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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Giants Notes: Minor League Call-up Time

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post, in which time Brandon Belt won an NL Player of the Week award, but that's been about the only thing positive coming out of the Giants' world this August.

Obviously, the team has really been out of it for a month or so now, but what's surprising me is the fact we're not seeing more of an infusion of younger players onto the roster. Granted, the Giants do have a lot of youngsters in their starting lineup right now, and other spots are being taken up by veterans who you really can't sit (Pence, Sandoval, Scutaro), I would have thought we'd be seeing some new faces up here sooner than September. There are certainly a few names down in the farm system who are making strong cases for getting a look see this season, and of course there's always those first rounders like Joe Panik and Gary Brown who could get the call just based on pure expectations. There are a few players I'd like to see come up and get significant looks at the big league level before the end of this season. Eric Surkamp is one of them. He had a tumultuous debut start back in July, but that was when he had just returned from nearly 2 full seasons off with an arm injury. Plus, since his return to Fresno after that outing with the Giants his numbers have been ridiculous (5 starts, 4-0, 1.71 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 25 K's in 35 innings). Needless to say, I think he's a better option than Mike Kickham right now and should be given another opportunity.

Heath Hembree and Johnny Monell are two others who I'd like to see up here before the year's done. While Hembree hasn't been exactly lights out in Fresno this year, he's still the Giants closer of the future, and as good as Sergio Romo has been in that role this season, I still think his best spot is the 8th. I'm pretty sure we'll see Hembree up in September, but I'd like to see him thrown into the fire in close games and throw the late innings. Even get some save chances. It's time the Giants see what they have in this kid.
And yes, Monell's catching skills aren't quite where they need to be, but he obviously can rake, and is leading the Giants organization in home runs right now with 20. He's another guy who I'm sure we'll see this September, and if he can prove he can handle major league pitchers, he could be a lead candidate to backup Buster in 2014.

Roger Kieschnick has been the one player who has gotten the call-up and has been inserted into the everyday lineup out in left field. Even though he hasn't exactly torn the cover off the ball, he's been steady and I'd like to see him given that spot the rest of the way. I think we'll start to see some more power come out of that bat, and I've been impressed with this ability to get on base (.349 OBP). I would really like to see Gary Brown brought up and placed in center field alongside Kieshnick just to see how it went. Brown is hitting .235 in Fresno, but he's hit for some surprising power, and he's at the point where he's going to have to get his feet wet in the big leagues at some point as he's nearing 25. With Pagan out, Blanco and Torres struggling, and the Giants out of the playoff picture, why not go young in the outfield? Keep Pence in right, and the infield is already pretty set moving forward, so you don't need to do much there, but it's time to start really experimenting with the outfield, and even some of the starting rotation spots.

Up at the big league level, there obviously haven't been a ton of positives to take out of this 2013 season to date, but one area the Giants should be pleased with is their ascending young Brandon's (Belt and Crawford). We've talked about BCraw here plenty this year, as his bat has come a long way and his glove has always been gold glove caliber, but lately, it's been "The Baby Giraffe" who's really burst onto the scene. All of the sudden Brandon Belt is looking like the hitter the Giants thought they'd be getting in 2011, as he's finally made some switches in his approach at the plate. Apparently Belt has loosened his grip on the bat and has closed off his stance a bit which has lessened his movement at the plate. Whatever he's doing, it's been working. He's already had the best month of his career this August, hitting .357 with 5 HR, 11 RBI and a 1.159 OPS, and there's still 9 days left. Next to Buster Posey, Belt has quietly taken over as the teams second best hitter over the last month and it doesn't appear to be an aberration.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, August 08, 2013

Giants In New Territory Heading Down Stretch

For the first time in 5 seasons, the Giants will be playing the role of spoiler as we embark on MLB's home stretch of the regular season. Barring a miracle, there will be no playoffs this year, no World Series defense, but instead, a new direction for the seasons final 2 months.

We're a week into August, the Giants are 50-63 and 13.5 games out of first place in the West, so needless to say it's time to mix things up on this roster, and Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean are starting to do a little bit of that. The most notable addition to the lineup over the last week, and a guy who should really stay out there the rest of the year as the everyday left fielder, has been Roger Kieschnick. The 26 year-old missed his shot to make an impact at the big league level in '12 when the Giants needed offense, but this time around, he's healthy and he's off to a good start in San Francisco, going 8-24 with 3 RBI. I also wouldn't mind seeing Juan Perez get some looks in center field again over Gregor Blanco, and if he can at least heat up somewhat by September, maybe even have a Gary Brown siting at AT&T for the first time. No matter which way you dice it, the Giants are out of it, and even though they didn't rid themselves of some of their expiring contracts before the non-waiver deadline, I still expect them to make every effort to open up more roster spots for young players in the coming weeks.

Biggest disappointment of '12?
As far as the veterans who've still been going out there everyday, you can tell that even they're starting to accept 2013 as a lost season. Back in May, it looked like Hunter Pence was in for a big bounce-back year, Panda was hitting .330 with power, Buster was starting to come around and it looked like the offense may finally be ready to carry some of the burden for the struggling pitching staff. Unfortunately though as the weeks wore on, we saw the holes up and down this lineup, the constant nagging injuries that knocked key guys out at various times and a pitching staff that just couldn't get on track at the same time. Mostly though, it was players from last years World Championship team not living up to the standard they set a year ago. Angel Pagan was a shell of his 2012 self before the injury. Scutaro, Posey and Crawford have been solid, yet hardly spectacular. Everyone else in the lineup has underachieved this year in my eyes. I know this almost sounds like an end of the year piece when there's still 7+ weeks of baseball and we've seen crazier things happen, but right now, this season is finished for all intent and purposes, and the sooner the Giants go into full "build for next year and beyond mode" the better.

Roster Notes: The Giants made another roster move prior to Thursday's game with Milwaukee, parting ways with Guillermo Quiroz and re-calling Hector Sanchez for what seems like the 8th time this season. Hector has had a real tough time staying healthy and getting any kind of rythym going this year, but he appears ready now to re-take over the duties he held for this team last year. If he continues to struggle though, I really would like to see Johnny Monnell given a look see before September. I know Monnell is hardly the defender the Giants are looking for behind the plate, but that bat could sure play well in the lineup when Buster needs a break (hitting .286 with 17 HR and 55 RBI in Fresno over 96 games). Speaking of which, we'll be catching up with the minor league system in our next post, as it's been a couple months since we did and there are certainly some topics to discuss.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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