Minor League Roster Preview

Opening day for the majors has come and gone, but it's time for Opening Day in the Minors. But with four teams to follow, what is there to know? Don't worry, SFDugout.com is here, and breaks down the rosters for Fresno, Connecticut, San Jose and Augusta as the season is about to begin.


Team Strengths: Slugging. This team will have some legitimate power this year. It starts with prospect right fielder Nate Schierholtz, who has the best power of anyone in the Giants system (at least that's old enough to drink and vote). Schierholtz is expected to man right field. Fresno will also see the return of Chad Santos at first, who hit 14 home runs in 91 games last year. But the Giants also added PCL MVP Scott McClain from Sacramento (28 home runs) and third baseman Justin Leone (20 HR in Portland in 2006) to help the team's heart of the order. And expected center fielder Dan Ortmeier has some pop too, hitting 20 HR in hitter-unfriendly Connecticut in 2005.

Team Weaknesses: Getting on base. For all the power, none of the above players are spectacular hitters for average, and most are stereotypically not players who take walks. When they aren't hitting balls over the fence, they may not be getting on base much for their teammates. Expected LF is one exception to this (.375 OBP in 2006 with Fresno),

Prospect to watch: Nate Schierholtz. Sure, this team will be most watched for Lincecum, but it's Schierholtz who could really have a breakout year. He survived Double-A better than most hitters do, and Fresno is made for him.

Other names to watch:
Fred Lewis – His year last year wasn't bad, persay, but it wasn't the kind of year people wanted to see. He'll get a second chance this year.
• Dan Ortmeier – If Lewis was unspectacular, Ortmeier has poor, getting demoted last year. He's got tools, still, but needs to work.
Erick Threets – Reportedly, he'll be in the rotation. It may be just to get extra innings, but this is his last shot.
• Brian Wilson – A rough spring created some doubts, so he's under pressure.
Scott Munter – His road back from surgery has been long, but some still remember his 2005.

Surprises: That Wilson got sent down was a surprise, but there wasn't too much else that shocked on this roster. Having Threets as a starter is definitely a shock, though.


Team Strengths: Pitching. I don't know what could be stronger, their rotation (anchored by Eastern League vet Chris Begg and prospect Nick Pereira), or their bullpen (led by record-setting closer Brian Anderson, plus experienced relievers Osiris Matos and Justin Hedrick). This team should do very well in the Eastern League.

Team Weaknesses: Offensive depth. Eddy Martinez-Esteve is a clear-cut star, and there's potential in Travis Ishikawa to bounce back, but a lot of this offense is coming from San Jose, and a lot of players have problems in the transition. Horwtiz is probably going to continue hitting well for average, but the team will rely on pitching to win.

Prospect to watch: Eddy Martinez-Esteve. He is the star, and he is the best hitter the Giants have had in their system in a while. He did well in Double-A last year before his injury, and has been looking very healthy in Spring Training.

Other names to watch:
•Travis Ishikawa – Ishikawa had a season interrupted by injuries and callups; this year, he needs to come on strong.
• Nick Pereira – Pereira got roughed up in Fresno after a mid-season promotion from San Jose, skipping CT. Hopefully, coming back to catch up will fuel him again.
Todd Jennings – Jennings is back as a fulltime catcher. He doesn't need to be an all-star, but he needs to show his early career form.
Mark Minicozzi – Minicozzi came on strong in the post-season Hawaiian Baseball League. That league, like the Eastern League, was hard on hitters, so now is a good chance for him to become noticed.

Surprises: A couple of names were surprising to not see, but were held back because of injuries, like reliever Joe Bateman and infielder Eugenio Velez. Pereira's assignment here after pitching in Fresno (however it turned out), and Begg's return both were surprising as well.


Team Strengths: Speed. Emmanuel Burris and Antoan Richardson are both elite speedsters capable of stealing more than 60 bases a season. Mooney and Copeland are both good for more than 30 a year. What's doubly nice is that most of these players are good on-base guys, so they should be in enough situations to steal often.

Team Weaknesses: Starting pitching. The rotation will not have as many top prospects as years past. Joseph Martinez is a good starter, but while McKae and Ray did well last year in Augusta, there remain some questions about them. And career reliever Paul Oseguera (even in most of college) will also be a starter, brining up more questions. The good news is that the bullpen has some talent to back them up, and former starter and 2006 co-pitcher of the year Gregorio Martinez will be in the bullpen to help.

Prospect to watch: Ben Copeland. Copeland had a rough start to 2006, but has a ton of potential. He is a well-rounded player with both power and speed, and brings the range of a center fielder into left. This will be a good year for the left-handed hitter to develop.

Other names to watch:
• Michael Mooney – Another well-rounded outfielder, he's expected to really show off his power in San Jose. He's a Bay Area kid, and should have a big year.
Joe Martinez – He doesn't blow batters or scouts away with his pure stuff, but he's an efficient pitcher who has no problem shouldering the workload nor pressure of being an ace.
David Quinowski – He had a breakout year relieving in Augusta last year, and will look to continue it this year.
Adam Witter – A power hitter who is still learning how to catch, he's a touch old and it'll be interesting to see if he can respond to a big promotion.
David Newton – Speaking of big promotions, Newton skipped two levels to be here. The AZL team's closer in 2006, his 1.14 ERA and 13 saves in 23 games may not mean much in the California league.
• Emmanuel Burris – The other first round pick of the 2006 draft, Burris' speed is nice to see. But Burris' gentlemanly approach to life and the game makes him one to root for.
Yosandy Ibanez – Ibanez was signed after defecting from Cuba this offseason. He's older than most California League players, but has some real talent.

Surprises: Ariel Nunez getting the push up to High-A was a shock, especially after a poor year in the AZL last year, but he may just be filling the 4th OF role until Joey Dyche is back from injury. Pablo Sandoval moving back to catcher was a surprise; he has had problems everywhere he has played defensively. Brad Boyer's push to San Jose may accompany a battle for playing time, with former SJSU star Anthony Contreras, former College World Series MOP David Maroul and Kyle Haines all in the fight for playing time between second and third.


Team Strengths: Pitching. The rotation should be powerful, with top prospects Dan Griffin and Clayton Tanner joining top S-K performers Adam Cowart and Kevin Pucetas. The bullpen will probably feature S-K closer Juan Trinidad, but has some depth as well with Orlando Yntema and Ryan Shaver.

Team Weaknesses: Power. There are no proven power hitters on this team. Brett Pill has always had potential in college, but it never developed. Bobby Felmy and Matt Weston have some power in the outfield, but not the kind that will change games. This team could have problems against right handed pitching as well, with only two left-handed hitters on the entire roster.

Prospect to watch: Dan Griffin. Griffin gets overlooked after missing most of last year with an injury, but he has a big fastball and good breaking stuff. He'll repeat the SAL, but could move quickly should he do well.

Other names to watch:
Marcus Sanders – Sanders had a great year in the SAL in 2005, and maybe the Giants hope it'll help him bounce back, along with a move to second.
• Michael McBryde – Some say he's the fastest guy in the system. The question will be about whether he can hit.
• Clayton Tanner – A year removed from high school, Tanner will be the youngest guy on the team, and one of the most watched.
• Adam Cowart – Cowarts unique motion makes him interesting to watch. His spectacular year last year will be hard to follow up, especially with a fastball in the low-80's.
Sharlon Schoop – He's been compared to Omar Vizquel on defense, and seemed to come around a bit offensively in 2006. Augusta will be a challenge for him to keep it up.

Surprises: Sanders being moved back to Augusta was perhaps the biggest surprise of all the roster moves, as it indicates a very conservative approach to how the Giants will push him along. Keeping Griffin here was similarly surprising. It might have been disappointing to some to not see 16-year old Angel Villalona assigned here, but it's not really a surprise. A few were surprised that Manuel Cabeza, who went 7-0 in the AZL last season, didn't get a strong push either, but Henry Sosa did.

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