Over a Beer and Peanuts: Bay City Ball – Part 1

‘Over a Beer and Peanuts’ is a new section on The Baseball Opinion where I have a frank question and answer session with a fellow blogger to get their opinion on issues related to the area of baseball that they cover.  Chris, over at Bay City Ball, has graciously accepted to be my ginuea pig for my first post of this section.  His blog goes into depth on numerous issues related to the San Francisco Giants, including some masterful PITCHfx analysis.

Chris provided so much good content, I decided to break it up into two posts, one centered on the up and coming and rookies to look for, the other on the mangement of the team.  Here’s Part 1:

Do you think that Nate Schierholtz will pan out as a regular outfielder for the Giants?  Will he get the chance?

Great question. The Giants’ OF is really overcrowded. Think crowded elevator stuck on the 14th floor bad. The team has Aaron Rowand, Fred Lewis, Randy Winn, Dave Roberts, Nate Schierholtz, John Bowker, and maybe a few other players who could see time in the OF.

I do think Nate can pan out as a regular outfielder for the Giants. He might not be able to start for some teams but on a 2nd tiered team like the Giants, Nate could fit in and most likely be the starter in RF. Nate is a hot-topic among a lot of Giants fans. Some see him as a hacker that doesn’t take enough walks and others see him as the next Garret Anderson; a player that should hit around .300 every year with 25 walks and 25 HR’s. I think Nate has increased his stock some this season. In ’07 he grabbed 112 AB’s with the Giants but didn’t hit for power at all. This year in a small sample, he’s been hitting for power, so the Giants might be higher on him right now than ever.

Ultimately, what happens with Schierholtz is going to depend on what happens with Dave Roberts and Randy Winn. Winn’s 2008 has been spectacular, he’s been an above-average hitter (an OPS+ of 107) and he really shines defensively in right field. John Dewan’s +/- system has rated Winn very highly over the past couple of years. And playing a defensively strong RF is important at AT&T Park. With the emergence of Fred Lewis, Dave Roberts has no place on the current team. If the Giants can trade Randy Winn or Dave Roberts in the offseason, I think you’ll see Nate getting a lot of playing time in ’09. It just depends on which player is traded (if either are traded at all). If Roberts is traded, Nate will become the 4th OF and play the corners. If Winn is traded, I think Nate is the starter in RF.

Can you please name the five most underrated prospects in the team’s farm system?

I’m a big fan of RHP Adam Cowart. He’s a side-armer that was drafted in the 35th round in the ’06 player draft out of Kansas State. He doesn’t break 86mph on his fastball and all his pitches grade out as average, at best. But, Cowart’s motion is tough to pick up on and he gets his share of groundballs. He’s been a starter for most of his minor league career but the Giants have flipped him back and forth this year in AA, letting him relieve also. His upside is a Chad Bradford-lite but I’ve always had a soft spot for pitchers with weird deliveries. He might end up in the bullpen by the end of next year.

RHP Joe Martinez quietly put together a nice season in AA this year. He’s 25-years-old and projects as a back of the rotation starter, but he did a lot of things right this year. Getting groundballs and keeping the ball in the park. Because the Giants farm system is so rich in pitching, guys like Martinez often get over looked.

LHP Clayton Tanner is also someone to keep an eye on. He dominated in Augusta in ’07 but hit a few rough patches this year in A+ ball. He’s a lefty that doesn’t overpower hitters, but gets groundballs. He’s only 20-years-old so there could be some development left in him. The middle portion of his year was rough, but he finished strong in August. Much like with Martinez, with the ascension of Bumgarner and Alderson, guys like Tanner can get over looked.

I’ll wrap things up with INF Matt Downs and 1B Michael Ambort. Downs is a player that could make it as a bench-bat or utility player. He’s played 2B, 3B, SS, and RF in the minors and has flashed moderate power a few times. He was old for the level at 24-years-old, but he did well in the California League this year. He hit .304/.357/.494 with 17 HR’s before being promoted to AAA and struggling in just 86 AB’s.

Ambort is your typical baseball player with some real upside who has battled injuries. He put up impressive numbers at Lamar University as a catcher in ’05 but missed his ’06 season after undergoing TJ surgery. He came back in ’07 and had a nice year. Before his injury he was a potential 1-2 round draft talent, but his injury dropped his stock and the Giants popped him in the 6th round of the ’07 player draft. He’s a switch-hitter and his days at catcher are probably over. Ambort has motly played DH this year for the Giants A- team, the S-K Volcanoes. He was banged up at times in ’08 with S-K but he still hit when he played, posting an overall line of: .328/.395/.664 with 9 HR’s in 34 games. If Ambort can get healthy, he could be an interesting prospect real fast.


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