This season has been about the Giants and their rebuilding process: the influx of youth and the exodus of old faces. Those who are gone: Steve Kline, Pedro Feliz, Ryan Klesko, and Barry Bonds. The youth have taken root, and are showing up all over the field.
Seven new Giants have made their Major League debut this year, and 10 total are still statistically considered rookies. Some are here for a good while (Burriss, Bowker, Holm), while others have already been sent back down (Velez, Bocock). But this season is about the kids, so lets take a look at how they've done so far.
Brian Bocock 3/31
He's a defensive specialist who was basically filling the gap until Omar Vizquel came back. He started Opening Day in Dodger Stadium.
Bocock was solid in the field, but aside from that, wasn't very good. He hit .143 with 29 strikeouts in only 89 plate appearances, or a strikeout every three times up.
After 32 games, Bocock was sent back down, and he isn't doing much better at the plate there (.182, 15 Ks). I still think keeping him on the roster was a mistake, exposing him to major league pitching while he was still very raw.
Merkin Valdez 3/31 (ML Debut: 8/1/04)
After missing all of last year due to Tommy John surgery, Valdez came back as the dominant reliever he was supposed to be when the Giants drafted him.
Although he's hurt right now, his numbers while he was around are pretty lights-out. He has a 1.69 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched.
When he comes back, he'll strengthen a bullpen that has faltered a little bit. He throws hard and has wicked stuff, and should be back by next week.
Eugenio Velez 3/31 (ML Debut: 9/5/07)
An exciting player to watch when he gets on base, he is still very rough around the edges.
I understand that he doesn't have a determined position, but at the baseball age of 26, one can't be getting picked off or making the kind of defensive mistakes that he was prone to making.
But he did steal eight bases and hit four triples, and he was lightning quick rounding the bases. He needs to shape up quick, and hopefully finds a position where he sticks.
Steve Holm 4/4
Over the past couple years, the Giants have had solid catchers come in and back up the everyday starter.
In 2004 and 2005, it was Yorvit Torrealba (now starting for the Rockies); in 2006 it was longtime minor leaguer Eliezer Alfonzo and veteran Todd Greene.
Last year, Alfonzo and fellow journeyman Guillermo Rodriguez shared the backup duties. Holm is following in that mold, and at 29, finally made his big league debut.
He has a great approach to pinch-hitting, and owns a respectable .260 average and hasn't made an error this season.
John Bowker 4/12
Right after being called up, Bowker provided the spark that the Giants were looking for, hitting two homers and driving in seven in his first two games.
He has since cooled down, but is actually pushing Dan Ortmeier for playing time in both the outfield and at first base. He's a real gamer and is going to play a Mark Sweeney/Ryan Klesko role, subbing at first and in the outfield.
Emmanuel Burriss 4/20
He should have been the guy who started on Opening Day, not Bocock. Burriss is young and raw, but he has the best shortstop to tutor him in Omar Vizquel.
Burriss is hitting .385 off lefties, he's fast, and is 5-of-6 in stolen base attempts. He's a solid defender, and like I said, if he chooses to learn from Omar, he'll get even better.
Pat Misch 4/27 (ML Debut: 9/21/06)
Misch has struggled a bit, with a 5.93 ERA in eight games so far this year. The young lefty still hasn't recorded his first major league win in 27 career appearances.
He has stuff, but it seems that he still isn't able to keep the ball down, which is what he needs to do. Contrasting to Tim Lincecum (9-3) and Jonathan Sanchez (9-3), the Giants are 0-7 when he starts.
Yet, there is still a bright spot. He has a 2:1 strikeout ratio still, and a good portion of those games were lost by only one run. His appearance out of the bullpen was encouraging, and if that's where he'll be on the roster, I feel like he'll contribute a lot as a long reliever.
Billy Sadler 5/8 (ML Debut: 9/15/06)
Sadler has improved vastly from last year, but his work this year is still a little incomplete. He owns a 5.40 ERA, and has allowed 17 baserunners in only 11.2 innings.
The good thing is, players are not hitting that well against him. Righties are only at .192, and lefties are smack dab at .200. He'll get better as he goes along, but I don't believe he has the stuff to be late-inning material.
Alex Hinshaw 5/15
Hinshaw dominated in the minors and brought his killer stuff right up to the majors when he was recalled. He was unscored upon in his first eight appearances, and tallied nine strikeouts in 5.1 innings.
He has great control of an electric fastball and a terrific curveball that made Brian Giles totally break down the other day. He's got the stuff to be the setup man for Brian Wilson later this year, if he can figure out how to keep righties hitting .100 against him.
Hinshaw is a great prospect who has paid his dues already with two season-ending elbow injuries.
Travis Denker 5/21
Denker, like Bowker, is having a fantastic start to his Major-League career. He already has his first double, triple, and home run, which have all come in the past two days. He's hitting .353 in 10 games and is also a solid fielder.
Still very much in need of more playing time to properly evaluate, I feel like I can trust Denker more than I could Eugenio Velez.
Brian Horwitz 5/30
In his first Major-League at-bat, Brian Horwitz struck out on three pitches. But since then, he's 4-for-9 with a home run and three RBI in four games. Called up when Dan Ortmeier went on the DL, he also played a solid left field in an outfield that has been really tough for rookies.
I like him not just because he's out of Cal, but because he has the intangibles that make him a good player. Announcer Mike Krukow said Horwitz is not known for his speed, power, or anything in particular, but he knows how to hit the other way, and that's something that a lot of big-league hitters still don't know how to do.
You're going to hear a lot of firsts this year, and a lot of kids tying Duane Kuiper on the all-time homerun list. We've already had four, and hopefully there are still more to come. Keep playing the kids; they'll only get better.