Monday, October 31, 2011

Now Catching (Up With) Buster Posey

Been meaning to point out this milestone in Posey's recovery, courtesy of Henry Schulman of the Chronicle:  

Good news from Scottsdale, Ariz., if you’re a fan of the Giants and Buster Posey.
Dave Groeschner, the Giants’ head athletic trainer, just told me that Posey has begun catching live bullpen sessions for pitchers in the instructional league. Groeschner watched Buster catch his second one this morning. The session lasted about 8 minutes.
This is a huge benchmark in Posey’s recovery from devastating injuries to his left leg that occurred in a May 25 home plate collision with Florida’s Scott Cousins, which required two surgeries thus far and ended his 2011 season. With that, the Giants’ hopes for a repeat World Series championship went down the tubes, too.
Though the Giants initially set Nov. 1 as a target date for Posey to catch live bullpen sessions, they hoped he might start a bit earlier, and Groeschner said Posey is about a week ahead of schedule.
“He’s been feeling good and progressing well, so there was no reason to wait,” Groeschner said.
We won’t know if Posey is truly recovered until spring training in February,  when he does all the regular activities with the team and plays in a game, but the fact he’s ahead of schedule raises hopes that he will be ready to hit the ground running when pitchers and catchers report.
This is pretty huge, though as noted, in a long recovery like this, and we won't really know until Spring Training.  But as the saying goes, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.  Keep on, stepping on, Buster!

Then this latest update came along from Schulman again, which reminded me I should put up this post:

Those who saw Posey all summer in a cast, then a boot, tooling around the clubhouse on a wheeled contraption that allowed him to walk on his good leg, would be pleasantly stunned to see him look like abaseball player again, four months before he expects to catch the first pitch of the first Cactus League game not far from this park.
For the last six weeks, Posey has been rehabilitating and strengthening his leg in Scottsdale. He is taking batting practice. He has caught bullpen sessions from instructional-league pitchers. He is running 100-foot sprints, at 90 to 100 percent of full speed, he surmises, with no noticeable discomfort.
Nothing the front office accomplishes this winter will overshadow Posey's labors in Arizona. He was the catcher and cleanup hitter for San Francisco's first World Series championship team, among the strongest links in the chain of players. Nobody can deny the Giants will need a healthy, productive Posey to return to the playoffs in 2012.
He is encouraged by his progress.
"It was a pretty traumatic injury," he said as he rested between his outdoor work (batting practice and running) and an hour in the weight room. "To be five months out, I'm pretty happy where I am.
"When I was in San Francisco thinking about what I'd be doing at this time, I was thinking I'd just start to be running, or start to be hitting off a coach throwing. I've been doing that for four or five weeks now."
On Saturday, Posey will reach an important waypoint in his journey back. He will end his daily workouts in Arizona and go home to Georgia, where, in his mind, he no longer will be rehab guy. Rather, he will be another player preparing for the 2012 season just like any of his teammates.
Giants head trainer Dave Groeschner provided the reality check.
"He'll be in rehab until he plays a major-league game," Groeschner said. "Nov. 5 is the day he'll go home so he can have a little offseason and take a little mental break. He still knows he's got to work on his lower leg and ankle all the way to spring training."
Moreover, Posey and the team will have to remain vigilant because one sprained ankle breeds susceptibility to another. Posey will spend more time in the treatment room, before and after games, than he would prefer. He still has pain at times. Team trainers have warned him it will be a persistent companion.
Posey plans to hire a physical therapist in Georgia to stretch him out before his workouts and has a friend in that line of work, a back therapist. ...


... Perhaps Posey simply understands how much work remains before he can resume his life as a major-league catcher and cleanup hitter.
He can hit 1,000 home runs off Tom Trebelhorn, a 63-year-old coach, on an empty diamond in Scottsdale. Facing Ian Kennedy of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Opening Day 2012, 10 days after his 25th birthday, will be an entirely different story.
Groeschner said Posey's thrice-weekly batting practice has less to do with technique than sending him to Georgia confident that he will be able to hit come spring training, when the real preparations begin.
"The good thing is, you ask him how he is, and he's more frustrated at the way he's swinging his bat than the ankle," Groeschner said. "This is October. We're not worried about his swing much, just that he can do it and he feels good."
Posey confessed he is anxious about playing again, more about running than hitting or catching. When he closes his eyes, he visualizes himself in the squat behind the plate, or standing in the box against a pitcher throwing 95 mph.
So there has been continued progress and no setbacks from the last reported good news (as noted up top), again, another positive step forward in his long journey to resuming his major league career.

I also ran into some interviews that Johnny Bench has given about Posey, and I thought I would capture them together here.  Basically, Bench is a long-time Buster fan, and he thinks that Posey has the stuff to be one of those generational Hall of Fame catchers.  See this interview with Johnny Bench at The XLog.  In it, he notes how few catchers are in the Hall of Fame, only 13, basically one per decade.  Meaning to him that there is about one per generation.  He noted that Buster Posey (as well as Matt Weiters and two Reds prospects) could be that catcher for this generation.

Here are some of Bench's thoughts about how good Buster is, interviewed after the Giants won the World Series last season:

“The thing’s that so impressive, everybody saw in every interview, it was a class act,” Bench said. “He handled himself well. It was like a Tuesday game somewhere else, and he just got four hits. It was about being on the level with the game. He knows as a catcher knows, it’s one game. Then you’ve got to start all over.”
Posey knows Bench, having won the Johnny Bench Award as the best college catcher in 2008.
In their conversation, according to Bench, Posey said, “I asked my mom, ‘Should we call you and talk to you?’ I said, ‘Of course you should.’ “
Bench said Posey has what it takes to be a great catcher.
“He was a shortstop that became a catcher (at Florida State), so every game is still a learning experience for him,” Bench said. “He wasn’t beaten down or anything else. He’s a kid who loves the game. You can tell from his coach and family what a great person he is. And then to move up (to the majors) that quickly is really rare. You’ve got to say he’s a rare example of any phenom that stands up and does the job . He throws well. Calls the game. He’s got it all. And he runs well . . . for a catcher.”
Bench was impressed how Posey, at such a young age, handled pitchers. In this case, perhaps the best staff in the majors.
“There are three types of pitchers you have to deal with,” Bench said. “Some you just have to tell what town they’re in, remind them where they are. Some you remind them about mechanics, and some you have to bust their tail. You have to make them your friend and have them trust you.”
According to the Hall of Famer, the kid pulled it off.
Giants Thoughts

After going through this season, I have come to the conclusion that the Giants rode the back of Buster Posey to win the World Series last season.  He was the leader who got the team moving towards that goal, as evidenced by this quotes before and after winning, "Why not us?" "Let's do it again".   So that leads me to a couple of conclusions.

First, the 2012 Giants with Posey leading the way will be that much more competitive than the 2011 version, no matter who we end up signing as free agents.  I think we can win with the group we have, though I would love any offensive upgrades the team can make via free agency or trades.  And Buster would lead the way for us.

Second, the Giants should be looking into signing Buster to one of those mega-long contracts, like what Evan Longoria from the Rays or that Colorado doled out to their position stars.   As much as we need the pitching to continue to get the opportunities to win it all, I think we need Posey's leadership to push us over the top and achieve that.  I love his "Can Do" attitude and that he wasn't bowed by any high expectations nor questioning that they can't achieve the seemingly impossible.

This and signing Lincecum and Cain to long-term contracts are the key things I want to see from the Giants this off-season.  Sandoval too would be nice.

FYI, I've been spending a lot of my off-season time checking out DrB's blog for interesting discussions, check it out for my thoughts on some of the things happening to the Giants this off-season, like his recent post on the signing of Lopez then picking up Affeldt's option.  (Not too surprising, glad they did it; also, I would love it if the Giants go for it on Grady Sizemore for a one year deal)  Unfortunately, I don't usually remember to re-post my thoughts here, as I usually comment all across the internet on the Giants, though I might recap some of it at some point when the mood strikes me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Interviews with top prospects Brown and Panik

The Giants/MLB's video section got two nice interviews with Gary Brown and Joe Panik, where they answer some questions about their background, college experience, their 2011 performance, type of hitter they are, what they are working on in the AFL, and future plans. 

Brown

I've been very impressed so far by the interviews that Gary has given before and he was great in this one too.  This is the first time I've seen him not smile like a Cheshire Cat, he has a great smile usually, like he is just so happy to be in the position he is in (I think I've seen him in 3-5 interviews before).  He was very serious in this interview, barely cracked a smile at all that I can recall, though he did look like he did in prior interivews when he commented about liking to take a HBP. 

I like that he took on the Moneyball concept, which to me reflects perfectly what he has done in his career:  the most important thing is to get on base, walking to do that is one aspect of it, so is taking HBP.  If he can't figure out hitting in any particularly league, he'll adjust and get on-base via other methods.  But if he's hitting the ball well, why take the bat out of his hands by walking?

I find that the Moneyball topic is the key thing that separates the Saber-wannabes and those who know their stuff and are serious about it.  Walking is important but not to the extreme extent that many people make it to be.  There is a nuance to it that a lot of people don't get, it is important but not the only important thing.  Not being able to walk is not necessarily a bad trait if he is good at hitting the ball well.  A hit is much more valuable than a walk, you can advance the runners, you put pressure on the defense to make an error as well.  Also, a walk will never become a homer unless you can easily steal 2B, 3B, and home.  :^) 

Still, there is some importance, as there are those players who are not able to hit and thus need to be able to take walks to be able to add value as a hitter.  And ultimately, someone who can avoid swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone and swing only at strikes will be able to force the pitcher to come in with pitches that the hitter can handle and hit for a line drive or a hit somewhere.  But there are plenty of good hitters who do not take walks.  Sure, they are rarer and harder to find, but they do exist and they do provide a lot of good value as a player.

I guess it just bugs me a lot that people would point his lack of walks as a huge negative.  First of all, they based their analysis on one year's worth of data, his junior year when he was a hitting god.  Looking at his three years in college plus Cape Cod, he clearly was all about getting on base, whatever it takes.  Second, there are plenty of hitters who do well in the majors without walking that much.  Yes, it is better if he could take walks no matter what, but the focus was always on the lack of walks, not on the fact that he was hitting great and didn't need to take walks. 

As an analytical lark, I examined what would have happened if he took away 5 PA from his non-walk PA's and somehow magically changed them into five walks (no one really knows what would happen to a hitter if he suddenly tried to change his hitting style to take more walks, he might get more walks but much less hits plus additional outs as well; it would be like predicting the weather, i.e. right sometimes, but you can't really predict the rarer events, nor the complex sequence of results).  Using the valuations of each component of a non-walk PA, I found that his offensive production was REDUCED by converting his non-walk PA's into five walks.  He had so many hits, and so many of his hits were for extra bases, that the value of all the offense that could generate was higher than the offense generated by taking walks, even though a larger percent of those non-walk PAs were outs.  So he was better off hitting than trying to change and take a walk instead.

Panik

This is my first interview that I can recall seeing of Panik.  He was very poised, very humble, much like Brown, two really nice guys working hard to achieve their dreams.  He discussed the issue of switching to 2B in the AFL, really enjoyed the interview.  He has a nice smile too, a more serious face like Brown, maybe the interviewer asked them to do that?  Sounds like the same guy doing the interview.

There are also nice clips of them playing:  hitting and fielding.  Brown's batting stance is not so jittery anymore, so that was good to see.  Get to see Panik in the field too, that was nice.

Really nice, particulary in-depth interviews given how short, really, they are, allow us fans to get to know these two prospects.  Seeing these makes me root for them even more, they seem to be solid hard-working ballplayers who are not full of themselves.

Here are the links:

Gary Brown on playing in the AFL
Joe Panik on moving to second base in AFL

Giants Thoughts

Neither of them have been doing that well so far, but I understand it is just small samples.  As of the latest available stats, Brown is only hitting .220/.278/.300/.578 and Panik is only hitting .211/.302/.212/.513.  They are third and second worse on their team by OPS among the leaders on this list (not sure how many PA to qualify, but based on rough perusing of AB and BB, 30 is the lowest I could find, lowest AB is 27; also, sort by OPS to get most up to date stats, found lower ABs when sorted by BA for some reason).  At least they are doing better than Angel's Wunderkind Mike Trout (.222/.222/.289/.511) and not much worse than Nat's Wunderkind Bryce Harper (.214/.313/.381/.693).

But Panik does not appear to be totally overmatched.  Panik has done well with his batting discipline, he has only 3 strikeouts in 38 AB with 4 walks, both great ratios.  That is a 92% contact rate, which is great, 1.33 BB/K ratio (anything over 1.0 is great), and 10.5% BB/PA, which is good too.  However, his BABIP is only .229, which leads to the bad overall results and batting line. 

The fact that he isn't hitiing anything for extra bases suggest that while he's not being fooled in terms of striking out, he's also not able to do anything with the strikes he is hitting, he is not hitting them with much authority and either getting only singles or weak outs.  So that is bad, but given that his basic type of hitting is going for gap to gap line drives, this suggests that the pitching has an advantage over him at the moment but as he adjusts to and figures them out, he'll start hitting line drives again. 

Brown, however, appears to be overmatched to an extent but he's also suffering from some bad luck.  In 50 ABs, he only has 1 walk and 10 strikeouts.  That is a 80% contact rate, which is OK (good is 85%) but he needs to bring up his walk rate, that is just too low to sustain if he is to be our leadoff hitter.  Still, he is going with his bread and butter of HBP to boost up his OBP, it appears from the numbers that he already has 3 HBP in the 11 games he has played in so far.   His BABIP is .275, but he has 3 XBH in 11 hits so far, so he is making some hard contact when he is hitting the ball, so his poor hitting so far could be related to a simple case of bad luck with the BABIP gods.  Boosting him up to .325 BABIP would put him at 13 hits, for a batting line of roughly .260/.315/..340/.655 (and .360/.675 if he got an extra double among the extra hits).  At his .369 BABIP for San Jose, he would be at .295/.347/..400/.747 overall, roughly, assuming a slight uptick in XBH.  With some HR power that he normally tries for, that would push him closer to .800 OPS.

The cool thing with him is that while he realizes that as a lead-off hitter, he needs to figure out how to get on-base a lot, he also knows the value of hitting for extra-base power, including homeruns.  There are many speedsters who limit themselves to trying to get on base, ending up with a low OPS overall because their SLB is so low, like Burriss.  With just an uptick in power, the way Carney Lansford was trying to teach him to do, Burriss could be our starting 2B right now, instead of Franchez, because he'll be hitting more linedrives that will fall in for more hits as well as more extra-base hits.  Instead, he's probably going become, at best, a bench utility player, worse, a AAAA player bouncing up and down, as needs dictate.

Brown's philosophy at the plate, which he has espoused in the interviews I've seen him in before, encapsulates both getting on base (the OBP) as well as the driving in runs (SLG) components of the Runs Created formula.  He will always get HBP, it appears.  He will walk when he can't get on base via hitting (typically he did this in college, freshman and sophomore years), but if he's the leading hitter in the league (which he was in junior year, he was among top in BA, OBP, SLG, and thus OPS), he didn't focus so much on the walks as the power he was generating with his bat.  He wants to hit gap to gap and use his speed, but he also wants to get the regular HR as well.  He focuses on being an all-around hitter, which to me is kind of like a Rickey Henderson-lite:  not as much walks, hits, or homers, but that's Rickey's HOF standards, as what Brown has done is still pretty good overall.  He just needs to do it all at the major league level.

Brandon Crawford, meanwhile, has been doing well.  Playing SS while Panik plays 2B, he is hitting .353/.389/.588/.977 in 34 AB.  He has 7 K's for a 79% contact rate (OK, but not good) but only 2 walks, so he could stand to take a few more walks, so that it is closer to his K's, plus he could stand to not strikeout so much.  But neither is a big deal with so few games played so far and few ABs.  He's not going to hit that well forever, though, his BABIP is high at .423, there is no way he can sustain that at any level. 

But his 235 ISO is potentially repeatable, so if he can hit mid .200 BA and walk enough to reach .300 OBP, with that ISO, he will roughly be in the high 700 OPS range, which is more than enough for the Giants to play him at SS with his defense, heck, in that range, he would be a good offensive SS.  And even if he hits in the low .200 BA range, with that ISO, he would still be around 700 OPS (or slightly under), which is doable with his defense for him to be our starter in 2012.  Heck, if he is batting 8th for us, he probably can hit in the .650 OPS range and still be a productive SS for us, given his plus defense and OK (at that range) offense.  Anything above that would probably be gravy.  Still, he has under 50 PA, so it is very much a small sample size issue right now.

And that is a large part of looking at their stats right now, realizing that there are not that many ABs so far.  Still, there are some things that can be pointed out about each hitter that they can work on, whether they are doing well or doing poorly, overall.  There are some good things to point out as well, on a thus far basis, that if they continue, would be good signs.  Obviously, it would be nicer if they were all hitting like BCraw is hitting (though with a .423 BABIP, he's not going to continue that going for very much longer), but there is nothing to panic over yet, and there are some good signs for each, as well as things to work on.

The bad news of their performance so far is that most probably the highest Brown and Panik will probably be promoted to is AA, and thus 2013 is the more likely the earliest season they ascend to the majors permanently, particularly Panik.  Brown definitely will get promoted to AA Richmond, but Panik could end up at San Jose instead, like Brown did in his first full season as a pro, this season.  Brown could push the envelope with a good performance and make the majors by the end of 2012, but right now I don't see that happening with Panik given his difficulties in the AFL.  Still, I think Panik's decision to sign early has paid off, he has made his mark and got the AFL gig, a opportunity which he probably would not have gotten had he waited until the last minute to sign. 

I know the Giants said that they will not rush prospects, but as I noted, Panik is not exactly being dominated by pitchers in the AFL, which experts have said that the talent would be like between AA and AAA.  Personally, while I agree that the talent overall is like that, I think it is tougher than either because you are facing that top level of player every day, whereas when playing in those leagues, you get to play against a lot of organizational players.  Thus the Giants might push him up to AA, partly because his batting discipline is good, with the thought that he will figure it out  but also to pair up Brown and Panik atop the lineup and learn to play together, much like how they had Bumgarner and Posey together in order to give them some time together to work together.  Overall, though, the caution in Sabean's talk suggests that unless Panik heats up soon, he's most probably ending up in San Jose for the 2012 season.

And while Crawford most likely will cool off at some point, if he can keep his batting line in a good range, probably at least .800 OPS, he most probably will be given the chance to win the SS spot and the Giants will not consider signing any SS to a big money, long-term deal (meaning no Rollins).  Instead, they would do as they have been in recent years when keeping a spot open for a top prospect, sign a vet on the cheap who looks capable enough to keep the seat warm until the top prospect is ready, presumably sometime mid-season.  If they do sign Rollins to a long-term deal, then clearly they don't think much of Crawford's future.  But I don't think that is the scenario we will be facing by the end of the AFL season, I think Crawford is making his case, both in the AFL as well as his last month in the majors, that he's ready enough to start at SS for the Giants in 2012.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

VIllanova's Baaack!

Angel Villanova is back with the Giants.  Read this article on it, on Yahoo.

One minor quibble, only quibble since it was never verified, but the Giants reportedly only outbid the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox.  One rumor was that the Mariners actually outbid the Giants by a lot, I believe the figure was $3.0M vs. the Giants $2.1M, which is probably why Villalona's agent, Scott Boras (yes, that agent) promptly announce that he was going to sue the Giants for not including him in the negotiations, whereupon the Giants stated that Villalona had the proper representatives for the Giants to execute a legally signed contract, so if Boras has a problem with how it went down, he should speak to Villalona.  Since I heard nothing about it afterward, Boras probably licked his wounds with a big chunk of the $2.1M. (at, say, 10%, that's $210K vs. $300K, at 15%, $315K vs. $450K, the difference of which is probably pocket change in the big scheme of things for Boras).

Reportedly, the Giants scouts had been in on Villalona since he was 13 YO (he could officially sign once he turned 16) and had built up a relationship with him and his family over the intervening years.  Much like how that Atlanta Braves scout did with Jason Heyward as serendipity placed Heyward on the scout's son's Little League team, where he developed a strong relationship with the Heyward family (there was probably no way he would have signed with any other team that draft year; he probably viewed it as fate deciding, because his parents are college professors and he would have been just as happy to go to college if the Braves did not pick him).  Supposedly, Villalona went with the Giants because he was more comfortable with the team because of that long relationship built up.

Giants Thoughts

Not surprising that once the Giants reinstated Villanova, he dropped his $5M lawsuit (which is probably the main reason why the Giants reinstated him).  Not surprising that they waited to reinstate him once he was cleared of the homicide charges, because they didn't want this to put a dark cloud on the World Championship afterglow.  Not surprising that he sued them because they were probably ignoring all his entreaties to rejoin the organization.  The $5M was more to get the Giants attention, I think, than any real intent to collect on the damages.

The article mentioned comparisons to A-Rod, Adrian Beltre, and Wily Mo Pena, but I've never see ones like that.  Angel, physically, would never resemble the first two, and I don't know where they got Beltre, who is mostly all glove with some power, whereas Villanova is mostly all power with some glove.  Most probably the author chose them because they are Latin players who have a lot of HR power and play good defense at 3B.  There were reports that he has lost some of his baby fat and is slimmer now, but I think, like Sandoval, he's always going to be a big boi.  Whether he can play 3B, like the first two, is also in question.

The comparison I recall, which was when he was signed, was to Andres Gallaraga.  Villanova is suppose to have 40 home run power.  His being among the leaders in HR in his one year at Augusta helped validate that, as he was much, much younger than the pitchers there, and yet was able to hit for power (though not much else, so his OPS was not that high, though very good, I believe, for his age).

He was suppose to be good defensively at 3B but the Giants had him play 1B to take some defensive pressure off him and let him focus on developing his bat, as well as adjust to a foreign culture.  He reportedly still practiced a lot at 3B and had hopes of returning back to 3B at some point as he rose up higher.  I think reports of his defense at 1B was positive, though not great.

I think the Wily Mo Pena comparison is probably more apt because Pena is one of the big busts of big money Latin American Bonus Babies.  I believe his bonus was among the biggest up to his signing, if not the biggest, and thus his progress has been followed closely.  He will be 30 next season and will have still not put in a full season yet.

His highest PA in a season was in 2004 with 364 PA when he was only 22.  He got around 300 PA in his early to mid-20's, but once he turned 26, he could not do enough to keep teams interested enough to see if he would finally meet his projected potential, which is not unlike Angel, a 40 homer potential.  He showed it in 2004 with 26 homers, but that is his career high water mark, though perhaps he still has a chance, as he has been stuck in the minors for the prior two seasons before getting some playing time in 2011 with Arizona and Seattle.  He had 5 homers in 46 AB for Arizona.

Unfortunately for him, he has the classic "swing for it all" swing which results in a lot of HR power, but unfortunately even greater strikeout power and numbers, and thus his batting line is almost all SLG, as there are few hits or walks.  He's a career .250 hitter with .303 OBP.

And that is what Villanova profiles as so far:  big power, big whiffs.  To be fair, though, he's been the youngest regular at each league he's been in, so a lot of whiffs are to be expected, the pitchers are that much more older, that much more experienced, than he was.  Still, so was Sandoval and he was still able to avoid the strikeouts pretty well, even though he was young.  The encouraging thing is that despite that disadvantage, Villanova, while striking out a lot, was not excessively so, which gave hope that as he rises and catches up in age and experience with the competition, he would continue to do so.

However, after missing two years of organized baseball, there is no way to tell how well he might do.  He should definitely be very rusty, if not having regressed, slimmer body or not.  He did OK in San Jose in 2009, but not as well as he did in Augusta, so they could restart his career in Augusta to account for that lost time, and let him work upward from there.  On the other hand, I would think that some consideration would be given towards him starting in San Jose because there is a large Spanish speaking population here in the South San Francisco Bay Area, plus to see where he is competitively.  Along that line, they might just put him in instructional league to now and just continue that into the start of 2012 to bring him back up to speed, and once he looks ready, then place him on one of the affiliates.

Obviously, mixed reactions on his return.  Whoever may have done it, a life was lost because his group and another group were fighting over a chair in a dingy dive bar.  While it is suspicious to Western eyes that he paid off the family, we don't know how life is in that part of the Dominican Republic, nor of how the court system works there.  It could be like the U.S. where people sue when rich people are involved, only magnified exponentially because even the piddly $10K or so that he would have made in the minors this season, had he been re-instated earlier, is a lot of money for the average citizen of that town, most probably.  His $2.1M bonus basically makes him the Warren Buffett of his town, essentially.

Moving on, focusing strictly on the baseball implications, this is great for the Giants farm system.  The Giants have graduated a lot of people over the past few years, top players like Lincecum, Bumgarner, Sandoval, Posey, Belt, and still had some top prospects this season in Wheeler and Brown, plus now Panik most probably as well, plus perhaps Surkamp, though his major league debut was not that good.   Adding Villalona will be like finding lost money, which basically he was for two seasons, though I would note here that one of the major questions marks when this thing hit was that his visa was revoked at that time, and I've seen nothing about it being re-instated.  Since he says that he plans to return to baseball, I assume getting his visa back is a mere formality at this point.

Villanova was a Top 50 prospect for all of baseball at one point.  While he lost development time while away, honestly, the way he looked previously, he looked like he was eating his way out of baseball anyway.  If he has slimmed down in any significant way, that will help him regain his baseball status quicker.  And he is still only 21 YO for next season.

He most probably will never regain Top 40 status.  If he returned to San Jose, he would still be young for the league, still 2 years younger than the pitchers there (average in 2011 was 23.2 YO), but there are a lot of 20 and 21 YO players in the league and they are typically the top prospects for their teams.  It is incredibly unlikely that he can keep up with that level of production to keep his status.  For example, the top 21 YO was Jose Altuve (who became the Astro's starting 2B after they traded Jeff Keppinger to us) who hit .408/451/.606/1.057 there.  Michael Choice was next, hitting .285/.376/.542/.918, Henry Rodriguez 3rd, hitting .340/.378/.513/.891.  Villanova hit .267/.306/.397/.704 for San Jose in 2009 at age 18 (to think, he could have been close to the majors right now without all this, assuming he at least made AA by now and did well).  He would have to hit pretty well there in 2012 to earn high prospect status for the Giants, let alone all of baseball again.

Still, to show his potential, he was still 83rd in OPS in 2009 in the California League, even though he was 5 years younger and less experienced than the pitchers there.  His SLG ranked 69th and he was tied for 42nd in homers, despite being injured mid-season and missing a lot of the season.  If he got the 530+ PA that our top position players got in 2009 for San Jose, he would have prorated hit at least 15 homers, which would have ranked tied for 14th in the league for homers.  21 YO with that much HR power that season were Thomas Neal and Trayvon Robinson, though they also hit for a heck of a lot better batting average.  Both were in AAA this season, and Trayvon got some time in the majors with Seattle.  Coincidentally, both Neal and Robinson were traded this season.  And he did that at age 18, whereas now he is now 21, more physically developed, hopefully better fit and slimmer as well.

If he can regain status next season, he could still make the majors before he turns 25, which would still be pretty good.  By that point, Sandoval could have moved to 1B by then, or even LF, if the Giants want to keep Belt at 1B, heck, he could even be gone, as he is slated to be a free agent after the 2014 season (Villalona will be 24 for the 2015 season).  So 3B could be open at that point, should Angel still be able to play that position at that point, and perhaps 1B is open too.  Given his difficulties with weight up to now, I don't see how 1B is not his eventual position at some point, so 3B would be the whip cream on top of the sundae.

I see him being a Mark Reynolds type, lots of strikeouts (though hopefully not as bad as Reynolds), enough walks to make his poor batting average into an OK OBP, but the main attraction will be his huge HR potential, 30-40 each year, with a lot of runs batted in too.  Key questions will be whether he can walk enough to make his poor batting average into an OK enough OBP, whether he can not strikeout so much, so that his batting average isn't so poor, and whether he can hit enough homers that the first two questions are not that big an issue.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Giants Fans Guide to 2011 Playoffs

Yes, I'm a bit late for this but as my big posts the past few days took a bit of time as well.

As I've done in the past, when the Giants did not make the playoffs, I would give a Giants fans rooting guide to who to root for, based on the Giants past, if any.

  1. Texas Rangers:  I'm rooting for them the most this post-season.  I felt bad for them last season and, hey, they did it again even though Cliff Lee used and snubbed them to get the contract he really wanted.  And they made it sort of easy for us last year, no drawn out 7 games to really put us Giants fans in a funk.  
  2. Milwaukee Brewers:  I'm rooting for Rangers-Brewers World Series.  Fox Network would love that, wouldn't they?  Giants do have a bad history with them regarding Fielder being a bowling ball, but if it had not happened to the Giants, yeah, it was pretty funny.  Else, nothing really brewing there (honest, did not do that as pun, just came out naturally), plus I feel bad for them always pushing to win it all and failing for one reason or another.  They clearly shot their wad this season to win with Fielder this one last time before he breaks their hearts and run off to a 10 year mega-contract somewhere.  (Good luck on that, Yankees and Boston already got one, and I don't think Mets can handle one with Madoff losses, bowl on that one big boi).
  3. Detroit Tigers:  Have no hate for them, but nothing compelling like the above for me to root for them higher.  Verlander maybe.
  4. Tampa Bay Rays:  I'm tired of hearing all the accolades their management gets.  I see their success as more driven by the fact that they purposefully lost horribly for about 10 years, the life of their franchise, giving them great picks atop the draft, and stocking themselves up with talent.  Easier to make risky trades like Delmon Young when you have a stockpile of other goodies lying around, not as easy if he's the only one they got.  Still, admire their trades, so I have some grudging admiration, but have to see more to give them more credit.  Easy to have small payroll when you have a stockpile of young studs, lets see what happens when they all get expensive..  
  5. St. Louis Cardinals:  I'm still mad at them for Jack Clark and 1987.  2002 helped take the edge off, and I really don't care for the teams below, from a Giants fan's perspective.
  6. Philadephia Phillies:  I would prefer that the Phillies be known as the Buffalo of the 2010's, coming close but not accomplishing anything with all the riches they have, talent-wise.  They are our biggest rivals in the NL, no use encouraging them.
  7. New York Yankees:  No way I reward their spending so much more than 90% of the teams in baseball that it almost guarantees them a spot in the playoffs every year.  One and out is what they deserve.  Hopefully all MLB revenues will flow through MLBAM eventually and even things out between the teams.  Until then, Yankees can suck it, thinking they can buy the title each year.
  8. Arizona D-backs:  Some believe you should back the guys in your division.  Sorry, not one of them.  I still think they lucked out on this season, so I don't think they deserved it.  Take away their extra Pythagorean and 1-run wins and the Giants would have had a nice battle with them the whole month of September for NL West title.  Give us Posey, we would have won for sure.  Not going to reward them just because Marlins helped them out.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Your 2012 Giants: Born A Ramblin' Man

Now that the season is over, with the Giants ending up 86-76, I thought I would just get my thoughts and info out on the Giants next year.

Click on the title for the full post

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