Which Prospects Should the San Francisco Giants Promote in September?
The 2013 season is all but over for the San Francisco Giants. After winning the World Series last year, they have fallen hopelessly out of the playoff chase.
The one benefit this provides the Giants is that they will be able to look at some of their young prospects. Rosters can be expanded on September 1 and the Giants would be wise to see what some of their young players can do at the big league level.
The process has already begun as injuries and ineffectiveness have forced the Giants to bring up several minor league players ahead of schedule. Already in San Francisco are Brett Pill, Roger Kieschnick, Nick Noonan, Francisco Peguero and Jean Machi.
The unfortunate reality of the situation is that the Giants do not have any prospects ready for the Majors who can be considered impact level. The Giants' top prospects are still in A-ball, either in San Jose or Augusta. These players are at least a couple years away and that's if everything goes well.
Nevertheless, now is a good time for Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean to start planning the rebuild of the 2014 roster. It's important to see if any of the Double-A or Triple-A prospects can be expected to contribute next year.
Given the dearth of solid big league prospects at the higher levels of the Giants' farm system, Sabean will have an extremely tough job of solidifying the roster for next season.
Let's take a look at seven of the prospects the Giants should look at now, as decisions are looming.
All minor league stats are courtesy of milb.com. Major league stats are courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
No. 7: Eric Surkamp
Eric Surkamp, like Michael Kickham, is most likely not the answer to the Giants' quest to rebuild their starting rotation. However, it would be wise to find out for sure.
With Barry Zito gone at the end of this season and Tim Lincecum a free agent, the Giants could be looking for two starters for the 2014 rotation.
Surkamp underwent Tommy John surgery in July of 2012 and has returned ahead of schedule. Surkamp does not have outstanding stuff or velocity and needs to rely on his command and keeping the ball down.
Surkamp had one terrible start against the Reds earlier this year, in which he allowed seven earned runs in 2.2 innings. However, Surkamp was much more effective in Fresno and has come on strong of late.
In nine outings with Fresno, Surkamp has thrown 55.2 innings, allowed 48 hits and 17 walks, while striking out 41. His ERA is a very good 2.75, with a WHIP of 1.17.
These numbers are especially good considering the Pacific Coast League is considered a hitters league.
If Surkamp is called-up and impresses in September, he could have a chance to win a spot in the rotation next season.
The concern with Surkamp is that he may not have enough of an arm to be a solid Major League starter. If he's not hitting his spots, he is extremely vulnerable to big league hitters.
September will give Surkamp and the Giants a chance to see if his guile and command are good enough to be a back-end of the rotation starter.
No. 6: Juan Perez
The Giants brought Juan Perez up to the Majors in June and he gave them a lift. Perez got off to a very good start and was a catalyst in a few victories. He also impressed defensively with his glove, excellent range and strong throwing arm.
After getting off to a good start, hitting over .300 initially, Perez faded. In his 16 games in the Majors, Perez slipped to a .238 average and .283 OBP. He showed little power and had an OPS of .545 when he was sent back to Fresno.
Perez could be a fifth outfielder and would be a cheap replacement for Andres Torres or Gregor Blanco. He has good speed, but needs to improve on the little things to be more of a factor.
Perez made some mistakes running the bases and also had trouble getting bunts down in sacrifice situations. A September call-up of Perez would give Giants' manager Bruce Bochy an opportunity to see if Perez has made any progress since his July demotion.
No. 5: Heath Hembree
Heath Hembree was expected to be in a San Francisco Giants' uniform by now. The Giants had him pegged to be the heir apparent to Brian Wilson, as their closer.
Unfortunately for Hembree, he has battled some arm trouble and also some inconsistency with his command and has leveled off in his progress.
In 51.2 innings at Triple-A Fresno, Hembree has allowed 48 hits and 15 walks, while striking out 60. It is that strikeout-to-walk ratio that keeps the Giants' brass excited.
Hembree has an ERA of 3.83, which is high for a relief pitcher. His WHIP is a 1.22 and he does have 30 saves.
Hembree's strength is his fastball, which is typically in the mid 90's. He will need to improve the quality of his secondary pitches in order to consistently get big league hitters out, however.
A September cup of coffee will do wonders for Hembree. He can gain some valuable experience, if the Giants give him the opportunity.
The Giants' bullpen this year has been very inconsistent, especially after Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez. If Hembree can impress in September and pitch well next spring, he has an excellent chance to make the Opening Day roster.
No. 4: Jack Snodgrass
With potentially two openings in the Giants' starting rotation next year, the Giants should also take a closer look at Jack Snodgrass, a left-handed starter, currently playing for their Double-A affiliate in Richmond.
Snodgrass, who will be 26 years of age in December, stands 6'6" tall and has had a very good year with the Flying Squirrels. In 129 innings, Snodgrass has allowed just 113 hits and 36 walks, while striking out 72.
The low strikeout total indicates that Snodgrass is not an overpowering pitcher, but has decent command and knows how to pitch to contact. Snodgrass has an ERA of 3.49 and a good WHIP ratio of 1.155.
The Giants' top starting pitching prospects, Kyle Crick, Martin Agosta, Clayton Blackburn and Chris Stratton are all in Single-A ball. These pitchers are all a couple years away, at best.
Pitchers like Snodgrass, Eric Surkamp and Mike Kickham have a window of opportunity to make their mark before the other, more highly touted prospects are ready.
No. 3: Jake Dunning
Outside of Chad Gaudin, the most pleasant surprise of the 2013 Giants' pitching staff was Jake Dunning. He was not one of the Giants' top prospects, but was promoted to the Majors out of necessity earlier in the year.
Injuries to Ryan Vogelsong, Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt, as well as the ineffectiveness of George Kontos, forced the Giants to search for other options. Dunning did a very good job and showed outstanding poise when he was called upon.
While with the Giants, Dunning appeared in 20 games, throwing 19 innings. He allowed 14 hits and six walks to go along with 14 strikeouts. His ERA of 2.84 and WHIP of 1.053 were also very good.
Dunning also passed the eye-test, as the fresh-faced youngster never looked afraid or intimidated on the mound.
Although he was sent down to Fresno in late July, Dunning has continued to pitch well. In 44.1 innings, he has allowed 45 hits and 11 walks, while striking out 41. His ERA of 1.42 is outstanding, to go along with a WHIP of 1.26.
Dunning deserves the September call-up. If he again does well, Dunning should have a shot at making the Giants' Opening Day roster out of spring training next year.
No. 2: Johnny Monell
The Giants have two good catching prospects in the minors, Johnny Monell and Andrew Susac.
Susac is highly touted, but it's actually Monell who is having the better year. Susac, who is still in Double-A, is at least a year away from serious consideration to make the big league roster.
Susac needs to improve his hitting, as his .256 batting average indicates. He does, however, have an OBP of .362 and OPS of .820.
Monell, who is playing at Triple-A Fresno, is currently hitting .275, with an OBP of .356 and OPS of .864. He has also shown some power, with 20 home runs and 59 RBI in 378 at-bats.
The emergence of Monell and Susac can have three positive effects. It may light a fire under Hector Sanchez who came into spring training earlier this year woefully out of shape.
In addition, if Monell, Susac or Sanchez play well, it will enable manager Bruce Bochy to give more rest to Buster Posey, thereby keeping him fresher.
Top catching prospects are hard to come by and GM Brian Sabean would have some trade bait if Monell, Susac and Sanchez play well.
It was another catcher, Tommy Joseph, along with Nate Schierholtz, who were involved in the trade to acquire Hunter Pence in 2012. Pence turned out to be a catalyst in the Giants' World Series run.
No. 1: Chris Dominguez
Chris Dominguez has had a solid season in Fresno and the Giants would be well-served to give him a look in September.
Pablo Sandoval, the Giants' current third baseman, will be a free agent following the 2014 season. Sandoval is having a down year and his lack of production has hurt the Giants' immensely.
In addition, with Sandoval's ever-present weight issues, the Giants would be wise to see if Chris Dominguez could be a viable replacement.
Sandoval is due to make $8.25 million next season and if he continues his lack of production, or is not in good shape, there's no way GM Brian Sabean can give him a lengthy and lucrative contract.
Salary data is courtesy of baseballprospectus.com.
If Dominguez does well in September, it may also give Sandoval some added impetus to come into spring training in good condition.
Dominguez is currently hitting .292 with 13 home runs and 54 RBI in 421 at-bats. His OBP is .332 and he has an OPS of .788.
Realistically, Dominguez may not be the Giants' solution at third base. However, if his presence helps to light a fire under Pablo Sandoval, it will be well-worth giving him the opportunity.