The Class A+ California League plays its All-Star Game today in Myrtle Beach, S.C., against the Class A+ Carolina League. San Jose Giants 1B Brandon Belt will almost certainly be the California League’s third- or fourth-place hitter, and it will likely be his last game at the Class A+ level.
Other San Jose Giants making the California League’ All-Star team are pitchers Craig Westcott, Eric Surkamp, and Justin Fitzgerald; outfielder Juan Perez; as well as manager Brian Harper and his coaching staff. The SJ Giants won the first half title in the California League’s Northern Division with a 45-25 record, one game behind the league-best Lake Elsinore Storm, who lead in the South.
With the California League now officially at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look at how individual SJ Giants performed in the first half.
Brandon Belt is obviously the team’s best prospect through half a season. He leads the California League in hits (93), doubles (26), total bases (152), walks (53), batting average (.392), on-base percentage (.503) and OPS (1.145). He’s also in the top five in runs scored, RBI, and slugging percentage. Clearly he is ready for a promotion to AA or even AAA ball.
As mentioned above, 23-year-old outfielder Juan Perez made the California League All-Star team with a first-half batting average of .327 and an OPS of .895. However, bigger news for San Francisco Giants fans is the sudden improvement of former first-round pick 3B Charlie Culberson (51st player selected in the 2007 draft).
Culberson finished the first half hitting .421 in his last 10 games to pull his season average up to .314 and his OPS up to .888. Culberson is two years younger than Perez, and is thus a better prospect.
Like a lot of the Giants’ position prospects, Culberson’s walks-to-strikeouts ratio (12/50) is still terrible. However, after two years of not hitting at Class A Augusta—a very difficult place to hit—it’s nice to see Culberson finally hitting the ball with some authority.
Twenty-two-year-old 2B Jose Flores is hitting .341 in 132 AB this year. After two fine seasons in the Northwest League in 2007 and 2008, Flores was awful at Class A Augusta in 2009, hitting only .122 in 49 AB. I don’t know whether he was hurt last year or was simply dropped from the GreenJackets and sent to extended spring training after a terrible start. However, now that he is in San Jose playing in a hitters’ league, his bat has come back in a big way.
No one else on San Jose has done a whole lot with the bat. Twenty-two-year old CF Francisco Peguero has a .726 OPS.
Twenty-year old SS Ehire Adrianza, who looked so promising at Augusta in 2009, has had trouble figuring out California League pitching so far. He’s hitting .258 with a .681 OPS so far. No terrible, but it looks like it will be a while before he develops into a major-league hitter.
Twenty-two-year-old LF Wendell Fairley, who was the 27th player selected in the 2007 draft, has a strong .353 on-base percentage but has hit with no power at all, resulting in a .646 OPS.
Of the SJ Giants’ pitching prospects, I still like 22-year old lefty Eric Surkamp the best. He had a couple of rough starts in late May and early June, which left him with a 3.50 ERA at the break, but I’m impressed with his line of 72 IP, 62 hits, three HRs and 17 walks allowed and 69 Ks.
Twenty-four-year-old righty Craig Westcott has a terrific and league-leading 1.55 ERA, but his ratios aren’t nearly as impressive as Surkamp’s, aside from the fact that Westcott is sixteen months older.
Twenty-four-year-old righty Justin Fitzgerald made the California League All-Star team with a 5-1 record and a 3.18 ERA, the league’s seventh-best so far, but like Westcott, he’s getting a little old to be a prospect at this level and he doesn’t have the strikeout rates to make me think he’s going to have a successful major-league career some day.
Among the SJ Giants’ relievers, I find 24-year-old lefty David Quinowski the most intriguing. His minor league numbers have always been great, but it looks like he blew out his elbow tendon a couple of years back because he missed the entire 2008 season.
Quinowski has a 2.51 ERA with 40 Ks and only eight walks allowed in 28.2 IP for the SJ Giants this year. He might amount to something if his throwing arm holds up. However, he’s definitely small for a pitcher (5’10″ and 170 lbs), so we’ll see.
Twenty-four-year-old righty Kyle Woodruff has a 2.45 ERA with 20 Ks and only two walks in 22 IP. Twenty-three-year-old righty Edwin Quirarte has a 1.71 ERA and a roughly 3/1 K/BBs rate, but doesn’t have as many strikeouts as you’d like to see at this level.
Twenty-one-year-old righty Jason Stoffel has 29 Ks in 24.1 IP, which is great, but has an ugly 6.29 ERA. At his age and with the high strikeout rate, however, he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.