The San Francisco Giants do not have the deepest farm system in baseball, but after winning 2 of the last 3 World Series titles, it’s doubtful that anyone in the organization loses any sleep at night over it. In addition to the lack of depth, there is a lack of elite prospect talent at the top. That’s not to say there isn’t any talent, especially when you look at the trio of arms in Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, and Chris Stratton. Crick, with front line potential, borders on elite talent at this point. The hitting in the system is a little suspect at this point, though Gary Brown and Joe Panik have the potential to develop into everyday regulars at the major league level. Let’s take a look at the Giants farm system.
1. Kyle Crick, RHP 11/30/1992 H:6’4″ W:220 – Kyle Crick looks the part of a power pitcher. He’s got the type of frame we like to see in a hard thrower, as well as the stuff to go with it. He throws his fastball in the mid 90’s and at times has dialed it up to 99 mph. He’s got a plus curveball that’s a hard breaker that flashes plus/plus potential. He mixes in a show me changeup, which is pretty average but there’s potential in the pitch. His K% climbed from 21.6% in 2011 to 27.1% in 2012, while his BB% fell from 21.6% to 14.4%. Still, he walks too many batters and that is contributed to his shaky command.
Our Instinct: Front line starter potential gets thrown around a lot, but with Crick’s stuff and lack of power pitchers in the Giants organization, it’s easy to make that statement. Crick is going to head to San Jose in the hitter friendly High-A California league in 2013. He’s going to have to spot his pitches better and keep the walks down or his ERA is going to balloon. He’s talented enough that he should be able to handle the task and continue to rise among the prospect ranks. ETA: 2015.
2012 by the numbers: 7-6, 2.51 ERA, 3.15 FIP, .281 BABIP, 128/67 K/BB ratio in 111.1 innings at Low-A. 2011 1st round draft pick, 49th overall.
2. Clayton Blackburn, RHP 1/6/1993 H:6’3″ W:220 – Some times players will sneak up on you and Blackburn is no exception to this. The 2011 16th round draft pick had a very impressive debut in the Arizona League and followed that up with an absolutely masterful 2012 campaign in the Low-A Sally League. Blackburn came in just outside of our Giants top 10 list for 2012 at #11, but made his mark and is right there behind Kyle Crick in 2013.
Blackburn features a low 90’s sinking fastball, which is unlikely to pick up anymore velocity, but is a near plus pitch based on his command of it. He also has a changeup, curveball, and a slider that are all at least average, fringing on above average. With very easy arm action, Blackburn demonstrates excellent control and plus command. His 26.9% K rate was fantastic, but it was his 3.4% BB rate that was absolutely ridiculous. Those are numbers from a pitcher you can build a rotation around.
Our Instinct: Blackburn doesn’t have the upside that Crick has, due to the lack of premium velocity. Having said that, every other facet of his abilities is excellent. Command, control, arsenal, feel for pitches, make up – it’s all there. He should be able to continue his success at High-A in 2013, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him jump to AA before the season is over. The ceiling isn’t as high as Crick, but I believe his floor is higher. We have little doubt that he can become a solid #3 starter in the majors, and it really wouldn’t shock me to see him as decent #2 in his prime based on that walk rate. ETA: 2015.
2012 by the numbers: 8-4, 2.54 ERA, 1.91 FIP, .318 BABIP, 143/18 K/BB ratio in 131.1 innings at Low-A. 2011 16th round draft pick, 507th overall.
3. Gary Brown, OF 9/28/1988 H:6’1″ W:190 – After an excellent 2011 season in the CAL League, Gary Brown didn’t progress as much as you would hope at AA. It’s not unusual though for a player to post great numbers in the CAL League and then drop a bit at AA. Defensively, nothing has changed. He’s still a very good defender that can play all 3 outfield positions.
Offensively, Brown is a contact hitter that relies on his speed. He’s got excellent bat speed and quick wrists. He has some power potential, but it’s going to be more gap power than HR power. That should play up in San Francisco where he can utilize he speed. Speaking of his speed, he had a pretty hard time swiping bases in 2012, getting caught 18 times and then again getting thrown out a fair amount in the Arizona Fall League, despite hitting over .300 there.
Our Instinct: Brown has shown enough to deserve a promotion to AAA in 2013. His numbers should improve in a hitter’s league like the PCL. He’s not the player he was in 2011 while in the CAL League, but at the same time, he’s probably better than he was in the Eastern League in 2012. Where does that leave him? That just depends on his continued development at the plate and figuring out what went wrong in 2012 on the bases. He’s potentially a lead off center fielder for the Giants, but if things don’t turn around, he may end up settling into a role as a 4th outfielder. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: .279/.347/.385, 41 XBH(7 HR), 33 SB, .315 BABIP, 87/40 K/BB ratio in 538 ab’s at AA. 2010 1st round draft pick, 24th overall.
4. Chris Stratton, RHP 8/22/1990 H:6’3″ W:186 – When I saw Chris Stratton in his Northwest League debut in 2012, I was a little underwhelmed by his performance. This was clearly not the pitcher that was advertised out of Mississippi State. He wasn’t terrible, but he certainly didn’t look like he was into it. Perhaps the load in college had taken its toll and he was out of gas. I’m not sure.
Stratton uses a 4 pitch mix. He works in the low to mid 90’s with his fastball, though when I saw him he worked in the 89-90 mph range. He also uses a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. The slider and curveball flash plus potential, while the change up is below average, needing more time to develop. Stratton has an excellent Baseball IQ, so he should be able to bring his changeup along into a serviceable pitch. He’s got an excellent feel for his pitches and mixes them quite well. His command is also very good. I’ve chalked up when I saw him as a lull from fatigue, since he pitched a lot better at the end of the season.
Our Instinct: Stratton was one of my favorite pitchers coming out of college and the Giants snagged him right about where we projected him to go in our 2012 draft preview. He was shut down early after he took a liner to the head in a game at Salem. The head injury was enough of a concern that he didn’t make it to the fall instructional leagues. He seems to be past that now. The 22 year old was originally slated to join San Jose in the CAL League, but it looks like he will begin the year at Augusta in the Low-A Sally League. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the jump to High-A quickly and possibly finish the season at AA. He has #3 upside, but should be able to make it as a #4 without too much trouble. ETA: 2015.
2012 by the numbers: 0-1, 2.76 ERA, 4.24 FIP, .310 BABIP, 16/10 K/BB ratio in 16.1 innings at Short Season-A. 2012 1st round draft pick, 20th overall.
5. Joe Panik, 2B/SS 10/30/1990 H:6’1″ W:190 – Joe Panik is an extreme baseball rat. He plays the game very hard, which translates to his skills playing up more than his tools would suggest. He makes excellent contact and has great instincts. He’s got great plate discipline and knows how to work the count. He’s never going to have much in the way of power, nor is he very athletic. His hit tool is his lone above tool and really wasn’t on display in the first half of 2012, however I feel that it’s still there and could even shine through as plus down the road. He showed more in the 2nd half where he hit .337.
Defensively, he can handle SS fine despite his athletic limitations, though he probably will be moved off to 2B at some point.
Our Instinct: We’ve seen dirt bags like Panik carve out major league careers before. I wouldn’t bet against him finding his way into a major league lineup as a bottom of the order, average 2B. Unfortunately that’s probably his ceiling. His floor is pretty good though, he should be able to find a spot as a utility infielder for many years. He’s going to head to AA and we will see if his hitting ability shines there. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: .297/.368/.402, 38 XBH(7 HR), 10 SB, .317 BABIP, 54/58 K/BB ratio in 535 ab’s at High-A. 2011 1st round draft pick, 29th overall.
6. Mike Kickham, LHP 12/12/1988 H:6’4″ W:220 – At 6’4″, Mike Kickham is able to take advantage of his 92-94 mph fastball with a nice downward plane. He mixes in a changeup, slider, and a curveball. All 3 pitches are average looking pitches with some potential with the change and slider becoming a little more. Kickham took on an aggressive assignment in 2012, which saw him jump from Low-A in 2011 to AA in 2012. He posted another solid 21.7% K rate, but his 11.9% BB rate was much higher than the previous season. Despite the struggle with his command, Kickham should continue to work up the ladder and the Giants are famous for getting pitchers squared away.
Our Instinct: The escaping command and high walk totals are a bit alarming. However, he has a nice 4 pitch mix that should play in the majors. I’ve seen nothing in his mechanics to suggest the command issues can’t be addressed. He’s going to head to AAA to start the 2013 season and should make his major league debut at some point this summer. He’s got back of the rotation upside and should be watched this summer to see how he progresses. ETA: 2013.
2012 by the numbers: 11-10, 3.05 ERA, 3.60 FIP, .278 BABIP, 137/75 K/BB ratio in 150.2 innings at AA. 2010 6th round draft pick, 198th overall.
7. Heath Hembree, RHP 1/13/1989 H:6’4″ W:210 – Heath Hembree didn’t get off to the best start in 2012. He then fought a couple different injuries that forced him out of action for over a month. When he came back, he looked more like the reliever we saw in 2011. He continued to progress in the Arizona Fall League, where his command looked very good. Something that had eluded him for parts of the 2012 season at AAA.
He has an explosive fastball with easy action that works in the 94-95 mph range and has at times reached back for a little more pepper, dialing it up near triple digits. He mixes in an above average slider, that flashes plus potential that make an excellent out pitch for a closer. He also mixes in an average changeup, but it’s hardly significant as a reliever. However, if it were to become above average, it could make his fastball look like it was fired out of a cannon.
Our Instinct: Hembree missed his opportunity to make it to the majors last season, but that shouldn’t be a problem in 2013. He’ll begin the year back at AAA, but he should be one of the first arms summoned to the big leagues. He’s definitely got closer upside. ETA: 2013.
2012 by the numbers: 1-1, 4.19 ERA, 3.55 FIP, .239 BABIP, 43/21 K/BB ratio in 43 innings at AAA, with a brief rehab at High-A. 2010 5th round draft pick, 168th overall.
8. Martin Agosta, RHP 4/7/1991 H:6’1″ W:180 – The St. Mary’s product made a pretty brief pro debut in 2012, pitching in just 10.2 innings in the Arizona Summer League. He’s a power arm that can hit up to 97 mph on the gun, but when he reaches back for more he really cuts his command down. He works very effectively in the 92-94 mph range. He may learn to harness that heat in full season ball, but for now I think the Giants will encourage him to keep it where he can control the plate. He also uses and average slider and cutter, as well as a change up that is a work in progress. The CU will be crucial to his advancement as a starter, otherwise his 3 pitch arsenal will showcase better as a power bullpen arm.
Our Instinct: The Giants could be aggressive here and move the soon to be 22 year old into the High-A CAL League, however with the work needed on the CU he could start in the Low-A Sally League. Agosta has a good feel for his pitches, decent command, and mixes them up well so if all goes well he could easily end the season at AA. There isn’t going to be a huge rush to get him to the majors and he’s likely a few years from that. He’s got #4 potential, but could very well be a bullpen fall back option. ETA: 2015.
2012 by the numbers: 0-0, 4.22 ERA, 2.73 FIP, .400 BABIP, 19/9 K/BB ratio in 10.2 innings at Rookie-A. 2012 2nd round draft pick, 84th overall.
9. Eric Surkamp, LHP 7/16/1987 H:6’5″ W:215 – From 2008 to 2011, Surkamp climbed a level at a time culminating in a major league debut and 6 starts for the Giants in 2011. He went 11-4 with a 1.94 ERA and had a 170/45 K/BB rate over 148.1 innings in the Eastern League that season. Then 2012 came and he would miss the full season, needing Tommy John Surgery in July. He should be back by mid-season, but it’s anyone’s guess how rusty he will be. Fortunately, prior to surgery Surkamp didn’t rely on a lot of velocity, working with excellent command in the low 90’s. He also featured a plus changeup and a plus curveball. His easy arm action, feel for his pitches, and ability to spot his pitches make him a likely candidate for a rotation spot next season.
Our Instinct: Tommy John surgery has really become very commonplace for pitchers. Some pitchers never regain their previous form and wash out. However, a large majority actually pitch better than before. This is especially true for guys who don’t have top velocity. Once Surkamp returns, he should spend part of the summer in the lower minors shaking the rust off before joining the AAA rotation. There’s a slight chance he could see some late major league action, but it’s really too soon to make that call. If all goes well he could very well compete for a spot in the Giants rotation in 2014. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: Missed all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John Surgery. 2008 6th round draft pick, 177th overall.
10. Gustavo Cabrera, OF 1/23/1996 H:6’2″ W:190 – A 2012 International bonus baby, Cabrera could very well turn into something special. Our Aaron Bentley spends more time examining the international guys than anyone I know. Prior to the signing period last year, here ranked Cabrera #4 on his top 21 list. Here’s what he had to say about Cabrera:
Gustavo Cabrera, CF, Dominican Republic – Now watch me go back on my manifesto on the evaluation of IFA hitters. Cabrera does not yet have an advanced approach at the plate. He has a problem with staying balanced in his swing. I don’t agree with some scouts that his swing is all that long, however. And the reason I’m high on Cabrera even though he doesn’t have the advanced approach that you want is that he is unanimously regarded as having the best raw tools and being the best athlete in the IFA class. He has plus-plus speed, plus raw power, and contrary to scout’s suggestions that he won’t hit in games, he has hit in games. While it’s not exactly the Major Leagues, Cabrera has led his team to RBI championships on U.S. soil. At 6’0” and 190, there are questions about whether he can stay in centerfield. Due to his athleticism, I like his chances.
Our Instinct: Cabrera is now listed at 6’2″, having sprouted up a bit since last summer. There’s a good chance that the Giants will bring him to the U.S. and start him out in the Arizona Summer League. ETA: 2017.
2012 by the numbers: Will make his pro debut in 2013. 2012 IFA, Dominican Republic.
11. Nathanael Javier, 3B 10/10/1995 H:6’3″ W:185 – Another International signing, Javier didn’t meet the fanfare that many others had during the signing period. Javier has excellent make up and carries himself well on and off the field. He displays a lot of confidence at the plate and has a great corner infielder frame. He’s a right handed hitter with plus bat speed. His mechanics are easy and won’t require a lot of tinkering with. His hit tool looks solid and he has plus raw power that could be very attractive in the future. Defensively, Javier has excellent footwork and throws 87 mph across the diamond.
Our Instinct: Unless he hits a growth spike and out grows 3B, Javier should have no problem handling the hot corner. He could start off in the DSL, but there’s a sense that Giants will start him off in the Arizona Summer League. He’s a player to watch closely and could impress right away. ETA: 2016.
2012 by the numbers: Will make his pro debut in 2013. 2012 IFA, Dominican Republic.
12. Edwin Escobar, LHP 4/22/1992 H:6’2″ W:200 – Originally signed by the Texas Rangers, Escobar came over to the Giants in 2010. Escobar works his fastball in the low 90’s, but can dial it up to 94 mph. He adds an average curveball and changeup that show above average potential. He displays excellent command and a good feel for his pitches. He posted a 22.3 K% and an outstanding 5.9 BB%.
Our Instinct: Escobar has middle of the rotation upside. He isn’t flashy, but he knows how to pitch. He’s going to be given the assignment of taking on the hitting friendly High-A California League in 2013. ETA: 2015.
2012 by the numbers: 7-8, 2.96 ERA, 2.92 FIP, .303 BABIP, 122/32 K/BB ratio in 130.2 innings at Low-A. 2008 IFA, Venezuela. Signed by Texas.
13. Adalberto Mejia, LHP 6/20/1993 H:6’3″ W:195 – By all accounts, Adalberto Mejia made a successful jump from the Dominican Summer League in 2011 to full season, Low-A ball in 2012. He went 10-7 with a 3.97 ERA and a 79/21 K/BB rate over 106.2 innings. He posted a solid FIP of 2.88, while having a slightly unlucky .335 BABIP. The K% of 17.1 % isn’t what it was in the DSL, but his BB% of 4.5% was outstanding for a 19 year old in Low-A. He possesses a 3 pitch arsenal that includes a sinking fastball with good life that sits from 90-93 mph. He also has a slider that he throws from the 3/4 arm slot that he keeps down in the zone. It flashes plus potential. His changeup is only average at this point, but could turn into another out pitch. He has excellent command and shows a real feel for his pitches. Despite some struggles initially in Low-A that saw him make a trip to the bullpen to work things out, he displayed great maturity and made it back to the starting rotation and led the team in wins. He’s got mid to back end of the rotation upside and should put his skills on display in the High-A California League in 2013. ETA: 2015.
14. Mac Williamson, OF 7/15/1990 H:6’4″ W:240 – The Giants picked up Mac Williamson in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft with pick #115. Williamson was a 2 way player in high school before giving up pitching upon entering Wake Forrest. Some view him as a 5 tool player, which can the term is generally overused and overstated. Williamson does have tools, and his plus raw power is very attractive. His hit tool is questionable at this point, and his limited pro data isn’t enough to go by, though in fairness, he hit the crap out of the ball up here in the Northwest League, posting a triple slash of .342/.392/.596 in 114 NWL at bats, showing off that raw power with a .256 ISoP. He will be 23 this summer and really needs to work on plate discipline and taking a walk. He should make the jump to High-A sometime this summer, if not earlier. I like his potential, keep an eye on him. ETA: 2015.
15. Chris Heston, RHP 4/10/1988 H:6’4″ W:185 – Chris Heston tends to top out at 92 mph, but the tall righty works very well with his sinking fastball on a downward plane and induces groundballs, 49.8% to be exact at AA in 2012. He also displays a curve with a big sweep break at the end, and an above average change up. He has excellent feel and very good command of all his pitches, making him a likely candidate to stick in the rotation. His upside is limited to the back end of a rotation, but his floor is pretty equal to that, limiting his chances of ending up in the bullpen. He is headed to AAA in 2013 and should make his major league debut at some point this season. He could be a trade piece in the near future. ETA: 2013.
16. Joan Gregorio, RHP 1/12/1992 H:6’7″ W:180 – After a good debut U.S. debut in the Arizona Summer League in 2011, Gregorio wasn’t nearly as good in 2012 in the Northwest League. Going 7-7 with a 5.54 ERA, and a 69/23 in 76.1 innings. He wasn’t as bad as his ERA suggest, posting a 3.95 FIP and a .332 BABIP. Part of his troubles coming from leaving the ball up and allowing 9 HR’s in a league not really known for a ton of long balls. Gregorio’s success comes from keeping the ball down with a low 90’s fastball and inducing ground balls. He mixes in a slider that flashes plus potential and has a work in progress change up. His command was off in 2012, and it’s going to be very important part of his game moving forward. With low velocity, ground balls are going to be a must. He dropped from 45.1% in 2011 to 39.4% in 2012. Command is key. At 6’7″ and well under 200 pounds, there is an opportunity for him to add some strength and the potential to have an uptick in velo. He’s going to start the 2013 season at Low-A with the hopes of getting back on track. ETA: 2016.
17. Ty Blach, LHP 10/20/1990 H:6’1″ W:200 – The 2012 5th round draft pick from Creighton was part of the run on college arms by the Giants in 2012. He was the Friday Night pitcher for Creighton for 2 seasons in a row. He throws a low 90’s fastball that he can dial up to 94 mph at times. He also displays a “slurve” and a changeup. The CU is an above average offering, while the breaking pitch is average, though has some potential. He’s the type of pitcher that isn’t going to develop into much more than he already is, but he’s enough at this stage to make it to the back end of a major league rotation quickly. He could begin his career as high as AA, but High-A is more likely. He should move quickly. ETA: 2014.
18. Andrew Susac, C 3/22/1990 H:6’2″ W:210 – The 2011 2nd round draft pick was back at home in 2012 as he played for San Jose in the High-A California League in 2012 and is from Roseville, California. Defensively, Susac made strides in 2012 to become an average catcher with a chance to stick there. Offensively, his hit tool is average and he has plus power potential. In fairness, his struggles offensively at High-A may have been due to trying to improve his craft behind the plate as well as adapting to the full season play in his major league debut. Low-A may have been his best starting point, but it’s a moot point now. Hopefully the Giants will slow down and let him repeat at High-A, which would help his confidence as opposed to exposing him to AA pitchers. At this point in his development, that really wouldn’t despite the fact that he’s going to be 23. He has the potential to be a solid catcher giving the right development course. ETA: 2015.
19. Ricky Oropesa, 1B 12/15/1989 H:6’3″ W:225 – The knock on a 22 year old with power potential in the hitter friendly High-A California League speaks for itself. Throw in the fact that that he posted a 25.7 K%, and you become skeptical really quick. He’s going to need to read pitches better and learn some plate discipline at AA or the pitchers will eat him alive. As mentioned the power potential is there, but it’s likely not enough for him to stick at a premium power position. ETA: 2015.
20. Adam Duvall, 3B 9/4/1988 H:6’1″ W:205 – Duvall has plus power, but is lacking in the hit tool department. He hit 30 HR in the High-A Cal League in 2012, which looks a little bloated, but I think it’s closer to legit than not. after posting a .230 ISOP in 2012 and hitting 22 HR’s in the Sally in 2011. His K% has stayed around 20% over the last 2 seasons, but the fact his BB% dropped from 11.6% to 7.9% is disturbing, especially considering he hit just .258 in a very hitting friendly environment. He will likely post solid power numbers at AA in 2013, but he’s not going to hit enough to become a major league regular. ETA: 2015.
21. Shilo McCall, OF 6/2/1994 H:6’1″ W:210 – The 2012 9th round draft pick from Farmington, New Mexico posted a triple slash of .246/.366/.377 in his pro debut in the Arizona Summer League. McCall has excellent physical tools and above average speed that displays excellent plate discipline despite getting a little long in his swings. His hit tool is average, but could develop into above average as his mechanics adjust. He’s got raw power, but how much of that develops into HR power as opposed to gap power remains to be seen. Defensively, McCall has a strong arm and should be able to play any of the outfield positions. He still working on getting a good jump on the ball and running effective routes. I’m very interested in getting a good look at him in 2013, as he should undoubtedly spend the season up here in the Short Season-A Northwest League. ETA: 2016.
Other players to watch in 2013: Francisco Peguero, Bryce Bandilla, Tyler Hollick, Shawn Payne, Keury Mella, Nick Noonan, Roger Kieschnick, Charles Jones, Ehire Adrianza, Chris Marlowe, Jarrett Parker, Stephen Johnson, Eduardo Encinosa, Jesus Galindo, Conor Gillespie, Josh Osich, Steven Okert, Brett Bochy, Angel Villalona, Carlos Diaz, Shane Houck, Andrew Leenhouts, Zach Edgington, and Joseph Rapp.
For a complete list of the Top 21′s visit the 2013 Top 21′s Page
Stick with Baseball Instinct and we’ll keep you a step ahead of the game. Check back soon as we release our top 21 prospects for each organization. While you’re here, check out our Baseball Instinct 360° – it’s our top 360 prospects from 2012, and we will be updating it for 2013 soon. Also check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sport’s needs. Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be, so don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at email@example.com. And while you’re at it head over to Facebook and join the Instinct page. You can also follow us on twitter: @BaseballInstinc.