We’ve looked at Augusta (A) San Jose (A+) and Connecticut (AA) so far in our farm review. The earlier levels are filled with prospects who could one day reach the Giants and make an impact. Does Fresno have the same kind of prospects? Not so much. Most AAA teams these days are filled with journeymen and other players who are hoping to make it back to the big leagues. Failed prospects, flameouts, guys who got injured, etc. Teams rarely keep their legitimate prospects in AAA for any extended period of time. In ’07 the average age of a player in the PCL was 27-years-old. If you checked the top 10 hitters in the PCL this year — when ranking by OPS — you would find names like Dallas McPherson, Val Pascucci, Nelson Cruz, and Terry Tiffee. All of these players are in their mid-to-late 20′s and aren’t really considered prospects anymore.
So, don’t expect to find prospects that will anchor your team for the next decade but you might find some pieces that can fill gaps. Let’s check out what the Giants have going on in Fresno.
RF Nate Schierholtz – Nate is one of the most dividing Giants prospects. We can call him a prospect because despite playing in AAA, he’s only 24-years-old. Nate tends to divide people because of his plate approach. He gets good plate coverage and has the ability to make contact all over the zone but his lack of discipline could be a problem. In ’07 he walked just 17 times in 441 PA’s in Fresno. That’s a BB% of 4.5%, which is quite low. He grabbed 117 major league PA’s with the Giants in ’07 and he only walked twice. That’s a BB% of 1.7% which is really, really low. For example, Bengie Molina has a career BB% of 4.1% and he never walks. He’s physically strong but during game time, his power seems to border on a tick above average. He’s never hit more than 16 HR’s at any level. You usually want more firepower from your RF. During his time in the majors in ’07 he hit for high average (.304) but not much else. He was essentially a singles hitter with a double or triple occasionally sprinkled in.
On the other hand, Nate has raised his BB% to 6.3% — a career high — this year in AAA. He’ll never walk 50 times in a season but if he could be more selective at the plate his power might play better. Most scouting reports have Schierholtz as a solid defender in RF with a strong throwing arm. Schierholtz is also a good runner for his size and will surprise you with the occasional triple. He’s done a good job of reducing his strikeouts at each level that he’s played. I think the best case scenario for Nate is a Garret Anderson player type. A hitter that walks at most around 30 times a year but makes good contact, hits 30 doubles, and 15-20 HR’s all while playing a solid RF. Even though I’ve got some questions about Nate I’d love to see him play RF if Randy Winn is traded. The Giants need to find out what Nate can do at the MLB level and if they can move Randy Winn at the deadline, I think they’ll find out.
1B Scott McClain – Yeah, he’s old. But he hits laser-rocket-bombs! Even if you don’t like Scott McClain, you’ve got to admire him just a little bit. He’s a 13-year career (mostly) minorleaguer. Over those 13 years he’s hit (.270/.355/.478) with 270 home runs. He even played four seasons for the Seibu Lions in Japan. In ’07 he hit (.267/.349/.517) in Fresno with 31 home runs. This year he’s hit (.286/.362/.487) with 12 home runs. Because he’s 36-years-old he has no room left to grow, but man, was I on the McClain bandwagon last year. After watching Aurilia and Klesko struggle to produce from the 1B position, I was ready for some McClain. He did get called up but barely played and only got 11 AB’s. I’d love to see McClain get 500 AB’s in the majors to see what he could do. He might kill some German terrorists and that’s always awesome.
IF/OF Eugenio Velez – It’s everyone’s favorite speedster with bad defense and mental lapses, Eugenio Velez! The only thing more painful than watching the 2008 Giants was watching Eugenio get picked off, drop pop-ups, and perform a variety of other bonehead plays that would make Tom Emanski spin in his grave. He’s very fast but he looked overmatched at the major league level during his brief trail run earlier this year. The Giants mercifully sent him back to AAA and he’s done well. Since his demotion, Velez has hit (.312/.363/.488) in 125 AB’s. The first thing that jumps out at me about Velez’s slash-stats is that he’s slugging .488 in the PCL. If you ever needed proof that hitting in AAA isn’t the same as hitting in the majors, that might be it. He’s already 26-years-old and we might not ever see Velez in the majors for an extended period again. I think he’ll get a callup when rosters expand but barring an injury, I’m not expecting him to get major playing time with the Giants anytime soon. Godspeed Eugenio, godspeed. Those 121 AB’s you got with the Giants were thrilling.
SS Brian Bocock – Our sacrificial lamb. Bocock was called to the majors this year after barely hitting in the California League in ’07. He struggled to hit in the majors, which was expected, but it was really ugly. He hit just (.143/.258/.156) in 73 AB’s with the Giants. You rarely see a guys batting average almost as high as his slugging percentage. Instead of sending Bocock back to San Jose, or even Connecticut, the Giants sent him to AAA Fresno. He’s failed to hit in AAA as well, hitting just (.163/.254/.187) in a line that’s eerily similar to what he did in the majors. His glove is still top-notch but he’s hitting like a deadball shortstop and that’s not so good in the year twenty aught eight.
Maybe Bocock should dress like this?
Brian Bocock playing a splendid game of rounders!
LHP Eugene Espineli – Careful with that axe, Eugene. Espineli has the coolest name on the Fresno roster, hands down. I have no idea what Espineli throws but he’s been having a decent year in AAA and at 25-years-old, he’s not ancient. He’s also a lefty and these guys always seem to be able to get work somewhere. He was drafted in the 14th round of the 2004 draft out of the Texas Christian University. This year in AAA he’s posting a K% of 21.8%, a BB% of 3.5%, and a modest GB% of 56%. He’s been tough on LHB’s who are OPS’ing just .396 against him. He could profile as a LOOGY-type reliever but with Taschner and Hinshaw, both lefties, already with the Giants, Eugene might stay in AAA for awhile. Still, not a bad backup option for some left-handed relief.
LHP Patrick Misch – I still like Misch even if he hit some speed bumps in the majors. He was super unlucky, giving up 10 HR’s in just 47 innings pitched. That’s a HR/F percentage of 23%. League average tends to be between 10-12%. In fact, most of Misch’s underlying peripherals were OK. Struck out 6.5 per game and walked 2.88 per game. Those aren’t bad stats at all from your 5th rotation spot and still better than what Zito has been giving us. He’s thrown just 34.1 innings in AAA since he went back down to the minors and he’s gotten knocked around a little, but I still like his arm. Either in a 5th starter role or a reliever.
Fresno isn’t stocked with talent but they do have some players that you might see on the Giants at some point in this year. Hopefully we’ll see Nate in the 2nd half of the season after Randy Winn is shipped off to the Braves from a prospect or two (oh-please-oh-please-oh-please). I doubt we’ll ever see McClain in a Giants uniform at the big league level. Possibly when rosters expand.
Velez and Bocock? Meh. I’m not really banking on either at this point. Velez is getting old and still really doesn’t have a position to play. Bocock has a position to play but he’s hitting terribly. If I had to choose between the two, I’ll take Bocock for now. He’s younger and might eventually figure out how to scrap by as a defensive specialist with a .250 batting average.
Our two lefties of Misch and Geno could get into the bullpen at some point in this season if we trade away any of the following: Taschner, Chulk, or Walker.
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I’m adding a new weekly section to this site that I’ll randomly add to posts called “The Worst Bochy Quote of the Week” in which I’ll post the most absurd Bruce Bochy Quote I can find. This weeks’ WBQOTW is:
“He’s got power. He’s an intriguing player,” Bochy said. “He runs fairly well. I think he has the tools to be an everyday player. Now, that’s up to him. I think he’s improved his work ethic since he’s been here. I think he sees this as a great opportunity.”
Could Castillo be a long-term solution at third base?
“He has shown how talented he could be if he plays every day,” Bochy said. “I’d like to see what he’s done at the end of the year.”
My god. Bruce Bochy thinks Jose Castillo is “intriguing”.