AAA - Fresno Grizzlies
Is it any surprise that when the Giants sneeze, the Grizzlies catch a cold? Not only does manager Fred Stanley need to juggle injuries in the lineup to Tony Torcato and Lance Niekro. But the starting rotation he had penciled in at the start of the season did not even last a week. Injuries to Ryan Jensen and Rob Nen have robbed him of Jesse Foppert and Jim Brower, and the last minute ‘trade’ of David Cash robbed him of a third starter.
Still, he has made due with what he has. Rotation anchor Jerome Williams, swing man Jeff Urban and Fresno native and junkball specialist Kevin Pickford have all pitched very well. Brian Powell and Mike Johnson, on the roster to provide some major league experienced bullpen depth for the parent club, have filled out the rotation and pitched effectively. Though there was some talk about bringing in an extra arm from outside the organization earlier in the week, effective pitching by the patched together rotation and rehab assignments to major leaguers Ryan Jensen and Jason Christiansen will bolster the staff for the near term.
David Cash Traded:
As mentioned above, promising right-handed starter David Cash was sent to the Chicago Cubs in an enigmatic trade for catcher Gerald McCall and a player to be named later.
On the surface this is an impossible trade:
Though David Cash isn’t in the same prospect category as a Foppert or Williams, he was highly regarded within the organization and scouts project him to be a bottom rotation starter or bullpen ground ball specialist in a couple of years - he is clearly worth more than Gerald McCall, an aging catcher signed by Chicago out the independent leagues who will never rise above A ball. Though the teams haven’t said so, there has been some speculation that the transaction is related to the September trade of Billy Mueller for RHP Jeff Verplanke. After the trade, Chicago complained that Verplanke was damaged goods. Though the teams have not linked the two transactions, it is to date the only logical explanation for why the Giants would trade Cash for the baseball equivalent of a bucket of moderately priced men’s toiletries.
Ellison continues hot pace:
Fast rising center fielder Jason Ellison continues to show that last year’s jump from single A to AAA was well warranted. Ellison is hitting .359 with a .397 on base average, and has already stolen 6 bases. The Giants have always loved scrappy players who play above their natural ability, so in the event that the Giants need an outfielder, don’t be surprised if Ellison’s defensive versatility and gamer mentality has moved him ahead of Todd Linden and Tony Torcato in the call up list.
The 9-6 Grizzlies are in 2nd place in their division and will spend the entire week at home against Salt Lake and Edmonton. As neither team is off to a good start, look for an upbeat week for the Grizzlies.
AA - Norwich Navigators
The 6-6 Navigators’ pitching staff is still trying to get the starting staff up to full speed. Unlike the AAA pitchers who for the most part were invited to the major league camp, very few of the AA staff pitched in live games in the weeks leading up to the season; when coupled with inclement weather and conservative pitch counts, the staff has yet to really get into a groove. Though Boof Bonser, Mitch Walk and Kevin Correia have been consistent, Jeff Clark and Noah Lowry, as well as much of the bullpen, have-not, and none have been allowed to pitch deep into games. The inconsistency hasn’t been aided by shoddy defense and a lack of offensive support (the Navigators have already lost two 1-0 decisions in 12 games). Still, all the team needs is a couple weeks without a snow out and the performances, both on the mound and in the field, should become more settled.
Though the offense has been equally moribund, some punch has been provided by 3B Mike Cervenak and 2B Joe Jester. Cervenak, who came to the Giants organization from the Yankees in the minor league portion of last year’s Rule 5 draft, is hitting .359 and leads the team in RBIs. Joe Jester is hitting .324 and leads the team in runs scored. Both are advanced minor leaguers who would be comfortable at AAA. Carlos Valderrama and Jamie Athas are off to slow starts.
A - San Jose Giants
The 6-8 Giants are not yet firing on all cylinders. Shoddy defense and poor plate discipline have to date been the predominant characteristics. The defense has already committed 16 errors, keeping the pitching staff from relaxing and putting the ball in play. Greg Bruso is off to an 0-3 start with a 6.23 era, but his performance has been better than his line- he has been effective for 5 innings several times before tiring and errors have contributed to big innings several times. Ryan Hannaman continued to pitch well during the week. On offense, the predominant characteristic to date has been the strike out. 5 different starters are already in double digits for strike outs, with free swinging Julian Benavidez leading the pack with; only OF Branden Florence appears to be in a groove, hitting .414 and 4 home runs. The team is in obvious need of better coaching, but don’t blame manager Bill Hayes, he was co-opted by the parent club to fill in as catching/bullpen before the start of the season and has yet to resume his role.
A - Hagerstown Suns
The Suns had a forgettable week, dropping to 5-8 after a promising start. Though Merkin Valdez continued to pitch lights out baseball, Matt Cain and Daniel Portorreal came back to earth with wild games, just to remind us all that young pitchers are inconsistent. The offense has been even more forgettable, with only OF Carlos Sosa and C Brian Munhall breaking the .250 mark; most of the team is below the Mendoza line. Unless the bats wake up with the warmer weather, expect the Suns to go only so far as their starters take them.
If you have any questions or comments related to the Giants minor league teams, or the Giants prospects, you can contact the writer at Dobbsie@earthlink.net.