Spring training is creeping up on us quicker and quicker now that the holidays have passes, as pitchers and catchers are only a little over a month from reporting to camp. During this time here at the Giants Baseball Blog (GBB), once the calendar turns over to the new year, we like to do our version of the Giants organizations top-20 prospects. And no, outside of the top-3 maybe, it's nothing at all like John Sickels' list. Anyway, here we go:#1. Gary Brown, CF:
The speedy, good contact, great fielding center
fielder has been chattered about for the last couple of seasons as the heir apparent in center field for the Giants. After the .336/14/80 line coupled with 55 steals and 34 doubles and a .407 on-base percentage he produced in San Jose in 2011, the 23 year-old looks destined for big things. I compare him a lot to Jacoby Ellsbury, and I think the Giants would love it if he were 3/4 the player Ellsbury has become. Either way, Brown should start at AA, and depending on how he handles the higher levels, and the Giants outfield situation, we could see a glimpse of him later on in 2012 in a Giants uni!#2. Joe Panik, SS:
At first I wasn't ecstatic about the Panik pick, only because I wanted Brian Goodwin, who looks like best 5-tool athlete in this draft and projects out to be a 20-20 guy with a good average and tremendous defense. However, after watching Panik arrive in the Giants organization and just go to work on rookie pitching, I started seeing why the Giants were so high on a guy projected to go late 2nd early 3rd. He's a true shortstop who can really hit the ball and those don't come around too often. As long as he keeps on his path, Stephen Drew-type production is very reachable, with the possibility to be even better. Can't wait to see what he does in his first full year of pro ball!#3. Tommy Joseph, C:
The work Joseph did on his swing last winter certainly paid off in 2011. The 19 year-old catcher raked pitchers that were on average 3 years older than him in high-A ball, with a line of .270/22/95. The only part of his game that is still lacking a bit and keeping him from being an elite prospect is his plate discipline, but at 19, it's only going to improve. One situation that could arise involving Joseph, as with another guy coming up we'll discuss, is that Buster Posey has the Giants catching spot locked in for the next 5 years at least before he's moved out from behind the plate. Joseph would be 23-24 and right on track to take over, so I'd keep him behind the plate, but work him at first base 30% of the time too just in case. At his age and with his experience and accomplishments, he's on the cusp of becoming a "can't-miss" type prospect!#4. Kyle Crick, SP:
Now, normally I wouldn't pick a high-school pitcher who's thrown all of 80 pitches at the professional level (and in unimpressive fashion mind you), but I can't help but think of Matt Cain when watching this kid work. Just watch a little of this video
, and notice the high school hitters almost scared to swing against this kid. Dude has such good stuff his catcher has trouble holding onto just his fastballs, they have that much movement! Reminds me of watching MadBum's scouting vids, and he sure turned out nicely! He has the sound mechanics already, just needs to work a little on control and his 3rd and 4th pitches. I like the kid though, maybe not like I liked Cain, Lincecum or Bumgarner, but this kid will be a good big league arm!
#5. Francisco Peguero, OF:
Injuries really hampered his 2011 season and probably kept him out of AAA and maybe off the Giants in September. They had Justin Christian getting time in center for goodness sake! Still, he followed up his outstanding '09 and 2010 seasons with another good one when he was
out there. Split between high-A and AA, mostly in AA, he came up with a .312/7/46/ line with 12 steals in his 87 games. The problem that needs improving is the fact that he walked just 5 times in over 230 AA at-bats, something that has to improve tenfold in order for him to be a big leaguer and with his style of play (high average/on-base, average pop at best). I like Peguero, but of all the Giants top prospects, he's the guy I'd try and deal if they were to make another deal for a bat at some point this year.
#6. Andrew Sussac, C:
Sussac didn't play an inning in pro ball after being drafted by the Giants in the compensation round as he signed late, but this kid's got it all. I haven't seen much of him, but I here Buster Posey-lyte, not as athletic or as good with the bat, but a true leader, tremendous catcher and solid hitter. With his glove and leadership skills, I don't think there's anyway he doesn't make it to the bigs in a backup capacity at the very least. The Giants thought so much of him, they grabbed him that high when they already have Posey, Joseph and Hector Sanchez (all under 25), in their system. Never a bad thing to have a few good catchers in tow though, as we noticed in 2011!
#7. Heath Hembree, RP:
All Hembree has done in his short, two-year pro career in the minors has put up a 1.68 era in 68 innings, saving 42 games while striking out and even 100 batters! That's well over one-and-a-half batters per inning, and that's dominance. He's the clear heir apparent to Brian Wilson, and as much as B-Weez is loved in SF, I wouldn't be surprised if his days here were numbered because of Hembree's emergence coupled with the fact the Giants have many young arms that need big deals! He's only 22, so he's right on track having already dominated at the AA level. I'd start him in AAA as the Grizzly closer in 2012, and depending on how things go there, he could be a key member in the Giants bully by the end of the year.#8. Hector Sanchez, C:
Another catcher? Yep, that's three in the top 10. Sanchez burst onto the scene in 2011 in similar fashion to Pablo Sandoval's 2008, though his power numbers tailed off significantly in the 2nd half. Not saying Sanchez is the next Panda, but this dude has hit at all levels, and the 22 year-old can handle the duties behind the plate. He hit 12 homers and had 84 RBI and a .285 average in 396 minor league at-bats then had a nice cameo with the big club in September. Should actually start the year as one of Buster's backups, assuming they carry 3 catchers and don't add anyone else, while getting some significant PT if his bat proves worthy.#9. Eric Surkamp, SP:
The finesse lefty obliterated minor league bats in 2011 to the tune of a 1.94 era, 11-4 record and 170 k's in just 148 innings. That success earned him in brief cameo with the Giants in which he was very up-and-down, but it was mostly a problem with command, which is normally his bread and butter, so hopefully the butterflies are gone this time around. Will challenge for the fifth spot in the rotation in Spring Training but likely ends up as AAA's ace to start the year. If he can get control of that command again, which I think he can, he's got the ability to be a Noah Lowry-type (hopefully w/out the arm issues though). He turns 25 this summer, so it's about that time he shows he belongs in the big leagues.#10. Ehire Adrianza, SS:
Rounding out the top-10 is a guy I never really have given due respect to until I saw him play a bit in San Jose last year. I know the kid has a great glove and all, but I still didn't get why national publications rank this guy in the top-10 each year, but as he's getting older, his hitting is starting to come around. He hit .300 at high-A San Jose, and carried a .375 OBP in over 230 at-bats and that's the exact type player he has to be. High average, high on base, and his glove lead him to the big leagues. Has a lot of Elvis Andrus in him (minus the little power Andrus carries), and if he can just manage to keep hitting around .300 and getting on base, good things are going to happen for this kid.#11. Angel Villalona, 1B:
Now, I know what your thinking, how could you rank this guy who hasn't played in 2 years this high? Well, if you remember, before his incident (don't want to get into it) in the DR, the 19 year-old
was the Giants top position prospect, and he returns to them this year at age 21, most likely more mature, bigger and stronger than ever with what he's gone through. In 74 games in high-A at age 18, he hit .267 with 9 homers and 47 RBI, after belting 17 HR's in the "Sally League" the year prior. He's just got that raw power, and big-time swing and as long as he's still there mentally (probably went though a lot last 2 years), he's going to be beast. I think he's going to pick up right where he left off in 2009, and it wouldn't surprise me the least if he's back in the top-5 in 2013's list.#12. Josh Osich, SP:
It's still a little uncertain on whether the Giants will use Osich as a reliever with that mid-90's fastball, but after he no-hit UCLA and beat Trevor Bauer, I think it's a given the Giants need to start him off in the rotation. Had Tommy John in 2010, so it was good to see him come back and have such a strong season in '11 for Oregon State. Has an above average changeup to go with the fastball, he just needs to refine his breaking pitches, but I think this kid has a huge ceiling!#13. Rickey Oropesa, 1B:
This kid has such crazy power, that it's
amazing he lasted so long in the draft (116th player taken), but I believe the Giants got a steal. In his 167 games at USC, playing against premiere college competition, he managed a .331 average, 40 2B, 40 HR, 159 RBI, a .596 slugging and a .409 on base average. Those are some gaudy numbers for a kid who took the draft's number 3 pick (Trevor Bauer) deep more than once! Very athletic for a 6'3", 230 pounder so could probably play a corner outfield spot if organizational needs point in that direction, this team has tons of young catching/1B prospects as it is!#14. Clayton Blackburn, SP:
Another possible steal the Giants nabbed in the 16th round in last June's draft. Blackburn is a burly high-school righty who really was under the radar until dominating rookie ball in Arizona with a 3-1 record, 1.08 era, 33 IP, 16 H, 3 BB and 30 K's. That was good for ridiculous WHIP of a half point. The fact that this kid is 18 and already has that kind of command is a great sign. One part of Sickels' list I really agree with as he had him at #11.#15. Chris Marlowe, RP:
The hard-throwing righty has pure closer stuff. In 2010, he had an era of 2.84 and struck out roughly 2 batters per inning. In 2k11, the K rate stayed, but he got hit around a little and the era rose, despite allowing just 25 hits in 41 innings. Regardless, he got back on track in a short stint in rookie ball, throwing 3 shutout innings. Look for the 22 year-old to be a quick mover through the system due to his college experience.#16 Jarrett Parker, OF:
Drafted right after Gary Brown, but has been hardly as impressive. Still though, he came on strong at the end of the 2011 season for San Jose and ended the year with 13 HR, 61 RBI and 20 steals, despite his low .255 average. What saved his season though, was the fact that he can get on base, to the tune of .365, and with that low batting average, that's something to talk about. The thing about Parker, is he's already 23, and probably needs another year at A ball, but he's still got some time to refine the holes in his game. Good defender, good speed, average hitter who needs to work on making more contact!#17. Joan Gregorio, SP:
Granted, he hasn't really played at all above rookie ball, the 6'7" imposing righty, on size alone make him a guy to pick up for hitters. And in those 2 years in rookie ball, all he did was go 9-3 with a 2.61 era and a 1.13 WHIP in his 26 starts (The W/L record is so low because they limit the innings/pitches for teenage pitchers).#18. Hector Correa, RP:
The hard-throwing reliever with the good slider seemed to put it all together in 2011 after turning 23. He put up a 2.55 era split between A and AA ball, allowing just 53 hits while carrying a strong 81 innings (high number for minor league reliever). He probably won't ever be a closer or high end set-up guy, but Correa should have no problem becoming a fine middle reliever (a la Ramon Ramirez) as long as he continues on the path he was on in 2011.
#19. Mike Kickham, SP:
He's lefty and he's breathing, plus he put struck out a batter an inning last year, despite a 4.11 era in low-A ball. For a 22 year-old though, that's expected, I'm curious to see what he does this year though when he starts off in San Jose. Based on his stuff though, and, again, the fact he's a left-handed starter who can strike you out, he makes the top-20.#20. Jesus Galindo, OF:
Rounding out the top 20 is the speedy outfielder. Normally, I reserve a spot in my top-20 for Rafael Rodriguez, the Dominican outfielder the Giants gave nearly $3M to in order to obtain, however, his 2011 was dreadful, so in moves Galindo. He's more of a light hitter, but the just turned 21 year-old stole a whopping 47 bases and hit .276 in just 67 games in with low-A Salem, that alone got him onto the list.Five That Just Missed the Cut: Connor Gillaspie, IF - Roger Kieschnick, OF - Rafael Rodriguez, OF - Seth Rosin, P - Charlie Culberson, IFNote
: I had to exclude Brett Pill and Brandon Belt from the list because of Belt's time in the majors in 2011, and Pill is 27 years old, though I still think he's got upside and should be given a shot (play him some at 2nd Boch!). If Pill were 23-24, I'd have him in the top-5, that's how much I think of him, and would like to see them find a way to get him on the 25-man (as of now, probably won't unless he has a great spring and can prove to play some other positions). Other than that, not too many surprises, just a lot of guys selected from the 2011 draft as you notice (3 of first 6 and 7 total), so this year was a lot of guess/projection work as to what some of these guys will do once they're swinging with or throwing against wood bats and playing every single day. The reason for that is the fact that the Giants minor league system (whether it be call-ups or trades) has taken a major hit the last few years.
Now my list is subject to change anytime between now and March 1st, but as of 1-6-12, these, in my opinion, are the Giants' top-20 prospects!