Giants Minor League Update

Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IMay 11, 2010

NEW YORK - MAY 09:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants talks with catcher Eli Whiteside #22 as they walk to the dugout against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 9, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

On May 7, I informed my faithful readers who has been playing well at AAA Fresno.  Thus, this post will provide an update on the Giants’ AA, A+ and full season A teams.

AA Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League).  As hard as it may seem to believe (at least to those who closely follow minor league baseball), Richmond is appearing to be nearly as difficult a place to hit as Norwich, Connecticut wasat least for Giants’ prospects.  Clay Timpner is hitting a ridiculous .459 with a 1.079 OPS, but he is a 27 year old player who has spent the previous two and a half seasons at AAA Fresno.  He had a bad year in 2009, which got him demoted down to AA, but he’s really too good a player to be playing at the AA level.  Unfortunately, he’s not major league material either.  He won’t have a major league career unless he gets very lucky.

Richmond’s best looking position player prospect so far in 2010 is catcher Jackson Williams.  His .790 OPS is the best on the team after Timpner among those who’ve played regularly.  He was the 43rd player selected in the 2007 Draft, and he’s 24 this year, which still makes him a legitimate prospect, at least as a catcher.

Back-up catcher Tyler LaTorre has a robust .920 OPS in limited playing time, but he’s already 27 this year.  Left fielder Thomas Neal and shortstop Brandon Crawford, both of whom looked so good at A+ San Jose last year and are still young, have shown signs of life this year, but need to pick it up considerably before they’ll deserve promotions to AAA.

22-year-old Aussie Clayton Tanner has a 2.03 ERA after six starts, but his ratios are unimpressive.  24 year old Daryl Maday is 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA, but his ratios, while better than Tanner’s, are not as good as his record and ERA would suggest.  David Mixon has fine ratios to go with his 2.27 ERA, but he’s already 25, which is pushing it for a pitcher still in AA.  Mike McDonald also has good ratios to go with his 2.70 ERA, but at age 28, he’s no kind of prospect.

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The Flying Squirrels have many relievers with fine ERAs (Richmond is obviously a good place to pitch), but they either aren’t particularly young or their ratios aren’t impressive.  The best in terms of being a prospect is probably 25 year old Craig Whitaker, who has a 1.80 ERA and 17 Ks in 15 innings pitched.

A+ San Jose Giants. The top hitter, by far, is 22-year-old 1B Brandon Belt.  He’s hitting a ridiculous .407 with a 1.142 OPS.

Belt was the Giants’ fifth round pick last year out of Texas.  That’s a top-flight college program, so it’s hard to tell if Belt’s performance at the A+ level really means anything.  Still, it’s a fine start for his first experience in the pros.  If Belt’s OPS is still over 1.000 a month from today, it will probably be time for the Giants to promote him to AA Richmond.

23-year-old outfielder Juan Perez deserves a mentionhe has a .902 OPS.  21-year-old 3B Charlie Culberson, who was the 51st player selected in the 2007 Draft, also deserves a mentionhe’s hitting only .242 but has a .733 OPS.

Unfortunately, highly regarded 20-year-old shortstop prospect Ehire Adrianza looks completely over-matched at the A+ level.  He’s hitting .185 with a .500 OPS so far.

The most impressive starter for San Jose so far in 2010 is, in my mind, 22-year-old Eric Surkamp.  His ERA is 3.10, which isn’t great, but he has 28 Ks and only 5 walks in 29 innings pitched.  Surkamp caught my eye last year when he stuck out 169 and only walked 39 in 131 innings pitched a class A Augusta.  He's at a tender age, and his strikeouts and ratios are what you want to see from your pitching prospects.

Starters Craig Westcott and Justin Fitzgerald both have ridiculous 0.78 ERAs after a combined nine starts.  Unfortunately, both are already 24 years old.  I like Fitzgerald, who went to UC Davis, better than Westcott.  Fitzgerald has better ratios so far this year, and he struck out 63 in 56 relief innings pitched at class A Augusta last year.

Although he has an ugly 7.29 ERA after five starts, Aaron King is worth a mention, because he is only 21-years-old and has 25 Ks in 21 IP.  He might amount to something if he can find his command.

The SJ Giants’ bullpen looks weak this year, and no one impresses me enough so far to merit a mention.

A Augusta GreenJackets. Augusta is another very difficult place to hit, and most of the GreenJackets who are hitting so far are already 23 or 24-years-old, which is too old to be much of a prospect at this level.  The team’s top hitter so far in 2007 is 23-year-old 1B Luke Anders, who has six HRs and an .877 OPS.

The top prospect on the GreenJackets is 18 year old catcher Thomas Joseph.  Joseph was the 55th player selected in last year’s draft, and although he’s only hitting .243 and strikes out too much, he’s tied for the team lead with six HRs and has a very respectable .741 OPS, at least for an 18 year old catcher playing his home games in a pitchers’ park.

I also like the GreenJackets’ back-up catcher, 20-year-old Venezuelan Hector Sanchez.  He’s had two very strong seasons in the low minors the last two years, but is in the unfortunate situation of being stuck behind a top prospect this year in Augusta.  Sanchez is hitting only .229 in limited playing time, but he has a .765 OPS thanks to four HRs in only 35 ABs.

The GreenJackets have a lot of fine young arms in the 20 to 22-year-old range.  So many, in fact, that I think I’ll wait until tomorrow to tell you about them. 

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