After whetting your baseball-loving appetites in Tuesday’s post, today we’ll take a closer look at some San Francisco Giants prospects and minor-league free agents that could wind up with the Fresno Grizzlies.
Keep in mind this is all conjecture. No baseball player shows up to spring training hoping they’ll be sent to Triple-A. But in reality the Giants have few openings. By most accounts, there are only three vacancies on the 25-man roster: a backup infielder (to replace Ryan Theriot), a fifth outfielder and relief pitcher.
Of those who played for the Grizzlies last season, Nick Noonan should have a chance at the extra infielder spot while Roger Kieschnick and Francisco Peguero could be the fifth outfielder. The final bullpen slot looks to be a competition between Ramon Ramirez (brought back on a minor-league deal), Chad Gaudin, Jean Machi and perhaps Heath Hembree.
Here’s the lowdown on a few new faces — emphasize new — that could wind up in Grizzlies uniforms come April:
Gary Brown: The Giants’ top young outfielder took a nosedive down the prospect lists following a so-so 2012 season at Double-A Richmond. (Brown was rated the No. 48 prospect by MLB.com entering 2012, but he’s No. 100 entering 2013). The speedy, toolsy center fielder hit .279/.347/.385 for the Flying Squirrels, well off the .336/.407/.519 slash line he posted in Class-A San Jose. (Keep in mind the Eastern League is considered a much tougher hitters’ league than the California League.) It’s a good bet the Giants’ No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft will be leading off and playing center field for the Grizzlies.
Cole Gillespie: Gillespie will certainly compete for the Giants’ fifth outfielder spot, but looking at the 28-year-old’s track record it’s a good bet he’ll wind up at Triple-A. Gillespie spent the parts of the last four seasons at Triple-A Reno in the Diamondbacks’ system and hit .308/.390/.494 for the Aces in 2012. He has the reputation of a patient hitter and a solid defender.
Tony Abreu: Once a top prospect in the Dodgers’ system, Abreu is now a minor-league veteran. He’ll surely compete for a backup infielder spot with the Giants, but that might be a longshot considering the 28-year-old couldn’t crack the Royals’ infield last season. He hit an eye-popping .322/.347/.492 in 103 games last season for Triple-A Omaha.
Kensuke Tanaka: Another entry in the Giants’ extra-infielder contest, the 31-year-old is a career .286 hitter in the Japanese Professional Leagues. He signed a minor-league contract after batting .303 with three homers and 32 RBIs in 114 games last season for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He’s primarily a second baseman but has also played shortstop.
Chris Heston: Despite a 2.24 ERA last season at Double-A Richmond, the 24-year-old right-hander isn’t considered a top prospect because he doesn’t light up the radar gun with a low 90s fastball. (Prospect hounds also groused he was too old for the league.) Will he be Kevin Pucetas, Part II? Only time will tell.
Michael Kickham: The 24-year-old lefty put up solid numbers (11-10, 3.05 ERA) as Heston’s rotation mate in Richmond, and the two could share the same role in Fresno this summer. He throws in the low 90s and shows up on some prospect lists but won’t leave Buster Onley frothing at the mouth.
Scott Proctor: The 36-year-old pitched in Korea last season and is now some six years removed from his salad days as a dependable reliever with the Yankees and Dodgers. (Proctor made an astonishing 83 appearances in 2006 and ’07.) The Giants love comeback stories, but he’ll likely have to prove himself at Triple-A first. Still, his numbers with the Doosan Bears (35 saves and a 1.79 ERA in 53 appearances) are intriguing.