Like we do at the start of the calender year here at the Giants Baseball Blog, it's time for our version of the Giants top-20 prospects heading into 2011. So without further ado, we'll get right into it:
#1 Brandon Belt, 1B:
The guy barely got a mention in our top-20 last January, but did he ever earn his spot as the Giants top prospect in 2010! Belt was the big bright spot in an otherwise very quiet year on the farm for the Giants, hitting .352 with 23 HR, 112 RBI and a 1.075 OPS in his first year as a pro. Belt
succeeded on all levels he played at in 2010, but will likely find himself in Fresno to start the year, and I'd expect the Giants to use the Buster Posey approach from last season meaning there's a good chance we'll see Belt up in SF before mid-season as long as he keeps doing his part. For a team traditionally rich in pitching prospects, the Giants have developed a few offensive players (Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and now Belt) over the last 3 years that should become catalysts for this offense into the future.#2 Zack Wheeler, SP:
Wheeler wasn't overly impressive in his first year in the Giants organization in 2010, but he did show some bright spots, including a high strikeout-rate. Some are still a little concerned about the 20 year-old's control and that live arm should cruise through the system once he figures it out. Giants fans will probably want quick results after seeing how quickly other top young arms moved through the system, but Wheeler will probably take a few more years. I still see him with the potential to be a #2 or #3 starter in the big leagues down the road.#3 Gary Brown, OF:
I don't usually rank guys without any pro experience this high, cause you really don't know what your going to get until you see these guys play everyday with wood bats. However, the Giants system is in "rebuild mode" and they're counting on the speedy Brown to be a big part of the new look system. Their top pick from 2010 has a lot of Jacoby Ellsbury in him, and I'm very curious to see how he plays in 2011.
#4 Thomas Neal, OF
: Started off extremely slowly in AA ball last summer, but really came around and leveled out as the season wore on. Didn't match his huge '09 showing, but still showed power (just 12 HR, but 40 2B) solid average (.291) and good plate discipline (.360 OBP). Slated to start the 2011 season in Fresno, and after Brandon Belt, I think he's the most ML ready amongst Giants top-ranking hitting prospects and very well could find himself in San Francisco at some point in 2011.#5 Francisco Peguero, OF:
Another speedy outfielder, in a similar mold to Gary Brown, but unlike Brown, Peguero hasn't quite mastered the art of plate discipline and that's the only thing keeping him in the lower levels. He hit .330 in San Jose in 2010 and stole 40 bases and even showed a bit of run producing abilities with 77 RBI. He's got all the tools, just needs to figure out the mental part of the game, which sounds easy, but makes all the difference between a prospect and an actual player.#6 Jarrett Parker, OF:
Like with Gary Brown, it's tough to rank him cause he hasn't done anything yet. Even though he is highly regarded coming out of college, he still has big questions about his offensive ability. I like the smooth left-handed stroke, kind of Will Clark'ish, and he's got a little bit of pop, having hit 26 HR over his last 2 seasons, including 16 in his sophomore year (surprisingly regressed in the power department in his junior year in '10). Has nice intangibles, a strong arm, good defense and plenty of potential with the bat. Certainly has a ways to go, but does have the potential to get better and definitely possesses some raw talent which you cannot coach.#7 Charlie Culberson, 2B:
Culberson had a breakout year offensively
with San Jose in '10 (.290, 16 hr, 71 rbi, 80 r, 25 sb in 128 games) and plenty of eyes will be on him in '11 as he takes his act to AA Richmond where his offensive abilities will really be tested. Has some learning to do on both sides of his game still, but is still very young and has plenty of time to do so. One thing you can't teach someone is natural talent, which Culberson definitely has, and he'll be another one under the microscope in 2011. Reason I have ranked a little higher than most is because of his age (22 in April), improving offensive abilities, and the fact he plays up the middle.#8 Eric Surkamp, SP
: He's not quite as young as Jorge Bucardo (John Sickel's
first SP choice after Wheeler), but I'm beginning to really like what Surkamp does on the mound. He's efficient and he wins and that's all that matters, but he also has some nice intangibles. He's finesse-lefty, but still manages to strike batters out at an above-average rate and will take his act beyond A ball for the first time this summer. He probably would have made it up to AA last year if he didn't get hurt. He knows how to pitch though, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him cruise through the system from here on out.#9 Jose Casilla, RP:
Top-rated reliever in the system probably could manage just fine if they were to throw him into the fire in 2011, but they're going to ease him along. He'll probably start out in Richmond, possibly San Jose but I hope not, and he should be in Fresno before long if he keeps throwing the way he has the last 2 seasons (1.43 era/1.06 WHIP in 3 minor league seasons). Already has 3 full, successful pro seasons under his belt at age 21, which is why I think he'll fair just fine at higher levels.#10 Ehire Adrianza, SS:
The 21 year-old already has a glove that would get gold-glove consideration if he were to take over at short on a daily basis for the Giants, but his bat has not caught up yet. Very similar to Texas' Elvis Andrus, with the glove and speed surpassing the bat, but Adrus has found himself a nice role with the Rangers, and the Giants are hoping Adrianza does the same over the next few seasons in San Francisco. At the very least, he should be able to make a big league roster as a utility infielder/pinch runner, but if he can adapt with the lumber, he could be much more than that.#11 Jorge Bucardo, SP:
The sinker-baller has shown positive signs early on, and has been very effective so far. Doesn't have a great strikeout rate, but that could improve with time. Even if he never becomes a strikeout machine, his power-sinker should eventually net him at least a spot in somebody's bullpen.#12 Tommy Joseph, C-1B
: As I said last year, the Giants are really counting on Joseph to pick up the slack after the organization lost first basemen Angel Villalona. He showed some glimpses in 2010 of doing so, but still has a long way to go, including improving his plate approach and learning to play first base. On power potential alone, he may have the most in this system.#13 Brandon Crawford, SS:
Crawford looked like a prospect on the rise in early 2009, but ever since he left San Jose, he's never quite gotten his offensive game back. Still a slick defender with a ML-ready glove, but has hit below .250 during his time in Richmond over the last 2 seasons. Still though, he looks like a bit of a late bloomer, and I'm not ready to give up on him.#14 Rafael Rodriguez, OF:
Rodriguez is a true prospect, in every
sense of the word. He's one of the youngest guys in professional baseball, having just turned 18 last summer, but he's already done some impressive things in his early pro career and shown glimpses of his 5-tool talent. He hasn't played enough to really warrant top-prospect status, but based on pure potential alone, he'd be a top-5'er. Just think, he's going to have nearly 2 more full seasons before he even makes it out of his teens, giving the Giants plenty of time to ease him along.
#15 Michael Main, SP:
Was the guy they really wanted in the Bengie Molina deal, not Chris Ray. He was a first rounder in 2007, and started out his pro career strongly, but has had some injury problems since, and it's set him back. Still, with a clean bill of health in 2011, he should be in AA Richmond and should have a much better showing than what we saw out of him after the trade.#16 Chris Dominguez, 3B:
Like Tommy Joseph, Dominguez has huge power potential, ranked by BA as the Giants top power prospect in 2010, but also has the same downfalls. He doesn't have the best plate discipline, like a lot of power hitters, and can be a liability with the glove right now. I still like that bat though, and as long as he's hitting 20+ HR per year, he's going to get some attention.
#17 Roger Kieshnick, OF:
Kieshnick was a prospect on the rise at this time last year, coming off a huge season with San Jose and clearly ready to move up to AA Richmond. However, his arrival in AA didn't go as planned. He battle injury and ineffectiveness all year long and finished the season after appearing in just over 60 ballgames and hit a measly 4 home runs. I think good health will bring better results, but Roger is now a little behind where he should be.#18 Kendry Flores, SP
: Arrived on the scene in style in 2010 with an impressive stint in rookie ball. Depending on how he does at higher levels in 2011, this guy has the chance to become the 2nd best pitching prospect in this system, this year.#19 Jason Stoffel, RP
: Stoffel didn't fair as well as people were hoping in San Jose in 2010, but still had some areas of his game stick out. Like his 66 k's in 50 innings, and his .71 HR-per 9 innings ratio, but a 4.80 era for a closer isn't going to get it done.#20 Chuckie Jones, OF
: Rounding out the top-20 is a project-prospect in Chuckie Jones. He has some impressive tools, and was one of the High School Baseball's top hitters in 2010 before the Giants took him in the 7th round. Didn't have a chance to do a whole lot professionally in 2010, but was a bright spot in limited duty in the AZL and something tells me he'll solidify his spot as a top-20 guy this year!
: Heath Hembree, RP; Connor Gillaspie, IF; SP; Hector Sanchez, C; Hector Correa, RP; Darren Ford, OF; Ryan Cavan, 2B
*SUBJECT TO CHANGE BETWEEN NOW AND SPRING TRAINING*