Projecting the 2014 Roster – Who could return?
By Joe Ritzo
The bulk of the 2014 San Jose Giants opening day roster should be filled with new faces as players make the jump from Augusta and Salem-Keizer to the California League. However, there are also always a handful of returnees each year. Here are some players who suited up for San Jose in 2013 that could be back at Municipal Stadium next spring:
Trevor Brown, 2B/C
Brown joined San Jose in mid-August last season after batting at a .250 clip over 97 games with the Augusta GreenJackets as their primary second baseman. The former 10th round draft pick started slow with the Giants managing just one hit in his first 26 at-bats, but manager Andy Skeels kept Brown in the lineup down the stretch and the move paid off. He recorded multi-hits in four out of his last eight regular season games and then boasted a team-leading .345 batting average (10-for-29) during the playoffs. Of note, Brown was primarily a catcher at UCLA and during his 2012 rookie professional season. He shifted to second base during spring training last year which still catching sporadically throughout the season. A return to San Jose, where he can build on his postseason success, seems likely. The question is whether he’ll be asked to catch primarily or continue to work more at second?
Jorge Bucardo, P
Bucardo has spent parts of two seasons with San Jose, first as a top starting pitching prospect late in 2010 and then as a middle reliever early in 2013. Significant arm injuries have derailed Bucardo’s career (he hasn’t worked as a starter since 2010) and last year was no different. The right-hander appeared in five games out of the Giants bullpen in April (4.82 ERA), but then spent nearly two months on the disabled list. When he returned to action, Bucardo found himself in Augusta. And while not returning to San Jose during the second half of last season was probably frustrating, Bucardo made the most of his opportunity as he fashioned a 1.84 ERA and collected six saves over 27 relief appearances for the GreenJackets. When he’s been healthy, Bucardo has enjoyed nice success in the Giants farm system. Perhaps a third time will be the charm for Bucardo in San Jose as he could return and fill an important role out of the Giants bullpen in 2014.
Matt Duffy, SS
Duffy was a South Atlantic League All-Star in Augusta last season after leading the GreenJackets with a .307 batting average. He earned a promotion to San Jose in late-July and continued to shine posting a .292 batting average over 26 games with the Giants. Duffy combined for 20 doubles, nine home runs, 57 RBI’s and 25 stolen bases between the two clubs in 2013 to put himself on the map as one of the top middle infield prospects in the system. He also finished strong as only Brown posted a higher individual batting average than Duffy (.300) during the playoffs last September. Duffy was so impressive in San Jose that he’ll probably be considered for a spot in Double-A Richmond next April despite just a little over a month of California League experience. If he returns to the Giants, Duffy would be a focal point in the lineup, probably batting second or third.
Adalberto Mejia, LHP
Considered one of the top pitching prospects in the organization, it’s more likely that Mejia will open 2014 as a member of Richmond’s starting rotation. After all, he logged an impressive 3.31 ERA in 16 starts with San Jose last season while amassing 89 strikeouts compared to just 23 walks over 87 innings. Several factors though could give the front office some pause when deciding whether Mejia is ready for the Double-A challenge. First, he was the youngest pitcher in the Cal League last season and won’t turn 21 until next June. The jump to Double-A is a big one and the Giants decision-makers will want to be sure he’s ready to face significantly more experienced hitters. Second, a lat injury sustained early in the year limited Mejia to just those 87 innings and thus prevented valuable development time and experience in the Cal League. Third, he was hit hard in the Arizona Fall League, albeit in a small sample size. The bottom line is that Mejia is an elite prospect in this organization right now and he could probably handle a promotion to Richmond at the start of next season. But there is some precedent in the Giants organization for having a much-younger starting pitcher repeat the Cal League (Tim Alderson and Clayton Tanner being two of the most recent examples) and Mejia could potentially follow that pattern.
Kelby Tomlinson, SS
Tomlinson began last season with San Jose and played well when he was healthy posting a .276 batting average in 32 games, in addition to providing solid defense at short. Unfortunately, a pair of leg injuries resulted in two stints on the disabled list – the latter of which knocked Tomlinson out for two months. Despite not gaining much traction in the form of consistent playing time, Tomlinson was promoted to Richmond in July, primarily due to a lack of middle infielders on San Francisco’s Double-A roster. He then struggled mightily in the pitching-rich Eastern League recording just a .198 batting average with only five extra-base hits in 33 games. It seems like a good bet that either Tomlinson or Duffy will open the 2014 season as the starting shortstop for the San Jose Giants with the other getting a shot in Richmond.
Others: Center fielder Jesus Galindo and third baseman Mitch Delfino were promoted to San Jose from Augusta at the start of the playoffs last September and are almost certainly going to open 2014 in the California League. Galindo, who played in the Futures Game this year, hit .273 and stole 48 bases with the GreenJackets while Delfino led Augusta in doubles (25), home runs (13) and RBI’s (76) to go with a .270 batting average. Pitchers Tyler Rogers and Pat Young were also added to San Jose’s roster when the playoffs began, but they both came up from Short-Season Salem-Keizer, so it’s less likely (but certainly still possible) they’ll begin 2014 with the Giants. Rogers had a 3.10 ERA in 14 games out of the Volcanoes bullpen while Young, who started Game 5 of the North Division Series against Visalia, owned a sparkling 0.92 ERA in eight starts for Salem-Keizer. Both Rogers and Young were drafted last June.
Elliott Blair saw substantial time in center field while also playing some first base for the Giants in 2013, but hit just .229 with three homers in 69 games. He could fill a similar role with San Jose next season. Outfielder Shawn Payne will be looking for another shot in the Cal League after batting just .229 in 73 games last season. A standout with Augusta in 2012, Payne was demoted to the GreenJackets last July and rebounded somewhat hitting .259 with four home runs in 36 games played. Catcher Eric Sim joined the Giants from Augusta last July and hit .276 in 17 games as Jeff Arnold’s back-up. Relief pitchers Chris Marlowe (3-2, 3.97 ERA) and Jeff Soptic (3-2, 6.26 ERA) will compete for spots on the Richmond roster during spring training, but one or both may find themselves back in San Jose. Soptic possesses an electric mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, but control issues resulted in 36 walks over 41 2/3 innings. The return of Hunter Strickland also seems possible as the San Jose bullpen could be his first stop on the road back from Tommy John Surgery. Strickland dominated in the California League early last season (0.86 ERA, 9 saves) before a late-May elbow injury ended his year.