Season in Review: San Jose Giants

Last year, a prospect-laden team in San Jose dominated, occasionally surprised, and ultimately prevailed in the playoffs. This year, a team with much fewer big names tried to do the same. The team's record is known, but was anyone on the team worth watching?

RECORD: 2nd Half 41-29 (2nd Place); Lost to Visalia in the first round of the playoffs, 3 games to 2.

SEASON IN REVIEW: What San Jose went through in 2005 was not what anyone expected.  After winning the 2005 California League championship with a team of prospects, the team started 2006 with one big name prospect, Marcus Sanders, and a number of names usually found down the depth charts.

At the end of the first half, Sanders was struggling and spending time on the DL, but the Giants were still dominating.  The team took the first half title behind strong pitching, and stayed in the second half title race to the very end, losing a chance to sweep both ends of the season by just one game.

However, in the playoffs, San Jose couldn’t push things into the gear they’d spent most of the season in.  Visalia lost the first game, but then took games 2 and 3 in resounding fashion.  After San Jose forced the deciding game, Visalia defeated them to end the Giants hopes of repeating.

TEAM MVP: The team suffered from a lack of consistency throughout the season, with injuries changing the lineup often, both on current Giants players, and higher in the organization, forcing the few healthy Giants to be promoted.

But there was one constant: closer Brian Anderson.  When Anderson was handed a save, he almost always converted it.  And he did it often.  He did it more often than any other San Jose closer, ever, which had been a record of 34.  He did it more than any other California League closer, ever, a record which had been 35.  Anderson notched 37 saves, with a 1.86 ERA, and won the California League Pitcher of the Year award.

TOP POSITION PLAYER: The team on the field changed nearly daily, but a few did stick around most of the season.  Mark Minicozzi and Julio Cordido split time around the infield to fill positions when needed.  Both had good years, but at the end, Cordido’s .281 average trumped Minicozzi’s .282 as Cordido supplemented it with a .418 slugging percentage, while Minicozzi only slugged .360

PLAYERS WHO STEPPED UP: The most surprising player on the Giants team had to have been starter Nick Pereira.  Pereira, a south bay native, had a 2.06 ERA and a 7-1 record in 13 games at San Jose, and was named a California League All-Star.  However, he didn’t stick with San Jose, and played the second half in Fresno.

Tim Lincecum, meanwhile, only appeared in 6 games for San Jose (plus one playoff game).  He was spectacular in his short time, with a 1.95 ERA in 27.2 innings, with an amazing 48 strikeouts.

Then there was Darren Sack.  Sack moved into the rotation in the 2nd half after posting a bullpen ERA of 1.76.  He acquitted himself well, though he wilted a little in the summer.  He had a 2.05 ERA in 10 starts, a 1.94 ERA overall and 71 strikeouts in 83.1 innings.

Justin Hedrick spent his second season in San Jose, but showed a strikeout touch that would’ve made him a closer on most clubs.  His 2.00 ERA was matched by 110 strikeouts in a heavy workload of 85.2 innings, and his totals were higher than many starters.  Reliever Nathan Pendley was also a strong reliever who anchored the San Jose bullpen, with a 2.68 ERA in 23 appearances.

On the field, Mark Minicozzi became a fan favorite, splitting time between second and third.  His .282 average and .345 OBP were solid, but he could have slugged more.  Brian Horwitz, for his short time in SJ, also did predictably well, notching a .324 average and a decent slugging total before Connecticut called.

PLAYERS WHO DISAPPOINTED: Marcus Sanders was the most anticipated prospect in San jose, and his numbers were scary low.  A .203 batting average with a .265 slugging percentage.  He did manage a .302 OBP (good in comparison to his average) and 24 stolen bases in 29 attempts in 54 games.  He was hit on the hand with a pitch early, and missed most of the year with hand issues.  Whether or not that is why he struggled so much is not clear.

Joseph Dyche, a high hitting center fielder, got the push to San Jose over the higher ranked Ben Copeland, but he also struggled early before an injury ended his season prematurely.

Speaking of injuries, Craig Whitaker was one of a few former pitching prospects who appeared troubled.  Whitaker made just one outing before a strained oblique sidelined him for most of the season, when he went back to Salem-Keizer.  Alfredo Simon was demoted down to Single-A, and after a 6.44 ERA, was released from the 40 Man Roster.  He initially cleared waivers and stayed with the Giants, but has left the organization in the offseason as a free agent.  And the oft-injured Kelyn Acosta appeared in a few games late, but a 6.75 ERA in 9.1 innings indicate he’ll need more time to recover.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT: Several observers still think the best prospect in the system sat on the bench in San Jose.  Manager Lenn Sakata did an extraordinary job as manager with a team that was patchwork to the extreme.  Although he has indicated he has no interest in moving up the system’s ladder, if he ever chooses to, he could move quickly.


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