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.
Hi everyone, thanks for joining the
annual Giants top-10 prospects chat. Apologies for getting started a
little later than originally scheduled. I see lots of good questions
from the usual suspects but I'll try to bounce around the board during
the next hour or so. In other words, there's still time to submit a
question and I'll do my best to answer everything I can. First question
coming up in a moment...
@Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks for the chat. I see
you rated Shilo McCall as the biggest sleeper in the system. How fast
could he rise this year, and what does he project as?
McCall was the outlier of the 2012 draft
— the only high schooler among their top 26 picks. He was committed to
Arkansas but scouts had a good feel for his signability and liked his
blend of tools. I don't think he'll move quickly given his age, but he's
got a lot of upside. Plus he's from New Mexico, home state of Cody
Ross, and that never hurts!
Ben (Leland Grove): Is Blackburn's arsenal of
pitches considered to be inconsistent with the numbers he put up last
season? In other words, is he not as good as his stats?
We had a lot of discussion on where to
list Blackburn. As you know, a player's ceiling has a lot to do with
their prospect ranking and Blackburn doesn't throw 95 mph. You have to
give him a lot of credit for that K/BB ratio and the fact he shows
plus-plus command of several pitches at such a young age. We'll have to
see how the stuff plays at higher levels, though. If you can throw
strikes and change speeds, you'll be wildly successful at Low-A and
below. We've seen so many college pitchers do that, only to stall at
higher levels. (I'm thinking of Adam Cowart, Kevin Pucetas, etc.)
Blackburn is much more traditional than those guys. He doesn't have much
more projection in terms of getting stronger, since he's already a big
boy, but I do think he could add a bit more velocity as he matures. None
of this is a knock against him. He'll be a big league pitcher, and
maybe a solid mid-rotation starter. But his ceiling isn't as a staff
Grant (NYC): Could Rafael Rodriguez rebound into the top 30, in your opinion? What's holding him back?
Rodriguez hasn't hit for any power
whatsoever and at this stage it's hard to list him anywhere near the top
30. It just hasn't happened for him, unfortunately.
Dave (San Fran): How many of the top 10 do you believe are worthy of making BA's top 100?
I'm not involved in those rankings, but
I'd be surprised if anyone besides Crick makes the top 100. The Giants
system has a lot of intriguing arms, but they don't have the blue
chippers to rank with other organizations. That's because they've
graduated the Bumgarners and Poseys of the world and they've been busy
winning World Series championships and such — which is not a bad thing
for Giants fans!
Eric (LA CA): Jarrett Parker - prospect or suspect?
More suspect for me. The strikeout totals are pretty alarming.
Kelly (St. Cloud, MN): How confident are you that Brown will revert back to his 2011 ways this year?
I do think Gary Brown has a great chance
of a bounce-back year assuming he goes to Fresno. It'll be easier to
put up numbers in the PCL, which should give him a jolt of confidence.
(He is a confident kid anyway.) One thing I like about Brown is he is
very upbeat and plays with a lot of energy and effort every day. In
fact, even in a "down" year at AA, he came back to have a much better
second half. As for his fall from No.1 to 4 in the rankings, that's
mostly a function of scouts telling us that Brown will need to make some
adjustments with his swing to compete against big league pitching. So
maybe there's less certainty he will reach his potential than there was
at this time a year ago. It's always easier to make adjustments when
you're going well as opposed to trying to bust out of a slump, so
perhaps the PCL will be a better training ground for Brown next year.
The Giants can always slide Angel Pagan over to left field if Brown
forces his way to the majors.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Would you consider San Jose to have potentially the best rotation in the minor leagues going into 2013?
It's going to be great, isn't it?
Blackburn, Escobar, Mejia, probably Stratton, and I still wouldn't count
out Chris Marlowe getting another trial as a starter. That's some kind
Morrie (NJ): Where is Mac Williamson likely to start off this year, and how fast could he rise if the power is there?
Early in the research stage, I had
Williamson as high as No.9 in our rankings. You have to be careful about
small sample sizes in debut seasons, but Williamson easily was the most
impressive 2012 draftee at Salem-Keizer and he had a great
instructional league, too. He's pretty similar to Roger Kieschnick in
terms of a package of tools coming out of the draft. Kieschnick is only
beginning to rebound now from so many injuries. I guess the point is you
never know how fast someone can rise because health is such a huge
variable. I do think Williamson could start at San Jose if he has a good
spring, and best-case scenario, reach the majors at the tail end of
Frank (Chicago): What's the latest in the Angel Villalona saga? Could he become the guy the Giants first signed, or has that ship sailed?
Nothing leads me to believe he'll ever
be let back into the U.S. The Giants explain it as a bureaucratic issue,
but it sure doesn't seem like they're bothered by it.
Dave (Atlanta): I thought that Stephen Johnson
was a nice pick as a 6th rounder. BA's predraft report said he hit 101
mph as an amateur. Any word on what he topped out at as a pro? Where
will he start in 2013?
The Giants had him at 98, and with some
deception in his delivery, too. He sort of stabs the baseball behind his
back as he loads, a la Rick Sutcliffe. He doesn't repeat his delivery
so well and he has to get in better condition. So I think he'll be a
better candidate for Augusta. But if he comes to camp in good shape and
is around the strike zone, they might give him a more aggressive
assignment. I've been told the Giants would like to keep open the option
of using Johnson as a starter. His curveball is right there with Chris
Marlowe's as the best in the system. He just needs to learn an offspeed
pitch and then polish everything up. A lot of potential here.
Roger (Washington DC): Larry Baer has said
several times this winter that the Giants will be a club that develops
from within going forward. But right now, at lease the position player
depth charts in the system are extremely thin. Do you think we'll see
the club deviate from their drafting philosophy of the last few years
which leaned excessively on college players (and tons of live armed
relief pitchers) in order to bulk up the position depth?
Well John Barr always says he drafts the
best available player. But you cannot deny 25 of 26 college players
among the first picks. I think the Giants knew they were thinner and
they needed players who could develop on a shorter timeline to make up
for gaps in the system. They also had to budget with the new draft
slotting system and couldn't shoot the moon with any high schoolers that
would cause them to basically go cheap with other picks. Maybe that
won't always be the strategy, but this much is clear to me: The Giants
need to graduate some pitchers to the big leagues int he near future.
Lincecum will be a free agent after this season, and almost certainly
Zito too, and Vogelsong can return for one year beyond that if his
option for 2014 is picked up. The common thread in the two World Series
titles is pitching and Posey, and they'll need to keep those pitchers
coming to surround Cain and Bumgarner.
Roger (Washington DC): Do you see Gustavo
Cabrera playing at all this summer? Will they send him to the DSL or
will they want to keep an eye on him in Scottsdale and just work on his
swing in non-game environments?
Probably DSL followed by the Arizona rookie league.
Greg (Ohio): Can you give some insight into how
Dick Tidrow and pitching coordinator Bert Bradley continue to
manufacture top quality pitchers?
Don't forget Dave Righetti and Mark
Gardner. The big leagues is the last level of development after all, and
the most important one, too. And credit John Barr and his team for
drafting intriguing arms as well. I think Tidrow is great at direction
— getting guys to find a direct line to the plate and helping to work
with their body types to maximize velocity and repeatability. Then
Righetti and Gardner are so good at knowing what kind of fine-tuning
they need to do to make pitches in certain counts, to miss bats, to set
up pitches, etc. That power two-seamer is a pitch that Lincecum, Brian
Wilson and so many others have used to get out of big jams.
Roger (Washington DC): Last year the club
experimented with making Chris Marlowe a starter. Do you think he gets
another chance at starting this year? And what other of the live armed
relievers they've drafted recently might be candidates for starting:
Johnson, Osich, Okert?
Well the best laid plans, right? It's
going to depend on health and their ability to throw strikes. You just
can't let a guy throw 40-pitch innings again and again, no matter how
much you want them to start. In the case of a Mejia, they used him in
relief until he got used to handling adrenaline, pitching in front of
crowds for the first time, etc. Then when he started to settle down,
they moved him to the rotation and he had a great season. I think you'll
see them do that with Marlowe, Johnson and Okert. As for Osich, he's
seen as a reliever first and foremost, to control his innings. He is the
biggest health risk of the bunch.
Roger (Washington DC): What does the Augusta OF
look like to you this year. Between McCall, Hollick, Kentrell Hill,
Chuckie Jones, and Rafael Rodriguez there's a lot of interesting
I agree, and this assumes Williamson
goes to San Jose. I really like Hollick and will be interested to see
how he does in a full season.
Roger (Washington DC): How would you compare Mejia and Escobar? What factors give Mejia the advantage for you?
Mejia has more physical projection left. Escobar has pretty much filled out.
Jerry (San Diego): How close was Adam Duvall to
making the top ten list? Is he somewhat in the mold of an
'all-or-nothing' prospect in terms of HRs and Ks?
I had Duvall as No.10 and lobbied to
keep him there, but these rankings aren't unilateral. (And I agreed with
the prevailing opinion that his defensive deficiencies make it harder
to envision a clear path to becoming a big league regular.) Although he
is capable of playing a good third base, the Giants prize pitching and
defense in their ballpark and so I think his best path is as a first
baseman. Obviously, he'll have to hit the cover off the ball to replace
Brandon Belt. But no, he isn't all or nothing. He has a chance to be a
useful big league bench player, at minimum.
Andrew (Fremont, Ca): Enjoyed your book "A Band of Misfits". Will you be writing a sequel?
Thanks! I thought about doing another
book (working title was "Banded Together") but I knew from experience
just what kind of commitment that would require, and I had a lot of
other stuff on my plate this winter. Plus part of the motivation for
"ABOM" in 2010 was that writing a book was a bucket list item for me,
which I obviously got to check off. I suspect I'll try to write more
books in the future, but the timing has to be right. Thank you for
Rick M. (Walnut Creek, CA): Who is a better prospect at the similar age Wheeler or Crick?
Wheeler. Sorry, is that not the answer you wanted? :-)
Jason L (Pleasant Hill, CA): Where does Gustavo Cabrera rank as a prospect in the Giants system?
We have Cabrera at No.12, which is
pretty aggressive for a player who hasn't made his US debut yet. That
speaks to the level of inventory in the Giants system though, too.
Shaun (San Ramon, CA): What to make of Chris
Dominguez? He hits a lot of Home Runs so I am wondering what is holding
him back? Is his defense at 3B not up to Major League standard?
They have tried him in the outfield as
well, so that should tell you something. When he hits one on the button,
they seem to defy gravity. He just needs to do that more often. The
pitch recognition skills aren't there yet.
Evan (Salem): What kind of prospect is Brett Bochy? Any chance he reaches the MLB in 2013?
Yes, there's a chance. He's not on the
40-man roster yet, though. It's hard for a reliever to get that first
call-up when others are in front of him on the 40-man. The good news is
that Bochy the Younger has improved after ending last season with some
shoulder fatigue and inflammation. He should be ready to go this spring
and I suspect he'll get in more than just one Cactus League game.
Dave (San Jose): Hey Baggs,
Great to have you on BA again, when is the next book? :-) How self-aware
are the Giants of their seemingly systemic issues with developing
high-ceiling position players, and are you aware of any specific efforts
in the org to address this?
Do you mean systemically good or
systemically bad? Posey, Bumgarner, Cain, Lincecum, Wilson, etc. all
have multiple World Series rings. I suppose they could finish 62-100 so
they could draft at the top of the heap, but that isn't happening. I
look at it this way: When they had four consecutive losing seasons from
2005-08 and a chance to draft in the top 10, they didn't miss. But it's
harder to find the high-ceiling guys when you're drafting further back
in the first round.
Jack (Evanston): What is the future for Nick Noonan? Utility player or does he have the abity to be a regular?
More a utility player, but potentially a
good one. I think Noonan has a shot to win a spot in the opening day
lineup. He's ridden the developmental rollercoaster but had a really
encouraging season at Fresno and is back in the top 30 as a result. I
know other teams asked the Giants for him in trade discussions last
summer, too. Industry folks know that Noonan has some value.
Nus (San Joe): Enjoy your writing and TV spots.
With a possible two starting pitching spots open for the 2014 season
what SF prospects would be most ready to compete for a spot in the major
Thanks! Chris Heston leaps to mind
because he knows how to pitch and throw strikes. There's nothing Bochy
and Sabean appreciate more than a pitcher who has poise and throws
strike one. Mike Kickham is another candidate and will be in the Fresno
rotation. And don't forget about Eric Surkamp, who was knocking on the
door before TJ surgery.
Charles (Georgia): BA has ranked the Giants
farm system very low. However, the Giants seem to have a good catch of
pitching prospects, both starters and relievers. There everyday
propects are not very good, but they are pretty good in the positions
that they will shortly need help, 2B and OF. How do you view the
quality of the Giants sytem?
I haven't taken inventory of the other
29 systems, but I'd have a hard time believing the Giants have the third
worst grouping of minor league talent. The rankings are a better
reflection of who has the most and least top-end talent, and yes, the
Giants have graduated all of those guys. But I'd have to believe the
Giants' No.20-30 prospects are better than many other organizations at
Roger (Washington DC): Thanks for the chat,
Andy! How long does Panik stay at SS? Would it make sense to have an
Adrianza/Panik middle infield at Richmond this summer?
Gosh I don't know what the Giants will
do with Adrianza. I'll have to check the list of players and option
years remaining. I know Conor Gillaspie is out of options. Not sure if
Francisco Peguero is as well. And it seems Adrianza has been on the
But you asked about Panik, so ... Like many, I assumed Panik was just
playing shortstop temporarily. He definitely has more value if he can
play both middle infield spots, so I assumed maybe the Giants were
keeping him there to groom him for a utility role or to boost his trade
value. But they definitely see him as an everyday player and he does
enough things well to rank ahead of Gary Brown on the list. He is just a
flat-out smart, coachable, winning player. Whether it's pitches per
plate appearance or scoring a runner from third with less than two outs,
he grades out with no red marks. His ceiling isn't as high and his
tools aren't as impressive as Brown's, but he is the safest bet of
anyone in the Giants system to be an everyday position player. That's
why he's ranked accordingly.
Greg (Fullerton, CA): Are the Giants happy
enough with Crawford's bat/D combo to keep him at short long term or can
Panik play his way into the big league SS spot? Is it more likely that
Panik will just be moved so both can play?
Crawford had a better second half with
the bat and some big hits in the postseason, which only solidifies him
as the everyday guy. Plus the Giants love his steady attitude and makeup
while prizing his defense. Prediciton: He'll win his first Gold Glove
this year. As for Panik, the Giants didn't want to give a third year to
Marco Scutaro, but that was the price of doing business. Panik will have
to force his way to the big leagues. A big variable is how well Scutaro
ages as he pushes his way closer to 40.
Mick (Chicago): I think the consensus amongst
baseball gurus is that Brandon Crawford will never hit. They also say
he's a fabulous fielder. Joe Panik was selected as best defensive SS in A
ball. He looks to be a high average, good contact offensive player.
Wouldn't you think that Panik is SF's long term SS?
Crawford is a more complete defender. And at SS, a little difference goes a long way.
Greg (Anaheim): What are your thoughts on young
outfielders Jesus Gallindo, Chuckie Jones and Shawn Payne? All three
have tools, but do the Giants have any expectation that may be able to
contribute on a major league team.
Jones needs to mature and learn how to
handle failure. He's as toolsy as anyone in the system, though. Out of
Galindo and Payne, I see Galindo with the higher ceiling but Payne as a
better bet to handle upper levels. Payne has true leadoff skills and
he's a highly effective base stealer — not just a fast guy. Payne is
limited to left field because of his arm, though.
Greg (Anaheim): Other than Stratton, who has
the highest ceiling of the 2012 draft picks? Also, who do you think has
the potential to make it to the big leagues?
I'd go with Okert or Stephen Johnson. They have the biggest arms.
Robert (Secaucus, NJ): I know that Chris Heston doesn't have great stuff, but did he get any consideration for the top 30?
Yes he's in there. I think he ended up around No.17.
Dan McKay (Albuquerque, N.M.): Any thoughts on
the Giants' approach to the international scene in future years? Is the
G. Cabrera signing a signal that they might start shelling out
Well it's all going to be impacted by the spending caps. So they'll have to take their shots selectively, like every club.
Adam (Athens, GA): With the history of developing pitchers. Do the giants have another #1 in Crick? Where is his ceiling/floor?
Yes, I see Crick as a solid No.2 at this
point with the chance to profile higher if he can cut down his walks
and learn to change speeds. He has all the physical tools and the
durability to be a front-of-the-rotation presence.
Ian (Portland, OR): As little as a year ago it
looked like catcher was one of the deeper positions in the system
(Posey, Sanchez, Joseph, Susac ...). Now Joseph is gone and Susac has
been knocked down. Is there anybody else out there?
Susac had an eye-opening year. I think
he got humbled a little bit, but he still has all the talent to rebound
and reestablish himself. He was still a top-20 guy for me. And wow,
Tommy Joseph caught a break with the Pence trade. He's a power-hitting
prospect who traded a future at AT&T Park for a big league
destination of Citizens Bank Park. That should work out well for him.
Shankbone (LA, CA): With the Giants having at
least a dozen high octane bullpen arms, can I have a pick of 3 that will
come to the forefront the quickest, non-Hembree division? Leading
question: where do you see Cody Hall this year?
I see Jacob Dunnington as someone who
could arrive quickly. He flat-out misses bats and gives you a different
look out of the 'pen. That's something Bochy has always prized, going
back to San Diego when he had guys like Otsuka or Cla Meredith. You
can't have a bullpen where everyone throws from the same angle and looks
like copies of one another. You asked for three, so I'll throw out
Mason Tobin, a NRI coming off TJ surgery, and Osich. If he's healthy,
he'll move quick.
Shankbone (LA, CA): Any ownership hijinx on the
horizon? Or has Larry Baer done a better job of holding hands with the
minority partners than Larry Baer? It appears the Giants are committed
to drafting and development while competing this time around, unlike
the 02-05 years, with Gustavo Cabrera signed for big money and filling
in the draft. Any rumblings on that front?
Last question, and before I get to it,
I'll mention Mitch Delfino. He was last year's 20th round pick out of
Cal, and was taken as a pitcher/third baseman. He was MVP of
instructional league and plays the game with a lot of grit and hustle.
Always good to keep an eye on guys like that.
OK ... Larry Baer holding hands with Larry Baer. With that image seared
into our brains, I'll say this: The Giants are pretty stable as an
ownership group right now. Charles Johnson owns the biggest stake and
Baer is very close with the Burns sisters, including Trina's husband,
Rob Dean. They have seen their franchise value soar in the past year,
with the sales of the Dodgers and Padres. And oh yeah, two World Series
in three seasons. What will be interesting is how much the Giants resist
the temptation to become the Red Sox now that the Dodgers are becoming
the Yankees of the West. They haven't taken aim at some of the huge
free agents in part because they'll have three pitchers — Cain, Zito
and Lincecum — making more than $60 million this year. When those
commitments drop away, it'll be fascinating to see how they proceed and
what kinds of choices they make in free agency. To answer your question,
I don't think you'll see a repeat of the Peter Magowan years when the
farm budget was utterly plundered so Barry Bonds could have a Michael
Tucker augmenting the roster. You compete year in and year out by
utilizing all your resources, and that means making smart decisions and
evaluations both in the draft and with free agents. One thing's for
sure: Stability helps. And there is no more stable front office in
baseball right now.
Thanks everyone for stopping by — see you in Scottsdale!