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, 2009.

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San Francisco Giants

The Giants hit just 94 home runs last year, the fewest by a major league club in a non-strike-shortened season since the expansion Marlins in 1993. It was a depressing lack of power for a fan base accustomed to cheering Barry Bonds.

San Francisco took plenty of souvenir baseballs out of play, though. Fifteen players made their major league debuts before Sept. 1, the most by a club since the 1954 Philadelphia Athletics, and seemingly hardly a day went by without someone registering their first hit. After the 162-game experiment ran its course, the Giants identified a few players—Fred Lewis, Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval, Brian Wilson—who could be part of their next contender. They also eliminated many others.

Tim Lincecum shined brightest of all. The undersized righthander elevated himself among the game's elite pitchers, winning the National League Cy Young Award and becoming the first Giant to lead the majors in strikeouts.

The end result was a 72-90 record and a fourth consecutive losing season, a run of shame San Francisco hadn't experienced since 1974-77, among the darkest of ages at Candlestick Park.

Yet there's hope deeper in the system and the Giants might not be down for long. First-year scouting director John Barr redirected the club's former pitching-heavy philosophy and took college bats with his top four draft picks. None made a bigger statement than catcher Buster Posey, Baseball America's College Player of the Year and the Golden Spikes Award winner, who signed at the Aug. 15 deadline for $6.2 million.

That was the largest up-front bonus in draft history and nearly triple the previous franchise record ($2.1 million to Angel Villalona in 2006). It also underscored a significant change that began the previous season under longtime general manager Brian Sabean. Instead of borrowing from the player-development budget to sign veteran free agents, the Giants reduced payroll and spent more on prospects. They also invested in another top-flight international talent, signing 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Rafael Rodriguez for $2.55 million in mid-July.

Most of the system's top talent is at least a year or two away, however, so 2009 promises to be interesting in San Francisco. Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy have contracts that expire after the season, and new managing partner Bill Neukom doesn't believe in public votes of confidence. That may be why the team spent $37.25 million in guaranteed money on several free agents in the offseason, most notably Edgar Renteria.

Major League Baseball approved Neukom in August to replace Peter Magowan, whose departure was termed charitably as a retirement. Magowan solidified the Giants' place in San Francisco, and his ballpark vision was realized with the construction of a modern classic on the waterfront. But the Mitchell Report characterized him as a steroids enabler, forever staining his reputation, and there were indications the club's disastrous $126 million signing of Barry Zito made him unpopular with club investors.

Magowan approached his role from a fan's perspective, often making impetuous moves such as the Zito contract. Neukom, the former chief legal mind at Microsoft, plans to take a measured, analytical approach while prioritizing player development and a "Giants Way" of competing both on and off the field.

Neukom said he expects San Francisco to be competitive in 2009 and contend the following season, all while bringing his "Microsoft meritocracy" to the front office. Even if the Giants show improvement, Neukom could decide he wants a baseball architect with a more modern perspective than Sabean, who isn't known to squint at a laptop screen.

1.  Madison Bumgarner, rhp   Born: Aug, 1, 1989.
 Bats: R. Throws: L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215.
 Drafted: HS—Hudson, N.C., 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Pat Portugal.
Madison BumgarnerBackground: Surprise, surprise. For the 13th time in 14 years, the Giants' top prospect is a pitcher. Though teenager slugger Angel Villalona did nothing to diminish his No. 1 status of a year ago, his teammate at low Class A Augusta couldn't be denied. After drafting him 10th overall and signing him for $2 million in 2007, the Giants merely hoped Bumgarner would learn to compete and master simple skills in his first full pro season. Early efforts to smooth out his mechanics were a failure, as he allowed 10 runs over 112⁄3 innings in his first three starts. Then the big, strong lefthander went back to his high school delivery and was untouchable, posting a 0.90 ERA in his final 21 regular-season outings before allowing just one unearned run in two playoff starts as the Green Jackets won the South Atlantic League title. Bumgarner's overall 1.46 ERA was the lowest in the minors, and he struck out an unreal 7.8 batters for every walk.

Strengths: There may not be a lefthander with a better fastball than Bumgarner's. He hits 97 mph with minimal effort, consistently pitches at 93-94 and hitters have trouble picking up his heater from his high three-quarters delivery. His fastball has boring action and is a devastating two-strike pitch when he elevates it. He gave up just three homers all season, as his command and control were impeccable. "He has another gear," catcher Jackson Williams said. "He's so long and so loose, the ball just pops—and it pops hard." His breaking ball and changeup showed improvement throughout 2008. Bumgarner, who's from a small town in North Carolina, initially came across as a timid kid when he first reported to instructional league in 2007. But he soon dispelled any concerns about his makeup. "The closer to home plate they get, the more he reaches back and goes after them," Augusta pitching coach Ross Grimsley said. "For 19, he's a very mature, smart kid. He knows he's got some things to work on to make himself a more complete pitcher and not just a thrower." Bumgarner is a physical, durable beast and a good athlete who also makes hard contact as a righthanded hitter.

Weaknesses: While Bumgarner's fastball control far exceeded San Francisco's wildest expectations, his secondary pitches remain a work in progress. Coaches worked to replace an erratic curveball with something closer to a true slider that developed depth the more he threw it. Because his fastball was nearly unhittable, he didn't get much practice setting up hitters. He often threw his changeup in fastball counts just to work on it. "That'll be the biggest thing," Grimsley said. "He'll need the changeup for the higher levels and he understands that."

The Future: Bumgarner has all the gifts to be a No. 1 starter, though it's hard to imagine anyone unseating Tim Lincecum in San Francisco in the foreseeable future. The Giants hope to instill a friendly rivalry between Bumgarner and their other first-round prep pitcher from the 2007 draft, Tim Alderson. They're expected to form a supremely talented 1-2 punch at Double-A Connecticut, potentially with 2008 first-rounder Buster Posey as their catcher. If Bumgarner continues to easily dispatch hitters after skipping a level, San Francisco will be tempted to give him a taste of the big leagues in September.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Augusta (LoA)
15
3
1.46
24
24
1
0
141.
111
3
21
164
.216
 
2.  Buster Posey, c   Born: March 27, 1987. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 205.
 Drafted: Florida State, 2008 (1st round). Signed by: Sean O'Connor.
Buster PoseyBackground: Posey led NCAA Division I in hitting (.463), on-base percentage (.566), slugging (.879), hits (119), total bases (226) and RBIs (93) in 2008, en route to winning Baseball America's College Player of the Year and the Golden Spikes awards. The Rays considered him with the first overall pick, but he slid to the Giants at No. 5. He received the largest up-front bonus in draft history, $6.2 million.

Strengths: There might have been better pure athletes in the draft, but Posey has few peers when it comes to baseball athleticism. He was drafted out of high school as a pitcher and moved from shortstop to catcher at Florida State, where he once played all nine positions in one game. He profiles as a catcher in the mold of Joe Mauer. Posey has a quick bat and makes consistent contact with gap power to all fields. Arm strength isn't a problem, as he hit 94 mph as an occasional reliever for the Seminoles. He's agile and has soft hands, and he even runs well. He's a captain on the field and wins plaudits for his baseball acumen.

Weaknesses: Posey is still relatively new to catching and will need time to develop behind the plate, especially his game-calling skills. He had trouble with passed balls in Hawaii Winter Baseball and was sent back to instructional league for a crash course in receiving. Despite his huge power numbers as a college junior, some scouts believe he won't hit more than 10-12 homers annually in the majors.

The Future: Posey doesn't have to hit for huge power to be an all-star. He's versatile enough to play anywhere on the diamond, but most valuable as a catcher. He's probably headed for Double-A, where he'll catch a talented pitching staff.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Giants (R)
.385
.484
.692
26
8
10
3
1
1
4
5
4
0
Salem-Keizer (SS)
.273
.429
.455
11
2
3
2
0
0
2
3
0
0
 
3.  Angel Villalona, 1b   Born: Aug. 13, 1990. B-T: R-R.
 Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 230.
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007. Signed by: Rick Ragazzo/Pablo Peguero.
Angel VillalonaBackground: The best Giants power-hitting prospect to come along in more than a decade, Villalona signed for a then-club-record $2.1 million in 2007. He had an encouraging first full pro season in 2008, when he was the youngest player in the South Atlantic League. He led a championship Augusta team with 17 homers as a 17-year-old while moving from third base to first base.

Strengths: Villalona's batting practice was a daily fireworks display and he often carried it over to games. He has the ability to hit quality fastballs and hanging breaking balls a long, long way. He has soft hands, a strong, accurate arm and surprising agility for a player his size. He lost almost 40 pounds from spring training to the end of the season and coaches praised his dedication to getting in baseball shape.

Weaknesses: Villalona lacks patience at the plate, rarely drawing walks and failing to realize when pitches are trying to pitch around him. It's vital that he continue to take his conditioning seriously. Even after slimming down, he's still a poor runner with no chance of returning to third base.

The Future: If the Giants promote Villalona a level per year, he'll still reach the majors at age 21, and he might not need that long. His production improved every month at Augusta, and they hope for a similar upswing this season at high Class A San Jose.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Augusta (LoA)
.263
.312
.435
464
64
122
29
0
17
64
18
118
1
 
4.  Tim Alderson, rhp   Born: Nov. 3, 1988. B-T: R-R.
 Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 217.
 Drafted: HS—Scottsdale, Ariz., 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Lee Carballo.
Tim AldersonBackground: Alderson's advanced command and hard curveball made him the 22nd overall pick and earned him a $1.29 million bonus in 2007. The Giants figured those attributes also prepared him for an aggressive assignment to high Class A in his first full pro season, and he responded by winning the California League ERA title at 2.79. He threw exclusively out of the stretch in high school, but had no problems repeating his delivery from the windup in San Jose.

Strengths: Alderson's curveball is the best in the organization and he works it off an 88-92 mph four-seam fastball with natural cut and late movement. He began throwing a two-seamer to get more grounders, though it's not like he needed to work on pitch efficiency. He's a smart competitor, often throwing curveballs in the first three innings of night games when the conditions were shadowy. He throws strikes and lives at the bottom of the zone.

Weaknesses:  Alderson will develop into a frontline starter if he continues to make steady progress with his changeup. He doesn't have overwhelming velocity, though he still can get outs with his fastball. While he's athletic, like most gangly pitchers he doesn't field his position well.

The Future: He could be a factor out of a major league bullpen right now, but the Giants have no plans to develop him as anything but a starter. He'll begin 2009 with Madison Bumgarner in Double-A and could finish the season in the big leagues.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
San Jose (HiA)
13
4
2.79
26
26
0
0
145.1
125
4
34
124
.235
 
5.  Nick Noonan, 2b   Born: May 4, 1989. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185.
 Drafted: HS—San Diego, 2007 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Ray Krawczyk.
Nick NoonanBackground: After signing for $915,750 as a sandwich pick in 2007, Noonan became a Rookie-level Arizona League all-star and the talk of the Giants' instructional league camp. Last season, he was the most consistent offensive player on a championship Augusta club loaded with teenage talent.

Strengths: Noonan's swing is compact, balanced and direct to the ball, which should allow him to hit for average with gap power. He has outstanding situational hitting skills, bunts well and moves runners. He has above-average speed and an opportunistic nature on the bases, stealing 29 bags in 33 attempts. He made dramatic improvements at second base, especially going to his backhand and turning double plays, after playing shortstop in high school. His game awareness is off the charts.

Weaknesses: Coaches lauded Noonan's strike-zone awareness before the season began, but he drew just 23 walks and acknowledged that he needs to be more selective. He was so aggressive that he got himself out at times in 2008. He's still learning to play second base and doesn't always take proper angles on grounders.

The Future: He might not flash enough power to make Chase Utley comparisons hold up, but Noonan is clearly San Francisco's second baseman of the future. While high Class A would be the next logical step, club officials were debating whether he might be ready for a jump to Double-A.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Augusta (LoA)
.279
.315
.415
499
79
139
27
7
9
68
23
98
29
 
6.  Ehire Adrianza, ss   Born: Aug. 21, 1989. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 155.
 Signed: Venezuela, 2007. Signed by: Ciro Villalobos.
Ehire AdrianzaBackground: Despite missing half of the Arizona League season with a broken foot, Adrianza ranked as the circuit's best middle-infield prospect, thanks to his defensive wizardry and ability to make contact from both sides of the plate. When Triple-A Fresno was thin on infielders for a series at Tucson, he was driven over from Scottsdale and promptly collected three hits.

Strengths: Adrianza has excellent range and plays Gold Glove caliber defense up the middle. Even Omar Vizquel, who was in Arizona while rehabbing his knee, commented on Adrianza's soft hands and accurate arm. A natural righthanded hitter, he has a level swing and balanced approach from either side. He has gap power and doesn't try to just slap and dash his way on base.

Weaknesses: Something of a late bloomer, Adrianza only recently began adding strength to his lanky frame. He's not as fast as most shortstops, though his excellent instincts and first-step quickness make up for that shortcoming in the field.

The Future: A full season in low Class A at age 19 should be a good test for Adrianza's skills and durability. Though Emmanuel Burriss impressed the Giants as a rookie last season, Adrianza has a higher ceiling offensively and defensively. Free-agent pickup Edgar Renteria figures to be gone by the time Adrianza is ready.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Giants (R) .255 .349 .382 55 13 14 4 0 1 6 7 4 0
Fresno (AAA)
.500 .625 .667 6 2 3 1 0 0 0 2 1 0
Salem-Keizer (SS)
.400 .400
.400 5 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
 
7.  Conor Gillaspie, 3b   Born: July 18, 1987. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200.
 Drafted: Wichita State, 2008 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Hugh Walker.
Conor GillaspieBackground: The Cape Cod League MVP and batting champ (.345) in 2007, Gillaspie became the first player from the 2008 draft to reach the majors. He negotiated the callup in return for agreeing to MLB's slot recommendation of $970,000 as the 37th overall pick. He singled off Dan Haren for his first major league hit.

Strengths: Gillaspie has a rare blend of supreme hitting skills and patience at the plate. He wasn't overwhelmed in a handful of big league at-bats, showing good pitch recognition and a confident approach. He has a strong frame, solid speed and an average arm. He gets the most out of his ability and plays the game with a no-nonsense attitude.

Weaknesses: The Giants aren't convinced Gillaspie will stay at third base, but they will give him every opportunity because they're thin at the position. He tends to hurry in the field and doesn't look smooth. He's more of a doubles hitter than a home run threat, so his power might be a tad light for the hot corner. His intensity can come across as arrogance at times, such as when he annoyed some veterans in September when he said, "I think I can play as good as any of these guys up here."

The Future: Though he's on the 40-man roster and will be in big league camp, Gillaspie isn't a candidate to be the Opening Day third baseman. He could earn his way back in September after opening the season in high Class A or Double-A.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Giants (R)
.286
.375
.429
21
2
6
3
0
0
7
3
1
0
Salem-Keizer (SS)
.268
.350
.324
71
4
19
4
0
0
8
9
13
2
San Francisco
.200
.429
.200
5
1
1
0
0
0
2
0
0
0
 
8.  Rafael Rodriguez, of   Born: July 13, 1992. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 198.
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008. Signed by: Felix Peguero/Pablo Peguero.
Rafael RodriguezBackground: The Giants sent their entire fleet of top talent evaluators to look at Rodriguez before signing him last July for $2.55 million, a franchise record for an international player. Special assistant Felipe Alou likened Rodriguez's combination of size, strength and speed to a young Vladimir Guerrero. He signed on his 16th birthday, reportedly turning down a higher offer from the Cardinals.

Strengths: Rodriguez has all the tools to be a superstar. Farm director Fred Stanley said Rodriguez reminds him of a young Dave Winfield with a bigger wingspan. Rodriguez profiles perfectly as a right fielder with big-time power potential—"He hits golf balls in B.P.," Alou said—plus speed and a cannon arm. Giants coaches liked his enthusiasm in instructional league and believe he'll take instruction well.

Weaknesses: Rodriguez hasn't faced quality pitching and other international scouts weren't as sold on his hitting ability. He has a huge strike zone that could prove difficult to cover, and breaking balls figure to be an adventure for a while.

The Future: Rodriguez will receive daily instruction at the Giants' Dominican complex before he participates in the Rookie-level summer league there. He's not nearly as advanced as fellow Dominican Angel Villalona was at the same stage, and he isn't expected to play for a U.S. affiliate before 2010.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did Not Play—Signed 2009 Contract
 
9.  Scott Barnes, lhp   Born: Sept. 5, 1987. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: St. John's, 2008 (8th round). Signed by: John DiCarlo.
Scott BarnesBackground:  Even when the Giants spend their top four draft picks on college hitters, they manage to unearth a major league arm. Signed for $100,000 as an eighth-rounder, Barnes had a spectacular introduction to pro ball. He posted a 2.06 ERA and 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings, limited opponents to a .155 average, and pitched the clinching game in the South Atlantic League playoffs.

Strengths: Barnes thrives on location and hiding the ball until late in his delivery, but he's more than just a finesse pitcher. He can reach 92 mph when needed and changes speeds like a major league veteran. His changeup overwhelmed Sally League hitters down the stretch and his curveball is an effective third pitch. He repeats his fluid delivery well, enabling him to fill the strike zone. He fields his position well and has a good pickoff move.

Weaknesses: Barnes isn't overpowering, generally pitching in the upper 80s with his fastball, and it remains to be seen how he'll fare against more advanced hitters. Despite having little margin for error, he'll have to continue establishing the inner half against righthanders.

The Future: Barnes is further along than Noah Lowry at a similar stage and profiles as a possible No. 3 starter. Because the Giants lack starting depth in the upper levels of their system, they could skip him to Double-A to begin the season.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Giants (R)
0
1
3.38
3
0
0
0
5.1
3
0
4
11
.167
Salem-Keizer (SS)
0
0
4.76
2
1
0
0
5.2
6
0
1
11
.250
Augusta (LoA)
3
2
1.38
6
6
0
0
32.2
15
0
7
41
.133
 
10.  Sergio Romo, rhp   Born: March 4, 1983. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 191.
 Drafted: Mesa State (Colo.), 2005 (28th round). Signed by: Joe Strain.
Sergio RomoBackground: Romo began 2008 as an occasional name on the travel squad for spring training games and ended it as the most dependable setup man in San Francisco's bullpen. While he isn't particularly imposing or athletic, there's no downplaying the way he made major league hitters look foolish—including Manny Ramirez, whom he struck out on three pitches.

Strengths: The Giants issued the second-most walks in the National League last year, so Romo's aggressive, strike-throwing approach was a refreshing change. His breaking ball is essentially two different pitches when he changes his arm angle, one of which is a front-door slider that snaps back across the plate against righthanders. He wants the ball and isn't intimidated. He's durable and handled multiple-inning appearances without complaint.

Weaknesses: Romo's fastball is fringe-average and only touches 90 mph, so he can't get away with mistakes up in the strike zone. Aware that the book will be thicker on him next season, he worked on a changeup in the Mexican Pacific League over the winter.

The Future: Romo has had nothing handed to him, yet he has managed to miss bats at every level. He'll hold down a key role in the Giants bullpen in front of closer Brian Wilson.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Connecticut (AA)
1
3
4.00
24
0
0
11
27
22
1
7
30
.229
San Francisco
3
1
2.12
29
0
0
0
34
16
3
8
33
.138
Fresno (AAA)
0
0
0.00
3
0
0
0
6
3
0
2
7
.150

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits: David Schofield (Bumgarner)
Bill Mitchell (Posey, Alderson, Adrianza, Rodriguez)
Steve Moore (Villalona, Noonan)
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes/Lea Photography (Gillaspie)