The Giants have announced 15 players who got the invite for spring training. Non-roster invites are usually a mix of long-shot players who’ve either played in the minors forever or have had injuries that have delayed their careers and younger rookies hoping to break camp with the big club. Let’s take a look at the invites.
1. Bartolome Fortunato – The “other guy” in the Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade. Fortunato was a Devil Rays prospect before becoming part of the package heading to the Mets with Zambrano in the ill-fated trade for Scott Kazmir. He’s only pitched 29 innings in the majors but has compiled 338.1 innings in the minors. His career K/9 in the minor leagues is 10.28 which is a little intriguing.
Here’s what BA said about Fortunato all the way back in 2004 after the Kazmir trade.
Fortunato, 29, signed as an outfielder out of the Dominican in 1996. Though he has a 93-94 mph fastball and has served as the closer at Triple-A Durham this year, he wasn’t considered one of the Rays’ top prospects. Fortunato was 4-3, 2.42 with nine saves in 34 games, with a 51-21 K-BB ratio in 45 innings. International League hitters were batting just .175 with four homers against him. In 157 minor league games, he has a career record of 27-20, 3.57.
The low-90′s velocity seems to mesh well with his strikeout numbers in the minors. He was out of baseball for all of 2007 after Tommy John surgery and he’ll be 33 coming into the 2008 season. According to the Giants main website, he pitched 13.1 scoreless innings in the Dominican Winter League. He could make his way to San Francisco at some point in the 2008 season but I’d expect him to start the year in Fresno. The bullpen is just too crowded right now and I’d rank several people in front of him on the depth chart. He’s probably the most interesting reliever out of the NRI guys, though. If he regained some of the zip on his fastall he could be useful.
2. Victor Santos – Santos has the most experience out of the NRI group but that’s about all I can say. He’s pitched with Detroit, Colorado, Texas, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cincinnati. He sports a career major league ERA of 5.21 in 602.1 innings pitched. If he somehow miraciously makes the team, he’ll probably never leave a mop-up role. He’s been entirely too hittable during his MLB time. Think a right-handed Wayne Franklin.
3. Keiichi Yabu – Japanese pitchers are supposed to be good, right? Yabu pitched 11 seasons in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers and did well enough before finally making his appearance state-side in 2005 with the Athletics. In ’05, he pitched 58 innings of 4.50-ERA-ball. Yabu is another longshot, his Japanese peripherals aren’t very impressive and he didn’t really blow anyone away in ’05. He’ll be 39 years old and looking for another chance to pitch in the majors. Mark this one doubtful.
4. Steve Holm – The 27-year-old AA catcher played his entire 2007 in Connecticut for the Norwich Defenders. According to the Giants main page he earned Eastern League All-Star honors for his season in which he hit (.272/.387/.433). I love the high OBP and modest power in the Eastern League, which has been notoriously hard on hitters, but Holm has little chance of making the team as a backup with Eliezer and G-Rod in front of him. He’ll probably start the year in Fresno and stay there.
5. Pablo Sandoval – Is he a catcher or isn’t he? Sandoval, who’s still very young at 20-years-old, has already been moved around some defensively in his young career. In 2006 the Giants moved him off of catcher the third base in an attempt to “jump start his bat”. In 2007 he was back at catcher and split duties with Adam Witter. His final line in ’07 in A+ ball is encouraging, especially the bump in power (.287/.312/.476) even if it was in the Cal League. He should be heading to AA in ’08.
6. Jackson Williams – A draft choice from the 2007 draft, Williams has already earned a reputation for his defense behind the plate but the Oklahoma product has questions about how much he’ll hit. His catch and throw times are supposed to be insane and if he ever makes it to the majors, it’ll be on the strength of his defense.
7. Manny Burris – Very speedy — stole 68 bases between A and A+ ball — but Burris still has some questions about how his bat will play. The jackrabbit shortstop performed terribly to start the year in A+ ball and was demoted to A-ball. Once he went back a level, he did much better, hitting for a high batting average and playing a sound defensive shortstop. Burris will hardly ever hit for power — he has 1 career minor league HR — but if he can keep making progress like he did once he moved back a level, he could have some major league value. He’s still 2-3 years away from the big leagues so don’t expect him in San Fran any time soon. His 2008 will play a huge role on how fast he heads towards the majors, if he struggles again it could be a bad sign but if he rebounds in A+ ball it should only help his prospect status.
8. Brian Bocock – He’s a little like Burris in the fact that he’s a strong defensive shortstop, maybe even a tad better than Burris with the glove. Baseball America seemed to think so when they rated him the best defensive infielder and best infield arm in the Giants farm system this year. Unfortunately, he shares Burris’s same weak bat, he hit enough in A-ball for a defensive specialist (.292/.354/.379) but bottomed out once he moved up the ladder to San Jose, where he hit (.220/.293/.328). He’s fast but nowhere near as fast as Burris. He’s also a good bit away from the majors and time will tell if he’ll ever hit enough to be useful. I saw him play at the Futures Game this year in San Fran and he’s every bit as slick with the glove as advertised, if he could just hit a little more.
9. Brett Harper – The lefty slugging first baseman is the son of former major leaguer and current Giants roving catcher instructor, Brian Harper. He was drafted in the 45th round in 2001 by the Mets and has since played parts of 7 seasons in the minors. It’s probably not good news that he’s never made it past AA but his 2007 season wasn’t too shabby. In ’07 he hit (.296/.350/.500) as a 25-year-old in the Eastern League. He also hit 25 2B’s and 24 HR’s in ’07. He missed most of 2006 with an injury but he could be a sleeper for first base with the Giants if he really impresses in Spring Training. It’ll be a long shot but 1B is a weak position for the Giants.
10. Justin Leone – Leone can mostly play 3B/OF but he logged a game or two at SS/2B/1B in 2007 with Fresno. Leone is a guy that I’ve been rooting for to make an appearance with the Giants after his ’07 season in which he hit (.269/.383/.498). Sure, those stats might be a little pumped up by playing in the PCL but I like the OBP and power — he hit 30 2B’s 4 3B’s 20 HR’s and stole 26 bags–, even if it takes a dip in the majors. Leone will be 31 for the 2008 season and has to be considered a longshot for the 3B position. I don’t think the Giants thought much about Leone because they never even called him up last year. He would be a great utility man on a better team and he could be considered a sleeper candiate for 3B with the Giants depending on who gets signed between now and Spring Training.
11. Scott McClain – Boy, I’d love to see McClain get platooned at first base for the Giants. He’s got legitimate power but he’ll K a lot. The 18-year minor league veteran hit 31 HR’s last year for the Grizzlies and absolutely destroyed LHP to the tune of (.280/.397/.544). I think he would be a pretty good platoon option at first base for the Giants but I’m doubtful that they’ll take him very seriously. He got a brief cup of coffee in ’07 but hardly earned any playing time. Give him a shot already!
12. Ivan Ochoa – More of the same, lots of glove, little bat. Ochoa’s minor league career of (.246/.330/.307) is going to make it really hard for any team to carry him, even the Giants. He’ll end up back in Fresno for most of the year and shouldn’t make it to the Giants.
13. Ben Copeland – He’s got doubles power and a good batting eye — he drew 70 walks against 77 K’s in A+ ball — but still has a long way to go. The Giants have more outfielders than you can shake a stick at so it’s doubtful that Copeland will be on the team any time soon. I’d rank several minor league outfielders ahead of him and he’ll have to continue to prove himself at each level to make it. In a perfect world, he’ll end up as a 4th OF that can play all three OF positions. LHP absolutely kill him — he hit (.156/.233/.189) against them in ’07 –, he’ll have trouble reaching the majors until he can handle southpaws.
14. Brian Horwitz – Horwitz has always been able to make contact — career batting average of .326 over 4 minor league seasons — but that contact comes without much punch. Over those 4 seasons, he’s only hit 11 HR’s. He would probably make an awesome pinch-hitter but the Giants have bigger fish to fry. I’d love to see him get a chance someday but the odds are stacked against him.
15. Michael McBryde – Super atheltic, speedy, and a fine defensive centefielder, McBryde hasn’t matched on-field performance with his impressive tools. His speed is supposed to be outstanding, I’ve read that he’s even faster than Burris. He’s also got a strong throwing arm and I’ve heard that if he doesn’t hit, he could be headed to the mound someday as a last ditch effort to tap into some of his athletic talents.
There you have it, a pretty good selection of younger guys and older players still looking for their chance. If I had to guess who might make the team out of Spring Training out of the 15 players listed, I’d probably guess that maybe someone like Harper, Leone, or McClain might squeak their way onto the roster because of obvious positional needs that these players can fill.
According to Rotoworld, Chris Shelton was DFA’d by the Rangers today in order to make space on their 40-man roster. You might remember Shelton from his 2006 in which he went crazy in April and slugged 10 HR’s in just 25 games for the Detroit Tigers. Shelton, as they say, peaked too early and struggled the rest of the year, never topping 4 HR’s in a month. He was tragically left off the Tigers playoff roster that year in favor of a broken-down Sean Casey. Such is life of the baseball player.
Shelton didn’t break camp in ’07 with the team and was sent back to Toledo where he scuffled some, only hitting (.269/.381/.420). That line doesn’t look terrible but consider his minor league career line of (.311/.410/.500) and you can see that Shelton was a little bit off. I imagine that going from big league slugger back to riding the bus in Toledo must have been a hard blow to take. Shelton was obviously crushed about the demotion. He did not appear in a major league game in ’07.
In December he was traded to the Rangers for Freddy Guzman. The Rangers didn’t keep him long, opting to DFA him today, which means that the Rangers have 10-days to either trade him to another team or release him.
Here’s why I would like to see the Giants make a play for Chris Shelton.
1. Perfect Platoonmate – Chris Shelton is the perfect platoonmate. He has always mashed RHP but struggles some against LHP. For his career, he’s hit (.286/.342/.498) when batting against righties. Thats terrific production. The sample size isn’t huge, it’s over 643 PA’s, or about 1-full season of baseball but it lets us know that when Shelton is hitting against RHP, he’s hitting them well. I think if you paired him with somone who hits LHP well, like oh say, McClain, the Giants might be able to get some solid production out of 1B since JT Snow’s bizzare 2004. He’s a RHH so Mays Field shouldn’t supress his power and he’s got a good bit of power.
2. Low Cost - To land Shelton, the Giants would probably send back a low-level prospect, probably even a scrub-prospect would do. With the Rangers DFA’ing Shelton before Spring Training, his value is at an all-time low. The Giants could probably pick him up for someone like Chad Santos, Clay Timpner, or Travis Ishikawa, just to throw some names out there. Or, if the Rangers want an arm, the Giants have several lower-level arms that they could move to Texas. Guys like Brooks McNiven, Matt Palmer, or Chris Begg might do.
3. What’s to Lose? - Taking a chance on Shelton is a low-cost potential high-upside reward. I know the point has been bludgeoned to death, but Carlos Pena was the same type of player, essentially free to have with modest upside. He turned out pretty well for the Rays. I’m not saying that Pena and Shelton are of the same caliber, Pena has done better, but that they have been similar situations. Does trading a C+ prospect to see what Shelton can do make sense? Yes. It makes a lot of sense, especially for the Giants who aren’t going to contend in ’08. The team can take a few fliers like Shelton — and maybe a Morgan Ensberg — to see what they can find.
I would love to see a McClain/Shelton platoon at first base in 2008. The production has a chance to be good and if that doesn’t sell you enough, it should warm the cockles of your heart to see a career minor league journeyman get a real shot at the majors and a guy with a lot of talent who was left for dead. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I could care less about such things but even I would have to admit that it would be a little cool.