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Friday, April 24, 2009

Down On The Farm

I wanted to take some time today to discuss some of the things that have been going on in the Giants' minor league system in our monthly minor league report.

The organizational spotlight has been on the Giants high-A affiliate, the San Jose Giants. On that roster, the Giants currently have a plethora of former high round picks, including the teams top 4 prospects; Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Angel Villalona and Tim Alderson. As a matter of fact, of the Giants top-10 prospects, according to baseball America, 7 of them are playing in San Jose. Because of all the talent, it's shouldn't be a surprise to any that the San Jose Giants currently have the 2nd best record in the California League.

Leading the team in hitting is the #5 overall pick from last June's amateur draft, as Buster Posey sits at .389 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI. The teams #2 rated offensive prospect, Angel Villalona, is also turning some heads with the way he's swinging the bat. The 18 year-old first basemen is hitting .358 with 3 homers and 10 RBI. Villalona has always shown the ability to hit for power early in his career, but his .358 average is indication of him making more consistent contact at the plate. He's only k'd 8 times in 54 at-bats, a much better ratio than his 118 k's in 464 at-bats a year ago. Both Villalona and Posey have been great, but San Jose's top offensive contributor so far has come from former UCLA Bruin, Brandon Crawford. The 22 year-old shortstop has looked even better at the plate than he did last year as a Junior with UCLA. Crawford is hitting .382 (2nd on team and 5th in the Cal League) with 5 home runs (2nd in league) and 13 RBI (3rd in league) along with 2 steals and 12 runs scored. The power display has been the biggest area of improvement as Crawford has 5 bombs through 54 at-bats using a wood bat after hitting just 7 home runs in each of his last 2 years at UCLA using the aluminum stick. Normally you see players lose some pop when they first switch over, but it's been the opposite for Crawford and that is an extremely positive sign. If he keeps swinging the bat the way he has, he'll probably be shipped off to AA Connecticut in mid-May when the rest of the elite prospects go. 2nd basemen Nick Noonan (.294, 2 HR, 7 RBI), outfielder Roger Kieschnick (.298, 2 HR, 7RBI) and outfielder Thomas Neal (.333, 2 HR, 12 RBI) have also been helping carry the load offensively. 2008 supplemental draft pick, Connor Gillespie is the only top prospect not playing up to his ability. Gillaspie is hitting just .268 with a homer and 7 RBI, but he's been starting to swing the bat a lot better of late.

The pitching on the San Jose roster has been just as much of a strength as the hitting though. Madison Bumgarner picked up right where he left off last year in his first 3 starts. Bumgarner is 3-0 with a 0.56 era and 14 strikeouts compared to 2 walks in 16 innings pitched. He isn't quite striking out batters the way he did last year, but his era and WHIP once again show how dominant the 19 year-old left-hander has been. The other first-rounder' from 2007 hasn't been quite as impressive yet. Tim Alderson is still looking for his first decision, but is sporting a 3.14 era and a 12:2 strikeout ratio. Batters are hitting .305 off Alderson so far though, compared to just .235 last season. Alderson did have his best start of the season on Tuesday night though, going 7 strong, allowing only 3 hits and a run while striking out 4, so hopefully that start gets him back in sync. Two arms from last years draft are also throwing well for San Jose. Scott Barnes (top 15 team prospect) is 2-1 with a 3.86 era and 12 k's in 14 innings. San Jose's closer and 2nd round pick from 2008, Edwin Quirarte, has dominated in every sense of the word. Quirarte hasn't allowed a base runner in 4 innings and is 2 for 2 on save opportunities. Up at AA, the Giants also have another top-10 prospect throwing every 5th day. Henry Sosa has looked solid in his 3 games thus far, going 12 innings while allowing 4 earned runs (3.00 era) and striking out 11.

As I said at the top of the post, most of the teams relevant prospects are currently at either high-A San Jose or AA Connecticut, but there are a couple of guys up in Fresno that I wanted to discuss and one guy in particular down in Augusta. Ehire Adrianza, a guy the Giants recently signed out of Venezuela, has looked decent in Augusta as the 19 year-old is hitting .261 with a home run and 6 RBI. There are many in the organization that feel Adrianza has the most upside of any middle infielder in the Giants system and he's really done well in his brief pro career so far. He's great with the glove, has shown the ability to get on base consistently and reminds me a lot of a young Chone Figgins. The guys up in Fresno aren't the 21-22 year-old, fresh-out of college guys like the Giants have in San Jose and in the lower minor leagues, but there are certainly some guys in AAA right now that could absolutely play a part in the Giants future. 2008 minor league pitcher of the year for the Cal League, Kevin Pucetas, made the jump up to Fresno to start the year and he's really throwing the ball well. He struggled a bit in his first outing, but things have been getting a little better each time since with his latest outing consisting of 6 shutout innings of 4-hit baseball. On the offensive side in Fresno, there aren't really any guys tearing the cover off the ball. Kevin Frandsen leads the team with a modest .294 average along with a home run and 6 RBI, but he's heating up with the weather, going 7 for his last 14. Besides Frandsen and Jon Bowker, nobody else in Fresno is really sticking out with the bat. 1B/3B'men Jesus Guzman has fallen off big time after his spectacular winter league and spring training performance. Guzman led the Giants in home runs and RBI over the spring and didn't even get the at-bats that the big league starters did, so hopefully he gets himself going here pretty soon.

Back at the big league level, the Giants start their 3 game set with the Diamondbacks tonight with Tim Lincecum taking the mound for the 4th time this year, opposing Doug Davis... Nate Schierholtz is the only Giants positional player (excluding recent call-up Steve Holm) that hasn't yet started a game this year which is odd because he's arguably the best player on the bench. I expect to see him get the nod at some point in AZ this weekend... The team made a roster move a couple days back that I haven't gotten a chance to touch on quite yet. Alex Hinshaw was demoted to AAA Fresno and Steve Holm was re-called to San Francisco. Hinshaw battled inconsistencies to the strike zone all spring long and it carried over into the season. Already in 1/3 of an inning at Fresno, he's walked 2 and allowed 3 earned runs. It's a shame too, because Hinshaw really looked good after being brought up last year, good enough to even be mentioned as a possible closing option in-case something happened to Brian Wilson. He's got to get back on track asap, or else he's going to ultimately lose his role with the team for good.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'd like to see Frandsen take over for Burris. Burris can't seem to get going offensively and it would really help the Giants if the had another hitter in the lineup.

  • At 2:53 PM, Anonymous terry hatcher said…

    The Giants should call up Posey and Bumgarner... I don't really see why they're still in the minors.. Must teams force players to play at levels they don't need to be at?? Bumgarner would be better than Zito right now, and Posey could be an awesome utility guy, backing up at catcher, first base and third base... I'd bet both of them would do fine if they got brought up now so why not???


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