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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. 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. 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. 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. For all the strides Posey has made as a catcher, the mechanics of the position haven't become second nature yet. He's still working to improve his receiving and has problems handling quality fastballs with late life. Passed balls have been an issue, 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. 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 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.
Bumgarner ranked third in the minors with a 1.85 ERA last season after leading the minors with a 1.46 mark in 2008. Nevertheless, his heady stock dipped slightly as his velocity waned. The 10th overall pick in 2007, he signed for $2 million. At his best, Bumgarner shows 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, he showed zero fear. He's a good athlete who helps himself with the bat. 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. He must learn to control his emotions and trust his catcher. Bumgarner has No. 1 starter potential, and his stuff would play against big leaguers now. He's just 20, so they'd prefer to let him work in Triple-A to start 2010.
Wheeler looked better every time the Giants scouted him, so they selected him with the sixth overall pick 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. Wheeler is projectable with 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. 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. 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.
Neal was a draft-and-follow who signed for $220,000 after 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. 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. 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. A strong Arizona Fall League reinforced the notion that Neal could hit in the middle of the Giants' lineup. Time remains on his side even though he has 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 corners at the Giants' new Double-A Richmond outpost in 2010.
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. 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. Runzler isn't a tremendous athlete and doesn't field his position well. He must work at holding runners. He could be lethal with a changeup, but he seldom uses one. 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.
Joseph came out of 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, Joseph moved behind the plate his senior year and was one of the best power-hitting prep prospects in the 2009 draft. Delighted to get him in the second round, San Francisco signed him for $712,500. Joseph matches muscle with a functional 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 in a high school home run derby. He has above-average arm strength and accuracy. 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 with Buster Posey ahead of him. Joseph's bat would play there just fine. He's a well-below-average runner. 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.
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 at high Class A San Jose. 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. 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. AT&T Park isn't an inviting place for lefthanded power hitters, so Kieschnick must continue his overall development as a multidimensional threat. If all goes well at Double-A in 2010, he could push for a major league outfield job at some point the following season.
Adrianza quickly developed a following after signing as a 16-year-old. While on a rehab assignment in 2008, Omar Vizquel watched Adrianza field grounders and said 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. 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. Because Adrianza is so eager to please, he sometimes takes his failures at the plate into the field. He must 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 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.
Considered a potential first-rounder for the 2008 draft, Crawford slid to the fourth round after a disappointing Cape Cod League and lukewarm junior season. He played just five games in his pro debut, then jumped to high Class A to begin 2009, destroying Cal League pitching and earning a promotion to Double-A after barely a month. An allaround talent, Crawford has a good blend of skills and field awareness. His positioning and first-step quickness allow him to make tough plays look easy. He's solid around the bag and has an accurate arm. Even when he struggled against Double-A pitching, it didn't affect his defense. He has the potential to hit 15-20 homers a year and shows power to the opposite field. His slightly above-average speed plays even better on the bases. Double-A pitchers fed Crawford a lot of breaking balls and he had trouble adjusting. 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. 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 J.J. Hardy.
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. Peguero's high-energy play, 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. Peguero likes to take an inside-out swing and won't hit for more power until he gets his hands inside the ball. Like Sandoval, he's hyperaggressive and sometimes does himself a disservice by failing to wait for a better pitch to hit. Peguero won an award as the most inspirational player in the Giants' instructional league camp and should become a fan favorite at San Jose. Peguero was added to the 40-man roster this winter and if he continues to develop at this pace, he could be ready for a big league opportunity by the end of 2011.
Noonan is the only promising prospect out of the Giants' three sandwich picks in 2007, as the others (catcher Jackson Williams, infielder Charlie Culberson) didn't even make their top 30. Signed for $915,750, Noonan has gained a reputation as a clutch hitter after providing big hits for league championship teams the last two years in Augusta and San Jose. Though he hasn't put up big numbers, he has been young for his leagues, and his lefthanded swing and ability to make contact have earned him comparisons to Robin Ventura. Noonan has terrific plate coverage that gets him into trouble at times, because he'll put a borderline pitch into play more often than he'll work a count. He hit .198 against lefties in 2009, and tended to let his lower half collapse while flipping at pitches. Coaches had to remind him to keep a solid front side and stay back on breaking balls. If he makes the necessary adjustments, he could become an above-average hitter for a second baseman, producing for average with gap power. He provided a thrill in spring training last year, filling out a major league roster for a road game and delivering a ninth-inning grand slam against the Cubs. With solid-average speed, Noonan is an asset on the bases and can steal an occasional bag. Considered a below-average defender in the past, Noonan has improved his angles to grounders and has become much more dependable around the bag. Though he has a fringy arm, he's good at turning double plays. His field awareness, poise and work ethic are all points in his favor. San Francisco almost jumped Noonan past high Class A last year before deciding not to rush their second baseman of the future any further. He'll make the move to Double-A in 2010.
Rodriguez's frame and athleticism draw comparisons to a young Vladimir Guerrero or Dave Winfield. Suitably impressed, the Giants spent $2.55 million--a franchise record for an international player--to sign him out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. Some evaluators weren't sure he'd be able to cover his huge strike zone against pro pitchers, but he had an encouraging pro debut, hitting .299 with a .392 on-base percentage in the Rookie-level Arizona League. San Francisco tried to reduce the pressure on Rodriguez by mostly batting him in the lower half. He maintained a controlled approach and made plenty of line-drive contact. Though he didn't homer in the AZL, he has considerable raw power that he'll begin to tap into as he gets stronger, develops better balances and chases fewer pitches out of the zone. Rodriguez runs a tick above-average, though he figures to slow down as he fills out and still has a lot of learning to do on the basepaths. He has plenty of arm to play right field, but mostly patrolled left in the Arizona heat. He'll deal with more sweltering conditions in 2010, this time in Augusta. He may be the youngest player in the South Atlantic League, opening the season at age 17.
Ford had the ultimate tale of two halves in 2009. He batted .207/.341/.293 before the all-star break, then hit a scorching .354/.414/.563 afterward. What made the difference? He got healthy after spending time on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis, but more important, the Giants allowed him to drop a switch-hitting experiment that started in instructional league the previous fall. One of the fastest players in the minor leagues, Ford stopped trying to slap his way on base and began to believe in himself as a hitter. He didn't merely boost his average with infield singles. He drove the ball more consistently than he ever had in the past. Acquired from the Brewers along with lefthander Steve Hammond in a July 2008 trade for Ray Durham, Ford earned a place on San Francisco's 40-man roster in November. He was old for high Class A at age 23, but he could become a premium center fielder if he proves he can hit more advanced pitching. His speed changes games, allowing him to terrorize pitchers and catchers--and even score from first base on singles, which he has accomplished twice. He's a defensive standout, too. "There isn't a center fielder in the minor leagues who covers more ground north, south, east and west," San Jose manager Andy Skeels said. Ford's arm is below-average.
Scouts sat on the edge of their seats as Joaquin threw consistent 96-97 mph gas in Cactus League games last spring. His stuff was good enough to overcome command issues in Double-A and earn him big league callups in August and September. Three years earlier, he had missed the entire 2006 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Joaquin just rares back and throws the ball, usually sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball. He's wild in the strike zone and lacks the location to set up hitters inside and out, something he'll have to address to miss bats in the big leagues. His hard slider has plus action, and he's working to add a power two-seam fastball to his repertoire. Joaquin got so predictable in his patterns--first-pitch fastball, followed by a slider--that Connecticut manager Dave Machemer had him watch tape of closers such as Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon to see how they worked hitters. Joaquin's pure stuff could allow him to force his way into the San Francisco bullpen if he throws enough strikes in spring training. His inconsistency likely will make him more of a sixth- or seventhinning option than a future set-up man or closer.
Though Arizona's 2008 bullpen included Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth, who would go in the first round of that draft and reached the majors less than a year later, it was Stoffel who served as the Wildcats' closer. Pegged to go in the first round as well in 2009, Stoffel saw his stock fall after an inconsistent junior season. The Giants believe they got a steal when they snagged him in the fourth round for $254,700. Stoffel overwhelmed hitters in his pro debut, going right after them with a 92-93 mph fastball that touches 95 and a plus slider with plenty of tilt. He also has a changeup but wasn't compelled to throw it much. Stoffel is a quick worker who doesn't like hitters to get comfortable in the box. He repeats his high three-quarters delivery well and issued just one walk in 19 pro innings. He maintains his stuff when asked to pitch on consecutive days. Stoffel is the best college closer to enter the system since former first-rounder David Aardsma, who was pushed through the minors but didn't learn to succeed until he'd passed through four organizations. Stoffel, who has better stuff, should move quickly as well. It would be no surprise if he ascends to Double-A by the end of 2010 and reaches San Francisco by the middle of the next season.
Sosa represented the Giants at the Futures Games in 2007, but he hasn't been as dominant or healthy since. He had arthroscopic knee surgery that October, which cost him most of the first two months in 2008. He also missed time with a pectoral strain in 2008, and a strained muscle in his upper back ended his 2009 season after 14 starts. After averaging a strikeout per inning before last year, he didn't miss as many bats in Double-A. He did compete well, going 6-0, 2.36. When Sosa is healthy, he has a mid-90s fastball that should play in the big leagues. He still needs something to complement his heat, as his curveball is just a get-me-over pitch and he tends to push his changeup. The only way to develop those pitches is to stay on the mound. Sosa has a high-energy personality and has been known to do a few hundred pushups after a start. He might not be durable enough to make 30 starts, but the Giants don't have much upper-level rotation depth, so they don't figure to try him as a reliever yet. He should advance to Triple-A in 2010.
Gillaspie was the first player from the 2008 draft to reach the majors, getting a September callup that year as a fringe benefit because he accepted a slot $970,000 bonus as the 37th overall pick. He spent all of last season quietly toiling in the hitter-friendly California League, where his .286/.364/.386 line was a disappointment. Gillaspie's advanced knowledge of the strike zone actually might have worked against him. "Unfortunately for him, it was a lot better than the umpires," San Jose manager Andy Skeels said. "The bat was literally taken out of his hands. He easily could've walked 30 more times." Gillaspie has good pitch recognition and plate coverage to go with quick hands, enabling him to make consistent line-drive contact. But some scouts question whether the former Cape Cod League MVP and batting champ ever will hit for the power desired from a third baseman. His biggest challenge is to stay at the position. He led Cal League third basemen with 27 errors, doesn't have good hands and struggles to get in a good throwing position. He has average arm strength and speed. Gillaspie volunteered to go to instructional league to overhaul his footwork, and coaches there praised his progress and attitude. He'll move up to Double-A this season.
For years, the Giants drafted with a bias against big-bodied softball types. But things are changing under scouting director John Barr, and Dominguez is more than a one-dimensional slugger. A two-time Big East Conference player of the year, he turned down the Rockies as a sophomore-eligible fifth-round pick in 2008 before signing for $411,300 as a third-rounder last June. He has prodigious raw power that helped him win four conference or summer league home run titles while at Louisville, and he set a school record with 25 last spring. He's an all-or-nothing hitter with a big swing reminiscent of Troy Glaus', but Dominguez will need to make his swing more direct to the ball if he's going to make enough contact. He hit seven homers in his first month of pro ball before pitchers realized they could get him out with breaking balls. His arm strength is just as impressive as his power, and he threw in the mid-90s as a freshman reliever in college. San Francisco hopes he can stay at third base despite his lack of range and agility, but he made six errors in 31 pro games there. He also saw time at first base, which could be his future home. Dominguez likes to be the aggressor, even on the basepaths, where he showed enough quickness and instincts to steal 12 bases in 14 attempts. He's already 23, so he may spend his first full season in high Class A, where he could put up huge power numbers in the hitter's haven that is the California League.
A product of Cincinnati's famed Moeller High--the alma mater of Buddy Bell, Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin--Surkamp impressed with Team USA and in the Cape Cod League before an up-and-down junior season at North Carolina State hurt his draft stock in 2008. Stolen as a sixth-round pick for $135,000, he ranked third in the minors and first in the system in strikeouts (169) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.6) in his first full pro season. He fanned 12 more in the Calfornia League championship clincher over High Desert after a promotion for the playoffs. Surkamp is a three-quarters slinger whose upper-80s fastball appears harder because he hides it well and it looks like 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 often struggles in the first two innings before settling down, which probably will dissuade club officials from trying him in relief. He has enough stuff and ability to remain a starter, and he could reach Double-A at some point this season.
Johnson did a lot of traveling in 2009, and the end result is that he'll compete for a major league job in spring training. He opened the season with the Dodgers, earning a promotion from high Class A to Double-A at midyear, then was sent to the Orioles along with third baseman Josh Bell in a deadline deal for George Sherrill. Johnson is the son of Baltimore broadcaster and former big leaguer Dave Johnson, who reportedly teared up when announcing the trade on the air. But the reunion didn't last long, as the pitching-rich Orioles left Johnson off their 40-man roster and lost him to San Francisco in the major league Rule 5 draft. Johnson features a four-seam fastball that sits at 88-91 mph and has three other solid-average pitches in his slider, curveball and changeup. He isn't overpowering but he has a good feel for pitching and goes after hitters. His stuff profiles for the back of a rotation or middle relief, and San Francisco will try to use him in the latter role in 2010. If he doesn't stick on the Giants' big league roster all season, he'll have to pass through waivers and be offered back to the Orioles for half his $50,000 drafting price
Pill wasn't a front-burner prospect, but the Giants couldn't forget the 47 doubles he hit while playing in a pitcher's park at Augusta in 2007. He inspired more chin-rubbing last summer after a banner season in another hitter's graveyard. Despite driving in just five runs in April, Pill led the Eastern League with 109 RBIs. His 37 doubles weren't a surprise, but his 19 homers exceeded expectations. He showed more power after standing more upright, moving closer to the plate and opening his stance. As a result, he was able to "turn and burn" on offspeed mistakes. Pill will have to keep developing pull power if he hopes to be a run producer at AT&T Park. Some worry that his swing is too long for him to hit consistently enough to be a big league regular. He doesn't draw a lot of walks, in part because he makes contact easily. Tall and rangy, Pill has terrific hands and is the best defensive first baseman in the system. He doesn't look pretty when he throws, but his arm is accurate and he gets rid of the ball quickly. He's a below-average runner but isn't a liability on the bases. After adding him to its 40-man roster, San Francisco is eager to see what he'll do in the lively Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2010.
Monell's father Johnny Sr. was an outfielder who reached Triple-A in the Mets system before continuing his career in Taiwan and several independent leagues. Johnny Jr. followed his dad around and received plenty of exposure to the game as a result. The Giants were intrigued by his lefthanded power as early as 2005, when they drafted him in the 27th round out of a Bronx high school. He turned them down to attend Seminole (Fla.) CC, then spurned the Mets as a 49th-rounder in 2006 before signing with San Francisco as a 30th-rounder in 2007. Monell's power potential could allow him to reach the big leagues as a platoon player, and he may be more than that because he hasn't been overmatched by lefthanded pitching. He has a good grasp of the strike zone. Monell has an above-average arm as well, leading the South Atlantic League by erasing 42 percent of basestealers in 2009. Though he has improved, he still hasn't mastered the art or receiving and committed 18 passed balls in 84 games last season. Pitchers like throwing to him, and his game-calling skills draw praise. The Giants need to accelerate his development because he'll enter the 2010 season as a 24-year-old who hasn't played above low Class A.
If Tanner was disillusioned to repeat the California League after ranking sixth in the circuit with a 3.69 ERA in 2008, he didn't show it. His fastball location improved, his slider got tighter and his changeup became a swing-and-miss pitch in the second half. This time he finished third in the league with a 3.17 ERA, and he was brilliant in two playoff starts as San Jose won the championship. Tanner's improved command came from a cleaner delivery that allowed him to stay back better and finish his pitches. His 88-90 mph fastball won't turn heads, but he pops 93 mph on occasion and gets grounders with his two-seamer. He did less nibbling than in the past, didn't get down on himself and showed the ability to avoid big innings. After surrendering just seven homers in 278 previous pro innings, Tanner gave up 18 last year. Seventeen were hit by righthanders, an indication that he needs more consistency with his changeup. A bright and chatty Bay Area native, Tanner loves doing his homework on hitters and fields his position well. Double-A will be a good test for him in 2010.
Graham had an up-and-down high school career in Texas, flashing first-round stuff but not with the consistency to go that high in the 2009 draft. The Giants considered him as early as the third round, and when he lasted until the sixth he clearly ranked as the top player on their board. They gave him $500,000 to turn down a scholarship to play at North Carolina. Graham has a strong, projectable frame and when he's at his best, his fastball sits in the low 90s with heavy sink. Because he doesn't repeat his delivery, his velocity tends to be all over the map. He has outstanding arm strength and was touching 95 mph in instructional league after missing time with a flu bug. Graham throws a hard curveball that has good action at times and flattens out at others. He has feel for a changeup and earns points for his competitive makeup. He's a perfect project for vice president of player personnel/pitching guru Dick Tidrow and pitching coordinator Bert Bradley. Graham's stuff and high-effort delivery scream short relief, but he'll get every chance to develop as a starter. Unless he bombs in spring training, he should make his pro debut in low Class A.
If McBryde puts everything together, he could have a career like Steve Finley's as an athletic, Gold Glove center fielder with the ability to beat opponents in several ways. McBryde remains an unfinished product at the plate, however, which is why the Giants chose not to protect him on their 40-man roster this offseason. He hit a careerhigh .308 in Double-A last year, but it was a mostly empty average and he tended to disappear for stretches. He also fared poorly when San Francisco sent him to Triple-A for the first month of the season. McBryde hits balls far in batting practice, but he often takes tentative swings in games. Coaches told McBryde that instead of trying to direct the ball and use his speed, he should turn it loose more often in hitter's counts. He still produced little power, and while he cut down his strikeouts in 2009, he didn't draw many walks. McBryde isn't an efficient basestealer despite his speed, which is breathtaking when he's running down balls in the gaps. A former two-way player at Florida Atlantic, he has the best outfield arm in the system. Ticketed for another shot at Triple-A this year, McBryde would be a perfect fit in the wide expanses of AT&T Park if his bat allows him to get there.
Clark's fastball doesn't touch 88 mph, but it's hard to argue with his results last season. San Jose went 22-3 in his starts and he didn't lose after May 7, setting a franchise mark with 15 consecutive winning decisions. The California League pitcher of the year, he ranked second in the minor leagues with 16 victories. "People say winning's not everything," San Jose manager Andy Skeels said. "Oh really? OK, who says, 'Give me the guy who knows how to lose.' The greatest skill any athlete can have is knowing how to win and Clarkie knows how to do that." Clark is the kind of pitcher who makes hitters mutter as they walk to the dugout, but he isn't 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 able to bust a mid-80s fastball in on a hitter's hands without any fear of missing over the plate. He also throws a high-70s slider, a low-70s curveball and a changeup. None of his offerings is an out pitch, but he mixes them well. His competitiveness is off the charts, he holds runners well and makes adjustments quickly. Clark finds creative ways to attack hitters, often following a slow breaking ball with a slower one. Promoted to Double-A for the Eastern League playoffs in September, he may be advanced enough to proceed to Triple-A to start 2010.
Casilla's brother Santiago has been a mainstay in the Athletics bullpen over the past three seasons. Jose bears similarities to his brother, who's nine years his elder, but the Giants aren't ruling out developing him as a starter. Casilla usually pitches at 92-94 mph coming out of the bullpen, but as with many young relievers, his velocity tends to vary from day to day. He dominated short-season Northwest League hitters last summer with his devastating slider, but he tends to fall in love with the pitch. Casilla gets distracted by runners and is less consistent from the stretch. He averaged 2.8 groundouts for every airout in 2009, which portends good things, and has given up just two homers in 131 pro innings. He has the most upside among an intriguing group of young Giants international pitchers that also includes the Bucardo brothers, Jorge and Wilber, and Edward Concepcion. San Francisco will test Casilla's durability and consistency in low Class A this year.
After seeing King pitch on tape, Giants vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow made King his "priority guy" in the 2008 draft. He has the size and arm action that the organization prizes, and he lasted seven rounds because he's something of a long-term project. King struggled in his first full pro season as San Francisco tried to hone his mechanics and give him a delivery he could repeat without difficulty. He's still figuring that out, as evidenced by his average of 4.5 walks per nine innings. There's nothing wrong with his pure stuff, however. His fastball sits in the low 90s and has been clocked as high as 97 mph. He managed to develop a nice changeup that he could throw for strikes. His breaking ball is less refined, a slurve that the Giants hope to turn into a true slider. The Giants will continue to develop him as a starter to get him innings, but King projects more as a reliever unless he makes drastic improvements to his command and breaking ball. He'll advance to high Class A this year.
Bond hit .333 to win the Eastern League batting title last year, and he led the prospect-rich league with a .429 on-base percentage. You could say the Giants found themselves a steal in the 24th round of the 2007 draft--except they actually meant to take Lipscomb outfielder Casey Bond (who's unrelated) and picked Brock by mistake. They did select Casey in the next round, and while he's now out of baseball Brock is working his way up the ladder. He plays hard every day, setting a great tone from the leadoff spot, and controls the strike zone. He doesn't have much power, but he has a career .324 batting average and .419 on-base percentage in three pro seasons. A fringe-average runner who got caught stealing (15) more than he succeeded (13) last season, he's aggressive running the bases and breaking up double plays. His so-so range and below-average arm limit him to second base. He has dabbled at third base and in left field in pro ball, and if he can show more versatility, he could make it as a big league utilityman. Bond already has exceeded expectations and will try to continue to do so in Triple-A this season.
The news couldn't have been more shocking. On the night San Jose clinched the Cal League title Sept. 19, their Opening Day first baseman was accused of fatally shooting a bar patron in the Dominican Republic. Villalona, a quiet but affable teenage power hitter, had taken leave from the team after straining his quadriceps in July. He was rehabbing the injury in Arizona when the Giants let him go home to visit his mother in the rough coastal town of La Romana. Instead of returning to the United States for instructional league, Villalona surrendered to authorities and was jailed awaiting trial on murder charges. If guilty, he could face a 20-year sentence. Details were sketchy and club officials weren't sure what to think, and during the offseason it appeared that Villalona might have the charges dismissed and make a restitution payment to the victim's family. If Villalona can resume his career, his elite power potential would make him one of the top five prospects in the system. But even if he's exonerated, the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic has revoked his visa, so there's no guarantee he'll ever be able to get back into the country. Villalona's ability to crush balls earned him a $2.1 million bonus in 2006, a franchise record at the time. San Francisco has pushed him aggressively, as he was the youngest player in the South Atlantic League in 2008 and the youngest regular in the California League last season. Older pitchers have been able to exploit his lack of strike-zone awareness and patience. Villalona is a below-average athlete and a poor runner who hasn't exhibited the best conditioning habits. Though he has arm strength and surprising agility for a player with his build, he moved from third base after his first pro season and needs to work on his defense at first base.
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