Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TEAM #9 – San Francisco Giants

How long will Giant fans watch Molina and wait for Posey?

Going across the Bay, we find the San Francisco Giants checking in at #9. The Giants are led by the top duo that we have ranked thus far, and solid depth throughout the upper prospect tiers. Two things hold them back from ranking higher though…the first is that they don’t have the top to bottom depth of some of the strongest organizations…and the second is the legal troubles of Angel Villalona. Villalona would have likely rated as a Top 100 prospect, if it weren’t for the questions surrounding his ability to resume his professional career in the United States. After researching the situation carefully, we feel that we have discounted, appropriately, his certainty factor, and he now comes in as the Giants’ #25 prospect. While the Giants do have two premium arms in Bumgarner and Wheeler, the trades of Alderson and Barnes have left them a bit thin in that area, as many of the remaining arms with upside are relief pitchers. While they likely have more low-ceiling types than high-ceiling types, the organization has a mix of both, and a good mix between players that are nearly ready to contribute and players that are a ways away. One final note of importance…after a few years of making substantial investment and seemingly beginning to reap some of the rewards, the Giants were a virtually absent player among the top Latin American free agents this season. Having had the Duanel Jones deal voided, we are unaware of any signing for more than a low six figure bonus. We will have to wait and see if this is indication of philosophy shift or a one year aberration.

Grade A

1) Buster Posey, C (2009 Performance Scores – Power 70; First Base Rate 75; Discipline 64; Speed 44)

Since hindsight is 20/20, one has to seriously wonder if the Tampa Bay Rays had to do it all over again, that Buster Posey wouldn’t have been the top pick in the 2008 draft. Instead the Rays went with Beckham, and Posey fell to the Giants at #5. Since signing, Posey has been everything that was advertised, namely the surest bet of producing a solid Major League career that the 2008 draft class had to offer. Now the Giant fans are eagerly awaiting his fulfillment of that promise, while Giant management resigns the very mediocre Bengie Molina to another year of the same old thing. Pablo Sandoval needs some offensive help, and Molina isn’t likely to provide it. Posey shows advanced patience at the plate, and he uses it as well as anyone in the minors to just take what the pitcher gives him. He doesn’t possess tremendous raw power, yet still belted 18 home runs. His contact skills rate a plus—strong enough to envision runs at batting titles. Even his speed, his weakest offensive skill, rates above average for the position. Remarkably though, his offense isn’t his best attribute, as Posey is extraordinarily advanced at the aspect of game/pitcher management. An excellent athlete, Posey has a strong arm, that allowed him to nail 46% of the runners who attempted to run on him. If there is a downside, it is that he converted to shortstop in college, and he is still somewhat raw in the blocking/catching aspects of the position. With Molina in the fold, Posey will head back to AAA where he can get full-time at bats and work on his receiving skills. He has all-star potential at the position, and the Giant fans are likely to get considerably restless if Posey isn’t the starting catcher by mid-season.

2) Madison Bumgarner, LHP (2009 – Dominance 48; Stamina 68; HRrate 49; Control 71)

In a draft that contained Rick Porcello and Jarrod Parker, it was widely believed that Bumgarner was the best pure prep arm available in 2007. After some minor adjustments early in the 2008 season, Bumgarner was nearly unhittable, as he flashed a fastball that consistently sat in the mid-90s. Coming into 2009, the task was to work on his control, especially with his secondary offerings. He accomplished the task so well that he blew through the California (CAL) League, before holding the ESL at bay, en route to a brief stint in the Majors. When he is on, he commands three pitches that includes a slider and a change, in addition to the heater. While he posted the #5 Performance score in the ESL, it didn’t come without concern—starting with the fact that his fastball was barely a 90Mph offering for much of the second-half. Add to that, the fact that Bumgarner was drafted with the reputation of being much more thrower than pitcher, and while he earns praise for his attacking style, it often leads to over-reliance on the fastball—leaving him with under developed secondary offerings--something that will not work in the Big Leagues. At only 20yo, and with Major League experience under his belt, his certainty factor is quite high. But if Bumgarner is going to reach his ceiling of a true rotation ace, he is going to have to refine the secondary offerings. He should get an opportunity to work on this at AAA to begin 2010, and should join the rotation in San Francisco sometime in the season’s second half.

Grade A -

3) Zack Wheeler, RHP -

It was not a shock to us that the Giants took Wheeler at #6, last June, nor was it tremendously surprising that he was the second prep pitcher selected. What was a surprise was that Matt Hobgood was the pitcher that went before him. While we were very comfortable with our draft day ranking that had Wheeler as the fourth best prep pitcher, behind Matzek, Turner and Shelby Miller, we cautioned that Wheeler would be considered a top 5 draft talent in many, less deep drafts, and we clearly expected him to be gone in the upper half of the first round. As it was, the Giants fell in love with Wheeler, and never really questioned who they would take. Wheeler is a highly projectable right-hander, with a low-90s fastball, a plus Curve, and a potentially plus Change. Despite his considerable remaining projection, Wheeler is already fairly polished, and probably rates only behind Matzek in that area from the 2009 draft class. On the downside, Wheeler struggles at times with command, and, in what was our biggest concern, we weren’t tremendously impressed with his overall pitchability. Wheeler’s ceiling is huge, as he profiles as a Major League #1/#2. Giant fans are quick to point out that he is a more advanced prospect than Bumgarner was at this stage of his career. Because of that Wheeler will likely debut in the SAL this spring.

4) Thomas Neal, OF (2009 – Power 77; First Base Rate 73; Discipline 59; Speed 48)

After serving as Angel Villalona’s caddy in the SAL in 2008, while he recovered from shoulder surgery, Neal broke out in a big way in 2009—posting the #4 Performance Score in the CAL. Neal is a stockily built outfielder with below average speed. While his arm is playable in right, he profiles better as a LF/1B type. Offensively, there are little concerns about his bat, as he has above average power skills, solid contact skills and reasonable plate discipline. His real value is primarily tied to his ability to stay in the OF, as he has the upside of a Major League average starting OF corner. Neal will open 2010 in AA, likely competing with Roger Kieschnick head-to-head over the next couple of seasons.

Grade B+

5) Rafael Rodriguez, RF (2009 – Power 39; First Base Rate 75; Discipline 70; Speed 39)

One of the Top International signings in 2008, Rodriguez made his debut this past season in the AZL. Rodriguez is very muscular for a 17yo, and showed a surprisingly advanced plate approach for a young Latin American signee. While he had only 8 XBH in 127 ABs, he projects to eventually have above average power. Not a speedster, but there is little concern for his long-term ability to remain in RF. There is enormous upside with Rodriguez, and right now he just needs experience. He showed begin 2010 in extended Spring Training, before likely joining the NWL when it opens its season.

6) Roger Kieschnick, OF (2009 – Power 75; First Base Rate 37; Discipline 43; Speed 73)

A rare blend of enormous power potential, speed, athleticism and a ‘no-holds-barred’ aggressiveness, Kieschnick made his debut, this season, in the CAL, after the Giants tabbed him in the third round in 2008. There he slugged his way to a Top 20 Performance Score. We normally would be more concerned about a 23.5% strikeout rate, but Kieschnick possesses a significant baseball IQ that should allow him to make the proper adjustments as he continues up the ladder—and this was his first taste of proball. The 23yo will open the season at AA, the ceiling of a power hitting Major League right fielder. Already a reasonably polished prospect, the expectations are that he will find his way to San Francisco in early 2011.

Grade B

7) Tommy Joseph, C -

We had Joseph rated as a second round pick entering draft day, which is right where the Giants selected him. We had a chance to see Mike Napoli play as a 19yo in the MWL, and Joseph draws immediate comparisons as a big, thick, hitting machine, that lacks mobility behind the plate. In a draft that was deep in backstops, Joseph could possibly possess the most offensive upside of any of them—however, when comparing him to Max Stassi, Luke Bailey and Wil Myers, Joseph has the least likelihood of remaining behind the plate. If he is forced into another position, first base is really his only other option—significantly diminishing his value. With an advanced bat, we expect that Joseph will open 2010 in full-season A-ball.

8) Dan Runzler, RP (2009 – Dominance 73; Stamina 28; HRrate 53; Control 36)

Runzler had a Dan Hudson-esque type season in 2009, as he began the year in full-season A-ball, finished it in San Francisco, and hit every rung on the ladder along the way. Essentially a two-pitch pitcher, Runzler compliments his mid-90s fastball with a potentially plus curve. If there is a knock, it’s that he does experience bouts of command issues—especially with the curve. We aren’t typically fond of Minor League relief pitchers, but Runzler has closer stuff and has the likelihood of making the Giants out of Spring training—making his certainty quotient rather high.

9) Nick Noonan, 2B (2009 – Power 43; First Base Rate 53; Discipline 57; Speed 57)

A sandwich round pick in 2007, Noonan isn’t flashy, and doesn’t have a huge ceiling, but the 20yo is one of the most consistent players in the Minors, with a significantly high prospect floor. With solid average skills across the board and a high baseball IQ, he posted the #11 Performance Score in the CAL in 2009. Defensively, all that he does is make plays. We don’t expect that Noonan will make many all-star games, but we do expect that he will have a long career as a solid, every, day Major League secondbaseman. Noonan will begin 2010 in AA, and is likely to find his way to San Francisco sometime in 2011.

10) Ehire Adrianza, SS (2009 – Power 33; First Base Rate 68; Discipline 70; Speed 60)

One of the Minor League’s best shortstop gloves, Adrianza will make it or break it on the basis of whether he is able to show enough offense to hold an everyday Major League job. With excellent lateral movement, soft hands, and a solid arm, Adrianza has the potential to compete for Gold Gloves if he can make it that far. At 6’1, 155lbs, there is hope that he will add more muscle, and hence more power, as he has hit only 3 home runs in over 800 professional ABs. On the positive side, Adrianza is a switch hitter who makes solid contact from both sides, and he possesses plus strike zone management skills. Adrianza will play the 2010 season as a 20yo, likely debuting in the CAL. Hopefully the Giants will be patient enough to allow his bat to catch up to his advanced glove.

11) Conor Gillaspie, 3B (2009 – Power 37; First Base Rate 72; Discipline 74; Speed 33)

Gillaspie was the first player from the 2008 draft to play in the Majors, but still isn’t a lock to ever stay there. With plus contact skills and excellent strike zone management skills, the bat is a capable weapon for him—just not as an infield corner, as he has just four home runs in over 600 professional PAs. Unfortunately, he lacks the quickness, to suggest success with a move across the diamond to secondbase. While Gillaspie doesn’t possess a significant ceiling, he does have intriguing skills. He’ll begin 2010 in AA, as the Giants try to figure out a way to make use of them.

Grade B-

12) Francisco Peguero, CF (2009 – Power 37; First Base Rate 61; Discipline 71; Speed 69)

I’m not sure what it says about your prospect status when the first thing your organization refers to when speaking about you is your energy, but that is the case for Peguero, who the Giants love, and we remain a bit lukewarm. Peguero is a ‘toolsy’ guy with above average speed and a strong arm. While he is aggressive in his approach at the plate, he doesn’t strike out much, and makes reasonable contact. However, Peguero possesses only minimal power, so he will have to improve upon his patience, with only a slightly better than 4% walk rate over the last two seasons, in order to become a top of the order offensive threat. In 2010, the 21yo will begin the year in the CAL.

13) Jason Stoeffel, RP –

Stoeffel entered the 2009 college season as the top closer prospect in the draft. An inconsistent spring season allowed him to slide all the way down to round four. There is upside here, with a mid-90s fastball and a potentially plus slider, and Stoffel was lights out in his 17 appearance debut, but it is strictly in a bull pen role. He is a substantially polished pitcher at this point, and while he will likely begin the 2010 in Hi-A, he could move rapidly—potentially even seeing San Francisco before seasons end.

14) Chris Dominguez, 3B (2009 – Power 75; First Base Rate 27; Discipline 27; Speed 77)

We had Dominguez as a late second round talent, so the Giants had to feel good about getting him with their third round pick last June. Plus power is his primary skill, but he does possess surprising speed, given his build, and an excellent arm. Unfortunately, he lacks the lateral range you would like at third base, as well as, soft hands, making it possible that he won’t stay at the position. Additionally, poor contact skills and a 29% strikeout rate, raise concerns about his ability to succeed at higher levels. Dominguez has the ceiling of a slugging Major League third baseman. Unfortunately, the 23yo is likely to open the season at Hi-A, and will have to move rapidly.

15) Jorge Bucardo, RHP (2009 – Dominance 45; Stamina 77; HRrate 49; Control 66)

After posting the #5 Performance Score in the AZL in his 2008 US debut, Bucardo followed that up with the #4 Performance score in the NWL this past summer. While Bucardo possesses a 90mph fastball, it his plus slider that is his out pitch. Because he doesn’t have an overwhelming heater, he doesn’t receive a lot of ‘scout-love’, but we are enamored with his command, and available projection. 2010 will find him in full-season ball for the first time, and improvements with his change and some added muscle could see him breakout.

16) Eric Surkamp, LHP (2009 – Dominance 77; Stamina 73; HRrate 49; Control 55)

Surkamp was the Giants sixth round pick in 2008, who still has some projection left in him, despite coming from the college ranks. With a low 90s fastball and developing secondary offerings, Surkamp posted the #16 Performance Score in the SAL in 2009. While not possessing a significantly high ceiling, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter with secondary offering improvements. The 22yo will take his game to the CAL in 2010, in what is likely to be a critical season.

17) Brandon Crawford, SS (2009 – Power 59; First Base Rate 67; Discipline 31; Speed 48)

2009 was a tale of two seasons for Crawford, as he posted a Top 25 Performance Score in the CAL, but was clearly over-matched by the more advanced pitching in the ESL after his promotion. The Giants love both his defense and makeup, and are clearly targeting him for the shortstop job in 2011. We aren’t so sure, as we don’t believe in his bat, as a 25% strikeout from a middle infielder without significant power doesn’t portend Major League success. At 23yo, Crawford should be returning to AA, where we still want to see more.

Grade C+ Prospects –

18) Ryan Cavan, SS; 19) Jesus Guzman, 1B; 20) Clayton Tanner, LHP; 21) Matt Downs, 2B; 22) Darren Ford, CF; 23) Brett Pill, 1B; 24) Jose Casilla, RP; 25) Angel Villalona, 1B; 26) Mike McBryde, CF; 27) Kevin Pucetas, RHP; 28) Kendry Flores, RHP; 29) Waldis Joaquin, RP; 30) Aaron King, LHP; 31) Henry Sosa, RHP; 32) Drew Biery, 3B; 33) Steve Johnson, RHP; 34) Charlie Culberson, 3B; 35) Brandon Belt, 1B; 36) Matt Graham, RHP; 37) Ydwin Villegas, SS; 38) Julio Izturis, 2B.

Grade C Prospects –

Brock Bond; Edward Concepcion; Clark Craig; Rey Duran; Steve Edlefsen; Leonardo Fuentes; Alex Hinshaw; Joe Martinez; Kyle Nicholson; Dan Otero; Joe Paterson; Edwin Quirarte; Ryan Rohlinger; Ariel Ronick; Hector Sanchez; Sharlon Schoop; Ben Snyder; Craig Westcott; Jackson Williams.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season. For additional information on our rankings methodology, see our recent Mailbag article here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions.

Don’t forget to order your copy of the Diamond Futures’ 2010 Prospect eGuide. Over 300 pages delivered directly to your ‘InBox’ on February 8th. Available at the pre-order price of only $6.95.

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