Giants Low Farm Ranking
First off, I know a lot of rankings have the Giants low vs. the rest of the majors. That's going to happen when you are competitive and getting back of the first round picks, but not picking up a lot of the top prospects via the international free agent route, which is the only other option for picking up options (besides trading for them, but the Giants don't do much of that either).
The Giants have talked a lot about the Asia market, but haven't really done much so far. And they have not gone after any Cubans, plus even in the traditional Latin market, until Fox, they had not done much nor have the ones they invested in have paid off (AnVil, RafRod, and Gustavo being the major ones).
I'm actually OK with all that they have been doing. Frankly, there have been a lot of busts in the international market, and if they are going to fail on 8+ figure contracts, I rather they fail on veteran free agents than unknowns like the Cubans. Yeah, maybe they miss out, and sure, if some of our major league scouts really believe in the talent, maybe they could dip their toe into that market, but I like what they have been doing with our draftees since John Barr joined us.
And sure, we rank low, but look at what we got in the majors: it's the argument I made when Buster and Bumgarner matriculated too. Guys like Panik, Duffy, Crawford, and Belt made the majors at a relatively young age, particularly developmentally. Players like them often sit in other team's system for 3-4 years, earning that team high ranks, but especially since only Belt was actually highly ranked, before the rankers could recognize that they MISSED on Panik, Duffy, and Crawford, they were already fixtures in the majors. Same thing when Sandoval made the majors.
The Giants have regularly been getting penalized in these rankings because their guys are moved fast to the majors, relative to other teams, before the rankers could recognize that they were indeed good prospects. But nobody goes back and say, you know what, the Giants actually should have ranked higher. And the Giants actually rank higher than other teams just by homegrown WAR, but I would bet the Giants look even better if ranked by homegrown players who are still in their 20's, because only Cainer is older than 30 out of them.
Loaded Farm System
Another thing I would note is that, again, look at our major league team: we have a great team right now, we don't need to have Top 30 ranked players in our system, we are already playing them in the majors. What we need is to have players ready to come up and take the place of our oldest players. Sure, they might not be the best prospects, but when you have Posey, Belt, Crawford, Panik, Duffy, Pence as your core players, you only need to supplement around them. And from that viewpoint, I think we are loaded.
Prospects who can come up soon and contribute include Mac Williamson and Christian Arroyo. And Ryder Jones, who has disappointed lately, had a great spring, so he's moving on up as well. They probably can cover any of the corner position needs over the next couple of seasons. Plus there's Jarrett Parker who looks good as a power bat off the bench who can play all three OF positions. And I like what I've seen of Gorkys Hernandez, I can see him and/or Parker becoming Blanco's replacement in 2017, and complementing each other, as Parker is LHH and Gorkys is RHH, Parker has power, Gorkys has speed (and Parker has some speed), and both could play all three OF positions, though Gorkys is normally CF.
And Arroyo can cover any middle infield needs. Plus we still have Adrianza, who I still have hopes for, and Hak-Ju Lee (apparently many Korean prospects grow up as Giants fans, so maybe we have another Crawford? :^) has looked pretty good this spring, perhaps he's over the injuries that had held him back previously, he was a top prospect once upon a time. They can handle middle infield, as well as Duffy and Tomlinson, if it ever gets that far down the depth chart.
And the future looks shiny as well. We got Fox and Miller, both up the middle guys, both very fast and good contact hitters. Talk is that they could end up at SS (current position) or CF. With their speed and bats, both are leadoff types, either way. Hinojosa is going to surprise as well, I have a sneaky feeling he could be one of our next double digit round draftee to make noise in the majors for us (but first, Blackburn).
Other positions look too. Garcia is fast developing as a catcher and hitter. Shaw has been a very interesting 1B with lots of power. Cole and Slater could be joining the guys in the above paragraph with looks in the majors. And I like guys like Jonah Arenado, Johneshwy Fargas, Jose Vizcaino Jr, Steve Duggar, Ronnie Jebavy, Miguel Gomez, John Riley. And I still have some hope for AnVil. And have to mention Matt Winn and Rando Moreno since they were NRI who played some this spring (C and MI, respectively; and just found out that Winn was assigned to AA, quite a jump, even above Garcia, who was assigned to San Jose).
For SP, we got a lot as well. Blackburn is first in line in the minors, while Heston is first in line in the majors. Stratton has put himself back into the conversation with a nice spring, hopefully he can springboard off that into a good season. Beede is also part of the near term conversation, he'll probably repeat AA since he didn't do so well there, but with a good first half performance, could be pushing Blackburn for his spot.
Also in the near but not immediate future, we have very interesting names. Crick and Gregorio should still be in the running. Crick had a horrible 2015, but I still think he has some good qualities that just needs to be honed, but we'll see. But I haven't lost hope. Mejia is also in the mix as well, and all being in AA last season, could catapult into the majors with a great first half and an opportunity, as they could also be used as relievers as well.
That brings up future names like Bickford. He sounds like he got an electric arm, so I can see him getting moved fast to the majors like Dirty Sanchez was, first as reliever, then eventually as a starter, with a good start to his 2016 season, presumably in Augusta. Other names to watch include: Chase Johnson, Sam Coonrod, Jordan Johnson, Martin Agosta, Logan Webb, Mac Marshall, Andrew Suarez (another guy who might fly up the system fast).
And we got a ton of very interesting relievers coming up as well. And good thing too, because the three remaining Core Four (funny how that nickname just became popular last season, which ended up being Affeldt's last season and the end of the four) are all well into their 30's and also all free agents after the season. I think the odds are low that Romo and Lopez will be re-signed, Romo because his salary is now too high, Lopez because he's nearly 40 and we got Osich and Okert, with the caveat that neither O is established, so things could change. Casilla probably stays, he just seems to appreciate the team and how they saved his career, plus he's still throwing mid-90's. But his performance will be key, because we have a lot of relievers coming up.
Coming soon will be Derek Law and Steven Okert, and perhaps Mike Broadway. And Jake Dunning has put his name back into the ring as well. Plus, Ray Black could pop up anytime they think he's ready since he throws 3-digits and you don't want to waste that.
There are others pushing to come soon as well. Joan Gregorio and Kyle Crick is close, in AA, but still have a lot to prove (health and performance, respectively). Most of the San Jose bullpen could rise fast, though Ian Gardeck is now out for TJS and delayed a year: Ian Gardeck, Dan Slania, Jake Smith, Tyler Rogers, Christian Jones, plus Ray Black, of course. And Martin Agosta has been both starting and relieving, so I would include here.
Lower down, too far down to know yet their truer potential, but some names to follow. Augusta: Carlos Diaz seems the best bet, but there's also Rodolfo Martinez (high 90's stuff), Reyes Moronta. Salem-Keizer: Cory Taylor, drafted last season, was the most interesting one, then there's Caleb Smith, but he was very wild. Rookie League, I would point out Domenic Mazza, 2015 draftee, did nicely but SSS, someone to watch as well. Grant Watson caught my eye there as well, though he then was promoted to Salem-Keizer and he only started there. And I just read about Tyler Cyr, another in their line of pitchers who came into baseball and/or pitching later in his amateur status (didn't start pitching until his freshman college year!), who is still learning but already up to mid-90's range. Totally wild (almost 1:1 K:BB), but like I said, fanboying right now.
Big Six Lists
Off the top of my head, here's how I would go with my Big Six for 2016 (greatest impact in 2016 at MLB level) and Big Six for Potential (future role):
- Clayton Blackburn: I discussed why I like Blackburn in the Giants prospect chat. There are three dimensions that I try to weigh for this list. Part of this is potential, part of this is opportunity, part of this is how close the prospect is. Blackburn beats on all three, I think he can be a good #2-3 starter, few teams go through a whole season without some sort of injury or poor performance in the starting rotation, and after leading the PCL in ERA, Blackburn is ready.
- Jarrett Parker: Here, he's going to get the opportunity, I expect him to become the backup OF after this early stretch with little off days which they used as the excuse to carry a 13-man pitching staff. And I think he will do well enough, plus he's got power and some speed, so Bochy will use him often
- Jake Dunning: He's back to mid-90's velocity, and been called up frequently this past week to pitch, not any of the guys following. Plus, I anticipate that we will lose Guerrin when the Giants need that spot for Parker, and option him (and the alternative is something happens to one of the guys in the bullpen, which means injury or poor performance; unless the Giants stuns by trading Romo, who some felt that Guerrin could replace, plus there was rumbling that Osich has been off this spring, and he still has options0.
- Derek Law: Neither Law nor Okert distinguished themselves last season. However, Law had incredible numbers before he was injured, appears to be back to his prior speeds, and was just getting back into the hang of things last season, so that helps explain his middling stats. I think he gets the call after Dunning, should there be a need.
- Steven Okert: Okert had a disappointing season, as he did not dominate like he did before. However, his ERA was still much better than the PCL's 4.37 ERA, and he was a 23 YO, nearly 4 years younger. I think he'll eventually show us his good stuff again, but will need some time in 2016 to prove that he can, and hence he's behind the guys above.
- Mac Williamson: Well, the bullpen is covered above, and the infield is covered by Tomlinson and Adrianza, and Parker gets the nod because he's destined for the bench, while the Giants want Williamson to start and be ready to start in LF next season as Pagan is a free agent after the season. Hopefully we don't need to bring him up, but Pagan has been regularly injured for one reason or another the past three years, and if he goes down, I expect Williamson to get the nod, at least initially, and not Blanco, because the Giants will want to see what Williamson got.
- Tyler Beede: top of rotation starter. He's showing the 4-seam mid-90's heater this spring that the Giants had him not use last season, probably to have him work more extensively on other pitches. Otherwise he would just rely on his plus fastball to get guys out, and not be challenged. I think that's why he fell in the eyes of some rankers. Not me.
- Phil Bickford: top of rotation starter, electric stuff, high heat in the mid-90's, sometimes high 90's, some also see him as a closer, so I can see him come up first through the bullpen and then work his way into the rotation.
- Clayton Blackburn: #2-3 starter (but more 2 than 3 in my eyes; still, many don't like his lack of stuff), nothing stands out to scouts but he has four pitches, knows how to mix them for a great ERA.
- Christian Arroyo: above average hitter, but low walks, average gap to gap power, starts somewhere in IF or LF, OK defense, bats 2-3, maybe 5-6, has mental side down pat already.
- Lucius Fox: starting SS/CF, lead-off run generator, plus plus speed, plus bat, very athletic, still very raw though.
- Jordan Johnson: I was stuck here, frankly. Most ranks had Chris Shaw (great power! no defense!), Aramis Garcia (good bat), or Sam Coonrod (mid-90's heat) in this range, and they are all good prospects I also considered Jalen Miller, as I heard good stuff about him this spring training (I think the Giants are going to go with him at 2B and pair him with Fox at SS, as they go up the system, FYI) and Chase Johnson, who has mid-90's heat.
But I kept on coming back to Jordan Johnson (for whom I did my usual research). His plus fastball is regularly in the mid-90's (to be fair, much like others like Coonrod and Chase) and he has plus command, which I really like to see in prospects, especially against older competition. BA noted that he scrapped his slider (Giants believe it to be the cause of his prior injuries), but quickly developed feel for his curve and changeup, and both are already average. MLB Pipeline noted that his changeup was even plus at times. I'm betting he'll continue to develop them further.
I like the domination and command he showed, even while younger than the league, and while Coonrod is typically ranked about 10 spots ahead of him, he was the one jumped to Advanced A San Jose, though a year younger than Coonrod. Most ranks had him in teens or even out of the top 20 (one book I like didn't even include him, putting him in 30+ for that book, roughly).
I'm not sure exactly why I like him above the others, though I've listed a lot of good reasons why he's good. Comparing him to the above, it just seems like he has a good combination of skills tied up with performance and getting that jump from the Giants. He's been assigned to San Jose (with Coonrod), so it'll be another interesting season in San Jose. He should be at least a #3 starter, perhaps more.