Ex-Giants Around The Majors (and Minors) 2015
(originally written 8/9/15)
Turnover is inevitable in pro sports, even for a well-run, multi-champion franchise like the San Francisco Giants. One day, Darren Ford is executing one of the biggest steals in franchise history; months later he's vanished off the face of the earth. Some guys, like 2014 hero Mike Morse, get more lucrative offers closer to home. Other guys, like Casey McGehee, play their way off the roster.
A smaller percentage simply wears out their welcome and/or the fans' patience—think Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada four years ago.
With 29 other major league teams as well as the expansive minor leagues, tracking our former heroes—yes, I said "our"; I'm a longtime fan—can be difficult. We here at TSR are here to update you on as many ex-Giants as we can who are still actively playing pro baseball.
(Forgettable guys who spend about five seconds as a Giant and have done little-to-nothing in the majors since, such as Eric Hacker, are not included, nor are players still on the 40-man roster such as Brett Bochy.)
David Aardsma (a Giant in 2004)
Barry Bonds wasn't the first Giant to pass Hank Aaron in the record books—when Aardsma debuted in 2004, he passed Aaron to become #1 in major league history...alphabetically. Then, less than a year after being the #22 overall draft pick, he went out and posted a WHIP of 2.8 in 11 games. San Francisco traded him away in 2005.
TODAY: Aardsma did have a couple good years closing for Seattle, but since then has battled injury and shuttled between the majors and minors. He's with the Braves this year and recently pitched against his original club.
Tony Abreu (2013-14)
The ex-Dodger and Diamondback Abreu hit decently filling in at 2B for the 2013 Giants, but even when SF was having all kinds of issues at the position with Marco Scutaro sidelined, he was almost completely off the radar in '14.
TODAY: Abreu, now 30, moved on to the Mexican League for 2015.
Scott Atchison (2007)
Atchison was a forgettable pitcher during a forgettable season for the Giants.
TODAY: To my shock, Atchison—who didn't reach the majors until age 28 in 2004—has lasted in MLB all the way to this season, most notably with the Red Sox and Indians (appearing in 70 games last season for the latter). Unfortunately, both the Indians and Twins cut him this year, and he might be done at 39.
Denny Bautista (2010)
You may recall the 2010 Giants having middle relief issues before bringing Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez aboard. Bautista was one of several castoffs given an opportunity. Santiago Casilla stuck, but the oft-erratic Bautista did not.
TODAY: Bautista hasn't pitched in the majors since being let go by the Giants, spending several years hurling in Korea. He returned stateside in '15 as a starter in the Red Sox system; he made six starts in A ball but was cut in June.
Carlos Beltran (2011)
Beltran came via deadline trade from the Mets in exchange for Zack Wheeler, a deal criticized by many (basically, GM Brian Sabean would have been damned for acquiring him and for not acquiring him if SF didn't win the championship...which they weren't going to do anyway with Buster Posey in a cast). Though people forget this, Beltran played well for the Giants.
TODAY: Now 38, Beltran has been a Yankee since 2014. He missed time with an oblique injury this year, and often sits vs. left-handers in favor of Chris Young—unthinkable not long ago. But his overall numbers thru 8/10 are more than decent. Beltran is eight doubles away from becoming the 60th man with 500 lifetime.
John Bowker (2008-10)
He burst onto the scene with jacks in his first two MLB games (with San Francisco in 2008), but leveled off and was traded to Pittsburgh for Javier Lopez in mid-2010. Bowker regularly put up good MiLB numbers, but couldn't approach them in the bigs and eventually went to Japan for three seasons.
TODAY: Now 32, he's back in the San Francisco system this year, with AAA Sacramento.
Gary Brown (2014)
Brown was a star in the making—we heard it from the moment he was drafted #24 overall by the Giants in 2010. But he didn't progress, and was outrighted off the roster in Spring Training 2015 with but seven games as a Giant under his belt.
TODAY: Brown has had a trying 2015 split between the AAA squads of the Angels and Cardinals.
Emmannuel Burriss (2008-12)
Burriss spent parts of five seasons (2008-12) with the Giants, compiling a .243 average in just over 280 games—many of them starts, as SF gave him more than one chance to claim their second base job. But by the end, Burriss could barely keep his OBP over .200, and the team cut ties.
TODAY: Burriss is now 30, dreadlocked and in the Nationals system (with a brief MLB cameo this year).
Jose Castillo (2008)
When the Giants lost Pedro Feliz to free agency after 2007 and Kevin Frandsen got hurt, Castillo wound up the main guy at third base—and for a while, the ex-Pirate 2B looked like a steal. But in his final two weeks with the Giants, he hit .105 in 38 AB without a single walk drawn and was cut.
TODAY: Castillo finished '08 with Houston, and has been in the Mexican League ever since. The Venezuela native is now 34.
Justin Christian (2011-12)
The ex-Yankee was a breath of fresh air for 2011 Giants fans simply for not being the deposed Aaron Rowand (who he essentially replaced on the roster). He was with the team for most of the second half of 2012 as well.
TODAY: Christian hasn't been back to the majors, spending 2015 in the Mexican League.
Tyler Colvin (2014)
Colvin was a Giant for almost half of 2014 and started strong, with multi-hit games in his first three starts including a decisive three-run homer. But he hit .159 with a .194 OBP in his final 28 games, and lost his roster spot to eventual NLCS MVP Travis Ishikawa. So in a way, one could argue Colvin's slump helped win the Giants a World Series.
TODAY: Colvin has spent all of 2015 with AAA Charlotte (White Sox).
Kevin Correia (2003-08)
Correia was an oft-frustrating pitcher for the Giants during his six seasons there. He was used as both a starter and reliever, but was more successful in the latter role.
TODAY: Now 35, Correia has made several major league stops since leaving AT&T Park; he began 2015 back in the Giants system, then caught on with the Phillies where he made five unremarkable starts before being cut.
Rajai Davis (2007-08)
Davis was the return on failed investment Matt Morris when the veteran pitcher was swapped to the Pirates in mid-2007. The outfielder finished that year in San Francisco, but was cut loose early the next season. (He caught on with the crosstown A's and remained there thru 2010.)
TODAY: Now 34, Davis is in his second year with the Tigers, doing what he always does—stealing bases, running down balls in the outfield, not showing loads of pop.
Chris Dominguez (2014)
The outfielder went 1-for-17 in a late-season trial with the 2014 Giants...but the one was a home run.
TODAY: Now 28, Dominguez has spent most of 2015 with AAA Louisville (Reds), with a handful of at-bats in the majors.
Darren Ford (2010-11)
Ford's only played 33 MLB games, but one was among the most pivotal in recent Giants history. For the 2010 Giants, the speedster pinch-ran, stole second and scored the only run in a huge September clash with Colorado (which—with 41,000 others—I saw in person.) That game came to be known as "The Darren Ford Game".
TODAY: Now 29, Ford has spent the past two seasons with AAA Fresno and Sacramento (both Giants).
Jeff Francoeur (2013)
Cannon-armed Francouer had been freshlly released by the Royals when the Giants took a low-risk flier on him. Hoping for lightning in a bottle, "Frenchie"—though well-liked—just couldn't hit and was soon released again.
TODAY: Though far from his days of consecutive 100-RBI seasons with the Braves, Francoeur has managed to revitalize his career somewhat as a part-timer with the lowly Phillies—even sinking the Giants with a grand slam earlier in 2015. Surprisingly, he is only 31 years old as of this writing.
Kevin Frandsen (2006-09)
Frandsen got a lot of run at 2B for the 2006-07 Giants and a lot of pub for being a local success story, as well as a special connection with coach Dave Righetti. But he missed the entire 2008 season with an Achilles injury (we're not counting his token final-day AB) and failed to win a job with the '09 squad—even being passed over for non-roster IF Matt Downs when an infielder was needed.
TODAY: Following his spring release by the Nationals and brief tenure with AAA Reno (Diamondbacks), Frandsen returned to the Giants organization and is currently with AAA Sacramento.
Conor Gillaspie (2008-12)
Not to be confused with Cole Gillespie, who was a Giant for about five minutes in 2013. This guy went 9-for-44 in 29 games with the team in 2008 and 2011-12, but one of those hits was an inside-the-park home run.
TODAY: Following two-plus seasons as the White Sox default third baseman, the now-28-year-old Gillaspie was sold to the Angels in mid-2015.
Juan Gutierrez (2014):
"J.C." pitched well for the 2014 Giants (3.96 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in 63 games).
TODAY: Gutierrez has been buried in AAA with Sacramento and Lehigh Valley (Giants and Phillies, respectively) for all of 2015.
LaTroy Hawkins (2005)
A Cubs fan who created a sign asking ex-Cub and now-Giant Moises Alou to "Take Hawkins Back With You" in 2005 inadvertently got his wish when Hawkins was brought to San Francisco in June, with young pitchers David Aardsma and Jerome Williams going to the Cubs in return. The veteran reliever was awful at first, but did improve as the year wore on (though far from automatic). In that off-season, SF dealt him to Baltimore for Steve Kline.
TODAY: Now 42 and MLB's oldest player, Hawkins is completing his 21st and final major league season as a Toronto Blue Jay—they acquired him from Colorado along with SS Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies in July 2015. He'd opened the year as Colorado's closer, a role in which he excelled in 2014.
Heath Hembree (2013)
Hembree dazzled in a 2013 late-season trial and seemed to have a bright future with the Giants...until they traded him for Jake Peavy in July.
TODAY: Hembree, 26, has done well for AAA Pawtucket (1.78 ERA thru 7/30, sub-1 WHIP) but only notched 10 MLB appearances since leaving the Giants.
Brandon Hicks (2014)
Hicks showed good power early in the 2014 season, and received much of the playing time at 2B while Marco Scutaro (unsuccessfully) recuperated from back trouble. He hit four home runs in one seven-game April stretch, somewhat negating his flirtation with the Mendoza line. But he was outrighted in July after falling into a 2-for-42 mega-slump.
TODAY: Hicks is still in the Giants organization (AAA Sacramento), but his season has been wrecked by a recurring calf problem. The infielder turns 30 in September.
Travis Ishikawa (2006-09, 2014-15)
If you don't know Ishikawa's story by now, all I'll say is this: in a 12-month span, Ishikawa was: unemployed, an NLCS hero and eventual World Champion, then unemployed again.
TODAY: It seemed if anybody had a spot secured on the Giants bench, it'd be Ishikawa, 31. But he got hurt early, then lost in a roster crunch. The 1B/OF landed with the NL Central-leading Pirates—the same team that cut him in summer 2014. He's 7-for-32 with the Bucs thru 7/30.
Mike Kickham (2013-14)
Bespectacled lefty Kickham enjoyed a fine debut MLB inning, but it was all downhill after that. He had decent enough stuff but struggled to locate and seemed short on confidence as well.
TODAY: Since the end of 2014, Kickham has floated thru three organizations, the latest of which (Round Rock, Rangers) cut him in June 2015. At 26, he's at a career crossroads but remember—he's left-handed.
Roger Kieschnick (2013)
Kieschnick, a 2008 #3 pick, hit .202 in 38 games for the 2013 Giants. They waived him after the season.
TODAY: Now 28, Kieschnick has spent all of 2015 with AAA Salt Lake (Angels).
Jean Machi (2012-15)
Machi is the newest addition to the list, having been waived in a July roster crunch. The hard-throwing righty reliever had been a little shaky in '15 and spent time on the DL; the emergence of young Hunter Strickland made Machi expendable.
TODAY: Machi, 33, was claimed by the Red Sox, reuniting him with ex-teammate Pablo Sandoval—who didn't miss him. One bad game has uglied up his Boston stats thru 8/10.
Casey McGehee (2015)
The second-newest addition to the list. McGehee was brought in to fill a gaping, post-Panda hole at third base. Aside from one pivotal grand slam, he never got it going and seemed to ground into double plays every other game. SF let him go in July.
TODAY: 32-year-old McGehee soon rejoined his 2014 team, Miami, and is 12-for-70 thru 8/10. He still leads the league in GIDP.
Pat Misch (2006-09)
The finesse artist got in 38 games (11 starts) for the Giants over four seasons, usually filling in for someone else. He went 0-7 and eventually embarked on a journeyman career.
TODAY: At 34, Misch keeps truckin' on in pro baseball. He hasn't reached the bigs since 2011, but is pitching well for AAA New Orleans (Marlins) in 2015, mostly as a starter.
Johnny Monell (2013)
Some players get September cups of coffee in the majors. Monell got about a tablespoon of coffee. I never thought we'd see him again, anywhere.
TODAY: Monell, 29, has split 2015 between AAA Las Vegas and the Mets, hitting .340 for the former and .178 for the latter thru 8/10.
Mike Morse (2014)
Morse could have gone 0-for-the-season and it wouldn't have mattered to Giants fans so long as he A) took Pat Neshek deep in the NLCS, B) smoked the eventual World Series-winning RBI single, and C) leaped up and down like a little boy during the championship ceremony.
TODAY: Morse joined Miami for '15, but had health and production issues that cost him playing time. He'd be traded to the Dodgers, cut, and signed by Pittsburgh. Morse's aggregate 2015 totals thru August 10: four home runs, .214 average.
Joe Nathan (1999-2003)
Nathan got a lot of run both starting and relieving for the 1999-2000 Giants, fell off the radar, then re-emerged as a standout full-time reliever in 2003. But needing a catcher, the Giants included him in a trade for A.J. Pierzynski. He went on to become one of the game's great closers over the next decade, mostly for the Twins.
TODAY: Now a 40-year-old Tiger, Nathan blew out his elbow again this year, having pitched just one game. He vows he's not finished yet.
Nick Noonan (2013)
Former #1 pick Noonan was an infield stand-in for Marco Scutaro and others in 2013; he played decently at times but his overall numbers were unimpressive. He was left in AAA Fresno for all of '14.
TODAY: Noonan, 26, was playing regularly for Scranton Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) until being hurt, then released in late July. The Giants then brought him back to Sacramento (AAA).
Brad Penny (2009, 2012)
Penny excelled for the 2009 Giants—who'd lost Randy Johnson to injury—down the stretch after being released by Boston that July. He made a few stops before returning as a reliever late in 2012, though far less effective this time around.
TODAY: Only eight MLB games for 37-year-old Penny since leaving the Giants; he's been a regular starter for AAA Charlotte (White Sox) this year.
A.J. Pierzynski (2004)
The ex-Twin Pierzynski succeeded Benito Santiago as the Giants catcher in '04, but was double-play prone and reportedly not popular with all his pitchers. Plus, he cost the team Joe Nathan, who developed into a lights-out closer (which the Giants themselves needed) in Minnesota. Pierzynski would not be re-signed after 2004.
TODAY: Pierzynski—who as a Cardinal flagrantly tried to scam the umpires in the 2014 NLCS against SF—is an Atlanta Brave this year. He's bounced back from a subpar 2013 to start 67% of Atlanta's games at age 38. Just last week he helped hang a very ugly loss on the Giants, who were up 6-0 thru five innings and 8-6 with two down in the 9th. AJ's 2-run homer forced extras, and his Braves won in 12.
Guillermo Quiroz (2013-14)
For much of 2013-14, Quiroz essentially served as the third catcher on a two-man catching staff, but did get into 45 big-league games over that period as backup Hector Sanchez dealt with injuries. Quiroz sank the Dodgers with a walk-off homer in 2013 off former Blue Jays teammate Brandon League...but is a lifetime .199 hitter in 346 at-bats spread over 10 seasons.
TODAY: In the off-season, Quiroz returned to the Giants organization and is currently with AAA Sacramento. WIth the younger Sanchez and now Andrew Susac ahead of him as Posey's backups—and superior offensively—Quiroz, 33, is unlikely to play for the Giants this year.
Ramon Ramirez (2010-11, 2013)
The Giants imported several players during the 2010 season; Ramirez arguably got the least pub of them all. But he pitched well in middle relief for the eventual champion, and earned bonus points from me for intentionally drilling Shane Victorino the next season. Ramirez returned briefly in '13, but was not effective.
TODAY: Ramirez, 33, has seven MLB appearances the past three seasons and is currently in the Mexican League.
Cody Ransom (2001-04)
During his Giants stint Ransom was a spare part, and not a particularly useful one despite impressive minor league slugging. Yet he stuck around for parts of four seasons due to his versatility, then bounced around the majors for nine more years.
TODAY: Ransom, 39, has spent 2015 with Reno (Diamondbacks). Thru 7/30 he's hit five of his 217 career MiLB home runs.
Sandy Rosario (2013)
Rosario served as a serviceable middle reliever for the '13 Giants, then took a liner off his chest.
TODAY: SF cast Rosario aside before Spring Training 2014; he hasn't sniffed the bigs since and now relieves in the Mexican League.
Cody Ross (2010-11)
Ross was boss during his 13 months as a Giant; his heroics in the 2010 NLCS need not be repeated—no Giants fan will forget them. Boston and Arizona have employed him since, but physical problems kept him off the field a lot.
TODAY: After two injury-plagued years in Arizona (which included hip surgery), the D'Backs ate the last year of his deal. Now healthy and cheap, Ross made the A's roster for 2015—but went 2-for-22 and was cut after a month. At 34, he may be done.
Dan Runzler (2009-12): Runz is arguably the most forgotten 2010 Giant of them all. Mostly in relief, Runzler was pretty good for a while, but control problems and Javier Lopez' addition obviated the lefty over time.
TODAY: Though long outrighted off the 40-man roster, the 30-year-old remained in the Giants chain thru 2014 but never called up after 2012. For Reno (Diamondbacks) this year, he's posted a 2.02 WHIP in 39 games thru 8/10. Ouch.
Pablo Sandoval (2008-14)
The Panda was a two-time All-Star and a World Series MVP for the Giants. He was also a constant threat to gain 20 pounds any given month. Though popular in San Francisco, Sandoval had little good to say about the team upon signing with Boston for 2015. But the memories remain.
TODAY: Boston paid Sandoval—soon-to-be-29—like a superstar when he never was one, and whatever the Sox thought they were getting, he's been pretty ordinary overall (except for a June tear featuring seven multi-hit games out of eight) and certainly not very productive (35 RBI in 98 games thru 8/9; three HR at Fenway all year).
Sandoval's righty hitting fell so much, he switched to exclusively lefty batting in May. He's also had to leave several games. Plus, there's Insta-gate.
Nate Schierholtz (2008-12)
He never fully fulfilled his offensive potential, but he played RF at AT&T Park as well as anyone—Schierholtz was a regular defensive sub throughout the 2010 postseason. He was ultimately sacrificed to acquire Hunter Pence in 2012 and promptly matured at the plate with regular playing time in Philadelphia and Chicago...for a while, anyway.
(Plus, his first major league home run touched down about 15-20 feet away from me atop the RF bricks. I can be seen in the video with the Giants jersey and sweatband on.)
TODAY: Nate's MLB career stalled last season; he hit only .195 in 122 games after a breakout 2013 (21 homers). The 31-year-old hit the Land Of The Rising Sun for 2015 and is now slugging for Hiroshima in the Japan League.
Chris Stewart (2011)
Ryan Vogelsong wasn't the only unexpected contributor the 2011 Giants summoned from AAA. Stewart was signed as insurance for catchers Buster Posey and Eli Whiteside, and the Giants put in a claim when Posey's leg was wrecked early on. Stewart—with all of 48 MLB at-bats with four teams over the past five years—got a lot of run that year. But his biggest contribution: being swapped to the Yankees for George Kontos prior to 2012.
TODAY: Since leaving SF, 33-year-old Stewart has received good run with the Yankees and Pirates. However unimaginable to Giants fans, he's topped .290 each of the past two years as Pittsburgh's second catcher.
Eric Surkamp (2011-13)
Surkamp made a few starts for the '11 Giants, underwent arm surgery, made one dreadful fill-in start in 2013, then was done in the organization.
TODAY: Most of Surkamp's 2015 has been in AAA Charlotte (White Sox) and Oklahoma City (Dodgers), but he did make his first big league appearance in nearly two years on July 6 (it wasn't pretty). The lefty just turned 28 this month, two odds in his favor toward still making a major league impact down the line.
Dan Uggla (2014)
As tough to believe for anyone who saw his week with the '14 Giants, Uggla did find another major league job in '15. Now a Nationals reserve, Uggla went from among the league's top slugging infielders to, well, a serious offensive liability over the years. He was error and strikeout-prone with the Giants, and no fan shed tears over his release.
TODAY: As mentioned, the Nationals dust Uggla's remains off here and there to play 2B; he's also pinch-hit some (or more like attempted to pinch-hit some). Now 35, he's at .194 this year.
Juan Uribe (2009-10)
Uribe was huge in the 2010 playoffs, sliding over from SS to 3B when Sandoval slumped and adding leadership and championship experience from his White Sox days. Other than committing an error in Jon Sanchez' no hitter—spoiling a perfecto—fans couldn't have asked for more from Uribe. Then he bought it all back by signing with the Dodgers and staying there for 4½ years.
TODAY: Uribe, now 36, opened the season with the Dodgers. He spent time with the Braves via trade and is now adding depth to a Mets squad missing 3B David Wright for practically the whole season to date.
Eugenio Velez (2007-10)
The wiry-thin Dominican was an intriguing blend of raw ability and poor baseball instincts. His size belied flashes of pop, but it seemed for every booming hit Velez produced, he also blundered on the bases and in the field. He absorbed a frightening liner to the head in 2010, but recovered. Well, enough to go 0-for-37 with the Dodgers in 2011. No misprint.
TODAY: Velez's services haven't been sought in the bigs since his Dodger disaster, but he has played extensive AAA ball for four organizations in that time. In '15, the 33-year-old is batting .290 in 73 games for AAA Durham (Rays) thru 7/30.
Jerome Williams (2003-05)
As a young starter, Williams went 17-12 in 43 starts over the 2003-04 seasons. Then, amidst issues of conditioning and stubbornness—plus stuff that was never really special—Williams set on a long voyage through the major and minor leagues. He has worn 23 uniforms in the major, minor and foreign leagues since leaving San Francisco a decade ago...and that's not including the ones he's worn twice!
TODAY: Williams, now 33, has spent much of the year in the Phillies' rotation but that's only because they don't have anyone better. He's 3-8 in 16 starts thru 8/9—one of those losses at the Giants' hands.
Barry Zito (2007-13)
Another Giant who needs no introduction. He's one of the rare players to complete a seven-year contract, even if that was largely because during his low points, the Giants couldn't have given him away. Still, Zito left San Francisco on a high note—receiving a huge ovation from Giants fans after his final SF pitch.
TODAY: Now 37, Zito returned to baseball after a year off and competed for a spot with the A's. He didn't land it, but surprisingly has spent the whole season with AAA Nashville (3.48 in 22 starts thru 8/9).