Giants 2005 Minor League All-Stars

Since it's that time where we evaluate who's having that year that can only be classified as ‘All-Star' caliber, who are the top performers in the Giant Minor League system?

Keep in mind that this rewards the top producers at their respective positions throughout the San Francisco Giants system, not necessarily the best prospects for becoming major league players. Also, these are choices from just players who played in the Top 4 teams in the system (AAA, AA, and both full season A leagues). Although the rookie and short season A leagues began play in June, they have not been playing enough to make such calls. However, just because the All-Star game is gimmick filled, I’ll give a few ‘All-Star Futures’ nominations at the end to the top performing of the rookies.

(Stars are through Tuesday, July 12th)

CATCHER – Eliezer Alfonzo (San Jose, Norwich)
San Jose (High-A) – 53 G, 196 AB, 35 R, 70 H, 16 2B, 0 3B, 13 HR, 45 RBI, 11 BB, 49 SO, 1 SB, 3 CS, .357/.410/.638
Norwich (AA) –22 G, 72 AB, 13 R, 20 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 6 BB, 19 SO, 0 SB, 0 CS, .278/.350/.486

Alfonzo is one of those guys who isn’t a real prospect, but clearly deserves some recognition for what he’s done. Signed as a 26 year old free agent who had never risen above AA out of the Milwaukee and Florida systems, Alfonzo was dropped into a San Jose team with a lot of offensive potential, and he outperformed almost everyone. He even stayed ahead of Eddy Martinez-Esteve for much of his time in San Jose. He got a call to AA, and has been at least effective there so far.

FIRST BASEMAN – Travis Ishikawa (San Jose)
San Jose (High-A) – 79 G, 274 AB, 56 R, 80 H, 18 2B, 5 3B, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 40 BB, 85 SO, 1 SB, 3 CS, .292/.386/.536

Don’t be too surprised when you start seeing a lot of players from San Jose in this list, as San Jose was one of the top teams in all the minors in the first half. Ishikawa got off to one of his usual slow starts, but turned his performance up earlier than usual. He’s gone from being labeled an underachiever to being a streaky player, but he’s definitely showing the talent at 21 that earned him a then-record bonus from the Giants in the 2002 draft.

SECOND BASEMAN – Kevin Frandsen (San Jose, Norwich)
San Jose (High-A) – 75 G, 291 AB, 57 R, 102 H, 22 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 40 RBI, 26 BB, 22 SO, 13 SB, 11 CS, .351/.429/.467
Norwich (AA) – 4 G, 17 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 0 SO, 2 SB, .118/.118/.118

It’s a no brainer to include San Jose’s golden child. Frandsen, one of the Giant representatives at the Futures game in Detroit during the All-Star Break and a Bellermine and San Jose State Spartan alumni, dominated the California league, even turning in the San Jose Giants’ second cycle in its history. He’s a prototypical #2 guy, with a good OBP, good speed, and a low strikeout rate even though he’s not the most powerful kid on the block. The 12th round pick from 2004 has seen his stock rise dramatically, and will have all eyes on him as he continues to advance.

SHORTSTOP – Marcus Sanders (Augusta)
Augusta (A) – 77 G, 305 AB, 60 R, 93 H, 14 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 49 BB, 63 SO, 43 SB, 5 CS, .305/.402/.426

Another easy choice, as Sanders led all of the Minor leagues in stolen bases until reinjuring his shoulder at the end of June and missing over a week and running cautiously since. Sanders still strikes out a little too often, and is having some problems playing shortstop since his first shoulder injury in 2004, but Sanders is the type of player one wants leading off. An original selection for the Futures game (replaced by Frandsen after his injury), Sanders should be an easy top prospect throughout his minors if he can improve that defense.

THIRD BASEMAN – Michael Cervenak (Fresno)
Fresno (AAA) – 86 G, 334 AB, 42 R, 105 H, 19 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 68 RBI, 26 BB, 42 SO, 4 SB, 0 CS, .314/.372/.485

The former mayor of Norwich finally got a full season in AAA, and he’s done well with the opportunity. Cervenak, a little old to be considered a true prospect, toiled in Norwich for four straight years at AA (And two teams, staying with the Norwich team when it switched affiliations from the New York Yankees to the Giants. Cervenak has helped anchor a Fresno team that has seen a lot of back and forth with the major league club this season. He may even see his first major league action in September.

LEFT FIELD – Eddy Martinez-Esteve (San Jose)
San Jose (High-A) – 84 G, 309 AB, 59 R, 102 H, 31 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 67 RBI, 56 BB, 57 SO, 4 SB, 0 CS, .330/.439/.547

The only reason he stayed in San Jose all season was because he had reconstructive surgery on his shoulder in the offseason, and couldn’t play the field until around the All-Star break. By staying in A-Ball, he could DH full time, and he did a great job at it. His power has slumped off a little as the summer heat has set in, but he’s shown he’s a consistent hitter in all aspects of the game. Now that he’s back in left field, it won’t be long before he’s in Norwich or Fresno.

CENTER FIELD – Carlos Valderrama (Norwich)
Norwich (AA) – 85 G, 314 AB, 40 R, 100 H, 22 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 21 BB, 57 SO, 20 SB, 3 CS, .318/.364/.455

Center field is a packed position up and down the Giants system, and Valderrama doesn’t even play full time there anymore, making room for hot prospect Fred Lewis (who is underachieving in AA). But Valderrama’s consistent performance in a league that seems to eat offensive prospects for lunch earned him this spot, edging out Doug Clark and Clay Timpner. Valderrama has stalled, squeezed out of AAA by a loaded outfield of prospects there, but he continues to do well. If Linden is called back up to San Francisco for good, Valderrama could find himself back in California again.

RIGHT FIELD – Todd Linden (Fresno)
Fresno (AAA) – 68 G, 244 AB, 60 R, 81 H, 21 2B, 4 3B, 21 HR, 62 RBI, 49 BB, 64 SO, 6 SB, 2 CS, .332/.450/.709
San Francisco (NL) – 17 G, 58 AB, 10 R, 10 H, 4 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 BB, 20 SO, 0 SB, 0 CS, .172/.238/.345

Linden disappointed some fans when he was called up, with some people expecting him to go straight to the majors and keep up his production, which was pretty much mashing Pacific Coast League pitching and keeping up a rivalry with Albuquerque’s Josh Willingham for leading the PCL in home runs. Since returning to Fresno, Linden has kept up the production, going 8 for 20 with 2 home runs and 2 triples in 6 games, and regaining the sole lead of the HR race with 21 home runs total (Willingham is languishing on Florida’s bench). His stint in San Francisco, which will be remembered for errors in the field more than his home runs, shouldn’t worry fans too much. Linden is still a top prospects, and his hitting in the majors will come around. He just needs more than a couple of weeks to do it.

BENCH:

CATCHER – Yamid Haad (Fresno)
Fresno (AAA) – 53 G, 182 AB, 20 R, 56 H, 12 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 6 BB, 24 SO, 2 SB, 0 CS, .308/.328/.516

Haad was one of the minor league free agents that Sabean signed in the offseason, and he’s done well since going to Fresno. With current San Francisco backup Yorvit Torrealba mentioned as a possibility in some trades, Haad may be the next choice to back up in the majors is that spot opens up.

INFIELDER – Angel Chavez (San Jose, Fresno)
San Jose (High-A) – 30 G, 120 AB, 22 R, 34 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 5 BB, 21 SO, 4 SB, 0 CS, .283/.310/.442
Fresno (AAA) – 47 G, 183 AB, 27 R, 47 H, 10 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 39 RBI, 13 BB, 31 SO, 2 SB, 1 CS, .257/.308/.459

Chavez has performed well in the middle infield at two levels. Nothing extraordinary, but simply solid play. There’s been an expected drop off with the promotion skipping AA that he received, but he should recover.

INFIELDER – Brian Dallimore (Fresno, San Francisco)
Fresno (AAA) – 68 G, 270 AB, 52 R, 74 H, 17 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 26 BB, 27 SO, 5 SB, 1 CS, .274/.360/.441
San Francisco (NL) – 7 G, 7 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0 SB, 0 CS, .143/.143/.286

He’s not the same overachiever he has been, but he’s still a solid player who performs wherever the Grizzlies need him to. Few players define ‘utility’ like Dallimore, and it’s a shame he’s not doing it in the majors somewhere.

OUTFIELDER – Nate Schierholtz (San Jose)
San Jose (High-A) – 81 G, 313 AB, 46 R, 96 H, 23 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 54 RBI, 19 BB, 87 SO, 5 SB, 5 CS, .307/.350/.482

This is a tough area, as there are several high performing players in the outfield spots for the Giants. However, Schierholtz has been shining of late in San Jose. He’s kept his average over .300 for most of the year, and has had his power begin to show up again. Definitely one of the encouraging young bats the Giants are bringing along.

OUTFIELDER – Doug Clark (Fresno)
Fresno (AAA) – 82 G, 297 AB, 52 RBI, 94 H, 24 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 40 RBI, 22 BB, 55 SO, 21 SB, 3 CS, .316/.366/.495

Quietly, 27 year old Doug Clark is putting together a career year in Fresno. He can play anywhere in the outfield, his batting for both average and power have come along, and he’s an intelligent runner with over 21 stolen bases in 24 attempts. He may not be a real prospect at his age, but he can play, and he gets the final bench spot on this All-Star team.

STARTING PITCHERS:

#1: Merkin Valdez (Norwich)
Norwich (AA) – 5-4, 2.85 ERA, 16 G, 16 GS, 1 CG, 85.1 IP, 73 H, 33 R, 27 ER, 3 HR, 34 BB, 74 SO

Last year, Valdez suffered some troubles with ill conceived moves to the bullpen and a far too early promotion to the majors in Sabean’s admitted attempt to “catch lightning in a bottle.” This year, though, he has stayed in the rotation and looked like he owns it. It’d be nice if he raised that strikeout rate, but he’s easily been the most dominant pitcher in the system this season.

#2: Brian Burres (Norwich)
Norwich (AA) – 7-3, 2.85 ERA, 16 G, 14 GS, 79 IP, 68 H, 30 R, 25 ER, 5 HR, 21 BB, 62 SO

Burres, a part time starter each of his previous seasons, has been mostly a full-time starter in Norwich, and responded well. He’s not the most dominating lefty of all time, but he’s been getting the job done, and was rewarded by being named an Eastern League North Division All-Star, along with teammate Valdez. And as any Giant fan will tell you, you don’t need a 100 mph fastball to be a good starter.

#3: Seung Song (San Jose, Norwich)
San Jose (High-A) – 5-2, 1.95 ERA, 9 G, 6 GS, 37.0 IP, 27 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 3 HR, 17 BB, 47 SO
Norwich (AA) – 2-2, 2.30 ERA, 5 G, 5 GS, 31.1 IP, 28 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 HR, 6 BB, 23 SO

Song was let go by two different teams this offseason after struggling to recover from shoulder surgery before signing on with the Giants. He spent time in extended Spring Training before going to San Jose. After a couple of short relief stints, he began to start, and he hasn’t shown any signs of struggling. In 5 starts after being moved to AA, he’s gone 7 inning without allowing any runs twice. The former top prospect, the centerpiece of the deal Boston sent to Montreal for Cliff Floyd in 2002, is still just 25 and should return to AAA soon. If he can stay healthy, he could become the biggest steal that Sabean has ever found on other teams’ junk piles.

#4: Jonathan Sanchez (Augusta)
Augusta (A) – 4-4, 3.69 ERA, 15 G, 15 GS, 75.2 IP, 68 H, 32 R, 31 ER, 5 HR, 23 BB, 95 SO

Sanchez has been either really good or really bad, but when he’s on, he’s downright dominating. His 11.3 K/9 IP ratio is great, although Low-A is an easy level to get major strikeouts at. Still, a left hander that throws in the high 90’s and who has such solid control can’t be ignored.

#5: Matt Cain (Fresno)
Fresno (AAA) – 5-5, 4.20 ERA, 18 G, 18 GS, 1 CG, 98.2 IP, 77 H, 50 R, 46 ER, 16 HR, 52 BB, 116 SO

Although Cain’s numbers have been mediocre, and he has been streaky at times, he earns his spot by being dominating when he is on, and a general lack of other pitchers dominating in the system. Cain’s control has wavered here and there, a problem not uncommon amongst many top PCL prospects, and while his 10.5 K 9/IP rate in AAA is spectacular, his walk rate has really skyrocketed. If he can get that fastball under control, he will certainly become the ace people expect.

RELIEVERS:

Closer: Brian Wilson (Augusta, Norwich)
Augusta (A) – 5-1, 0.82 ERA, 26 G, 0 GS, 13 SV, 33.0 IP, 23 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 0 HR, 7 BB, 30 SO
Norwich (AA) – 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 G, 0 GS, 2 SV, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 1 BB, 5 SO

Brian Wilson has simply been as effective as you could expect closing games this year, earning a deserved promotion to replace Alfredo Simon in Norwich (who went back to starting). He is just one of many Giant relievers who have looked impressive this season.

Setup: Joe Bateman (San Jose)
San Jose (High-A) – 204, 1.51 ERA, 37 G, 0 GS, 10 SV, 53.2 IP, 39 H, 13 R, 9 ER, 0 HR, 12 BB, 52 SO

Bateman normally avoids the closer role, but he’s done some sharing of it this year, collecting more saves through the first half this year (10) than in the rest of his entire career combined. But his continued dominance out of the bullpen this season confirms that what he did in Hagerstown last year was not a fluke. He could move up the system quickly.

Setup: Justin Hedrick (San Jose)
San Jose (High-A) – 1-2, 4.36 ERA, 32 G, 0 GS, 12 SV, 33.0 IP, 27 H, 16 R, 16 ER, 4 HR, 15 BB, 44 SO

Hedrick’s numbers don’t scream All-Star, but a couple of bad outings were what really skyrocketed his ERA. He’s been sharing the closer role with Bateman, and has the 12 K/9IP strikeout rate you want out of a finisher. He’s shown the ability to dominant.

Setup: Jack Taschner (Fresno, San Francisco)
Fresno (AAA) – 2-0, 0.95 ERA, 26 G, 3 SV, 28.1 IP, 17 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 HR, 13 BB, 35 SO
San Francisco (NL) – 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 9 G, 0 GS, 9.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 eR, 0 HR, 6 BB, 9 SO

Taschner’s a known quantity by now to many San Francisco fans, but his absolutely nuts dominance of Fresno makes him a worthwhile addition to this team, despite his time spent in the majors. Along with Scott Munter, he has been a big reason why the bullpen has gone from a major weakness to one of the more well performing parts of the big league team this summer.

Lefty Specialist: Eugene Espineli (San Jose, Fresno)
San Jose (High-A) – 2-0, 3.00 ERA, 32 G, 0 GS, 1 SV, 51.0 IP, 48 H, 20 R, 17 ER, 1 HR, 20 BB, 45 SO
Fresno (AAA) – 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 2 G, 0 GS, 2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 1 SO

Every bullpen needs someone to work specifically to left handed pitchers, and as much as I’d love to put fireballer Erick Threets here, Espineli has done well for what he’s been needed for in San Jose. He doesn’t project far beyond being a specialist, but that’s not a bad thing to be.

Long Relief: Caleb Salankey (Augusta)
Augusta (A) – 7-5, 3.51 ERA, 18 G, 7 GS, 59.0 IP, 44 H, 28 R, 23 ERA, 2 HR, 18 BB, 63 SO

Salankey has begun starting in Augusta, but since he made his mark in relief, here’s where he gets nominated. He has been one of the more reliable guys in Augusta’s pitching staff, and could be one of the unexpected surprises in the Giants system if he can complete the conversion to starter.

Swingman: Brian Mazone (Norwich)
Norwich (AA) – 4-5, 2.40 ERA, 19 G, 9 GS, 1 SV, 63.2 IP, 62 H, 25 R, 17 ER, 3 HR, 18 BB, 45 SO

Another one of the surprises in the Norwich rotation, Mazone has done both starting and relief duties, even picking up a save for the Navigators. Although he does not dominate hitters the way some of his rotation mates do, he has been amongst the most effective pitchers in the Eastern League.

THE SNUBS:
Justin Knoedler, C, Fresno
– The top actual catching prospect has put together a nice year in Fresno, but he isn’t the one of the best performing catchers in the system.
Dan Ortmeier, OF, Norwich – A switch hitter with power and speed is nice (see Todd Linden), but Ortmeier has been a little too inconsistent with his batting average to make this squad.
Jake Wald, SS, San Jose – Wald has been tearing up San Jose since arriving, but a bad first month in April at Augusta is enough to give the nod to other middle infielders.
Clay Timpner, CF, San Jose – There’s a lot to like here, but it was a crowded outfield and though Timpner has 29 steals, that just wasn’t enough to include him.
Brian Horwitz, RF, Augusta – The non-drafted Cal product has one of the highest batting averages in the SAL, but an inability to mix that with power or speed hurt him.
Chris Begg, SP, Norwich – Another great starter in Norwich, a late rough patch took him just far enough to be out of the consideration.
Jesse Floyd, SP, San Jose – The staff ace of San Jose is good, but a 4+ ERA won’t do it unless you’re dominating with something like strikeouts.
Jeremy Accardo, RP, Norwich, San Francisco, Fresno, San Jose – The talented reliever has been up and down the system like a yo-yo, now in San Jose where he can pitch through the All-Star breaks of both the majors and AAA. He’s got good numbers overall, but he just hasn’t had a chance to make one huge impression anywhere.

THE FUTURES:
Michael Mooney, RF, Salem-Keizer
– The College of San Mateo product was red hot to start the season, and has an excellent balance of tools.
William Thompson, 1B, Salem-Keizer – From Santa Clara University, this first baseman just needs to start putting balls over the fence, and he’s a good bet.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Salem-Keizer – Another balanced hitter, another hot start in Oregon.
Antoan Richardson, CF, Arizona – 14 stolen bases in 17 games, and 9 walks vs. 4 strikeouts and a .380 batting average will get you noticed in the rookie league, even if you just have 2 extra base hits so far.
Ariel Nunez, OF, Arizona – Trying to keep up with Richardson with 11 steals in 15 games, and a .380 BA.
Sergio Romo, SP, Salem-Keizer – 18 strikeouts vs. 4 walks in 15.2 innings, plus a 0.57 ERA bodes good things.
Dave McKae, RP, Salem-Kezier – 22 K’s in 16.1 innings pitched with just 2 walks. He has a start and a save, and could go either way.




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