San Francisco Giants' Top 15 Prospects Heading into Spring Training
Spring training is upon us and all is right in the baseball world. This is the time of the year where optimism reigns supreme and hope springs eternal.
Coming off a disappointing 2013 season, the San Francisco Giants are looking forward to a much brighter year in 2014.
General manager Brian Sabean signed all of the Giants' own free agents and potential free agents that he wanted to keep. These include Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong.
In addition, Sabean ventured into the free-agent market and secured the services of starting pitcher Tim Hudson and outfielder Michael Morse, who will open the season in left field.
The spring will also be a great time for the Giants' brass to get a good look at their young prospects.
The Giants minor league system is stocked with some good, young talent, although the best prospects are still most likely a year or two away.
It's critical for the Giants that some of these prospects become solid major league players. This enables the team to have better control over their salary structure. Veterans and free agents are inherently much more expensive than younger players in their first few years in the big leagues.
Let's take a closer look at the Giants' top prospects and see how they might fit into the future of the San Francisco Giants.
All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
15. Christian Arroyo
Christian Arroyo was the Giants' 2013 first-round draft pick and number 25 overall.
He joined the Giants organization out of high school and is only 18 years of age. Arroyo will not turn 19 until late June.
Arroyo played 45 games of rookie ball last year and fared well. In 184 at-bats, Arroyo hit .326, with two home runs and 39 RBI. Arroyo impressed with an OBP of .388 and OPS of .898.
Arroyo was drafted as a shortstop and played his first season of pro ball at that position. Ultimately, he may be moved, as his range and lateral quickness is not ideal.
The Giants did not select Arroyo for his defense, however. It is his offensive potential that have the Giants excited.
Arroyo will likely open the 2013 season with one of the Giants Single-A clubs, either in Augusta or San Jose. Although at least two or three years away, Arroyo's progress will be interesting to watch.
14. Gary Brown
There was a time only two or three years ago that Gary Brown was the top position-player prospect the Giants had.
Unfortunately, Brown has been inconsistent with the bat and his promising future with the Giants is in doubt. The Giants envisioned Brown as their lead-off hitter and center fielder, but his star has dimmed.
Brown will need to prove that he can provide consistent offensive production if he is to make it to the big leagues.
In 2013, Brown played the entire season with the Giants Triple-A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies. The Pacific Coast League, where Fresno resides, is an offensive league, so Brown's lackluster numbers are even more alarming. In 588 at-bats, Brown hit only .231, with 13 home runs, 50 RBI and 79 runs scored.
Brown's value as the Giants' lead-off man of the future has not materialized. His OBP was a very low .286 and his OPS .660 was also poor. Brown had 17 stolen bases but was thrown out 11 times.
Brown is now 25 years of age and needs to make significant progress this year if he is to regain his status as an elite prospect.
13. Ehire Adrianza
Ehire Adrianza earned a September call-up with the Giants in 2013. In 18 September at-bats, Adrianza hit .222 with one home run and three RBI.
A much better look at Adrianza's offensive ability can be found by looking at his 2013 production.
He split time at Richmond and Fresno and had a total of 395 at-bats. Adrianza hit .266, with only two home runs, 35 RBI and 54 runs scored. Adrianza's OBP was a very good .360 to go along with an OPS of .720.
Adrianza will be competing with Nick Noonan and Tony Abreu for a backup infielder job with the Giants. He is the best defensive player and only natural shortstop of the three.
However, the issue with Adrianza is whether he can hit well enough to stay in the majors. Adrianza is not an elite prospect because of his below average offensive game, but if he has a big spring, he has a chance to open the season with the Giants.
12. Adam Duvall
The jump from San Jose to Richmond proved to be a bit daunting for Adam Duvall.
In 2012, Duvall displayed excellent power and RBI potential with the Giants Single-A affiliate in San Jose. Duvall hit .258 and blasted 30 home runs to go along with 100 RBI.
However, in 2013, while playing at the Double-A level with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, Duvall's production declined significantly. He hit .252 but had only 17 home runs and 58 RBI.
Duvall will likely open the 2014 season in Richmond again, as he will need to improve on his performance of last year.
11. Adalberto Mejia
Adalberto Mejia is entering his third season of professional baseball at the age of 20. In 2013, Mejia pitched in San Jose, the Giants Single-A affiliate. He also had one start with Triple-A Fresno.
Mejia has a live arm, with a fastball in the low 90s and a hard slider. In 92 innings last year, Mejia allowed only 80 hits and 25 walks, while striking out 91. Mejia's ERA was 3.33 and his WHIP was a very solid 1.141.
Mejia, a left-hander, will likely open the 2014 season at Richmond, the Giants Double-A affiliate. If he excels, we could potentially see Mejia in the majors later this year or as a September call-up.
10. Edwin Escobar
Edwin Escobar is a young, left-handed pitcher with loads of promise. He began the 2013 season in San Jose and was promoted to Double-A Richmond.
Escobar threw a total of 128.2 innings, allowed 112 hits and 30 walks, while striking out 146. Escobar's strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.87 was particularly impressive. His fastball command is very good, but Escobar needs more improvement on his secondary pitches.
Escobar is likely to open the 2014 season in Richmond, although a promotion to Fresno or even San Francisco might not be too far away.
Although Escobar will turn 22 years of age in April, he will already be entering his sixth professional season.
9. Andrew Susac
Andrew Susac may be the Giants' catcher of the future, but that won't happen anytime soon if Buster Posey has anything to say about it.
Susac is blocked by Posey, although he ultimately could inherit the starting job if the Giants move Posey to a different position.
In the interim, Susac must hone his offensive skills. In 2013, while playing for the Giants Triple-A affiliate, the Richmond Spiders, Susac hit .256, with 12 home runs and 46 RBI.
In order to make it to the big leagues with the Giants, Susac must also beat out Hector Sanchez. Susac is already a better defensive catcher than Sanchez. In addition to calling a good game, Susac gunned down 40 percent of opposing base steal attempts.
Susac will likely open the 2014 season in Fresno, although the Giants may want to keep him at the Double-A level for awhile longer.
8. Chris Dominguez
Chris Dominguez's future with the Giants hinges on two key factors. First, he must perform well, and secondly, he must wait to see if the Giants sign Pablo Sandoval to a long-term deal.
At 27 years of age, Dominguez needs to break through to the majors soon, or he will be pigeon-holed as a career minor league player.
Dominguez played the last two seasons in Fresno and will likely begin the 2014 campaign there, also.
His 2013 season was good, though nothing overly exciting. In 466 at-bats, Dominguez hit .294, with 15 home runs and 65 RBI. His OBP was .334 and WHIP .798.
Dominguez is not a particularly accomplished defensive player and also needs to improve in this area if he hopes to see the inside of AT&T Park without a ticket.
7. Martin Agosta
Martin Agosta had a good season in 2013. He pitched at Augusta, the Giants Low-A affiliate.
In 91.2 innings of work, Agosta allowed only 57 hits and 43 walks, while striking out 109. The walk total is too high and Agosta still has to improve in terms of his overall command.
Agosta will likely open the 2014 campaign in San Jose. He has a lot of upside and is only 22 years of age.
6. Kendry Flores
In 2013, Kendry Flores pitched for the Giants Low-A team in Augusta, Georgia. He is still several years away, but his numbers cannot be discounted.
Flores threw 141.2 innings, allowed 113 hits and 17 walks, while striking out 137. Flores' strikeout-to-walk ratio was an incredible 8.06. Flores compiled an ERA of 2.73 and WHIP of 0.918.
Look for Flores to begin the 2014 season in San Jose, the Giants High-A affiliate.
5. Clayton Blackburn
Right-handed starting pitcher Clayton Blackburn is one of the Giants' prized young pitching prospects. His fastball is only average, varying between the upper 80s to low 90s. However, Blackburn has shown excellent command, far beyond his 21 years of age.
In 2013, Blackburn pitched for San Jose, the Giants Single-A affiliate. He threw a total of 133 innings, allowed 111 hits and 35 walks, to go along with 138 strikeouts. Blackburn's ERA was 3.65 and his WHIP was a very solid 1.098.
Blackburn will get a look this spring as a non-roster invitee. However, he will likely open the 2014 season with the Giants Double-A affiliate, the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
4. Mac Williamson
Mac Williamson is an imposing physical specimen, standing 6'5" and weighing in at 240 pounds.
Williamson showed good power in 2013, playing for the Giants Single-A affiliate in San Jose. In 520 at-bats, Williamson hit .292 with 25 home runs and 89 RBI.
An outfielder, Williamson will likely open the 2014 season in Richmond. The Giants are clamoring for a young position player to step into the lineup and provide some offensive punch. Although Williamson is still only 23 years of age, he definitely has the power to give the Giants some optimism.
3. Ty Blach
Ty Blach is yet another one of the Giants' talented young pitchers that are likely two or three years away from making an impact at the major league level.
Blach is a left-handed pitcher with a fastball typically in the low 90s. His fastball has a lot of natural movement. Like most young pitchers, Blach must improve his breaking ball and changeup.
Pitching for San Jose in 2013, Blach threw 130.1 innings, allowed 124 hits and 18 walks, while striking out 117. The likelihood is that Blach will be promoted and open the season at the Double-A level in Richmond.
2. Derek Law
Derek Law emerged last year as a pitcher who can make an impact at the major league level.
A reliever, Law pitched very well in 2013. In 66.1 innings of work, Law allowed 51 hits and 12 walks. His 102 strikeouts showed his dominance. Law compiled an ERA of 2.31 and WHIP of 0.950.
Like Luis Tiant or Gene Garber, Law turns his back completely to the plate on his delivery. Then he whirls and throws the ball. These mechanics make it tough for opposing hitters to see the ball right away.
Law is a non-roster invitee but has a shot to make the Giants' Opening Day roster. The Giants are looking for one or two quality relievers and Law could fill that role.
If Law does not make the team out of spring training, look for him to advance from San Jose to Richmond. If he continues to pitch this well, he has the potential to advance very quickly through the Giants' farm system.
1. Kyle Crick
The Giants' hottest prospect is right-handed pitcher Kyle Crick. He features a fastball in the mid-90s, along with a hard slider and changeup.
Crick is a non-roster invitee to the Giants' major league camp, so manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti will get a chance to watch him very closely.
In 2013, Crick threw only 68.2 innings with the San Jose Giants. An oblique injury sidelined him, but he is fine now.
Crick allowed 48 hits and 39 walks, while striking out 95. Crick's ERA was an impressive 1.57, to go along with a WHIP of 1.267. The only real issue was the high walk total, which is something Crick must improve on.
The 95 strikeouts in only 68.2 innings have the Giants very excited about Crick as a front of the rotation starter.
Because Crick missed so much time last year due to injury, he could start the 2014 campaign in San Jose, once again. Look for Crick to get a promotion to Richmond at some point during the season.