Good-bye

Chris Quick, who runs the ESPN-affiliated Bay City Ball, has invited me to write for his site and I’ve accepted. Needless to say, I’m very excited about the opportunity to start writing over there. My first post, on the Angel Pagan signing, is already up.

Anyway, this also means the end of Giants Nirvana. I’m not good with good-byes — and besides, this isn’t entirely good-bye, as I’ll still be writing elsewhere — so I’ll be brief…

To anyone that’s ever stopped by here to read anything of mine: Thank you. It’s been a fun ride.

Win a Matt Cain Perfect Game DVD

On June 13th, Matt Cain threw a perfect game. Thanks to A+E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions, it’s now on DVD. I was contacted by an A&E Networks Home Entertainment representative the other day, and she was kind enough to offer a couple copies of the DVD to give away through the site.

First of all, here’s a description of the contents of the DVD (BASEBALL’S GREATEST GAMES: SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS FIRST PERFECT GAME):

June 13, 2012, AT&T Park Pitching ace Matt Cain threw the first perfect game in franchise history when he overwhelmed the Houston Astros with a masterful performance at AT&T Park. Cain dominated with 14 strikeouts to match Sandy Koufax (September 9, 1965) for the most ever in a perfect game, while tossing only the 22nd perfect game in Major League Baseball history. San Francisco Giants fans marveled at Cain’s 125-pitch classic on this historic night. The defense made several terrific plays, and he otherwise scattered six groundball outs and seven flyball outs to shut down Houston. The impressive performance further links Cain to the franchise’s proud heritage as Christy Mathewson spun a Giants no-hitter in 1905–on June 13th no less. Direct from the Major League Baseball archives, this extraordinary television broadcast includes every pitch of Cain’s historic and masterful performance. A special audio feature allows fans to watch the television broadcast and listen to the Giants Radio Network announcers!

Now, here’s how you can win a copy…

Today, the Giants begin a three-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers. You will need to correctly predict the following:

1) Which team will win the series.

2) How many games in the series the Giants will win.

3) How many runs, in total, the Giants will score over these three games.

4) And finally, how many hits Brandon Belt will have in the series.

The two winners will be determined by the first question. In the event of a tie (three or more correct answers), question #2 will serve as a tie-breaker. In the event of yet another tie, question #3 will serve as a tie-breaker. And so on for #4.

As a final tie-breaker, the winners will be determined by priority based on when their comment is posted. (For example, if three people answer the first three correctly, but miss the fourth question, then the winners would be the first two to post the correct ones.) In order to enter, just leave a comment with your four predictions. It’s that simple. Although I’m sure I made it sound a lot more complicated than it is.

Sample:

1) Giants.

2) 3.

3) 20.

4) 4.

After the series is over, I’ll announce the winners in a post on this website and on Twitter as well. Oh yeah, and the contest closes once tonight’s game starts, so — what are you waiting for?!

Giants Release Mike Fontenot

In a surprising move today, the Giants cut 2B Mike Fontenot. Fontenot came over in an August trade with the Cubs for OF Evan Crawford. Last year he hit .227/.304/.377 in 252 PA’s. His release likely solidifies Ryan Theriot’s roster spot as well as gives Joaquin Arias and Brett Pill an easier path to a spot on the opening day roster. Were it up to me I would have started Fontenot on opening day and platooned him with Ryan Theriot until Freddy Sanchez was healthy. I find this move to be a bit odd, but given the lack of depth among middle infielders, Philadelphia or Atlanta may end up bringing Fontenot in.

Media Day Mini-Recap

Well, I’m sitting here in the press box along with the other bloggers and Hank Schulman, Andrew Baggarly, Chris Haft, et al.

I just got down from the Brian Sabean/Bruce  Bochy blogger interview session, which seemed to have gone well. It lasted about 20 minutes or so, and I recorded the whole thing on audio, so I’ll post that when I get a chance. We asked them about Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Jeff Keppinger, Brandon Belt, among other things. Nothing especially groundbreaking was revealed, but there were certainly some interesting tidbits. Again, you’ll hear those later.

As for the players and staff, I got the chance to speak with Eric Surkamp, Clay Hensley, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Madison Bumgarner, Ron Wotus, Aubrey Huff (awkward), Brandon Belt, Jeremy Affeldt, Chris Stewart, and Pablo Sandoval. I think that about covers it, but I might have forgotten someone. Oh well. Most of the interviews are on audio, with some on video. I’ll be sporadically uploading them today and throughout the next week or so. The Belt, Bumgarner, and Romo interviews went particularly well, I’d say.

Greetings from Media Day

I’m here at AT&T Park, awaiting the beginning of Giants Media Day. I just rode up in an elevator with Brian Sabean, Santiago Casilla, and a bunch of people I don’t know, which was an interesting experience. Now I’m staked out at Sergio Romo‘s table right now, which will hopefully ensure that I get a chance to talk to him.

The list of players and coaches that are expected to be here, available to the media, is long –30, to be exact — but if last year’s event was any indication, some of them won’t show up. It will probably be hard to get a word in edgewise with guys like Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum because they’re generally crowded by the mainstream media, but I’m hoping to get an opportunity to talk one-on-one with guys like Madison Bumgarner and Sergio Romo (among many others).

At 1:30, a select group of bloggers, myself included, will be interviewing Brian Sabean. As far as I know (granted, this is only my second Media Day), this is the first time anything like that has been set up. I’m not exactly sure who will be there, but I know Crazy Crabbers and Bay Area Sports Guy are planning on coming. We promise not to just lob Sabean a bunch of softballs…

Anyway, should be fun. I’ll try to capture some of the interviews on audio, or video, or through some other means (maybe I’ll just end up posting the transcripts). We’ll see. I’ll probably be posting the content throughout the next week, so that should be something to look forward to. Last year on Media Day, the Giants announced that they had extended Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy, and Pablo Sandoval had his post-Operation Panda 2.0 press conference. Hopefully some equally newsworthy things are in store for us today…

Dodgers Season Preview Q&A: 2012

Next up in the series of NL West season preview Q&As: the Los Angeles Dodgers. Chad Moriyama (you can find him on Twitter at @chadmoriyama) was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Dodgers, who are coming off of an 82-79 season.

1. How would you grade the Dodgers’ offseason?

C-. The only thing that prevented this off-season from being a disaster was getting Matt Kemp locked up for the long haul. With a ton of money to spend (despite ownership claims), Ned Colletti brought in Juan Rivera, Mark Ellis, Matt Treanor, Adam Kennedy, Chris Capuano, Jerry Hairston, Aaron Harang, Tony Gwynn Jr., and Mike MacDougal. They should make the Dodgers reasonably competitive in 2012, but there isn’t a true impact player in all that mess, just a cavalcade of mediocre and average. Worse yet, most of them are on two-year deals, which is just mind blowing to me considering he probably won’t even be around in 2013.

2. Best move of the offseason?

Matt Kemp. There’s risk involved, but with a system bereft of bats, he’s one of the few stars Dodgers fans can rally around and he figures to meet his contract expectations unless something catastrophic happens.

3. Worst move?

Tight race between Adam Kennedy and Jerry Hairston, but I’ll go with Kennedy because he figures to be a replacement level player and I think he’s a downgrade from what the Dodgers already have in the system.

4. The Dodgers didn’t finish all that far behind the Giants last season, at 82-79. Where do you see them finishing in 2012?

Barring any significant surprises, the offense figures to be the same or slightly worse, while the pitching staff has seemingly been downgraded. I think it will take either a great deal of luck or a significant amount of surprising performances to get this squad into the playoffs, and I most likely see them finishing 3rd or 4th.

5. What’s the current state of the Dodgers’ farm system? Should we expect big things out of Nathan Eovaldi this year?

Most of the best Dodgers prospects are no longer officially prospects, with Trayvon Robinson traded, Jerry Sands and Rubby De La Rosa not eligible, and Javy Guerra becoming the closer. The rest of the system is completely barren of impact bats at the upper levels, but they do have a ton of mid-20s outfielders that are mashing. Hopefully one of them works out. The pitchers in the system have hope, but besides the aforementioned Nathan Eovaldi, most of them are not ready. Personally, I think Eovaldi could be effective out of the bullpen in 2012, but if the Dodgers want a starter, he’ll have to develop his third pitch and get a little depth to an otherwise flat slider.

The new owner can’t come soon enough.

Thanks again to Chad for taking the time to answer these. You can check out his work here

Brian Sabean on baseball…

Sabean:

“In this information age, the average fan has so much information at his/her disposal, they have all the players, stats, projections right there,” said Sabean. “But this game is so much more than those stats and analysis and metrics. It’s ultimately about human beings.”

This quote conjures up memories of the Giants’ two-year offer to Willie Bloomquist. Which bothers me.

Josh’s Top 30 Prospects: Just Missed and Sleepers

As I jump into to my prospect list, I thought I’d tell you guys who I considered but did not make my list and who I like as a sleeper heading into the 2012 season.

Catchers

Alex Burg

Johnny Monell

Eric Sim

Drew Stiner

I considered Burg and Monell for their offensive chops and Sim and Stiner for their defensive reputations. Unfortunately they all had too many questions for them to make my top 30. Monell, Sim, and Burg were all a bit old for their levels last year and Stiner was an older draft pick. Monell has good patience and power and is a rare lefthanded batting catcher, but there are questions about his defense behind the plate and with Fred Stanley saying they plan to have Monell repeat AA, I couldn’t fit him in. Sim and Stiner both have stellar defensive reputations with Stiner having caught Orioles first round pick Dylan Bundy in high school. But Sim was a college pick in 2010 playing in the AZL and Stiner was a 43rd round draft pick who already has a PED violation to his name. Burg came the closest to making this list as he split time at catcher, 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, and DH last year, posting a .298/.369/.550 line. His year kind of came out nowhere as in 2010 he split time between three levels and got just 121 plate appearances. I imagine he’ll go to AA next year splitting time around the infield again.

1B

Brett Pill

Angel Villalona

 I probably should have found a way to put Pill on the list, given that his 53 PA’s and 16 games are more than most that did make my list are going to get. But when I look at Pill I can’t get over the fact that he’s a RH 1B with more gap power than HR power, who only hit 7% better than league average in his second attempt at AAA. It’s just not an exciting package. As for Villalona, he was raw when he played, and missing the last two years away from the game isn’t going to help him. It sounds like he still has the tools but he’s missed a lot of at bats.

2B

Ryan Cavan

Jean Delgado

Nick Noonan

Carlos Willoughby

Cavan is an interesting guy-he doesn’t have loud tools but does a solid job of maximizing them. It isn’t a good sign that his power decreased from the SAL to the CAL. He could work his way into a utility role. Delgado has an interesting bat from Puerto Rico. He posted a strong K/BB in his AZL debut this year and is fairly young as he’ll be 19 in 2012. Noonan just hasn’t developed as hoped and looks like org fodder at this point, unfortunately. Willoughby is fast and a good defensive 2B. He does a solid job of getting on base, but needs more pop.

SS

Carter Jurica

Travious Relaford

Kelby Tomlinson

Jurica was a guy who kind of got lost in the shuffle, getting injured last year and with Panik entering the org, it’ll be interesting where he plays next year. Relaford is the cousin of ex-big leaguer Desi, and is athletic but raw. Tomlinson has solid defensive skills and a decent approach, but lacks power. I imagine he’ll be the everyday starter at Augusta next year.

3B

Garrett Buechele

Jose Cuevas

Cristian Paulino

Buechele was the Giants 14th round draft pick this year, and the son of ex-big leaguer Steve. I liked the value when the Giants picked him. He struggled at Salem-Keizer last year, but that was likely related to fatigue. Cuevas was the AZL MVP, but he spent the year as a 23 year old. Paulino is the guy I like as a potential sleeper. He had a solid year in the AZL, splitting time between 2B and 3B and posting a 16/17 BB/K and 10/1 SB/CS. He looks like a guy who has solid polish and could make a full season debut next year.

RF/LF

Carlos Cartagena

Leo Fuentes

Roger Kieschnick

Brett Krill

Eric Valdez

Cartagena, Fuentes, and Valdez are recent high profile international signings, though not on the level of Villalona and Rafeal Rodriguez. But they’re still very raw and weren’t considered elite international prospects, so I couldn’t add them just yet. Krill was considered a potential late bloomer and had a decent year at Salem-Keizer, but given his age I couldn’t put him in the top 30. Kieschnick still has power, but I’m not totally confident that his approach and propensity to strikeout will allow him to excel.

CF

Tyler Graham

Kentrell Hill

Chris Lofton

Shawn Payne

Juan Perez

 Graham and Lofton are both guys with very good speed and defense, but lack power. Graham has spent the majority of the last two years at AAA and stole 60 bases last year so he could be a potential 5th OF. Lofton is still young and transitioning from splitting time between football and baseball, so he could potentially have some more upside. Perez spent last year at AA and he has an intriguing combination of power/speed/and defense but he lacks a solid approach and is a bit old. Payne came the closest to making the top 30, making a good debut at Salem-Keizer. He makes contact and can work a walk, and is another very good defender. He also flashed good speed, but his age and power output held him back. Hill was the Giants 10th round pick this year. He has athleticism but is a bit raw.

RHSP

Jorge Bucardo

Justin Fitzgerald

Chris Heston

Joan Gregorio

Lorenzo Mendoza

Shawn Sanford

Gregorio was the one of my last two cuts on this list, and I wanted to find a way for him to make this list. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the tall righthander on the list, but he is still a very interesting player to watch. Mendoza was right on that bubble too as he had a very solid year for a 19 year old in the Northwest League. Jorge Bucardo had some velocity questions at the end of last year, and then didn’t pitch this year. It’s too bad because he was a very intriguing guy at the end of last year. Sanford won the SAL ERA title, but isn’t a guy with overpowering stuff. Heston is in a similar vein, as he does a good job of limiting walks and getting groundballs. Fitzgerald has solid stuff that could possibly play up in the bullpen, where he began his career.

RHRP

DeMondre Arnold

Ray Black

Brett Bochy

Jose Casilla

Steve Edlefsen

Derek Law

Dan Otero

Otero was my very last cut, and I think he could play a solid role in the big league bullpen this year. Edlefsen is in a similar vein, though I prefer Otero. Casilla was a bit like Bucardo in that they were interesting but their injuries put me in a wait and see mode. Black is a guy with good stuff, but needs reps. Bochy had a solid debut and could move quickly, but I do have some concerns with his age. Arnold and Law are intriguing draft picks who both made solid debuts in the AZL.

LHP

Bryce Bandilla

Edwin Escobar

Emmanuel DeJesus

Bandilla was the Giants 4th round draft pick, but I couldn’t put him on my list because of reports of a shoulder injury that the Giants found after he took his physical. Escobar was the return for Ben Snyder, he had a rough year last year, but he is still young and has the potential to miss bats. DeJesus put up interesting numbers, but DSL stats should always be viewed cautiously, and there are reports that his fastball is more in the 80′s range.

So to end I’ll give a sleeper hitter and pitcher. Last year I had Edwin Escobar as a sleeper, so hopefully these picks will work out better.

Sleeper hitter: Cristian Paulino

Sleeper pitcher: Ray Black

Catching Up: Non-Roster Invitees, Sergio Romo, Wes Hodges

I’ve been rather busy of late, so I’ll catch up…