The San Jose Giants were the best team in the California League for the entire season, but now they get a chance to add the championship title to their trophy shelf. The Giants, who were Co-Champions in 2001 after the September 11th disaster cancelled the Championship series, won the first half title of the Northern Division easily and finished 1 game behind the Oakland As affiliate Stockton Ports in the second half, got a first round bye in the California League playoffs. Now, with the Modesto Nuts, affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, defeating the Ports in the first round, the stage is set for Saturdays first game of the Northern Division Series. The Giants won the season series, going 15-9 against the Nuts in 2005.
Returning Faces, New Arrivals
As usual, a season in the minor leagues can often mean a lot of shuffling of prospects, and the roster that finishes the season isnt always the one that started it. This was especially true in San Jose. A few faces that left mid-season wont be returning for the playoffs, including San Jose native second baseman Kevin Frandsen (who was promoted to AA, then AAA, and will play in the Arizona Fall League this fall), pitcher Seung Song (Promoted through to AAA) and shortstop Angel Chavez (promoted straight to Fresno, and is backing up on the San Francisco Giants currently).
However, one player will be returning, starting pitcher Garrett Broshuis Broshuis, (whose name is pronounced brush-house) was promoted in late August to Fresno. For San Jose, he went 12-9 with a 4.40 ERA in 26 starts. In Fresno, he went 0-1 in 2 starts with a 5.25 ERA.
The Giants will receive two new players making their San Jose debuts for the playoffs, however.
Starting Pitcher Jonathan Sanchez will come up from Augusta to join the rotation. The 22 year old left-hander spent the entire season in Low-A August, posting a 5-7 record in 25 starts, with a 4.08 ERA and 166 strikeouts vs. 39 walks in 125.2 innings.
Also arriving from Augusta will be outfielder Brian Horwitz, Horwtiz, 22, led the South Atlantic League in batting average with a .349 number on the year. Horwitz was signed by the Giants in 2004 as an undrafted free agent out of UC Berkeley, so there may be Golden Bear fans on hand to cheer on the former Cal kid.
Finally, the Giants also are adding catcher Nick Conte from Augusta. Son of San Francisco Giants trainer Stan Conte, Nick batted .233 in 64 games splitting time as the catcher for the GreenJackets. Conte is also a graduate from St. Marys College in Moraga.
The Schedule and Projected Rotation
The Northern Division Series is a Best of 5 series. The Giants have home field advantage, by way of having the better overall record on the year and being a title holder for one of the halves of the season.
Game 1 Saturday, Sept. 10th, 5:00 PM at San Jose; Scheduled Starter Jason Waddell
Game 2 Sunday, Sept. 11th, 5:00 PM at San Jose; Scheduled Starter Garret Broshuis
Game 3 Monday, Sept. 12th; 7:05 PM at Modesto; Scheduled Starter Jonathan Sanchez
Game 4* Tuesday, Sept. 13th, 7:05 PM at Modesto; Schedued Starter Brooks McNiven
Game 5* - Wednesday, Sept. 14th, 7:00 PM at San Jose; Scheduled Starter TBD
*- If Necessary
Game 1 will feature a fireworks display after the game. Game 2 will feature a remembrance for the victims of the September 11th attacks.
Should the Giants win the Northern Division Series, the Championship Series will start Thursday, September 15th. Also a best of 5 series, Games 1 & 2 will be played on the 15th and 16th at the Southern Division winner. Games 3, 4 & 5 will be played at San Jose on September 17th, 18th and 19th respectively.
Who to Watch - San Jose Giants:
Eddy Martinez-Esteve He didnt finish in the team lead for batting average or for home runs, but EME was one of the all-around offensive leaders for the Giants all season long. He had 44 doubles, 3 triples and 17 home runs in 479 at bats, and finished the regular season with more walks (89) than strikeouts (82). The Giants are loaded offensively, but EME is the heart of the lineup.
Clay Timpner Usually a stalwart at the top of the lineup, its hard not to emphasize the importance of having a hitter who can get the offense going, and the speedy Timpner is no different. However, Timpners most important impact may be on defense. Part-time left fielder EME and usual right fielder Nate Schierholtz are neither particularly gifted defensively, so Timpners range in center field is key to limiting any damage done by opposing hitters in the gaps. With Timpner being honored by Baseball America as the Best Defensive Outfielder in the California League, his impact there has not gone unnoticed.
The Rest of the Offense Its hard to pass up almost anyone in the Giants lineup. First baseman Travis Ishikawa led the team in home runs, but was also one of the worse at striking out and is a bit streaky. Right fielder Nate Schierholtz led the team in batting average, but also had issues with the K. And outfielder John Bowker, who started slowly, came on strong in the second half to end up with 13 home runs.
Jonathan Sanchez The southpaw from Augusta struggled at times during the year, but still has very impressive stuff. The Giants have not lacked for offense, but their starting pitching has been a bit of an Achilles heel. If Sanchez, scheduled to start an important Game 3, can help stabilize the pitching, the Giants have a good chance to go on.
Joe Bateman/Justin Hedrick/Jon Coutlangus/Eugene Espineli The bullpen, in short. When the starting pitching has failed, the bullpen has usually come on strong. Bateman, who split closing duties, finished the year with 21 saves in 56 appearances, posting a 1.91 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 75.1 innings. Hedrick had 12 saves and a 3.55 ERA with 75 Ks in 58.1. They were supported by Coutlangus, a converted outfielder, who posted a 3.04 ERA in 50 appearances and Espineli, a lefty who got a brief callup to Fresno mid-season and who had a 2.66 ERA in the California League.
Troy Tulowitzki The Rockies first round pick in 2005 (7th overall) missed much of the year with injury, but has come on strong since returning. At shortstop, hes a highly rated defender, and is expected to become a power hitter (he had 4 HR in 94 at bats at Modesto), and should be pushing through to the majors quickly. Though he has spent little time on the Nuts team, he is one of their most talent players.
Joe Gaetti Gaetti hit 2 home runs in the finale of the regular season and had another in Game 2 to help the Nuts advance to the playoffs. He led the Nuts in the regular season with a .332 batting average and 21 home runs, and anchors the offensive lineup.
Seth Smith One of the other big hitters. He only managed 9 home runs, but had 45 doubles and 6 triples along with a .300 batting average to accompany those numbers. He backed up Eli Manning in college, but now hes looking like the right fielder of the future for the Rockies.
Steven Register The Nuts lineup of starting pitchers is not very scary, but Register is the best of the bunch. He started Game 1 of the first round, and may not pitch until the middle of the series, but hes the only pitcher who had a complete game for the Nuts this year. He posted a 4.44 ERA, with 108 Ks in 156 IP.
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