I was going to write a post today about how Jose Castillo is awful or that our infield defense is still pretty bad or that Ray Durham has the range of a beached whale but I said screw it. We all know that the 2008 Giants season, or the year that speed and defense ran wild, is going to have more negatives than positives at the major league level. Watching a team with defensive issues that can’t score runs isn’t anyones first choice for exciting baseball.
Headlines have alternated between ‘Giants lose another tough one’ and ‘When will Rich Aurilia pass his kidney stone?’. Clearly if any season has ever existed for us to look at other places for encouragement, this is the one
That’s why I’ve been addicted to reading minor league box scores so much this year. I’ve always had a great interest in the farm system — or lack of — but this year I’ve found myself checking minor league box scores before the big club’s box scores. Strange that I’d rather read about anyone with a slight chance of upside than looking at Castillo’s latest o-’fer.
Load up the van, we’re taking a road trip through the Giants minor league system! Use the bathroom, buckle up, and let’s find some signs of encouragement!
Today we’ll make our first stop at the Augusta Greenjackets. The Greenjackets are one of the more exciting minor league teams in the Giants system because of the high number of draft picks in ’07 and the ever-popular Angel Villalona. The Greenjackets are currently 33-23 and only 6.5 games out of first place in the South Atlantic League.
Here are some players that I’ve been keeping an eye on and so should you.
Augusta Green Jackets (A)
1B Angel Villalona – Mr. Villalona is the top prospect in the Giants organization. The kid from the Dominican Republic won’t turn 18 until August and his bat holds unrivaled potential among minor leaguers. His plate approach could use some work — 12 walks to 47 strikeouts — but when you consider his age, you’ve got a lot to like. His power potential is still enormous and he’s shown flashes of brilliance already this year. The Giants can move Angel along slowly and he could still make it to the majors by his early 20′s.
LHP Madison Bumgarner – Not only is the left-handed Bumgarner one of the youngest pitchers in the South Atlantic League, he’s been one of the best. The 10th overall pick of the 2007 draft has been phenomenal in his first pro-season. He’s striking out 28.2% of hitters faced and only walking 4.3%. That’s good for a K/BB ratio of 6.56, meaning that for every 6.5 K’s, Bumgarner walks 1 hitter. That’s an excellent ratio that puts him 7th in the SAL for K/BB among starters. Other things to like about Bumgarner is that when hitters do make contact, it’s been predominately on the ground — a GB% of 52. Add in reports that he’s been making progress with his breaking pitch — a slurvy breaking ball — and showing some promise with a changeup and you’ve got tons of encouragement. Bumgarner is making a run as a top prospect in the Giants system.
2B Nick Noonan – The ’07 draft injected a lot of talent into the lower portion of the Giants minor league system. Noonan was picked by the Giants 32nd overall in the 1st round of that draft. The prep shortstop held his own in the AZL in ’07 with a line of (.316/.357/.451). He started this year in the SAL and has had mixed results. His line of (.273/.298/.411) has shown that Noonan is still a young player — only 19 — with some kinks to work out in his game. He came out of high school as a very polished player. Scouts loved his makeup and hitting approach and he even got some comparisons to Chase Utley, albeit with less power potential. Noonan has moved off shortstop and is now playing 2B full time. He isn’t walking much — just 6 walks in 209 AB’s — but his upside is still very high. He fits the mold of an offensive minded 2B with some speed. Noonan has plenty of time to mature as a player and hopefully we’ll see him make some progress as the season unfolds.
RHP Daniel Otero – My obscure pick for this level. Otero was drafted in ’07 in the 21st round out of the University of Southern Florida. He racked up 19 saves for the Volcanoes that year in 22.1 innings pitched. Most everything I’ve read about Otero, stuff-wise, indicates that he’s got a fringey fastball and a slider that he uses as a chase pitch. What Otero does have is great control. He’s yet to walk a hitter this year with the Greenjackets in 22.1 innings pitched. In 44.2 career innings pitched he’s only walked 2 hitters. So far as the Greenjackets closer, Otero has collected 14 saves. He’s getting some swing-throughs with a K% at 24.4% and he’s kept the ball on the ground with a GB% of 69%. Because of Otero’s fringey stuff, he’ll have to prove himself every step of the way — similar to Sergio Romo or Adam Cowart — but the early results look great.
That’s it for today’s Farm Review. Tomorrow we’ll be heading across the country to San Jose to check out the San Jose Giants. See you then.
Comment Starter: Got a personal favorite Greenjacket? Let’s hear it.