- RHP Jake Dunning: 24 YO Dunning is a reliever, a little old for the EL in 2012 season at 23, but not that old either. His 4.10 ERA was not that special, but he had a 2.41 K/BB ratio, which is good, and a low 2.9 BB/9, but not really that great for AA if he hopes to make the majors at some point. He should get promoted to AAA but needs to do more if he wants to make the majors.
- LHP Edwin Escobar: 20 YO Escobar started 22 games and had a nice 2.96 ERA in the Sally League. He had a stellar 3.81 K/BB ratio, with a superb 2.2 BB/9, but his 8.4 K/9, while good for the league, is not all that special if he wants to make the majors, though it should be noted that most of the hitters had 2 more years of experience over him and thus as he catches up in age to the competition, he should see improvement. And at 20, he's got a lot of time to develop as he rises through the minors.
- RHP Chris Heston: 24 YO Heston is one of those prospects who will need to prove it at every level he rises to. And he certainly did in AA, 2.24 ERA in 25 starts, 3.38 K/BB ratio, good 2.4 BB/9 and OK 8.2 K/9, and stellar 0.1 HR/9, as his over 50% GB% rate over his career: 60% in Rookie in 2009, 57% in Augusta in 2010, 58% in San Jose in 2011, and 53% in Richmond in 2012. The large dip in AA in 2012 suggests that he's started to lose his advantage over the hitters already, so 2013 will be a big test for him when he gets to tackle AAA and see if he can adjust to the higher level of competition.
- MI Nick Noonan: 23 YO Noonan has been my pet favorite for a number of years now. After his stellar second half in San Jose a few years back, where he showed a lot of batting skills, being able to reduce his strikeout rate a lot while also getting more walks than strikeouts for about half the season, I hew to the Baseball Forecaster truism that once a hitter shows a skill, he owns it, then it becomes a matter of showing that skill again consistently. He has not done it for a couple of years after that, but he showed marked improvement in 2012, though part of that appears due to a high BABIP that is similar to what he put up when he first turned pro, but not even close compared to his numbers the past three seasons.
- OF Juan Perez: 26 YO Perez was too old to be a valid prospect in AA in 2012, but he showed some improvement in his batting discipline, cutting down on his strikeouts in 2012 vs. 2011 and before, and his contact rate, while not quite there yet (that is >= 85%) was very close at 82.4%, and I think that is the main reason he got added. His batting line was a nice .302/.341/.441/.782, but as you can see, he don't get many walks, so he will need to hit and well if he hopes to stick in the majors. Improving his contact rate a bit more would help him get there, that plus his power to go with good enough speed that helps him steal bases (but his technique is sadly lacking, as his CS is very high).
These players were added in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft process, which will be conducted on December 6th at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee.
Obviously, with so many spots still open on the 40 man roster, the Giants appear to be hoping to add Scutaro and Pagan, though the latter appears to be slipping away, both because of years and salary, and because the Giants already have Gregor Blanco as a viable CF candidate. The Giants are clearly intending for Gary Brown to be their future CF, and a long term contract with Pagan could mean that he could be pushed to LF at some point once Brown is ready. Brown should start 2013 in AAA and could be ready to come up sometime in the 2013-14 seasons time frame. And at the money he appears to be rumored to be getting, the only way he can produce such value is if he played CF.
Meanwhile, as DrB elaborated nicely on at his blog and which I've touched on in my comments here and there, Blanco gives the Giants a lot of flexibility in terms of whatever moves they make regarding the outfield for the 2013 season. Him plus that both Kieschnick and Peguero appear to be ready to compete for either a starting OF spot, or more likely, a utility OF spot, and perhaps two spots if Blanco is starting CF and the Giants sign a LF who can replace Pagan's hitting. Thus, Pagan is nice to have but not as much of a necessity as re-signing Scutaro.
Though Scutaro is also not as necessary to get either if the Giants can retain Ryan Theriot. I assume Theriot is hoping to land a starting spot somewhere but if not, the Giants will welcome him back to the bench as MI utility. But if nobody was offering last off-season, I don't really see anyone doing that this off-season either. Though even he is not necessary, as Joaquin Arias looks like he is a good utility MI, and Nick Noonan looks like he has been groomed to take on a utility MI role, like Burriss was, by getting a lot of starts in the minors at 2B and SS.
If the 25 man roster were to be selected today, here is the ones I would think would be chosen:
- Starters: Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Zito
- Relievers: Romo, Affeldt, Casilla, Lopez, Kontos, Mijares, and Runzler/Otero
- Starting Position: Posey, Belt, Arias, Sandoval, Crawford, Kieschnick, Blanco, Pence
- Bench: Sanchez, Arias, Gillaspie, Pill, Peguero
I think the relievers are pretty set but that some vets will be invited to compete for the final reliever spot with Runzler and Otero who are most likely to contend from the 40 man. Machi will be in the mix as well, and I think that this is probably Heath Hembree's to lose, though I would not count out Brett Bochy either, as a dark horse candidate. I would put Jacob Dunnington in the mix as well.
The Giants clearly need upgrades at 2B and LF/CF (since Blanco could play either) and will likely sign a vet to start at both positions. The bench also needs upgrades over Gillaspie (as we need another utility MI) and Pill. Peguero, after his nice showing last September, look ready to take a spot as a 4th OF, though another year of seasoning in AAA would not hurt either, so expect veteran OF's to be invited to camp, probably including a $1-3M veteran free agent at some point.
However, I would note from past observations that the Giants like to keep a spot open for prospects who appear like they might be ready to compete for a starting spot, so I expect LF to be kept open, with Blanco either starting in CF or, if a vet CF is signed, be the lead competitor for the LF starting spot, in competition with Kieschnick, Peguero, and probably at least one vet OF (Nady?).
Overall, the Giants look in pretty good shape for a good run at defending their title in 2013. I'm very happy with where they are right now, though I would have preferred that Scutaro been signed by now, as every day he is not signed, is a sign that other teams are showing him enough interest to lure him away. I think Arias is doable starting at 2B for us for the first half, with possible upgrade mid-season from Noonan or another mid-season trade for an MI. I would love to have Theriot here again as main utility MI and starting 2B placeholder until mid-season if necessary. I am fine with Blanco in CF and leading off, he's had an above average OBP for much of career and that is the most important thing to look for out of leadoff, plus he has great defensive skills and great speed as well.