Wednesday, September 03, 2008

September 2009 Call-ups: Standing Up

I've been fiddling with a large post on pitch count and, shame on me, didn't report on the call-ups for this season. Players who got the call-up in September, not in any particular order:
  • Brad Hennessey

  • Scott McClain

  • Geno Espineli

  • Nate Schierholtz

  • Pat Misch

  • John Bowker

  • Steve Holm
In addition, Jonathan Sanchez was taken off the DL and put on the active roster. To make room for McCain on the 40-man roster, Guillermo Rodriguez was the guy who was released. Thanks, Guillermo, we hardly knew ye!

The young guys have had some bright spots this month. Pablo Sandoval has been the brightest and most consistently bright and has continued it into September, but also Travis Ishikawa has had a number of good moments (and big RBI games) and just had another one today. Burriss has been very hot, even hotter, hitting around 1.000 OPS over the past 7 days and past 14 days.

Among the actual call-ups, Scott McClain had a big day today, as well, including his first major league home run, which is great considering he has 287 homers in the minors (and counting) in 13 seasons. Nate Schierholtz followed up yesterday's 2 for 6 game with one run scored with today's 4 for 5 game with three runs scored: he's 6 for 11 now, with 2 doubles and 4 runs scored. It's nice to play in Colorado when you are a visiting hitter.

Augusta Pitching Coach Interview

Andy Baggarly had a nice interview with the Augusta Greenjackets' pitching coach, Ross Grimsley, focused mostly on Bumgarner. Here are key bits of information in that interview:
  • Apparently the Giants tried to get him to change his mechanics, causing him to give up 10 runs over 11.2 IP in his first three starts. He returned to his old mechanics and had a 0.90 ERA in the 21 starts since then.

  • About his extraordinary command, Grimsley noted: "...he’s around the plate and aggressive. He goes after hitters, as all our pitchers have done, and it’s been great to watch. That’s the first step in this process to get to big leagues: to have confidence in yourself to throw strikes while establishing your fastball to both sides of the plate."

  • Grimsley compared him to other Giant's lefty pitching prospects: "At his point in his career, he’s further along than Jonathan Sanchez was, than Francisco Liriano was when they were here. He’s done better at this level, and that’s really impressive. The sky’s the limit."

  • About Bumgarner's pitching: "He tops out at 95-96 mph and pitches around 92-93. That can vary depending on the situation of the game. When he needs to jack it up a notch, he will. He’s already got a good idea, and that’s what impresses me the most. He’s learning these things now, so when he gets to the big leagues, he can focus on the other things he’ll work on. I’ve always felt you don’t learn to pitch until you’re in the big leagues for two or three years. I think this young man will be there a lot longer than that."
Giants Thoughts

There has been a question over the years whether the Giants have any sort of pitching philosophy that is taught to our young pitchers, mainly because a number of them seem to have trouble finding the plate and end up walking a lot of people. The statement above is the closest I've seen about this from Giants management. I'll quote here again for emphasis:
He goes after hitters, as all our pitchers have done, and it’s been great
to watch. That’s the first step in this process to get to big leagues: to have
confidence in yourself to throw strikes while establishing your fastball to both
sides of the plate.

Not a big statement, but that's a start. Perhaps the problem has been that the Giants have focused more on the big strikeout guys who also usually have a problem throwing the ball over the plate and into the strikezone with consistency.

Also big to note was how dominating Bumgarner actually was, with is 0.90 ERA using his regular mechanics. That's Lincecum dominating when he was in the minors. Perhaps he can make the jump to the majors by sometime next season, that's what the Giants did with Sanchez, though in a relief role, but if the #5 starter is as crappy as he has been this season, it would not be shocking to see one of Bumgarner, Alderson, or Sosa up as the 5th starter if they are doing very well at the mid-season point in 2009.

About the call-ups, the major surprise to me was that Denker and Horwitz did not get the call. Maybe surprise is too strong, more like disappointed but understanding. The main thing is that the Giants are trying to evaluate Burriss, Ochoa, and Velez right now, leaving very little time at 2B for Denker, and any spare time at 3B will go to Sandoval, leaving no playing time for Denker, whereas the outfield has Lewis, Rowand and Winn probably seeing a lot of play still, with Schierholtz and Bowker needing a lot of playing time as well, particularly Schierholtz, leaving no playing time for Horwitz.

Besides which, it seems to be the same trait that is harming both players' chances to get called up now: neither one fields well enough to get their bat into the lineup. Denker is particularly bad defensely, making him a right-handed version of the guy he was traded for, Mark Sweeney. Horwitz appears to be a hitting machine who is passable in the OF, but without the power to warrant inclusion into the lineup, though he muscled up this season, and, oddly enough, wasn't much of a hitting machine up in the majors, but hit 2 HR in 36 AB.

I think both could become key bench players in the 2010-12 Giants, when we are hopefully returned to competitiveness and don't need to try out prospects in bench roster spots. They provide hitting and power from the bench, which is something every team needs, plus could be key if the Giants ever make the World Series and need a DH.

The outfield will be interesting, with Lewis, Rowand, and Winn wanting regular playing time, with Roberts also available, and with the Giants wanting to play Schierholtz and Bowker regularly (as long as Ishikawa is hitting, Bowker isn't seeing any time at 1B most probably). Yesterday, Rowand and Lewis sat so that Roberts and Schierholtz could play (Winn also played); today, Rowand sat so that Schierholtz could play (Lewis and Winn played).

With Schierholtz going 6 for 11, I don't see Bochy sitting him down anytime soon, so Winn will probably not start the next game, allowing Schierholtz to play RF. Besides which, the Giants know that they owe Schierholtz for not bringing him up earlier when all the other prospects got the call and yet he was doing really well too, they've been saying it is not fair since spring training, both Sabean and Bochy, so I expect somebody to be sitting down in most games to allow Schierholtz starting playing time, perhaps 3 out of every 4 games, much like how Frandsen and Ortmeier got their opportunity last season, plus that is about the frequency of LHP starting.

Speaking of which, Ortmeier also didn't get the call, but that's not too surprising as he did not hit well in the minors after he recovered from his injury. Had he been slugging the ball like, say, Sandoval or Ishikawa, he would be up here making playing time interesting at 1B and the corner OF positions. Given how well players in his possible positions are doing (Ishikawa, Sandoval, Lewis, Schierholtz), his window of opportunity to start is probably closed and his best bet would be a versatile bench player who can switch hit with power and speed to steal while playing 1B and the OF positions (he's manned CF a few times).

FYI, Buster Posey was promoted after helping the Giants win the Instructional League to Short-Season Salem-Keizer, which is battling for the Northwest League title again (third straight time if they can win again this season). Not sure how he did in instructional league, other than what I reported previously. Conor Gillaspie is also playing for S-K as well. Augusta and San Jose are also battling for league titles as well. The Giant's teams have been dominating the lower minors for a number of years now, hopefully such success will rise to the majors in short order.


  1. Ran across a Baseball America chat with Jim Callis:

    Here is what he said about Bumgarner:

    "Scott (Deerfield, IL): Hi- Madison Bumgarner has had a great year in low A ball. Is he one of the top 5 or 10 pitching prospects in the minors and what is his ETA for San Francisco (can he move like Lincecum did)? How good will the future rotation of Lincecum, Cain, J. Sanchez, Alderson, and Bumgarner be? Thanks

    Jim Callis: Yes, he is that good. I'll set his ETA as mid-2010. The Giants will have a strong rotation in the future, but that lineup needs a lot of work. "

    I would take that. By then, Lowry could be gone, because his repeated health problems the past few years would be a huge risk at the $6.5M option we have for 2010, leaving Sanchez and Correia as the main candidates (with Misch as a possibility). One or both could be established as a starter by then and could be traded by mid-season to open up a rotation spot for Bumgarner plus gain us prospects.

  2. I noticed Scott (Deerfield, IL) did not mention Zito in his "future rotation." As much as Giants fans would like to get rid of Zito, I doubt he will go anywhere for the foreseeable future. Although Zito did have a good start yesterday (9/3). I'm kind of hoping Sanchez will be traded for hitting prospects like the Matt Garza for Delmon Young trade last offseason. Sanchez has a lot of potential but he seems fragile and inconsistent. Can't wait to see Bumgarner start dominating for the Giants in the majors.

    Have you heard about the Pedro Alvarez, Scott Boras, Eric Hosmer drama? Makes me really glad that the Giants took Posey who is not a Boras client.

  3. I gave Scott a break. Believe it or not, by 2012, Zito will have less than 2 years on his contract, and while $20M looks like a lot now, if salary inflation continues at 10%+ per season (and it has for at least the past 8 seasons), that's what average pitchers will be getting at that time, making him that much easier to deal, if necessary.

    I would love a Garza/Young type of trade on the part of the Giants, but then Young hasn't exactly been world beating while Garza has very good. The problem is that we don't have a lot of positions free for an acquisition. Not that our prospects are world-beating, but somebody will be squeezed out, whether it's Sandoval at 3B, Ishikawa/Bowker at 1B, Burriss at SS, Frandsen/Burriss/Velez at 2B, Lewis in LF, Schierholtz in RF. Of course, a Delmon Young type hitter would trump any of those, but still, that is a consequence.

    Yes, I've been following the Alvarez/Boras affair closely. I would have been OK with Weiters in the 2007 draft, but yeah, when you deal with a Boras client, you are really dealing with the devil, at least in the baseball world. Posey's team was basically as tough, they wanted top dollar for their player and got it at the end. Luckily, they weren't looking to manipulate the system and test the grey areas like Boras is doing now.

    I think he sees it as a can't lose anything type of move to see if he can get his clients declared free agents. I'm hoping it would cause both Alvarez and Hosmer to lose their $6M contracts and sweat out the year hoping that they don't injure themselves or lose their touch playing independent ball plus probably they won't get $6M next season either, their price will drop because otherwise the team could pass on them after taking a chance on them with a later draft pick, else they have to spend ANOTHER year in limbo fearing injury and such. That should give pause to anybody thinking of making Boras their agent, and make it less likely they hire him.

    However, I expect the ruling to not change the results, that both contracts are valid, but the MLB will have their hand slapped and warned not to extend the deadline again.

  4. What do you think about Gillespie being called up? Three months in the minors, pulled from Class-A to the majors?

  5. I think it is more a function that the Giants don't really have anyone in their system ready for 3B - apparently Rohlinger is not impressing them - and so they are bringing up Gillaspie so that the major league staff can also add their evaluation to their files, as well as the scouts and minor league coaches' evaluations.

    In addition, there is an adjustment period to being in the majors - awe factor and all - that the Giants are trying to get out of the way in his case. I would not be surprised if Posey doesn't come up too once the Cal League playoffs are over and get that experience as well.

    Still, he's noted for his pure hitting ability - it's his best tool - and been rated as a "very good hitter who has a good idea of what he's doing at the plate." Perhaps he's shown that to our minor league coaches and they recommended that he come up and get some experience.



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