San Francisco Giants Top 20 Prospects for 2014

Edwin Escobar - USA Today

San Francisco Giants Top 20 Prospects for 2014

The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!

All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.

QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:

Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. In theory, most Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or unanticipated problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.


Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.


Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.


Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) turn out very well indeed.

Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.

1) Kyle Crick, RHP, Grade A-: Borderline B+. Amazing stuff, but tempered with significant command issues. I am impressed enough with his upside that this is a borderline grade for me, which is normally not the case for guys with control problems. The final decision on this grade will likely wait until I work on the Top 50 pitching prospects list and see how he slots best in comparison to others.

2) Edwin Escobar, LHP, Grade B+: Borderline B. Throws three quality pitches for strikes, dominated the California League and continued to perform well after moving up to Double-A. Future number three starter I think, relatively high floor but doesn’t have Crick’s physical ceiling.

3) Andrew Susac, C, Grade B: I’m surprised he’s not ranking higher on other lists, but I see a guy who has tapped into his power, controls the strike zone well, and has made steady improvements on defense. His Double-A numbers were impressive for the context (power and patience gave him a wRC+ 129 despite a .256 average) and he ripped the ball in the Arizona Fall League.

4) Adalberto Mejia, LHP, Grade B: A year younger than Escobar but not far behind him, also projects as mid-rotation starter.

5) Christian Arroyo, SS, Grade B: 2013 first-round pick drew praise for polished hitting skills in rookie ball, may wind up at second base.

6) Clayton Blackburn, RHP, Grade B: His 2013 season was almost as good as his 2012 season. I know he doesn’t have the classic physical projection, but he knows how to pitch. Draws Joe Blanton comparisons due to his physique, could also be a command-oriented inning-eater like Jon Lieber or Brad Radke.

7) Chris Stratton, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B-. He had a solid enough year in Low-A but I thought he was capable of greater dominance. Another Giants pitcher who can be a mid-rotation guy.

8) Heath Hembree, RHP, Grade B-: B- is a high grade for a relief prospect in my view. I think his command improvements are real and he should be a successful short man.

9) Mac Williamson, OF, Grade B-:
Impressive power but I want to see how his approach holds up against more advanced pitching.

10) Ty Blach, LHP, Grade B-: I liked him in college at Creighton so I’m glad to see him performing so well in High-A (117/18 K/BB, 2.90 ERA). Doesn’t have projection of Escobar or Mejia, but you have to like the pitchability.

11) Martin Agosta, RHP, Grade B-: You can make a good case as high as eight. Dominant despite some command issues in Low-A, but still uncertain if he starts or relieves in the long run.

12) Joan Gregorio, RHP, Grade C+:
Good stuff, still projectable, with excellent 84/17 K/BB in 70 innings in Low-A. Breakout candidate if secondary pitches continue to progress.

13) Joe Panik, 2B-SS, Grade C+: Seems likely to be a useful utility player to me, but there is still a chance he can be more than that. Still showing the contact hitting approach that sometimes correlates with unexpected offensive growth in late 20s.

14) Keury Mella, RHP, Grade C+: Impressive showing in rookie ball and instructional league could put him on the Escobar/Mejia breakout path for 2014. Certainly has the stuff with power sinker and improving curve/change.

15) Derek Law, RHP, Grade C+: Insane numbers in A-ball including 45/1 K/BB in 26 innings in High-A. Not smoke and mirrors, has impressive power sinker and breaking ball, deceptive delivery, throttles right-handed hitters.

16) Gary Brown, OF, Grade C+: Still has all those nice tools but hitting was very disappointing in Triple-A. May be just a reserve outfielder due to valuable glove, but needs to get on base and use his speed more effectively to have any hope as a regular.

17) Josh Osich, LHP, Grade C+: Live armed reliever who pitched better than 4.85 ERA in Double-A suggests, was very effective late in the season and could contribute in ’14.

18) Kendry Flores, RHP, Grade C+: Outstanding numbers in Low-A (2.73 ERA, 137/17 K/BB in 142 innings, just 113 hits) but most scouting reports remain muted over concerns about so-so stuff not working at higher levels. Other reports have him gaining velocity as season progressed and he had several high-strikeout games late, including 15 whiffs in eight innings on August 21st. Added to 40-man roster to protect him from Rule 5. Will be very interesting to see how aggressive they are with him. You could put him as high as 13.

19) Adam Duvall, 3B, Grade C+: Not toolsy and limited defensively but gets the job done with power, hit 17 homers with .252/.320/.465 line in Double-A then knocked seven more homers in Venezuelan Winter League. Chance to be a fine role player, older guy at age 25.

20) Ryder Jones, 3B, Grade C+: Second round pick hit .317/.394/.400 in rookie ball, but struck out once a game and needs work on defense. Giants obviously like him but reports from other sources aren’t as enthusiastic. Too early to tell much at this point.

OTHERS: Ehire Adrianza, SS; Bryce Bandilla, LHP; Matt Duffy, SS; Tyler Horan, OF; Chase Johnson, RHP; Stephen Johnson, RHP; Mike Kickham, LHP; Roger Kieschnick, OF; Brian Ragira, OF; Dan Slania, RHP; D.J. Snelten, LHP; Nick Vander Tuig, RHP; Angel Villalona, 1B; Luis Ysla, LHP.

The Giants didn’t get much help from rookies in 2013, but the coming years should be brighter, at least on the mound. There is considerable pitching depth in the system, headlined by Kyle Crick, who has the most ace-like potential if he can calm down his command. There is a large group of plausible mid-rotation starting candidates after him, along with relief depth. Of course, given the attrition rate among pitching prospects, there is no guarantee that having a lot of pitching prospects will result in having a lot of major league pitchers, but the raw material is here at least.

The hitting side is much thinner. I like Christian Arroyo but he’s several years away. Mac Williamson’s power stands out, but will his batting average and OBP hold up against better pitching, or will contact problems do him in? Panik and Brown look like role players rather than regulars.

I obviously like Susac and I think he can be a regular big league catcher if he builds on what he did in ’13. I am not sure why he isn’t receiving more attention, but my theory is that people are still focusing on his disappointing ’12 campaign and aren’t realizing that he was very effective and took a real step forward in the Eastern League this year.

Overall, this is a system that has both conspicuous strengths and obvious weaknesses, which would likely rank it about middle of the pack overall.

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