Can you give me any info on Mark Minicozzi? I know he was one of the leading hitters for the Salem-Keiser Volcanoes. -Cindy P., Norristown PA
Looking at his stats, it’s easy to be amazed by Minicozzi's August, where he batted .415/.496/.557. Minicozzi was just edged out of the Top 50, mostly between a slow start in a short season and being at a low-level, where the Giants have a lot of talented players. However, I know the Giants love his attitude, and they have a habit of promoting high-performing hustle players (A lot like Kevin Frandsen, who was S-K's 2nd baseman in '04 before his meteoric rise through the system in '05).
He'll probably be expected to play in Augusta next season. There are some things he could work on. It'd be nice if he showed a little more power and got a little more efficient on the basepaths, but if he continues to be as good a contact hitter and show the plate discipline he did most of the '05 season, he'll be on the Top 50 next season, and probably pretty high up on it.
Everyone seems to look at the number of doubles a prospect hits as a possible predictor of future power stats. Does anyone actually break down the nature of those hits though? Obviously a batter who hits a lot of screaming liners off the wall or up the gap would have more power potential than one who legs out a bunch of bloops or grounders down the lines. -Mike G, Redwood City
This is one of the best questions I’ve gotten. Unfortunately, for most observers who don't/can't go to all the games, there isn't a way to break down how the hits work. There simply aren't any detailed resources for fans regarding how the hits are recorded. But you're right that the ways things happen are just as important as the final numbers. One could say the same thing about strikeouts, and the differences between strikeouts looking and strikeouts swinging, regular walks vs. intentional walks (or even 'unintentional' intentional walks), and so forth. Otherwise, it's just up to us who get to a lot of games personally to relay what we see.
The good news is that things are changing. MLB.com is expanding it's 'Gameday' system of covering games over the internet to also include AAA in 2006, and one of the most useful things that has come from that are hit charts on the MLB.com site that do show where each type of hit comes down. Whether or not they will keep the hit charts for all the AAA players online for fans to access and analyze, I don't know yet. But hopefully this is a sign of things to come, and a start to many more detailed resources for those who wish to follow the minor leagues much closer.
I would like to know who the thirdbaseman are at each level and to evaluate their skill and projection. Since we got rid of our thirdbaseman, I was wondering who will be up and coming in the minors. – Beth
The third base situation is certainly one of the weak spots in the organization, and will be one of the most intriguing question spots not just for 2006 but also beyond. For 2006, the Giants are content to go with Pedro Feliz at third, whom the Giants are banking will improve without having to worry about shuffling positions. However, Feliz is a free agent at the end of '06, and frankly, the market is going to be bare. The best option is Melvin Mora, and he's renegotiating with the Orioles, so he may not even be on the market. It's arguable that behind Mora, Feliz is the best free agent on the market, as the rest are old or questionable.
The options on the high end of the farm system do not look like starter material, at least not that will be ready by '07. Mike Cervenak is in a position to be called up and used as a backup as soon as this season, but it's unlikely that even if he's good enough to be a starter that Sabean would put him in that spot. There are more options who'll likely be at AA, but all of them have issues. Brian Busher had serious problems at AA in '05. Todd Jennings, a converted catcher, is a solid overall hitter, but doesn't have the ideal power for third and projects better if he plays at second. And Jake Wald had a very productive season at shortstop for San Jose (he can play third), but that was his first big offensive year and will have to prove he's consistent before he's pushed too quickly.
The options at the lower levels of the system are a little better, but obviously are far away. The most exciting is Pablo Sandoval (another converted catcher), a teenager who exceled at Salem-Keizer, but that's 5 full levels away from majors. Simon Klink at Augusta has shown good power potential, but also a lot of strikeouts and not enough contact yet, though he'll get a shot at San Jose this year. David Maroul was a third baseman in the College World Series, but played shortstop in Salem-Keizer. He could play either spot, but his hitting will have to improve.
I know it looks bleak, but there are some indications that the Giants will look for a third baseman with their high draft pick this year, someone who can move through the system quickly. Evan Longoria of Long Beach, who played 3rd last year and will play shortstop this year is a very likely choice should he still be around by #10 when the Giants pick.
Clay Timpner ranked higher than Dan Ortmeier? Are you nuts? -Russell, Cupertino, CA.
It’s something I get accused of a lot.
Timpner and Ortmeier came out very close in my rankings, and the one thing that nudged Timpner ahead of Ortmeier is that if neither player improves at all from this day on, Timpner has the skills to be a worthwhile major league backup right now, while Ortmeier would be a borderline major leaguer. This is because Timpner has great speed and defense, and those skills alone along with being left handed would make him a useful utility outfielder on any team. While both players have the potential to be good major leaguers, Ortmeier has a little further to go to be one.
Which of these players on your list do you think has the best chance to be on the major league roster on opening day? - Robin S., Oakland, CA.
Well, there’s this kid named Matt Cain…I can’t promise he’s the #1 guy on our list, but he’s a decent enough pitcher, and he should be in the rotation this season.
Other than that, the only really likely possibility is with the relief pitchers, and even there, there aren’t many spots open. Jack Taschner, Jeremy Accardo and Scott Munter all qualified for our Top 50 despite spending significant time in the majors, and all have very good chances competing for spots in the bullpen. But there may also be competition from the ‘losers’ of the 5th rotation spot battle that will include Brad Hennessey, Kevin Correia, and free agent signing Jaret Wright. Plus, don’t count out sidearmer Joe Bateman and hot prospect Brian Wilson in that competition. There’s also a chance that Justin Knoedler might get the backup catcher spot, but Todd Greene will almost certainly get it.
Everywhere else, the roster is filled with veterans even for backup spots. (People keep saying Nate Schierholtz, Fred Lewis, and Travis Ishikawa have shots, but don’t believe it.) But remember, Spring Training isn’t just about winning spots on the major league roster on opening day, but making a big impression in front of the major league coaching staff and becoming the top choice to be called up mid-season. On a team like the Giants where the manager and coaching staff get a lot of say in call-ups and send-downs, an impressive Spring Training performance can often outweigh a poor subsequent minor league stint.
Take Scott Munter, for example. Munter had an extraordinary spring before the 2005 season, winning the Harry S. Jordan award from his teammates and impressing the coaching staff. But he didn’t make the major league roster, and put up a 5.11 ERA with a 1-3 record and a .362 batting average against in his first 12 appearances in Fresno early in the year. Yet he was still called up in April after Armando Benitez’s injury and then again in May after Schmidt’s DL stint. That was all because of his impressing Felipe Alou and company in Spring Training.
This year, watching for the potential mid-season call-ups is particularly important. In the middle infield, you’ve got 37 year old Jose Vizcaino backing up 38 year old Omar Vizquel and still-injury prone 34 year old Ray Durham. There, expect Kevin Frandsen to impress the coaching staff. His work ethic is what the Giants love, and though they’ll want him starting as much as possible (especially to work on playing shortstop and third more regularly, and the only place for that will be AAA), don’t be shocked if the Giants don’t hesitate to call him up if injuries occur. The other injury risk area is in the outfield, which of course is famously old as 40 year old newcomer Steve Finley balances out last season’s mid-season acquisition of 31 year old Randy Winn. Though Todd Linden and Jason Ellison will probably be the guys in the minors waiting to come up, the door is open for Dan Ortmeier, Fred Lewis, or even Nate Schierholtz to make strong pushes. (Eddy Martinez-Esteve is also a possibility, but curiously he was not invited to the big league camp).Thanks for all the questions, and keep sending them in!
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