I Am Just a New Boy, a Stranger in This Town 

With most of the Giants upper-level prospects now on the big club, the minor league reports have been thin of late. But yesterday brought a spate of farm news:

- Triple-A phenom Matt Cain spun six shutout innings with seven strikeouts. He has struggled with the walks and homers this year, while the other pitching phenom he's often mentioned with, Seattle's 19-year-old "King" Felix Hernandez, has made a successful jump to the majors.

- In the same game as Cain, former Giant Jesse Foppert threw three shutout innings for the Mariners' triple-A squad.

- Double-A pitcher Merkin Valdez was spotted in the S.F. clubhouse carrying an envelope labeled "MRI." He told reporters that his arm "hurt a lot" and squeezed the inside of his elbow to show the sore spot. Uh oh. This could explain why the Giants have moved him back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen this year, or perhaps it's vice versa: All that yo-yo action has disrupted his rhythm, his mechanics, his whatever, and caused injury. Who knows.

A few more thoughts on the main developments in the Giants' farm system this summer:

- The Lowry-like lefty Pat Misch who seemed so promising this spring bombed in triple-A and was demoted to Norwich mid-year. He's rebounded nicely, but he's not on the fast track to the bigs anymore.

- The single-A San Jose Giants have a laundry hamper full of eager young hitters, led by Eddy Martinez-Esteve, aka EME. EME is secretly an Oakland Athletic farmhand; there's no other reason to explain why he walks more than he strikes out. It's certainly not because of the Giants' organizational philosophy, which doesn't hold high OBP in high esteem. But EME and a few others could remedy the traditional Giant dearth of minor-league offense and replenish the team in the back half of this decade. Caveats: EME isn't much of a glove man, and he has played little if at all in the field this year because of an arm injury. His best future role might be DH/1B with an American League club. Meanwhile, the rest of his teammates need to show better plate discipline before they're considered elite prospects.

- Jack Taschner, who appeared in nine games with the Giants in June and July, has continued to pitch well in Fresno. His AAA numbers for the year: 49 IP, 30 H, only 3 HR, and a strong 24/62 BB/K rate.

- Twenty-three year old second baseman and San Jose State grad Kevin Frandsen has raised eyebrows by jumping from single-A San Jose to Fresno this year, showing a decent eye and gap power (lots of doubles, not many homers). No word yet on his D, but keep his name in mind as the Giants look to replace their old middle infield in the next couple years.

- One prospect often mentioned by pundits is way down the line: speedy shortstop Marcus Sanders, who has spent the year at low-A Augusta. He gets on base a lot (.405 OBP) and steals frequently (49 of 57), but his defense seems suspect. The most encouraging thing is, he turns 20 tomorrow. A stathead rule of thumb: Patience at the plate is God-given, power and defensive skills can be learned. If you abide by such rules of thumb, Sanders is promising, indeed.

If you didn't know already, Steve Shelby now rounds up the Giants' daily farm activities with a column on McCovey Chronicles. Click over and look for it in the right-hand nav bar.


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