- Ty Blach
- Clayton Blackburn
- Kyle Crick
- Ian Gardeck
- Adalberto Mejia
- Steve Okert
- Jake Smith
- Chris Stratton
Six of the additions were ranked among the organization's Top 30 prospects: right-handers Kyle Crick (No. 6), Chris Stratton (14) and Clayton Blackburn (21), as well as left-handers Steven Okert (9), Adalberto Mejia (12) and Ty Blach (20). Also added -- and therefore protected from next month's Rule 5 Draft -- were right-handers Ian Gardeck and Jake Smith.Reports by:
Congratulations to the new 40-man players!
First immediate thought is that some trade will happen in the next few weeks, probably by Winter GM meetings, definitely by the time when arbitration-eligible players would be non-tendered, because the 40-man roster is full, and the Giants are planning on adding at least one free agent starting pitcher, if not two, plus they said they are looking for a starting LF, and they also might be interested in players non-tendered by other teams.
Baggarly also noted the possibility of non-tendering one or more of our arbitration eligible players, noting Yusmeiro Petit and Hector Sanchez. I would be surprised if Sanchez is, but the speculation has been swirling around Petit for a while now, so I would not be surprised if he's gone before the non-tender deadline via a trade.
A trade to get the players the Giants desire seems very possible. Evans has already noted in at least two off-season press conferences that the Giants think that they might be able to add an upgrade to our pitching and/or our outfield via a trade. As I noted in my previous posts, the Giants don't have enough money to get their upgrade #2 starter (and this is the opinion of many other people regarding securing a #2; I personally believe that Leake is capable of being that #2 starter for us) as well as sign Leake, who Evans committed to trying to sign in his last press conference (the Crawford signing). So a trade is the most likely scenario for obtaining that second pitcher, assuming that Leake is the first pitcher. And especially if the Giants somehow signs an ace level starter like Greinke or Price or Cueto, that would pretty much prevent the Giants from signing Leake unless they go over the penalty threshold, and would make a trade the most likely way to avoid the penalty and get that second starter.
Thoughts on pitchers:
- Ty Blach
- A crafty lefty, he lacks the overpowering stuff that teams like to see in a pitcher, but he has made it all the way to AAA and been able to do well climbing up one level at a time. One thing I've been leaning on as an analytic device is how a player performs in the league while being younger than the league, especially significantly so (at least a year younger). Recent studies have shown that players who can hold their own in a league, while younger, tend to have a greater chance of making the majors, as well as doing well in the majors. This is a theme that will recur in my comments below.
- Blach was 2.8 younger than the average AAA player, yet his stat line was at or better than average in a number of categories. One stat that I think carries better upward is BB/9 and while the average was 3.3 in AAA, he had a 1.7 BB/9, significantly better. That helps him make due with a subpar 5.1 K/9, leading to a good 3.00 K/BB. Because he's a SP, he's been building up his IP, and he had 165.1 IP last season, so he looks like he can be a good innings eater at minimum in the majors. And given our age and history of injuries with Peavy and Cain, we need backups in AAA. I don't think he's top of the list (Blackburn currently is, and if two SP are acquired, perhaps Heston becomes top of the list, if he's not traded away; more on that later) but good depth to have in the minors should a disaster happens again with multiple injuries and/or lack of performances.
- Clayton Blackburn
- Kind of a bookend to Blach, Blackburn is a crafty righty (a rarer breed in that this term is hardly ever used), however, he does have some MLB velocity, low 90's and can reportedly crank it up to 93 MPH on occasion. There has been some controversy over how high Blackburn can really throw, as there has been reports of mid-90's heat at times early in his career. The way I view it is that he's been a pitcher's pitcher since we drafted him, much the way the Giants have been operating with Beede, asking him to not use the high heat as much and focusing more on inducing weak contact and keeping the pitch count down, and so while he can throw heat, he's been choosing not to, because he don't need to in the minors. That's part of the reason why I like him more than the ranking services have, I think he can hump it up as necessarily once he reaches the majors.
- Even without that uptick I expect, he has performed great as he has risen up the ladder of the farm system, and continued to do well in 2015. He had a 2.85 ERA (league 4.73 ERA), 1.293 WHIP (league 1.420 WHIP), and about average in most peripherals, but most importantly, significantly lower BB/9 with 2.3 BB/9 (league 3.3 BB/9), which is a skill that I think translates better as a player moves up a level. That led to a very good 3.09 K/BB (league 2.2 K/BB).
- I think that once he makes the majors, he will just get better and better, adjusting to the league, much like how Cain and Bumgarner have gotten better and better. It is not like he has no prospect cred, he did make BP's Top 100 in 2013. Oddly, to me, though, he is currently only ranked 21st on the MLB.com's Giants Top 30 list. I would have him in the Top 5, if not Top 3, because I think he is that close to making a big impact at the major league level.
- Kyle Crick
- Speaking of Top 5, Crick just missed, as #6 currently for the Giants. He has been a highly ranked prospect before, making even the Top MLB Prospect lists as well (MLB.com, BP, and BA have ranked him in their Top 100 lists previously, and as high as the 30's in 2014), but took at least a step (if not two or three) back this season, going wild enough that the Giants moved him into relief. I believe that they did it in order to reduce the stress on him and to have him focus more on his mechanics than have his confidence swirl down the drain as he struggled with starting. But it seems that most prospect hounds have given up on him and deem him a reliever going forward.
- I still think that he has the potential to be a top of rotation starter. Look at his starts in 2015 to start the season, he had a lot of good starts (using Game Score, most of his starts were good, at or above 50) and he did that a lot in his previous seasons too. Something happened at the end of May and suddenly he just couldn't get through a start well at all, so I see this as a temporary thing that he should get over. And with the ability to pitch consistently in the mid-90's and rear back and get into the upper 90's on occasion, he still has the velocity teams drool over.
- Of course, he still has a lot to work on. Consistency is what I would note, look at his career starts, he has had a lot of starts where he struck out a lot and walked very few, but then the bad starts would creep in there and his overall numbers turn out really wild looking. But it's a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing, he needs to be more Dr. and less Hyde. In any case, still too much talent to risk losing via Rule 5 draft.
- Ian Gardeck
- He was a surprise to me (he's not even on the MLB.com's Top 30), but looking at his numbers, not so surprising anymore. While he was old for his league (24, +0.9 vs. average), he had a 10.8 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 4.33 K/BB, and 1.158 WHIP. They were all vastly superior to the league averages. I think it came down between him and Agosta, and Agosta was just too high in some other key stats, even though his K/9, BB/9, and K/BB were about the same or better than Gardeck, and they were the same age.
- Adalberto Mejia
- He has been a highly touted prospect in the Giants farm system for a number of years now, but fell a bit on the Top 30 because of a number of new prospects added in the past year or two, and is now 12th. I have not been as impressed but he definitely was worth rostering. He was only 22 YO in 2015, -2.8 years below the average age, yet he had a 2.45 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, 6.7 H/9, 0.4 HR/9, 3.2 BB/9, 6.7 K/9, and 2.11 K/BB. He repeated AA, partly because he played there the previous season and did only OK (but remember, he was 3.8 years younger in 2014) and partly because he was caught using a drug that is a common ingredient in weight loss (he's on the bigger side) that is not allowed by the MLB. If he's playing a shortened season anyway, just have him repeat AA since he wasn't all that great there in his first try.
- While his overall stats are not impressive, they need to be adjusted to account for the fact that he's so much younger than the competition in the league. Thus, his H/9, HR/9, and BB/9 are high because of that difference in experience/development, and his K/9 is low for the same reason. Yet, in spite of his disadvantage, he was much above average in ERA, WHIP, H/9, HR/9, plus about average in BB/9, K/9, and K/BB.
- And he's still only 22 YO, so there is still some development and learning he can do. He operates in the 91-95 MPH range, with sinking and tailing action, which is pretty good, so I'm not sure why he's not getting more K's. He has repeatable mechanics that enables him to throw strikes consistently. Should reach the majors in 3 years, which is how many options he has (or perhaps he has 4, the MLB sometimes give that extra option when a player is signed young, but the rules are arcane and I'm not exactly sure, so I went with the lower number for a conservative stance).
- Steve Okert
- While his numbers in 2015 was not that great, as he struggled for the most part mechanically until August, he pitched well to the end of the year, as he greatly reduced his ERA, WHIP, H/9, and increased his K/9 and K/BB. Also, even with his struggles, he was 3.8 years younger and still about average across his stat line, and much better ERA and K/9, significantly so K/9.
- Showing how good he was in the past, MLB.com still has him ranked 9th in the system despite his problems this season. This is most probably because MLB.com profile notes that "he owns a pair of plus pitches in a 92-94 mph fastball that tops out at 97 and a sharp slider that peaks at 87." That's two plus pitches, and his cross-body delivery helps him get out LHH, suggesting that he could at minimum be a decent Loogy in the majors soon, and, given his good history previously, could be an Affeldt type who could handle both RHH as well as LHH (he was ahead of Osich previously; if he can regain his abilities to get our RHH, we could have two lefty relievers who can get out both LHH and RHH).
- Jake Smith
- It was a breakout season for him. Joe Ritzo noted that Smith "has an electric mid-90's fastball/cutter combo." He was not much of a prospect before, doing well in certain aspects but he has been significantly older than the leagues he's been in as well. I think he was a borderline candidate relative to Biagini and Agosta (and MLB.com ranked Biagini 28th, but neither Gardeck, Smith nor Agosta are on it now), and won out because he greatly improved in his BB/9, from a very poor 4.7 BB/9 in 2014 to a great 2.2 BB/9 in 2015.
- Still, 25 YO, +1.9 years above average, so I think the tipping point for him making the roster relates to his superb 12.6 K/9, which continues his good performances in this area previously, and his now great 2.2 BB/9, which leads to a great 5.62 K/BB, which is another factor in him getting placed on the 40-man. The 2.35 ERA also helped as well.
- Chris Stratton
- As a 1st round draft pick, there were a lot of expectations placed on him. Unfortunately, he had barely turned pro when he was struck by a batted ball in his head, suffering a season-ending concussion and, as we have seen with all the news on concussions in recent years, recovery is never linear nor a guarantee. So it has been very hard for prospect hounds to get a good feel for him. I think I've been more on the positive side than most, as many have wrote him off during the years after. Still, ranked 14th by MLB.com in Giants farm system, and that is because of his plus fastball, normally 88-92 MPH and above average slider.
- Here's why I have liked his performances. While he has not lived up to expectations, my studies of draft picks have found that not all first round picks should have the same expectations. Once you get beyond the first five, then the first ten, the odds of the pick making the majors is actually pretty low. Stratton's range where he was selected is at 4 to 1 against him ever being good in the majors, and perhaps as high as 9 to 1 against, depending on the depth in the draft that season. So I think people have placed too many expectations on him, they have been spoiled a bit by Cain, Lincecum, and Bumgarner, other first found picks.
- In addition, while he has not done all that well, and poorly at times, I think a key thing to remember is that he's actually been young in almost every league he has played in, and younger relatively as he has risen, he was 2.8 years younger than the league in 2015, and yet if you look at his stat line, he's about average for the league.
- Add on top of all that is his building up of arm stamina, as he's up to 148.0 IP in 2015, he's in a similar situation to what I described above for Blach, as he looks ready to take a back of rotation spot - and I would place him ahead of Blach overall (so it would be Blackburn, Stratton, Blach currently). Though I would note that both Beede and Mejia looks like they should be ready to jump ahead of Stratton and Blach by mid-season, and I would watch Phil Bickford, Sam Coonrod, and Jordan Johnson, as they might leapfrog multiple leagues in 2016, plus Chase Johnson showed some good stuff in 2015 as well.
The 40-man roster is full now and there are no one I would call marginal enough that dropping him would not hurt some. Not that long ago, I would have counted Heston and Parker as easy calls for DFA, so caveat anything I say relative to those misses. I guess, per my discussion above, Smith and Gardeck might be on the edge, but you don't discard pitchers with over 10 K/9 easily and without some regrets.
Still with 25 pitchers on the 40-man roster and the need for a starting LF and possibly another backup OF, something will need to happen among the pitchers to open up spots, because there are few position players who look like they can be DFAed (Hector Sanchez perhaps, given all the talk by beat writers) or traded (I don't think the Giants want to trade Susac, but he is a big trading chip since most prospect services thought that Susac was ready for a starting catching job last season, except that Posey had a lock on the position).
As I noted first, given that the roster is filled now, and at least one free agency signing (Leake) is expected, if not two or three (another SP and a starting LF), trades are probably going to be the way the Giants will plan on clearing space in the 40-man roster, particularly among the 25 pitchers on the roster. Some might be swapped to bring back someone the Giants can leave off the 40-man, like when they traded Conor Gillaspie.
To get a good SP, in terms of someone to pair with Bumgarner, you are going to have to give to get. I know the prospects who they would have to give up in order to get a pitcher that good, but I don't know if the Giants even want to make them available in trade, as they might be on their rumored "Do Not Trade" list (and some were just acquired in 2015 and per CBA, not tradeable right now): Panik, Duffy, Susac, Arroyo, Fox, Blackburn, Beede, Bickford, Mejia, Coonrod, Jordan Johnson, Okert, Law, Crick, Williamson, Parker, Suarez, Miller, Marshall. And as noted before, Evans stated in recent press conference that while teams are asking for Panik or Duffy, the Giants are not looking to trade them.
And really, look at the history of trades under Sabean/Evans, the vast majority of them have been guys with minimal or no MLB experience, and the vast majority of them have not been one where the Giants regretted losing the player. So I would not expect either Panik or Duffy to go unless the Giants get an offer that they can't refuse (you have to leave wiggle room as bait to other teams dissecting what you publicly say, so I don't take that as a negative with regards to the Giants intent regarding keeping them, it is much like when Sabean said that both Cain and Lincecum were on the table, because you never know if another team makes an incredible offer, but it is not likely to happen, nonetheless).
If I had to chose someone to trade, I would say Mejia since I've not been all that impressed, but most services think a lot of his prospects and once ranked him in the Top 100 prospect list. I like Heston and would not trade him, but he certainly has trade value, and again, to get value, you have to give value, and in the Giants case, it will be more quantity than quality. Coonrod is another who has a good statline, but which I'm not sure how good he is. And Crick I really like, but his struggles with walks could make him available.
Others who might also be available, but I see more as additional pieces, to fill out a trade, off the 40-man are Stratton, Blach, Gardeck, Smith, Broadway, Hall, Gregorio, Guerrin, Petit, Hanchez, Adrianza. But I've not been the best in discerning who is on on the "Do Not Trade" list or who would get dropped off the 40-man list, so I could be missing something somewhere. So it should be an interesting off-season as we learn what the Giants really think of some of their prospects.