San Francisco Giants Minor League Update, Part II: AA Richmond Flying Squirrels

The Richmond Flying Squirrels are currently 16-15 and in second place in the AA Eastern League’s Western Division, three games behind the Erie Sea Wolves (Detroit Tigers).

When you take into account that Richmond is a pitchers’ park in a pitchers’ league (compared to Fresno, which while not the best place to hit in the hit-happy Pacific Coast League, is still better than the PCL league average for hitters), the Flying Squirrels appear to have more legitimate position prospects than pitching prospects.  At the top of the list of position players, in terms of his potential as a future San Francisco Giant, is Joe Panik.

The Giants’ 1st round Draft pick in in 2011 (29th overall) out of St. John’s University, Panik is off to fine start this season.  He’s currently hitting .306/.387/.405, excellent for a 22 year old middle infielder (he played shortstop last year at A+ San Jose, but is playing 2B this year) in his first season of AA ball.  I ranked Panik No. 1 on my pre-season list of the Giants’ top prospects, based on his age, draft pedigree and past minor league performance.  31 games into the 2013 season he hasn’t done anything to make me look stupid.

23 year old catcher Andrew Susac (I ranked him 7th on my list) is also off to a great start, hitting .298/.398/.548 in 26 games.  He was the Giants’ 2nd round pick in 2011.

Adam Duvall, who hit 30 HRs and drove in 100 runs last year at A+ San Jose at age 23, got off to a torrid start in Richmond this year, batting .378/.465/.757 through the season’s first 11 games.  However, Duvall then injured his thumb and hasn’t played since April 14th.  He’s expected back in the second half of this month.

Javier Herrera is hitting well (.287/.389/.481) and has stolen eight bases in ten attempts, but he’s 28 this year, making him a long-shot to have a major league career even as a back-up.  23 year old SS Ehire Adrianza has a .336 on-base percentage, but isn’t hitting for average or power.

24 year old Jarrett Parker, the Giants’ 2nd round pick in 2010, has begun to hit in his last ten games, pulling up his batting numbers to .245/.327/.418, but he still strikes out way too much (32 times in only 98 at-bats).  Ricky Oropesa, the Giants’ 3rd round pick in 2011 is struggling mightily (.196/.246/.277) with his first crack at AA pitching.

Among the Flying Squirrels’ starting pitchers, the only one really impressing at this point is Justin Fitzgerald, who after six starts has a 3-0 record with an outstanding 1.09 ERA.  In 33 innings pitched, he’s allowed 30 hits, but only two HRs and eight walks, to go with 41 Ks.

Unfortunately, Fitzgerald is already 27 years old, which doesn’t make him much of a major league prospect.  However, if he continues to pitch the way he has so far at Richmond, the Giants will promote him soon to replace one of the many starters currently getting bombed at AAA Fresno.  Once in AAA ball, Fitzgerald is only continued good pitching and perhaps an injury away from the major leagues.

Richmond’s remaining starters fail to impress.  Jack Snodgrass is 3-0 with a 2.60 ERA after six starts, but he’s struck out only 11 batters in 27.2 IP while walking 12.  Yuck!

However, Snodgrass has allowed only 18 hits and no home runs, which suggests that he’s a sinkerball pitcher.  Sinkerballers can sometimes have successful major league careers without striking anyone out, but at this point I wouldn’t count on the 25 year old Snodgrass to be one of them.  In fact, Snodgrass is currently on the seven-day disabled list with a hamstring injury.

The Flying Squirrels’ other three starters have ugly ERAs for a pitchers’ park in a pitchers’ league.  26 year old lefty Chris Gloor has 22 Ks and only eight walks allowed in 22.2 IP, but he’s been hit hard.  At his age, the Giants should probably move Gloor into relief for good, because I doubt there’s any way he makes the majors otherwise.

24 year old lefty Phil McCormick has been the Flying Squirrels’ best reliever so far this year, posting a 1.93 ERA and striking out 22 (but walking nine) in 18.2 innings of work.  Fellow lefty Tom Vessela has an even better ERA (1.33), but he’s only struck out 11 (and walked seven) in 20.1 IP.  Vessela is also three years older than McCormick.

Edwin Quirarte, Daryl Maday and Jose Valdez have pitched fairly well also, although none appears to have particularly good command, and only Valdez is younger than 26.  Another 24 year old Dominican Fabio Castillo has struck out 19 batters in 16.2 IP, but he doesn’t appear to have even AA command yet, and he’s also currently on the DL with a toe injury.

You can find all of the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ stats here.

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