2006 San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects

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, 2006.

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1. Matt Cain, rhp
2. Marcus Sanders, ss/2b
3. Eddy Martinez-Esteve, of
4. Travis Ishikawa, 1b
5. Merkin Valdez, rhp
6. Jonathan Sanchez, lhp
7. Nate Schierholtz, of
8. Fred Lewis, of
9. Kevin Frandsen, ss/2b
10. Craig Whitaker, rhp
Best Hitter for Average Eddy Martinez-Esteve
Best Power Hitter Nate Schierholtz
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Eddy Martinez-Esteve
Fastest Baserunner Marcus Sanders
Best Athlete Fred Lewis
Best Fastball Matt Cain
Best Curveball Matt Cain
Best Slider Brian Wilson
Best Changeup Pat Misch
Best Control Garrett Broshuis
Best Defensive Catcher Justin Knoedler
Best Defensive Infielder Kevin Frandsen
Best Infield Arm David Maroul
Best Defensive Outfielder Clay Timpner
Best Outfield Arm Mike Mooney
Team Player, Pos. 2005 Org
1996 Shawn Estes, lhp Diamondbacks
1997 Joe Fontenot, rhp Out of baseball
1998 Jason Grilli, rhp Tigers
1999 Jason Grilli, rhp Tigers
2000 Kurt Ainsworth, rhp Orioles
2001 Jerome Williams, rhp Cubs
2002 Jerome Williams, rhp Cubs
2003 Jesse Foppert, rhp Mariners
2004 Merkin Valdez, rhp Giants
2005 Matt Cain, rhp Giants
Team Player, Pos. 2005 Org
1996 Matt White, rhp Out of baseball
1997 Jason Grillil, rhp Tigers
1998 Tony Torcato, 3b Giants
1999 Kurt Ainsworth, rhp Orioles
2000 Boof Bonser, rhp Twins
2001 Brad Hennessey, rhp Giants
2002 Matt Cain, rhp Giants
2003 David Aarsma, rhp Giants
2004 Eddy Martinez-Estevee, of (2nd round) Giants
2005 Ben Copeland, of (4th round) Giants

* Did not sign.

Jason Grillil, 1997 $1,875,000
David Aardsma, 2003 $1,425,000
Brad Hennessey, 2001 $1,380,000
Matt Cain, 2002 $1,375,000
Osvaldo Fernandez, 1996 $1,300,000
Kurt Ainsworth, 2000 $1,300,000

Once again in September, Barry Bonds led the Giants into a series with a playoff spot on the line. Sure, San Francisco was below .500. But Bonds' late return from three knee surgeries, plus the ineptitude of the rest of the National League West, gave the Giants a chance at the playoffs when they played the Padres in the season's final week. A victory in the opener pulled them within three games of first place, but San Francisco lost its next five games and finished with a losing record for the first time since 1996—the year before Brian Sabean took over as general manager.

The Giants got a glimpse of the post-Bonds era, and it wasn't a pretty sight. Several rookies who had waited for their big league chance got it, with mixed results. Outfielders Jason Ellison, who had a hot start before fading, and Todd Linden didn't play like long-term answers. First baseman Lance Niekro slumped in the second half but did hit for power. Relievers Jeremy Accardo, Scott Munter and Jack Taschner were all part of manager Felipe Alou's aggressively used bullpen.

The most lasting impression, however, was made by No. 1 prospect Matt Cain, who lived up to that billing with explosive stuff and posted the big league team's second-best ERA in 46 innings. He's the best example of the Giants' organizational philosophy under Sabean and vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow, who have stressed developing pitchers both to stock the big league club and to use as a commodity in trades. While the stable front office lost a key member when assistant GM Ned Colletti left to run the rival Dodgers, that philosophy won't change.

San Francisco has traded some very live arms of late, including former No. 1 prospects Jesse Foppert (for Randy Winn) and Jerome Williams (for LaTroy Hawkins). The organization still is paying for the 2003 deal that sent Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan to the Twins for catcher A.J. Pierzynski. The Giants released Pierzynski after one difficult season, only to see him become a playoff hero while helping lead the White Sox to the World Series championship. Meanwhile, Nathan has been one of baseball's best closers the last two years and Liriano has blossomed into one of the game's top pitching prospects.

The win-now approach, designed to complement Bonds, also has prompted free-agent signings and the accompanying loss of draft picks. San Francisco didn't pick until the fourth round in 2005—132 picks in—and also gave up first-round picks in 2003 and 2004. By finishing with the 10th-worst record in baseball in 2005, the Giants are guaranteed of holding onto their first-round pick in 2006.

In recent years, the Giants have tried to incorporate more hitters into their drafts, focusing on outfielders with power bats who conceivably could replace Bonds. With better hitting depth, San Francisco affiliates posted the second-best winning percentage (.555) in the minors, including championships in the high Class A California and Rookie-level Arizona leagues.

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