2013 San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects With 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.

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San Francisco Giants

The Giants strived for more than a half-century to win their first World Series title in San Francisco. They didn't make their faithful wait nearly as long for the next parade down Market Street.

The road was far more treacherous than in 2010. This time, it included six elimination games in the first two rounds against the Reds and Cardinals, and those fiery hoops only forged stronger steel. Upon reaching the Fall Classic, the Giants overwhelmed the Tigers to claim a four-game sweep and win their second championship in three seasons—the closest the National League has come to a dynasty since the Big Red Machine repeated in 1975-76.

Those Reds had Johnny Bench. These Giants have Buster Posey, who won the Bench Award as college baseball's top catcher at Florida State in 2008, along with the Golden Spikes and Baseball America's College Player of the Year awards. Four years later, he racked up a whole new set of hardware: a batting crown after leading the majors with a .336 average, a Silver Slugger award, NL comeback player of the year honors and a landslide choice as the NL MVP.

Before Posey, the Giants hadn't drafted and developed an all-star position player since Matt Williams. Instead, they churned out pitchers.

Though Tim Lincecum took a severe step backward from his two Cy Young seasons, a rotation of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito was firm enough when it mattered most. Cain, who received a five-year, $112.5 million extension in April, further etched his legacy on June 13 when he threw the 22nd perfect game in major league history and the first by a Giant in the franchise's 128-year existence.

Though the pitching staff was largely the same on both World Series winners, Posey was the only everyday position player held over from the team that took down the Rangers in 2010. But if San Francisco's first World Series title since 1954 was something of a happy accident won by a band of misfits and castoffs, its second championship featured the kind of lineup that longtime general manager Brian Sabean long had long coveted.

Sabean put together a younger, more athletic and defensively skilled team that sought to use AT&T Park's ample dimensions as an advantage instead of an excuse. The Giants became the first team since the 1985 Cardinals to reach the playoffs despite hitting the fewest homers in the majors, including just 31 longballs in 81 home games.

Sabean utilized prospects like Charlie Culberson, Tommy Joseph, Charlie Culberson and Seth Rosin in July deals for Marco Scutaro (the NLCS MVP) and Hunter Pence (who became San Francisco's inspirational leader). The farm system lacks depth as a result of trades and late draft positions in recent years, but the Giants still have their share of quality pitchers, starting with Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton and Mike Kickham. Pitching guru Dick Tidrow must matriculate some of those arms to the big leagues soon, because Lincecum and Zito could be spending their last season in a San Francisco uniform.

It's going to get tougher for the Giants now that the Dodgers have deep-pocketed ownership and are threatening to become the Yankees of the West. Though the Giants aren't run on a shoestring budget, they probably won't turn themselves into the Red Sox in order to compete.

Expect Sabean and his staff to adhere to their blend of scouting, pragmatic assessment and turning over rocks to find athletic, two-way players. That strategy couldn't be working any better.

1. Kyle Crick, rhp Born: Nov 30, 1992 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 220
Drafted: Sherman (Texas) HS, 2011 (1st round supplemental).  Signed by: Todd Thomas
Kyle CrickBackground: The Giants weren't shy about throwing out Matt Cain comparisons when they spent the 49th overall pick in the 2011 draft on Crick. Over the course of his first full pro season, he convinced most coaches, managers and roving intsructors that his fastball was firmer and had more movement than Cain's did at the same stage a decade ago. If that wasn't impressive enough, Crick remains relatively new to the mound. He mostly played first base in high school and didn't concentrate on pitching until he hit 94 mph on the showcase circuit before his senior season. San Francisco loved his size, arm speed and the life on his pitches, and wasn't concerned that his mechanics needed to be cleaned up. A $900,000 bonus bought out a commitment to Texas Christian and delivered a perfect project for vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow and pitching coordinator Bert Bradley. They turned Crick from a short-arming, max-effort thrower into a pitcher who could stay within a smoother delivery. Competing as a 19-year-old in low Class A, Crick recorded a 4.05 ERA in his first nine starts, when his pitch counts soared before he could get deep into games. Then he didn't allow an earned run in June and finished with a 1.91 ERA over the final three months.

Scouting Report: Crick maintains a 93-95 mph into the late innings and can reach 99 mph. He combines strength, stamina and athleticism, creating plenty of leverage as he drives down the mound with his long, powerful legs. He drops his arms as he starts from the windup and separates his hands late, which isn't a problem because of his arm speed. His delivery gives him a bit of deception to go along with power stuff that seemingly explodes out of his hand. Crick threw a slider in high school but now operates with a hard curveball. Managers voted it the best breaking ball in the South Atlantic League last summer, even though he basically used it as a show-me offering while learning to throw it for strikes. His changeup became his most dependable offspeed pitch by the end of the year and will be a key to his success as a starter. Crick benefited from pitching in the same Augusta rotation as Clayton Blackburn, a fellow 2011 high school draftee who had an advanced feel for four pitches. "That was the best thing to happen to him, to sit in the stands and chart Blackburn," Bradley said. Crick doesn't have anywhere near Blackburn's command, though. He walked 5.4 batters per nine innings and tended to labor and overanalyze when he had trouble locating his pitches. He also overthrows when things don't go his way, something he'll address as he matures. He's extremely competitive, which leads to occasional battles with coaches when he wanted to stay in games. He's intelligent and inquisitive, always trying to soak up knowledge.

The Future: After giving up Zack Wheeler in a short-sighted trade with the Mets for Carlos Beltran in 2011, the Giants now have another frontline starter in the making. Crick will be part of one of the minors' most talented rotations at high Class A San Jose in 2013, and San Francisco won't be far off if he improves his control and consistency. After all, Cain made his debut before his 21st birthday.

'11 Giants (R) 1 0 6.43 7 0 0 7 9 8 5 0 8 8 .300
'12 Augusta (LoA) 7 6 2.51 23 22 0 111 75 39 31 1 67 128 .183
Minor League Totals 8 6 2.75 30 22 0 118 84 84 36 1 75 136 .192

2. Joe Panik, ss Born: Oct 30, 1990 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190
Drafted: St. John's, 2011 (1st round).  Signed by: John DiCarlo
Joe PanikBackground: Somewhat of a surprise selection as the 29th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Panik signed for $1,116,000 and had a terrific pro debut, winning the short-season Northwest League MVP award and batting title (.341). He had a tougher time making the jump to high Class A in 2012, but he still drew more walks than strikeouts and hit .337 in the second half.

Scouting Report: Panik's bat remains his only plus tool, but no position player in the system is a better bet to become an everyday big leaguer. He works counts, makes consistent line-drive contact and flashes gap power. He has uncanny situational hitting acumen and a terrific two-strike approach. Panik is an opportunistic baserunner despite average speed. Managers rated him the best defensive shortstop in the California League last year, though he's more reliable than flashy. He has average range and arm strength, and he gets rid of the ball quickly and makes accurate throws.

The Future: Panik continues to establish himself as a smart, contact-oriented No. 2 hitter in the mold of Marco Scutaro or Freddy Sanchez—the kind of hitter who has even more value to the Giants, a team that must move runners in their spacious ballpark. It's probably a matter of time before Panik moves to second base, where he could form a smooth tandem with Brandon Crawford in another year or two. He'll open 2013 at Double-A Richmond.

'11 Salem-Keizer (SS) 270 49 92 10 3 6 54 28 25 13 5 .341 .401 .467
'12 San Jose (HiA) 535 93 159 27 4 7 76 58 54 10 4 .297 .368 .402
Minor League Totals 805 142 251 37 7 13 130 86 79 23 9 .312 .379 .424

3. Chris Stratton, rhp Born: Aug 22, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 186
Drafted: Mississippi State, 2012 (1st round).  Signed by: Hugh Walker
Chris StrattonBackground: The first Mississippi State player taken by the Giants in the first round since 1985, Stratton went 20th overall in June and signed for $1.85 million. He probably won't make the same franchise-altering impact that Will Clark did, but Stratton has solid No. 2 starter potential. Undrafted out of high school, he went from bullpen arm to legitimate ace with the Bulldogs, winning Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year honors in 2012.

Scouting Report: San Francisco scouting director John Barr was on hand when Stratton struck out 17 against Louisiana State, showing size, athleticism and feel for four pitches. He pitches to both sides of the plate with a 91-93 mph fastball that touches 95 and has easy, late carry. He has a short slider that he can throw for strikes or use as a chase pitch. Stratton worked more on his changeup after signing and was told he could throw it to righthanders. His body, delivery, stuff and savvy remind longtime Giants coaches of former first-round pick Kurt Ainsworth.

The Future: Stratton sustained a concussion and was hospitalized overnight after he was struck by a batting-practice line drive in mid-August, ending his pro debut and knocking him out of instructional league. He's expected to make a complete recovery before spring training. There's a good chance he'll skip a level and open his first full pro season in high Class A.

'12 Salem-Keizer (SS) 0 1 2.76 8 5 0 16 14 6 5 1 10 16 .222
Minor League Totals 0 1 2.81 8 5 0 16 14 14 5 1 10 16 .226

4. Gary Brown, of Born: Sep 28, 1988 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190
Drafted: Cal State Fullerton, 2010 (1st round).  Signed by: Brad Cameron
Gary BrownBackground: The 24th overall pick in 2010, Brown signed for $1.45 million and put together an outstanding first full pro season, batting .336 with 53 steals and a San Jose-record 188 hits. He couldn't duplicate that performance in Double-A last year, and he's no longer considered a lock to be a big league leadoff hitter. The tools are still there, however.

Scouting Report: Brown stands out most with his top-of-the-scale speed, but he brings a lot more to the table. He has a quick bat, fine center-field skills and solid arm strength. His ability to make adjustments will determine how much he gets out of his tools. Brown has an unorthodox setup and swing, choking up on the bat and pinning his hands behind his chest before beginning his load. He has modest power to begin with, and none when he opens up too much in his swing. He bears some similarity to a righthanded Randy Winn and destroys lefthanders, but he has trouble when righties pound him inside. For all his speed, Brown still has a lot to learn as a basestealer after getting caught 18 times in 51 tries last year.

The Future: Brown has a lot on his to-do list for Triple-A Fresno this year, but his primary goals are to get on base more often and wreak more havoc when he does. He remained upbeat and tenacious throughout his struggles, and the livelier ballparks in the Pacific Coast League could help get him back on track.

'10 Giants (R) 22 6 4 1 0 0 0 4 5 2 0 .182 .333 .227
'10 Salem-Keizer (SS) 22 2 3 0 1 0 2 2 7 0 1 .136 .259 .227
'11 San Jose (HiA) 559 115 188 34 13 14 80 46 77 53 19 .336 .407 .519
'12 Richmond (AA) 538 73 150 32 2 7 42 40 87 33 18 .279 .347 .385
Minor League Totals 1141 196 345 67 16 21 124 92 176 88 38 .302 .374 .444

5. Mike Kickham, lhp Born: Dec 12, 1988 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 205
Drafted: Missouri State, 2010 (6th round).  Signed by: Hugh Walker
Mike KickhamBackground: A recurring blister issue contributed to an underwhelming 2011 pro debut, but Kickham re-established himself as one of the most talented arms in the system following an aggressive assignment to Double-A. The recipient of an above-slot $410,000 bonus as a draft-eligible sophomore, he had stretches when he dominated Eastern League hitters and ranked second in the circuit in strikeouts (137) and opponent average (.219).

Scouting Report: Kickham's raw stuff easily is the best among lefthanders in the system. He works off a two-seam fastball that he throws in the low 90s with sinking and tailing action. His slider and changeup both arrive in the low 80s and are solid offerings. He'll also mix in a curveball that has its moments. His ability to vary his breaking ball reminds Giants coaches of Jeremy Affeldt and has them convinced Kickham could move quickly. The key for him is throwing strikes. He can be effectively wild but will need to be more efficient as he progresses. He has trouble hiding his displeasure when he doesn't get calls behind the plate, but he pitched with more maturity as the season went on.

The Future: Kickham is expected to receive an invite to major league camp this spring and could establish himself as a viable major league option, though he's expected to begin the season in Triple-A. If he puts everything together, he could be a No. 3 starter.

'10 Giants (R) 0 0 11.57 3 0 0 2 4 3 3 0 2 3 .364
'11 Augusta (LoA) 5 10 4.11 21 21 0 112 112 58 51 9 37 103 .251
'12 Richmond (AA) 11 10 3.05 28 27 0 151 119 57 51 8 75 137 .208
Minor League Totals 16 20 3.57 52 48 0 265 235 235 105 17 114 243 .228

6. Clayton Blackburn, rhp Born: Jan 6, 1993 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 220
Drafted: Santa Fe HS, Edmond, Okla., 2011 (16th round).  Signed by: Daniel Murray
Clayton BlackburnBackground: Blackburn was ready to start his pro career; the Giants knew it and positioned themselves to get one of the biggest steals of the 2011 draft. His commitment to Oklahoma dropped him to the 16th round, where San Francisco signed him for $150,000. After he posted a 1.08 ERA in the Rookie-level Arizona League, the Giants eagerly sent him to low Class A in 2012. At age 19, he led the South Atlantic League in strikeouts (143), K-BB ratio (7.9) and WHIP (1.02).

Scouting Report: Blackburn has a stocky build reminiscent of Brad Penny, but with less steam on his fastball. Blackburn tops out at 92 mph but pitches at 87-89. He has advanced feel for a curveball and slider that he can shape to fit any situation. He also has an inconsistent changeup. Blackburn will make his curve a little harder when he needs a strikeout, but he's more interested in pitching to contract. His mound presence, command and ability to set up hitters are uncanny for a pitcher his age. His body doesn't have much projection remaining and he'll have to work harder to stay in good shape.

The Future: He doesn't have enough pure stuff to project as a staff ace, but Blackburn can be a solid mid-rotation option. He'll open 2013 in San Jose, where he won a California League playoff opener with seven strong innings last September.

'11 Giants (R) 3 1 1.08 12 6 0 33 16 6 4 2 3 30 .138
'12 Augusta (LoA) 8 4 2.54 22 22 0 131 116 47 37 3 18 143 .227
Minor League Totals 11 5 2.25 34 28 0 164 132 132 41 5 21 173 .212

7. Heath Hembree, rhp Born: Jan 13, 1989 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 210
Drafted: College of Charleston, 2010 (5th round).  Signed by: Jeremy Cleveland
Heath HembreeBackground: Hembree lasted five rounds in the 2010 draft because he was a seldom-used college closer who didn't pitch as a high school senior while rehabbing a knee injury sustained in a football game. He breezed through his first three stops in pro ball before hitting a speed bump in 2012. A strained flexor tendon cost him five weeks, though he rebounded with a solid Arizona Fall League.

Scouting Report: With a fastball that approaches triple digits and the makings of a power slider, Hembree has closer stuff. He works at 93-96 mph with quality life when fully healthy and got back up to 95 in the AFL. He's doing a better job of maintaining his arm slot, which has helped the consistency of his 82-85 mph slider. His changeup probably won't become anything more than a show-me pitch, but he has made some progress with it. If anything, Hembree's injury and diminished velocity showed him the importance of having dependable offspeed stuff. While he can be overpowering, he also has bouts of wildness.

The Future: The Giants could use Hembree sooner rather than later in their bullpen, which is light on hard throwers from the right side. He'll probably begin 2013 in Triple-A, but a solid spring would put him in line for a callup the first time San Francisco finds itself short an arm.

'10 Giants (R) 0 0 0.82 12 0 3 11 9 1 1 0 0 22 .214
'11 San Jose (HiA) 0 0 0.73 26 0 21 25 16 2 2 1 12 44 .178
'11 Richmond (AA) 1 1 2.83 28 0 17 29 20 11 9 1 13 34 .189
'12 San Jose (HiA) 0 0 0.00 5 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 1 7 .000
'12 Fresno (AAA) 1 1 4.74 39 0 15 38 29 24 20 2 20 36 .203
Minor League Totals 2 2 2.67 110 0 56 108 74 74 32 4 46 143 .186

8. Francisco Peguero, of Born: Jun 01, 1988 B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 195
Signed: Dominican Republic '06 Signed by: Pablo Peguero
Francisco PegueroBackground: Peguero's career was slowed when he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee just before the start of the 2011 season and again during the offseason. He had the worst season of his seven-year pro career in 2012, though he put together a 22-game hitting streak in Triple-A that ended one day before his first big league callup. The Giants used him in pinch-running situations and took him along in the postseason even though he wasn't on the active playoff roster.

Scouting Report: Peguero has the most exciting combination of speed and power in the system, along with perhaps the best bat speed. He is a high-energy, hyper-aggressive hitter reminiscent of Pablo Sandoval, even if their body types are nothing alike. Peguero is an exceptional athlete with the plus speed needed for center field and a cannon arm that fits in right. He hits the ball a long way in batting practice but is still learning to use his power at game speed. He gets too aggressive at the plate, and must develop a better gameplan when pitchers challenge him on the inner half.

The Future: San Francisco is anxious to see how Peguero will perform against Triple-A pitching when he's fully healthy in 2013. He has the tools to profile as a regular, but he'll need better strike-zone awareness to be able to stick in a major league lineup.

'06 Giants (R) 182 24 50 10 3 4 16 6 37 3 2 .275 .307 .429
'07 Giants (R) 235 51 69 12 2 1 17 15 39 25 5 .294 .341 .374
'08 Augusta (LoA) 180 23 47 2 4 2 15 12 43 15 1 .261 .309 .350
'08 Salem-Keizer (SS) 202 33 62 11 4 2 28 9 43 10 3 .307 .349 .431
'09 Salem-Keizer (SS) 71 14 28 3 1 0 12 3 9 7 0 .394 .421 .465
'09 Augusta (LoA) 238 28 81 12 4 1 34 5 39 15 5 .340 .359 .437
'10 San Jose (HiA) 510 78 168 19 16 10 77 18 88 40 22 .329 .358 .488
'11 San Jose (HiA) 68 12 22 2 0 2 9 7 8 4 0 .324 .387 .441
'11 Richmond (AA) 285 34 88 12 6 5 37 5 45 8 1 .309 .318 .446
'12 Fresno (AAA) 449 46 122 20 10 5 68 15 82 1 0 .272 .297 .394
'12 San Francisco (MAJ) 16 6 3 0 0 0 0 0 7 3 0 .188 .188 .188
Major League Totals 16 6 3 0 0 0 0 0 7 3 0 .188 .188 .188
Minor League Totals 2420 343 737 103 50 32 313 95 433 128 39 .305 .335 .428

9. Roger Kieschnick, of Born: Jan 21, 1987 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 220
Drafted: Texas Tech, 2008 (3rd round).  Signed by: Todd Thomas
Roger KieschnickBackground: After back problems plagued him the previous two seasons, Kieschnick was on the cusp of putting it all together in Triple-A in 2012. Then he ran into an outfield wall on May 29, sustaining a stress fracture in his left shoulder that knocked him out for three months.

Scouting Report: The Giants have loved Kieschnick's size, strength and athleticism ever since taking him in the same 2008 draft that netted Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford. Before he got hurt, Kieschnick was showing vastly improved patience and pitch recognition that enabled him to punish mistakes in the strike zone. He has worked to shorten up his stroke and take a more direct swing path to the ball, though he still likes to take an aggressive cut when ahead in the count. He still has trouble covering the outer half of the plate at times, but he isn't chasing as many pitches as he did earlier in his pro career. He runs well for his size and has a plus arm that plays well in right field.

The Future: Kieschnick showed he was healthy while spending a month this offseason in the Dominican League. His two-month run at Fresno caught San Francisco's attention, and he's a good bet to contribute at the big league level in 2013—if he can finally stay healthy.

'09 San Jose (HiA) 517 86 153 37 8 23 110 36 130 9 1 .296 .345 .532
'10 Richmond (AA) 223 21 56 8 3 4 23 18 55 2 3 .251 .305 .368
'11 Richmond (AA) 459 71 117 22 5 16 65 34 121 13 7 .255 .307 .429
'12 Giants (R) 12 0 1 1 0 0 4 0 5 0 0 .083 .077 .167
'12 Fresno (AAA) 222 49 68 13 4 15 40 24 68 0 2 .306 .376 .604
Minor League Totals 1433 227 395 81 20 58 242 112 379 24 13 .276 .329 .482

10. Adalberto Mejia, lhp Born: Jun 20, 1993 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 195
Signed: Dominican Republic '11 Signed by: Pablo Peguero
Adalberto MejiaBackground: Mejia signed for $350,000 and dominated the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2011, then showed in instructional league that he could throw strikes and change speeds. So the Giants decided to get aggressive and assign Mejia to low Class A  Augusta as an 18-year-old. He gave up 11 runs over five innings in his first two starts, leading to a two-month stay in the bullpen, but bounced back to go 4-1, 1.58 in his final six starts.

Scouting Report: With his size, loose arm and potential for three solid or better pitches. Mejia could fit in the middle of a big league rotaton. He's a flyball pitcher who works off an 89-91 mph fastball that touches 93 and should gain steam as he continues to mature and fill out his 6-foot-3 frame. He can get outs with both of his secondary offerings, a slider with good tilt and depth and a changeup that he sells effectively. Mejia's ability to throw consistent strikes and keep the ball down in the zone is unusual for such a young pitcher.

The Future: San Francisco doesn't need to rush him, but Mejia has earned the right to open the 2013 season in high Class A at age 19. He'll be part of a prospect-laden San Jose rotation that should also include fellow Top 10 Prospects Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton and Clayton Blackburn.

'11 Giants (R) 5 2 1.42 13 13 0 76 58 18 12 0 8 71 .203
'12 Augusta (LoA) 10 7 3.97 30 14 0 107 122 57 47 4 21 79 .276
Minor League Totals 15 9 2.90 43 27 0 183 180 180 59 4 29 150 .247