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

Posted June 21, 2017 by Burly
Categories: Minor Leagues, San Francisco Giants

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.

The Flood of Cuban Players

Posted June 20, 2017 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers

I just read a good article on about one of the side effects of the flood of Cuban baseball players into the international market since the beginning of 2014: huge numbers of Cuban professionals are stuck in the Dominican Republic unable to play baseball professionally because they aren’t quite good enough to sign lucrative contracts with MLB organizations.  The article reports that 349 Cuban ballplayers have left Cuba since the start of 2014.

I’ve written about the flood of Cuban players several times in recent years (see this article for example), mainly as it effects the major leagues.  The article reflects one obvious effect of the ginormous contracts that the very best Cuban players have signed in recent years.

The problems for the perhaps several hundred Cuban players stuck in the Dominican Republic are fairly obvious.  Most of them were good but not great Serie Nacional regulars who are past age 28, who simply do not have a reasonable chance of making the major leagues going forward, and thus cannot get offers from mlb organizations that the buscones, who fronted the money to smuggle the players out of Cuba and who typically get about 30% of the player’s first post-Cuba professional contract, are hoping to get.

The last three-plus years have already begun to show that the early bargains (by MLB standards) for players like Aroldis Chapman and Jose Abreu resulted in irrational exuberance on the part of many MLB organizations who signed a number of Cubans players for too much money and got burned.  For example, the Dodgers and Red Sox have committed a grand total of $193 million to Hector Olivera, Rusney Castillo, Alex Guerrero and Yaisel Sierra in deals which now look like wild overpays (Sierra may yet be a capable major league reliever, but I’m doubtful he’ll prove to be worth the $30 million the Dodgers will be paying him through 2021).

In short, we have probably reached a point now where mlb organizations will still pony up eight figure contracts for the very best Cuban defectors, some of whom will pan out and some of whom will not, but organizations aren’t going to throw even low six figure amounts at players who don’t have a reasonable chance of playing in the majors going forward.  Japanese NPB teams will offer signing bonuses between $100,000 and $1M for a handful of these players, but that still leaves the vast majority with few prospects.

After the major leagues, there are plenty of places for these second-tier Cubans to play professionally, including Mexico, the Independent-A Leagues and the Carribbean Winter Leagues, but none of those will offer the kinds of signing bonuses the buscones are looking for just to cover their initial investments in bringing the players in from Cuba and supporting the players in the D.R. for up to a year.  Meanwhile, many players end up sitting around in the Dominican Republic for years, their skills rapidly atrophying, often without proper papers and unable to play professionally anywhere.

One thing that some of the recent over-pays for Cuban players also shows is that the value of baseball talent to MLB organizations is just enormous.  The MLB Draft and the International bonus pools artificially decrease the monies teams pay for amateur talent subject to these regimes substantially.  As a result, any player who can escape these regimes, such as MLB free agents or foreign veteran professionals from Cuba, tend in a mature market to be overpaid as a result of the fact that mlb organizations have a surplus of money freed up to throw at these players who are operating in much closer to a free market environment.

Ryder Jones’ Hot Season at AAA

Posted June 19, 2017 by Burly
Categories: Minor Leagues, San Francisco Giants

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

Posted June 15, 2017 by Burly
Categories: Minor Leagues, Oakland A's

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

Posted June 15, 2017 by Burly
Categories: Minor Leagues, San Francisco Giants

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.

Best Prospects in the Frontier League

Posted June 15, 2017 by Burly
Categories: Minor Leagues

I’m sure you were just dying to know who in the Indy-A Frontier League is most likely to sign with an MLB organization in the near future.  This is a list of the best ones I could find.

Bralin Jackson and Jimmy Kerrigan.  Both are 23 years old this year.  Jackson is currently 9th in the Frontier League in OPS (.961) and Kerrigan is tied for 13th (.937).  Both are outfielders.

The Frontier League’s best 23 year old pitcher is Gunnar Kines.  He has a 1.53 ERA with a pitching line of 35.1 IP, 27 hits and 10 walks allowed and 48 Ks.

Matt Pobereyko is 25 this year, but he should definitely be playing in a better league than the Frontier League.  In parts of two seasons there he has a 1.35 ERA and a pitching line of 33.1 relief innings pitched, 17 hits and 13 walks allowed, and 51 Ks.

Jackson, Kines and Pobereyko are all MLB-system wash-outs.  Kerrigan is the only guy whose pro career started in the Frontier League.  All four players deserve another look by MLB organizations.


San Francisco Giants’ 2017 Draft Picks Rounds 26-40

Posted June 15, 2017 by Burly
Categories: San Francisco Giants

As we get down to the dregs of the 2017 Draft class, we all hope our teams find a couple of diamonds in the rough.  Will any of these players help the major league Giants in future seasons?  We shall see:

26th RoundKyle McPherson, SS (21).  McPherson slashed .330/.404/.520 for small school James Madison as a junior.

27th RoundMatt Brown, RHP (21).  Brown had a 5.94 ERA for San Jose State, but struck out 62 in 72.2 innings pitched, but also walked 64.  A project if ever there was one, he’s also a Bay Area product out of Benicia.

28th RoundPeter Lannoo, RHP (22).  Like Brown, another 6’6″ right-hander, he was Cornell’s closer in 2017.  Nothing about his numbers this year as a senior (3.86 ERA, 16 Ks in 21 IP) suggest he’ll ever be a major leaguer, Ivy League brain or not.

29th RoundFrank Rubio, RHP (22).  He pitched for four years in Florida’s bullpen against SEC competition, but nothing about his numbers suggests he’s anything more than a roster filler.

30th RoundSean Watkins CF (21).  Watkins slashed .368/.468/.730 for Cal State Los Angeles this season. He probably doesn’t have the speed to play CF for long as a pro.  He played two not particularly impressive seasons for Loyola Marymount before transferring to Cal State L.A.  He’s also a Bay Area boy.

31st RoundKeenan Bartlett, RHP (21).  He looks too small (6’1″, 170 lbs) to amount to much, and he also had a brutal 8.90 ERA in seven starts for the University of Richmond this year.  His sophomore season was O.K., but there’s no reason at this moment to think his professional career will last more than two or three seasons.

32nd RoundBlake Rivera, RHP (19).  A junior college freshman, Rivera had a 1.94 ERA and struck out 72 in 55.2 IP this season.

33rd RoundPeyton Maddox, C (20).  As a junior for Virginia Military Academy, Maddox slashed .291/.368/.489.

34th RoundConnor Nurse, RHP (17).  The first high school player drafted by the Giants since the third round, Nurse is big and committed to pitch at Liberty University next year.  That’s not a high profile college program, so maybe he’s signable?

35th RoundDalton Combs, RF (22).  Combs slashed .386/.448/.545 as a senior at Huntington University.  As far as I can find, no player from this school has ever played in the major leagues.

36th RoundJoe Marciano, LHP (22).  He’s a big one at 6’5″ and 250 lbs.  A starter at Southern Illinois Carbondale, Marciano struck out 56 batters in 46 innings pitched but walked 43.  He appears to have a strong arm which is about all you can hope for this low in the Draft.

37th RoundAndy Rohloff, RHP (20).  Rohloff made only ten relief appearances for Central Florida this season, striking out 10 in 9.1 IP.  He’s slightly built at 180 lbs, so it’s hard to see him sticking around long.

38th Round. Antonio Saldana, LHP (17).  A big high school lefty, Saldana is committed to a junior college for next year, suggesting he may also be signable.

39th RoundBrad Dobzanski, RHP (18).  A high school right-hander who has committed to Kentucky.  I don’t imagine the Giants will sign him.

40th RoundLiam Jenkins, RHP (20).  Listed as a robust 6’8″ and 225 lbs, Jenkins as a junior college sophomore posted a 2.28 ERA, striking out 44 and walking 27 in 43.1 IP this season.  My guess is he’s playing at a 4-year college next season.