Friday, March 20, 2009

Giants Prospects Overview

Jonathan Mayo, the resident expert of prospects for MILB.com, has recently wrote two excellent articles on the Giants and their farm system. One covers 10 prospects to watch, and the other is an organizational overview that covers some more of the young prospects the Giants could be counting on in the years to come. He was the expert who clued me into Tim Lincecum and made me think that we had a chance to select The Kid with the #10 pick.

Top 10

Not too many surprises. No order, just an alphabetical listing:
  • Tim Alderson
  • Scott Barnes
  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Conor Gillaspie
  • Roger Kieschnick
  • Nick Noonan
  • Buster Posey
  • Kevin Pucetas
  • Rafael Rodriguez
  • Angel Villalona
The main surprise would be Scott Barnes. Don't get me wrong, he's good enough to make the list, but not all agree on that, I've seen lists without him on it. Here is some snippets of good info:
  • Tim Alderson: "He has a delivery that makes it tough for hitters to pick up the ball. And the stuff that comes out of it is pretty darn good, with a fastball he can run up to 93 mph with movement, plus curve and developing changeup."
  • Scott Barnes: "He is the quintessential pitchability lefty with tremendous command of his fastball, changeup and curve. The change is his best pitch, but his other two are at least average. His keys are locating his pitches and keeping hitters off-balance, and he'll have to show he can do it against more advanced hitters. "
  • Madison Bumgarner: "He did everything the Giants were looking for with his command and secondary pitches. He was so overpowering with his plus, plus fastball he didn't need them as much to succeed last season -- it will be a nice challenge for him to have to set up the more advanced hitters at higher classifications. "
  • Conor Gillaspie: "A gap-to-gap hitter from the left side, he doesn't necessarily profile as the prototypical third baseman right now, but the Giants feel he has power potential. He definitely knows how to hit, with an advanced approach and terrific plate discipline. Defensively, he has to improve his footwork at the hot corner. "
  • Roger Kieschnick: "He made his unofficial debut in Hawaii Winter Baseball and showed some of the raw power that made him an intriguing prospect. He needs to learn to adjust to breaking stuff -- he saw a good sampling of that in Hawaii, with mixed results. If he can make more contact, he could profile as the prototypical corner outfielder, with a power bat, good arm and decent speed. Right field is not so easy to play at AT&T Park, so left may ultimately make more sense for him."
  • Nick Noonan: "Noonan might have the best bat speed in the Giants system. His numbers last year in August don't fully convey how well he performed and how much he developed in his first full season. The supplemental first-rounder hit .279 for the year (.333 in the playoffs), showing pretty good gap power (27 doubles, seven triples) and base-running acumen (29-for-33 in steals). The middle infielder was a shortstop in high school and could possibly still play there, but he profiles more as a second baseman. "
  • Buster Posey: "He can certainly hit, both for average and at least some power. He has a great arm and is working on the other facets of his catching game, being relatively new to the position. He's been very impressive in big league camp, both in his performance and his willingness to accept instruction. His bat is advanced enough to be pushed, but he may start the year in San Jose so he can work on his game-calling skills."
  • Kevin Pucetas: "In his two-plus seasons as a pro, Pucetas has gone a combined 32-7 with a 2.35 ERA. He's finished first or second in ERA in every league he's played in and has been an All-Star in his two full-season turns. Still, the 2006 17th-rounder doesn't get a ton of ink because he doesn't have overwhelming stuff. He does have a terrific knowledge of how to pitch, however, with command of four offerings. He's walked just 67 in 341 1/3 innings as a pro and has shown the ability to keep hitters off-balance and guessing. The real test will be if he can keep it going against upper-level hitters..."
  • Rafael Rodriguez: "He has a long, lean and athletic body. Already very strong, he's shown the ability to hit with power to all fields. He competes extremely well with an aggressive approach at the plate, though like most young hitters will need to learn how to adjust to off-speed stuff. He can run well and has an outstanding arm from the outfield, drawing comparisons to luminaries such as Vladimir Guerrero. "
  • Angel Villalona: "Sent to full-season Augusta last year at age 17, the big first baseman struggled initially, hitting .213 in April and .234 in the first half overall. But as his manager Andy Skeels put it, he got better every month and finished with a .308 August, during which he slugged .529. He made adjustments and matured very quickly throughout the season. Once a third baseman, he still takes grounders there, but his future is clearly at first base, where he played well in his first season. He has as much power as anyone in the organization and really dedicated himself to conditioning last year."

I would note that the Giants do not have depth at shortstop, Burriss is no guarantee to stick there defensively, Bocock no guarantee to ever hit well enough to earn a spot, and Crawford is a big question mark currently, so if they can play Noonan at SS in San Jose this season, I think it would be good to see if he can stick there or not. However, most observations I have seen say that he will eventually end up at 2B.

Organizational Overview

Many additional prospects were named.

Coming Soon:

  • Travis Ishikawa
  • Sergio Romo
  • Pablo Sandoval
  • Nate Schierholtz

Under the Radar:

  • Waldis Joaquin
  • Joey Martinez
  • Jackson Williams

I think Joaquin is a good choice for sleeper to follow. He's always had a great fastball and apparently TJS hasn't taken it away. Now, however, he's probably slated for relief, to ease pressure on his arm, and probably a closer/set-up candidate within a year or two. Or even this year, he has pitched great in spring training thus far.

I didn't know that Martinez led the Eastern League in ERA. That gave us at least three leaders: Martinez, Alderson, and Bumgarner. And Bumgarner led all of the minors, doing it again for the Augusta team, which had Pucetas lead all of the minors in 2007.

2008 Draft Recap:
  • Edwin Quirate
  • Aaron King
  • Caleb Curry
  • Ryan Mantle
Predictions:
  • Hitter of the Year: Buster Posey
  • Pitcher of the Year: Tim Alderson
Great News: Connecticut Probably Moving to Richmond
He also reported that our AA affiliate, Connecticut Defenders, should be moving: "It's all but a done deal that the club will relocate to Richmond, Virginia. If all goes according to plan, it will be in time for the 2010 season." According to this blog coverage, a new stadium is expected there, but even if not, the city's stadium had played roughly neutral for the minor league teams which played there before, a few years ago. I am so looking forward to this happening, Norwich's Dodd Stadium's problems I've documented over the past few years, and I think this is great news for Giants prospects.
However, a caveat was brought up in the blog coverage. The new owner, a local businessperson, noted that an eventual Richmond affiliation with the Washington Nationals would "seem like a natural fit." So they could theoretically dump the Giants and affiliate (i.e. steal) with the National's AAA or AA team in the near future. The Giants are only signed up with the team to 2010, the first season in Richmond. The good news is that most of our best prospects should be playing in AA in 2010, so perhaps they can win over the town and change them to Giants fans.

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