Giants Minor League Update

Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IJune 11, 2009

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27:  John Bowker #70 of the San Francisco Giants poses for a photo during Spring Training Photo Day at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Time once again for an update on what the minor leaguers in the Giants’ system are up to:

AAA Fresno Grizzlies

The big story right now is how well John Bowker is playing.  He hit HRs in four consecutive games from June 4-7, and now has 8 on the season.  His OPS is up to 1.022, with a tremendous 39 walks in 190 ABs.  He still strikes out a lot with 32 in the young season.

I was surprised that the Giants called up Kevin Frandsen rather than Bowker when Travis Ishikawa went on bereavement leave.  Frandsen had played extremely well since returning to Fresno at the end of May, lifting his OPS to .877, mainly on the strength of a .339 batting average.

In my mind, the Giants probably called up Frandsen because they didn’t want to waste a minor league option on Bowker for what would likely be only a week long stay.  I also suspect that the Giants may be shopping Frandsen, who at 27 probably doesn’t have much of a future with the Giants and recently made comments to reporters indicating that he would like to be traded to another organization where he’d have a better opportunity to play in the majors.

Jesus Guzman is continuing to hit well with a .962 OPS.  I wonder if he’s making any improvement on the glove-work?

3Bman Ryan Rohlinger (.805 OPS) and 2Bman Matt Downs (.794) are putting up solid seasons, but both are 25 this year, which is getting old for players who aren’t quite ready to play at the major league level.

The Giants recently signed Joe Borchard, who had been released by the Braves’ AAA team after a horrendous start (he was hitting .119), to play at Fresno, and he’s off to a hot start with a 1.177 OPS after 37 ABS.  You may remember Borchard as a former football star at Stanford, who was chosen with the 12th pick of the 2000 draft by the White Sox and given a then enormous $5.3M signing bonus.

He turned out to be a huge bust and is a good example of the fact that being a great athelete doesn’t necessary mean you’ll develop into a great baseball player.  He’s 30 now and just another veteran 4-A player.  Unless he has a big year for the Grizzlies this year, I don’t see him as quite good enough to go to Japan.

Speaking of possible busts, Dallas McPherson has still not reported to Fresno.  CBS news reported in early June that he is stuck at extended Spring Training due to ongoing back spasms, a chronic problem for McPherson.  At least he didn’t cost the Giants much.

No one is pitching especially well at Fresno.  After a hot start, Osiris Matos’ ERA has risen to a still respectable 2.41.  However, he has allowed 20 hits and 6 BBs with 13 K’s in 18.2 innings pitched, which isn’t particularly impressive after his hot start.

Much to my surprise, 36 year old veteran Ramon Ortiz is putting together a strong season.  He has a 3.03 ERA in 32.2 innings with 15 BB’s and 35 K’s.  He might now be the first guy to get the call if someone in the Giants’ bullpen gets hurt.

Gino Espinelli has 8 saves for the Grizzlies, but his ERA has risen to 3.25.  In 27.2 IP, he’s given up 29 hits with only 4 walks and 16 K’s.  He’s obviously the kind of pitcher who needs good defense behind him to be successful at the major league level.

29 year old Felix Romero deserves mention because in spite of a 3.58 ERA, he has 32 K’s and only 6 BB’s in 32.2 IP.

Starters Kevin Pucetas and Ryan Sadowski have pitcher fairly well with ERA’s of 3.75 and 3.82 with solid Ks-to-IP and Ks-to-BBs ratios.  Billy Sadler still doesn’t have major league control, and Alex Hinshaw is still having an abysmal season.

AA Connecticut Defenders

The big news here continues to be the development of super-prospects Tim Alderson and Madison Bumgarner.

Even though it’s a big jump in play moving up to AA ball, probably the biggest jump at any stage of the minor leagues, Connecticut is a great place for young pitchers to gain confidence because it is a very difficult place to hit.

Currently, Alderson and Bumgarner have been terrific.  After 29 innings, Bumgarner has a 4-0 record, a 1.86 ERA, 8 BB’s and 29 K’s.  In 32.2 innings, Alderson is 2-1, with a 2.20 ERA with only 2 walks and 29 K’s.  Perhaps more importantly, no signs of arm problems from either.

Being a great place to pitch, a lot of other pitchers are putting up big numbers at Connecticut.  23 year old reliever Joe Paterson has an 0.72 ERA with 31 K’s and 8 walks in 25 IP.  24 year old reliever Dan Otero has an 0.83 ERA, although his other numbers aren’t impressive.  23 year old Ben Snyder’s ERA has risen to 2.11, but with 27 hits allowed with 16 BB’s and 47 K’s in 42.2 innings, he’s still having a fine season.

23 year old starter Henry Sosa is 5-0 with a 2.21 ERA, and 27 year old reliever Matt Yourkin has a 2.70 ERA with 37 K’s and 10 BB’s in 30 IP.

No one is hitting much at Connecticut.  RF Eddy Martinez-Esteve has an .813 OPS, and 1Bman Brett Pill has an .811 OPS.

After a hot start, SS Brandon Crawford has cooled off since his promotion from A+ San Jose.  He now has a .734 OPS in 113 AA AB’s, which is not bad at all for a middle infielder playing here.

A+ San Jose Giants

The big news here, of course, is still Buster Posey.  He’s continuing to play well, hitting his 10th HR of the season yesterday.  He now has a .933 OPS in 56 games.

For someone who’s supposed to be on the “fast track”, I’m a little surprised he hasn’t been promoted to AA Connecticut yet.  I don’t think he has much left to prove at the A+ level.  Perhaps his defense still needs work.

Since the promotion of Brandon Crawford to AA, the surprise top hitter for the SJ Giants has been 21 year old 1B/LF Thomas Neal, who has a .983 OPS.  22 year old RF Roger Kieschnick is playing fairly well with a .304 BA and an .834 OPS.

Angel Villalona will probably spend the entire season at San Jose, unless he suddenly has a big jump forward.  His OPS is presently .766 and he’s averaged more than 5 K’s for each walk he’s drawn.

The thing is, he’s still only 18 years old.  Playing everyday at A+ ball already, he can only get better.  He’s having roughly the same year at San Jose he had last year at Class A Augusta.  That’s progress.  If he continues to improve at roughly the same rate, he should be playing regularly for the Giants by age 21.

The Giants’ second first round pick last year, 3Bman Conor Gillaspie, is still struggling.  His OPS is now .703.  He’s getting on base, but hitting with very little power.

Of the pitchers still pitching at San Jose, 22-year-old reliever Daniel Turpen has a 1.26 ERA with 29 K’s and 13 BB’s in 35.2 innings.  21 year old starter Clayton Tanner is continuing to have a fine year; he’s 4-1 with a 3.02 ERA with 18 BB’s and 36 K’s in 44.2 IP.

Steve Edlefsen, Wilmin Rodriquez and Craig Clark are all pitching well with good ERA’s and excellent K’s-to-BB’s ratios.  However, all three are 24 this year, which is old for this level.

A Augusta Green Jackets

Only two players really grab me at the Giants’ Class A affiliate.  These are 19-year-old SS Ehire Adrianza from Venezuala, and 21 year old pitcher Eric Surkamp.

Adrianza is said to be a “stellar” defensive shortstop by myworldofbaseball.com, and he’s hitting a very respectable .269 with a .713 OPS in 156 AB’s so far at Augusta.  Given his age, and the facts that he is a middle infielder and Augusta is another difficult place to hit, his numbers are very promising.

Surkamp’s ERA has climbed to 3.88 but he has 63 K’s and only 11 BB’s allowed in 51 IP.  Definitely the kind of numbers you like to see from a young pitcher.


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