Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Training Notes: Cuts and a Look at the Giants Prospects This Spring

So, I figure with Opening Day and with final roster cuts coming up, it would be a good time to see who has done well and who has struggled this Spring out of the prospects invited to Spring Training. Here are a few points in "bullet form."

-- As noted in the title, the Giants made another round of cuts, optioning pitcher Hector Correa and outfielder Tyler Graham to Triple-A to Fresno (title of the blog alert!). The news on those two isn't too much of a surprise considering the Giants bullpen and outfield is pretty crowded as it is, and those two were long shots to make the 25-man this Spring. Correa struck out three in 2.1 innings of work, while also allowing one run on three hits and two walks. While Graham impressed with his abilities in the field, he never could get comfortable at the plate this Spring, as he only had two hits and one walk in 15 at-bats.

-- The Giants also made some assignments to Minor League camp last Sunday. On the list were infielders Chris Dominguez and Nick Noonan, catcher Jackson Williams, outfielder Juan Perez, and pitchers Matt Yourkin, Mitch Lively and Justin Fitzgerald.

-- The most impressive performer of the bunch was Perez, who posted a slash of  .455/.538/.909 in nine games and 11 at-bats with the Giants Spring club. He also added a home run, a triple and a stolen base to his stat total this Spring. The Spring is a nice sign for Perez who is coming off a down year in Richmond where he posted a slash of .256/.303/.381 in 497 plate appearances. The previous season, Perez gained some steam as an under the radar prospect after hitting .298 with an .809 OPS in 596 plate appearances with the San Jose Giants. While he is a bit of an older prospect (he's going to be 25 this year), Perez has some very Andres Torres-esque qualities in the sense that he has good speed (22 stolen bases a year ago) and some pop for a guy of his diminutive stature. Whether he starts in Richmond or Fresno, I think Perez could have a bounce back year in 2012, and this Spring was certainly a good sign for such a breakout.

-- On March 16th, the Giants sent top prospect Gary Brown to Minor League camp. Though he is the consensus No. 1 Giants prospect on most experts' lists and a Top-50 prospect in baseball, the move isn't a surprise considering Brown's highest level of play is the Cal League. With Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera being acquired this off-season, and with Gregor Blanco's hot spring, Brown's shot of making the 25-man roster was very slim and unlikely to begin with. In seven games with the Big League squad this Spring, Brown had two hits in 11 at-bats, both singles. While he did have a stolen base, he was caught stealing twice on three attempts. One of the big things Brown needs to work on is being more efficient on the basepaths, as he was caught 19 times last year. With his 80 scout grade speed, that is just way too much. Hopefully the Giants worked with him on some things this Spring that will make him more efficient this upcoming season.

-- Of the non-roster invitee prospects in the Giants system, the biggest performer had to be Tommy Joseph, who had two home runs in nine at-bats with the Giants Spring club. He also showed a solid eye at the plate, walking twice and only striking out once. Considering that his biggest weakness as a hitter was the questionable plate discipline, this Spring was an encouraging sign for him this upcoming year as he makes the move from the Cal to the Eastern League.

-- In terms of pitching prospects, the results have been a little mixed. Eric Surkamp was expected to battle for the fifth spot in the Giants' rotation, but he hasn't stood out amazingly this Spring. While he has displayed flashes of the command that made him such a great prospect in the Cal and Eastern League (he has struck out 11 and only walked 3 in 11.1 innings of work), he has still proven to be too hittable when facing Major League hitters. He allowed 13 hits and six runs in four appearances and two starts this year. It is likely that he will start the year in Fresno.

-- On the other end, Heath Hembree came on with a fury this Spring, striking out seven in five innings of work while only walking one and allowing two hits and a run. With Brian Wilson showing some arm issues this Spring, Hembree made a case why he should be considered in the Giants bullpen as soon as this year. If Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt or Javier Lopez show any signs of struggle, don't be surprised to see Hembree get a call up to the big league roster sooner rather than later. He may be the third best right handed reliever on the Giants roster behind Wilson and Sergio Romo.

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