Time for Rookie League ball to begin, folks!!! For the Giantsthat means the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in the Northwest League and the AZL Giants in the Arizona Rookie League.
S-K kicks off it's season in 2 days (Friday 6/18) with a home game against Everett.
AZL Giants kick off it's season in 6 days (Tuesday 6/22)with a road game aganst the rookie A's.
I'm excited about seeing which of last year's players make it on which rosters, and which of the recent 2010 draftees they have signed and assigned to a team. I doubt that Gary Brownwill sign much before the August 17th deadline, due to the fact that he's a Boras client, but I would be surprised if our early round picks like Jarrett Parker, Carter Jurica, Seth Rosin, Heath Hembree, and Chris Lofton aren't signed and playing some time in the coming week. Hopefully, we also get our two high-upside HS kids, Chuckie Jonesand Brandon Allen, signed and in the fold soon.
Here are the players from last year's rookie league teams (that haven't already been promoted to full-season ball) that I'm looking forward to following this year:
Matt Graham: RHP (6'4", 220) DOB=5/1/90
Graham hasn't pitched in a real game since last spring (2009). He was rated at, or near, the top of his HS class back in the Fall of 2008, when he was throwing his FB up to 96 mph, and consistently sitting at 91-92. At the time he had a working slider, and fringe-average command and control. However, when he returned to the field in the spring of 2009 for his senior HS season his mechanics were a mess. He couldn't repeat his delivery, his control was shot, he was consistently wild, and there were games where he couldn't get his FB above 90 mph. Because of that, and because of his reported strong commitment to his UNC baseball scholarship, he fell from a projected top-20 pick in Feb. 2009 all the way to the 6th rd. (#177 overall). The Giants officially announced his signing at the deadline last Aug. for $500K, and he's been working on his mechanics off-and-on ever since, down in AZ at the Giants' minor league camp. Below are 2 links to videos and scouting reports on him. The first thing that should jump out at you is that he's a big boy - he already had a man's body when he was just 3 months past his 18th birthday, way back in Aug. 2008. The 2nd thing to notice is that his mechanics are not good. He has good arm-speed, but it's being generated all from his arm. He gets almost nothing from his lower body, which makes for the herky-jerky, start-stop motion that you see in the videos. Hopefully the Giants have been able to smooth out his motion, and get him to connect his lower- and upper-body movement to take the stress off of his arm. Considering that he threw 96 mph when he basically only used his arm, there should be no reason why he shouldn't be able to hit triple digits if he ever learns how to use his whole body.
2009: Did Not Play
This video is from the Under Armour All-Star game in Aug. 2008:
This video is from an AFLAC All-Star game in early Spring 2009:
RafRod: OF (6'5", 198) DOB=7/13/92
Former million $$ bonus baby, he's still quite young. Considering his age, he had a nice year in the AZL in 2009 in terms of OBP and plate discipline. Much like Brandon Belt (but not in the same way), RafRod needs to totally rework his swing mechanics to unleash his natural power.
2009 AZL: .299/.392/.362/.754 .... only 8 XBH in 143 ABs (all doubles), K-rate=16%, BB-rate=11.2%
Julio Izturis: 2B (5'11", 165) DOB=8/29/89
A switch-hitter, with great range at 2B, and plus speed on the basepaths. Very nice stats in his first season in the USA for this kid from Venezuela.
2009 AZL: .313/405/.394/.799 .... SB=10/11, BB-rate=18%, K-rate=10.8%
Kendry Flores: RHP (6'2", 175) DOB=11/24/91
This DR native dominated the DSL in 2009 at the tender age of 17. Excellent groundball ratio tells me he must have a good sinker, but he also struck out hitters at a good rate, so he must have some good velo too. He's not pitching in the DSL this year, so I'm assuming that he got his visa and will be in the USA this summer.
2009 DSL: W/L=7-2, K/9=7.8, K/BB=2.38, WHIP=1.05, BAA=.200, GO/AO=1.85
Carlos Willoughby: 2B (5'10", 170) DOB=11/12/88
He's old for a prospect, but this switch-hitting DR native did dominate the DSL last year, and he has had consistently great offensive numbers in the DSL in each of his 3 seasons there. He's has plus baserunning skills, stealing 46 bases in only 68 games (after stealing 33/37 in 55 games during 2008), and can work the count (55 BBs in 68 games). Hopefully he finally got his visa and will be in S-K this summer. In a weird coincidence, notice that his K-rate and BB-rate are exactly the same as Izturis's above.
2009 DSL: .327/.466/.438/.904 ... SB=46/58, BB-rate=18%, K-rate=10.8%
Cameron Lamb: RHP (6'3", 195) DOB=5/29/89
He was old for the league, but this Australian native missed the entire 2008 season with some kind of injury, so 2009 was a very nice comeback. I assume he'll start in S-K this year.
2009 AZL: W/L=4-1, K/9=8.6, K/BB=2, WHIP=1.19, BAA=.205
Feel free to add your own guys in the comments.