Giants Top Prospects, Spring 2017

Hello all. I didn’t have the time to put together a top 50-100 Giants list this year, and my knowledge of the system isn’t as deep as it once was. But it still didn’t feel right to start the year without posting my thoughts on the top prospects in the system. That was one of the reasons I began this blog in the first place! Better late than never, I suppose.

Without further ado, here are the 20 best prospects in the organization – according to yours truly.

#1(a): Christian Arroyo, Inf, Age 21 = His “doubles, not homers” power in AA last year dropped his stock in some eyes. Not mine. He’ll be in AAA with the potential to do some real damage.

#1(b): Tyler Beede, RHP, Age 23 = Beede & Arroyo are very different prospects, but both will be in Sacramento, and both are future cornerstone pieces for the franchise. Tyler will likely make his MLB debut this season.

#3: Bryan Reynolds, OF, Age 22 = The Giants didn’t have a 1st round pick last summer, but they snagged a legitimate 1st round talent in Reynolds. He’s an all-around hitter who swings from both sides. Can he stick in CF?

#4: Ty Blach, LHP, Age 26 = We saw the best of Blach last September when he mowed down the Dodgers and outpitched Clayton Kershaw. Where he starts the season I don’t know, but he should get his shot at some point this year. Will he settle into the rotation?  

#5: Steven Duggar, CF, Age 23 = Athletic; great arm; solid plate discipline; chance to stay in CF. He surprised a lot of people last year, surging to AA in his first professional season.

#6: Chris Shaw, 1B, Age 23 = The jump to AA took some of the sting out of his bat last summer, but it was still a great debut season for one of the premier power hitters in the organization.

#7: Heath Quinn, OF, Age 21 = One of my favorite players in last year’s draft class. I was ecstatic when the Giants called his name. He roasted NWL pitching, and I believe he has the bat to continue that trend moving forward.

#8: Steven Okert, LHP, Age 25 = I know ranking relievers is a tricky deal, but Okert has shown flashes of being an impact arm throughout his pro career. He pitched well in his opportunity late last season and has had a spring that could see him land on the opening day MLB roster.

#9: Andrew Suarez, LHP, Age 24 = He’s a Ty Blach type, but with better fastball velocity. There’s a good chance he spends some time in Sacramento this summer. How will he handle the jump?

#10: Sandro Fabian, OF, Age 19 = I’ll admit I don’t know as much about this kid, but he torched the AZL as an 18 year-old, and is consistently getting mentions among the system’s top 10. Currently projects as a solid all-around RF, but still has a long way to go to get there.

#11: CJ Hinojosa, SS, Age 22 = A sneaky upside pick in the 11th round, he turned heads almost immediately in his first full season. Most projections have him as a below average SS, more of a utility type.

#12: Austin Slater, OF, Age 24 = Athletic IF/OF had a power uptick last season, and might just be the super utility type the Giants have been longing for. He’s got a real shot to see big league time this year.

#13: Aramis Garcia, C, Age 24 = Injuries have slowed his development, but his arm and defensive chops still make him a significant prospect in the system for me. Will his bat catch up?

#14: Joan Gregorio, RHP, Age 25 = 6-ft-7 arm has been around a long time. AAA batters hit him hard, but his K rates were some of the best of his career. I envision a future power arm out of the bullpen.

#15: Sam Coonrod, RHP, Age 24 = Another guy with velocity, but concerns about whether he’ll remain a starter. I haven’t seen him this spring, but thought his stuff looked pretty electric at times last year.

#16: Chris Stratton, RHP, Age 26 = Hasn’t lived up to his 1st round pedigree, but he did take a step forward last year and should see more time in Bruce Bochy’s bullpen this season.

#17: Reyes Moronta, RHP, Age 24 =  He took over the closer’s role in San Jose when Rodolfo Martinez moved to AA last summer and had a huge season for the Giants. He’s a smaller guy, but his fastball sure isn’t.

#18: Dan Slania, RHP, Age 24 = Big Dan became a starter last season and had himself a nice season. I could have put just about anyone in this spot, but I’ve always envisioned Slania as a big league arm. If he can start, that sure ups the ante.

#19: Ryder Jones, 3B/1B, Age 22 = Ryder takes his fair share of heat, but he also showed pretty good pop in Richmond last year. More importantly, the Giants believe in him.

#20: Miguel Gomez, Inf, Age 24 = Let me put it this way. Gomez can flat out hit. Now he’s hitting for power too? I’m sure someone will find a spot for him one of these years (he’s on the Giants’ 40-man now too).

Honorable Mention: Matt Krook, Rodolfo Martinez, Clayton Blackburn, Ray Black, Jonah Arenado

Advertisements

Giants Minor League Rosters… They’re Here!

Part 1

Ok, so Richmond’s roster hasn’t been revealed, but we can put the pieces together through process of elimination, and they do have a partial roster posted to their website… So I’m going for it anyway!

I won’t list every last player here (you can find complete rosters/announcements for Augusta, San Jose, and Sacramento at MiLB.com), but I definitely wanted to touch on the headliners for each group. This is a big day for us “prospect hounds,” you know.

Augusta

I have the 2008 Greenjackets to thank for introducing me to the magical world of minor league baseball. Bumgarner, Nick Noonan, Angel Villalona, Thomas Neal, Dan Runzler… That club was so talented. Well, this year’s Augusta club has a roster that jumps off the page at you.

The Giants, as I had hoped (but certainly didn’t assume), are ready to push their young shortstops, Lucius Fox and Jalen Miller. Both are opening in the SALLY, as is the rejuvenated Gustavo Cabrera. Did you catch the BANG video interview with him last week? Pretty inspiring stuff. Those three tools machines are joined by 1st rounder Phil Bickford, he of the video game numbers at Southern Nevada last season.

Fox
Lucius Fox headlines a talented young Augusta roster. | Photo Credit: SFGiants.MLBlogs.com

Starter Michael Santos gets another shot at A-ball after missing most of last year, and should pitch near the top of the rotation. Young guys Logan Webb and Mac Marshall should be in the rotation too. Cory Taylor, the righty drafted out of Dallas Baptist last summer, is a name to file away for later. He’s a stockier guy, but it sounds like he’s got some real heat on his fastball.

A few others worth noting: 19-year-old SS Manuel Geraldo gets the nod in Augusta straight from the DSL… that is something you don’t see happen very often. Kelvin Beltre has very little experience to his name, but the Giants LOVE his potential. Where are they going to play all these young infielders?!

Tyler Brown, a teammate of Bickford at CSN, gets a shot in the Augusta infield as well. He was #50 on my list this winter and a definite sleeper in the system. Finally, if you’re out there Carmot – I’m excited to see how Jean Angomas plays in his first full-season gig. He’s put in his time, but skipping him from the AZL to Augusta tells me the young man impressed some folks in the organization this spring.

Reminder: The Giants were given no consideration as a top-10 system in MLB this offseason. Most of the publications still put this organization’s prospects firmly in the bottom half of the league. And yet I find myself giddy over the Augusta roster. So many tools, so much to dream on. Isn’t that what prospecting is all about?

San Jose

If the Greenjackets are a dreamy team for their youth, the little Giants are a pretty stout group in terms of their college talent. I expect big things from this team in 2016, and it starts with the rotation.

Most lower level minor league teams employ a 6-man rotation, as the Giants nearly always do with their clubs below AAA. I don’t know how San Jose’s will shake out exactly, but my recommendation from their new roster would be Sam Coonrod, Andrew Suarez, and Jordan Johnson at the top. How’s that for a 1-2-3? If I were to amend my prospect rankings based on spring observations, ample room would be made near the top for Coonrod. The guy was electric in Arizona, and should be a headliner in the Cal League this year. Suarez is the polished lefty from Miami, and Johnson is one of the biggest wildcards in the system. He has TREMENDOUS upside.

Coonrod
Sam Coonrod heads to San Jose after an impressive spring. | Photo Credit: Augusta Chronicle

Rodolfo Martinez turned heads in fall instructs. That will happen when a guy throws 100 mph! He’ll likely compete for a late-inning role in San Jose. Reyes Moronta throws hard as well. What about Martin Agosta? He’s back in the CAL after racking up the K’s last year, but he wasn’t mentioned as a starter in the press release. Will his stuff play up in relief, as it was believed coming out of college?

The Giants had a solid run on college position players in the early rounds of last summer’s draft, and those guys will be infiltrating San Jose this spring. Chris Shaw has an easy swing and some of the greatest power potential in the organization. If he’s healthy, look out. Jose Vizcaino, Ronny Jebavy, and C.J. Hinojosa all had varying degrees of success in Salem-Keizer last summer, and I’m excited to see how they look in high-A.

Steven Duggar (Clemson) is heading to San Jose as well. Duggar had trouble putting everything together at times in college, but he sure caught my attention the other night in Sacramento. We’re talking about some moonshots off the bat in BP. Speed, defense, and a cannon in right field too? Yep, there’s a lot to like with this guy. Keep his name in mind.

Aramis Garcia is one of the best catching prospects nobody is talking about. He can hit, he can throw, but further developing his glove will be the key.

Others of note: Jonah Arenado made it through the grind of the SALLY last year. That is not an easy task. Marty Lurie had good things to say about him this spring. Johneshwy Fargas made it out of Augusta alive as well. He was stealing bases at ease in minor league camp last week. He can roam CF and he’s got a very good arm. Between Fargas, Duggar, and Jebavy, there’s going to be some highlights in the outfield this year.

It’s getting late, so I’ll check back in with looks at Richmond and Sacramento’s respective rosters tomorrow. Thanks for reading. Are you excited yet?

Checking in on Giants Camp

Posey ST
Posey in camp | Photo Courtesy of Kuro Kuma

Spring training is about 1/3 of the way over (still 3 full weeks left until regular season play), and I’d say at this point we’ve got some major storylines taking shape. How about we do a little rundown, quick hits style?

Regulars Heating Up

Essentially every starting position on this club was secure heading into camp, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the regular players have come along slowly so far. We are beginning to see most of them in action now. Still no Pence, Romo or Cain, but Hunter is ticketed to be out there tomorrow as far as I know.

As far as performance goes, Belt is the only starter who doesn’t yet have a hit, though he’s only logged 5 AB. Posey hasn’t had one since the spring opener, but his swing has looked crisp in the few times I’ve seen him so far. Duffy has sure squared a few balls up, but he’s only got a 1-11 to show for it. The hottest regular to this point has been Joe Panik, who is now 6-16 with 2 doubles and a 3-bagger. Joe looked locked in on Tuesday night (the CSNBA game), no doubt a tremendous sight to see.

How’s that Rotation?

Bumgarner, Peavy and Samardzija have each taken the ball twice in Cactus play thus far, while Johnny Cueto was slapped around a bit in his unofficial Giants debut yesterday afternoon. Can I admit I don’t know as much about Cueto as I thought I did? I knew he varied his look from time to time, but I had no clue he had such a complex mound routine he has to maintain. Has he always been this way, or has he added more deception as he’s gotten older? Either way, there’s no reason to fret over a rough Arizona outing (Bumgarner had one against Cincy on Tuesday), but the pitch Cueto served up to Cargo sure didn’t look like it had much sizzle on it.

This isn’t meant to be a knock on Cueto at all. I’m still so excited about him in this rotation I can’t even explain it. But it’s clear he has bugs to work out just like everyone else. I tell you what, even if the Giants don’t quite get a vintage performance out of their $130M man this year, I’m really getting the feeling they could get one from their $90M man Samardzija. Shark’s performance against the Dodgers was downright dominant. The Giants haven’t had a starter who could hump their fastball up like that guy does in quite some time, and Samardzija sure looks like a guy with something to prove this year… Am I the only one seeing that already?

What about Cain? Do the Giants rush him back? My gut says no, and it really makes more sense not to. Regardless of the circumstances, you’re talking about a guy who just wasn’t very good last season. We know how much pride Cainer has, but the organization isn’t going to put him on a mound if they aren’t 100% confident in his health and stamina. Chris Heston tired down the stretch last year, so it’s easy to forget he made 30 starts. He was also the 2nd most reliable starter the Giants had in 2015, and from what I’ve seen of him early on, I think he’s out to show that he’s no one-year wonder. I, (like some others) say Cain starts on the DL, and Heston gets some time in the rotation.

 Roster Battles

This is the fun part of spring training. It’s even more fun when the spots guys are fighting for are of the reserve variety. So far, I have no clue who’s going to win those last bench spots, and it’s not because players aren’t stepping up. Quite the opposite, really, as the organization did a great job bringing in depth at every position this offseason in my opinion. Between guys like Kyle Blanks (who’s already homered twice in only 7 AB) and Grant Green (7-21 with 6 RBI), the competition for these bench jobs is pretty fierce. I don’t see that changing.

I’m no expert and so much could change by April, but here’s my early spring take on the roster battles. At this point I’d say Kelby has a job locked up. Finding playing time for him might be the hardest part once the regular season begins, but I think the team could break camp with him as their only viable middle-infielder on the bench and be just fine. It’s not like Adrianza is having a poor spring at all. It’s just that their skillsets are similar. Ehire might have the slight advantage on the defensive side, but it’s not enough to offset the fact that Tomlinson’s a much better hitter.

I’m loving the fact that no matter which way the Giants go, there’s really not a bad option out there. Ok, that may not be true. With so many potential reserve bats showing up, I’d be a little miffed if the team decided to open with an extra pitcher. I’m over short benches!

Who do I like for those reserve spots? Well, I’ll admit I’m actually partial to the idea of carrying 3 catchers. Trevor Brown looks like a fine defensive option, and Susac’s bat needs to be in the lineup more this year. I don’t think that’s out of the question. Otherwise, the guys who’ve stood out to me so far are Gorkys Hernandez, Jarrett Parker, and Blanks. I wouldn’t sleep on Green and his utility profile (I’ve always liked him), nor would I rule out Gillaspie. Even Ramiro Pena and Hak-Ju Lee are interesting players. Seriously, when’s the last time the Giants had THIS many options in camp?

Kids in Camp

Speaking of talented players in camp… anybody else notice that NONE of the prospects have been reassigned yet? We’re 10 games in and the full boat of them is still hanging around the big league camp. That’s not a coincidence; these guys can play!

Look, it’s no secret that Christian Arroyo is the #1 prospect in the organization. It is one of the best-kept secrets of the organization though that Arroyo is the next Giants homegrown star. I personally don’t feel he’ll be anything less. 20 years old, in his second MLB camp, and he already looks like a big leaguer. Krukow was comparing the kid to Jeff Kent on KNBR Wednesday morning. Think about that for a second. Where is he going to play? Heck, I don’t know, but those things do have a way of working themselves out. But I do believe, and you can quote me on it, that Arroyo will be a Giant in 2016 if he’s healthy. He’s that good.

I hope folks are starting to get an idea of why Mac Williamson is my clear cut #2 prospect in the system right now, though I’m sure know most of you reading already realize the kind of potential he has. Mac really doesn’t have a lot of minor league experience (only two full seasons) under his belt. What he’s done in that time is impressive. His .370 average in the AFL last year? Impressive. Through 9 games, he’s the team leader in hits and average, and he’s certainly making Bruce Bochy’s decision to keep him in Sacramento harder. Look, I’m not saying the Giants should just send Angel Pagan down the road. I have no beef with Pagan whatsoever. But I do believe Mac has the type of power to change a game (as he’s shown)… and the best part is, he’s not just a power hitter. At some point this season, he, like Arroyo, will force the front office’s hand. I’ll be excited for that day when it arrives.

It’s also hard not to be excited about the plethora of hard-throwing arms in Giants camp. I’m loving the positive press these guys (Black, Gardeck, Smith, Law) are getting. It won’t be long before some of them are right alongside Strickland and Osich in the big league bullpen.

A very underrated aspect of the system is the starting pitching depth that’s showing up in camp right now. Between Clayton Blackburn, Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, and Adalberto Mejia, the Giants have four arms ticketed for Sacramento that have all had some early success this spring. Many of us have been underwhelmed by Stratton so far in his career, but the organization continues to show faith in him. When you consider that Beede and Chase Johnson are likely headed for AA, with Sam Coonrod not far behind, you start to get a sense of just how much coverage the team has if guys like Cain and Peavy (or others) miss time. Not to mention, guys succeeding at the upper minors usually make for solid trade chips as well.

All right, I’d say that’s enough talk for one night. At the moment, things are looking up in Giants camp. If Pence gets out there tomorrow and proves healthy, things will be looking WAY up. We’ll check back in on all of these topics a couple weeks from now. For the time being, let’s hope for continued good health as the regulars continue to ramp things up. The bench battles will no doubt be worth following all spring too. As always, thanks for reading, and go Giants!

Spring Kickoff: 2016 Camp Preview (Catchers & Infielders)

 

Mac ST
Mac Williamson in intrasquad action. Photo courtesy of Kuro Kuma

Part 1 of 4

Hey, Cactus League games are finally here! Is there anything sweeter than that? If you’re like me, you might have forgotten the Giants stream free webcasts for most of their spring games live on SFGiants.com. MLB probably isn’t very happy they do that, but you know what? Good for the organization’s media team for thinking of the fans. What a concept, right?!

Now that we’ve gotten the prospects and projections out of the way, it’s time for the third “P” of spring, the previews. I haven’t written on many MLB-Giants related topics lately, so let’s take a position-by-position look at the players you’ll be seeing, hearing, and reading about in camp this spring. I’ll do my best to comment on as many of them as possible here, but it may just be a quick blurb for the prospects whose chances of making the team are very slim.

Catcher

Do I need to mention Buster Posey here? One of the most important goals for the coaching staff this spring is getting Posey in tune with Samardzija and Cueto, so you can bet Buster will be out there every time either of those two is on the hill. Otherwise, the focus here will be finding a competent backup for the face of the franchise.

Is Andrew Susac the favorite to win that coveted roster spot? He’s easily the most offensive-oriented of anybody fighting for the job, but that’s not necessarily what makes a valuable reserve catcher. I still believe he can be a game-changer with his bat, but anybody who’s been following Susac since his amateur days knows injuries have played a major role in his career. He’ll have to prove he can stay healthy this spring.

Trevor Brown made the MLB club out of necessity (and emergency) last September, and he’s done nothing but impress people with his glovework, rapport, and even his ability to put bat to ball. There’s been a lot of talk about both young backstops getting some time at 1B this spring, and we already saw it in the opener with Brown (who went 2-2 at the dish).

Brown and Susac are the only other catchers on the 40-man roster, so they’re the odds-on favorites to win the job from my vantage point. It would likely take a very good spring from veteran George Kottaras – who I honestly don’t know much about aside from his 7 seasons of off-and-on MLB experience – to make the club out of camp. He’s got some pop, but spent all of 2015 in AAA. Will the Giants keep three backstops on the roster? I know there’s been talk of it, and I really think it’s an idea worth exploring… especially with the talk about Belt sitting against Kershaw.

Aramis Garcia, Ty Ross, and Matt Winn are the three prospects in camp, serving as added depth and catching bullpens at the facility. All three will likely see a handful of plate appearances. Garcia’s bat could make him a valuable commodity if his receiving skills develop, while Ross’ defensive rep may get him to the majors in a reserve role someday. Winn was drafted last year out of VMI, so getting the invite so soon is quite an honor. He too apparently has offensive pop and some savvy behind the plate.

Infield

The best homegrown infield in baseball is securely in place heading into spring. For all the talk and excitement of the big three atop the rotation, this group (plus Posey) is the real strength of the team. Not only are all four of Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Matt Duffy above average hitters, but the foursome can absolutely pick it on the defensive side. If Panik is really over his back injury, it’s going to be a treat and a huge competitive advantage to have this group together again.

Again, the infield camp storylines revolve around depth. How many openings are there, and who steps up to earn them? I think Kelby Tomlinson is a lock, especially if he keeps playing like he did yesterday at shortstop. KT’s energy and versatility are a huge boon for this club, and could really help dictate what the opening day roster looks like.

I don’t feel the same about Ehire Adrianza, but that doesn’t mean he can’t earn a 25-man job himself. I just think he’s got a lot of heat on him from NRI’s at the moment, and his in-season look didn’t do him any favors last year. Hopefully his added weight this winter will help him offensively.

As for newcomers, the names I’ll be following in camp are Connor Gillaspie, Hak-Ju Lee, Ramiro Pena, and Grant Green. Gillaspie has some defensive short-comings, but he put a very nice swing on a ball yesterday, and the fact that he can play a few different positions should help his case. If I had to choose between Gillaspie and Adrianza for the 25th spot, I’d take the guy with the better bat.

Lee was once the #44 prospect in MLB, but nowadays he’s just trying to prove he can hit advanced pitching enough to earn a major league job. I think he’s ticketed for Sacramento, but I don’t see a big difference between Lee and Adrianza (as far as MLB skillsets goes – Adrianza hit pretty well in AAA last year) at the moment.

Pena has some MLB experience, though he spent all of 2015 in AAA. He handled the bat well in El Paso, and again in the Mexican Winter league (.302-6-25). He’s a name to watch, and definitely a sleeper candidate to earn a backup SS job out of camp.

Speaking of sleeper candidates, Green is one of the NRI’s I’m most excited about this year. He was a star for USC in the late 2000’s, then burst onto the minor league scene after the A’s drafted him in the 1st round. He crushes minor league pitching, but really hasn’t been able to establish himself above AAA. The Giants could really use an Inf/OF utility type, and Green is one of the few guys in camp with that skillset. If Muelens can help him figure his swing out, I can really envision an MLB role for him in 2016.

Kyle Blanks is another wildcard. I figured the Giants signed him to compete for a reserve OF spot, but they’ve got him listed as a 1B on the roster. What that means exactly, I don’t know. The projected roster doesn’t have a ton of RHH power, so Blanks could provide value if he’s healthy. That’s always been the catch for him though, so his status will be worth monitoring all spring.

Christian Arroyo, Ryder Jones, and Rando Moreno are the prospects hanging around in camp. I don’t think it matters how many veterans are fighting for spots, we are absolutely going to see a lot of Arroyo this year. Will he play SS, 2B, 3B, LF, RF? I really don’t know how much they’ll move him around this spring, but I believe he’ll step up no matter where they put him. He already looks locked in, and if he hits in AA, it’s not out of the question to see Arroyo in SF this summer… Bobby Evans said so himself.

Jones is a guy who has taken some heat in Giants prospect rankings, but the organization obviously still believes in his offensive potential. Moreno is a versatile middle infielder who’s made the back end of my top 50 twice in the past three seasons.

The 2016 Cove Chatter Top 50 Prospects

Here are all of the top prospect profiles from this winter (as well as the previous two), organized in one place for your convenience. This page can be found under the “Cove Chatter 100” category in the right-hand links bar. Please use it as a reference all season long!

Top 10 Link

  1. Christian Arroyo, SS
  2. Mac Williamson, OF
  3. Tyler Beede, RHP
  4. Phil Bickford, RHP
  5. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
  6. Chris Shaw, 1B
  7. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
  8. Chase Johnson, RHP
  9. Aramis Garcia, C
  10. Lucius Fox, SS
  11. Sam Coonrod, RHP
  12. Jordan Johnson, RHP
  13. Ray Black, RHP
  14. Andrew Suarez, LHP
  15. Jarrett Parker, OF
  16. Hunter Cole, OF
  17. Austin Slater, 2B/OF
  18. Ty Blach, LHP
  19. Jalen Miller, SS
  20. Kyle Crick, RHP
  21. Michael Santos, RHP
  22. Mikey Edie, CF
  23. Johneshwy Fargas, CF
  24. Steven Okert, LHP
  25. Mac Marshall, LHP
  26. Chris Stratton, RHP
  27. Joan Gregorio, RHP
  28. Derek Law, RHP
  29. C.J. Hinojosa, SS
  30. Ryder Jones, 3B
  31. Ronnie Jebavy, CF
  32. Steven Duggar, RF
  33. Miguel Gomez, C/3B
  34. Jose Vizcaino, 3B
  35. Trevor Brown, C/IF
  36. Jake Smith, RHP
  37. Jonah Arenado, 3B/1B
  38. Kelvin Beltre, 3B/SS
  39. Mike Broadway, RHP
  40. Cody Hall, RHP – No longer with organization
  41. Ian Gardeck, RHP
  42. Martin Agosta, RHP
  43. Rodolfo Martinez, RHP
  44. DJ Snelten, LHP
  45. Matt Gage, RHP
  46. Deiyerbert Bolivar, LHP
  47. Logan Webb, RHP
  48. Mitch Delfino, 3B
  49. Rando Moreno, SS
  50. Tyler Brown, 2B

Honorable Mention I | Honorable Mention II

2015 Top Prospects | 2014 Top Prospects

 

Cove Chatter Top 2016 Prospects: Top 10

Fox
Lucius Fox meets his hopeful future skipper. Photo Credit: CSN Bay Area

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.

Arroyo, Williamson Shine in AFL

#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.

Chris Shaw
Chris Shaw. Photo Credit: Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, MiLB.com

#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.

Cove Chatter Top 2016 Prospects: #11

Sam Coonrod
Photo Credit: Augusta Greenjackets (MiLB.com)

San Francisco Giants Top 2016 Prospects: #11

#11: Sam Coonrod, RHP, Age 23: Coonrod was a flamethrowing righty (pre-draft reports had him up to 98) with very poor command during his 3-year career at Southern Illinois. He made 15 starts in his junior season, logging a 2.87 ERA and an 8.2 K/9. His walk rate, however, was 5 per 9 for the second consecutive year.

The Giants made Coonrod their 5th round pick in 2014, and his first full season in Augusta (2015) was a solid one. In 22 starts – 111.2 IP, 3.14 ERA, 8.3 H/9, 9.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9. His average Game Score (GSc) for the Greenjackets was a 54.3 (50-52 is average), and his Game Score W-L record was 13-6, with 3 ND. His best outing of the year, by GSc, was an 8-IP, 3-hitter with 6 K on July 20 (80 GSc). His most dominant start, however, was a 10-K, 2-hit effort over 7 IP on June 9 (77 GSc). Both of those performances came on the road, where Sam was actually quite a bit stronger in 2015.

He was promoted to San Jose for the postseason, where he made 2 appearances (1 start), allowing 3 ER over 9 IP.

Coonrod’s walk rate improvement was a huge development for the organization in 2015. He pairs his plus fastball with an above average slider, but I was under the impression he profiled better as a reliever when the Giants drafted him. His showing in Augusta definitely changed that notion for the time being, and it earned him no shortage of praise from opposing managers, who named him SAL Pitcher of the Year. The Giants were watching too, and offered him an invitation to MLB spring camp.

Coonrod has been consistently ranked in the organization’s top 10 by major publications this winter, so I’m sure this ranking will feel a little low. I don’t see this spot as a knock on him at all, however. As mentioned earlier, his 2015 was a good one, but Chase Johnson posted very similar numbers one level higher in San Jose. At the moment, I want to see how Coonrod builds on his success in 2016 before I enter him into my top 10. Without a doubt, he gives the Giants yet another hard throwing arm to be excited about as we head into spring training.