Giants Top 10 Prospects
By Jeff Fletcher
General manager Brian Sabean has admitted the Giants need to get younger, and the time could be coming near when the farm system is ready to answer the call.
The last position player who came out of the Giants system to get even semi-regular playing time quickly was Bill Mueller, who reached the majors in 96 and was the platoon starter at third in 97. Theyve done a little better with pitchers, developing two of last years five starters (Russ Ortiz and Ryan Jensen).
The Giants are hoping that all will change. Righties Jesse Foppert, Kurt Ainsworth and Jerome Williams all finished 2002 at Triple-A and appear on track to be ready for the majors at some point in 2003 (Ainsworth is ready now), if only the Giants can find a place for them.
The Giants also have layers of pitching a year or two behind those three, giving them an ample supply not only to fill jobs with the Giants, but also to be fodder for trades.
Lately the weakness of the Giants system has been producing position players. Sabean said their philosophy is to draft all the pitching they can get, because thats the most valuable commodity, then trade the leftovers to get position players.
The crop of position players looks a little better now than in years past, with outfielders Todd Linden and Tony Torcato probably ready for the majors in 2003. Versatile Deivis Santos and corner infielder Lance Niekro are not far behind. Deeper in the system are outfielder Fred Lewis, still raw but talented, first baseman Travis Ishikawa and outfielder Daniel Ortmeier.
The Giants also have the perfect manager to handle the transition in Felipe Alou. Dusty Baker preferred for young players to break in slowly (like Pedro Feliz), but Alou sped up the learning curve, by necessity, with players in Montreal, so he could do the same with players like Foppert, Williams and Linden.
Dont expect the Giants to just turn things over to the kids and try to become the Twins; its not their nature to give up any season as a rebuilding one. They will still fill holes with veterans but they are hoping that this farm system will leave them fewer holes to fill in the years to come.
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 210. Drafted: San Francisco, 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Doug Mapson.
Background: Not drafted as a high school infielder, Foppert barely pitched in his first two years at the University of San Francisco. When his Harrisonburg, Va., team in the Valley League needed pitchers in the summer of 2000, he was persuaded to get on the mound. To say that turned out to be a good move is a massive understatement. After a solid junior year for the Dons, he went in the second round of the 2001 draft and led the short-season Northwest League in ERA during his pro debut. Foppert was even more dominant during his first full pro season in 2002. He reached Triple-A, where he was rated the Pacific Coast Leagues No. 1 prospect, and led the minors by averaging 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
Strengths: For starters, Foppert has a textbook delivery. He has a smooth motion, looking as if hes barely working, and the ball still jumps out of his hand. Foppert has a mid-90s fastball that was clocked as high as 99 mph when he started at Double-A Shreveport in 2002. The fastball has so much life to it that he was getting enough swings and misses that he barely had to go to his other pitches at Double-A. Hitters cant lay off his splitter, his second-best pitch, when it dives out of the strike zone. He made nice strides tightening up his slider last year. Fopperts mound presence and poise also left a positive impression. He handles the bat well for a pitcher and went 6-for-19 (.316) with three doubles last year.
Weaknesses: Foppert is still developing a changeup and began working on a curveball in instructional league. He still needs to tweak his command; throwing more strikes would allow him to reduce his high pitch counts, the main reason he averaged less than six innings before start last year. He faded in August under the wear of his first full season.
The Future: A nonroster invitee to big league camp, Foppert probably wont win a spot on the Opening Day roster and could use more time in Triple-A. If he picks up where he left off, he could force the issue of a promotion very quickly. Easing him into the majors in a long-relief role also could be a possibility.
Click here for prospects 2-10.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Site Map | FAQ/Troubleshooting