Top 10 Prospects: The San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants
2010 MLB Record: 92-70 (1st in the NL West)
Minor League Power Ranking: 20th (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Brandon Belt, 1B
Acquired: 2009 5th round (University of Texas)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA/AAA
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.5

Notes: Belt was a steal as a fifth round pick out of the University of Texas in 2009. He didn’t make his pro debut until 2010 but the left-handed hitter absolutely exploded – despite the lack of experience – and rose to triple-A. Belt posted a .485 wOBA in high-A, .447 in double-A, and .419 in triple-A. At the senior level, he produced a triple-slash line of .229/.393/.563 in 61 plate appearances. He also showed a solid eye at the plate with excellent walk rates and reasonable strikeout rates for a power hitter. Along with ISO rates of .244/.286/.333, Belt showed his value as an all-around player by stealing 22 bases on the season; he succeeded on the base paths due to smart base running as opposed to blazing speed. Belt’s success in pro ball can be linked to mechanical adjustments at the plate. He has a wide, well-balanced stance at the plate. He occasionally gets out on his front foot a bit, which robs him of some power. His swing also gets loopy at times but, when he’s on, Belt shows good bat speed and the barrel carries well through the strike zone.

2. Zack Wheeler, RHP
Acquired: 2009 1st round (Georgia HS)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: low-A
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: One of the top prep arms in the 2009 draft, Wheeler signed late and did not make his debut until 2010 at low-A ball. He displayed rusty control (5.83 BB/9) but still posted a 3.11 FIP and a strikeout rate of 10.74 K/9. Wisely, the club was cautious with the right-hander’s workload, making 13 starts and pitching out of the bullpen another eight times. Overall, he pitched 58.2 innings and allowed just 47 hits. Impressively, the teenager produced a ground-ball rate of 63% and did not give a home run all season. His repertoire includes an 89-95 mph fastball, a slider, and a changeup. Wheeler throws with a low-three-quarter arm angle but does a nice job of staying on top of the ball. He utilizes his legs well with a long stride. Wheeler does, though, occasionally leak out over the rubber in his delivery.

3. Francisco Peguero, OF
Acquired: 2006 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: high-A
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: A top Latin signee, Peguero has truly taken to baseball in North America. He spent 2009 in low-A ball and hit .340/.359/.437 in 248 plate appearances. He moved up to high-A in ’10 and managed a triple-slash line of .329/.358/.488 in 510 PAs. Although he has managed impressive batting averages, Peguero has been aided by high BABIPs, including .396 in ’09 and .382 in ’10. His speed helps him take advantage of balls in play but it remains to be seen how well his BABIP rates will translate at higher levels of pro ball. He nabbed 40 bags in 2010, but he needs to show more patience at the plate (3.3 BB%) to take advantage of his speed. Peguero doesn’t have a huge build and doesn’t project to be a power hitter, although his ISO rate almost doubled in 2010 to .159.

4. Ehire Adrianza, SS
Acquired: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: high-A
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Shortstop Adrianza is a slick fielder whose bat remains a question mark. He spent the 2010 season in high-A ball and the 21-year-old hit .256/.333/.348 in 508 plate appearances. With a slight build, Adrianza doesn’t possess much power and produced an ISO rate of .092 with 30 extra base hits. He does have some speed, stealing 33 bags in ’10. He does a solid job of getting on base and has produced a walk rate of 9.3 BB% over the past two seasons. Adrianza could make a nice No. 2 hitter if he can continue to develop his small-ball skills. He also needs to get stronger. In the field, he displays outstanding range, excellent hands, and a solid arm. At worst, he should develop into a solid utility player or a Cesar Izturis-type middle infielder.

5. Gary Brown, OF
Acquired: 2010 1st round (Cal State Fullerton)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie/Short-season
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Brown, 22, is a high-risk, high-reward player who was selected in the first round of the 2010 draft out of Cal State Fullerton. He’s an explosive fielder with blazing speed, which ranks as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Unfortunately, Brown’s hitting comes with a number of question marks. He has good bat speed but he needs to learn to use his lower half to improve upon his below-average power. Brown has a busy stance with a lot of unnecessary movement. He also has a foot tap that almost looks like a false start and almost seems to kill the momentum of his forward stride. He could end up as a poor man’s Drew Stubbs with much less power.

6. Thomas Neal, OF
Acquired: 2005 36th round (Riverside Community College)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA
Opening Day Age: 23
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Neal, 23, had a breakout season in 2009 by posting a .444 wOBA but failed to see that success carry over into 2010 at double-A. He didn’t have a bad season, but his triple-slash line was just OK at .291/.349/.440 in 525 at-bats. His ISO rate dropped from .242 in ’09 to .149 in ’10. Neal has shown a significant improvement in his strikeout rate since ’08 as it dropped from 24.1 to 20.6 to 17.9 K%. He stole 11 bases but doesn’t have good speed; he’s a relatively smart base runner, though. Neal hits with a quiet, well-balanced stance. He stands up straight and has a quick bat and strong wrists. Defensively, Neal doesn’t have great range and his arm strength is just OK. He’s pretty much limited to left field.

7. Charlie Culberson, 2B
Acquired: 2007 supplemental 1st round (Georgia HS)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: high-A
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Culberson had a breakout season in 2010 in high-A ball. The infielder, who was drafted in the supplemental first round of ’07 out of high school, took advantage of the potent California League. He hit .292/.342/.457 in 503 plate appearances. Culberson saw his ISO rate rise from .061 to .165. He even trimmed his strikeout rate to below 20 K% for the first time. His walk rate remained low-ish at 6.0 BB%. At the end of the regular season, Culberson moved on to the Arizona Fall League and hit .366/.394/.591 in 93 PAs. Defensively, he’s still trying to find a home after seeing time at shortstop, third base, and second base. The keystone appears to be his best position.

8. Hector Sanchez, C
Acquired: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: low-A
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Sanchez probably didn’t make many Top 10 lists despite a solid 2010 season, but he has solid potential and plays a key position in an organization that doesn’t have a ton of depth at the position (beyond Buster Posey, of course). Sanchez has offensive potential and is improving defensively. Behind the plate, he shows a solid arm and calls an OK game. His receiving skills, though, need a lot of work. He also needs to focus on his conditioning, as he played out of shape in 2010 and had trouble getting down to block balls. At the plate, Sanchez handles the bat well. The 21-year-old switch-hitter batted .271/.333/.390 in 310 plate appearances. He has shown a pretty good eye at the plate and posted a walk rate of 11.5 BB% in 2009 and 8.2% in 2010 at low-A ball. He doesn’t have a ton of power right now but he did manage 20 doubles in 89 games. Sanchez needs to quiet his bat at the plate, as he whips it around and isn’t always in the best position to swing. He clears his hips well but he gets out in front of off-speed pitches.

9. Brandon Crawford, SS
Acquired: 2008 4th round (UCLA)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 24
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: Crawford had a reputation as a good fielding shortstop with a weak bat in college. His profile changed a bit when he got off to a strong start in high-A ball in ‘09. His bat wilted with a promotion to double-A. Back at the same level in 2010, Crawford struggled offensively once again and produced a triple-slash line of .241/.337/.375 in 342 plate appearances. Strikeouts are one of his biggest weaknesses, posting a strikeout rate of 26.5 K%. He doesn’t hit for much power and doesn’t steal bases so his offensive profile is limited. Crawford does show good patience at the plate and had a walk rate of 11.4 BB%. He has a nice quiet stance but could stand to use his legs more. Crawford also pulls his head off the pitchers at times. Despite his limitations, his work at shortstop could earn him a regular gig at the MLB level but his ceiling could be that of Adam Everett or perhaps J.J. Hardy with less power.

10. Jorge Bucardo, RHP
Acquired: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Nicaragua)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A/A+
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Bucardo has been hanging around the periphery of the Giants’ top prospect group for a few seasons now. His overall ceiling is still a little up in the air because he’s so raw, but the right-hander has a lot of potential. Some see him more of a reliever, but he has a chance to be a solid starter in the National League. Bucardo has a nice fastball but is still working on his secondary pitches. He produces outstanding ground-ball rates, including 62% in low-A ball in 2010. Bucardo had a solid FIP of 2.82 in 114.0 innings and also shown excellent control for his experience level with a rate of 2.45 BB/9. He does need to miss a few more bats after posting a strikeout rate of 7.50 K/9. Bucardo also made eight appearances at high-A ball and had a FIP of 4.65 with 46 hits allowed in 38.2 innings. Fellow pitcher Eric Surkamp narrowly missed the Top 10 list.



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


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DrBGiantsfan
Guest

Nice list. No major arguments here. I’ll just add a few comments:

I think Thomas Neal’s season was better than it looks due to league/park factors. Agree he’s a LF which hurts his overall value.

My own scouting report on Adrianza is that he has a frame that can carry more weight. He’s still young enough to fill it out and produce better power numbers.

I would probably put 2010 draftee Chuckie Jones at #8 on this list. As far as catchers in the system, I would rank Johnny Monell ahead of Sanchez. I know he’s not a great defensive catcher, but Monell has a good arm and is learning the more subtle points of catching defense. He’s shown way more power. A case could be made for Tommy Joseph ahead of Sanchez too.

I’m not as high on Bucardo as a lot of Giants fans. I would probably rank 2010 draftee Seth Rosin ahead of him. Probably Heath Hembree and Kendry Flores too. Heck, there’s actually quite a few I would rank ahead of Bucardo!

I think Rafael Rodriguez has been written off way too early by some prospect watchers.

Sleeper watch: Jose Valdez. 6’7″, 250 lb RHP, reliever who missed some development time to Tommy John surgery. 2011 will be his second full season back. Carlos Willoughby, switch-hitting 2B with plus on-base skills and plus speed.

I recognize that these are all debatable and your list is good. The Giants don’t have quite the star power at the top as last year with Posey and Bumgarner, but Belt is exciting and Wheeler has a high ceiling. The rest of the system has been getting deeper and stronger for several years now. Lots of good prospects in the system!

It’s a great time to be a Giants fan!!

merizobeach
Guest
merizobeach

DrB,

You’re somewhat famous for keeping a diligent eye on the SF farm system, but I feel you may be a bit too close for objectivity. Belt is clearly a high-ceiling prospect, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a Posey-type breakout this year. After him, however, I wouldn’t bet that there is another MLB-regular position player in the entire system. There’s a bunch of guys with incomplete skills sets who aren’t well-rounded enough to become ML impact players. Replacement level back-ups? Sure. But SF already has plenty of those–so many that they cut Velez. That this list puts a low-A ball teenager as the #2 prospect in the entire organization ought to be more than a little worrisome. Also Sickels’ list, which puts a college player with NO pro experience at #2, ought to raise alarm. Personally, I think Brown was a wasted pick. Let’s hope I’m wrong about all of this except Belt.

DrBGiantsfan
Guest

I think you are wrong.

DrBGiantsfan
Guest

It’s not surprising that the Giants might not have a ton of great prospects in the upper minors after graduating both Posey and Bumgarner last year. It is a bit of a reloading year. Still, I seem to recall Bumgarner rated pretty high after his season in Augusta, so being in the lower minors does not disqualify a player from being highly rated. Wheeler’s season wasn’t nearly as impressive mainly due to missing a good part of the season to a torn fingernail, but he did show evidence of having a high ceiling.

As for the rest of the system, it is way more athletic with way more high ceiling players than at any time in my memory. Not all of them will pan out, of course, but there is strength in numbers. I am quite confident that there will be at at least 1 or two prospects with elite status at the top of next year’s list too.

DrBGiantsfan
Guest

I was hoping the Giants would take a pitcher with their first round pick as the system is suddenly a bit thin on the pitching side, but the Brown pick is growing on me. All the scouting reports I’ve seen have him as an 80 defender in CF. I figure he’s at least a 2 WAR player on defense alone which means he barely has to be better than replacement on offense and you have a pretty valuable player.

As for the pitching, the Giants still have no shortage of high ceiling arms. Keep the names Seth Rosin, Mike Kickham, Kendry Flores, Jacob Dunnington, Jake Dunning, Jose Valdez, Matthew Graham and Brandon Allen in mind. It is likely that 2 or 3 of those names will emerge as highly rated prospects by this time next year.

trags
Member
trags

I remember blogs being posted last year stating that Posey need a couple of years before he would be ready for MLB. Most said he could not hit for power and did not expect him to bat over .250. They said it would take several years before he could work with pitchers. He is a natural athlete. Those kind of players learn and grow up in a short period of time.

Charlie Culberson is that same type of individual. Give him a chance in spring practice and you will see what he can do with some confidence in fielding. He can hit, steal bases, and score runs already.

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