With September comes the traditional roster expansion to 40. For some teams it is the chance to give the manager some extra bodies and for others it is the chance to give top prospects a quick taste of the majors before the various offseason leagues begin.
Unlike previous years, the San Francisco Giants aren't in the position to experiment with young players making their big league debuts. They are in the thick of the National League wild-card race and, for the most part, the regulars will be playing every day.
It was first thought that top prospect Buster Posey wasn't even going to be talked about by fans as a September call-up because he would be off representing Lady Liberty at the World Cup in Europe when the Triple-A season ended. Then the rosters were released and Posey was nowhere to be found.
So, of course, the talk of bringing the $6.2 million baby up to the majors started again.
The Giants did call up three players from their Triple-A affiliate in Fresno on Tuesday—none of them were named Buster Posey.
Some people thought it would make sense for the 22-year-old super prospect to get some time in the majors after the Grizzlies' season ends on Sept. 7. It would make sense considering the position the Giants are in. Bengie Molina is an impending free agent, and it's known that he is seeking a multi-year contract this winter. Posey will obviously be ready before Molina's desired contract would end.
But as the days in August wound down, Giants GM Brian Sabean made it clear that Posey wasn't even in the team's plans to be called up—citing that he is still just a year out of college and "there's no rush" to bring him up.
Then, as the Grizzlies opened a series in Las Vegas, there was a strange sight in the lineup—Steve Holm, not Posey, batting third. That's pretty odd when you consider Holm usually batted seventh or eighth when he spelled Posey this season.
Odd. Very, very odd.
You just don't see that, especially after Posey went 3-for-5 to close out August against the same Las Vegas team. That meant Posey's .325 average, 18 homers, 80 RBI, and .947 OPS between San Jose and Fresno were on their way to the Giants.
With Molina currently battling injuries, the Giants have relied on light-hitting backup Eli Whiteside to handle the load. Not exactly the kind of hitter that Molina is and certainly will never be, but he has handled the pitching staff extremely well—not just this past week, but the whole season.
It certainly makes sense in terms of a boost offensively. Since struggling in the first couple of weeks, Posey has been crushing the ball at Triple-A and the Giants have been struggling to score even three or four runs on the road lately. There's no definite date set for Molina's return to the lineup, so the Giants chose to bring up their prized catching prospect to hopefully inject some life into the order.
If Molina's quad is still bothering him as September rolls on, it will be interesting to see how the Giants handle Posey. Do they go with the bat in Posey, or do they stick with the guy they know will handle the pitching staff easily?
Some desperate times call for desperate measures.
September is important for the first time in a while, and Sabean just made one hell of a bold move.
Madison Bumgarner's Impressive End to Another Impressive Month
Somewhat how we've come to discover with Tim Lincecum, there are few words to really describe the kind of year that Madison Bumgarner is having down at Double-A Connecticut.
Much like Posey, some were wondering whether the Giants would call up the 20-year-old Bumgarner when the rosters expanded. However, Bumgarner's team will be in the playoffs come the end of the regular season and his left arm is vital to how the Defenders do.
Mad Bum began the month, also his 20th birthday, on a rocky note, giving up two earned runs on seven hits and three walks against five strikeouts in five innings.
Then he went back to dominating.
In each of Bumgarner's next four outings in August, he yielded only four hits. He only allowed four runs in those four starts and only won two of those games. Bumgarner saved his best game for his August finale, going seven shutout innings, walking one, and striking out two.
The effort to close out his final start of the month saw him claim Eastern League Pitcher of the Week honors.
Just another accolade to add to the résumé.
If Bumgarner had enough innings to qualify after his May promotion from High-A San Jose, he would easily lead the Eastern League in ERA (1.95) and WHIP (1.06). His line for the season is still equally impressive—12-2 record, 1.86 ERA, 130.1 IP, 100 H, 92 K, 34 BB, 1.03 WHIP.
The Double-A ERA doesn't matter, though. We all know what kind of talent this kid has.
Awards Aplenty in San Jose
The second half for the San Jose Giants can be described in one word—domination. The Little Giants won both halves of the California League for the third time since 2001 going 87-46 with a week to go in the regular season.
That kind of domination was represented well when the Cal League announced its season awards on Sept. 1. And remember, this is a team that has seen studs like Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford, Tim Alderson, Scott Barnes, and many others get promoted or traded over the course of the season.
Craig Clark, who should've gotten more love on this Web site with the kind of year he is having, was named the Cal League Pitcher of the Year with his 15-2 record and 2.96 ERA.
That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Clark's accomplishments this year, though.
Clark is currently second in the California League in wins (15), second in ERA (2.96) and fifth in strikeouts (133). He destroyed the San Jose club record for the longest winning streak, having won every decision since May 14, and he set a Cal League record by striking out 10 consecutive hitters on June 1.
But the awards don't end there for the Little Giants.
Two names we have all come to know this year, Roger Kieschnick and Thomas Neal, were both named to the Cal League Post-Season All-Star Team. The Giants' talented outfield duo have been one of the best one-two punches in the minors throughout the 2009 season.
Neal, who is completely healthy for the first time in three years, has had a fantastic year despite the fact the Cal League is one of the most hitter-friendly leagues in the minors. He is fifth in the Cal League in average (.331), second in on-base percentage (.423), fourth in slugging (.581), and third in OPS (1.003).
The power-hitting 22-year-old also ranks eighth with 22 home runs and 86 RBI.
Kieschnick, who was named the Cal League's Rookie of the Year, has had an equally impressive season hitting behind Neal in the batting order. He ranks fifth in home runs (23), second in RBI (106), seventh in slugging percentage (.541), and eighth in OPS (.890).
Now you probably understand why the San Jose Giants have been so good in 2009.
Quick Hits from Around the Minors
Last year's big international signing, Rafael Rodriguez, continues to impress in his stint in the Arizona Rookie League.
Rodriguez still hasn't hit a home run in his 35 games in the desert, but there are plenty of reason to be happy with his debut in the States at just the tender age of 17.
The most impressive thing about the 17-year-old Rodriguez? He walks and doesn't strike out—something with which a lot of young Latin players tend to struggle. Rodriguez has struck out 23 times and collected 16 walks in 127 at-bats.
His .299 average, 19 RBI, and .392 OBP are not to be laughed at, either.
The power will come, but the foundation is there.
When the "Fate of the Franchise: 2010 Bullpen Edition" was published about a month ago, there were two guys, Steve Edlefsen and Dan Runzler, who stood above the rest in the pen.
Both Runzler and Edlefsen are currently pitching out of the Fresno bullpen, and they haven't slowed down a bit.
Runzler's 2009 stats: 5-1, 0.76 ERA, 17 SV, 59 IP, 23 H, 83 K, 24 BB, 0.80 WHIP.
Edlefsen's 2009 stats: 8-1, 1.76 ERA, 9 SV, 66.1 IP, 44 H, 71 K, 31 BB, 1.21 WHIP.
It will barely get noticed on the day Posey gets the call, but Runzler was also called up by the Giants Wednesday.
That's good. Really, really good.
The Conor Gillaspie error count is up to 27, just in case you were wondering. He isn't doing anything to help his cause at the corner.
Then again, neither are the three home runs in 121 games.
Who has been one of the most impressive 2009 draftees you probably know nothing about? Check out what infielder Drew Biery has done at Short-Season Salem-Keiezer.
The Giants' 22nd round draft pick out of Kansas State, Biery has put a huge numbers in his debut season. He may be 23 years old, but he definitely is showing he can play a little bit. He is fourth in the Northwest League in hitting (.337), fifth in RBI (45) and OPS (.925), and sixth in on-base percentage (.417).