Six weeks after the San Francisco Giants’ top two pitching prospects got a somewhat-anticipated promotion, the other part of the highly touted battery of the future is reportedly getting moved up as well.
It may not be in the same fashion as his magical mystery tour from a year ago after he received a $6.2 million bonus, but uber-prospect Buster Posey seems to be on the move again.
While he did put up astronomical numbers at Florida State en route to winning the Golden Spikes Award last year, his numbers with San Jose are pretty impressive when you consider he only played a handful of games after he signed.
An offensive stat line that includes a .321 batting average, 11 home runs, 48 RBI, and a .956 OPS means you’re a lock to be a Cal League All-Star and that’s what Posey did in the first half of the 2009 season.
Not too shabby.
Because of his extreme mashing of California League pitching for the first three months of the season, leading the little Giants of San Jose to another first-half title, Posey is now on his way to make Pacific Coast League pitchers his next victim.
But as we heard with Posey, we knew he could hit, it’s the progress he made behind the plate calling games and learning the nuances of being an everyday catcher in professional baseball that is starting to impress.
Giants General Manager Brian Sabean and the rest of the player development staff wouldn’t promote Posey if they didn’t feel he was excelling in both aspects and they certainly wouldn’t be planning on him skipping Double-A and going right to Fresno.
However, the anticipated promotion might be delayed. After Posey was recently hit in the head with a pitch, the Grizzlies might have to wait a little bit longer before they see him in the everyday lineup.
There reportedly aren’t any serious problems with the aftermath of the knock to the head, but with Posey being the biggest and the closest big-time prospect to making an impact with the big club in the system, there’s obvious reason to be precautious.
He may have missed the final four games to close out the month of June, but it’s only a matter of time before Posey gets the long-awaited promotion to Triple-A Fresno.
Posey is making a B-line right for AT&T Park with an anticipated arrival date of Spring 2010.
The “Don’t Forget About Me” Club in San Jose
With all the attention that Posey gets, and it’s not like he has done anything to not garner the kind of pub he gets, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the other bats in the middle of the order are quite good as well.
The biggest bat in the Little Giants’ lineup this season not named Buster Posey has to be outfielder Thomas Neal, who came into the season as the organization’s No. 23 ranked prospect, according to Baseball America.
Neal’s numbers speak for themselves: A .345 average, 22 doubles, 13 HR, 47 RBI, and a 1.029 OPS in 70 games at San Jose.
And we thought Posey had serious power numbers.
Neal is teamed in the outfield with Giants’ No. 14 prospect and third-round pick, Roger Kieschnick. His 15 home runs ranks him fifth in the Cal League, 58 RBI ranks him third, and his .304 average and .879 OPS isn’t anything to slouch at.
Then there is of course, 18-year-old first baseman Angel Villalona.
Big V has been struggling at the beginning of the second half schedule with his average sitting at .271 but his power numbers are still good. His nine home runs put him fourth on the team, which shows the kind of depth the lineup has.
Just remember though, he’s still developing his game at 18 years of age and will usually be the youngest player at every level he plays at.
However, there are also pitchers having good seasons down in Silicon Valley, including the forgotten arm in the top ten rankings.
Scott Barnes, the Giants’ No. 9 ranked prospect, has become the most-heralded pitcher in the rotation since the departure of Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson in mid-May.
Barnes’ stats are very good for a pitcher in his first-full season as a professional. His 3.44 ERA ranks him sixth in the Cal League
Fellow lefty Clayton Tanner, the No. 20 ranked prospect, has had an equally effective 2009, going 6-2 and ranks just ahead of Barnes with a 3.16 ERA.
The Same Old Song and Dance for Bumgarner, Alderson, and Sosa
As the months go on, it’s starting to make this seem like a broken record with all the praise that has been given to them throughout the course of the 2009 season so far.
Bumgarner has continued to keep rolling along, racking up wins and mowing down hitters on the season with ease.
In just eight outings, seven starts, at Double-A Connecticut, Bumgarner has been simply fantastic.
You want to know about how dominant he’s been? Just those seven starts have earned him Eastern League All-Star status and a spot on the United States roster for the XM Futures Game in St. Louis.
Not a bad month of July planned for Mad Bum.
Alderson has also been very good since the mid-May promotion, going 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. His control has been exceptional, walking just nine batters in nine starts spanning 49.2 innings.
Completing the talented threesome is 23-year-old right-hander Henry Sosa.
After a frustrating 2008 filled with injuries and inconsistencies, it seems the flame-throwing Dominican is back at it. His 2.36 ERA ranks him fourth in the Eastern League, and he has yet to lose a game on the year, going 6-0 in 14 starts.
Not a bad trident the Defenders can roll out, isn’t it?
Quick Hits From Around the Giants Minor League System
It may be a year early, but last year’s big-money international signing has hit the United States.
Rafael Rodriguez, who signed for $2.55 million last July, has played in just four games for the Giants Arizona Rookie League affiliate, hitting .125 in just 16 at-bats.
It’s no reason to frown about because as we know during the early goings of a season, his average could go from .125 to over .300 with just a couple of good games back-to-back.
The Giants are handling Rodriguez much like they handled Villalona, which has turned out to be quite effective looking at how Big V has progressed in the two years since he signed out of the Dominican.
Also playing for the AZL affiliate is this year’s 2009 third-round pick, third baseman Chris Dominguez.
The two-time Player of the Year and 2009 First Team All-American out of Louisville clubbed 25 home runs, finished 82 RBI and stolen bases (19-of-25) and hit .345 overall.
He’s expected to see time at Class A Short-Season Salem-Keizer when the season starts this month.
This season hasn’t been much to smile about for two members of the San Jose Giants infield.
No. 5 ranked prospect, second baseman Nick Noonan, has been in what seems like a six-week funk, seeing his average drop down to .249. While Noonan has knocked in 36 runs, he has only hit three home runs, 12 doubles, and only sports a .317 OBP.
Fellow infielder, third baseman Conor Gillaspie, hasn’t done much to show critics that he can hit for the kind of power people expect from players at the hot corner.
In fact, he hasn’t hit for much power at all in 2009.
In 71 games, Gillaspie has only hit one home run and driven in 31 to go with 16 doubles. While he has made very good contact (only 39 strikeouts in 254 at-bats), the severe lack of power is something that might bring a position change in the future.
He may not officially be a prospect anymore after playing 111 games with the Giants last season, but you can’t ignore what John Bowker is doing down in Fresno right now.
He smacked a club-record 12 homers in the month of June while hitting .392 during that same span. On the season, Bowker’s hitting .359 with 16 home runs and 58 RBI. He’s also added 18 doubles and 10 stolen bases.
However, don’t expect Bowker to be in the big leagues any time soon with the way the Giants roster currently is. Sabean & Crew have made it clear that they will bring him up when consistent playing time is available.
The decision to keep Bowker at Triple-A does make sense, especially when he’s hitting the ball like he is and guaranteed time in the majors isn’t exactly a lock right now. Keep him in the minors, have him rake, then bring him up when the Grizzlies’ season is over and the rosters expand in September.
It’s certainly something Pacific Coast League pitchers don’t want to hear.