Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Your 2017 Giants: Big Six Top Giants Prospect Lists

I sometimes post a Big Six Giants prospect list on my blog - as, generally, while there are a lot of interesting prospects, there are maybe 4-8 who are really interesting from the viewpoint of contributing this year or contributing in a big way in the future - but frankly have not made the time to do it before the season began.  
The season has already begun, and we are pretty deep into it already, but I haven't really looked much at how the minor leagues are doing right now (though I did read about Shawsome doing well so far, that he got moved to LF), so I'll write some notes regarding what I knew about the season before the season, just to get this out there.

Ignore if you don't care or it's too late for you, it's cool, I just wanted to get it out.

ogc thoughts

Big Six Lists

Off the top of my head, here's how I would go with my Big Six for 2017 (greatest impact in 2017 at MLB level) and Big Six for Potential (future role):

  1. Ty Blach:  After how well he did in the majors last season, especially his great start against the Dodgers, it was hard to see how he would not make the Giants opening day roster as a long reliever.   Equally, it was hard to see how he could win the competition for the fifth starter, as long as Cain was showing something during the spring, as Cainer's $20M salary (plus $7.5M buyout) meant that the Giants would be giving him a lot more rope to make it as the fifth starter.  Still, there are almost always something that will go wrong with the rotation, whether injury or poor performance, especially with three starters already in their 30's, and as the first choice for starting pitching should anything happen, I see Blach adding a lot of value to the 2017 Giants.  
  2. Steven Okert:  Okert was an ace reliever with incredible K/W ratios before TJS, probably our best relieving prospect before his injury.  Now that he's healthy and further removed from surgery recovery, I expect him to start showing off his ace form again.  With Melancon anchoring the closer spot for a few years, both Law and Okert could own the setup spots, along with Strickland, in the battle to be the closer once Melancon leaves the Giants.  And being a lefty means he could complement Law, who is a right-hander, and who knows, maybe Bochy brings back a closer duo like the Giants had long ago with Gary Lavelle and Randy Moffitt.    
  3. Chris Stratton:  Honestly, probably would have put Blackburn here, but, obviously, he's no longer with the team.  That move surprised me, something about him must have really turned off the Giants for them to give up on his after one poor season, after rising up the system and then dominating in AAA at a young age.  Instead, I'll go with Chris Stratton, who got a call up last season and seems headed for a yo-yo AAA-MLB future, as the team will need bodies to come up when they need relief help (and the new 10-day DL will probably lead to more DL stints to give breathers to relievers), and Stratton, even before the Blackburn DFA, looked like the next man up after Blach in the long relief role, especially since he's already on the 40-man.  I chose him over other options like Tyler Beede (bounce back year but being groomed to be full-time starter, not emergency starter, and need to perform in AAA), Austin Slater (huge improvement in 2016 and in AA, but need to prove that 2016 is his new performance level), and Andrew Suarez (looking ready, and groomed to be a full-time starter as well, still need to do well in AAA).  Stratton don't have much else to prove in the minors, appears to be finally over getting hit in the head by a batted ball, as his pitching is now looking more like what he looked like when he was drafted, lots of average pitches that he knows how to use, and will be running out of options after 2018.  
  4. Dan Slania:  Things got thin for me here.  I originally had Parker and Williamson in the mix, until realizing that both were no longer rookies.  After considering players like Sam Coonrod and Jordan Johnson, who were ranked higher before falling some, or Joan Gregorio, I decided on Dan Slania for this spot.  Mostly a reliever, until getting to start last season, which I believe was to stretch him out some for longer relief stints (the Giants, I think, are trying to get their bullpen to be capable of going over 1 IP at a time, or even long relief, particularly in extra innings), relievers get a lot of love from me in this list, because the odds are greater that they may get the call over guys taking over for starters, as well as because the 10-Day DL will encourage more relievers taking a 10-day breather to rest up their arm and body.  On top of that, he has had great K/W ratios during his career, as well as high K/9, which is great for starting or relieving.  So he could come up as a reliever or as a long relief candidate.
  5. Kyle Crick:  Kyle Crick gets the nod here because of his great spring.  He has had a horrible couple of seasons now, but now, suddenly, he seems to have it all figured out as a reliever.  As of the end of last season, he was pretty dead as a prospect.  He was not able to handle either starting before, and was moved to relieving to see if that helps (it didn't).    He's always had the stuff and the velocity, but never the control.  He still don't, but appears to now be capable of getting people out without giving up a lot of walks, as he did in the majors.  Again, being a reliever gives the best opportunity to contribute during the current season.  And he beat out Gregorio mainly because the Giants still want Gregorio to be a full-time starter. 
  6. Christian Arroyo:  I would have ranked him around here pre-season.  Of course, we all know he made the majors and been holding his own until this recent slump.   I would have had him at low odds for making the majors because I thought that Nunez would hold the 3B job easily this season, giving the Giants the luxury to season him in AAA for a full season before bringing him up.  Historically, that has been better for prospects, though some could/would argue that Arroyo's superior mind-set and maturity will make him one of the exceptions.   I decided on him over Gregorio because the OF was clearly going to be a big question mark, from whether Parker could hold LF, Span get healthy enough to start hitting like he used to, Pence getting healthy enough to play a full season again, and Nunez had actually been better defensively in LF than other positions previously in his utility career so far, so the odds of there being a need to move Nunez to LF, at least for a while, seemed great enough that Arroyo had more chance of making the majors earlier than Gregorio making the majors as a reliever, both because they want him as a starter, as well as the fact that the Giants added on all these relievers on minor league deals and giving them all chances, which reduces the odds of the Giants needing to bring Gregorio up as a reliever. 
  1. Christian Arroyo:  Above average hitter, with average gap to gap power, but low walks.  Most likely starting at 3B eventually, because with Duffy gone, that's the spot in the infield open, and Nunez will most likely be either gone after 2017 (free agency) or back as the super-utility player.  His defense has been OK, while he has the mental side down pat already, he has the mind of a grizzled veteran, not what one would expect out of a 21 year old.  And he held his own OK in AA at age 21, which is excellent.  Some viewed his 2016 as a set-back, but AA is a weird league for hitters, I would focus more on his power (40 XBH) and good contact (72 K's in 474 AB, rounds to an 85% contact rate, which is a sign of a good hitter).  With his leadership capacity, I view him as a Posey type in the infield, Posey as in the view the scouts had of him when he was drafted:  good leader, good hitter, good defense, average power, which he soon showed to be good power as well.
  2. Tyler Beede:  Top of rotation starter potentially, it seems to me, but most scouting reports view him more as a middle rotation starter, hence partly why I put him under Arroyo.   Hard to say who is better, and the major analyst rankings seem to agree, with roughly half ranking either as the #1 prospect (and one rating Chris Shaw #1).  Here is what Sickels said: "fastball can hit 96-97 but is more commonly in low-90s, though command of the pitch has improved; has also developed very good change-up; curveball varies between below average and plus depending on the day, also has a fairly good cutter; command and control remain inconsistent but he can dominate when he’s on; needs a year of Triple-A; benefitted from friendly home park last year, more of a future inning-eater than rotation anchor" .  With that much velocity, while being able to pitch to contact (his first pro season), that brings to mind a Matt Cain type of pitcher, and he was a damn fine pitcher for us for many years.  I seem to be convincing myself that Beede should be the #1, but ultimately, I give Arroyo the nod because of his leadership abilities, we will need someone to keep the flame going after Posey, and Arroyo appears to be a future heir apparent.
  3. Chris Shaw:   He had a nice first full season as a pro, but his main calling card so far is his immense power plus the ability to take walks.  Some question whether he's even going to be an NL player because of his defense.  However, breaking from the format of viewing this from where I was on Opening Day, recent news is that the Giants have moved him to LF and giving him a lot of consecutive starts there, suggesting that they might be getting close to bringing him up to be our starting LF.  It's not a crazy idea, as he was a starting RF in college and has the arm to handle the OF, but he has very poor speed, which is probably why the Giants switched him to 1B in the first place when he was drafted.  One probably would not be far off saying that Adam Duvall's success with the Reds (first clear mistake trade in the Sabean era) is the major force behind this move.  Of course, his great hitting in AA and the need for power in the MLB lineup and outfield, is the greater force for this switch.  And he can work a lot of walks usually, so he could be one of those classic Three True Outcome players.   The main sticky point right now is that he would need to be placed on the 40-man roster in order to be brought up, and we just lost Blackburn with the last call-up.  Chase Johnson or Albert Suarez look like they would be the ones on the edge right now, though with Tomlinson seeing time in CF now, and the Giants more seriously looking at him in the OF, Gorkys Hernandez could be DFA as well.  Also possible that Bumgarner could be placed on the 60-day DL to free up a spot, since there has been recent talks that he might return even later than originally thought, which was 6-8 weeks.
  4. Andrew Suarez:   Sickels captured what I thought of him really well:  "ultra-polished lefty with 88-94 MPH fastball, solid slider and change-up, throws strikes, excellent pitching instincts and mound presence; second round pick in 2015 from University of Miami; main risk is concern about his durability given history of labrum/shoulder issues; fourth starter projection."  He don't have much in stuff, but he's a smart pitcher who has a good number of average pitches that he controls very well, who was basically fully developed when the Giants drafted him.   Not a top of rotation starter, but looks to be a good complement in any rotation.  As much as Giants fans denigrated Zito, he still filled an essential role on our championship teams, giving us good enough pitching while delivering a lot of decent IP, eating a lot of innings.  As long as his shoulder holds up, he should be a great 4th or 5th starter for us.
  5. Ty Blach:  He does not have any plus tools, except for his maturity and ability to pitch, making his mind his plus tool, I suppose.  He is similar to Suarez in that way but he does not have Suarez's ability to strike out as many hitters, and hence I place Suarez ahead of him.  He should also be a great 4th or 5th starter for us.
  6. Austin Slater:  He forced his way onto my list by suddenly hitting 18 homers and doing well in AAA as a 23 YO.  Most rankings have a lot of other players ahead of him, in particular, outfielders like Bryan Reynolds, Heath Quinn, Sandro Fabian.  I'll admit here that I'm not that strong in figuring out the scouting aspect of a prospect.  I do read Baseball America, Sickel, Minor League Baseball Analyst, the Pipeline, and do try to take account of disparity of ranking as a proxy for talent potential/level.  But sometimes I go with my gut, like with Slater.  It is a hard balance, trying to give credit to talent that the scouts have seen but that has not bubbled up, perhaps, in performance.  It is also hard to credit properly hitters who are much older or younger than the league that they are in.  But I'm more of the bird in the hand vs. the two in the bush type of thinker, particularly with prospects.  The other players look good from a talent standpoint, but all strike out a lot more than Slater (not that he's good there either, just much better), and that, for me, is the biggest hurdle I've seen for hitting prospects trying to make it up to the majors.  In addition, while some see a prospect hitting 800-something OPS as really good, that's not true from my experience, you need to be in the Top 10 to even have hope of being something, and Slater did that in AA last season.  It's like being a first round draft pick:  it is in no way a guarantee that the prospect will be a major leaguer, but it does increase the odds greatly.  And here, optics is a key part of why Slater is in my list:  he was only 23 YO and did well in AA, then went up to AAA and continued to hit well, so the light is at the end of the tunnel for him, whereas the others, as of Opening Day, has not been able to show off much of their talent yet.  Quinn did better, but as a 21 YO, he was at an average age, so while what he did was good, well, great even, as he led the league, but that's all the way down in Short-Season A league, and while .993 OPS is great, he still needs to climb a lot of ladder still, and striking out a quarter of the time at that low a level won't work until unless he can continue to develop and keep it to only that at each higher level.  So while part of my reason for having two separate lists is to keep the focus on either closeness to majors or potential for the majors, I'll have to admit that closeness is part of why I put Slater on this list, as he just did really well, really high in the minors, and so I see his potential better than I can see the others.  And in Reynolds case, it appears that being a legit CF is part of his value as a prospect, and frankly, I've seen so many of those fizzle out for the Giants that, for me, seeing that is a ding on his potential.  Another prospect I considered was CJ Hinojosa.  I like him, but he did not hit that much better than the league, nor was he making great contact, striking out a bit too much for my tastes.  Gregorio was also interesting, but some think he's going to end up a reliever for us, which would knock down his potential a lot.  His performances has been inconsistent as well as his command, as he walks a lot, while not always striking out a lot.  His potential is there, as being so tall, if he can harness his mechanics, he could be a Randy Johnson type for us, striking out a lot of hitters.  But will he?  The mixed results, up and down, for me, spell a guy with huge potential but who will be up and down for us, at least in the rotation.  Perhaps as a reliever, he can focus greater on his mechanics and be more consistent with his motion.  Chris Stratton would probably leap ahead if he could do more as a starter, but more likely will be a long or mid reliever for us, someone would have the strong potential to be a starter to get ahead of Slater, at least for me, because Slater looks like he can be a starter for us in LF (given his lack of speed and averageness of defense).  Aramis Garcia is another prospect I looked at.  He looked very good before and improved defensively (important to for a catcher) but he had a facial fracture injury, and while he got that breaking up a double-play and not as a catcher, a good part of his value is as a good hitting and OK defensive catcher, and anything that is a potential red flag on that - like a facial fracture - is too big a negative for me. 
Other Prospect Thoughts

I wasn't as up on prospects as I thought I was and wrote up some things on both Parker and Mac Williamson, so I'm making use of the text and putting them here.

Jarrett Parker

It was pretty clear through out spring training that he had the inside pole position on the starting LF position because Evans said that he wasn't platooning here, that he was going with an experienced backup OF as his fifth OF (and Moore was clearly winning that spot before his injury). It helped that he, most of all, hit well during the spring, plus had no more options (Mac still did) but Williamson also eventually hit the DL, and was out anyway. He has played OK in the short stints he has had with the Giants before, and if he can just continue to do that, as well as produce defensively, that would be great to get out of the expected #7 hitter in the lineup.

I see arguments that the Giants should have pursued a starting LF but there are many good reasons why they didn't. First of all, just an average starting LF would cost $16-20M, roughly. And with their penalty, they would be effectively paying $24-30M for average production. And maybe he produces, but in any case, Parker could provide similar value for an MLB minimum salary. Second, the Giants have a number of viable starting LF candidates in Parker, Williamson, and perhaps Gorkys Hernandez, plus outfielders on the rise in Slater, Quinn, and Reynolds. Plus, Nunez could play there as well, if Arroyo prove to be ready for starting at 3B. Third, the starting LF is most likely the 7th hitter of his lineup: Span, Panik, Posey, Crawford, Pence, Belt, with Nunez sometimes batting leadoff, if he's not batting 8th or 9th to provide speed at the bottom of the order. Improving the 7th spot in the lineup is gilding the lily.

Mac Williamson

While relegated to the minors because of his injury, plus the need to roster Parker since he is out of options, with Pence no longer an ironman, and Span likewise also dealing with recent injuries, plus the fact that Parker is unproven and thus a strong chance that he might perform poorly, undoubtedly, there will be times where the Giants will need an outfielder, and Williamson will get the first call, once he is ready.


I usually also mention some names to keep an eye on this season (I've already mentioned a number of them as possibilities above, but will honorably mention them here):
  • Kelvin Beltre
  • Gio Brusa
  • Orlando Calixte
  • Tyler Cyr
  • Sam Coonrod
  • Dylan Davis
  • Steven Duggar
  • Sandro Fabian
  • Aramis Garcia
  • Miguel Gomez
  • Joan Gregorio
  • Jacob Heyward
  • C.J. Hinojosa
  • Chase Johnson
  • Jordan Johnson
  • Ryder Jones
  • Matt Krook
  • Reyes Moronta
  • Rodolfo Martinez
  • Heath Quinn
  • Bryan Reynolds
  • Garrett Williams


  1. I wouldn't put Stratton on the list regardless of Blackburn. I just don't see an MLB pitcher in him.

    I would put both Beede (starter) and Gregario (reliever) in the Top-6 and drop Slania who is currently getting his *** kicked in AAA as he re-tools his pitching inventory.

    (I'm not down on Slania as a 'no hope' prospect, BTW. It's (from what I read) that they're doing some pitching inventory development with him and he's getting hammered right now. Whereas Beede & Gregario have (more-or-less) come through that phase.)

    1. Thanks for the comment MosesZD, as I neglected to share my thoughts on his MLB abilities.

      I think he's good enough to get call ups and yo-yo up and down, and be a league average #5-type starter, where he'll be in the mid-to-high 4 ERA, low 5 ERA, which I view as a MLB pitcher.

      That said, he probably won't be having that long or great an MLB career unless he can improve his command greatly. He's no strikeout pitcher, so if he hopes to stay in the majors and pitch, he'll need to stop walking so many batters. So maybe they keep him around long enough until arbitration, but unless he gets the walks down, he'll be bypassed by other pitchers in the minors.

      And to be clear, what I meant is that Blackburn would have been third and Stratton fourth. The 2017 list is more about who will get to play more in the majors in 2017, than as to who will be the better ones (like, by WAR order, for example). It just looked likely that Stratton would be getting a number of opportunities to come up and show off what he can do.

      However, he has been pretty disappointing this season, he appears to have regressed somewhat, so he'll probably get less opportunity than I thought he would.

    2. About the Top 6 list, yeah, Beede and Gregorio look like they should be on the list if crafted today. I tried to give my opinion as of what I was thinking on Opening Day. Yeah, I'm off on those two, Stratton and Slania, and Okert hasn't been doing well lately either, and, of course, Arroyo has came up and did more than I thought he would.

      Thanks for the info on what's going on with Slania. I would have thought that they did that with him last season, while they were moving him into the starting rotation. Looking at his 2017 stats now, seems like he was overmatched or just didn't get something going in AAA, but that's where he needs to be because he appears to be handling AA easily.



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