San Francisco Giants 2014 Minor League Update, Part II: AA Richmond Flying Squirrels
The Giants’ AA franchise, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, are currently 27-24 in the Eastern League. Most of the true prospects on this team are pitchers, so I will start with a run-down of who is pitching well (and not so well) so far in Richmond.
Jack Snodgrass (age 26, 1.74 ERA) and Ty Blach (age 23, 2.77 ERA) lead Flying Squirrels’ starters in ERA, but both have low strikeout rates, which raises concerns about their respective ceilings as prospects. Snodgrass has always been more of an over-achiever than a true prospect, but the Giants had some hopes for Blach, their fifth round draft pick in 2012, after a strong performance at Class A+ San Jose last season.
Clayton Blackburn (21) has a 3.40 ERA with a better strike out rate than Snodgrass or Blach, but he’s currently on the disabled list with an oblique injury. There’s some question about Blackburn’s conditioning, as he is currently listed at 260 lbs.
The Flying Squirrels’ top prospect Kyle Crick (21) has a 4.08 ERA after eight starts and has 31 strikeouts in 28.2 IP. However, he has also walked 24 batters, so he’s clearly a work in progress and isn’t likely to reach the majors this season. Adalberto Mejia (21) has good strikeout and walk rates, but seven gopher balls have uglied up his ERA (6.15) but good.
No one in the Flying Squirrels’ bullpen has pitched exceptionally well. Top relief prospect Derek Law (23) got off to a great start, but seven earned runs allowed in his last ten appearances has lifted his ERA to 3.09.
Among the position players, the biggest surprise so far has been the performance of shortstop Matt Duffy (23). He’s currently slashing .314/.376/.393, which is very good for a middle infielder playing half his games in Richmond, a pitchers’ park in a pitchers’ league. He’s also stolen 12 bases in 14 attempts. His raw defensive statistics this year suggest he’s about at or just on the low side of the league average among the Eastern League’s ten regular shortstops.
Duffy is a former 18th round draft pick out of Cal State Long Beach, and he certainly isn’t going to drive Brandon Crawford off shortstop in San Francisco any time soon. However, he could possibly take Joaquin Arias‘ back-up job in 2016.
3B Mario Lisson is currently the Flying Squirrels’ most productive offensive player, but he’s already 30 years old. OF Devin Harris has hit well in 25 games since his promotion from Class A Augusta, but he’s 26. OF Jarrett Parker, now 25 and a former 2nd round draft pick, is hitting about the same at Richmond as he did last year although he’s at least striking out less.
1B Angel Villalona (23) is hitting well enough this year to resurrect ideas that he might be future major league slugger. He still doesn’t walk much, but he’s hitting well enough (.260/.316/.422) to remind people why the Giants gave him a $2.1 million signing bonus when he was 16 years old.
As you probably remember, Villalona’s career was interrupted by a murder indictment in the Dominican Republic. A $139,000 payment to the dead man’s family was enough to convince the family that Villalona shouldn’t be prosecuted, and the case was eventually dropped. At any rate, it will be interesting to see what Villalona does when he reaches the AAA Pacific Coast League, where his power might really blossom in its many high-altitude parks.