San Francisco Giants: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Brian Sabean
Farm Director: Fred Stanley
Scouting Director: John Barr

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

The system has a couple monster prospects at the top of the list but the middle tier is pretty impressive too. Things drop off a bit after the seventh man on the list but all 10 prospects have a good chance of contributing to a big league team before too long.

1. Buster Posey, C, Majors
DOB: March 1987 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 1st round – Florida State University
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3

If all goes as expected, Posey’s minor-league stay was a short one. The catcher really has little left to prove in the minors after just one full season. The former college star hit .326/.428/.540 in 291 high-A at-bats in ’09 before skipping double-A and moving up to triple-A where he hit .321/.391/.511 in another 131 at-bats. Posey also received 17 big league at-bats at the end of the year. His hope of playing everyday in 2010 as the Giants’ primary catcher was dealt a blow this past off-season when the club re-signed veteran backstop Bengie Molina, but there is talk that he’ll see playing time all over the diamond, thanks to his solid athleticism. I’ve said it before, but count me down as someone who doesn’t like the idea. As a college convert to the position, Posey needs experience behind the dish to help iron out his receiving- and game-calling skills; his throwing was solid in ’09 (46% caught stealing).

2. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Majors
DOB: August 1989 Bats: R Throws: L
Signed: 2007 1st round – North Carolina HS
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-94 mph fastball, slider, change-up

In two seasons, Bumgarner has yet to post an ERA above 1.93. His FIP, though, has not been quite as sterling, and it’s actually risen with each promotion: from 1.71 to 2.05 to 3.56 to 4.60 in a brief MLB trial in ’09. The lefty has lost some velocity from his prep days, but it hasn’t bothered him much in pro ball. He held his own in double-A last season by allowing just 80 hits in 107.0 innings of work. His walk rate of 2.52 was solid but his strikeout rate of 5.80 K/9 was low and he’s a borderline fly-ball pitcher. The lefty has a good shot at the No. 5 job in the Giants rotation in 2010 with his biggest competition being Todd Wellemeyer. At the age of just 20, Bumgarner is probably not ready to be an impact pitcher at the MLB level just yet. However, don’t be too concerned about the lesser velocity unless it keeps leaking; it’s possible that he’s sacrificing miles per hour for movement and/or control.

3. Thomas Neal, OF, Double-A
DOB: August 1987 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 36th round – Riverside Community College
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Neal just keeps getting better. In fairness, his ’09 numbers may have been helped by a good hitting environment. Even so, the 22-year-old outfielder hit .337/.431/.579 in 475 at-bats. His ISO rate jumped from .168 in low-A in ’08 to .242 in high-A in ’09. Neal has also shown solid patience at the plate over the past three seasons, topping out at 11.6 BB% this past year. He did a nice job of trimming his strikeout rate by 4% over ’08′s 24.1%. It will be hard for Neal to improve upon his .444 wOBA from ’09 but he has the talent to be a star corner outfielder for the Giants. Defensively, his range is better suited for left field but he has the arm strength to play right field without embarrassing himself.

4. Dan Runzler, LHP, Majors
DOB: March 1985 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2007 9th round – UC Riverside
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-93 mph fastball, slider, curveball

A former ninth-round (under the radar) pick, Runzler has found a lot of success as of late thanks to his solid fastball – especially for a lefty – and his outstanding ground-ball rates. Playing at four minor league levels in ’09, the southpaw produced an eye-popping 64.7% ground-ball rate, as well as an incredibly-low 5% line-drive rate. After all that traveling in the minors, Runzler was rewarded with a trip to the Majors where he posted a 1.04 ERA (but 4.14 FIP) in 8.2 big league innings. He struck out 11 batters but showed that he still has some work to do with his control by walking five batters. The former UC Riverside hurler has gone from little-known middle reliever to a potential MLB closer down the road.

5. Roger Kieschnick, OF, High-A
DOB: January 1987 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2008 3rd round – Texas Tech University
MLB ETA: Late-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

After not getting into game action in ’08, Kieschnick made up for lost time with a solid pro debut in high-A ball. He hit .296/.345/.532 and showed the plus power that he was known for in college (.236 ISO). The outfielder did have some troubling plate rates, though, with a low walk rate of 6.4% and a high strikeout rate of 25.1%. On the plus side, he has little pro experience so he has room (and time) to improve. The left-handed hitter did a nice job of handling southpaws by posting a .933 OPS on the heels of a .400 BABIP. His OPS against right-handers was .832. Kieschnick is a hustler on the base paths and in the field despite average speed. He also has the arm strength for right field.

6. Brandon Crawford, SS, Double-A
DOB: January 1987 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2008 4th round – UCLA
MLB ETA: Mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Crawford is an interesting prospect because people either love him (and see him as a regular big league contributor) or they hate him (and see him as a big league utility player at best). Not really known for his bat in college, Crawford had a lot of success in the lower minors and hit .371/.445/.600 in 105 high-A at-bats to being the ’09 season. The shortstop had a more difficult time in double-A, though, and hit .258/.294/.365 in 392 at-bats in a much more difficult league to hit in than the high-A California League. At the heart of Crawford’s problems at the dish are his plate rates. His walk rate dipped to 4.7% in double-A and his strikeout rate was 25.5% (while his power dipped from .229 to .107 after his promotion). Crawford may not hit for a high average in the Majors, but he could slug 15-20 homers and play above-average defense. At worst, I see him developing into former Blue Jay and Cub Alex Gonzalez.

7. Ehire Adrianza, SS, Low-A
DOB: August 1989 Bats: B Throws: R
Signed: 2006 non-drafted international free agent
MLB ETA: Mid-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

A gifted fielder, Adrianza can take his time developing his raw skills thanks to the presence of Crawford ahead of him. The slick Venezuelan showed some improvements at the plate in ’09 at low-A ball by hitting .258/.333/.327 in 388 at-bats. He clearly does not have much power right now (.070 ISO) and he also does not steal many bases (seven successes in eight tries) so Adrianza is currently a singles-hitter. As such, he currently projects as a possible Gold Glove infielder who will hit eighth in a National League lineup. He clearly tired late in ’09 and hit below .220 in August and September.

8. Clayton Tanner, LHP, High-A
DOB: December 1987 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2006 3rd round – California HS
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 86-89 mph fastball, slider, change-up

Tanner isn’t flashy and he doesn’t have a great fastball, but the southpaw has been very successful in the minors. He posted a career-high 4.15 FIP in ’09 but he was pitching in the hitter-friendly California League (for the second straight year). Tanner showed improvements by reducing his hits allowed (132 in 139.1 IP) and he improved his strikeout rate to 7.82 K/9 while also showing solid control (2.71 BB/9). He was, though, hurt by the long-ball with a HR/9 rate of 1.16. With his narrow margin for error, it would be nice to see him improve upon his 46.5% ground-ball rate. He certainly performs better again left-handed hitters (0.96 vs 1.28 WHIP) so he should have a career in the bullpen at the very least.

9. Francisco Peguero, OF, Low-A
DOB: June 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Mid-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

First the good: Peguero, 21, has hit like a mad man in North America, including a .340 average in low-A in ’09. Now the bad news: His walk rate was 2.0 BB% and his BABIP was .396. Moving back to positives, the outfielder also stole 22 bases in 27 tries in ’09. A solid defensive outfielder, Peguero is goes all out in the field and at the plate, which helps to explain his low walk rate. His arm strength is also off the charts. Along with his over-aggressive approach, Peguero needs to learn to drive the ball more consistently.

10. Waldis Joaquin, RHP, Majors
DOB: December 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2003 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2
Repertoire: 91-95 mph fastball, plus slider, change-up

The 10th man was a difficult decision and I went with a good arm, but one that projects as a reliever. Joaquin has been kicking around the system for more than seven seasons but he’s still just 23 years old. The right-hander still struggles with his control but he did a nice job of missing bats in both triple-A and the Majors in ’09. He also did not give up a homer last year until he reached the big leagues (zero in 64.0 innings), in part due to solid ground-ball rates (50% in ’09). The fastball-slider pitcher averaged 96 mph with his heater in the Majors. Despite relying on the slider and showing questionable control against them (5.86 BB/9), Joaquin dominated left-handed batters by holding them to a .140 batting average.

Up Next: The Texas Rangers




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

27 Responses to “San Francisco Giants: Top 10 Prospects”

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  1. B says:

    “it’s possible that he’s sacrificing miles per hour for movement and/or control.”

    I doubt it. I never read anyone in the organization suggest anything along these lines, and it’s not like he was still topping out at the same and just averaging less – his velocity as a whole went down a decent amount. My biggest concern is the K-rate. We’ll see how that progresses.

    “Defensively, his range is better suited for left field but he has the arm strength to play right field without embarrassing himself.”

    Don’t we generally think LF = RF defensively?

    I also don’t think there’s been any real talk of Posey moving positions – everything that comes out of the Giants organization says he’s a C and they aren’t moving him.

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    • Kevin C. says:

      “Don’t we generally think LF = RF defensively/”

      Avoiding any general discussion on the need for arm strength in right field to help stop doubles from turning into triples, range is a serious issue for right fielders in San Francisco, where right fielders usually need to play significantly out of position compared to other parks to cover AT&T’s deep right-center gap, and need range to cover the line.

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      • B says:

        True – I just took it as a general statement that I thought was curious, if it was intended to be specific to the Giants, I understand, but if it’s not, I think it’s a weird thing to say if we’re going to give them the same positional adjustment.

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      • ingeindahouse says:

        I think we give them the same defensive adjustments but they require different skills like how 2nd base and 3rd base have the same adjustment (I’m pretty sure) but 2nd requires more range and 3rd requires a better arm.

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      • B says:

        Nah, arm is overvalued in the outfield. Range is the big factor – basically, in a generic field, sure arm is a little more important in RF, but not much, they essentially take the same skills. Plus, having a strong arm hardly means you’re going to save runs with it.

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      • Joel C. says:

        “Plus, having a strong arm hardly means you’re going to save runs with it.”

        Stick a Juan Pierre type in RF and watch how often teams will advance to 3rd with less than two outs on a can of corn. Over the course of the year this might cost a team 5-6 runs (maybe even more).

        A strong arm isn’t about the outs you actually make, it’s about the threat of throwing someone out from 2nd to 3rd on a sac fly or from 2nd to home on a hard hit groundball single.

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      • B says:

        “A strong arm isn’t about the outs you actually make, it’s about the threat of throwing someone out from 2nd to 3rd on a sac fly or from 2nd to home on a hard hit groundball single.”

        Well, it’s about both. Pretty sure everyone understands this, and tries to measure this with their fielding metrics. If you check out UZR’s breakouts for all qualified OF’s last year, you’ll find the range in “arm” runs is 10.1 to -6.6 The range for “Range”, on the other hand, is 29.3 to -20.9. Over the past 3 seasons cumulative, the ranges are 22.4 to -18.1 and 56.6 to -65.8 for arm and range, respectively. You can have your strong armed RF. I’ll take Randy Winn (defensively speaking) any day of the week.

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  2. Nathaniel Stoltz says:

    Where would Villalona have ranked, if not for the, ahem, legal issues?

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  3. SF 55 for life says:

    no rafeal rodriguez?

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  4. DrBGiantsfan says:

    My Top 10:

    1. Buster Posey
    2. Madison Bumgarner
    3. Zack Wheeler
    4. Thomas Neal
    5. Rafael Rodriguez
    6. Brandon Crawford
    7. Roger Kieshnick
    8. Tommy Joseph
    9. Nick Noonan
    10. Francisco Peguero

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  5. Johnnie LeMaster says:

    Nice call with Waldis Joaquin. Good movement on his fastball and everything seems to sink and tail away from lefties. If he can get a little more control, he’ll be a good 7th-8th inning guy. Giants bullpen is good – Brian Wilson, Romo, Affeldt, Runzler, Medders, Joaquin. Pretty solid.

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  6. zurd says:

    Is Roger Kieschnick related to Brooks?

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  7. Trev says:

    Whatever happened to Eddy Martinez-Esteve?

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  8. SharksRog says:

    I was wondering if I might get a clarification on the speed of Thomas Neal. I saw him play once live and a few times on TV and came away with the impression that he had average speed or slightly above average.

    I have read both here and BP’s Giants prospects rating of Neal’s relative lack of speed.

    I can see where the possible discrepancies come from. In 306 games in his minor league career, Neal has stolen only seven bases in 14 attempts. Yet, turned loose in the Arizona Fall League in 2009, he stole 12 bases in 15 attempts in just 20 games.

    I guess my assessment of Thomas’s speed (which is really little more than a guess on my part) isn’t necessarily incongruous with yours, Marc, but it certainly seemed to be out of sync with BP’s judgment.

    If we gave Neal a 6 speed rating on a 1-10 scale, might we be close? At least a 5? I got the impression Kevin Goldstein of BP rated him as a 4 or even a 3.

    It is encouraging that Neal has overcome a shoulder injury to be ranked in the top 10 minor league left field arms. I was most impressed this past season by his large improvement in plate discipline.

    And that he began the season batting 9th for San Jose and soon moved all the way up to #3 in the order.

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    • B says:

      Prospect evaluators seem all over the place with Neal. I can’t figure it out. Some think he can be a decent corner OF, others project him at 1B. It doesn’t seem too clear what the deal is.

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      • SharksRog says:

        Thomas Neal played first base when he was recovering from arm surgery. I haven’t seen him play there, but he’s enough of an athlete that I suspect he is fine.

        I think he best position may be left field. His hitting would stand out there, and I think he would be an above-average left fielder defensively.

        I’m wondering if Roger Kieschnick’s speed isn’t above average, as well. I have read that, and Jon Miller was speaking to the issue during today’s spring training game, comparing Kieschnick’s speed to that of Nate Schierholtz.

        Schierholtz is far from a burner, but once he gets going his speed is well above average. I think Kieschnick’s speed is above average. I have even seen him referred to as a five tooler.

        Sadly I think that the one tool in which Roger is deficient is hitting, where his lack of discipline will likely kill his average. He has some of the best power potential in the Giants’ system, so it would be nice if he could get on base more than occasionally, but I think that will be the big question.

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      • I think Neal is probably most valuable in the corner OF, there are some who think his power will not be as great in the majors as it appeared last season, making 1B unlikely unless he was plus defensively there.

        Kieschnick was described as a 5-tool player when we drafted him, with hitting the worse of his attributes, and that seemed to play out in 2009. Minor League Baseball Analyst 2010 lists him as having plus speed. BA noted that he has “surprising speed and athleticism for a big man” (he’s 6′ 3″). Last year they noted that he has “solid-average speed.”

        Meanwhile Neal is rated as below average speed, his AFL notwithstanding, though I would note that technique (and surprise) helps there when you don’t have speed. BA notes that Neal is a “below average runner” and his OF range is not the greatest.

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  9. Fergie348 says:

    No Zach Wheeler? For shame..

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  10. richman says:

    do people fail to read? Every one of Hulet’s lists for every team this year has had a poster ask why he didn’t include recent draft picks. If you just take a quick look at…well, the beginning of this write-up, you’ll see this:

    (2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

    Wheeler is the consensus #3 guy in the Giants farm system, but what Hulet is doing with these write-ups is discussing their current crop of talent, and NOT what they recently brought him this past year via draft/international signings. Not hard to figure out

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