Sunday, January 25, 2015

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Alonzo Jones

If you are looking for a poor man's version of Yoan Moncada, Alonzo Jones is your guy.  Jones comes out of HS in Columbus, OH.  He has a similar build to Moncada listed variously as 5'10", 182 lbs or 5'9", 197 lbs.  I would say from his appearance in videos he is closer to the latter numbers.  He is probably the fastest man in the draft, timed electronically at 6.17 sec in the 60.  Several scouts who timed him by hand had higher numbers but he has another time of 6.37 recorded which still makes him the fastest guy in the draft.  He also has a pair of the biggest, strongest arms I've seen.  I mean, those dudes look like branches on a sequoia tree!  PG's comment is that he has "good hitting tools with power from both sides of the plate."  In one video I saw batting left-handed, he laid into one pitch and the sound off the bat was literally like a gunshot!  Right now, he is a middle infielder that most scouts think will end up at 2B, but they are also thinking his tremendous speed would be best utilized in CF.

I guess the downsides are 1.  He is already fairly heavy for his height.  2.  He is committed to Vanderbilt which always makes signing a bit dicey.  3.  As with all HS hitters, you don't know for sure if the hit-tool will develop.

All in all, though, he is the most exciting prospect I have encountered in this series since I profiled Justin Hooper early on.  BA has Jones ranked as the #28 prospect in the 2015 draft while Kiley McDaniel has him at #18.  Personally, I would be thrilled if the Giants took him in round 1.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #32 Gary Brown

Gary Brown, OF.  DOB:  9/28/1988.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 190 lbs.

2014 AAA:  .271/.329/.394, 24 2B, 6 3B, 10 HR, 36 SB, 20 CS, 6.0 BB%, 20.0 K%, 596 PA.
2014 MLB:   3 for 7, 0 BB, 0 K 7 Games.

What is that saying about an enigma wrapped in a riddle and packaged in a conundrum?  That would not be a bad description of Gary Brown's situation.  There are so many unanswered questions surrounding Gary Brown I hardly know where to start!  Here's just one.  I saw Gary Brown beat out a tapper late last season, and man, he got down to first base in a hurry!  I don't know when I've seen a guy go from home to first quicker than that.  Here's the question:  How does a guy with that kind of speed continue to get throw out stealing well over 30% of the time?  Then there are the persistent stories and rumors about disagreements with the Giants coaches, possibly all the way up to senior management.  Stories of trying different approaches at the plate only to discard them.

The most definitive article I could find on the subject was by Alex Pavlovic in the SJ Mercury News from spring training 2014.  What Alex said was that like his college coaches at CS Fullerton, the Giants coaches have tried to get Brown to be more of a slap hitter to take better advantage of his speed.  Brown responds by saying, "I'm not that guy!"  He sees himself as a gap-power hitter.  No less of a coach than Hensley Meulens responded by saying that Brown might not be a leadoff hitter with that approach.  Brown comes back insisting he has always been a leadoff hitter and thinks his approach will work there.  Meanwhile, Brian Sabean weighs in by saying he still considers Brown to be very much a prospect.

If it was clear that Brown's star dimmed judging from the location of his locker in Scottsdale last spring, it was even more obvious from the parade of players who were tried ahead of him in LF last year.  I mean, at one point Juan Perez was getting starts while hitting under .100.  Chris Dominguez got a start in LF and Gary Brown didn't.  Travis Ishikawa eventually won the starting LF job for crying out loud!  If that doesn't scream out a message to Gary Brown from the organization, then I don't know what would.

I have to admit I have mixed thoughts on all this.  Here are some of them in no particular order:

1.  I don't know that you have to be a slap hitter or have a particularly high OBP to be a leadoff hitter.  Angel Pagan is not a slap hitter nor does he have a particularly high OBP, yet the Giants are clearly a better team when he is leading off(although that remains to be seen with Nori Aoki on the team).  On the other hand, at this point, Gary Brown would be smart to say he is happy to bat anywhere the Giants want him to bat!

2.  I think it is quite possible that the Giants have changed more than Gary Brown since he was drafted.  The Giants have not always appeared to value OBP and contact even at the top of the lineup.  They certainly seem to now, but I believe they probably knew exactly what they were getting when they drafted him in the first round in 2010 and didn't care.

3.  Whatever message the Giants are sending Gary Brown, it seems quite clear he is not listening.  He also does not seem to be a guy who responds well to negative feedback.  My suggestion at this point is let Gary Brown be Gary Brown.  At age 26, it is unlikely that a major change in his approach is going to succeed anyway.  Encourage him to be the best he can be at whoever and whatever Gary Brown is.  The next time a need arises in the OF in SF, go ahead and give him a try.  It can't be any more of a longshot than Chris Dominguez or Travis Ishikawa!  If  the organization is not willing to take that approach, they should try to find another organization who will trade for him, even if it is for a low level prospect.  The number of MLB organizations who still value someone with Gary Brown's skill set  is shrinking, so there might not be many takers, but Baltimore and the Chicago White Sox have shown interest in these types of players in the recent past(I am thinking in particular of Baltimore giving Francisco Peguero a look-see).  KC is another organization that might be a fit.

For now, it looks like Brown will be back in AAA doing what Gary Brown does and there is not a clear path out of that box.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

RIP Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks was part of the vanguard of young African-American baseball players who revolutionized Major League Baseball in the 1950's after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 followed by several Negro League veterans.  The "new wave" started with Willie Mays in 1951 and was quickly followed by Hank Aaron and Banks followed later by players like Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Willie Stargell, Joe Morgan, Maury Wills and Lou Brock.  Players who dominated baseball headlines of the 1950's and 1960's and into the 1970's.  The National League embraced African American players first and the AL was amazingly slow to follow which led to two nearly two decades of dominance for the NL as the league that played the superior, more exciting brand of baseball.

Ernie Banks was unique in that he was really the first power hitting shortstop in baseball.  He broke in with the Cubs as their first African-American player in 1953 and quickly established himself as one of the most valuable players in baseball routinely hitting 40+ HR's per season while playing a premium defensive position.  Advanced defensive metrics were not recorded back then, but according to Fangraphs, he regularly put up WAR's ranging from 7-10 during his peak seasons in the mid-1950's.  Banks moved over to first base in 1963.  I did not become aware of baseball until I was 10 years old in 1966.  I always thought of Banks as a first baseman.  By that time, the first base position was dominated by Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda, so I was not as impressed by Banks as I probably should have been.  As I got older and started reading more about the history of baseball, I was surprised to learn that Banks had been a shortstop and thinking to myself how special that must have been to see.

In addition to his on-field performance, Ernie Banks had an irrepressible, optimistic personality that influenced those around him in a positive way.  There were no dog days for Ernie Banks.  He would come to the ballpark, look around and say "let's play two!"  It became his signature slogan, as recognizable as Yogi Berra's "it ain't over, 'til it's over!"  One thing I did not know about Ernie Banks before I started reading his obituaries was that he ran for city council in Chicago in 1963 while still very much a star player for the Cubs.  His campaign slogan was "City Hall needs a slugger!"  He lost the election, but that did not stop him from loving the Cubs and the City of Chicago.  He would remain an ambassador for the Cubs, Chicago and Major League Baseball to the day he died.  Banks was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, 6 years after he retired.  In 2013, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Somewhere in the Universe, if only in our mind's eye, it is a clear, sunny day, 70 degrees, and Ernie Banks is looking out on a Field of Dreams with green grass stretching as far as the eye can see saying "let's play two!"  RIP Ernie Banks.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #31 Adam Duvall

Adam Duvall, 1B/3B.  DOB:  9/4/1988.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 205 lbs.

2013 AA:     .252/.320/.465, 17 HR, 8.1 BB%, 16.7 K%, 430 PA.
2014 AAA:  .298/.360/.599, 27 HR 7.6 BB%, 20.8 K%, 394 PA.
2014 MLB:  .192/.234/.342, 3 HR, 3.9 BB%, 26.0 K%, 77 PA.

Adam Duvall has methodically worked his way up the Giants organizational ladder since he was drafted in round 11, 2010 out of Louisville.  Duvall is a masher who has pretty much crushed it at the plate at every level.  He has played 3B most of the time, but struggled with a tendency to sail his throws to first.  He was called up to SF last summer during a spate of injuries on the MLB team.  He showed his power with 3 dingers in a small sample size, but also showed why analysts are concerned about his contact skills despite non-terrible K rates in the minors.

At this point, it is hard to figure out what to make of Duvall's future.  I think it is too early to give up on the bat, but it will probably take some sustained playing time for him to get established and the Giants clearly do not think they have the luxury of being able to give him that time.  The problem for Duvall is baseball is full of defensively challenged corner IF who can mash at AAA so it is not clear where else he would get an opportunity.

Right now, it looks like he will most likely be back in AAA biding time in case of an injury.  Again, though, with Travis Ishikawa and Joaquin Arias ahead of him on the depth chart, Sacramento is going to be long, long ways from SF.  Ceiling is most likely AAAA player with a small chance that he could find himself in the right place at the right time and catch lightning in a bottle.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Blogger's Note

Unfortunately, due to the behavior of 1 or 2 trolls on the site, we had to institute a moderation function for comments.  Comments will not appear until they they have been reviewed and approved.  I will try to check the inbox as frequently as possible to keep the flow going.  I hope everybody understands.

Dr B

Hot Stove Update: Vogey Is Back!

Wow!  I guess Vogey just can't quit the Giants, huh?  After Jake Peavy re-signed, giving the Giants 5 starters plus a swingman, it appeared there was no chance that Vogey would be back for another year as a Giant.  When it was reported that he was close to a deal with the Astros I was all ready to write a Thoughts on Ryan Vogelsong farewell post. Then, in less than 24 hours, it all turned around.  The Astros talks stalled.  As soon as it was reported that the Giants were involved, you KNEW he was coming back.  Remember, this is the guy who wouldn't sign a minor league deal with the Dodgers when literally nobody else wanted him because he DIDN'T WANT TO BE A DODGER!  So the Vogey story continues for at least one more season.

Vogelsong actually had a much better season last year than his 8-13 W-L record would indicate.  He started 32 games, pitched 182.2 IP.  He had the second best K/BB of his Giants tenure, very close to his 2012 numbers.  His average FB velocity rebounded by a full MPH into the 90 range.  It would seem that even though he will turn 38 about mid-season, he still has something left in the tank.

The question now is what role is he going to play?  The Giants now have 6 SP's on the roster plus Yusmeiro Petit.  Will they put Petit plus one of the SP's in the bullpen?  Will they dabble with a 6 man rotation to make up for the extra wear and tear of another long postseason run?  How likely is everyone to stay healthy?

The most likely scenario is that when everybody is healthy, either Timmy or Vogey will come out of the bullpen, but I would like to see the Giants try some things with a 6 man rotation.  Instead of a standard 6 man round-robin, I would like them to use the extra guy to allow each starter to skip a start every 6'th start or so.  It could be adjusted according to who is going good and who is or isn't feeling fatigued, but I think a scheduled skipped start here and there could do wonders for an aging rotation that has been overworked now for 5 seasons.

What do you think Ryan Vogelsong's role will or should be?

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #30 Dylan Davis

Dylan Davis, OF.  DOB:  7/20/1993.  B-R, T-R.  6'0", 200 lbs.

2013 College(Oregon St.):  .335/.375/.502, 22 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 19 BB, 35 K, 257 AB.
2013 Cape Cod Leaugue:   .317/.378/.567, 8 2B, 6 HR, 12 BB, 16 K, 104 AB.
2014 College(Oregon St.):  .283/.333/.430, 7 HR, 21 BB, 31 K, 237 AB.
2014 Rookie AZL:             .297/.341/.486, 7.3 BB%, 29.3 K%, 41 PA.
2014 Short Season:             .200/.269/.341, 4 HR, 7.5 BB%, 24.7 K%, 93 PA.

After researching this post, I understand better why the Giants drafted Dylan Davis in the 3'rd round of the 2014 amateur draft.  BTW, there was another similar player named Dylan J or DJ Davis drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Cal State Fullerton.  Anyway, Davis fits several descriptions of the type of player the Giants have been drafting in rounds 2-5:  1. College power hitter/corner player.  2.  Great Cape Cod League performance.  3.  Player whose stock slipped a bit in their draft year.

Davis had a breakout college season in 2013 followed by a very good summer at the Cape.  His 2014 at OSU was not terrible, but it was not quite up to the expectations created by his 2013 season.  The Giants got him signed and after a few games in Arizona, sent him to Salem-Keizer.   His BA there was alarmingly low, but he did hit 4 HR in just 93 PA which is a rate of 25 in 600 PA.

Davis also pitched some in college and has a mid-90's FB and a sharp breaking slider.  He is unpolished as a pitcher and gets a wild hair up his nose, walking about as many as he K's.  Most draft analysts believe his best path to the majors is as an OF.  He's strictly a corner guy, but has more than enough arm to play RF.  He is on the stocky side with a simple upright stance and a quick stroke.  His build, with relatively short arms that are large in the shoulders and biceps then telescope down, As well as his swing all remind me of Dan Uggla.

Davis could be assigned to either Augusta or San Jose next year.  I'm going to guess San Jose.  Ceiling is a corner OF with a great arm who can hit in the low-mid .200's with 25 HR power.  Significant bust potential.  Interesting guy to follow.  2015 will be a critical year for him to establish himself as a legitimate prospect.