Prospect ranking season is just around the corner. In anticipation of that, we present an intro series looking at some of the players who deserve mentioning but probably will not be appearing on their teams’ Top 10 lists. The popular series is back for the second year.
The Graduate: Merkin Valdez, RHP
As Buster Posey will probably tell you in private, there are not a lot of rookies that get a fair shake in San Francisco. Valdez was one of a few rookies that saw “significant” playing time in 2009. The right-handed reliever allowed 57 hits in 49.1 innings of work and posted a walk rate of 5.11 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 6.93 K/9. A former hard-throwing top prospect, Valdez has had injury problems and his lack of minor-league options meant that San Francisco had to hold on to him all year even though he struggled. With a fastball that sits around 95 mph, Valdez is an intriguing commodity but he needs to improve his secondary pitches (He threw the heater more than 80% of the time).
The Riser: Dan Runzler, LHP
This was a hard pick to make because A) Runzler may sneak onto the back end of the Top 10 list for the organization (I like him a lot) and B) Most of the other risers definitely vaulted themselves onto the Top 10 list. Although he is a middle reliever right now, Runzler could be a very good one. The southpaw has crazy ground-ball rates (60%+ in his career) and his fastball has been sitting around 95 mph in the Majors (7.1 innings). He’s not just a LOOGY, either. Runzler has held lefties to a .189 career batting average and righties are hitting just .181. Don’t count him out as a future closer.
The Tumbler: Nick Noonan, 2B
Noonan did not make a huge tumble in 2009 but the 2007 supplemental first round pick out of a San Diego high school did certainly take a step back. His OPS has dropped from .809 in his debut to .730 in 2008 and .728 this year. He’s also seen his strikeout rate go from 9.7 to 19.6 to 21.1%. As well, he stole just nine bases this year in 14 attempts after nabbing 29 in 2008. With a .136 career ISO, Noonan offers just a little pop and now he’s stopped running, which means he’s a singles hitter that hit just .259/.330/.397 in high-A ball.
The ’10 Sleeper: Hector Sanchez, C
Sanchez made his North American debut in 2009 and held his own with the bat in rookie ball. The 19-year-old catcher batted .299/.403/.410 and showed a good grasp of the strike zone for his age with a walk rate of 12.0% and a strikeout rate of 17.9%. Impressively, though, it’s his defense that gets talked about the most and he threw out 45% of base runners attempting to steal. Like some other Giants we know and love, he needs to watch his weight.
Bonus: Clayton Tanner, LHP
Tanner received some consideration for “The Riser” category before I realized he was listed as the sleeper prospect in the 2008 minor review. The southpaw can be labeled as a soft-tosser, which limits his ceiling to a degree, but the Australian continues to make improvements and have success. Tanner posted a walk rate of just 2.71 BB/9 while repeating high-A ball for the second year.The 21-year-old also increased his strikeout rate over 2008 from 6.46 to 7.82 K/9. In 139.1 innings, he allowed 132 hits but gave up an alarming 18 homers (1.16 HR/9). Tanner needs to work on throwing better quality strikes.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.