San Francisco Giants 2014 Minor League Update, Part I: AAA Fresno Grizzlies
We are now a little over 50 games into the 2014 season, which always seems like a good time to write about what the Giants’ farmhands are doing as they try to earn their way up to the bigs. Naturally enough, I’ll start with the AAA Fresno Grizzlies.
The Fresno Grizzly position player whose performance most impresses me so far is Joe Panik, in large part because Panik is relatively young and a former 1st round pick, and thus could be a Giants’ major league regular for many years if things work out for him. Panik is currently slashing .320/.380/.417, with his .380 on-base percentage his most impressive statistic.
At age 23 this season Panik looks to be the Giants’ 2Bman of the future, possibly becoming the starter as early as the start of 2015. He has played 40 games there at Fresno this season and another ten at shortstop. He’s turned a total of 39 double plays in 50 games at the middle infield positions and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes at 2B.
Fresno is a good place to hit, and a lot of the Grizzlies’ position players are hitting. Andrew Susac and Adam Duvall are most noteworthy based on their performances and future prospects. Susac (age 24) is slashing .296/.395/.531 as the Grizzlies’ main catcher, although he missed a couple of weeks with an injury. He’s also gunned down 11 of 18 attempted base stealers against him.
Adam Duvall (25) is currently tied for the Pacific Coast League lead with 15 home runs. He’s slashing .294/.359/.616 and looks like a major league hitter at this moment. Duvall’s 3B defense is poor, however, and he isn’t going to run Pablo Sandoval off third base in San Francisco, nor is he likely to run Brandon Belt off first base.
I was hoping the Giants would promote either Susac or Duvall when Belt broke his thumb, but the Giants elected to promote Tyler Colvin, which in hindsight was the right move, at least so far. I think Duvall is ready to help a major league right now if it can find a place where his lousy defense will hurt the least. Susac could also wind up as a late July trade chip, since the Giants are well stocked at catcher at the major league level.
Mark Minicozzi (31), since returning from injury, and Travis Ishikawa (30), since his recent signing, are both hitting extremely well and could possibly help the Giants as bench players later in the season. Juan Perez (27) and Tony Abreu (29) are ready and waiting for someone or two to get injured in San Francisco. Gary Brown (25) continues to look like a wasted 1st round draft pick, and Nick Noonan (25), who looked promising at the end of the 2012 season, hasn’t come back well from an injury.
Among the pitchers, Edwin Escobar (22) remains the best prospect by a comfortable margin, but he’s nowhere near major league ready. His 5.25 ERA is ugly, but he leads the Grizzlies with 53 strike outs and has pitched better than his ERA suggests. If he picks it up as the current season progresses, he could still be ready to take the SF Giants’ fifth starter slot out of Spring Training in 2015.
Chris Heston (26) has been the Grizzlies’ most effective starter with Jason Berken (30) close behind, but both look to be pitchers whose brightest possible future is becoming what Yusmeiro Petit is now, a long reliever/sixth starter waiting for one or more of the real starters to get hurt.
The Grizzlies’ bullpen seems to be filled with good arms who don’t at this moment have major league command. The best as I write this appears to be Brett Bochy (26), the manager’s son. He has a 3.04 ERA, more than a strike out per inning pitched and a K/BB rate of better than 2. Dan Runzler (29) and Mason Tobin (26) have much lower ERAs but much higher walk rates.
The Giants should probably demote David Huff, but they don’t have anyone at Fresno who looks clearly better.