San Francisco Giants: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Andy Baggarly

San Francisco Giants: Chat

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.

    Ike (SF CA): Does MadBum's loss of velocity as 2009 went on concern you at all? Was is simply a matter of being tired, or something else?

Andy Baggarly: Hi everyone and thanks for joining us this morning/afternoon. Lots of good questions already. Keep sending them and I'll get to as many as possible. A loss of velocity would be troubling for any prospect and Bumgarner's fastball is really his only premium pitch at the moment, so yes, it was a pretty straightforward call to bump Buster Posey ahead of him. Bumgarner still competed exceptionally well in Double-A despite losing steam in early summer. From what I understand, he's a perfectionist who does a lot of throwing on the side. That's what led to arm fatigue. The Giants believe he's a strong-bodied kid who will adapt to the workload, but he does throw across his body quite a bit. Bumgarner doesn't have enough secondary stuff to succeed while throwing 88-90 mph. So yes, his velocity is absolutely a concern. But he does have some deception that should aid him. Like Jonathan Sanchez, hitters don't pick up his fastball well. He's still one of the premier pitching prospects in the minors, and I think it'd be a major disservice to him if he has to start the year in the big leagues. I fully expect Brian Sabean to sign a free-agent pitcher to round out his rotation, whether it's bringing back Brad Penny or finding someone else.

    Rick (Dallas): Andy, Where would you rank the Giants Org. in terms of prospects? Top three? If not for murder and visa problems, where would Angel Villalona have ranked? When should we see Nick Noonan in San Fran?

Andy Baggarly: Hi Rick. That's a tough question for me because I'm not ranking multiple systems. I get the sense that the Giants rank in the upper third and they have good overall depth of interesting bats/arms, but other systems might have more high-level prospects that are closer to the big leagues. And after the trades that sent Tim Alderson and Scott Barnes to the Pirates and Indians, respectively, the Giants' starting pitching depth is probably the thinnest it's been in a number of years. So they're probably not a top-5 system. Villalona would've been in the top 5 for sure. Hard to say whether he'd be ahead of Thomas Neal or not. Even before the incident, Villalona had conditioning issues and hadn't shown much plate discipline. I'd become less convinced he'd become Andres Galarraga and not Wily Mo Pena. If I recall correctly, he's No.30 on our list, mostly because we weren't sure if he'd ever play again with his murder trial pending. It looks as if the case is falling apart with rumors of the victim's family getting paid off. We'll see if there are any witnesses left when it goes to court soon. For now, Villalona's U.S. work visa has been pulled and it's anyone's guess when/if he can resume his pro career. It's a sad situation, but it's out of the Giants' hands.

    Dan (Oakland): Baggs, what was your reasoning for leaving Noonan out of the top ten?

Andy Baggarly: Noonan was No. 10 on the list I submitted, with Ehire Adrianza just missing. But the guys at BA do such a tremendous job covering all the minor leagues, talking to a wider range of scouts, etc., that they have my editorial blessing to make any changes they deem necessary. That meant bumping Adrianza ahead of Noonan and Brandon Crawford, who was No.7 on the list I submitted. All in all, the rest of baseball isn't as high on Crawford — particularly his bat — as the Giants are. As for Noonan, he's been young for his league and he's shown good contact/clutch hitting skills, but he's merely an average defender at second base — what I consider a non-premium position. Some scouts love him, others cringe at the way he "bars" his arm. (Chase Utley does that too, though. So I'm not sure it's such a death blow.) I'd point out that Noonan's drop has less to do with his performance than the overall improvement in the system, though. He's still a name to watch.

    Charles (San Fran): Was Surkamp close to the top 10? What does he throw besides the best curve in the system?

Andy Baggarly: Eric Surkamp is in the top 30, so you can check out his full capsule in the book. He's a three-quarters slinger who throws in the upper 80s but he hides the ball well and his fastball appears harder because it�s coming out of his shirt. He�s a good athlete whose best pitch is a curveball with plus depth and snap. He also commands an average changeup. He led the organization in strikeouts, which is always an impressive feat. But he was facing less experienced competition in the Sally League. We'll see what he does in the Cal League next year, or possibly the Double-A Eastern League.

    Daniel (Boston, MA): Did Jason Stoffel receive consideration for a top 10 spot with the way he dominated in his pro debut?

Andy Baggarly: Yes, but it had more to do with his overall sheen as a prospect than his domination in the Northwest League. Any college pitcher who can locate a little bit usually fares well at Salem-Keizer. Stoffel is a hard thrower who should move fast. He's ranked in the teens, I think.

    Daniel (Boston, MA): The Giants seem to have a wave of relief pitching on the way with Dan Runzler, Steve Edlefsen, Waldis Joaquin, and Jason Stoffel. After Runzler, who excites the Giants staff the most?

Andy Baggarly: All of them, really. And a lefty, Joe Paterson, will be a big leaguer, too. Aside from Runzler, who is pretty much assured a spot in the bullpen, Joaquin is the closest to being a major league regular. He's the highest-ranked among the names you mentioned. Edlefsen has lock-down stuff and a very good slider. I'd wager you'll see him in the big leagues at some point next season, too. Relievers seem to get turned and burned quicker than anyone else in this game, so you can never have enough of them.

    Darren (San Mateo): Will Craig Clark get a shot in the majors in 2010? Did he fall in the 11-20 range?

Andy Baggarly: Gillaspie has a razor-sharp knowledge of the strike zone that might have worked against him in the Cal League. His manager, Andy Skeels, said Gillaspie knew the zone better than most umps and often got rung up on borderline pitches. Skeels honestly feels that Gillaspie will shine the closer he gets to the major leagues. I expected more from him in the Cal League, too, but hat's off to a Giants prospect who believes in waiting for his pitch. There ain't many of those — in the minors or on the big league roster.

    Daniel (Boston, MA): Do the Giants staff have any theories on why Conor Gillespie didn't explode out of the gate the way they thought he would? At the time of the draft Gillespie was considered to have one of the most advanced bats.

Andy Baggarly: Whoops, I answered the wrong question. Sorry about that. OK....Craig Clark... He's in the top 30 after an enormously successful year. It's hard to know where to rank college command pitchers. They just have no margin for error. But Clark didn't lose after May 7 and San Jose was 22-3 in his starts. Clark throws in the upper 80s but registers more strikeouts than your average finesse guy. He tied a Cal League record when he struck out 10 consecutive batters in a June 1 victory over Stockton. He's got an 80 mph slider, a 72-mph curve and he�s able to bust a fastball on the hands without fear of missing middle-in. He's a cerebral pitcher who loves to mix patterns. It'll be interesting to see how his stuff plays at higher levels.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did Rafael Rodriguez come close this year? What's the skinny on him?

Andy Baggarly: Yes, Rodriguez just missed. Like Noonan, his drop had more to do with the overall health of the system. With Rodriguez, we don't have much to go on yet. He isn't anywhere close to growing into his 6-foot-5 frame. For now, his AZL debut has to be considered a huge success — .299 with a .392 OBP. Coaches tried to create as low-pressure an atmosphere as possible, mostly batting Rodriguez seventh or eighth. He maintained a controlled approach, hit almost .400 with runners in scoring position and made plenty of line-drive contact. He's got everything to learn about he game, so be patient. I have every expectation he'll be back in the top 10 next season.

    Daniel (Boston, MA): Does Brett Pill have the kind of power a 1b typically needs in the majors? It's not like he is an average-hitting machine or a big OBP guy either.

Andy Baggarly: The Giants were sufficiently intrigued by Pill to protect him from the Rule 5 draft and secure a place for him with Margarita in the Venezuelan League. They'd like to see him add more strength, but he probably won't be a 30-homer guy in the big leagues. J.T. Snow didn't have prototypical power for a first baseman, but he was a solid contributor on several playoff teams. After the last couple of seasons, though, I wouldn't blame any Giants fan who wants to see some bombs from that position. Pill got where he's at by exceeding expectations. He'll have to continue to make believers as he goes.

    Daniel (Boston, MA): What's the word on how Zack Wheeler looked in the instructional league this fall?

Andy Baggarly: Wheeler competed well and impressed coaches with his makeup. He's got more secondary stuff than Madison Bumgarner did when he first arrived in Scottsdale.

    Tex (OAKLAND CA): How close was it between Posey and Bumgarner for the top spot this year?

Andy Baggarly: Not very close. There's no "right" way to value a college catcher against a high school lefty, but Posey's success at every level combined with Bumgarner's drop in velocity made it a pretty easy decision.

    Jake (CA): Are the Giants looking into the possibility of using Bumgarner out of the pen, or are they dead set on starting him?

Andy Baggarly: Starter.

    Daniel (Boston, MA): With CFs like Mike McBryde, Darren Ford, and Francisco Peguero coming up through the system, what's the plan with the Rowand and his disappointments? Three more years on that epic fail of a contract, correct?

Andy Baggarly: The Rowand has 3-36 left on his contract. He's still a serviceable major league player, though he tends to disappear for weeks at a time while swinging at sliders in the opposing batter's box. It's not like he's a complete payroll drain like Jason Schmidt for the Dodgers the last couple years. But yes, between his deal and Edgar Renteria's, the Giants have a lot of money tied up in non-stars. There's no moving that money unless they take on somebody else's unwanted goods.

    Lenn Sakata (San Jose): Would you agree that Brandon Crawford's performance in the Fall League showed that he was rushed to Double-A and should still be considered a top prospect?

Andy Baggarly: Aloha, "Lenn." Crawford inspires a lot of disagreement. As I mentioned earlier, some scouts just don't believe he'll make enough contact against quality fastballs. He's the most well rounded of all the Giants' middle infield prospects and I think he'll be a quality big leaguer. Maybe not an All-Star, but you never know. To answer your question, yes, he's most certainly a prospect.

    Timmy L. (San Francisco): Will Jackson Williams hit enough to be servicable as Posey's backup in 2011 and beyond?

Andy Baggarly: I used to think so. Now I'm less sure. Williams has competition in the system, too. One of the most surprising names to crack the top 30 was Johnny Monell, a left-handed hitter with power whose receiving skills are improving.

    Timmy L. (San Francisco): The Giants have long been rumored around the ill-sighted Wagner Mateo who remains unsigned. Is the club still interested?

Andy Baggarly: They are interested, but like everyone else, they want to find out what's happening with his vision issues — and what it'll do to his price.

    Steve (Chicago): In Francisco Peguero's write-up he's compared to Sandoval. Is that more because of his style or his ceiling (w/ less power, more speed/defense)?

Andy Baggarly: It's mostly because he plays with such infectious energy and enthusiasm. Also, because he swings at everything. Other than that, they're very different players.

    Joe (San Francisco): What position will the Giants start Tommy Joseph next year? Seems like everyone agrees that he will need to move off of catcher.

Andy Baggarly: I won't disagree either, Joe. The comp I hear most often is Paul Konerko. I watched him catch in San Bernardino, but funny, he hasn't worn shinguards too often in the big leagues. Joseph has more value behind the plate, so the Giants will give him an opportunity to show he can stay there. But the smart money's on Joseph picking up a first baseman's mitt within a few years.

    Harry (SF): In 10 years' time, who will have won more batting titles — Posey or Mauer?

Andy Baggarly: Well, Mauer already has a head start, so... Posey has all the tools to be a star offensive player, but I'd place his ceiling somewhere between Mauer and B.J. Surhoff.

    Sue (San Jose): Is Craig Clark the second coming of Kevin Pucetas? A pitcher that can perform due to a feel for pitching and control at the lower levels but will get crushed in more advanced leagues?

Andy Baggarly: I addressed Clark, but Pucetas bears a mention. He dropped out of my top 30 because he got mauled in spring training, didn't fare well at Triple-A and doesn't have the kind of stuff to earn the benefit of the doubt, generally speaking. But one of the commenters on my blog made a great point a few days ago: Pucetas only had one really terrible stretch of four or five starts in August. Throw those out and he had a mid-3 ERA in the hitter-friendly PCL. So he's not ruined as a prospect yet. But yes, the point is valid: A lot of command college pitchers fail to make adjustments at upper levels. The ones that do often have successful careers in the big leagues. The Giants really lack starting pitching depth, so Clark and Pucetas have a terrific opportunity if they can put together consistent starts next season.

    Timmy L. (San Jose): Am I crazy in thinking that Jesus Guzman can be a right handed Mark Sweeney? Pinch-hit him every single game and he can be servicable for the limited start at 1B.

Andy Baggarly: The Giants like experience on their bench, so I"m not sure they'll see Guzman in that role. He's not repeating his huge winter so far in Venezuela, either. He is playing first base down there, though.

    Kent (Sonoma, CA): Hi Andy, Thank you for the chat. Based on last season, do you think the Giants can accurately evaluate whether Bowker, Schierholz, Ishikawa, Lewis and Velez have the potential to be major league starters? Is the transition to the ML tougher in the Giants organization then in other ML organizations?

Andy Baggarly: In some cases, perhaps. The Giants aren't the most patient with their own unestablished players. I think they've given up on Lewis and they might be oversold on a few good weeks out of Velez in the second half. It infuriated fans that Schierholtz didn't get regular time last season, but from my vantage point, the biggest mistake they made was barely giving Bowker a chance. His Triple-A numbers weren't just a Todd Linden mirage. He changed completely as a hitter — recording an equal number of walks and strikeouts. I think he needs to be given an everyday role next season in left field or at first base. His Venezuelan experience lasted just two games, though. He told me in September that he really didn't want to go there. As to the second half of your question, I do think it's harder to come up as a position player in the Giants system. I suppose that's obvious when you haven't developed an All-Star hitter in a generation. That's due to a lack of talent, but you've got to believe there's something systemic that's wrong, too. We'll get a great read on this in the next few years, since so much of their better talent in the system is comprised of hitters.

    Joey (San Francisco): I understand the 2013 lineup is a total projection, but if you feel Adrianza is a better prospect than Crawford at SS, shouldn't he be the starter? Or are you saying Adrianza has more upside with more bust potential?

Andy Baggarly: As mentioned earlier, I had Crawford ranked higher on the list I submitted. But that's a pretty fair statement. Crawford is more likely to reach the big leagues and stay there, but Adrianza has more overall star potential.

    Timmy L. (San Francisco, CA): Does the move to Richmond mean that Double-A should no longer be looked at as a dead zone for Giants hitters?

Andy Baggarly: You know what they say about blind squirrels...

    Henry Thompson (Sausalito, CA): Hello who was closer to making your list, Brett Pill or Darren Ford? And who would you choose if you were able to pick only one.

Andy Baggarly: Ford is ranked higher. There was a report that he got robbed recently while making a cash deposit at his offseason job in New Jersey! Yikes. Be careful, Darren.

    Jesse (NC): Can you give us a sample-size scouting report of Matt Graham?

Andy Baggarly: He's in the top 30, so there will be a report in the book. He is strong, broad-shouldered, projectable and throws a low-90s fastball with heavy sink. Because he doesn�t repeat his delivery, his velocity tends to be all over the map. But he has outstanding arm strength and was pumping 95 mph in instructional league.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): Will Neal now be shifted to first base?

Andy Baggarly: Not yet. His arm strength is back so he's in the outfield.

    Marco (San Diego): The Giants do have a dilemma with what to do with Posey. If he has a strong spring, how does he not become your number 1? If they intend to compete, do you not think this is the smartest move? A win in April is worth the same in June so why hold him back?

Andy Baggarly: Bruce Bochy said the Posey decision could be made in the spring, but I don't see how that's the case. They need to make personnel decisions long before then. Brian Sabean's MO is to sign veterans as short-term stopgaps. They did it last year, signing Edgar Renteria when they made the decision to move Emmanuel Burriss off of shortstop. For all the abuse they took over that signing, Sabean continues to defend it. He said it was the right decision based on the way Burriss failed to prove he belonged in the big leagues. Posey is a different breed, but old habits are hard to break, I'd expect they will sign a free agent catcher (Yorvit Torrealba?) to start the season, and make Posey force his way onto the roster/into the lineup when he shows he's ready like Tim Lincecum did in '07. I'm not saying it's the right decision. Just predicting that's what they'll do.

    Murk (Oakland): Baggs any sleeper candidates that didnt make the list we should keep an eye on for next season?

Andy Baggarly: Always. Pablo Sandoval was my first omission from the top-30 list two years ago, and I've used that as motivation ever since. Brandon Belt, Steve Edlefsen, Cameron Lamb, Drew Reichard and the Bucardo brothers were my nearest misses this time around. Edward Concepcion and Hector Sanchez just missed, too. Thanks everyone for the great questions. I'm headed to Indy for the winter meetings next weekend, so check out the Extra Baggs blog on for all the latest Giants updates this offseason and beyond!