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How much does Giants GM Brian Sabean value Brown? When the Mets asked for the speedy center fielder in exchange for Carlos Beltran in July, Sabean parted with top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler instead. The 24th overall pick in the 2010 draft and recipient of a $1.45 million bonus, Brown certainly enhanced his worth with a smashing first full pro season. He played in the Futures Game, batted .336 at San Jose and set a franchise record with a California League-leading 188 hits. He established himself as a force atop the lineup, stealing 53 bases while knocking in 80 runs from the leadoff spot. He also crushed lefthanders (.459/.531/.685). Brown starred despite entering 2011 with just a dozen games of pro experience after signing at the Aug. 16 deadline the year before. "A lot of guys have talent, but you wonder if they're going to show up to play every day," San Jose manager Andy Skeels said. "Gary certainly did. He competes and he finds ways to beat you. That, to me, weighs very favorably and heavily on whether he'll have what it takes to succeed at the major league level." Choking up on the bat and with his hands pinned against his side, Brown sets up like a slap hitter. But he loads quickly, has explosive wrists and bat speed, loves to shoot the gaps and flashes surprising pull power. His value, though, is in his ability to make consistent contact and to wreak havoc when he gets on base. He's a true 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. Brown expressed disappointment that he was caught stealing 19 times in 2011, saying he improved later in the season after working on his slide mechanics. San Francisco would like to see him work on his bunting skills, as well as recognize when a pitcher is wild and work deeper counts more consistently, which should lead to more walks. For a leadoff man, Brown has a knack for producing with runners on base, though sometimes his aggressiveness works against him when he neglects to use the opposite field. Coaches believe he has the talent and smarts to make adjustments as he faces higher-level pitching. Brown's speed also is a huge asset in center field, where he can play shallow because of his ability to go back on balls over his head. His arm strength is a tick above average and his throws are accurate. He gunned down four runners at the plate for San Jose. Brown remained in high Class A, even though it was apparent by late April that he could have handled a quick promotion like Buster Posey and Brandon Belt had in previous years. He struggled over 11 games in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .220/.278/.300. Following the Giants' November trade for Melky Cabrera, they figure to continue to avoid rushing Brown. He'll likely start 2012 at Double-A Richmond, though if he gets off to a hot start again, San Francisco won't hesitate to promote him to Triple-A Fresno. If the Giants contend again, he's a candidate for a callup in September--if not earlier--to provide some energy with his speed. By 2013, Brown should push Cabrera to an outfield corner and become a fixture in center field and the leadoff spot for San Francisco for years to come.
Joseph was one of the best power-hitting prospects in the 2009 draft and signed for an over-slot $712,500 in the second round. After a lackluster 2010 pro debut, Joseph did better offensively after jumping to high Class A in 2011. More impressively, he made major defensive improvements, earning San Jose's defensive player of the year award and leading the California League by throwing out 37 percent of basestealers. Joseph's short, direct swing generates plenty of backspin and gives him plus power to all fields. He needs to improve his approach and plate discipline in order to cut down on his strikeouts and hit for a higher average. His power will play at first base, where he has seen time, but Joseph now looks like he'll be able to stay at catcher after making huge strides blocking balls and cleaning up his footwork. He has plus arm strength and accuracy but just an average release. Giants coaches say his acumen and game-calling skills might be second only to Buster Posey in the organization. Joseph is a below-average runner but his lack of speed is easier to overlook if he remains behind the plate. If San Francisco decides to move Posey to a less grueling position, Joseph has the tools to take over behind the plate. If not, he can fit in the lineup at first base. He'll begin 2012 in Double-A.
Hembree lasted until the fifth round of the 2010 draft because he didn't have much of a track record with scouts. He missed his senior year of high school after tearing up his knee playing football and pitched just 29 innings in two seasons of NCAA Division I baseball (South Carolina in 2008, College of Charleston in 2010) sandwiched around one at Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC. In his first full pro season, he led the minors with 38 saves and reached Double-A. Hembree consistently works at 93-96 mph without having to muscle the ball. His fastball has explosive movement and he likes to work up the ladder, overpowering hitters at the letters. His slider has the makings of a plus pitch, while his changeup is a work in progress. Hembree won't get away with as many mistakes up in the zone against big leaguers, and he'll have to throw more strikes. He maintains his composure on the mound, a good attribute for a future closer. Hembree's stuff and cool under pressure demeanor have prompted the Giants to compare him to Brian Wilson. He has an easygoing personality and probably wears socks that actually match, so he's no Wilson clone, but he's likely to be pitching in meaningful, late-inning situations in the near future. Hembree will open 2012 in the minors but could be setting up Wilson by the all-star break.
Panik signed for $1,116,000 just days after the Giants drafted him 29th overall last June. He took the field seemingly trying to prove a point to scouts who felt he was an overdraft, winning short-season Northwest League MVP honors and earning a spot in the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars Game. He led the NWL in hitting (.341), runs (49), hits (82), RBIs (54) and total bases (126). Panik's bat is his only standout tool and his intelligence and competitiveness make up for the rest. He's aggressive early in the count but very disciplined with two strikes. He has terrific bat control and reads pitchers well. He crowds the plate and jumps on pitchers who try to pound him inside, showing solid gap power. Some scouts think Panik profiles better as a second baseman, but he has good hands and positions himself well. His arm isn't a cannon, but his throws have good carry along with tremendous accuracy. He's an average runner but is sharp-witted on the bases too--no surprise for a player who had a 3.81 GPA as a finance major. San Francisco would love for Panik to take over second base in 2013 after Freddy Sanchez's contract expires. Panik will stay at shortstop in his first full pro season, likely jumping to high Class A to begin the year.
The most tooled-up player in the system, Peguero missed nearly two months in 2011 after requiring arthroscopic surgery on his left knee at the close of spring training. He batted .312/.332/.445 when he returned, nearly matching his previous career numbers, and was running much better by season's end. Peguero goes to the plate in attack mode. He covers the zone well and doesn't get overpowered by premium velocity. His hyperaggressiveness figures to be exploited as he advances, so it's important that he learns to work counts and hunt pitches. Peguero hasn't hit many homers in the minors, but the ball jumps off his bat and his power is still emerging. The Giants moved him from center to right field, where his well above-average arm is a terrific fit, in 2011. He's a plus defender and started to play with more confidence on his knee later in the year, taking more aggressive angles on balls. Dave Machemer, who managed him two years apart in low Class A and Double-A, says Peguero is a dramatically improved player with much greater on-field awareness. If he continues to file away the rough edges, he could be an asset at AT&T Park, where right field is extra tricky. He made up some at-bats in the Dominican Winter League and will head to Triple-A in April.
Susac wrote a paper in grade school about how his dream job would be to play for the Giants. By the time he was a standout at Sacramento's Jesuit High, the feeling was mutual. He was set on attending Oregon State, so San Francisco didn't get him until 2011. Considered the top college catcher available and a potential first-rounder, he lasted 86 picks after he fractured the hamate bone in his left wrist and floated a big price tag. He signed for $1.1 million--just $16,000 less than first-rounder Joe Panik. Employing a high leg kick, Susac has plus power and generates the kinds of backspun home runs that keep carrying until they clear the fence. But he tends to turn out his hips as he loads and jumps at the ball, which will lead to strikeouts on breaking pitches until he makes adjustments. Susac profiles as a solid defensive catcher with above-average arm strength. He's athletic for a catcher, with quick feet and average speed. Though he signed at the Aug. 15 deadline and hasn't made his pro debut, Susac likely firmed up an assignment to high Class A with an impressive stint in instructional league. With plenty of catching in the system ahead of him, there's no need to put Susac on the fast track. His performance may force the issue anyway.
Surkamp was zooming toward the Double-A Eastern League's pitching triple crown in August when the Giants suddenly needed a starter for the pennant race after Jonathan Sanchez sprained his ankle. Surkamp gave up one run in six innings in his first big league start against the Astros, then beat the Padres twice before badly losing his command in his final three outings. He didn't make it out of the first inning on Sept. 24, when the defending World Series champions officially were eliminated at Arizona. Surkamp's fastball sits in the upper 80s and touches 91, but he had success with it in Double-A because he attacked hitters inside--something he didn't do enough in the big leagues. His two-seamer tails and sinks and induces groundballs. He uses his plus curveball with two strikes to finish off hitters and his solid changeup plays well against righthanders. Surkamp also continues to experiment with a cutter. The key to his success is his ability to locate his pitches. After surgery in 2010 to repair a torn labrum in his hip, he has re-established himself as a durable presence. GM Brian Sabean said after the season that Surkamp wasn't ready for the majors. A solid back-of-the-rotation starter for the future, he'll hone his craft in Triple-A to begin 2012.
The Giants are seldom wrong when they spend a high draft pick on a high school pitcher. Crick, a 2011 sandwich pick who signed for $900,000, has every bit as much projection as Matt Cain did nearly a decade ago. Not only does he have size and athleticism, but Crick also has a low-mileage arm. He didn't concentrate on pitching until his senior season, spending more time as a first baseman and a defensive end in football. Crick's fastball already sits easily in the low 90s and reaches as high as 97, and he has the chance to throw even harder once he cleans up his delivery and gets more on line to the plate. He has long, powerful legs and uses them to drive off the mound. His slider is his best secondary pitch, though it features more sweep than bite. At times he throws a curveball with good depth and tilt, but not consistently for strikes. His changeup is in the early stages and he also has tried throwing a forkball. His command is a work in progress as well. Though the young Texan is a long ways off, with Zack Wheeler gone in the Carlos Beltran trade, Crick is the best power arm in a system that usually knows what to do with them. He has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter.
Adrianza, the nephew of Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, turned a tough 2011 season into a positive. He needed surgery after tearing a left thumb ligament while sliding into a base toward the end of spring training. He didn't take the field until mid-May and hit worse at low Class A Augusta than he had in 2009. He fared better once he got to San Jose, hitting .300/.375/.470 after batting .256/.333/.348 there in 2010. There never has been any doubt that Adrianza can be a star defender with his plus range, soft hands, ultraquick transfer and accurate arm. His bat continues to be the question. Adrianza needs to add strength, though he doesn't get the lumber knocked out of his hands. He can turn around a fastball from his natural right side but lengthens his swing from the left, where he tries to rotate and cheat on pitches on the inner half of the plate. He draws his share of walks but needs to make more contact considering his lack of power. He's an average runner with smarts on the basepaths and a quick first step. With another plus defender, Brandon Crawford, ahead of him in organization, Adrianza will need to progress quickly at Double-A in 2012 carve out a place as an everyday player in majors. Otherwise, he'll end up as a defense-first utilityman.
No player moved through the system in 2011 quicker than Sanchez, an intriguing switch-hitter with ever-improving receiving skills. He began the year in high Class A, was aggressively promoted to Triple-A in mid-June and made his big league debut a month later while the Giants were desperate to audition catchers following Buster Posey's seasonending leg injury. Sanchez wasn't ready for full-time duty in the majors but held his own. Sanchez has a strong body and solid defensive ability. He has above-average arm strength, a quick release and good accuracy, enabling him to post 1.9-second pop times and erase 34 percent of basestealers in 2011. He blocks balls well and though his English is limited, pitchers enjoy throwing to him. A better hitter from the left side, Sanchez has an advanced two-strike approach and trusts his hands to let the ball get deep. He doesn't get fooled by quality breaking stuff. Though he makes consistent contact, he possesses just gap power and doesn't run well. He may not be another Posey and he may lack the high ceiling of Tommy Joseph or Andrew Susac. But Sanchez profiles well as a big league backup who can contribute offensively and defensively, and he could fill that role in 2012.
Culberson's father Charles was the Giants' 16th-round pick in 1984 and coached in the White Sox system. His grandfather Leon played in the major leagues, and he's also related to the Sislers (Hall of Famer George, former all-star Dick, big leaguer Dave). Culberson's baseball bloodlines manifest themselves in his hard-nosed approach and competitiveness. He looks the part of a big leaguer and coaches love the way he comes to play every day. A surprise supplemental first-round pick in 2007, Culberson had a breakout 2010 season in high Class A but had a rough transition to Double-A last year. He responded by working harder and was instrumental in helping Richmond reach the Eastern League finals as a wild-card team. Culberson is a streaky hitter who rakes against lefties but misses fastballs and overstrides when he goes cold. He has trouble laying off sliders even when he's in a hot streak, and he's aggressive to a fault. When everything falls into place, the ball jumps off his bat. Despite average speed, he is an opportunistic runner with good instincts on the bases. After struggling at shortstop and third base earlier in his pro career, Culberson has found his niche at second base. He's a solid defender with better arm strength and ability to turn double plays than most players at his position. Culberson might require a little more time to blossom, but scouts like his body, strength and aptitude. Though he still has youth on his side, he'll need to make progress to avoid being passed by 2011 first-rounder Joe Panik. Added to the 40-man roster in November, Culberson may repeat Double-A at the beginning of 2012.
Pill was a lightly regarded prospect who pushed his way onto the Giants' 40-man roster by driving in 109 runs in Double-A in 2009. When he had an unremarkable Triple-A season in 2010, San Francisco designated him for assignment and he went unclaimed on waivers. Pill responded by forcing the issue yet again, hitting a career-high 25 homers and driving in 107 runs when he returned to Fresno last year. The run-starved Giants were so motivated to carve out a September roster space for Pill that they released outfielder Aaron Rowand and ate the $14 million owed him. Pill didn't disappoint, becoming just the second player in franchise history to homer in each of his first two big league games. He's a durable performer who has a simple swing, easy power and the ability to make consistent contact. He's an advanced hitter who uses the whole field in RBI situations. He likes to get his arms extended and will have to make adjustments to inside pitches. He also could stand to draw more walks and do a better job of recognizing pitches beneath the strike zone. Pill runs well for a big man once he gets going. He's an above-average first baseman with good actions and soft hands. He played some second base at Fresno, but he's little more than an emergency option there. With Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff in the big leagues, San Francisco isn't sure how Pill will fit in the near future. But they certainly won't remove him from 40-man roster again. The Mets drafted his brother Tyler, a righthander, in the fourth round last June.
Gillaspie is a hard-nosed competitor who takes the game very seriously. After making some rocky first impressions during a mandated September callup shortly after he signed for $970,000 as the 37th overall pick in 2008, he has endeared himself to many members of the organization. That group includes Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who called him the most improved player in the system when Gillaspie made it back to San Francisco last year, this time on merit. He always has had supreme contact and pitch-recognition skills, along with the ability to turn around quality fastballs. He hits for average with some gap power and a healthy amount of walks, using a short, line-drive stroke that requires little maintenance. At worst, he projected as a valuable lefthanded bat off the bench. But Gillaspie has raised his stock by making huge strides at third base, tirelessly working to clean up his footwork and improve his throwing accuracy. While fielding roughly the same amount of chances in three successive seasons, he has cut his errors from 27 to 17 to 11. Fresno manager Steve Decker estimated that Gillaspie made at least 20 diving plays for him in 2011. In limited looks, Gillaspie has been adequate at first base but has struggled with reads and jumps in left field. He might not be a candidate to take Pablo Sandoval's job, but he should be ready to bring a little fire to the Giants' bench in 2012.
Correa showed a strong arm in the lower levels of the Marlins system, but he had shoulder issues that cost him the entire 2009 season and he couldn't make it past low Class A. The Giants hadn't forgotten their strong reports from the days when he was hitting 95 mph from a loose, easy delivery, so they turned a roster crunch into a positive in the spring of 2010. San Francisco sent Jack Taschner to the Pirates for Ronny Paulino, then flipped Paulino to Florida for Correa. It took awhile, but Correa's shoulder came around in 2011 and he was back to punching tickets on two levels. He flashes mid-90s velocity while sitting at 91-92 mph with his fastball. He also sells a plus changeup that overwhelmed Class A hitters, whom he limited to a .141 average before a midseason promotion to Double-A, where he also fared well. His slider is a below-average offering, but he has gotten by with his other two pitches and ability to throw strikes. Correa is a good athlete with a lean, strong frame and plus makeup. He averaged nearly two innings per appearance last year, and because his changeup makes him so effective against lefthanders, the Giants may look to stretch him out as a starter. They protected him on their 40-man roster this offseason.
Aside from Francisco Peguero, Parker may have the best blend of speed and power in the system. He's still learning to transform his talents, though. Once regarded as a first-round talent, he fell to the Giants in the second round of the 2010 draft after he hit .188 in the Cape Cod League and struggled with inconsistency in his junior year at Virginia. His first full pro season was more of the same, as he led San Jose with 74 walks but also paced the club by a wide margin with 144 strikeouts in 486 at-bats. Parker, who stands straight up at the plate, has trouble maintaining a consistent strike zone and has yet to solve lefthanders. He isn't much of a battler with two strikes. But he's ready to turn on fastballs and is capable of carrying a club when he's not overthinking at the plate. Parker, moved from center field to right to accommodate Gary Brown at San Jose, doesn't always look assured when he settles under flyballs. His plus speed helps him recover from bad jumps and allows him to steal bases. Arm strength isn't an asset, though. Parker ended the year with a confidence boost after a solid showing in the California League playoffs, making him likely to graduate to Double-A in 2012.
A power-hitting third baseman with the arm strength of a big league closer, Dominguez did enough damage in the California League in the first two months last year to earn a midseason promotion to Double-A Richmond. But after he started fast as Richmond's cleanup hitter, his lack of selectivity got exploited by more advanced pitchers and he hit just .213/.239/.353 in the second half. Dominguez has the most raw power in the system but is prone to overswinging and chasing pitches. He has a dead-pull approach and doesn't keep his hands back well against breaking balls. Dominguez doesn't have superlative range but can play deeper than most third basemen because of his cannon arm and handles anything within his reach. He played some first base in instructional league, too. Dominguez has below-average speed and range but moves better than most 240- pounders. For a big man, he has impressive stamina and wants to play every inning of every game. If Dominguez doesn't make enough contact to reach the majors, the Giants always could stick him on the mound. It wouldn't be the first time vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow got his mitts on a strong-armed infielder. Before that happens, Dominguez will give Double-A another shot this year.
One look at Oropesa's thick forearms and it's obvious what he brings to the table. The slugging first baseman led the Cape Cod League with seven homers in 2010 and is tied for fifth place with Morgan Ensberg on Southern California's all-time homer list with 40. Already well regarded by Giants scouts, Oropesa reinforced Carlos Pena comparisons with a two-homer, five-RBI game in front of them at California. San Francisco drafted him in the third round last June and signed him in August for an above-slot $550,000. Oropesa's lefthanded swing is fluid and powerful but not especially compact. Though he doesn't chase as many pitches as his lofty strikeout totals as an amateur might indicate, he has trouble with breaking balls and figures to be challenged against lefthanders. Recruited as a two-way player by the Trojans, Oropesa has a strong arm but lacks the hands or range to play third base, giving him a narrow avenue to the big leagues. He's no better than a station-to-station runner as well. Once projected as a top-50 pick, Oropesa turned his draft disappointment into motivational fuel in instructional league and into the weight room over the winter. Growing up in the Inland Empire region of southern California, the first T-ball team he played on was the Giants. He'll be issued a slightly bigger orange and black San Jose uniform to start his pro career.
The best-case scenario has Jones someday turning his ample physical gifts into a standout, two-way center fielder in the mold of Matt Kemp. But first, the Giants need to keep him on the field. Just two games into his 2011 season at Salem-Keizer, he required an appendectomy that forced him to miss a month. He struggled upon his return, so he'll probably return to the Northwest League for his third pro season. Jones has youth on his side, though. A three-sport standout in high school and Missouri's Gatorade baseball player of the year in 2010, the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder is built like a Big Ten linebacker and possesses above-average speed and arm strength. The former quarterback has big-time raw power, and though he's a long way from making dependable contact, he has shown a willingness to work counts and take walks. Jones acquitted himself well while playing all three outfield positions in instructional league, though he's still learning to make the most of his quickness on the bases and on defense. He didn't play on showcase teams and hasn't been exposed to much quality coaching as an amateur, so he has everything to learn. The same was true of Kemp.
Marlowe uses an athletic delivery to get the most out of his smallish frame, he throws a cartoonish breaking ball and posted flat-out ridiculous college strikeout totals--all of which inspired one heck of a comparison by a Giants official who saw him in instructional league: "He's got a lot of things going on, like Tim Lincecum." Marlowe is a much more of a project than Lincecum was when he entered pro ball, though. A 21st-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2010, Marlowe transferred from Navarro (Texas) JC to Oklahoma State rather than turn pro. He struck out 71 in just 41 innings as the Cowboys' closer last spring, but he also walked 34, hit eight batters and threw seven wild pitches. San Francisco drafted him in the fifth round and signed him for $145,000. Marlowe's best pitch is a breaking ball that has the velocity of a slider (81-84 mph) and the big break of a curveball, and it's alternately described as both. He relies on it too much and will be under orders to throw more fastballs as a pro. There's no reason for him to avoid his heater, which sits at 92-95 mph and has been clocked as high as 97. Though Marlowe struggled when asked to pitch on consecutive days in college, any concerns over his stamina were assuaged when scouting director John Barr saw him strike out 12 in five innings against Texas. San Francisco may use him as a starter in the lower minors to get him innings, but Marlowe's future is in the bullpen. If he can harness his stuff, he could become a big league set-up man or possibly a closer. Though he'll probably open in low Class A, he could move rapidly.
There's a lot to like about Kickham, but his first full pro season was an unsatisfying experience. The Giants had high hopes for the physical lefty, who received an above-slot $410,000 as a drafteligible sophomore in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. He's a product of a Missouri State program that has pumped out big league pitchers Ross Detweiler, Jeff Gray, Shaun Marcum, Matt Palmer, John Rheinecker, Brett Sinkbeil and Brad Ziegler in the last decade. His twin brother Dan also pitched for the Bears and signed with the Tigers as a 33rd-rounder last summer. Kickham pitches in the low 90s and can touch 94 mph with fastball, giving him more velocity than most lefty starters. He also shows good feel for a true four-pitch blend that includes a plus slider, solid curveball and emerging changeup. All those attributes pointed Kickham toward the fast track, and he was ticketed to begin 2011 in high Class A. But Kickham dealt with a recurring blister issue, so the Giants started him at low Class A in mid-May and he didn't exactly dominate the league. At least he finished strong, with a 2.23 ERA in the final month of the regular season and a strong playoff start. Kickham has no right to complain about pitcher's fielding practice this spring after making six errors in just 23 chances last year. If he can put the blisters behind him, he should get back on track at San Jose and has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter.
Blackburn got a bit overlooked last spring as Oklahoma had its deepest crop of high school pitching ever. The Sooner State produced two top-seven picks in Dylan Bundy (Orioles) and Archie Bradley (Diamondbacks), as well as three other prep arms who went in the first five rounds. The Giants liked Blackburn's feel for pitching and had an accurate read on his signability despite what many teams believed was an unshakable commitment to Oklahoma. Sure enough, he inked a $150,000 deal and immediately went to work in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he put together a scintillating pro debut. Blackburn throws his low-90s sinker to both sides of the plate and shows good feel for spinning a curveball and locating his changeup. He has the makings of a slider, too. He has a precocious ability to throw strikes and to take something off his fastball at times to control opponents' bat speed. His pitches have good life down in the zone, as evidenced by his 3.1 groundout/airout ratio in the AZL. Blackburn has a sturdy build and doesn't look particularly athletic, but his high three-quarters delivery is sound and repeatable. He'll have to work on his conditioning in order to maintain his stamina through a full season. Blackburn should be able to handle an assignment to low Class A in 2011. He's a potential No. 3 or 4 starter who's already making area scout Daniel Murray and Midwest supervisor Arnold Brathwaite look smart.
Galindo spent two years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League learning to switch-hit before club officials decided he was ready to be challenged Stateside in 2011. He turned into something more than a slap-and-dash hitter from the left side, though there was never any doubt about the dash part. It was no accident that Galindo led the Northwest League in runs (49) and steals (47). He combines tremendous speed with excellent instincts and fearlessness on the basepaths. He swiped third base eight times and his gumption reminded Salem-Keizer manager Tom Trebelhorn of another aggressive speedster he managed in the NWL more than three decades ago--a guy by the name of Rickey Henderson. Galindo doesn't have the overall hitting ability to become another Rickey, but he has gotten stronger and is making more line-drive contact. He'll never have much power, so he needs to focus on putting the ball on the ground and getting on base. While not a physical presence, Galindo has a strong arm and maximizes his speed in center field by getting good jumps. Though he isn't immune to clanking a ball off his glove, he profiles as an above-average defender. Galindo probably will begin 2011 terrorizing catchers in the South Atlantic League.
Osich was positioned to go in the first two rounds of the 2011 draft before his velocity disappeared in the last month of the college season because of elbow and back discomfort. He was pulled from an NCAA regional playoff game after one inning the day before the draft, and he also had a history of arm problems that included Tommy John surgery in 2010. After taking Oregon State teammate Andrew Susac in the second round, the Giants couldn't pass up Osich when he was still available in the sixth. He signed for $450,000, the equivalent of second-round money, in August after he passed his physical. When healthy last spring, Osich threw a heavy 93-95 mph fastball that peaked at 97. He can get outs with both his changeup and slider, though he didn't throw his breaking ball much last year, perhaps a concession to his health issues. He was at his best on April 30, when he threw the Beavers' first no-hitter since 1947 to beat No. 3 overall pick Trevor Bauer and UCLA. San Francisco believes Osich just might have hit a dead-arm phase in his recovery last June, but limited him to rehab work in instructional league just to be cautious. Osich has all the equipment to be a No. 2 starter if he could stay healthy. He'll probably begin his pro career in relief as the Giants watch his innings, and it's easier to project that as his long-term role.
Aside from supplemental first-rounder Kyle Crick, Black might have the highest ceiling among the passel of power arms the Giants took in the 2011 draft. But after signing for $225,000 as a seventhrounder, he also has the furthest to go. He missed his high school senior season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He redshirted in his first season at Pittsburgh and pitched just 37 innings over the last two college seasons. Black's stuff is undeniable, starting with a fastball that operates at 94-96 mph and features natual movement. At its best, his mid-80s slider can be a plus-plus pitch. But Black is more often wild than not, and he posted a 6.30 ERA with 26 walks in 20 innings at Pitt last spring. His shoulder flies open when he overthrows and he can't be relied upon to throw strikes. In other words, he's the kind of project the Giants love to give pitching coordinator Bert Bradley and vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow. Black also has battled knee problems, so he'll be developed as a reliever. There's no telling how he'll hold up when used on consecutive days. If he finds the strike zone often enough in the spring, Black will make his pro debut in low Class A.
Though his progress was obscured somewhat by Heath Hembree's outstanding season, Harrold also established himself as a relief arm to watch. In his first full pro season, he clicked with pitching coach Steve Kline at Augusta, where he recorded a 1.54 ERA and 16 saves before a late-July promotion. His high Class A numbers weren't as pretty, but he gave up eight runs in his first round outings and recovered to post a 2.79 ERA afterward. He also was the best among the bunch of pitchers the Giants sent to the Arizona Fall League. Harrold throws consistent 92-94 mph fastballs from a high three-quarters slot. He commands a lockdown slider that rates as the best in the system. His main needs are to work on a changeup to combat lefthanders and to throw more strikes. If he can do that, he could reprise Sergio Romo's role someday soon in the San Francisco bullpen. Harrold should reach Double-A, if not higher, in 2012.
After spending $849,000 on international amateur bonuses in 2010, a figure that ranked 27th among the 30 organizations, the Giants doled out $750,000 for Dominican pitchers Mejia and Simon Mercedes last offseason. Mejia, who signed for $350,000, combines a projectable frame and loose arm with an advanced feel for pitching. In his pro debut, he recorded the fourth-best K-BB ratio (8.9) and sixthbest ERA (1.42) in the Dominican Summer League. He further impressed coaches who worked with him in instructional league. Though he's still growing into his body, Mejia is athletic and coordinated. For now he pitches at 87-90 mph and touches 92 with his fastball, and there's plenty of room for projection in his slender frame. He has some deception in his delivery and effectively sells his changeup. His breaking ball is still just a slurve, however. Despite his youth, Mejia is calm and confident on the mound. Though a case can be made for a full-season assignment at Augusta, San Francisco has a surplus of young pitching and probably will send him to the Arizona or Northwest League.
Kieschnick led the Giants system with 23 home runs in his 2009 pro debut, but consecutive injury-plagued seasons have knocked the shine off his prospect status. He still has some nice tools, though he'll have to re-establish himself as a durable performer if he hopes to join fellow 2008 draftees Buster Posey, Conor Gillaspie and Brandon Crawford in San Francisco. The Giants did add Kieschnick to their 40-man roster in November. He spent last offseason rehabbing a stress fracture in his lower back and was starting to turn a corner last summer before more stiffness and discomfort locked up his swing in August. With Richmond fighting to make the playoffs, San Francisco shut him down toward the end pf the season. Kieschnick has a big stroke that matches his strapping build and he attacks pitches when he's ahead in the count. He has holes in his swing and lacks patience, so he may never hit for a high average, which will be the tradeoff for his above-average raw power. When healthy, Kieschnick runs well for his size and provides quality defense in right field, where his strong arm is an asset. He's an all-out competitor who pays little heed to outfield walls and gives a consistent effort even when he's playing in pain. If he repeats Double-A again, it'll signal that he had a disappointing spring.
Duvall signed for just $2,500 as an 11th-rounder, he was old for low Class A at age 22 and his at-bats aren't likely to be found on an instructional video. But he just keeps hitting baseballs over the fence and grabbed the Giants' attention by hitting 22 homers at Augusta last year. He took home MVP honors at the South Atlantic League all-star game and probably would have topped 100 RBIs if he didn't miss three weeks with a hamstring injury. Duvall doesn't use his legs enough in his swing but takes a balanced, direct path to the ball. He has established himself as one of the better fastball hitters in the system. A shortstop at Louisville, he had a miserable time while making 27 errors at third base last year, mostly on rushed, high throws. He has average range and arm strength to go with fringy speed. San Francisco has tried him at second base, in the hopes he might just become a poor man's Jeff Kent, but he spent most of instructional league trying to improve at third. Duvall will head to high Class A in 2012, with the chance for a midseason promotion if he continues to hit home runs.
Before Edgar Renteria became a World Series MVP for the Giants, he made another big contribution to the organization. He placed a persuasive call to his countryman Fuentes, who was highly pursued by the Rangers, Yankees and other clubs attracted to his strength, bat speed and short, balanced swing. Adding him was a good start for scouting director John Barr, who's trying to make Latin American inroads beyond the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, where the prices for top teenage talent have skyrocketed. San Francisco still isn't sure what its $280,000 investment in Fuentes will yield, but he made enough progress as a power-hitting corner outfielder to earn a spot in the Arizona League as an 18-year-old last year. He struck out 55 times in 179 at-bats but the contact he did make was loud. Fuentes packed on 25 pounds in a year's time and offers lots of raw power. He's a below-average runner who profiles best in left field, though he probably has enough arm to see spot duty in right. Fuentes is still another year away from being ready for full-season ball.
No wonder the Giants got scared off spending big bucks on international free agents. Rodriguez has been a major disappointment in two years since receiving a $2.55 million bonus, the largest in club history for an international amateur. That exceeded the $2.1 million they gave Angel Villalona, whose career was derailed when he was charged in the fatal shooting of a bar patron in the Dominican Republic. At least there is still a glimmer of hope for Rodriguez, who once was compared to a teenage Dave Winfield but hit just one home run and slugged .297 in low Class A last year. He uses his long arms to cover the zone well and finds a way to put the ball in play with two strikes, but he chases bad pitches early in the count. Still just a teenager growing into his body, he gets frustrated with his at-bats. San Francisco coaches have worked with him to get his bat started a little earlier and to better control the barrel. Thought to have the tools of a prototypical right fielder, Rodriguez has to find a way to tap into his power. He's erratic in the outfield, though he does have a strong arm and deceptive speed. He'll almost assuredly repeat low Class A in 2012.
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