San Francisco Giants Minor League Notes

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San Francisco Giants Minor League Notes
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I plan to write a more thorough run-down of the Giants’ minor league performers around the All-Star break, but I thought I’d give you a few of the highlights at the moment.


AAA Fresno Grizzlies

Now that John Bowker is safely back at AAA and playing every day, he’s thumping the ball again.  After eight games, he’s hitting .382 with a 1.023 OPS.

With the addition of Pat Burrell and Buster Posey at least temporarily having pushed Aubrey Huff into the outfield, there’s no place for Bowker to play at the major league level.

In the short term, that’s okay, because after his poor and infrequent performance in San Francisco, he needs a few weeks of regular play to get his timing and confidence back.  In the long term, it’s tough for Bowker, who’s looking more and more like a 4-A player who will need to go to Japan to have a truly successful professional career.  On July 8, Bowker turns 27—roughly the point when a player loses prospect status.

As I’m sure you know, LHP Madison Bumgarner (pictured above) didn’t get the call-up when Todd Wellemeyer got hurt.  Instead, the Giants went with RHP Joe Martinez.

The Giants said the decision was based primarily on the fact that Martinez will be ready to start when Wellemeyer’s now vacant slot in the rotation comes up tomorrow night—not on Bumgarner’s recent short suspension.

Bumgarner had to be physically restrained from going after an umpire after a base runner was called safe on a pick-off play to first base.  As he was leaving the field, Bumgarner fired a ball into the outfield.  He was suspended by the Pacific Coast League for three games and the Giants fined him as well.

Bumgarner has since apologized, blaming his competitive nature, and it is doubtful the episode will have any lasting repercussions—unless Bumgarmer has similar melt-downs in the future.

Their numbers for the season are very similar. However, after getting battered around in his first two starts this season, Bumgarner has pitched better than Joe Martinez.  Since those two awful performances, Bumgarner has gone 6-0 with a 1.89 ERA with a line of 62 IP, 54 hits, two HRs, 18 walks, and 41 Ks.

Most likely, the Giants want to bring Bumgarner along slowly since he’s still only 20 years old.  Also, the Giants see this as a brief call-up for only one or two starts until Wellemeyer comes off the DL.

Martinez is the more mature pitcher (in multiple ways), and I’m sure the Giants would like to give Martinez at least another opportunity or two after he got hurt last year (he was hit in the head by a line drive) and missed most of the 2009 season.

Obviously, Bumgarner is the one with the real major league future ahead of him, but it’s safe to say that the Giants want to make sure he’s really ready before they call him up for good.

I’m still high on 2B Brock Bond and RHP Steve Edlefsen.  Bond has no power, and I’ve heard little about his defense, but he presently has a .421 on-base percentage and he doesn’t turn 25 until September.  A middle infielder who gets on base like that is a legitimate prospect.

It’s not a fluke.  Bond hit .333 with a .429 OBP last year in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League, leading the league in both categories.  If the Giants can’t find a roster space for Bond at the major league level fairly soon, he looks to all the world like the kind of player the A’s would be happy to take off the Giants’ hands.

Edlefsen now has a 1.16 ERA with a line of 38.2 IP, 28 hits, two HRs, 13 walks, and 32 Ks.  Playing in the hitter-friendly PCL, he looks ready for a major league opportunity.


AA Richmond Flying Squirrels

The best news out of Richmond, as I see it, is that youngsters Thomas Neal and Brandon Crawford are finally starting to do something with the bat this year.

So far, Richmond seems to be as difficult a place to hit as Norwich, Connecticut was in prior years as the Giants’ AA outpost.

After sticking right around .700, Crawford and Neal have pulled their OPS numbers up to .742 and .739, respectively.  Not particularly impressive, but with SS Crawford still only 23 and LF Neal not turning 23 until August 17, they still look like prospects, particularly if they can continue to improve as the 2010 season progresses.


A+ San Jose Giants

The most exciting San Jose Giant at present is 1B Brandon Belt.  After 63 games, Belt is hitting .382 with a ridiculous .500 OBP and an impressive .599 SLG.  Belt was the Giants’ fifth round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft out of the University of Texas, and he’s only 22 this year, so the Giants may have found themselves a diamond in the rough.

It’s definitely time for the Giants to promote Belt to AA Richmond to see if he’s really a legitimate prospect.  He doesn’t look to have anything left to prove at the A+ level.

The only real knock on Belt so far is that he’s hit just six HRs at San Jose.  However, he’s still young, and he has 32 extra-base hits in 212 at-bats, so I don’t think the lack of HRs is a concern at this point in his professional career.  Belt is listed at 6’5″ and 195 pounds, so he may yet grow into his power.

If Belt is for real, he could really help the Giants in a couple of years, when Buster Posey will presumably be their everyday catcher.  From what I recall hearing on draft day, Belt also has a good glove at first base.


A Augusta GreenJackets

The player who has caught my eye at Class A Augusta so far this season is 20-year-old Nicaraguan pitcher Jorge Bucardo.  After 12 starts, he’s 6-2 with a 1.57 ERA.  His pitching line is 74.1 IP, 47 hits, two HRs, 23 walks, and 70 Ks.  It's hard not to like those numbers.

Bucardo is listed at 6’1″ and only 155 pounds, so you have to have a little concern about how his arm will hold up now that he’s pitching in long-season leagues.  However, he appears to have had no previous arm problems, making between 11 and 15 starts a year the last three seasons in short-season leagues, and he’s pitched well enough to accumulate 192 professional innings entering this season without any injuries.

Jorge’s older brother, Wilber, has also pitched well for the Giants the last few seasons in the low minors.  However, Jorge is the one, based on his strikeout numbers, who looks like the real prospect going forward.

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