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The Prospect Roundup, 5/8

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What can your Minor League system do for you, oh Giants who need starting pitching? Plus: 7 home runs in one week? Who timed his hot streak to fit perfectly in The Prospect Roundup schedule?

So, Who Wants To Be A Starter?

So, yeah, as the bullpen remains an issue of depth for the San Francisco Giants, starting pitching is suddenly a big, huge, glaring need, as both Jake Peavy and Matt Cain have struggled.  The big question, as often asked, is who would replace them if the Giants wanted to.  So, let’s grade the possible replacements, based on quality and readiness.

Chris Heston

Clearly, Heston has the stuff.  He threw a no-hitter against the eventual NL Champions in their own park.  However, he doesn’t have the best stuff.  You’re not looking for him to be an ace or even and number 3 starter.  He’s more likely to end up a back-of-the-rotation guy, maybe topping out at a Mike Leake comparison.  However, this season, he’s gotten a little Jimmy-Jacked, or Coorsed, or whatever.  Since he had to pitch back-to-back relief outings, he’s struggled mightily, with a 5.54 ERA in Sacramento.  But once he gets it back together, he could be a Major Leaguer again.

Stuff: C+  Readiness: B-

Clayton Blackburn

Blackburn was positioned as the starter most likely to fill in when needed after leading the Pacific Coast League in ERA last season.  He doesn’t throw with a lot of velocity, but when he’s right, he works with four pitches well all over the zone with excellent control.  This season, however, he’s had his struggles, the biggest when he gave up 11 hits in three innings at the end of April.  When he’s not working well, he’s very hittable.  He’s got a 4.88 ERA this season, and has been anything but consistent.  He’s got to get consistent before he’s ready.

Stuff: B-  Readiness: C

Ty Blach

Blach spent the first couple of his pro seasons as a surprisingly effective prospect, even as a 5th rounder.  But in his first season in AAA last season, he had a 4.46 ERA, and he’s not doing much better to start this season, with a 4.18 ERA in six starts.  He’s a lot like Blackburn, without overwhelming stuff (low-90’s fastball) but three good pitches.  However, he has nothing that is a swing-and-miss pitch to finish off hitters, and it shows with just 19 strikeouts in 32.1 innings.  He could become a back of the rotation starter if he can get an out pitch.

Stuff: B-  Readiness: C-

Chris Stratton

Finally, a first round pick!  Unfortunately, Stratton has been anything but a top prospect, despite a low-mid-90s fastball with good bite and a slider that flashes potential as a strikeout pitch.  Since getting hit in the head by a baseball in Salem-Keizer, he’s struggled much of his career.  He seemed to turn a corner with a 3.86 ERA in Sacramento in a little more than half a season last year, but he’s struggled this season, giving up at least 5 earned runs in four of six starts.  He did, however, go 7 innings with 9 strikeouts and just one given up in his last start, so….

Stuff: B+  Readiness: D+

Tyler Beede

Another first round pick, Beede’s fastball isn’t very different from Strattons, low-90’s with good downward motion, though it ledto some control issues.  He’s still working on his offspeed stuff, however.  His walk rate has improved this season, but Beede has given up hits and runs, now with a 4.15 ERA in AA Richmond.  Beede has middle of the rotation potential, but he’s not consistent yet.

Stuff: B+  Readiness: D

Adalberto Mejia

Mejia has developed quite a following in the Giants farm system, with his low-90’s fastball and a good slider.  However, Richmond has been his home for quite some time, now in his third season at AA.  A big reason why is that he got suspended for most of last season for a positive PED test.  This season, he’s had a solid start, with a 3.63 ERA through 5 starts in the very wet Eastern League.  Mejia has as high a ceiling of any of the upper level pitchers in the system.

Stuff: B+  Readiness: C-

Joan Gregorio

Gregorio has had the best start among any of the upper level pitchers, so that’s worth noticing.  He’s repeating Richmond after a 3.09 ERA last season as a part-time starter, and has a 2.33 ERA so far this season.  The 24-year old hasn’t always been one of the most talked about prospects, but his fastball has been as high as the mid-90’s, and groundball-inducing breaking pitches.  However, he still hasn’t shown his durability, maxing out at 90.2 innings in a season.  He could be a mid-rotation starter if he can stretch out, or a good reliever.  But as a temporary fix, he’s worth mentioning.

Stuff: B  Readiness: C

Player of the Week - Jarrett Parker

Chris Shaw had a hell of week, as Roger has enjoyed showing us, but I’m sorry…

7 home runs?  7 home runs!

Jarrett Parker had a week that was led off by a three home run game on Sunday, but kept hitting home runs throughout the week.  With 7 since May 1st, Parker now has 9 on the year, tied for the Pacific Coast League lead.  But Parker wasn’t all slugging.  He added a triple and two singles, to bat .357 on the week with a .419 OBP.

Parker is in a tough spot, competing with Mac Williamson for being an outfielder of the future in San Francisco.  He started off the season ice cold, and even after this hot streak, is batting just .224 on the season.  He’s still got the opportunity to reach the starting outfield level with the Giants, but he’s also not a bad 4th or 5th outfielder option for the Giants if something happens to Gregor Blanco.

Pitcher of the Week - Jordan Johnson

This wasn’t the best week for pitchers in the system, without performance that we’d seen from Grant Watson and Andrew Suarez.  So this week, it’s 23rd Round pick Jordan Johnson.

Johnson got two starts in for the week, and combined to give up three earned runs in 12 innings (a 2.25 ERA), giving up eight hits and two walks, while striking out 11.  They weren’t overwhelming or dominating starts, but they were both very effective.  Johnson, who spent last season as a very raw pitcher, has shown some polish in San Jose, going at least six innings in each of his last four starts.  While he hasn’t racked up the strikeouts, he’s got a 0.80 WHIP on the season so far, and just a 2.10 ERA.

Johnson came into this season as one of the wild cards in the Giants system among the starting pitchers.  This season, he’s started out looking like one of the better cards in the deck.

Public Service Announcement

Starting pitcher Albert Suarez, recently brought up from the River Cats to San Francisco, is different from top prospect starting pitcher Andrew Suarez, currently in San Jose.

That is all.

Coaching Curiosity

There’s a line between being a coach and a manager in baseball.  Now, Miguel Ojeda is both.

The Richmond Flying Squirrels Manager was promoted to Hitting Coach this week.  You read that right.  He’s still manager, but now Ojeda is doing double duty after some coaching switches.  It’s been an unusual turn of events in Richmond, and now they are left short-handed with no plans to fill the vacancy this season, according to Shane Turner via richmond.com.  He takes the role over from Mike Goff, who left due to "Personal Reasons."

The Squirrels season started with Ken Joyce as the hitting coach, returning for what would’ve been his sixth year in the role at Richmond, but he left the role late in Spring Training, also due to "Personal Reasons".

He was replaced by Goff, a resident of nearby Midloathian.  Goff had been the manager of the Augusta Greenjackets from 2013-2014 before joining the Marlins as an advance scout.  Goff then moved into the role of bench coach with the Marlins when Mike Redmond was fired as manager in May of 2015, and served the role under Matt Jennings, a longtime friend, for the rest of the season.

Also notable, it has been reported that Hector Borg has joined the Richmond Coaching Staff, but won’t serve as a hitting coach.  Borg has served as co-hitting coach and infield coach with Augusta from 2013-2015, and was brought back to Augusta to serve as a nonspecific coach this season as well.  Borg coached alongside Goff and current Richmond pitching coach Steve Kline in Augusta.

Two coaches leaving a team due to "Personal Reasons" over the span of less than two months is notable.  The manager, Ojeda, is his his first season managing in the United States.  Ojeda played four years in the majors, last appearing in 2006, and having played for Bruce Bochy with San Diego Padres in 2003.  Ojeda spent the last three years as Manager of the Diablos Rojos in the Mexican League, where he won the 2014 Mexican League Manager of the Year.  His first year in the role in a very different league may raise some questions about how he is doing.

However, Goff is no stranger to controversy himself.  After the unusual coaching shuffle in Miami last year, Goff was embroiled in a coaching dispute as bench coach with the then-third base coach Brett Butler.  A mixup and dispute over missed signs, and what was reported as a power struggle, left Butler reassigned from his third base coaching duties to outfield/base running coach.

Meanwhile, Richmond sits near the bottom of the Eastern League at 10-18, although they are in the middle of the league when it comes to hitting with a team .667 OPS, good for 8th in the 12-team league.  Top prospect Christian Arroyo has been off to a slow start there, as part of the struggles..

A coaching controversy at Double-A is unlikely to raise a lot of headlines, but hopefully whatever has caused such upheaval won’t affect much of the player development.

Sacramento Litterbox

Jarrett Parker has stolen the offensive show in Sacramento, but Grant Green had a five-hit day on Thursday, falling just a triple short of a cycle…Hak-Ju Lee hasn’t had a lot of power, but hit .450/.500/.700 on the week and has an eight-game hitting streak going into Sunday…

Richmond Nuthouse

Things have been wet as all heck in Richmond last week, with four different days of postponements.  That ended up with some off-days, but also two different doubleheaders.  Unfortunately, the rest hasn’t helped the Squirrels, losing three of the four games on those two days…In the coaching overhaul at Richmond, Christian Arroyo is trying to improve upon his versatility.  Meanwhile, Arroyo’s offense is improving, now with a .280 batting average on the year, and finally picking up his first home run of the year.

San Jose Footprints

Chris Shaw had the hottest of weeks of guys not sharing the name of old Fresno mascot.  Shaw hit .360/.448/.800 with three home runs on the week…D.J. Snelten was a 9th round pick back in 2013, and had been a reliever in the system, but was converted to starter last season, putting up a 2.86 ERA in 2015, but a 4.84 ERA in 8 games in San Jose.  He’s making a statement this year, with nine strikeouts in 6.2 innings this past week…

Augusta Putt-Putt Course

Matt Winn got moved down from Richmond to Augusta last week, but has taken to it, batting .391/.416/.826 on the week with a pair of home runs…Lucius Fox appears to be evening out.  He hit a powerless .250 this week, with four walks against five strikeouts.  He has at least one hit in eight of the last nine games, and has a .233/.349/.329 line on the season.  You can read about what one scout thinks of him here.

…Would you like to read a scouting report on Phil Bickford?  Of course you want to read a scouting report on Phil Bickford!

Transaction Log:

San Francisco:

5/2 - Mac Williamson recalled from Sacramento

5/6 - Albert Suarez has contract purchased from Sacramento; Vin Mazzaro designated for assignment.

Williamson went wild upon being sent down last week.  He earned his promotion back.  Albert Suarez has been good for Sacramento, with a 2.88 ERA in three starts and two relief appearances.  Suarez is in his first season at Triple-A, after being in the Angels organization last season.

Sacramento:

5/2 - Steven Okert optioned to Sacramento from the San Francisco Giants; Mitch Delfino activated from the 7-Day DL; Junior Arias assigned to Sacramento from San Jose.

5/7 - RHP Austin Fleet Activated from the 7-Day DL.

Okert struggled a bit in his first Major League stint, with a 6.35 ERA in five different appearances.  He had a 4.32 ERA in Sacramento.  Technically, Arias was promoted, but he hadn’t actually appeared in any games at San Jose.  Austin Fleet struggled before going on the DL, having a 7.94 ERA went he went on it.

Richmond:

No Transactions Listed

This is not helping me fulfill my word count goal.

San Jose:

No Transactions Listed

Seriously, if you’re afraid of change, the Giants organization is good for you this week.

Augusta:

5/4 - Matthew Pope activated from the 7-Day DL.

Pope went on the DL in the last week of April, with his ERA sitting at a rough 9.00.  In his first game back, his ERA launched to 10.57.

The Wrap-Up

I planned to do something, but upon further review, I can’t do a wrap-up after seeing the jerseys San Jose and Lake Elsinore was getting.

Those two faces remind me of the faces of people who have worked retail for at least three years; I call them Shelf-Shocked.  They are thrilled...THRILLED, I tell you!

So, no Wrap-Up this week.  It turns out one can’t type while facepalming.