Could the San Francisco Giants of 2012 be in San Jose in 2009? As reported in the San Jose Mercury today by the intrepid Andy Baggarly, the Giants top prospects will all be in San Jose to start the 2009 season. Check out this roster studded with top prospects:
- Tim Alderson
- Madison Bumgarner
- Brandon Crawford
- Conor Gillaspie
- Roger Kieschnick
- Nick Noonan
- Buster Posey
- Angel Villalona
In addition, Darren Ford and Thomas Neal would fill out the rest of the lineup.
I was wrong in thinking they would put Alderson, Bumgarner, and Posey in AA to start in 2009. I had heard rumblings that they might hold back Bumgarner and Posey because of the cold in Connecticut, and should have heeded them. Alderson was the biggest surprise because he did so well in San Jose last season (led league in ERA if I remember right), but as Baggarley reported:
They won't be together for long, though. Alderson, who won the ERA title in the California League last year, is returning because Giants officials want to shield their elite prospects from the cold at Double-A Connecticut.
Once the weather warms up in New England, Alderson will be on his way. And others could join him.
Sabean noted that times have changed:
"Years ago it was standard that a kid had to master his level, and most of
the time, spend the whole year at one spot," Giants General Manager Brian Sabean
said. "Now, if you think he's ahead of schedule, it's really incumbent to move
him. With the Yankees, we had Bernie Williams (stalled for years) at Double-A.
That's not going to happen anymore."
Lineup Changes, For Now
It was also noted that Bochy is now thinking Lewis and Sandoval could swap spots with Lewis batting third, where his speed can be utilized, and Sandoval batting fifth.
In the end, it wasn't that surprising that all the top prospects ended up in San Jose. I think it is a sign of the dissatisfaction that the Giants have had with the AA franchise, and particularly their park, Dodd Stadium, which I've written extensively about the problems with that ballpark. I can't recall if it was rumored or true, but the AA team could be sold soon and moved to Richmond, in the South, where the Braves left that city (I wonder if the Giants engineered all that), and where it should be much warmer (BP has the park effects there as neutral).
And this is a dream team of epic proportions for the Giants, we have never had so many top prospects on just one team, plus we have not had so many prospects considered top prospects period, so this could be the best minor league team the Giants have ever gathered together in the past 40 years or so. I will have to make sure I make one of the games before any get shipped out to AA.
I was also surprised that Crawford ended up on San Jose too. Given how far back he was drafted and how disappointing he was in college, I thought he might get put at Augusta in A-ball. But the allure of having all the prospects playing together for at least a month or two was probably too appealing to the Giants. I had thought about that but thought it was a pipe dream because Alderson was ready to move up, and Bumgarner and Posey looked ready.
Too bad Wendell Fairley did not do much better last year, otherwise they might have put him in San Jose too. That would have been really loaded, then, with our top prospects. I think only Henry Sosa and Ehire Adrianza are the only other top prospects that come to mind immediately who are not there (besides Ishikawa and Romo, who both should be in the majors this season).
The lineup switch makes some sense. Lewis would be easier to drive in than Sandoval at that lineup position. However, lineup valuation study showed that getting on base in the 3rd spot of the lineup does not yield as many runs as other top lineup spots. This is probably related to the fact that a large percentage of the time, the third hitter will come up with two outs, nobody on base. That is why I was OK with Sandoval batting third, should he falter in batting average, it won't hurt the offense as much there as batting fifth.
However, right now, he profiles to hit for more power than Lewis (though Lewis reportedly has muscled up for 2009 and is aiming for 20 HR), and that makes 5th ideal then for him too, as that is a position where there is often runners on base for him to drive in.
But most lineup analyses have found that swapping around hitters usually don't amount to much change in the scoring, I've seen some that said the best hitter should hit 2nd in the lineup, I've seen others that best power 4th and best OBP 1st, then there are those that say that swapping the 8th hitter with the pitcher is better as well, and then there were others that said no matter what you do, it won't matter much.
I'm just looking forward to 2009, it will be an exciting season both in the majors, and now, especially so in the minors.