, March 29 before the regular season opener on Monday, March 31 in Arizona. San Jose’s season is set to begin on Thursday, April 3 at Rancho Cucamonga.
By Joe Ritzo
San Francisco Giants pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale on Friday to signify the official start of spring training. A few days later, all 66 players invited to camp will have arrived with the first full squad workout scheduled for next Wednesday. Of the 66 players, 35 are former San Jose Giants with many of those attempting to earn spots on the opening day roster while others will be appearing in their first big league camp looking to make a good impression.
On the position player side, most of the spots on the opening day roster are already accounted for with former San Jose stars Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford among the players once again expected to play leading roles. However, this spring will give several others an opportunity to shine and perhaps break camp with the big league team for the first time in their careers.
Most notably, former San Jose outfielders Juan Perez and Roger Kieschnick figure to battle this spring for the chance to make the team as a fifth outfielder (behind Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, Michael Morse and Gregor Blanco). Both players saw substantial time in the big leagues during the second half of last season with Perez making a greater impact. A key outfielder on San Jose’s 2010 championship team, Perez played in 34 games last year with San Francisco and hit .258 with five doubles, a home run and eight RBI’s. Perez’s greatest contribution though was made defensively making several standout plays – both with his glove and with his arm. Perez’s versatility in the outfield, specifically his ability to play a capable center or left field at the highest level, certainly figures to help his cause to make the big league roster coming out of camp.
Kieschnick wasn’t quite as impressive as Perez last season managing just a .202 batting average and one extra-base hit in 84 at-bats with the SF Giants. The corner outfielder though has slugged 28 home runs in 156 Triple-A games over the last two years and it’s that power potential that should give him a chance for significant playing time this spring with an opportunity to make the big league team.Two other former San Jose outfielders in Gary Brown and Mac Williamson will also participate in big league camp this spring, although neither is a serious candidate to make the opening day roster. Brown is looking towards 2014 as a bounce back year after hitting just .231 with 135 strikeouts and only 17 stolen bases in Fresno last season. Despite his struggles, Brown was placed on the 40-man roster last November. A strong output in big league spring games could give Brown much-needed momentum into the early-season back with Fresno. And with his inclusion on the 40-man roster, Brown’s chances of a big league call-up later in the year are very real if he can improve on his Triple-A production.
Meanwhile, Williamson received a non-roster invitation to big league camp – his first experience in major league spring training. San Jose’s top hitter a season ago (.292 AVG, 25 HR, 89 RBI), Williamson is probably ticketed for the starting right field spot in Double-A Richmond. Before that though, this spring will give the top prospect a chance to impress in front of big league coaches.
On the infield, there is perhaps room for one more former SJ Giant to join the likes of Sandoval, Belt and Crawford on the opening day roster. Last spring, it was Nick Noonan who made an impression and won a spot as a reserve infielder. The former supplemental first round draft pick ended up receiving 105 at-bats in “The Show” over the course of the season producing a .219 batting average with a pair of doubles and five RBI’s. Noonan, who mainly plays second or third, is once again in contention for a roster spot and should garner significant playing time in exhibition games.One of Noonan’s chief competitors for a possible infield roster spot this spring is another former San Jose Giant: Ehire Adrianza. Adrianza was a September call-up last season and handled himself well in limited playing time down the stretch. A defensive whiz at shortstop, Adrianza’s most memorable moment late last year was actually at the plate when he connected for a home run off of Yankees veteran Andy Pettitte in New York. Adrianza ended the season with four hits, including the home run, in 18 big league at-bats.
Adrianza’s progress this spring will be watched closely. He’s out of minor league options meaning that if the Giants don’t put him on the opening day roster, he’ll be exposed to waivers before being sent down to Fresno. Given his defensive prowess and positive contributions last September, it seems unlikely that Adrianza would go unclaimed if the Giants went this route. Bottom line, this spring is an important one for Adrianza and his future in the San Francisco organization.
Fellow 40-man infield members Adam Duvall and Angel Villalona will also participate in big league camp, however their chances of making the team are far less likely. Duvall, San Jose’s single-season home run record holder (30 HR’s in 2012), spent all of last year in Richmond where he smacked 17 round-trippers in 105 games to go with a .252 batting average. A positive effort this spring should allow Duvall to make the jump to Fresno for the start of the season. Villalona also is a candidate to make Fresno’s opening day roster after launching 22 home runs between San Jose and Richmond a year ago. The first baseman though hit only .231 with 136 strikeouts between the two clubs and will be looking to improve on those numbers in 2014.Top prospect infielder Joe Panik received a non-roster invitation to big league camp and should garner a fair amount of playing time in early spring games. Like Duvall, Panik has yet to play above the Double-A level (hit .257 for the Flying Squirrels last year) so a ticket to Fresno for the start of this season is probably his most likely destination. There are still many in the organization that feel Panik can one day become an everyday player at second base in the major leagues, so 2014 is a big year for the former first rounder.
Former San Jose infielders Chris Dominguez and Mark Minicozzi are also in big league camp as non-roster invitees. Dominguez bounced back nicely last year in Fresno connecting for 24 doubles and 15 home runs to go with a .294 batting average as the club’s primary third baseman. Dominguez is an extreme long-shot to make the team, but like many others, a strong spring could help his cause later in the season should roster spots open up. The 31-year old Minicozzi was one of Richmond’s top all-around hitters last year when he hit .309 with 30 doubles, 10 home runs and 66 RBI’s. A spring training invite is a nice reward for Minicozzi (a 2006 San Jose Giant) as he tries to further advance through the system.Finally, there’s hopefully little drama at the catching position this spring with former SJ Giants Posey and Hector Sanchez expected to fill the major league roster. All eyes though will be on top prospect and non-roster invitee Andrew Susac throughout major league exhibitions. Regarded as, by far, the top catching prospect in the system, Susac followed a solid 2013 season in Richmond (.256 AVG, 12 HR, .362 OBP) with a stellar performance in the Arizona Fall League. The former second round draft pick will look to take another step forward in 2014 and that begins with a chance to excel in front of the big league coaches this spring. In all likelihood, Susac will open the season as Fresno’s starting catcher.
Also of note, former San Jose catcher Jeff Arnold will start spring training in big league camp as a non-roster invitee. Arnold hit .251 with 26 doubles and 13 homers for the SJ Giants last season while handling the club’s talented pitching staff. Possible 2014 San Jose catcher Ben Turner is also in big league camp. Turner hit just .249 with two home runs for the GreenJackets, but is considered an excellent defensive backstop and was the toughest player to strikeout in the entire South Atlantic League last year (one K every 17 at-bats). Arnold and Turner’s stay in major league spring training will likely be brief before heading back to minor league camp and then eventually assignments to Richmond and San Jose respectively.
Later in the week, I’ll take a look at the former San Jose pitchers in big league camp.
By Joe RitzoMajor league spring training for the San Francisco Giants is set to begin later this week, but what about the minor leaguers in the organization? All players that are not on San Francisco’s 40-man roster or been extended non-roster invitations to big league camp are scheduled to report to Scottsdale during the final week of February before a 2 1/2 week exhibition game slate against other farm teams.
San Francisco’s minor league spring training officially begins on Tuesday, February 25 when all international players are due to report. U.S. players will report on Thursday, February 27 before the first full workout on Friday, February 28. Giants minor leaguers will participate in several workouts and intra-squad games over the following days before their exhibition opener on Wednesday, March 12.
Minor league spring training is an ultra-competitive setting as over 150 players will be fighting for roster spots on the four teams scheduled to begin their seasons in early-April (Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies, Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels, High-A San Jose Giants and Class-A Augusta GreenJackets). Beginning on the 12th, the San Francisco front office will put players on the four individual teams: a Triple-A squad, a Double-A team, a High-A team and a Class-A club. Those four teams will play either a 14-game or 15-game exhibition schedule over the following 2 1/2 weeks against other organizations in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.
Here is the full spring training game schedule for the “High-A” team, or the players most likely to begin the season in San Jose:
Wednesday, March 12 – at Rockies
Thursday, March 13 – vs. Diamondbacks
Friday, March 14 – at Cubs
Monday, March 17 – at Diamondbacks
Tuesday, March 18 – vs. Rockies
Wednesday, March 19 – at Angels
Thursday, March 20 – at Rockies
Friday, March 21 – vs. Angels
Saturday, March 22 – vs. Cubs
Monday, March 24 – vs. Rockies
Tuesday, March 25 – vs. A’s
Wednesday, March 26 – at Rockies
Thursday, March 27 – vs. Angels
Friday, March 28 – at A’s
All games begin at 1:00 PM. Giants home games are played at the Giants Baseball Complex in Scottsdale (8045 E. Camelback Road). Diamondbacks and Rockies home games are in Scottsdale, A’s home games are in Phoenix, Angels home games are in Tempe and Cubs home games are played in Mesa.
12 of San Jose’s 14 spring training games are against teams from the California League with five contests against Modesto (Rockies), three games against Inland Empire (Angels), two games versus Stockton (A’s) and two games against Visalia (Diamondbacks). The two remaining games will be played against Daytona – the Cubs’ High-A affiliate from the Florida State League.
The rosters for the four clubs within the San Francisco farm system during spring training are fluid meaning several players will shift up-and-down throughout the exhibition season. A strong spring training performance during these games can certainly help a player’s cause whether it’s attempting to earn a promotion up the minor league chain or perhaps just make a team out of spring for the first time. Unfortunately, spring training can also have negative consequences for minor league players with a handful likely to be released at various times during March.
An official announcement of the 2014 San Jose Giants roster will not occur until after the final exhibition game.
The San Jose Giants open their 140-game regular season on Thursday, April 3 in Rancho Cucamonga.
By Joe Ritzo
Several former San Jose Giants have found themselves on recently released top prospect lists. Baseball America’s top 30 San Francisco prospects includes 17 players that have suited up for San Jose. Additionally, several others on the list are projected to play in the California League with the Giants this season.Baseball America Top 30
(bold indicates former San Jose Giant)
1. Kyle Crick, RHP
2. Edwin Escobar, LHP
3. Chris Stratton, RHP
4. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
5. Mac Williamson, OF
6. Christian Arroyo, SS
7. Heath Hembree, RHP
8. Ty Blach, LHP
9. Joe Panik, 2B
10. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
11. Andrew Susac, C
12. Derek Law, RHP
13. Keury Mella, RHP
14. Kendry Flores, RHP
15. Ryder Jones, 3B
16. Angel Villalona, 1B
17. Joan Gregorio, RHP
18. Ehire Adrianza, SS
19. Gary Brown, OF
20. Mike Kickham, LHP
21. Martin Agosta, RHP
22. Juan Perez, OF
23. Josh Osich, LHP
24. Steven Okert, LHP
25. Chase Johnson, RHP
26. Jose DePaula, LHP
27. Cody Hall, RHP
28. Stephen Johnson, RHP
29. Roger Kieschnick, OF
30. Erik Cordier, RHP
* This list is yet another example of how star-studded the 2013 San Jose rotation was – five of the top 10 (Crick, Escobar, Mejia, Blach, Blackburn) were members of the Giants starting staff last year.
* Six players on the top 30 list are projected to begin the 2014 season in San Jose. All six are pitchers headlined by #3 Chris Stratton, San Francisco’s first-round draft pick two years ago. #14 Kendry Flores, #17 Joan Gregorio and #21 Martin Agosta joined Stratton in the Augusta starting rotation a season ago and are expected to move up to San Jose as well. #24 Steven Okert and #28 Stephen Johnson were both key members of the GreenJackets bullpen last year and should also earn promotions to the California League.
* Seven of the top 10 and 20 out of the 30 players overall are pitchers. Crick is #1 for a second straight year.
* Andrew Susac is the lone catcher on the top 30 list. Mac Williamson at #5 is the only outfielder in the top 18 (Gary Brown fell from #4 last year to #19 this year). #16 Angel Villalona is the only first baseman listed.
* Five players on the top 30 list have already seen time in the big leagues: Hembree, Adrianza, Kickham, Perez and Kieschnick.
* In addition to Okert and S. Johnson, relief pitchers on the top 30 list include: #7 Hembree, #12 Law, #23 Osich, #27 Hall and #30 Cordier.
* San Francisco’s top three draft picks from 2013 have also cracked the top 30 in #6 Arroyo (first round), #15 Jones (second round) and #25 C. Johnson (third round). The trio are all projected by Baseball America to open this season with Class-A Augusta.
* The players that saw the biggest jumps in their Baseball America prospect ranking from last year to this year:
- Escobar #14 to #2
- Williamson #15 to #5
- Blach unranked to #8
- Law unranked to #12
- Flores unranked to #14
- Villalona unranked to #16
- Gregorio unranked to #17
Baseball Prospectus has also come out with a top 10 San Francisco Giants prospects list:
1. Kyle Crick, RHP
2. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
3. Edwin Escobar, LHP
4. Kendry Flores, RHP
5. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
6. Andrew Susac, C
7. Keury Mella, RHP
8. Joan Gregorio, RHP
9. Martin Agosta, RHP
10. Ty Blach, LHP
Nine of the 10 players listed here are pitchers with Susac the lone exception. And while Escobar got the nod at #2 behind Crick according to Baseball America, it’s Mejia that garners Baseball Prospectus’ #2 slot. Potential 2014 San Jose starting pitchers Flores, Gregorio and Agosta are all rated in the top 10.
With spring training right around the corner, Joe and Ben discuss top San Francisco Giants minor league camp storylines on the latest podcast episode. The two analyze where some of the elite starting pitching prospects in the organization could start this season and preview position battles at first base and shortstop. They also examine which recent high draft picks could play in San Jose this year.
By Joe Ritzo
Spring training gets underway down in Scottsdale in less than two weeks while we’re now under two months from the San Jose Giants season opener. The San Francisco Giants (all members of the 40-man roster plus the 26 non-roster invitees) will hold their first official full team workout of the spring on February 19 while all remaining minor leaguers report to camp by February 27.
With over 160 players expected in minor league camp, there are a bevy of questions regarding personnel and roster decisions. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the major storylines in Giants minor league camp this year, involving both former and potential future San Jose players:
Starting Pitching Prospects
The strength of the Giants farm system right now is unquestionably the deep crop of starting pitching prospects. According to Baseball America, eight out of the top 14 prospects in the organization are starting pitchers. And while a handful of these pitching prospects will begin spring training in big league camp, none are expected to compete for spots on the opening day roster and thus should find themselves back in minor league camp before too long. The big question then becomes, assuming full-health for everyone, where do all of these pitchers land at the beginning of the season? It could be as simple as each starter moving up a level from where they finished in 2013. If that’s the case, look for Edwin Escobar, the closest of the group to the big leagues, to start the year with Triple-A Fresno. The quartet of top prospect starters from last season’s San Jose team – Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Adalberto Mejia and Ty Blach – would jump to Double-A Richmond. Meanwhile, 2013 Augusta headliners Chris Stratton, Martin Agosta, Kendry Flores and Joan Gregorio move to San Jose.
However, projecting the opening day starting rotations in the Giants farm system may not be that simple. Escobar will be under the microscope all spring trying to prove that he’s ready for a promotion to Fresno (not to mention a possible big league debut later in the year) despite just 54 career innings at the Double-A level. Mejia was excellent in the second half last season with San Jose, but missed most of the first half due to injury. At just 20 years old, it would be an aggressive promotion to the Eastern League if that turns out to be his assignment. Meanwhile, perhaps one of the top starters from last year’s Augusta team gains consideration for a jump over San Jose all the way to Richmond. Possible candidates could include Stratton, with his first round pedigree, and Flores, who was placed on the 40-man roster last offseason. How each of these pitchers (who are all listed among Baseball America’s top 30 prospects in the system) fare this spring is a major storyline and it’ll be interesting to see where they all begin their 2014 seasons.
Law And The Relievers
Outside of perhaps Crick, there wasn’t a player in the Giants system that was generating more buzz last October/November than Derek Law. After a dominant second half as San Jose’s closer, Law went to the Arizona Fall League where he fashioned a perfect 0.00 ERA. Law, along with Heath Hembree, are considered the top relief pitcher prospects in the organization right now. Law will initially get an opportunity to pitch in big league camp this spring and if he impresses, might a jump to Fresno and a spot on the fast track be in the works?
The placement of some other relief pitcher prospects this spring is also worth noting. Hard-throwers Cody Hall and Josh Osich were midseason promotions to Richmond last year. Do both return to the Eastern League or show enough this spring to get a look in Fresno right off the bat? Injuries have plagued Bryce Bandilla throughout his pro career, but when healthy, he’s been as dominant as anyone in this system over the last two seasons. Is the talented lefty ready to go this spring and in line for a promotion to Double-A? Augusta’s bullpen was stacked last season as well with the likes of Stephen Johnson (a top 30 prospect), Steven Okert (another top 30 prospect), Tyler Mizenko (All-Star closer), Ian Gardeck and Jorge Bucardo. Do they all move up together this spring and continue the tradition of strong San Jose bullpens?2013 Draft Class – Anyone To San Jose?
The top two picks from last June’s draft – shortstop Christian Arroyo and third baseman Ryder Jones – both excelled in the Arizona Rookie League, but are each still teenagers and thus an aggressive promotion to San Jose seems unlikely. Arroyo and Jones figure to both have an opportunity to make the Class-A Augusta roster this spring. But what about some of the other 2013 draftees – could any of them jump to the California League for the start of the 2014 season? The best bets might be fourth rounder Brian Ragira, an outfielder/first baseman out of Stanford who was second on Salem-Keizer’s club with 36 RBI’s last summer and eighth rounder Tyler Horan, an outfielder out of Virginia Tech who hit .295 for the Volcanoes and has impressive raw power. Utility infielder Brandon Bednar (seventh round) and catcher Ty Ross (12th round) are also candidates after each were drafted out of the college ranks and played key roles in Salem last summer.
On the pitching side, Nick Vander Tuig (sixth round) is a polished right-handed starter out of UCLA and while he has only 10 innings of professional experience, could follow a similar path as Blach and jump to the San Jose rotation for his first full season. Pat Young (13th round) had a 0.92 ERA in eight starts with Salem-Keizer last summer before handling himself well in the playoffs with the Giants. Chase Johnson (third round) was the first pitcher taken by San Francisco in last year’s draft. After working as a reliever in college, Johnson transitioned to the role of a starter last summer with Salem-Keizer and impressed. Meanwhile, Dan Slania (fifth round) is a power arm out of Notre Dame who finished last season as an effective late-inning reliever for the Volcanoes. Which of these players (or others from the 2013 draft class) will perform well enough this spring to warrant a promotion to San Jose?
At the start of spring training, there doesn’t seem to be a clear pecking order for the shortstops in the Giants system. At the highest level, Ehire Adrianza, who is out of options, will be fighting hard in big league camp for a role on the opening day roster. Nick Noonan surprised last spring by earning a spot in San Francisco and will look to do the same this year. Minor league free agent signee Brandon Hicks, another shortstop, has some prior big league experience and is a non-roster invitee. The shortstop job in Fresno probably comes from this group. Beyond that, minor league camp should determine the shortstop logjam throughout the rest of the system.
* Angel Villalona is a 40-man member, so he’ll begin the spring in big league camp, but his starting point in 2014 is a question. Villalona hit just .235 in Double-A last year after his midseason promotion from San Jose, but with incredible raw power and his option clock ticking, does he head to Fresno coming out of camp? If Villalona is assigned to Fresno, that would allow Ricky Oropesa to return to Richmond to play first base everyday.
* Keury Mella is a 20-year old right-hander who became the ace starting pitcher (2.25 ERA, 41 K’s in 36 IP) on the AZL-Giants team last summer that won the league championship. Rated the #13 prospect in the system by Baseball America, could Mella jump all the way to Augusta in 2014 with a strong spring training?
* Will there be any surprises with the roster assignments for any of the top hitting prospects in the system? If not, look for Andrew Susac, Joe Panik, Gary Brown and Adam Duvall to headline Fresno’s lineup, Mac Williamson to anchor Richmond’s middle of the order and Arroyo to lead the way in Augusta.
By Joe Ritzo
February is upon us which means the start of baseball season is just a few days away. Giants pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks (February 14) while spring training games down in Scottsdale begin at the end of the month. Not long after that, minor league camp kicks off while opening day for the San Jose Giants is in exactly two months.
The blog will be busy in the coming weeks as we get you ready for the start of the season. First and foremost, our next Inside the San Jose Giants Podcast will be ready to go on February 5 with a look at some of the top storylines of Giants minor league camp this spring. The podcast then returns every other Wednesday until the start of the season as Ben Taylor and I will take a closer look at some of the players you can expect to see suit at Municipal Stadium this season.
My 2014 San Jose Giants written preview series will also be coming to this blog over the next several weeks. I’ll have detailed position-by-position breakdowns of a possible opening day SJ Giants roster. The first preview article looks at an expected Giants starting pitching rotation and it will be posted here on Tuesday, February 18. You’ll then be able to find the remaining previews every Tuesday through the conclusion of spring training.
The season preview schedule is as follows:
February 18 – Starting Pitchers
February 25 – Middle Infield
March 4 – Corner Infield
March 11 – Outfield
March 18 – Catcher
March 25 – Bullpen
This all leads up to the official announcement of the 2014 San Jose Giants roster, which we expect will occur over the weekend of March 29/30. Stay tuned for details on a date and time for FanFest at Municipal Stadium, which will be your first opportunity to meet the new team.
The 2014 San Jose Giants schedule will all game times can be found here.
Only 66 days until Opening Night at Municipal Stadium! Field prep is well underway…
By Joe RitzoThe San Jose Giants have enjoyed a remarkable run of success over the last decade unmatched by any franchise in the long history of the California League. The Giants became the first team to win four championships (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010) over a six-year span while also establishing a league record with seven straight first half North Division titles from 2005-2011. Then last year, despite falling short in the Championship Series, San Jose set another California League record by reaching the playoffs for a 10th straight season.
San Jose’s current streak of 10 consecutive years of reaching the playoffs eclipsed the Stockton Ports’ run of nine straight seasons from 1985-1993 for the longest in California League history. The Giants’ streak started in 2004 and has included eight first half crowns, five North Division championships and four league titles. San Jose has also finished with the best regular season record in the California League six times during this span, including last year’s 83-57 mark. The Giants have had four different managers during the streak (Lenn Sakata, Steve Decker, Brian Harper and Andy Skeels).
67 San Jose Giants (and counting…) during the 10-year playoff streak have gone onto play in the major leagues. Notable future big leaguers from these San Jose playoff teams:
2004 – Matt Cain, Fred Lewis, Jeremy Accardo, Nate Schierholtz
2005 – Nate Schierholtz, Travis Ishikawa, Kevin Frandsen, Jonathan Sanchez
2006 – Tim Lincecum, Alex Hinshaw, John Bowker, Alfredo Simon
2007 – Pablo Sandoval, Sergio Romo, Travis Ishikawa, Emmanuel Burriss
2008 – Pablo Sandoval, Brett Pill, Dan Otero
2009 – Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford, Conor Gillaspie, Nick Noonan
2010 – Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Juan Perez
2011 – Zack Wheeler, Jake Dunning, Heath Hembree
2012 – None yet
2013 – None yet
In addition to San Jose, the Modesto Nuts are in the midst of a long playoff streak having qualified for the postseason in seven straight seasons. Lake Elsinore’s streak of eight consecutive years in the playoffs ended last season.
Of note, the California League changed their playoff format in 1995 expanding the postseason from four to six teams (first half and second half winners along with a wild card team from each division). From 1959-1978, only two clubs qualified for the playoffs although in those days, there were anywhere from just six-to-eight teams in the entire California League.
Longest Playoff Streaks In California League History
10 years, San Jose Giants, 2004-present
9 years, Stockton Ports, 1985-1993
8 years, Lake Elsinore Storm, 2005-2012
7 years, Modesto Nuts, 2007-present
6 years, San Jose Red Sox, 1949-1954
6 years, Visalia Oaks, 1978-1983
6 years, San Bernardino Stampede/Inland Empire 66ers, 1999-2004
Since becoming a Giants affiliate in 1988, San Jose has reached the postseason 20 times in 26 years. Prior to 1988, the franchise enjoyed just two playoff appearances over a 19-year period (1969-87).
The Giants begin their quest for a league record 11th straight playoff appearance on Thursday, April 3 in Rancho Cucamonga. San Jose starts the year with a seven-game road trip against the Quakes and Lancaster JetHawks before opening the home portion of their schedule on Thursday, April 10.
Yesterday, I wrote about the inclusion of two former San Jose Giants – Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar – on MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list. Crick was rated as the #32 prospect while Escobar checked in at #95. It marked the second straight year that Crick found himself ranked among the top 100 prospects in the game.
Now looking deeper at MLB.com’s position-by-position prospect rankings, Crick just missed the cut to be included among the top 10 right-handed pitching prospects in baseball, but Escobar and Andrew Susac both received mention. Escobar has been rated the eighth-best left-handed pitching prospect by MLB.com after a terrific 2013 campaign that saw him combine for a 2.81 ERA over 24 starts between San Jose and Double-A Richmond. Escobar, who is already on San Francisco’s 40-man roster, struck out 146 compared to 30 walks in 128 1/3 innings a season ago.
Susac may not have been on the overall top 100 list, but did see his name included among the top 10 catching prospects. According to MLB.com, Susac is considered the #8 catching prospect in baseball entering this year. A former second round draft pick, Susac spent all of 2012 with San Jose before moving to Richmond last season. In 84 games with the Flying Squirrels, Susac hit .256 with 17 doubles, 12 home runs and 46 RBI’s. He also possessed an impressive .362 on-base percentage. Susac followed that up by hitting .360 in 17 Arizona Fall League games.
Susac will participate in big league camp this spring as a non-roster invitee. He and Escobar are strong candidates to both open the 2014 season with Triple-A Fresno.
MINOR LEAGUE FREE AGENT UPDATES
Former San Jose Giants outfielder Tyler Graham has returned to the organization after a stint playing Independent ball. Graham, who signed a minor league contract with San Francisco earlier this month, was a key member of the 2008 and 2009 San Jose teams combining for a .268 batting average and 75 stolen bases in 157 games over the two seasons. Originally drafted in 2006, Graham spent seven years in the San Francisco farm system before he was designated for assignment (taken off the 40-man roster) early in the 2012 season. The speedy outfielder was then signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks where he would make his major league debut as a September call-up later that year. Graham struck out twice in his only two big league at-bats. Last season, Graham played in a pair of independent leagues – the Atlantic League and the American Association – in addition to a brief stint in the Mexican League.
In eight seasons as a professional, Graham owns a .277 career batting average with 20 home runs and 262 stolen bases. Graham was one of Fresno’s top players in 2011 and could return to the Grizzlies for the start of this season.
In other free agent news, former San Jose Giant Brock Bond has signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Bond played for San Jose in 2008 and then returned to the Giants last season after suffering an oblique injury during spring training. The second baseman hit just .240 with 16 doubles, three home runs and 39 RBI’s in 92 games with San Jose last year. He became a minor league free agent at the end of the season. In 2012, Bond excelled in Fresno ranking second on the team with a .332 batting average. Bond is one of three former San Jose Giants to join the Orioles organization this offseason (Francisco Peguero and Johnny Monell).
Craig Westcott, a standout San Jose starting pitcher during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, has signed with Miami Marlins after he was released by the San Francisco Giants at the end of last season. Westcott was 5-12 with a 4.19 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A Richmond last year.
SJ GIANTS AT SAN FRANCISCO FANFEST THIS SATURDAY
The San Jose Giants will be taking part in San Francisco Giants Fanfest this Saturday, February 1 at AT&T Park. 2013 San Jose Giants players Devin Harris, Myles Schroder and Mitch Delfino along with members of the San Jose front office and Gigante will be around to get fans excited about the 2014 season. The event is FREE to the public and will run from 10 AM to 3 PM.
For more information, click here.
(All players subject to change without notice)
SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES
The start of major league spring training is only a few weeks away as San Francisco Giants pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Friday, February 14. All position players must report by Tuesday, February 18. Big league camp will consist of all players on the 40-man roster in addition to those extended non-roster invitations. Several recent former San Jose Giants were extended non-roster invitations to big league camp earlier this month.
For everyone else in the organization, Giants Minor League camp is set to begin on Tuesday, February 25 in Scottsdale with the first full workout slated for Friday, February 28. A full San Jose Giants spring training game schedule is coming soon.
CALIFORNIA LEAGUE MANAGERS
All 10 California League teams have now announced their coaching staffs for the upcoming 2014 season:
- Bakersfield Blaze: Pat Kelly (managed Reds’ Rookie-level team in 2013)
- Modesto Nuts: Don Sneddon (head coach of Santa Ana College for last 33 years)
- San Jose Giants: Lenn Sakata (managed in Rockies farm system in 2013)
- Stockton Ports: Ryan Christenson (managed Athletics’ Class-A team in 2013)
- Visalia Rawhide: Robbie Hammock (managed Diamondbacks’ Rookie-level team in 2013)
- High Desert Mavericks: Eddie Menchaca (managed Mariners’ Class-A team in 2013)
- Inland Empire 66ers: Denny Hocking (managed Angels’ Rookie-level team in 2013)
- Lake Elsinore Storm: Jamie Quirk (was Chicago Cubs bench coach last two years)
- Lancaster JetHawks: Rodney Linares (third season in Lancaster)
- Rancho Cucamonga Quakes: P.J. Forbes (managed Dodgers’ Rookie-level team in 2013)
Linares is the only manager in the league to return to his post from a season ago. Of course, Lenn Sakata has prior managing experience in San Jose as well.
By Joe RitzoFormer San Jose Giants pitchers Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar received mention on the MLB.com Top 100 prospects list released last week. Crick was rated the #32 prospect overall while Escobar checked in at #95. The two were the only San Francisco Giants prospects to make the list.
Crick missed two months during the first half last season due to an oblique injury, but returned after the All-Star break and dominated the California League. A former supplemental first round draft, Crick fashioned a 1.57 ERA and a 3-1 record in 14 starts with San Jose last year. The 21-year old right-hander struck out a whopping 95 batters in 68 2/3 innings while issuing 39 walks. Crick allowed only one home run for the entire season and limited the opposition to a .201 batting average. He struck out 10 or more batters in five starts and didn’t allow more than three earned runs in any outing.
MLB.com notes that Crick “attacks hitters with his lively mid-90s fastball that reaches 98 mph” and “his breaking ball is a swing-and-miss pitch that looks like a hard, biting slider at its best.” Crick is the 16th highest pitcher on the top 100 list.
At the conclusion of the season, Crick pitched in the Arizona Fall League where he compiled a 2.87 ERA with 24 strikeouts in just 15 2/3 innings. According to MLB.com, Crick was the second-youngest starting pitcher in the AFL this year.
Escobar enjoyed a terrific 2013 campaign with San Jose and Double-A Richmond. The 21-year old left-hander was 3-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 14 starts with the Giants earning midseason California League All-Star honors. Then after an early-July promotion, he logged a 2.67 ERA and a 5-4 record in 10 AA starts. Between the two stops last year, Escobar struck out 146 compared to just 30 walks in 128 2/3 innings.
Escobar’s scouting report on MLB.com describes the young southpaw as someone with “a good feel for pitching and can add or subtract velocity and movement to his low-90s fastball as the situation requires” and “he can throw all of his pitches for strikes and isn’t afraid to use them in any count.”
Crick almost certainly will begin the 2014 season in Richmond while Escobar figures to have an opportunity to open the year in Fresno. Both pitchers will participate in big league spring training.
Last year’s top 100 also included a pair of Giants prospects in Crick (#84) and Gary Brown (#100). Brown (#48) and Francisco Peguero (#98) were top 100 selections two years ago. Brandon Belt received a #17 ranking prior to the 2011 season.
Minnesota Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, has been rated as the #1 overall prospect by MLB.com this year. Other 2013 California League players in the top 100 include: #5 Archie Bradley (RHP, Visalia – Arizona Diamondbacks), #12 Addison Russell (SS, Stockton – Oakland Athletics), #14 Jon Gray (RHP, Modesto – Colorado Rockies), #19 Robert Stephenson (RHP, Bakersfield – Cincinnati Reds), #24 Austin Hedges (C, Lake Elsinore – San Diego Padres), #41 Eddie Butler (RHP, Modesto – Colorado Rockies) and #66 Delino DeShields (OF, Lancaster – Houston Astros).
Checking in on the whereabouts of former San Jose Giants managers as the 2014 season approaches:
Many former San Jose managers are still with the Giants as their time in the California League provided a stepping-stone for a higher position in the organization. After directing the Giants in 2008, Steve Decker was elevated to the manager spot in Double-A and then Triple-A before his current position as San Francisco’s Coordinator of Minor League Hitting. Meanwhile, Shane Turner, who managed the San Jose Giants to their first California League championship in 1998, is set to begin his first season as San Francisco’s Director of Player Development replacing Fred Stanley. Turner has been in the Giants organization for 19 years, including most recently as a Player Development Special Assistant.
Former San Jose skippers Ron Wotus (1991-92) and Bill Hayes (2002) have enjoyed lengthy stints on the San Francisco coaching staff. 2014 will mark Wotus’ 17th year on the big league staff as he currently serves as bench coach, while also handling infield defense. Wotus is one of only five individuals since 1900 to serve as a Giants coach for at least 10 years. Hayes has spent the last 11 seasons as San Francisco’s bullpen catcher.Andy Skeels will serve as hitting coach for San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate Fresno this season. Skeels has been a manager in the Giants farm system for the past six years, leading San Jose in 2009 and from 2011-13, in addition to one season with Double-A Richmond in 2010 and one year with Class-A Augusta (2008). Skeels was last a hitting coach in 2007 with Augusta.
Elsewhere, Duane Espy, the first manager in San Jose Giants history, is expected to continue working in player development for the Colorado Rockies. Espy was a development supervisor for Colorado’s Double-A affiliate Tulsa last year. He managed San Jose during the 1988 and 1989 seasons.
Brian Harper joined the Cubs organization immediately after winning the California League championship with the SJ Giants in 2010. He is set to begin his second year as hitting coach for their Triple-A team Iowa after serving as the manager of the Class-A Advanced Daytona club.
Other former San Jose Giants managers still in baseball include Frank Cacciatore (1997) as hitting coach of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers (Phillies system) and Keith Comstock (2000) as Rehabilitation Pitching Coordinator for the Texas Rangers. Carlos Lezcano (1995-96), who resigned as manager of the Lake Elsinore Storm in the middle of the 2011 season, is currently a manager of a Puerto Rican Winter League team (Cangrejeros de Santurce). Finally, 2003 San Jose skipper Jack Lind is working at the amateur baseball level as an assistant coach at Arizona Christian University working under head coach and former San Francisco Giants pitcher Bill Swift.
Over the 27-year history of the club, the San Jose Giants have had 14 different managers.
For more on this year’s manager, Lenn Sakata, click here.
By Joe Ritzo
Taking 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.
- 1st round: Christian Arroyo, SS, Hernando HS
- 2nd round: Ryder Jones, 3B, Watauga, HS
- 3rd round: Chase Johnson, RHP, Cal Poly
- 4th round: Brian Ragira, OF/1B, Stanford
- 5th round: Dan Slania, RHP, Notre Dame
- 6th round: Nick Vander Tuig, RHP, UCLA
- 7th round: Brandon Bednar, SS/2B, Florida Gulf Coast
- 8th round: Tyler Horan, OF, Virginia Tech
- 9th round: D.J. Snelten, LHP, Minnesota
- 10th round: Tyler Rogers, RHP, Austin Peay State
Last June marked the first time since 1974 that the San Francisco Giants used their top two draft picks on high school position players. Both Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones thrived in the Arizona Rookie League last summer (Arroyo won the league MVP award), but a jump to San Jose at the start of this season for either seems unlikely. Look for the teenage duo to man the left side of the infield in Augusta (Class A) when minor league rosters are announced at the end of spring training.
The Giants then went to the college ranks with their third through tenth picks. I noted in an earlier article that the chances seem good that outfielders Brian Ragira and/or Tyler Horan could jump to San Jose from Salem-Keizer this season. Both played major college baseball for three seasons and enjoyed some success in the Northwest League last summer. The lack of top-level outfield prospects on last year’s Augusta team also helps each of their causes for a jump to the California League. Fellow position player Brandon Bednar put up solid numbers with the Volcanoes as well (.272 AVG, 6 HR, 34 RBI) seeing action at second base, third base and shortstop. That versatility should prove valuable and could put Bednar in contention for a roster spot in San Jose this spring.
The remainder of the top 10 picks from last June were college pitchers. Chase Johnson, Nick Vander Tuig and D,J, Snelten are each starters. Of the trio, Vander Tuig probably has the best chance to make the San Jose roster coming out of spring training. A polished right-hander, Vander Tuig was one of the star pitchers on UCLA’s national championship team last year. He has only 10 innings of professional experience entering 2014, but with big-game pitching experience from his college days and pinpoint control, he’ll likely be considered for a spot on the Giants staff. Meanwhile, Johnson was the highest drafted of the group and threw well in Salem last summer (3-2, 4.17 ERA in 10 starts). Johnson though was a middle reliever his final season in college and while he may turn out to be a great find for the Giants, he’s still considered fairly raw and will probably build innings in Augusta this year. Snelton, a 6’7” lefty, was a successful starting pitcher at Minnesota, but has yet to pitch above rookie-ball (had a 1.57 ERA in the AZL last summer).
Slania and Rogers are a pair of intriguing relief arms that should open 2014 in either San Jose or Augusta. Slania, a hard-thrower who is listed at 6’5” and 275 lbs., compiled a 3.95 ERA and was a perfect 3-for-3 in save chances over 12 relief appearances with Salem-Keizer last summer. Rogers, a submarine style right-hander, was promoted to San Jose for the playoffs last September after notching a 3.10 ERA in 14 games out of the Volcanoes bullpen. Rogers struggled in his lone playoff appearance with the Giants (2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB). The bullpen was a real strength for Augusta last season and with many of those relievers likely ticketed for San Jose, both Slania and Rogers will have to impress greatly during spring training games to gain consideration for a promotion to the Cal League.
- 1st round: Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State
- 2nd round: Martin Agosta, RHP, St. Mary’s
- 3rd round: Mac Williamson, OF, Wake Forest
- 4th round: Steven Okert, LHP, Oklahoma
- 5th round: Ty Blach, LHP, Creighton
- 6th round: Stephen Johnson, RHP, St. Edward’s
- 7th round: Eduardo Encinosa, RHP, Miami
- 8th round: Joe Kurrasch, LHP, Penn State
- 9th round: Shilo McCall, OF, Piedra Vista HS
- 10th round: Trevor Brown, 2B/C, UCLA
A few of the top 2012 picks have already seen time in San Jose. Of course, Mac Williamson and Ty Blach were stars on last year’s Giants team and both should be headed to Double-A Richmond for the start of this season. Trevor Brown joined San Jose from Augusta last August and after initially struggling, led the Giants in batting average during the playoffs (.345). Drafted as a catcher, Brown saw considerably more action at second base last year. Brown is expected to return to San Jose this season and play a major role on the club.As it relates to the possible composition of the 2014 Giants roster, Chris Stratton and Martin Agosta figure to be the headline names from the 2012 draft class. Stratton was San Francisco’s first round draft pick a year and a half ago after winning the SEC Pitcher of the Year award at Mississippi State. The right-hander spent all of last season in the Augusta rotation where he fashioned a 9-3 record and a 3.27 ERA in 22 starts. Stratton was second on the GreenJackets staff in innings pitched (132) and strikeouts (123). The 23-year old is considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Giants system (Baseball America rated him #3 entering 2014 – behind only Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar) and could be one of the anchors of San Jose’s starting rotation this season. Stratton reportedly features an 89-to-95 MPH fastball with a plus-slider and an improving curve and change-up.
Agosta, who will turn 23 in April, actually outpitched Stratton in Augusta last season, when he was healthy. Agosta logged a 9-3 record with a sparkling 2.06 ERA in 18 starts for the GreenJackets. He also averaged well over a strikeout per inning (109 SO in 91 2/3 IP) while the opposition hit at just a .180 clip against him. Agosta was limited to just four starts after July 5 due to a pair of stints on the disabled list (a blister issue and then suffered from some arm fatigue). Agosta was a starting pitcher in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game last year and along with Stratton, could form a lethal 1-2 punch in the San Jose rotation in 2014.
In addition to Brown, Stratton and Agosta, the most likely players from the top of the 2012 draft class to start the year in San Jose are relievers Steven Okert and Stephen Johnson. Okert was a solid contributor out of the Augusta bullpen last season compiling a 2.97 ERA in 44 games with 59 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. Okert is expected to be one of the top left-handed arms in the Giants ‘pen this spring. He held left-handed batters to a .189 batting average and just one extra-base hit last year. Meanwhile, Johnson features an electric mid 90’s fastball and should join Okert as a reliable late-inning reliever in San Jose. Last season, Johnson possessed a 3.61 ERA and eight saves in 45 games with the Volcanoes. Johnson was at his best late in the year with no runs allowed over his last 15 appearances (19 innings).
Finally, Kurrasch pitched as a starter in both Salem-Keizer (5.03 ERA in 34 IP) and Augusta (1.78 ERA in 25 IP) last season with mixed results. Encinosa (3.12 ERA, .143 opponents average) was tough to hit in the Volcanoes bullpen a year ago and is probably headed to Augusta. McCall, the only high school player taken in the first 10 rounds by the SF Giants in 2012, hit .235 with four home runs in Salem-Keizer and is likely at least a year away from reaching the California League.
By Joe RitzoSeven players who suited up for the San Jose Giants during the 2013 season, including co-team MVP’s Ty Blach and Mac Williamson, received invitations to major league spring training this week. Catcher Jeff Arnold and pitchers Clayton Blackburn, Jose Casilla, Kyle Crick and Derek Law were also extended non-roster invitations to San Francisco’s big league camp.
It’s highly unlikely that any of these players will be considered for spots on San Francisco’s opening day roster as none have played above the Class-A advanced level. However, the experience of participating in major league camp and seeing action in a handful of exhibition games provides a great opportunity to make a positive impression within the organization. Pitchers and catchers are due to report on February 14 with all other position players scheduled to report on February 18. The Giants’ first spring training game is set for February 26 versus the Oakland Athletics.
Five of the seven non-roster invitees from San Jose’s 2013 squad are pitchers, including three members of the Giants’ talented starting rotation. Blach led the California League in ERA last season at 2.90 to go with a stellar 12-4 record. The left-hander, who made his professional debut with San Jose last year after a fifth-round selection in the 2012 draft, walked just 18 hitters compared to 117 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings. A midseason and postseason California League All-Star, Blach allowed two earned runs or fewer in 17 out of his 22 appearances. Blach’s 12 wins were tied for first among all Giants minor leaguers in 2013.
Blackburn fashioned the fourth-best ERA in the California League last season at 3.65 over 23 starts. The right-hander logged a 7-5 record and struck out 138 batters while issuing just 35 walks in 133 innings. Blackburn led the San Jose staff in innings pitched and strikeouts last year.
Crick recovered from an early-season oblique injury to post a spectacular 1.57 ERA and a 3-1 record in 14 starts with San Jose. Regarded as the #1 prospect in the entire organization, the 21-year old right-hander struck out a whopping 95 batters in only 68 2/3 innings last season. Crick surrendered two earned runs or fewer in 13 out of his 14 starts with the Giants and reached double-digits in strikeouts on five occasions.
In all likelihood, the trio of Blach, Blackburn and Crick will anchor the starting rotation for the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels at the beginning of the 2014 season. All three will be making their first appearances in major league camp.
Casilla and Law were members of the San Jose bullpen last season. Casilla bounced back last year after missing most of 2011 and all of 2012 due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John Surgery. The right-hander was a workhorse out of the Giants ‘pen making 43 appearances (second on the team). He compiled a 3.22 ERA with five saves and had the top groundout rate on the pitching staff. Casilla, the younger brother of San Francisco reliever Santiago, was on the 40-man roster prior to suffering his elbow injury in 2011.
Law burst onto the scene last year providing outstanding work as San Jose’s closer during the second half of the season before an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League. Law joined the Giants from Augusta (Class A) in early-July and immediately became the club’s top reliever. In 22 games out of the San Jose bullpen, he posted a 2.10 ERA and was a perfect 11-for-11 in save chances. Law struck out 45 batters in 25 2/3 innings while remarkably issuing only one walk. He then continued his banner year in the high-profile Arizona Fall League boasting a perfect 0.00 ERA over 12 1/3 innings spanning 11 relief appearances.Williamson had the top all-around year offensively for San Jose in 2013 and was rewarded with an invitation to big league camp. The former third round draft pick clubbed 25 home runs with the Giants to rank tied for third on the team’s single-season list. Williamson led San Jose in home runs, RBI’s (89), slugging percentage (.504) and on-base percentage (.375) while ranking second in doubles (31). He finished the campaign with a .292 batting average, including a .331 mark after the All-Star break. Williamson enters 2014 as arguably the top outfield prospect in the Giants system.
Finally, Arnold receives his first big league camp invite after a solid all-around year in the California League. The anchor of last season’s San Jose team defensively, Arnold was the primary catcher of a Giants staff that led the California League in ERA and strikeouts. Offensively, he hit .251 while posting career-high totals of 26 doubles, 13 home runs and 61 RBI’s.
Williamson and Arnold are expected to open the 2014 season in Richmond.
Other former San Jose Giants extended non-roster invitations include pitchers Chris Heston, Mitch Lively and Dan Runzler, catcher Andrew Susac and infielders Chris Dominguez, Mark Minicozzi and Joe Panik. Susac and Panik, a pair of 2012 San Jose Giants, are considered the best prospects among this group. They both participated in big league camp last spring before spending all of 2013 in Richmond.
Of the 26 total non-roster invitees, 14 have once played for the San Jose Giants.
All players on the 40-man roster will also open the spring in big league camp. That includes new additions to the 40-man roster this offseason in former SJ Giants Gary Brown, Adam Duvall and Hunter Strickland. 2013 San Jose standout Edwin Escobar, another member of the 40-man roster, will also be in major league camp. With Escobar, Blach, Blackburn and Crick, four members from last year’s San Jose starting rotation will begin spring training in big league camp.
As of now, San Francisco is set to open camp next month with 65 players (39 players currently on the 40-man roster + the 26 non-roster invitees). As spring training progresses, players will be sent to minor league camp before the Giants set their 25-man opening day roster in advance of their first game on March 31.
By Joe Ritzo
The bulk of the players on the 2014 opening day roster will have spent last season with Class-A Augusta and/or in San Jose. Recently, I took a look at some of the most likely candidates from the 2013 Giants squad to return to the California League this year.
However, every season there always seem to be a small handful of players that skip straight over Augusta and arrive in San Jose directly from the Short-Season level. Mac Williamson, for example, did it last year and turned in one of the finest offensive seasons in San Jose Giants history.
So, who might those players be in 2014? Here are five prospects that were in Salem-Keizer at the end of last regular season who could jump all the way to the Giants in April:
Tyler Horan, OF
If Horan makes the jump to San Jose this spring, it would be unrealistic to expect him to duplicate the production seen from Williamson. However, there are some interesting comparisons between the two. Both are big, strong corner outfield prospects who played collegiate baseball in the ACC (Horan, who is listed at 6’2″, 232 lbs., went to Virginia Tech). Like Williamson, Horan isn’t particularly young (was on the VT team for four seasons) having turned 23 last month. As for the numbers, Horan wasn’t quite as impressive as Williamson in the Northwest League, but with a lack of outfield prospects in Augusta last season, a chance to make the San Jose roster coming out of spring seems possible.
Horan, an eighth round draft pick in 2013, hit a solid .295 in 44 games with the Volcanoes last summer. He also contributed 11 doubles, three triples, four home runs and stole four bases. After a slow start upon joining the club, Horan finished strong hitting an impressive .319 in August. Additionally, all four of his home runs were hit after August 1. Horan was primarily a left fielder in college, but split time between left and right with Salem-Keizer last season. He led his Virginia Tech team in batting average (.342), doubles (26) and home runs (11) as a redshirt junior last spring. With all of the top power hitters from last year’s Augusta team right-handed, Horan would be a much-needed left-handed power bat in the middle of San Jose’s lineup this season if he proves he’s ready for the jump.
Brian Ragira, OF/1B
With the lack of big-name prospects in last season’s Augusta outfield, Ragira, like Horan, figures to be a candidate for a promotion to San Jose coming out of spring training. Ragira has a Bay Area connection having played collegiately at Stanford before his selection in the fourth round of last June’s draft. The 2011 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, Ragira had a stellar three-year college career. He led Stanford in home runs (8) and RBI’s (42) last spring to go with a .320 batting average playing exclusively first base. He then began his stint with Salem-Keizer last summer as a first baseman before shifting to mainly corner outfield in late-July. In 47 games with the Volcanoes, Ragira finished with a .263 batting average, 12 doubles, three homers and 36 RBI’s. He ended the season second on the club in RBI’s and third in doubles. Ragira also proved he could draw a walk taking 26 free passes to result in a .371 on-base percentage.
Ragira was the first collegiate position player taken by San Francisco in last year’s draft (with Horan not far behind). The organization has shown a tendency in recent years to challenge some of their recent high draftees from the college position player ranks with an assignment to San Jose for their first full professional season. If he ends up in San Jose, Ragira could provide nice versatility as someone who plays left, right and first base.
Jeremy Sy, SS
Arguably Salem-Keizer’s top all-around hitter last season, Sy could be given consideration for a jump to the California League this spring. Sy, a shortstop, was a 12th round pick in the 2012 draft out of Louisiana-Monroe, where he was the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year as a senior. He didn’t make his professional debut until last summer due to injury, but impressed offensively with the Volcanoes. Sy led Salem-Keizer in home runs (8) and RBI’s (41) last year while also producing a .294 batting average, 12 doubles and 13 stolen bases. Sy is already 24 and with last year’s first round draft pick Christian Arroyo likely headed to Augusta, where he’d play shortstop everyday, San Jose could provide an opportunity for Sy to see regular playing time. Furthermore, if Matt Duffy is elevated to Richmond to begin this season, that would further enhance Sy’s chances for a promotion to the California League.
Nick Vander Tuig, RHP
A standout starting pitcher on last year’s national championship UCLA team, Vander Tuig was chosen in the sixth round of the 2013 draft by the San Francisco Giants. With the Bruins last spring, Vander Tuig logged a stellar 14-4 record and a 2.16 ERA in 19 starts. The right-hander isn’t particularly overpowering, but showcased outstanding control with only 18 walks in 129 innings (he struck out 93). With his heavy workload in college, Vander Tuig was understandably fatigued last summer and was limited to just three starts with Salem-Keizer (allowed 10 runs in 6 2/3 innings overall before he was shutdown). The Augusta rotation was loaded last season, but given San Jose has often used a six-man starting staff, there should be room for a starter or two from last year’s Salem-Keizer squad to earn a spot in the Cal League.
Of note, while Vander Tuig didn’t pitch at Municipal Stadium last season and thus may not be a familiar name to San Jose fans, he does have prior California League experience. The 22-year old helped out a short-handed Giants staff last July making a spot-start in a game in Lancaster. He lasted 2 1/3 innings before reaching his pitch count limit and was promptly sent to Salem-Keizer after the game.
Pat Young, RHP
Young will be looking to return to San Jose this spring after joining the club from Salem-Keizer during the playoffs last year. A 13th round draft pick last June out of Villanova, Young earned himself a promotion to the Giants last September after a dominant stint in the Northwest League. In eight starts with the Volcanoes, Young fashioned a spectacular 0.92 ERA yielding just four earned runs in 39 1/3 innings. He walked nine and struck out 27 while holding the opposition to a .186 batting average.
An imposing presence on the mound (6’7″, 220 lbs.), Young was thrust into the spotlight with San Jose as the right-hander was given the ball to start the decisive North Division Series Game 5 against Visalia. Armed with a low-to-mid 90′s fastball, Young handled himself fairly well in the high-pressure start as he struck out seven batters in just 3 2/3 innings while scattering nine hits with two earned runs allowed. Given his dominant work in Salem-Keizer and cup of coffee with San Jose last September, Young figures to be competing for a spot in the Giants rotation this spring.
By Joe RitzoLenn Sakata has returned to the San Francisco organization and will manage the San Jose Giants in 2014. Sakata replaces Andy Skeels, who will serve as hitting coach for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies this year. The rest of the San Jose coaching staff remains intact from a season ago with Mike Couchee returning as pitching coach and Lipso Nava as hitting coach.
2014 will mark Sakata’s 10th year in the Giants organization and his seventh season as a manager in San Jose (1999, 2001, 2004-2007). His 466 victories at the helm in San Jose are a franchise record. Sakata’s 2001, 2005 and 2007 Giants teams won California League championships.
Sakata left the Giants after the 2007 campaign to manage in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines organization. After a two-year stint in Japan and one season spent out of baseball, Sakata joined the Colorado Rockies in 2011. He served one year as hitting coach for their Class-A affiliate Asheville before spending all of 2012 and a portion of 2013 as manager of the Modesto Nuts in the California League. His 2012 squad defeated San Jose in the first round of the playoffs en route to a berth in the Championship Series, where they ultimately fell to Lancaster. Sakata was fired as Modesto’s skipper by the Rockies last July with the Colorado front office citing the need to have a manager that was more supportive of the organization’s player development philosophy.
Sakata will enter the 2014 season as the winningest manager in California League history with 684 victories over 10 seasons. Sakata also holds league managerial records in championships won (3), playoff appearances (8), playoff series won (10) and playoff games won (33). In addition to his previous tenure in San Jose and most recent stint with Modesto, Sakata has Cal League managing experience with the Bakersfield Blaze in 2000 (when they were a Giants affiliate) and the Modesto A’s in 1989.
Notable future big leaguers who played under Sakata during his prior stints in San Jose include: Jeremy Accardo (2004), Matt Cain (2004), Kevin Frandsen (2005), Travis Ishikawa (2005, 2007), Fred Lewis (2004), Tim Lincecum (2006), Lance Niekro (2001), Sergio Romo (2007), Jonathan Sanchez (2005), Pablo Sandoval (2007), Nate Schierholtz (2004-2005), Jack Taschner (2001) and Ryan Vogelsong (1999).
All six of Sakata’s previous San Jose teams qualified for the playoffs -
1999: 75-65 (reached Championship Series)
2001: 77-63 (won championship – split title with Lake Elsinore)
2004: 74-66 (lost in Mini-Series)
2005: 85-55 (won championship, best record in the league)
2006: 82-58 (best record in the league, lost in Division Series)
2007: 73-67 (won championship)
Prior to managing, Sakata played 11 years in the major leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers (1977-79), Baltimore Orioles (1980-85), Oakland Athletics (1986) and New York Yankees (1987). The former middle infielder hit .230 with 25 home runs and 109 RBI’s over 565 games during his big league career. Sakata won a World Championship with the Orioles in 1983. He was originally a first round draft pick of the Brewers in 1975.
Couchee and Nava are both entering their second seasons with the San Jose Giants. Under Couchee, last year’s Giants pitching staff led the California League ERA (3.66), strikeouts (1282), fewest home runs allowed (103) and was second in shutouts (8).
Lenn Sakata: “I am very pleased to be returning to San Jose and be able to wear the Giants uniform again. Out of everything in my career, having a chance to come back to Municipal Stadium and this organization is one of the best things that has happened in my life. I am looking forward to coming back and working with the front office, seeing the fans and continuing the tradition of baseball.”
Shane Turner, San Francisco Giants Director of Player Development: “I am very excited to have Lenn Sakata back with the San Francisco Giants organization. He possesses the three most important aspects of player development: tremendous knowledge of baseball, great teaching ability and an off the charts work ethic. I welcome him back with open arms.”
By Joe Ritzo
Happy New Year! 2013 was our first full year keeping up this blog and I want to thank everyone for reading. The response to the articles and podcasts has been tremendous. We look forward to covering another great season of San Jose Giants baseball in the coming months.
An announcement of the 2014 San Jose Giants coaching staff is near, perhaps as soon as this week. Keep checking the blog for more details.
We’re less than three months from opening day… here are some news and notes from around the Giants organization and the California League:
The San Francisco Giants have signed several minor league free agents this offseason, but it’s unlikely that any will find their way to San Jose in 2014, barring injury. Pitchers Erik Cordier and Jose De Paula were signed in November and both placed on the 40-man roster. Cordier was a former second round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals and spent last year as a reliever at the Triple-A level in the Pirates system. DePaula, a former Cal Leaguer with Lake Elsinore (Padres) in 2011, is a starting pitcher having spent last season in Double-A. Both could help the big club at some point in 2014.
Other minor league signees include pitchers Jason Berken, Andrew Carignan, Caleb Clay, Adam Reifer and Casey Weathers. Berken (White Sox organization in ’13) and Clay (Nationals in ’13) are starting pitchers with Triple-A experience. They should each add depth to the organization, especially given the loss of Eric Surkamp, an expected AAA starting arm in 2014, to the White Sox last month. Berken has a 5.36 ERA in 110 career major league appearances, mainly with Baltimore in 2009-11.
Carignan, a reliever, has some previous big league experience with the A’s, but has battled injuries throughout his career and missed all of last season. Reifer was a successful Triple-A reliever in the Marlins system a year ago while Weathers, a former first round pick, was in Double-A with the Cubs two seasons ago before missing all of last year due to injury.
Shortstop Brandon Hicks and third baseman Mario Lisson have also signed minor league deals with the San Francisco Giants organization this offseason. Hicks played for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate in 2013 while Lisson, a former Royals farmhand, hit 12 home runs in the Mexican League last year.
Bottom line, all of these players have substantial experience in the upper levels of the minor leagues and should begin the 2014 season with either the Giants’ Double-A or Triple-A affiliates. As is the case in most seasons, the bulk of San Jose’s opening day roster will be filled with players coming up from Augusta and Salem-Keizer.
A number of former San Jose Giants have been on the move this offseason as well, including several key members of the 2007 California League championship team. Brian Bocock and Emmanuel Burriss, a pair of shortstops from the ’07 club with also big league experience in San Francisco, have signed minor league contracts with the Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals respectively. Bocock, a top defensive player who has struggled offensively throughout his career, hit .175 in Triple-A last year within the Nationals and Pirates systems. Burriss spent seven seasons (2006-12) in the Giants organization before playing for Cincinnati’s Triple-A team last year. By signing with the Nationals, Burriss would have an opportunity to play in his hometown of Washington D.C. if he can return to the big leagues in 2014.
Other moves include Travis Ishikawa, a top contributor on both the 2005 and 2007 championship teams, signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ishikawa bounced around last year playing in the Orioles, Yankees and White Sox organizations seeing action in just seven big league games. Antoan Richardson, the starting center fielder on the ’07 squad, has signed with the Yankees after spending most of 2013 with Minnesota’s Triple-A team. Richardson played briefly in the major leagues with Atlanta in 2011.
Sharlon Schoop, another former San Jose shortstop (2008 team), has signed with the Orioles after missing all of 2013 due to injury (was in the Royals system). Pitcher Henry Sosa (2007) and first baseman C.J. Ziegler (2009) are also back in affiliated ball. Sosa, who debuted in the big leagues with Houston in 2011, has signed with the Dodgers after pitching in Korea last year. Ziegler was a standout in the independent American Association last season (30 home runs) and has inked a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins.
In other roster news, pitcher Craig Westcott has been released by the San Francisco Giants. Westcott was a spectacular 19-4 with a 2.93 ERA over 37 starts in a San Jose uniform during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He twice earned midseason California League All-Star honors. Then after winning 11 games with Double-A Richmond in 2012, Westcott was just 5-12 with a 4.19 ERA in 27 starts for the Flying Squirrels last year. Edwin Escobar (5-4, 2.67), Jack Snodgrass (12-4, 3.70) and Chris Gloor (9-7, 4.03) enjoyed more success than Westcott in the Richmond rotation last season and each figure to push for spots in Fresno this spring.
Four California League teams have already announced their managers for the 2014 seasons. All four will be entering their first seasons at the helm of their respective Cal League squads.
- Inland Empire 66ers: Denny Hocking (managed Angels’ Rookie-level team in 2013)
- Rancho Cucamonga Quakes: P.J. Forbes (managed Dodgers’ Rookie-level team in 2013)
- Stockton Ports: Ryan Christenson (managed Athletics’ Class-A team in 2013)
- Visalia Rawhide: Robbie Hammock (managed Diamondbacks’ Rookie-level team in 2013)
By Joe Ritzo
The bulk of the 2014 San Jose Giants opening day roster should be filled with new faces as players make the jump from Augusta and Salem-Keizer to the California League. However, there are also always a handful of returnees each year. Here are some players who suited up for San Jose in 2013 that could be back at Municipal Stadium next spring:
Trevor Brown, 2B/C
Brown joined San Jose in mid-August last season after batting at a .250 clip over 97 games with the Augusta GreenJackets as their primary second baseman. The former 10th round draft pick started slow with the Giants managing just one hit in his first 26 at-bats, but manager Andy Skeels kept Brown in the lineup down the stretch and the move paid off. He recorded multi-hits in four out of his last eight regular season games and then boasted a team-leading .345 batting average (10-for-29) during the playoffs. Of note, Brown was primarily a catcher at UCLA and during his 2012 rookie professional season. He shifted to second base during spring training last year which still catching sporadically throughout the season. A return to San Jose, where he can build on his postseason success, seems likely. The question is whether he’ll be asked to catch primarily or continue to work more at second?
Jorge Bucardo, P
Bucardo has spent parts of two seasons with San Jose, first as a top starting pitching prospect late in 2010 and then as a middle reliever early in 2013. Significant arm injuries have derailed Bucardo’s career (he hasn’t worked as a starter since 2010) and last year was no different. The right-hander appeared in five games out of the Giants bullpen in April (4.82 ERA), but then spent nearly two months on the disabled list. When he returned to action, Bucardo found himself in Augusta. And while not returning to San Jose during the second half of last season was probably frustrating, Bucardo made the most of his opportunity as he fashioned a 1.84 ERA and collected six saves over 27 relief appearances for the GreenJackets. When he’s been healthy, Bucardo has enjoyed nice success in the Giants farm system. Perhaps a third time will be the charm for Bucardo in San Jose as he could return and fill an important role out of the Giants bullpen in 2014.
Matt Duffy, SS
Duffy was a South Atlantic League All-Star in Augusta last season after leading the GreenJackets with a .307 batting average. He earned a promotion to San Jose in late-July and continued to shine posting a .292 batting average over 26 games with the Giants. Duffy combined for 20 doubles, nine home runs, 57 RBI’s and 25 stolen bases between the two clubs in 2013 to put himself on the map as one of the top middle infield prospects in the system. He also finished strong as only Brown posted a higher individual batting average than Duffy (.300) during the playoffs last September. Duffy was so impressive in San Jose that he’ll probably be considered for a spot in Double-A Richmond next April despite just a little over a month of California League experience. If he returns to the Giants, Duffy would be a focal point in the lineup, probably batting second or third.
Adalberto Mejia, LHP
Considered one of the top pitching prospects in the organization, it’s more likely that Mejia will open 2014 as a member of Richmond’s starting rotation. After all, he logged an impressive 3.31 ERA in 16 starts with San Jose last season while amassing 89 strikeouts compared to just 23 walks over 87 innings. Several factors though could give the front office some pause when deciding whether Mejia is ready for the Double-A challenge. First, he was the youngest pitcher in the Cal League last season and won’t turn 21 until next June. The jump to Double-A is a big one and the Giants decision-makers will want to be sure he’s ready to face significantly more experienced hitters. Second, a lat injury sustained early in the year limited Mejia to just those 87 innings and thus prevented valuable development time and experience in the Cal League. Third, he was hit hard in the Arizona Fall League, albeit in a small sample size. The bottom line is that Mejia is an elite prospect in this organization right now and he could probably handle a promotion to Richmond at the start of next season. But there is some precedent in the Giants organization for having a much-younger starting pitcher repeat the Cal League (Tim Alderson and Clayton Tanner being two of the most recent examples) and Mejia could potentially follow that pattern.
Kelby Tomlinson, SS
Tomlinson began last season with San Jose and played well when he was healthy posting a .276 batting average in 32 games, in addition to providing solid defense at short. Unfortunately, a pair of leg injuries resulted in two stints on the disabled list – the latter of which knocked Tomlinson out for two months. Despite not gaining much traction in the form of consistent playing time, Tomlinson was promoted to Richmond in July, primarily due to a lack of middle infielders on San Francisco’s Double-A roster. He then struggled mightily in the pitching-rich Eastern League recording just a .198 batting average with only five extra-base hits in 33 games. It seems like a good bet that either Tomlinson or Duffy will open the 2014 season as the starting shortstop for the San Jose Giants with the other getting a shot in Richmond.
Others: Center fielder Jesus Galindo and third baseman Mitch Delfino were promoted to San Jose from Augusta at the start of the playoffs last September and are almost certainly going to open 2014 in the California League. Galindo, who played in the Futures Game this year, hit .273 and stole 48 bases with the GreenJackets while Delfino led Augusta in doubles (25), home runs (13) and RBI’s (76) to go with a .270 batting average. Pitchers Tyler Rogers and Pat Young were also added to San Jose’s roster when the playoffs began, but they both came up from Short-Season Salem-Keizer, so it’s less likely (but certainly still possible) they’ll begin 2014 with the Giants. Rogers had a 3.10 ERA in 14 games out of the Volcanoes bullpen while Young, who started Game 5 of the North Division Series against Visalia, owned a sparkling 0.92 ERA in eight starts for Salem-Keizer. Both Rogers and Young were drafted last June.
Elliott Blair saw substantial time in center field while also playing some first base for the Giants in 2013, but hit just .229 with three homers in 69 games. He could fill a similar role with San Jose next season. Outfielder Shawn Payne will be looking for another shot in the Cal League after batting just .229 in 73 games last season. A standout with Augusta in 2012, Payne was demoted to the GreenJackets last July and rebounded somewhat hitting .259 with four home runs in 36 games played. Catcher Eric Sim joined the Giants from Augusta last July and hit .276 in 17 games as Jeff Arnold’s back-up. Relief pitchers Chris Marlowe (3-2, 3.97 ERA) and Jeff Soptic (3-2, 6.26 ERA) will compete for spots on the Richmond roster during spring training, but one or both may find themselves back in San Jose. Soptic possesses an electric mid-to-upper 90′s fastball, but control issues resulted in 36 walks over 41 2/3 innings. The return of Hunter Strickland also seems possible as the San Jose bullpen could be his first stop on the road back from Tommy John Surgery. Strickland dominated in the California League early last season (0.86 ERA, 9 saves) before a late-May elbow injury ended his year.
By Joe RitzoThe Fresno Grizzlies announced today that former San Jose Giants manager Andy Skeels has joined San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate as hitting coach. Skeels will work under Bob Mariano, who has returned for a third year as Fresno’s manager.
Skeels spent four seasons as the manager of the San Jose Giants. He directed San Jose to the 2009 California League championship and a club-record 93 wins (93-47) in his first year at the helm. The ’09 club has seen 15 of its players reach the major leagues highlighted by Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Brandon Crawford.
Skeels then managed Double-A Richmond in 2010 before returning to San Jose the following season. His 2011 team posted the top regular season record in the Cal League at 90-50 before falling in the North Division Series to Stockton. The 90 victories are fourth-most in the 26-year history of the team.
In 2012 under Skeels, the Giants notched a North Division-best 75-65 record en route to a berth in the playoffs. This year, San Jose finished a league-best 83-57 during the regular season and won the North Division title after a thrilling five-game series victory over Visalia. The Giants were then swept three-games-to-none in the Championship Series by the Inland Empire 66ers.
In his four years as San Jose’s manager, Skeels compiled an overall regular season record of 341-219 (.609). His 341 wins rank second in San Jose Giants history (trailing only Lenn Sakata’s 466). Skeels’ .609 winning percentage is also second all-time among San Jose Giants managers (Ron Wotus .625 over 1991-92).
Overall, Skeels ranks fourth in San Jose franchise history in wins:
1. Lenn Sakata: 466-374 (six seasons; 1999, 2001, 2004-07)
2. Red Marion: 385-311 (five seasons; 1952-54, 1962-63)
3. Marvin Owen: 377-330 (five seasons; 1947-51)
4. Andy Skeels: 341-219 (four seasons; 2009, 2011-13)
5. Rocky Bridges: 222-199 (three seasons; 1964-66)
Skeels last served as a hitting coach in 2007 while with the Class-A Augusta GreenJackets.
* The home opener at Municipal Stadium is set for Thursday, April 10 with a 7:00 PM first pitch. Only 121 days away!
* Saturday home games will continue to start at 5:00 PM. The lone exceptions are a 6:00 PM first pitch on Saturday, June 28 and a 6:30 PM start on Saturday, July 5.
* Sunday home games in April, May and June will begin at 1:00 PM. Starting in July, Sunday games shift to a 5:00 PM first pitch. All July and August Sunday home games are 5:00 PM starts with the exception of Sunday, August 24 (the final home game of the regular season) at 1:00 PM.
* The San Jose Giants will host five weekday afternoon games next season:
- Wednesday, April 16 (12:35 PM)
- Thursday, May 22 (11:35 AM) – only home game that starts in the morning
- Tuesday, June 24 (1:35 PM)
- Thursday, July 10 (12:35 PM)
- Tuesday, July 22 (12:35 PM)
* Holiday home games in 2014 include: Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 11 at 1:00 PM), Memorial Day (Monday, May 26 at 2:00 PM) and Independence Day (Friday, July 4 at 6:30 PM).
San Jose finished the regular season with a California League-best 83-57 overall record. The Giants won the North Division title for the first time since 2010 before falling in the Championship Series.
The San Francisco farm system posted a cumulative record of 436-324 this year – the top winning percentage (.574) of all 30 organizations. The Giants’ Arizona Rookie League and Dominican Summer League teams both won league championships in 2013. Class-A Augusta and Short-Season Salem-Keizer also reached the playoffs.
Williamson and Harris concluded the 2013 season ranked first and second respectively in the Giants farm system in both home runs and RBI’s. Williamson, a 2012 third round draft pick, hit .292 this year to go with 31 doubles, 25 home runs and 89 RBI’s. The slugging right fielder hit a sizzling .331 with 16 home runs after the All-Star break. His 25 round-trippers overall ranked tied for third both in the California League and on San Jose’s single-season home run list.
Harris enjoyed a breakout 2013 after struggling with San Jose the year prior. His 23 home runs were fifth-most in the Cal League to go with 84 RBI’s and a .258 batting average. Harris also contributed 40 doubles to become the fourth player in San Jose Giants history to hit 40 or more doubles in a season.
Blach was the most consistent starting pitcher on San Jose’s talented staff this year. The left-hander was 12-4 with a California League-best 2.90 ERA in 22 games (20 starts). Blach issued only 18 walks all season to go with 117 strikeouts over 130 1/3 innings. He ranked tied for first in the San Francisco farm system in wins. Blach was also a midseason and postseason California League All-Star in 2013.
Past San Jose Giants recognized by MiLB.com today include Brett Pill (first base), Joe Panik (second base), Chris Dominguez (third base), Johnny Monell (catcher) and Francisco Peguero (outfield). Pill led Triple-A Fresno with 79 RBI’s this year despite playing in just 68 games. He also produced 18 home runs and a .344 batting average. Panik led all Giants second base farmhands in RBI’s (57), doubles (27) and walks (58). He was named to the organizational All-Star team for a third year in a row. Dominguez hit 15 homers to go with 65 RBI’s and a .294 batting average in Fresno. Monell, a standout in Fresno as well, was first among Giants minor league catchers this year in batting average (.275), home runs (20), RBI’s (64) and doubles (27). Finally, Peguero hit .316 in 70 games with the Grizzlies.
Monell was recently traded to the Baltimore Orioles while Peguero is now a free agent.
Jeremy Sy (shortstop – Salem-Keizer), Javier Herrera (utility – Richmond), Chris Johnson (starting pitcher – Salem-Keizer) and Raymundo Montero (relief pitcher – Salem-Keizer) round out the organizational All-Star team.
MiLB.com San Francisco Organizational All-Star Team
C – Johnny Monell, Fresno
1B – Brett Pill, Fresno
2B – Joe Panik, Richmond
3B – Chris Dominguez, Fresno
SS – Jeremy Sy, Salem-Keizer
OF – Devin Harris, San Jose
OF – Francisco Peguero, Fresno
OF – Mac Williamson, San Jose
Utility – Javier Herrera, Richmond
SP (right-handed) – Chris Johnson, Salem-Keizer
SP (left-handed) – Ty Blach, San Jose
RP – Raymundo Montero, Salem-Keizer
Who are your Top 3 prospects in the San Francisco Giants organization right now? Ben Taylor and Joe Ritzo will debate their top prospect lists in the upcoming Inside the San Jose Giants podcast episode. Comment on this post with your Top 3 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to be entered to win a Pablo Sandoval autographed baseball. A winner will be chosen at random and announced on a future podcast!
By Joe Ritzo
Updating the former San Jose Giants playing in the various winter leagues:
* Ehire Adrianza, SS: .179, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .303 OBP
- Is 5-for-28 with a pair of doubles over 14 games.
* Adam Duvall, 3B: .297, 7 HR, 27 RBI, .490 SLG
- Had a two-homer game on November 22 … leads his team (Bravos de Margarita) and is tied for 10th in the league in home runs … was added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster last month.
- Made his first start of winter ball on November 30 after 15 relief appearances … Tossed four scoreless innings in the start with two hits allowed, no walks and four strikeouts … Has a 4.50 ERA as a reliever (14 IP).
* Jesus Galindo, OF: .212, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 SB
- Has seven hits in 33 at-bats over 12 games played … likely begins next season as the starting center fielder in San Jose after joining the club for the playoffs last September.
* Mitch Lively, RHP: 6-1, 1.46 ERA, 55.1 IP, 27 BB, 39 SO
- Ranks first in the league in wins, ERA and innings pitched … Is also fourth in strikeouts … Has surrendered no earned runs in five out of his nine starts … Led Triple-A Fresno in innings last season (124).
* Ryan Lollis, OF: .182, 0 HR, 4 RBI
- Last played on November 20 … Is 8-for-44 with two doubles and a triple in 16 games.
* Daryl Maday, RHP: 2-2, 5.95 ERA, 19.2 IP, 17 BB, 17 SO
- Has worked exclusively as a reliever making 20 appearances out of the bullpen … Re-signed with San Francisco earlier this offseason after becoming a minor league free agent … Pitched for Richmond and Fresno in 2013.
* Mark Minicozzi, INF: .351, 1 HR, 11 RBI, .456 SLG
- Last played on October 29 … Had 20 hits in 57 at-bats … Hit safely in his last seven games … Struck out 20 times in 15 games.
* Edwin Quirarte, RHP: 1-0, 2.08 ERA, 13.0 IP, 5 BB, 11 SO
- Has made 12 relief appearances … Has surrendered just three earned runs over 13 innings … Was one of Double-A Richmond’s top relievers last season (2.61 ERA, 10 SV).
* Hector Sanchez, C: .300, 2 HR, 4 RBI, .533 SLG
- Joined Tiburones de La Guaira on November 20 … Has hit safely in all seven games he’s played … Is 9-for-30 with two home runs overall.
The Venezuelan Winter League regular season concludes December 29.
* Juan Perez, OF: .288, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 9 SB
- Has played in 26 games for Aguilas Cibaeanas … Is currently riding an eight-game hitting streak … Batting .438 (14-for-32) with three doubles, four RBI’s and three stolen bases during the streak.
* Angel Villalona, 1B: .000, 0 HR, 0 RBI
- Has appeared in two games for Toros del Este after a full season in the Arizona Fall League (.200, 0 HR, 7 RBI in 19 games).
The Dominican Winter League regular season concludes December 22.
By Joe Ritzo
Two former San Jose Giants catchers – Johnny Monell and Jackson Williams – are no longer with the organization after separate deals last week. Monell, who made his major league debut with San Francisco as a September call-up earlier this year, was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations. Meanwhile, Williams, a minor league free agent, signed with the Colorado Rockies. Both Monell and Williams were drafted in 2007 and have played the last seven seasons in the Giants organization.Monell spent the 2009 postseason and most of 2010 with the San Jose Giants, playing key roles on both championship teams. The former 30th round pick led San Jose with 19 home runs in 2010 while also contributing 25 doubles, 70 RBI’s and a .273 batting average. Monell was then named Most Outstanding Player of the 2010 Championship Series after leading the Giants to a thrilling five-game victory over the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. During the final series, he clubbed three homers, scored a team-high eight runs and hit .333.
Monell’s 20 home runs with Triple-A Fresno this year led the Grizzlies and earned the catcher a late-season promotion to the big leagues. In limited playing time with the San Francisco Giants last September, Monell was 1-for-8 with two runs scored and an RBI. He was designated for assignment (removed from the 40-man roster) by the Giants earlier last week before the trade to Baltimore was completed.
Williams is still looking to make his major league debut after spending parts of the last four seasons in Fresno. A former supplemental first round draft pick, Williams batted just .230 with five home runs and 30 RBI’s in 85 games for the Grizzlies this year.
Williams was a key member of the 2008 San Jose team under Steve Decker. He joined the club early in the second half and served as the primary catcher until Buster Posey’s arrival at the start of the playoffs. Over 50 regular season games in a SJ Giants uniform, Williams hit .231 with three homers and 16 RBI’s.
In comparing the two former San Jose catchers, Monell’s strength is unquestionably his hitting skills, in particular the power he brings from the left side. The slugging backstop has hit 77 home runs during his minor league career, but questions about his defense have held him back. Williams was often considered the top defensive catcher in the Giants farm system throughout his tenure, but a .219 career minor league batting average has prevented a jump to the big leagues. Both will now hope that a change of scenery results in further climbing the baseball ladder.
Given that Monell and Williams caught the bulk of Fresno’s games in 2013, it opens the door for a new face behind the plate with the Grizzlies next spring. Top prospect and former second round draft pick Andrew Susac is coming off of a solid season with Double-A Richmond before a stellar effort in the Arizona Fall League and figures to be the leading candidate to take over the primary catching duties for San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate. If Susac earns a promotion to the PCL at the start of next season, Jeff Arnold (.251 AVG, 13 HR, 61 RBI in San Jose this year) could be given an opportunity to catch regularly in Richmond in 2014.
By Joe Ritzo
Three former San Jose Giants – Gary Brown, Adam Duvall and Hunter Strickland – were added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster earlier this week. Brown had one of the finest all-around seasons in San Jose Giants history in 2011 en route to winning the California League Rookie of the Year award. Duvall set a club record when he hit 30 home runs the following year while Strickland was a key member of San Jose’s bullpen this past season before going down with an injury.Brown, a midseason and postseason All-Star while in the Cal League, hit a stellar .336 for the San Jose Giants. The former first round draft pick set a team single-season record for hits (188) while also producing 115 runs, 13 triples, 14 home runs, 80 RBI’s and 53 stolen bases. In addition to claiming the league’s Rookie of the Year award in 2011, Brown was also named the Topps California League Player of the Year and MiLB.com Class A Advanced Hitter of the Year.
Brown spent the 2012 campaign with Double-A Richmond and finished with a .279 batting average, seven homers, 42 RBI’s and 33 stolen bases. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Fresno at the start of 2013, but often struggled as the center fielder hit just .231 in 137 games this year. Brown produced solid power numbers with 29 doubles, six triples and 13 home runs, but stole only 17 bases (in 28 attempts). He’ll likely return to Fresno at the start of next season.
Duvall was San Jose’s co-team MVP in 2012 after his record-setting year at the plate. In addition to slugging a league-best 30 home runs, Duvall collected 100 RBI’s, knocked out 24 doubles and hit .258. His 100 RBI’s rank fifth on San Jose’s single-season list.
Duvall was elevated to Richmond this year where he hit .252 with 17 home runs and 58 RBI’s in 105 games. He finished strong posting a .311 batting average in August. The third baseman should compete for a spot on Fresno’s opening day roster next spring.
Strickland was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco Giants from the Pittsburgh Pirates at the start of the 2013 season and was immediately assigned to San Jose where he became the club’s closer. In 20 games out of the Giants bullpen, Strickland compiled a spectacular 0.86 ERA and was a perfect 9-for-9 in save opportunities. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out 23 batters compared to just five walks in 21 innings and limited the opposition to a .145 batting average.
Unfortunately for Strickland, a late-May elbow injury required season-ending Tommy John Surgery. He is expected to return to the mound early in 2014.
The San Francisco Giants also added pitcher Kendry Flores to their 40-man roster. Flores is a candidate to open the 2014 season with San Jose after an excellent year with Augusta. As a member of the GreenJackets starting rotation this season, Flores fashioned a 2.73 ERA to go with a 10-6 record. Flores finished the year with 137 strikeouts in 141 2/3 innings while issuing just 17 walks. He ranked first in the South Atlantic League in WHIP (0.92), second in innings, third in strikeouts and fifth in ERA.
Currently, the San Francisco Giants have filled all 40 spots on their 40-man roster. 24 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 a big league call-up in 2014 (Brown, Duvall and Strickland in particular), 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, Brown and Duvall were both drafted out of the college ranks in 2010 and have completed their fourth seasons in the minor leagues.
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.
The Rule 5 draft is scheduled for December 12 at Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Orlando.
Notable Rule 5 eligible players left unprotected by the San Francisco Giants include outfielders Jarrett Parker, Devin Harris and Jesus Galindo, infielder Chris Dominguez, catcher Jeff Arnold and pitchers Brett Bochy, Chris Gloor, Mitch Lively and Edwin Quirarte. Top minor league prospects such as Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Joe Panik, Andrew Susac and Mac Williamson are not yet Rule 5 eligible and thus don’t need to be protected on the 40-man roster this offseason.
In this episode of Inside the San Jose Giants, Joe and Ben wrap-up the Arizona Fall League with a review of how each Giants prospect fared. The two also discuss which former San Jose Giants could make their major league debuts in 2014.
By Joe Ritzo
The Arizona Fall League season has come to a close and several Giants enjoyed standout campaigns. Top prospect Kyle Crick was nearly unhittable over his final few outings while Derek Law maintained a perfect ERA for the entire fall season. Offensively, 2012 San Jose Giant Andrew Susac led the charge with the top batting average on the Scottsdale Scorpions.Crick was unquestionably the headline Giants prospect in the AFL this year and the hard-throwing right-hander did not disappoint. He finished the fall season with five starts and two relief appearances compiling a 2.87 ERA over 15 2/3 innings. Crick struck out a whopping 24 batters, walked 11 and allowed just nine hits for an impressive .161 opponents batting average.
After giving up four runs over two innings in his first start, Crick would allow just two runs for the remainder of the AFL season (13 2/3 IP). Over his last two starts to close the season, Crick fired six scoreless frames with just one hit allowed and 10 strikeouts.
Crick will enter the 2014 season as the #1 prospect in the San Francisco organization and he almost certainly will begin the year in the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels starting rotation.
Likely joining Crick in the Richmond rotation next season will be left-hander Adalberto Mejia, who didn’t enjoy nearly as much success in the fall league. Overall in seven appearances (including three starts), Mejia logged an 8.47 ERA. The southpaw surrendered 16 earned runs in 17 innings while issuing eight walks and collecting 14 strikeouts.
Mejia’s finest outing came on October 22 in long relief when he picked-up the win after tossing 3 1/3 scoreless innings with one hit allowed, no walks and five strikeouts. Mejia though would give up at least two runs in all six of his other appearances.
For both Crick and Mejia, the Arizona Fall League was an opportunity to further their development and make up for lost time after each spent a substantial part of the first half in San Jose on the disabled list. By all reports, Crick was outstanding, in particular during his dominant stretch during the final couple of weeks. And while Mejia didn’t fare nearly as well (important to note the small sample size of statistics), the experience should prove valuable and he too is still clearly one of the elite pitching prospects in the Giants organization.
Out of the bullpen, it was a spectacular fall effort for Law, who also put together a terrific second half of the 2013 season as the San Jose closer. In 11 AFL appearances, Law worked a total of 12 1/3 innings with no earned runs allowed. The right-hander yielded just eight hits, walked six, struck out 16 and limited the opposition to a .186 batting average.
After a breakout second half with San Jose and a remarkable fall season, Law is clearly ready for a promotion to the upper levels of the farm system. Armed with a mid-90’s fastball, an assortment of offspeed pitches and a deceptive delivery, Law could certainly move quickly through the organization next year with continued success.
Cody Hall also worked in relief for the Scorpions this fall. Over nine games, Hall logged a 3.00 ERA registering seven strikeouts with four walks in nine innings. Hall did surrender 13 hits over the course of the AFL season leading to a .317 opponents batting average.
Hall was as dominant as any reliever in the Cal League during the first half of this season before having success as the Richmond closer in July and August. Like Law, he features an explosive mid 90’s fastball and can throw strikes consistently. Whether he returns to the Eastern League or gets a shot at Triple-A Fresno to open 2014 remains to be seen, but in either case, he’ll begin the year as one of the top relief pitcher prospects in the organization.On the hitting side, Susac was the star among Giants minor leaguers. The former second round draft pick received 50 at-bats during AFL play and hit a team-best .360 with two home runs and seven RBI’s. The two round-trippers were Susac’s only extra-base hits. The catcher also walked (16) more than he struck out (11) leading to a stellar .507 on-base percentage.
Susac had a productive (.256 AVG, 12 HR, .362 OBP in 96 games), but injury-affected 2013 with Richmond. As an athletic catcher drafted highly with some power and the ability to draw a walk, he’s certainly one of the top position player prospects in the organization. His overall solid year in the Eastern League combined with good numbers in the fall league could very well push Susac up to Fresno at the start of 2014.
Outfielder Jarrett Parker also had some hitting success in the Arizona Fall League this year. Another member of the 2012 San Jose Giants, Parker finished the fall season with an even .300 batting average in 60 at-bats. The former second round draft pick produced almost no power (a triple was his only extra-base hit), but the high batting average (albeit in a small sample size) is encouraging given his .249 career mark through three professional seasons.
Finally, Angel Villalona struggled to gain much traction offensively in the Arizona Fall League. The slugging first baseman managed just a .200 batting average in 65 at-bats to go with three doubles, no home runs and seven RBI’s. He struck out 19 times compared to just three walks and finished with a .243 on-base percentage.
Both Parker and Villalona are expected to compete for spots on Fresno’s opening day roster next spring.
Scottsdale finished the fall league season with a 10-21 overall record. The Scorpions were third in the three-team East Division – 9 1/2 games out of the top spot. After starting 7-6, Scottsdale lost 15 out of their last 18 games, including seven in a row to end the season.
By Joe Ritzo
The 2013 North Division champion San Jose Giants season will be remembered most by the outstanding work of a prospect-laden starting rotation. But San Francisco’s Class A Advanced affiliate was not the only Giants farm team that enjoyed great success on the mound this year. The Augusta GreenJackets, behind several standout starting pitchers, posted an outstanding 3.42 team ERA in leading the club to a South Atlantic League-best 82-55 overall record. Now looking forward, it’s the 2014 San Jose Giants that could benefit from another wave of top prospect arms that will make the jump from Class-A Augusta to the California League.
2012 first round draft pick Chris Stratton, a former SEC Pitcher of the Year while at Mississippi State University, was the headline starter for the GreenJackets entering the campaign. And while Stratton had a solid season, it was actually 2012 second rounder Martin Agosta and emerging top prospect Kendry Flores that led the way.
Agosta, a native of Sacramento and product of Saint Mary’s College, was limited to just four starts after July 5 due to a pair of stints on the disabled list. When he was healthy though, there was not a more dominant pitcher on the staff, if not the league. In 18 starts overall, the right-hander fashioned a 2.06 ERA to go with a 9-3 record. He averaged well over a strikeout per inning pitched (109 SO in 91 2/3 IP) while limiting the opposition to a paltry .180 batting average. Agosta allowed two runs or fewer in 16 out of his 18 starts and had seven appearances with no runs surrendered. He was also one of the starting pitchers in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game last June.
Agosta features a low 90’s fastball that reportedly he can run up to 95 MPH. He doesn’t have a lot of size for a starting pitcher (listed at 6’1”, 180 lbs), but assuming full health next spring (he missed time last July/August due to a blister and some arm fatigue), he should be one of the anchors of a talented San Jose rotation.
Flores entered 2013 high on potential, but was coming off of back-to-back pedestrian seasons with Salem-Keizer in the Northwest League (5.06 ERA in 2011, 4.46 ERA in 2012). The right-hander though started this year fast with Augusta and never let up ending the season as one of the top starters in the South Atlantic League.
Overall in 22 starts, Flores compiled a 2.73 ERA to go with a 10-6 record. He struck out 137 batters in 141 2/3 innings while issuing only 17 walks all season. Flores finished the year ranked first in the league in WHIP (0.92), second in innings pitched, third in strikeouts and fifth in ERA. He posted a remarkable 79-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio after the All-Star break and had 13 starts overall with one or no earned runs allowed. Four times in the second half he recorded double-digit strikeout totals, including a 15 K, zero walk effort over eight innings on August 21.
Flores may not have the electric stuff of a Kyle Crick, but with a low 90’s fastball, developing offspeed pitches and outstanding control, expectations will be high in 2014 after his banner year in Augusta.Now to Stratton. There was much speculation last spring that he would start 2013 in San Jose, but in the end, the right-hander never saw the California League. Instead, it was a full campaign with Augusta where, in many years, Stratton’s season statistically would have made him the ace of the GreenJackets starting rotation. That was not the case thanks to the numbers put forth by Agosta and Flores, but with a low-to-mid 90’s fastball, a plus slider and a first round pedigree, there’s no question that Stratton will enter next season ranked as one of the top prospects in the San Francisco organization.
In 22 starts this year, Stratton posted a solid 3.27 ERA to go with a 9-3 record. He amassed 123 strikeouts compared to 47 walks in 132 innings and gave up just five home runs. The right-hander enjoyed more success at home (2.66 ERA) compared to on the road (4.06). A .276 opponents batting average after the All-Star break indicates Stratton wasn’t particularly dominating, but now with a year of pro ball under his belt, the hope will certainly be that the former first round pick takes a big step forward in 2014.
A fourth starting pitcher from Augusta that likely will earn a promotion to San Jose is lanky 6’7” right-hander Joan Gregorio. Staying healthy was often the biggest issue for Gregorio as he missed substantial time during the first half due to an oblique injury while a blister problem later in the year also forced a stint on the DL. Overall, Gregorio was limited to just 13 starts in Augusta this season compiling a 6-3 record with a 4.00 ERA. Like Agosta, Gregorio averaged well over a strikeout per inning (84 SO in 69 2/3 IP). He also issued only 17 walks all year while giving up just three home runs.
Gregorio showed flashes of dominance throughout the season. He had a 1.42 ERA in four starts to begin the year before going on the DL for the first time. On July 18 – just prior to his second DL stint – he fired seven no-hit innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts. Gregorio is known for a low 90’s fastball that can reach 94 or 95 with developing offspeed pitches. He’s yet another Giants starting pitching prospect with seemingly unlimited potential.
There will undoubtedly be multiple spots to fill in the San Jose rotation as likely all of the stars from the 2013 group are headed to the upper levels of the farm system. Whether all four of these starters from Augusta will find themselves playing at Municipal Stadium next April remains to be seen as injuries or a surprising promotion to Double-A for one or two could change the forecast. Meanwhile, there are other arms from this year’s GreenJackets staff, not to mention some intriguing possibilities from Short-Season Salem-Keizer, that are candidates to make the jump to San Jose as well. The most successful Giants teams over the last decade have all been built on quality starting pitching and the 2014 edition could be no different with the impressive talent expected to ascend through the ranks.
By Joe RitzoThe 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 2013 on a high note and build momentum heading into spring training. Notable early winter ball performances include Adam Duvall’s power surge in Venezuela, Mark Minicozzi’s high batting average, Mitch Lively off to a perfect 5-0 start and Edwin Escobar working in relief.
Duvall has already played in 25 games for the Bravos de Margarita of the Venezuelan Winter League and boasts a .313 batting average with five home runs and 22 RBI’s. The former San Jose MVP homered in back-to-back games during the opening week of the season and has maintained impressive overall numbers over the last month. Duvall’s five home runs are tied for sixth in the league while he’s also tied for fifth in RBI’s. Entering play Tuesday, Duvall is riding a seven-game hitting streak (.333 AVG).
The veteran Minicozzi has also enjoyed success in Venezuela with a .351 batting average in 15 games. Playing exclusively first base, Minicozzi has produced three doubles, one home run and 11 RBI’s. Minicozzi was a San Jose Giant way back in 2006 and 2007 before returning to the organization in 2012 after three years of playing independent ball. Minicozzi spent all of this season with the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels (.309 AVG, 10 HR, 66 RBI).
Ryan Lollis is still looking to get on track in Venezuela as the former San Jose outfielder is just 4-for-29 (.138 AVG) through his first 10 games. Lollis, who spent the entire 2013 campaign with Richmond, has one double and one triple thus far.
Meanwhile, Ehire Adrianza has returned to his home country and joined a Venezuelan winter team last week. The former San Jose shortstop, who earned a September call-up to San Francisco this season, is 3-for-10 with a pair of doubles and an RBI in his first three games.
On the pitching side in Venezuela, Lively has been the standout among the former San Jose Giants. After six years of working exclusively as a reliever, Lively transitioned to the starting rotation in 2013 while pitching for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. His 124 innings pitched this season with Fresno led the team (7-5, 4.72 ERA). Now in winter ball, Lively is continuing to see time as a starter and the results have been spectacular. In six starts for the Navegantes del Magallanes, Lively is a perfect 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA. The right-hander has allowed just six runs in 36 1/3 innings to go with 18 walks, 23 strikeouts and a .197 opponents batting average. Lively had back-to-back starts on October 29 and November 3 with no runs surrendered (11 2/3 IP). He’s currently first in the league in wins (tied), ERA and innings pitched.
Escobar had a spectacular 2013 season pitching for both San Jose, where he earned California League All-Star honors, and then with Richmond. The top prospect logged significant innings between the two teams (128 1/3), so it’s no surprise to see him work out of the bullpen during winter ball action. Through 10 relief appearances for Cardenales de Lara, Escobar owns a 5.59 ERA with 11 strikeouts and three walks in 9 2/3 innings.
Former San Jose pitchers Daryl Maday and Edwin Quirarte are also pitching in Venezuela this offseason as relievers. Maday is 2-1 with a 5.87 ERA in 15 games. He’s struck out 15 batters in 15 1/3 innings. Quirarte has tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings over five relief appearances. Maday and Quirarte finished this season pitching for Fresno and Richmond respectively.
Over in the Dominican Winter League, Juan Perez has seen action in 13 games and possesses a .278 batting average. Perez, who had two stints with San Francisco this year, has knocked out three doubles and has collected five RBI’s while playing for Aguilas Cibaenas.
Finally, former San Jose catcher Johnny Monell, a September call-up this year, has joined a team in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Through five games played, Monell is 5-for-22 (.227 AVG) with a double, a home run and two RBI’s.
“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.
By Joe Ritzo
A 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. Earlier today, Baseball America posted a complete list of the minor leaguers that have been declared free agents. 13 players within the San Francisco organization were listed, three of which were members of the San Jose Giants during the 2013 season.
* Brock Bond, INF – It was a disappointing 2013 season for Bond, who began the year on the disabled list after an oblique injury sustained during spring training. Once healthy, he was assigned to San Jose, but never managed to fully get on track and return to the upper levels of the farm system. In 92 games with the Giants this year, Bond hit .240 with 16 doubles, three home runs and 39 RBI’s. Bond was second on the team in walks (49) contributing to a .339 on-base percentage, but the low batting average stands out after ranking among the Pacific Coast League leaders in hitting while with Triple-A Fresno during the 2012 campaign. Bond did receive an invitation to big league camp last spring and made a positive impression there when he took home the Jordan Award (given by SF to the player who makes the biggest impression in his first big league camp).
* Edward Concepcion, RHP – Another player who battled injuries this year, Concepcion began the season at Extended Spring Training before joining San Jose in June. After only three relief appearances (with seven runs allowed) and two stints on the disabled list, Concepcion was sent down to Augusta. Concepcion made a far greater impact on San Jose’s 2012 team when he pitched in 46 games and logged a 6.10 ERA with more strikeouts (51) than innings (48 2/3). The right-hander regularly featured a mid 90′s fastball last year, but control issues often held him back. Like Bond, Concepcion did receive a non-roster invitation to major league spring training before this season.
* Skyler Stromsmoe, INF/OF – The veteran Stromsmoe played in 16 games with San Jose this season (all during the month of June) and hit .262 with two doubles and two RBI’s. A versatile utility player with experience throughout his career at second, short, third and outfield, Stromsmoe started and finished his 2013 season with Double-A Richmond. The 29-year old also played briefly with the Giants in 2012 and was a key reserve on the 2009 California League championship team, when he hit .267 with 15 RBI’s.
Other former San Jose Giants that have been declared minor league free agents include pitchers Steve Edlefsen and Daryl Maday along with catchers Tyler LaTorre and Jackson Williams. Edlefsen is the only one of the group with major league experience having made 27 relief appearances with San Francisco over the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Both Edlefsen and Maday pitched for San Jose in 2008 and finished this season working out of the Fresno bullpen. LaTorre and Williams also played on San Jose’s 2008 team. Williams is a former supplemental first round draft pick, but owns just a .219 career batting average over seven minor league seasons. He hit .230 with five home runs and 30 RBI’s with Fresno this year. Top prospect Andrew Susac figures to be a strong candidate to move up to Triple-A in 2014 and handle the bulk of the catching duties for the Grizzlies next spring.
The full list of minor league free agents can be found here.
Earlier in the offseason, 2013 San Jose pitchers Jorge Bucardo, Kelvin Marte and Luis Rojas re-signed with San Francisco thereby foregoing impending minor league free agency. Bucardo began the year with San Jose, but suffered an arm injury after just five appearances. Upon returning from the DL, he was sent to Augusta where the right-hander dominated putting up a 1.84 ERA and six saves over 27 relief appearances. Bucardo may be a candidate to return to San Jose in 2014. Marte was 6-4 with a 3.67 ERA in 25 games (15 starts) with the Giants this season. He ranked third on the team in innings pitched (105 1/3). Rojas led San Jose with 49 appearances this year logging a 7-6 record and a 4.86 ERA.
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. The Rule 5 draft will be held on December 12 at Baseball’s Winter Meetings.
An update on former San Jose Giants currently playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League:
Kyle Crick: 5 games, 3 starts, 0-1, 4.66 ERA (5 ER/9.2 IP), 9 BB, 14 SO
Cody Hall: 7 games, 0-0, 2.57 ERA (2 ER/7.0 IP), 4 BB, 4 SO
Derek Law: 8 games, 1-0, 0.00 ERA (0 ER/9.1 IP), 5 BB, 11 SO
Adalberto Mejia: 6 games, 2 starts, 1-2, 9.45 ERA (14 ER/13.1 IP), 8 BB, 12 SO
Notes… Since moving to the bullpen, Crick has worked a total of three no-hit innings over two relief appearances. He’s walked one batter and struck out two during that span. In last Saturday’s Fall Stars Game, Crick was the losing pitcher for the East squad. The right-hander pitched the third inning and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits with one walk. The West defeated the East by a 9-2 score.
Law continued his dominant fall season with two more scoreless outings last week. In eight games overall, he’s pitched 9 1/3 innings with just one unearned run surrendered and 11 strikeouts. Meanwhile, since giving up two runs in his first fall outing, Hall has made six straight relief appearances (6 IP) with no earned runs allowed.
Mejia made his second start of the AFL season earlier today and tossed three innings with two runs and two hits allowed. He began the start with two scoreless innings before surrendering a two-run homer in the third. Mejia has yielded three home runs in 13 1/3 innings this fall.
Jarrett Parker: .292 AVG (14-48), 0 HR, 3 RBI
Andrew Susac: .355 AVG (11-31), 1 HR, 4 RBI
Angel Villalona: .204 AVG (10-49), 0 HR, 4 RBI
Notes… Parker has enjoyed some success in the Arizona Fall League this year as the former San Jose outfielder put together a seven-game hit streak that ended earlier today. During the streak, Parker hit at a sizzling .417 clip (10-for-24). His overall average now stands at .292 and all 14 of his hits have been singles.
Susac has cooled off slightly since his surge offensively. The top prospect catcher hit safely in four straight games from October 21-25 to raise his batting average to a league-best .440. However in two games since, Susac has gone hitless in six at-bats. He’s still walked (10) more than he’s struck out (7) this fall and owns a spectacular .500 on-base percentage.
Finally, Villalona has managed only two hits in his last 18 at-bats and is now batting just .204 overall in AFL play. Villalona has produced three doubles and four RBI’s.
As a team, Scottsdale has fallen on hard times suffering an eight-game losing streak that dropped the club into last place in the East Division. The Scorpions snapped their skid with an extra-inning win today over Peoria, but still stand at just 8-14 overall – five games behind first-place Mesa. The AFL regular season runs through November 14.
By Joe Ritzo
Over the 26-year history of the San Jose Giants, 162 former players have reached the major leagues. In 2013, it was eight players who once called Municipal Stadium home that made it to “The Show” for the first time, seven of which debuted in San Francisco. Now looking ahead to 2014, 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 that could make their debut next season with the San Francisco Giants:Gary Brown, OF
2013 was a frustrating year in Triple-A for Brown as the former first rounder hit just .231 and led the team with 135 strikeouts. The speedy center fielder recovered from a slow start in Richmond two seasons ago (hit .279 in AA), but never managed to gain much traction in the Pacific Coast League despite overall solid power numbers (29 doubles and 13 home runs). Brown’s prospect status has taken a hit, but he still figures to have the opportunity to play center field every day in Fresno next spring. With a bounce back year, Brown is an obvious choice to make his major league debut at some point in 2014.
Kyle Crick, RHP
Crick is the only player on this list yet to have seen any action above the Class-A Advanced level. The former supplemental first round draft pick put together a dominant 2013 campaign in San Jose posting a 1.57 ERA in 14 starts to go with 95 strikeouts in just 68 2/3 innings. Regarded as the #1 prospect in the organization, Crick is probably headed to Richmond next spring. Improving his control and continuing to make strides with his secondary pitches are paramount to Crick climbing on the fast track towards the big leagues next season. A late appearance in San Francisco in 2014 seems unlikely, but when the #1 prospect in the system reaches the upper levels of the minors, he’s worth mentioning as a potential call-up.
Chris Dominguez, 3B
After a difficult 2012 split between Richmond and Fresno, Dominguez enjoyed a solid campaign last season in the Pacific Coast League. The slugging third baseman hit .294 in 132 games for the Grizzlies while also contributing 24 doubles, 15 home runs and 65 RBI’s. Dominguez isn’t currently on the 40-man roster and is not considered one of the top prospects in the organization, but after posting a near .300 batting average in Triple-A with some power, he figures to have at least put himself back on the map. With improved production early next season in Fresno, Dominguez could receive consideration for a call-up in 2014.
Adam Duvall, 3B
Duvall’s placement in the farm system at the start of 2014 will be an interesting subject throughout spring training. After hitting a San Jose Giants record 30 home runs in 2012, Duvall moved up to Richmond this year producing solid power numbers of 23 doubles and 17 home runs in 105 games, but managing just a .252 batting average. Looking forward, does Duvall return to the Eastern League next spring or receive a promotion to Fresno, where he and Dominguez would compete for playing time? Duvall has never been a high-average player and continued power production from the third baseman will be necessary if he’s to debut in San Francisco in 2014. Duvall has hit an impressive 69 home runs over his first three full professional seasons.
Escobar enjoyed a breakout 2012 in Augusta to earn the young left-hander a spot on San Francisco’s 40-man roster. He followed that up with an even better 2013 compiling a 2.89 ERA in 14 starts with San Jose to garner midseason California League All-Star honors. Escobar then received a July promotion to Richmond where his ERA was even lower (2.67). Between the two stops, Escobar struck out 146 batters compared to just 30 walks in 128 2/3 innings. Now considered one of the elite pitching prospects in the system, much focus and scrutiny will be placed on Escobar next season as he looks to make the jump to Fresno (perhaps to begin the year) and beyond. A spot on the 40-man roster, of course, always increases a player’s chance of a big league call-up.
Cody Hall, RHP
An All-Star closer with Augusta in 2012 (1.60 ERA, 20 saves), Hall dominated with San Jose last season (1.34 ERA) before continuing to impress in Richmond after a late-June promotion (2.39 ERA, 8 saves). The right-hander owns a career ERA of 2.00 through three professional seasons and clearly has caught the attention of the front office with his placement in the Arizona Fall League. Hall throws hard with a fastball regularly in the mid 90’s and with continued good success, should find himself knocking on the door for a big league call-up late in 2014.
Josh Osich, LHP
The second relief pitcher on this list, Osich, like Hall, received a midseason promotion from San Jose to Richmond this year. The former sixth round draft pick was an All-Star in the California League after logging a 2.45 ERA, a team-best 12 saves while averaging over a strikeout per inning. He started slow in Double-A, but recovered down the stretch to finish with a 4.85 ERA in 22 relief appearances. Osich features a mid 90’s fastball, two excellent off-speed pitches and as a left-hander, could move quickly next year if he excels in Richmond and/or Fresno.
Joe Panik, 2B
San Francisco’s top draft pick in 2011, Panik enjoyed a solid 2012 campaign with San Jose when he hit .297, primarily out of the second spot in the lineup. This year saw Panik move from shortstop to second base and while the batting average dropped in the pitching-rich Eastern League (.257), he’s still considered one of the top infield prospects in the organization. Panik finished the season with 27 doubles, four home runs, 57 RBI’s and walked (58) nearly as often as he struck out (68). Panik still has more to prove offensively if he’s to reach the big leagues as soon as 2014, but a promotion to Fresno to start the year seems likely, which puts him just one step from the “The Show.”
Susac remains the top catching prospect in the system after a year in which he hit .256 with 12 home runs and a .362 on-base percentage for the Richmond Flying Squirrels. The former second round draft pick was then assigned to the Arizona Fall League and looks to be in position for a promotion to Fresno at the start of next season. Barring injury, there’s still no need to rush Susac to San Francisco and it remains to be seen whether he can project as an everyday player in the big leagues. However, with a big year in Fresno and continued improvement defensively, Susac could debut before the end of 2014.
Angel Villalona, 1B
Villalona returned to playing baseball in the United States after a three-year absence splitting 2013 between San Jose and Richmond. The power-hitting first baseman recovered from a slow start to earn California League All-Star honors and had hit 14 home runs at the time of his promotion to Double-A. Between the two clubs, Villalona finished with impressive figures of 22 homers, 27 doubles and 70 RBI’s, but a low batting average (.231) and high strikeout totals certainly give pause as to whether he’s close to being ready for a big-league call-up. An opportunity to play in Fresno is likely next for Villalona and as a member of the 40-man roster, he’ll be given every chance to prove himself. The power is unquestionably there for Villalona, but it remains to be seen if he can make enough contact to jump to the highest level. Now with a year under his belt post-return, 2014 will be an enormous season for Villalona.
An update on former San Jose Giants currently playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League:
Kyle Crick: 4 games, 3 starts, 0-1, 5.87 ERA (5 ER/7.2 IP), 8 BB, 13 SO
Cody Hall: 5 games, 0-0, 3.60 ERA (2 ER/5.0 IP), 4 BB, 3 SO
Derek Law: 6 games, 1-0, 0.00 ERA (0 ER/7.1 IP), 4 BB, 8 SO
Adalberto Mejia: 4 games, 1-1, 10.13 ERA (9 ER/8.0 IP), 3 BB, 9 SO
Notes… Mejia had the top Giants pitching performance of this past week as the left-hander fired 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in a game last Tuesday. He retired 10 out of the 11 batters he faced, yielding just one single with no walks and five strikeouts to pick-up the win. Mejia had previously been struggling with nine runs allowed in his first three relief appearances.
Mejia actually entered the game in relief of Crick last Tuesday after the #1 prospect lasted just 1 2/3 innings. Crick only surrendered one hit (a solo home run), but continued to have control problems issuing three walks. Crick, who struck out three in the abbreviated start, left the game with the bases loaded and two outs before Mejia entered and registered a strikeout to end the inning. Crick then pitched a perfect inning of relief in Scottsdale’s game last Saturday. Crick has struck out an impressive 13 batters in just 7 2/3 innings overall, but has also walked eight.
Meanwhile, Law continues to dominate out of the Scorpions bullpen. The right-hander has now worked 7 1/3 innings this fall without allowing an earned run. He hasn’t surrendered a hit in four out of his last five appearances and is holding the opposition to a .200 batting average overall. Hall has also now put together four straight relief outings totaling four innings with no runs allowed.
Jarrett Parker: .242 AVG (8-33), 0 HR, 2 RBI
Andrew Susac: .440 AVG (11-25), 1 HR, 4 RBI
Angel Villalona: .258 AVG (8-31), 0 HR, 3 RBI
Notes… Susac, San Jose’s primary catcher during the 2012 season, has been the headliner recently on the position player side. In last Monday’s game against Glendale, he finished 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI’s. Susac followed that up with another hit last Tuesday and then a 2-for-3 effort on Wednesday. He’s now hit safely in four straight games going 7-for-10 with three RBI’s during the stretch. Susac has also drawn 10 walks in nine games this fall to bump his on-base percentage to an outstanding .583.
Villalona, the only 2013 San Jose Giant hitter in the AFL, is batting .258 overall. The slugging first baseman has a pair of doubles and three RBI’s in 10 games. Finally, Parker went 2-for-4 last Wednesday and has now hit safely in three straight contests. The 2011 and 2012 San Jose outfielder is batting .242 this fall. All eight of his hits have been singles.
Scottsdale has been a streaky team throughout the first half of the fall season. The Scorpions lost five straight games from October 9-15 before a five-game winning streak from the 18th through the 23rd. However, they’ve followed that positive stretch by dropping three consecutive games and now possess a 7-9 record overall. Scottsdale is 3 1/2 games out of the first place in the East Division. Mejia is scheduled to make his first start of the AFL season this afternoon when the Scorpions host Peoria.
* Holiday home games next year on Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 11), Memorial Day (Monday, May 26) and Independence Day (Friday, July 4).
* For the first time since 2009, the Giants will finish the regular season on the road (and thus not be at home over Labor Day weekend). San Jose ends the year with a seven-game road trip August 26-September 1 at Lake Elsinore and High Desert.
* The Giants’ most frequent opponent in 2014: the Stockton Ports at 29 games. San Jose ends the first half with a four-game home series versus the Ports while also playing Stockton at Muni on July 4. The schedule features an unbalanced slate against North Division foes with 27 games against Visalia, 24 games versus Modesto and only 16 games against Bakersfield.
* San Jose plays 44 games against teams from the South Division (after 43 games in 2013). Defending California League champion Inland Empire makes two visits to Municipal Stadium – both in the first half, including a series during the opening homestand.
* After an 11-game Southern California road trip last season, San Jose’s longest trip of 2014 is only seven games.
* Schedule oddity: the Giants play more games in Rancho Cucamonga (7), a South Division opponent, than in Bakersfield (6), a North Division rival.
* The home schedule is balanced with the Giants at home for two weekends in April, May, June and July. San Jose then has three weekends at home during the month of August.
* The 2014 All-Star Game will be hosted by the Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Carolina League. The game is scheduled for Tuesday, June 17.
* Home game times are expected to be released next month.
An update on former San Jose Giants currently playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League:
Kyle Crick: 2 starts, 0-1, 7.20 ERA (4 ER/5.0 IP), 5 BB, 9 SO
Cody Hall: 3 games, 0-0, 6.00 ERA (2 ER/3.0 IP), 2 BB, 3 SO
Derek Law: 4 games, 1-0, 0.00 ERA (0 ER/5.1 IP), 2 BB, 6 SO
Adalberto Mejia: 3 games, 0-1, 17.36 ERA (9 ER/4.2 IP), 3 BB, 4 SO
Notes… Law has been the early Giants standout on the mound this fall. After a spectacular second half as the SJ closer this season, Law has carried that momentum into the AFL working 5 1/3 scoreless innings over four relief appearances. Law has pitched around five hits and two walks to keep the opposition off the scoreboard while he’s also averaging over a strikeout per inning. In his most recent outing last Friday, Law picked-up a win after tossing two shutout innings.
Meanwhile, Crick scuffled in his first start yielding four runs in two innings before recovering in his second appearance. Last Wednesday against Surprise, Crick pitched the first three innings and allowed just one run on four hits with five strikeouts. Crick is averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning overall, but has already issued a total of five walks (in five innings).
Hall surrendered two runs in his first relief appearance, but has responded with back-to-back scoreless outings since. Finally, Mejia has struggled mightily in three games out of the bullpen allowing a total of nine runs over 4 2/3 innings. In his last appearance, Mejia suffered the loss after yielding four earned runs in 1 2/3 innings.
Jarrett Parker: .235 AVG (4-17), 0 HR, 1 RBI
Andrew Susac: .267 AVG (4-15), 0 HR, 1 RBI
Angel Villalona: .278 AVG (5-18), 0 HR, 2 RBI
Notes… Villalona is the lone 2013 San Jose hitter playing in the AFL this year. The slugging first baseman recorded back-to-back two-hit games during the first week of action. He’s 5-for-18 overall with a double, a pair of RBI’s and eight strikeouts. Parker and Susac have produced four hits apiece – all singles – during early fall action. Parker has already struck out eight times in 17 at-bats.
Scottsdale enters Monday’s action with a 4-6 record and is tied for second in the East Division – 3 1/2 games out of the top spot. The Scorpions have won three out of their last four games after starting the season 1-5.
By Joe Ritzo
My ranking of the top 10 games from the 2013 San Jose Giants season:10. July 25 at Lancaster (4-3 win)
A game highlighted by a spectacular pitching performance from Clayton Blackburn. On the road and facing the highest scoring team in all of Minor League Baseball, Blackburn took a perfect game into the seventh inning retiring the first 20 batters he faced. The Giants right-hander finished his outing with one run and three hits allowed over eight innings. A dramatic bottom of the ninth saw Lancaster score twice to cut the lead to 4-3, but with tying run on base, closer Derek Law escaped further trouble to secure the save.
9. July 9 vs. Lake Elsinore (1-0 win, 10 innings)
On a warm midweek afternoon at Municipal Stadium, the Giants and Storm locked up in a pitcher’s duel that saw neither team score through the first 9 1/2 innings. Kyle Crick (5 IP), Kelvin Marte (3 IP), Jose Casilla (1 IP) and Stephen Harrold (1 IP) combined to allow just three Lake Elsinore hits over 10 innings pitched, however San Jose couldn’t muster any offense themselves against Storm pitching. Finally a bolt of lightning in the bottom of the 10th as Ricky Oropesa stepped to the plate and launched the first pitch of the inning over the fence in right for a dramatic walk-off home run and a 1-0 victory.
8. August 29 vs. Visalia (11-1 win)
One of San Jose’s most complete team efforts in 2013. On the mound, Kyle Crick turned in arguably his most dominant pitching performance of the season. The right-hander fired seven scoreless innings with just two hits allowed, no walks and a career-high tying 11 strikeouts. Crick, with his mid-to-upper 90′s fastball and assortment of offspeed pitches, retired 21 out of the 23 batters he faced showing why he’s considered the #1 prospect in the San Francisco organization. Offensively, Mac Williamson hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the first before Matt Duffy connected for a three-run blast in the third. Ricky Oropesa and Devin Harris added two RBI’s apiece with eight Giants recording at least one hit in the contest.
7. June 12 vs. Modesto (5-3 win, 11 innings)
A key game during the final week of the first half saw the Giants defeat the Modesto Nuts in a thriller. The clubs went back-and-forth resulting in an extra-inning affair before San Jose ultimately picked-up the win in walk-off fashion. With two outs and a runner at first in the bottom of the 11th inning, Brock Bond smashed a game-winning home run to right field sparking a wild celebration and propelling the Giants one step closer to the first half title.
Needing a victory after dropping the first game of the North Division Series the previous night, the Giants held off the Visalia Rawhide behind Kyle Crick, an early home run and a play at the plate in the ninth inning. Ricky Oropesa gave San Jose the early lead with a solo homer in the bottom of the second. Meanwhile, Crick continued his late season surge tossing seven shutout innings with three hits surrendered, no walks and eight strikeouts. The Giants took a 2-0 lead into the top of the ninth, but Visalia wouldn’t make it easy on Derek Law. With one out, the Rawhide’s Evan Marzilli attempted to score from second on a single, but was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Jesus Galindo. The Rawhide eventually loaded the bases with two outs, but Law worked out of the jam inducing a groundout to give San Jose a critical Game 2 victory.
5. April 11 vs. Visalia (3-2 win)
A memorable home opener as the Giants score a ninth-inning run to defeat Visalia in front of a crowd of over 4,400 at Municipal Stadium. With the game tied 2-2, Chris Lofton leads off the bottom of the ninth with a single before moving to second on a groundout. #9 hitter Ydwin Villegas then rips a double into the right center field gap to score Lofton with the game-winning run. It would mark the first of eight walk-off victories for the Giants in 2013.
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4. April 26 at Modesto (6-4 win, 12 innings)
Devin Harris’ two-run homer in the top of the 12th inning proved to be the difference in the game, but it was hardly the only memorable moment from this late-April contest in Modesto. An exciting see-saw affair saw the Giants take a 4-2 lead on solo home runs from Harris and Angel Villalona in the seventh and eighth innings respectively. The Nuts tied it up with a two-run bottom of the eighth before the teams battled through the extra-innings. Modesto put the potential game-winning run at third base with none out in the bottom of the 10th and 11th innings, but miraculously, the Giants were able to get out of both jams to keep the game going. High drama included a 10th inning ejection of manager Andy Skeels and the Giants throwing out a Modesto player at the plate in the 11th.
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3. August 21 at Stockton (16-11 win)
An August matchup with division rival Stockton saw the Giants achieve a season-high in runs scored and also record their largest comeback victory of the year. A relentless Ports offensive attack put San Jose in an 11-5 hole after seven innings, but the Giants would not give up. A five-run top of the eighth highlighted by RBI hits from Devin Harris, Myles Schroder and Mac Williamson trimmed the lead to 11-10. Still trailing by a run, San Jose was down to their last out in the top of the ninth inning before Schroder delivered an RBI single to tie the game at 11. The Giants then produced another five-run inning when they exploded in the top of the 10th to move in front by a 16-11 margin. Ricky Oropesa’s two-RBI single broke the tie before Jeff Arnold capped the scoring with a three-run homer. The two teams combined for 27 runs and 28 hits.
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2. June 14 at Visalia (5-4 win, 10 innings)
A thrilling mid-June win in Visalia clinched San Jose’s eighth first half title in the last nine seasons and secured a spot in the playoffs for the club. Visalia needed to sweep the four-game series to force a tie at the end of the half, and the Rawhide would claim the opener a night earlier. Visalia then took an early 2-0 lead in the second game of the series before a three-run top of the fourth, sparked by a Devin Harris home run, put the Giants ahead. The back-and-forth game saw the Rawhide reclaim the lead in the bottom of the fourth before San Jose tied it up in the seventh. Both teams had opportunities late as San Jose left the go-ahead run in scoring position in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. In the bottom of the ninth, Visalia put the potential winning run at third, but Bryce Bandilla recorded back-to-back strikeouts to force extra innings. Finally in the 10th, a Rawhide error allowed the Giants to take the lead for good before Josh Osich slammed the door with a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning to prompt a night of celebration – San Jose was playoff bound.
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1. Game 5 North Division Series – September 11 vs. Visalia (9-5 win)
The Giants and Rawhide battled to a decisive Game Five in a highly entertaining North Division Series. After a heartbreaking Game Four loss, San Jose quickly jumped on Visalia when Ricky Oropesa blasted a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the first. The Rawhide wouldn’t go away scoring four runs over the first four innings against Giants starter Pat Young, but San Jose managed to keep their lead thanks to an impressive offensive display. Matt Duffy delivered a two-run single in the second before RBI’s from Jeff Arnold and Elliott Blair in the third. A Trevor Brown run-scoring double with two outs in the bottom of the fourth extended the lead before another run in the fifth and then a Devin Harris solo homer in the sixth. All told, San Jose scored in each of the first six innings plating nine runs on 13 hits. Meanwhile, Kelvin Marte excelled in long relief limiting Visalia to a single run over 4 1/3 innings before Derek Law closed it out in the ninth for a 9-5 victory and a berth in the Championship Series.
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