Roger Kieschnick made his first professional season a memorable one. In 2009, the Rockwall, Texas native ranked third in all of Minor League Baseball with 110 RBI. He mashed a team-leading 37 doubles and 23 home runs, earning himself the California League Rookie of the Year Award. He was named a mid-season and post-season California League All-Star. And, to top it all off, he helped the San Jose Giants win the California League Championship.
Kieschnick didn’t come out of college with a typical resume, though. In his freshman year at Texas Tech, Kieschnick was named Freshman of the Year and a member of the First Team All-Big 12 by the conference’s coaches. Kieschnick followed up his freshman campaign by being named to the Second Team All-Big 12 in his sophomore and junior seasons.
College baseball players tend to flock to wood-bat leagues in the summer, getting more playing time and using the equipment utilized at the next level. Kieschnick, however, participated in international tournaments with the United States National Team. He won a gold medal at the World University Championships in 2006 and a silver medal in the Pan American Games in 2007.
The international experience provided Kieschnick not only with the familiarity of facing some of the best baseball players that are his peers, but also performing in front of the professional baseball gatekeepers: scouts.
The outfielder entered MLB’s First-Year Player Draft as a junior in 2008, feeling he had done plenty to impress the scouts with his bat, arm and range. The Giants selected him in the third round, but he did not appear in a pro game that summer.
He did not go into hibernation during his first professional offseason, however. Kieschnick played in the defunct Hawaii Winter Baseball league in 2008. He was a teammate of Buster Posey and Steve Edlefsen with the Waikiki BeachBoys. The trio helped the BeachBoys win their first (and the last) Hawaii Winter League baseball championship. Winning seemed to be following Kieschnick wherever he went.
The international experience, the winter league stint and his stellar season as a first-time professional provided Kieschnick with plenty of momentum entering 2010 – his first at the Double-A level.
By July of that season, Kieschnick was forced to the disabled list with back inflammation. His second pro season was cut short to 60 games, and he hit just four home runs in 223 at-bats – a distant number relative to his 23 in 517 at-bats in 2009.
The 2011 season became even more important for Kieschnick than it already was, and he did not disappoint. Kieschnick returned to Richmond, where he was named an Eastern League mid-Season All-Star and hit 22 doubles, five triples and 16 home runs in 126 games. He did not quite match his 2009 offensive output, but the Eastern League is known to be more of a pitcher’s league, especially compared to the high altitudes and windy locations of the California League.
The Giants rewarded Kieschnick with a 40-man roster spot in November of 2011, providing him with a secure mindset going into 2012. With the 40-man spot comes an invitation to Major League Spring Training, which is his second time taking part in big league camp.
Kieschnick seems to be an organizational favorite. All signs point to him appearing at the Triple-A level in 2012, possibly as soon as Opening Day. With the types of numbers put on display in the Pacific Coast League, Kieschnick may provide plenty of power for the Grizzlies.
Opening Day for the Grizzlies’ 2012 season is 35 days away (43 until the home opener on April 13th). While the next month will dictate how the Grizzlies roster shakes out, it is time to revisit the 2011 Opening Day roster. Some familiar faces may return to Fresno this season, but several players have moved on to other organizations. Check out the list below to see where they have landed.
RHP Josh Banks – signed with the Baltimore Orioles. Banks was without a job until February 28th when he signed with the Orioles on a Minor League contract. The right-hander is local to the Baltimore area as he is from Severna Park, Maryland.
RHP Casey Daigle – unsigned. Daigle pitched in 36 games with the Grizzlies last season. He did not pitch in a game after July 10th, however, as he ended the season on the disabled list.
RHP Steve Edlefsen – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. The right-hander made his Major League debut in 2011, pitching in 13 games with the Giants. The 26-year-old, who has pitched in Fresno for parts of the last three seasons, may once again start the year in Fresno this season, but he may also see significant time with the Giants.
LHP Alex Hinshaw – signed with the San Diego Padres. The left-hander was released this past offseason, before he was signed by San Diego. The 29-year-old attended San Diego State University, so the transition to America’s Finest City should be an easy one if he pitches for the parent club. Hinshaw was invited to the Padres’ Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
RHP Andrew Kown – re-signed with the Giants; invited to San Francisco’s Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Kown is a candidate to once again pitch for the Grizzlies, depending on how he performs in Spring Training and what types of opportunities open up at the big league level.
RHP Marc Kroon – retired
RHP Shane Loux – re-signed with the Giants; invited to San Francisco’s Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Similar to Kown, Loux will more than likely start the season in Fresno if he sticks with the Giants organization.
RHP Doug Mathis – signed by the Boston Red Sox. Mathis appeared in 13 games with the Grizzlies in 2011 before joining the Oakland A’s organization midway through the year. The University of Missouri product is in Boston’s big league camp this spring. Former Giants farmhand Tony Pena Jr. is also with Mathis in Boston’s Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
RHP David Mixon – retired midseason last year. After appearing in seven games with the Grizzlies, the right-hander was sent to Double-A Richmond before joining High-A San Jose. In July, Mixon decided to step away from the game and step into a post-baseball career.
RHP Henry Sosa – traded to the Houston Astros midseason last year. Sosa is on the Astros’ 40-man roster and figures to contend for a spot in Houston’s pitching staff at some point this season. The Astros are a young team, and Sosa has only made 10 Major League starts in his career, all of which occurred last season.
RHP Ryan Vogelsong – re-signed with the Giants on a two-year deal. In case you didn’t hear, the right-hander had a good season last year.
LHP Matt Yourkin – re-signed with the Giants; invited to San Francisco’s Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Once again, Yourkin is in the same boat as Kown and Loux in terms of where he starts this season. If Yourkin pitches for the Grizzlies in 2012, it will be his third-straight season in Fresno.
C Chris Stewart – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Stewart is competing with Eli Whiteside for the backup catcher role with the Giants.
C Jackson Williams – still within the Giants organization. Williams is attending big league Spring Training camp for the fifth straight season as a non-roster invitee.
INF Brock Bond – still within the Giants organization. Bond missed most of the 2011 season with an injury. He will be looking to bounce back in 2012, possibly putting up numbers similar to 2010, when he was named a Pacific Coast League All-Star.
INF Emmanuel Burriss – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Burriss is competing for a role with the Giants full-time, either as a starter or as a utility player off the bench.
INF Conor Gillaspie – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Gillaspie appeared in 15 games with the Giants last season as a September call-up. He first appeared with the Giants in a limited role during his first professional season in 2008, all of which was part of his contract. Gillaspie will more than likely start the year in Fresno with his play and opportunities opening up at the Major League level determining where he finishes the year.
INF Edgar Gonzalez – signed by the Chicago Cubs. Gonzalez was one of the mainstays in the Grizzlies lineup in a year filled with plenty of roster turnover. He signed with the Cubs organization entering the 2012 season and is participating in the Cubs’ big league Spring Training camp as a non-roster invitee. Plenty of competition exists for Gonzalez in the Cubs’ camp, but Grizzlies fans might have the opportunity to watch him play again in May when the Iowa Cubs pay a visit to Fresno. All of this, of course, depends on Gonzalez staying with the Cubs organization if he does not make the big league club breaking Spring Training.
INF Brett Pill – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Pill is competing for a spot on the Giants 25-man roster breaking Spring Training camp. After primarily playing first base for his first five professional seasons, Pill gained some experience at second base with the Grizzlies in 2011. In addition to playing a handful of games at third in the minors, as well as taking some fly balls as an outfielder in Spring Training, Pill is adding versatility to help him make the Giants’ Opening Day roster.
INF Ryan Rohlinger – signed a Minor League contract with the Cleveland Indians. Rohlinger was traded to the Colorado Rockies in early June of last season, where he played in 70 games with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox to end the year. The 28-year-old will attend the Indians’ Minor League camp after his deal with Cleveland did not include an invitation to the big league Spring Training.
OF Terry Evans – unsigned. Evans opened the 2011 campaign with the Giants organization, appearing in 39 games with the Grizzlies. He opted out of his contract at the end of May, freeing him up to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Georgia native played in 48 games with the Double-A Reading Phillies to close out the 2011 season.
OF Darren Ford – signed with the Seattle Mariners. The speedy outfielder was let go by the Giants this past offseason in a reshuffling of the 40-man roster. Ford battled injuries for most of the 2011 season, spending time at four different levels in the San Francisco organization. Ford received an invitation to the Mariners’ Major League Spring Training, but with nine outfielders already on the 40-man roster, Ford will have plenty of opportunity to compete for a spot with Mariners. Worse comes to worse, Ford will land with the Tacoma Rainiers. The Grizzlies play the Rainiers to open Fresno’s 2012 home schedule.
OF Tyler Graham – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Graham led the PCL in steals in 2011, a year after he batted .343 over 109 games with the Grizzlies in 2010. The Giants added Graham to their 40-man roster this past offseason, meaning Graham could make his Major League debut in 2012 if an outfield spot opens up in San Francisco or, at the very least, as a September call-up.
OF Thomas Neal – traded to the Cleveland Indians midway through last season. Neal has secured a 40-man roster spot with the Indians entering Spring Training, but he is facing plenty of competition, including from former Grizzlies and Giants outfielder Fred Lewis.
By: Jesse Beltran
Being considered a top-10 prospect for the San Francisco Giants the past three years can be a lot of pressure on a young outfielder like Francisco Peguero. After glancing at the 23-year-old’s numbers, one would notice it has not intimidated him.
Peguero’s journey through the farm system landed him in San Jose for 122 games in the 2010 season. He posted a .329 batting average while hitting 10 home runs and a league-leading 16 triples with 40 stolen bases, which led to his selection to the Post-Season California League All-Star team.
He wasn’t just an offense force; he did work with the glove as well, only committing four errors the entire season. After a phenomenal season, it was evident that high expectations were to follow. At the start of the 2011 season, Baseball America considered him the fourth-highest prospect in the Giants organization.
The two-time Major League Spring Training invitee didn’t miss a beat when the 2011 season rolled around, beginning the year in San Jose but only for 16 games due to his consistent numbers from the previous season.
Along came the promotion to the Double-A Flying Squirrels of Richmond, where he was limited to only 71 games due to arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee. The knee injury did make a difference on the base paths. Peguero attained only eight stolen bases in Richmond and a total of 12 the entire year. His batting production continued with a consistent .309/.318/.446 line.
A player like Peguero who has an aggressive approach doesn’t draw much walks. Over his six-year career, he has batted 1,971 times and only drawn 80 walks. Due to his current approach, his slot in the lineup will be tough to figure out because he will give the team an edge from either the top or bottom part of the batting order.
A native of Nigua in the Dominican Republic, Peguero tends to go back home for the offseason for some rest and spend time with his family. However at the pace Peguero has been going through the Giants farm system, he took advantage of some extra reps during the offseason in the Dominican Winter League with the Gigantes del Cibao.
This short league of 24 games benefited Peguero to keep his legs in shape chasing balls down in the outfield. At the plate, he slightly improved his patience with five walks in 87 at bats while batting .264 throughout the league. This improvement in walks doesn’t seem like much, but at that rate of walks per-at-bat, this calculates into him reaching his career total in walks (80) within 1,392 at-bats, instead of the 1,971 it actually took him. The Winter League experience will be a great benefit for him as he makes his way through Fresno.
Francisco Peguero has continued to work hard to achieve his dream of playing in the Major Leagues, being listed in the Top 100 Prospects at the #98 spot by MLB.com is just another feat for the young player in his journey. Striving to be ready for his call up to San Francisco, Peguero is expected to be in a Grizzlies uniform to begin the 2012 season.
Richard Heath Hembree has quickly risen through the San Francisco Giants farm system. This weekend, when pitchers and catchers report, the just-turned 23-year-old will enter his first big league Spring Training. His invitation to Major League camp was somewhat expected, however, when one looks back at his 2011 season.
The 6-4 right-hander was downright stingy in the California League last year. He allowed only two runs in 24 2/3 innings pitched. He faced 101 batters and only 29 of them reached base (16 hits, 12 walks and one hit-by-pitch). He also struck out nearly half of the hitters he faced with his 44 strikeouts. Not surprisingly, Hembree was named a California League Mid-Season All-Star for his efforts, as well as being tabbed a Topps Class A All-Star after the season.
In mid-June, Hembree was elevated to Double-A Richmond for the first time in his career. His Eastern League opponents batted .194 off of him in 28 games, and he struck out 34 and walked 13 in 28 2/3 innings.
As a hitter, Hembree even batted 1.000 with the Flying Squirrels. Granted, the perfect batting average stems from one hit in his only at-bat, but at least he knows when to make that one hit count. He drove in two runs with a single in the bottom of the sixth inning in the second game of a doubleheader against the Harrisburg Senators, adding the sixth and seventh runs in an eventual 7-5 Richmond win.
The two insurance runs proved to be important, too, as Hembree suffered his worst outing in his pro career when he allowed four runs in the following inning. Hembree recovered nicely for the remainder of the season, though, as he allowed only two earned runs in his final 16 2/3 innings.
For the entire 2011 season, Hembree led all of Minor League Baseball with 38 saves to go along with his 1-1 record, 1.86 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings.
So where did Hembree come from?
The Spartanburg, South Carolina native was drafted by the Giants out of the College of Charleston in the fifth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Hembree attended Spartanburg Methodist Junior College before pitching for one season with the College of Charleston Cougars. He also attended the University of South Carolina in 2008.
He made his professional debut with the Arizona Rookie League Giants in 2010, and he sort of pitched well. All he did was allow nine hits – only one for extra-bases – in 11 innings. Of the 41 batters he faced, Hembree struck out 22 of them and walked none.
While the Giants pitching staff has not been much of a question mark over the last couple of seasons, it is nice to have the security blanket of a Heath Hembree in the farm system. Arms like Hembree will only support the expectations of Giants fans that they have each and every year when it comes to San Francisco pitchers. With the benefit of time to develop here in Fresno, Hembree will be making his stamp in the Major Leagues soon enough.
Hembree is also on Twitter. Follow him @HeathHembree.