January 27, 2017
San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects
The State of the System: It’s another mediocre Giants system, and they will probably get three more useful regulars out of it then we expect.
The Top Ten
The Big Question: Why do the Giants always confound our org rankings?
This is the last of the NL West team lists. Next week starts our last division, the AL Central. After that we publish the Top 101 and then finally our organizational rankings. I could have given you the current schedule of prospect team events really at any time or place. But I have been thinking about our org rankings lately, because I need to update the Annual rankings for the website (thanks Reds, Mariners, Marlins, among others).
My philosophy for organizational rankings may be a little different from others. Overall system depth is important of course, but I don’t know how much it moves the needle that the Yankees 23rd best prospect might be a major-league middle reliever or an extra outfielder. You can find those this time of year fairly cheaply on an NRI flyer. That’s not to say there isn’t value in having a few of those options internally. Because sometimes one of them will outperform that and now you have a fourth outfielder you can start for a month, or an 8th-inning guy. That’s a significant major-league role filled and a player development win.
But what I really care about is that the Braves put the vast majority of their Top 10 on our Top 101, and they have 12 guys that might make a top 150. You can say the same thing about the Yankees. That’s potential impact talent. Those aren’t guys that just get an invite to camp. They’re guys that drive their lamborghini that spits fire to camp. And when those guys outperform their projections, they go to all-star games. You build your franchise around them.
I don’t think it’s a huge spoiler to tell you the Giants don’t have any prospects on our Top 101. Or that their recent organizational rankings have been less than...well, let’s just go to the handy-dandy chart from this year’s Annual.
Now the Giants have won three World Series titles since the last time we ranked them as a Top 10 farm system. They historically haven’t been a franchise that splashes the pot a ton in free agency, although that has changed in recent offseasons. If I ask you to name a major recent Giants trade, you might still name the deal that sent Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano to Minnesota for A.J. Pierzynski. You look at those World Series champions and there’s plenty of grey-bearded thirty-somethings having their last great season, so sure, there was some luck involved. But one of the overarching themes of recent success by the bay has been overperforming their org rankings.
And it’s not just the Joe Paniks and Brandon Crawfords of the world jumping a grade from second-division starter to first. Every time the Giants have ended up with a touted talent at the top of their otherwise fallow farm, they’ve hit. Buster Posey wasn’t just a very good catcher, he’s put together the first half of a Hall of Fame career. The last time the Giants system ranked in our top ten, it was topped by Madison Bumgarner. That worked out pretty well. Brandon Belt went from OFP 60 to MLB 60. Three homegrown stars make up for a world of deficiency elsewhere in your farm system. These are the players that can move the needle for your major league team and that potential should likewise move the needle for our org rankings.
Oh I guess the follow-up question would be how the Giants are doing it. Well, if I had the answer to that I would not be sitting at my computer trying to fill the last—well, technically first—750 words of a 6000 word prospect list. Those kind of player development secrets are well-guarded and don’t show up in your heartwarming Spring Training human interest profiles on scrappy, overachieving Joe Panik.
I suppose we should at least try to name this phenomenon. We already have “Cardinals Devil Magic,” but this feels more like its own thing, rather than an off-brand Missouri demonry like the one that powered the Royals for a few years. The tale of the “San Francisco Voodoo Queen” may have been a myth—and one with ugly roots at that—but do you have a better explanation for Brandon Crawford hitting suddenly hitting twenty home runs in a season?
1. Tyler Beede, RHP
The Good: Beede has had an up-and-down career in both college and the pros since he turned down mucho dinero in the 2011 draft from the Blue Jays. 2017 was his most promising season as a prospect. He still sits in the low 90s—though he can find 95 when he wants—but now offers three different fastball looks: a two-seamer with good arm-side run and a high-80s cutter to complement the four-seam. He can add and subtract with the pitch and his command of all three variants has improved. The curveball is an average major league offering that flashes plus with good depth despite his three-quarters slot. He has a starter’s frame and delivery and gets a lot out of mostly average stuff due to his high mound IQ.
The Bad: The change is pretty flat, although the arm action and velocity separation makes it potentially average. It’s not going to miss bats though, and it’s tough to find another pitch in Beede’s repertoire that will get consistent swings-and-misses against major-league hitters. The curve and cutter have the best chance, but the curve can get slurvy and the cutter is still a nascent pitch for him. The overall profile lacks upside.
The Irrelevant: There have been 184 pro baseball players with Vanderbilt ties. The first recorded Vandy alum to play in the majors was Ben Sanders who spent five seasons as a hurler in the National League, Players League, and American Association from 1888-1892.
OFP 55—Mid-rotation starter
The Risks: May lack a putaway pitch at the major-league level. He needs more command refinement or he’ll be too hittable generally. He’s a starting pitcher of some variety, but we’ll
put the emphasis on pitcher here, in case you haven’t gotten the hint by now.
Major league ETA: Late 2017
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: San Francisco is one of the best places for a mid- to back-end starter to end up, but at the end of the day, Beede is still just a mid- to back-end starter. Favorable contextual factors could help Beede play as high as a SP6 in standard leagues some day, but thanks to his lack of big-time strikeout potential, SP6 looks to be his ceiling. He’s a top-150 guy, but he won’t be in the top-100.
2. Christian Arroyo, SS
The Good: The hardest thing to project is if a player will hit major-league pitching. Arroyo has all the tools to do so though. He generates plus bat speed from his strong wrists and forearms and converts it into hard line drives to all fields. We think he’s a plus hitter at the highest level. He’s a capable infield defender at multiple positions despite not having premium athletic tools.
The Bad: Outside of the hit tool, there isn’t all that much to recommend. Power projection is below-average and will come more in doubles than home runs. He played as much third base as shortstop in 2016—and some second base as well—and the one of those is his likely long term home, as he lacks the range and athleticism for the 6. He will be solid at the other infield spots but won’t add a ton with his glove. He’s an aggressive hitter, and that doesn’t always pay off with good contact and limits the on-base ability despite his plus hit tool. He’s a below-average runner.
The Irrelevant: There are actually 44 species of flying squirrels, We assume Richmond’s mascot is the Southern Flying Squirrel, the only one native to the American South.
OFP 55—Bat-first infielder somewhere other than shortstop
The Risks: The bat really needs to play to projection to make the profile viable at third base. His aggressive approach may get exploited by major league arms. There’s not much projection left and he lacks athleticism.
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: It’s lazy to go with player comps—especially with comps to players in the same organization—but is Arroyo materially different than Joe Panik? I don’t really think he is, which means he’ll be a player you want in TDGX-sized 20-team leagues and a player you can pass on in shallower formats. That being said he sort of seems destined to become an All-Star with the Cardinals at some point?
3. Bryan Reynolds, CF
The Good: Reynolds is your classic not-quite-a-first-rounder college bat. He’s a good athlete who already looks the part of a major-league baseball player. He has a broad base of skills, and there really isn’t a true weakness in his game. You can throw a 50 or better on all five tools. He should have average power from both sides of the plate, and he’s a polished outfielder that already makes good reads and takes good routes to the ball. He could move quite quickly through the minors.
The Bad: Reynolds lacks a clear carrying tool. He’s only an average runner at present and if he slows down anymore, he may be forced to a corner despite his advanced instincts on the grass. He swings hard to get to his power, and swung and missed an awful lot against short-season arms. There’s concern that might continue against better arms, as his swing is leveraged and there is some head yank as well. In the end, the overall offensive profile might be light for a corner.
The Irrelevant: In addition to being the alma mater of what feels like half the prospects we have written about so far, Vanderbilt University also has an institute devoted to the study of the card game bridge.
OFP 50—Average outfielder
The Risks: The risk here is that Reynolds ends up a tweener—not enough range for center, not enough bat for a corner.
Major league ETA: Late 2018
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Reynolds has OF4/5 upside, but he’s so far away from the majors that we don’t really need to worry about him yet. If Reynolds’ hit tool starts playing better, you can dabble, but honestly he’s probably not even in the top-200 range yet. Womp womp.
4. Chris Shaw, 1B
The Good: Shaw has power, and lots of it. A big, hulking slugger, he extends on the ball well to crush pitches with plane to the pull side. He has an idea about how to hit, too: he’ll hunt fastballs early, but have the good sense to work into the count when he doesn’t get one to his liking. He hangs in well against left-handers, indicating potential for more than platoon utility. His defense took at least a half step forward, as he was moving around the bag better by season’s end. For whatever it’s worth at first, his arm strength is above-average.
The Bad: He’s a stiff big, rather than an athletic one. The lower half of his swing is mechanical, with a short stride and some issues with his weight transfer, and he doesn’t generate consistent bat speed to catch balls up in the zone or on the inner third. The physical realities limit his hit tool to fringe-average range, and with that bring down the game power potential into something more like above-average territory. He’s a bottom-of-the-scale runner, and while the defense did improve last year it still projects to a below-average tool on account of poor mobility and hands that are not the softest.
The Irrelevant: Shaw hails from Stoneham, MA, a few miles down the road from where I grew up, and home to the Stone Zoo. When I was about eight I fed a giraffe there, and it tried to eat my scarf when I lingered too long after handing it a carrot. Not that the experience traumatized me, or anything. I just - AH! Oh...sorry. Thought I saw a giraffe there. Anyway...
OFP 50—Average first baseman
The Risks: The profile offers precious little margin for error in his offensive development, and while there’s probably enough hit tool here to scrape by as a second-division starter, he’s unlikely to get to enough power in games to offset the runs he gives away with the glove to balance out as an average regular.
Major league ETA: Late 2018 —Wilson Karaman
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take:
5. Ty Blach, LHP
The Good: Blach gets easy plus marks—or even better—on both his changeup and his overall command. He throws a heavy fastball that along with the change induces a lot of grounders when it’s working well. By the time he made the majors as a September call-up, his velocity had ticked up into the 90-93 range, higher than he’s sat for most of his career. He’s got just enough funk and sling in his motion to create extra deception. He’s pitched very well in some sketchy pitching environments over his career, and as you’ve been reading on the rest of the site this week, this sort of command profile can play up quite a bit in the right circumstances.
The Bad: Having taken three full seasons in the upper-minors as a college pitcher, Blach is already 26, with just two MLB starts plus two more relief appearances under his belt. He’ll throw two distinct breaking balls and they’re both fringy, although the curve improved some in his second run at Triple-A. But the lack of feel for spin presents questions about whether he’ll get enough swings-and-misses in The Show, and doesn’t present a slam dunk relief fallback if he doesn’t make it starting.
The Irrelevant: Blach may be inexperienced, but he’s already outdueled Clayton Kershaw, tossing eight innings of three-hit ball to down the Dodger ace last fall, while adding two hits of his own.
OFP 50—Good no. 4 starter
The Risks: He could fail to keep the ball on the ground in the majors, or even just fail to fool anyone at all. He doesn’t have a totally clear shot at the 2017 rotation, and again, he’s already 26, so time is of the essence. And he’s a pitcher.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2016
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: It’s easy to envision Blach as a decent spot starter in dynasty, as he might be a sneaky good matchup play against inferior offenses at home. That means you should remember his name, but that he shouldn’t occupy one of your minor league roster spots. It could be worse. We could still be talking about the Diamondbacks.
6. Andrew Suarez, LHP
The Good: Suarez has a low-90s fastball he can cut or run from his three-quarters slot and he is usually pretty good at keeping down in the zone. He has a full complement of secondary offerings, the best of which is a changeup that he disguises well with his arm action and shows some late fade. He goes to his slider a fair bit, and while it can get a little flat from the arm slot, it is an effective chase pitch with an average projection.
The Bad: The arsenal ranges from fringy to average, depending on the day. The fastball is very hittable when he isn’t hitting his spots down. He’s only really comfortable commanding the fastball and change armside. The breaking balls can bleed into each other and get slurvy and neither is likely to be a bat-misser in the majors. There’s some “funky lefty” in the delivery that tends to make him a little wild in the zone.
The Irrelevant: He’s not related to Albert Suarez. This will be more relevant in a moment.
OFP 50— No. 4 starter
The Risks: Suarez might lack a swing-and-miss offering in the majors. The fastball command might not be good enough to keep hitters from whacking it. This is starting to sound like the Giants have a type. Oh yeah, he’s also a pitcher.
Major league ETA: Late 2017
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Here is a snippet of the conversation we had pre-TINO while discussing this Giants list:
George Bissell: Who the hell is Andrew Suarez? Do you mean Albert Suarez?
7. Steven Duggar, OF
The Good: Duggar flashes a whole bunch of big league-caliber tools, highlighted by raw speed that rates at least plus and an arm not far behind. He demonstrates an advanced approach at the plate, with quality pitch recognition skills and solid balance that allows for in-swing adjustment. He’s quick into the zone with excellent bat-to-ball skills, to where the strikeout rate can remain modest in spite of his proclivity towards working deep into counts. He’s stronger than he looks too, and it currently manifests in hard line-drive contact. His range is an asset on the grass, where he has split time between center and right, and should be able to develop into a passable defender in the former.
The Bad: Despite such a big box of tools, they haven’t all begun to translate into on-field skills. The swing plane and a limited load relegate his near-average raw power to well-below-average utility in games, and his speed does not translate on the bases, where he remains tentative with his reads and releases on stolen base attempts. The lack of game pop opens up questions about how the on-base skills will translate further up the ladder. He doesn’t demonstrate an innate nose for the ball in center, and the profile slides quickly into tweener territory if he has to confine to right field.
The Irrelevant: Duggar’s alma mater of Clemson has produced 245 draft picks, with 53 players going on to make it to the majors. 186-game winner Jimmy Key carries the school’s flag currently, with over 55 career WARP built across nearly 2,600 big-league innings.
OFP 50—Average regular in center
The Risks: Duggar’s tools and athleticism make him a high probability prospect to play in the major leagues. How the hit tool holds up at the higher levels will determine a lot here, as will the glove in center. If he winds up on the good side of his developmental bell curve there are ingredients for a quality regular in center with solid on-base skills and playable speed. But there’s little middle ground between that outcome and one in which the hit tool slides back into average range, the speed never quite translates on the bases, and he plays into a bench role at his apex.
Major league ETA: 2018 —Wilson Karaman
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Put Duggar on your watch list, because if the bat starts playing at higher levels, his speed will make him a fantasy-relevant option. He’s pretty close to the majors, too, so there could be some decent value to be found on the cheap here over the next season or two.
8. Sandro Fabian, OF
The Good: He has an impressive feel for the barrel as a teenager, finishing in the top five in batting average in the AZL this past summer. He has a short, linear stroke without much loft presently. His frame has plenty of room to fill out, and as he matures physically, he could tailor his swing for additional power. He projects as a sure-handed defender in a corner outfield role and his defensive range outplays his speed on the basepaths.
The Bad: He doesn’t have an advanced strategy in the box, primarily preying on fastballs in the zone and itching to swing at fastballs out of the zone. He won’t be an asset on the basepaths, though it isn’t likely he’ll be a liability either. While his bat path is short to the ball, his swing mechanics can fall out of sync, resulting in weak contact.
The Irrelevant: Fabian’s hometown, Santo Domingo, was discovered by Christopher Columbus’s brother, Bartholomew Columbus.
OFP 50—Regular corner outfielder with upside
The Risks: He still hasn’t celebrated his 19th birthday, so the risks are seemingly endless. He will need to improve his approach as he moves through the minors, and there’s a chance his innate bat-to-ball ability will actually hinder the development of his plate discipline. He’s already relegated to a corner outfield role, so there’s minimal room for error in his offensive development.
Major league ETA: 2021 —Matt Pullman
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Check back in 2019? Check back in 2019.
9. Joan Gregorio, RHP
The Good: Gregorio’s fastball sits in the low-90s and comes in from a tough arm angle. Gregorio gets a deep release point on all his stuff due good extension from his long frame. He can ramp the fastball up into the mid 90s in short bursts as well. His slider flashes plus with hard, late downer action. He’s bigger than his listed 180 now, although still fairly thin. He has improved his mechanical consistency since his last go-round as a starter in 2014
The Bad: The changeup is pretty true. The command isn’t so great, as the delivery can still get out of sync due to Gregorio’s long levers. The slider can be mostly a chase pitch that he starts outside corner and runs away. Although he’s been better in his second go-round as a minor league starter, the profile will fit best in a major-league pen.
The Irrelevant: There’s never been a Joan in the big leagues. The closest was actually Jack Quinn, who was born in Slovakia, Joannes. He pitched his last game at the age of 50 and won 247 games along the way.
OFP 50—Jon Rauch without the tattoos
The Risks: Eh, Gregorio is knocking on the door of a major-league role. It’s possible that the “tall pitcher” issues will undo his command enough to make him more of an up-and-down relief arm. There’s also the threat of “regular pitcher” issues too.
Major league ETA: 2017
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Ty Blach thinks Gregorio is a boring prospect.
10. Heath Quinn, OF
The Good: There’s potential for plus power with a physically-mature frame and moderate loft in his swing. He has impressive overall strength, particularly in his lower half. He’s a patient hitter with a refined approach, though his profile is not without some swing and miss. His hit tool could grade out as future average, though even if it falls a grade short, could still allow him to be a future impact bat. His arm is more accurate than it is strong, but it could prove to be average in right field.
The Bad: He won’t add value on the basepaths and could have below-average range in the outfield before too long, though he is fundamentally sound defensively. All things considered, if he’s going to add value in the field, it’s likely in left field, not right field. The aforementioned swing and miss could be an issue down the line.
The Irrelevant: Quinn’s alma mater, Samford University, has produced the last two Florida State football coaches, Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher.
OFP 50—Second-division regular corner outfielder
The Risks: He’s a corner outfielder without supreme defensive ability, so his bat will have to carry him to the big leagues. If his whiff rate continues to grow, he’ll have a hard time creating an everyday role for himself.
Major league ETA: 2019 —Matt Pullman
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: No one is scrambling to grab Quinn right now. You’re fine monitoring his performance and waiting to see if the power and patience translates to the upper minors. Then again, you could go for Quinn now with the hopes of flipping him after he posts what could very well be gaudy Cal League stats. People don’t usually take the buy-low, sell-high approach with anonymous dynasty prospects, but if you’re into that sort of thing, Quinn’s a good candidate for it.
Others of note:
Pitcher Week, postscript
An April 2016 BP report by Adam Hayes had Ray Black sitting 97-98 with “lethal” fastball movement, touching 104, and displaying a future above-average slider. Who in baseball can match that stuff, Aroldis Chapman and Noah Syndergaard on their best days? Kyle Crick has worked as high as 94-98 in past looks and was still at 95 this year. He flashes two or even three average or better offspeed pitches depending on the day. What on earth are guys with this kind of stuff doing off in the others section in this thin system?
We sure do talk a lot about command and control. Hell, we’ve spent this whole week on the site talking about command and control and trying to quantify things and doing all kinds of great research. So it’s fitting that at the end of an article at the end of Pitching Week that we meet the opposite of command and control: dudes that have utterly no idea where the ball is going. Minor league hitters can’t touch Ray Black at all, but they can opt to leave their bats on their shoulders, because he’s walked over a batter per inning for two seasons running. Kyle Crick just double-repeated the Double-A level, and did get under his 2015 walk-an-inning pace, but was generally so bad and uninspiring that it’s hard to see how he doesn’t end up triple-repeating come 2017; in six minor-league seasons, he’s yet to cross below five walks per nine. If anything, these two are even tougher to watch in person than on the stat line, because everything is there for these guys to be great short relievers. Instead, more time on the Richmond Flying Squirrels awaits. —Jarrett Seidler
The guy(s) the Giants will somehow turn into an average regular
C.J. Hinojosa, SS
Jalen Miller, 2B
Austin Slater, OF
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/91 or later)
You’re not surprised, are you? The Giants are a team firmly in baseball’s middle-age, with just two non-prospects that would qualify for our 25U list: Okert and Trevor Brown. In fact, almost everyone on the projected 25-man roster is between the ages of 26 and 33, with the youngest position player being second baseman Joe Panik. That’s fine for today or tomorrow, but things could start to get ugly in 2019. But don’t be mistaken, when your stars are Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and the Brandons Belt and Crawford, things are just fine for now. Heck, even Johnny Cueto hasn’t made it to his 31st birthday yet, despite the feeling that he’s been around forever. Even though there’s not much on this particular list, you’re not looking at a terrible, aged team on the precipice of a performance cliff. Embrace the now.
So who is Steven Okert, our lone big-league talent on this list? The short answer is that he’s a perfectly cromulent second lefty out of the ‘pen with the chance to be just a little more. In his short debut with the big club last season he held his own, striking out about a batter per inning over 14 frames. (In case you were wondering, that’s just well enough to not pitch during the playoffs.) Going forward there’s cause for a little–but not too much–excitement. His stuff has faded a little since the height of his prospectdom, and his velocity isn’t quite as crisp as it was during 2014. The best weapon he’s got is his slider, but he used it a little more infrequently than you might expect in favor of his fastball and cutter in his limited action this year. And while he can dial it up to the mid-90s, his ceiling is probably a setup guy, and his likely role is a LOOGY. For our purposes, that’s plenty good enough to earn a spot in the back half of this list. With Will Smith holding down the southpaw setup role, Okert gets to be the fifth- or sixth-best reliever in a good bullpen, until something else changes.
Let’s pad our word count a little by talking about Brown, the only other dude to rate consideration. He doesn’t make this list despite getting serious time as the Giants’ backup catcher last season, mostly because he’s not particularly good. His framing numbers are decidedly below average (-5.4 FRAA), and his bat is nothing to write home about. (“Dearest Abigail, Trevor Brown has below average power.”). The Giants obviously wanted to upgrade from him, hence their recent signing of Nick Hundley to be Buster Posey’s new reserve. Brown will bounce around for a decade because he’s a functional catcher, but you’d rather have everyone else on the list above than a Triple-A backstop.
That’s it! That’s the entirety of the rest of the Giants’ 25-and-under talent! It sure would be nice if someone like Beede or Arroyo pans out, otherwise things could start to get a little dark in a couple of years. —Bryan Grosnick