Saturday, April 03, 2010

Your 2010 Giants: Big 6 Prospects

I am selecting, in honor of the Big 6 himself, Christy Mathewson, the top 6 prospects of the Giants farm system, in my estimation. I would rather focus on the ones who are most likely to do significant damage for us up at the major league level at some point in the future, with some plus factor for doing it sooner than later.

As far as methodology goes, I don't really care to predict the players most likely to contribute this particular season, as that usually include players who make a utility contribution; most teams do not get a significant contributor (like a new starter) from the minor leagues each season, let alone 6, 10, or 11 of them.

In years past, it would have been hard to fill out the list without people who don't really deserve to be on the list. There would usually be a number of them who was a huge question mark on what type of contribution they will make at the major league level ever. And that is not a knock on the Giants farm system in the past, per se, the general rule of thumb is that the farm system at any time has four players who will make a mark in the majors in their career, 2 starters, 2 utility/relievers, but the Giants were even having problems with even 2-3 who look like sure things at times.

But 2010 is different again, just like 2009, and we have a lot of players. We are starting to built up a lot of depth in the system and that will impact the majors over the next 2-4 seasons. The Giants were able to accomplish this because it had a lot of high picks in 2007 to boost this up, and made a number of astute selections in 2008, as if they had high picks, in selecting Gillaspie, Kieschnick, and Crawford, players who at some point were expected to fall in the first round, some early in the first. And 2009 had a number of excellent early picks in Wheeler, Joseph, Dominguez, and Stoffel.

This year, it was pretty clear who the top 3 were but like last season, there were a lot of prospects who could make one of the final three spots, and I will list them in an honorable mention section.

2010 Big 6 Giants Prospect

Here are the Big 6 I've selected for 2010:
  1. Buster Posey: Just showed everything he was expected to be (unfortunately on the defensive side) plus more power than expected. He looks on track to be our catcher from 2011-2016 and hopefully with some more development, he will be ready to be one of our best hitters in our lineup, maybe hitting 3rd and Sandoval cleanup.
  2. Madison Bumgarner: Disappointing season only because his velocity went down. Still, despite that, he was still able to strike out major league hitters at a high rate for us in September. I think even if he don't recover his velocity, he can become an ace-quality starter for us. If he does get the velocity, Lincecum and him would pair off as one of the best righty-lefty combo the majors have seen in my lifetime, harking back to the D-gers Koufax-Drysdale combo.
  3. Zach Wheeler: Always hard to say with someone who has not thrown an officially recorded professional pitch yet, but all the reports I've seen on him plus rankings, make me comfortable in saying he's third. He's a high schooler who can already reach mid-90's easily and already shows three plus pitches at times: fastball, breaking ball, changeup. However, he'll be 20 YO for this season, as it appears he was held back a year and didn't graduate until he was 19. Still, he projects as a(nother!) front-line potential pitcher, and is more advanced than Bumgarner was coming out of high school.
  4. Tommy Joseph: Some had Neal here but as nicely as he did in San Jose last season, that doesn't translate to a great major leaguer, at least not yet. Joseph's bat is seen by some as good enough for 1B, which is a high threshold, so he is highly regarded, particularly for his power. Add to that, he's playing at premium position, catcher, which makes his hitting that much better. However, he, like Posey, is new to catching, so he probably has a lot to learn, though at least he has a great arm. In an ideal scenario, he works his way up the Giants minors, one level at a time, starting with Augusta this season, and by the time he's ready to play in the majors, maybe he and Posey can swap off catching duties while sharing 1B, or if Panda is there by then because of his size, Posey probably could start at almost any other position (3B?) while Joseph would catch most games with Posey as backup and Sandoval as third backup.
  5. Thomas Neal: Had a breakout year in San Jose after missing almost the whole 2007 season due to injury and only doing OK in 2008. He has some power and can take a walk, though he also strikes out too much still and don't have any speed, and thus range in the OF. A great year in Richmond AA this season would vault him into the Top 3, though that is partly because Posey and Bumgarner most probably will not be eligible for the list next season, Posey for sure, Bumgarner maybe.
  6. Rafael Rodriguez: Like last season, this was tough to chose, but I went with RafRod. He is a 5-tool guy with plus plus power potential and plus speed and defense, and he knows how to take a walk. One book thinks that he could become a CF, which is a premium position to have both hitting and power, especially plus power. That is a tough package to beat. He did OK in rookie league, hitting .299/.392/.362/.754, with the only negative being a tick too many strikeouts and no power, but given all the walks, I think as he catches up in age and experience to others, he should be able to reduce his strikeouts, and at 6' 5" already, his power will eventually come as he fills out. Like Villalona and Noonan before, he'll be a young buck in Augusta, only 17 officially for the season (turns 18 in July), so he might again strikeout a bit, but I think he will do better than Villalona and Noonan in that regard, I just wonder if any power will show up.
Honorable Mentions

I still want to note other names, plus maybe a comment or three, because we have so many players who could become something but have obstacles of some sort:
  • Dan Runzler: Looks like he can be a good closer eventually, his main problem is giving up too many walks. Our bullpen should be golden with Wilson, Affeldt, Romo, and him.
  • Nick Noonan: He is the dark horse I would recommend people keep an eye out for. His main knock has been his lack of plate discipline, his one big skill when he was drafted, but he apparently was just a tick behind the pitchers until the last two months of last season, when suddenly he went from striking out 20+ times a month to keeping his BB/K ratio over the 1.0 ratio you want to see from a good hitter and his K-rate comfortably under 10%. That plus using his speed to get more stolen bases, and he should be ready to take over 2B when Sanchez's contract is over.
  • Ehire Adrianza: He's already considered good enough to field SS in the majors, the main question is his bat. With no power, his ticket will be getting on base and stealing a lot of bases. He hasn't shown the SB-ability yet, but he has been good at taking walks and not striking out a lot, just a tick more than we would like to see, but he was 19 facing mostly 21-23 YO in Augusta last season. Giving his advanced understanding of the strike zone, he should continue to rise as he catches up with the pitches physically and experientially. These three could have been 6th (if not higher) easily almost any other year.
  • Roger Kieschnick: Great first pro season, but he just strikes out so much that I'm worried that will be his downfall in higher levels. If he solves that, he'll be a five-tool guy who could hit in the middle of the lineup for us. Even if he doesn't, if he can continue to hit like that at every level, he'll be a great 5th or 6th hitter for us.
  • Brandon Crawford: He's also considered good enough to field SS in the majors, and the Giants came out and called him the SS of the future. He was en fuego in San Jose last year but totally lost in AA after his promotion. He'll probably be there this year, and perhaps playing in a better park in Richmond will help him do better, Connecticut's Dodd Stadium could screw with a player's head, particularly one where power is a strong part of his offensive game. Still, strikes out way too much, something he must solve to make the majors.
  • Waldis Joaquin: Until his TJS, he was rated a potential #2 starter, but now he's probably a setup/closer. With mid-90's heat, he definitely got the chops to be closer-worthy at some point. He walks a little too much, but strikes out a heck of a lot. He will be in the bullpen equation the next few years. He had a great spring and is battling for the final relief spot.
  • Henry Sosa: He's also battling for the final relief spot with his great spring. He was a top rated prospect a couple of years ago, but injuries have held back his progress and potential. Still, he throws mid-90's heat, and did not walk that many batters the last two seasons, a good sign. A bad sign was his greatly reduced K/9 in 2009, perhaps the only thing to keep him from the majors.
  • Jason Stoffel: Our steal in the 2009 draft, he did not disappoint last season, with a great fastball. A college closer, I'm not sure that he'll be able to do that in the majors, but he doesn't walk much while striking out a lot, which is good no matter what in the bullpen, and he should rise fast.
  • Darren Ford: Never thought I would write about him here, because last season was his third in just Advanced A, and he's done poorly but he had a great second half of 2009 and a great spring with us. Defensively ready (an oft-repeated characterization for Giants prospects) for MLB CF, he has plus plus speed that he can utilize for SB when he is able to get on base. As he is already 24, he will have to continue hitting like that in AA Richmond Flying Squirrels to keep it going - unlikely because even while hitting well, his strikeout rate was still very high and his BABIP was very high too, though I would note that he used to have high BABIP early in his career too, it only got low in Advanced A the prior two seasons. Still a very high BABIP though, so he'll probably falter somewhere up the ladder, but if he can solve it like he did last season, he could be ready soon.
  • Angel Villalona: His murder trial is now at least scheduled to be reviewed by a judge this month. His potential is still there and he's only 20 YO, so this could just be a very horrific bump in the road. It will never be known by outsiders what exactly happened, so as long as he is found not guilty or the trial is dropped, he should be able to continue his career in the U.S., though hopefully he will move his family to Californy, though not to Beverly Hills, hopefully some place like San Jose, CA, since that is probably where he should go back to if he returns back to professional baseball. Unless there is something stronger than a "he said, she said" situation - and there has been no news about finding the weapon or any connection between Angel and the weapon, other than they both were at the bar - he should be released by the judge for insufficient evidence or the trial would be relatively quick.


  1. Nice writeup. My only quibble is with writing off Neal's speed. Did you see his SB numbers in the Arizona Fall League? I think maybe he had a talent that he had been hiding up to that point.

  2. I heard that the giants recently signed a 20 or 21 year old Cuban Stud pitcher Reiner Riobal, who throws routinely 94-96 and is supposedly the third best pitcher in Cuba He defected via Mexico and supposedly the giants inked him. If this is so, he might rank up there with Wheeler. Maybe in a few years we have a rotation of lincecum, Baumgarner, Cain, Wheeler, and Rioban.

  3. For me, that is high praise, thanks DrB!

    Shame on me, did not catch his AFL stats. Yes, very eye opening. I went by my sources, Minor League Baseball Analysts and Baseball America. The former rates his speed as 2 out of 5, where 3 is average. BA notes his below-average speed.

    That goes not preclude him being a good base-stealer though, with the right technique and reading of pitcher's movement. Whoever worked with him in the AFL did miracles, he had almost double the SB in the short AFL season as he has stolen his whole career in the minors!

    And he got on base a lot, nice BA and took a lot of walks, almost as many as he had strikeouts (11:14), which only the better hitters do, very encouraging.

    However, most unfortunately, he didn't do so well with the power, however, which was one of the good things that he was hopefully going to bring with his offensive game.

    But, WOW!, 12 SB in 15 tries, a good 80% success rate, and he was on 1B 27 times, 2B 3 times. That is certainly a hidden talent that would add to his offensive value, but he's going to have to do a heck of a lot better with the homers in Richmond to build on his 2009 season.

    Thanks again for pointing that out, very eye opening!

  4. Thank Nomisnala! Just beat me to the punch, I saw that yesterday too. According this blog, he's the second best:

    Unfortunately, the history of Cuban defectors is not pretty, most have been overhyped for the most part, though recent ones have been better. We had one early on too, Oswaldo Fernandez, and he was just not that good.

    Man, but he has a nice fastball, mid90's top.

    That reminds me that the Giants just traded Brandon Snyder, who was grabbed via the Rule 5 Draft by Orioles (they have his brother), then flipped him to the Rangers who decided they wanted him but not on their 25-man, so they trade some young fire-baller to the Giants who look good.

    Good trade for the Giants, Snyder was a good pitcher for us, but we got no space in the rotation for him, nor no need for him for depth, so now they got a 17 YO who could be ready in 4-6 years, when we'll be needed young cheap player to balance out the expensive contracts for Lincecum, Cain, Sandoval, maybe Janchez, Posey too.

  5. damn dude you just don't know when to shut up. your blog is nothing but yammer yammer yammer about nothing. nobody reads this shit, so just give it up.

  6. If you don't like it, feel free not to read it. It is not like I'm forcing you to check out my website.

    Read at your own peril, for I'll be yammering and writing for a long while longer, and not about nothing, I've been the main person positive about the Giants improvements over the past few years, really, the only person blogging about how the Giants are improving themselves and how they are going about doing it.

    I envision a golden era for the Giants over the next 4-6 years at least, so I'm pretty excited about the Giants chances going forward.

    I'll admit that not that many people read my blog, but I know it's an acquired taste and, frankly, I don't really care if nobody reads my "sh*t" (I'll delete the next comment that uses such language, I don't tolerate such language).

    I put my info out and if anybody thinks that it worth reading, fine, but I think I have something valuable to put out and if you don't think so, well, please don't bother reading because I'll be writing more of the same going forward. It's a free world, if you want a yammer-free zone with no sh*t, I suggest you try out Blogger, you can create a blog for free and you wouldn't need to read my drivel anymore: you can read your own and find out how many people think you are yammering about nothing all the time and the sh*t you are writing about.



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