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Giants Prospects

Moderator: Jeff Fletcher compiled the Giants top 10 list and will answer your questions about the organization.

 Q:  Ricky Cobb from Louisville asks:
Do you think Kurt Ainsworth will crack the rotation out of Arizona and, if he does, what kind of year do you forecast for him?

Jeff Fletcher: The Giants say that Ryan Jensen is starting off a bit ahead of Ainsworth for the No. 5 spot, just because he's the incumbent. That said, I think everyone is excited about Ainsworth's potential and they probably all expect that he will outpitch Jensen in the spring. I say Ainsworth starts off as the fifth starter and Jensen as the long man in the bullpen. I think Ainsworth will win 8-10 games with a 4.20-ish ERA this year. Long range I think he projects to a 14-15 game winner each season.

 Q:  Bob Jones from Palo Alto, CA asks:
Can Todd Linden or Tony Torcato move into the SF outfield this year, with Cruz in center?

Moderator: I think both will be in the big leagues at some point this season. Torcato, because he's more advanced than Linden, has a chance to break camp with the club as a fifth OF, or fourth if they can trade Marvin Benard. Torcato will probably never be more than a backup outfielder, though. Linden, on the other hand, is probably the Giants right fielder of the future. He could get a shot if someone gets hurt this year, but I see him easing into the starting lineup in 2004. The problem with moving Cruz to center is that he's not a very good CF. The Blue Jays learned that.

 Q:  Rick from San Diego asks:
Hi Jeff I was curious what the scouting report is and also how you feel about the Giants 1st round pick Matt Cain?

Moderator: Matt Cain just missed out on the top 10. The Giants are very high on him. Besides having great stuff (starting with a 94-95 mph fastball), Cain has a great attitude and work ethic. The Giants said he was a like a sponge last year, trying to learn all he could about what it takes to be a big league pitcher. It's all very impressive for someone so young, still just 18.

 Q:  Tony S. from Pittsburgh asks:
What happened to Jerome Williams being the next Dwight Gooden? I guess he looked pretty good in Arizona. Has he lost velocity?

Moderator: Jerome Williams' stock took a significant dip toward the middle of last season because of his work ethic. The Giants were very frustrated that he wasn't very mature emotionally. Later in the season, though, he seemed to get the message and he reclaimed his spot as one of the top prospects. He's No. 3 on this list only because the top two (Foppert and Ainsworth) are more polished and are no-doubt-about-it big league starters. Williams still might flame out if he has more problems like last year. However, if his head is straight, he's got a chance to be better than either Foppert or Ainsworth. As for his velocity, I think he still throws pretty hard, but it's his other pitches that will get outs for him.

 Q:  Freddie Mac from Clarksdale, Mississippi asks:
Who do u think will be the answer to San Fran 1B position after they decide JT Snow defense can't make up for his low offense and also what do u think of Damon Minor's future with them?

Moderator: That's a very good question. They have a lot of choices. I don't think Damon Minor is one of them. He's out of options and I think last year, when he was given the chance to take the job and didn't do so well, that he's not an everyday 1B in the big leagues. He might be gone this spring in fact. I would say Lance Niekro would be the most likely replacement for Snow. Niekro is an outstanding hitter and he adjusted very well to 1B after he was moved from 3B last year. The Giants still aren't sure if they see Niekro as a 1B or 3B, but with Edgardo Alfonzo having a four-year deal, I think that makes it more likely Niekro will keep working at 1B.

 Q:  Andy from Ithaca, NY asks:
Please tell me the Giants are looking to trade some of their pitching depth for another bat to help Barry. Jesse Foppert for Hank Blalock makes so much sense for all sides...why doesn't it get done?

Moderator: I doubt they would trade Foppert, but you can bank on the fact that some of the pitchers in the minors will be traded. The Giants say they try to load up on pitching, because that's the most valuable commodity, and then they trade the extra arms to fill other holes. They also might use one of the minor league arms in a deal to get someone to take one of their bad contracts in the big leagues (like Marvin Benard).

 Q:  Chris from SLC, UT asks:
Jeff, thanks for taking the time to chat. I follow your work in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and would love to see more stories from you about Giants prospects during the season. Update me on two Giants first rounders; Brad Hennessey and Matt Cain. Is Brad going to be able to pitch again and where does Matt fall on the Top 30?

Moderator: Hello Chris. Mentioning my paper's name is a great way to get your question answered! I mentioned Matt Cain a little earlier. He's 11th on the list. He has quite an upside, but he's still only 18, so you'll to wait a few years for him. Hennessey underwent a second surgery to have the tumor removed from his back last August, and he said in December that he felt much better. He was expected to begin throwing in January and start to get on a mound in spring training. The Giants are trying not to have expectations for Hennessey because he had such a major operation. If he can prove he's healthy, he'll jump right back up into the mix among the top pitchers.

 Q:  John Walsh from Chicago asks:
Jeff, Trey Lunsford had a cup of coffee with the Giants last year. Does he factor into the Giants plans in the future?

Moderator: Unless Benito Santiago starts to get younger, any decent catcher in the minor league system is going to be important to the Giants. Right now the Giants still believe that Torrealba can become an everyday catcher after Santiago's done. If not, Lunsford is next on the list. Lunsford may never be a big-time hitter, but he is great behind the plate, especially at calling a game.

 Q:  Adam B. from Cincy, Ohio asks:
Dusty was known for playing veterans over younger players, on the other hand Felipe Alou is known for developing young talent. Do you think this means we will see much more of guys like Foppert, Williams, Ainsworth, and others, then we would of had Dusty been mananging?

Moderator: I think Dusty got a bad rap for this. Dusty seemed to prefer veterans because the Giants were never in a rebuilding position and -- frankly -- the young options he had were never really that good. It's not like the Giants farm system was cranking out rookie-of-the-year candidates. I think the Giants will start to give more time to their young players now because some of these young players are better than the ones Dusty had to choose from. This year you'll definitely see one young starter and maybe another of those kids in the bullpen. Next year you may see Todd Linden in RF andor Lance Niekro at 1B.

 Q:  Angela from Antioch, CA asks:
Did Julian Benavidez make progess this year and where does he rank in the Top 30?

Moderator: Benavidez slipped this year because he started to get out of shape (a little chubby) and also because he was striking out way too much. The Giants still like his glove and his bat (when he makes contact), but he needs to improve in those other areas.

 Q:  Chris from SLC, UT asks:
Jeff--I hear that the Giants are very high on Manuel Mateo or Melkin Valdez (?)? I loved the Russ Ortiz trade as a Giants fan--What are your thoughts?

Moderator: Good that you mention him. He was known as Manuel Mateo at the time of the trade, but is now known at Melkin Valdez. Whatever you call him, he slipped into 15th on the Giants top 30. He has the potential to be a very good starter, though he's still raw and, at age 21, a few years away. He has very good control for a young pitcher.

 Q:  AL from New York City asks:
Hi Jeff. Can you update us on Jerome Williams' injury status? I know he was shut down early from the AFL for precautionary reasons, but there have been rumors that it was more serious than that. Please shed some light on this for us. Thanks.

Moderator: Because the Giants don't need these young pitchers in the big leagues right away, they are ultra cautious with them, perhaps too cautious, some might say. I don't think there was anything major wrong with Williams. He is throwing in spring training now.

 Q:  Mick from Chicago asks:
I noticed Cody Ransom is on the 40 man roster. He must really have GREAT tools for the Giant's organization to still consider him a prospect. His past two years of offensive statistics are brutal. Do you think they are still counting on him to take over SS when Aurillia moves to 3B or gets traded? And if not Cody, who is the organizational leader to play SS?

Moderator: You would think that Cody Ransom, based on his offense, would no longer be a prospect. But the Giants believe his defense is so off-the-charts good that he could still contribute in the big leagues. If he can just learn to hit a little, he could be a Rey SanchezRey Ordonez type, who makes the big leagues on his defense alone. I don't think the Giants are planning on moving Aurilia to 3B anytime in the next few years. (He is a free agent after '03, though.) If anything happened to Aurilia in the short term, I think Neifi Perez would play SS. Down the line, the best SS prospect in the system might be Angel Chavez, who was moved to 3B a couple years ago after surgery, but could move back to SS eventually.

 Q:  Peter from Walnut Creek asks:
Jeff--Thanks for taking the time to share your insights. I feel like the Giants have an excellent front office team from owner and GM to coachers and trainers. Tell us a little about the organization's makeup; who are the decision makers?

Jeff Fletcher: This is an interesting question. GM Brian Sabean is in charge of everything, but on the minor league side, most of the input comes from Jack Hiatt and Dick Tidrow. Hiatt is strictly in charge of minor leagues, so he spends the whole season out on the road seeing players. Tidrow looks at big leaguers (for trades and free agency), amateurs (for the draft) and minor leaguers. Tidrow is the No. 1 talent evaluator in the organization. What he believes is the gospel.

 Q:  rick jackson from san francisco asks:
What is your opinion of Left hand pitcher Eric Threets. He is currently assigned to the San Jose Giants

Jeff Fletcher: Threets has a lot of problems (lack of a secondary pitch and shaky command, to name a few), but he's a lefty who throws 100 mph. If he can solve those other two problems, he'll rocket to the big leagues quickly as a short reliever or closer.

 Q:  Joe Montana lives! from SF, CA asks:
Who are the Giants top prospects at the Center Field position and which player has the best combo of defensive ability and hitting ability? Thanks!

Jeff Fletcher: Jason Ellison is probably the closest to the big leagues, if the Giants needed to fill that hole today. He's outstanding defensively, but has some holes offensively. Down the line, the Giants see Fred Lewis or Dan Ortmeier being capable big league center fielders. There is a difference of opinion among scouts as to which has a better chance of succeeding at that spot on defense. There's no question Lewis is a better offensive player.

 Q:  Pac Bell from San Francisco asks:
What current MLB OF is comparable in offensive terms to Todd Linden ?

Jeff Fletcher: That's a tough one. There aren't many switch-hitting outfielders with 30-homer potential and the speed to steal 10-15 bases a year. Maybe a poor man's Lance Berkman.

 Q:  Floyd Thursby from Burlingame, CA asks:
Can Jeff Clark survive above A-ball? His control sure seems unreal, but does he have any above average pitches?

Moderator: That will be the big question this year for him. Clark is one of those guys who gets outs without having outstanding stuff (he does have a very good curve ball). The jump to Double A this year will tell the Giants if Clark is for real.

 Q:  Sal from Springville asks:
Jeff--Jesse English and Travis Ishikawa plus the early picks (Cain, Ortmeier, Stone, Lewis). Could this be remembered as a very good draft? Is Ishikawa the steal of the draft?

Jeff Fletcher: I wouldn't call Ishikawa the steal of the draft, because the Giants still had to pay nearly $1 million to get him. It wasn't as if he was lightly regarded. It's just that no one thought he would sign. He does look very good, as do the other guys you mention. It's too early to know if this will be remembered as a very good draft because most of the top players the Giants took are very raw, so they still could go either way.

 Q:  Eric from Oakland asks:
Where do you see Noah Lowry playing at this year, and what kind of potential does he have?

Moderator: Lowry had arm problems off and on last year, otherwise he'd be a borderline top 10 prospect. He throws a 92 mph fastball, and there is debate among scouts as to whether his second-best pitch is a curve ball or a changeup. Both are very good. He's also a good competitor who knows the strategy of pitching (and he's not afraid to pitch inside). If he proves he's healthy this spring and pitches well at Double A this year, he'll be high on the list next year.

 Q:  Chris from SLC, UT asks:
Jeff--Is there any hope for Carlos Valderamma?

Jeff Fletcher: The Giants still think that Valderramma could be a productive hitter and outstanding defensive CF. (Sorry I forgot him in my earlier response about CFs.) If his shoulder is healthy -- and they believe it is -- he'll be at Triple A this year and ready to knock on the door in the big leagues. Although he's been forgotten while recovering from surgery, don't forget that in the spring of 2001 he was the talk of camp for the Giants.

Moderator: Well, my time is up folks! Thanks for all of your questions!

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