Monday, February 08, 2010

Schierholtz Almost Lock for RF

As reported first on, then Chronicle, Brian Sabean at the weekend's FanFest, while acknowledging that Bochy is the skipper, noted that Bowker is not in competition for RF (he is viewed strictly as a LF), that he believes that we need the best defense there and therefore Nate Schierholtz is the odds on favorite for the starting position to take the place (but not fully replace) Randy Winn's awesome defensive goodness there in previous seasons.

The master plan, as I've been saying for a while, is as Sabean commented:
"Realistically, you're going to have to do some things with this ballclub," Sabean said. "... But in a lot of ways, that gets everybody more involved from day one. You get everybody into the action and they're staying ready, and if somebody falters or gets injured, they're more likely to step up."

Flexibility to play multiple positions, so that players can be more easily replaced late in the game, helps to keep players on the bench ready to perform should the need to replace the starter, for whatever reason, is necessary.

Other FanFest Newsbits, rumored and otherwise:
  • The Giants are pursuing two free agents, and two names that have been popping up are Todd Wellemeyer and Hisanori Takahashi. Wellemeyer, just two years ago was 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA for the Cards, but slumped to a 7-10, 5.89 ERA last year. And while his FIP was better than his ERA, it was about what he has produced lately in the majors: 5.20, 4.91, 4.37, 5.15 for the past four seasons. Which season is not like the others? But he would be an acceptable 5th starter while Bumgarner gets more AAA seasoning to make sure he's OK physically (i.e. his velocity is back up) and to give him less pressure to start the season. He can then come in mid-season and replace Wellemeyer (or whoever). Plus, this would give us another season of control over him.
  • Giants are worried about Romo's long-term health and thus are concerned about over working him. Sergio noted that last season he was overused in the off-season by his Mexican team, leading to his health issues in 2009, and thus why he didn't participate this offseason and rested his arm.
  • Sabean expressed excitement over two prospects that Giants fans probably are not aware of (both of whom I've written a little about in the past) Thomas Neal and Ehire Adrianza. The Giants likes Neal's athleticism and power potential. His star was stalled by an injury but he had a great season in Advanced A San Jose last year. They like Adrianza's defense, rated highly by some, but he's like a stick (6' 1", 155 lbs) and thus projects not to hit for much power, making his offense not that good, though he appears to understand the strikezone a little so he could become a good hitter, particularly if he can leverage his speed into more hits and stolen bases.
  • The speculation, recently highlighted by Ray Ratto of the Chronicle, that the Giants should be over $100M in payroll was pooh-poohed by Bill Neukom himself this weekend, noting that he is not sure that the payroll would reach that high, "Payroll has crept up a bit, but I think it's manageable for us," Neukom said. Last year was around low to mid-80's according to the Chronicle. I would think that revenues were not as bad as feared when the season started, and thus the Giants probably made more money than they had planned for (or perhaps lost less than expected) and thus that extra margin could be used in 2010 for any overspends.
More About Neal

Thought I would talk a bit more about Neal and how his performance in 2009 shined brightly for him. Significantly, in a league of 22-24 YO, he was able to post the fourth best OPS among all hitters, and had the second best OPS for hitters under the average age of the league for pitchers (23.0 YO; 22 YO Kolby Clemons led) and the best OPS for hitters 21 YO and younger (though 20 YO Alex Liddi was right behind him).

Past young leaders include Pablo Sandoval and Josh Reddick in 2008, Kyle Blanks and Chris Davis in 2007, Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez, and Carlos Gonzalez in 2006, and lastly, Howie Kendrick, Brandon Wood, and Miguel Montrero in 2005. Good set of players who has had some (or a lot of success) in the majors, sprinkled with those still trying to figure things out, but highly considered still. And as a caution of much to be learned, Neal's MLE works out to only .240/.300/.384/.684.

Still, he did excellently in Advanced A, up there with past players who have rose to the majors and made a good impression. He's like typical sluggers in that his strikeout rate is high (or viewed from the other way around, contact rate is low) but I would note that both Augusta and San Jose are both in pitchers parks, San Jose particularly so for their bad hitting background, which led to San Jose having the highest strikeout rate of any park in the minors a few years ago (when Bowker was there).

The good news (great news really) is that Neal's contact rate on the road while playing for San Jose was a nearly good 84% (ideally you want hitters with a contact rate of 85% or higher, where average is around 80%) and his BB/K ratio was even better with 45 walks vs. only 43 strikeouts. Both very good signs for a hitter, and if he can continue hitting like that in AA for the newly renamed Richmond Flying Squirrels in their neutral park (unlike Dodd Stadium, where power goes to die), he could find himself a mid-August call-up like Sandoval a couple of years ago, if a spot can open up in LF, which is the position he most played last season (and very well defensively).

As a RHH, he would balance off Nate Schierholtz in RF, who is a LHH. And both could hit for average as well as power. And both appear to be good defensively as well.

Put in Rafael Rodriguez, our Latin bonus baby who is a 5 Tool god apparently who can play CF (he hasn't done it as a pro, but the Minor League Baseball Analyst book projects him as a future CF), and we could have an outfield that can hit for average, hit for power, not strikeout that much, plus play good defense. Of course, Rafael hasn't even played above rookie ball, so this is just wishful thinking right now, but he's another prospect to be excited about who could be joining the team in 3-4 seasons.

More About Adrianza

Ehire's only just turned 20 YO, so he has time to gain some more weight. This is where the Giants should work on providing fitness assistance in the minors to help Adrianza put on weight as well as work on his fitness so that he can become stronger and more power. Or maybe teach him some martial arts, there were guys in my high school who were skinny like that but could lift the soccer poles (made of metal) like they were balsa wood swords.

While he didn't do that well in his first year in full-season ball in Augusta, as noted, that park is a pitchers park, so that did depress his stats a bit. Unfortunately for him, if he did get a promotion to San Jose, that park is another tough park to hit in. It really is a shame that the park is such a dump that it affects our hitter's performance. They should really fix that background so that it is more fair to our hitters plus not pump up our pitchers' performances and make some think that they are better than they really are.

Also, he was 19 years old in a league of pitchers who averaged around 22 YO and most of whom were 21 and older, so one must remember that when looking at how poorly he did. They did not release the 2009 league results, but his BA would have ranked 100th in the league in 2008 and 85th in OBP. Not great by any means, but it wasn't like the pitchers overpowered him, his contact rate was 83%, not the 85% we are looking for, but when the pitching got 2-4 years of experience on you, that's not bad at all. And he walked 42 times vs. the 66 strikeouts, again, not great but plenty of hitters have made the majors with a ratio like that.


  1. Good news on Schierholtz. Bochy's handling of Nate has been perplexing, illogical, and, strangley, personal.

    I'm glad Sabean has stepped in and overruled Bochy. Hopefully, Sabean will make a similar statement about the Two-headed monster (Velez/Torres) getting time in RF. The thought of Velez mucking up in RF is not only preposterous, but loathsome.

    Torres: I don't understand the fandom's obsession with this bench player.

    Here's to hoping Thomas Neal makes a great debut in Spring Training.

  2. I did not find Bochy's handling of Schierholtz confusing in any sort. It was pretty clear and logical: when Schierholtz was not hitting well for a while, he didn't play as much.

    He stunk for two months - Linden got dropped at that point - but when he got in he was white hot for a few weeks and was regularly starting until he got on the DL. At that point, he wasn't white hot anymore and was very cold, and probably due to be used less anyway. And that could have been because of the injury.

    Once he got back, Bochy played him regularly for a while, but he stayed cold and got used less and less, while Lewis got used more and more. As well as Torres probably.

    I think that's pretty logical.

    Actually, Sabean statement is that Torres and Velez is still in the competition for RF. Ick, but still, I expect Nate to beat them out easily just based on defense, mainly because Velez hasn't shown any thus far. And that means that Bowker gets another year in AAA to show what he got is real and not an outlier and that Schierholtz finally gets a good chance to show what he can do in the starting lineup. This should give him plenty of opportunity to show what he can do. I still believe in him, but he needs to do it in the majors now.

    About Torres, I understand why, and it's the same reason why Winn went from hero to bum to revered veteran then back to bum: what have you done for me lately. He hit great last year and gave the offense some life.

    Unfortunately, he had incredible luck with his hitting in 2009 that his massive amounts of strikeouts suggests that he was totally lucky in 2009 and thus unlikely to reproduce his 2009 results and more likely to show the poor hitting he previously did.

    I expect Neal to have a nice debut in spring training. I just took a look at his numbers and saw just how unusual and rare his performance was for the league. Only players like Pablo, Kyle Blanks, Brandon Wood, Sean Rodriguez, and Reid Brignac have done that well at such a young age as Neal did in 2009. Project Prospect actually have him on their Top 50 overall prospect list.

    I also expect Noonan to have a good 2010 as well, particularly out of San Jose (pitcher's park) and in Richmond (more neutral) and that he finally developed to the point where he could exhibit the great plate discipline that he was advertised to have when we drafted him. He was being overpowered (or over whatever they throw) before but he was excellent his last two months of 2009.

    I'm also hopeful about Kieschnick and Crawford for 2010. With great seasons in 2010, any of these young guys could get a call-up if someone is scuffling, particularly Neal as he hit really well in Advanced A in 2009.



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