Friday, August 30, 2013

Your 2013 Giants: Prospects Named to AFL Roster

As reported by MLB.com, the Giants are sending the following prospects to the AFL:
  • Kyle Crick, RHP
  • Andrew Susac, C
  • Adalberto Mejia, LHP
  • Jarrett Parker, OF
  • Cody Hall, RHP
  • Angel Villalona, 1B
Typically teams get 3 spots for both position and pitchers. Oddly, the Giants press release noted  the first five players (hence my order) but the roster (which I linked to above) has Villalona on the roster instead of the one additional pitcher that the Giants article noted.  The discrepancy is odd.


ogc thoughts

Crick, as you should know, is considered the Giants #1 prospect all this season, and he has not done much to dissuade that ranking.  He has a 1.75 ERA, 12.3 K/9 and 2.15 K/BB overall for the season.  He did miss over two months, though, after only 3 starts, due to an oblique injury (though those are tough to come back from, I've noticed from major leaguers coming back from that), a huge blip to the season, but he's been slightly better after returning, 1.86 ERA, 12.4 K/9 and 2.40 K/BB.  This in a hitter's league:  4.65 ERA overall in league, 8.3 K/9 and 2.39 K/BB.  This is a good time to test him out against better competition in the AFL, which is generally better known for breaking out hitters than pitchers, as the AFL has been more offense oriented.

Susac, is probably the Giants #1 prospect now for next starting MLB catcher in the post-Posey era.  He didn't look like that, coming off a lackluster first full season last year for San Jose, particularly in a hitter's league, but he turned that all around this season in, of all place, the EL, which is a pitcher's league, hitting .256/.368/.452/.820, with 196 ISO and 12 HR in 262 AB (good 22 AB/HR pace, roughly 25-30 HR season for a full season).   He missed two weeks in early July, for a finger injury, then has been on the DL for August for a shoulder impingement.  His stats seem to reflect that, with a stellar .895 OPS roughly in April/May, but declining batting lines in June, July, and he's been out for all of August.  The AFL is a nice proving ground for top hitters, but a disappointing stint there is not a big downer either because of the small samples.

Mejia has been one I've been watching all season due to DrB and Shankbone's pointing him out pre-season (great call guys!), and looking at his numbers last season, there was a lot to like.  Despite being extremely young for the league at 19 YO (average hitter was 21.7 YO), he had a 3.76 K/BB and 6.7 K/9, though 3.97 ERA (but these can be misleading sometimes due to poorer defense in the lower minors and generally just bad field conditions in the minors).  While the K/9 was low (7.8 K/9 league average) last season, that's the thing when the prospect is much younger than the league and particularly in the low minors, that is going to dampen a stat like K/9, so you want to see how he does as he rises.

This year he kept it going in San Jose, which is a hitter's league, improving across the board, 3.38 ERA, 9.0 K/9, 3.81 K/BB.  And again, he was roughly 3 years younger on average (his 20 YO season, average hitter 22.8 YO).  He also missed about 6 weeks in the early season, but improved from 6.9 K/9 to 9.4 K/9, 2.38 K/BB to 4.91 K/BB, for the starts before versus the starts after he returned, so he has performed pretty nicely looking at his post-injury numbers.

Cody Hall has just kept on doing it, level by level, kept on keeping on.  I have not paid too much attention to him in the minors because prospects who are old for the league in the lower minors, you can't tell if they are doing it because of skills that will translate to the majors or just because he's older and better skilled/developed, therefore.   For example, he was 24 YO for last season, but the average age for hitters in the Sally was 21.7 YO, so he had almost 2.5 years of extra development over the hitters in the league.  These type of prospects, I don't really pay attention until they do well in the upper minors, because AA is one big hurdle, then AAA is another, and the MLB is then the biggest, so the gauntlet is on once you reach up there.  Baseball Forecaster (Ron Shandler) probably guided me to that stance, as they do not even try to do MLEs for prospects until they rise to AA.   And these type of prospects, they just need to prove it each and every season.

Well, Cody has had another nice season, starting in San Jose and rising to Richmond, where he had a 1.85 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 3.25 K/BB, all very nice numbers.   And he's basically the same age now (25 YO season, 24.4 YO average hitter in EL), so any worries on my part regarding his stats due to being older is allayed now (average age in majors is roughly 28 YO).  Still, the gauntlet continues, he will have to prove himself again in Fresno, particularly since that is a huge hitter's league, so the AFL will be a nice test of how he might do.

Lastly, Parker has been a huge surprise this season.  He was a bit of an enigma when drafted, there were some question marks when he was drafted, though known for a combo of power and speed, and has not wowed with his stats previously, but he has steadily given a good performance, though not great, as he has risen up the farm system.   Looking back, he has been remarkably steady, his three seasons so far:

AUG:  .253/.360/.397/.757, 144 ISO, 13 HR in 486 AB (37 AB/HR), 20 SB
SJG:   .247/.366/.443/.809, 196 ISO, 15 HR in 409 AB (27 AB/HR), 28 SB
RIC:    .244/.351/.429/.780, 185 ISO, 17 HR in 427 AB (25 AB/HR), 13 SB

Could not be steadier, and his AA numbers, while not outstanding, is at least above league average:  .255/.330/.387/.717, 132 ISO, 45.5 AB/HR.  And he's basically the same age as the league (24 YO vs. 24.6 YO for pitchers).  And he has been above average in getting on-base at each level, while upping his power, particularly HR power, the past two seasons.

I know people will cringe with this comparison, but his numbers and accomplishments remind me of Dan Ortmeier, who was touted for 20/20 abilities rising up our system.  Jarrett does not scream out to pay attention to him, for prospect followers, but he's one of the guys under the radar who sometimes surprises everyone by keeping up good performances as he rises up the farm, to the majors.  A famous example of that is Matt Holliday, who never did much of anything that good in the minors, but was steadily OK as he rose up the system, but just to be clear, I'm not saying Parker is anywhere near Holliday, as Holliday also showed good control of the bat in the minors, whereas Parker has struck out a storm in the minors (153 this season, roughly 160 per season for his career).

It is just that when Jarrett's bat does hit the ball, it is struck with power, and despite the low BA, he keeps his OBP pumping with a high walk rate to go with the high K-rate.  He is one of those lyrical Three-True-Outcome type of prospects.  And he will have to do it again in AAA, and then hopefully in the majors.  But the AAA shoals are littered with the careers of prospects who need to prove out at each level, both with the guys who could not do well beyond AA and the guys who are AAAA players, like Linden, Lewis, Ellison, Niekro, and Bowker. 

He also has good speed to go with his good power.  His stealing has also been actually pretty good until AA, where he's roughly 50%+ success, so the speed, while good, is not translating in the upper levels into SB, but should still be there for beating out base hits, base-running, and getting to flies in the OF.   So in addition to adding value via walks and power, he can help out on the bases and in the OF as well with his extra speed.  Perhaps with more and better coaching in AAA and the majors, he can learn a few tricks (though that hasn't happened yet for Brown in AAA)

Villalona has had a nice return to the regular minor leagues.  He played in the DSL last season to get by the U.S. visa requirement that he be an "elite" athlete, since he hadn't played for a number of years and is clearly huge, and, of course, was a non-desirable because of his murder charge, which was dropped due to lack of evidence.  While his overall numbers are not great, if you account for a transition period and injuries, particularly at the start at each level, AnVil actually hit pretty well, in that context:

4/14-6/29:  .259/.303/.498/.801, 239 ISO, 14 HR in 243 AB (17.4 AB/HR = 30-35 HR season), 48% XBH, 75% contact (with San Jose)
7/07-8/04:  .276/.294/.476/.770, 200 ISO, 5 HR in 105 AB (17.0 AB/HR = 30-35 HR season), 38% XBH, 75% contact (with Richmond)

AnVil has not hit well since going on the DL for a hamstring injury on August 5th, and returning to regular play.  This is a repeat of what happened in 2009, he was actually hitting very well in CAL until he injured his hamstring and struggled with his bat until they shut him down for the season (that was the last time he played in the minors due to his legal issues).  And he is still striking out a lot, making about the same amount of contact at both levels, 75%.  But that is actually consistent with his experience up the farm system, it is not much different from the 74% contact last season in the DSL or 75% contact rate in SJ in 2009 or 75% contact rate in Augusta in 2008. 

Still, despite changing leagues, he's hitting about the same, even though SJ is in a hitter's league and the EL is a pitcher's league.   Plus at age 22, is what top prospects do, per Baseball Forecaster's milestones for top prospects, your top guys reach AA by age 22.  And he's hit at a 30+ HR rate in both leagues, performing this in a league where the average pitching is roughly 2-3 years older and more developed than he is, particularly since he hasn't played a full minor league season since 2009.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, as usual, there is a good set of prospects going to the AFL.  You got the top guys, nearing the big show, like Crick and Susac.  Both should make the Giants Top 10 lists for 2014, and Crick should hold the #1 spot again.  Susac looks like he's moved into the prime position of replacing Posey, when the Giants are ready to save Buster's legs, as well as avoid having to play him at another position to get his bat into more games, especially since Belt appears to have figured things out, you don't want to sit his bat either.

You also got a highly promising young guy in Mejia (and I know Crick is young too, just that he's been really good and already targeted for the majors before this season) who should be getting onto the broader prospect hound radars as someone to watch in the Giants farm system.  One could view the AFL assignment as Mejia's coming out party, announcing his prospect cred.  I would put Villalona in this category as well, he actually had prospect cred before, ranked 40th on one Top 100 ranking that I can recall, and his performance this season should get him back on a list or two, I would think, given how young he still is.

Then you got the older prospects, slogging it up the system, level by level, needing to prove out at each level, like Parker and Hall.  And to their credit, they have been doing it each season, to reach AA. But it is a gauntlet that is relentless and does not end well for almost every prospect, a reality that I've tried to make clear with my writing, though sometimes someone does break through, for which I'm happy.

I can't think of a better set of prospects overall, for the AFL, given that the team has limitations on who could be invited (see DrB and Shankbone's recent posts for what the rules are).  It will be interesting to see how they all do and if any should break out, the way I've approached this league is that there is not enough games to really significantly dampen a prospect's evaluation, but it can open up eyes to the prospects who do very well. 

I would not have minded seeing Blackburn pitching in this league, but as noted on DrB's, he's thrown a full season already, whereas Crick missed a big part of the season due to his oblique injury.  Susac, Villalona, and Mejia have also spent some time on the DL, plus Angel had missed three full seasons (minus his time in the DSL last season) coming into this season.  Escobar would have also been interesting as well, but he's also pitched a full season, and, again, the Giants can only invite a small set of prospects to the AFL.   Duvall also missed some time and while he did well in AA, I think between him and Villalona, Angel is the one to go with because of his potential.  For if he's tapping into the potential he had before, he'll be a top MLB prospect again (he was once ranked 40th overall, by BA I think) and that would be huge for our farm system.

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