San Francisco Giants Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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 2015 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. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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) Andrew Susac, C, Grade B+: What he did in the majors is exactly what he should be expected to do: hit .260-.270 with solid power, good defense. Would be ready to start for most teams but Buster Posey gets in the way here. Age 24.
2) Kyle Crick, RHP, Grade B+: Borderline B: Age 22. I have really spent a lot of time on this one. My logical, sober analysis tells me that Crick needs to be a Grade B due to his command issues, but my gut instinct says to go with a Grade B+, which is still a half-step down from the A- I gave him last year. I remain enamored of his strikeout rates and the difficulty hitters have driving his stuff, but yeah, the walks need to come down and there’s a decent chance he winds up in relief. But. . .something holds me back from being quite as skeptical as some analysts have become. Instinct still says he figures it out ultimately.
3) Keury Mella, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+: Age 21, posted 3.93 ERA with 63/13 K/BB in 66 innings in Low-A, 2.27 GO/AO. Terrific stuff, command moving along nicely. Trendy to put him ahead of Crick and that may be the right thing to do, but he had a rotator cuff scare last year and I want to see if he can handle a larger workload.
4) Tyler Beede, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+: Age 21, first round pick out of Vanderbilt, has the stuff to be a number two starter but inconsistent command and a spotty breaking ball need to be addressed. Healthy Matt Cain is the upside.
5) Clayton Blackburn, RHP, Grade B: Age 21, posted 3.29 ERA with 85/20 K/BB in 93 innings in Double-A, 94 hits. Another solid year from strike-throwing inning-eater, scouting reports remain middling quality but he just keeps getting people out. Lacks physical upside of Crick, Mella, or Beede but continues to defy skeptics.
6) Christian Arroyo, INF, Grade B: Age 19, overmatched against older competition in Low-A (.203/.226/.271 in 31 games) but tore it up in the Northwest League (.333/.378/.469 in 58 games) which is what scouts expect eventually at higher levels. More a second baseman than a shortstop long-term.
7) Mac Williamson, OF, Grade B-: Age 24, destroyed Cal League (.318/.420/.506) in 23 games but injured right before he was expected to be promoted to Double-A and had to have Tommy John surgery. Older prospect now but has always hit and had made good adjustments with his strike zone judgment before getting hurt.
8) Ty Blach, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+: Age 24, 3.13 ERA with 91/39 K/BB in 141 innings in Double-A, 142 hits. Doesn’t have physical upside of the hard-throwing right-handers, but throws strikes with four solid pitches and doesn’t beat himself with mental mistakes, classic fourth starter profile, though could also slot in bullpen here.
9) Adalberto Mejia, LHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-: Age 21, posted 4.67 ERA with 82/31 K/BB in 108 innings in Double-A, amidst complaints that he’d gained too much weight and compromised his mechanics as a result. Recently suspended 50 games for using a banned stimulant often used as a weight loss formula. That’s not the right way to solve his problems.
10) Steven Okert, LHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Age 23, posted 1.53 ERA with 54/11 K/BB in 35 innings in High-A, 2.73 ERA with 38/11 K/BB in 33 innings in Double-A. Fine stuff from the left side, has more of a chance to close than most LHP relief types, not just a simple LOOGY. I may very well move him ahead of Mejia.
ANALYST NOTE: The Top Ten seems obvious to me, but after that it gets really murky with a large number of Grade C+ types who could be ordered in many different ways.
11) Hunter Strickland, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Age 26. Grading/slotting relief prospects is always tough, especially if you are pitching a list towards fantasy owners looking for saves. There’s no question that Strickland has the stuff and command to be an excellent reliever and is ready now, but does he get saves or just provide quality filler innings?
12) Daniel Carbonell, OF, Grade C+: 23 years old, Cuban defector hit .336/.384/.523 in 31 game pro debut between AZL and Cal League, stole 11 bases in 13 attempts. Speed and defense look very good, early hitting stats are sharp, too, although scouting reports from Arizona Fall League aren’t as optimistic about his chance to do this at higher levels and the sample is too small to be comfortable sabermetrically. Thus, a cautious grade until we see more. Could be a regular outfielder if all goes well, or a bench guy if it doesn’t.
13) Matt Duffy, INF, Grade C+: Age 23, backup infielder from Plato’s World of Forms, hit .332/.398/.444 in Double-A and had some good moments in the majors. Speedy, solid steady glove, could be a taller version of David Eckstein if given a chance to play regularly.
14) Luis Ysla, LHP, Grade C+: Age 22, posted 2.45 ERA with 115/45 K/BB in 121 innings in Low-A, 104 hits. Fine statistics, in-person reports aren’t quite as optimistic and make him sound like a future reliever, perhaps something like the now-traded Edwin Escobar. Could plausibly rank as high as 10th.
15) Joan Gregorio, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, posted 3.57 ERA with 65/27 K/BB in 68 innings for Augusta, but 6.75 ERA with 27/13 K/BB and 27 hits in 23 innings for San Jose. Another guy who could slot as a fourth starter if his secondaries become more polished or a reliever if they don’t, still needs to show what kind of workload he can handle.
16) Aramis Garcia, C, Grade C+: Age 21, second-round pick from Florida International University thrived in college (.368/.442/.626) but hit just .225/.301/.343 in his first 28 pro games. Defense is just OK so he needs to hit. Used an all-field approach in college but was more pull-oriented after signing.
17) Ray Black, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, went through three years of rehab work from college injury but came back throwing 100 MPH in 2014, 3.60 ERA with 71/16 K/BB in just 35 innings, 17 hits, in A-ball. Incredible arm, we’ll have to see if command holds at higher levels.
18) Michael Santos, RHP, Grade C+: Sleeper Alert pick. Age 19, posted 2.56 ERA with 50/13 K/BB in 60 innings in Arizona Rookie League, showing low-90s fastball with a chance for more. Following in footsteps of Mella if all goes well, stock could be much higher a year from now.
19) Chris Stratton, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, former Mississippi State ace and 2012 first round pick has seen his stock slip, didn’t have a great year in Cal League (5.07 ERA, 102/36 K/BB in 99 innings, 103 hits) and hasn’t lived up to expectations, but still has a shot at back-of-the-rotation duty.
20) Adam Duvall, INF, Grade C+: Age 26, hit .298/.360/.599 with 27 homers, 30 walks, 82 strikeouts in 359 at-bats in Triple-A, .192/.234/.342 with three homers, three walks, 20 strikoeuts in 73 at-bats in the majors. Critiqued for stiff actions in the field but he’s always hit for power, should be a decent role player if he can sharpen up contact, which I think he can with more at-bats in the majors.
OTHERS: Gary Brown, OF; Sam Coonrod, RHP; Erik Cordier, RHP; Dylan Davis, OF; Mikey Edie, OF (High Ceiling Alert); Skyler Ewing, 1B; Kendry Flores, RHP; Cody Hall, RHP; Chris Heston, RHP; Tyler Horan, OF; Christian Jones, LHP; Ryder Jones, INF; Mike Kickham, LHP; Derek Law, RHP; Blake Miller, INF; Jarrett Parker, OF: Brian Ragira, 1B; Tyler Rogers, RHP; Kelby Tomlinson, INF; Logan Webb, RHP (High Ceiling Alert)
Although the Giants have a reputation for developing pitching, it has been awhile since the last big rotation guy emerged, granted it was an amazing one in Madison Bumgarner. However, the farm system boasts numerous hard-throwing relief options who are ready or almost ready now, and there are potential rotation options who will become available in the next couple of years, even if you see Kyle Crick as a future reliever.
There is a mixture of physical upside arms and pitchability talents who could surprise, finesse right-hander Chris Heston being a good example of the latter. If you are looking for a pitcher who could pull a Matt Shoemaker-like out-of-nowhere season in 2015, Heston is as good a candidate as anyone.
Despite the pitching reputation, the system has done a fine job developing hitters recently, the star power of Buster Posey the most noticeable of course, but also solid contributors like Brandon Crawford, 2014 rookie Joe Panik, and Brandon Belt. Andrew Susac is next in line and for most teams he would be penciled in as a starting player for 2015. The Giants have done a good job finding useful role player types, generally from the college ranks.
The quietly efficient Latin American program has struck out on some big name bats but does a good job identifying projectable pitching: Mejia, Mella, Gregorio, Santos, none of these guys were budget-buster bonus babies. Cuban defector Carbonell wasn’t highly-regarded by some clubs but is off to a good start and could be an undervalued talent. Outfielder Mikey Edie looked excellent in the Dominican Summer League with speed and potential leadoff skills and will shoot up the list quickly if he carries that into rookie ball. The organization has also done a good job picking players off the reject piles of other clubs and getting something positive out of them, Yusmeiro Petit being a terrific example.
Overall, the Giants are a middle rank farm system. They could use more star power (who couldn’t?) but there is considerable depth in C+ type prospects.