The bad news (at least for me): I don’t have the budget to fly to the Arizona Fall League, or (better yet) the Caribbean to check out the San Francisco Giants currently playing Fall and Winter ball. Yes, Fall AND Winter, even though the games in the respective leagues are taking place simultaneously.
The good news: Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford — two young players who are not only fan favorites, but also represent (if trusted by the brass) a way to save money on free agents and move the team away from older, supposedly safer players — are raking.
Less than 40 PA for both guys, sure. But even though they aren’t facing the same level of competition they have when playing for the Giants, it’s a good sign that both are producing from the get-go — especially Belt, who had to be convinced to play in the Dominican by Bruce Bochy. And by “convinced,” it sounded like Bochy effectively took Belt to the Dominican and forced him out of the car like a hesitant child on his first day of school.
Hector Sanchez, who drove more opposite field flyballs to the warning track in September than anyone else on the Giants hit all season, is playing for los Tiburones de La Guaira in Venezuela with Ehire Adrianza, the Giants’ other shortstop prospect. Both are also putting up some good numbers.
Who isn’t hitting?
It’s nothing to worry about, but Gary Brown, Joe Panik and Francisco Peguero haven’t done a lot so far in their offseason at-bats (Brown and Panik are teammates with Crawford on the AFL’s Scottsdale Scorpions, while Peguero’s playing for Gigantes del Cibao … Belt’s playing for los Leones del Escogido). However, a feature story appeared on MLB.com a couple days ago about Panik, who started out slowly in the AFL but has come around recently:
Giants first-round Draft pick Joe Panik took a little time adjusting to life in the Arizona Fall League. Now back to full speed, the infield prospect says he couldn’t be happier with his game.
Panik went 2-for-3 with his first homer of the fall, a two-run shot, and a walk in the Scottsdale Scorpions’ 8-4 AFL loss to the Peoria Javelinas on Monday.
“It was a good feeling,” said Panik, selected 29th overall in the June Draft by San Francisco. “It’s nice to get that first one out of the way. Off the bat I knew it had gone.”
Panik, who hit .341 with six homers and 54 RBIs in 69 games with short-season Salem-Keizer this year, raised his AFL average to .244 in the defeat. He has hit safely in each of his last six appearances, going 8-for-23 (.348) over that stretch.
Batting eighth in the Scottsdale lineup, Panik gave his team the lead in the second inning with a two-out, two-run homer off Peoria starter Anthony Bass (Padres). Panik took a change-up at the knees for a strike, but Bass missed with the next two pitches to fall behind in the count. Bass left his fourth offering — a 92-mph fastball — over the heart of the plate, and Panik turned on the pitch and sent it over the wall in right field.
“It’s not part of my game, but you see a lot of guys in this league hitting home runs left and right, so it was nice to join them,” said Panik, who will turn 21 on Sunday.
These are very small sample sizes from players who aren’t expected to play for the Giants next year. However, the fact that they’re struggling a little sort of makes the good numbers posted by Belt and Crawford look even better by comparison. It might not mean anything, but for those fearful that the Giants will find any way possible to prevent the Brandons from starting it could assuage those concerns somewhat.
Among slightly less notable hitting prospects, Max Ramirez (a catcher who hit 10 homers in 162 PA for Fresno in 2011) is playing for Braves de Margarita in Venezuela.
And since we’re on the subject, how about the Giants’ pitching prospects?
The names aren’t as well known, but when it comes to the Giants’ representatives in the AFL, the pitchers are collectively outperforming the hitters. Austin Fleet, Stephen Harrold and Seth Rosin have all put up nice numbers in relief.
As far as the hurlers in the Dominican, one could say the results are mixed — although the sample sizes are SO small that it’s probably foolish to draw any conclusions. David Quinowski (who like Peguero plays for the Gigantes) and Osiris Matos (Toros del Este) have pitched all of 7.1 innings combined.
The Arizona Fall League ends in November, while the Dominican, Mexican and Venezuelan leagues all go until December or January (so that’s why one’s a Fall league and one’s considered Winter ball). The Puerto Rican league starts up on November 4. One of the Giants (at least in 2011) set to play there: Andres Torres.