2013 San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects Chat With Andy Baggarly

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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 ace.

    Grant (NYC): Could Rafael Rodriguez rebound into the top 30, in your opinion? What's holding him back?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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 of group.

    Morrie (NJ): Where is Mac Williamson likely to start off this year, and how fast could he rise if the power is there?

Andy Baggarly: 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 next season.

    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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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 choices.

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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 asking!

    Rick M. (Walnut Creek, CA): Who is a better prospect at the similar age Wheeler or Crick?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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? Thanks!

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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 league rotation?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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 that tier.

    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?

Andy Baggarly: 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 40-man forever. 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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.

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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 seven-figure bonuses?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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?

Andy Baggarly: 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!