By Michelle Dingley
While good news from the bay area’s major league ball clubs seems to be immediately followed by bad news, their minor league affiliates are giving fans plenty to cheer about.
Giants prospect Eric Surkamp was recently named to the Eastern League Post-Season All-Star team. The left-handed pitcher owns a 10-4 record with Double-A Richmond. Surkamp leads the league in both ERA (2.02) and WHIP (1.08), and he ranks second in opponents’ batting average (.213). He owns an impressive 3.75:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Surkamp was previously selected to the Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star team and was named Pitcher of the Week twice. He received similar honors with Advanced-A San Jose in 2010. His biggest honor so far comes Saturday when he makes his major-league debut. Surkamp faces off against Houston’s Brett Myers, who has a 3-13 record this season with a 4.95 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Surkamp’s fastball is clocked in the high eighties, but he is said to have great control, particularly of his specialty pitches. One note of concern is that Surkamp has never faced major-league hitting, not even in Spring Training. The southpaw may have the opportunity to start multiple games, depending on his performance on Saturday and the health of Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito.
To make room for Surkamp on the active roster, Nate Schierholtz has been sent to the DL with a hairline fracture in his right foot. He likely broke it when fouling a ball off his foot on August 15. After resting on the 16th, he played on it for five games before re-aggravating the injury during a collision at the plate. Before his injury, Nate the Great had been our team’s most consistent offensive producer who hadn’t spent time on the disabled list.
Steve Edlefsen, another Giants farmhand, also made his major-league debut this week. The right-handed reliever didn’t have great numbers in Triple-A Fresno this year (2-4 with a 5.66 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, and opponents’ average of .313). Those stats are skewed from a bad first half; after the All-Star Break, he is 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and opponents hitting .246. Edlefsen has been dominant in his short time in the majors. In his first outing, Sunday, August 21 in Houston, the rookie struck out two and didn’t allow a baserunner. So far Edlefsen has pitched 2 2/3 innings, giving up just two hits while striking out two and walking one. His WHIP is a stingy 1.13, and his ERA is a perfect 0.00.
Back on the farm, Gary Brown of the San Jose Giants was named the team’s Offensive Player of the Year on Thursday. Drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft, Brown patrols center field and bats leadoff for the Advanced-A ball club. He leads all Advanced-A players in hits with 173. Brown leads his team in batting average (.334), on-base percentage (.402), and OPS (.912). His 48 stolen bags place him atop the team and second in the California League. In addition to his great speed, Brown also has power. He has 31 two-baggers, 12 triples (leading the team) and 12 home runs. He ranks third on the team with 76 RBI – not bad for a leadoff hitter.
It didn’t take long for Gary Brown to prove he was the right man to receive the honor of Offensive Player of the Year. In Thursday’s game, he went a perfect 5-for-5 with two homers, two doubles and 4 RBI. His five hits tied the single-game San Jose record, the second time he has done so this year. This was his first multi-homer game of his career. He followed up that effort with a 3-for-5 game on Friday with a double, a walk and 2 RBI.
Gary Brown is no stranger to accolades. He was awarded California League Offensive Player of the Week honors on May 9, hitting .433 (13-for-30) with five doubles, a homer and 12 RBI over the week. He was selected to the Cal League Mid-Season All-Star team and started in the 2011 Futures Game. Brown easily could have been promoted to Double-AA Richmond at the All-Star Break. At that point, he was batting .328 with a .398 OBP and 32 steals. Still a young player with less than one professional year under his belt, the choice was made to keep him in San Jose. As the Giants’ top prospect, Gary Brown is expected to make a big splash when he joins the major league team. Some fans have clamored for Brown to get a chance this season at the top of San Francisco’s lineup. With the lack of production the SF Giants have had from the leadoff spot, it seems like a rookie of his caliber could only help. That would be a lot of pressure on the young Brown to help the struggling team pursue their playoff hopes. Instead, Brown will help the San Jose Giants as they pursue a third consecutive title in the California League.
With one of the best overall records in all of the minors, the San Jose Giants clinched a playoff spot with their first-half win earlier in the season. This is the team’s seventh consecutive first half Northern Division title and the eighth consecutive year they will make the playoffs. The Giants will have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Their possible opponents include the Stockton Ports (A’s) and the Modesto Nuts (Rockies), both good teams vying to make the postseason. The last day of the regular season is September 5.
The Sacramento River Cats will also be in the playoffs this year. They clinched their 5th straight PCL Pacific Southern Division title, their 10th title in 12 years. The A’s Triple-A affiliate is currently 79-55, in stark contrast to the big-league club’s 60-71 record. The River Cats’ first playoff opponent will likely be the Reno Aces (Diamondbacks). Playoffs begin September 7.
The A’s have been all but eliminated from the playoffs. San Francisco fans still hold out hope that they will make it. At least we are guaranteed that their minor league teams will see the postseason.