San Francisco Giants Top 2016 Prospects: #1-10
Pitchers and catchers report this week. That means… the offseason is down to its final days! I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but the last month has been a full-on grind for me. So let’s get this prospect series wrapped up so we can start digging into spring camp topics!
These profiles won’t be as long as the previous ones. There are two reasons for that. 1) I am running out of time to finish the series, which started before Christmas. 2) For the most part, these are the most well-known prospects in the system. There are so many places to get information about the top minor leaguers these days, it’s very unlikely I have any new tidbits to offer for any of them. They are, however, the 10 players in the system right now that I feel will have the best MLB careers… and I want to tell you about them, dang it!
If you’ve been following along from the beginning, I truly appreciate your support. Though it doesn’t show in the major media outlets (it rarely does), this system is not only stacked at the MLB level, but it’s become as deep in the minors as it has been in years. It’s a great time to be a Giants fan, no matter which level you focus in on.
#1: Christian Arroyo, SS, Age 20: Arroyo (2.5 years below the CAL average age) followed up a .304, 28-2B, 9-HR season in San Jose with a .308, 3-HR campaign in 19 games for the AFL Champion Scottsdale Scorpions. Christian sealed the championship game with a tremendous run-and-slide catch from his SS position. It’s still believed that he’s better suited for 2B or 3B at the Majors, and we could start to see the Giants play him all over the diamond this year. AA will be a big test for the former 1st rounder, but it certainly appears he’s got a bright MLB future ahead of him. As Kruk often loves to say, “He can hit!”
#2: Mac Williamson, OF, Age 25: When is Mac going to get some love, for crying out loud? Right now, right here. The guy who keeps getting left out of organization top 10 rankings has been my #2 since season’s end, and I haven’t wavered on that position once. Williamson is one of the most athletic looking baseball players I’ve ever seen in person, and he puts that athleticism to use in game situations quite often. He has good range and a very strong arm in RF (he’ll play LF in the Majors as long as Pence is around) and has been known to make the occasional highlight reel play. He missed most of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery and ascended from Richmond to San Francisco by 2015’s end. Like Arroyo, Mac was a standout for Scottsdale in the AFL, batting a team-leading .370 with 2 HR in 19 games. MLB outfield time could be very hard to come by in SF if everyone is healthy this season, but I truly believe Williamson will force the organization’s hand at some point. In his prime, I envision a well-rounded player and potential 25-HR threat.
#3: Tyler Beede, RHP, Age 22: The Giants spent last winter overhauling the repertoire of their 2014 1st round pick, then streamlined him to Richmond after his sinker/ground ball approach yielded a 2.25 ERA and 1.5 BB/9 in 9 starts for San Jose. Beede took some knocks for an up and down performance in AA (48.4 avg GSc), which saw his walk rates jump back up to 4.4/9. Personally, I think 2016 will tell a lot more about Beede’s prospect stock than either of his half-seasons in 2015. He’s an athletic and very intelligent player on the mound, and you don’t get drafted in two separate first rounds without being incredibly talented. I’m excited to see how Beede progresses this year.
#4: Phil Bickford, RHP, Age 20: What was I just saying about twice being a 1st round draft choice? Bickford was the #10 overall pick in 2013 and #18 overall pick by the Giants last summer. He left CSU Fullerton after his freshman season following a dominant performance in the Cape Cod League, transferring to College of Southern NV in order to be draft-eligible a year earlier. His numbers at the JC level were of the video game variety (86 IP, 1.45, 21 BB, 166 K), compliments of what some scouts have called an “invisible fastball.” The Giants took it slow with Phil in 2015, and will likely send him to Augusta for rotation duty this spring (he’s a West Coast kid though, so don’t rule out a San Jose assignment). At 6-4, 205, Bickford’s got a body built for durability, but at the moment there are questions about his ability to hold a starter’s arsenal of pitches. I’d say the Giants have plenty of time to help him figure that out.
#5: Clayton Blackburn, RHP, Age 23: Not much to say about Blackburn. He constantly gets held back in rankings and scouting reports for any number of reasons: body, stuff, velocity, you name it. However, the young righty continues to show up and prove his naysayers wrong. All he did last season was win the ERA title in one of he most hitter-friendly leagues, at the highest level of minor league baseball. Blackburn is not a hard thrower. He’ll never light up a radar gun. But I believe he can be every bit the pitcher Chris Heston was at his peak last season. He’s now firmly on the Giants radar, and should have a chance to compete for a MLB role if and when injuries occur in 2016.
#6: Chris Shaw, 1B, Age 22: Shaw was one of the premiere power hitters in the Cape Cod League in 2014, and was off to a strong start to his junior season before hamate bone surgery cut his time short. He finished the year with a .319 average and 11 HR, and the Giants used their supplemental 1st round pick on him in the June 2015 draft. The LHH first baseman would hit another 12 HR (in only 200 PA) with Salem-Keizer, placing him atop the short-season NWL. Though his defensive skills are labeled well below average, Shaw’s bat reminds me some of Brandon Belt’s. Both players seem to have the ability to hit for power and average. Shaw, though, has pretty legitimate 30-HR power. If he can reach his potential, he may be the reason the Giants eventually part ways with Belt.
#7: Adalberto Mejia, LHP, Age 22: Mejia missed the first 50 games of 2015 after testing positive for a banned dietary supplement (I still read people saying he was popped for “PED’s” every now and then), then returned to Richmond for the second consecutive season. His best start came on July 24 (7 IP, 1 ER, 8 K), but an injury would keep him out nearly the remainder of the year. The Giants assigned him to the AFL for a second time, where the young lefty made 7 starts at full health for Scottsdale. He logged a 3.48 ERA in 31 IP, and earned some positive reports in the process. I even saw one first-hand observer claim on Twitter that Mejia could pitch in the majors “right now.” Even if he returns to AA this year, he’s still quite young. He should have a decent chance of working into a MLB rotation some day.
#8: Chase Johnson, RHP, Age 24: The Giants drafted Chase, an infrequently used reliever at Cal Poly – in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft. They sent him to Augusta for a rotation assignment in 2014, and nothing about his stat line (aside from making 22 healthy starts) really stood out. Johnson was off to San Jose in 2015, where he became one of the breakout prospects in the organization. He officially made 18 starts, but his best outing of the season actually came in a relief appearance (following a Tim Hudson rehab start). I counted him for 20 GS at San Jose, where he averaged an impressive 57.5 GSc. The Giants promoted him to Richmond, where he made his final three outings of the year. Johnson saw a major uptick in his fastball last season, even reaching the upper-90’s late in games on occasion. The curveball he featured in Richmond had sharp, downward break, and his changeup makes for a third respectable offering. He’ll likely return to Richmond this spring, where he’s a major name to follow in the organization.
#9: Aramis Garcia, C, Age 23: It took Garcia a while to get going offensively in his first full season (that’s often the case for catchers as they adjust to the professional game), but once he did, he was one of the hottest hitters in the minors. The Giants promoted the former 2nd round pick after he hit 15 HR for Augusta, highlighted by a .324, 6-HR, 27-RBI month of July. In 20 games for San Jose, he hit only .227 with 0 HR. Garcia though, has always been known more for his bat than his defense, and his sounds like he still has plenty of work to do behind the plate. If he can improve his receiving skills, he offers a very strong arm that left Augusta beat writer David Lee impressed all season.
#10: Lucius Fox, SS, Age 18: Aside from Pablo Sandoval (who was a major developmental surprise), the Giants haven’t had all that much success with international hitters in their organization. They decided to take another big shot – their biggest shot in franchise history, to be exact – by signing Fox from the Bahamas. The SS, who is most known for his elite speed and smooth defensive skills, was handed a $3+M signing bonus, for which the Giants were forced to pay another $3M in penalties to MLB. Fox has experience playing some high school ball in the US, and at 18 will likely debut in Arizona this summer. I will say though, that the Giants think so highly of his makeup and skillset, I would not be stunned if he opened the year in Augusta. Surprised? Yes. Stunned? No. It’s very hard to project Fox when he hasn’t played a professional game, but one look at his swing (bat speed galore) shows it’s pretty clear the Giants could have a high ceiling player on their hands here.