Friday, February 01, 2008

Giants in Top 100 2008 Prospects Lists

Both Baseball Prospectus's Kevin Goldstein and ESPN's Keith Law came out with their Top 100 prospects in baseball for 2008 on the same day and both of them were also available to the general public, of which I am one (no dough-re-mi for the paid services; hence the ads now lining this blog in hopes of affording same someday...).

Two Giants on BP's List

BP's list was solely a list of the players' names. I assume the full report will be in the 2008 edition of Baseball Prospectus (something I have bought every year now since 2003, so I recommend it when it comes out; I find Amazon to be cheapest). The Giants had two players on Goldstein's Top 100 list, one most fans should know, the other not as much: Angel Villalona (#29) and Henry Sosa (#84).

Villalona, our $2M bonus baby, apparently is becoming like Baby Huey and might be forced to move to 1B, but he showed a lot of good skills in rookie ball in 2007. Sosa was a fast riser who took advantage of the opportunity given him - he got assigned to Augusta because another pitcher had an injury - did extremely well, and was promoted mid-season to San Jose, where his performance was not that good.

In 2007, the Giants had 3 names in the Top 100 list: Tim Lincecum (#8), Villalona (#64), Jonathan Sanchez (#73). Villalona moved up the list 35 spots, but 25 of those spots were provided by players who made the majors and no longer were prospects. Still, he did move ahead, and there's always players coming in the last draft that could push him down if they are good enough.

Three Giants on ESPN's List

More Giants players made Keith Law's list, which included commentary on the player. There were three on his list: Angel Villalona (#20), Tim Alderson (#59) and Henry Sosa (#74). Villalona and Sosa were approximately in the same places in both lists, but Alderson not only made Law's list, but ranked higher than Sosa.

About Angel, Law noted:
The Giants of the early 2000s were notorious for skimping on amateur signing bonuses, giving away first-round picks and doing little in Latin America. So when they paid over $2 million to sign Villalona just days after his 16th birthday in August of 2006, not only was it a surprise, it was a signal that the organization was committing to acquiring top-flight amateur talent. Signing Villalona was tantamount to getting an extra top-10 pick in the amateur draft -- perhaps better, since he could be in the organization for what would have been his senior year had he been an American-born prospect. Villalona himself is very physically developed, with an early-20s build even before he turned 16; while this will probably force him over to first base, it does provide for significant power potential. He has a quick bat and a fluid swing, and has shown the ability to use the whole field. He's a long way off and has only played five games above rookie ball, but the physical promise here -- a middle-of-the-order bat with a 40-plus homer ceiling -- is tremendous.

I would like to note that the Giants during the Sabean era have not been skimpy with bonuses paid except in 2003: in my study, I compared their bonus against the bonuses for the picks after their pick and the Giants have always paid more than the going rate for the picks after them, which IS as it should be. Now whether they paid the same percentage over as other teams, I don't know, but from looking at the 10 picks (5 before and 5 after), the Giants looked like they paid their prospects the going rate for that pick.

Also, the Giants showed they were willing to pay for top flight talent by signing Lincecum to a bonus that was $200,000 more than what the going rate was for his pick, based on the picks around him. In fact, his bonus was basically equal to the #8 pick. From looking at their first round picks, they were much more lavish in their bonuses, paying more in terms of percentage above the following bonuses.

This is what Law had to say about Alderson:
Alderson's an odd bird, working from the stretch even with no one on base. His fastball is already solid-average at 90-94 mph, with more velocity to come down the road. He pounds the strike zone and shows good command. His best secondary pitch is a hard curveball with tight rotation and a late two-plane break, while his changeup is a ways off. Alderson comes at hitters from a low three-quarter slot, and his arm is very quick, so the ball pops out of his hand and gets in on hitters quickly. He has some minor mechanical issues that will require work, including a slightly stiff front leg and a tendency to throw across his body to get deep to his glove side, but nothing that would prevent him from becoming a No. 2 or 3 starter in the majors.

This is mainly based on pre-draft information. It is known that the Giants got Alderson to use a windup when he joined the team.

Lastly, this is what Law had to say about Sosa:
Sosa has a live arm in a system that now has more than its share of live arms. He has a promising three-pitch mix, sitting at 92-94 and touching 97 on his fastball and sporting a power curveball in the mid-80s and a solid-average changeup with good arm speed. His control is poor and his feel for pitching is weak. He's too happy to try to overpower guys with heat rather than use his secondary stuff to put guys away. His delivery is odd with a dice-roller arm action and problems rushing his arm through, neither of which is conducive to good fastball command. He shouldn't move up quickly, but if he's given time he has a chance to be a No. 2 or 3 starter.
Giants Thoughts

A lot of people like to denigrate the Giants farm system, but players like Cain and Lincecum are young enough that they could still be on Top prospect lists every year, like 2007 and 2008, but unlike other prospects, they succeeded quickly and thus aren't eligible anymore. Else they could still be on the list and the Giants would have a farm system to be envied with Cain, Lincecum, Villalona, Sanchez, and Sosa atop the system.

And people forget that half the team is made up of homegrown talents. That is still a good accomplishment. However, because the vast majority of that happens to be pitching makes it all seem bad for some people. But players are players, don't matter whether they hit or pitch, as long as you can procure what you need from other means. That's what Sabean needs to be able to show over the two years extension he got.

Exciting stuff about Villalona: Law noted that Villalona has 40 HR power potential. Our team could certainly use someone like that in our lineup. And remember, he was a top hitter in that rookie league despite being only 16 years old playing against players 3-4 years older than he was. The average age for batters there was 19.7 years and for pitchers it was 19.9 years of age.

Exciting stuff about Alderson and Sosa: They are both considered potential #2/#3 starters. That is pretty good and we currently have two such type of starters for us in Zito and Lowry, in addition to our co-aces Cain and Lincecum. That will eventually lead to more trading chips, good and valuable trading chips.


  1. I have a couple major disagreements with you on this Martin (as I've frequently mentioned). One the idea that Cain and Lincecum should be considered as part of our prospects is just silly. The highest level prospects move fast -- that's part of being an uber-prospect in the first place. Cain didn't get to the majors any faster than Jay Bruce is about to or Justin Upton, or BJ or Stephen Drew. Lincecum went about as fast you possibly can, but Justin Verlander flew through fast, too. That's what the best prospects do -- they move fast. Should the Twins be bragging about their system based on the youth of Delmon Young? The problem is ceiling and depth -- the Giants have very little depth, which is why graduating Cain and Lincecum kills their system. The Dodgers just graduated Russell Martin, Kemp, Billingsly, Broxton, and Loney and yeah their system's taken a bit of a hit, but it's still got Kershaw, LaRoche, and Lu right their in the upper minors as high ceiling guys. That's serious depth.

    Secondly, while it's true that half our team is home grown, I think that is quite frequently true of last place teams. This is a bad team that is suffering from a serious talent gap -- particularly in division (my feeling that this is likely to be a 96-105 loss team is mostly based on how poorly I think we're going to match up with the rest of the division). Is it a positive that a majority of your lagging talent is homegrown? Interesting question, but I got to say 'no." The Pirates have had a lot of teams the last decade that had lots of homegrown players -- that's not the same thing as saying they had a good system. They had a poor system, they just had lots and lots of holes to fill.

  2. I'm not saying other teams cannot say the same thing, I'm only trying to point out that the Giants (and any other team in similar circumstances) are being short changed in these two instances. I don't know that it is silly, but will concede that it's pushing the envelope.

    It's kind of like this prospect website I've been going to lately, they focus looking at teams with players under 25 as a way to do what I'm saying above. If you are OK with this concept, that's basically all I'm trying to say.

    About the home grown issue, that's fine to say when the team has home grown crap filling up spots on the team, but the Giants pitching staff is one of the best around in the NL, so I don't think that's a fair thing to say.

    My point about homegrown is from two angles: 1) the complaint about the Giants is their farm system and the fact is that the team is about half filled from the farm system; 2) the other fact is that we have a great rotation and budding bullpen, which together, even last season, was one of the best in the NL, and should get better in 2008.

    If the pitching staff wasn't that good, I wouldn't be bothering to mention that the team is half home-grown, I would be saying what you are saying (incorrectly, in my opinion; or silly, using your terminology).



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