Yesterday I went down to Modesto to see the San Jose Giants season opener. The baby Giants roster features their 2011 1st and 2nd round draft picks (Joe Panik and Andrew Susac), 2010 2nd round pick Jarrett Parker as well as 2011 SAL all-stars Shawn Sanford and Adam Duvall. On the other side, Modesto started 2009 1st round pick Tyler Matzek who was one of the biggest enigmas in the minors last year, as well as 2010 1st round draft pick Kyle Parker and 2011 SAL All-star Corey Dickerson.
The most impressive prospect was probably Matzek, who struck out 7 in 4.2 innings and was pulled after 85 pitches. He pitched well, striking out the side twice and had his pitch count elevated by a Cristhian Adames throwing error in the first.
On the Giants side, Joe Panik looked good. He made two very nice defensive plays — one leaping to catch a ball, and one ranging to his right, spinning, and making an off balance throw. Offensively, he did a good job of grinding out at bats, which led to him drawing two walks including one that saw him battle back from a 1-2 hole by fouling off tough pitches. He also hit the ball that Adames made the error on, which was likely affected by his speed up the line.
On the other hand, Susac and Duvall had rough introductions to the Cal League. They both had the hat trick at the plate, and had issues defensively. Susac got charged with an error after dropping a pop-up. Duvall, meanwhile, had his range tested in the 9th and did not look great. It is still early and both can and likely will improve, especially Susac as he has a good defensive reputation.
Jarrett Parker had an interesting game. He threw out Kyle Parker trying to stretch a single into a double, and hit the first Giants HR, but also struck out, which was his major problem last season. One thing I did find interesting is that he played RF with Ryan Lollis playing CF. Parker was regarded as a good defensive CF coming out college, but played RF last year in deference to Gary Brown. I thought with Brown moving up they might try Parker back up the middle, but apparently he’s mainly a corner OF now.
Speaking of players who have a problem with strikeouts, Ricky Oropesa had a solid game. He singled to CF off Matzek in the first, and showed a solid ability to work the count, but also ended up with 2 K’s. He has upside as a three-true-outcomes type player, but his biggest key will be translating his strong raw power into game power, as well as not learning bad habits in the hitter-friendly Cal league.
Lastly, Shawn Sanford had a very solid start. He had some jitters initially walking the first batter of the game, but he calmed down and did not walk anyone else. While he wasn’t overpowering, he did a good job of keeping the ball on the ground (9/4 GO/AO) and he really seemed to settle into a groove into the middle innings.
All in all it was an interesting game, but you could definitely tell it was the first game of the year. The San Jose Giants may not have the star power that AA Richmond has, but they should be an interesting team to follow throughout the year.