San Franciso Giants Minor League Update

Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IJuly 16, 2009

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 23:  Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants poses during photo day at Scottsdale Stadium on February 23, 2009 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by: Harry How/Getty Images)

Now that we’ve reached the All-Star Game, it’s a good time to find out what the youngsters are doing down on the farm.


Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are presently 45-45 and in third place in their four team division.

The Giants recently called up John Bowker, and he hit a HR in the last game before the break, so he should stick around for a while, unless the Giants trade him. 

His final numbers in 285 first-half ABs: 17 HRs, .347 batting average, .448 OBP and 1.062 OPS.

First baseman Jesus Guzman’s OPS fell below .900 briefly, but it’s back up to .921.  He’s hitting .330 with 11 HRs.

Middle infielder Kevin Frandsen, who’s back up with the Giants as Juan Uribe’s back-up, finished his half season at Fresno with a .304 batting average, a .355 OBP and .810 OPS.  Second baseman Matt Downs, who’s back in Fresno, is very similar at a .289 batting average, .337 OBP and an. 803 OPS.

Third baseman Ryan Rohlinger had a solid first half.  He hit .283 with a .358 OBP and a .789 OPS.  He’s not ready for prime time, but he’s getting close.

As you probably know, Emmanuel Burriss is out with a broken toe and won’t be back for a couple of months.  Eugenio Velez is playing mostly centerfield for the Grizzlies.  He’s hitting .279 with a .338 OBP and a .757 OPS.

As for the pitchers, Kevin Pucetas is still the ace of the rotation.  He got hit hard on Saturday, however, and his ERA has jumped to 3.57.  He still has an 8-2 record with 30 walks and 63 K’s in 108.1 IP.

Ramon Ortiz is still pitching well, although his ERA has climbed to 3.36.  This is mostly a result of him being used as a starter again.  He’s only 1-2, but he has 57 K’s and 21 BB’s in 61.2 IP, so it looks like he’s jumped back in front of Pucetas as the guy mostly likely to get the call if the Giants need another pitcher.

Osiris Matos has had a solid but unspectacular first half.  His ERA is 3.38 with 25 K’s and eight BB’s in 32 IP.  Unless he picks it up in the second half, I doubt he’ll get a call-up until the rosters expand in September.

Alex Hinshaw has turned his season around.  Before giving up two earned runs in his last appearance, he’d had seven consecutive outings without allowing an earned run.  He’s still wild as a march hare, with 28 walks and 42 K’s in 34.2 IP, though his ERA is down to 4.15.

Felix Romero has had a strong first half, recording 48 K’s and only nine walks in 51.1 IP.  Unfortunately for him, at age 29 and sporting a 3.86 ERA in relief, he’s probably low on the Giants’ totem pole.  Similarly, Geno Espinelli’s ERA is at 3.89, which won’t get him a call-up any time soon.

Billy Sadler is having a lost season.  The Giants made him a starter this year at Fresno, and after 13 starts, he has a 5.34 ERA.  He’s also been battling injuries that he limited him to two starts in the last five weeks.

Joe Martinez, after his skull fracture, is pitching again.  After two starts at Fresno, he has a 3.27 ERA, so he’s in the mix for a Second Half promotion.

A Grizzlie newbie worth mentioning is 24-year-old Steve Edlefsen.  As the name perhaps suggests, he’s from Minneapolis.  He’s made two successful starts for the Grizzlies; and pitching at three levels (mostly A+ San Jose), he’s got a combined 1.48 ERA with 50 K’s and 22 walks in 42.2 IP.  He doesn’t have major league control yet, but he’s got the stuff to be a good dark horse candidate.


Double-A Connecticut Defenders

The Defenders are 53-37 and in first place of their six-team division by a whopping seven games.

Second baseman Brock Bond has quietly put up a big first half at a very difficult place to hit.  In 278 AB’s, he’s hitting .342 with a .432 OBP and an .842 OPS.  These numbers are terrific for a 23-year-old middle infielder playing at home in Norwich.

The Defenders’ home park Dodd Stadium is listed as 309 feet down the lines, but 401 in center.  Apparently, the ball does not carry well at all there, because it is reportedly an extremely difficult place to hit home runs from power alley to power alley.  Pitchers pitch power hitters there middle-away and hope they hit it into the center of the outfield.

At this moment, Bond looks like a better prospect, at least with the bat, than either Matt Downs or Kevin Frandsen, who are two and four years older respectively.  Too bad that he probably won’t be promoted to AAA until late in the season, given the solid performances by Downs and Frandsen at Fresno.

The only knock on Bond that I can see is that he has no power.  However, teams generally don’t look to their middle infielders for power.  If a middle infielder gets on base (and Bond has a career minor league OBP of .418 so far), that’s enough.

First baseman Brett Pill is hitting .303 and leads the Defenders (by five) with nine HR’s (Dodd Stadium really is a tough place to hit home runs).  He has an .816 OPS.

Rightfielder EddyMartinez-Esteve is stuck at Connecticut for a second season.  He hit .298 last year, but didn’t get promoted to Fresno because he doesn’t have a enough power, which may be unfair given the park he plays his home games in. 

This year he’s hitting .310 with a .372 OBP and an .813 OPS.  He’s 25 this year, which is getting old for a Double-A player.

Catcher Tyler LaTorre is hitting .286 with a .767 OPS, and CF Mike McBryde is hitting .296 with a .764 OPS.  Both are a little old to be good prospects.

Shortstop Brandon Crawford, who hit so well at A+ San Jose the first month of the season, is finding out how hard it is to hit AA pitching in a pitchers’ park.  He’s hitting .254 with a .653 OPS, after hitting .371 with a 1.045 OPS at San Jose.  At 22-years-old, he’s still a real prospect, however.

As you would expect in an extreme pitchers’ park, the Defenders have a lot of pitchers with fine numbers.  To start with the most important prospect there, Madison Bumgarner now has a 6-1 record and a 1.74 ERA in 57 AA innings with 44 hits allowed, 15 walks and 45 K’s.

The strikeout total is perhaps not quite as high as you might expect for a pitcher with Bumgarner’s pedigree, but you can’t complain about any of the other numbers at all.  If he continues to pitch this way at Connecticut, I expect he will be promoted to Triple-A Fresno around Aug. 1.

For what it’s worth, the photos of Bumgarner that I’ve seen all show him with an expression which suggests he’s troubled by life.  If players were still regularly received nicknames, I could see him one day being called “Sad Mad” Bumgarner.

After a hot start at Connecticut, Tim Alderson has found that there’s a big jump in talent between A+ and AA ball.  His ERA is now 2.97 in 60.2 IP.  He’s allowed 12 earned runs in 21 IP over his last four starts. 

He’s allowed 58 hits, 12 walks and has 41 K’s.  These are excellent numbers for a guy who’s only 20 this year, but he’s now clearly behind Bumgarner (who’s 19 this year) for the first time in their professional careers.

Third starter Henry Sosa is 6-0 with a 2.36 ERA, but his ratios aren’t impressive.

The Defenders’ three top relievers are Dan Otero, Joe Paterson and Matt Yourkin.  Their ERA’s are, respectively, 1.29, 1.37 and 2.13.

Of the three, I still like Joe Paterson the best.  He’s the youngest at age 23, and he’s got 43 K’s in 39.1 IP to 24-year-old Otero’s 27 K’s in 35 IP.  Otero leads with 17 saves to Paterson’s 10, but that has more to do with opportunities than ability.

Matt Yourkin has 49 K’s and 16 walks allowed in 42.1 IP, but he turned 28 last week, which is getting up there for a prospect at any level of the minor leagues.


High-A San Jose Giants

As well as the Defenders are playing, the SJ Giants are even better.  After winning their division with a 42-28 record in the first half, they are now 16-3 in the second half and already hold a 5.5 game lead on their five-team division.

I’m sure you’ve heard that Buster Posey was promoted today to Triple-A Fresno.  He finished his California League career with a .326 batting average, a .967 OPS and 13 HRs and 23 doubles in 291 AB’s.

Posey isn’t the best hitter at San Jose this year.  That title at present belongs to 21-year-old left fielder Thomas Neal, who’s hitting .344 with a 1.042 OPS.  Granted, a catcher with Posey’s numbers is more valuable than a left fielder with Neal’s numbers; but just the same, Neal has played well enough that it’s time to promote him to Double-A or Triple-A.

RF Roger Kieschnick (he’s third cousins with former major leaguer Brooks Kieschnick) had a red-hot June, and although he hasn’t hit in the first half of July, his numbers at the half-way point are a .295 batting average and an .877 OPS.  He leads the SJ Giants with 18 HRs and is tied for the team lead with six triples.  He’s 22 this year.

After these three, it’s more a matter of who isn’t hitting than who is.  Super 18-year-old Dominican prospect first baseman Angel Villalona is struggling at the A+ level.  He’s hitting a respectable .267 with nine HRs, but his OPS is a feeble .704, and he has nine walks and 73 strikeouts in 292 AB’s. 

He’s still a super prospect, but he isn’t going to progess until he can develop some plate discipline.

Former first-round pick third baseman Connor Gillaspie is hitting .276 with a terrific .370 OBP, put he has shown no power and has a .741 OPS.  He turns 22 in three days, so he’s got time to develop, but he’s no way going to get fast-tracked like Posey.

Former first-round pick second baseman Nick Noonan has a .696 OPS, and former major league Brian Bocock has a .623 OPS.  Noonan is only 20 years old this year, so his future is still bright.  Bocock is 24 this year, and I rather doubt that he will ever play in the major leagues again, barring a run of injuries.

Even after the promotions of Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson, the SJ Giants still have loads of pitching.  Their top three remaining starters, Craig Clark, Scott Barnes and Clayton Tanner, are a combined 26-8 with ERA’s of 2.96, 3.07 and 3.36 (remember the California League is a hitters’ league).

Of the three, I like Barnes the best at this moment. All three have great ratios, but Barnes’ numbers are a little better than Tanner’s, and both Tanner and Barnes are 21 this year, while Clark is 24.

24-year-old Daniel Runzler was recently promoted from Class A Augusta, and after 12 appearances and 13.2 IP, he has yet to allow a run at San Jose.  He has a combined 0.45 ERA, with a ridiculous 12 hits allowed, 16 walks and 59 K’s in 40 IP. 

His control has improved dramatically since 2008 and appears to be improving as this season progresses.  If that trend continues and he stays healthy, he’s got a great future.

22-year-old Daniel Turpin has a 1.38 ERA after 46.1 IP, although his other numbers aren’t quite so impressive.  24-year-old Wilmin Rodriguez has a 1.86 ERA in 38.2 IP.

By the way, Ryan Sadowski, who was sent down to San Jose, so he could get a start over the All-Star Break, pitched six shutout innings, allowing five hits, a walk and racking up eight strikeouts.  Presumably, he’ll be called up on July 19, the first day the Giants can recall him.


Single-A Augusta Green Jackets

After finishing fourth with a 35-34 record in the first half in their eight team division, the Green Jackets are currently third with a 11-9 record in the second half.

Most of the players playing well at Augusta so far are at least 23 years old already, and it’s hard to get excited about a 23-year-old playing well at this level.

19-year-old Venezualan shortstop Ehire Adrianza is looking good.  He’s hitting .282 with a .353 OPS, and his defense gets good reviews.  I doubt he’ll be ready by the time Edgar Renteria’s contract expires at the end of 2010, but it would probably be a good time to promote Adrianza to San Jose, based on his current performance at Augusta.

The only pitcher at Augusta who excites me is Eric Surkamp, who turns 22 tomorrow.  His ERA is a solid, but not particularly impressive 3.55, but his 105 K’s and only 22 walks in 83.2 IP are exactly what you want to see from a young pitcher.  With all the pitching the Giants have at San Jose, there really isn’t room for Surkamp at this moment, but he deserves a promotion to San Jose no later than August 1st.

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