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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June Minor League Report

Well, as I type this, the Giants are in the midst of beating up on the Cubs in the first game of a doubleheader, as Pat Burrell's bat has come alive and Chris Stewart has quietly started to heat up. We'll have more on both games upon completion, but in this particular post, I wanted to take a look down on the farm and see just who may be on the horizon as far as the next in line of Giants' call-ups.

The only guy in Salem playing right now worth really talking about is first rounder Joe Panik, who I'm ecstatic about after he signed so darn quickly. Panik's already gotten in 9 games at low-A Augusta and is tearing the cover off the ball to the tune of .378 Avg./3 HR/7 RBI and a 1.101 OPS. The rest of the rookie bunch won't likely start until rookie ball later this summer. Panik looks almost certain to be a San Jose Giant in due time though, and as far as his pace of advancement, really anything is possible with this youngster due to all his experience already, especially with the wood bat in the CCBL. We'll talk more about him and the rest of the Giants' draft with Amateur/NCAA baseball guru Brian Foley in a few days, but with all the baseball this kid has played in the Cape Cod league and his 3 dominant years at St. Johns, I'd say we're looking at the same type route to the bigs as Buster Posey took. The first-rounder could also keep Giants management from pursuing a longer-term option in a shortstop-heavy market this winter, with guys like Jose Reyes, J.J. Hardy and Bay Area native Jimmy Rollins hitting the open market.

Up just a level at high-A San Jose, it's been all about '09 and '10 first rounders, SP Zach Wheeler and CF Gary Brown. They're the lone-standing top-10 prospects in San Jose after the likes of Chris Dominguez, Francisco Peguero and Hector Sanchez have all been promoted. It shouldn't be long before the speedy, .320 hitting Brown joins them, but Wheeler is still just 19 years old and may be in San Jose a while longer, despite a nice 6-3 record, 3.84 era and better than a K per inning. Another arm I'm keeping an eye on in is 22 year-old righty Michael Main, the prize of the Bengie Molina trade, who's looked good in his 4 outings, limited due to injury, but looks healthy now, going 3 2/3 shutout innings with 8 K's in 2 outings since his return June 17th. He should be back in the rotation for his next start and should be able to throw 90 pitches.

Up in Richmond, there are a few fresh call-ups, guys I mentioned above, who have arrived on fire. Chris Dominguez is actually hitting the ball better in the Eastern League right now than he was in San Jose, and he was leading the team in HR and RBI with a near .300 average upon his call-up. Though they've had far less at-bats then the rest of the members of the team, Dominguez is hitting .333 with 2 HR and 15 RBI in 46 at-bats and Peguero, in a much smaller sample size, is hitting .350 in 20 at-bats. After that, it's a huge fall-off to the .262 hitting Roger Kieschnick who also leads the team with 8 HR and 41 RBI. As far as pitching goes, the minor league starter and releiver who are each having the best year of all in the organization have been 23 year-old left-handed starter Eric Surkamp, and 21 year-old releiver/closer Heath Hembree. Each are quite possibly the most overlooked Giants' prospects out there too. Surkamp has done for Richmond what Ryan "The V" has done for the Giants this year but even better, going 5-3 with a 1.74 era and 87 K's in 77 innings (I don't care where your pitching, an era and strikeout rate like that is straight dealing). I don't believe it will be much longer before we see Surkamp in Fresno, possibly after the AA All-Star game. Closer Heath Hembree (5th rounder from 2010 draft) has 23 saves in 30 minor league games, starting out with a 0.74 era and 44 K's and 16 hits in 24 innings in San Jose. He's since been called up to Richmond and has just a few outings there, already though with 2 saves and 6 strikeouts in just 3 innings.

Up in Fresno, there are two bright young prospects getting a lot of playing time, and could be prepping for playing time in San Francisco this season. Those two players are The Panda 2.0, I mean the switch hitting, 5'10", 250 pound power-hitting catcher, Hector Sanchez (remind you of anyone?), and one of their top outfield prospects, Thomas Neal. Both have held their own quite well too. In 160 at-bats, Neal's hitting .313 with 2 homers and 22 RBI for the Grizzlies, and if I were to bet, I'd guess the 23 year old right-handed slugger will be the next in line as far as Giants' outfielders. The 21 year-old Sanchez started out the year in San Jose and tore it up like Sandoval did in '08. He hit .301 with 8 homers and a whopping 46 RBI in just 176 at-bats. Putting him on pace for a 135 RBI season had he stayed put in San Jose. However, once Buster Posey went down, I think the Giants felt some urgency to try and speed him along, possibly with the thought in mind to use him just as they did Sandoval in that 2008 season, as a late season, offensive charge call-up. The Giants have 2 defensive minded catchers up at the big league level right now, and I'm sure at some point, they'll want an option back there who can hit a little bit, right now that would be Sanchez. Either way, I'll be watching the group mentioned in this post (Dominguez, Peguero, Wheeler, Sanchez, Neal, Surkamp, Hembree, Main, Panik and Brown) under a microscope for the rest of the season, because they're the next wave of big league talent in this organization.

Injury Report: As we all know by now, Buster Posey's out for 2011, and Freddy Sanchez is out until at least September, so gone are the Giants #2 and #4 hitters from opening day. One guy they will get back soon though is Brandon Belt, the teams #1 prospect heading into 2011, who's been lost on the DL for the last month after just regaining his stroke in Fresno and carrying that with him to San Francisco before taking a heater off the wrist. His rehab is still going along slowly, but the Giants believe he'll be back around the time they return from the All-Star break. When he does return (assuming no major trades are made), I'd like to see him starting in left field almost daily and battling it out with Nate Schierholtz for the outfield at bats vs. right-handers, with Burrell getting the nod vs. lefties. I'd expect about the same time return for Jonathan Sanchez, who I don't think is really injured, but certainly needs to work some kinks out over these next few weeks in order to get his rotation spot back.

Another guy who should help this team immediately upon his return and is getting closer to full health is infielder Mike Fontenot. He'll give the Giants another option at 2nd and short and will likely be a near-everyday player for Bochy when he gets back with the struggles this team has encountered up the middle since Sanchez's injury. Crawford had a nice debut and does have a shot to be a starting SS in the bigs, but his bat isn't ready, so I would have him down in Fresno working daily on his hitting rather than splitting time with Miggy, who's quietly heating up as we approach July. After a home run and 3-hit game in game in game one of the double header in Chicago on Tuesday, the shortstop has gone 6 for 16 with 4 runs scored and 2 RBI over his last 4 starts and appears to be heading in the right direction offensively (his quality of at-bats have improved a lot).
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I never even heard of Hector Sanchez until like a week ago on KNBR... He really had 46 RBI in 170 ab's? That's freaky good! Why isn't he catching right now for the Giants.

    Watching this game in Chicago, what about the Giants trading for Aramis Ramirez, who's a FA after the season I do believe? They could move either him or Panda to first and Huff to the OF and really improve the offense.

    Just a thought!

  • At 2:30 PM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    Yeah, the Giants could use all the offense they can get, no doubt. But if they're going to go after a Cubbies renta-player, I'd rather it be Carlos Pena, who's been one of the best power hitters in baseball this year and would only cause Huff to move to left, which I could live with for half a year. They did it with Burrell in LF last year and I think Huff is better defensively, even in LF than "The Bat". The one up that Ramirez has on Pena though is that he's right handed, and the Giants really need a right-handed bopper.

  • At 3:08 PM, Anonymous Giants Fan Dan said…

    Cool post! I really enjoy the minor league reports you guys do here at the site. Very informative.

    And it's always fun reading after a win. What a great win for the Giants on Tuesday for Vogelsong. Didn't have the best stuff, but got the win thanks to the offense.

    Great Game Giants!!!


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