The Giants called up eight prospects for their September call-ups (Splash):
- MI Nick Noonan
- MI Ehire Adrianza
- OF Francisco Pequero
- OF Juan Perez
- RHP George Kontos
- RHP Jake Dunning
- RHP Heath Hembree
- C Johnny Monell
The last two were not on the 40-man, so the Giants DFAed Kensuke Tanaka and Dan Runzler. Runzler was a feel-good story that had an unhappy ending. He was not happy about not making the team this season and most probably will leave as a free agent. Good luck to him wherever he ends up.
Noonan I still like, but he's probably going to be in AAA next season. That's because Arias got one MI spot and I doubt Abreu is coming back, plus Ehire took a step forward with his hitting this season. I can see Ehire winning the other MI backup role with Noonan getting another full season under his belt and further develop as a hitter. He's still young (and so is Ehire).
Peguero and Perez looks like two very similar prospects, and they should be in the battle to be the right-handed OF bat off the bench. They strike out too much in the minors for me to believe they can move up a level and perform well, but you never know. I liked Peguero's defense from last season, but his speed disappeared this season in Fresno, he didn't steal much, and he needs to do that to provide value beyond his bat. Perez is ahead there, but not much anywhere else.
I can see another platoon situation in 2014, but whether that is LF or RF will depend on Pence re-signing with the Giants. If he's back, LF probably will be platooned Blanco and RHH until somebody takes the starting job among Blanco, Kieschnick, Pegeuro, and Brown. But if he's not back, I can see Belt being moved to LF so that he can play full-time without Posey rests, and then RF would be the platoon spot waiting for someone to take the starting job.
Kontos did great last season, so I'm chalking this season up to being young, a shortened off-season, and improper preparation and conditioning for the MLB season. I think he'll be back in the bullpen next season.
Dunning did great in his chances so far this season, but he's not very overpowering. I think that he's in competition with Machi, Rosario and Hembree for the last RH spot in the bullpen. Unfortunately for Jake and the others, I think Hembree is ready for his close up.
I think Kickham and Mijares will battle for the last LH spot in the bullpen. Surkamp will probably also be in the mix, but I think the Giants will want him to be starting full-time since it is his first season back from TJS. I think Mijares will win because the Giants will want to see Kickham spend a full-season on AAA starting. The rest of the bullpen: Romo, Affeldt, Casilla, and I expect the Giants to resign Lopez to a two-year deal, similar size.
I expect Moscoso to win the long-man relief role. I like Petit, a lot, and I expect the Giants to keep him in AAA as a starter as depth in case any of the starters need replacing. He, Kickham, and Surkamp I envision as our backup starters in AAA, and Escobar should be joining the mix by mid-season at latest, I think.
The Monell call-up was a nice surprise. He's been climbing the ladder, as a HR power hitting left-handed catcher, and as Hanchez has shown, having a left-handed bat as catcher is nice to have in pinch-hitting situations off the bench. And he actually has a little speed, having stolen a few bases along the way up the farm, he once reached double digits (12) and had six this season. I don't know how good his defense is, so I assume it is adequate but not good either, else with that homerun power and ability to take walks (his OBP is actually nice), he would have rose faster in the system.
If he can continue his nice hitting up here, he could be setting himself up nicely to be the backup catcher here once Posey moves to another position (and presumably Hanchez takes over, though Susac put his name into the ring as heir apparent with his fine season in AA this season). And a nice journeyman career as a left-handed power hitting catcher off the bench, in any case, if he can hit up here. He just needs to cut down on the strikeouts though.
Your 2014 Giants Bench
All in all, the bench for 2014 right now looks like Arias, Noonan/Adrianza, Blanco, RHH platoon, Pill, and Hanchez as the backup catcher (we will have six bench players since I believe that bench players will be platooning a corner OF spot).
The Giants could always try to entice the Ragin' Cajun, Theriot, back or another veteran MI backup, but I think Noonan and Adrianza are at the point where the Giants want to evaluate them for starting 2B, potentially, as Scutaro won't last forever, but mostly they are probably battling for MI utility roles in the future. Still, both have shown enough bat in AAA that they could figure it out sooner or later and become a starter. And, of course, Panik should be getting ready for his closeup soon as well, and take his shot at starting 2B.
Too many internal options to not let them battle it out for the backup MI role, just like how there are too many internal options not to keep an OF spot open for one of our top OF prospects to break out. It will be interesting to see if any of them can break out and take a starting job, but the odds are against them, particularly the OF, in my view.
Both Noonan and Adrianza have shown enough command of the strike zone to perhaps become good enough hitters in the majors, but will either hit for enough power? That same question holds for Panik too. Burriss could never figure it out. Noonan took the same video training system Belt did and said that it helped him hit more line drives, but results had been lacking until last season, so was 2012 an aberration? And Adrianza was doing poorly in AA until they promoted him to AAA and he started hitting. Is 2013 AAA an aberration?
All the OF have something that are holding them back from starting in the majors. Frankly, Pill, to me, seems to have the best chance of breaking out and taking the starting LF job. All the others have issues with strikeouts or hitting for power. But if the Giants do move Belt to the OF, in order to play him full-time with no Posey Breaks, LF is probably where he is headed, which would block Pill. Still, I'm hopeful that he's at the right age to have a nice semi-regular role where he gets into double digits homers and bringing power off the bench for us to drive in runs.
And will Brown ever figure things out? I think he will, now that he finally listened to the Giants coaches and changed his mechanics mid-season. His nice outburst after changing is a good sign of what he can do when he's hitting properly, though now the league has adjusted to him and now he has to adjust back. I'm hopeful that after a full off-season working in his new stance and making it a habit, he will come out of the chute hitting in 2014, with an outside chance of winning a 25-man spot.
I wasn't too happy, though, seeing a coach state that Brown needs to hit less balls in the air and more on the ground, that is one of his pluses, his ability to hit the ball and running around the bases for extra-base hits. That's Ted Williams type of hitting right there, whereas talking about hitting it on the ground and using your speed sounds like that old "slap-hitting" that has probably killed many a potential career for many a speed burner. I'm hoping that the coach either was mis-quoted or didn't explain himself properly.