At the top of the list on concerns for the San Francisco Giants heading into the 2013 season was the organizational depth at starting pitching.
Should something go awry with one of the Giants’ five starting pitcher, there are questions on who would be able to step in and fill the void.
At the top of that list in right-hander Chris Heston. Heston was the Double-A Eastern League pitcher of the year in 2012, which is worth noting because former Giants prospect Zach Wheeler also pitched well in the Eastern League last year.
In his first two starts at Triple-A, Heston is learning the difference from pitching in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League and the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Continue reading
With the Giants’ pitchers and catchers set to report Tuesday in Scottsdale, it’s time to take a look at the top players in the Giants’ farm system.
Trades in recents have left the cupboard a little bare in the Giants’ farm system.
Most painful of all was the deal that sent pitcher Zach Wheeler to the Mets in 2011 for Carlos Beltran. That left the Giants without a postseason bid in 2011 and Beltran in a Cardinals uniform in 2012. Meanwhile, Wheeler opens the 2013 campaign as the No. 8 overall prospect by MLB.com and primed to work his way into Mets’ rotation.
Now, if he had remained with the Giants, he wouldn’t be working his way into the rotation in 2012. But the futures of Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito uncertain for 2013, it would have been nice to still have Wheeler in the wings in San Francisco.
Instead, the Giants’ top-ranked prospect is 20 and still a couple years away of helping out the big club.
Here’s a look at MoreSplashHits’ rankings of the 10 top prospects.
1. RHP Kyle Crick, 20
A sandwich first-round pick in 2011 out of high school, Crick went 7-6 with 2.51 for Low A Augusta last season. He just turned 20 in November, so he’s still very young. He has a plus fastball with a good slider. He had a 1.28 WHIP. He’s still a bit raw with a 2015 projected big-league arrival.
2. RHP Chris Stratton, 22
The Giants’ No. 1 pick (20th overall) in the 2012 draft went 0-1 with 2.76 ERA in eight games for shortseason Class A Salem-Keizer. Because the system had become a little thin of MLB-ready pitchers, the Giants plucked Stratton out of Mississippi State. But because he moved from reliever to spot starter to full-time starter for the Bulldogs, it may be a little while before Stratton’s ready for the big time. He’ll likely head to Class A San Jose this season.
3. OF Gary Brown, 24
The Giants’ No. 1 prospect in 2012 slipped a notch in 2013 thanks to an uneven 2012 season for Double-A Richmond. He finished with .279 average on .347 OBP, which isn’t great. But considering his season got off to such a cold start, his strong finish and solid Arizona Fall League were encouraging. Speed is his game, but to utilize it properly he must learn the importance of getting on base by increasing walks and his contact rate. He’s likely to head to Fresno to open the season, but a call-up in 2013 is not out of the question.
4. SS Joe Panik, 22
The Giants’ first-round pick of 2011 had a solid yet unspectacular season at Class A San Jose. But that’s his M.O. — solid but unspectacular, on defense and with the bat. But he’s a contact specialist, walking 58 times to 54 strikeouts. He hit .297 with a .368 OBP, 7 HR, 76 RBI in 130 games. He figures to move over to 2B before arriving in the bigs. But with Brandon Crawford at SS and Marco Scutaro recently signed to a three-year deal, it may be a couple of years before Panik gets his shot at starting job.
5. RHP Heath Hembree, 24
If there was one prospect who looked like he was on the fast track to the bigs after last spring, it was Hembree. When Brian Wilson went on the DL last April, some thought the hard-throwing righty would get an early call. But the Giants kept him in Fresno, where he ran into a funk in June that culminated with him battling arm troubles. After a month on the DL, he finished the season with a 4.74 ERA with 15 saves and 36 Ks and 20 BB in 38 innings. He bounced back with a solid Arizona Fall League, which put him back on track for a 2013 call as the Giants’ “closer of the future.”
6. RHP Clayton Blackburn, 20
The 16th round pick in the 2011 draft out of high school went 8-4 with 2.54 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. He looks like a 20-year-old Rick Reuschel. He has a 93-94 mph fastball with a curve and changeup, with command with all of his pitches. He’ll likely head to Class A San Jose with a big-league arrival date of 2015.
7. RHP Michael Kickham, 24
After a lackluster first full season in the Giants system in 2011, Kickham jumped from low Class A to Double-A Richmond in 2012, responding with an 11-10 mark with 3.05 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 27 starts. He’s got a good sinking fastball that can run up to 93 mph, and can add a slider, curve and changeup. He needs to cut down on walks as he had 75 in 150.2 IP last season. He’ll head to Fresno this season with a chance to make the big club by season’s end.
8. OF Francisco Peguero, 24
Giants fans got a small glimpse of Peguero late last season, and it wasn’t too impressive. He went 3 for 16 with 7 strikeouts in limited play. At Triple-A, he hit .272 with 5 HR, 68 RBI. He’s a good contact player who doesn’t walk much. He has good speed and defense, who was slowed by knee surgery prior to 2012 season. He’ll likely go back to Fresno, but we could see him again in 2013.
9. RHP Martin Agosta, 21
A second-round pick in 2012 out of St. Mary’s College, Agosta posted a 4.22 ERA in five starts in rookie league last season. A small sample. Agosta has a 94 mph fastball with a good mix of secondary pitches. Some see him as a reliever in the future. Either way, he’s a couple of years away.
10. C Andrew Susac, 22
The Giants felt good about trading Tommy Joseph to Philadelphia in the Hunter Pence deal because they had Hector Sanchez as well as Susuc in the farm system. They took a chance picking him in the 2nd round in 2011 after he missed his final year at Oregon State with an injury. His first full season in the system was bumpy. He has power, but it didn’t show at San Jose last year. He hit 9 HR, 52 RBI with .244 average in 102 games. He walked 55 times, but also whiffed 100 times. But he showed himself as a good defensive backstop.
Richmond catcher Tommy Joseph has been selected to represent the Giants in the MLB Futures Game in Kansas City next month.
Joseph, who turns 21 next month, is hitting .248 with three home runs, 15 RBI and a team-high 11 doubles in 52 games. He’s thrown out 46 percent of would-be base stealers.
He’s struggled of late, hitting just .195 in his last 10 games since June 9.
RP Heath Hembree: After a very bumpy end to May, Hembree returned from a six-day layoff in early June to throw five innings without an earned run. The streak ended June 20 when he gave up his first earned run since June 2. He has recorded four saves since June 8.
SP Eric Hacker: Hacker seems to be first in line as a replacement starter for the Giants. Yet, he’s had his own troubles of late. He’s 10-3 on the season, but has allowed 15 earned runs in his last 16.1 innings.
RP Dan Runzler: Working his way back from a lat injury late last season, Runzler made his first outing with Fresno on Tuesday, giving up two runs on three hits in one inning of work against Sacramento.
OF Gary Brown: The Giants’ top prospect is showing signs of life in Double-A. He’s hitting .300 (15 for 50) over his past 10 games since June 10. He’s hit safely in eight of his past nine games, with just two strikeouts but only one walk. He’s also been successful in four of his past five steal attempts. He’s hitting .247 with an .320 OBP on the season.
SP Chris Heston: Heston’s lights-out season has dimmed a bit in recent starts, giving up eight runs in 19.1 innings. But he’s also logged 20 strikeouts in those game. He fanned 10 in 5.1 innings on Wednesday against Trenton. His 1.36 ERA for the season still easily leads the Eastern League.
RP Brett Bochy: Bochy continues to have a solid season. He’s allowed just one run on three hits in his last seven innings since June 10 with 12 strikeouts. He’s 5-2 with a 1.62 ERA and eight saves.
Class A San Jose
SS Joe Panik: Panik is another high prospect who is heating up. He is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak, going 17 for 42 (.405) over that stretch. He belted his third home run of the season on Thursday. He has struck out just twice since June 8. He has 25 strikeouts to 32 walks on the season.
OF Jarrett Parker: Parker continues to put his average on the rise. He was hit by a pitch in the helmet on June 12, landing him on the DL. He returned Thursday and smacked his sevent home run of the season. He’s hitting .424 over his past 10 games, bring his season average to .264.
Class A Augusta
SP Clayton Blackburn: Blackburn opened the second half of the South Atlantic League by pitching the Green Jackets over Savannah Thursday. The 19-year-old gave up four runs on eight hits and no walks in six innings. He also fanned eight. He’s 4-2 with 3.17 ERA with 75 strikeouts and 12 walks in 65.1 innings.
SP Kyle Crick: Crick, also 19, finished the first half of the season very strong, giving up no earned runs on three hits in 12 innings with 14 strikeouts. He was the league pitcher of the week on June 11 after pitching seven innings of one-hit ball on June 7 with 10 strikeouts.
In a curious move this week, the Giants promoted 3B Chris Dominguez from Double-A Richmond to Triple-A Fresno on Wednesday.
Dominguez was hitting .223 with 2 HRs and 19 RBI in 49 games for the Flying Squirrels. He also had 50 strikeouts and only seven walks.
Dominguez was drafted in the third round of the 2009 Draft out of Louisville and was rated at the No. 9 prospect in the Giants’ system by MLB.com.
He has a strong arm at third base, and hit 18 HR with 85 RBI and batted .266 in 141 games between Class A San Jose and AA Richmond in 2011.
Dominguez made his first start in the outfield on Thursday. He struck out in his first three at-bats before delivering an RBI single in the ninth to lift Fresno to a 2-1 win over Sacramento.
Other minor-league player news
- SP Yusmeiro Petit, Fresno: Petit was the Pacific Coast League player of the week for May 21-27 after gave up one run on seven hits in 13 IP and 19 strikeouts in two starts. He followed that up by giving up one run (unearned) on three hits in 7 innings and 8 strikeouts vs. Sacramento on Thursday. He’s 1-2 with 3.58 ERA for the season.
- OF Roger Kieschnick, Fresno: Kieschnick was hitting .302 with 4 HR and 12 RBI over this past 10 games before hurting himself crashing into the fence trying to run down a home run ball Tuesday in Sacramento, landing on the disabled list.
- 3B Conor Gillaspie, Fresno: Gillaspie was activated from the disabled list, going 2 for 6 in two games since coming off the DL. He’s hitting .287 since being sent back to Fresno from the Giants.
- RHP George Kontos, Fresno: The pitcher acquired in trade with the Yankees for Chris Stewart is 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA in 21 appearances for Fresno. He has 23 strikeouts and five walks in 29.2 IP.
- C Tommy Joseph, Richmond: Joseph is heating up after a slow start. He’s up to .279 on the season with 3 HR and 13 RBI. He’s hitting .343 over the past 10 games with a .400 OBP.
- RHP Chris Heston, Richmond: Heston continues to be lights-out in Double-A. He’s 5-2 with an 0.70 ERA in 10 stars, with 59 Ks and 15 BBs in 64.2 IP. He struck out 11 over six innings on Sunday vs. Trenton.
- RHP Brett Bochy, Richmond: After getting tagged for four run on May 10, Bochy has returned to his scoreless ways, giving up 0 runs in 6.2 innings since then. He has a 1.42 ERA, but has been unscored upon in 17 of his 18 outings this season.
- 3B Adam Duvall, San Jose: Duvall had 4 HR, 9 RBI and .364 over the past 10 games, bringing him to 11 HR, 32 RBI and .280 for the season.
- OF Jarrett Parker, San Jose: Hey, we’ve got good news to report on the free-swinging Parker. He’s hitting .344 with .432 OBP over the past 10 games. He has not fanned in his past two games, and that’s saying something. He’s up to .219 for the season with 5 HR, 15 RBI.
- LHP Jack Snodgrass, San Jose: Snodgrass bounced back from getting dinged for 5 runs on 3.2 IP against Stockton to limit Visalia to one run on three hits in 6 IP. He’s 5-1 with 2.34 ERA on the season and will look to end San Jose’s five-game skid on Friday.
Fresno Grizzlies outfielder Justin Christian was named the Pacific Coast League player of the week for the period ending April 15.
At the time of his selection for the honor, Christian was leading all of professional baseball with a .553 averge (21 for 39) with seven doubles and a .595 on-base percentage.
Christian is a regular Crash Davis.
He’s 32 years old and has played 42 total big-league games, including 18 last season with the Giants, when he hit .255 in 47 at-bats.
Christian was an undrafted free agent when he was signed by the Yankees in 2004 at age 24.
He’s toiled in the minors since, earning a brief promotion with the Yankees in 2008.
He signed a minor-league contract with the Giants before the 2011 season.
Since earning the PCL honor, Christian has not cooled off much, going 5 for 17 this week.
He’s currently hitting .476 with 2 HRs, 11 RBI and 12 runs. He has a .517 OBP.
Other players of note
Triple-A Fresno (11-4)
- OF Roger Kieschnick: Christian isn’t the only Fresno outfielder who’s hot. Kieschnick is hitting .424 with 3 HR, 9 RBI, 8 doubles and 15 runs.
- 2B Joaquin Arias: Arias impressed the Giants with his glove in the spring. Now, he’s also swinging a hot bat. He’s hitting. .373 with 2 HR, 12 RBI and 8 runs.
- OF Francisco Peguero (No. 8 Giants prospect by Baseball Prospectus): The Grizzlies have five players hitting .313 or better, which is why Peguero, one of the team’s top prospects, is concerning. He’s hitting .196 with 1 HR, 11 RBI. However, in his past seven games, he’s 7 for 27 (.259) with 1 HR and 8 RBI.
- 2B Charlie Culberson (No. 11 by BP): Batting .276, with 0 HR, 7 RBI, 5 doubles, but a team-high 14 Ks.
- 3B Conor Gillaspie (No. 20 by BP): Batting .235 with 1 HR, 4 RBI.
- RP Heath Hembree (No. 3 by BP): All eyes are on Hembree in the wake of Brian Wilson’s season-ending injury. Hembree is 1-0 with 1.80 ERA and 2 saves. He has 4 Ks in 5 IP and suffered his first blown save last week.
- SP Eric Hacker: It hasn’t been all hitting in Fresno’s hot start. Hacker is 3-0 with 2.00 ERA, 10 K, 3 BB in 18 IP.
- SP Andrew Kown: Kown also has been solid as a starter with a 2-0 mark with a 2.20 ERA, 10 K, 5 BB in 16.1 IP.
Double-A Richmond (7-8)
- 3B Chris Dominguez: Dominguez is making a nice transition to Double-A, hitting .415 with 1 HR and 10 RBI in 11 games. More importantly, he’s limiting his strikeouts (8 in 42 PAs)
- C Tommy Joseph (No. 4 by BP): Joseph got off to a slow start. He’s hitting .231, 0 HR, 2 RBI. But he’s collected a hit in his last six games.
- OF Gary Brown (No. 1 by BP): The former first-round pick has been slow to adjust to Double-A, hitting .208 with one stolen base in three attempts. He has one more hit (11) than strikeouts (10). His OBP is .306.
- SS Ehire Adrianza (No. 13 by BP): A defensive whiz, but questions remain with his bat. Starting the season hitting. 176 with 11 Ks in 51 ABs will not help much. But he does have 9 BBs.
- OF Wendell Fairley: Another prospect really has struggled, going 1 for 19 (.053) this season.
- SP Michael Kickham (No. 9 by BP): Kickham is 1-1 with 2.84 ERA in 3 starts. He has 13 Ks in 12.2 IP, but also has 9 BB
Class A San Jose
- SS Joe Panik (No. 2 by BP): After impressive Short A season, Panik is off to a slow start, hitting .241. But with 9 BB, his OBP is .343. He has 6 doubles in 58 ABs.
- 1B Ricky Oropesa (No. 17 by BP): Known for his power, Oropesa hasn’t shown it yet with (0 HR, 3 2B) in 44 ABs. He’s hitting .273.
- C Andrew Sugac (No. 6 by BP). Sugac is batting .268 with 0 HR, 3 RBI in 41 ABs.
- OF Jarrett Parker (No. 18 by BP): It’s hit or miss for Parker. He has 12 hits (9 extra-base hits) with 4 HRs. But he’s hitting .255 as 26 of his 35 outs have been by strikeout.
- RP Josh Osich (No. 10 by BP): Osich has thrown 3 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up 3 hits and 1 walk, with 4 Ks.
Class A Augusta
- Kyle Crick, RHP (No. 5 by BP): Crick is 0-1 with 3.68 ERA in 2 starts. The big issue is 8 BB in 7.1 IP.
Baseball America released its top 100 prospects for 2012. These rankings are for any player who has not exceeded 130 major-league at-bats or 50 innings pitched or 30 appearanches.
There is but one Giants prospect on this list — outfielder Gary Brown, who came in at No. 38. The Giants would have had two, but they traded pitcher Zach Wheeler to the Mets last season for Carlos Beltran. Wheeler came in at No. 35.
For what it’s worth, the Giants had two players on this list in 2011 — 1B Brandon Belt at No. 23 and Wheeler at No. 55. In 2010, they had four — C Buster Posey (No.7), SP Madison Bumgarner (No. 14), Wheeler (No. 49) and OF Thomas Neal (No. 96).
Here are the top Giants prospects in 2012 according to Baseball America.
1. OF Gary Brown
2. C/1B Tommy Joseph
3. RHP Heath Hembree
4. SS/2B Joe Panik
5. OF Francisco Peguero
6. C Andrew Sugac
7. LHP Erik Surkamp
8. RHP Kyle Crick
9. SS Ehire Adrianza
10. C Hector Sanchez
Others of note: 11, 2B Charlie Culberson; 12, 1B Brett Pill; 13, 3B Conor Gillaspie; 14, RHP Hector Correa; 16, 3B Chris Dominugez.
Since last week’s report, we’ve see OF Darren Ford and RP Ryan Vogelsong get called up, with 1B Brandon Belt being sent down. Belt has yet to appear in a game since his demotion to Fresno.
A look at some players of note down in the San Francisco Giants’ farm system
1B Brett Pill, Fresno (AAA): Even after cooling off a bit, Pill continues to have a solid season with the Grizzlies with 2 HR, 15 RBI and .369 AVG. His numbers are 0/6/.250 for the past 10 games.
2B Emmanuel Burris, Fresno (AAA): Burriss isn’t running like was in the first week of the season. But he’s hitting. Burriss stole 10 bases in the first five games of the season. Now, 15 games into the season, he has 15 steals in 18 attempts. But he is hitting .410 over the past 10 games with a .467 OBP. He’s hitting .339 with a .424 OBP for the season with 15 runs in 15 games.
LF Thomas Neal, Fresno (AAA): Neal was sidelined for more than a week with a bruised foot. But he’s back and hitting (8 for 21) since returning to lineup. He went 3 for 4 with 3 runs scored Friday, pushing him to 10 for 30 for the season.
3B Connor Gillaspie, Fresno (AAA): After opening the season hot, Gillaspie has cooled off, currently on a 1-for-15 slump. He’s hitting .254 for the season with 2 HR and 13 RBI. At least his walk-to-strikeout has improved — it’s 4/3 during the slump.
P Steve Edlefsen, Fresno (AAA): Edlefsen has been solid in relief, giving up one run in 6 IP with a 5-1 K-to-BB rate. His ERA is a 1.42.
2B Charlie Culberson, Richmond (AA): Culberson remains the best hitter on a Richmond team that has struggled to hit. Culberson is the only Flying Squirrel with 30 or more ABs who is hitting over .260. Culberson is hitting .290, but with an OBP of only .297. And he has 15 strikeouts in 15 games. His K-rate has improved of late, only 2 in his last 18 PAs. And he’s heating up — 6 for 13 in past three games.
OF Gary Brown, San Jose (A): The 2010 first-round pick is hitting .343 with a .429 OBP and 14 runs through 16 games. He also is 15 for 20 on stolen base attempts. Also, 23 of his 25 hits are singles.
3B Chris Dominguez, San Jose (A): Dominguez has 4 HR, 14 RBI and a .313 AVG.
1B Luke Anders, San Jose (A): Anders had 3 HR, 10 RBI and a .319 AVG. He also has 10 walks in 60 PAs for a .439 OPB and his OPS is 1.013.
P Zach Wheeler, San Jose (A): After an impressive first start, Wheeler struggled in his most recent start, giving up 5 ER on 7 hits in 5 IP. He’s 2-0 with a 4.02 ERA. But his WHIP is 0.96 and he has 18 Ks and 4 BB in 15.2 IP.