The San Jose Giants season preview series continues this week with a look at the outfield. The possibilities are exciting for the Giants this year with several new faces expected to play central roles. Top prospects could anchor the two corner outfield spots for San Jose in 2013 while one of the fastest players in the system is a leading candidate to take over in center.
In all likelihood, many of the top outfield performers from last year's San Jose club will find themselves in the upper levels of the system at the start of this season. Ryan Lollis was batting close to .300 last July when he earned a surprising promotion all the way to Fresno, where he then produced at an even better rate. Former second round draft pick Jarrett Parker had his share of ups and downs the last two seasons in the California League with a total of 28 home runs and 48 stolen bases, but a pedestrian .250 combined batting average. Parker also struck out a whopping 175 times last year, but possesses some of the best tools of any position player in the organization and should get his first crack at Double-A this spring. Alex Burg enjoyed many nice moments the last two seasons with San Jose combining for a .272 batting average and 24 home runs as he also looks to move up to Richmond. With his ability to play multiple positions (first, third, outfield and catcher), Burg could fill a role with the Flying Squirrels this year.
Meanwhile, possible outfield returnees for the San Jose Giants in 2013 include Chris Lofton, Jarrad Page and Devin Harris. Lofton, a former ninth round draft pick, garnered most of the starts in center field early last season before shifting to left and a more secondary role on the team later in the year. The speedster finished the campaign with a .245 batting average, five home runs, 30 RBI's and 22 stolen bases. Lofton's return to San Jose seems likely, where he could once again see action in center and left while adding speed to the lineup.
Page is a former NFL safety who signed with San Francisco as a minor league free agent last July after his release from the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 30 games with San Jose late last season, Page batted just .182 with a pair of triples, one home run and nine RBI's. Page also runs well and certainly looks good in a uniform, but is incredibly raw on the baseball field. Given his struggles in the California League last year (hit a combined .156 between Rancho Cucamonga and San Jose), he's probably headed to a Class A affiliate to start the season.
Harris struggled mightily in the first half of last season with the Giants batting just .185 over 53 games while seeing action exclusively in right field. The slugger was sent down to Augusta at the All-Star break and in fact, led the power-challenged GreenJackets in home runs, despite only playing in 50 games. Harris finished the year with a .245 batting average in an Augusta uniform while also contributing eight home runs and 39 RBI's. Harris has excellent power potential, but has often had difficulty making consistent contact throughout his career. He'll compete for a spot in San Jose's outfield this spring.
If any of Lofton, Page or Harris return to the Giants this season, they'll likely assume more secondary roles on the team. That's in large part due to the top outfield prospects that could be headed to San Jose.
Giants fans caught a glimpse of what Shawn Payne brings to the table last September after a promotion from Augusta and the exciting outfielder almost certainly will play a major role on the team this year. Payne was the leading hitter on the GreenJackets in 2012 where he batted an impressive .309 in 116 games. Payne also produced 19 doubles, six triples, six home runs and 57 RBI's while primarily batting out of the #3 spot in the lineup and starting everyday in left field.
Payne isn't known as a big power hitter (although he did smack a home run on the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning in Game 1 of the playoffs last year for the Giants), but can make a lot of things happen on the basepaths with his great speed and ability to steal bases. Payne led the entire San Francisco organization with 53 steals last year while he was caught only three times. Over his two-year professional career, Payne is an outstanding and remarkably efficient 74-for-83 in stolen base attempts.
In five games with San Jose last September (two regular season + three playoff contests), Payne was 5-for-21 with two doubles, a home run and three RBI's. He could hit first, second or third in the Giants' lineup this season while anchoring the left field position. Payne wasn't a high draft pick (35th round in 2011 out of Georgia Southern University), so he'll have to show a lot at every level to continue his ascension, but last year's performance in the South Atlantic League has certainly put him on the map. Entering 2013, Baseball America has rated Payne the #29 overall prospect (and seventh-highest outfielder) in the San Francisco organization.
Payne played next to Jesus Galindo in the outfield for most of last season and the duo could be reunited in the California League this year. Galindo burst onto the scene in 2011 at Short-Season Salem-Keizer where he stole an incredible 47 bases in just 62 games while also batting at a .276 clip. Galindo was recognized as one of the top position player prospects in the Northwest League at the conclusion of the year and was primed for a big 2012 in Augusta. Unfortunately, an injury prevented Galindo from making his season debut until late-May and it wasn't really until July that he was able to get on track with the GreenJackets.
As Augusta's everyday center fielder the last three months of the season, Galindo hit .252 overall with eight doubles, three triples, no home runs and 23 RBI's. He, once again, made his biggest impact on the bases swiping 40 bags in just 66 games last year.
Galindo has hardly any power and is more of a slap hitter at this stage in his career, but if he proves he can handle Cal League pitching and get on base, with his speed and fearless nature on the bathpaths, he's a logical candidate to bat leadoff for the Giants. Galindo, who is a switch-hitter, made nice strides as last season progressed batting .306 in July and .283 in August for the GreenJackets and will look to carry that success into the start of 2013. Galindo profiles as an above-average defender in center field.
While Harris emerged as Augusta's primary right fielder in the second half of last season, he could be hard-pressed to hold off top prospect Mac Williamson at that position in San Jose this year. Williamson was San Francisco's third round pick last year and was, in fact, the only position player that the organization selected among the first eight rounds overall. An imposing presence in the batters box at 6'5", 240 lbs., Williamson led the ACC in home runs last spring as he connected for 17 round-trippers in 53 games at Wake Forest.
Williamson, who bats right-handed, continued to show his power stroke in the professional ranks over the summer combining for nine home runs in just 33 games between the AZL-Giants (Rookie) and Salem-Keizer. He made his biggest mark with the Volcanoes late in the year emerging as their top hitter down the stretch. Over 29 games in a Salem-Keizer uniform, Williamson hit an eye-catching .342 with eight doubles, seven homers and 25 RBI's. Williamson quickly solidified himself in the fourth and fifth spot in the batting order and could provide a much-needed power boost to the San Jose lineup this season if the organization feels he's ready for a promotion to the California League. It hasn't been uncommon in recent years for the Giants to push their top college draft picks to San Jose for their first full professional season (Joe Panik, Andrew Susac and Ricky Oropesa as examples from the 2012 club) and given Williamson's success with Salem-Keizer last summer, he would be a logical candidate for that promotion.
Baseball America has rated Williamson the #16 overall prospect (fifth-highest outfielder) in the San Francisco organization. BA notes that Williamson "has power to all fields and is a max-effort player who impressed coaches with his work ethic and desire." Williamson has plus arm strength from his right field position although BA notes that he's "not an instinctive outfielder" and has to improve that aspect of his game. If he can make the adjustment to Cal League pitching in his first full season, Williamson could be a major contributor for San Jose this year.
Finally, Brett Krill is another likely outfielder to make the jump from Augusta to San Jose this season. Krill hit .304 in his rookie pro season two years ago with Salem-Keizer, but got off to a slow start with the GreenJackets in 2012. He was batting only .201 on June 1, but managed to turn his season around in a big way. While seeing action primarily at the corner outfield spots, Krill hit .309 in June, a sizzling .385 in July and then .330 in August. A solid contributor that generally hit anywhere from fifth to eighth in the lineup, Krill finished the campaign with a .288 batting average, a team-high 26 doubles, five home runs and 53 RBI's.
Krill, like Williamson, has good size at 6'4" and 220 lbs. He was a 25th round draft pick three years ago out of UCLA where he played a leading role on their 2010 team that reached the College World Series. Given his torrid hitting during the second half of last year, look for Krill to earn a promotion to San Jose, where he could see action in left, right and DH.
2013 San Jose Giants Outfield Candidates
(2012 regular season statistics are listed)
* Jesus Galindo, CF
Augusta: .252, 0 HR, 23 RBI, 40 SB
* Devin Harris, RF
San Jose: .185, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 0 SB
Augusta: .245, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 2 SB
* Brett Krill, RF/LF
Augusta: .288, 5 HR, 53 RBI, 8 SB
* Chris Lofton, CF/LF
San Jose: .245, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 22 SB
* Jarrad Page, RF
San Jose: .182, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 5 SB
* Shawn Payne, LF
Augusta: .309, 6 HR, 57 RBI, 53 SB
* Mac Williamson, RF
Salem-Keizer: .342, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 0 SB
2013 San Jose Giants previews will continue next week with a look at the catching position.