San Francisco Giants July Prospect Report: Thomas Neal Keeps On Hitting
The July 31st Major League Baseball Trading Deadline has come and gone and the San Francisco Giants’ minor league system as lost two of its best arms afer the Giants remade their infield by acquiring Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez.
Because Giants GM Brian Sabean decided to trade from the organization’s strength to obtain major league hitters, that means that talented hitters like outfielder Thomas Neal—one of the hottest players in all of the minors in the past two months—will remain in the organization he was drafted by.
Despite having big-time power potential, the 21-year-old Neal has flown somewhat under-the-radar since 2005 when the Giants selected him in the 36th and signed him a year later as a draft-and-follow player.
The Giants’ little secret isn’t a secret anymore.
You know you’re going well when you make an appearance on Baseball America’s weekly Prospect Hot Sheet. When you make it on the list in back-to-back weeks, you’re in one hell of a groove.
What did he do to deserve such praise in consecutive weeks from the biggest prospect publication in the country?
Let’s try a .415 average (22-for-53) with three home runs, eight doubles, and one triple on for size. The hot streak the past two weeks closes out his month of July that answered his month of June where he hit .414 was no fluke.
For the season, Neal has been destroying California League pitching whether it’s against a lefty, righty, at home, on the road, at night, or a weekend matinee. He leads the league with a .347 average, 36 doubles, and 1.035 OPS. He has also blasted 17 home runs, and is amongst the league leaders in slugging percentage (.604) and on-base percentage (.431).
You always like to see a player get better as the year goes and Neal is certainly doing just that. With his performances the last two months, there's no doubting that Neal has entered the discussion for Minor League Player of the Year.
The biggest thing for Neal is not the power or the average, it’s that he has cut down his strikeouts by a considerable margin. Last season at Low-A Augusta, Neal average a strikeout just under 25 percent of the time. This season with San Jose, Neal has cut down that number to just over 20 percent of the time.
Teaming with fellow slugging outfielder Roger Kieschnick (.290, 21 HR, 87 RBI, .866 OPS), the little Giants have one of the most-potent and productive twosomes, not only in the Cal League, but all of the minors.
Is there any surprise that with their team best hitter firing on all cylinders that the little Giants are 28-10 in the second half of the season?
Even with a rebuilt pitching staff, the Giants are the hottest team in the Cal League. That can be attributed to the kind of bats they have in the lineup.
Madison Bumgarner Adds Another Dominant Month to His Résumé
It’s getting to sound like a broken record when shelling out praise to the Giants’ No. 1 prospect this season.
Madison Bumgarner has dominated the Cal League, he has dominated for the Connecticut Defenders since being promoted to Double-A despite being one of the youngest players in the Eastern League at age 19, and if not for a lengthy rain delay, he probably would’ve dominated the Futures Game in St. Louis.
But when you put up the kind of numbers he has, the praise certainly quite deserved.
After a June where he sported a 3.13 ERA, Bumgarner was back to being the usual Bumgarner, limiting Eastern League hitters to just a .207 batting average in five starts spanning over 25 innings of work.
His line for the year is just scary: 10-2 1.88 ERA, 100.1 IP, 80 H, 77 K, 25 BB, 1.05 WHIP
Bumgarner hasn’t lost since the middle of June when he was tagged for three runs in six innings. He has allowed just eight runs in those eight starts since his loss at Altoona June 13.
And did we mention his first professional home run that he hit July 22 was also a grand slam?
At some point in time he’s bound to finish a season with an ERA under two, but for now he’ll make it look like he’s a men amongst boys even though it’s anything but that.
It’s no wonder that he’s the best pitching prospect in the minors.
Oh one more thing—he turned 20 years old Aug. 1.
Buster Posey’s Slow Start With the Bat to His Triple-A Career
Jumping from Single A to Double-A is tough enough as is. When you completely bypass Double-A and assume the No. 3 spot in the order for a Triple-A team, it might take a little time to make proper adjustments.
Buster Posey’s numbers with the Fresno Grizzlies won’t blow your socks off. If anything, they just prove that the Giants’ $6.2 million bonus baby is human.
He’s hitting just .241 in 16 games with Fresno, smacking five doubles and also driving in five. The positive note is that he’s not completely baffled at the plate—he’s struck out 10 times compared to nine walks.
Those nine walks in his time with the Grizzlies are three more walks than Giants catcher Bengie Molina has walked all year.
A Giants catcher with an on-base percentage will be a welcome sight at AT&T Park.
But even with the bat struggling, Posey has dominated in other aspects behind the plate.
He has caught nearly half of the base runners attempting to steal on him (35-for-74) between both San Jose and Fresno. Posey has committed 11 passed balls, but in terms of experience behind the plate, he’s still a baby.
Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright.
Quick Hits From Around the Organization
Bumgarner is not the only player putting up big numbers from Connecticut. Second baseman Brock Bond has seemingly come out of nowhere to put up huge numbers at the top of the Defenders’ lineup.
In 92 games, the 23-year-old former 24th round pick in the 2007 Draft leads the Eastern League with a .360 average and .450 on-base percentage. Bond has added one home run, 28 RBI, and 12 steals to his line, but as a leadoff hitter, the average and on-base numbers matter the most.
He has also walked one more time than he has struck out (49-to-48). Last time we checked, that’s pretty good.
But his most-recent stretch might be even more impressive.
In 26 games during the month of July, he hit .424 and got on-base over half of the time. His last 10 games are just as absurd: .514, nine runs, six doubles, and two RBI.
Bond wasn’t in the 2009 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, but I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be in there come 2010.
This year’s draft class has already made an impact in their professional debuts.
With the first two picks of 2009, pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Tommy Joseph, still unsigned, third-round pick Chris Dominguez has been the highest draft pick to get extensive playing time since signing his first pro contract.
Between two levels, the former Louisville third baseman is hitting .284 in 109 at-bats and has already banged nine home runs and driven in 26.
Fourth-round Jason Stoffel, a right-handed reliever out of the University of Arizona, has seen action in five games, posting a 1.80 ERA, allowing just four hits and striking out two without walking a batter.
In 99 games this year, San Jose Giants third baseman Conor Gillaspie has committed 25 errors and hit just two home runs.
The hot corner might not be his best way to get to the big leagues.
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