Giants Minor League Report
With so much going on with the Giants in April, we haven't had much of a chance to touch on the Giants Minor League system so far. Last year, we'd post at least one minor league write-up per month, and I wanted to get back on that schedule.
Most of the minor league attention surrounding the Giants early on has been on their AAA Fresno team where they have their top-2 prospects awaiting their opportunity to be moved up to the big league level. Bumgarner, who was favored to win the 5th spot in the Giants' rotation coming into spring training, didn't pitch like he was supposed to during the Cactus League, and that carried over into the regular season. In his first two starts in Fresno, Bumgarner allowed 21 hits and 11 earned runs in just 7 innings of work. However, since those first two outings, Madison has seemed to get back on track. Over his last 3 starts, he's gone 17 innings while allowing just 9 hits and 3 earned runs. His strikeout numbers have been a little bit down as well, as he's got just 16 total over 24 innings. The concern with Bumgarner once again is his drop in velocity, as he's down to about 88-90 rather than sitting at 92-95 mph like he was most of 2009. Hopefully his last 3 starts are a sign of better things to come for Bumgarner, but I'd be lying if I said that his significant drop-off isn't a big concerning for the Giants top minor league pitching prospect.
MadBum's battery mate, Buster Posey, is really making his case to be called up and if it weren't for the arbitration situation, he'd probably be up with the club right now. In 25 games, Posey's hitting .320 with 2 jacks, 13 RBI and a team leading 17 runs. He's doing a little bit of everything, and is improving behind the plate each day. Outside of Bumgarner and Posey, there aren't a bunch of notable players playing in Fresno at the moment, but they do have a few pitchers who have gained some attention. 27 year-old righty, Eric Hacker, is a perfect 5-0 in 5 starts with a 1.67 era and 31 k's in 27 innings. In the bullpen, Henry Sosa has carried his strong spring into Fresno with him, as he's allowed just 6 hits in 14 innings of work and should really get a strong look next time the Giants need an arm.
While Bumgarner, Posey and Sosa are all up in Fresno, the majority of the team's top-20 prospects reside in AA with Richmond. Roger Kieschnick, Darren Ford, Thomas Neal, Nick Noonan, Connor Gillaspie, Brandon Crawford and pitcher Clayton Tanner, a big core of the 2009 San Jose Giants, are all playing together again in AA now, but they aren't having the success they did in San Jose yet. Kieschnick is the only one hitting over .250, but he has no homers and just 3 RBI to go along with his .275 average in 91 at bats. Ford's hitting .247, with 1 hr, 5 RBI and 5 SB. Crawford's at .238, with 2 hr, 7 RBI and Neal's at .212, with 2 hr and 12 RBI. Gillaspie got off to a nice start, and hit 3 homers, had a bunch of RBI's and looked like he could be on the verge of a breakout year early on, has just 6 hits and 3 RBI over his last 10 games. Tanner has actually been solid on the mound though, even better than he was in A last year. He's gone 2-2 in 5 starts, sporting a 2.16 era and 14 k's in 25 innings spanned over 5 starts. I've made the comparison to Noah Lowry with Tanner, and I continue to see it in him. The 22 year-old could probably go up to AAA and manage pretty well as he just seems to be almost dominant at times without being a huge strikeout guy.
In San Jose, first basemen Brandon Belt has gotten off to a huge start, hitting .404 with 3 homers and 14 RBI and 7 steals. Francisco Peguero, who was on our top prospect list this winter is hitting .278 with 2 homers and 12 RBI and is amongst the minor league leaders in stolen bases with 13... In Augusta, '09 third rounder Chris Dominguez is hitting .284 with 4 hr and 19 RBI, and could be in San Jose before long. He's a guy who I was really high on after the draft because of that power. The Giants '09 first rounder, Zach Wheeler, is in Augusta as well, and has struggled so far, going 0-2 with a 6.23 era and 15 strikeouts in 13 innings. Not what Madison Bumgarner did after the Giants took him in 2007, but I'm ready to be patient with the 18 year-old Wheeler cause I do expect him to ultimately put up the minor league numbers that Bumgarner has and be a top-3 prospect sooner than later.