Giants’ Top Twenty Prospects: Part I…20-11

After a lot of work and deliberation, here are my Giants prospect rankings for 2012. These are based on a number of factors (scouting reports, tools, age relative to league, polish, upside, positional value, etc.), with performance and potential weighted similarly. I decided to arbitrarily go with a top-20, and I’ll break it up into two parts. Chances are I’ll post some honorable mentions as well. Anyway, here goes…

20. Clayton Blackburn, age 18, RHP

Blackburn was a steal as the Giants’ 16th-round pick this year, and he dominated the Arizona League in a limited sample (10.00 K/BB, 0.570 WHIP, 1.08 ERA in 33 innings). Baseball America had him as the best late round pick at or below slot in the entire draft.

19. Chris Dominguez, age 24, 3B

I have a hard time even ranking him this high…the 9/78 BB/K in Double-A Richmond is quite rough, but he’s a 3B with a lot of power.

18. Charlie Culberson, age 22, 2B

Another guy with disappointing numbers in Richmond (22/129 BB/K), but age works in his favor.

17. Jake Dunning, age 23, RHP

Another sleeper, Dunning was drafted as a shortstop and has only been pitching for two years. He thrived after converting to a relief role earlier in the year (43/10 K/BB in 42 IP).

16. Brett Bochy, age 24, RHP

A bit of an aggressive ranking, particularly for a reliever of his age and level, but he’s a late-round guy (2010, 20th round) who had tons of success out of the ‘pen in Augusta. 1.90 FIP, 0.769 WHIP, 1.38 ERA

15. Joshua Osich, age 23, LHP

A first-round talent that dropped all the way to round six this year due to injury concerns. If he stays healthy, he’ll move up fast through these rankings.

14. Chuckie Jones, age 19, OF

I’ve always liked him as a sleeper. Didn’t impress in 41 games at Salem-Keizer this year (.636 OPS), but he’s just 19 years old.

13. Adam Duvall, age 23, 3B

Raked in Augusta to the tune of .285/.385/.527

12. Mike Kickham, age 22, LHP

One of the Giants’ better starting pitching prospects, Kickham was solid in his first full season of professional ball (3.81 FIP in 111.2 innings in Augusta).

11. Jarrett Parker, age 22, OF

Toolsy guy who can draw walks (.360 OBP). He strikes out too much, though.

Adam Foster on Joe Panik’s approach

In case you missed it, today was the AFL Rising Stars game, and Joe Panik — playing second base — got a couple ABs (0 for 2, 1 K).

Adam Foster of Project Prospect posted some scouting notes afterwards, wherein he raved about Panik:

I really liked Joe Panik’s approach. He looks like he’s ready to do damage to pitches and he doesn’t expand the zone. If the Giants start him in High-A next year, he could make a push for a Double-A promotion come midseason and maybe even a September call-up. He has a chance to quickly reach the bigs as an up-the-middle defender who makes a lot of contact and has some power.

A while back, Prospect Insider wrote about Panik and his approach, and wasn’t too impressed: in particular, they said that he doesn’t get enough leverage/loft on his swing, and that they had expected to see better plate discipline/mechanics. That was pretty much the extent I’d read about Panik’s plate approach as a member of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, so it’s nice to finally hear such positive things about Panik. I’m still working on ranking the Giants’ prospects (I’ve done a lot of shifting around with specific prospects), but I’m pretty sold on Panik — I think he’s definitely one of the Giants’ top three (or perhaps even two) prospects.

End-of-season prospect roundup

It’s been a while since I took a look at the Giants’ farm system, so I figured I’d do an end-of-season roundup. These aren’t rankings per se, but rather, a rundown of a few of the Giants’ top prospects, with notes on other guys to watch for.

Back in late July, I posted a midseason top 25 list; since then, the system’s undergone quite a few changes. Zack Wheeler and Thomas Neal departed in trades soon after, the signing deadline for 2011 MLB draft picks has passed, and — of course — minor-league seasons (including the postseason) have been completed.

Pitching

Eric Surkamp: I had him at #4 on the midseason list, and he’s since made his major-league debut (six starts in total). He’s been quite underwhelming, to say the least. Though his performance is certainly a very small sample we’re talking about — roughly 27 innings in total, he has failed to a) induce whiffs, and b) throw with the command he consistently displayed at various levels in the minors. His future remains to be seen, although he’s most likely not going to begin 2012 in the Giants’ rotation:

Sabean all but said Jonathan Sanchez will be tendered a contract. Eric Surkamp clearly isn’t ready and Barry Zito has had his “trials and tribulations.” Zito will be in camp this spring to compete for the No.5 starter job. It’s looking like Sanchez will be the guy, though.

I have not been the least impressed with what he’s done in the majors thus far, but I’m still holding out hope that he can stick at the back-end of the rotation as a useful starter.

Heath Hembree: While the Giants’ organizational depth is fairly thin in terms of starting pitching, they have a few intriguing relief arms. Hembree is the cream of the crop. He spent half of his first full season in the minors down in San Jose, where he posted a 0.73 ERA over 24.2 innings pitched, and struck out nearly half the hitters he faced (43.6% K/PA). After receiving the call-up to Double-A Richmond, he continued to dominate: 2.83 ERA/2.86 FIP spanning 28 appearances. The average pitcher in the Eastern League this year was 24 and a half years old, so Hembree’s fairly advanced for his age (22). As of now, he’s looking like the future closer for the San Francisco Giants.

Kyle Crick: The Giants’ 2011 supplemental-round pick — a right-hander out of high school, he’s probably got the highest ceiling of the Giants’ starting pitching prospects (now that Wheeler is out of the picture). Keith Law actually liked Crick better than the Giants’ first-round pick, Joe Panik. He made seven appearances this year with the AZL Giants, but hasn’t done anything to really affect his prospect status.

Others: There are quite a few other interesting arms in the Giants’ system…Ryan Verdugo made the switch to starter this year, and while he had a solid season, nothing about his performance really stood out — especially considering that he was in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League (pitching in pitcher-friendly Richmond). Mike Kickham and Seth Rosin, a pair of Augusta arms, each did well this year (Kickham starting, and Rosin pitching out of the bullpen for the majority of the season). Lastly, Adalberto Mejia had a hell of a season in the Dominican Summer League, and the Giants selected some quality pitching in this year’s draft — Joshua Osich, Chris Marlowe, and Bryce Bandilla, in addition to the aforementioned Crick.

Hitting

Gary Brown: He’s the best prospect the Giants have, and after an excellent season in San Jose, he’s one of the top 50 prospects in all of baseball. One of the major concerns about Brown entering this season was walks: he didn’t draw very many walks in college, which is (for obvious reasons) alarming for a prospect whose game is speed. No longer much of an issue though: he posted a 7.2% walk rate this season, which is perfectly acceptable for a hitter with above-average contact skills. And considering that he has a penchant for getting hit by pitches (which, I’d assume is a somewhat repeatable skill), all the better.

There was a story on Brown in the Mercury News the other day, and one quote stood out to me:

“People keep saying I’m a singles hitter,” said Brown, who is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds. “Maybe they think that because I’m a leadoff man, but that’s not me. I’ve been a gap hitter my whole life. So that gets me a little riled up.”

He’s got a point, really. His numbers: 33 doubles, 13 triples, 14 home runs (.181 ISO). Juan Pierre comps (I’ve heard him compared to Pierre on several occasions) don’t do him justice — his power’s a lot better.

Joe Panik: There were a lot of people that weren’t happy with the Panik pick — having hoped that the Giants would go for a player with a higher ceiling. I was pretty content with the pick though, and I feel somewhat validated by Panik’s performance in Salem-Keizer. .341/.401/.467 in 304 plate appearances with 13 SB/5 CS, and a BB/K ratio of 28/25. Even if he doesn’t stick at short, he projects as an above-average defender at second-base. I expect that he’ll continue to move up through the system quickly.

Tommy Joseph: The biggest snub on my midseason rankings, Joseph was all the way down at #16. The reasoning behind this was: 1) defensive limitations at catcher, which is of paramount importance. 2) poor plate discipline.

Joseph got off to a cold start this year, but really started to pick things up as the season progressed. Here’s his wOBA by month (note: September includes only ~20 plate appearances) –

Tommy Joseph wOBA by month

Joseph finished the year with a line of .270/.317/.471, nearly a +.100 improvement in OPS from 2010. In mid-August, he was ranked the best defensive catcher in the Cal League, and Joe Ritzo, San Jose Giants director of broadcasting, raved about Joseph’s progress:

I’ve noticed a tremendous improvement with Tommy Joseph behind the plate this year, just going from April to August he really has become one of the better defensive catchers in the league. His receiving skills I think have improved the most, and his ability to block pitches in the dirt. He definitely has made tremendous improvement in that regard. I asked Andy Skeels recently which player has improved the most and Tommy Joseph was at the top of that list for what he’s done defensively and offensively.

Joseph’s still only 20 years old, and a catcher that can excel at both defense and offense is inherently valuable. He’s rocketed this year to become — in my mind — one of the Giants’ top five prospects, and maybe even one of the top 100 prospects in baseball (he was listed on THT’s top 100).

Others: Ehire Adrianza hit well in San Jose this time around (.845 OPS in 56 games), which is an encouraging sign. Not a big fan of Francisco Peguero, who’s widely considered to be one of the Giants’ top prospects, and here’s why: .309/.318/.446 at Double-A Richmond. He only drew five walks in 71 games, and posted a miserable BB/K of 5/45. Hector Sanchez and Andrew Susac round out the Giants’ organizational depth at catcher. Lastly, there are others to look out for: Jarrett Parker, Chris Dominguez, Charlie Culberson, and Ricky Oropeza to name a few. As a whole, I think the Giants’ organizational depth in terms of hitting — particularly at the catching position — is markedly better than the pitching.

Giants’ 2011 Draft Signings

It’s now been basically a month since the 2011 MLB draft was held, so I figured I’d check in on the Giants’ draft picks that have signed so far.

Here’s a quick rundown of all the signings, in order of when they signed (based on what the San Francisco Giants’ official website says).

Name	          Pos	Round	Signed
Joseph Panik SS 1 6/11/2011
Cody Hall RHP 19 6/16/2011
Jack Snodgrass LHP 27 6/16/2011
Phil McCormick LHP 31 6/16/2011
Shawn Payne 2B 35 6/16/2011
Garrett Buechele 3B 14 6/19/2011
Paul Davis RHP 17 6/19/2011
Eldred Barnett OF 29 6/19/2011
Ben Thomas 1B 34 6/19/2011
Brian Nicholson 1B 38 6/19/2011
Danny Sandbrink LHP 42 6/19/2011
Brian Maloney LHP 45 6/19/2011
Elliott Blair OF 46 6/19/2011
Kelby Tomlinson SS 12 6/24/2011
Kentrell Hill OF 10 6/25/2011
Demondre Arnold RHP 25 6/25/2011
Clayton Blackburn RHP 16 6/30/2011
Jean Delgado SS 8 7/3/2011

The Giants have yet to sign any of their picks from rounds 2-7 (and the sandwich round).

He’s not listed above, but I’m assuming that 32nd round pick Michael Mergenthaler has signed, as he’s already appeared in eight minor-league games with the Giants’ farm system (one at-bat in Triple-A Fresno…?).

Most of these guys have started with the Rookie-class AZL Giants. Here’s what they’ve done, though obviously, small sample size caution should be applied (especially in the case of those that have tossed just a few innings, it’s too early for these stats to mean much of anything).

Age G PA AB HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Eldred Barnett 22 7 35 30 1 2 8 .233 .314 .467 .781
Elliott Blair 23 8 16 16 0 0 6 .250 .250 .313 .563
Garrett Buechele 21 9 41 39 2 1 7 .308 .325 .513 .838
Jean Delgado 18 1 1 1 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Kentrell Hill 20 7 25 24 0 1 8 .208 .240 .250 .490
Michael Mergenthaler? 22 7 33 26 1 6 9 .192 .364 .308 .671
Brian Nicholson? 21 8 26 25 1 0 10 .320 .346 .480 .826
Ben Thomas? 22 11 52 46 2 6 6 .391 .462 .674 1.135
Kelby Tomlinson? 21 5 18 16 0 2 2 .313 .389 .375 .764
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/7/2011.

And the pitchers –

Age ERA G GS IP BF WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
Demondre Arnold 19 0.00 3 0 3.2 12 0.818 4.9 0.0 2.5 12.3 5.00
Clayton Blackburn 18 0.00 2 0 1.2 5 0.000 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Paul Davis 21 2.84 4 1 6.1 27 1.263 8.5 0.0 2.8 7.1 2.50
Brian Maloney? 22 0.00 4 0 4.1 17 1.385 8.3 0.0 4.2 16.6 4.00
Danny Sandbrink? 22 4.05 4 0 6.2 27 1.200 9.4 1.4 1.4 9.4 7.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/7/2011.

A few have begun in Short-Season A with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes…

The pitchers –

Age ERA G GS IP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
Cody Hall 23 7.71 4 0 4.2 9.6 0.0 3.9 11.6 3.00
Philip McCormick? 22 1.08 5 0 8.1 7.6 0.0 3.2 8.6 2.67
Lorenzo Mendoza 19 3.86 4 4 21.0 7.7 0.4 1.3 9.0 7.00
Steven Snodgrass? 23 7.15 6 0 11.1 15.9 0.0 2.4 9.5 4.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/7/2011.

And lastly, the hitters –

Age G PA HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Garrett Buechele 21 3 10 1 0 0 0 6 .100 .100 .400 .500
Joe Panik? 20 17 78 3 2 1 10 6 .343 .423 .507 .931
Rashawn Payne 21 20 78 0 7 1 13 18 .242 .397 .306 .704
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/7/2011.

Down in the Minors: 4/30/11

A look at what’s going on in the San Francisco Giants’ farm system…

Note, these stats don’t include games from 4/30.

Position players…

Age Tm Lev ▴ G PA HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Ydwin Villegas# 20 AUG A 19 72 0 1 1 1 16 .138 .162 .185 .346
Rafael Rodriguez 18 AUG A 16 63 0 1 1 5 3 .293 .349 .362 .711
Chris Lofton* 21 AUG A 18 69 0 2 3 10 14 .179 .313 .214 .528
Hector Sanchez# 21 SJO A+ 14 59 1 0 0 2 11 .286 .305 .429 .734
Jarrett Parker* 22 SJO A+ 19 86 2 3 2 13 20 .211 .349 .366 .715
Tommy Joseph 19 SJO A+ 21 93 2 1 0 4 20 .271 .312 .424 .735
Wendell Fairley* 23 SJO A+ 20 76 0 0 0 9 11 .317 .411 .381 .792
Chris Dominguez 24 SJO A+ 22 98 5 3 1 6 28 .267 .306 .444 .751
Ryan Cavan# 24 SJO A+ 21 99 4 4 1 12 16 .250 .333 .488 .821
Gary Brown 22 SJO A+ 22 108 1 17 6 10 14 .341 .429 .418 .846
Luke Anders* 24 SJO A+ 16 67 3 0 0 10 14 .321 .433 .571 1.004
Charlie Culberson 22 RMD AA 21 93 1 0 1 5 20 .306 .337 .447 .784
Brett Pill 26 FRE AAA 21 94 3 1 0 3 9 .379 .404 .563 .967
Thomas Neal 23 FRE AAA 12 42 0 1 2 2 5 .333 .381 .436 .817
Travis Ishikawa* 27 FRE AAA 17 71 1 3 0 4 25 .242 .286 .348 .634
Conor Gillaspie* 23 FRE AAA 21 89 2 0 1 12 15 .250 .352 .382 .734
Brandon Belt* 23 FRE AAA 5 19 2 1 0 5 5 .429 .579 1.000 1.579
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/30/2011.

Notes:

Pitchers…

Age Tm Lev ▴ ERA GS IP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
Seth Rosin 22 AUG A 3.63 3 17.1 1.500 10.9 0.0 2.6 5.7 2.20
Stephen Harrold 22 AUG A 2.25 0 8.0 1.375 6.8 1.1 5.6 11.2 2.00
Matthew Graham 21 AUG A 4.30 0 14.2 1.636 7.4 0.6 7.4 3.1 0.42
Jacob Dunnington 20 AUG A 2.57 0 14.0 1.357 5.1 0.0 7.1 9.0 1.27
Zach Wheeler 21 SJO A+ 3.38 4 21.1 0.984 6.3 0.8 2.5 11.4 4.50
Michael Main 22 SJO A+ 0.87 2 10.1 1.161 8.7 0.0 1.7 7.0 4.00
Chris Heston 23 SJO A+ 2.78 4 22.2 1.235 8.3 0.4 2.8 5.2 1.86
Heath Hembree 22 SJO A+ 1.12 0 8.0 1.500 9.0 0.0 4.5 15.8 3.50
Hector Correa 23 SJO A+ 2.51 0 14.1 0.698 5.0 1.3 1.3 7.5 6.00
Ryan Verdugo* 24 RMD AA 1.65 3 16.1 0.857 6.6 1.1 1.1 8.8 8.00
Eric Surkamp* 23 RMD AA 2.21 4 20.1 1.475 8.9 0.9 4.4 13.7 3.10
Jason Stoffel 22 RMD AA 0.00 0 6.2 0.900 6.8 0.0 1.4 10.8 8.00
David Quinowski* 25 RMD AA 1.93 0 14.0 0.643 4.5 0.6 1.3 5.1 4.00
Dan Otero 26 RMD AA 3.29 0 13.2 1.317 10.5 0.0 1.3 9.9 7.50
Osiris Matos 26 RMD AA 5.65 0 14.1 1.465 12.6 0.6 0.6 8.8 14.00
Daryl Maday 25 RMD AA 3.80 4 21.1 1.266 9.3 0.4 2.1 6.8 3.20
Marc Kroon 38 FRE AAA 2.08 0 8.2 1.500 8.3 1.0 5.2 12.5 2.40
Steve Edlefsen 26 FRE AAA 0.82 0 11.0 1.000 8.2 0.0 0.8 7.4 9.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/30/2011.

Notes:

  • Matthew Graham‘s K/BB ratio has looked awful.
  • Zach Wheeler has been throwing with good control thus far. If he can hone his control, he’ll be ridiculously good.
  • Michael Main, too, has looked really good so far.
  • I’m really liking the K/BB ratios of Stoffel, Verdugo, Otero, and Matos in AA.
  • Albeit in only 14 innings, David Quinowski has a WHIP of 0.643 to go along with a very good K/BB (4.00)
  • Eric Surkamp has looked good making the leap to pitcher-friendly AA, as I’d expected.
  • Steve Edlefsen has had a really nice start to the season (0.82 ERA, 9.0 K/BB).


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Mike Kickham Q&A – Ten Questions

San Francisco Giants prospect Mike Kickham is a left-handed pitcher currently with the San Jose Giants. He was drafted out of Missouri State in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. He’s on Twitter, so go ahead and follow him.

Mike was nice enough to answer several questions:

1) Your twin brother, Dan, was drafted by the Colorado Rockies. Is there a big sibling rivalry there, especially with him being in the farm system of a rival team?

My brother did not sign and is playing at Missouri State this year. He’s having a very good year so far and I hope to help him along as his baseball career progresses. We are very close and have always been very competitive growing up.

2) Are you focusing on anything specific at the moment (i.e. fastball velocity, developing a new pitch, etc.)?

During spring training I was really focusing on polishing my change and throwing it more consistently.

3) Missouri State has produced several major-league arms (Shaun Marcum, Brad Ziegler, etc.). Have you had any kind of contact with these guys?

Ziegler’s around in the offseason quite a bit, however I haven’t really chatted with him at length. However, I did get to pick Cole Hamels‘ mind this past offseason which I felt was very beneficial speaking to another lefty.

4) What would you say is your best secondary pitch? Curve? Slider? Change?

I’d have to say my go to secondary would be my slider, I feel that I can get most anyone out with that pitch, especially lefties.

5) The Giants’ farm system has had a lot of success in developing pitchers in recent years. Was that something that you thought about when you came to the Giants?

Most definitely, this organization does an excellent job drafting and developing arms and now they have a ring to prove that. I was very excited to work with the same guys that developed Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner. Those are guys you want to emulate.

6) You haven’t pitched yet for the SJ Giants because of a blister, right? Is the Giants’ farm system cursed? So many injuries…

Haha I hope not…it’s frustrating that such a minuscule thing has cost me time with the team but I understand that it needs to fully heal so that it won’t become a recurring issue throughout my career.

7) Do you envision yourself as a starter in the majors? Or might you go the path of a reliever?

I think of myself as a starter, I’ve always been one and like going 6-7 innings; but whatever role the organization wants to put me in and feels I’ll be the most successful I will gladly do. I just enjoy competing and giving my team a chance to win.

8) What’s it like playing with so many talented prospects in San Jose? Fun group of guys?

Great group in San Jose, with so much talent around I can learn from everyone, not just the pitchers. I can talk to the hitters about their at bats and get valuable information I can take with me out on the mound.

9) Scouting reports say your velocity tops out in the mid-90s. What’s the hardest you’ve ever thrown?

Hardest I’ve ever thrown was 95

10) You played one year of D-1 college baseball, and you’re now starting in high-A. Is this all happening too fast?

It has happened fast, but this is something I’ve always worked toward. I wouldn’t have left school early unless I felt I was ready for the next step and I felt I was ready. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this organization and excited to keep working hard and keep working my way up to reach the ultimate goal.


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