Archive for July 2009

Heads Up, Giants Fans

July 31, 2009

I’ve written several posts about the prospects playing well in the Giants farm system this year.  However, I haven’t gone any lower than Class A Augusta.

So I’ve told you about the progress (or lack thereof) of 18 year old Dominican 1Bman Angel Villalona, who strained his left quadriceps and hasn’t played since July 7 (he’s expected to miss at least four weeks), and 19 year old Venezuelan SS Ehire Adrianze, who’s slumped a bit the last ten games and is now hitting .271 at Class A Augusta.

However, I haven’t told you about a couple of other young guys playing in the low minors who you might want to keep in mind for future reference.

The first is 19 year old Jorge Bucardo, a right-hander pitching for the Salem-Kaiser Volcanoes in the short-season Northwest League.  He’s from Leon, Nicaragua, and for what it’s worth, his older brother Wilber, age 21, is also a starter for the Volcanoes.  Jorge is the real talent, however.

After eight starts, Jorge’s 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA and 41 Ks and only nine walks in 43.1 IP.  He pitched well in the Rookie Arizona Summer League last year, recording 51 K’s and only 15 walks in 51.1 innings over eleven starts.

The best player on the Arizona Summer League Giants this year looks to be 19 year old Venezuelan catcher Hector Sanchez.  He’s currently leading his team with a .908 OPS.

Sanchez had a terrific year in the Dominican Summer League last year at age 18.  He led the league with a .348 batting average, and his .961 OPS was good for second best in the league, only one point behind the league leader.

While we’re on the subject of ballplayers named Sanchez, you have to figure it’s only a matter of time before we get a major league Sanchez whose teammates decide to nickname him “Dirty” and the nickname catches on.  He’ll sort of be the Rusty Kuntz of his day (BTW, there was a ballplayer originally from Sacramento who played in the 1920’s known as Earl “Pinches” Kunz — I kid you not).

I, for one, wait with bated breath for that day.

Dodgers Acquire George Sherrill; Cubs Get John Grabow

July 31, 2009

Two more big trades today:

Sherrill Trade: The Dodgers obtained left-handed reliever George Sherrill in exchange for minor leaguers 3Bman Josh Bell and right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sherrill, he’s a classic good-year-bad-year pitcher.  He’s having a good year this year with a 2.40 ERA, 20 saves in 23 opportunities, almost a strikout per inning pitched and a 3-to-1 Ks-to-walks ratio.  It’s a great trade for the Dodgers, who are obviously trying to win it all since they have the NL West all but wrapped up already.

It’s not a bad trade for the O’s either.  As usual, they’re going nowhere, and Sherrill’s already 32 years old.  And, like I said, he’s inconsistent with ERAs of 4.28, 2.36 and 4.73 the three seasons before this one.  The O’s might as well move him now while his trade value is at its peak.

What did the O’s get in return?  Josh Bell can clearly hit.  He’s got an .883 OPS in the AA Southern League at age 22.  There are some doubts about his defense at 3B, however.

Steve Johnson is originally from Baltimore, and at age 21, he’s had a fine season mostly at Inland Empire (San Bernardino) in the California League.  It’s a hitters’ league so his 3.82 ERA is better than it looks.  Mainly, though, he’s notched 102 Ks against 42 walks in 96.2 IP.  He was recently promoted to AA Chattanooga, where in two starts he posted a 1.69 ERA with 15 Ks in 10.2 IP.

Johnson’s age and his numbers remind me of Scott Barnes, the young pitcher the Giants just sent to the Indians for Ryan Garko, except that Barnes is a lefty.

Grabow Trade.  The Cubs got left-handed pitchers John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny in exchange for right-handed pitchers Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio and minor league 2Bman Josh Harrison.

This was a trade the Cubs made because they were desperate for left-handed pitching.  In particular, Gorzelanny and Hart look very similar except for the fact that they throw from opposite sides.  Both are 26, and while Gorzelanny has more major league experience, he’s currently pitching well at AAA Indianapolis (2.48 ERA in 15 starts), while Hart won his third straight start for the Cubs today, before finding out he was traded.  However, Hart hasn’t pitched as well as his 2.60 major league ERA so far this year suggests.

Hart can’t be happy about this trade.  He wins his third consecutive start for a pennant contender, goes into the locker room and finds out he’s been traded to a team with no chance of winning for the foreseeable future.  That’s Baseball, and sometimes it’s cruel.

So the trade was basically Grabow for Ascanio and Harrison, with the Cubs adding organizational depth in left-handed pitching (Gorzelanny will go at least initially to AAA Iowa).   Grabow isn’t a bad left-handed relief man, although he’s been wild this year.  He’s certainly no Geroge Sherrill.

Jose Ascanio is 24 this year, and he looks ready to help the Pirates right away.  After twelve starts at AAA Iowa where he pitched well (3.16 ERA and good ratios), he was called up to the Cubs.  He has made 14 relief appearances for the Cubs in which he’s posted a 3.52 ERA with nine walks and 18 Ks in 15.1 IP.  That’s too many walks, but the strikeouts number is great.

Hard to project Josh Harrison at this point.  He’s 21 and hit .337 with an .856 OPS in the Class A Midwest League this year before recently being promoted to the Class A+ Florida State League, where he’s hitting .286 with a .751 OPS in 70 ABs.

These numbers are promising, but he hasn’t drawn a lot of walks or hit with much power this year.  Also, as someone who played three years of college ball, he’s only just reached a league where the quality of play is clearly better than college ball.  All you can really say about him it this point  in his career is that he isn’t a dog.

Brian Sabean Strikes Again

July 30, 2009

Well, so much for all of Sabean’s claims that the Giants wouldn’t trade away their future trying to win this year.  The Giants acquired 2Bman Freddie Sanchez today from the Pirates straight up for pitcher Tim Alderson, the Giants’ best pitching prospect after Madison Bumgarner and the 22nd player taken in the 2007 Draft.  Keith Law of ESPN rates Alderson as the 26th best prospect in baseball, and Baseball America ranks Alderson as the Giants’ 4th best prospect.

Alderson had struggled in his last six starts at AA Connecticut, giving up 20 earned runs in 33 IP (that’s a 5.45 ERA, boys and girls), but so what?  He’s only 20 years old this year, and he’s already has 13 AA starts under his belt.

Giving up Alderson is heavy price to pay for a team that should still be in rebuilding mode after four consecutive losing seasons.  Apparently, the Pirates didn’t even pony up any money to pay Sanchez salary.

After opting for quantity over quality in the McLouth and Wilson trades and getting little in return in the LaRoche trade, this is a brilliant trade for the Pirates.  They finally get a grade-A prospect, something they desperately need if they are going to trade off all their veteran starters.  Bad teams have bad luck, and Alderson could hurt his arm long before he reaches the majors, but for the time being it was a good move by the Pirates.

What disappoints me particularly is that earlier in the day the rumor was the Giants would send RF John Bowker, 2Bman Kevin Frandsen, and 1Bman Jesus Guzman to the Pirates for Sanchez.  While I like John Bowker, he turned 26 three weeks and he still hasn’t established himself as a major league regular.  Besides, the Giants have plenty of depth already at the positions (corner outfield, 1B) Bowker.

The Giants also have plenty of depth at 2B, and Guzman was a player the Giants picked up off the scrap heap last off-season.  He can hit, but he’s got stone hands on defense and he’s already 25.  Kevin Frandsen is already 27.

The Giants have now traded two of their top half dozen pitching prospect at the Class A+ level or higher, and a third, Ben Snyder, took a line drive off his head in yesterday’s ballgame.  If Madison Bumgarner hurts his arm and Tim Alderson turns into a star, the Giants will regret this move for years.  Unless, of course, the Giants make it past the first round of the play-offs this October.

In my mind, the Giants now have to make the play-offs, or it’s finally time to cut Sabean lose.

Big Trades

July 29, 2009

Two more big trades so far today:

The Cliff Lee Deal.  The Indians sent Lee and 27 year old right-handed hitting outfielder Ben Francisco to the Phillies for youngsters Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Jason Knapp.

All things considered, it looks like a better deal for the Phillies than the proposal that the Blue Jays turned down for Roy Halladay.  Mainly, the Phillies get to keep J.A. Happ, who’s pitched really well for them this year, while adding Lee.  Since this is a “win now” trade for a team already capable of doing just that, getting Lee without weakening the major league squad is great.

Lee has had a 2.37 ERA for the month of July, and given that he’s a control pitcher going to a team that can pick it and score runs, he should win a lot of games in the next two months.  As a right-handed hitter with some pop, Francisco is also a useful bench player for a team looking to go deep into the post-season.

I’ve already recently commented on Carrasco and Donald, so I won’t do it again here.  Lou Marson is a 23 year old catcher, who had a great season at AA Reading last year when he posted a .433 OBP.  He’s hit .295 with a .384 OBP at AAA Lehigh Valley this year.

Marson’s only real draw-back offensively is his lack of power so far in his professional career.  However, he’s young enough to develop power in the next few years, and a catcher who gets on base the way he does at his age has real potential.

Jason Knapp was the Phillies’ 2nd round pick in the 2008 Draft (71st overall).  He’s got a good live arm (111 Ks in 85.1 IP in the Sally League so far this year), but he’s a long way from the majors.  He’s only 2-7 with a 4.01 ERA in Class A ball this year, so it’s likely to be years before he’s ready.

Reports are that no cash will be sent to Philly to pay for the new acquisitions.  This makes sense, since the Indians, who are listed with baseball’s 15th highest payroll, while having a bad year in a small market, badly need to dump salary.

The Jack Wilson Deal.  The Pirates and Mariners swung a seven player deal that sends SS Jack Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell to the M’s in exchange for catcher Jeff Clement, shortstop Ronny Cedeno, and pitchers Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock.

Clement was the No. 3 player selected in the 2005 Draft.  However, he turns 26 on August 21st and still hasn’t established himself as a major league player.

Clement looked extremely promising in 2007 and early 2008, but his 203 AB trial with the M’s last year didn’t go as hoped.  He hit only .227 with a .655 OPS, which while not terrible for a catcher, isn’t good enough for a starter at the position.

Clement has been back at AAA Tacoma this year, and his .865 OPS there is solid, but it’s nothing to write home about either.  At his age, you’d kind of expect him to be over .900, what with playing in the Pacific Coast League and all.

26 year old Ronny Cedeno has substantial major league experience, mostly for the Cubs, but he can’t hit.  His .618 OPS in over a 1,000 MLB ABs pretty much says it all.

Pribanic is a 22 year old right-hander with a 3.21 ERA in the Class Midwest League.  However, his strikeout numbers are not impressive for this level of the minors.

Brett Lorin is another 22 year old right-hander pitching at Class A Clinton.  His ERA is 2.44, and he has 87 K’s in 88.2 IP, so he’s a lot more promising than Pribanic.

Nathan Adcock is a 21 right-hander who is currently overmatched at Class A+ High Desert in the California League.  He has a 5.29 ERA and lacks control.  He looked better last year in the Midwest League.

In short, the Pirates got five B-grade prospects for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell.  Wilson plays great defense, but he’s overpaid for the offense he provides, and the Pirates were eager to unload Snell because he wasn’t happy in Pittsburg.

Snell is pitching great after six starts in AAA Indianopolis, with an 0.96 ERA and 47 Ks in 37.1 IP.  He’s 27 this year, and it’s still really anybody’s guess whether he’ll ever have a great season at the major league level.

The Pirates seem to make a lot of trades where they choose quantity of prospects over quality, apparently in the hope that if they get a lot of warm bodies a few of them will develop in major league stars if only by the law of averages.  The problem is that the Pirates constantly seem to be in a rebuilding mode, but never quite manage to get rebuilt.

A Wild One Down on the Farm

July 29, 2009

The Giants’ AA team, the Connecticut Defenders, won a wild one against the Bowie (MD) BaySox yesterday, 13-12.

This game should be of some interest to Giants fans because Madison Bumgarner had what was likely the worst start of his professional career.  He gave up three runs, all earned, in an inning and two-thirds and was evicted by the umpire for allegedly throwing at a Bowie hitter Daniel Figueroa a couple of batters after giving up a homerun to Steve Torrealba.  However, whether the pitch was intentional is up for debate, since the pitch went past the catcher and allowed the baserunner on first to advance to second.

Another top Giants’ pitching prospect Ben Snyder came in to replace Bumgarner, and he lasted only one batter.  Figueroa hit a lined shot which ricocheted off Snyder’s head and past the Defenders’ 3Bman.  Figueroa ended up on second and was credited with a double, while Snyder left the game and went to the hospital for tests.

Early reports are that all of Snyder’s tests came back negative for serious injury.  However, one has to expect that he will miss some games until he’s really ready to play again.  It’s shame, as he was pitching great (1.98 ERA).

The Defenders came back from a 7-2 deficit and won it in the 11th inning.  The teams combined for 42 hits, 22 by the Defenders, and Bowie made six errors.

Another Giant’s Record Falls

July 29, 2009

In case you missed it, Giants’ Fans, Jim Barr’s record of retiring 41 consecutive hitters set in 1972 and later tied by White Sox reliever Bobby Jenks in 2007, was broken today by Mark Buerhle, who retired 45 consecutive batters, before the Twins’ 18th batter of the game Alexi Casilla finally broke through and drew a walk.

Six of the next eight batters reached base safely.  One of the two outs came on a sacrifice.  The Twins ended up scoring five runs off Buerhle and beat him the ball game.  Is that baseball or what?

Twins’ fans needed one like tonight’s game after learning yesterday that ace Kevin Slowey is out for the rest of the season.  The only good thing is that the surgery Slowey needs is to remove a bone chip from his wrist.  That’s a lot less serious for Slowey’s long-term future than a blown elbow tendon or torn rotator cuff.

Glenn Perkins and Francisco Liriano will have to pick it up considerably if the Twins want to make a run at the post-season, even if they do pick up another bat for their middle infield.

Giants Obtain Garko

July 28, 2009

After four consecutive losing seasons for the Giants, I’m not a big fan of GM Brian Sabean.  However, I have to admit I like this deal for the Giants.

Ryan Garko is no great shakes, but at age 28, he’s still in his prime.  He gives the Giants something the team desperately needs: a right-handed hitter who can play 1B and the corner outfield positions (Garko has played 12 games in the outfield this year) and hit with some power.  More importantly, he only cost the Giants one prospect.

Those who have read my posts on the Giants minor leaguers know that I like Scott Barnes, the pitcher the Giants just sent to the Tribe.  At this moment I would rank him as the Giants’ third best pitching prospect behind only Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson, because of his age (21) and his performance at A+ San Jose this year (Barnes is 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA in a hitters’ league, with 82 hits allowed, 29 walks, and 99 Ks in 98 IP).  In fact, given his college pitching ratios at St. John’s, it’s hard to understand how he fell to the Giants all the way down to the 8th round in the 2007 Draft.

However, Barnes appears to be the only player the Indians received.  There’s been some report of a player to be named later, but other reports saying, no, it’s just Garko for Barnes straight up.  Losing Barnes hurts, but the Giants are trading from a position of strength.  Aside from Bumgarner and Alderson, they still have pitchers Kevin Pucetas at AAA Fresno, Ben Snyder at AA Connecticut, and Clayton Tanner at A+ San Jose.

Also, the thing about a pitcher at the A+ level is that he’s still got a long way to go before he reaches the major leagues.  There’s a big jump in talent between A+ and AA, and plenty of great looking pitchers in A+ blow out their arms long before they reach the majors.

In looking at Garko’s salary, he just missed being a super-2, and thus eligible for arbitration, this past off-season.  He’s only making $446,100 this year, which is a bargain.  Given that he really doesn’t hit enough for a 1Bman (career .805 OPS) and the Indians are rebuilding and looking to cut salary, it’s possible that the Indians would have non-tendered him rather than let him get a huge raise in arbitration this coming off-season.  This may have been the reason why the Giants were able to get him for a single player still in A+ ball.

Still, Garko is better than what the Giants have now, and he’s certainly got incentive to play well the rest of the season as he goes into his first arbitration year.  Meanwhile, the Indians get to call up 25 year old Andy Marte, whose .963 OPS currently leads the AAA International League by 44 points.  In short, it looks like a good move for both clubs.

One final note: the Giants sent down John Bowker and Matt Downs today and called up Jesus Guzman and Eugenio Velez.   Yeah, Bowker was hitting a feeble .156, but he only got 32 ABs.  What does that prove?

Guzman was hitting .336 with a .916 at Fresno, so he arguably deserved another look.  Velez was hitting .297 with a .791 OPS at Fresno, very similar to what Frandsen and Downs have done there.  I doubt Velez will play any better than Frandsen or Downs did in San Francisco.  It will likely be a short stay for Guzman, as the Giants now need to open up a roster space for Garko.