The San Francisco Giants really need another left-hander out of the bullpen now that Jeremy Affeldt's sidelined with a torn oblique muscle.
The club also needs minor league talent to attract a proven big league run-producer in trade.
Todd Wellemeyer's pitching well for the Fresno Grizzlies in the Pacific Coast League, but that doesn't mean that fans calling for the club to trade Jonathan Sanchez for a hitter have any idea how difficult it would be to fill the No. 4 spot in the rotation.
Oh, there are starting pitchers in Triple-A—but there's a good reason that only one has ever reached the big league level and for the big club's hesitance to turn a starting spot back over to Wellemeyer.
The organization does have some talent other teams might seek in trade, but the most proven player in Fresno is middle infielder Emmanuel Burriss and the Giants could use him themselves down the stretch.
Such is the playoff frenzy among Giants fans that some are insisting that Gino Espinelli is the answer in the bullpen.
Here's a look at the key players in Fresno. Remember, the Giants can lure a big league hitter without giving up minor league talent and, rest assured, the organization would rather gut the Fresno roster than touch the nucleus of the Richmond Class AA team.
Matt Yourkin, LHP – Giants fans haven’t heard a thing about the 29-year-old journeyman left-hander, but he has pitched well in 16 starts this year (he hadn't made a professional start in his five previous seasons). He’s 6-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 89 innings pitched. He pitches to contact. A Giants bullpen that has an excess of stuff and a need for command could potentially use Yourkin down the stretch. He has 76 strikeouts and only 26 walks.
It would require altering the 40-man roster to get Yourkin to the big leagues, so enjoy him in Fresno.
Dontrelle Willis, LHP -- He's 28 and serious baseball fans no his story. The Giants have him in Arizona where they are totally rebuilding his wind-up and delivery. Once the minor league pitching instructors feel he is ready, Willis will be sent to Fresno where he work as a situational relief pitcher. The Giants need nothing more, and more quickly, than they need a lefty in the pen. For anyone to expect Willis to provide big league help in a pennant race, after losing command and control of his emotions, would be a stretch.
Eric Hacker, RHP – He’s 11-5 in 20 starts, but that 4.52 ERA has enabled to bypass him a couple of times when there was a need for a fifth starter. Hacker has walked 42 and given up 122 hits in 109 2/3 innings.
Joe Martinez, RHP – The righty replaces Affeldt on the big league roster in a bullpen without a lefty. His big league career has been nondescript, but he is 5-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 13 starts in the Pacific Coast League. The 1.28 WHIP could make him a potential throw-in if the Giants need to add a potential big league arm in a trade for a hitter.
Steve Edlefsen, RHP – The numbers add up. He’s 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA and five saves. His 41 strikeouts and 22 walks in 48 innings indicate that he throws strikes. The 25-year-old is never mentioned when the big league considers adding a reliever.
Gino Espinelli, LHP – Watch the Giants bullpen cough up leads in the middle innings often enough and, yeah, Espinelli starts looking good. The 27-year-old could find his way to San Francisco with only Jeremy Affeldt working as a lefty in the pen right now.
Espinelli is 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA and eight saves in Fresno. His inability to break through to the big leagues stems, in part, from the fact that he was judged a full-time reliever in 2007 and has never developed strikeout stuff big leaguers tend to need to shine late in games.
Alex Hinshaw, LHP – If Martinez got the call to replace Affeldt, it's unfathomable that the big club can't look past Hinshaw's 2-3 record and that 4.73 ERA in Fresno because the 27-year-old had 49 strikeouts in 45 2/3 big league innings with the Giants in 2008 and 2009. The lack of command that showed in the big leagues (36 walks) has slowed him in Fresno.
It doesn't make much sense for a big league team with erratic, right hand relievers to look past a potentially capable lefty with 47 Ks and 27 BBs in Class AAA. Does Martinez help more coming out of the pen late in a game than Hinshaw might? Really?
Waldis Joaquin, RHP – The 23-year-old throws hard, but hasn’t thrown strikes in a couple stints with the Giants. Regardless of his numbers in Fresno, though, he’ll be in San Francisco in September when guys like Edlefsen and Hacker are headed home. Joaquin might be the most marketable arm in Fresno when the Giants talk trade.
Tyler Graham, OF – The Pacific Coast League is a hitter’s league, so it’s hard to tell what Grahma’s .343 batting average means in terms of big league potential. The 26-year-old lacks power, but has 24 stolen bases. His being a right hand hitter won’t hurt his chances of a September call-up. He could be a near big league-ready talent that could be a throw-in if a trade for a big league run-producer presents itself.
John Bowker, OF-1B - Those who think 183 games and 475 big league at-bats aren't enough for Bowker to have shown he's really more than a .238 big league hitter will continue to insist he be recalled so that he can try, again, to turn PCL MVP-like numbers into serviceable big league stats.
His value on the open market hinges on which team the Giants deal with. Bowker's minor league numbers would impress fans, briefly, as they bid farewell to an Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, etc.
Juan Guzman, 3B-1B – The guy is a minor league hitter who, unlike Bowker, hasn’t received much opportunity to start and rack up big league ABs. He’s got 13 homers and 39 RBI. Guzman’s hitting .309, but has proven to be a big league DH who might attract limited interest as part of a bigger trade package.
Ryan Rohlinger, 3B-SS – He’s hitting .310 with five homers in Triple A, but has looked increasingly like a big league utilityman. He was recalled on Saturday to replace fallen Eugenio Velez, who suffered a concussion when struck by a line drive foul ball.
There are teams willing to accept a 26-year-old Rohlinger who can play multiple positions—as long as he’s packaged with younger, more touted prospects.
Brett Pill, 1B – His 11 homers and 58 RBIs show he has upped his power potential at age 25. Pill could, in theory, be an attractive piece in a trade for a big league hitter—especially with Brandon Belt on the fast track to becoming the big league first baseman. Pill’s most certainly in line for a September call-up if he isn't traded first.
Emmanuel Burriss, IF – The 25-year-old was the Giants opening day second baseman in 2009. Injuries sidelined him for more than a year, but he brings the big club a lot of what it needs. Burriss adds speed to a lead-footed lineup.
While he didn’t develop into the big-time big league shortstop he was drafted to become, he can bring young legs and range to the position. Burriss is a switch-hitter who, most certainly, will be on the big league roster soon. He’s batting .282 in 117 Triple-A at-bats. He has youth and a sufficient upside to be a key part of a trade for a big league batter.
Brock Bond, 2B – The Giants are committed to Freddy Sanchez, with Burriss ready to return to the big leagues. Highly touted Nick Noonan is considered by some the second baseman of the future (although Noonan's struggling in Class AA this season).
Bond is a 24-year-old switch-hitter hitting .287 with 29 RBI. He’s not a power hitter, but gets on base (.405) OBP. It’ll be interesting to see if the Giants, or any other big league club, are noticing that the guy’s having a really good first year in Triple A.
So, there they are. Joaquin, Burriss, Pill, and Graham are all marketable minor leaguers. None, however, is the centerpiece of a trade that's going to net the Giants a hitter.