Giants 2010 Top-20 Prospects: GBB Editon
#1 Buster Posey, C: The 22 year-old backstop is baseball's #4 overall prospect, according to BA, and figures to play heavily into the Giants' plans in 2010. He was the minor league player of the year last year when he hit a combined .325 with 18 homers and 80 RBI and a .955 OPS split between high-A San Jose and AAA Fresno. He had 17 un-impressive at-bats with the Giants at the tail end of the year and will start the year off in Fresno to get some final refining before arriving in the big leagues for good. Best Giants positional prospect since Will Clark, and I'm expecting him to have that kind of impact on the team when he eventually arrives. Should fit right in with Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters as the top young catchers in baseball.
#2 Madison Bumgarner, SP: BA's #10 overall prospect got his feet wet in the bigs last season as well, and fared much better than Posey during his September showing. In fact, his 4 game stint that yielded a 1.80 era and 10 K's in just 10 innings of work has given the Giants the confidence to consider the 20 year-old the favorite for the open fifth starters spot. The 6'4" lefty went 12-2 with a 1.66 era, a 0.95 WHIP and 92 K's in 131 innings of work split between A and AA ball in '09. The drop off in K's were mostly due to his diminished velocity (down from 95-97 mph to 91-92 mph). However, the Giants are confident that the drop off in velocity was because of mechanical issues like throwing across the body rather than anything health wise or permanent. I'm expecting Bumgarner to win the Giants 5th starters spot out of spring and make a strong push for NL Rookie of the Year as he follows in the footsteps of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum.
#3 Thomas Neal, OF: Neal has given the Giants system a huge shot in the arm, as they've been hard-pressed to find any kind of outfield prospects with legit power, but Thomas Neal appears to be just that. He made BA's prospect of the week a few different times in '09, in route to hitting .337 with 22 bombs and 90 RBI and a 1.010 OPS. The 22 year-old brings tremendous patience in his approach, and that should really help him at higher levels, another area of development in which the Giants have lacked over the years. He'll be in Spring Training with the big club, but I'm expecting him to start off in AA Richmond, while possibly appearing in AAA Fresno before the end of the year. Depending on how he's doing, and what's going on in the Giants outfield, we could see him with the big club at some point in August or September and could definitely have a future in with the Giants and possibly as a middle-of-the-order type bat.
#4 Zack Wheeler, SP: It's tough to rank Wheeler this high based on the simple fact that he's yet to throw a pitch in his professional career, but he looks like he's going to be the Giants right-handed version of Madison Bumgarner. Throws 93 with consistency, and can touch 95-96 and was doing that as an 18 year old, so he's still go plenty of room for growth. He's got sound mechanics and really reminds me of a young John Smoltz with the way he delivers the ball to the plate. Likely slated to start the season in low-A Salem, but I expect most of the 19 year-old's work in 2010 to come in San Jose.
#5 Tommy Joseph, C/1B: Unfortunately for the Giants, they've lost their top 1st base prospect in Angel Villalona for the foreseeable future, but luckily for them, they've got Tommy Joseph to help ease that loss. The former high-school catcher will likely find himself at first base when he starts his pro career in April, and I'm expecting big time power from him. He hit 15 homers in 77 at-bats as a high-school senior, good for a rate of 1 homer per 5 at-bats. That's some raw power right there. He also showed uncanny patience for a high school hitter by walking 21 times in 98 plate appearances. I'm expecting Joseph to take off offensively once he gets comfortable at first and quickly become the Giants first-basemen of the future.
#6 Roger Kieschnick, OF: Big time power prospect hit 23 homers and drove in 110 runs for the San Jose Giants in 2010. Does strike out a bit too much, but improvement in that area should come with time. He's not quite as polished as Thomas Neal as a hitter, but the Giants envision both of them in their future outfield plans. Roger's also got baseball in his bloodline as his big brother Brooks played with the Cubs and Brewers in the 90's and early 2000's. He'll start the season in AA Richmond and could elevate as quickly as his play will allow him too!
#7 Dan Runzler, RP: Kept his era below 1.04 at all five stops he made last season including in San Francisco with the Giants (1.04 era, 11 K's in 8.2 innings). Still can be a tad wild at times, and really reminds me of Brian Wilson when he was breaking in with the Giants. He's left-handed and can get the ball upwards up 97 mph and those guys don't come around too often. I think Runzler is going to become one of the Giants premiere relief arms and should give Bruce Bochy a solid late inning option along with Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo.
#8 Brandon Crawford, SS: Had kind of a Jekyll and Hyde showing in 2009, as he started the year red-hot in San Jose (.374, 6 HR, 17 RBI in 105 at-bats) then hit a wall in AA (.258 avg, .298 OPS in 392 at-bats) before finally figuring it out and leveling off. Very sound defensive player with upside in his bat, but he's got to find his stroke at the upper levels. That start in San Jose and a few spurts in AA have given me hope that he's going to figure it out. Plate discipline needs to improve though, but certainly has the chance to be a solid all-around shortstop in the future.
#9 Francisco Peguero, OF: Speedy, high-average prospect really burst onto the scene in 2009 and put himself on the Giants map by hitting a solid .340 at low-A Augusta after hitting .394 to begin the year with in Salem. He walked just 5 times in over 240 plate appearance, but the Giants are sure patience will come with experience.
#10 Nick Noonan, IF: Still hasn't had that breakout season, but at age 20, he's already got 2.5 solid pro seasons under his belt. Kind of disappointed by hitting just .259 with San Jose in 2009, but still has a ton of un-reached potential. Some compared him to a lesser powerful version of Chase Utely, but his bat isn't quite where the Giants are expecting it to be yet. I think 2010 will be a big year in terms of telling us what kind of player Noonan will become.
#11 Henry Sosa, SP: This spot is mostly based on potential, and what Sosa's shown when healthy, but he's yet to put together a full, healthy season since coming to the organization in 2006. Still showed glimpses last season, going 6-0 with a 2.36 era in 14 starts in AA. His strikeout numbers were a tad low (5.5 K/9) but his 1.19 WHIP was a positive. He could make a full-time switch to the bullpen, which could keep him healthy, but I'd love to see the 24 year-old figure things out as a starter cause he's got the potential to be right up there with Bumgarner and Wheeler if he can figure it out.
#12 Clayton Tanner, SP: I seem to like Tanner a lot more than most scouts do. He's put together two solid seasons in a row in San Jose at ages 20 and 21, and now should finally be moved up in the system after just turning 22. He's not flashy, but he's quietly gone 22-14 with a 3.33 era and 205 K's in 256 innings of work over the last 2 years. I'm very intrigued to see how he fairs in his first test above level A, but I think he's going to continue to deal and could find himself in the top-10 of the 2011 prospect list with another good year. Kind of reminds me of Noah Lowry in a way as he's really been solid in the minors, but isn't too flashy and is really flying under the radar so to speak.
#13 Rafael Rodriguez, OF: Still extremely young (won't be 18 until July) and raw, but showed some great poise in rookie ball in 2009. His power isn't quite there yet, but hit the ball wall and showed good plate discipline in his 35 games in Arizona. He's another guy who I'm excited to see in 2010 and will keep very close tabs on throughout the year as he's likely destined for low-A Salem to begin with.
#14 Ehire Adrianza, IF: Kind of the infield version of Francisco Peguero, didn't do too much offensively after being hyped up coming into the year. Still just 20 years old though, so he's got some time to put it all together still, but I'm just not sure he's ever going to have the bat to match his all-world glove.
#15 Jason Stoffel, RP: Had a solid career closing out games for the Stanford Cardinal, and very well could end up being a steal as a fourth rounder. Throws hard, and has a nice secondary pitch to compliment his fastball. I'm expecting him to climb the ladder very quickly and eventually be a contributor to the Giants bullpen.
#16 Waldis Joaquin, RP: He's one of the better relief prospects in the system and had a nice brief showing with the big club late last year. Joaquin is another guy who is getting a spring training invite and could very well find himself on the teams' opening day roster if he throws well. He's not an easy guy to hit, as he only allowed 41 hits in 64 innings of work in the minors last season and at age 23 is just now realizing his potential.
#17 Chris Dominguez, 3B: Ranked by BA as the Giants' systems top power hitter. Another guy who could end up being a steal for where he was taken, he was definitely one of my favorite picks of the draft. Not too sure about his defensive abilities, haven't heard anything positive or negative yet as I've only seen him swing the bat. If all things went well with him, I could see him turning into a Troy Glaus/Mark Reynolds type, but that's absolute best-case scenario. I'm expecting a lot out of Dominguez though, and look for him to play most of the 2010 season in A San Jose with the other hitters from the '09 draft.
#18 Darren Ford, OF: Speedy center fielder had a breakout season in 2009. Granted it was his third go-round in A ball, he still has a lot of tools that the Giants like. He's a great baserunner, who gets good jumps and can steal bases at a high percentage. He's also a very good defensive center fielder. Kind of reminds me of Rajai Davis/Michael Bourne type and showed some surprising pop last year (9 homers in 380 ab's). Should start 2010 in AA and could be in Fresno before the years done.
#19 Craig Clark, SP: The lefty did a tremendous job in '09, though he was a little advanced for his placement. He threw well at age 24-25 at a level (high-A) consisting of mostly 20-22 year old players. Still, a 16-2, 2.86 era with a 8.2 K/9 ratio cannot be ignored. Those are some gaudy numbers no matter what level your throwing at. In fact, in his 3 year minor league career, Clark is 29-9 with a 3.12 era and an 8.5 K/9 mark. I'd like to see him make the jump to AAA to start the year with in '10.
#20 Brett Pill, 1B: Entering the final phase of prospect-eligibility at 25, the year he had in 2009 can't be ignored. He hit .298 with 19 hr and 109 RBI in a league notoriously known for big ballparks and good pitching (AA's Eastern League). Reminds me a lot of Travis Ishikawa, just right-handed, and could find himself in the mix with the Giants if Aubrey Huff gets hurt or doesn't rebound from 2009. LHP Aaron King, RHP Matt Graham
Just missed: LHP Aaron King (had nice showing in 2009 in San Jose, another solid lefty, very Scott Barnes-like), RHP Matt Graham (huge potential in his right-arm, dropped a few rounds in draft because of commitment to UNC) , IF Connor Gillaspie (major dissapointment last year, but not ready to give up on him yet)
Best of the rest: RHP Jose Casilla, RHP Edwin Concepcion, 1B Brandon Belt, RHP Steve Edelfsen, LHP Eric Surkamp, OF Wendell Fairley, C Jackson Williams, RHP Kevin Pucetas, C Hector Sanchez, RHP Jorge Bucardo