Archive for the ‘Minor Leagues’ category

Chris Shaw and Jae-Gyun Hwang Update

June 27, 2017

Chris Shaw was the San Francisco Giants’ second 1st round pick in the 2015 draft, selected 31st overall.  He got off to a hot start at AA Richmond this year, slashing .301/.390/.511 in 37 games, and earned a quick promotion to AAA Sacramento.

He got off to a slow start in AAA ball, but has hit in his last 10 games, bringing his AAA OPS up to .729.  He’s 23 this year and is on track to force the Giants to make some decisions this off-season.

The Giants are trying to teach Shaw to play left field this season.  He’s played 42 games there, all this season, and the numbers aren’t pretty.  He hasn’t made any errors, but he doesn’t appear to have much range or much of a throwing arm.

The 23 year old Shaw’s long-term future looks to be at first base, where the Giants already have Brandon Belt signed through 2021.  It’s certainly possible the Giants could trade Belt this July or next off-season, but right now it would probably be hard to get full value for Belt in trade since he’s only batting .229, even though his other numbers are still fairly good.

Belt is almost certainly a better defensive 1Bman than Shaw, and that’s important when you’re taking about playing home games at AT&T Park, a yard that reduces left-handed power hitting.  Belt is also very popular in SF, although that won’t necessarily bar a trade if the Giants can get sufficient value in return, as they try to rebuild from this disastrous season.

Meanwhile, AAA 3Bman Jae-Gyu Hwang has let it be known that he intends to opt out of his contract if the Giants do not promote him to the majors by July 1st.  After playing well, but not great, at AAA for most of the first half, Hwang has lifted his OPS up to .810.

Hwang has split time between 1B and 3B this season, and his third base defense doesn’t look great — adequate range but a .937 fielding percentage in 267.1 innings played.  He does appear to turn the double play well, however.  Hwang has also played two games in left field, where he’s recorded six outs, so he could play a number of positions in SF.

I can’t imagine the Giants won’t at least give him a look in the majors after bringing him over from South Korea this past off-season.  To do so, though, the Giants will have to clear a space on their 40-man roster, which means someone will have to be released or exposed to waivers, most likely Conor Gillaspie.

Japanese Baseball News

June 23, 2017

Tad Iguchi, now age 42, has announced that this will be his last professional season.  It has been quite a career, as he has combined to date for more than 2,200 hits, 294 HRs and 224 stolen bases between MLB and Japan’s NPB.  Lusty numbers indeed for a career 2Bman.

On June 14th, Shun Yamaguchi, Scott Mathieson and Arquimedes Caminero combined for a no-hitter for the Yomiuri Giants against the SoftBank Hawks.  It was Yamaguchi’s first start or appearance of the 2017 NPB season.

A few years ago, Yamaguchi was definitely an MLB prospect, but it’s now looking like he’ll stay in Japan for his career.  Does anyone remember the first time two pitchers combined for a no-hitter in MLB?  (Answer at bottom.)

Chris Marrero, whom I wrote about in my last post on the 2017 NPB season about a month ago, appeared to hit his first NPB home run on June 9th.  But he missed home plate!  The catcher went over and tagged Marrero, and the umpire called him out.

That’s no way to make an impression on your new team in a foreign country.  However, the man on base ahead of Marrero still scored, and Marrero has continued to hit with power in what appears to be a platoon role.

The Rakuten Golden Eagles signed American Josh Corrales recently.  What is interesting about this move is that Corrales was signed out of the BC League, Japan’s independent-A league.  He’s not the first player from the Americas to be signed by an NPB organization out of the BC League.

Corrales had an interesting year in the full season A League Midwest League at age 22, posting a 4.09 ERA and striking out 54 batters in 55 innings pitched but also walking 40.  After he was apparently released, he must have somehow decided that his chances of one day reaching NPB were better than reaching MLB, because he has no record of pitching in any of the more stable American Indy-A Leagues.  He’s only 27 years old, so an NPB big payday is still possible!

The first time two pitchers combined for a no-hitter in MLB history was when Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore did it on June 23, 2017.  The Babe, who was then one of the Junior Circuit’s aces, walked the first batter of the game and was promptly thrown out of the game for arguing about it with the umpire.  Shore came in, the runner on first was thrown out trying to steal second, and Shore retired the next 26 batters consecutively for what has widely, but not unanimously, been recognized as a perfect game, sort of like Harvey Haddix‘s 12-inning perfect effort in 1959.

The first time in MLB history three or more pitchers combined for a no-hitter was September 28, 1975, when Vida Blue, Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers accomplished the feat.  The A’s had already clinched a play-off birth and decided it was wise not to overwork their ace Vida “True” Blue (a little joke there for Charlie Finley fans).  Seems kind of ho-hum today, but it was a big deal in the 1970’s.

Side-Arming Relief Prospect Tyler Rogers

June 22, 2017

A San Francisco Giants’ prospect I am becoming increasingly intrigued with is Tyler Rogers.  He’s a low side-arm pitcher who throws pretty much nothing but ground balls.  Specifically, he has allowed only seven home runs in 315 career minor league innings pitched, and none this year in 42 innings pitched at AAA Sacramento.

Like most extreme ground ball pitchers, Rogers isn’t likely to stike out a lot of batters at the major league level, and he’s likely to need good and rangy infield defense behind him to be a success at the highest level.  Also, he is already 26 years old.

However, extreme ground ball pitchers often develop relatively late, as they learn to command their stuff consistently low in the strike zone, and Rogers’ current 2.36 ERA is extremely impressive pitching in the Pacific Coast League, an extreme hitters’ league.  Rogers currently leads River Cats’ pitchers in ERA among those who have pitched at least 15 innings so far this season.

Rogers’ minor league progression strongly suggests that he needs time to adjust as he moves up the professional ladder: he pitched poorly in his first brief stints at AA in 2015 and AAA last year, but improved dramatically the next season once he had adjusted to the higher level of play.  This would be a good year for the going-nowhere Giants to get Rogers 20 to 40 innings pitched at the major league level, if only to maximize the possibility that he could help the team in future seasons.

On the subject of San Francisco Giants’ ground ball throwing prospects, the team has another one who also looks almost ready.  D.J. Snelton (he’s 25 this season) started the year at AA Richmond, where he made 15 relief appearances with a 1.66 ERA and earned himself a quick promotion to AAA Sacramento.  After ten relief appearances for the River Cats, he’s got a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 IP.

Snelton has allowed 12 HRs in 325.2 career minor league IP to date, with only two dingers in 36 IP this season.  Not quite as impressive as Rogers, but Snelton looks like he’ll be more of a strikeout pitcher when and if he reaches the major league level.

As major league teams and hitters become ever more enamored with launch angles and home run hitting, and as major league defense continues its inexorable improvement over time, pitchers who can keep the ball in the yard and give their defenders a chance to make a play are becoming more and more valuable.  Snelton was a 9th round draft pick, and Rogers was a 10th round draft pick, because teams are almost always going to draft for stuff first.  Even so, teams are going to draft more extreme ground ball pitchers in the future and draft them higher than they have in the past.

It’s also worth noting that Tyler Rogers’ twin brother Taylor Rogers is already a major league pitcher for the Minnesota Twins.  How appropriate is that?  Although they look an awful lot alike, I’m guessing they are fraternal twins, because Taylor is a lefty, while Tyler throws right.  Also, Tyler is listed as two inches taller.  I will be rooting for both of them going forward.

San Francisco Giants Send Down Derek Law, Call Up Kyle Crick

June 21, 2017

The Giants sent Derek Law back to AAA Sacramento and called up Kyle Crick yesterday.  Sorry to see Law go, but glad to see Crick getting his first shot at MLB.

Law looked really great as a 25 year old rookie last year, and while he didn’t pitch as well as hoped this year, he was pitching well enough until his last three appearances, over which he allowed eight runs, all earned, over two innings pitched.  One hopes that Law simply needs to work on a few things, and that Sacramento will be the place for him to do so and get back on track.

However, Law could also be experiencing some kind of injury.  He missed roughly a full season in 2014-2015 to Tommy John surgery, and it’s possible something similar is cropping up again.

On the other hand, it’s good to see that Crick has re-established himself as a real prospect.  A year ago it looked like Crick would never find his command.  He was moved exclusively to the bullpen in 2017 and promoted a level to AAA, and the changes have paid off.  He has a 2.76 ERA and 39 Ks in 29.1 Pacific Coast League innings pitched.

I’m not fully convinced that Crick has major league command — he’s walked 13 in those 29.1 IP — but he’s pitched well enough to get a shot at the Show.  He’s still only 24, so even if he isn’t ready yet, he might yet be a valuable bullpen piece in 2018.

Meanwhile, Jarrett Parker has begun his rehab assignment in Sacramento.  He’s 1-for-4 with a double and two walks in two games played.  I imagine he’ll need some time at AAA to get back to MLB speed, but it is a minor victory that he is playing again before the All-Star Break after breaking his collar bone.

Ryder Jones’ Hot Season at AAA

June 19, 2017

To my great surprise, Ryder Jones is having a breakout season at AAA Sacramento this year.  He’s currently slashing .293/.388/.549 after never posting an OPS higher than .690 in the three previous seasons of his professional career.

The main reason for the improvement appears to be better strike zone judgment and/or pitch recognition.  Last year at AA Richmond, Jones walked 26 times in 513 plate appearances.  That was his highest walks rate since playing Rookie League ball in 2013.

This season, Jones has walked 25 times in 214 plate appearances.  Swinging at fewer bad pitches has boosted both his batting average and his power numbers this season.

The Giants saw something in Jones when they selected him with the 64th pick (2nd round) of the 2013 MLB Draft, well before anyone else had him rated.  I was annoyed at the time that the Giants signed him for full slot money, when he seemed like an obvious guy to sign for less in order to sign some other players elsewhere in the draft, particularly given that Jones was a year older than the average high school draftee.

Jones’ minor league numbers until this season have not been impressive.  He hasn’t really hit, and his defense at 3B is marginal at best.

In hind sight, Jones’ bat did show signs of life last season at AA Richmond, playing his home games in a very tough place to hit.  He then hit well in the Arizona Fall League (.302 batting average, .802 OPS) last fall.

It remains to be seen whether Jones’ half season at AAA is the real deal, or a half season fluke.  However, he’s still only 23 years old this year, so there is that reason to think his recent performance may be the real deal.

To play in the majors, Jones will have to hit like a major leaguer.  He has played 3B, 1B and the corner outfield positions this year, and his 3B defense is unlikely to make him a long-term starter at that position without substantial improvement.

The Giants don’t need another 1Bman right now, and Austin Slater has been a very pleasant surprise in the outfield since his recent call-up.  Jones will also be competing with Orlando Calixte and Mac Williamson, if the Giants decide to promote another outfielder.

If it was up to me, I’d probably leave Jones at AAA for much of the rest of the 2017 season in order to find out whether his first half performance is for real.  Also, Jones still needs work on his glove at 3B and has only just started to play in the outfield this season.

FYI — Christian Arroyo went 7 for 24 with a home run after being sent back down to AAA Sacramento.  He was then hit on the hand by a pitch, and he’s currently only the 7-Day disabled list.  However, the x-rays of his hand came back negative, so it’s probably just a bone bruise.

 

John Nogowski

June 15, 2017

24 year old 1Bman John Nogowski is currently the best hitting prospect in the independent-A American Association.  He’s currently leading qualifiers with a .424 batting average and .500 on-base percentage in 24 games played.  One would expect an MLB organization to sign him soon.

Nogowski was a 34th round draft pick by the A’s out of Florida State, a major program, three years ago.  The A’s certainly treated him as place holder until they found somebody they liked better.

Nogowski actually hit fairly well the last two seasons in the A+ California League at ages 22 and 23.  In a combined 727 plate appearances, he batted .279, had an OBP above .350 and hit a total of 35 doubles and 11 HRs.  He didn’t hit in a seven game trial at AA Midland, TX and was released.

Nogowski probably deserved one more year in the mlb system, and his over .400 batting average in the second best Indy-A league should get him noticed again.  His lack of home run power is a problem for any 1Bman, but he’s not a small guy and could potentially still add power as his professional career advances.

The San Francisco Giants Are Raiding the Atlantic League for Talent

June 15, 2017

The Giants’ minor league teams have been pretty bad, right down the line this year.  One clear sign of the fact that the organization needs a shot of new talent is the fact that the organization has signed a couple of players out of the Independent-A Atlantic League.

When the Giants promoted former 1st round Draft Pick Chris Shaw to AAA, they needed a bat at 1B to play for the AA Richmond Flying Squirrels.  They signed 29 year old former major leaguer Jerry Sands, who had been one of the best hitters under 30 in the Atlantic League this year.

After 36 plate appearances in the Eastern League, Sands is slashing .343/.361/.514.  So far, so good.

The Giants also signed big, 27 year old lefty Jarret Martin and also sent him to AA Richmond.  He hasn’t yet been scored upon there in three relief appearances and has struck out two batters in 2.2 innings pitched.

The odds aren’t great that either Sands or Martin will play in MLB at any time in the future, but at least they are getting an opportunity to show what they’ve got in the high minors still fairly early into the 2017 season.  You never know.