As always, if you read the article post a comment - they can range from voicing your discrepancies with my list, mention guys I may have omitted, point out flaws in my list, talk about other prospects, when/where these prospects will play. Let's get some discussion going.
Commonly Used Abbreviations:
MLL – minor league level
A+ - high A
“A-“ - low A
A - Played at both high, and low A
a – short season A
R – Rookie league
w – Winter league stats included
OBP – On Base %
SLG – Slugging %
OPS – OBP + SLG
XBH – extra base hit %
K:BB – ratio of strikeouts to walks
Top 15 Prospects
1. Madison Bumgarner LHSP Age: 19 MLL: A-
There may not have been a more impressive pitcher in all of minor league baseball last year, yes, that includes David Price. Bumgarner pitched in 142 innings with a 1.46 ERA striking out 164 batters, and holding opponents to a .216 batting average. Bumgarner has a PLUS PLUS fastball, he throws it up to 96, and still has enough projection for its velocity to rise. As a lefty Bumagarner’s fastball has a lot of late tailing movement. He also throws a curveball, which could be a plus pitch in the future, he also shows a slider which could be promising – he has messed around with the grip of his breaking pitches so, it is tough to tell whether he will though both a curveball, and slider – his changeup is a below average pitch. He also has impressive control for a flamethrower, his command is better than average. Bumagarner is a future front of the rotation starter with ace potential if he can develop a reliable breaking pitch.
2. Buster Posey C Age: 21 MLL: A-/a/w
Posey was the number five pick in the 2008 draft. He has very advanced batting skills, hitting .342, with a .425 OBP split between the end of the 2008 season, and the Hawaii Winter Baseball league. Posey has below average power, though he did post a .467 SLG% in 2008, his XBH% was only .29, he could hit 10-20 homeruns in the future. Posey already has good plate discipline. One of the reasons Posey was drafted so high was his defensive ability. Posey should be a plus defender when he makes it to the big leagues, he has an average arm behind the plate. Since before the draft I have been really high on Posey, and I think he has the potential to be an above average catcher both offensively, and defensively very soon.
3. Tim Alderson RHSP Age: 20 MLL: A+
Alderson put up a great 2008 campaign, pitching 145 innings with an ERA of 2.79 striking out 124 batters. He throws his fastball in the low to mid 90s. He also throws a plus power curveball between 80 and 78 mph, and a changeup he is still developing. Alderson has great command. There is not much downside with Alderson, although it would be great if he could get his changeup to be an average pitch. I believe Alderson profiles more as a number three starter, rather than a top of the rotation guy but, he could be a number two starter if that changeup improves – of course he will never be asked to be a number two starter in San Francisco with Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner.
4.1B Age: 18 MLL: A-
Villalona was much younger than his competitors in low A last season, yet, he put up somewhat respectable numbers. Hitting .263, with a .435 SLG%, and .38 XBH, however, Villalona’s OBP was only .312. Villalona also managed a dismal 6.5:1 K to BB raito. Villalona did hit 17 homeruns, though, and his future power grades somewhere between plus, and plus plus. Villalona was originally signed as a third basemen but, now is viewed, by most, as a first basemen only – although there is plenty of debate surrounding whether he can play third or not. Villalona has as much potential as anyone on this list but, he is still a long way from reaching it, and I am not confident he can shore up that K:BB ratio.
5.OF Age: 24 MLL: AAA
Schierholtz is a tough guy to rank – since he is major league ready, compared to the projects that surround him (Villalona, He put up great numbers in AAA in 2008 in between being called up. He hit for an average of .320, and an on base % of .363. Schierholtz has good power –about average for a corner outfielder – hitting 18 homeruns in 350 at bats, with a SLG% of .594, and XBH% of .45. However, Shierholtz lacks discipline at the plate striking out 67 times, compared to 38 walks. Schierholtz is a good fielder in right, and possesses a canon arm. Offensively, Schierholtz is about average, maybe a little above, across the board for a corner outfielder., and Noonan).
6. Nick Noonan 2B Age: 19 MLL: A-
Noonan has above average contact ability, and average power potential – he could hit between 10 and 20 HRs. In 2008 he hit .279, with only a .315 OBP, and disappointing .730 OPS. Noonan’s K:BB ratio was greater than 4:1, which reflects his very poor plate discipline. However, Noonan did for a surprising 9 homeruns – at least I found it surprising – and an XBH% of .31. Noonan is a plus defender at second, with good range, and great instincts, in fact the only reason he moved off of short was because of his below average arm strength. He has average speed but, is a great base stealer, stealing 29 last season. Nick Noonan profiles as a top of order above average second basemen but, he is going to have to improve his plate discipline first.
7. Henry Sosa RHSP Age: 23 MLL: A
I will start with Sosa’s 2008 stats. Sosa was healthy for only half the year, and thus pitched in only 58 innings. He finished the season with an ERA of 4.21, and striking out 58 batters. Sosa throws a 97 mph fastball, and pairs it with an above average curveball, Sosa will also throw a changeup but, it is below average. Sosa lacks command at this point in his career, it, along with staying healthy is what he will have to work on. Sosa has the stuff to become a number three, or better, starter but, age, and health, are no longer on his side. I think Sosa could make an effective late innings reliever, and eventually a closer.
8. Conor Gillaspie 3B Age: 21 MLL: a
Gillaspie was the first player drafted last June to reach the big leagues. Gillaspie is a plus contact hitter, and should hit for a high average. He also has good plate discipline – striking out 14 times in 93 minor league at bats, while walking 12 times. However, Conor only has doubles power, and it is not likely he will develop more. Gillaspie has an average arm at third but, has limited range, due to fringy speed; he also is prone to fielding errors. Still, the Giants like him at third, and believe his great instincts, and baseball know-how will allow him to learn the position, a move to second later in his career is not out of the question, though. It is tough not to like this guy, many call him a Bill Mueller like third basemen – who has a batting title, and world series ring – and say his floor is a Mark DeRosa type of utility player, which means Gillaspie should enjoy a pretty good major league career, even if not a famed one.
9. Matt Downs 2B Age 24 MLL: AAA/A+
Downs put up great numbers in 2008. He has a BA of .294, with a .827 OPS. He flashed good power, hitting 20 homeruns, and finishing the season with a .480 SLG%, and .36 XBH%. Downs also stole 25 bases. Along with his offensive ability, Downs is a very versatile defensive player, having the ability to field all four infield positions, and both corners of the outfield. Downs is similar to Houston’s Drew Sutton, in that both profile as super utility players, despite the fact they put up great offensive numbers, I think Downs should get a shot at the second base job in spring training.
10. Wendell Fairley OF Age: 20 MLL: A
Fairley is a very toolsy outfielder, who has yet to produce equivocal numbers. I like him because Fairley had an OBP of .288 129 points higher than his batting average – thanks to a high walk rate. He also has an average arm, plus speed, and is a good enough fielder to stay in center. Some scouts said he had plus power potential when he was drafted in 2007 but, I do not see it, and he certainly did not show it in 2008, hitting a .337 , and .18 extra base hit percentage. In the past some have questioned Fairley’s character but, those have mostly dissipated this year. Fairley is young, toolsy, and relatively new to the sport so, I think Fairley has the ability to be a very good centerfielder but, it is going to take some time. Just how good he becomes depends on how he develops over the next couple of seasons but, I do think he is off to a good start.
11. Clayton Tanner LHSP Age: 21 MLL: A+
I am high on Tanner. In 2008 he threw in 117 innings with an ERA of 3.69, and struck out 84 batters in that time. Tanner does get hit pretty often, putting up an opposing batting average of .274. He throws a high 80s fastball, touching 91, and also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup for strikes. His curveball is the best of his secondary pitches, and should be his out pitch in the majors. I like his four pitch repertoire, and advanced way of pitching but, his propensity to get hit on brings up concerns as he moves up to AA. If he pitches well next season, in AA, you can view him as a back of the rotation guy.
12. Kevin Pucetas RHSP Age: 24 MLL: A+
Pucetas throws four average pitches in the form of a fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup – the last of which is probably his best pitch. Last year he pitched 125 innings with a 3.02 ERA striking out 102 batters. However, he was a 24 year old in a high A league so, take his stats at that level in perspective. Anyways, he has four major league average pitches that makes me think he can be a back-end of the rotation starter. Tanner edges out Puceta due to his youth, and better fastball/curveball combo.
13. Roger Kieschnick OF Age: 21 MLL: w
Roger Kieschnick is the third 2008 draftee to make this list. He is a potential five tool player. However, his power is still very raw – with the chance to be above average in the future – and his poor mechanics limit his hitting ability. Kieschnick does have a plus arm, and will be an above average right fielder defensively. He has average or a little above speed, and is aggressive on the base paths. He did not debut until playing in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League this fall, where he hit for an OPS of .815 but also tallied a K to BB rate of 3:1. Kieschnick will likely start next season in low A, where I expect him to struggle to start the year. He will have to make adjustments to his swing before putting up good numbers in pro ball, I would keep him in extended spring training, and then put him in short season A during the season.
14. Joseph Martinez RHSP Age: 25 MLL: AA
Martinez is a very polished pitcher, who led the Eastern League in both ERA, and WHIP. He pitched 148 innings in 2008 with a 2.49 ERA while striking out 112 batters. Martinez throws a mid to high 80s 2-seam fastball, along with an average curveball, and changeup. Martinez will get a chance to start for the Giants next season, although he profiles as a number five, or at best number four pitcher in the majors.
15. Jesse English LHSP Age: 24 MLL: A+
English has been plagued by injuries but, was finally healthy in 2008. He pitched in 135 innings with an ERA of 3.19 – fourth best in the - striking out 135 batters. English’s fastball is thrown only in the high 80s but, he mixes it with a good changeup to get batters out. A healthy season where he strikes out a batter per inning earns English the last spot on this list.
Strengths: Two top of the rotation guys. The Giants also have a good mix of high upside guys, and near ready, mid range potential guys. Their top eight prospects are very impressive.
Weaknesses: This list is not as deep as it is for other teams but, they certainly make up a lack of depth, with some high quality prospects. They do not have a shortstop of the future prospect that is about as big of knock as I can give.
Next Up: NL West wrap up, followed by the wrap up