Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Giants Minors Great 2009 Season

As noted by Matt, many of the Giants minor league affiliates have done well this season, so I thought I would note some of their accomplishments here, as I give them hearty congratulations on their achieivements.

Arizona Rookie League Giants

First off, the Giants Arizona Rookie League team advanced to the Championship game, as they posted the league's best overall record during the regular season. They are seeking to win their second straight title. They were forced into a one-game playoff by the Angels, who were the East Division second-half co-champions by beating the Giants in the last game of the season.

The team ranked second with a 3.39 ERA and third with 321 runs scored (5.7 runs scored per game). RHP Cameron Lamb led the staff, as the Giants' lone All-Star. Former Giant Mike Caldwell was the pitching coach; I always wondered why the Giants traded him away, he went on to win 22 games in a season for the Brewers the next season.

Offense was this team's forte, though. C Hector Sanchez and SS Julio Izturis led the team with high batting averages, and high OPS. There were no big HR hitter, though Chris Dominguez, our 3rd round pick in this year's draft, was one of the hitters who did well here, playing only briefly for the team but blasting 2 HR in 36 AB while there; he was tied for second on the team, and the leader only had 3 HR in 148 AB, Sundrendy Windster (what a name!). Top international signee Rafael Rodriguez did OK in his first action as a professional. He played LF (RF was his position when he signed) and he hit .299/.392/.362/.754 in 127 AB with 19 RBI. He had 16 walks and 23 strikeouts.

Short Season Class A Salem-Keizer Volcanoes

The Volcanoes clinched another West Division title over the weekend. This is their 4th straight appearance in the Finals, having won two in a round before losing last season. If they can win this season, it would be their 3rd in 4 years. There is still about a week's worth of games left and they are 43-26.

Lots of contributors. 3B Drew Biery was one of the offensive leaders on the team, second in HR (6) , first in RBI (44), hitting .333/.409/.505/.914 in 192 AB. SS Ryan Cavan was also a big contributor, hitting .259/.388/.443/.830 with 5 HR in 174 AB, 34 walks and 33 strikeouts. There were some nice contributors in less than season's worth of games too. RF Francisco Peguero hit .394/.421/.465/.886 in 71 AB with 12 RBI. 3B Chris Dominguez continued his hot hitting in AZ, hitting .260/.310/.474/.784 with 9 HR in 154 AB and 27 RBI. His 9 HR led the team. Ryan Mantle, Mickey's relative, was also on the team, but he didn't do that well in RF.

The pitching staff was led by Jorge Bucardo, 2.70 ERA, 62 K/20 BB in 76.2 IP and Jeremy Toole, 2.74 ERA, 41 K/20 BB in 46.0 IP. In the bullpen Jose Casilla had 11 saves in 23 appearances, 1.08 ERA, 28 K/8 BB in 25.0 IP. David Quinowski also did well with 1.75 ERA, 46 K/15 BB in 36.0 IP. Craig Westcott came in this year's draft and did nicely too, 6 starts, 2.73 ERA, 37 K/8 BB in 26.1 IP. Former Giant Brian Cooper is their pitching coach.

Class A Augusta Greenjackets

Augusta Greenjackets was closing in for a second half title before losing three straight games. Still, they have put together a nice season, and some players have stepped to the fore. One player noted above was CF Francisco Peguero, and he let this team in OPS, hitting .348/.368/.444/.813 with 32 RBI in 207 AB, 31 strikeouts (pretty good) and 13 SB in 17 attempts. DH Andy D'Alessio, CF Ben Woodbury, 1B Josh Mazzola, and C Johnny Monell also did OK, around .800 OPS. Mazzola led the team with 15 HR in 460 AB, 93 RBI also led (but 118 K). Other notable names, but who didn't do that well, included Juan Carlos Perez, Wendell Fairley, Ehire Adrianza, and Charlie Culberson.

Pitchers of note include Dan Runzler, Trey Webb, Ryan Verdugo, Andrew Reichard, Ari Ronick, Kyle Nicholson, adn Eric Surkamp. Runzler didn't spend much time here but dominated as he got promoted repeatedly this season. Former Giant Steve Kline is their pitching coach.

Advanced A San Jose Giants

San Jose completed a season sweep of the Cal League's North Division, winning both the first-half and second-half championships for the second season in a row. They started the season with all of the Giants top prospects - Bumgarner, Posey, Alderson, Villalona - and good performances from other highly ranked prospects, like Brandon Crawford, Roger Kieschnick, Nick Noonan. This team had probably the most Giants top prospects on one team ever in the history of the Giants franchise (didn't check, gut call) but started out out of sync and losing a lot before turning things around.

The team was led offensively by Thomas Neal, Buster Posey, and Roger Kieschnick. Kieshnick and Neal were 1-2 in HR with 23 and 22 respectively, and Posey was no slouch either with 13. Neal hit .333/.425/.585/1.010 with 22 HR in 448 AB, 86 RBI, 59 walks and 94 strikeouts. Posey hit .326/.428/.540/.967 with 13 HR in 291 AB, 58 RBI, 45 walks and 45 strikeouts. Kieschnick hit .299/.348/.541/.890 with 23 hR in 495 AB, 106 RBI, 35 walks and 125 strikeouts. Darren Ford also did well and led the team with 31 SB, hitting .291/.381/.444/.825. Other name prospects who only did OK were Conor Gillaspie, Nick Noonan, and Angel Villalona. Tyler Graham did OK too. Brian Bocock, however, did poorly again.

Pitching was led by Scott Barnes (since traded), Craig Clark, and Clayton Tanner. They all had ERA's around 3.00 and put in a lot of innings. Of course, Bumgarner and Alderson led the way when they were there. Others who did well there included Dan Runzler, Steve Edlefsen, Dan Turpen, Wilmin Rodriquez, Garrett Broshius, and Kyle Nicholson.

Class AA Connecticut Defenders

The Connecticut Defenders, in their last season there, won the Northern Division title for the first time as a Giants affiliate. As usual, it is their pitching who led the way. Madison Bumgarner started 17 games and went 9-1 with a 1.91 ERA, with 68 K/29 BB in 99.0 IP and only 76 hits. Looks like he reached his level, as his strikeout rate dropped greatly. If he were still striking out over 9 K/9, I would think that the Giants would at least entertain the thought of bringing him up for a September call-up. For now, just let him enjoy the season and prepare for AAA next season.

There were other pitchers of note. Henry Sosa raised his prospect status with 14 starts, 2.36 ERA, but only 44 K in 72.1 IP (though only 25 BB). Dan Runzler also passed through here and again was dazzling in relief, 0.96 ERA, 11 K in 9.1 IP (5 hits and 7 walks, too high there but small samples). Dan Otero led the team with 19 saves, had a 1.15 ERA, 31 K/10 BB. Joe Paterson was second with 10 saves, had a 2.07 ERA, 66 K/24 BB in 65.1 IP. Matt Yourkin, Ben Synder, and Waldis Joaquin also did very well in relief.

Nothing much happening on offense, as expected. Leaders were 2B Brock Bond, RF Eddy Martinez-Esteve, 1B Brett Pill, 3B Brad Boyer, and CF Mike McBryde. There were all around .800 OPS. Pill led the team in HR with 15 in 493 AB and only 68 strikeouts vs. 34 walks. He also led with 100 RBI. EME was a far second with 8 HR and 63 RBI, hitting .300/.370/.440/.810 in 416 AB, 45 walks, 56 strikeouts. Bond hit .333/.430/.405/.835 with 64 walks, 51 strikeouts in 420 AB. Top prospects who did not do well included Brandon Crawford, Jackson Williams, Sharlon Schoop, Antoan Richardson, and Brian Bocock.

Class AAA Fresno Grizzlies

Fresno as usual was far back in the pack. They were led on offense by John Bowker and Jesus Guzman, with ample support from Matt Downs, Ryan Rohlinger, Kevin Frandsen, Eugenio Velez, Joe Borchard, Brian Horwitz, and Eli Whiteside. Bowker hit .340/.449/.597/1.046 with 21 HR in 362 AB, 73 walks and 64 strikeouts. He even got 10 SB. Guzman hit .321/.379/.502/.881 with 15 HR in 448 AB, 36 walks and 80 strikeouts. Bowker led the team in HR and RBI, Guzman was 3rd in both, and Ryan Rohlinger was 2nd in both, at least currently, since he's in the majors and unable to add to his stats in the minors (which I'm sure he does not mind, particularly after that clutch double to drive in two runs over the weekend).

Buster Posey was also a big contributor, coming in mid-season. After a slow start, he hit well for an overall .310/.384/.508/.891 with 5 HR in 126 AB, 17 walks and 23 strikeouts. He also drove in 20 RBI and scored 20 runs. He is going to play in the Arizona Fall League and I have to assume that if he does well there as well, he would have to be seriously considered for the starting job in 2010. However, they could do the Wieters thing and start him in AAA in 2010 and bring him up later to start, but then that would take a starting catcher to hold the spot for him. Eli Whiteside has done well the past week, but I doubt they will go with him. And Molina wants a two year contract, claiming he wouldn't hold Posey back, though I don't see how that would work if Posey is ready sometime next season.

Not much to note on the pitching side, other than relievers. Steve Edlefsen had a 1.78 ERA in 19 appearances, 25.1 IP, 21 K, 15 walks, 17 hits. Joaquin has done well in limited (8) appearances, 10.0 IP, 16 strikeouts, only 5 hits and 2 walks. Ramon Ortiz has done well starting and relieving, so he is a candidate for the Giants to bring to take the 5th starter start next. 3.11 ERA, 34 appearances, 15 starts, 121.2 IP, 111 strikeouts, 34 walks, 1.25 WHIP.

Also, there were other pitchers of note. Osirus Matos has a 3.44 ERA in 42 appearances, 49.2 IP, 40 strikeouts, 11 walks. Geno Espinelli was the closer on the Fresno team, with 19 saves in 52 games, 59.1 IP, 31 strikeouts and 13 walks. Alex Hinshaw, Kevin Pucetas, Ryan Sadowski, and Billy Sadler (since released) were also on the pitching staff.

Minor League System

The minor league system of the Giants have been improving the past few years as they have gotten pretty good draft position by being a bad team. It has allowed us to draft players like Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey, and now Wheeler. They have also begun to dive into the deep end of the international free agent pool and signed players like Angel Villalona and Rafael Rodriguez. Plus players like Julio Izturis and Ehire Adrianza. And, of course, Pablo Sandoval a few years past.

Overall, our prospects have not done well this season. Bumgarner's results in AA has to be considered a disappointment, even though he's pitching against players much older than he is. Alderson too, and now he's traded away. Villalona was doing OK for a couple of months then he got injured and was shut down the rest of the season. Only Posey has been all that has been advertised.

Surprises have included Bowker suddenly walking a lot more than before and Runzler climbing the entire system in one season. Neal and Kieschnick have been a nice surprise in Advanced A, as was Crawford before he fell under the spell of Dodd Stadium. Chris Dominguez has also been a nice surprise, signing quickly then quickly doing well for two different teams. Brett Pill did well for AA, despite the bad home, and he didn't strike out much, despite his power profile. Edlefson and Joaquin were highlights this season, and Henry Sosa had a nice comeback season but still need to do more.

Still, the farm system looks ready to contribute more players in the next year or two. Posey and Bumgarner are basically knocking on the door today, it is just a matter of time before they make the majors. A good number of pitchers look like they could be good relievers for us in upcoming years. And Wheeler sounds like he will be pretty good. We should be able to get a few more starting position players out of Bowker, Pill, Neal, Kieschnick, Villalona, Rodriquez, Izturis, Adrianza, and Dominguez. The future still looks pretty good.

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