We need a big bat. That sentiment and statement washes across every fanbase, every winter, spring and summer. Fans of Los Gigantes, especially historically oriented or age challenged, remember the glory days of bats galore wearing the French Vanilla. Historically, LF and 1B are the premier landing spots for the 40 HR characters, trading defensive flaws for big batting umph. But something is amiss in MLB today, there really is a huge dropoff in power across the league. National league average for 2012: 1B: 266/336/442. 3B: 270/333/433. LF: 265/329/434. RF: 260/329/439. Are the days of the slugger behind us? I doubt it, but the pickings are slim, because teams lock up their talent early. Any hint of a guy flashing power and obp skillz and that player is getting locked up tight. The free agent market is a suckers bet where you overpay for players with major flaws in their games, or deteriorating skillsets. Giants fans know all about this from the unpleasantness in the mid 2000s.
So I searched the interwebz looking for the Sabean quote about needing to develop our own power hitters because nobody wants to come to PacBell. Didn't find the exact one, saw the famous "stalking horse" reference, where Sabes bitterly declared he wouldn't be a foil to agents anymore. I did find a NYTimes article post-championship (numero dos), where he says the following:
"Some of it has to do with where you draft," he said. "To get the better position players, you have to cherry-pick at the top of the draft," he said. "If you draft lower, you can take pitching, because there’s usually pitching later in the first round, or in later rounds." (Never mind that the Giants took Lincecum with the 10th overall pick in 2006 and Bumgarner with the 10th pick a year later, or that Crawford and Belt went in the fourth and fifth rounds while Sandoval was an amateur free agent.) (original article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/sports/baseball/after-giants-makeover-playoff-success-again.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)
So a quick perusal of the corners as far as org depth and what might be there in the draft, where power has traditionally been the calling card, as opposed to middle of the field players who might highlight better defensively at the expense of some batting prowess. First, the rotation: Almost all the talent starts at SS and the bump until HS. Then the move off begins, either due to size or range. If a player can stick at 3B he is more valuable. If he can't hack the footwork and has an arm, the shift is to RF. If the arm doesn't play, a move to LF. If the legs don't play, then its 1B. 1B has the most pressure to hit, even today, although its worth noting that Sabean likes his defense at the position, one Jack Thomas Snow, and the current incumbent young Brandon Belt are both slick fielding dudes.
Cracking the Giants corners might be getting tough after a few years of revolving doors. First off, Pablo Sandoval is locked for the next two years, and if his world series performance is anything to go by, a tear up the old contract might be in order assuming he starts hot out the gate next year. Brandon Belt is under team control for a few years, and despite a lot of twitter noise about mean Bruce Bochy, got over 400 ABs last year and should crack 500 this year. Pablo is 26, Belt is 24. If they can elevate their game to another level, the Giants could be in business for many years. In the OF its not so clear. Hunter Pence will be getting his final expensive arbitration eligible contract in a couple days (the Giants will most likely settle before a hearing). Angel Pagan could move to RF if Gary Brown comes alive, he's under contract for 4 years now. They could extend Pence, who apparently is very willing. In LF the Giants have a poo-poo platter of choices, reclamation projects all. They are sacrificing power for defense and possibly OBP, depending on how a Gregor Blanco/Andres Torres platoon works out with Javier Herrera and Cole Gillaspie getting a crack as well. A dark horse is Joaquin Arias, who plays 3B and SS mainly, he might be able to handle LF a tad, especially if Andres pulls a hammy, a likely possibility.
So in these musings I've been trying to list the top 9 guys in the Gigantes farm system. For the corner spots, this will be a tall task. I'd start with close to the majors OFs, who will also have cracks at the 4th/5th OF spots: Frankie Peggs, a RH tooled up hitter who has not manifested much power beyond doubles gap and refuses to take a walk. Peggs has had some knee surgeries, he took it easy last year in Fresno, not stealing bases. Roger Kieschnick puts the K in K but he also has some legit home run power. He is a LH hitter, best suited for RF because of his good throwing arm. Recent draftee Mac Williamson has the chance to be a steal if he can maintain his K rates from short season ball. Mac has excellent power and a short RH swing to go along with a plus arm, he'll play RF. Prospect hounds are all over him, but he faces a big test, most likely in high-A San Jose. Joining him is Shawn Payne, who will play LF. Payne has enough pop to keep pitchers honest, but most likely will gain a tweener label if he stays in LF. He has shown excellent on base skills and amazing stolen base percentages. RH Bat.
The infield corners are a little more difficult. You have Adam Duvall (RH), who has continually demonstrated great power skills along with some defensive flaws. He is a prove-out at every level guy, and faces the biggest Gints hitter test in Richmond next season. You also have Ricky Oropesa, who had a mixed first year in SJ, who will also most likely be making the move to Richmond. Ricky O has the added pressure of being a 1B only, so he has to really hit, plus he is a LH bat, something that scares at our park, even the mighty Todd Helton gets all weepy there. Both players need to watch their strikeouts and tread water in the big bad Eastern. Duvall K'd 116 times in 534 ABs, Ricky O K'd 150 times in 518 ABs. Ricky O had a better BB rate, Duvall doubled him up on HRs.
The last 3 guys are hard. The obvious guys are Chris Dominguez, Conor Gillaspie and Jarrett Parker. All 3 have serious flaws though, which unfortunately I believe are fatal to their MLB dreams. Dominguez and Parker simply strike out too much. For Parker, 175 Ks in 409 ABs in a repeat of SJ is absolutely abysmal. I cannot see a way through for him against more advanced pitching. Dominguez pitch recognition issues are legendary at this point. He might have a future with his arm though. Conor G, due to the way his contract was signed, is out of options at the end of spring training. He is likely trade bait. As a backup for Sandoval, his arm really doesn't play well at 3B. He does show good pitch recognition, and a little pop though, but its hard to see a fit because his defense isn't up to par.
Instead, I'll cheat and look at Nick Noonan as a more likely Billy Mueller type than Conor G. Noonan has the arm for 3B, and has been working to carve out a utility roll. In addition, newly signed young Dominican Nathanael Javier looks quite promising, signed for 500K along with Gustavo Cabrera. Here's a blurb on him: The big third baseman is considered a solid all-around player and is projected to hit for average and power in the future. He has impressed scouts with his large body frame, lean muscle mass and high baseball IQ. He appears to have the perfect body for third base but might have to move to first base if he gets too big to play the position. In addition to Javier, there are a couple of sleeper types from the 2012 draft. I'll go with 29th rounder Shane Houck, coming straight out of Kutztown. He dominated his league in college, he'll have to prove out at every level. Who knows, but I like the Pennsylvania workman type profile.
So the Giants, under John Barr since 2008, have looked to draft a very specific profile: the flawed power bat who drops because of contact issues. If the contact skills were there, with the light tower power, these guys would go in the top 10 picks in the draft. So they're fishing around on a profile: power on the corners, contact challenged for sure. Roger Kieschnick in 2008 82nd pick/3rd round. Chris Dominguez in 2009 86th pick/3rd round. Jarrett Parker in 2010 74th pick/2nd round. Ricky Oropesa in 2011 116th pick/3rd round. Mac Williamson in 2012 115th pick/3rd round. Frankie Peggs was an IFA signed 2005, Javier an IFA signed 2012. Duvall was drafted in 2010, 11th round. Payne was drafted in 2011, 35th round. Noonan was drafted in 2007, supplemental 1st, as was Gillaspie in 2008. As noted, Houck was a 29th rounder in 2012.
Will they re-evaluate this strategy this coming draft? Hard to tell, these things take years to work out. Its possible they look for contact skills first with the hope that there's enough frame to fill in power later. Or they just keep plugging away, maybe one falls in. They have two RFs who are either in AAA or the big club. They have 2 corner IFs going to Richmond together. They have a slugger and a speedster going to the SJ outfield. Noonan is scrappin' along. Javier is going to school in the DR. And Houck, it'll be interesting to see where they put him. With Sandoval and Belt in the fold, and young, they may look more towards the OF corners. Here are nine guys I thought looked promising in the 2013 draft:
First, obvious note that the Giants are picking in the late 20s. The A-list guys are long gone. I think that includes college guys Kris Bryant, Austin Wilson, and Colin Moran at this time, as well as preps Dominic Smith and Justin Williams. Gone baby gone. OF guys I think need a look: Hunter Renfroe, MS State; Tyler Horan, VA Tech; Michael O'Neill, Michigan; William Abreau, FL HS; 3B guys I think need a look: Chad Pinder, VA Tech; Erich Weiss, Texas; Hunter Dozier, Stephen F. Austin State; Travis Demeritte, GA HS; LF guys: none. 1B guys: DJ Peterson, New Mexico. Bonus guy: DJ's brother, Dustin Peterson AZ HS.
Start with the 3B:
1. Travis Demeritte, 3B R/R 6'1/185 Winder-Barrow HS (GA), South Carolina Commit. DOB: 18/8 on draft day.
What stands out about Demeritte to me is his maturity. He had a terrible start to the World Wood Bat championship, having trouble catching up to fastballs. The final game, he came correct, going 3 for 3, hitting doubles and ribeyes and throwing fools out. Here's the description: http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/draft/2012/10/east-cobb-baseball-wins-world-wood-bat-championship/ In addition, here's BP's take: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18826 What stood out to me is Jason Parks talking about seeing a guy who could make the pro's. High baseball IQ, good defense, good feel for the game. I really like a lot of the players who were on the East Cobb team. Demeritte stands out defensively. He also appears to have good IQ and character. That's why I'm elevating him, one of two prep guys here I think might make the standards of the HS averse Gigantes Greybeards.
2. Chad Pinder, 3B/SS R/R 6'2/192 Virginia Tech Junior DOB: 3/29/92
There are a number of 3B candidates, Eric Jagielo and Trey Williams for example. But Pinder stands out for his defense, he might be able to fake some SS and definitely stick at the hot corner. Pinder has shown some good hitting ability although the power is more gap than light tower. He put up 325/380/538 with 7 HR/22 2B/14BB/42K in 212 ABs in 2012. He held his own in limited play in the cape. http://www.dailypress.com/sports/highschool/inside-the-brd-blog/dp-dp-inside-the-brd-chad-pinder-heading-home-second-in-cape-cod-league-in-rbi-20120718,0,4272216.post Pinder has to work on his approach, working counts and filling in his power. He seems to have a hit tool, plus the defense, and that's what stood out over Jagielo. Character stands out over Williams.
3. Tyler Horan, OF L/R 6'2/232 Virginia Tech RS Junior DOB: 12/2/90
Cheating here to get the other Hokie in while I have their stats page up. Let's get the bad out of the way: Horan is old, baby, way old, a red-shirt junior. Now that I have prospect mavens in a puddle on the floor mumbling about age/level, let's see what he's got. Light-tower power! Lead the cape in HRs. Here's a wicked article from a wicked website: http://www.wickedlocal.com/wareham/newsnow/x1437142194/Tyler-Horan-becomes-Cape-Leagues-new-King-of-Swing He has the hit tool, doing quite nicely at the cape as well as his 2012 season: 282/400/585 with 15 HR/8 2B/27BB/12 HBP/46K and 7/9SB/CS, not bad for a big fella. Here's a Q/A with the WWL: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/high-school/post/_/id/17550/catching-up-with-tyler-horan He played football, which appears to be the big reason for the red-shirt. He profiles a bit like Mac Williamson, and he looks like a prime example of what the Giants might look for.
4. Erich Weiss, 3B, L/R 6'2 200 Texas Junior DOB: September 11, 1991
Back to the 3B! Ok, so you really like that Moran guy on UNC? Well, he's going to be taken. Here's a guy close to him. Led the Horns with a 350/428/547 with 5 HR/17 2B/22BB/43K line. 10/12 SB/CS. Had a little problem with errors, committing 16. He was the Big-12 freshman of the year, hitting 348. He has a line drive swing, some speed on the basepaths, and may be a tweener. But he has a nice hit tool. Why do I like him? Partly this: http://texasbaseballblog.com/2012/03/15/my-boy-erich-weiss/ The end part: What makes Erich Weiss so great is that he is a living, breathing example of perseverance and will. For someone to not be highly recruited, to be offered a scholarship to his dream school at basically the 11th hour and then use that opportunity to mold himself into one of the best College Baseball players in America proves what can be accomplished with hard work and determination.
5. Hunter Dozier, SS/3B, R/R 6'4 210 Stephen F. Austin Junior DOB: Aug 22, 1991
The sleeper! Stretching to the top of my tall guy bias, here we have a great add for the Gigantes: first, he's from Texas. Second, his name is Hunter. Third, it looks like he can ball a little. Is he goofy like Belt and Pence? Freshman year he hit 315/363/467 with 5 HR/13 2B/12BB/34K in 197 ABs. Sophomore year he improved on that, going 357/431/595 with 10 HR/22 2B/29BB/42K in 227 ABs. He cut down on his errors, from 19 to 13. He played in the Northwoods summer league. Here's a P/G description of him from the all-star game: Of the North positional prospects, starting shortstop Hunter Dozier stood out. Not only does he have impressive size and strength at 6-foot-4, 225-pounds, but he also has very good looseness for his size. He made the defensive play of the game by making a bare handed scoop and throw on a slow roller to throw out the speedy Forney in the seventh. At the plate he went 0-for-3 with a walk, but showed a good approach and exciting bat speed. Raw? Yup. Not the best competition? Yup. Wanna see a HR on youtube? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IR74S62iLCQ 0:40 mark. Finally, BA's Aaron Fitt in a recent chat cited Dozier:
Most of the top college shortstops are more in the steady grinder mold (think Matt Reida, Jack Reinheimer at ECU, Adam Frazier, Kyle Farmer at Georgia, etc). That's why a guy like Hunter Dozier is interesting — he's got real impact tools, and has a chance to shoot up this list in the fall.
6. Hunter Renfroe, C/OF, R/R, 6'2 211 Mississippi State Junior, DOB: January 28, 1992
I must profile ALL the Hunters. This one is definitely going to split opinions. He is a tooled up guy who has not produced in college ball, but mashed enough in the Cal Ripken league to get his number retired. Here's a quick profile from Matt Garrioch: http://www.minorleagueball.com/2013/1/14/3859754/2013-mlb-draft-profile-hunter-renfroe-mississippi-state He was the MVP of the Cal Ripken league, slugging an unworldly 866! http://www.bigtrain.org/news/?article_id=81 So, where are the warts? Well, here is his stat line from sophomore year: 252/328/374 with 4 HR/16 2B/21 BB/51K in 230 AB. He definitely will need to step it up. But he already has the bat flip! Here's a look, dig the country twang soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_6SuD5df_E
7. Michael O'Neill, RF, R/R, 6'1 195 Michigan Junior, DOB: June 12, 1992
Here is another guy like Renfroe, a ton of tools and potential, but he hasn't put it all together yet. He's got a nice mix of speed and power, looking like a potential 20/20 guy. He hit 329/384/525 with 5 HR/11 2B/9 BB/21K/7 HBP in 158 AB with 19/24 SB/CS. He pulled a Nate on the injury, falling on his arm diving for a ball in the OF. He spent the summer of 2012 in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Falmouth Commodores where he played in 44 games. He finished the summer with a .263 average with five homers and 18 RBI. He also got to play on Team USA. Here's that story, plus the details on the injury: http://www.michigandaily.com/sports/after-team-usa-phone-call-o%E2%80%99neill-continues-uphill-against-chanticleers And here's a home run video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rA8ObzFeuQs Fun fact: yup, he's Paul O'Neill's nephew.
8. William Abreu, RF, L/L, 6'3 195, Mater Academy (FL), Miami Commit, DOB: 3/21/1995
Florida prep from Cuban descent (not Bobby Abreu's kid, I checked). Team USA vet. I like that. Advanced prep bat, but not hyped like former teammate Albert Almora who the Cubs snagged early in 2012. Big frame. Sweet left handed swing. Has pitched, has a good arm for RF. BA video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oZp27KvoCo&feature=youtu.be Hard to tell his first step with the practice hits and throws. He is not a burner, but there might be some serious power potential locked up in there. P/G has him at 6.8-7.0 on the speed front. Profile on him making team usa: http://sfhighschoolsports.com/blog/baseball-blogs/mater-academys-abreu-ready-team-usa I think he might be a hard sign, but the Giants do have a 2nd round pick that should be close to a million clams this year. Now would they want a prep bat? Not likely with recent history. Also he's a lefty, which doesn't bode well to the park. But I thought he was interesting, and he'll play a corner OF in the bigs.
9. DJ Peterson, 1B/3B, R/R, 6'1 190, New Mexico Junior, DOB: 12/31/1991
So most of these guys I've profiled are not quite hyped yet but with good springs could soar up the charts. DJ Peterson is sort of close to the top, and has to prove out due to playing at New Mexico. He has a polished college bat. Truth be told, I could see him being there and then the A's snagging him right in front of us. Here's his warts: defense is questionable. He is playing 3B but not everybody thinks he can stick. As a 1B does he have enough bat? He played 1B on Team USA. He looks a lot bigger than 6'1/190 in the videos to me, maybe its his body type. What he can do is hit. Here's the blurb from the NM website: hit .419 with 57 runs, 104 hits, 78 RBIs, 21 doubles, three triples, 17 home runs, 182 total bases, a .734 slugging percentage, and a .490 on base percentage. He was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes. There is a lot to like. He smacks home runs, takes walks. Not the most mobile guy. I think he'll be gone assuming another solid year when the 26 pick rolls around. Most likely going to either be a 1B or a LF as a pro, and had some contact issues with team USA, although he led them in HRs and went 8BB/8K. The other knock is his competition. Still, he is definitely one of the top college bats this year.
10. Bonus: Dustin Peterson, DJ's brother. SS, R/R, 6'2 180, Gilbert HS (AZ), ASU commit, DOB: ?
Not much info on him, he attends the same school as lefty pitcher Stephen Tarpley. Here's a blurb from BA: http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/draft/2012/10/three-shortstops-boost-stock-at-world-wood-bat/ Mainly I thought it was cool two brothers might get drafted in the same draft. Not extremely rare, but it only happens once in a while.
Conclusions: well, I started it with the Sabean quote about cherry picking hitters at the top of the draft. Its a funny quote, because it doesn't really describe what the Giants have done, with the very large exception of Buster Posey in 2008. But maybe that's where Sabean's head is at: Posey, all the time. The Giants have concentrated their efforts at the top on pitching and up the middle players. I don't expect that to change. These guys I profiled stood out as possible fallers/risers with plus potential with the bat and good side benefits, such as defense, power, speed, advanced bat or character. Unfortunately not all at once. But that guy gets a top 5 nod when he comes along. I didn't rank these guys, I think that DJ Peterson is the likeliest 1st rounder. The other guys would have to have hot springs to get that kind of helium. They look like 2nd or 3rd rounders to me, and further down. But the other thing the Giants do - they like somebody, they just draft them. I picked these guys as a combo of things that stood out to me and the profile the Giants appear to look at. Gonna take a lot of time to do my final draft rambling wreck: RH Pitchers. Not sure if there is a ton of strength at that position at the top but I expect it'll be like 2012, where if a guy like Stratton is there, they will jump on him immediately. But its fun to look at the bats, even if we root for a team that has a lot of history of shying away from that angle. Cuz you know, we need a big bat.