Fresno Grizzlies | Position Players
Much like the Fresno Grizzlies' starting pitchers, the biggest logjam of position players has to be in San Francisco's Triple-A team, where a few players could be released after Spring Training. The Grizzlies will be exciting this year, mostly because top catching prospect Andrew Susac will surely be back on the west coast following one year in Richmond. But don't expect Susac to be the only player to watch in 2014.
Andrew Susac's game continues to progress, and the steady maturation of the Sacramento native is encouraging to Giants organizational personnel — assuming the plan remains to ease Buster Posey off the duties of an everyday catcher. Easily the most encouraging thing to see from Susac was the surprising improvement in power moving from the California League in 2012 to the Eastern League in 2013. Nine home runs, 52 RBIs and a .380 slugging percentage his rookie year in San Jose led to an under-the-radar power surge from Susac a year later in Richmond. (Seriously. I really think this went unnoticed so pay attention.) Playing in 100 fewer games than 2012 (due to injury), Susac hit 12 homers, 17 doubles and drove in 46 runs as a member of the Flying Squirrels. All of that added up to a .458 slugging percentage — a 78 point improvement in a league notorious for diminishing power numbers. Now he will likely start in Fresno in 2014. Keep in mind: Posey hit 11 home runs in 203 career Pacific Coast League at-bats.
Susac also got playing time in October in the Arizona Fall League with the Scottsdale Scorpions. He displayed more of what the young catcher is known for — drawing walks. Susac led the league in on-base percentage with a .507 mark and tied for third in walks with 16 in 17 games.
With the amount of infielders fighting for playing time in Fresno, it's hard to say before Spring Training who will actually be on the opening day lineup card. Chris Dominguez had his best statistical season since 2010 with Augusta and will train with the major leaguers in Scottsdale, but Adam Duvall — who is a 40-man roster guy — is an intriguing prospect who could compete with his fellow Louisville graduate for playing time at third base. Regardless of who plays defense at third, Dominguez and Duvall should make for a nice 3B/DH combo.
The middle infield will really be crowded with probable Grizzlies returnees Nick Noonan, Carter Jurica and Ydwin Villegas. But San Francisco's No. 5-ranked prospect Joe Panik should be a Grizzly, as well. With a major league camp invite in his pocket, Panik could be looked at as the Marco Scutaro replacement in the coming years, so odds are the Giants will want him close, and you might as well start now.
31-year old Mark Minicozzi has a great chance to make a Triple-A roster for the first time in his 10-year journey. Drafted in 2005 by San Francisco, he left the organization to play independent league ball for four years before returning in 2012. Minicozzi completed a 443 at-bat season in Richmind with a .309 batting average (second best in the Eastern League) and was invited to big league camp. The East Carolina product should get work at first base, though he is surprisingly versatile and can play everywhere in the infield except short.
BENCH: (IF) Carter Jurica, (OF) Javier Herrera, (C) Guillermo Quiroz, (OF) Ryan Lollis, (3B) Adam Duvall, (IF) Ydwin Villegas
Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to comment on the 2014 Minor League Roster Predictions page. Discussion is always good.