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

Following four consecutive losing seasons, the Giants witnessed a return to respectability in 2009 and surprised many by contending into September. Their 88-74 record was a 16-game improvement over the previous year and it came just in time for general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy, who got two-year contracts (plus a club option for 2012) one week after the season ended.

San Francisco did miss the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year, however. And there's no guarantee they'll continue their upward trajectory in 2010, especially if they're unable to fortify a lineup that ranked last in the National League in on-base percentage and 15th in slugging. The impatient approach of Giants hitters—they averaged the fewest pitches per plate appearance in the majors—was a product of the personnel, but hitting coach Carney Lansford took the fall after the season.

Aside from Pablo Sandoval, the runner-up for the NL batting title, all of the Giants' highlights came on the mound. Randy Johnson won his 300th game, Jonathan Sanchez tossed the club's first no-hitter in 33 years and Tim Lincecum led the major leagues with 261 strikeouts en route to his second straight Cy Young Award. Matt Cain established himself as a first-time all-star while nearly matching Lincecum start for start, and for the first time, Barry Zito performed like he wasn't fretting over being called a $126 million failure.

Sabean's work to rebuild the bullpen proved fruitful, too. Jeremy Affeldt finished with a 1.73 ERA in 74 highly leveraged appearances and closer Brian Wilson improved in almost every statistical category from his all-star performance in 2008. The farm system gave Bochy no shortage of bullpen choices, including three electric arms in September in Madison Bumgarner, Dan Runzler and Waldis Joaquin.

The Giants defied their own pronouncements when they called up Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey for the stretch run. Posey got only 17 at-bats in September as San Francisco faded from the playoff chase, and perhaps the club's most important offseason decision will be to determine if he's ready to start on Opening Day.

Bochy and Sabean have reputations for favoring veterans and giving short leashes to unestablished players, so their extensions were unpopular with some Giants fans. Their critics will monitor the Posey situation carefully.

Managing partner Bill Neukom lauded the farm system's 411-286 (.590) record, by far the best among major league organizations. Four of San Francisco's six U.S.-based affiliates reached the playoffs, with high Class A San Jose and short-season Salem-Keizer winning league titles.

Neukom said the Giants would continue to invest heavily in player development and emphasize homegrown talent. They committed $3.3 million to high school righthander Zack Wheeler, whom they tabbed with the sixth overall pick in the  draft. Scouting director John Barr also drafted a couple of power hitters in high school catcher Tommy Joseph and Louisville third baseman Chris Dominguez. Two prolific sluggers at San Jose, outfielders Thomas Neal and Roger Kieschnick, offered further hope at striking a balance in a traditionally pitching-heavy system.

For years, club officials felt pressure to take advantage of Barry Bonds' presence to take annual shots at the World Series. Now a different window is opening, which should bring its own sense of urgency in 2010. Lincecum will no longer work cheap after gaining arbitration status, and Cain is one year closer to free agency.

1.  Buster Posey, c   Born: March 27, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 205
 Drafted: Florida State, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Sean O'Connor
Buster PoseyBackground: Posey won Baseball America's College Player of the Year and the Golden Spikes awards in his final season at Florida State in 2008, and he's certainly the golden boy in a system that hasn't developed an all-star position player in two decades. Not since Will Clark and Matt Williams has a hitting prospect been so eagerly anticipated in San Francisco. Since receiving the largest up-front bonus in major league history ($6.2 million, since surpassed by Stephen Strasburg) as the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, Posey has worn seven uniforms in parts of two pro seasons—including a major league jersey when the club promoted him Sept. 2. He watched more than he played, though, after Bengie Molina's strained quad healed. Fans voiced their disapproval as manager Bruce Bochy sat Posey down the stretch, and they figure to be even more upset if he isn't the Giants' catcher on Opening Day.

Strengths: Posey draws legitimate comparisons to Joe Mauer. He's a pure hitter with terrific strike-zone awareness, and his clean, unfettered swing allows him to drive pitches from pole to pole. For a team full of impatient hitters, his sound, disciplined approach will be a most welcome tonic. No hyperbole: He's a better two-strike hitter than anyone on the major league roster. Power isn't his best tool, but he had 18 homers and 50 extra-base hits in the minors last season. His approach allows him to get into counts where he can get pitches to drive. While not built like a brick house, Posey has tremendous baseball athleticism. He once played all nine positions in a game for the Seminoles, and flashed a 94 mph fastball as an occasional reliever. Not surprisingly, his arm strength and accuracy grade well-above-average. He threw out 46 percent of basestealers in the minors in 2009. He's an average runner—well-above-average for a catcher—who maximizes his opportunities on the bases. He has made tremendous progress in his three years behind the plate, showing that he can handle a pitching staff, create a game plan and execute it. Posey's mental acuity is off the charts and he's a leader on the field. He carries himself like a veteran and seems immune to the immense expectations that follow him.

Weaknesses: For all the strides Posey has made as a catcher, the mechanics of the position haven't become second nature yet. Passed balls have been an issue at times, and he has committed 15 in 120 pro games. The Giants want him to get stronger in order to handle the grind of a full season.

The Future: Ideally, the Giants would like Posey to log another 150 games at Triple-A Fresno before handing him a pair of major league shinguards for keeps. But Molina is a free agent and San Francisco has a need behind the plate, so Posey's spring training began in October. Though he was coming off a full season, he headed to the Arizona Fall League to get more game experience while also allowing the Giants to evaluate his readiness. Eventually, Posey should be a perennial all-star and another high-average hitter to pair with Pablo Sandoval in the middle of their lineup.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
San Jose (Hi A) .326 .428 .540 291 63 95 23 0 13 58 45 45 6
Fresno (AAA) .321 .391 .511 131 21 42 8 1 5 22 17 23 0
San Francisco .118 .118 .118 17 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
2.  Madison Bumgarner, lhp   Born: Aug, 1, 1989B-T: R-LHt: 6-4Wt: 215
 Drafted: HS—Hudson, N.C., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Pat Portugal
Madison BumgarnerBackground: Bumgarner was the top pitching prospect in the Double-A Eastern League and ranked third in the minors with a 1.85 ERA last season after leading the minors with a 1.46 mark in 2008. Neverthless, his heady stock might have fallen slightly as his velocity waned. The 10th overall pick in 2007, he signed for $2 million.

Strengths: At his best, Bumgarner has shown a mid-90s fastball, a slider with good tilt and an average changeup. His heater has late giddy-up and he has advanced command of it. His easy, three-quarters delivery adds deception. He works the ladder, loves to throw upstairs and gets the ball inside against lefties and righties alike. He's an ornery competitor in the mold of Kevin Brown, and when the Giants needed him to make his major league debut on an hour's notice in place of an injured Tim Lincecum, he showed zero fear. He's a good athlete who helps himself with the bat.

Weaknesses: Bumgarner pitched at 88-90 mph for most of the second half of last season. A perfectionist, he may have lost velocity because he threw too much on the side. His slider still isn't a finished product and his changeup isn't entirely trustworthy. He defaults to his fastball when he gets in jams, which won't work as well at higher levels. He must learn to control his emotions and trust his catcher.

The Future: Bumgarner has No. 1 starter potential and his stuff would play against big leaguers now. He's just 20, though, so they'd prefer to let him work on his secondary pitches in Triple-A to start 2010.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
San Jose (Hi A) 3 1 1.48 5 5 0 0 24 20 0 4 23 .217
Connecticut (AA) 9 1 1.93 20 19 1 0 107 80 6 30 69 .209
San Francisco 0 0 1.80 4 1 0 0 10 8 2 3 10 .229
3. Zack Wheeler, rhp   Born: May 30, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Dallas, Ga., 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Sean O'Connor
Tim WheelerBackground: Wheeler looked better every time the Giants scouted him, so they selected him sixth overall in June—the highest they've taken a pitcher since Jason Grilli at No. 4 in 1997—and signed him at the Aug. 17 deadline for $3.3 million, a franchise-record bonus for a pitcher. Wheeler's older brother Adam was a 13th-round pick in 2001 and pitched four seasons in the Yankees system.

Strengths: Wheeler has broad shoulders, long arms, huge hands and loose arm action. He throws an easy fastball with explosive late life, sitting in the low 90s and topping out at 95 mph. He'll show three plus pitches at times. His hard three-quarters breaking ball has sharp finish, and his changeup is advanced for his age. He sells it well and it has nice fade.

Weaknesses: Wheeler is still growing into his body and is getting stronger, but he'll need to work on his flexibility as well. Though he's usually around the plate with his fastball, his command isn't pinpoint. He still needs a more consistent feel for his changeup.

The Future: Wheeler projects as a frontline starter in the big leagues. He's expected to begin his pro career close to home at low Class A Augusta. San Francisco doesn't need to rush him, but it's worth noting that Wheeler is more advanced than Madison Bumgarner was coming out of high school.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
4.  Thomas Neal, of   Born: Aug. 17, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 205
 Drafted: Riverside (Calif.) CC, D/F 2005 (36th round)Signed by: Lee Carballo
Thomas NealBackground: Neal was a draft-and-follow who signed for $220,000 after boosting his stock with a huge season at Riverside (Calif.) CC in 2006. His development stalled when he dislocated his throwing shoulder, and reconstructive surgery forced him to miss nearly all of 2007. He split time between DH and first base in 2008 and successfully returned to the outfield last season, when he led the high Class A California League with a .431 on-base percentage.

Strengths: Neal became a more complete hitter in 2009. He seldom strays from his plan at the plate and takes aggressive swings on mistakes. He has the bat speed to turn on quality fastballs and shows extra-base power from pole to pole. His arm strength has returned and he racked up 15 assists from left field last season.

Weaknesses: Neal is a below-average runner and his outfield range isn't the greatest. While he has good plate coverage, he's still learning to spoil two-strike pitches as opposed to putting them in play. As he moves up, more advanced pitchers will look to disrupt his timing with better breaking balls.

The Future: A strong showing in the Arizona Fall League reinforced the notion that Neal could hit in the middle of the Giants' lineup someday. Time remains on his side even though he's missed a lot of baseball, as he's still just 22. Because his arm is playable in right field, he and Roger Kieschnick could switch outfield corners at the Giants' new Double-A Richmond outpost in 2010.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
San Jose (Hi A) .337 .431 .579 475 102 160 41 4 22 90 65 98 3
5.  Dan Runzler, lhp   Born: March 30, 1985B-T: L-LHt: 6-4Wt: 230
 Drafted: UC Riverside, 2007 (9th round)Signed by: Ray Krawczyk
Dan RunzlerBackground: Runzler is believed to be the first player ever to appear at each of the Giants' four full-season affiliates and graduate to the big league club in the same season. He clicked with his pitching coach at Augusta, former major leaguer Steve Kline, and took off from there. Between his five stops, he had a 0.80 ERA and struck out 83 in 59 innings.

Strengths: Runzler throws an explosive mid-90s fastball on a downhill plane and seldom misses up in the zone. He complements his heater with a late-breaking hammer curveball that he hadn't thrown consistently for strikes in the past. His stuff shuts down lefties and righties. He's aggressive and works quickly.

Weaknesses: Runzler isn't a tremendous athlete and doesn't field his position well. He isn't particularly quick to the plate and must work at holding runners. He could be lethal with a changeup, but he seldom uses one.

The Future: There's little doubt that Runzler would have been on San Francisco's playoff roster had the team advanced that far. He's a lock to make the team in 2010 and because he has closer stuff, the Giants might entertain offers for all-star Brian Wilson.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Augusta (Lo A) 1 1 0.68 19 0 0 11 26 8 0 13 45 .093
San Jose (Hi A) 1 0 0.84 19 0 0 5 21 8 1 4 26 .104
Connecticut (AA) 3 0 0.96 7 0 0 1 9 5 1 7 11 .172
Fresno (AAA) 0 0 0.00 2 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 1 .286
San Francisco 0 0 1.04 11 0 0 0 9 6 1 5 11 .188
6.  Tommy Joseph, c   Born: July 16, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 210
 Drafted: HS—Scottsdale, Ariz., 2009 (2nd round)Signed by: Chuck Hensley
Tommy JosephBackground: Joseph matriculated from the same Horizon High (Scottsdale, Ariz.) program that produced Angels third baseman Brandon Wood and 2007 Giants first-round pick Tim Alderson, who was traded to the Pirates in the Freddy Sanchez deal last July. Originally a first baseman and DH, Joseph moved behind the plate his senior year and was one of the best power-hitting high school prospects in the 2009 draft. Delighted to get him in the second round, San Francisco signed him for $712,500.

Strengths: Joseph matches muscle with a functional major league swing. He loads easily, his hands snap through the hitting zone, he's direct to the ball and he keeps his head down the barrel. It's no wonder he consistently generates backspin. He peppered the upper deck at Tropicana Field with 400-foot shots while competing in a high school home run derby. He has above-average arm strength and accuracy.

Weaknesses: His defensive skills are raw, and Joseph needs to work on his feet and flexibility behind the plate. First base is always an option, especially in an organization with Buster Posey. Joseph's bat would play there just fine. With his tree-trunk thighs, he's a well-below-average runner.

The Future: Nobody inspired more buzz among Giants coaches in instructional league than Joseph, who put on a tape-measure show in Arizona. His adjustment to wood bats shouldn't be significant, and because he stays back so well, he should be able to handle breaking pitches. He's likely to see a full season in low Class A in 2010.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did Not Play—Signed Late
7.  Roger Kieschnick, of   Born: Jan. 21, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 6-3Wt: 215
 Drafted: Texas Tech, 2008 (3rd round)Signed by: Todd Thomas
Roger KieschnickBackground: Kieschnick is a first cousin of former major leaguer Brooks Kieschnick, who became a rare two-way player to extend his big league career. Roger probably won't have to resort to such measures after ranking second in the California League in RBIs (110) and fifth in extra-base hits (68) in his pro debut.

Strengths: A strapping power hitter, Kieschnick drives the ball to all fields. He employs a short stroke and actually hit better against lefthanders (.320 average, .943 OPS) than righties (.283, .842) last season. He has surprising speed and athleticism for a big man. He has plenty of arm to handle right field. He plays a throwback style, running out every ball and sliding hard into second base.

Weaknesses: The Giants knew Kieschnick would rack up his share of strikeouts, and he did. His aggressive approach, open stance and long swing make him susceptible to offspeed stuff on the outer half. Whiffs are an acceptable tradeoff for his power, but he has to be careful not to get himself out against more advanced pitching.

The Future: AT&T Park isn't kind to lefthanded power hitters, so Kieschnick must continue his development as a multidimensional threat. If all goes well at Double-A in 2010, he could push for a major league job at some point the following season.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
San Jose (Hi A) .296 .345 .532 517 86 153 37 8 23 110 36 130 9
8.  Ehidre Adrianza, ss   Born: Aug. 21, 1989B-T: B-RHt: 6-1Wt: 155
 Signed: Venezuela, 2007Signed by: Ciro Villalobos
Ehidre ArianzaBackground: Adrianza quickly developed a following after signing as a 16-year-old in 2006. While on a rehab assignment in 2008, Omar Vizquel watched Adrianza field grounders and proclaimed that his glove would get him to the big leagues. Though he was a career .224 hitter who missed most of 2008 with a broken foot, Adrianza jumped to low Class A last season and held his own as one of the youngest regulars in the South Atlantic League.

Strengths: Adrianza gobbles up slow rollers and makes accurate throws from every angle, and his premium range is especially impressive when he goes up the middle. His superb hands allow him to stay with bad hops even on baked surfaces. A natural righthanded hitter, he has developed a well-rounded approach from both sides and flashes gap power. An average runner, he has a quick first step and good instincts on the basepaths.

Weaknesses: Because Adrianza is so eager to please, he sometimes takes his failures at the plate into the field. He must continue to get stronger so better pitchers won't just knock the bat out of his hands. He needs to tighten up his strike zone and avoid breaking balls off the plate.

The Future: The Giants don't need to fast-track Adrianza, which is good because he'll need plenty of at-bats. He's expected to team with newly converted second baseman Charlie Culberson in the middle infield at high Class A San Jose in 2010.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Augusta (Lo A) .258 .333 .327 388 54 100 15 3 2 46 42 66 7
9.  Brandon Crawford, ss   Born: Jan. 21, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 200
 Drafted: UCLA, 2008 (4th round)Signed by: Michael Kendall
Brandon CrawfordBackground: Considered a potential first-rounder for the 2008 draft, Crawford slid to the fourth round after a disappointing Cape Cod League performance followed by a lukewarm junior season. After playing just five games in his pro debut, he jumped to high Class A to begin 2009, destroying Cal League pitching and earning a promotion to Double-A Connecticut after barely a month.

Strengths: An all-around talent, Crawford has a good blend of skills and outstanding field awareness. His positioning and first-step quickness allow him to make tough plays in the middle of the field look deceptively easy. He's solid around the bag, has an accurate arm and shows creativity. Even when he struggled against Double-A pitching, it didn't affect his defense. He has the potential to hit 15-20 homers annually and shows power to the opposite field. His slightly above-average speed plays even better on the bases. He has improved at bunting for hits.

Weaknesses: Double-A pitchers fed Crawford a lot of breaking balls and he had trouble making adjustments. Coaches didn't want to overwhelm him in his first full season, but he'll need to adjust the position of his feet and head to handle stuff on the inner half. He often gets caught underneath quality fastballs.

The Future: Crawford might not have the bat control to be a No. 2 hitter in the big leagues, but he's gifted enough to make contributions in the lower third of the lineup. The Giants would be thrilled if he develops along the lines of a J.J. Hardy and is ready to take over in 2011.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
San Jose (Hi A) .371 .445 .600 105 21 39 2 2 6 17 10 32 2
Connecticut (AA) .258 .294 .365 392 38 101 26 2 4 31 20 100 11
10.  Francisco Peguero, of   Born: June 1, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 175
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006Signed by: Pablo Peguero
Francisco PegueroBackground: Few players excite Giants minor league coaches more than Peguero, but a hernia forced him to spend most of the first two months of the 2009 season in extended spring training. When he finally got back on the field, he needed just a handful of games to show he didn't belong in short-season ball. After an impressive run in low Class A, he was called up to San Jose for the Cal League postseason and won playoff MVP honors.

Strengths: Peguero's high-energy play, never-ending enthusiasm, lightning-quick bat and ability to make contact remind San Francisco of Pablo Sandoval. Unlike the pudgy Kung Fu Panda, Peguero is a quality athlete who covers ground in center field and has a plus-plus arm. He's an above-average runner who will sprint to first on a checked-swing roller to the mound.

Weaknesses: Peguero likes to take an inside-out swing and won't hit for more power until he learns to get his hands inside the ball. Like Sandoval, he's hyperaggressive—he drew just eight walks all season—and sometimes does himself a disservice by failing to wait for a better pitch to hit.

The Future: Peguero won an award as the most inspirational player in the Giants' instructional league and should become a fan favorite at San Jose next season. If he continues to develop at this pace, he could be ready for a big league opportunity by the end of 2011.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Salem-Keizer (SS) .394 .421 .465 71 14 28 3 1 0 12 3 9 7
Augusta (Lo A) .340 .359 .437 238 28 81 12 4 1 34 5 39 15

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