Season in Review: Arizona Giants

Last year, two young pitchers stepped up and became star prospects; One missed this year with injury, another was traded. Two years ago, a young shortstop was tabbed as the leadoff hitter of the future; This year, he couldn't hit .200 even in rehab here. Did any stars emerge in '06, and if so, will they survive?

RECORD: 1st Half 17-11, T-1st Place (lost on Tie-breaker); 2nd Half – 16-11, 4th place.  Missed playoffs.

SEASON IN REVIEW: A year after the AZL Giants won it’s 2nd straight championship, they couldn’t quite hold things together long enough to do it a third time.

The 2006 team was a team led by some strong pitching, particularly closer David Newton.  The offense was hit and miss, however, with a wide gulf between the team’s leading hitters and those who disappointed.

The Giants came into a tie with the Padres rookie team for the 1st half title, but lost on tie-breakers.  In the 2nd half, the Giants lost key games down the stretch and couldn’t make pull it out for the 2nd half title, a year after they swept the 1st and 2nd half and made the championship game a moot point.

TEAM MVP: Two first basemen and a shortstop held the true claims to this title.  Rich Janeway, who turned 25 years old in the middle of the season, had a .324 batting average to lead the team amongst players who played more than 20 games, and had a .381 on-base percentage and a .486 slugging percentage.

He was closely followed by 22 year old Matt Downs, one of the few 2006 draftees who went to the AZL.  Downs batted .310/.373/.452 with a team leading 16 doubles and 4 triples, with 6 stolen bases on 7 attempts.

Meanwhile, 19 year old shortstop Sharlon Schoop backed his strong defensive showing in the AZL in 2005 with a good performance batting.  His .310 average was followed by a team high .437 on base percentage, and 8 stolen bases in 11 attempts.

All three had good years in different ways, but Janeway’s team high 39 RBI puts him over the top.

TOP PITCHER: The Giants had several high performing pitchers.  5th year senior signing Ryan McGrath, who started 7 games, was tops among regular starters with a 2.94 ERA, while 21 year old Manuel Cabeza had a 3.38 ERA in 8 games and 11 appearances, but a stellar 7-0 record.

However, it was San Jose native Newton who starred as the team’s closer.  With a 1.14 ERA and 13 saves in 23 appearances, Newton kept the team in the hunt.  He also had a strong 31 strikeouts in 23.2 innings.  Newton was a 37th round pick in 2005, but didn’t pitch last year.  The 20 year old looks to move up the system quickly.

PLAYERS WHO STEPPED UP: Janeway, Downs and Schoop were the best of the players who played in the full season, but other players had good years.  Juan Jean had a solid year moving around the infield, and outfielder Emmanuel Cividanes had a solid year in the outfield as well.  Catcher Elio Sarmiento showed some promise, with a .284 average and a .777 OPS.

On the pitching side, Adam Ortiz-Jusino worked mostly in relief, but was good in the role.  Meanwhile, Orlando Yntema was one of the other workhorses in the rotation, with a 4-3 record in 8 starts.

PLAYERS WHO DISAPPOINTED: There were a few disappointments, but perhaps none moreso than 17 year old Jose Valdez.  One of the most-touted players coming out of the Giants system in the Dominican, he defined ‘work in progress’ as he struggled to a 7.38 ERA in 8 starts.

One of 2005’s star hitters, Ariel Nunez, repeated the AZL and batted an extremely disappointing .203/.266/.254.  2006 JC draftee Sean Van Elderen came in with some power potential, but hit no home runs while batting just .212.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT: Janeway may have had one of the top years for the rookies, but his age makes him an unlikely prospect.  But Schoop’s progress emphasizes the recent focus on speed and defense on drafting, while they still show a strength in finding power arms, with Yntema and Cabeza among the strong young showings.

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