San Francisco Giants Top 20 Prospects for 2013
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 2013 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other 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.
This list is current as of January 15, 2013
1) Kyle Crick, RHP, Grade B+: There are a few control issues to address, but I'm a big fan of his stuff, size, fresh arm, and San Francisco's track record of developing similar prospects.
2) Chris Stratton, RHP, Grade B+: He was one of my favorite college pitchers from the 2012 draft. I felt he was a real steal at 20th overall.
3) Clayton Blackburn, RHP, Grade B+: I don't understand the reluctance among prospect watchers to give this guy his due. Sure, he's physically mature and not projectable. But he already has good stuff, his command is outstanding, and he dominated Low-A one year out of high school.
4) Gary Brown, OF, Grade B: Borderline B-. For a guy who runs as well as he does, he sure gets caught stealing a lot. I think he's a better hitter than he showed last year, but not as good as his Cal League-inflated stats in '11. Glove and legs will get him to the majors even if his bat disappoints, perhaps long enough for him to make the necessary adjustments to stay in the lineup.
5) Joe Panik, SS, Grade B-: He wasn't terrific at San Jose and the grade drops one notch from last year's B, but I still like his instincts, makeup, contact skills, and chances to adapt at higher levels.
6) Heath Hembree, RHP, Grade B-: Command and injury issues hampered him in Triple-A, but he looked back to normal in the Arizona Fall League. Expect he can help in the bullpen in '13.
7) Mike Kickham, LHP, Grade B-: I've liked him since he was in college, nice power lefty arm. Command still needs some work, but I trust the Giants to develop him more than most teams.
8) Martin Agosta, RHP, Grade B-: Another power arm that I like a lot, this one from the 2012 draft. We need to see what he does in pro ball, so this grade could rise (or fall) once he gets settled in.
9) Andrew Susac, C, Grade B-: Borderline C+. Disappointing season in the Cal League and this grade may seem a notch high, but I think the tools are still in there and he hit quite well in August/September. Double-A will test his bat.
10) Francisco Peguero, OF, Grade C+: Tools are obvious, as are his very serious flaws. Even a marginal improvement in his plate discipline would take him a long way. Giants have to hope that he's a late bloomer with his skills. High risk property.
11) Mac Williamson, OF, Grade C+: At this point, you can pretty much throw the C+ guys into a hat; there are about two dozen valid ways to order them. I'll go with Williamson, who has the highest offensive upside left on the board here but limited pro experience. Raw power is his calling card and he showed better hitting skills than expected in short-season ball.
12) Chris Heston, RHP, Grade C+: Heston does not have the same kind of stuff as the relievers behind him on the list, but he's much closer to the majors and has a chance to start so I want to highlight that. Throw the radar gun away with this guy. As Michael Fiers and Tom Milone show, you don't have to have a blazing fastball to get people out, if you know what you're doing. Heston knows what he is doing.
13) Steven Okert, LHP, Grade C+: Saw him in college and loved him, good stuff, nice delivery, gets tons of grounders. Underrated.
14) Stephen Johnson, RHP, Grade C+: Needs some command work, but pushes 100 MPH. Yet another future bullpen arm.
15) E.J. Encinosa, RHP, Grade C+: Erratic in college but has great stuff, fits into the Giants system of molding pitchers.
16) Josh Osich, LHP, Grade C+: Another guy who would slot nicely as a power bullpen arm, if he can manage to avoid the doctors.
17) Adalberto Mejia, LHP, Grade C+: Held his own in the Sally League at age 18/19, jumping directly from Dominican Summer League. If you are looking at just youth and projectability you could put him as high as 12th.
18) Edwin Escobar, LHP, Grade C+: Outpitched Mejia but a year older, granted that is still young for Low-A. As with Mejia, this is a matter of taste how you rank them in comparison to the lively relief arms and Heston. I think both lefties could be mid or back rotation starters eventually and grades could go higher next year.
19) Adam Duvall, 3B, Grade C+: We'll have to see how the bat looks outside the California League. Not a great fielder, but positional scarcity factor puts him ahead of Ricky Oropesa for me.
20) Ricky Oropesa, 1B, Grade C+: Has pop, but high strikeout rate and difficult position premium push him back.
OTHERS: Ehire Adrianza, SS; Bryce Bandilla, LHP; Brett Bochy, RHP; Gustavo Cabrera, OF; Jesus Galindo, OF; Ian Gardeck, RHP; Conor Gillaspie, 3B; Joan Gregario, RHP; Cody Hall, RHP; Tyler Hollick, OF; Chuckie Jones, OF; Roger Kieschnick, OF; Chris Marlowe, RHP; Shilo McCall, OF; Mason McVay, LHP; Keury Mella, RHP; Nick Noonan, INF; Shawn Payne, OF; Eric Surkamp, LHP
This system has both conspicuous strengths and significant weaknesses.
The good stuff is obvious: there is a lot of pitching. Crick, Stratton, and Blackburn are a great trio at the top, all capable of becoming above average (or excellent) major league starters. There are a lot of very intriguing bullpen arms beginning with Heath Hembree but extending beyond him.
There is left/right balance, with southpaws well represented by strong-armed Mike Kickham, relievers Okert and Osich, and the young lefties who graced the Augusta rotation. Don't forget Chris Heston, who makes up with pitchability what he lacks in velocity. The "others" category also offers arm strength and projection, particularly with Gregario and Mella. The Giants do good work in Latin America.
The hitting isn't as impressive to me as the pitching. I have mixed feelings about Gary Brown and Joe Panik. I expect both will be useful players, but stars? Probably not. Peguero has the best tool set of the group but the least refinement despite playing at the highest level and the most risk. I have not given up on Andrew Susac by any means and I hope his late-season charge was a taste of things to come. But he's far from a sure thing.
Mac Williamson from the 2012 draft is certainly interesting and could move up the list quickly; he looks like the best hope for an impact bat in the medium run. Cal League sluggers Duvall and Oropesa could be nice role players if their weaknesses don't compromise them against better pitching.
In the "others" section, I love the leadoff skills demonstrated by Shawn Payne in Low-A and Tyler Hollick in rookie ball, but we need to see them at higher levels and neither offers power. Adrianza offers defense and Galindo has speed, but will they hit enough to play regularly? It seems doubtful to me.
The wild card in that section is tooled-up bonus baby Gustavo Cabrera, who could be an All-Star in the best-case scenario, or an A-ball flameout like Rafael Rodriguez. At this point he's just guesswork.