Friday, May 08, 2009

Draft Review

This year I thought I'd start a new annual tradition and review the BRASS rookie draft. I've been doing this for my summer Strat league forever; don't know why I waited so long to start it here. My standard format is to say something about each of the first-round picks, in the order they were taken. Then, for each team, I list everyone they chose after the first round, and say something that's at least vaguely related to one or more of them. It won't always be kind, so I hope no one takes anything I say personally. I also hope no one thinks I'm some sort of expert; if I was the world's greatest judge of young talent, would my team have been in the draft lottery this year?

Speaking of the lottery, my strongest overall impression of this draft is that if you weren't in the lottery, it was barely worth having a first-round pick at all. The pool of available talent was the shallowest I can remember. Even though we've cut down on AMs, past ones have seriously drained the pool. It's not going to get much better until we finish phasing out AMs and the existing ones graduate to having cards.

My other overall impression is that some managers haven't adjusted their thinking to the current contract rules. I see quite a few U contracts (minimum value $1.2M) given to drafted players who would never have drawn bids that high in free agency, let alone secondary free agency (which is where they'd be if they'd gone undrafted).

The first-rounders:

1. Chris Davis, Duluth-Superior - He's got a nice power card, he's got serious 40-HR potential, he's only 23, and he's playing regularly. No one else in this draft has all those markers; not many can claim even two of them. That said, there are negatives. A year ago, when Davis was eligible for the Top 100 prospect lists, he was only #65 at Baseball America and #74 at Baseball Prospectus. (Of course, if he'd been much higher, he wouldn't be in this draft pool, because someone would have taken him as an AM.) His walk rate is terrible, and if he doesn't fix that you can forget 40 homers--he won't see 40 hittable pitches all season. And there's a limit to the value of a player whose only position is first base, especially after we dump the DH next year.

2. Stephen Strasburg, SoCal - Yeah, I know--he's the B*E*S*T P*I*T*C*H*I*N*G P*R*O*S*P*E*C*T E*V*E*R!! It's still a big risk to use this high a pick on someone who's never pitched an inning in the pros. Just too much can go wrong between now and a major league career, including the possibility that the Gnats bring him up as soon as they sign him. Bad teams have done that before with young pitchers, and it rarely ends well.

3. Trevor Cahill, Chuckanut Bay - Not believed to have Strasburg's upside, or Hanson's for that matter, but he's in a major-league rotation, which greatly reduces the risk that the pick will turn out to be worthless. His control has been awful so far this year, but it's early, and his record doesn't suggest a real problem in that area.

4. Alcides Escobar, Colorado - The difference between his ranking on the Baseball America list of prospects and the Baseball Prospectus list was over 30 spots, because no one knows for sure if he's going to hit. Everyone agrees the glove is something special. If he turns out to be the next Omar Vizquel, this was a great pick. If he's the next Adam Everett. . . not so much.

5. Denard Span, Andover - Had the draft been held a month earlier, Span probably would have gone a lot lower, because it wasn't clear at that time that he'd remain a regular. But now he seems to have settled in as a player whose leadoff skills and defense more than compensate for his total lack of power. If you pencil him in for about half of Richie Ashburn's career, you shouldn't have to worry about keeping the eraser clean. There will be players picked after him who will return more value than that, but I don't have the balls (crystal, that is) to tell you which ones.

6. Tommy Hanson, Inyo - One observer told me he'd have taken Hanson #1 overall. Myself, I'm nervous about picking him even this high when he hasn't pitched in the majors yet. At least he's almost ready; rumor has it that the Braves are just trying to manage his service clock and delay arb-eligibility as long as possible.

7. Jordan Schafer, Phoenix - Will probably outdo Span over his career; he's two and a half years younger and has some power.

8. Mat Gamel, Colorado - The anti-Escobar: possibly the best bat in this draft pool, but doesn't have a position he can play. Since the Brewers are in the National League and already have Ryan Braun, it may take a trade to get Gamel to the majors. And this type of player doesn't always make it--remember Sam Horn?

I would say that the above players are the ones who someone might have gone into the draft hoping to get. Everyone else is basically what you settle for.

9. Cory Wade, Dayton - Lights-out card, plenty of innings, and he's doing OK so far this year. But when a reliever goes in the upper half of the first round, the pickings are slim.

10. John Baker, San Jose - And when a 28-year-old batter with less than half a season's playing time goes this high, the pickings are pathetic.

11. Jose Arredondo, Hoth - See Wade, Cory. He's pitched more than Wade so far this year; the ERA isn't good, but the K/W ratio is excellent.

12. Matt Joyce, Phoenix - Nice part-time card, and he's still in the majors, but he's not playing much and doesn't ever figure to be much more than a good fourth outfielder.

13. Daniel Murphy, Colorado - Probably should have gone before Joyce; he's playing every day, has a great OBP, and might approach 20 HR. His defense sucks from all reports, but you can live with that in left field.

14. Jody Gerut, Sierra Nevada - Probably the most useful card in the draft with the possible exception of Span, but he's 31 and off to a mediocre start this year. Plus he's a U player, so you don't even get a cheap Y1 year out of him.

15. Lou Marson, Colorado - Probably a better catching prospect in the long run than Nick Hundley, although the Phils seem all too willing to let Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste block him as long as they're healthy.

16. James McDonald, Meridian - The Dodgers are the closest thing I have to a local team (or maybe the Angels are; I'm not really sure which one is closer), but I honestly didn't know who this guy was when his name came up. I saw "J. McDonald" and thought, no, it can't be that no-hit shortstop the Jays have. All you need to know about him is that according to his ESPN web page, Jeff Weaver is about to take his spot in the rotation.

17. Greg Smith, Chuckanut Bay - Smith has by far the most innings of any pitcher in the draft--yet another indication that we need to finish the process of phasing out AMs. Pretty nice card, too, as long as his opponent doesn't stack too many righthanders against him. But what you see is probably all you're ever going to get. He's a curveballing lefty now pitching in Colorado, or rather not pitching.

18. Grant Balfour, SoCal - Probably the most dominating card in the set, but he's 31 and getting the snot beat out of him so far this year. If Scott isn't contending this year, he really needs to flip Balfour to someone who is.

19. Madison Bumgarner, San Jose - This is about where a pitching prospect like this should go; the risk is worth the upside at this point. Between Bumgarner and Hanson, it's a total crapshoot at this point who winds up with a better career.

20. Jordan Zimmerman, Green Bay - And Zimmerman could be better than either one. Like Cahill, he has the advantage of being in a major league rotation right now, and he's pitching better than Cahill

21. Brad Ziegler, Diamond - Not nearly as dominating as his ERA or his scoreless-innings string would suggest, and no spring chicken at 29, but he's doing better this year than any of the relievers taken earlier. But not as well as some taken later--see below.

22. Nick Hundley, Green Bay - I guess he'll have a job for awhile, since the Padres don't seem to have anyone pushing him. But for the production he'll give you, you might as well take a couple of second-string types in the back end of the draft every year. Mike Redmond and Javier Valentin didn't go until the 10th and 14th rounds, and I'd rather have them out there for me than Hundley. They won't be there next year, but someone else just as good will be.

23. Chris Dickerson, SoCal - When I did the draft review for my summer Strat league, my comment on Dickerson was that he was "so far over his head he risked being sucked into the engine of a passing jet." His play so far this year bears this out. Like Balfour, he belongs on a contender.

24. Jesse Carlson, Cream City - I look at their cards, their ages and how each of them is doing this year, and I don't see any reason Carlson shouldn't have been taken ahead of Brad Ziegler unless you just really need a righty instead of a lefty.

After the first round, by team:

Andover (Chris Getz, Mike Stanton, Matt Harrison, Edgar Gonzalez [the infielder], Roy Corcoran, Mike Hinckley, Clayton Richard, Burke Badenhop) - The Cougars drafted just ahead of me, and they did it to me twice. I wanted Getz in the second round; I really thought he'd go much earlier, but it was heartbreaking that he lasted until just ahead of me and then got taken. Then, early in round 6, I noticed that Clayton Richard was still on the board, and thought he'd be worth a flier at that point. I changed my list to put him at the top, only to see him go to Andover.

I'm skeptical of Harrison as a second-round pick, simply because he's a Ranger. Much-hyped Texas prospects like Volquez and Danks never amounted to a bucket of warm spit until they went somewhere else. I'm not sure I'd want a Rangers pitching prospect if he was cloned from Roger Clemens' DNA.

Ashland (Ramon Ramirez, Joe Inglett, Mike Hampton, Greg Norton, Omar Quintanilla, Eric Bruntlett, Kason Gabbard, Mike Redmond) - Nothing but U contracts and free agent claims, but still the Penguins netted more money than anyone else because three of their own free agents were claimed. Inglett, Quintanilla and Bruntlett would seem to do no more than replace a year of Placido Polanco, which begs the question of why Polanco was left unprotected in the first place. And why pay $1.2M for Kason Gabbard's 56 crappy innings when Tom Glavine's 68 innings--a little crappier but not much--will be available in secondary free agency for a fraction of that?

Speaking of Gabbard, his case illustrates an anomaly created by the relatively new rule that a drafted player must be signed to a U contract if he ever before had a BRASS major-league deal. Gabbard last year was a Y1 player; if he'd been kept by his old team, he'd be a Y2 this year. Instead he was released, presumeably because he wasn't deemed worth a Y2 deal--so now if he's drafted, he has to be signed for twice that? I think the rule should be amended such that if a drafted player's last contract was a Y, he must be signed to whatever contract he would have rated if his last team had kept him.

Chuckanut Bay (Max Ramirez, Chris Perez, Aaron Cunningham, Josh Outman, Miguel Batista, Shawn Chacon, Patrick Misch, Denny Bautista, Nelson Figueroa, Mark Redman, Brett Wallace) - When Dave took this franchise over, he was its fifth manager in two years. I don't know who among the other four gets the blame, but the team was desperately short of pitching, and it was left to Dave to apply spackling compound to the bomb crater. He did that here while still picking up at least five serious prospects, but with two free agent claims and four U contracts, it's going to cost him.

Colorado (Jose Mijares, Ryan Tucker, Mike Gonzalez, Phil Coke) - These guys are basically afterthoughts compared to the Challengers' four 1st-round picks, but the law of averages says one of them should settle in at some point for a few years of solid relief work. It won't be Gonzalez, though; he was signed to a U2 contract, which will return one good year if he keeps up his good start, and basically nothing for the $3M if he blows up this year.

Cream City (Wesley Wright, Keichi Yabu, J.P. Arencibia, Carlos Santana) - Arencibia and Santana are good prospects--there's really no such thing as a bad AM prospect when the league as a whole can only have 48 of them--but Yabu looks like one year and out, and Wright will be a generic middle reliever in the very best case (and even that looks unlikely the way he's started out this year).

Dayton (Placido Polanco, Craig Breslow, Arthur Rhodes, Ryan Hanigan, Yonder Alonso, Daniel Herrera, Scott Lewis, Paul Janish, Logan Morrison, Laynce Nix, Cliff Pennington, Eddie Kunz) - Polanco was easily the best value among the unprotected players, and John did well to jump on him early. I guarantee he wouldn't have lasted another round. Who knows what will happen with the rest of these guys, although several of them have started this year well. Foremost among these, to my amazement, is Nix.

Diamond (Jason Motte, Steven Shell, Jose Veras, Chris Tillman, Scott Schoenweiss, Billy Sadler, Jesse Chavez, Jonathan Meloan, Michael Aubrey, Jolbert Cabrera, Kurt Birkins, Jonathan Albaladejo) - There's a bullpen in here somewhere. With pitchers--especially relievers--throwing a bunch of them against a wall to see who sticks is a better approach than trying to identify one guy.

Duluth-Superior (Colin Balester, Charlie Morton, Sidney Ponson, Glendon Rusch, Lance Cormier, Luis Rivas, Rob Johnson, Franquelis Osoria, Juan Rincon) - Who is hoarding all the innings in this league? (Besides me, I mean.) There are 30 MLB teams feeding 24 of ours, but still we have teams like the Tubas (covered above), Hoth (who was willing to pay five and a half mil and use a bonus round pick to take Joel Pineiro off my hands) and the Dukes, who need innings badly enough to give U contracts to Ponson, Rusch, Cormier and Rincon. (OK, Rusch has perhaps the best card I've ever seen on a pitcher with an ERA over 5, but still.)

Great Kills (Ricky Romero, Kory Casto, Chris Waters, Guillermo Quiroz, Bryan LaHair, Paul McAnulty, T.J. Beam) - Romero didn't exactly come out of nowhere, but he wasn't on any top-prospect lists (except for being eighth on BA's list of Toronto prospects) going into spring training. Do you use your only AM pick on someone like that who's off to a hot start, or on a higher-rated prospect who maybe is still in the minors? Always a tough decision, especially now that we draft a couple of weeks earlier than we used to.

Green Bay (Brett Gardner, Shairon Martis, Angel Salome, Brian Bixler, Mitchell Boggs, Will Venable, Jeremy Reed, Eric Stults, John Bowker, Ryan Raburn, Freddy Dolsi) - Gardner was worth a flyer; he was going to get every chance because of his speed, and once in awhile this type of player learns to hit. Not this time, it seems. Martis is in a rotation and winning, if not impressively. I was surprised to have Raburn claimed, but he's back in the majors and has a platoon role.

Hoth (Blake DeWitt, Travis Ishikawa, Joel Pineiro, Joe Thurston, Gaby Sanchez, Mark DiFelice, Adam Rosales) - DeWitt probably would have been a first-round pick if the Dodgers hadn't signed Orlando Hudson. Gaby Sanchez was a very nice gamble in the fourth round; if the Marlins clear the logjam ahead of him, he'll probably have a better career than Ishikawa, at the very least. But the question all America should be asking is, who is this guy playing second base for the Cardinals and what has he done with the real Joe Thurston? The real Thurston is 29 years old, seven years removed from being a failed Dodgers prospect and has had five cups of coffee for a total of 66 at-bats during that time. The impostor has more at-bats than that a month into the season, and an OPS some 200 points higher than what Thurston managed over his "career".

Inyo (J.A. Happ, Ben Zobrist, Ramon Troncoso, Anderson Hernandez, Paul Lo Duca, Francisco Cervelli, Koyie Hill, Mike Hessman, Justin Smoak) - Zobrist is a similar case to Gabbard, mentioned above; if I'd kept him continuously instead of cutting him after he cratered in 2007, he'd be getting a Y2 contract instead of a U3 this year. Hill is almost as surprising as Thurston; I'd have sworn there was a fork sticking out of him three or four years ago.

Meridian (David Purcey, Scott Proctor, Brendan Ryan, Dusty Ryan, Nick Evans, Josh Banks, Ramon A. Ramirez, WIll Nieves, Toby Hall) - Oh, great! Two pitchers with the same name, both righthanded, a year apart in age. Let's hope this one either makes the starting rotation or washes out completely so we have some way of telling them apart.

Montgomery County (Wilson Betemit, Lou Montanez, Alberto Gonzalez, Darren O'Day, Zach Jackson, Clete Thomas, Scott Holm, Matt Tolbert, James Parr) - Gonzalez would be a very useful backup--great shortstop defense, nice batting card with some pop against righties--except that our contract rules keep him from playing in any month with 30 days.

Montreal (Derek Holland, Jesse Crain, Doug Waechter, Carlos Rosa, Jose Ascanio, Matt Tuiasosopo, Jeremy Blevins, Kevin Cash) - Holland was BA's #31 prospect in their Top 100 issue a couple of months ago, and he was taken in the second round, #42 overall. Justin Smoak was #23, and I got him over 180 picks later. Granted, Holland is pitching in the majors now, but he's also in Texas. I'm just sayin'. . .

Olympia (Micah Hoffpauir, Brian Bass, Brandon Boggs, Garrett Mock, Jarrod Washburn, Adam Eaton, Angel Berroa, Clayton Mortensen, Vince Mazzaro, Mike Lamb, Chris Burke, Andy Marte) - Hoffpauir's awfully old for a rookie, but it looks like he'll turn out real well if the Cubs ever decide to focus on what he can do in the future rather than what Derrek Lee has done in the past. Mortensen and Mazzaro are AMs, and Kai must have some deep inside information on them. I don't see either one on a top prospect list or a major league roster.

Phoenix (Emmanuel Burriss, Gregor Blanco, Darrel Rasner, Tony Pena Jr., German Duran, Humberto Quintero, Masa Kobayashi, Chris Carter, Jeff Salazar, Alex Romero, Ivan Ochoa, Cesar Jimenez) - Burriss has a nice card and a job, and if he turns it around and hits well enough to keep that job, this was a great pick. So far, no. Blanco would be Denard Span Lite if Jordan Schafer hadn't sent him back to the minors; as it is, he's good insurance for the team that drafted Schafer. Chris Carter is. . . the wrong Chris Carter.

Plainsfield (Mike Aviles, Buster Posey, Brian Anderson, Sean Rodriguez, Matt Antonelli, Kila Ka'Aihue, Craig Monroe, Greg Golson, Logan Kensing, Sergio Romo, Josh Roenicke, Tommy Hunter, Jayson Nix) - On the one hand, Aviles should have gone earlier in this draft pool, even the way he's (not) hitting this year. On the other hand, for Plainsfield he's an overqualified utility infielder. Monroe seems overpriced, especially at the cost of the U2 contract he was signed to, but he does give the Hitmen a go-to guy off the bench if they need a homer off a right-hander.

San Jose (Felipe Paulino, Brian Barden, Bobby Parnell, Conor Gillaspie, D.J. Carrasco, Richie Sexson, Dan Meyer) - Sharp of Dave to notice that Paulino was in Houston's rotation and doing well (although since the draft he seems to have gone to the pen). Chuckanut Bay, with its pitching shortage, could ill afford to lose him. Fitting that this team got Gillaspie, as Dave gets to watch him right there in San Jose. Sexson seems like an overpriced FA claim, but he's devastating in a strict platoon role.

Sierra Nevada (Luis Valbuena, Fernando Rodney, Fernando Perez, Alfredo Aceves, Josh Geer, Kevin Jepsen, Kam Mickolio, Clint Sammons) - All through the draft, I had a feeling that I should move Aceves up on my lists, that I'd regret it if I missed out on him. The Yankees just brought him up, so we'll see. Mickolio is on the Orioles' list of top prospects, which isn't saying a whole lot but is good for the 199th pick.

SoCal (Jonathan Niese, Jim Thome, Mike Adams, Brian Bruney, Dan Giese, Joaquin Arias, Matt Brown, Joe Mather) - Several players here who at one time seemed to be good bets to come through, but none seems to have so far except maybe Giese. Thome begs two questions: 1)Why did Ashland give him a two-year free-agent contract knowing that next year we dump the DH, and 2)Why was SoCal willing to assume that contract?

Southtown (Rafael Soriano, Sean Burnett, Emil Brown) - The biggest cash gainer of the draft next to Ashland, as the aptly named Misers had nearly $9M worth of free agents claimed away. As for draft picks. . . in my summer Strat league, there used to be a guy named John Sokol who every year would trade away all his choices and sit out the draft. Since he left, every year we award the John Sokol Trophy to whoever comes closest to emulating him. This year in BRASS, that would be Henry.

Sugar Creek (Kyle McClellan, Fernando Tatis, Mike Lincoln, Juan Rivera, Andrew Carpenter, Justin Speier, Michael Wuertz, Brian Stokes, Shawn Camp, Juan Castro, Angel Guzman, Javier Valentin, Claudio Vargas) - Wow. 13 players, and only two of them (McClellan and Carpenter) won't be unrestricted free agents after the upcoming season. I really, really don't understand why Guzman was signed to a U1 contract, as his card has only 10 innings.

Washington Crossing (Joe Nelson, Gabe Kapler, Gordon Beckham, Eddie Guardado, Aquilino Lopez, Reggie Willits, Jeff Larish, Bryan Corey, Mitch Maier) - It pays to study the cards. I looked at Reggie Willits' stat line and saw a .194 BA and a .552 OPS, and assumed he'd be on the SFA scrap heap at the end of the draft. Dave looked at his card and saw a 46% on-base chance against lefties, and of course he can fly once he gets there.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Scouting Report: the San Jose Giants

The team that started the season with the Giants’ A-level affiliate in San Jose may be broken up via roster moves & promotions at any time, but man, has it been sweet so far. There are two probable and five possible future MLB All-Stars on this squad, and as many as 8 likely ML regulars. Keith Law from ESPN did a recent write-up on San Jose’s *opposition* after a recent visit (ouch, that hurt Keith!) but practically every serious reporting organization (Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, etc etc) has written jaw-dropping praise for the recent drafting & international signings done by the much-maligned San Francisco front office, as evidenced by their high A-club. Given that it’s only 10 minutes’ drive from my house & general admission = $10, I figured I’d offer a firsthand take after seeing them Sunday May 3rd & Monday May 4th

When I went to see them on Monday night, a night when San Jose will normally draw 500-1000 fans, I arrived a bit late, after the 1st half-inning, and decided to splurge $15 for a box seat instead of the $10 general admission ticket. Good choice. The stadium seats around 4000, and it was about ¾ full on a Monday night, with rain clouds in the offing. I ended up with really the best seat in the house to watch a lefty pitcher – just to the right of home plate, 5 rows back from the field. And that set the stage for…

…The Lefty
The talk this spring has been all about Madison Bumgarner, who has rocketed up the prospect charts after showing quick improvement in a slider that looks like a future out-pitch at the ML level. The fastball is fierce, reportedly at a David Price-like 94-96 mph. If MadBum’s change (he is working on it now) becomes a plus pitch, he should join Price as one of the best young LHs in years and a #1 starter.

When I saw him, the fastball sat at 93-94 and touched 97 at times. I have read that he displays “easy” velocity, and can confirm that assessment. The arm slot is around ¾ but there is a not a lot of effort in the delivery, which he repeated fairly well most of the night. The changeup was on display vs. RH on several occasions and was usually taken for a strike or called for a ball just off the plate outside/high, and came in at 77-81 mph. The concern there is that he’ll need to start it lower in the zone vs. top-level hitters or they’ll make him pay. At the A-level, when the batters were looking for a heater or maybe the slider, they were caught off guard by the changeup. He used it on at least three occasions when he was ahead in the count, 1-2 or 2-2. The slider he had working was a touch faster than the changeup at 81-83 mph. Against RHs it mostly started belt-high in the middle/outside portion of the plate, and breaks in to the batter’s back foot with good tilt. He got several swinging strikes with this pitch. He also displayed some of the toughness that has been mentioned about him, coming high & inside on an 0-2 pitch that hit the batter on the arm. This was definitely a message pitch, intended to try to get the batter off the plate so that the pitcher could own the outside on a 1-2 count. Unfortunately it backfired as the hit batsman came around to score on a SB, error on the throw (catch actually, the throw was perfect), and a sac fly, but the concept was good even if the execution was a bit lacking. I would give his control pretty high marks at this stage though command was average and needs work.

Physically MadBum looks like he can hold up well over a long season. He’s not tall, but has noticeably thick thighs that support him well on the mound. Given the relative ease of the delivery he’s probably got as good a shot at staying healthy as any young pitcher especially if he can avoid over-reliance on the slider in favor of the change.

The Righty
With all the focus on MadBum, we have to add 6’6” RH Tim Alderson to the mix as well when we talk about high-ceiling prospects on this team. He’s mainly a FB/curve pitcher though is adding a changeup as well. When I saw him, the FB was slower than it has been in the past, sitting at 89 and ranging from 88-91. Most scouting reports have it sitting at 91-92, and not having all of his velo on the FB would explain his slow start to the year. That said, the curveball he showed was outstanding all day. He seemed completely comfortable throwing the pitch in any count and broke it off on both sides of the plate at 71-74 mph, generating both called strikes & plenty of swings & misses. If the FB comes back to 91-92, we’re talking about a #2 or #3 SP, and if the changeup comes along, he could even reach #1 status. With his height, I think it’s reasonable to assume he gets 1-2 more mph in the FB as he fills out, and his command is excellent.

Great sequence to illustrate this in the 6th inning as Alderson had a 2-2 count on the batter and broke off a curve that may have missed, but if so it was by just an inch or two. Alderson was visibly upset that he didn’t get the call, to the point where I thought “Ok, he’s flustered here”. But he went right back to the pitch for a called strike three, something the batter clearly wasn’t ready for on a 3-2 count. Amazing confidence in the pitch, signaled to him by…

…The All-American, and everyone’s future All-Star backstop Buster Posey. Posey put up an OPS of over 1.000 in April, and the Florida State alum really looks the part. For a RH his swing is very smooth, and though he went 1 for 4 and 0 for 4 on the 2 days I was there, he made up for an off day at the plate by nailing a runner going to 2b on a steal attempt on day 1, and making a perfect throw on day 2 that was alligator-armed by the SS. Every throw down to 2b looked smooth and easy, no effort at all, but the ball arrived with plenty of zip. I can see him as a 2eX -2 or -3 type C, and most reports put his power in the 18-20 HR range, with a very high BA and OBP. I saw nothing to discourage that opinion. He’ll be ready for prime time very soon, a RH version of Joe Mauer, and like Mauer also a multi-sport star in HS. High ceiling but also a pretty high probability of reaching that ceiling.

The Cowboy
Providing lineup protection for Posey in the San Jose order I was surprised to find Wichita State product Conor Gillaspie. Wasn’t hard to know when he was batting though – the intro song he chose is pure Country, some cowboy song whose name I’m sure I should know but have no clue about, an affectation stemming from his alma mater no doubt. But what was interesting was to see him batting 5th when original reports on him had him as a high-average, moderate-power, use-all-fields type of hitter, a #2 guy. I heard David Bell or Bill Mueller comparisons when he was drafted, and thought “Ok, Giants can do worse”. That said, he’s a pure LH, not a SW like Mueller, and the swing & body type I saw (listed at 6’1”, 200) project to more power than I remember those two guys having. In one AB Gillaspie went down the 3B line for an IF single, showing a good ability to go with a pitch on the outside and decent speed (he forced an error on the play), and followed that up with a long RBI double off the wall in straightaway CF. In San Jose the CF sign is at 390 feet, and it was a rainy day with a breeze blowing in at 10 mph & knocking balls down. I think in most ML parks that ball has a good chance to go for a HR, and he hit it well but didn’t quite get all of it. He hit almost exactly the same ball into a much stronger wind on Day 2 of my visit and it died at the track in front of the 390 sign. From what I saw it was crushed, better contact than the double on Day 1, just hit to the wrong place at the wrong time. He has no HRs to date this year, but the park in San Jose was really favoring pitchers on this homestand. I think we’ll see a 2-range 3B with 15-20 HR power there and a chance for more if he fills out & if he learns what pitches he should pull vs. staying back on and driving to LF/CF.

The Kid
After Posey, the hitter who gets the most attention on this team is teenage 1B Angel Villalona. One look at him will tell you why he got moved off 3B. He’s huge in the midsection, from chest/belly through thighs, a miniature (and RH) version of Boog Powell, as the calves seem small by comparison. He competes well for an 18-year old in high A, and was never close to being overpowered at the plate, but like many young Latino hitters with power, it doesn’t seem plate discipline has been a part of his baseball upbringing. He’s athletic enough to stay in the field for the bulk of his career, but projects to average range at best. The power that should come will be substantial. Lots of torque in the swing, and he has the natural hand-eye coordination to make pitchers pay for mistakes.

The Longshot
Brandon Crawford was pretty much a no-name when it came to prospect reports. That is, until he played in April. Putting up an OPS of 1.053 in your 1st month of pro ball will get you noticed. The UCLA product plays SS and stands 6’1”, and hits from the left side. The knock on him is that’s he’ll swing at anything, but as long as he hits it, who are we to criticize? He got 2 hits each day I saw him, and the glove was not bad to the 2B side, though I didn’t see him tested by any balls deep in the SS/3B hole. He did short-arm the throw in to the bag from Posey that I mentioned above, but he’s a guy to keep your eye on.

The Sleeper
2B Nick Noonan got on some radar screens as a 1st round pick in the 2007 draft, but had a quiet first full year in the pros in low-A. This season in high-A he continues to build his resume. He has good speed and baserunning ability, and combines those with good bat control though less than ideal OBP so far. He looks like a #7-8 hitter in the bigs, can play SS as well as 2B, and could also eventually see some PT in the outfield. However, if the plate discipline develops, we could see a reasonable top-of-the order bat here. He should be an average to above-average defender at 2B as well.

The Nephew
Some of you may remember the occasional 2-way card, where a pitcher is used as position player on occasion, enough to receive a rating in the field. The last such guy was Brooks Kieschnick, if memory serves. Well, meet his nephew Roger. Roger is a 6’ 3” OF with a bit of power potential. He’s athletic and a decent runner, but still best suited for corner OF. His OPS is .823 so far in his 1st pro season out of Texas Tech, and he’s not young for A ball at 22, but with 3 HRs in the early going, a good summer and continued production could put him on the list for a tryout at the pro level late this year or maybe a 2010 spring training invite. He reminds me of a Travis Buck type and is likely headed for a platoon/4th OF role at the ML level unless the power really ramps up.

Right now I am just hoping the Giants decide to keep this crew together another couple of months. There is no better value in the game today than $10 or $15 to see a group of youngsters with this much promise. Great beer selection too! I definitely recommend any of the BRASS SoCal contingent to go see these guys when they're in town.