Archive for May 2015

My Favorite Minor League Stars: An Update

May 29, 2015

Everyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I love to write about players who have used the Independent A leagues as a spring board to professional baseball success after their careers in the MLB system looked over.  Here are a few players I’ve been following for the last couple of seasons as they work their ways through interesting baseball careers

Paul Oseguera.  After two years pitching in Japan, Paul Oseguera is back in the Mexican League this season.  He is presently 3-2 with a 3.67 ERA and 40 Ks for the Broncos de Tamaulipas.  His ERA and strikeout total are 17th best and tied for 14th best respectively, which makes him a good Mexican League starter but not good enough to move on to a better paying Asian league gig this season.  I’ve been following Paul’s career since 2012, when he was the best pitcher in the Independent-A Atlantic League, the clear top of the Independent-A leagues.

Oseguera is 31 this season, so his professional future may be limited to the Mexican League, where he likely makes somewhere between $4,000 and $8,000 a month for a five-month season.

Jose Contreras is at least 43 this year, but still one of the Mexican League’s best starters. He is currently 2-3 for the Tijuana Toros, but his 3.35 ERA and 52Ks are 11th and 3rd best in the 16-team circuit.

Josh Lowey.  One of the Atlantic League’s best pitchers in 2013, Lowey is probably the best pitcher in the Mexican League so far this season (although a case could be made for Cesar Valdez).  He is currently 8-2 with a 2.27 ERA and 64 Ks, leading the Mexican League in wins and strikeouts and fifth in ERA.  Lowey is 30 this season, and if he keeps pitching the way he has so far, he should be pitching in Asia by August.

Mike Loree.  Loree was the best pitcher in the Atlantic League in 2011.  He pitched for the KT Wiz in South Korea last year while the Wiz were still playing in the KBO’s Futures (minor) league.  Although he appears to have pitched pretty well for the Wiz, they decided not to bring him back for their first season in the KBO Champions (major) league this year, instead opting for Andy Sisco, who didn’t pitch as well last year and has already been cut by the Wiz this year after a rough start.

Anyway, Mike Loree is back in Taiwan this season, where he pitched in 2012 and 2013.  He currently leads the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) with seven wins (against only one loss) and a 2.58 ERA and his 46 strikeouts are third best in the four-team circuit.

Jon Velasquez. The other top starter in the Atlantic League in 2013, he pitched well enough at AA Binghamton (the Mets signed him after his big 2013 season) this spring to earn a promotion to AAA Las Vegas, where he has a 3.18 ERA after six relief appearances.  Velasquez is 29 this season, but pitching well in AAA ball is a great place to be in terms of keeping a major league dream alive.

Blake Gailen and Cyle Hankerd.  Two of the top hitters in the Atlantic League in 2013 and 2014, both Gailen and Hankerd split the 2014 season between the Atlantic League and the Mexican League, as Josh Lowey did.  This is not at all uncommon, as the Atlantic League plays a longer season than the Mexican League by about 28 regular season games.  Thus, it’s not uncommon for players to start the season in the Atlantic League, go to the Mexican League and its slightly higher salaries when that season starts and then return to the Atlantic League for the last 15 or so games of the Atlantic League season.

At any rate, both Gailen and Hankerd played at least 115 games in 2014 at age 29.  Gailen was more successful, batting .350 with an 1.107 OPS in 66 Atlantic League games and .271 with a .922 OPS in 51 Mexican League games.  Hankerd hit .283 with an .832 OPS in 66 Atlantic League games and .286 with an .815 OPS in 49 Mexican League games.

Both are back in the Atlantic League this season with Hankerd putting up the better numbers so far.  After about 30 games, he’s slashing .385/.487/.656, while Gailen is slashing only .250/.376/.474.  While I liked Gailen better at the end of the 2014 season, you have to go with the hot hand in baseball, and Hankerd looks like the player more likely at this moment to go on to something better.

Karl Galinas has commenced his ninth consecutive season as the ace of the Quebec Capitals of the Can-Am League.  He is 2-0 after winning his first two starts.

Brock Bond.  One of my favorite minor league players, whom I feel the SF Giants didn’t give a fair shake when he was in their system, Bond played well enough with the Winnipeg Goldeyes, the strongest team of the Independent-A American Association, in 2014 to get another shot in the MLB system.  Unfortunately, he’s presently hitting so poorly (.179/.273/.179) for Arkansas in the AA Texas League so far this season, he’s going to be cut very soon unless he gets hot immediately.  Then, it’s back to the American Association, or getting on with the rest of his life at age 29.

Advertisements

San Francisco Giants 2015 Minor League Update, Part 4: Class A Augusta GreenJackets

May 27, 2015

The Augusta GreenJackets are currently 21-22 and in third place in the Sally League’s Southern Division.

The GreenJackets have several youngsters who are hitting well in 2015, at least by the standards of Augusta, which is a pitchers’ park in a pitchers’ league.  23 year old outfielder Christian Paulino leads the team by a wide margin with a .910 OPS.

Jonah Arenado and Johneshwy Fargas aren’t hitting as well, but they are much better prospects than Paulino because both are three years younger.  Arenado is the younger brother of Rockies 3Bman Nolan Arenado and also plays the hot corner.  Arenado is currently batting .275 with a .743 OPS and appears to have the tools to be a good third sacker, but still needs a lot of work cutting down the errors.  His six home runs leads the team and is good for a tie for fifth best in what is obviously a pitchers’ league.

CF Johneshwy Fargas leads the team with a .313 batting average (7th best in league) but his OPS is only .743 because he doesn’t yet hit with any power.  He has stolen 17 bases (5th best in league) in 24 attempts.

21 year old catcher John Riley has shown marked improvement at the plate this year, batting .233 with a respectable (for this ballpark and his position) OPS of .699 after 31 games played.  However, Riley went on the Disabled List on May 21st with an injury, the nature of which is not disclosed on the Sally League transactions page.

24 year old Jose Reyes is the GreenJackets’ top starter so far in 2015.  After seven starts, he has a 1.32 ERA (2nd best in league) with 41 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched.

22 year old Sam Coonrod, last year’s 5th round draft pick, has a 3.75 ERA, but 39 Ks in 36 IP.  22 year old Mark Reyes has a 1.71 ERA (7th best in league) but only 24 Ks in 42 IP.

Among the relievers, Raymundo Montero has a 1.65 ERA and 37 Ks in 27.1 IP.  However, he turns 26 in late June.  24 year old Dusten Knight has a 1.59 ERA with 21 Ks in 17 IP.

Other promising relief prospects are 22 year old Reyes Moronta (2.37 ERA, 19 Ks in 19 IP) and 21 year old Carlos Diaz (3.75 ERA, 13 Ks in 12 IP).

San Francisco Giants 2015 Minor League Update, Part 3: A+ San Jose Giants

May 27, 2015

The San Jose Giants are currently 19-26 and in 4th place in the California League’s Northern Division, 12 games back of the Visalia Rawhide, which is a pretty lame team name.

The Giants’ top position prospect at this level, 2013 1st round draft pick Christian Arroyo, got off to a great start this year, batting .321 with a 1.045 OPS in seven games before straining an oblique muscle.  He hasn’t played again in more than a month.

Arroyo turns 20 in a few days, so losing five or six weeks or even a couple of months at this stage in his career isn’t a big deal.  Still, it’s disappointing given the start he had gotten off to at San Jose.

2013 2nd round draft pick and soon to be age 20 Ryder Jones is hitting a respectable .289 with a .724 OPS.  However, he isn’t walking enough, and he strikes out too much.

The SJ Giants’ top hitter so far is 22 year old Hunter Cole, who is batting .350 with a .919 OPS in 31 games after being promoted from Class A Augusta ten games into the 2015 season.  Cole is a 26th round draft pick out of the University of Georgia, so you have to think that his hot start at A+ San Jose is probably a fluke and that he’ll cool off later this season or when he gets promoted to AA Richmond.

Cole has been splitting time in the field this season between 2B and the corner outfield positions.  I don’t know whether this means he is a jack-of-all-trades kind of player or simply a guy without a strong defensive position.

22 year old middle infielder Austin Slater is batting .323 with an .812 OPS.  He’s a former 8th round draft pick out of Stanford, so you have to figure his tools are better than Hunter Cole’s.  However, the recent major league success of former 18th round draft pick Matt Duffy shows that once in a while a player whom no one considered a legitimate prospect at draft time blossoms once he actually starts to play professional baseball.

The team’s top pitching prospects are last year’s 1st round draft pick (14th overall) Tyler Beede and 21 year old Dominican Keury Mella.  After eight starts Beede has a fine 2.58 ERA.  However, with only 26 strikeouts in 45.1 innings pitched, his strikeout rate is low for a pitcher with his draft pedigree.  It’s too early in Beede’s professional to tell whether the low strikeout rate is just a statistical fluke, rather than a lack of stuff.  However, we will certainly find out when Beede hits AA ball, most likely around the 2015 All-Star Break.

Keury Mella has a 3.06 ERA after seven starts and a more respectable 30 Ks in 35.1 IP.  23 year old and 2013’s 3rd round draft pick Chase Johnson has a 2.68 ERA after seven starts and 39 Ks in 40.1 IP.

2012 2nd round draft pick Martin Agosta, after an injury plagued 2014 season, has 33 Ks in 31 IP after three starts and nine relief appearances in 2015.

23 year old Daniel Slania has been the SJ Giants’ most effective reliever, and I expect he’ll be promoted to AA Richmond in the very near future.

Ian Gardeck and Jake Smith have ERAs over 3.00, but both have very high strikeout rates.  Jeff Soptic and Jason Forjet have pitched well in more limited work.  However, none of these four pitchers in younger than 24 this season.

San Francisco Giants 2015 Minor League Update, Part 2: AA Richmond Flying Squirrels

May 26, 2015

The Richmond Flying Squirrels are off to an 18-23 start and are in fifth place in the Eastern League’s Western Division.  They are only 6.5 games back of first place Altoona (the Pirates’ AA affiliate), so the Flying Squirrels are still in the hunt.

Richmond is a tough place to hit, and the Flying Squirrels’ best hitters’ numbers are underwhelming.  The top position prospect is probably soon to be 23 year old shortstop Rando Moreno, who has a .337 batting average, .380 on-base percentage and .790 OPS in 28 games played. Moreno’s hitting last year at single-A Augusta was awful, so it’s hard to know whether his hot start this year is for real.

Mac Williamson is back after losing a season to Tommy John surgery.  He’s slashing .316/.372/.468 after 40 games, but he turns 25 on July 15th.  He’s played 32 games in right field this season even though MILB’s website lists him as a designated hitter.

2B/SS Kelby Tomlinson is batting .321 with a .380 OBP and .816 OPS, but he turns 25 on June 16th.

Overall the Flying Squirrels’ pitching has been mediocre at best so far this season.  Starter Joe Biagini has a terrific 1.76 ERA, but with only 24 Ks in 41 innings pitched, his stuff does not appear to be very good.

Top prospect Kyle Crick has a 2.10 ERA after seven starts with 33 Ks in 30 IP.  However, he is still very wild having given up 20 walks.  My guess is that Crick won’t be promoted to AAA until August, so he can continue to work on his command at this level.

Former 1st round draft pick (20th overall in 2012) Chris Stratton is off to a poor start with an 0-5 record and a 4.50 ERA after eight starts.  His K/IP and H/IP rates aren’t bad, but he’s been wild also, allowing 21 BBs in 42 IP.  Stratton turns 25 on August 22nd, and he’s beginning to look like the Giants’ biggest first round best since Gary Brown.  A move to the bullpen, however, could kick-start Stratton’s career again when and if the Giants decide he won’t make it as a starter.

Out of the bullpen, Jose Casilla, Josh Osich, Pedro Rodriguez, Joan Gregorio and Steven Johnson have all pitched pretty well.  However, none has really impressed in what is certainly a great park for pitchers.  At ages 23 and 24 this season, Gregorio and Johnson are the best prospects.

San Francisco Giants Minor League Update, Part 1: AAA Sacramento River Cats

May 26, 2015

We are now more than 40 games into the the full-season minor league seasons, so it’s a good time for an update on what is going on down on the Giants’ farm.  I will start with the AAA Sacramento River Cats, who are 21-24 and in second place in the Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern Division (that’s a mouth full).

The best hitter on the 2015 River Cats so far is clearly Adam Duvall, who is hitting .322 with a .970 OPS.  He has the 6th best OPS in the PCL, he’s 4th in RBIs with 37 and 2nd with 12 dingers.

The problem for Duvall is that he is a man without a position.  He doesn’t play major league defense at 3B, the position he plays mostly at Sacramento.  He can play first base, but he isn’t going to take playing time away from Brandon Belt and Buster Posey in San Francisco. If he could play left field, he could possibly help the Giants as a right-handed bat off the bench.  However, with only two games in left field in his professional career, it seems doubtful he can play the outfield except in an absolute emergency.

Duvall turns 27 in September, and, as a result, it’s looking an awful lot like Duvall”s best professional future is in South Korea or Japan, where he could play 1B as an everyday player.

Ehire Adrianze leads the River Cats with a .417 on-base percentage, and his .875 OPS in 22 games is terrific for a middle infielder.  I was amazed when the Giants passed Ehire through waivers in order to send him back to the minors (he’s out of options) and nobody claimed him.  Good fielding middle infielders who get on base have a lot of value, and he had to better than at least one back-up middle infielder who started the season on a major league club.

Adrianze has only played in about half of the River Cats games, but I’m not sure if he was hurt earlier this spring.  He may have just been stuck in designated for assignment (“DFA”) limbo when the Giants had to pass him through waivers. It’s a tough and unfair situation for many marginal major leaguers who have to sit and wait instead of immediately going to the minor leagues to play so they can earn a shot back to the majors. According to something I read on mlbtraderumors.com earlier this year, the length that DFA’ed players have to sit is a subject that will be raised when the players and owners negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement.

Jarrett Parker is also playing well this spring.  He has an .867 OPS in 40 games.  However, he’s now 26 years old, and he still strikes out too much.

26 year old CF/RF Brett Jackson currently has a a .374 OBP and an .831 OPS.  I don’t know whether he can play center field at the major league level — if he can, he may yet have a major league future.

The River Cats’ starting rotation is largely filled with veteran minor league players, and no one has been particularly impressive.  Ty Blach and Robert Cuello have been the most impressive so far.

Blach is still only 24 years old, but he’s a control pitcher who probably doesn’t have major league stuff, per a pitching line of 55.1 IP, 65 hits and six BBs allowed and 31 Ks.  Cuello has a 3.44 ERA and 40 Ks in 52.1 IP, so he would probably be the guy to be called up if the Giants need a spot starter in the near future.  However, he is 30 this year, so he’s pushing it age-wise.

On the other hand, the River Cats’ bullpen is terrific.  All of Mike Broadway, Hunter Strickland, Erik Cordier, Cody Hall, Steven Okert and Curtis Patch have pitched extremely well with low ERAs and high strikeout rates.

Strickland was called up during the Memorial Day Weekend to be the 26th man on the roster for a doubleheader in Colorado.  He pitched so well in a two inning stint, the Giants decided to keep him and designate Casey McGehee for assignment instead.

The Giants are currently carrying 13 pitchers, so you have to figure that Jean Machi‘s and Jeremy Affeldt’s roster spots are none too secure.  My guess is that Machi will be the one sent down when the Giants decide they need a 13th position player on the roster.

Meanwhile, Erik Cordier is another guy caught in DFA limbo because he’s got a major league contract but the Giants don’t have a roster spot for him.

Matt Duffy Is Doing Everything He Can to Take Casey McGehee’s Job

May 13, 2015

Matt Duffy‘s five RBIs today were the most by a rookie since Buster Posey‘s six on July 7, 2010.  He’s an 18th round draft pick that just keeps on giving.  Buster should give Duffy a lot of guff for failing to tie him, but he should promise a dinner at the finest restaurant if Duffy ties or beats his record later this year.

Casey McGehee has had a brutal first 30+ games, and Duffy is so much younger, 24 to 32.  Duffy has certainly hit better this season whenever he’s been able to play consecutive full games.

In short, I can”t see any reason not to play regularly except to give McGehee some at-bats and did give Duffy a day off.  Duffy might really amount to something if he gets to play regularly now.

Barry Bonds Preparing Grievance Case against MLB

May 13, 2015

According to mlbtraderumors.com, Barry Bonds is preparing a grievance against MLB for black-listing him after the 2007 season, now that his conviction for obstruction of justice has been overturned.

I’ve long believed that MLB colluded against Bonds because under any other circumstances at least one team would have made an offer in some amount to Bonds given the level of offense he was still capable of providing.  He was the poster-boy for MLB’s steroids era, but he was hardly the only one, and a lot of the other juicers went right on playing with nothing more than damage to their reputations and future Hall of Fame chances.

A lot of water is under the bridge and after almost eight years it may be quite a bit more difficult to marshal the evidence to prove collusion.  It also goes without saying that every single team exec called to testify will say that they made the decision that Bonds wasn’t right for their team.  You’d have to have someone from management who has become disaffected to spill the beans that Bud Selig or some other top MLB official told teams not to offer a contract to Bonds and that the witness personally heard these statements.  Sounds like a tall order to me.