Giants Host Bakersfield In Home Opener Tonight

san jose giantsAt Municipal Stadium (San Jose, CA)
* Thursday, April 16, 7:00 PM
* Friday, April 17, 7:00 PM
* Saturday, April 18, 5:00 PM
* Sunday, April 19, 1:00 PM

Records
Bakersfield: 2-5
San Jose: 2-5

Probable Starting Pitchers
Thursday
Bakersfield – Dan Altavilla (0-1, 3.18)
San Jose – Chase Johnson (0-0, 0.00)

Friday
Bakersfield – Carlos Misell (0-0, 3.60)
San Jose – Keury Mella (0-0, 2.25)

Saturday
Bakersfield – Jake Zokan (0-1, 2.25)
San Jose – D.J. Snelten (0-0, 1.80)

Sunday
Bakersfield – Edwin Diaz (1-0, 0.00)
San Jose – Luis Ysla (0-1, 3.60)

Broadcast Information

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

Chase Johnson is scheduled to make the start for the Giants in tonight's home opener

Chase Johnson is scheduled to make the start for the Giants in tonight’s home opener

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

Road Trip Review
The Giants posted a 2-5 record during their season-opening road trip that concluded yesterday. San Jose began the year by splitting a four-game series in Lancaster before dropping three straight to the Visalia Rawhide. The Giants gave up just 12 runs over their first five games this season before yielding 24 runs in their last two contests.

Four Straight Losses

San Jose enters tonight’s contest having lost four games in a row. During their four-game slide, the Giants have been outscored 30-10.

Arroyo’s Fast Start
Shortstop Christian Arroyo is off to a fast start at the plate for the Giants. In his first seven games, Arroyo is 9-for-28 (.321) with two home runs and five RBI’s. Arroyo has homered twice over his last three games. His four doubles this season are tied for the league lead. Arroyo, 19, is the youngest player on San Jose’s roster.

Defensive Struggles
The Giants have committed 11 errors over their last three games, including a season-high six miscues in last night’s loss.

Stellar Starters

The four starting pitchers scheduled to get the ball for the Giants in this series – Chase Johnson, Keury Mella, D.J. Snelten and Luis Ysla – have combined to throw 18 innings this season with just four earned runs allowed (2.00 ERA).

Top Prospects

Six players on San Jose’s roster are among the top 30 prospects in the organization according to Baseball America, including four out of the six pitchers in the Giants starting rotation. San Jose players among the top 30 prospects include: pitcher Tyler Beede (#2), pitcher Keury Mella (#4), shortstop Christian Arroyo (#10), pitcher Chase Johnson (#20), pitcher Luis Ysla (#21) and third baseman Ryder Jones (#30).

High Draft Picks
San Francisco’s last two first round draft picks are on San Jose’s roster: shortstop Christian Arroyo (25th overall selection in 2013) and starting pitcher Tyler Beede (14th overall selection in 2014). Arroyo was a Northwest League All-Star last season while playing for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. He finished the year ranked second in the league in batting average (.333) to go with five home runs and 48 RBI’s in 58 games. Beede enters the year with only 15 1/3 innings of professional experience after signing last July. Third baseman Ryder Jones (2nd round, 2013), starting pitcher Martin Agosta (2nd round, 2012), starting pitcher Chase Johnson (3rd round, 2013), first baseman Brian Ragira (4th round, 2013) and reliever Dan Slania (5th round, 2013) were also drafted in the first five rounds by the San Francisco Giants.

Bakersfield - newOpponent Notes: Bakersfield Blaze
The Bakersfield Blaze, an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, are off to a 2-5 start this season. Bakersfield is last in the California League in batting average (.167) and runs scored (2.4 per game). Tonight marks the first of 27 meetings this season between the Giants and Blaze – San Jose’s most frequent opponent in 2015. Right-hander Dan Altavilla is expected to start on the mound tonight. Altavilla allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings in his first start.

Giants Continue Road Trip In Visalia

san jose giantsAt Recreation Park (Visalia, CA)
* Monday, April 13, 6:00 PM
* Tuesday, April 14, 6:00 PM
* Wednesday, April 15, 6:00 PM

Records
San Jose: 2-2
Visalia: 3-1

Probable Starting Pitchers
Monday
San Jose – Luis Ysla (0-0, —)
Visalia – Ryan Doran (0-0, —)

Tuesday
San Jose – Martin Agosta (0-0, 0.00)
Visalia – Anthony Banda (1-0, 1.69)

Wednesday
San Jose – Tyler Beede (0-0, 0.00)
Visalia – Ryan Godley (1-0, 0.00)

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

Giants Continue Road Trip At Visalia
The San Jose Giants continue their road trip this evening with the opener of a three-game series against the Visalia Rawhide at Recreation Park. Luis Ysla (0-0, —) is slated to make the start on the mound for San Jose tonight. After this series versus the Rawhide, the Giants kickoff their home schedule on Thursday against the Bakersfield Blaze.

Split In Lancaster
San Jose opened the regular season by splitting four games against the host Lancaster JetHawks in a series that concluded yesterday afternoon. Lancaster won the first and last games of the series by the scores of 3-2 and 2-1 respectively. Both JetHawks wins came in walk-off fashion. The Giants earned victories of 5-0 on Friday and 8-3 on Saturday.

Strong Starting Pitching
Through the first four games of the season, San Jose starting pitchers (Tyler Beede, Chase Johnson, Keury Mella and D.J. Snelten) have combined to throw 18 innings with just two runs allowed (1.00 ERA). The quartet has allowed 15 hits, walked three and struck out 17.

Arroyo’s Fast Start
Shortstop Christian Arroyo is off to a fast start at the plate for the Giants. In his first four games, Arroyo is 6-for-17 (.353) with three RBI’s. His four doubles lead the California League. Arroyo, 19, is the youngest player on San Jose’s roster.

San Francisco Affiliation
This year marks San Jose’s 28th season as an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants – the longest partnership of any team in the California League. Since their inception in 1988, the San Jose Giants have won six league championships (1998, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010) and qualified for the playoffs 20 times (in 27 seasons). The Giants enter this year having posted 11 consecutive winning seasons (2004-2014) – the longest streak in California League history. 174 former San Jose Giants have reached the major leagues.

San Jose Giants infielder Brandon Bednar

San Jose Giants infielder Brandon Bednar

Top Prospects
Six players on San Jose’s opening day roster are among the top 30 prospects in the organization according to Baseball America, including four out of the six pitchers in the Giants starting rotation. San Jose players among the top 30 prospects include: pitcher Tyler Beede (#2), pitcher Keury Mella (#4), shortstop Christian Arroyo (#10), pitcher Chase Johnson (#20), pitcher Luis Ysla (#21) and third baseman Ryder Jones (#30).

Returning Players
13 of the 25 players on the opening day roster have prior experience in San Jose. Notable returnees include first baseman Brian Ragira, who led the 2014 club in home runs (20) and RBI’s (82). Ragira hit 15 home runs after the All-Star break last season. Returning outfielder Tyler Horan smacked 10 home runs in just 28 games to go with a .321 batting average for the Giants last year. Catcher Ben Turner, infielder Brandon Bednar and outfielders Jesus Galindo and Ryan Lollis were also key regulars for San Jose in 2014 and have returned this season. Other returnees include pitchers Martin Agosta, Ian Gardeck, Mason McVay, Jake Smith, Jeff Soptic and Nick Vander Tuig and catcher Matt Paré.

High Draft Picks
San Francisco’s last two first round draft picks are on San Jose’s roster: shortstop Christian Arroyo (25th overall selection in 2013) and starting pitcher Tyler Beede (14th overall selection in 2014). Arroyo was a Northwest League All-Star last season while playing for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. He finished the year ranked second in the league in batting average (.333) to go with five home runs and 48 RBI’s in 58 games. Beede enters the year with only 15 1/3 innings of professional experience after signing last July. Third baseman Ryder Jones (2nd round, 2013), starting pitcher Martin Agosta (2nd round, 2012), starting pitcher Chase Johnson (3rd round, 2013), first baseman Brian Ragira (4th round, 2013) and reliever Dan Slania (5th round, 2013) were also drafted in the first five rounds by the San Francisco Giants.

VisaliaOpponent Notes: Visalia Rawhide
The Visalia Rawhide, an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, are off to a 3-1 start this season after taking three out of four games from the visiting High Desert Mavericks during their opening series. Visalia won the North Division title last year before falling to the Lancaster JetHawks in the Championship Series. Tonight marks the first of 19 meetings this season between the Giants and Rawhide.

San Jose Giants Open Regular Season Thursday At Lancaster

san jose giantsAt The Hangar (Lancaster, CA)
* Thursday, April 9, 6:30 PM
* Friday, April 10, 6:30 PM
* Saturday, April 11, 6:00 PM
* Sunday, April 12, 2:00 PM

Records
San Jose: 0-0
Lancaster: 0-0

Probable Starting Pitchers
Thursday
San Jose – Tyler Beede (0-0, —)
Lancaster – Brian Holmes (0-0, —)

Friday
San Jose – Chase Johnson (0-0, —)
Lancaster – Michael Feliz (0-0, —)

Saturday
San Jose – Keury Mella (0-0, —)
Lancaster – Evan Grills (0-0, —)

Sunday
San Jose – D.J. Snelten (0-0, —)
Lancaster – Troy Scribner (0-0, —)

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

2014 first round draft pick Tyler Beede is scheduled to make the opening night start on the mound for San Jose

2014 first round draft pick Tyler Beede is scheduled to make the opening night start on the mound for San Jose

Giants Begin Regular Season At Lancaster Thursday
The San Jose Giants begin the 2015 regular season Thursday evening with the opener of a four-game series against the Lancaster JetHawks at The Hangar. After the four games in Lancaster, the Giants travel to Visalia for a three-game series. San Jose’s home opener is scheduled for Thursday, April 16 against the Bakersfield Blaze.

San Francisco Affiliation
This year marks San Jose’s 28th season as an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants – the longest partnership of any team in the California League. Since their inception in 1988, the San Jose Giants have won six league championships (1998, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010) and qualified for the playoffs 20 times (in 27 seasons). The Giants enter this year having posted 11 consecutive winning seasons (2004-2014) – the longest streak in California League history. 173 former San Jose Giants have reached the major leagues.

2014 Review
The Giants finished the 2014 regular season with a 73-67 overall record – two games behind the Visalia Rawhide in the North Division Wild Card standings. It marked the first time since 2003 that San Jose did not qualify for the postseason snapping a league-record streak of 10 straight seasons in the playoffs. Last year’s Giants club was just the fourth team since the California League expanded to its current playoff format in 1995 to not reach the playoffs with a record above .500. Offensively, San Jose ranked sixth in the league in batting average (.267), ninth in runs scored (4.7 per game) and ninth in home runs (103). On the mound, the Giants’ team ERA of 4.51 was fifth in the league and the highest for a San Jose team since 2003. San Jose went 34-36 in the first half before posting a 39-31 record in the second half.

Top Prospects
Six players on San Jose’s opening day roster are among the top 30 prospects in the organization according to Baseball America, including four out of the six pitchers in the Giants starting rotation. San Jose players among the top 30 prospects include: pitcher Tyler Beede (#2), pitcher Keury Mella (#4), shortstop Christian Arroyo (#10), pitcher Chase Johnson (#20), pitcher Luis Ysla (#21) and third baseman Ryder Jones (#30).

First baseman Brian Ragira led last year's San Jose team in home runs (20) and RBI's (82)

First baseman Brian Ragira led last year’s San Jose team in home runs (20) and RBI’s (82)

Returning Players
13 of the 25 players on the opening day roster have prior experience in San Jose. Notable returnees include first baseman Brian Ragira, who led the 2014 club in home runs (20) and RBI’s (82). Ragira hit 15 home runs after the All-Star break last season. Returning outfielder Tyler Horan smacked 10 home runs in just 28 games to go with a .321 batting average for the Giants last year. Catcher Ben Turner, infielder Brandon Bednar and outfielders Jesus Galindo and Ryan Lollis were also key regulars for San Jose in 2014 and have returned this season. Other returnees include pitchers Martin Agosta, Ian Gardeck, Mason McVay, Jake Smith, Jeff Soptic and Nick Vander Tuig and catcher Matt Paré.

Manager Russ Morman
Russ Morman joins the San Jose Giants as manager for the 2015 season. Morman enters his sixth year with the San Francisco Giants organization and second season as a manager. In 2014, he served as manager of Double-A Richmond and directed the Flying Squirrels to a 79-63 record and a West Division championship. Previously, Morman spent three years (2011-13) as hitting coach for Triple-A Fresno and one season (2010) as Richmond’s hitting coach. Morman played 17 seasons of professional baseball from 1983 to 1999, spending parts of nine years in the major leagues with the White Sox (1986, 1988-89), Royals (1990-91) and Marlins (1994-97).

High Draft Picks
San Francisco’s last two first round draft picks are on San Jose’s roster: shortstop Christian Arroyo (25th overall selection in 2013) and starting pitcher Tyler Beede (14th overall selection in 2014). Arroyo was a Northwest League All-Star last season while playing for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. He finished the year ranked second in the league in batting average (.333) to go with five home runs and 48 RBI’s in 58 games. Beede enters the year with only 15 1/3 innings of professional experience after signing last July. Third baseman Ryder Jones (2nd round, 2013), starting pitcher Martin Agosta (2nd round, 2012), starting pitcher Chase Johnson (3rd round, 2013), first baseman Brian Ragira (4th round, 2013) and reliever Dan Slania (5th round, 2013) were also drafted in the first five rounds by the San Francisco Giants.

Tyler Beede To Make Opening Night Start
Right-hander Tyler Beede is slated to make the opening night start on Thursday against the JetHawks. Beede was drafted in the first round by the San Francisco Giants last June after a standout collegiate career at Vanderbilt University. Beede helped the Commodores win their first College World Series title as a junior in 2014 posting an 8-8 record with a 4.05 ERA in 19 starts. He earned First Team All-American honors and was one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award as a sophomore in 2013 (14-1 record, 2.32 ERA in 17 starts). Beede was also a first round pick in 2011 (Toronto Blue Jays) out of high school, but did not sign choosing instead to attend Vanderbilt.

LancasterOpponent Notes: Lancaster JetHawks
The Lancaster JetHawks, an affiliate of the Houston Astros, won their second California League championship in three years last season. Lancaster finished the 2014 regular season with a 78-62 record. The JetHawks defeated Visalia three-games-to-two in the California League Championship Series last September. First baseman A.J. Reed, the 2014 Golden Spikes Award winner, highlights the Lancaster lineup this year. Reed was a second round pick of the Astros last June out of the University of Kentucky. Left-hander Brian Holmes will make the opening night start on the mound for Lancaster. Last year with the JetHawks, Holmes compiled a 5-2 record and a 4.53 ERA in 20 games (10 starts). This series is San Jose’s only regular season visit to The Hangar.

Inside the San Jose Giants Season Preview Podcast

2015 San Jose Giants Roster

Episode 49 – Inside the San Jose Giants

2015-Inside-the-San-Jose-Giants-215-x-160The San Jose Giants season has arrived! In this season preview edition of Inside the San Jose Giants, Joe and Ben breakdown the 2015 roster, including the key returnees and exciting newcomers. The two discuss San Jose’s prospect-laden pitching rotation and powerful starting lineup in advance of the season opener.

San Jose Giants Radio Broadcast Information

All San Jose Giants games this season will be broadcast live on the team's official website and streamed on your mobile phone

All San Jose Giants games this season will be broadcast live on the team’s official website and streamed on your mobile phone

With the season opener only a day away, here’s a reminder that fans will be able to listen to every San Jose Giants game in 2015.

All San Jose Giants games are broadcast live on the team’s official website, sjgiants.com and streamed on your mobile phone through the San Jose Giants Mobile App. At home games, fans can also tune into 92.9 FM inside the main seating bowl at Municipal Stadium to listen to the live radio broadcast.

Broadcasts begin 30 minutes prior to first pitch with The Giants Pregame Show. The Giants Pregame Show includes all of the latest news and scores from around the California League, an update of what’s happening inside the San Francisco Giants farm system, an in-depth preview of the upcoming San Jose game and an exclusive interview from inside the clubhouse with a player or coach.

website logoAdditionally, catch the Russ Morman Show before every Thursday game this season. The Russ Morman Show airs 15 minutes before first pitch every Thursday and features insights and commentary from the San Jose manager.

Stay tuned after the game for The Giants Postgame Show with highlights and analysis, a review of the California League scoreboard and a look ahead to future San Jose Giants games.

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.

BROADCASTERS
Joe Ritzo returns for his ninth season as the “Voice of the San Jose Giants.” Ritzo also handles the play-by-play of the 25 San Jose Giants television broadcasts on Comcast Hometown Network. On TV dates, radio play-by-play will be provided by Justin Allegri, the voice of San Jose State University athletics.

San Jose Giants Radio Broadcast Page

San Jose Giants Announce 2015 Roster

Starting Pitchers
Martin Agosta
Tyler Beede
Chase Johnson
Keury Mella
D.J. Snelten
Luis Ysla

Relief Pitchers
Jason Forjet
Ian Gardeck
Christian Jones
Mason McVay
Dan Slania
Jake Smith
Jeff Soptic
Nick Vander Tuig

Catchers
Matt Pare
Ty Ross
Ben Turner

Infielders
Christian Arroyo
Brandon Bednar
Ryder Jones
John Polonius
Brian Ragira
Austin Slater
Ydwin Villegas

Outfielders
Jesus Galindo
Tyler Horan
Ryan Lollis
Brennan Metzger
Rafael Rodriguez

**********************************************************
NOTES

* These are the 29 players who will break camp with San Jose. The roster will be reduced to 25 active players ahead of the season opener on Thursday.

* 17 of the 29 players have previous experience in San Jose:
7 pitchers – Agosta, Forjet, Gardeck, McVay, Smith, Soptic, Vander Tuig.
2 catchers – Pare, Turner
4 infielders – Bednar, Polonius, Ragira, Villegas
4 outfielders – Galindo, Horan, Lollis, Metzger

* The roster is highlighted by the last two first round draft picks of the San Francisco Giants: shortstop Christian Arroyo (25th overall pick in 2013) and starting pitcher Tyler Beede (14th overall pick in 2014).

* Six players, including four starting pitchers, on San Jose’s roster are ranked among Baseball America’s Top 30 San Francisco Giants prospects:
2. Beede (SP)
4. Mella (SP)
10. Arroyo (SS)
20. Johnson (SP)
21. Ysla (SP)
30. Jones (3B)

* Notable returnees from the 2014 San Jose team include:
– INF Brandon Bednar (.241 AVG, 5 HR, 16 RBI) – Made starts at all four infield positions after his July promotion from Augusta.
– OF Jesus Galindo (.268 AVG, 2 HR, 30 RBI) – San Jose’s primary leadoff hitter and center fielder last season. Led the team in triples (8) and stolen bases (31).
– OF Tyler Horan (.321 AVG, 10 HR, 27 RBI) – Had a stellar final month with the Giants after his promotion from Augusta. Hit 10 home runs in 28 games and had an OPS of 1.046.
– OF Ryan Lollis (.275 AVG, 3 HR, 11 RBI) – California League veteran has played with San Jose during parts of three previous seasons (2011, 2012 and 2014).
– LHP Mason McVay (4.38 ERA, 1 SV) – Ranked among the team leaders with 47 appearances out of the bullpen.
– 1B Brian Ragira (.260, 20 HR, 82 RBI) – Everyday first baseman recovered from a slow start to lead the team in home runs and RBI’s. Hit .297 with 15 home runs in the second half.
– C Ben Turner (.298, 2 HR, 40 RBI) – San Jose’s main catcher hit .336 from June 1 through the end of the season.

* Eight players on the roster were drafted in the first five rounds: Beede (1st round, 2014), Arroyo (1st round, 2013), R. Jones (2nd round, 2013), Agosta (2nd round, 2012), Johnson (3rd round, 2013), Soptic (3rd round, 2011), Ragira (4th round, 2013) and Slania (5th round, 2013).

Roster Press Release

Spring Training Q&A with Russ Morman

2015-Morman-Q&AWith opening night in just over a week, final preparations for the new season are underway down at spring training. Broadcaster Joe Ritzo caught up with manager Russ Morman at the Giants minor league training complex in Scottsdale to get the skipper’s thoughts on the spring, managing in San Jose, working with young hitters and seeing some of his former players win the World Series.

Joe Ritzo: What was your initial reaction last offseason when you were informed you were going to manage the San Jose Giants?

Russ Morman: It’s always great to go anywhere within the organization. I’m obviously excited and looking forward to another place I’ve never been before in my long career. This is a neat deal for me.

Ritzo: You’ve worked a lot with Double-A and Triple-A players as a hitting coach and manager in the Giants organization over the last several seasons. Will there be an adjustment process this year now that you’re managing players at the Class-A Advanced level?

Morman: We all have the same lingo in terms of the way we talk about things. You need the built in patience at the lower levels because, quite frankly, they aren’t refined yet and they’re not the player you’re going to see later on, whether it’s in a month, or two months or sometime next year. There’s always people here learning new positions and doing all kinds of different things, so there’s some patience that has to go along with that too.

Ritzo: Are you anxious to get out of Arizona after a long month at spring training and begin the season?

Morman: Yes, definitely. Everyone is ready to get out there and back under the lights and all those fun things. The past month has been good, but it’s now April and it’s time for us to get going.

Russ Morman Named 2015 San Jose Giants Manager

Ritzo: Are there general principles that you’re teaching hitters at this stage in their careers?

Morman: (Hitting coach) Lipso (Nava) does all of that and does a great job with the guys that come through. Of course, I have my eyes too and it always helps to have somebody else’s eyes on things. The more eyes you have on a hitter, the quicker and faster everybody gets to move. Hopefully someone is being successful and getting a chance. The perfect example is Matt Duffy – going from Double-A to the big leagues, being on a playoff team and going to the World Series. The kids will show us with their play when they’re ready to move and it doesn’t happen any sooner than that. There’s nothing pre-determined, it’s just their ability to handle the game and do all the things to be successful.

Ritzo: What did it mean for you to see a number of your former players win a World Series last fall?

Morman: It was really fun. It’s a proud moment for a coach or a manager and for everyone in the organization. Just having a little piece of some of these guys’ career – sometimes the influence is good and sometimes you don’t know, but to be able to see some of the guys that were with you is really fun no matter who you are.

Ritzo: I know you don’t have an official roster yet, but what’s been your overall sense of this San Jose team and how they’ve performed this spring?

Morman: We’ve done pretty well all spring. We didn’t play so well the first week, but our defense has picked-up and our pitching has been solid. And we’ve now hit the ball well for four or five days in a row. I keep talking to these guys every morning and tell them, there’s no magical mystery about this thing, you have to have the three ingredients: you’ve got to have timely hitting, you’ve got to have good defense and good pitching. And if one of those three ingredients doesn’t show up, it’s going to be a tough day.

3/30 Report From Arizona – Giants Minor League Camp

3/31 Report From Arizona – Giants Minor League Camp

Report from Arizona: Giants Pitching Shines

By Joe Ritzo

I returned to minor league camp today and caught the entire “High-A” game between the Giants and Angels in Scottsdale. A reminder that official rosters are not set with final decisions coming at the end of the week, so while many of the players mentioned here may start the season in San Jose, it’s not a guarantee. To the game…

IMG_1343* The Giants “High-A” lineup this afternoon:
1. Chuckie Jones, CF
2. Brandon Bednar, 3B
3. Austin Slater, 2B
4. Brian Ragira, 1B
5. Tyler Horan, RF
6. Ryder Jones, DH
7. Ty Ross, C
8. Rando Moreno, SS
9. Chris Lofton, LF
P – Tyler Beede

* The Angels won the game by a 2-1 final score thanks to a two-run rally in the top of the eighth inning. The stars of the game for the Giants were Ryder Jones offensively and Tyler Beede and Keury Mella on the mound. Jones, who was the DH this afternoon after starting at third base yesterday, knocked out two hits in four at-bats and scored the only Giants run. Jones, who bats left-handed, doubled in the fourth inning on a sinking line drive into center that skipped past the Angels center fielder. In the seventh, he ripped a line drive over the center fielder’s head and legged out a triple before scoring the Giants’ only run. Jones is a former second round draft pick who spent most of last season in Augusta (A) before finishing the year with Salem-Keizer (Short-Season). He’s impressed at the plate the last two days and appears to be a serious contender to make San Jose’s opening day roster as the club’s primary third baseman.

2014 first round pick Tyler Beede fired four scoreless innings in today's "High-A" game

2014 first round pick Tyler Beede fired four scoreless innings in today’s “High-A” game

* Two expected anchors of the 2015 San Jose starting rotation saw the bulk of the action on the mound for the Giants today. Beede started and fired four scoreless innings scattering four hits. He yielded back-to-back singles to start the contest, but used a double play to escape trouble. One sequence that was particularly impressive was when Beede allowed a leadoff double in the top of the third, but came back to strikeout the next hitter on back-to-back change-ups to keep the runner off third base with less than two outs. Beede ultimately got out of the inning and then cruised through the fourth to end his afternoon. Beede was around the plate throughout his entire start, as he didn’t issue a single walk. Beede struck out two.

* Mella entered the game next for the Giants and was equally impressive working three shutout innings of relief. Mella, like Beede, is considered to be among the elite starting pitching prospects in the San Francisco organization right now and showed why in his brief outing today. Over his three innings of work, Mella allowed just two singles, walked one batter and struck out two. He erased his only leadoff baserunner with a double play and recorded the majority of his outs on the ground. The last two days for the “High-A” team have seen Beede, Mella and Luis Ysla (three shutout innings yesterday) take the ball and all enjoyed great success. Look for the trio to headline the San Jose rotation at the start of the season.

* 2014 San Jose relievers Jeff Soptic and Ian Gardeck also each saw action today. Soptic pitched the eighth inning, but struggled allowing two runs on two hits with a walk. The go-ahead run scored though on an error when Bednar threw away a grounder hit to third base. Gardeck worked the top of the ninth and pitched around a one-out double to keep the Angels off the scoreboard. He struck out two and walked none. Both Soptic and Gardeck possess electric fastballs in the mid-to-upper 90’s, but struggled mightily with their control last season. They may each return to the San Jose bullpen this year.

* Other notables from today’s game included:
– Bednar making the start at third base after playing shortstop yesterday, a sign that he’ll likely bounce around the infield once again for the SJ Giants.

– Left fielder Chris Lofton drove in the only Giants run with a two-out RBI single in the seventh inning. Lofton finished 1-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt and a stolen base.

– Matt Pare (C) and Rafael Rodriguez (PH) came off the bench and produced line drive singles in the bottom of the ninth inning. The contest though ended when Rando Moreno bounced into a 4-6-3 double play.

– Top prospect Christian Arroyo spent yesterday with the big league team, but was back with the “High-A” group today. The shortstop though did not play in this afternoon’s game due to a scheduled day off.

– Austin Slater continued to impress defensively at second base with another diving stop. He also had one of the hardest hit balls of the day when in his first at-bat, he ripped a screaming line drive back to the mound that was caught by the pitcher.

– Other starting pitchers in the “High-A” group charting in the stands today included Chase Johnson, D.J. Snelten and Martin Agosta.

– Tyler Horan (second-inning single) and Brian Ragira (eighth-inning single) produced the other Giants hits this afternoon.

Final roster decisions from minor league camp are expected later this week

Final roster decisions from minor league camp are expected later this week

Report from Arizona: SJ Giants Spring Training Update

By Joe Ritzo

It’s crunch-time here at minor league camp as today marked the beginning of the final week of spring exhibition games. By the weekend, the San Jose Giants roster should be set before the 2015 club breaks camp next Monday. Then of course, Tuesday, April 7 is your first opportunity to meet the new team with FanFest at Municipal Stadium (5:00-9:00 PM).

This afternoon, the Giants “High-A” and “Low-A” clubs traveled to Mesa for exhibition games against the Chicago Cubs “High-A” and “Low-A” teams. I spent the majority of my time watching the “High-A” team as several of the players who suited up today will likely be heading to San Jose early next week.

Some observations from the “High-A” game, which saw the Giants post a convincing 9-3 victory.

* The Giants starting lineup:
1. Chuckie Jones, CF
2. Brandon Bednar, SS
3. Austin Slater, 2B
4. Brian Ragira, 1B
5. Tyler Horan, RF
6. Ryder Jones, 3B
7. Rafael Rodriguez, LF
8. Matt Pare, C
9. Chris Lofton, DH
P – Luis Ysla

* Several familiar faces in this lineup with four out of the first five hitters having spent time in San Jose last season (plus Pare and Lofton at the bottom of the order). Chuckie Jones probably had the best all-around game for the Giants this afternoon. Offensively, he collected a pair of singles and an RBI in four at-bats. He also scorched a line drive into the left center gap that was dropped by the Cubs center fielder for an error. Jones stole a base as well and threw out a runner at second on a basehit into right center. A crowded outfield in Richmond is likely going to result in Jones’ return to San Jose this season, but it was notable that he started in center field today. Jones was last a full-time center fielder in 2012 (with Salem-Keizer). He served as the Giants’ primary right fielder a year ago making just nine starts in center for the entire season.

* Other offensive standouts for the Giants today included Brandon Bednar in the two-hole. Bednar spent the last two months of 2014 with San Jose and showed impressive versatility garnering starts at all four infield positions. He’ll likely play a similar role on this year’s team. This afternoon, Bednar played a smooth shortstop while producing two hits in four at-bats at the plate, including a loud RBI triple into the left center field gap.

Brian Ragira, who led the SJ Giants with 20 home runs last season, was starting at his usual first base position in today's "High-A" game

Brian Ragira, who led the SJ Giants with 20 home runs last season, was starting at his usual first base position in today’s “High-A” game

* Brian Ragira led the 2014 San Jose Giants in home runs (20) and RBI’s (82), but could return to the California League for the start of this season. Today, Ragira started at his usual first base position and batted fourth in the order. He finished 1-for-4 with an RBI double as part of a four-run top of the first inning. Ragira had been playing with the Double-A group earlier this spring, but is now working out with the High-A club. The former fourth round pick out of Stanford got off to a slow start with the Giants last season (hit .201 over April and May) before finishing strong (.297 AVG + 15 home runs after the All-Star break). A Ragira return would certainly bolster the middle of the San Jose lineup this spring.

* Tyler Horan is yet another familiar face in today’s Giants lineup. Horan, like Ragira, was considered a strong candidate for the Double-A opening day roster (and it should be noted that he could still end up there – these current rosters are not official). Horan was so impressive with the SJ Giants late last season (.321 AVG + 10 HR’s in 28 games after his promotion from Augusta) that he earned a call-up to Richmond for their playoff run in September. Horan’s 25 home runs between the GreenJackets and the Giants last year were second-most in the entire San Francisco farm system. Horan could give the 2015 SJ Giants a much-needed left-handed power bat in the middle of the order.

* Potential newcomers to the SJ Giants that were in the lineup today included third baseman Ryder Jones, second baseman Austin Slater and left fielder Rafael Rodriguez. Jones was a second round pick out of the high school ranks in 2013. He hit a combined .225 with 26 doubles, 10 home runs and 67 RBI’s in 118 games between Augusta and Salem-Keizer last year – his first full professional season. Jones has good size and some pop from the left side of the plate, which was evident today when he smacked a two-RBI double in the first inning (finished 1-for-4). Jones is still just 20 years old and would be one of the youngest players in the California League if he makes San Jose’s opening day roster.

Second baseman Austin Slater was the only 2014 draftee in the Giants lineup this afternoon

Second baseman Austin Slater was the only 2014 draftee in the Giants lineup this afternoon

* Word around the complex today was that Slater has had a terrific spring swinging the bat. The only 2014 draftee in today’s lineup, Slater was an eighth round pick last June out of Stanford (was teammates with Ragira on The Farm). Slater didn’t pick-up a hit today (0-for-2) but made some of the loudest contact of the afternoon with a deep sacrifice fly to right in the first inning and a screaming lineout to first base in his second at-bat. Slater was exclusively an outfielder in Salem-Keizer last summer (where he hit .347), but has seen substantial time on the infield this spring. This afternoon, he made the start at second base and nearly had the defensive play of the game when he made a diving stop on a grounder deep in the hole, but had the ball pop out of his glove when he jumped to his feet. Every San Jose team seems to possess a key position player or two who is going through his first full professional season (Ragira and Blake Miller were those players last season; Mac Williamson was in 2013). Slater appears to be the leading candidate to fit that distinction right now.

* Rodriguez, a 22-year old outfielder out of the Dominican Republic, has spent the bulk of the last three seasons in Augusta. He hit .269 with five homers and 41 RBI’s in 77 games last year. Rodriguez finished 0-for-3 this afternoon. Pare made the start at catcher and knocked out a double to deep left center among his two at-bats while Lofton, a starting outfielder on the 2012 and 2013 San Jose teams (and for a portion of 2014 as well), hit ninth and was 1-for-2 with a single, a walk and a stolen base.

* The Giants finished the game with 11 hits. A number of reserves were in the contest for the late-innings with second baseman Ryan Jones (no relation to either Chuckie or Ryder) belting a ninth-inning solo home run to left center field. Jones was one of Salem-Keizer’s top hitters in 2013 (.336 AVG) before batting .242 with one homer in 46 games in Augusta last season. Rando Moreno (SS), a San Jose Giant early in 2014, Cristian Paulino (RF) and Brad Moss (C) also saw action late in the game.

* 2013 first round draft pick Christian Arroyo (a shortstop) and Ty Ross, Augusta’s primary catcher last season, have also been playing for the “High-A” team this spring. They were noticeably missing today, but for good reason – both players were called-up to the big league team for the afternoon to help provide depth to San Francisco’s bench.

* On the mound, top prospect Luis Ysla made the start and was very impressive. The left-hander, who won the ERA title (2.45) in the South Atlantic League last season with Augusta, fired three scoreless innings today. Ysla allowed only one hit during his start – a first-inning single and that runner was promptly picked-off. The southpaw walked one and struck out one. When I caught a glimpse of the radar gun, Ysla was mainly sitting in the low 90’s with his fastball, but did pop a couple of pitches at 95 and 96 MPH showing some nice reach-back velocity. He struggled somewhat to locate his offspeed pitches early, but seemed much more comfortable by his third inning. Ysla had a stellar 2014 season in Augusta and should be a key piece of the San Jose rotation this season.

* Familiar faces Pat Young (2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 SO), Nick Vander Tuig (2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO) and Jake Smith (2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 SO) then each threw two innings of relief for the Giants today. Young and Vander Tuig were starters for San Jose in 2014, but could be transitioning to the bullpen this season. With Giants starters on very strict pitch counts early in the season, having arms like Young and Vander Tuig, who have the ability to go multiple innings, in middle-to-long relief should be invaluable. Smith was a top late-inning reliever for Augusta last season before he was promoted to San Jose in late-August.

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

Luis Ysla delivers a pitch in the first inning of today's "High-A" exhibition game between the Giants and Cubs

Luis Ysla delivers a pitch in the first inning of today’s “High-A” exhibition game between the Giants and Cubs

2015 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Catcher

By Joe Ritzo

san jose giantsOur season preview series concludes this week with a look at the catching position. Multiple catchers from last year’s Giants team are candidates to return to the club next month. Meanwhile, Augusta’s top catcher last season, a non-roster invitee to major league camp this spring, is likely to make the jump to the California League.

Ty Ross, San Francisco’s 12th round pick in the 2013 draft out of SEC powerhouse LSU, served as Augusta’s (Class-A) primary catcher last season and is expected to receive a promotion to San Jose. Ross caught 96 of Augusta’s 140 games last year finishing the campaign with a .246 batting average, six home runs and 48 RBI’s. His 24 doubles led the team while he was third on the club in RBI’s and fourth in home runs. Ross, who was going through his first full professional season in 2014, hit only .220 with one home run during the first half before batting at a .264 clip with five home runs after the All-Star break. His best month came in July when he collected 23 RBI’s in 28 games to go with a .278 batting average.

Catcher Ty Ross led Augusta in doubles (24) and was third on the team in RBI's (48) last season (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

Catcher Ty Ross led Augusta in doubles (24) and was third on the team in RBI’s (48) last season (photo courtesy MiLB.com)

Ross’ strongest attribute is his defense. With outstanding instincts behind the plate and a terrific throwing arm, Ross was rated as the top defensive catcher in the San Francisco farm system by Baseball America entering this season. He caught Augusta’s top-flight starting rotation last year and given that most, if not all, of those arms are headed to San Jose this spring, Ross’ familiarity with the group should pay dividends this season. His improved production at the plate during the second half of last year is also an encouraging sign that Ross can provide a lift offensively with the Giants.

There also appears to be a strong likelihood that one or two catchers from last year’s San Jose team will return to the club. Ben Turner was the main backstop for the Giants in 2014 and hit a solid .298 in 106 games, but without much power (2 HR, .371 SLG). Turner was also the toughest hitter to strikeout in the entire league last season (one K every 10.4 at-bats). Depending on how the catching depth chart shakes-out in the upper levels of the system, Turner could easily move up to Double-A Richmond for the start of the season. If not, he’d come back to San Jose and probably share time with Ross. Turner also played 20 games at first base for the Giants last year.

Trevor Brown was the Giants’ back-up catcher most of last season and is a candidate to return, especially if Turner ends up in Richmond. Brown was elevated to San Jose late in 2013 and was the Giants’ leading hitter during the playoffs that September as the club advanced to the Championship Series. Unfortunately, last season was a struggle at the plate for the UCLA product as Brown managed just a .215 batting average in 54 Cal League games to go with five doubles, two home runs and 22 RBI’s. Brown actually had more success in Triple-A Fresno last season when the Grizzlies catching corps was shorthanded. In the PCL, Brown hit .319 in 23 games with no homers and 13 RBI’s. Brown is now an experienced player in the Giants system and is also versatile having seen time at first and second base throughout his career.

Other potential back-up catchers for the 2015 San Jose Giants include familiar faces Jared Deacon and Matt Pare. Deacon, a 33rd round pick last June out of Cal State Fullerton, caught for both Salem-Keizer (Short-Season) and San Jose last summer. He ended the year as the Giants’ back-up and hit .217 (5-for-23) in eight games. Pare was a non-drafted signee out of Boston College two years ago. In 13 games with San Jose last season – all as a DH – he hit .238 with four doubles, no homers and nine RBI’s.

Catcher Aramis Garcia, a second round pick last June and one of the top hitting prospects in the system, will probably start the year in Augusta. Garcia was a standout performer at Florida International University where he earned Conference USA Player of the Year and All-American honors as a junior last spring. Garcia hit .229 with two home runs and 12 RBI’s in 20 games with Salem-Keizer last summer after signing his professional contract. He’s rated the #16 overall prospect in the system by Baseball America (#2 catcher behind Andrew Susac). Garcia, who is considered an offense-first catcher, may end up in San Jose at some point this season, but it’s unlikely that he’ll begin the year in the California League.

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

Trevor Brown, C/INF
– San Jose: .215 AVG, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 0 SB
– Fresno: .319 AVG, 0 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB

Jared Deacon, C
– San Jose: .217 AVG, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB
– Salem-Keizer: .219 AVG, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB

Matt Pare, C
– San Jose: .238 AVG, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB

Ty Ross, C
– Augusta: .246 AVG, 6 HR, 48 RBI, 1 SB

Ben Turner, C/1B
– San Jose: .298 AVG, 2 HR, 40 RBI, 0 SB

2015 SJ Giants Starting Pitching Preview

2015 SJ Giants Bullpen Preview

2015 SJ Giants Infield Preview

2015 SJ Giants Outfield Preview

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San Jose Giants TV Schedule Announced

NBCUT_Logo_chnThe San Jose Giants and Comcast have joined forces to bring fans a schedule of 25 live television broadcasts during the 2015 season – an increase of five games from last year. The games can be viewed live on Comcast Hometown Network (Digital Channel 104) throughout most Northern California regions. After the live broadcast of each contest, all 25 games will be available for cable customers to view through Comcast On Demand Channel 1.

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

Highlights of the schedule include San Jose’s home opener on April 16, a match-up against the 2014 California League champion Lancaster JetHawks, a midweek afternoon tilt on June 10 as well as special Independence Day weekend telecasts on July 4 and July 5. 24 games on the broadcast schedule are against rival North Division teams (Bakersfield – 10 games, Stockton – 8 games, Visalia – 6 games). In addition to the game broadcast, Comcast Hometown Network will provide pregame and postgame coverage of all games.

The following is Comcast Hometown Network’s San Jose Giants telecast schedule for the 2015 season:

Thursday, April 16: 7:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Friday, April 17: 7:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Saturday, April 18: 5:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Tuesday, April 28: 6:30 PM vs. Visalia Rawhide
Wednesday, April 29: 6:30 PM vs. Visalia Rawhide
Thursday, April 30: 7:00 PM vs. Visalia Rawhide
Friday, May 8: 7:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Saturday, May 9: 5:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Sunday, May 10: 1:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Monday, June 8: 7:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Tuesday, June 9: 7:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Wednesday, June 10: 12:30 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Saturday, July 4: 6:30 PM vs. Visalia Rawhide
Sunday, July 5: 6:30 PM vs. Visalia Rawhide
Monday, July 6: 7:00 PM vs. Visalia Rawhide
Friday, July 17: 7:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Saturday, July 18: 6:00 PM vs. Lancaster JetHawks
Thursday, July 30: 7:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Friday, July 31: 7:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Saturday, August 1: 5:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Sunday, August 2: 5:00 PM vs. Stockton Ports
Thursday, August 20: 7:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Friday, August 21: 7:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Saturday, August 22: 5:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze
Sunday, August 23: 1:00 PM vs. Bakersfield Blaze

*SCHEDULE SUBJECT TO CHANGE

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

Spring Training Updates

By Joe Ritzo

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

The end of last week saw four former San Jose Giants sent down to minor league camp. Pitchers Chris Heston and Cody Hall along with outfielder Jarrett Parker were optioned to Triple-A Sacramento. Heston has enjoyed a strong spring on the mound in big league games tossing nine innings with just two runs and six hits allowed. The ERA champion in the California League back in 2011, Heston has struck out 10 and walked only one batter this spring. Heston, who made his major league debut as a September call-up last season, should help anchor the Sacramento starting rotation next month.

Hall was added to the 40-man roster this past offseason, but endured a rocky spring in big league action. Over seven relief appearances, the hard-throwing right-hander has tossed seven innings with seven runs (six earned) and 11 hits surrendered. Hall, who has always displayed above-average control throughout his career, walked only one compared to eight strikeouts. A SJ Giant in 2012 and 2013, Hall was one of Richmond’s top relievers last season before a standout effort in the Venezuelan Winter League. Look for Hall to serve as one of the River Cats’ top late-inning relievers this season.

Parker, like Hall, will be looking to make his major league debut in 2015. The slugging outfielder is 5-for-22 (.227 AVG) with a double and four RBI’s in big league spring action. Parker hit 15 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last season and is expected to start at a corner outfield spot in Sacramento this year.

2014 San Jose third baseman Mitch Delfino was reassigned to minor league camp last week as well. Delfino saw limited action this spring, but was able to collect three hits in 11 at-bats (.273 AVG) with three walks and a pair of RBI’s. In all likelihood, Delfino will begin the season as Richmond’s starting third baseman.

Daniel Carbonell was officially sent down to minor league camp over a week ago, but the top prospect outfielder was called back up for a day on Monday and made the most of his opportunity. The former SJ Giant singled and homered as part of a 2-for-2 afternoon against the Royals and is now batting .333 overall (5-for-15) this spring. Carbonell’s two home runs are tied for second on the team – trailing only Brandon Belt (3).

Adalberto Mejia, who also previously was sent down, earned a call-up yesterday and fired 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief against the Indians. Mejia has made a strong impression in big league spring action as the left-hander has worked 6 1/3 innings overall with just one run and three hits allowed. Mejia, who is expected to return to the Richmond starting rotation after serving his 50-game suspension, has struck out six and not walked a batter.

Officially, San Francisco still has 40 players in camp, 19 of which are former San Jose Giants. The core group of 10 former SJ Giants (Belt, Bumgarner, Cain, Crawford, Ishikawa, Lincecum, Panik, Posey, Romo, Vogelsong) should all be on the opening day roster when the season begins April 6. Nine other former SJ Giants remain in big league camp with hopes of making the team:

* Ehire Adrianza: .212 AVG (7-33), 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 2 RBI
– Has seen the bulk of his playing time at shortstop with occasional action at second and third. Has just one hit in his last 11 at-bats.

* Gary Brown: .158 AVG (6-38), 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI
– After a strong opening week of games, Brown has tailed off at the plate with only two hits in his last 25 at-bats. Brown is also 3-for-6 in stolen base attempts this spring. He’ll likely be returning to Triple-A for the start of the season.

* Matt Duffy: .382 AVG (13-34), 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI
– Duffy has made a strong push for a spot on the opening day roster. His .382 batting average is tops on the club this spring. Duffy also hit his second home run of camp last Sunday. Duffy does still have minor league options (as opposed to Adrianza), which could hurt his cause for making the team. He has seen significant action at both second base and shortstop throughout the spring.

* Adam Duvall: .159 AVG (7-44), 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI
– Duvall is in contention for a spot on the roster as a powerful right-handed bat coming off the bench, but has largely struggled offensively. Prior to smacking a triple in yesterday’s game, Duvall had just two hits in his last 23 at-bats. He continues to see some time at first base in addition to his usual spot at the hot corner.

* Steven Okert: 6 G, 1.59 ERA, 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO
– Okert is the only non-roster invitee (non 40-man roster member) among this group of nine players, so he remains an extreme longshot to make the team. It has, however, been a positive big league camp for the top prospect reliever as he makes a push for a spot on the Triple-A Sacramento opening day roster. Okert has surrendered only one earned run in 5 2/3 innings over six relief appearances (.174 opponents batting average).

* Juan Perez: .282 AVG (11-39), 5 2B, 0 HR, 5 RBI
– Perez appears to be in a good position to make his second straight opening day roster. His five doubles are tied for the team lead to go with a .282 batting average and a pair of stolen bases. Perez has played all three outfield positions this spring.

* Hector Sanchez: .243 AVG (9-37), 3 2B, 0 HR, 4 RBI
– Sanchez has 216 big league games of experience over the last four seasons, but after his injury-riddled 2014 campaign and the emergence of Andrew Susac, is not a guarantee to make the roster. He’s batting .243 with three doubles in 15 games this spring.

* Hunter Strickland: 9 G, 7.56 ERA, 8.1 IP, 7 ER, 5 BB, 6 SO
– It was a struggle early for Strickland this spring as he allowed a home run in each of his first two appearances. He followed that up though with five straight scoreless outings yielding just two hits in the process before a difficult ninth inning against the Reds last Friday (3 ER). Strickland jumped from Double-A to the big league last September – he’ll probably get his first taste of Triple-A ball when the season begins.

* Andrew Susac: .214 AVG (3-14), 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 0 RBI
– Susac has missed significant time this spring, first due to a root canal before a wrist injury. He returned to action earlier this week and had a 2-for-2 effort at the plate on Tuesday. Susac is in competition with Sanchez for the back-up catching role.

Entering Wednesday, the Giants are 6-17-1 through 24 Cactus League games.

Episode 48 – Inside the San Jose Giants

Inside the San Jose Giants podcastIn the final podcast before the team arrives at Municipal Stadium, Joe and Ben make starting lineup projections for the 2015 San Jose Giants. The two provide a detailed breakdown of the potential lineup, including top prospects expected to begin the season in San Jose and which position players may return from last year.

2015 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Outfield

By Joe Ritzo

san jose giantsThe San Jose Giants season preview series continues this week with a look at the outfield. Multiple returnees from last year’s club could fill the bulk of the starting outfield for the Giants next month. Meanwhile, several outfielders that were drafted highly by the organization last June will be looking to earn promotions to San Jose.

Jesus Galindo, Tyler Horan and Chuckie Jones – three key members of the 2014 San Jose squad – are among the possibilities to return to the Giants outfield this year. Galindo served as San Jose’s center fielder and leadoff hitter for the majority of last season. The switch-hitting speedster finished the campaign with a .268 batting average, 22 doubles, a team-high eight triples and two home runs in 101 games. Galindo also stole 31 bases (in 44 attempts) to lead the club.

Center fielder Jesus Galindo could return to San Jose this season after leading last year's club with 31 stolen bases

Center fielder Jesus Galindo could return to San Jose this season after leading last year’s club with 31 stolen bases

Galindo started fast last season posting a .333 batting average in April. He was still hitting a solid .283 at the conclusion of the first half, but a difficult July (.219 AVG) followed by a season-ending knee injury sustained during the first week of August resulted in a sour ending to the year for the Giants leadoff man. Galindo is 24, has already spent six years in the San Francisco organization and owns an impressive 231 stolen bases in his career (last season was the first year he didn’t steal at least 40 bags since ’09). A move to Double-A for the start of 2015 would not at all be a surprise, but given the likelihood of Daniel Carbonell taking over in center field for the Richmond Flying Squirrels this season and the lack of a top center field prospect coming up from Augusta, Galindo could repeat the California League. If he does, that would give the Giants an exciting base stealing threat at the top of their lineup.

Horan and Jones are both power-hitting corner outfielders, who like Galindo, have visions of making the Double-A roster coming out of camp. However, a crowded corner outfield picture in Richmond – one that could include Mac Williamson, Devin Harris and possibly Elliott Blair – will likely result in one of the sluggers coming back to San Jose.

The most likely scenario has Horan starting the year in Double-A despite having less experience in the California League of the two. Horan hit .273 and clubbed a team-high 15 home runs in 102 games with Augusta last season before an early-August promotion to San Jose. With the Giants to close the regular season, Horan then smacked 10 more home runs in just 28 games to go with 27 RBI’s and a .321 batting average. Horan, a former eighth round draft pick out of Virginia Tech, was so impressive with San Jose that he earned a promotion to Richmond for their playoff run last September. Given all that, he’s probably headed back to the Flying Squirrels this April, but a return to the Giants remains a possibility.

A seventh round pick out of the high school ranks in 2010, Jones has had a slow climb through the system. After enduring a demotion back to Salem-Keizer (Short-season level) in 2012, Jones spent all of 2013 in Augusta where he hit .236 with 10 home runs. Jones then moved up to San Jose last year and played in a team-leading 131 games, primarily as the club’s right fielder. Jones started slow last season, but showed gradual improvement as the year progressed. Overall, he finished with a .256 batting average, 19 doubles, 15 home runs, 66 RBI’s and 17 stolen bases. He ended the season second on the team in homers and steals and fourth in RBI’s.

As San Jose's youngest position player last year, Chuckie Jones hit .256 with 15 home runs and 66 RBI's

As San Jose’s youngest position player last year, Chuckie Jones hit .256 with 15 home runs and 66 RBI’s

Jones, who is still just 22 (he was the youngest position player on last year’s San Jose team), possesses intriguing potential. He had some of the best raw power on the Giants last season while also showing the ability to steal bases regularly. He hit 10 out of his 15 home runs after the All-Star break and posted a .274 batting average in August to close out of the year. Jones though has struggled to make consistent contact throughout his career and struck out a team-high 150 times last season. Given his youth, the up-and-down nature of his 2014 season and the expected crowded outfield in Richmond, a return to the California League seems possible, if not likely, for Jones. If that’s the case, 2015 would serve as a very important year for Jones as he’d be expected to help anchor the middle of the San Jose lineup.

The 2014 Augusta GreenJackets featured an underwhelming outfield corps and thus very few from the group may receive promotions to San Jose. Left fielder Rafael Rodriguez, who signed for over $2 million as a 16-year old back in 2008, is the most likely of the GreenJackets to move up to the Cal League. 2014 marked Rodriguez’s third year in Augusta and the former top prospect hit .269 with five home runs and 41 RBI’s in 77 games. Cristian Paulino saw action at all three outfield positions with the GreenJackets last season and batted .240 with three homers and a team-high 20 stolen bases in 92 games. Meanwhile, veteran Chris Lofton, who spent all of 2012 and 2013 and a portion of 2014 in San Jose, was a key member of the Augusta outfield last season. In 76 games with the GreenJackets, mainly as their starting center fielder, Lofton hit .250 with two home runs and 17 stolen bases.

In all likelihood, the 2015 San Jose outfield will be mixture of returnees and players making the jump from Salem-Keizer. Austin Slater, an eighth round pick last June out of Stanford, had a stellar debut professional season in the Short-Season Northwest League last summer. Slater played in 29 games for the Volcanoes and batted .347 with six doubles, two home runs and 23 RBI’s. He also collected seven stolen bases. Slater had multi-hits in 12 out of his 29 games.

Slater has experience of playing high-level college baseball in the Pac-12 Conference and given his success in Salem last year, would be a logical candidate to skip past Augusta and join San Jose this spring. Slater can play both corner outfield positions and also made six starts in center field last season with the Volcanoes. He was originally a middle infielder at the start of his collegiate career. In his last season at Stanford, Slater earned All-Pac-12 honors after batting a team-best .341 with two home runs and 40 RBI’s.

2014 third round pick Dylan Davis is a candidate to make the jump to San Jose. Davis was a standout outfielder at Oregon State University before his selection in last year’s draft. During his final season at OSU, Davis led the Pac-12 with 64 RBI’s to go with seven home runs and a .283 batting average. He hit a team-high .335 as a sophomore in 2013.

Davis features outstanding power and a terrific arm in right field. He blasted four home runs in just 23 games with Salem-Keizer last summer, but managed only a .200 batting average. Davis has exciting potential and will be an everyday player wherever he lands this season – likely either Augusta or San Jose.

Seth Harrison was a seventh round pick last June after a collegiate career at Louisiana-Lafayette. As Salem-Keizer’s primary center fielder and leadoff man last summer, Harrison hit .266 with a pair of triples, no home runs and 11 stolen bases in 37 games. If Galindo receives a promotion to Richmond, center field could open up for Harrison in San Jose.

Finally, Hunter Cole, a 26th rounder last year out of the University of Georgia, is another candidate to earn a promotion from Salem-Keizer to San Jose. Cole was a standout performer in the SEC last spring as he led Georgia with a .319 batting average, mainly as their third baseman. After signing with the Giants, Cole was sent to Salem-Keizer where he batted .239 with four home runs in 27 games. Cole was primarily a left fielder and a DH with the Volcanoes, but also saw action at first and third. He could fill a role as a valuable utility man with San Jose this spring or perhaps settle in at one specific position with left field or third base being the most likely spots.

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

Hunter Cole, OF/3B/1B
– Salem-Keizer: .239 AVG, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB

Dylan Davis, RF
– Salem-Keizer: .200 AVG, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB

Jesus Galindo, CF
– San Jose: .268 AVG, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 31 SB

Seth Harrison, CF
– Salem-Keizer: .266 AVG, 0 HR, 20 RBI, 11 SB

Tyler Horan, LF/RF
– San Jose: .321 AVG, 10 HR, 27 RBI, 6 SB
– Augusta: .273 AVG, 15 HR, 54 RBI, 9 SB

Chuckie Jones, RF
– San Jose: .256 AVG, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 17 SB

Chris Lofton, CF/LF
– San Jose: .189 AVG, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 4 SB
– Augusta: .250 AVG, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 17 SB

Cristian Paulino, OF
– Augusta: .240 AVG, 3 HR, 31 RBI, 20 SB

Rafael Rodriguez, LF
– Augusta: .269 AVG, 5 HR, 41 RBI, 2 SB

Austin Slater, OF
– Salem-Keizer: .347 AVG, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 7 SB

The 2015 San Jose Giants preview series concludes next week with a look at the catching position.

2015 SJ Giants Starting Pitching Preview

2015 SJ Giants Bullpen Preview

2015 SJ Giants Infield Preview

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Recent Former SJ Giants Among First Big League Roster Cuts

By Joe Ritzo

Former SJ Giant Mac Williamson went 5-for-15 with two triples in big league spring action

Former SJ Giant Mac Williamson went 5-for-15 with two triples in big league spring action

The San Francisco Giants made their first round of roster cuts today as 14 players were sent to minor league camp, including several standouts from the last two San Jose teams. 2013 SJ Giants Ty Blach, Kyle Crick, Derek Law, Adalberto Mejia and Mac Williamson along with 2014 players Daniel Carbonell and Chris Stratton were among the players who 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.

Among the group, Williamson may have made the strongest impression. The slugging corner outfielder, who returned to action after undergoing Tommy John surgery early last season, collected five hits in 15 at-bats (.333 AVG) in big league spring games with a double and a team-high tying two triples. Williamson is probably ticketed for Double-A Richmond when the minor league regular season begins next month.

Williamson will likely be joined in the Flying Squirrels outfield by Carbonell. Carbonell was optioned to the Richmond roster today (as a 40-man roster member, he has to be “optioned” to a minor league team when sent down; non 40-man players are just “reassigned to minor league camp”). Carbonell was 2-for-12 (.167 AVG) with a home run, three RBI’s and a stolen base.

Gregorio and Mejia were the most impressive pitchers on the early cut list. Gregorio is expected to open the year in San Jose’s rotation and was optioned to the SJ Giants roster today. In five spring relief appearances, Gregorio tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings with four hits allowed, no walks and two strikeouts. Gregorio began last season in San Jose, but after a pair of DL stints during the first half, was sent down to Augusta (Class-A) where he finished the year. He was then placed on the 40-man roster after the season concluded.

Mejia, who will serve a 50-game suspension to start the 2015 campaign, surrendered just one run and two hits over five innings this spring. The left-hander struck out five and walked only one. Mejia, currently rated the #6 prospect in the Giants system by Baseball America, spent all of last season in Richmond’s starting rotation and may return to the Flying Squirrels once his suspension has been completed.

Crick excelled in his first two relief appearances in big league spring games tossing a combined 4 2/3 scoreless innings with just two hits allowed, three walks and three strikeouts. The top prospect though was roughed up yesterday in a relief outing against the Cincinnati Reds when he was tagged for five earned runs (two homers) on five hits in two innings. A major storyline at the end of camp will be Crick’s landing spot – will he return to Richmond or receive a promotion to Triple-A?

Blach was hit hard in his first two outings (one of which was a start) yielding a combined 10 runs in four innings. The lefty though bounced back nicely late last week against Texas working three shutout innings out of the bullpen with just two hits allowed, no walks and two strikeouts. Meanwhile, Stratton made three appearances (one start) in big league spring action and gave up three earned runs on 10 hits in five total innings (3 BB, 2 SO). Look for Blach and Stratton to start the season in Sacramento and Richmond respectively.

Law didn’t appear in a big league spring game as he continues his rehab from Tommy John surgery. As a 40-man member, Law was optioned onto San Jose’s roster. Much like Hunter Strickland and his recovery from TJ surgery last year, Law could start his season back in the California League once he’s ready for game action.

2013 San Jose shortstop Kelby Tomlinson was also reassigned to minor league camp today. Tomlinson was 0-for-5 with three walks in big league spring action.

Former San Jose pitchers Clayton Blackburn and Ray Black were sent down to minor league camp weeks ago as both dealt with minor injuries. Neither appeared in a big league spring game.

Shortstop Christian Arroyo (4-for-8, 2B, RBI) and catcher Ty Ross (1-for-7), two players who could open the 2015 season in San Jose, were also reassigned to minor league camp. Arroyo, a former first round pick, hit .333 for Salem-Keizer (Short-Season) last year. Ross was Augusta’s primary catcher in 2014 and hit .246 with six home runs in 117 games.

After today’s moves, 23 former San Jose Giants remain in big league camp, only two of which are non-roster invitees (pitcher Steven Okert and third baseman Mitch Delfino).

2015 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Infield

By Joe Ritzo

san jose giantsThe San Jose Giants season preview series continues this week with a look at the players who could fill out the infield. A key contributor from the second half last season for the Giants, Salem-Keizer’s top home run hitter last summer and a recent first round draft pick highlight a possible starting infield for San Jose in 2015.

The starting infielder most likely to return to the Giants this spring is probably Brandon Bednar. A seventh round draft pick in 2013 out of Florida Gulf Coast University, Bednar spent time with both Augusta (Class-A) and San Jose last season. He hit .275 with one home run in 74 games for the GreenJackets before receiving an early-July promotion to the California League.

Brandon Bednar started at all four infield positions for the San Jose Giants last season

Brandon Bednar started at all four infield positions for the San Jose Giants last season

With San Jose, Bednar was immediately thrust into a full-time role and excelled throughout July batting at a .300 clip during the month – often hitting in either the second or third spot in the lineup. A 10-day stint on the disabled list and the rigors of completing his first full professional season were likely factors in Bednar slumping throughout August (.175 AVG), but he continued to provide tremendous value to the club as someone capable of starting at all four infield positions. In his 48 games with San Jose last summer, Bednar made 24 starts at shortstop, 10 starts at second base and six starts each at first and third base. He was primarily a third baseman in Augusta before his promotion and saw more action at second while in Salem-Keizer (Short-Season) the previous season.

Bednar’s final numbers in the California League last year included five home runs in his 48 games to go with seven doubles, 16 RBI’s, three stolen bases and a .241 batting average. While Bednar’s return to San Jose as an everyday player seems almost certain, the big question will be whether he settles in mainly at one position or continues to bounce around the infield.

First baseman Brian Ragira (.260, 20 HR, 82 RBI) struggled offensively throughout the first half last season, but hit .297 with 15 home runs after the All-Star break. He ultimately led the team in homers and RBI’s, which will probably result in a promotion to Double-A Richmond. Third baseman Mitch Delfino (.289, 12 HR, 77 RBI) is currently participating in big league camp and should anchor the Flying Squirrels infield along with second baseman Blake Miller (.299, 8 HR, 73 RBI), who was promoted to the Eastern League last August.

Meanwhile, utility infielders Alberto Robles and Ydwin Villegas are candidates to return to San Jose. Robles, who split time between second and short last season, hit .224 with two home runs and 23 RBI’s in 60 games for the Giants. Villegas batted just .205 in 50 games, mainly at shortstop, but has had several stints in Triple-A over the last two seasons. One or both of Robles and Villegas could be back in San Jose this spring to add depth to the infield group.

If Ragira earns a promotion to Richmond at the start of the season, the most likely player to step in at first base is Skyler Ewing, a sixth round draft pick last June out of Rice University. A right-handed power hitter, Ewing led Salem-Keizer with eight home runs in 51 games last summer. He also produced nine doubles, 31 RBI’s and a .291 batting average – primarily from the fourth spot in the lineup. Ewing also displayed a patient approach at the plate with more walks (36) than strikeouts (28) resulting in an impressive .417 on-base percentage.

In his last year at Rice, Ewing hit .335 with nine home runs in 61 games. He was also an All-Star in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League and won the home run derby there during his collegiate career.

There are often a small handful of hitters drafted out of the collegiate ranks who open their first full professional season in San Jose. Last year, it was Ragira and Miller. Mac Williamson did it in 2013 while Joe Panik, Andrew Susac and Ricky Oropesa were first-year players on the 2012 team. Given Ewing’s success last summer in Salem, his experience of playing high-level college baseball and the lack of a notable performer at first base in Augusta last season, he would appear to be a strong candidate this spring.

Another standout from last year’s Salem-Keizer squad poised to make the jump to San Jose is 2013 first round draft pick Christian Arroyo. Arroyo is still only 19 years old (will turn 20 in May) and while it’s uncommon for the SF Giants to elevate a teenager to the California League, it’s not unprecedented (recently Tommy Joseph, Nick Noonan and Angel Villalona were teenage position players in SJ).

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

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

Arroyo may need an impressive spring to earn a spot on San Jose’s opening day roster, but he’s likely put himself in contention thanks to two outstanding seasons to begin his career. In 2013 while playing for the AZL-Giants (Rookie), Arroyo won the Arizona Rookie League MVP award after batting .326 with 18 doubles, two home runs and 39 RBI’s in 45 games. Then last summer in Salem, Arroyo finished second in the Northwest League with a .333 batting average in 58 games to go with 14 doubles, a pair of triples, five homers, 48 RBI’s and six stolen bases. Arroyo, who often batted second or third in the order with the Volcanoes, finished strong last year hitting .364 in August while his overall batting average with runners in scoring position was an excellent .403.

Of note, Arroyo did struggle in Augusta to open last season batting just .203 with one home run in 31 games before suffering a sprained thumb. Once healthy, he returned to action in Salem-Keizer in mid-June and thrived with the Volcanoes for the remainder of the season. His slow start in Augusta early last season could give the front office some pause as to whether Arroyo is ready for the California League.

Arroyo, who is a right-handed batter, was drafted as a shortstop and played the position exclusively in rookie-ball and in Salem-Keizer. He shifted over to second base while in Augusta and many scouting reports note that he may end up there (or at third base) in the long-run. Baseball America ranks Arroyo as the #10 overall prospect in the San Francisco farm system entering 2015. He’s the third-highest position player on the list behind only Andrew Susac (#1) and Matt Duffy (#9). BA describes Arroyo as having a “balanced, simple swing with some whip that should allow him to hit for average with at least gap power, and he shows adjustments from at-bat to at-bat.”

The SF Giants selected Arroyo with the 25th overall pick two years ago. In the second round, they again went the high school route picking third baseman Ryder Jones. Jones is probably more of a longshot to begin the year in the California League, but could see time in San Jose at some point in 2015. Jones also excelled in the Arizona Rookie League two years ago batting .317 to form a 1-2 punch along with Arroyo. He then had modest success in Augusta during the first half last season before a prolonged slump in June and July resulting in a demotion to Salem-Keizer. In 118 games between the two teams last year, Jones hit only .225 with 10 home runs and 67 RBI’s. Still just 20 years old, Jones is probably ticketed for Augusta next month, but could potentially force his way up to San Jose. Baseball America ranks Jones the #30 prospect in the organization.

The bulk of the San Jose infield on opening day will probably consist of players who were either in the Cal League at the end of last season or are making the jump from Salem-Keizer. Many of the players who made up Augusta’s infield last season struggled and are unlikely candidates for a promotion to the Giants. One possible exception is power-hitting second baseman Jeremy Sy.

Sy was a 12th round pick in 2012 out of the University of Louisiana-Monroe, where he earned Sun Belt Player of the Year honors as a senior. The start of Sy’s pro career was then delayed as he underwent Tommy John surgery on his elbow just after signing with the Giants. He finally debuted in 2013 with Salem-Keizer and hit .294 with team-high totals of eight home runs and 41 RBI’s as their primary shortstop. Last year he moved up to Augusta, where he split time between second base and DH. The positives to Sy’s year included 13 home runs, which ranked second on the GreenJackets. He also stole 16 bases, produced 13 doubles, four triples and drew a team-high 50 walks. Sy though managed just a .216 batting average in 92 games. He’s already 25 years old and given his experience, his impressive power/speed numbers last season and the lack of top infield performers on Augusta’s team, Sy figures to be a strong candidate for a promotion to San Jose.

Finally, Sam Mende, who finished last season in San Jose could return to the Giants next month. Mende was originally drafted by the Rockies and had a solid 2012 season in the South Atlantic League with Class-A Asheville (.281 AVG, 12 HR, 68 RBI, 23 SB). He then suffered through an injury-plagued 2013 campaign in Modesto (played in only 16 games) and then after struggling early in ’14 with the Nuts, was released. The Giants promptly signed Mende and he found himself back in the Cal League by the end of the season. In 18 games with San Jose, Mende hit .191 with a pair of doubles, a triple and an RBI. He was exclusively a second baseman with the Giants, but has also seen substantial playing time at third throughout his career.

2015 San Jose Giants Infield Candidates
(2014 regular season statistics are listed)

Christian Arroyo, SS
– Salem-Keizer: .333 AVG, 5 HR, 48 RBI, 6 SB
– Augusta: .203 AVG, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 1 SB

Brandon Bednar, UTIL
– San Jose: .241 AVG, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 3 SB
– Augusta: .275 AVG, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 8 SB

Skyler Ewing, 1B
– Salem-Keizer: .291 AVG, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 0 SB

Ryder Jones, 3B
– Augusta: .220 AVG, 7 HR, 49 RBI, 6 SB
– Salem-Keizer: .243 AVG, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 1 SB

Sam Mende, 2B/3B
– San Jose: .191 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB
– Salem-Keizer: .227 AVG, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB
– Modesto: .155 AVG, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 2 SB

Alberto Robles, SS/2B
– San Jose: .224 AVG, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 9 SB

Jeremy Sy, 2B
– Augusta: .216 AVG, 13 HR, 36 RBI, 16 SB

Ydwin Villegas, SS
– San Jose: .205 AVG, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 5 SB
– Fresno: .147 AVG, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB

The 2015 San Jose Giants preview series continues next Monday with a look at the outfield.

2015 SJ Giants Starting Pitching Preview

2015 SJ Giants Bullpen Preview

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Episode 47 – Inside the San Jose Giants

Inside the San Jose Giants podcastIn this podcast episode, Joe and Ben discuss candidates for the 2015 San Jose Giants pitching staff. The two breakdown the exciting group of starting pitchers from last year’s Augusta team who are expected to join the Giants and which recent first round draft pick could make the jump to San Jose. The podcast also includes an analysis of how former San Jose Giants have fared in early spring training games.

2015 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Relief Pitchers

By Joe Ritzo

san jose giantsOur season preview series continues this week with a look at some of the arms that could make up the San Jose Giants bullpen. Several relievers over the past two seasons, such as Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, Cody Hall and Steven Okert emerged as top prospects with their standout performances in San Jose. Now looking ahead to this season, a combination of exciting newcomers and returnees should form the Giants bullpen.

Ray Black and Jake Smith – two relievers promoted to San Jose from Augusta for the stretch run late last season – are candidates to anchor the Giants bullpen at the start of the year. Black was a seventh round pick in the 2011 draft out of the University of Pittsburgh, but didn’t debut professionally until last season due to a significant shoulder injury. The wait to get back on the mound was a long one for Black, but the hard-throwing right-hander certainly made quite a first impression. In 33 relief appearances with the GreenJackets last season, Black posted a 3.73 ERA with an incredible 64 strikeouts in just 31 1/3 innings. Black allowed only 16 hits, walked 14 and limited the opposition to a .147 batting average. Then in four outings with San Jose to close the year, he fanned seven more batters over four innings with just one run and one hit allowed.

San Jose bullpen candidate Ray Black can reach 100+ MPH with his fastball

San Jose bullpen candidate Ray Black can reach 100+ MPH with his fastball

Given his lengthy injury history (that dates back to his high school and college days), the Giants front office was understandably cautious with Black last year. He received two days of rest between every outing (until the last week) and never pitched more than one inning. Now with a year under his belt, and assuming good health, look for Black to increase his time on the mound in 2015.

Baseball America rates Black, who is 24 years old, as having the best fastball in the entire Giants farm system entering 2015. He routinely sits in the upper 90’s and hit 101 MPH at Municipal Stadium in a late-August appearance (BA wrote that he even reached 103 last season). Black complements his overpowering fastball with a hard slider that also serves as a strikeout pitch. San Francisco has placed Black on their 40-man roster and could fast-track the ace reliever straight to Double-A to start the season. If not, look for Black to light up the radar gun in the California League as a key component of the San Jose bullpen.

Meanwhile, Smith had an excellent year in Augusta last season as well before a late call-up to the SJ Giants. In a team-high 48 appearances with the GreenJackets, Smith fashioned a 2.79 ERA. He averaged well over a strikeout per inning pitched (77 K’s in 58 IP), gave up just one home run for the entire year and held the opposition to a .221 batting average.

Smith then continued to impress in San Jose firing five no-hit innings with six strikeouts over two relief appearances (he did give up eight runs in a spot-start to close the year). A late pick in the 2011 draft out of Campbell University (48th round), Smith is almost certainly ticketed for the Cal League this season, where’d he figure to be a valuable late-inning reliever for the Giants.

Two other standouts from last year’s Augusta bullpen who could also be headed to San Jose this season include right-handers Dan Slania and Carlos Alvarado. Slania is a closing candidate after he led the GreenJackets with 12 saves (in 14 opportunities) last year. A fifth round pick in 2013, Slania struck out 46 and walked 21 in 58 2/3 innings with Augusta while compiling a 3.99 ERA. Slania, who is listed at 6’5″ and 275 lbs., will throw a fastball in the low-to-mid 90’s. He was promoted to Double-A Richmond last August to help bolster a depleted Flying Squirrels bullpen for their playoff run and more than held his own in the Eastern League yielding just two runs over 11 innings.

Slania attended the University of Notre Dame where he holds the school record for career saves (30). He should get his first taste of the California League to open the 2015 season.

Alvarado had an excellent 2014 season in the Augusta bullpen logging a 2.03 ERA over 62 innings. The 25-year old Venezuelan struck out 55 and walked only 13 while holding the opposition to a .205 batting average. Alvarado pitched at least two innings on 14 occasions last year and had eight appearances of at least three innings or more. Given that track record, he could be an important member of this year’s San Jose bullpen as someone who often pitches multiple innings and bridges the gap between starter and closer.

Like Slania, Alvarado was promoted to Richmond last August. He had a 5.87 ERA in 15 1/3 innings with the Flying Squirrels.

The relief quartet of Black, Smith, Slania and Alvarado all enjoyed tremendous success in Augusta last season before finishing the year at a higher level. They now all figure to be strong candidates to start 2015 in San Jose. All four pitchers though are right-handed, so who are some of the left-handed possibilities for the Giants bullpen?

Lefty Mason McVay could return to the Cal League after spending all of 2014 in San Jose. The 6’7” southpaw out of Florida International University compiled a 4.38 ERA in 47 relief appearances with the Giants. A workhorse out of the bullpen, McVay often pitched multiple innings during his relief outings last year. Over his 72 total innings pitched, he struck out 83, walked 26 and had a .232 opponents batting average (.214 vs. left-handed hitters).

It was an up-and-down season for McVay as he started slow (ERA over 10 in April), but then had a 19-inning scoreless stretch during May and June. McVay closed the year with a 6.39 ERA in August. He’ll look to earn a spot in the Richmond bullpen this spring, but a return to San Jose is a possibility.

D.J. Snelten is another left-handed relief option for the Giants this season. Snelten (who like McVay is 6’7”) was a successful starting pitcher at the University of Minnesota before his selection in the ninth round of the 2013 draft. However, he was used exclusively as a reliever last season while in Augusta and Salem-Keizer. In 20 games out of the GreenJackets bullpen, Snelten was very impressive posting a 1.23 ERA. He struck out 32 and walked 16 in 29 1/3 innings and held left-handed hitters to a .194 batting average.

Snelten spent over a month on the disabled list during the second half and when he returned, was sent down to Salem-Keizer. With the Volcanoes, he wasn’t nearly as effective allowing seven runs over 9 1/3 innings (12 K’s) to close out the year. Snelten, who turns 23 in May, could return to Augusta to start this season or potentially make a move up to San Jose.

Other possible returnees to the Giants bullpen this season include Ian Gardeck and Jeff Soptic – two right-handers with fastballs in the upper 90’s, but also control issues. Gardeck was one of Augusta’s top relievers in 2013 (3.21 ERA), however he struggled to translate that success to the Cal League last season. In 17 appearances with the Giants, Gardeck owned a high 9.38 ERA and had more walks (28) than strikeouts (19). Gardeck also missed time during the middle portion of the season due to a hip injury.

Soptic has made 68 appearances with San Jose over the last two seasons. He lowered his ERA from 6.26 in 2013 to 4.60 last season, but still struggled to throw strikes consistently. Soptic fanned 64 batters in 62 2/3 innings in 2014, but also walked 62, which led the entire pitching staff. A former third round pick by the White Sox out of the junior college ranks, Soptic was acquired via trade by San Francisco two years ago in the deal that sent Conor Gillaspie to Chicago. Soptic is still only 23 (turns 24 in April) and possesses one of the best fastballs in the system, but needs to show improvement in his control this season.

Finally, Pat Young and Martin Agosta – two starting pitchers on last year’s San Jose team – will likely return in 2015, but it could be as relievers. Young had a 9-6 record with a 6.13 ERA in 23 starts last season for the Giants. The former 13th round pick out of Villanova pitched more than five innings in just seven out of his 23 starts. Young thrived in July last season (4-0, 3.04) before difficulties in August (0-3, 10.53).

Agosta will be in desperate need of a bounce back season. A second round draft pick in 2012 out of St. Mary’s, Agosta was an All-Star starting pitcher for the Augusta GreenJackets in his first full professional season. The right-hander though was never able to get on track in San Jose last year posting a 9.23 ERA in 11 starts with more walks (34) than strikeouts (25).

Given the number of elite pitching prospects that should fill out San Jose’s starting rotation this April, it would not be a surprise if Young and/or Agosta shifted to the bullpen if they do return to the California League.

2015 San Jose Giants Relief Pitcher Candidates
(2014 regular season statistics listed)

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

Carlos Alvarado, RHP
– Augusta: 32 G, 6-1, 2.03 ERA, 62.0 IP, 13 BB, 55 SO
– Richmond: 11 G, 2-0, 5.87 ERA, 15.1 IP, 5 BB, 11 SO

Ray Black, RHP
– Augusta: 33 G, 1-3, 3.73 ERA, 31.1 IP, 14 BB, 64 SO (1 SV)
– San Jose: 4 G, 1-0, 2.25 ERA, 4.0 IP, 2 BB, 7 SO

Ian Gardeck, RHP
– San Jose: 17 G, 1-2, 9.38 ERA, 24.0 IP, 28 BB, 19 SO
– Salem-Keizer: 12 G, 2-1, 2.70 ERA, 13.1 IP, 11 BB, 24 SO (1 SV)

Mason McVay, LHP
– San Jose: 47 G, 0-5, 4.38 ERA, 72.0 IP, 26 BB, 83 SO (1 SV)

Dan Slania, RHP
– Augusta: 43 G, 2-5, 3.99 ERA, 58.2 IP, 21 BB, 46 SO (12 SV)
– Richmond: 10 G, 0-0, 0.79 ERA, 11.1 IP, 3 BB, 3 SO

Jake Smith, RHP
– Augusta: 48 G, 3-5, 2.79 ERA, 58.0 IP, 30 BB, 77 SO (5 SV)
– San Jose: 3 G, 1 GS, 0-1, 10.80 ERA, 6.2 IP, 4 BB, 8 SO

D.J. Snelten, LHP
– Augusta: 20 G, 4-1, 1.23 ERA, 29.1 IP, 16 BB, 32 SO
– Salem-Keizer: 9 G, 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 9.1 IP, 4 BB, 12 SO

Jeff Soptic, RHP
– San Jose: 36 G, 2-1, 4.60 ERA, 62.2 IP, 62 BB, 64 SO

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

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

2015 SJ Giants Starting Pitching Preview

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Former SJ Giants Receive Early Spring Playing Time

cactus-leagueCactus League games down in Arizona are underway as the San Francisco Giants prepare for the 2015 season. Several recent former San Jose Giants have received early spring playing time with Adam Duvall and Adalberto Mejia among the top performers.

Duvall is in the mix this spring for a spot on San Francisco’s opening day roster. The San Jose Giants record-holder for single-season home runs (hit 30 in 2012), Duvall made his major league debut last season when he was called up in late-June. The first/third baseman spent the majority of 2014 in Triple-A where he hit 27 home runs for the Fresno Grizzlies to lead the entire Giants farm system. Duvall opened this spring with a bang when he blasted a solo home run as part of a 2-for-4 afternoon at the plate against the A’s on Tuesday. San Francisco could be in need of a slugging right-handed bat off the bench when they open the season and with continued success this spring, Duvall would make himself an attractive candidate for the job.

Mejia won’t be opening the year in the major leagues, in fact, the left-hander will have to serve a 50-game suspension at the start of the season for violating baseball’s drug policy. However, Mejia made a strong first impression in big league camp yesterday afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium against Oakland. In his one inning of work out of the bullpen, Mejia didn’t allow any runs or hits while registering a pair of strikeouts (he did hit one batter). Mejia, who excelled in the San Jose starting rotation during the 2013 season, is still just 21 years old. He logged a 4.67 ERA in 21 starts with Richmond last year and will likely return to Double-A this season after his suspension. Baseball America rated Mejia as the top left-handed starting pitching prospect in the Giants system at the start of this year.

In other early spring action, former California League All-Star Ty Blach had a rough outing on Wednesday versus the Athletics. Blach faced 10 batters out of the bullpen and yielded six hits and one walk with five runs (all earned) allowed. A non-roster invitee to big league camp this spring, Blach figures to begin the year in the Triple-A Sacramento starting rotation. Joan Gregorio relieved Blach yesterday and fired a scoreless inning. Gregorio did surrender two hits and allowed a pair of Blach’s runners to score. Gregorio pitched briefly for San Jose early last season and is a strong candidate to open 2015 back in the California League. He was added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster last November.

Hunter Strickland is looking for a strong spring to bolster his case for a spot on the opening day roster. Unfortunately, Strickland’s first outing was a rocky one as the hard-throwing right-hander allowed a home run as part of a three-run inning in Tuesday’s opener. Cody Hall, who like Gregorio was added to the 40-man roster after last season, also gave up a home run in his first appearance of the spring – a solo shot on Tuesday. Hall, who will probably earn his first taste of Triple-A ball when the regular season opens, struck one one in his one inning of work.

Former SJ Giants Ehire Adrianza (1-for-4, BB, K) and Matt Duffy (1-for-4, 2B, 2 K) might be in direct competition for the final reserve infield spot on San Francisco’s roster. Both should receive substantial playing time throughout Cactus League games. Meanwhile, Juan Perez (0-for-2) is a leading candidate to make the team should the organization want to carry a true fifth outfielder. Fellow 40-man roster members Gary Brown (0-for-4, K, SB) and Jarrett Parker (1-for-3, 2 K) should also play quite a bit throughout the month, but the duo will probably start the year back in Triple-A.

Finally, a pair of 2014 San Jose Giants hitters have seen action early this spring in third baseman Mitch Delfino and outfielder Daniel Carbonell. Delfino, a non-roster invitee, came off the bench yesterday and singled in two at-bats. Carbonell, who is on the 40-man roster, is 0-for-3 through the first two games. In all likelihood, Delfino and Carbonell will open the season with Richmond.

Over in minor league camp, players are reporting throughout the week with the first full workout scheduled for Saturday. Here are our top Giants minor league camp storylines.

2015 San Jose Giants Season Preview: Starting Pitchers

By Joe Ritzo

san jose giantsOur 2015 San Jose Giants position-by-position preview series begins today with a look at the starting rotation.

Since the club’s inception in 1988, no California League team can match San Jose’s success on the mound. 10 Giants hurlers have won the Cal League Pitcher of the Year award while San Jose has led the league in ERA eight times over the last 11 seasons. Looking ahead to this spring, the starting rotation will likely be the strength of the Giants once again. A talented group of hurlers that were in Augusta last season should make the jump to the California League this year. The San Jose rotation may also include San Francisco’s first round pick from last June’s draft and a starter or two returning from the 2014 team.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When They Were San Jose Giants: Madison Bumgarner

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHEN THEY WERE SAN JOSE GIANTS SERIES

Buster Posey

Hunter Strickland

Travis Ishikawa

Tim Lincecum

Brandon Crawford

Matt Duffy

Brandon Belt

Sergio Romo

Juan Perez

Joe Panik

Episode 46 – Inside the San Jose Giants

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

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

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

Giants Minor League Camp Storylines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When They Were San Jose Giants: Buster Posey

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitchers and Catchers Report Today

By Joe Ritzo

SF Giants logoSan Francisco Giants pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale today signifying the official start of spring training. A few days later, all 62 players invited to camp will have arrived with the first full squad workout scheduled for next Tuesday. Of the 62 players, 34 are former San Jose Giants with many of those attempting to earn spots on the opening day roster while others will be appearing in their first league big camp looking to make a good impression.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Prospects Know The Way To San Jose

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When They Were San Jose Giants: Hunter Strickland

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

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

Giants Minor League Camp Schedule

Giants minor league spring training begins March 4

Giants minor league spring training begins March 4

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

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

Minor league spring training is an ultra-competitive setting as over 150 players will be fighting for roster spots on the four teams scheduled to begin their seasons in early-April (Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels, High-A San Jose Giants and Class-A Augusta GreenJackets). Beginning on the 18th, the San Francisco front office will put players on the four individual teams: a Triple-A squad, a Double-A team, a High-A team and a Class-A club. Those four teams will play a 15-game exhibition schedule over the following 2 1/2 weeks against other organizations in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An official announcement of the 2015 San Jose Giants roster will not occur until after the final exhibition game.

The San Jose Giants open their 140-game regular season on Thursday, April 9 in Lancaster.

The primary field at the Giants minor league facility in Scottsdale

The primary field at the Giants minor league facility in Scottsdale

Another field at the Giants minor league facility

Another field at the Giants minor league facility

Episode 45 – Inside the San Jose Giants

Inside the San Jose Giants podcastWith spring training right around the corner, Joe and Ben discuss top San Francisco Giants minor league camp storylines on this podcast episode. The two address Mac Williamson returning from injury, where some of the elite prospects in the organization could start this season and which relief pitchers end up on the “fast track” to the big leagues in 2015. They also examine which players are in need of a bounce back year and the recent high draft picks who could play in San Jose this season.

Giants Minor League Camp Storylines

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When They Were San Jose Giants: Travis Ishikawa

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pirates’ loss though was the Giants gain.

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

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

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

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crick is the only San Francisco Giant prospect on the MLB.com Top 100 list entering this season. Last year, Crick (#32) and Edwin Escobar (#95) were the Giants prospects in the top 100. Escobar is currently in the Boston Red Sox organization after he was traded last July. Crick (#84) and Gary Brown (#100) were top 100 prospects entering 2013. Brandon Belt earned the highest Giants ranking of the last five years when he was the #17 prospect in baseball at the start of the 2011 season.

Minnesota Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, has been rated as the #1 overall prospect by MLB.com for a second straight year.

SJ GIANTS AT SAN FRANCISCO FANFEST THIS SATURDAY
The San Jose Giants will be taking part in San Francisco Giants Fanfest this Saturday, February 7 at AT&T Park. Standout 2014 San Jose first baseman Brian Ragira along with members of the San Jose front office and Gigante will be around to get fans excited about the 2015 season. The event is FREE to the public and will run from 10 AM to 3 PM.

For more information, click here.

(All players subject to change without notice)

SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES
The start of major league spring training is only a few weeks away as San Francisco Giants pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Wednesday, February 18. All position players must report by Monday, February 23. Big league camp will consist of all players on the 40-man roster in addition to those extended non-roster invitations. Several recent former San Jose Giants were extended non-roster invitations to big league camp earlier this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Lake Elsinore Storm: TBD

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

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

Former SJ Giants Receive Spring Training Invites

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

It’s unlikely that any of these players will be considered for spots on San Francisco’s opening day roster as none have played above the Double-A level. However, the experience of participating in major league camp and seeing action in a handful of exhibition games provides a great opportunity to make a positive impression within the organization. Pitchers and catchers are due to report on February 18 with all other position players scheduled to report on February 23. The Giants’ first spring training game is set for March 3 versus the Oakland Athletics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As of now, San Francisco is set to open camp next month with 62 players (the 40 players currently on the 40-man roster + the 22 non-roster invitees). As spring training progresses, players will be sent to minor league camp before the Giants set their 25-man opening day roster in advance of their first game on April 6.

When They Were San Jose Giants: Tim Lincecum

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

Prospect Rankings

SF Giants logoBy Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are two other notable top prospect lists:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

78 San Jose Giants (and counting…) during the 11-year streak have gone onto play in the major leagues. Notable future big leaguers from these winning San Jose teams:
2004 – Matt Cain, Fred Lewis, Jeremy Accardo, Nate Schierholtz
2005 – Nate Schierholtz, Travis Ishikawa, Kevin Frandsen, Jonathan Sanchez
2006 – Tim Lincecum, Alex Hinshaw, John Bowker, Alfredo Simon
2007 – Pablo Sandoval, Sergio Romo, Travis Ishikawa, Emmanuel Burriss
2008 – Pablo Sandoval, Brett Pill, Dan Otero
2009 – Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford, Conor Gillaspie, Nick Noonan
2010 – Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Juan Perez, Ehire Adrianza
2011 – Zack Wheeler, Heath Hembree, Ehire Adrianza, Chris Dominguez
2012 – Joe Panik, Andrew Susac, Adam Duvall
2013 – Matt Duffy, Hunter Strickland
2014 – Hunter Strickland

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

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

When They Were San Jose Giants: Brandon Crawford

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Joe Ritzo

The majority of the players on the 2015 opening day roster will have spent last season with Class-A Augusta and/or in San Jose. Recently, I took a look at some of the most likely candidates from the 2014 Giants squad to return to the California League this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When They Were San Jose Giants: Matt Duffy

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotable

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

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

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

Episode 44 – Inside the San Jose Giants

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

Projecting the 2015 Roster – High Draft Picks

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Russ Morman Named 2015 San Jose Giants Manager

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the San Jose coaching staff remains intact from a season ago with Mike Couchee returning as pitching coach and Lipso Nava as hitting coach. Both Couchee and Nava enter their third seasons with the San Jose Giants.

When They Were San Jose Giants: Brandon Belt

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home Game Times Announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUNDAYS
Sunday home games in April, May and June will begin at 1:00 PM. Starting in July, Sunday games shift to a 5:00 PM first pitch. July and August Sunday home games are 5:00 PM starts with the exception of Sunday, July 5 at 6:30 PM (Independence Day weekend) and Sunday, August 23 at 1:00 PM (final weekend home game of the regular season).

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

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

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

View the 2015 Schedule

Download the 2015 Schedule (PDF)

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

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

Projecting the 2015 Roster – Who could return?

By Joe Ritzo

san jose giantsThe bulk of the 2015 San Jose Giants opening day roster should be filled with new faces as players make the jump from Augusta and Salem-Keizer to the California League. However, there are also always a handful of returnees each year. Here are some players who suited up for San Jose in 2014 that could be back at Municipal Stadium this spring:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News and Notes: Standout San Jose Pitcher Traded

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 AFL Top Prospects Team

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

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

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

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

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

When They Were San Jose Giants: Sergio Romo

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former SJ Giants On The Move

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When They Were San Jose Giants: Juan Perez

By Joe Ritzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perez Notes

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

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

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

Episode 43 – Inside the San Jose Giants

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

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