San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects Chat With Andy Baggarly

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, 2011.

    JAYPERS (IL): Thanks for the chat, Andy. For those of us still waiting on our BA Prospect Handbooks, what can you tell us about Chuckie Jones? Did he make your 11-20 range?

Andy Baggarly: Hi everyone! Thanks for joining me this morning/early afternoon. Lots of great questions already. I'll try to answer as many as possible in the next 90 minutes or so. Chuckie Jones sure made an impact in the Arizona League and scouting director John Barr loves him. He's built like an NFL linebacker and his ceiling is as a Matt Kemp type with more power. He just missed the top 10 but a solid year at Augusta would brand him as an elite prospect. He's definitely a name to be excited about.

    Ben (Leland Grove): I understand Michael Main just missed your top 30. Is his talent better suited as a position player, or do you believe the Giants intend on keeping him as a pitcher?

Andy Baggarly: Hi Ben. You're right, I wrote up Main as the 31st prospect for the supplement. I'm pretty sure that's where he ended up in the final pecking order. Giants coaches simply didn't see the pitcher who was a first-round pick a few years ago. He pitched poorly in five games for Richmond before he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. Main's injury history is well documented — he had a strained rotator cuff in high school, he cracked a rib in 2008 and me missed two months in '09 because of mononucleosis. But when he's healthy, he has been known to throw 97 mph along with a plus curveball that is more slider-like at the moment. Let's face it: The Giants won this trade with Texas because it made Buster Posey the everyday catcher. If Main can turn it around, it's pretty much all gravy. (And no, I haven't heard anything about moving him off the mound. But I'll ask when I get to Scottsdale in a few weeks.)

    Harry (SF): How many of these guys would you nominate for BA's Top 100 list?

Andy Baggarly: Honestly, Brandon Belt is probably the only shoo-in. Zack Wheeler probably needs to be healthy and productive for a full season to become a back-end top-100 guy, but the potential is certainly there. I remain high on Thomas Neal, too. He recovered well after a slow start at Double-A and I think you'll see him put up numbers at Fresno. But he probably is on the outskirts of the top 100 at this point.

    Matt (Naperville, IL): How close was Jorge Bucardo from the top 10? Your thoughts on his mechanics and timetable? Thanks.

Andy Baggarly: Naperville! The city of my birth. Someone told me it's the second most populous city in Illinois now. When we moved out in 1978, there were 20,000 people there. But I digress ... Jorge Bucardo has to be considered one of the better pitching prospects in the system, but I think he needs to get a little stronger and be more consistent velocity-wise to crack into that upper echelon. I had him at No.21 and I think that's where he ended up. You have to credit Wilber's younger brother for maintaining his stuff and stamina over a full season last year. Giants officials were wondering how he'd handle that, and he had a 2.21 ERA (second in the Sally League) and .208 BAA (first in the SAL) in 19 games at Augusta before fading a bit at San Jose. I love the way he can change arm angles and make adjustments on the mound. He really competes well, and he's a very good athlete who fields his position well. That's good, since he generates a fair amount of ground balls. Perhaps one day he'll wrest the title of "Greatest Giant from Nicaragua" away from Marvin Benard.

    Mikey (Miami): Nick Noonan - prospect or suspect?

Andy Baggarly: This is a tough one to answer. Noonan is coming off a difficult year that included a recurring hamstring injury and he just didn't seem to play with a lot of confidence against Double-A pitching. As you probably know, some scouts and experts predicted these struggles for Noonan — notably ESPN's Keith Law — because they didn't think his swing would work against upper-level pitching. It's my understanding that there is some agreement within the Giants organization, and Noonan already began to overhaul his approach in instructional league. When he's right, he can hit quality fastballs — and you don't give up on someone who can do that. Meanwhile, Charlie Culberson rebounded from his first two miserable pro seasons while posting a tremendous year in the Cal League, then following up with a sizzling Arizona Fall League. Culberson could play third base, but it's clear second is his best position — and you'd have to grade his defense above Noonan's at this point. So this year will be a huge one for Noonan.

    Jerry (Los Angeles): Your thoughts on Rafael Rodriguez' career thus far? Top 30 for you?

Andy Baggarly: Still too early to make a fair evaluation. The Giants hoped RafRod could handle the adjustment to Salem-Keizer as a teenager, but he had a bad back and that doesn't work so well when you're 6-foot-5 and trying to swing at a baseball. Rodriguez competed much better when he returned to the Arizona League, but he remains more a project at this point than a player. Ideally, he'd begin this season at Augusta, but I'm not sure he's ready for that yet. We'll have a better idea at the end of spring camp.

    JAYPERS (IL): With both 1B and C locked down in SF for the foreseeable future, should Joseph hope for a trade? Or could/should he learn a different position?

Andy Baggarly: Not necessarily. Joseph is still several years away from the big leagues, and don't forget that Brandon Belt has acquitted himself well in the outfield, too. Joseph just needs to focus on keeping his energy level up from day to day and having quality at-bats. He's got a nice, direct swing and can generate a lot of power when he lets the ball travel. He certainly didn't master the Sally League, and he took his share of knocks — including a concussion — while learning how to grind out a pro season for the first time. So it's possible that he returns there this season. I think there's a good chance Joseph will continue to catch, where his physical skills might lag a bit behind his mental abilities behind the plate. As you mentioned, if he's a candidate to be traded, he's got the most value as a catcher.

    Morrie (Bay Area): Is Seth Rosin someone for us to keep an eye on?

Andy Baggarly: Well, the Giants know pitchers and they took Rosin with their fourth-round pick — the first pitcher they selected in June. So that's probably a good statement. I saw Rosin pitch at Salem-Keizer late in the year and wasn't impressed, but I was told he was really worn down after finishing the college season. He has plenty of size and "throws downhill," as they say. Coaches think they can help him iron out some mechanical stuff to get him on a more direct line to the plate, which should help him generate a little more velocity. As you know, the Giants don't have much upper-level pitching depth, and Rosin has a good feel for throwing strikes. So he could move through the system quickly. Rosin just missed the top 30 for me, but then, so did Brandon Belt last year. Sometimes those fourth- to fifth-round college draftees sneak up on you.

    Roger (Washington, DC): Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Andy! How high do you see Peguero's power ceiling? Could he ever be a 20 HR guy?

Andy Baggarly: Does it matter if a couple of them are inside-the-park jobs? Yes, I think it's possible Peguero could hit 20. But he's more likely to be a 40-double, 12-triple, 10-homer kind of guy. Peguero just keeps boosting his value and it will be a huge test as he (presumably) moves up to Double-A this year. The walk rate is still troubling to me, and that's the only thing holding back Peguero from being a Top-100 candidate. I look forward to watching him in big league camp this spring.

    Roger (Washington, DC): Kickham, Hembree, Rosin, Dunning. Who's got the most upside? Who's going to stick as starter? And where do they begin the year?

Andy Baggarly: All great questions. I'll go with Hembree for upside, but Kickham probably has the best chance to stick as a starter, followed by Rosin. Expect Dunning to begin the year as a reliever, only because the Giants want to ramp up his arm slowly as he continues the conversion from shortstop. All four of these guys have big league arms. As for assignments ... I'd guess Kickham, Dunning and Hembree begin at Augusta, and Rosin might get aggressively assigned to San Jose. It all depends on how they look in camp, though.

    Benny (So Cal): What's the latest on the Angel Villalona saga?

Andy Baggarly: Villalona is out on bail and there's no date for his trial. The victim's family is not pressing civil charges and it seems the witnesses may be recanting, and I'll let you speculate on the reasons. The biggest thing stopping Villalona from resuming his pro career is that his US visa has been revoked. Even if he figures out a way to get it back, my strong sense is that the Giants consider his $2.1 million bonus a sunk cost and they want nothing to do with him. Definitely, the Villalona saga has affected the way they do business in the Dominican. You haven't seen them become involved in any high-priced signings since then, have you? (By the way, Yahoo's Jeff Passan wrote a very informative feature on Dominican players and gun violence, which included a section on Villalona. Look it up.)

    JAYPERS (IL): Was Jarrett Parker close to reaching your top 10? What do the Giants see in him?

Andy Baggarly: Yes, Parker was very close. He was No.12, as I recall. Parker has a good blend of athletic tools and he's a plus defender in center field. He definitely was a late bloomer, gaining 20 poundsbefore his sophomore year at Virginia and watching his home runs rocket from zero to 16. He hit .188 in the Cape and didn't have the greatest junior season, though, which allowed him to fall to the Giants in the second round. He might be Steve Finley ... or he might be Clay Timpner. Hard to say when he hasn't made his pro debut yet.

    Dara (Denver): In retrospect, was Gillaspie an overdraft? Did he fall out of your 30 this year?

Andy Baggarly: Hard to say Gillaspie was an overdraft. Many thought he'd go higher than he did — Gillaspie included. And no, he didn't fall out of the top 30. In fact, I had to move him up a couple spots after he tied for the Arizona Fall League lead in home runs. Sure, Gillaspie has plenty of flaws in his game. He doesn't really have a position, as he remains inconsistent at third base. But he competes at the plate, he is disciplined for the most part, and he hits quality pitching. Was he worth all the special handling, including a 40-man roster space, that it took for the Giants to sign him? Probably not. As of right now, he's looking more like a Kevin Frandsen-utility type player than a major league everyday starter to me. But it wouldn't be wise to count out Gillaspie as a prospect yet. I think you'll see a better year from him, especially at the plate.

    Frank (Oakland): As I wait for my Handbook to arrive, can you tell me if Dominguez is still on your radar? What does he bring to the table besides power?

Andy Baggarly: Chris Dominguez ranked somewhere in the 14-18 range, I believe, and yes, power is his best tool. But he has other attributes, too. For one, he has what one rival minor league manager called the strongest arm he's ever seen from a minor league third baseman. So if he ever fails as a hitting prospect, you can bet Dick Tidrow will try to get him off a mound. Dominguez also is very hardy. He played virtually every inning of every game last year, which is no small feat in the stifling conditions at Augusta. He'll have to move quickly and lay off the high fastball, but there's enough to like about Dominguez to keep an eye on him.

    Henry T (Sausalito CA): I was surprised you ranked Neal behind both Adrianza and Crawford? Was this the general consensus from scouts you talked to? Or was it do to the fact that Neal is a corner outfielder and the other two are "slick fielding shortstops"?

Andy Baggarly: This was one of the tougher calls in the rankings. Adrianza and Crawford are major league shortstops with the glove, and so you're right, it was more of a positional value thing. Neal is certainly more gifted as a hitter, and I do think you could make a solid case to rank him higher based on his offensive potential. Based on the opinions I received, Adrianza and Crawford are "sure things" defensively while Neal hasn't earned that designation yet. So that influenced where I lined them up. These rankings aren't infallible. I'll be the first to admit that.

    Roger (Washington, DC): Can you explain why the Giants have been so conservative with Jose Casilla's development? After three years of playing in American ball he's piled up less than 85 IP, none higher than low A ball. He's consistently had good numbers but they seemed to abandon him as a starter almost immediately and given him precious little work to build up arm strength and work on his repertoire. Adding him to the 40 man suggests they see a future for him, but they don't seem to be working too hard to get him there. Particularly puzzling given their typical pattern of challenging their best pitchers aggressively.

Andy Baggarly: All astute observations, Roger. Usually health is the reason behind these decisions. Now Casilla seems to have settled in nicely as a short reliever and I think the Giants are going to run with that. But you're right. He could start down the road. Look at what they're doing with Dan Runzler now. I think you do yourself a disservice when you use indelible ink to label these guys so early in their pro careers. With Kickham, Hembree, Dunning ... the Giants have a lot of interesting arms that could go the starter or relief route. So they have a lot of calls to make this spring.

    Grant (NYC): Henry Sosa - do the Giants trade him, or stick with him?

Andy Baggarly: I'm not sure Sosa has a lot of trade value right now. He looked incredible in the spring, staying almost to the end of big league camp and finishing with a spotless ERA. Then ... I don't know what happened. He got in a fight with a teammate at Fresno, so I hear, and just didn't pitch with a lot of maturity. The light goes on at different times for different people. The Giants still hope it'll go on for Sosa.

    Kent (Sonoma, CA): Hi Andy, Thank you for the chat. Are there any prospects in the system other than Wheeler who have front of rotation potential? (King, Escobar, Salsbury?)

Andy Baggarly: Great question, Kent. I'm going to assume you mean No.1 or No.2 starter. Aside from Wheeler, probably not. Eric Surkamp is a definite prospect, but he's probably more of a No.4 type. Of the names you mentioned, Aaron King has flashed great stuff in the past but he's nowhere close command-wise. I had high hopes for Matthew Graham, a sixth-rounder in '09 who got $500,000 to sign. He got hit hard while splitting the year between Salem and Scottsdale, and he fell out of the top 30. But he's only 20 years old and he might be the only other guy with front-of-rotation potential.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Hi Andy and thanks. I know it's very early, but do you see Gary Brown developing any real power or will he be a contact hitter who hits for average and steals bases?

Andy Baggarly: Some gap power, but I think most of his extra-base hits will be courtesy of his legs. He's got a legitimate approach. He doesn't just try to slap and dash, and he's a solid prospect. But I wouldn't expect him to be any more than a 10-homer guy without a Brady Anderson-like body transformation.

    Brett (Seattle): What have the reports been like on Reinier Roibal? Will he be stretched out as a starter this year?

Andy Baggarly: He wasn't a top 30 guy based on the people I talked to. The stuff didn't match the reports. Probably a reliever for now unless he has a huge camp.

    Jason (San Dimas, CA): Hey Baggs, I was wondering about Jason Stoffel's development. Despite pitching in the Cal League it's hard to consider his 2010 numbers inspiring. What do the Giants think about him moving forward? Can't wait to get a copy of your book!

Andy Baggarly: Whoa ... San Dimas. Thanks, Jason. I actually grew up down the street from you. Stoffel needs to pace himself on the mound. It's usually great when a closer ikes to work quickly, but he lets the game get too fast at times. Still, you saw the way he heroically ended the season to nail down a Cal League title for San Jose, striking out a batter with the tying run at third base. Stoffel has the stuff and mentality to be a very effective short reliever in the big leagues. He just needs more time to learn how to compete and use his stuff. Also, thanks for mentioning my book! It's available for preorder on Amazon right now. I won't place a link here, but if you google "A Band of Misfits" and my name, you'll find it.

    Dan (Augusta, ME): Did either Chuckie Jones or Kendry Flores get consideration for the top 10 or are they simply too young/raw for such an aggressive ranking?

Andy Baggarly: Jones, yes. He's in the top 30. Flores would've been in the 30-40 range for me, based on everything I've heard.

    AB (San Francisco): Who in the top 30 are we going to see locally in San Jose to start the season?

Andy Baggarly: Well, good chance you see Gary Brown, Tommy Joseph, Chris Dominguez, Jose Casilla, maybe Jarrett Parker, maybe Ydwin Villegas. Brown definitely headlines the list.

    Zeebs (Orange, CA): Was Carter Jurica a wasted draft pick in the 3rd round? Seems very high for a guy most are projecting as a utility IF at best?

Andy Baggarly: I don't get it, either. Seems like an overdraft to me. It's only fair to let the kid play and see what happens.

    Ian (Portland, OR): With Neal dropping from fourth to seventh on the list, what's the consensus on the potential ETA for the Tank Engine?

Andy Baggarly: He'd better make it as an everyday player. Thomas "The Tank Engine" Neal is an awesome nickname. I answered this a little earlier, but I really like Neal and his standing on the prospect list shouldn't be seen as a major demotion. He made the Double-A turn and that weeds out a lot of good prospects.

    CD (Columbus): Is catcher Dan Burkhart a prospect? If so is he in the top 30?

Andy Baggarly: Not top 30 but probably would've made the top 40. He's an intelligent catcher and could hit enough to make himself a good major league backup. (And yes, as a Northwestern guy, it's hard for me to call a Buckeye "intelligent." But he really is a smart and tough presence back there, from everything I hear.)

    Joel (KCK): Within the last five years or so, I've noticed that there has been a glaring lack of power-hitting first base prospects. Kotchman, Morrison, Freeman, Butler, Smoak, Alonso, Hosmer, and now Belt. He hit 20+ HR's, but in the parks he'll have to play in if and when he makes it to the show, does he project to ever hit 20+ in the majors? The only reason I ask is because in his writeup he's compared to Buster Posey, and if I rember correctly, you guys projected Posey to max out around 15 to 20 HR's a season. Thanks!

Andy Baggarly: Keep in mind that Belt is left-handed. It's hard for any lefty hitter not named Barry Bonds to project for 20-plus homers as a Giant. You've seen the backspin Posey can generate with those drives to center field that just keep floating until they disappear over the fence. When they compare Belt to Posey, that's what they're talking about.

    Chris (Hamden, Ct): What do you think of Chris Gloor? He has put up solid numbers in A ball two years in a row? Does have a chance to make an impact in the Giants system?

Andy Baggarly: Gloor was considered for the top 30 but didn't make it. Coaches really like him. He's made impressive progress and he'll need to keep making statements for himself as he moves up the ladder.

    Pierce (Houston, TX): Craig Whitaker seems to have taken some steps forward numbers wise. Will he ever make the SF bullpen and what does his stuff look like? Seems to be having much more success with his new arm slot when compared to his flamethrowing high school days.

Andy Baggarly: You're right. In many systems, Whitaker would've made it to the big leagues last season. But the Giants had a lot of relief options, and traded for two more. The arm slot made him a competitive pitcher again and gave him a chance to reach the big leagues. Give him credit for reinventing himself, even if it hasn't gotten him to the next level yet. I'll take a couple more questions...

    Bryan (Palo Alto, CA): Nice call with listing some kid named Belt as one of your sleepers in last years chat. I was wondering about Tommy Joseph. Last year you threw out Paul Konerko comps do those still hold true after 400+ pro ABs? Or do you think he has more of a shot to stick behind the plate?

Andy Baggarly: I am not sure I should be taking credit for that ... I left the guy out of the top 30! (If it's any defense, Belt was in the back end of my top 30 originally, but then the Giants took Steve Johnson in the Rule 5 draft, and so I needed to sacrifice someone. Belt didn't have any pro experience yet, so he was deemed the guy to go.)

    Joel (KCK): In regards to a question asked during the Padres chat, I also would like to know, with a more serious answer, why it is that this Jaypers guy always seems to get the first question and multiple questions answered in every single chat. I would never claim to be the MOST knowledgeable guy when it comes to prospects, but I keep up with them pretty darn good, and 9 times out of 10, I could care less about the ones that Jaypers asks about which is why I usually skip right over the questions that he asks. But on another note, I DO love the chats, and honestly wish that you guys would do them on a more frequent basis, even when it's not top 10 time. Thanks!!!

Andy Baggarly: You're right, JAYPERS had the first question in my queue when I logged in. But I like the questions he asks!

    Not Jaypers (Not Illinois): I think we're all getting a little tired of Jaypers and his boring questions. A little change would be nice. Is he married to an editor's daughter or sister or something. Geeesh!!!

Andy Baggarly: If he's in my top 30 on next year's list, you'll know there's nepotism at work.

    Duane Nusbaum (San Jose): I enjoy your game stories and extra Baggs. The week of the trade deadline last year there were three KC scouts in San Jose to watch the SJ Giants. I assume DeJesus was the player the Giants were looking at before he got hurt. Any idea what that trade would have cost the Giants. Peguero or Adrianza?

Andy Baggarly: Thank you, Duane. Yes, Sabean was in KC the day DeJesus hurt his wrist. He was "royally" ticked when he met back up with the club in Arizona. But think of it this way ... if they traded for DeJesus, they almost certainly wouldn't have put in a claim for Cody Ross. Things happen for a reason, I suppose. I'd bet anything that Adrianza would've been part of that deal. I also heard that Adrianza and another player were close to going to Seattle for David Aardsma at the trade deadline before the Mariners backed off.

    Derek (SF): Keith Law's organizational rankings list was just published and he has the Giants at #23 in part because Posey and Bumgarner have already ascended to MLB. But he also cites the disappointing 2010 numbers posted by the 2008 draft class behind Buster. What's your sense from the organization's side — are those guys going to come around or is it Buster and busts?

Andy Baggarly: Let's end with a big picture question. I think that's fair. The Giants graduated a lot of talent last year, and they won a World Series in large part because of it. Of the other 2008 draftees, Kieschnick and Crawford were hurt and Gillaspie we've already addressed. They do not have the most talent-laden farm system in the majors right now, but I can think of 29 other teams that would've loved to trade places with them on November 1. Thanks for all the great, insightful questions, everyone! I hope you enjoy the Prospect Handbook, and if you haven't ordered it yet, go preorder "A Band of Misfits" while you're at it! Thanks!