Saturday, February 27, 2010

2010 Giants Prospects: The Experts View

OK, the various Giants top prospects lists have been trickling in and with BP's Future Shock coming in yesterday, I'm going to go over the lists.

Baseball Prospectus Top 11

Five-Star Prospects
1. Buster Posey, C
2. Madison Bumgarner, LHP

Four-Star Prospects
3. Zach Wheeler, RHP

Three-Star Prospects
4. Dan Runzler, LHP
5. Ehire Adrianza, SS
6. Rafael Rodriguez, RF
7. Thomas Neal, OF
8. Roger Kieschnick, OF
9. Tommy Joseph, C
10. Francisco Peguero, OF

Two-Star Prospects

11. Chris Dominguez, 3B

He also listed these other prospects:

12. Jason Stoffel, RHP: "stuff ... misses bats"; "could prove to be a steal"
13. Nick Noonan, 2B: "love the tools" but slow to develop
14. Darren Ford, OF: "too little, too late"?
15. Brandon Crawford, SS: "plus glove" "questions about the bat"

Giants Thoughts

Can't really argue with the first three. And I respect Kevin Goldstein's work, I have liked what I have seen before from him. But I'm not sure why Thomas Neal is down so low (unfortunately, I don't subscribe, so I don't know why he was placed down so low). He really had a breakout type of year. I suppose a large part of it is his strikeout rate not being as good as you want to see from a hitter. But it was not that bad either and he walks a lot to compensate for it, as well as hit for HR power.

Perhaps he didn't want to jump on the bandwagon after just one good year, particularly since his BABIP was so high (oops, didn't catch that before, my bad). However, as I noted, his strikeout rate was greatly affected by his home park, Municipal Stadium in San Jose. His strikeout rate was good on the road and he walked more times than he struck out too. So while the BABIP is high there as well, the fact is that he has had a high BABIP his whole minor league career (.353) and hitters tend to regress to his own level of BABIP, not to the overall .300 that pitchers regress to (which is the general talent level of hitters).

Still, the MLE for his road numbers are not the best either, so that is a sign that he still have some development to do still, and he benefited from hitting more homers at home than on the road, which is a bad sign regarding his power. Richmond will be a great test to see which Neal is the real Neal.

And maybe he thinks that Runzler is great closer material, that could justify putting him above Neal. And if Adrianza can hit as well as his plate discipline while facing much older competition suggests while paired with his great defense, he would be a very valuable SS. And Rafael Rodriguez is another prospect I'll write about soon, so perhaps it is just a sign that the Giants farm system is a bit loaded now.

However, none of this is accurate because Goldstein rates all of them as only a Three-Star prospect. He's the expert, so what do I know, but it seems to me that they are at least Four-Star prospects. Runzler with the way he pitched could be a great closer, that is certainly Four-Star potential. Adrianza, I can understand, he dropped in performance in 2009 but still I thought he did well enough to not negate what was thought before. RafRod, too, I thought did well enough to suggest more of a potential, but I can see being on the fence with him since he is still young (but he wasn't so hesistant with Villalona). And Neal, I went over.

And the one prospect they do provide free, Buster Posey, he feeds into the hysteria that broke out when the Giants talked about playing Posey some at 1B. Still, he did note that Posey is staying at catcher, but the Giants were only talking about playing him at 1B when he is being rested from playing catcher, as a long-term plan to keep him in the lineup most of the season.

That would suggest that he could basically platoon with a left-handed 1B, like Travis Ishikawa or John Bowker, gettting rests at C when a LHP is the starter, allowing the Giants to benefit from a platoon style hitter (which Ishikawa is more like, Bowker not as much but still not that great either).

I think Nick Noonan is going to surprise people this season. He'll be one year more experienced and he was showing good/great plate discipline in his last two months of the 2009 season. He should also benefit from hitting in a neutral park like Richmond's vs. San Jose's poor park for hitters, which also hurt him. He also showed more power on the road, so he should be in double digits in 2010. He should be ready to take over when Sanchez's contract is over.

I would end with some comments he made in BP's Top 100 prospect list:
  • #9 - Posey: "natural ability to hit .300 with 15-20 home runs a year."
  • #20 - Bumgarner: "His ability to succeed with average velocity is a tribute to everything else he brings to the table. If the velocity comes back, and it should, he'll make this ranking look conservative" (FYI, probably the lowest I have seen anywhere).
  • #88 - Wheeler: "He's a 6-foot-4 pure athlete who already touches 95 mph with command and tons of movement, so it will be the development of his secondary pitches that dictates his future."

Baseball America

They covered the Giants prospect a while ago and maybe I wrote on it back then, but here it is:

1. Buster Posey, c
2. Madison Bumgarner, lhp
3. Zack Wheeler, rhp
4. Thomas Neal, of
5. Dan Runzler, lhp
6. Tommy Joseph, c
7. Roger Kieschnick, of
8. Ehire Adrianza, ss
9. Brandon Crawford, ss
10. Francisco Peguero, of

Giants Thoughts

I'm OK with the ranking overall, which our local scribe, Andy Baggarly put together. I got their 2010 book (I highly recommend it for any Giants or baseball fan wanting to learn more about the minors) and I will add their next 5 as a bonus:

11. Nick Noonan, 2b
12. Rafael Rodriguez, of
13. Darren Ford, of
14. Waldis Joaquine, rhp
15. Jason Stoffel, rhp

And I would note that Angel Villalona was placed 30th with the comment that if he can resume his career - iffy at the moment given the murder trial and his visa being taken away by the U.S. - he would be one of the top five prospects in the system.

One comment that I found really interesting was this one about Conor Gillaspie: "Gillaspie's advanced knowledge of the strike zone actually might have worked against him. 'Unfortunately for him, it was a lot better than the umpires, ' San Jose manager Andy Skeels said. 'The bat was literally taken out of his hands. He easily cold've walked 30 more times.' " And he walked 58 times and struck out 68 times, both good. Still 100 ISO is nothing good, not enough for a 3B, but he could be OK at 2B, which I've seen some say he might end up at.

In BA's Top 100 Prospect list, these Giants were ranked:
  • #7 - Posey: Lots of great commentary, too much too put here, but here are some snippets to whet your appetite: "draws legitimate comparisons to Joe Mauer"; "tremendous baseball athleticism"; "mental acuity is off the charts and he's a leader on the field"; "should be a perennial all-star"
  • #14 - Bumgarner: "No. 1 starter potential, and his stuff would paly against big leaguers now."
  • #49 - Wheeler: "projects as a front-line starter in the big leagues"; "is more advanced than Madison Bumgarner was coming out of high school"
  • #96 - Neal: "became a more complete hitter in 2009"; "bat speed to turn on quality fastballs and shows extra-base power from pole to pole"
Minor League Baseball Analysts

1. Buster Posey
2. Madison Bumgarner
3. Zach Wheeler
4. Tommy Joseph
5. Henry Sosa
6. Conor Gillaspie
7. Thomas Neal
8. Rafael Rodriguez
9. Angel Villalona
10. Nick Noonan
11. Brandon Crawford
12. Roger Kieschnick
13. Francisco Peguero
14. Ehire Adrianza
15. Wendell Fairley

Giants Thoughts

Deric MacKamey joined the Cardinals, so two Baseball HQ writers took over for him. I still recommend getting this book, cheap on Amazon, and if you buy it from them, they give you some extra goodies, excel datasets.

I'm surprised by how high Henry Sosa and Conor Gillaspie is, but I suppose if that comment about his zone awareness is 100% correct, then Gillaspie should get better as he rises and the umpires are better, and the pitchers would be forced to give him better pitches to hit as he will have more hitters counts with more balls being called. Plus, he also did a lot better on the road in terms of striking out and walking relative to that, almost 1:1. Given how hard it is to not strikeout in San Jose, that is usually where the hitter does worse, but he actually hit better on the road in 2009, because his BABIP was so high at home. Given his poor speed, his road BABIP is probably closer to his true talent level. Plus, according to them, he has been moved to the OF, due to his poor defense. He could be another EME redux.

For Sosa, they still believe in his plus fastball. Otherwise, I'm OK with their Top 15, though I would note that Wendell Fairley did not even make BA's Top 30, let alone Top 15. They love his speed, which is one of the best around (5 pluses in their rating system), though he did not make their Top Speed list of prospects. They think his good bat speed and average power will make him a good CF.

I really like Rafael Rodriguez and so do they. They rate him as a future starting CF! And with plus plus power, plus speed and plus defense, with "true 5-tool potential". His power should develop as he develops (he's only 17 now)

With two authors, they have two Top 100 Prospect lists:

Rob Gordon:
  • #4 - Posey
  • #13 - Bumgarner
  • #80 - Wheeler
Jeremy Deloney:
  • #4 - Bumgarner: one of the few to rate him over Posey
  • #10 - Posey
  • #70 - Wheeler
Some key comments:
  • Posey: "better than advertised"; "Pure hitter"; "good pop and bat speed"; "at times tries to pull everything"
  • Bumgarner: "#1 starter"; "good movement and easy velocity"
  • Wheeler: "#1 starter"; "plus fastball and slider"; "Good mechanics and generates easy heat"; "tremendous long-term upside".


  1. I'm anxious to see Thomas Neal. Hopefully, the G's will keep him on the roster long enough for one of their televised exhibition games so we can watch him in action.

    One wonders that if Neal is ready by say, August, the G's would consider eating half of Rowand's salary and trading him and moving Neal to CF (although he's priamrily a LF). Or perhaps trading DeRosa or moving him to his usual super-utility role to open up LF for Neal.

    Either way, here's to hoping Neal makes the club by 2011 at the latest.

  2. Neal is not playing CF, he is not speedy enough to do that. Better bet is 1B or pushing DeRosa from LF to, say, 2B, and trading Sanchez maybe, or he could end up at 3B and Sandoval at 1B.

    I don't see them trading DeRosa, Huff maybe, but not DeRosa, he's too flexible a player while also good defensively and good offensively. He's staying.

    I can see Rowand going if we have anybody who can man CF while hitting OK, but nobody profiles like that right now.

    Why rush Neal? But if he can push his way onto the club by 2011, that means he had a monster season, and I'll be all for that.

  3. "He's the expert, so what do I know, but it seems to me that they are at least Four-Star prospects."

    The first part of this sentence is more valid than the second part.

  4. And, Anon, you know who else was more accurate as well?

    For the 2008 season, Baseball America thought so much about Pablo Sandoval that they didn't even include him in their 30 man prospect list while BP thought so much of him that they called him a two-star prospect and ranked him 9th for 2008, whereas I selected him way before anybody would have drafted him, because I felt that he had potential that others were not recognizing.

    Maybe I misunderstand what he means by three-star vs. four-star, but I think those prospects have a chance to be good players in the upcoming years, based on what I've read about them and my look at their numbers. Three star, to me, means an average major leaguer, and right now their potential seems to be more than that.

    And right now, Sandoval isn't looking like he's going to be a two-star player, he's clearly a five-star player.

  5. Yes, Martin, because your being right once and BA/BP missing on Sandoval completely tips the "expert" scale in your favor. Sure.

  6. And pretty brave of you too, hiding behind your anonymity.

    I've never said I'm an expert, in fact, to quote myself: Ï'm no expert.

    But one of my points in my blog is that just because the experts say one thing does not mean that is gospel either.

    That is what I showed long ago with my research on the draft and I will continue to point out what I think are fallacies on the part of the general public and media and the Giants management themselves. That is why I faulted the management for thinking small and getting all the guys they did when they could have made one big purchase and got a Vlad or someone like that during that time. You can think big or you can think small, and the Giants were thinking small back then. Etc.

    You may go back under your rock now.

  7. Hey, first Anonymous commenter here. The second guy wasn't me.

    4-star prospects are pretty strong as prospects.

    It's not A:5, B:4, C:3, D:2, F:1.

    The thing is, RafRod doesn't have a season past short-season ball, and Adrianza had a 660 OPS in single-A ball. When they put up numbers in the minors, then you can give them four stars. The age factor is pertinent, but still, the scouting reports need to be sky-high to get that kind of rating without proving anything with the bat yet.

    Runzler has 20 innings above high-A. I have high hopes for him as well, but he's still a RP: he has little to no positional scarcity working in his favor.

    Your best argument may be with Neal, and one can argue both sides of the point, but to say that Goldstein needs to rate them all as four-stars is out there.

  8. Was it that hard to be civil? Or to explain what you mean, adding to the discourse, instead of backhanding me?

    I can see your points that you made, and Adrianza particularly. Here is why I thought otherwise (though for Neal, see my post on him).

    RafRod maybe not have a season past short-season, but Wheeler hasn't thrown a professional pitch, yet you are seemingly OK that BP rated him that highly (not just him too, Villalona long ago, others too).

    Beyond that, here is info I got that makes me think he's 4 star, and basically the below will be info from the book, Minor League Baseball Analyst 2010 (MLBA10). RafRod is rated plus plus for power, plus for speed, and plus for defense. Not only that, but they believe he can be a starting CF with his skill set, and a plus plus power hitting CF who can play plus defense is at least a 4-star player.

    "True 5-tool potential as he should be able to develop power to go along with his plus speed and strong arm. Still raw but his professional debut went well in the AZL where he held his own against much older competition. Power should develop as he matures."

    Remember, he was a 16 year old doing what he did in short season.

  9. The other two, Adrianza and Runzler, I can see where you might be coming from.

    Adrianza, as I admit, is more of a borderline case, I agree. Still, I've read that he's already good enough defensively to play in the majors, and MLBA10 rates him plus in BA, speed, and defense, noting "Good understanding of the strike zone, especially for such a young age. Short, compact stroke should lead to moderate power down the road. Plus speed and good OBP% should provide enough offense."

    So we got a player who already looks like he can field SS well in the majors, one who has good feel for the strike zone at only age 19 last season. It was not like he was totally overmatched, 83% contact rate is still good, no matter what age you are, and he walked a lot, 42 vs. 66 K's. That is pretty good in his first full-season as a pro against pitchers 2-4 years older than he was (and that much more experienced) and should get better with age and experience.

    But I see your point, and I would say that it is borderline, but I think a good defensive SS with a good bat and good speed is considerable better than the average SS, and an average SS to me is a 3-star. Whether what Ehire is, is a 4-star, I concede your point.

    Runzler may have few inning above Advanced A, but a pitcher cannot dominate (that is, strike out hitters) at such a high level and not have great skills. I understand that results are relatively random when you are dealing with so few innings, but nobody strikes out so many batters in the upper levels or the majors unless the pitcher is dealing real stuff.

    Pitchers like that can become dominant closers, and I feel that relievers such as these are worthy of 4-stars, at least. Is he fully developed yet? No, he walks way too many batters, but when you are dealing with prospects, none of them are fully developed, they always have something to work on. But when you can strike out so many batters, that is a great skill to work with.

    That said, I know that the general view is that relievers have less value generally than other players and thus are looked down upon in prospect rankings. Given how important relievers are today the way the game is structured - few starters throw complete games and closers rarely pitch more than one inning - I would say that this view has been obsolete for a number of years now. Tom Tippett in a great series of studies he did at Diamond Mind early last decade showed that having a good bullpen is a requirement today of any team hoping to make the playoffs.

    So whether Runzler is a 4-star probably hinges on whether one sees him as a closer eventually or just a reliever. When you can strike out guys like that, you can become a closer.

    And that is one of BA points in their book, "he has closer stuff", "explosive mid-90's fastball on a downhill plane and seldom misses up in the zone", "his stuff shuts down lefties and righties." I think a great closer like that is worth a 4-star rating. But given the downgrade most people give relievers in general, I concede your point but think that is misguided in today's baseball.

  10. To the other anon, at least I don't cost you any money to read. But I do cost you something even more precious - your time. Because, as the old saying goes, life's a b**** and then you die.

    I hopefully provide you some value, else don't bother coming to my site, life's too short to waste reading crap like mine, if that is what you think I'm full of.

    And there are a lot of "experts" out there charging you money or hitting you up for money, when they have no real skills that you know of from the real world. I have a Computer Science and Economics degree from U.C., am a Regent's Scholar, then got an MBA in Finance from Cal State Hayward/East Bay. I have been an analyst, in one form or another for almost 30 years now, and I'm applying my skills from there to my first love, baseball, and particularly to my favorite team, the Giants.

    I know of one guy who sells his information (which he appears to "borrow" some from Baseball America), and there is some value since he speaks to scouts. But Andy Baggarly not only speaks to scouts but he works for a well respected organization (Baseball America) that gets him even more connections to a lot of other scouts, so I prefer that as a source than pay for his. And this guy's background has nothing to do with analysis, nothing to do with professional baseball, and I see no connection between his college work and his first jobs and baseball.

    So if you don't appreciate the expertise that I bring to this blog, again, why waste your life reading my crap? Because you know I'm going to write this type of crap again. And again. And again.

    Even worse, why be a downer and waste your time commenting as you did? What good comes out of that? What does that add to the world? Do you feel better now? Are you a bigger person? Are you a better person?

    And how wimpy are you to use my name but hide behind your anonymity? You remind me of this joker who wrote up an article under his real name, then went to the discussion board under his bulls*** on-line handle and noted that there was this good article to read, neglecting to mention that he was the author. Real classy there.



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