DENVER – From the outside, the Giants had a miserable year on the farm.
Derek Law and his major league-ready curveball was lost to Tommy John surgery. Outfielder Mac Williamson, one of their best hitting prospects, required the procedure as well. Top prospect Kyle Crick kept missing the zone and reaching his pitch count before the fifth inning. Two more talented arms that had a chance to move quickly, Adalberto Mejia and Edwin Escobar, stalled out.
When Baseball America came out with its midseason top-50 prospects list, there wasn’t a single Giants farmhand on the screen.
Vice president Dick Tidrow did not see fallow fields. He knew other club officials recognized talent in the Giants system, too. The trade offers reflected that.
And now, in the middle of a September pennant drive, so does the box score.
Rookie Andrew Susac provided the lift coefficient as the Giants began to rally from a six-run deficit in the sixth inning. He hit a two-run home run and added an RBI double, rookie Joe Panik had another productive game in the No.2 hole and the prize melon of the patch, Buster Posey, collected four RBIs on three extra-base hits as the Giants took a 12-7 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
The Giants are getting such steady production from Susac – a trio of three-RBI games in 12 career starts – that manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged he might look to play the young catcher more often and put Posey at first base, especially while Michael Morse and Brandon Belt remain out of action.
Susac is producing. Panik reached base three times ahead of Posey, he has a .314 average and is doing a fair impression of Marco Scutaro, circa 2012. Adam Duvall stung a pinch RBI single to account for the Giants’ first run. Matt Duffy has pitched in here and there. Hunter Strickland hit 100 mph in his major league debut Monday.
Does this sound like a dust bowl to you?
“I’ll keep saying it: It’s not that bad a farm system,” said Tidrow, the organization’s longtime pitching and development guru. “We always have what we need.
“Half the players on this team were traded for players in our farm system,” Tidrow said. “The other players who are here came through our farm system. Is it great they’re doing something for us instead of being traded to get something else? Of course. That’s always the goal. But the point is, (the system) has contributed what we’ve needed over the years.”
That includes Escobar and right-hander Heath Hembree, who were used to acquire Jake Peavy from the Boston Red Sox. Given Matt Cain’s season-ending surgery, and Tim Lincecum’s continued regression, can you imagine if the Giants hadn’t made that deal?
It was the only trade that GM Brian Sabean completed, either before the July 31 non-waiver deadline or after it. He said all the other deals offered to him were bad ones to make. Susac, especially, was inquired about often.
“We have turned down trades for all of these guys,” said Tidrow, gesturing to the clubhouse behind him.
The Giants didn’t have the depth to withstand injuries and slumps to the everyday lineup in June and July, but suddenly their roster is brimming with competent bats. They’ve scored 52 runs over their past five games, not counting the two that lifted them to a win in Monday’s resumption of the May 22 suspended contest.
Much of their offensive resurgence is due to Posey, the best player they’ve produced since Will Clark, at least. Posey didn’t have a hit entering the sixth inning yet finished with a homer, two doubles – and a .302 average, the first time he’s nudged above .300 since May 11. That’s quite a feat, considering he was hitting .279 as recently as Aug. 19.
In his last 12 games, Posey is batting .481 with 16 runs, six doubles, a triple, six home runs and 18 RBIs. He’s suddenly tied for sixth in the NL in hitting. He might even be making a stealth run at another MVP award. Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton has the best numbers by a convincing stretch, but voters are always searching for that candidate with a narrative. There’s no better story than a scorching September to lead your team to a playoff berth.
“This is the time of year that’s fun,” said Posey, “because you can see the playoffs on the horizon.”
It won’t surprise anyone to see Posey elevate his game as the klieg lights heat up. It’s another thing for rookies like Panik and Susac to play with such poise.
“He’s been great,” said Posey, who has caught bullpen sessions alongside Susac to accelerate his learning curve. “He’s got a lot of confidence but he goes about it the right way. He’s not cocky.”
Said Tidrow: “He’s athletic – more athletic than you realize. He’s got more pop than you realize. He’s a better catcher than you realize. He throws better than you realize. It’s a wonderful thing. It allows us to maybe rest people to some extent without taking them off the field.”
“It seems like since he’s moved (to second in the lineup), it’s made us deeper,” Posey said. “With him on base, it leads to a lot more opportunities.”
George Kontos played most of the season with them at Triple-A Fresno, and while you can’t always predict whether a player will produce at the major league level, the right-hander had a hunch that the rookies wouldn’t be intimidated.
“These guys come up here and the most important part is they’re not overwhelmed,” Kontos said. “Maybe there’s a few thousand more people in the stands and another deck but the game is still the game. The guys who are contributing are doing that very, very well.”
Kontos kept his composure as well in the fifth inning, after Bochy took out Mike Kickham after the Rockies scored to make it 7-1. As he handed Kontos the ball with a runner on base, he told him to hold the score and he’d get a victory out of it.
“Kontos changed the game for us, to stop things and let us get some momentum going,” said Bochy, noting the Giants came back from a 7-1 deficit one night after they blew a 7-2 lead. “I guess things even out here.”
And sometimes trends come back around. Can you bring back “You’ve Gotta Like These Kids” in the middle of a pennant race? Maybe so.