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Monday, July 15, 2013

Midseason Evaluation, the Francoeur era begins, and Big Time Timmy Jim!

So the All Star break is here.  The Giants are sending 4 players to New York for tomorrow's game.  Buster Posey, well deserved, making his 2nd consecutive appearance in the midsummer classic.  Madison Bumgarner with his first of what I predict to be many All Star game appearances (hope I didn't just jinx you Big Country).  Sergio Romo with a well deserved spot even if he had to "sneak" in via the crazy pitching rules.  And Mar-co Scu-ta-ro gets to see his first All Star action in what has been a solid if unspectacular career.  3 out of the 4 players are first timers.  Pence lost out on the final vote, but honestly he wasn't deserving over the other guys on the ballot.  Ian Desmond is the one that really got the shaft, not Puig or Pence though Freddie Freeman also earned his All Star credentials.   Pablo missed the original fan vote in and didn't deserve to go either  Hopefully he doesn't gain more weight between now and the resume of play on Friday.  When Pablo does well or gets a big hit, fans like to joke that he looks slimmer.  But it's not funny.  His weight has affected his performance.  I don't know who deserves credit for this graphic but it's damning:

That being said, this isn't a slam Pablo piece.  This is a slam the Giants piece.  Ok, not really.  The Giants enter the break at 43-51.  They are 8 games under .500 but only 6.5 games back.  Things would be a lot worse had Tim Lincecum not thrown a no hitter against the Padres.  Timmy's surprising no-no has given Giants fans a distraction for the break.  San Francisco ended the half on a high note, winning 3 of 4 against San Diego, even with Barry Zito continuing to be absolutely wretched on the road (to the tune of 0-6, 9.89 ERA in the grays).  The no-hitter has started a domino effect as well.  It now effectively removes Lincecum from trade talks even if it still makes sense.  It eliminates the "Lincecum to the bullpen" talk as well.  And it put the wheels back on the "Let's resign Timmy" bandwagon that had completely fallen off during 2012 and most of 2013.  How about this for coincidence; after pitching the no-hitter, at this very moment, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have the exact same career ERA (3.40).  Freaky huh?  See what I did there?  The Freak just happened to throw his no hitter on the day that The Frenchie joined the team, Jeff Francoeur.  

Francoeur was productive as recently as 2011 when he did it all for the Royals, hitting 20 homers and stealing 22 bases while hitting .285 with an .805 OPS.  Wait a minute, that sounds pretty similar to another Royals outfielder we got that one time.  Melky something.  That guy hit 18 homers with 20 stolen bases while hitting .305 with an .809 OPS.  Deja vu?  Doubtful.  Sabean is likely hoping Francoeur is more like his Pat the Bat acquisition than his Cabrera one.  That being said, Francoeur could be useful.  Teamed up with Kensuke Tanaka the Giants may have found their left fielder(s)!  Ok, probably not.  It's still more likely that if Sabean decides to become a buyer he gets an outfielder.  Oh yeah, and that's another thing the Timmy performance has done.  It has likely taken the Giants out of the starting pitcher trade game.  With Vogelsong coming back hopefully early August and Gaudin pitching like the revelation Vogelsong was in 2011 the Giants all of sudden have too many starters.  It's doubtful any team takes Zito off our hands so it'll be interesting to see what Bochy and Sabean decide to do when the time comes.  One thing for certain?  Lincecum will not be going to the bullpen anytime soon.

The Giants have looked mostly bad for much of the season and their place in the standings reflects it.  They have the 4th toughest schedule after the break (allegedly) but have their first 10 games at home.  Those 10 games will determine whether the Giants become buyers, sellers, or stand pat.  If they can carry over the way they played against San Diego (minus the Zito game), they could turn this thing around yet.  They're finally getting healthy and those 6.5 games back don't seem nearly as daunting when you're coming off the high of a Freakish no-hitter.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Top 10 Prospect Round Up (July)

With the trade deadline at the end of this month, it's a good time to check on the Giants most marketable assets.  I've reiterated that I would not want to give up Kyle Crick for almost anyone though I think I'd do it for a controllable starting pitcher like Gallardo.  But aside from that, Crick stays put.  Especially with his output of late.  Here is the Top 10 Prospect Round Up for July:

Kyle Crick (1-1, 1.46 ERA, 1.38 WHIP in Single-A)

Notes:  Crick has come back from his DL stint and has quite simply dominated.  He has struck out 28 batters in 15 innings pitched since being activated and overall he's pitched 24.2 innings and struck out 40.  He remains the Giants top prospect and his value is only increasing.

Gary Brown (.246 AVG, .306 OBP, .733 OPS in AAA)

Notes:  Gary Brown turned it on a bit in June.  He started hitting homers in bunches and lifted his OPS over 100 points.  Overall his numbers still don't look great but his hot June at least put him in the discussion for a potential call up when Blanco went ice cold and Pagan was officially ruled out for the majority of the season.  He didn't get the call but if he keeps the positive uptick in his numbers, he'll get his cup of coffee sooner rather than later.

Chris Stratton (7-3, 3.81 ERA, 1.29 WHIP in Single-A)

Notes:  Stratton has been consistent.  His numbers declined slightly but not alarmingly.  He still has more strikeouts than innings pitched which is one of the main stats I look at when I'm looking at potential MLB pitching prospects.  I have a feeling he's being dangled in trade talks however so I'm not painting him in orange and black quite yet.

Joe Panik (.255 AVG, .342 OBP, .694 OPS in AA)

Notes:  Just as Gary Brown turned it on in June, Panik turned it off.  His numbers plummeted.  Panik is being groomed to take over 2B when Scutaro's contract ends so he has time to prove himself.  He's not expected to be a big power guy so he just needs to make sure he gets on base.   With a .342 OBP, he's still where he needs to be.  An improvement in the average would be good.

Heath Hembree (17 Saves, 4.79 ERA, 1.40 WHIP in AAA)

Notes:  Giants fans have been waiting on a Hembree call up.  He's been labeled the closer of the future.  He was supposed to be Brian Wilson's replacement had Brian Wilson never been injured and was playing his last season in SF at the moment.  With all the bullpen issues the Giants currently have, you'd think Hembree would get a call.  Except he hasn't done anything to warrant the call up.  He struggled in June and his overall numbers in Fresno are pedestrian at best.  His 43 K's in 36 innings look nice but the WHIP and ERA are not what you want from a late inning reliever.  He has work to do.

Francisco Peguero (.310 AVG, .355 OBP, .762 OPS in AAA)

Notes:  Peguero hasn't forced himself back to SF.  His numbers are okay but the Giants are giving guys like Juan Perez and Cole Gillaspie opportunities instead of Peguero.  That says something about what the Giants think of Frankie Pegs overall.  At a time where the Giants absolutely have a chance to audition someone internally for the LF spot, they're not giving Peguero or Roger Kieschnick the job.  You wonder if they can't force the issue now, will they ever?

Martin Agosta (7-3, 2.18 ERA, 1.08 WHIP in Single-A)

Notes:  Agosta continues to be a revelation.  Opponents are batting just .186 off him.  He has 92 K's in 74.1 IP.  He has only given up 48 hits.  Granted, it's A ball we're talking about here.  That being said, it's impressive.  This guy is flying under the radar but he's developing into a legitimate stud.

Chris Heston (7-5, 5.73 ERA, 1.60 WHIP in AAA)

Notes:  The good news is Heston's numbers actually improved between May and June.  The bad news is they're still not good.  Heston right now is looking like a fringe prospect.  He could be a long man in the pen perhaps but his status as a starting prospect doesn't look great at the moment.

Eric Surkamp (1-0. 2.66 ERA, 0.84 WHIP between A and AAA)

Notes:  Surkamp was activated off the 60 day DL in June and started throwing for the first time in over a year after recovering from Tommy John surgery.  He made 5 starts for San Jose before being promoted to Fresno.  As the Giants best MLB ready starter, the lefty is likely being used as trade bait to acquire a veteran starting pitcher.  Right now Surkamp is proving his health and taking his turns in the Grizzlies rotation.  If he's not traded, he will likely have the inside track to replace one of the soon to be departed Giants starters in 2014.

Edwin Escobar (2-4, 3.19 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in Single-A)

Notes:  The Giants most promising guys are a couple seasons away from San Francisco.  Escobar is one of them.  He has continued to put up good numbers in San Jose.  He has 86 strikeouts to 15 walks in 68 innings pitched.  Combined with Agosta, Crick, and Stratton the Giants have some talented young pitching in the lower levels of their minor leagues.  If the Giants are serious about making trades this July, it would not be surprising to see of these names go elsewhere.