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The Prospect Round-Up, 3/14/18 - What’s Wrong With The Rotation AND New Pace of Play Rules!

The Giants have two clear choices for their two rotation openings. So why is that a bad thing?

Spring Prospect-ish Roundup Design by Kevin J. Cunningham

The one area where the Giants left to the young players to step up was in the back of the rotation, with two starting spots open. Now, a month into Spring Training, it feels like two pitchers have stepped up and have claimed the spots for themselves.

Is this a bad thing?

Ty Blach has a 2.92 ERA across 12.1 IP, the most in Giants camp. He’s given up 11 hits and struck out 11 with just one walk. Chris Stratton has a 2.25 ERA in 12.0 IP, with 9 hits allowed, 14 struck out and four walked. Alex Pavlovic wrote on Monday that Stratton can start looking for a rental in the Bay Area. If these two don’t start the season in the rotation, I’ll be very surprised.

So why is this a bad thing? Tyler Beede, one of the team’s top remaining pitching prospects, has pretty much pitched himself out of the competition. As the pitcher with the highest ceiling out of the three young pitchers, that’s not encouraging.

Beede’s 12.27 ERA in camp is ridiculously high, even by small sample size measures. But that’s not what is so disconcerting. It’s also about how it got so high. His start this past Saturday, he got through two innings nicely, only giving up a hit to Mike Trout, which is easily forgiven. But after getting one out into the third, Beede’s outing spiraled. He gave up seven straight hits with a wild pitch thrown in for good measure. An inability to come back from that downward spiral is alarming.

Beede only has three starts to go off of, and his middle one was a good one, a 3-inning stint where he only gave up a single hit (a home run) and a walk while striking out two. But that hasn’t been enough to offset his other two poor starts. He’s given up 13 hits total in 7.1 IP, and that’s been the key negative stat against him.

His spring isn’t over, and it’ll be interesting to see how he does in the rest of his starts, but it seems he is destined to head back to Sacramento for the season. He’s already had trouble living up to his first round pick status, and this season he really needs to show he can be effective. Obviously, the path of Stratton, who also had trouble living up to that status, but has begun to blossom late in his prospect career. Whether or not Beede can stop being so hittable will be something to watch over the next two weeks.

Good Prospect-ish Impressions This Week:

Mac Williamson -

Start the season now, indeed. That center field is 420 feet away….not quite Scottsdale’s 430 feet, but very, very impressive. There are home runs and then there are home runs. Williamson’s are leaning towards the latter. (If you want to see Trout’s earlier in the game for comparison, you can click here.)

Josh Rutledge - The middle infield bench spot is pretty much Kelby Tomlinson’s, but veteran minor league free agent Josh Rutledge has done what he’s had to this past week to make any challenge. Rutledge was 6-for-8 with two doubles and a home run, with just two strikeouts (and no walks). Rutledge’s double on Tuesday ended up leading to the Giants’ only run on Tuesday, as he went to third on a balk and came home on a wild pitch. Rutledge struggled in sporadic playing time in Boston over the past three seasons before coming to the Giants in the offseason.

Julian Fernandez (Kinda) - Fernandez got into three games this week, and the stats don’t look good because in one game, he walked one and then gave up a two-run home run. But he had perfect outings in the other two games. He had five strikeouts and just one walk in those three innings, speaking to that overpowering fastball. The Rule 5 pick must be offered back to the Rockies if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster, and his roster spot is probably the most interesting thing left to be determined this spring.

Bad Prospect-ish Impressions This Week:

Andrew Suarez - He wasn’t going to make the team, but he definitely did not look the part in his Saturday start against the Angels. Suarez gave up five hits, two of which were home runs, and a walk en route to five earned runs over four innings. Suarez was part of the first round of cuts later in the week, but it wasn’t a great last impression at the big league level.

Chris Shaw - The power prospect did have a home run this week, his second of the spring, but that was his only hit for the week. That’s a 1-for-9 week, with three strikeouts. The week was lowlighted by a full start with the team during the Angels split-squad games, where he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. However, this says something about how strong his early spring was that he’s still batting .276/.344/.586 overall.

Spring Moments:

Notes From Minor League Camp

I just got into Minor League camp on Tuesday, so I haven’t had much time to look around. The biggest note I have at the moment is that Sam Wolff, the 26-year old reliever the Giants picked up in the Matt Moore trade, is in uniform and appears to be throwing. Wolff tore his flexor tendon in his throwing arm in August and had surgery on it. In January, he said he planned to begin throwing in late January and resume pitching competitively in June or July.

I saw Wolff go into the cages with members of the training staff and emerge, talking with them. I couldn’t see the session, but Wolff did not appear to be in any pain. When he comes back, Wolff could become a factor in the bullpen for the big leagues.

Other than that.

  • Jacob Gonzalez looked good in batting practice, pulling line drives to the left field fence and a couple over it. He also flashed some leather in the scrimmage, diving to get a ball to his right, and getting off a good throw to finish the play.
  • One problem of trying to track prospects in minor league camp is you can’t always go off of the uniform numbers to know who is whom. On Tuesday, the left side of one infield was manned by #41 Jacob Gonzalez at third, and #41 Orlando Garcia at short.
  • Miguel Gomez also looked good in batting practice. He was pulling sharp line drives to right field batting left-handed, and was peppering the pitcher’s guard with line drives up the middle batting right-handed.
  • Garret Williams slurvy sidearm approach was sweet, and he pulled off a nice pickoff to get Manuel Geraldo off of first.
  • And not exactly from minor league camp, but this happened on Tuesday…A new Cactus League record was set as 15,849 fans attended the game at Sloan Park between the Cubs and Giants. Anyone who has ever been to Spring Training in Arizona will not be surprised that the Cactus League record was set in a game between the two teams.

Talking The Draft

There are no names to debate here, this is more about Jim Barr and talking about the work to be done scouting and discovering who the Giants will eventually draft. The bottom line on that end is that there is no clear top players, and some haven’t even started playing yet for their season.

That said, there’s some nice stories and anecdotes in this article. And one very fun note about how the minor leagues have changed. When Will Clark was drafted (the last #2 overall pick the Giants have ever had) in 1985, he signed quickly and went straight to full-season Single-A Fresno (California League) to start playing. And he hit two home runs in his first game, of course, including one in that first professional at-bat.

Draft Slot Update

Mike Moustakas signed with the Royals this week, in a surrender to the weirdest free agent market in free agent history. This affects the Giants because that means there’s one less compensation pick that might push back the Giants second round pick. It currently sits at #44, and now can only go back to #46.

The remaining players who would need to sign with new teams would be Greg Holland (from the Rockies) and Alex Cobb (from the Rays). Cobb lost a potential landing spot this week when Lance Lynn signed a one-year deal with the Twins.

First Round of Cuts

Nothing really surprising in this list, none of the names had a huge chance to make the roster. Reyes Moronta and Steven Okert were two of the players who were expected to be in the mix, but the Tony Watson signing really hurt Okert’s chance.

Miguel Gomez also probably could have lasted past the first cuts, but I imagine the team will be wanting him to get as many innings as possible defensively, so minor league camp was the ideal spot for him to go.

Players Who May No Longer Be Giants

The three who might still be Giants are Gustavo Cabrera, Caleb Smith and Heath Slatton. None of the names here are overly notable, although Ryan Lollis is a former Major League player. Still, part of baseball are the guys who eventually retire or leave.

AZL Team Names Announced! (Sorta)

On the website, the Giants’ Arizona League teams are now listed as “AZL Giants Black” and “AZL Giants Orange”. Previously, they were listed just by numbers, and since the AZL and their teams don’t have any official PR, I’m going to consider this an official announcement!

Of the organizations that have more than one AZL team, the Giants are the only ones who have gone with custom names (The Cubs, Indians and Padres are all just 1 & 2), but the color designations have been used in the Dominican Summer League (the Astros and Phillies both do that). In the Gulf Coast League, the three organizations with two team all call their teams “East” or “West”.

Pavlovic interview Heliot Ramos and Jacob Gonzalez

Alex Pavlovic took advantage of the Spring to go and talk to the Giants’ top two picks in last year’s draft. Alex says the two have become fast friends, and that’s probably my favorite thing to have heard. Hearing these two be friends and want to come up together makes me really really happy, and makes me hope neither become trade bait.

And although I’ve known the correct pronunciation of Heliot’s name for a while now, did anyone else mispronounce it in their mind after he was drafted? I blame MLB Network, because that’s how I was pronouncing it for a while.

MLB Network Talking Giants Prospects

This is pretty much a quick look and nothing really insightful, but hey, it’s prospect related stuff. Check it out here.

Fresno, The Astros, And A Look Into Minor League Fandom

The former Giants Triple-A affiliate has been an Astros affiliate since the Giants were courted away by Sacramento after the 2014 season. Now, an article talking about the relationship between the Grizzlies and Astros says that Fresno fans have never accepted their new affiliation, based upon interviews and attendance numbers.

The article has a few problems. There is one big factual error, as the writer says “The love affair between Fresno fans and the San Francisco Giants began in 1998” when Fresno first hosted a Giants affiliate in 1958 in the California league, a spot held until 1988, what had been the longest continuous working agreement in baseball…this might be an important fact. It uses the history of an NFL move involving a Houston team (the Oilers to Tennessee) as a comparison that really seems like a very different situation. It also suggests (via a different quoted article) that the performance of the 2016 Giants in the standings were proof that the minor league team would not have been winning (while ignoring the minor league affiliate was also losing as the major league team won three World Series Championships).

But it does come across an interesting point.

As a Giants affiliate, the Grizzlies only made the playoffs once, their debut year in 1998. As an Astros affiliate, the Grizzlies won not just a PCL title, but the Triple-A title, in 2015 (the first year of the affiliation). And while the players that went through Fresno won titles in San Francisco, the Astros organization also has a title, with many former Grizzlies as well.

If this is true, then it implies that winning is not what will draw fans to minor league teams, either by that team itself or the top of the organization. The assumption this article makes, that the attendance success of a minor league team is about its’ approximate location to their Major League affiliate, is a disturbing thought for many a minor league affiliate.

Meanwhile, the idea that the Rangers will change affiliates from Round Rock (and allow the Astros to return there) isn’t a sure thing, nor the question of what team might then move into Fresno (The A’s? Why didn’t they move there after 2014 then?). That said, this fall’s affiliation shuffle still seems like it will be interesting, even if the Giants won’t shuffle themselves.

(For what it’s worth, the article’s author posted this to Reddit, where I raised these concerns about the article’s quality. You can read his responses here.)

UPDATE - Minor League Pace of Play Rules Announced! (BIG CHANGES)

Minor League Baseball has announced their Pace of Play rule changes, and it’s pretty damn crazy. I’ll do a quick rundown, but you can see the full list here.

  • Extra innings begin with a runner on second at every level. The runner will be the player in the previous spot to the batting order that will lead off the inning. Runners on second will be determined as having gotten there by error, and will not count against ERA if they score.
  • Mound Visits - You knew this was coming. There are a lot of caveats, you can read about in the link above. The big news is that there are different limits at different levels:
  • Triple-A - 6 Visits
  • Double-A - 8 Visits
  • Single A - 10 visits
  • Short Season/Rookie - No limit
  • Pitch Timers - Only at Triple-A and Double-A. Pitcher must begin his motion before the clock expires. 15 seconds with no runners on base; 20 seconds with runners on base. With a runner on, if the pitcher feints or steps off the rubber, the clock resets. Penalty is a ball being called. If the batter is not “alert to the pitcher” with seven or more seconds remaining, a strike will be called. The first 15 days of the season (through April 19th) will be a grace period, where players will get warnings. Starting on April 20th, penalties will be given.