San Francisco Giants Top 15 Prospects (2012-2013) by Marc Hulet December 11, 2012 The Giants organization possesses some strong prospects at the top of the list, as well as solid pitching depth. But the overall depth in the system is somewhat thin. It’s not a result of poor drafting or inept talent evaluation – it’s actually the complete opposite. The organization has wisely leveraged its assets to acquire key playoff contributors, such as Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence, and Marco Scutaro. It has also seen key prospects, such as Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Brandon Belt, zoom through the minors and fill holes on the big league roster. It’s easy to see why this club has won the World Series in two of the past three seasons. #1 Kyle Crick (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 19 23 22 111.1 75 1 10.35 5.42 2.51 3.15 Opening Day Age: 20 2012 Level: A Acquired: 2011 draft (49th overall) Projected 2013 Level: A+/AA Crick has quickly become the Giants’ best prospect after being selected 49th overall during the 2011 draft out of a Texas high school. Crick, 20, has a strong pitcher’s frame and the velocity to match. He struck out 128 batters in 111.1 innings at the A-ball level in 2012. A scout I spoke with said the right-hander is definitely a potential front-line starter with premium power, as well as a potentially-plus cutter/slider. “He’s a great athlete for a big guy… and you can’t teach that kind of velocity,” he said. “His delivery is pretty easy and the ball really jumps out of his hand… The fastball is on top of them [before they know it].” Crick also a solid downward plane on his pitches, which results in poor contact, and he also has some deception. On the down side, the scout said Crick tries to be too fine at times and needs to trust his stuff more. “He is really, really hard to hit,” he said.”He tries to make the perfect pitch but he doesn’t need to. His stuff is more than good enough.” Crick should open 2013 in high-A ball but could easily reach double-A by the end of the year and could see the majors by the end of 2014. #2 Clayton Blackburn (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 19 22 22 131.1 116 3 9.80 1.23 2.54 1.91 Opening Day Age: 20 2012 Level: A Acquired: 2011 draft (16th round) Projected 2013 Level: A+/AA Blackburn, who played high school ball in Oklahoma, represents a perfect example of the value of good scouting. A 16th round draft pick, the right-hander has quickly become one of the most promising arms in the system. He sits atop the Giants system along with fellow pitching prospect Kyle Crick but as one scout pointed out, they’re quite different in their approaches when it comes to power versus pitchability. “They do it extremely differently but they’re very good for each other… They now understand that there are other ways to [pitch successfully].” Blackburn spent the entire 2012 regular season in A-ball at the age of 19, showing impressive control with just 19 walks in 131.1 innings of work. As one contact stated, “He will make you hit his pitch.” Blackburn also struck out 143 batters and produced well-above-average ground ball rates. He possesses a four-pitch mix with above-average control and solid command. He also features a potentially-plus curveball, slider and changeup. Another contact stated, “[Blackburn] has a good feel for pitching.” He has solid-average velocity on his fastball that touches 93 mph but possesses good movement, which helps him induce ground balls. Blackburn also has a curveball, slider, and changeup. He has an easy delivery but a bit of a funky arm action at times. He has a big, strong frame that should be capable of providing tons of innings but he’s going to have to keep an eye on his conditioning. The pitching prospect should move up to high-A ball to open the 2013 regular season but could easily reach double-A before the end of the year. I personally saw Blackburn make a one-game, post-season start at the high-A level for San Jose last September and he struck out nine batters with just three hits allowed in 7.0 innings of work. He has the ceiling of an innings-eating No. 3 starter. #3 Chris Stratton (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 21 8 5 16.1 14 1 8.82 5.51 2.76 4.24 Opening Day Age: 22 2012 Level: SS Acquired: 2012 draft (20th overall) Projected 2013 Level: A+ Taken 20th overall in the 2012 draft, Stratton has a four-pitch mix that could help him develop into a solid No. 3 starter at the big league level. His fastball sits in the 90-95 mph range and his second best pitch is his slider, followed by his curveball and nascent changeup. He needs to make sure that he keeps a good angle on the ball and works down in the zone. Stratton isn’t flashy but as one talent evaluator put it, “He has a good feel on the mound. He pitches aggressively and can get a strikeout when he needs it.” The Mississippi State alum appeared in eight games after turning pro and did not allow a run in his final five appearances, although he was 22 playing in short-season ball. Stratton’s season ended when he was hit in the head by a line drive and suffered a concussion. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training and could open up the year in high-A ball along with fellow pitching prospects Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn. Stratton has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter who should move swiftly through the minors as long as the injury issues are behind him. #4 Gary Brown (OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 23 680 170 34 7 45 101 35 .282 .348 .384 .336 Opening Day Age: 24 2012 Level: AA Acquired: 2010 draft (24th overall) Projected 2013 Level: AAA/MLB The Giants’ top pick from the 2010 draft, Brown has not developed quite as quickly as hoped. After an above-average offensive season in the California League in 2011, the speedster came back down to earth this past season as his wRC+ dropped from 138 to 104. His base running also took a step backward and he was caught 18 times in 51 attempts. After the season ended, the prospect headed to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .313 in 17 games but continued to struggle stealing bases. Brown has just enough gap power in his swing — thanks to above-average bat speed and strong wrists — to mess with his head. He needs to focus more on developing his small ball skills to take advantage of his greatest offensive tool — his speed. Despite his struggles, a contact I spoke with said Brown is very talented, “He has the ability to be very good both offensively and defensively.” The center-field prospect is raw for a college product but the contact was not worried about his development. “He has plus make-up plus the wherewithal to take those tools and turn them into skills.” On the plus side, Brown is a very good defender and shows plus range with a solid-average arm. He should open 2013 in triple-A and he could receive an offensive boost from the Pacific Coast League, similar to the impact he saw while playing in the Cal League. Projections on Brown are mixed, ranging anywhere from fourth outfielder to all-star. I personally see him becoming a second-division regular who fails to fully develop his tool set. #5 Heath Hembree (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 23 52 0 51.0 37 3 9.35 4.24 4.06 3.53 Opening Day Age: 24 2012 Level: AAA Acquired: 2010 draft (5th round) Projected 2013 Level: AAA/MLB Hembree, 23, has quietly developed into one of the best high-leverage relief prospects in the game. A contact stated, “He’s thrown the ball well every year… and he’s moved quickly.” The big, strong durable right-hander has the make-up to succeed in a high-stress role and he pumps in mid-90s fastballs and shows easy velocity. He also features a potentially-plus slider and fringe changeup. Hembree spent the 2012 season in triple-A but pitched just 38 innings in 39 appearances. It’s a curious limitation because the lack of work will not help him iron out the control issues that he has (4.74 BB/9). On the plus side, he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League and made another nine appearances and struck out 12 batters in nine innings. The former fifth round draft pick out of the College of Charleston and is close to MLB ready after just three minor league seasons. Hembree will likely return to triple-A to begin 2013 but could be one of the first pitchers recalled in the event of an injury in the bullpen #6 Mike Kickham (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 23 28 27 150.2 119 8 8.18 4.48 3.05 3.60 Opening Day Age: 24 2012 Level: AA Acquired: 2010 draft (6th round) Projected 2013 Level: AAA/MLB Kickham doesn’t have quite the same fastball velocity that fellow southpaw Josh Osich has but it still touches 94 mph and he has a chance to stick in the starting rotation. He also has better secondary stuff: a plus slider, average curveball and developing changeup. Kickham has a strong pitcher’s frame and pitched 150 innings in 2012 but he’s battled blister issues in the past. The lefty spent all of 2012 in double-A when he produced very impressive numbers, including a strikeout rate of 8.18 K/9 and an above-average ground-ball rate. He should open 2013 in triple-A. With San Francisco’s pitching depth, Kickham’s big league hopes likely hinge on an injury to the big league staff and he could possibly make his debut out of the bullpen. He has the ceiling of a No. 4 starter. #7 Josh Osich (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 23 27 2 32.1 34 1 9.46 3.06 3.62 2.52 Opening Day Age: 22 2012 Level: A+ Acquired: 2011 draft (6th round) Projected 2013 Level: AA Osich is a hard-throwing southpaw that can reach 95-96 mph. I see Osich’s floor as being a good situational lefty who, as a talent evaluator aptly stated when asked about the prospect, “can blow away a good left-handed hitter.” His ceiling, though, is a high-leverage big league reliever if he can develop his secondary pitches – a slider and changeup – both of which currently project as average offerings. Osich was slowed by an oblique injury in 2012 and that has been the story of both his pro and amateur career while on the mound. He had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and came out of a key game shortly before the 2011 draft due to elbow issues. He spent last season pitching in California League, surviving the hostile offensive environment despite his fly-ball tendencies. He showed solid control but still needs to work on his fastball command. He should move up to double-A in 2013 and will look to stay healthy. He could reach the majors in 2014. #8 Joe Panik (SS) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 21 693 175 27 8 68 61 14 .285 .359 .385 .339 Opening Day Age: 22 2012 Level: A+ Acquired: 2011 draft (29th overall) Projected 2013 Level: AA Panik, 22, enjoyed a solid offensive season thanks to the California League. He hit for average and controlled the strike zone well, walking more than he struck out. Because he handles the bat so successfully, the former first round draft pick could develop into a solid No. 2 hitter. A scout I spoke with about the prospect also suggested that he should be somewhat resistant to slumps. “There may be players with more raw bat speed and strength but Joe is and always has been tremendously cerebral in his approach,” he said. “When you hit that way, you’ll never go into a prolonged slump.” Defensively, the talent evaluator I spoke with felt that Panik can play shortstop at the big league level, although others have questioned both his range and arm. “From a technical standpoint, I think Joe can be a solid, everyday shortstop at the major league level,” he said. “Joe always just knew how to play. He has instincts and actions, knows his position and has first step quickness laterally. “ The scout suggested 2013 will be a big season for Panik as he heads to double-A “I really think this upcoming year in the most important, to date, in Joe’s career. Anyone who has played professionally and most scouts will tell you that the jump from A to double-A is the most difficult a player will face… Now, however, he may be confronted with some form of failure for the first time. The players who brush that off and learn from it are the ones who keep progressing.” #9 Andrew Susac (C) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 22 426 88 16 9 55 100 1 .244 .351 .380 .334 Opening Day Age: 23 2012 Level: A+ Acquired: 2011 draft (2nd round) Projected 2013 Level: A+/AA Although his 2012 numbers might have you thinking otherwise, Susac is an offensive-minded catching prospect with the potential to develop average defensive skills. He shows good gap power to all fields and has pull home run power. He hit just nine homers last year but suffered a broken hamate bone in his junior year of college so it’s possible the injury continued to hamper him at least earlier in the year. A contact also stated that Susac’s development may have been stunted by the large leap from college to high-A ball, as well as his defensive responsibilities. “I think it weighed on him a bit… He had to develop two big skills. I think, mentally, catchers get fatigued.” Because he swings and misses a lot, Susac may never hit for a high average in the majors but he shows enough potential to project as an everyday player. A strong spring could push the California native to double-A but he might be well-served by repeating high-A ball for the first month or two in an effort to build up his confidence, while also working to tighten up his approach. Susac could be ready for the majors in late 2014. With Buster Posey ahead of him, there is plenty of time to let him develop at his own pace, or to use him as trade bait. #10 Francisco Peguero (OF) Age PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Fld WAR 24 16 0 3 .188 .188 .188 .166 -1 4.6 0.4 Opening Day Age: 24 2012 Level: AAA/MLB Acquired: 2005 international FA Projected 2013 Level: AAA/MLB Peguero is another solid international signing but he hasn’t exactly been a quick mover. Originally signed way back in 2005, the outfielder is entering his eighth pro season and reached triple-A and the majors for the first time in 2012. Although he’s always hit for average, it’s taken time for the prospect to iron out the other aspects of his game. He’s also battled injuries and as one contact put it, “I think this is the first time he’ll be 100% healthy [opening the year].” Power is not a big part of Peguero’s game but that same contact said he possesses the best bat speed in the organization. It helps him compensate for an aggressive approach at the plate that also includes poor pitch selection. Although Peguero may never possess more than average offensive production, he’s a plus defender with a plus arm that profiles well in right field. He also has the range necessary to play center field, at least on a part-time basis. He has the ability to steal a few bases but he’s got a slow first step. The re-signing of Angel Pagan almost certainly assures that Peguero will open 2013 back in triple-A, although a strong spring could force the organization to consider him as a complement to the left-handed hitting Gregor Blanco. #11 Edwin Escobar (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 20 22 22 130.2 122 7 8.40 2.20 3.03 2.92 Opening Day Age: 20 2012 Level: A Acquired: 2010 Trade (Texas Rangers) Projected 2013 Level: A+ Escobar was acquired from the Texas Rangers in a rather under-the-radar trade back in early 2010 for then-fringe-pitching-prospect Ben Snyder. Although he originally signed in 2008, the southpaw did not reach full season ball until this past year and he had a successful season. Not overly physical, Escobar saw his innings total jump from 52.0 in 2011 to 130.2 in 2012 so that bears watching going forward – although he has yet to suffer a serious injury of note. Although he works in the 88-92 mph range, I had a contact advise me that the Venezuela native was clocked up to 94 mph in 2012. Escobar also features a curveball and changeup, both of which show potential. He shows solid control for his age and improving command but the big question for him will be his ability to get tough right-handed hitters out. If he cannot develop a reliable out-pitch, Escobar will probably end up in the bullpen but he has the chance to become a No. 3 or 4 starter. He’ll move up to high-A ball in 2013 and, if he has another successful year, will have to be added to the 40-man roster after the season. #12 Adalberto Mejia (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 19 30 14 106.2 122 4 6.67 1.77 3.97 2.91 Opening Day Age: 19 2012 Level: A Acquired: 2010 international FA Projected 2013 Level: A+ The Giants have spent some serious coin on international free agents in the past but Mejia is one of San Francisco’s better, under-the-radar Latin signees. Still just 19, a contact I spoke with was impressed wit the young pitcher. He said Mejia already sits 88-92 mph with his fastball and could eventually hit the mid-90s. He also shows two promising secondary pitches is a changeup and curveball. “He’s going to have a major league curveball,” the contact said. Mejia also has above-average control for his age (21 walks in 106.2IP) and also has a good understanding of what he needs to do on the mound. The left-handed Dominican native spent 2012 in A-ball and had a fairly successful first season in full-season ball. He’s still working to polish the command of his fastball, which is why his strikeout numbers have been modest. After working out of the bullpen early in 2012, Mejia should move up to high-A ball in 2013 and work exclusively out of the starting rotation. He should expect to see his innings total increase to the 130 range, if healthy. He won’t turn 20 until part way through the season so there is no need to rush Mejia – especially with the pitching depth ahead of him. The San Jose staff could be absolutely stacked this year with the likes of Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Chris Stratton, Edwin Escobar, and Mejia. #13 Ehire Adrianza (SS) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 22 512 99 22 3 41 90 16 .220 .289 .310 .276 Opening Day Age: 23 2012 Level: AA Acquired: 2006 international FA Projected 2013 Level: AA/AAA Although his bat has yet to develop, Adrianza continues to hang around the Top 15 list because of the lack of up-the-middle player depth in the system and his plus defensive skills. The gifted fielder hit just .220 with a miserable 64 wRC+ in double-A in 2012. Even with an 8% walk rate, the prospect managed an on-base percentage of just .289. Adrianza, 23, will very likely never hit enough to play everyday but he should be a solid defense-first utility infielder – and those with the ability to flash a true above-average glove at shortstop are difficult to come by. The San Francisco organization remains hopeful in the prospect because he’s a switch-hitter and it has taken a fair bit of time for him to add strength to his slender frame. The Venezuela native has yet to play a regular season professional game at any other position than shortstop but it might be in the organization’s best interest to start moving him around the diamond in an effort to prepare him for his future role off the bench. Adrianza will likely head back to double-A to open 2013 but he could reach the majors at some point during the season if/when injuries strike. #14 Roger Kieschnick (OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 25 263 69 14 15 24 73 0 .295 .361 .581 .398 Opening Day Age: 26 2012 Level: AAA Acquired: 2008 draft (3rd round) Projected 2013 Level: AAA/MLB Kieschnick has value as a left-handed power hitting prospect but he’ll likely end up coming off the bench or working as the busier half of a platoon at an outfield corner spot. I was told that he was close to receiving a call-up to the eventual World Series champions but got hurt and appeared in just 55 games. “He was having a monster year before he banged into a fence,” the contact stated. Kieschnick has worked to make up for lost time this off-season by playing in the Dominican Winter League. As mentioned, Kieschnick’s best tool is his left-handed power and he should hit for a respectable average if handled appropriately. He has a chance to be a decent corner outfielder and has a solid-average arm for right field. Kieschnick, 25, doesn’t have a clear opening for a big league role in 2013 so he’ll likely head back down to triple-A to continue to work on tightening up his strike zone control. #15 Adam Duvall (3B) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 23 598 137 24 30 47 116 8 .257 .325 .485 .349 Opening Day Age: 24 2012 Level: A+ Acquired: 2010 draft (11th round) Projected 2013 Level: AA Duvall had one of the best power-hitting performances of 2012 in the potent California League. He led the division in home runs (30) and was in the Top 10 in isolated slugging rate. The slugger could stand to incorporate his lower half more into his swing, which could actually help him tap into even more consistent power. He currently utilizes bat speed and strong forearms/wrists to muscle the ball out. The infielder has played third base in the minors but there is doubt about his ability to stick at the hot corner. His range is below-average and he makes too many throwing errors, although he flashes a strong arm. A contact I spoke to felt Duvall could stick at the position because his issues are mechanical and correctable. Despite that opinion, I feel his future is likely at first base, although his arm will be wasted there. Duvall was a little old for the league and will face a stiff test when he moves up to the double-A Eastern League; the league is much tougher on power hitters with only four batters hit more than 20 dingers in 2012. This could force Duvall to either improve upon other aspects of his game or wash out.