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May 13, 2010

Future Shock Blog

Minor League Update: Games of May 12

by Kevin Goldstein

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And Now, We Wait Some More

Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals (Triple-A Syracuse) 

Wednesday's stats: 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K

It's a waste of time to talk about how well Strasburg pitched, and it's a waste of time to act like him delivering six no-hit innings has any effect on his big league timetable, which remains on course for an early June debut. We can have fun with numbers, though--and share that so far, opposing batters are 14-for-116 (.121) against Strasburg, with two doubles, eight walks and 40 strikeouts. My favorite split? Batters leading off an inning against the uber-prospect are 0-for-31. It's really all the fun we can have at this point. You know, other than watching him pitch.

He's Not Strasburg (Who Is?), But That Doesn't Mean He's Not Good

Andrew Cashner, RHP, Cubs (Triple-A Iowa) 

Wednesday's stats: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K

After cruising through Double-A hitters in April, the 2008 first-round pick out of TCU made his Pacific Coast League debut Wednesday, and proved that the next level wasn't much of a challenge. Pitching in the notorious hitter's haven of Las Vegas makes his line all the more impressive. Cashner's amateur stardom came as a closer in college, and there are plenty of rumors that he's in line for an upcoming call to help out the big league club's bullpen. His long-term future should be as a starter, so let's hope any such move is only a temporary one. 

Like Strasburg, He's Not Really Learning Anything

Buster Posey, C, Giants (Triple-A Fresno) 

Wednesday's stats: 3-for-5, 3 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI 

Giants general manager Brian Sabean insists that Posey has work to do in the minors, but at least he doesn't pretend any of that work involves his hitting. With last night's outburst, he's batting .355/.448/.579 for the Grizzlies. Instead, Sabean insists that Posey's receiving skills still need work, despite the fact he's played errorless ball so far, been charged with just one passed ball and nailed half of all stolen base attempts. Just admit you are managing his service time clock, Mr. Sabean, we'll understand--kind of. 

Taking The Good With The Bad

Trayce Thompson, OF, White Sox (Low-A Kannapolis) 

Wednesday's stats: 2-for-4, 2 HR (6), 2 R, 5 RBI 

Arguably the riskiest pick of the 2009 draft right here. Nobody questioned Thompson's remarkable tools and athleticism, but at the same time, he was about as raw as a player can get. A player this unrefined is expected to have growing pains, but the start he's off to has been one of the most remarkable of the year. Three home runs in his first six games set up some unrealistic expectations, however, as nobody in the industry was surprised by a recent slump that saw him mired in a 5-for-42 nightmare before Wednesday's game. Even an overall line of .244/.301/.535 is remarkable progress for a player who struggled against high school pitching at times last year.

Recovering From The Bad News

Michael Brantley, OF, Indians (Triple-A Columbus) 

Wednesday's stats: 3-for-4, 2 R; 1-for-3, R, BB  

As noted here in the past, most teams are happy to give players a mulligan when they struggle in the big leagues and get sent back to the minors. It's a tough thing to deal with, both emotionally and financially, all while trying to make the necessary adjustments to get back to the show. Brantley went 4-for-23 in his first five games following his late-April devotion, but since then he's been on fire, batting .429 in his last 10 games while scoring 11 runs out of the leadoff spot. The Indians have seemingly figured some things out in their outfielder with great seasons in the corners from Austin Kearns and Shin-Shoo Choo, and despite his struggles, Grady Sizemore isn't going anywhere in center. There's no room at the inn for now, but Brantley will be back eventually. 

Welcome Back

Derek Norris, C, Nationals (High-A Potomac) 

Wednesday's stats: 3-for-5, 2 R, RBI 

It hasn't been a fun year for Norris, one of the top young catching prospects in the game. Slow to heal from offseason surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand, Norris didn't make his season debut until April 18, and then lasted just two at-bats because of more pain. After almost another month of shelf time to heal and get him comfortable swinging the bat, Norris finally returned to play this week, and on Wednesday had his first three hits of the season. He has a bit of lost time to make up, but he's a patient hitter with plus power for a catcher. While his defense really does need some work (unlike Posey's), the Nationals envision him catching Strasburg at some point in 2012.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

17 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

sarsfield

KG...its May big guy, not April

May 13, 2010 09:47 AM
rating: -1
 
rweiler

In fairness to Sabean, Molina is hitting 345/420/460 at the major league level at the moment. Amazingly enough, Molina seems to have learned the value of a walk at age 36 and is on track to obliterate his previous season high. Posey would mostly be riding the pine until Molina tails off.

May 13, 2010 09:55 AM
rating: 0
 
leites

Uribe is walking too. Sounds like the SF hitting coach is doing at least one thing right.

May 13, 2010 11:06 AM
rating: 0
 
cbirkemeier

Legally, teams can't say their managing service time clocks. The players' agents would file grievances.

May 13, 2010 10:30 AM
rating: 3
 
AadikShekar

Sadly, don't think the Giants are managing service time - they think DeRosa and Molina nad co are better hitters. BORK (what we've taken to calling Bochy) will sit Posey and give him an AB a week.

May 13, 2010 10:32 AM
rating: 1
 
Jivas
(649)

Re: Strasburg

Does it make sense for the Nats to have him pitch out of the stretch on occasion even with no runners on base? While the point about his refining his mechanics from the stretch is more of a cover-up to a service-time excuse than a real reason to keep him in the minors, if it's something he can work on to get better, well ... he ain't pitching much from the stretch right now.

May 13, 2010 10:34 AM
rating: 2
 
billm21

Concerning Posey's defense, the one catching skill for which there is no metric (as opposed to errors, passed balls & caught stealing) is how he is handling the pitching staff, calling pitches, etc. Is this the area of concern for the Giants as opposed to just how he's catching and throwing the ball?

May 13, 2010 10:44 AM
rating: 0
 
rweiler

That's the standard line - that he isn't ready to call a major league game. Also, he had some problems with passed balls early on this year. The first seems like BS to me. My contention is that much of the reason that Zito has underperformed during his Giants career is that Molina would *never* call for a fastball up and in to a right handed batter where Zito is surprisingly effective. Everything was down and away where Zito would either miss, or batters would hang out over the plate and mash. Zito's career turned around when Sandoval started catching him as he was unafraid to call for pitches up and in apparently not 'knowing better'. Honestly, is it that hard to call for fastballs in on the hands, and breaking balls down and away?

May 13, 2010 10:55 AM
rating: 0
 
stevedave

I really don't understand the reasoning that he isn't ready to call a major league game as an excuse to keep Posey in Fresno. How much better is he going to get at calling a Major League Game by spending an extra month in the Pacific Coast League catching Bumgarner, Pucetas, Hacker and Joe Martinez?

May 13, 2010 11:06 AM
rating: 0
 
sharksrog

Let's look at the many aspects to Buster Posey.

. The primary reason the Giants sent Buster to Fresno (aside from re-signing Bengie Molina) was to work on his pitch-calling and handling of pitchers.

Posey's catcher's ERA of 3.46 this season is nearly a run and a half lower than former Giants backup Steve Holm's.4.87. Over the past four weeks Buster has been a 2.81 compared to Holm's 5.16. That's approaching a two and a half run difference.

I can't say how Buster is calling pitches or handling his pitchers, but I can say his pitchers are getting results when he is behind the dish.

. The Giants also wanted Buster to work on his defense, since has been catching for only three and a half years after being a shortstop through his freshman year at Florida State University.

As mentioned by Kevin, Buster is errorless (at first base, as well), has allowed only one passed ball and as far as I know, only one wild pitch.

I believe Kevin officially has Buster at 6-for-12 baserunners caught stealing. In reality, one of those CS came when Madison Bumgarner picked a runner off first base and the runner was caught trying to "steal" second. Still, Buster would be 5-for-11 (45%) on his actual throws.

We know Buster is athletic, and he seems to have cut back markedly on his previous propensity for passes balls. The Giants believe he will become one of the best in baseball at playing defense and showing generalship from behind the plate. It would appear if Buster isn't there already, he's closer than the three-hour drive from Fresno to San Francisco.

. As Kevin pointed out, Buster's OPS is above 1.000. When the Giants called up Pablo Sandoval in 2008, Pablo's numbers between Class A San Jose and AA Connecticut were a .355 batting average with a .588 slugging percentage. Buster's numbers this season at AAA Fresno are .355 with a .579 SLG.

Despite the similar results, there is a tremendous difference in their style's of hitting. Unlike the free-swinging Sandoval, Posey is a disciplined hitter. In his minor league career he has walked only two fewer times than he has struck out.

. After a day off, Buster's hitting turned the corner 10 games ago. The right-handed hitter was already achieving a high average, but most of his hits had come to center and right fields.

Using the whole field has long been one of his strengths. But using the WHOLE field includes pulling the ball on occasion. Buster had hit only one home run and was averaging only a base and a third per hit.

In his past 10 games he has hit four home runs to left field and used the entire field to add six doubles. After averaging a Bondsian two bases per hit during those 10 contests, he is now up to nearly a base and two-thirds per hit.

. The primary component Posey lacks in being major-league ready appears to be a position to play. Bengie Molina and Eli Whiteside not only have the Giants' team ERA under three, they may have been the best-hitting catching duo in the majors. Aubrey is playing a decent first base, both offensively and defensively.

Giants left fielder Mark DeRosa will again need surgery on his re-injured wrist. If it hasn't improved by the weekend, he will likely go on the disabled list. If he undergoes the surgery during the season, he will likely miss the rest of the year.

If I were the Giants, I would begin having Buster play left field when he's not catching. At Florida State, Posey once played all nine positions in a single game. He picked up first base in spring training with little or no practice before being put into the lineup.

Posey's speed is average, so I don't think he could play center field or possibly even his previous position of shortstop. Although he closed in college with a 94 mph fastball, he doesn't really look like a pitcher. But I think he could play any other position on the field.

Right now the Giants have no place to put Buster. The guy has poise, and he's one of the most intelligent and athletic guys in the organization. Work him out in left field and at second base so he has three positions to play when he's not catching.

Posey doesn't have the speed, but he's got the verstatility of Craig Biggio. The Giants should take advantage of it to find places to get his bat in the lineup on a daily basis.

May 13, 2010 14:03 PM
rating: 4
 
sharksrog

The comment was made that if the Giants brought up Buster Posey up they wouldn't play him.

They would -- for two reasons.

First, they aren't going to sit their top hitting prospect. If for some reason he's not yet ready for the majors, they would send him back to Fresno. Aside from the food, playing in Fresno is better than sitting in Frisco.

Second, notice that playing starts with P, and sitting with S? Bruce Bochy uses a PS system for when to play his players, young and old.

Produce and you will Play. Stink and you will Sit. It's as simple as PS.

No BS.

May 13, 2010 14:09 PM
rating: -2
 
rweiler

I see that today, the Richmond Flying Squirrels played a game where *everybody* except the pitcher played out of position. Nick Noonan, a 2nd baseman up to now, caught, holding the opposition to 2 runs and throwing out an attempted base stealer. It really makes you wonder how much 'savy' one needs to catch - or play any other position really since apparently there were no errors.

http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&t=g_box&gid=2010_05_13_altaax_ricaax_1

May 13, 2010 21:46 PM
rating: 0
 
rweiler

Never mind - it looks like they fixed the box score.

May 14, 2010 09:40 AM
rating: 0
 
Yarky1

Classic.

May 14, 2010 13:27 PM
rating: 0
 
sldeck

Dustin Ackley's certainly happy to turn the calendar page.

April: .147/.289/.227

May: .353/.476/.529

May 14, 2010 09:09 AM
rating: 1
 
Ankiel66

I'm still waiting for a Drew Storen comment.

May 14, 2010 09:29 AM
rating: -1
 
DGBL

No more MILB update on Friday?

May 15, 2010 10:59 AM
rating: 0
 
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