We've already taken an in depth look at what went on this season that lead the Giants to their 72-90 record, so I wanted to use this post to discuss some of the things that happened in the Giants' minor league system. This year, Giants fans got to know some of the young offensive talent (Travis Ishikawa, Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz, Connor Gillaspie) which hasn't really been the case over the last decade or so so. We also got a glimpse of some of the young relievers (Sergio Romo, Alex Hinshaw) who could be a part of the bullpen for the next decade. What we didn't get to see was some of the young arms that could allow the Giants to make Matt Cain or Jonathan Sanchez expendable.
The talk of the Giants 2008 minor league season surrounded the organization's pitching depth. Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson were picked up early in the 2007 draft and both could be pitching for the Giants by early 2010, and in Alderson's case, maybe sooner. Bumgarner was un-hittable at times this year in Augusta playing for the Giants low-A affiliate. He finished the year with a 15-3 record and a 1.46 era but his peripherals make those numbers look even better. He struck out 164 batters in 141 innings while sporting a 0.93 WHIP ratio. Not to mention, he also won the South Atlantic League's Pitcher of the Year as well as the Minor League Baseball's most Spectacular Pitcher award (given to the minor league starter with the lowest era in all leagues). Bumgarner should be in San Jose to start next season and may end up in Connecticut or Fresno depending on how things go there. Tim Alderson's numbers aren't quite as impressive as Bumgarner's, but he was pitching at a higher level than the lefty and still looked pretty darn good. Alderson finished the year at 13-4 with a 2.79 era in 26 starts. The hard throwing righty also k'd 124 batters in 145 innings while allowing about a base runner per inning. He also allowed only 4 home runs in those 145 innings which isn't a bad ratio itself. Other minor league arms to take note of were 24 year-old lefty Jesse English (13-7, 3.19 era, 135 k's in 135 IP) and 23 year-old Kevin Pucetas (10-2, 3.02 era, 102 k's in 125 IP). Ben Snyder and Clayton Tanner also get honorable mention as they were part of the San Jose staff as well, and that was one of the better rotations in all of minor league baseball.
As far as the positional players go, there wasn't a whole lot that happened that went unnoticed. Pablo Sandoval and Travis Ishikawa were both tearing the cover off the ball all year long at various minor league stops and both ended up in the bigs before the end of the season and have been discussed in the season review. Now the two guys who will have the spotlight on them heading into next season are Buster Posey and Angel Villalona. Posey was the #5 overall pick in June's amateur draft and the Giants have extremely high expectations for this kid. Bengie Molina's contract is up after next season and the Giants hope that Posey will be ready to contribute in 2010 and he may even get his feet wet with the September call-ups next season. Posey signed late and didn't get to do much (13-37, 1 hr, 6 RBI) in the minors this year, but he will certainly be on display and under a microscope starting next spring. The Giants want to keep him active all winter long in playing in Fall leagues and Winter leagues before spring training in effort to get him as much playing time as possible. That tells me that they want him in the Big leagues as soon as possible. The Giants top rated prospect before the season, 18 year-old Angel Villalona, didn't have a great season in Augusta, but he did finish strong and showed glimpses of what he can become. Villalona finished the year with 17 home runs and 64 RBI to go along with a .264 batting average in 464 at-bats. His average was actually in the low .250's for most of the year so he did heat up in August, but his 118 strikeouts prove that he still has a ways to go before he will be getting close to debuting in San Francisco. Among other offensive standouts that didn't get the September call-up this year were 24 year-old infielder Matt Downs (.294 20 hr, 82 RBI split between A and AA) and 23 year-old outfielder Michael Ambort (.328, 9 hr, 34 RBI in 116 at-bats in A).
Player of The Year: Pablo Sandoval (.350, 20 hr, 96 RBI, 1.002 OPS in 448 minor league ab's) Honorable Mention: Nate Schierholtz, Travis Ishikawa
Starting Pitcher of The Year: Madison Bumgarner (15-3, 1.46 era, 164 k's in 141 innings) Honorable Mention: Tim Alderson, Kevin Pucetas
Reliever of the Year: Justin Hedrick (1.37 era, 74 k's , 0.94 WHIP, 9 SV in 65 IP) Honorable Mention: Osiris Matos, Scott Barnes