So, Hunter Pence is a Giant and Nate Schierholtz is not.
I like Hunter Pence. He’s a bit bug-faced and lanky, which means that the Giants should stock up on Praying Mantis hats. He fills a big need on the Giants. He’s a right-handed power hitter. He’ll never be one of the top 20 players in baseball, but he’s definitely talented. Even playing as under his ability as he has this season, he will be a big help to the Giants. Especially when Panda comes back, this lineup will feel much deeper.
But Nate is gone. And that makes me sad.
Nate’s always been a favorite of mine. He’s local, but he’s also one of the first players I followed coming up through the minors. And, oh man, defense. I doubt I will ever see a throwing arm like that again. When I miss baseball in the offseason, I will pull up his videos and watch his throws nailing runners. Like this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And this. Oh, and there’s this.
I suppose this was all foretold. When he had the big games in Philadelphia, I laughed to myself how he must enjoy hitting on the east coast, since he had big games in Philly and New York. Then last week, the trade request report came out, and of course was promptly denied. And then, he got a lot of starts and was leading off for a while, and a couple of people joked “Audition?”
When the Pence rumor came out Sunday night, I knew it for sure. If that trade was going to happen, Nate was going to Philadelphia.
Despite my fanboy love, I have to admit that Nate never fulfilled all that potential here. While he never got the patience the team is giving Brandon Belt, he got a lot of opportunities to start stretches, and slumps always hit then. The Mets doubleheader, and then the hitless streak right after it, really exemplified that. Whether it was slump, or small injury like the hip thing he tried to play through, the more he played the less effective he became.
That didn’t diminish how much I’d root for him, though. He was always this close to breaking it out, and boy we Giants fans wanted it for him, the same way we wanted it for Frandsen. I’m really sad to see him go.
Back to the trade, though. Overall, it was a good trade for the Giants. It really fills a big need, and the Giants didn’t give up some of the big names in their farm system. Now, I’m not covering the minor leagues as I once did, but I know both the minor leaguers fairly well. Here’s what you need to know about them:
Tommy Joseph – A lot of people rank him higher than I do. I think of him as a Top 10, but not the Top 5 others do. Joseph’s value comes from three points. Two are what people talk about. He has the famous light-tower-power, and he plays the valuable position of catcher with a strong arm. What others don’t usually see is his intangibles. He loves the game. The first time I saw him, he was sitting out in Augusta with a concussion. But he was on the top step of the dugout, and was coming out of the dugout to congratulate teammates on things like successful sacrifice flies. He cares about the game and his team, and that’s huge in talented young players.
However, Joseph is a kid with a big swing, and he is a constant strikeout threat. He’s topped 100 strikeouts each of the last two seasons, and could again this year. He’s batting just .260 in the Double-A Eastern League, which is a tough league but you still expect more. He has improved his plate discipline, which is important, but he’ll never be a .300 hitter. Defensively, he has an amazing arm, but he’s still learning the art of catching. I think he’ll stay there, and while he won’t embarrass himself, he won’t be a gold glove either.
In the end, Joseph has the ceiling of being a solid everyday catcher with power potential but a low batting average, an Adam Dunn kind of player. That’s not a worthless player, but it’s also not the type of player you see being key on championship teams. But if he finds the contact problems overwhelming him, he could find a hard time sticking unless it’s as a backup catcher.
Also, Joseph’s departure doesn’t hurt as much with the catching depth the Giants have, from Buster Posey to Hector Sanchez to Andrew Susac. It’s like someone said something about that before the season.
Seth Rosin – A 4th round draft pick in 2010, he was one of my dark horse prospects in the Giants system. Rosin has a few things that can’t be taught, like a 6’6” frame and a fastball that can run up to 96. It’s hard not to like those things.
However, Rosin hasn’t quite developed the way the Giants have hoped. He lost his starting role in Augusta last season, and just recently got back into the role. He hasn’t had bad times, but they haven’t been great. He had a 3.34 ERA in a pitcher’s park in Augusta last year, and has a 4.31 in San Jose in a hitter’s league.
The main issue with Rosin is that, at 6’6”, he should have a lot of downward motion on his pitches. And he has some, but it’s not enough. Somehow, he actually has given up more fly ball outs than groundball outs this year. He also gives up a lot of hits for a pitcher who should be aiming for soft contact. If he can work those issues out, and get more ground balls, he’ll really emerge. He can be a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher, he’s just a few adjustments away from that.
Both these guys are talents, but as with Nate, they are underperforming talents. And both of the prospects do have a lot of work to do before they reach those potentials. But I’m so glad that the names Brown, Panik and Hembree weren’t included.
What I like most about this trade, though, is what it means for the rest of the team. Pence won’t be the difference in this pennant race. Ultimately, these guys need to all start stepping it up. They need to stop beating themselves. This trade says that the ownership is behind them.
This means that two underperformers, Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco will have to start competing for playing time again. It means Panda won’t be so relied on for the RBIs behind the big names.
There are still issues. Three of the Giants four runs in last night’s win came on bad terms: two in on an error, and a third coming in on a double play.
It’s time to step up. Management did. The players need to do it as well.
On a separate note, Krukow noted on the post-game wrap that kids in his neighborhood are calling Hunter Pence “Under Pants.” I legitimately fear the fan costumes that will inspire.
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