Archive for the ‘San Francisco Giants’ category

2019 NPB Update

June 21, 2019

Up until March of this year, yakyudb.com was my go-to source for Japanese baseball news beyond the box scores available on NPB’s English-language website.  However, Yakyu DB hasn’t posted since the eve of the 2019 season, and until about a week ago, I was hard pressed to find any good information in English.  Then I found Jim Allen’s blog, and I can start to get a little “color” again beyond the box scores and leader boards.

Here is a run-down of some of the things that have been happening in NPB as we approach the 2019 season’s half-way mark.

Former New York Yankee Zelous Wheeler became the Rakuten Golden Eagles’ first foreign player to reach 100 NPB home runs a few days ago.

Former Seattle Mariner Jose Lopez set an NPB record for 1Bmen by playing 1,632 consecutive chances without an error.  The streak began on August 31, 2017 and ended on June 2, 2019, thus enabling Lopez to become in 2018 the first qualifying NPB 1Bman to record a 1.000 fielding percentage for a full season.  You may remember that Lopez played mostly 2B and 3B in the MLB majors.  He’s now an bigger, slower power-hitter, but he’s still got the same soft hands.

Shinnosuke Abe, a catcher who was an MLB major league talent who never left Japan, became the 19th player in NPB to hit 400 home runs on June 1st.

Rakuten Golden Eagles ace and likely future MLBer Takahiro Norimoto made his first minor league rehab appearance a few days ago.  He hit 150 kph (93.2 mph) on consecutive pitches.  Norimoto says he’s now at “60%” but he should be pitching in the NPB majors within about a month.  He had his elbow cleaned out of loose bodies in late March.

Another MLB major league caliber star, Yuki Yanagita won’t be back until late July after tearing a muscle behind his knee early in the season.  Yanagita became only the second player in NPB history (the other being Sadaharu Oh) last season to lead his league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage for the fourth year in a row.  He’s unlikely to get enough plate appearances this year to do it for the fifth consecutive season.

Daisuke (“Dice-K”) Matsuzaka is at age 38 working on another come back.  He’s pitched effectively in two minor league appearances for the Chunichi Dragons.  Former Seattle Mariner Hisashi Iwamura is also attempting to come back at age 38.  He’s training at the Yomiuri Giants’ minor league facility but hasn’t pitched in game-action yet.

Former MLBer Norichika Aoki collected his 1,500th NPB hit and 100th NPB home run early this season for the Yakult Swallows.  Although Aoki has played well, it hasn’t been a good year for the Swallows — they tied an NPB record with 16 consecutive losses in a streak that ended on June 2nd.  The NPB Central League’s best team of the last few seasons, the Hiroshima Carp, turned their 2019 season around recently with an 11 game winning streak.

Another former MLBer reliever Ryota Igarashi celebrated his 40th birthday on May 29th by pitching his 800th NPB game.  Including his 83 MLB major league appearances, he’s pitched in 889 major league games and counting.

A 20 year old minor leaguer named Yuto Furuya became the first Japanese left-hander to throw a 100 mph pitch in game action earlier this season.  Unfortunately, he still has no idea where the strike zone is, so it may be some time before he reaches the NPB majors.

A couple of NPB foreign “rookies” I’ve been watching closely this year are Taiwan’s Wang Po-Jung and the Virgin Islands’ Jabari Blash.

Wang hit .400 in consecutive seasons (2016-2017) in Taiwan’s CPBL, earning him a lucrative three-year deal to play with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters starting in 2019, his age 25 season.  Wang’s .291 batting average is currently 10th best in NPB’s Pacific League, but his OPS is only .744, because he has yet to hit for any power in Japan.  There has been talk that Wang might one day be an MLB-level talent, but for now I expect him to peak as an NPB star.

After a slow start, Blash has gotten hot and is now one of the Pacific League’s most productive hitters.  I’ve been writing for a couple of years now that he was an ideal candidate to try to become an NPB star.  He waited until he was an old 29 (he turns 30 on July 4th), but it looks like he has now firmly established himself as an NPB star.  I’d guess he has at least four more good NPB seasons in him after this one.

Cuban players have an out-sized role now among NPB foreign players, nowhere more so than for the SoftBank Hawks. Four of the Hawks’ seven foreign players starting the 2019 season are Cubans — Alfredo Despaigne, Yurisbel Graciel, Livan Moinelo and Ariel Miranda.  Miranda is the only defector and former MLB-system player in the bunch: Despaigne, Graciel and Moinelo are all the product of contracting between Cuba’s baseball federation and the Hawks.

There are reasons to believe that none of Despaigne, Graciel or Moinelo were prime MLB prospects, and that this was part of the reasons why they never defected, but they’ve all sure played great in NPB and are making a hell of lot more money in Japan than they’d ever make in Cuba.

The Hiroshima Carp have something of a similar relationship with Dominican players.  Until recently a small market team, the Carp have maintained a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, looking to turn up players who got overlooked by MLB.  They currently have two players — Xavier Batista and Geronimoa Franzua — who washed out of the low MLB minors, but are now helping the Carp win ballgames a few years after asking for a second chance at the Carps’ Dominican academy.  Sometimes beating the bushes will turn up some legitimate baseball talent.

Advertisements

San Francisco Giants Squeeze the College Seniors

June 19, 2019

In the 2019 amateur draft the Giants selected college seniors Simon Whiteman of Yale and Jeff Houghtby of the University of San Diego with in the ninth and tenth rounds.  It’s not unusual for the Giants to draft college seniors, but it appears clear that these two were selected solely because the Giants had prior agreements with each of them to accept way less than slot money that the Giants could then direct to some of the high school seniors they selected.

My suspicion was confirmed today (thanks McCovey Chronicles!)  Each of Whiteman and Houghtby signed by $22,500, freeing up $256,000, all of which has already been spent on high schoolers Grant McCray (3rd round), Garrett Frechette (5th), Dilan Rosario (6th) and Trevor MacDonald (11th round).  In fact, the bonuses given to these four youngsters will require the Giants to squeeze at least two of 1st, 2nd and 4th round picks Hunter Bishop, Logan Wyatt and Tyler Fitzgerald to avoid significant penalties even if all other high school draft picks sign for no more than the slot caps.

I don’t really see the downside is squeezing Whiteman or Houghtby, at least in terms of the fact that the Giants probably could have signed better prospects with these two picks.  The odds are slim that any 9th or 10th round draft pick (or both) will ever amount to anything, and the money saved enabled the Giants to sign Trevor MacDonald, generally considered a fifth round talent, who probably has a better chance of amounting to something than any other 9th or 10th rounders the Giants might have drafted combined.

Of course, it remains to be seen if any of the players the Giants selected after Hunter Bishop amount to much at the major league level.  Even Bishop might not make it, but if the 10th overall pick crops up a dud, then something seriously did not go according to plan and opportunity.

Madison Bumgarner for Clint Frazier?

June 16, 2019

The New York Yankees just sent Clint Frazier down to AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre in order to create roster space for the newly acquired Edwin Encarnacion.  Frazier is slashing .283/.330/.513 in 209 plate appearances after going 1-for-5 in today’s game, so I can’t imagine he’s happy to be getting sent down when he’s been hitting as well as he has so far in 2019.

Clearly, the Yankees want Frazier to continue to play every day, and he could be called up in a few days if someone in New York gets hurt.  However, it sure seems likely that Frazier will be on the trade block for pitching, and Madison Bumgarner is near the top of lists of starters who are expected to be available this trade season.

Frazier would be a steep price to pay for a two or three month rental of Bumgarner, who becomes a free agent at season’s end, but the Giants could surely throw in a relief pitcher, or something else of value to even out the trade, as well as assuming some of the remaining $4M to $6M owed to Bumgarner this season to address what are likely to be the Yankees’ salary cap concerns.

Obviously, the Giants’ outfield situation would look a whole lot better with the 24 year Frazier and former No. 5 overall draft pick added to the mix.  I’d have no problem seeing the Giants trade away MadBum to get him, since the team can always be in the running to re-sign him in the off-season if they think he can still help the team going forward.

Anticipating Upcoming Giants/Dodgers Trades

June 11, 2019

The one weakness the 2019 Los Angeles Dodgers have is that their bullpen isn’t very deep or particularly good.  The one strength the 2019 San Francisco Giants have is their bullpen.  The Dodgers hope to go deep into the post-season; the Giants are obviously going to be sellers at the trade deadline.  Add to all this is the fact that the Giants’ new General Manager Farhan Zaidi came out of the Dodgers’ organization, and one would have to think that there will be at least one trade between the two organizations between now and the July 31st trade deadline.

The obvious bullpen candidates to be traded as of this writing are Will Smith, Tony Watson and Sam Dyson.  Smith becomes a free agent at the end of the season; Dyson has one more year of control and would be in line for a raise on the $5M he’s making this year through the salary arbitration process; and Watson has a player option at $2.5M, or he can opt out and accept a $500,000 buyout.  None would be particularly expensive as 2+ month rentals.  Both Smith and Watson are lefties, which the Dodgers in particular appear to need.

I could see a package deal with the Bums getting all three in exchange for a package of prospects who would amount to a lot more than what any one of the three relievers would bring alone.  Zaidi must have a good idea of whom in the Dodgers’ system he likes and would want in return.  Hopefully, discussions between the two clubs are already well underway.

As a Giants’ fan, I’m all for hating the the Dodgers, and even in a bad year like this one, beating the Dodgers in some important games in September.  This year, though, it isn’t likely to make any difference, as the Dodgers already have a 10-game lead in the NL West and will probably be leading the division by even more come the end of the season.  If the Giants can get some quality prospects from the Dodgers in this lost season, I wouldn’t mind seeing them trade half the roster to Los Angeles.  At least the Giants would then be in line for another top-ten draft pick in the 2020 June Draft.

San Francisco Giants Acquire Yet Another 4-A Outfielder

June 11, 2019

The Giants today traded for 29 year old outfielder Alex Dickerson from the Padres for 23 year old RHP Franklin Van Gurp, as new Giants general manager Farhan Zaidi seems determined to try to corner the market on not quite major league outfielders.

In theory the Giants have room for another 4-A outfielder now that Mac Williamson is no longer with the organization.  However, I’d rather see Austin Slater or Mike Gerber, both of whom are hitting great at AAA Sacramento and are three years younger, get major league chances before the new warm body Dickerson does.

Dickerson hit well for the Padres as a rookie in 2016, but then he missed all of the next two seasons due to back problems and a torn elbow tendon.  He missed most of the 2014 season to injuries as well.  He hit well in 26 games at AAA El Paso (1.075 OPS), but only 3-for-19 in San Diego.  Who does that sound like?  Basically, every AAA outfielder the Giants have called up this season, claimed in the Rule 5 Draft, claimed off waivers, etc.

Van Gurp is a former 25th round draft pick out of college who has a very live arm.  He’s struck out 174 batters in 128.2 minor league innings pitched, mostly in the low minors.  It remains to be seen if he can find enough command to amount to something, but he’s got the kind of arm the Padres should be happy to get for a player they had designated for assignment before making the trade.

It definitely feels like the Giants are going to continue to cycle through outfielders to see if any can get hot for more than a week or two in San Francisco.  Mike Yastrzemski, after a successful first week of major league games, is already beginning to look like another won’t-ever-be-ready-for-prime-time hitter.  At least he’s building up a resume to get a shot at major league money in Japan or South Korea next year.

The belief is growing stronger and stronger in my heart that Zaidi is secretly committed to the team continuing to tank in 2019 and 2020, in order to get the high draft picks necessary to rebuild a new competitor starting around 2021.  At this point, I don’t much care just how badly the 2019 team plays so long as the team works on developing a new core group of young players as quickly as possible.

My Favorite Minor League Stars 2019

June 8, 2019

Every year I like to write about current or former minor league stars who have particularly captured my attention and/or imagination.  Here is this season’s edition:

Mike Loree and Josh Lowey.  Two pitchers who never reached the major leagues (or even got close), but have carved out professional success because they can pitch.  Both are 34 this year.

Mike Loree is currently in his seventh CPBL season and continues to be the best pitcher in Taiwan, although another former SF Giants farm hand, Henry Sosa, gave Loree a run for his money this season until having his contract purchased for a return to South Korea’s KBO last week.  I wrote about Mike Loree yesterday.

Josh Lowey is in his sixth season in LMB and he is to the Mexican League what Loree is to the CPBL.  Lowey is also 33.  Lowey has started the 2019 LMB season 8-0, and his 3.91, while on its face high, is actually the ninth best in a 16-team circuit known for its offense.  Lowey is now an incredible 63-24 in LMB play, a .724 winning percentage.  Unfortunately, Lowey has missed his last two starts.  He’s on the reserved list, rather than the Injured List, so maybe he’s dealing with a family emergency.

Cyle Hankerd and Blake Gailen.  Two more 34 year oldss who have never reached the MLB majors (or come particularly close) but who can play.  Hankerd, who was once a 3rd Round draft pick out of USC, is in his sixth season in LMB.  He has a 1.011 OPS so far in 2019, although he’s only played in 30 games.

A strong season in the Atlantic League last year got Blake Gailen a job playing for the Dodger’s AAA team in Oklahoma City.  I suspect he’s doing double duty as a coach, whether officially or not, based on the fact that he’s spent a lot of time on the Injured List and is only 3 for 19 when he’s played.  He won’t last much longer on the roster hitting like that, but I expect he’ll go into coaching when they tell him he can’t play any more.

Chris Roberson.  Now in his age 39 season, he’s still the undisputed American King of Mexican baseball.  He’s played nine seasons in LMB and at least 14 seasons in Mexico’s even better winter league (MXPW or LMP).  However, his current .893 OPS isn’t even in the LMB’s top 40 in what has been a great season for hitters south of the border.  If any American is making a good living playing baseball in Mexico, it’s Chris Roberson.

Another Mexican Leaguer who has captured my attention in the last year is Jose Vargas.  Once a 22nd round draft pick out of Ventura College, a JC in Ventura, California, Vargas quickly washed out of the White Sox’ system, after which he spent six (!) playing for the Traverse City Beach Bums of the Indy-A Frontier League.  Traverse City is by most accounts a great place to spend one’s summers; however, it’s hard to imagine being able to have a whole lot of fun on $1,600 a month, which is about where Frontier League salaries max out.

Vargas is big, has power and is able to play 3B, 1B and LF.  After paying his dues in the Frontier League, he was able to catch on with an LMB team in 2017, possibly due to the fact that LMB began treating Mexican American players as “domestic,” rather than “foreign” players for roster purposes around that time.

In his age 31 season, he’s leading LMB with 27 HRs in only 222 plate appearances, and his 1.220 OPS is third best in the league in spite of the fact that he doesn’t walk much.  I’m somewhat doubtful that Vargas is currently making the LMB’s $10,000 salary cap, because his team’s attendance is terrible (just below 2,200 per game), but the odds are good that if he isn’t earning it this year, he’ll get it next year in light of how well he’s now playing.

Karl Galinas .  A 35 year old Can-Am League pitcher, Galinas is the modern day equivalent of Lefty George.  George was a marginal major leaguer who pitched nearly forever in his adopted home town of York, Pennsylvania, where he also ran a bar.

Orlando Roman‘s baseball odyssey may not yet be over.  He’s made nine starts in the Puerto Rico Winter League over the last three winter seasons, so you can’t completely count him from making one or more in 2019-2020.  He pitched professionally for about 20 years in just about every league except the MLB majors.  He’s another pitcher like Mike Loree and Josh Lowey who has leveraged a not quite major league talent into the most successful professional career possible.

A couple of guys in the MLB minors I’m following are Tyler Alexander and John Nogowski.  Tyler Alexander got his start in Brewers’ system but was effectively banished from MLB after testing positive for pot a couple of times while he was having some personal problems.  He spent three years pitching great for Fargo-Moorhead in the American Association and wintering a couple of season in the LMP.

Last year, Alexander pitched effectively in LMB in the summer and in the Dominican League in the winter.  That got him a minor league contract with the A’s, who sent him to AAA Las Vegas.  So far, the results have not been encouraging.  Alexander has a 6.85 ERA after 11 start.  Although he’s struck out 46 batters in 47.1 innings pitched, the long ball has killed him.  I suspect the A’s haven’t yet moved him to the bullpen because they don’t have anyone they reasonably expect to pitch better as a starter in what is probably a terrific hitters’ park.

Last off-season, I thought that Alexander would be a great prospect for Taiwan’s CPBL.  It could still happen, since Alexander will be 28 next season, and isn’t going to last long with a 6.85 ERA at AAA, even in a hitters’ park.

I wrote about John Nogowski two years ago when, after getting bounced out of the A’s system, I noticed he was batting over .400 in the American Association at the still young age of 24.  I “predicted” he’d get signed by another MLB organization soon, and he was within about a week by the Cardinals’ organization.  More importantly, John wrote a comment on my article, becoming the first and so far only active professional player ever to comment on one of my articles.  Needless to say, I’ll be a fan of John’s for life.

Nogowski played well at AA Springfield in in 2018 and is playing fairly well this season at AAA Memphis at age 26.  He’s currently slashing .267/.402/.400.  He’s got major league get-on-base skills, but doesn’t have the power he needs for the position he plays (1B).  His talents might be more suited to Japan’s NPB, where the outfield fences are a little shorter.

At any rate, there’s still a chance that Nogowski could get a major league look this year, if things break right for him.  Unfortunately, he’s not currently on the Cards’ 40-man roster, which means he’ll have to get truly hot at AAA Memphis to bump somebody else off.

Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos Update

June 6, 2019

I’m pleased to say that both Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos have recovered from their injuries and are back in the line up for the San Jose Giants.

Bart played his first game back yesterday.  He went 2 for 3 with a home run, three runs scored and three driven in. So no ill effects so far from the broken bone in his hand.

Heliot Ramos has been back for seven games now in which he’s gone 12 for 26 with a couple of home runs.  Again, no ill effects from his month-long layoff dealing with a knee strain.

With the Giants looking more or less awful this year, fans need to know that at least the young prospects are developing apace.