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S.F. Giants:
1999 Top 10


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San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams

By David Rawnsley

1. Kurt Ainsworth, RHP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-4  Wt: 181
Drafted: Louisiana State, 1999 (1st round)  Signed by: Tom Korenek

Top Prospects of the 90s

1990 Steve Hosey, of
1991 Royce Clayton, ss
1992 Royce Clayton, ss
1993 Calvin Murray, of
1994 Salomon Torres, rhp
1995 J.R. Phillips, 1b
1996 Shawn Estes, lhp
1997 Joe Fontenot, rhp
1998 Jason Grilli, rhp
1999 Jason Grilli, rhp

Background: Ainsworth worked in only eight innings his first two years at LSU. Because he was primarily an infielder in high school, he didn’t see any varsity action as a freshman. He then injured his elbow the summer after his freshman season and had Tommy John surgery, limiting him to six relief appearances the following spring. A healthy Ainsworth almost singlehandedly pitched the Tigers to the College World Series in 1999. He won 13 games, including two complete games in four days during NCAA regional play. He is the highest-drafted pitcher ever who had already had the ligament replacement surgery. Concerns over Ainsworth’s heavy pitching load in the spring and a nagging blister problem limited his workload in Northwest League, but he was still named its No. 3 prospect.

Strengths: Ainsworth comes close to being a finished product on the mound and carries himself as if he were born to be a pitcher. He throws two types of fastballs–a four-seamer that is fairly straight but can hit 94-95 mph, and a two-seamer around 90-91 mph that he sinks away from lefthanders. What separates him from most young pitchers is his ability and willingness to throw his fastball to the inner half of the plate. His strikeout pitch is a late-breaking slider that hitters frequently chase out of the strike zone. Ainsworth also throws a changeup that projects as an above-average major league pitch. His mechanics are smooth and low-maintenance. His loose, easy arm action projects excellent command potential.

Weaknesses: While Tommy John surgery has become almost commonplace, Ainsworth’s heavy college workload will make him the most watched of the three Tommy John alumni drafted in the first 38 picks in June. Ainsworth has had no signs of recurring elbow problems, just blisters. The Giants would like Ainsworth’s college-style slurve to be consistent.

The Future: Ainsworth is on the fast track, much like 1997 first-rounder Jason Grilli was before he was traded to Florida. Ainsworth’s domination in the Cal League playoffs after his strong showing for short-season Salem-Keizer should have him set to start 2000 at Double-A Shreveport.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Salem-Keizer (A)  3  3  1.61  10  10   1   0   45  34  18  64

2. Jake Esteves, RHP
Age: 24  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 190
Drafted: Louisiana State, 1998 (6th round)  Signed by: Tom Korenek

Background: Esteves missed the 1997 college season with a combination of elbow and personal problems, but came back as a senior to establish himself as a prospect. California League managers named him the league’s No. 8 prospect.

Strengths: Esteves came to the Giants as a fastball/slider pitcher, but has since added a good changeup and an adequate curveball. His fastball is hard and heavy in the 92-95 mph range. As opposed to Ainsworth’s big-breaking slider, Esteves’ is more of a quick, late cutter. Esteves is a good athlete for a pitcher.

Weaknesses: Esteves has little problem throwing strikes. What he must work on now is using his command to pitch more off the plate, especially when he’s ahead in the count.

The Future: Esteves is older than most prospects and therefore better adjusted to the Giants’ fast promotions. His stuff and demeanor is well-suited to a bullpen role that should open up on the big league staff first.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
San Jose (A)      6  1  2.01  12  11   1   1   72  59  17  56
Shreveport (AA)   8  2  3.63  15  14   0   0   92  76  23  53

3. Tony Torcato, 3B
Age: 20  B-T: L-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 195
Drafted: HS--Woodland, Calif., 1998 (1st round)  Signed by: Doug McMillan

Background: Torcato had surgery on his right shoulder after the 1998 season and was limited to DH during the first half of 1999. Despite a sprained ankle and hyperextended left shoulder later in the year, he hit .291–impressive for his age and level.

Strengths: Veteran scouts say Torcato has one of the best swings they’ve ever seen on a young hitter. It’s tension-free and short to the ball. Because of his age and shoulder problems, his best power shots consistently reach the warning track in the alleys, but the Giants project him to develop-above-average power in the future.

Weaknesses: Torcato’s shoulder problems have left him tentative in the field, although his arm strength has improved since his surgery. His hands and range are average at third when he regains his confidence.

The Future: Torcato could start 2000 in Double-A if he has a good, healthy spring. The Giants believe his swing will allow him to hit anywhere, while his confidence and poise will keep him from being overwhelmed by the jump.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Bakersfield (A)    .291  422  50 123  25   0   4   58  30  67   2

4. Jerome Williams, RHP
Age: 18  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-3  Wt: 180
Drafted: HS--Waipahu, Hawaii (Supplemental 1st round)  Signed by: Darren Wittcke

Background: Geography makes Hawaiians difficult to scout, so few teams had a good read on Williams before the draft. The Giants brought him along slowly at first, but his last start was a seven-inning, one-hit, 11-strikeout game.

Strengths: Williams is a classic projection draft with a loose, wide-shouldered body that has been compared to that of Dwight Gooden. His fastball is in the 89-92 mph range now, and the Giants expect his velocity to go up as he fills out. Williams has a fluid, easy delivery and arm action.

Weaknesses: As expected for his age and experience level, Williams needs to improve the consistency and command of his secondary pitches. His curveball, slider and changeup all show potential.

The Future: Williams might have the highest ceiling in the organization if he physically matures as the Giants think he will and maintains his extreme athleticism. His fast finish and strong performance in instructional league should earn him a spot in California League in 2000.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Salem-Keizer (A)  1  1  2.19   7   7   1   0   37  29  11  34

5. Chris Magruder, OF
Age: 22  B-T: B-R  Ht: 5-11  Wt: 200
Drafted: Washington, 1998 (2nd round)  Signed by: John Shafer

Background: In his first full season, Magruder held his own in Double-A and hit .233-5-17 in 129 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League.

Strengths: Magruder’s best physical attributes are his defensive ability anywhere in the outfield and his switch-hitting prowess. He has the speed and range to play center field and the arm strength and accuracy for right. Magruder’s versatility at the plate and his above-average plate discipline will give him offensive value.

Weaknesses: Magruder doesn’t project plus power or the ability to be a basestealing threat. Managers like corner outfielders who mash the ball and Magruder projects more as a 30-doubles, 15-homers hitter, so he needs to maintain his skills in center field.

The Future: The Giants place a high priority on makeup and intelligence and say Magruder grades out at the top of the scale in both areas. He handled the Texas League smoothly in his first full season but will likely return to that level in 2000 with the Giants’ veteran big league outfield in place.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Shreveport (AA)    .256  476  78 122  21   4   6   60  68  85  17

6. Doug Clark, OF
Age: 23  B-T: L-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 190
Drafted: Massachusetts, 1998 (7th round)  Signed by: Glenn Tufts

Background: Clark played college football as well as baseball and was considered a raw talent when he signed. He proved a quick student, hitting better than .400 early in the Cal League season and earning a promotion to Double-A in August.

Strengths: While the Giants describe Clark as a big, fast, strong athlete, his real strength is his hitting skills. Clark has good bat speed and strength, and surprising bat control skill for his experience level. He slashes the ball to all fields with authority and has shown the ability to adjust to different types of pitches on different parts of the plate.

Weaknesses: Clark’s arm strength is below-average. While he has played some right field, Clark will most likely end up in left. Learning to loft the ball more consistently tops Clark’s list of offensive needs.

The Future: Clark has reversed the normal development chart for an athlete with a football background. His defense and baserunning skills haven’t caught up to his hitting skills.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Bakersfield (A)    .326  420  67 137  17   2  11   58  59  89  17
Shreveport (AA)    .220   50   6  11   3   0   1    6   4   9   0

7. Sean McGowan, 1B
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-6  Wt: 235
Drafted: Boston College, 1999 (3rd round)  Signed by: Glenn Tufts

Background: McGowan was one of the leading sluggers in college baseball in 1999 as a senior, hitting .430-25-70 and finishing second in Division I with a .916 slugging percentage.

Strengths: McGowan is big and strong with a surprisingly short, compact swing. His batting practice displays are famous in the organization; players on the field stop and watch as much for their own safety as anything. Defensively, McGowan presents an ideal target and has shown a knack for picking balls out of the dirt.

Weaknesses: A foot injury that required offseason surgery hampered McGowan, who needs work on his footwork and mobility. He is on the old side for a first-year prospect, especially for an organization whose first baseman has a new four-year contract.

The Future: The Giants expect McGowan will move quickly due to his maturity and compact swing. He will likely start 2000 with one of the Giants’ two Cal League teams. A good start should bring a quick promotion to Shreveport.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Salem-Keizer (A)   .335  257  40  86  12   1  15   62  20  56   3
San Jose (A)       .375    8   1   3   1   0   0    1   0   3   0

8. Jeff Urban, LHP
Age: 23  B-T: R-L  Ht: 6-8  Wt: 215
Drafted: Ball State, 1998 (Supplemental 1st round)  Signed by: Mike Keenan

Background: The Giants challenged Urban at the start of last season after he went 4-0, 3.52 in his debut at Class A San Jose. When that proved to be a stretch, Urban went back to San Jose and dominated.

Strengths: Urban shows good command and touch with a mechanically perfect delivery, unusual for a tall pitcher. His fastball has average velocity and good tailing, sinking life. His cut fastball provides a perfect complement moving in on righthanded hitters, and his changeup is solid.

Weaknesses: Urban was intimidated by Double-A hitters and tried to be too fine with his pitches, and ended up consistently behind in the count. The Giants are trying to sharpen and quicken his curve, which is too slow and easy to pick up.

The Future: Urban should be more comfortable in Shreveport this time around. While he doesn’t have the stuff to be a No. 1 starter, his mechanics, command and feel for pitching should enable him to be a durable, consistent big league starter.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Shreveport (AA)   2  7  5.81  14  14   0   0   70 100  19  54
San Jose (A)      8  5  3.76  15  13   0   0   81  78  18  89

9. Sammy Serrano, C
Age: 23  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 205
Drafted: Stetson, 1998 (2nd round)  Signed by: Tom Zimmer

Background: Serrano hit .457 as a college junior, second-best in Division I. As a pro, he has established a reputation for durability; he finished second among Class A catchers in at-bats in 1999.

Strengths: Serrano has all the physical tools to be a starting big leaguer. He has a short line-drive stroke and can drive the ball to the gaps now, and he should begin lofting the ball as he matures. Serrano is a good athlete who has the body life and quickness to play other positions.

Weaknesses: Giants officials term Serrano’s weaknesses "development stuff." Of most concern is his footwork behind the plate, especially where it affects the quickness and accuracy on his throws. Serrano could also develop more discipline at the plate.

The Future: Serrano is one step behind Guiseppe Chiaramonte on the Giants’ development ladder but is a totally different player with a higher big league ceiling. With the big league catching job in flux, both could reach San Francisco together quickly.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Bakersfield (A)    .276  463  55 128  30   1   9   80  30  78   4

10. Scott Linebrink, RHP
Age: 23  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-3  Wt: 185
Drafted: Southwest Texas State, 1997 (2nd round)  Signed by: Tom Korenek

Background: Linebrink ranked as the Giants’ No. 2 prospect after the 1998 season but underwent right shoulder surgery that sidelined him for much of 1999. He was cleared to pitch on a strict pitch count in July. He threw well and pain-free in the Arizona Fall League, going 2-4, 3.68.

Strengths: Building up his arm strength was a gradual process, but Linebrink’s fastball touched the mid-90s again in the AFL. He throws a heavy fastball and complements it with a split-finger that gets similar diving action. Linebrink has shown the ability to be consistently around the strike zone with all his pitches.

Weaknesses: Mechanics are at the root of Linebrink’s injured shoulder and shaky performance. He has trouble keeping a consistent arm slot and will throw across his body. Linebrink’s curveball and changeup need more consistency.

The Future: The Giants plan on moving Linebrink to a relief role to reduce the stress on his arm and simplify his repertoire. His stuff could put him in a position to succeed closer Robb Nen.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Shreveport (AA)   1  8  6.44  10  10   0   0   43  48  14  33

Rest of the Best:

11. Giuseppe Chiaramonte, c
12. Cody Ransom, ss
13. Kevin Joseph, rhp
14. Ryan Vogelsong, rhp
15. Chris Jones, lhp

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