- Kyle Crick, RHP
- Joe Panik, SS
- Chris Stratton, RHP
- Gary Brown, CF
- Mike Kickham, LHP
- Clayton Blackburn, RHP
- Heath Hembree, RHP
- Francisco Peguero, OF
- Roger Kieschnick, OF
- Adalberto Mejia, LHP
Wow, that's a mix I haven't seen yet. Usually it is the hitters (Brown, Panik) before the pitchers (Crick, Stratton, Blackburn) or vice versa. This one is a mix, alternating pitchers and hitters, plus Blackburn is all the way down to 6th, with Kickham taking 5th.
Not too surprised about Crick. He is a rising star, he of great fastball, great performance in Augusta, and likely frontline pitcher if he can continue his great performances up the farm system. He clearly must have been the prospect that allowed Sabean to feel OK about letting Wheeler go in the trade.
Clearly Brown took a big hit in the minds of the BA analysts, falling all the way to 4th (he was first last season), even behind Stratton, who did not pitch that much as a pro yet. Mayo still thinks a lot of him, keeping him in his Top 100 list, though I think he might have fell a little, I think he was around where Crick was last season. And Panik, who held his ground with BA, fell for Mayo, as I thought that he made Mayo's Top 100 list last season, though I would have to check that, my memory has not been the best lately. But BA still has him second again, so they saw enough in him to keep him there.
Stratton has been in the top 4-5 of the lists I have seen. He's a polished pitcher, has four pitches, good velocity (can reach mid-90's). Lots to like, and even if there were no Crick, then Stratton would be a good enough replacement for Wheeler in the farm system, as a prospect acquired after Wheeler was traded. He could slot in nicely behind the current trio of Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, if he progresses as hoped.
This is the first one I've see that has Kickham so far up. Kickham did not even make Mayo's Top 20 (compiled at end of the season, but oddly, he has Brown over Crick there, but not in the recent Top 100 above, so he must have changed his mind based on Brown's AFL) and DrB had him 10th on his Top 50 list. BA rated Kickham as having the best slider in the farm system, so that was probably also a big factor there.
He makes a large rise in rank, he was 20th last season. Here's why he's worthy of a high spot: BA last year noted that he pitches in the low 90's while touching 94 MPH, giving him more velocity than most LHP, plus that he has a good feel for a "true four-pitch" repertoire, including the plus slider, as noted above, rated best slider in the farm system.
I like Kickham a lot too, not more than Blackburn, but I would have to guess here that Kickham got the nod because he should be in AAA in 2013, while Blackburn should be in Advanced A, two levels lower. But given how well Blackburn did for San Jose in the 2012 playoffs, I would expect to see him promoted to a higher level sometime in the 2013 season, so he should be that far behind, and while Kickham will be 24, Blackburn will only be 20 YO for the season (Crick too for that matter). And Kickham will need to control his walks better, while keeping his strikeout rate higher, as he rises, whereas Blackburn was excellent in both walks and strikeouts, and thus expected to keep things good as he rises a level.
With a quartet of Crick, Stratton, Blackburn, Kickham, plus there is also Surkamp and Heston, that is a great set of starters to have if a team were rebuilding, let alone looking to win their third World Championship during the 2010's. And there are other good pitchers, like Mejia (covered below), Agosta, and, possibly, Osich (I go back and forth on him, he could be Dirty-good as a starter, but given his history of injuries, maybe he can be a lights-out set-up reliever or maybe even the closer). And most teams need a great set because injuries do happen, particularly to pitchers, careers do get derailed, and we don't have go too far back for a reminder of that (Lowry) and I'm sure most of us won't forget AFW (Ainsworth, Foppert, Williams).
I've mentioned here before about how my eyes were opened up to Peguero's potential by his great defensive and stealing that he showed in September. I know, small samples, but what a great small sample, both in terms of defensive runs saved and stolen bases. He fell a little in the ranking, was 5th last season, but an injury lowered his performance for the season, he wasn't fully healthy, from what I understand, until late season.
And I've felt that Kieschnick is one of those who will have to prove himself at each level, and he did it again in AAA, while again showing his Achilles Heel by injuring himself on the field again and missing a large portion of the season. Had he stayed healthy and kept up close to that performance, he most likely would have gotten first shot at LF after Melky was suspended. Assuming he is healthy, I assume that he and Pegs are going to be battling for a bench OF spot (right now Hector, Arias, Torres/Blanco, so two spots open, one MI, one OF; Tanaka is probably the favored for the MI spot, though I assume Noonan will be given a shot as well).
Hembree was also a nice surprise, given his injury and poor performance, so it is nice to see him up so high. BA must have heard some really good reports on his health, as well as liked what they saw when Hembree returned to pitch at the end of the season, and I think he was also in the AFL, if I recall right. I assume he will be one of those battling for, likely, just one bullpen spot, as six spots appear taken or close enough: Romo, Affeldt, Casilla, Lopez, Kontos, Mijares. He'll be battling Rosario, among others (like Otero, Petit, Machi, Runzler), for that final spot.
And that is really what the Top prospects lists are for me, giving me names of prospects to keep an eye on in 2013. The ranking is not as important as getting to know the prospects, as DrB likes to remind people.
There is a lot to like with Mejia. His extreme youth - just 19 YO - vs. the league (22-ish) while putting up a nice line, particularly great command - 3.76 K/BB (remember, 2.0 and above is good, 2.4 and above is very good, in the majors; 2.19 K/BB average in Sally) - to go with good control (only 1.8 BB/9, 3.5 BB/9 average in Sally) plus even his K/9 is OK (given his age; 6.7 K/9 vs. Sally average of 7.8 K/9) is what sells me on him. They noted 87-90 MPH, touching 92 MPH (for his 2011 season) with a lot of projection still because he's tall (6' 3") with slender body (195 lb), yet athletic and coordinated, and he throws with some deception in his delivery. They also noted his sense of calm and confidence on the mound, for an intangible.
Best tools did not have a lot of surprises. I saw the names I expected to see for the most part. Not that I am aware of these normally, so I can't say I was surprised, but I wanted to note the Bests among the pitchers, as that is not normally discussed. Crick, no surprise, had the best fastball. Kickham as noted had the best slider. Heston (17th on Mayo, 21st on DrB) had the best changeup. Blackburn, no surprise, had the best control (7.94 K/BB is stupendously high!). Surkamp actually held the top spot for many of these in last year's rating.
Also, best defensive catcher is Jeff Arnold, who I have never heard of before, plus I'm surprised he's rated over Jackson Williams, who has been in the system forever (same draft as Bumgarner) and known for this stellar defense. Hector actually was rated the best defensive catcher last season.
Here is another surprise: BA usually projects the Giants lineup, based on current personnel, out three years, and in this year's edition, they had Lincecum as the Giants #4 starter, with Cain #1, Bumgarner #2, (no surprises there) but then Crick #3! Stratton was the #5.
They also had Pence in starting in right field. Which means that they believe that the Giants will eventually sign him to a long-term contract, and at least three years. I agree, I think the Giants and Pence differ on the size of the contract, but that the two sides will come together at some point and sign, though it might take Pence dipping his toes into the free agent waters like Pagan before signing. The problem is that he's been paid at a $17M free agent level but has not really played up to that level. He's going to have to come down from that level for the Giants to be willing to sign him long-term.
Giants Draft 'Em Early Again
The BA link also reminded me of the Giants 2012 draft. One of the studies I did long ago was look at where the Giants drafted their prospects. The vast majority of the ones that were in that study were selected at least one round (that is, 30 picks) before where BA ranked him, often multiple rounds ahead. It was not much different in 2012 (BA draft list here).
Of course, Stratton was about where he should, as he fell a little by rank (he was ranked 18th, selected 20th). Agosta was selected 22 picks ahead of his rank (roughly one round). Williamson was selected 121 picks ahead, or roughly 4 rounds. Then two close ones, Okert 4 picks ahead (call that even), Blach 16 picks ahead (could go either way, but rounding to nearest round would put him at one round). Johnson was the only pick who fell a lot, dropping 145 picks, or nearly 5 rounds, BA thought his talent put him into the late supplemental first, early second round. Encinosa was selected 84 picks ahead (3 rounds). Both Kurrasch and McCall weren't even ranked on BA's Top 500 prospects, so they were at least 202 picks ahead (7 rounds) and more likely above. Brown was picked 147 picks ahead (5 rounds).
Ooops, there was another draftee who fell a lot whom the Giants selected, Ryan Tella, 11th round pick. He was ranked 201 but was pick #358. Whereas Johnson accepted his fate and signed for slightly over slot, Tella wanted more than what the Giants were willing to give. The Giants could have given him $100K with no penalty, and probably up to almost $250K before the stiff penalties kick in. The slot for 201 was $180K.
So the Giants could have gone that high, but that don't mean that Tella was satisfied with that much either. Especially since he was a draft-eligible sophomore, he can return to the draft in 2013 and hope to get a much better deal by playing better. As a local kid (Fremont), the Giants probably first noticed him in preps then followed him to Auburn. He was an offensive leader last season, ranking among the best in his college conference in a number of offensive categories. And, who knows, maybe he's an A's fan and didn't want to sign with the Giants.
On average, the Giants drafted players 48.5 picks ahead of their BA rank, or roughly a round and a half each. Of course, as I've been trying to teach, the distribution is more interesting than the average. There were two extremes who were drafted much later than expected, four drafted roughly around their rank (I'm including Blach and Agosta here despite what I wrote above), five drafted at least 3 rounds before their ranking.