San Francisco Giants: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

San Francisco Giants: Scouting Reports

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, 2008.

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San Francisco Giants

For the first time since 1996, the Giants must build a baseball team without Barry Bonds as their cornerstone. The front office finally signaled this new direction in late September, announcing it would not deign to the 43rd-year-old slugger's wishes and bring him back for one more season.

So Bonds leaves San Francisco as the all-time home run king and general manager Brian Sabean, who signed a two-year extension in July, is charged with rebuilding a club while knowing that ticket holders and his own bosses aren't blessed with infinite patience.

A former eagle-eyed scout who helped build the Yankees' late-1990s dynasty, Sabean says he's committed to rebuilding San Francisco's farm system and churning out homegrown position players to match the constant stream of pitching talent the organization has produced. The Giants haven't signed a player who has developed into a homegrown all-star since drafting Will Clark with the No. 2 overall pick in 1985.

Since the season ended, San Francisco has made several front-office changes that will affect scouting and player development. Longtime minor league instructor Fred Stanley was promoted to farm director, replacing the retiring Jack Hiatt. The Giants also hired John Barr away from the Dodgers and appointed him scouting director. As a crosschecker, he helped bring players such as Jonathan Broxton and Russell Martin to Los Angeles. Barr's arrival freed up resident pitching guru Dick Tidrow to assist Sabean more actively on the major league level.

San Francisco begins the rebuilding process fully aware that National League West rivals Arizona and Colorado already have graduated impressive young talent to the major leagues, having ridden it to the NL Championship Series. The Dodgers also have a young nucleus in addition to being the only team in the division that can match the Giants' financial resources, while the Padres have an improving farm system.

If San Francisco has a saving grace, it's the best crop of young pitchers in the division and perhaps in all of baseball. Matt Cain's 7-16 record belied an outstanding season. Rookie Tim Lincecum brought his Cirque du Soleil delivery to the major leagues in May and led all major league rookies with 150 strikeouts. Though Barry Zito didn't live up to his $126 million contract in his first season as a Giant, he had a 3.33 ERA over his final two months, brought reliability to the rotation and is still just 29. Kevin Correia emerged in a late-season audition as a starter, and while Noah Lowry couldn't finish the season because of a bone spur in his elbow, he led the staff with 14 victories.

San Francisco planned to dangle one or more arms as trade bait as it attempts to form a competitive lineup. The Giants don't have any near-ready position prospects who project as surefire regulars, and neither Sabean nor manager Bruce Bochy has a track record for handing everyday jobs to unproven players.

They were able to restock the system with six of the first 51 picks the 2007 draft, but spent five of them on high school players who won't help anytime soon. If it hope to contends in the near term, San Francisco must place some faith in its homegrown players, be creative in acquiring more talent—and get a bit lucky, too.

1.  Angel Villalona, 3b   Born: Aug. 13, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 210
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006Signed by: Rick Ragazzo/Pablo Peguero
Angel VillalonaBackground: Giants special assistant Felipe Alou spent nearly two decades in player development with the Expos and considers Andres Galarraga the best young power hitter he ever came across. When Alou watched Villalona take batting practice for the first time, he had visions of the Big Cat dancing in his head. With a barrel chest and a strapping body, Villalona looks like a premier power-hitting prospect and takes batting practice to match. He doesn't look like he's 17, which is what the Giants must keep reminding themselves as they develop their $2.1 million bonus baby out of the Dominican Republic. "If he's a 17-year-old high school player right now, I don't' know how much money he'd get," retiring farm director Jack Hiatt said. "He's got unbelievable power." Though his major league debut is years away, San Francisco fans already consider Villalona the shining savior in a system that hasn't produced an impact position player since Will Clark and Matt Williams in the mid-1980s. Villalona made his pro debut Rookie-level Arizona League, where he was both the youngest player and the No. 1 prospect, and earned a late callup to short-season Salem-Keizer. He would have DHed in the Northwest League playoffs but the club didn't face any lefthanded starters.

Strengths: The Giants wanted Villalona to concentrate on developing good habits as he acclimated to life in the United States, including basics like taking productive batting practice and learning to compete. They noticed major improvements from his first instructional league in 2006 to the next, especially with his hitting approach. He's able to hang in tougher on breaking balls, has shown the ability to hit to the opposite field with runners on base and no longer swings out of his shoes at every pitch. San Francisco is so enamored with his powerful bat that it isn't concerned yet about where it will play. Villalona is athletic for his size, and he has good hands and a well above-average arm at third base. He's shy but easily likable and coaches say he is eager to learn.

Weaknesses: Villalona is still growing and his weight bears watching. He is an average runner now but will rate below average as he gets older. The Giants already acknowledge that he'll probably be a first baseman down the road, perhaps as soon as 2008. Special assistant J.T. Snow, a former Gold Glvoe first baseman, worked with Villalona during instructional league and he picked up first base quickly, even leaving his feet to make some plays. He tends to throw from a low arm angle, leading to errors. Villalona didn't react well at first when he wasn't assigned to Salem-Keizer to start the summer and he remains unschooled when it comes to the subtle nuances of the game such as bunt plays and cutoffs, but all that's to be expected of someone who could be a high school junior.

The Future: In 2008, Villalona will log his first full pro season and almost certainly will be the youngest regular in the low Class A South Atlantic League. He's talented enough to reach the majors before his 20th birthday—which won't come until August 2010—but the Giants insist they have no timetable. "When he's ready and can do the right things consistently in front of crowds, he'll get there and stay there a long time," Hiatt said.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Giants (R) .285 .344 .450 200 40 57 12 3 5 37 15 42 1
Salem-Keizer (SS) .167 .231 .167 12 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 2 1
2.  Tim Alderson, rhp   Born: Nov. 3, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-7Wt: 217
 Drafted: HS—Scottsdale, Ariz., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Lee Carballo
Tim AldersonBackground: Pitching exclusively from the stretch, Alderson was a two-time Arizona player of the year and helped Horizon High to a pair of state 5-A championships. He showed unbelievable command for a high school senior, let alone one who's 6-foot-7, issuing just four walks while striking out 111 strikeouts in 73 innings. The second of the Giants' three first-round picks in June, he went 22nd overall and signed for $1.29 million.

Strengths: Alderson had the best command of any high school pitcher in recent memory. His fastball sits in the low 90s and tops out at 94 mph, and San Francisco projects that he'll throw harder. His low-80s curveball already ranks as the best in the system. He can change planes with it, taking some velocity off to achieve a bigger break. Despite some extra movement in his delivery, he doesn't get out of sync and isn't slow to the plate. He had no problems throwing out of an easy windup in instructional league, and he repeated those mechanics well.

Weaknesses: Alderson's herky-jerky delivery leads to concerns about his durability as a starter. The Giants think he gets his body in a good position to throw and won't have any problem staying in a rotation. His changeup is still rudimentary but he has made some progress with it.

The Future: San Francisco believes Alderson is more advanced and has more projection than Matt Cain did when he went 25th overall in the 2002 draft. As with Cain, the Giants won't be afraid to push Alderson and his uncanny command suggests he'll move extremely fast. Low Class A Augusta is the logical next step, but don't be surprised if Alderson opens 2008 at high Class A San Jose.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
AZL Giants (R) 0 0 0.00 3 2 0 0 5 4 0 0 12 .211
3.  Madison Bumgarner, lhp   Born: Aug, 1, 1989B-T: L-RHt: 6-4Wt: 215
 Drafted: HS—Hudson, N.C., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Pat Portugal
Madison BumgarnerBackground: The hardest-throwing high school lefthander in the 2007 draft, Bumgarner also was a fine righthanded hitter who helped South Caldwell High win two North Carolina 4-A state championships. He became the first prep southpaw drafted in the first round by the Giants since Mike Remlinger in 1987. The 10th overall pick, Bumgarner signed for $2 million.

Strengths: Bumgarner has everything the Giants look for in a pitching prospect—size, athleticism and velocity. His fastball works at 92-94 mph and hits 97 on occasion. It has good boring action and often runs in on the hands of righthanders. A tremendous athlete, he showed flashes of dominance in instructional league.

Weaknesses: Bumgarner went higher in the draft but grades below Tim Alderson because his command and breaking ball aren't nearly as good. When Bumgarner stays on top of the pitch, it's a hard slurve that sweeps away from lefthanders. His changeup is in the experimental stages and he throws it too hard, but San Francisco believes it will be a useful pitch in time.

The Future: Unlike Alderson, who lives down the street from the Giants' minor league facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., Bumgarner had a tougher task acclimating to his first pro experience. While he might not move as quickly as Alderson, Bumgarner has a higher ceiling. He figures to make his pro debut in low Class A.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
4.  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: Schierholtz had the best season of his five-year career in 2007. He led Giants minor leaguers with a career-high .333 batting average, made his major league debut in June and earned another callup in September.  He did his best work at Triple-A Fresno in between his two big league stints, hitting .317 with 12 homers in 51 games. He capped his year by batting .348/.363/.596 in the Arizona Fall League.

Strengths: For a player with 30-homer potential, Schierholtz makes excellent contact. His strikeouts have dropped from 132 to 81 to 77 over the past three seasons as he has leveled out his lefthanded swing. He plays a strong right field and has an above-average, accurate arm. He's a good runner for his size if not a pure basestealer. His body is all sculpted muscle.

Weaknesses: To become a solid middle-of-the-order threat, Schierholtz must learn to work counts, improve his on-base percentage and be more aggressive when he gets ahead of pitchers. San Francisco challenged him to swing for the fences and he responded at Fresno, then appeared much more comfortable when he rejoined the major league club in September.

The Future: The Giants have a slew of young outfielders, including Rajai Davis, Fred Lewis and Daniel Ortmeier, but Schierholtz is a couple of years younger and perhaps only Lewis can match his potential. Schierholtz has an excellent chance to make the Opening Day roster and could earn the right-field job with a strong spring.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Fresno (AAA) .333 .365 .560 411 67 137 31 7 16 68 17 58 10
San Francisco (MLB) .304 .316 .402 112 9 34 5 3 0 10 2 19 3
5.  Henry Sosa, rhp   Born: July 28, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 180
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004Signed by: Rick Ragazzo/Pablo Peguero
Henry SosaBackground: Signed for just $15,000, Sosa was scheduled to remain in extended spring and pitch in the Arizona League in 2007. But Orlando Yntema tore a knee ligament in the final week of spring training and Sosa replaced him at Augusta. He made the most of his chance, winning more games (six) than he allowed earned runs (five) before earning a trip to the Futures Game and a promotion to high Class A.

Strengths: Sosa's pitches consistently in the mid-90s and tops out at 97 mph with his fastball. His hard curveball is a strikeout pitch. He repeats his delivery well while throwing from a high three-quarters slot. He's among the more durable high-profile arms in the system, with nary a complaint about soreness.

Weaknesses: He's still more thrower than pitcher, and Sosa at times has trouble finding the strike zone and keeping his fastball down. He's trying to learn a changeup, and while he has shown progress, it remains a distant third pitch. Hitters didn't chase his curveball as much after he moved up to San Jose.

The Future: If Sosa can harness his stuff, his upside is huge, and his changeup is the key for him to remain a starter. He soaked up more experience in the Venezuelan winter league and probably will get more experience in high Class A at the start of 2008.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Augusta (Lo A) 6 0 0.73 13 10 0 1 62 30 2 25 61 .144
San Jose (Hi A) 5 5 4.38 14 14 0 0 64 66 8 36 78 .262
6.  Nick Noonan, 2b/ss   Born: May 4, 1989B-T: L-RHt: 6-0Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—San Diego, 2007 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Ray Krawczyk
Nick NoonanBackground: The 32nd overall pick in June, Noonan turned down a Clemson scholarship and signed quickly for $915,750. He earned Arizona League all-star honors and was the darling of the Giants' instructional league camp, hitting over .500 for most of October.

Strengths: Noonan made a brilliant first impression with his sweet lefthanded swing and polished baseball acumen. He quickly earned a reputation for having the best pure hitting skills and soundest strike-zone judgment in the system. He makes steady, line-drive contact in the mold of Robin Ventura, and he's also an excellent bunter. Despite a loopy stride, Noonan has above-average speed, especially going from first base to third, and his fine instincts helped him steal 18 bases in 21 pro attempts. There's a smooth quality to everything he does on the field.

Weaknesses: Though some scouts have compared him to Chase Utley, Noonan doesn't have the same power potential. He prefers to play shortstop but fellow supplemental first-rounder Charlie Culberson has a stronger arm, so Noonan will move up the ladder at second base. He has a stiff-armed delivery but his throws have good carry. He's still working on his skills around the bag, especially turning the double play.

The Future: After his strong debut, Noonan could advance quickly. For a high schooler, his offensive approach and game awareness are off the charts. Along with Charlie Culberson and Angel Villalona, he'll help form a supremely young and talented infield at Augusta in 2008.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Giants (R) .316 .357 .451 206 33 65 11 4 3 40 12 20 18
7.  Eugenio Velez, of/2b   Born: May 16, 1982.B-T: B-RHt: 6-1Wt: 160
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001Signed by: Tony Arias (Blue Jays)
Eugenio VelezBackground: Velez was a seldom-used utilityman in the Blue Jays system, but he has been an electric difference-maker since the Giants plucked him in the Triple-A phase of the 2005 Rule 5 draft. He won the South Atlantic League MVP award in 2006, though he was quite old for low Class A at 24. He proved his prospect legitimacy in 2007, leading the Double-A Eastern League with 49 steals, ending the regular season in the majors and batting .303 with 15 swipes in 17 Arizona Fall League games.$

Strengths: It's fitting that Velez's first major league hit was a triple because he flies around the bases with well above-average speed. He has some gap power in his willowy frame, especially as a lefthanded hitter. He didn't have any problem pounding balls into the outfield stands while taking batting practice at San Diego's roomy Petco Park. His best defensive tool is his plus arm strength.

Weaknesses: Velez sustained a badly sprained wrist in a spring-training collision and missed the first month of the season. San Francisco moved him to the outfield because that was the quickest way to get him back on the field. The one-time shortstop would fit best as a second baseman, but he tends to field balls too upright, which hardens up his hands. He lacks finesse on the infield. Offensively, his biggest need is to draw more walks so he can get on base more often.

The Future: The Giants see Velez as a high-energy utility player along the lines of Chone Figgins. His value would increase if he can become a dependable infielder, and he worked on his defense in the AFL. San Francisco likely will field a speed-oriented lineup in 2008, enhancing Velez' chances of making the team out of spring training.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Connecticut (AA) .298 .344 .399 376 55 112 17 9 1 25 26 66 49
Fresno (AAA) .278 .381 .278 18 5 5 0 0 0 0 2 3 5
San Francisco (MLB) .273 .385 .636 11 5 3 0 2 0 2 2 3 4
8.  Wendell Fairley, of   Born: March 17, 1988B-T: L-RHt: 6-0Wt: 190
 Drafted: HS—Lucedale, Miss., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Andrew Jefferson
Wendell FairleyBackground: The best all-around high school athlete in the 2007 draft, Fairley hit .538 with nine home runs, went 9-2 as a pitcher and drew interest from several Southeastern Conference football programs as a wide receiver. He remained something of a wild card because he didn't participate in many showcases, and lasted until San Francisco drafted him 29th overall and signed him for $1 million.

Strengths: Fairley generates tremendous bat speed, reminiscent of a young Fred Lewis, and has the tools to hit for average and power. He didn't let many fastballs get past him in instructional league. He has easily above-average speed, the range to play center field and an above-average arm.

Weaknesses: Fairley is still very raw at the plate and will need time to develop. He'll have to learn to recognize and react to offspeed pitches. He couldn't do much in instructional league because he was slowed by shoulder tendinitis. The Giants aren't concerned about his checkered legal past, which includes a misdemeanor conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. His attorney is appealing the conviction, saying it smacked of discrimination. He also faced assault charges after a prank on a high school bus, but that case was dismissed.

The Future: He has the highest ceiling among San Francisco's position prospects, but Fairley likely will move one level at a time and probably won't see the majors before 2011 at the earliest. He'll make his pro debut in low Class A.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did Not Play—Signed 2007 Contract
9.  John Bowker, of   Born: July 8, 1983B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 190
 Drafted: Long Beach State, 2004 (3rd round)Signed by: Lee Carballo
John BowkerBackground: Bowker held his own over his first three minor league seasons, but hadn't flashed the power San Francisco expected when it drafted him in the third round. The power arrived at an unlikely place last season, as Bowker finished third in the pitching-dominated Eastern League with a .523 slugging percentage.

Strengths: Bowker arrived in spring training last year with added muscle and began to flourish when coaches suggest he stand closer to the plate. He combines the ability to hit for average—he's a career .296 hitter—with pull power. The Giants love his aggressive approach and work ethic.

Weaknesses: He's limited to left field because he has below-average speed and his range and arm are adequate at best. San Francisco pulled the plug quickly after trying Bowker in center field. He has played right field as well, but it would be a stretch for him to man that position at spacious AT&T Park. Because dead-pull lefty hitters seldom fare well there, he'd be well served to work on driving the ball to all fields.

The Future: His breakthrough earned Bowker a spot on the Giants' 40-man roster. Because they have a glut of young outfielders, including several lefthanded hitters, he'll need to continue putting up strong numbers to earn a permanent role in San Francisco.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Connecticut (AA) .307 .363 .523 522 79 160 35 6 22 90 41 103 3
10.  Emmanuel Burriss, ss   Born: Jan. 17, 1985B-T: B-RHt: 6-0Wt: 170
 Signed: Kent State, 2006 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Sean O'Connor
Emanuel BurrissBackground: After hitting .307 in his pro debut and having one club official compare his playmaking ability to Willie Mays', Burriss struggled so badly in high Class A that the Giants demoted him after 36 games. He said he wasn't mentally prepared when the 2007 season began. He regained his focus and confidence against younger competition in the South Atlantic League, finishing third in steals (51) and fifth in batting (.321).

Strengths: It's no surprise that Burriss led a system full of burners with 68 stolen bases. In addition to his pure speed, he has fine basestealing skills and was encouraged to use them by aggressive Augusta manager Roberto Kelly. Burriss is a contact hitter who works counts better than his walk totals would indicate. He has good range and instincts at shortstop.

Weaknesses: Burriss has no power and his few extra-base hits are solely products of his speed. He'll have to prove that he can handle quality fastballs at higher levels. After making 30 errors in 123 games in 2007, he needs to be more consistent on defense. Caught stealing 18 times last season, he can become more efficient on the bases.

The Future: Burriss, who hit .365 in 17 Arizona Fall League games, says he learned his lesson and will be ready to start 2008. He'll take another crack at high Class A as the Giants hope that either he or Brian Bocock will be ready to claim their shortstop job by 2010.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Augusta (Lo A) .321 .374 .381 365 64 117 14 4 0 38 28 49 51
San Jose (Hi A) .165 .237 .180 139 23 23 2 0 0 8 12 20 17

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits:
Bill Mitchell (Villalona, Alderson, Bumgarner, Sosa, Noonan, Fairley)
Steve Moore (Velez, Bowker)
Sports On Film (Burriss)