Gary Brown isn’t ready

This Giants team is a mess. That much is obvious. They’re 11-24 since June 1st, nine games under .500 and 6.5 games out of first in the NL West. They’ve been hurt by injuries and ineffectiveness. The pitching has actually rebounded from a dreadful start to be somewhat respectable, but they can’t hit at all.

The outfield has been of particular concern. The outlook is bleak for Pagan  returning this season, and the team has had to plug that hole by playing Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres a lot more than they’d like, particularly Torres. Now, Torres is a hero in SF, and rightfully so, after his 2010 season, but this year he looks…well, he looks like a 35-year-old. He can’t hit righties at all (.571 OPS this year), and he’s looked shaky on defense. To help Torres out, the following players have constituted a sort of revolving door of fifth outfielders: Francisco Peguero, Juan Perez, Cole Gillespie, and now Kensuke Tanaka. In addition, the team signed Jeff Francoeur and assigned him to Fresno; he’ll be up within the week.

The purpose of this post isn’t to talk about the various pluses and minuses of the players named above, nor is it to propose a solution to the left field problem. It is to make a simple point: Gary Brown is not the answer. Gary Brown is not ready.

I’ve seen some rumblings around the internet that the Giants should call up “top prospect” Gary Brown to be the next option, either in left or in center (pushing Blanco to left). This is a bad idea. Gary Brown is, right now, not a viable option for playing time in San Francisco.

There are two big reasons for this: one, Gary Brown isn’t that good right now, and two, Gary Brown is still a prospect.

First, Gary Brown has had an up-and-down year in AAA. His April was dreadful (.535 OPS) and his May, while better, was still pretty bad (.692 OPS). Sometime in early June Brown sat down with Fresno hitting coach Russ Morman and Giants’ coordinator of minor league instruction Shane Turner, and whatever they talked about worked. He’s hit .285/.335/.536 in 164 PA since June 1st. 8 of his 11 home runs this year have come since the start of June. These are all good things. That being said he has a 38-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio since June 1st, and a 91-to-23 ratio overall this season. He’s striking out a lot – even when he’s hitting the ball well – and he’d certainly continue to do that in SF.

He also isn’t hitting righties. This year he’s .240/.298/.409 against them, and for his career he hasn’t been much better. Torres also isn’t hitting righties – making a Torres/Brown platoon rather ineffective – and this is the sort of thing he should work on in Fresno.

It’s worth pointing out as well that all of the players I mentioned above , the cast of characters that have paraded in and out of the fifth-outfield spot, has performed better in Fresno than Brown. Brown’s .723 OPS in Fresno is lower than Tanaka’s (.786), Gillespie’s (.816), Perez’s (.838), and Peguero’s (.762), as well as Roger Kieschnick’s (.816) who may also get a shot sometime between now and September.

Which leads me to my second point: Gary Brown is still a prospect. Sure, the prospect sheen of 2012, when he was Baseball America’s #38 overall prospect, has faded, but he’s still a 24-year-old in his third professional season. He’s a developing player who still has a lot of developing to go. Developing doesn’t happen at the end of the bench in San Francisco, it happens by getting four or five plate appearances per day in Fresno.

About That Bullpen

You were probably watching the game. On Monday night, Madison Bumgarner threw a gem: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K. The only real mistake he made was giving up a home run to world-beater Yasiel Puig in the first inning. He had thrown 107 pitches. Despite 8 hits and 4 walks off the Dodgers’ starter, Hyun-jin Ryu, the Giants had only managed to score one run, and so the game was tied at one apiece. In the top of the eighth, the Giants went down in order, and the game proceeded to the bottom of the eighth.

And Madison Bumgarner came out to pitch in the bottom of the eighth.

Why? Why would Bruce Bochy do this? Bringing in a reliever to start the eighth, rather than waiting to see if/when MadBum got in trouble, was the obvious move even as it was happening. While 107 pitches isn’t an extraordinary amount, it’s not like Bumgarner had been truly cruising. In the bottom of the seventh The Dodgers coming up to bat were Nick Punto (switch-hitter), Mark Ellis (righty), and Yasiel Puig (righty). Bringing in George Kontos to start the innings seems like it would have been a much better decision than waiting to bring him in until there were runners on first and third with none out, as would eventually be the case. Continue reading

Catching Up With The Minors – The Halfway Point

Full-season minor league teams play about 140 games each season, and the teams just passed the halfway point – 70 games – last week, so I thought it’d be good to check in with each team and see how the season is going, both in terms of wins and losses and player development. We’re only talking full-season affiliates here, so short season Salem-Keizer and rookie-level Arizona won’t be discussed.

All stats and records through Sunday, June 24th. Continue reading

Kyle Crick returns from the disabled list

On Friday night, San Jose Giants starter Kyle Crick made his first start after nearly two months on the disabled list.

Kyle Crick pitches against the Stockton Ports. (Jen Mac Ramos)

Kyle Crick pitches against the Stockton Ports. (Jen Mac Ramos)

Though his pitch count was limited, he struck out 10 in four innings of work, walking three and only giving up three hits.

“It felt good,” Crick said of his outing. “Had a good command for the zone.”

Crick’s last start before his stint on the DL was Apr. 18 before being sidelined with an oblique injury.

After his Jun. 21 start, Crick said that his oblique was okay and that his arm was fresh.

The radar gun at Banner Island Ballpark had read his fastball velocity touching the mid-90s at times, with his curveball being at around 78 MPH.

“I felt it was on,” Crick said. “I had it down in the zone, didn’t leave too many up. As long as I can do that, I can get some people out.”

Though his first start back was a success, improvement doesn’t stop there for the top prospect. Crick said he feels that he can always get better with his pitches, namely a changeup he has been working on since last year. Continue reading

Edwin Escobar the All-Star

For San Jose Giants lefty Edwin Escobar, the chance to represent the team as they host the annual California-Carolina League All-Star Game was a good feeling for him.

“It’s a blessing for me,” Escobar said.

The Giants, coming off a series split in Visalia, where they clinched the first half division championship, are ensured a spot in the California League playoffs this September.

“I feel like we deserve that,” Escobar said. “We came here every day working hard trying to do the best we can competing for the championship.”

Escobar said that the team has been working hard in the first half and hopes that it transposes to the second half.

“It’s a good feeling,” Escobar said. “We’ve got a great team, a good family team. We compete, we’re working hard. I feel pretty good representing this team.”

With the All-Star Break in its tail end and the second half about to start, the Giants are regaining their energy by resting before the next series.

“I think we’re gonna do the best we can,” Escobar said.

San Jose Giants clinch First Half Division Championship

San Jose clinches. (Jen Mac Ramos)

San Jose clinches. (Jen Mac Ramos)

San Jose Giants at Visalia Rawhide started out with an Eric Surkamp rehab start.

I’m trying to think of more things to say about Surkamp’s start, but it was hard to really focus when you’re sitting behind home plate in the first row of the grandstand level, right where there’s a walkway and people wouldn’t sit down. I could tell that Surkamp will still need some more time rehabbing, since his 3 1/3 innings of work is the longest he’s gone since returning to pitching.

In terms of control and velocity? I can’t tell you a thing. I couldn’t see a radar anywhere in the ballpark — unless I were to look at the radar guns that were being used for charting pitches — so that, in itself, was kinda tough.

The San Jose Giants eventually got the win in 10 innings, when Visalia’s Sean Jamieson couldn’t get a grounder that took a bad hop, allowing Chris Lofton to score. All-Star Josh Osich closed the game out, ensuring the first-half division championship for the Giants.

And I do not want to hear another cowbell again.

Tales From a Giant: Ty Blach

Ty Blach, the San Francisco Giants’ fifth round pick in 2012, kicked off his first full year in pro ball with the San Jose Giants, San Francisco’s high-A affiliate. The strike-throwing lefty has been experiencing success, posting a 2.73 ERA and 2.21 FIP in nine games started.

In 52.2 innings pitched, Blach has struck out 48 and only given up five walks. Having good control and throwing strikes has been a key to his success.

“One of the things I always pride myself on is throwing a lot of strikes and getting ahead of hitters,” Blach said. “It just comes from executing strike one and executing every pitch one at a time.”

Blach tries not to get ahead of himself and believes that as long as he throws the strikes, the outs will come. Continue reading

2013 MLB Draft Preview – the Hitters

A little while back I previewed some of the pitchers the Giants might be targeting in this year’s amateur draft. Now I’d like to look at some of the hitters.

It’s interesting to note that, since John Barr took over as scouting director five years ago, the Giants have drafted exactly one high school position player in the top 5 rounds — Tommy Joseph in second round in 2009. Past draft preference doesn’t necessarily inform future draft strategy, but I think it’s an interesting note. In general, it seems like the Giants are more comfortable to pick from hitters that have gone through the crucible of college, but don’t show as much of that bias when evaluating pitchers. Continue reading

Kickham To Make Big League Debut in Tuesday Start

Per the Giants’ official Twitter and the usual assortment of media folks, lefty Mike Kickham has been tapped to take over the vacated rotation spot left by Ryan Vogelsong’s injury. Kickham, who has been with Fresno so far this season, will join the team on Monday and will make his first start against the Jarrod Parker led A’s on Tuesday evening. A corresponding roster move has not yet been announced.

Kickham, a 2010 sixth round pick, is another “country strong” lefty that the Giants have tended to favor. While not a hugely overpowering pitcher, he does have average to above-average velocity with a low 90s fastball, as well as a slider that was ranked as the best in the organization by Baseball America.

Anyone who knows me knows that I was on board as soon as somebody said slider. Hopefully I’m proven right.