Fresno Grizzlies | Bullpen
When the major league club's bullpen falters and experiences injury, the Triple-A squad becomes an extension cord, supplying power from a distant at an instant. Thus, the importance of that minor league team's talent level, experience, etc. cannot be understated. Thankfully for Giants fans in this new year, the extension cord should be overflowing with essential power.
I mustn't talk much about those names of which with you all surely are familiar. So let's kindly skip George Kontos, Jake Dunning and Shane Loux to focus an oldie but goodie: Dan Runzler. Marty Lurie reported on Valentine's Day that Runzler, who received a non-roster invite to Giants camp, has a simplified delivery. Now, as we all know, Runzler wowed major leaguers with nasty stuff in 2009 but has slowly faded far away from Bruce Bochy's vision, mostly because the hard-throwing lefty couldn't find the strike zone. My gut says the simplified throwing motion yields benefits.
Bruce has a son. His name is Brett. He's sort of mediocre, but I just want him to play for his dad so badly. He got a big league camp invite, so there's some nice father/son time. But this isn't about sentimentality. Brett actually rebounded quite nicely in 2013, finishing just a dot below four in ERA. But compared to his shutdown 2012 season with Richmond — where he allowed only 47 baserunners in 53.1 innings — you could say Brett regressed. Or you could blame the Pacific Coast League. Either way, he likely didn't do enough to crack his dad's lineup in April. Here's to Bruce and Brett sharing a dugout in 2014.
Of the few outsiders signed by San Francisco this offseason (i.e. Casey Weathers, Erik Cordier, Andrew Carignan), I think the former Oakland Athletic Carignan has the best chance to be a Grizzly. Carignan put up gaudy numbers in the PCL before really struggling with Oakland in 2012, eventually being forced to have Tommy John surgery. Considering how good he was before, and the likelihood that whatever injury led to the surgery had an effect on his bad stretch with the A's, I think he will rebound and hopefully return to the pitcher that, over a two-year stretch, allowed just 28 baserunners and struck out 40 in 30 innings.
Hunter Strickland is a 40-man roster guy who endured quite a 2013 season. San Francisco claimed him off waivers from Pittsburgh in April. He joined the Advanced-A club, where he shoved with San Jose as opposing hitters drew five walks and tallied 10 hits in Strickland's 21 innings. In 20 appearances, the former Boston Red Sox draft pick posted a 0.86 ERA and saved nine ballgames. But his season ended when the six-foot, four-inch right-hander needed Tommy John surgery after an injury in May. Then he was released shortly after. Then he had the surgery in June. Then he was re-signed in August. Then he was put on the 40-man roster in November. What a trip, right? Strickland shouldn't be done rehabbing until this June or July but once that has completed, he's Fresno-bound for sure.
Derek Law and Cody Hall round out the Fresno hopefuls, and considering Law has been in big league camp since Friday and Brian Sabean has spoke highly of him already, he's looking like more of a lock every day to jump to Triple-A. (Hank Schulman wrote a great piece today on the young right-hander, by the way.) Three things that are important to know about Law: deceptive delivery, laser control, downright ridiculous 12-6 curveball. Hall surprisingly didn't get a non-roster invite, despite a phenomenal season in which he maintained sub-one WHIPs for San Jose and Richmond, allowing 47 baserunners in 60 innings.
Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to comment on the 2014 Minor League Roster Predictions page. Discussion is always good.