Saturday, March 08, 2008

Giants of the Future: Augusta

Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury had a really nice article on Villalona and the nice team the Giants are assembling at the Level A team, the Augusta Greenjackets of the Sally League (South Atlantic League). But read it fast, it will be gone in about 4 days from now.

For those who get the newspaper, there is a great picture of Villalona in there. It makes it very clear why the Giants are moving him to first base, he is Ginormous! The other pictures I've seen of him must have been taken from a very good angle, because he just looked big, but this picture really makes it clear that the Giants have to move him to 1B. After all, he's only 17 and still growing!!! Felipe Alou claims that it is just baby fat, and that he will grow out of it. I will just have to accept his word on that.

In any case, too bad he's probably moving to 1B because we have no one who is ready to take on 3B plus the best position prospects available to us at the #5 pick of the amateur draft this season are firstbasemen. Not that he wouldn't be valuable there too, just it would make our future lineup more clearer. Now we have a question mark at 3B for the future.

But what a nice looking future it is shaping out to be, here on the field in Augusta this spring and summer. Angel Villalona at 1B. Nick Noonan at 2B. Charlier Culberson at SS. Wendell Fairley in CF. Madison Bumgarner at SP, plus maybe Tim Alderson. There is some good info on them, but mostly about Noonan and Villalona:

  • Noonan: He has the best strike-zone judgment of any Giants position prospect, according to some coaches. The Giants feel that Noonan's baseball acumen is so off the charts that they even put him on the travel roster for a Cactus League game last week. (Note: they might do the same with Villalona later this spring.)
  • Villalona: Lots of quotes by and about him, so I thought it would be easier to just quote them from Baggarly's good article.
    Though he signed as a third baseman, Villalona - who is 6-foot-3 and appears
    well beyond his listed weight of 200 pounds - is working at first base and is
    expected to play there at Augusta.
    "I think I am better at first base," Villalona said with the help of an interpreter. "I feel more comfortable at first base, and they put me there for a reason."
    There are some concerns about Villalona's expanding waistline, though Alou calls it "baby fat" and said it's typical for young players to replace it with muscle when they hit their late teens.
    For now, Villalona is getting past the initial culture shock and beginning to settle in. He was soft-spoken but comfortable when speaking with a reporter, as Merengue music drifted from the iPhone in his locker.
    "I'm learning many things," he said. "I want to get my hands dirty and see what I can do."
    While some call him "Baby V" or "Big V," his teammates just call him
    Villa.
    "Villa is just a big kid," Culberson said. "He'll be in the outfield doing cartwheels and the next minute he's hitting bombs."
    Said Alou: "When he first got here, the other players were more advanced, in baseball and in life. He wanted to compete with them, and it was difficult. But I tell you, he is competing with them now. A year later, he is competing."
  • Alderson: The reason he might be at Augusta is because he is so advanced that he might get placed with San Jose instead, like how Lincecum started out there (I'm not trying to compare their potential, though, because clearly The Kid was much more advanced, he was a 3rd year college hurler; I'm only noting the similarity of both starting up so high after signing)
  • Culberson: During instructional league, he showed that he was pretty advanced with his glove.
  • Fairly: Might be the best athlete in the Giants farm system.
One last thing about Villalona. He has been a sensation during spring training, hitting deep drives beyond the left-field fence, over a protective netting, clearing the trees and bouncing off the pavement about 450 feet away. And the vision of him doing cartwheels, given how huge he looked in the photo, is jarring. :^)

Other News

The fallout from Lowry's surgery and being out the month of April continues. Sanchez hasn't been doing well and thus is not holding the last spot in the rotation. The Giants know that Hennessey wants to start and will give him a start today, though there is no plans to stretch him out beyond 2 innings. I have to assume that Misch is in the mix as well. Any rumor about them adding a vet pitcher - I saw one rumor mill mention Kyle Lohse - I have to assume is media-driven speculation, the Giants have been pretty good this winter about going with youth where they can.

In addition, Bochy now says that he will probably have to keep 12 pitchers as a result of the injury. This means an extra guy in the bullpen and they are doing this because the uncertainty in the back of the rotation could result in the need for more relief appearances due to the #5 starter getting pulled early.

I think the team was also influenced by how well both Merkin Valdez and Erick Threets have been throwing, plus the desire to keep Jose Capellan. With a 11 man pitching staff, the Giants would have to lose at least one of them (all of them would be lost if not kept on the 25-man roster). They would also have to lose another if they keep Steve Kline. Valdez, if he continues to pitch well, could slide into a set-up spot and allow the Giants to move Hennessey to starter or long-relief.

Unfortunately, there is also news about Lincecum having a groin injury, so the Giants have shut him down. His slim frame and long stride could cause other physical problems if he should compensate for the groin injury while throwing. I think this was a good precaution.

The good news continue on Wilson and Walker. Both have been doing well, and Wilson was "sharp in his first save situation of the spring." He earned his first save of the spring striking out two and getting a groundout, exactly what you want to see from him as he relies greatly on his cutter that he learned from watching Mariano Riviera demonstrate one on TV.

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