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Monday, November 22, 2010

Giants Minor League Report: Hitting

Well, typically here at the Giants Baseball Blog, with high-praised youngsters like Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Pablo Sandoval coming up through the system the last 3 years, we've been doing a monthly minor league check-up on what's going on inside the lower levels of the Giants organization. However, since the team made the playoffs for the first time in 8 years, and ended up World Series Champs, it's been a few months since we've even thought of the Giants farm system.

Now, even though Posey and Bumgarner are now in San Francisco for good, there are still some names who Giants fan's will become familiar with very soon down in the minors, and this year, nobody was more noticeable than first basemen Brandon Belt. The 22 year-old tore up the minor leagues in 2010, eerily similar to the way Pablo Sandoval did in 2008. At three different stops, High-A San Jose, AA Richmond and AAA Fresno, Belt hit a combined .352 with 23 HR, 43 2B, 113 RBI, 22 SB and a whopping 1.075 OPS. He did most of his damage down in San Jose, where he hit .383 with 10 HR and 66 RBI in 77 games, before moving up to Richmond. His average took a bit of a dive up in AAA Fresno at the end of the year hitting .229 in just 49 at-bats, but he still managed to hit 4 homers and drive in 10 in his short 13 game stint with the Grizzlies. So far in the Arizona Fall League, he's picked right back up again, as he's currently hitting .382 with a homer and 16 RBI in 82 at bats. I think it's a pretty safe bet that he'll not only be the Giants' #1 prospect heading into 2011, but he may just find himself battling for a major league job this spring. I can see the Giants using the same approach with him as they did with Buster Posey, letting him get a final tune-up for a few months in Fresno, then depending on how that's going, bringing him up to San Francisco around June.

After Belt, the Giants system doesn't really have a player who's knocking on the doorstep of the major leagues. Francisco Peguero could find himself right behind Belt in the Giants' prospect rankings after the 2010 year he had though, as he showed why baseball people are so high on him. The 22 year-old did a little bit of everything for the little (SJ) Giants this year, hitting .329 and showing some pop production with 10 HR and 66 RBI, a ton of speed with 40 steals and 19 triples, while playing a gold-glove caliber center field. His patience is still the one concern with his game right now, and is probably what's kept him back. (he walked just 18 times in 534 plate appearances in 2010) It seemed like he was a little overshadowed by Belt's big year in '10, but he's one of the guys I'm most intrigued to watch heading into 2011. He'll likely start off in AA Richmond, where it seems like most Giants' hitting prospects not named Brandon Belt have struggled a bit. Pegeuro's not quite as far along as Belt though, and is still probably at least a year away from being ML ready (probably mid-2012 if he keeps progressing).

On the flip-side,Thomas Neal, Roger Kieschnick and Brandon Crawford all had expectations this year after tearing up San Jose in 2009, but none of them had very good years. I don't want to call Neal's year a total failure, as he winded up hitting a respectable .291, but he had only 12 homers and 69 RBI, a huge drop-off from his .337/22/90 year last season. Still though the eastern league is notoriously tough on hitters, especially power wise, so I'm not too concerned with Neal's drop off in the power department. Kieshnick (.251/4/21 in 60 games) and Crawford (.236/7/23 in 84 games) on the other hand, had years to forget in 2010, however both did have major injury issues and missed big portions of the season. Getting both of them on track in 2011 will be key for the Giants organizational depth.

While a few guys like Kieschnick, Crawford and Nick Noonan struggled, one Giants' farmhand who broke through with a big year with the bat, and I'm surprised wasn't moved up during the year, was Chris Dominguez. I really liked this selection when the Giants took him in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft. I thought he would be gone within the top-100 picks for sure, just purely based on that power potential if nothing else and had him ranked higher than any so called "Baseball Experts" (BA, Baseball Prospectus etc...) in our own version of the Giants top-20 prospects for 2010. He played in low-A Augusta all year long, but hit .272 with 21 HR and led the Giants minor league system with 101 RBI. There are some flaws in his game though, as he does strikeout a lot (133 in 558 AB's), but more worrisome for the Giants is his defense at third base, where he committed 32 errors at in 2010. I haven't talked to anyone close enough to the Giants about him yet to see if they have a plan to move him to left field or possibly across the diamond to first base, but he's not cut out for third base. Fellow '09 draftee Thomas Joseph (2nd rounder) had a nice power year as well in Augusta (16 HR in 436 AB's), but his swing needs some work too, as evident of his 116 strikeouts and .236 batting average. I'm going to be watching these two guys' progress under a microscope in 2011.

Next post, barring any breaking Giants news, we'll take a gander at some of the happenings on the mound in the minors and the future pitching prospects for the club, which has been left a bit bare now that Madison Bumgarner has arrived for good in San Francisco.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 1:56 AM, Anonymous Sammy D. said…

    I know he's a little old and has a lot of mlb exp. to be considered a prospect, but I want to see what Emmanuel Burriss does when he's fully healthy, this spring hopefully. He had that nice 2008 season, then got hurt and has kinda dissapeared. Seems like management lost confidence in him. hopefully a big spring turns that around, he could be key with Uribe gone and possibly Fontenot.

  • At 2:01 AM, Anonymous Sammy D. said…

    *meant to say with Renteria and Fontenot possibly gone... Lets all hope an pray they bring back Ree-Bee..

  • At 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Again, awesome article.

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