Martinez-Esteve looking good
Young hitter impressing Giants; Velez working on range
Hot topic: Outfielder Eddy Martinez-Esteve keeps making up for lost time. A .312 hitter in three professional seasons who played only the first five weeks of last season before a strained left shoulder sidelined him, Martinez-Esteve has hit with authority in early workouts, proving that his setback was only temporary.The 24-year-old right-handed batter established himself as one the organization's best pure hitters, if not the best, by hitting .313 with 44 doubles, 17 homers and 94 RBIs in 2005 at Class A San Jose. Martinez-Esteve is projected as a left fielder, though the Giants are willing to consider alternatives. As director of player personnel Bobby Evans said, "With that bat, you've got to find a place for him to make sure he plays." Martinez-Esteve could begin the season with Double-A Connecticut, where he hit .272 in 27 games before being shelved. But he's extremely capable of proving that Triple-A is where he belongs. On the move: Coaches are working with second baseman Eugenio Velez, 24, to help him parlay his speed into better defensive range. Plucked from Toronto in the Minor League Rule 5 Draft before last season, Velez played his way onto the Giants' radar by hitting .315 with 14 homers, 90 RBIs and 64 stolen bases at Class A Augusta. On the pine: In case you missed it, right-hander Merkin Valdez will miss the entire 2007 season after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery last September. Valdez struck out 50 batters in 50 2/3 innings at Triple-A Fresno last season before being sidelined. Names in the game: The Giants have a wealth of baseball wisdom evaluating players at Minor League camp: Felipe Alou, their manager from 2003-06 who's now a consultant to general manager Brian Sabean; Jim Davenport, the slick-fielding third baseman who played for the Giants from 1958-70 and managed them in 1985; and Joey Amalfitano, a longtime player and coach. They're No. 1: Tim Lincecum, the 10th overall selection in last year's draft, draws a crowd whenever he throws. Lincecum's long-striding motion piques onlookers' curiosity, but so does his overpowering fastball and sharp-breaking curveball. Lincecum has an outside chance to make the Giants' Opening Day roster, but he'll more than likely begin the season as a starter in Double-A or Triple-A. Class of '06: The Giants are loaded at shortstop in the lower Minors with Emmanuel Burris (supplemental pick, 33rd overall last year) and Brian Bocock (ninth round, 266th overall). Come the regular season, they're likely to go their separate ways at Class A -- one to San Jose, the other to Augusta -- to maximize their playing time. What they're saying: "You talk about a guy whose ball sounds different off the bat; he's one of those." -- Evans on Martinez-Esteve.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.