San Francisco Giants: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

San Francisco Giants

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2007.

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San Francisco Giants

A day after the Giants finished with a sub-.500 record for the second consecutive year, general manager Brian Sabean admitted the organization had to change its decade-long plan of surrounding Barry Bonds with older, short-term veterans.

Then San Francisco went out and committed $64 million to six free agents, none younger then 31, before re-signing the 42-year-old Bonds to a one-year, $16 million contract.

Nevertheless, the Giants have started a shift in philosophy, even if it won't be apparent at AT&T Park in 2007.

In August, they paid $2.1 million to sign 16-year-old Dominican third baseman Angel Villalona. That broke the record for a bonus given to an amateur, besting the $2.025 million given to first-round righthander Tim Lincecum two months earlier. The signings were an about-face for an organization that had intentionally sacrificed draft picks and diverted bonus money to the major league payroll in previous years.

While Bonds should be back and taking aim Hank Aaron's all-time home run record--assuming his contract gets finalized in the wake of news regarding Bonds' violation of the league's new ban on amphetamines--owner Peter Magowan has said that Bonds would be a complement and no longer a centerpiece.

The new nucleus of the Giants is their pitching staff. With Jason Schmidt departing for the Dodgers as a free agent, San Francisco broke the bank to bring lefthander Barry Zito in as its ace, signing him to a seven-year, $126 million contract. He'll be backed by Matt Cain, who played all of last season at age 21. Under-recognized amid baseball's hailstorm of spectacular rookies in 2006, he won a team-high 13 games and showed marked improvement in the second half.

San Francisco also expects big things from Lincecum (22), who's on the cusp of making a big league impact in his first full pro season. Noah Lowry (26) and Jonathan Sanchez (24) give the Giants a solid pair of lefty starters.

San Francisco hired manager Bruce Bochy away from the Padres partly because of his track record working with young pitchers and his judicious use of the bullpen. He replaces 71-year-old Felipe Alou, a man held in high esteem but not the right leader for a club that Sabean pledges to make younger and healthier.

Giants minor league affiliates led baseball with a combined .557 winning percentage last season, and how they compiled that record was telling. After years of passing up premium draft choices, there's little talent at the upper levels of the system, and Triple-A Fresno and Double-A Connecticut finished a combined 35 games under .500.

Scouting director Dick Tidrow has a knack for unearthing talented arms in the draft, but in 2006 he found several promising position players. Players like outfielder Mike McBryde (fifth round), middle infielder Brian Bocock (ninth) and catcher Adam Witter (a predraft signee as a fifth-year college senior) teamed with shortstop Emmanuel Burriss (supplemental first round) to help Salem-Keizer win the short-season Northwest League title.

Those hitters won’t arrive in time to help the Giants in 2007. They won't shake the skepticism about whether homegrown players will be given fair chances to sink or swim. Kevin Frandsen, their second baseman of the future, might apprentice in a utility role. No other position prospect is ready to contribute, with the possible exception of Fred Lewis, who could make San Francisco as a fourth outfielder.

1. Tim Lincecum, rhp   Born: June 15, 1984B-T: L-RHt: 6-0Wt: 170
 Drafted: Washington, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Matt Woodward
Tim LincecumBackground: When Lincecum was available with the 10th overall pick in the 2006 draft, the Giants felt like they had just won the lottery. A month earlier, they figured there was no chance Lincecum would last beyond the third or fourth pick. But while his size and unorthodox delivery scared off some organizations, San Francisco saw him as a once-in-a-decade talent who was ready to dominate major league hitters straight out of college. Lincecum was draft-eligible the year before as a 21-year-old sophomore, but his seven-figure bonus demands dropped him to the 42nd round and the Indians. Cleveland made a run at him after he led the Cape Cod League with a 0.69 ERA but wouldn't meet his price. Lincecum returned to the Huskies, won his second straight Pacific-10 Conference pitcher of the year award and led NCAA Division I in strikeouts (199) and strikeouts per nine innings (14.3). He also added the Golden Spikes Award a week before signing for $2.025 million, a club record for a drafted player. After a couple of tuneups with short-season Salem Keizer, Lincecum dominated at high Class A San Jose and struck out 10 over seven innings to win his lone playoff start.

Strengths: Lincecum throws a 91-96 mph fastball that tops out at 98. If that weren’t enough, he also has a true hammer curveball that breaks early and keeps on breaking. Giants scouts believe he might have the best curve of any drafted player since Kerry Wood. He added a changeup during his Cape stint, and at times it's a swing-and-miss pitch that bottoms out at the plate. During the spring, he also unveiled a hard slider that he can throw for strikes. Lincecum's combination of stuff and deception makes him close to unhittable. He gains maximum leverage, belying his short stature, by over-rotating his body, using a high leg kick and then seemingly catapulting the ball with a lightning-quick over-the-top delivery. He almost leaps off the mound and his stride is so long that he appears to deliver the ball directly on top of hitters. He's incredibly strong for a pitcher his size, and some old-timers say he reminds them of Bob Feller or a righthanded Sandy Koufax because of his delivery and flexibility. That’s no coincidence, because Lincecum’s father watched Koufax pitch and taught his son to copy the Hall of Famer’s mechanics.

Weaknesses: Lincecum’s delivery requires incredible focus because he takes his eye off the target during his Kevin Brown-style turn. It also requires Cirque du Soleil-style athleticism and coordination to keep him on center to the plate. He can suffer through bouts with his command because of all the moving parts in his delivery. Pitch efficiency could be an issue at higher levels. Lincecum logged 342 innings in his three seasons at Washington, frequently exceeding 120 pitches per start. While he claims to have never felt soreness in his arm, some scouts believe he's a breakdown waiting to happen. San Francisco doesn't share those fears, believing he generates his power through leverage and not by overtaxing his arm. Their coaches are under strict orders not to tinker with Lincecum's mechanics. From a stuff standpoint, his changeup is inconsistent.

The Future: He could be the devastating closer the Giants have lacked since Robb Nen injured his shoulder in 2002, but they say Lincecum will be a starter until he proves he can’t handle the role. That shouldn’t be an issue. After a full winter to rest, he'll report to major league camp. If he dominates, San Francisco will have a hard time keeping him off the Opening Day roster. He’s more likely headed for Double-A Connecticut until the club has a vacancy in the rotation.
Salem-Keizer (SS)000.002200410010.071
San Jose (HiA)201.956600281331248.135
2. Jonathan Sanchez, lhp   Born: Nov. 19, 1982B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 165
 Drafted: Ohio Dominican, 2004 (27th round)Signed by: Sean O'Connor
Jonathan SanchezBackground: Sanchez profiles as a quality starter, but the Giants’ bullpen need was so acute that they moved him to short relief after three dominating Double-A starts last year. He was in the big leagues a few weeks later. He finished the year in the San Francisco rotation, though he was much more effective coming out of the bullpen.

Strengths: Sanchez’s low-90s fastball is sneaky-fast and can hit 95 mph on occasion. He partners it with a plus changeup that has fooled hitters at every level. He carries himself with an air of confidence and wasn't the least bit intimidated against big leaguers.

Weaknesses: The Giants aren’t sure if Sanchez is ready to shoulder a full-season workload. He never has thrown more than 126 innings in a season and he has trouble maintaining his velocity when he's used on consecutive days. He also throws a slider but hasn't mastered it, in part because it's hard to stay on top of it with his low three-quarters delivery.

The Future: Because he worked just 95 innings in 2006, the Giants had no reservations about letting Sanchez play winter ball in his native Puerto Rico. With a solid spring, he'll crack their rotation as a fifth starter.
Connecticut (AA)211.151330231140946.137
Fresno (AAA)223.806600241311328.163
San Francisco 314.9527400403922333.250
3. Angel Villalona   Born: Aug. 13, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 210
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006Signed by: Dick Ragazzo/Pablo Peguero
Angel VillalonaBackground: San Francisco doesn’t often compete for top Latin American talent, but its didn’t flinch at offering Villalona a club-record $2.1 million bonus. International scouting director Rick Ragazzo first noticed Villalona taking batting practice as a 13-year-old and maintained a close relationship with the family. Villalona developed such a comfort level with the Giants that he reportedly turned down larger offers from other clubs. Agent Scott Boras accused the Giants of circumventing him, but they insist they acted in good faith and Major League Baseball approved the contract.

Strengths: Though Villalona would be a high school sophomore in the United States, he already looks like a man. He combines size and power with athleticism. The ball makes a special sound off his bat and he has 40-plus home run potential. He doesn’t need to make square contact to hit the ball a long way. He has good hands and instincts, and his plus arm allows him to make plays on balls hit down the line.

Weaknesses: Villalona has yet to face pro pitching, and the Giants must resist the temptation to move him too quickly. They're trying to be patient, bringing him to instructional league to introduce him to coaches and to American baseball culture. He'll be a below-average runner once he fills out.

The Future: Villalona projects as an elite power-hitting prospect, but his arrival is probably at least four years away. It’s possible Villalona could start his pro career with low Class Augusta as a 16-year-old, but he'll probably start the season in extended spring training before heading to the Rookie-level Arizona League.
Did Not Play--Signed 2007 Contract
4. Emmanuel Burriss, ss   Born: Jan. 17, 1985B-T: B-RHt: 6-0Wt: 170
 Drafted: Kent State, 2006 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Sean O'Connor
Emmanuel BurrissBackground: Burriss established himself as a top prospect for the 2006 draft by stealing a Cape Cod League-high 37 bases in 44 games the previous summer. He led the Mid-American Conference with 42 steals last spring, then paced the short-season Northwest League with 35 after signing for $1 million as a supplemental first-round pick.

Strengths: A leadoff hitter in the mold of Luis Castillo, Burriss plays the game with poise and polish. He makes excellent contact and is a threat to reach base on anything in play. One club official wasn’t shy about comparing his playmaking abilities to Willie Mays, while another called him Jose Reyes with less power. He has top-of-the-line speed, outstanding range, soft hands and very good instincts.

Weaknesses: Burriss’ arm grades a tick below average, leading to some doubts that he'll stick at shortstop, but his footwork is so good that he seldom fails to make plays. He has very little pop, and pitchers at higher levels may be able to overpower him. A switch-hitter, he's working on a more consistent approach from the left side.

The Future: Omar Vizquel will be 40 in 2007, and the Giants will need a new shortstop in the near future. That figures to be Burriss, who may skip a level and begin at high Class A in 2007. That would allow fellow 2006 draftee Brian Bocock to play every day at shortstop in low Class A.
Salem-Keizer (SS).307.384.366254507882127272235
5. Brian Wilson, rhp   Born: March 16, 1982B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 205
 Drafted: Louisiana State, 2003 (24th round)Signed by: Tom Korenek
Brian WilsonBackground: The Giants drafted Wilson in the 24th round in 2003, knowing he wouldn't be able to pitch for a year because he had to recover from Tommy John surgery. Four years earlier, San Francisco had taken another Tommy John survivor out of Louisiana State, Kurt Ainsworth. Wilson's first pro season was a disaster, and he admitted he sometimes skated through his rehab work before rededicating himself and dominating the last two years.

Strengths: Wilson’s biting 90-mph slider is the best in the system and is reminiscent of Robb Nen’s signature pitch. He throws in the mid- to upper 90s with his fastball and hit 98 mph in the big leagues. Quietly intense and armed with a huge water serpent tattooed on his left arm, Wilson has the look of a closer.

Weaknesses: Fastball command was an issue for Wilson in San Francisco, and it may be partially explained by an oblique strain that kept him from getting into a consistent rhythm. He feeds off adrenaline, which can work against him when he overthrows or tries for a strikeout. He hasn’t learned to handle poor outings yet.

The Future: The Giants prefer an established presence in the ninth inning, so Wilson may have to settle for a setup role this year. If he succeeds there, he could close for San Francisco in 2008.
San Jose (HiA)009.00100011011.200
Fresno (AAA)132.8924007282021430.202
San Francisco 235.4031001303212123.281
6. Kevin Frandsen, 2b   Born: May 24, 1982B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 175
 Drafted: San Jose State, 2004 (12th round)Signed by: Matt Nerland
Kevin FrandsenBackground: Frandsen was one of the Giants’ most heartwarming stories in 2006. He dedicated himself to making the big leagues to honor his brother D.J., who lost a lifelong battle with cancer in 2004. After he got there, pitching coach Dave Righetti, who was D.J.’s favorite player, quietly insisted that Kevin take his uniform No. 19, which he had worn the number since 1981.

Strengths: Frandsen has marvelous bat control and profiles as a solid No. 2 hitter in the mold of Robby Thompson. He puts the ball in play consistently, uses the whole field and has occasional gap power. His baseball IQ is off the charts and he has plus makeup and maturity. Even when temperatures hit 112 degrees at Triple-A Fresno, he pestered the coaches for extra infield practice.

Weaknesses: Frandsen knows he must improve his on-base percentage and limit himself to pitches he can drive--a difficult task because he can put almost any pitch into play. He focused on working counts in the Arizona Fall League and had success. While he also played shortstop and third base in Triple-A, his range and arm are merely adequate and limit him to second base. The Giants would like him to polish his bunting skills.

The Future: By hitting .388 in the Arizona Fall League, Frandsen improved his chances of opening 2007 as San Francisco's second baseman. But the Giants subsequently re-signed Ray Durham, so Frandsen will apprentice in a utility role.
Fresno (AAA).304.358.440293468925333012307
San Jose (Hi A).429.556.4297130001000
San Francisco .215.284.32393122040273140
7. Fred Lewis, of   Born: Dec. 9, 1980B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 190
 Drafted: Southern, 2002 (2nd round)Signed by: Tom Korenek
Fred LewisBackground: Lewis was a wide receiver at Mississippi Gulf Coast JC and wasn’t serious about baseball until he transferred to Southern. His lack of baseball experience showed early in his career, as he needed to repeat levels and struggled with slow starts. But when he arrived as a major league callup in September, Lewis went 3-for-3 as a pinch hitter and wowed the coaches with his athleticism.

Strengths: The best all-around athlete in the system, Lewis does things on the basepaths the Giants haven’t seen from a position prospect since Darren Lewis (no relation). He has the raw physical skills (bat speed, strength, speed) to hit .300 with 20-25 homers and 30-40 steals annually. He does a good job of recognizing pitches and taking walks.

Weaknesses: At 26, Lewis is still more about potential than production. He strikes out too much, though San Francisco believes he would benefit from swinging at more early count strikes. He doesn't use his speed as well as he could on the bases or in the outfield. He takes poor routes to balls, prompting his move from center field to left last summer.

The Future: Lewis is ready for a major league role as a spare outfielder, but the Giants want him to play every day to see if he can finally figure things out. There's a good chance he'll return to Triple-A.
Fresno (AAA).276.375.45343985121201112566810518
San Francisco .455.455.54511551002030
8. Nate Schierholtz, of   Born: Feb. 15, 1984B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 215
 Drafted: Chabot (Calif.) JC, 2003 (2nd round)Signed by: Matt Nerland
Nate SchierholtzBackground: A surprise second-round pick in 2003, Schierholtz looked like he might fall into the trap of becoming a power hitter without a position. But he converted from third base to right field in late 2004 and has worked hard on his defense. He struggled at the plate in Double-A in 2006, and it took a Connecticut-record 25-game hitting streak in August to rescue his season.

Strengths: Schierholtz has a bodybuilder’s physique and tremendous power. He was a sight to behold in spring training, when his mammoth shots cleared a 100-foot netting and peppered a neighboring apartment complex. He runs well for his size, looks to take the extra base and always hustles. He has a strong outfield arm.

Weaknesses: He has a clean lefthanded swing, but there's some length to it and Schierholtz struggles with plate discipline. He cut down on his strikeouts last season, but he still doesn't walk nearly enough.

The Future: A promotion to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, which favors hitters, should help Schierholtz’ confidence. If he shows more consistency at the plate, he could compete for a big league starting job in 2008.
Connecticut (AA).270.325.44347055127257145427818
9. Eddy Martinez-Esteve, of ,    Born: July 14, 1983B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 215
 Drafted: Florida State, 2004 (2nd round)Signed by: Paul Turco Jr.
Eddy Martinez-EsteveBackground: Draft with San Francisco's first pick (second round) in 2004, Martinez-Esteve hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He was nagged by injuries during his college career, and he has undergone elective surgeries on his right shoulder and foot as a pro. He made it through just 27 games last season before hyperextending his left shoulder and had surgery to repair a torn labrum in June.

Strengths: Martinez-Esteve is the best pure hitter in the system, with the ability to hit for average and power. He has a fluid stroke and a good eye at the plate. Coaches noted that his maturity improved last year and he reported to instructional league having lost almost 20 pounds.

Weaknesses: Martinez-Esteve might finally be getting the message that he can’t DH in the National League. He's putting more effort into improving his defensive skills, though his range, arm and instincts all rate below average in left field. First base remains an option, but only if he's up for the challenge.

The Future: Martinez-Esteve should be fine for spring training, when he'll make his first appearance in big league camp. Following his lost season, he'll probably return to Double-A, but he could be in the mix for a starting job with the Giants in 2008.
Connecticut (AA).272.324.446928251002119140
10. Billy Sadler, rhp   Born: Sept. 21, 1981B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 190
 Signed: Louisiana State, 2003 (6th round)Signed by: Tom Korenek
Billy SadlerBackground: The Giants dodged a bullet when they didn’t lose Sadler in the major league Rule 5 draft after the 2005 season. They knew he had a big arm, but he had control problems and is quite a bit shorter than his listed height. Sadler earned a September callup and a roster spot in 2006 by saving 21 games with a 2.43 ERA in the minors. A teammate of Brian Wilson at Louisiana State, Sadler also had Tommy John surgery in college, though his came at Pensacola (Fla.) JC.

Strengths: Sadler throws a two-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s and can touch 96 mph. It has good, tailing action and locks up righthanders. His curveball also gives them fits, and his changeup has become more consistent during the last two seasons. His competitive nature fits well in the late innings.

Weaknesses: Sadler still has issues with his control and command. He needs to do a better job of locating his fastball and of getting ahead in the count to set up hitters up for his curveball. His mound presence was a concern early in his career but isn't any longer.

The Future: He continued to dominate in the Arizona Fall League and appears destined for a role in the San Francisco bullpen. If Wilson doesn't claim the Giants' closer job in the future, it could fall to Sadler.
Connecticut (AA)432.56440020462312967.146
Fresno (AAA)201.8070011051212.156
San Francisco 006.75500045226.294

Photo Credits:

Lincecum: Larry Goren

Villalona: Bill Mitchell

Burriss: Rich Abel

Martinez-Esteve: Steve Moore