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January 5, 2015

2015 Prospects

San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects

by Nick J. Faleris and BP Prospect Staff

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Last year's Giants list

The Top Ten

  1. LHP Adalberto Mejia
  2. RHP Kyle Crick
  3. C Andrew Susac
  4. RHP Tyler Beede
  5. RHP Keury Mella
  6. SS/2B Christian Arroyo
  7. LHP Steven Okert
  8. RHP Hunter Strickland
  9. RHP Clayton Blackburn
  10. LHP Ty Blach

1. Adalberto Mejia
Position: LHP
DOB: 06/20/1993
Height/Weight: 6’3” 195 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #2 (Org)
2014 Stats: 4.67 ERA (108 IP, 119 H, 82 K, 31 BB) at Double-A Richmond
The Tools: 5+ FB; 6 potential CH; 5+ potential SL

What Happened in 2014: Mejia logged 108 Double-A innings, around 60 percent of them as a 20-year-old, averaging around five innings per start and showing good feel for three potential above-average to plus major-league offerings.

Strengths: Loose and easy arm; big and sturdy frame; all three offerings play in the zone; shows comfort mixing offerings in different game situations; can create tough angles, particularly with changeup against righty bats and slider against lefties; fastball is low 90s offering with arm-side action and some late giddy-up; low- to mid-80s slider can play at different depths; changeup has deception at best and turns over with late screwball action; good control at present and projects to good command down the line.

Weaknesses: Command can play soft; arm slot will leave fastball flat up in the zone and will keep slider on swing planes; arm can drag, forcing ball up; will spin off finish, impacting precision of execution; some “soft body” concerns, particularly in lower half; mechanics are smooth but require further refinement and uniformity for command and execution to take next step; doesn’t always stay on top and on line; slider and changeup both rely more on deception than snap; profile could top as a soft-contact arm at maturity rather than consistent strikeout generator; tested positive for Sibutramine and will serve 50 game suspension to start 2015 season.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; young with Double-A resume but will miss developmental time in 2015.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Despite the ballpark he's likely to call home in the future, Mejia fell off the Dynasty 101, leaving them as one of three teams without a resident this year. Mejia could top out as a decent SP4 in time, but his strikeout numbers are likely to be more in the 140-150 range and he looks unlikely to contribute in 2015 at this point.

The Year Ahead: Mejia continued his impressive march to the Bay Area with a strong 2014 showing as one of the younger arms in the Eastern League. His solid three-pitch mix continues to interest and entice evaluators, and while the overall arsenal can comfortably turn over lineups the lack of a true knockout offering regularly prevented the big-bodied lefty from putting away more advanced Double-A bats. The body is still maturing, and it’s possible Mejia sees additional growth in each of his offerings by the time he finishes filling out and firming up. While the suspension will retard the developmental progress, Mejia is young enough and advanced enough to handle the challenge without getting sidetracked. After working himself back up to speed with some low-minors tune-ups, expect Mejia to tackle the Eastern League again in hopes of tightening up the bolts on his overall game. He’s in line for a 2016 major-league debut and projects well as a solid mid-rotation arm.

Major league ETA: 2016

2. Kyle Crick
Position: RHP
DOB: 11/30/1992
Height/Weight: 6’4” 220 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, Sherman HS (Sherman, TX)
Previous Ranking: #1 (Org), #38 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 3.79 ERA (90.1 IP, 78 H, 111 K, 61 BB) at Double-A Richmond
The Tools: 7 fastball; 6 potential CH; 6 potential CB; 6 potential SL

What Happened in 2014: Crick racked up 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in his Double-A debut, but an inability to find any consistency or command limited his innings tally and led to far too many walks.

Strengths: Very loud, pure stuff; fastball plays to double-plus in spite of marginal control and borderline non-existent command; lots of late life and easy mid-90s velocity that will climb higher; maintains velo past 75 pitch mark; excellent arm speed; maintains arm speed on changeup producing solid deception; tight slider with cutter action, works mid-80s to and through 90 mph; two-plane curve will flash depth and bite; good size; strength to hold stuff deep into starts; arsenal has top-tier potential.

Weaknesses: Throws with effort; inconsistent timing disrupts balance and release; arm drag; dramatic inconsistencies in execution regularly forces stuff to play down; changeup ineffective off-trajectory, tips early when release is off; slider will frisbee and play as a soft cutter when overthrown; control is fringy and well outdistances command.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: High 5; late-inning relief/second-tier closer

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; extreme control issues holds back floor despite demonstrated bat-missing ability at Double-A.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The stuff is generally unquestioned with Crick, but then again, so is his inability to throw strikes. For fantasy purposes, he looks to be more valuable with a move to the bullpen, which is unusual for a pitching prospect. In the rotation, he’s a high-WHIP, low-win probability pitcher who can strikeout 180 batters a year despite the shortcomings. In the bullpen, there are more interesting relief prospects.

The Year Ahead: Throughout 2014 Crick continued to display high-octane, swing-and-miss stuff, but his inability to wield that stuff with consistency drove down its effectiveness and limited the powerful righty to just 90.1 innings due to elevated pitch counts. The stat sheet points to a future in relief, but there is more than enough pure stuff and durability for the former supplemental first-rounder to turn over major-league lineups with regularity. Further, all four of Crick’s offerings can play above average or better, so there is room to ease the foot off the gas in order to try and find an operating speed that better facilitates more stable mechanics and consistent execution. In the end, it may come down to whether Crick is willing to make the conscious decision to sacrifice some stuff in order to give him a better chance to work more regularly in the zone and last deeper into games. The fallback is that of a late-inning power arm, with strike-throwing ability the determinant as to whether the Giants will be able to trust him with true high-leverage situations. Overall, this remains one of the most explosive arms in the minors, and incremental improvements could get him back on track in short order.

Major league ETA: 2016

3. Andrew Susac
Position: C
DOB: 03/22/1990
Height/Weight: 6’2” 210 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2011 draft, Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR)
Previous Ranking: #6 (Org)
2014 Stats: .273/.326/.466 at major-league level (35 games), .268/.379/.451 at Triple-A Fresno (63 games)
The Tools: 5 potential hit; 6 power; 5+ arm; 5 potential glove

What Happened in 2014: Susac continued to show a power-centric approach with Triple-A Fresno before making his major-league debut and affording the Giants the freedom to rest all-world backstop Buster Posey without ceding offensive production from the catcher position.

Strengths: Advanced approach with good feel for zone; solid plus power plays in game at present; good strength; balanced swing stays on plane and allows for hard contact pole to pole; natural backspin and carry; improving actions behind the plate; capable defender who could refine to average overall producer with glove; above-average arm with solid release and accuracy.

Weaknesses: Average bat speed and coverage holes; can be beat by sequencing and elevated heat; danger that overexposure at big-league level will eat into contact and power utility once book gets out; well below-average runner; likely tops out as average defender.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; above-average regular

Realistic Role: 5; average major leaguer

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; solid major-league debut in 2014.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: In an organization that would see him getting real playing time in 2015, Susac would be a more interesting fantasy name. However, given that he’ll likely get used sparingly, his fantasy ETA remains unknown. Given a full complement of at-bats, Susac could hit .260 with 20 homers, making him a potential top-10 catcher.

The Year Ahead: Given the risks associated with the two names ahead of him, a pretty strong case could be made for Susac as the top prospect in the system, and there are undoubtedly a number of teams out there that would be willing to take on the limited defensive ceiling and swing-and-miss risk to roll the dice with Susac as their everyday backstop to start 2015. Don’t expect that trade to come any time soon, however, as the fit with San Francisco is tight and comfy, with the Giants able to rest Posey more regularly without ceding impact at-bats from their backstop. Susac has the opportunity to gradually earn more regular time behind the dish over the coming years as Posey continues to age and the Giants look to maximize the number of quality at-bats their soon-to-be $20 million man will log.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2014

4. Tyler Beede
Position: RHP
DOB: 05/23/1993
Height/Weight: 6’4” 200 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft, Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: 2.70 ERA (6.2 IP, 8 H, 7 K, 3 BB) at short-season Salem-Keizer, 3.12 ERA (8.2 IP, 8 H, 11 K, 4 BB) at complex level AZL
The Tools: 6+ FB; 5+ potential CB; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2014: Beede capped an inconsistent career at Vandy with an up-and-down spring that included equal part flashes of brilliance and hints at a future relief role, culminating in his selection 14th overall in June’s draft—a seven spot improvement from 2011 when the Blue Jays popped him with the 21st overall pick.

Strengths: Will flash front-end stuff, including a plus or better heater and two swing-and-miss secondaries; fastball is lively and sits comfortably 91 to 94 mph, regularly reaching 96 to 97; low-80s power curve shows plus bite and solid depth at its best; can manipulate low-80s change-up, showing straight drop and cutting action depending on situation; good present strength; aggressive approach, attack mentality.

Weaknesses: Large inconsistencies across profile with only minimal growth over past three seasons; irregular timing produces volatile release and often results in curve playing soft and fastball spraying; yet to show ability to hold together mechanics consistently across starts; inability to regularly dominate overmatched opponents; can fight himself on the mound, particularly when struggling.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; limited pro showings and spotty collegiate resume.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: For those of you who can own amateur talent in your leagues, you’ve notice Beede’s fantasy value slipping almost daily over the last 18 months. The Giants were a good organization for him to land in, both for ballpark reasons and development ones, but there’s enough risk to push him outside the top-20 in drafts this year.

The Year Ahead: The Vandy ace entered the 2014 season as a candidate to go first overall, but the volatility that had underscored his profile as an underclassman continued to define his junior year performances. As a result, Beede slipped to the middle of the first round where San Francisco jumped at the opportunity to grab “Kyle Crick light.” The pure stuff isn’t as explosive as Crick’s, but Beede does show the potential to wield three above-average or better weapons, and the body and arm upon which 180 innings could regularly be hung. First things first, the two-time first-rounder will need to clean up his timing and release in order to bring his true offerings to the surface, at which point Beede and the Giants developmental staff should have plenty to work with in crafting a future rotation mainstay. He’ll likely ease into A ball in 2015 and could don the orange black as soon as 2017 if things break right.

Major league ETA: 2017

5. Keury Mella
Position: RHP
DOB: 08/02/1993
Height/Weight: 6’2” 200 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #7 (Org)
2014 Stats: 3.93 ERA (66.1 IP, 69 H, 63 K, 13 BB) at Low-A Augusta, 1.83 ERA (19.2 IP, 16 H, 20 K, 6 BB) at short-season Salem-Keizer
The Tools: 7 potential FB; 6 potential CB; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2014: The talented Dominican showed bat-missing velocity and a promising breaker before being sidelined by a rotator cuff strain, costing him a couple of months in the middle of the season.

Strengths: Big arm speed generates easy plus velocity and life; weighty two-seamer works effectively in low-90s, four-seam heater plays in 92 to 95 mph velo band and can touch higher; curve flashes hard bite and comes with solid depth; future plus offering that will play in the zone and as bury pitch; some feel for cambio and is increasing comfort level with offering; solid build and present strength.

Weaknesses: Missed time due to rotator cuff sidetracked innings build-up; has yet to prove durable over full season; changeup is below-average offering more often than not; can fall back on fastball when curve isn’t there; needs to improve quality of offerings out of zone, can live too freely on the fat; control outdistances command.

Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2/3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-inning relief

Risk Factor/Injury History: High; low-level resume; rotator cuff issues in 2014.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There may not be a player in this system with more usable fantasy potential than Mella, whose huge arm could lead to a potential SP2 future if he can make it through the gauntlet. If the change can keep lefties off kilter, he can put up strong ratios (particularly WHIP) and run up near 180 strikeouts in the long run. Keep an eye out as to whether Mella is owned in your league.

The Year Ahead: Had Mella put together 24 starts on par with the aggregate of his 12 Augusta showings there is a good chance he finds himself at or near the top of this prospect list, and comfortably within the top 100 prospects in the game. The quick-armed righty produces easy velocity through low-maintenance mechanics, adding a power breaker to the mix that provides a one-two punch that could project to the front of a major-league rotation. The shoulder issues cloud the picture some, and there is still a fair amount of work to be done in order to get the changeup to fighting weight against more capable bats. Still, Mella possesses some of the highest upside in the system and even if relegated to relief the profile carries impact potential. He should get a shot at High-A in 2015 and could earn a midseason promotion if the fastball-curve pairing proves too much for Cal League lineups.

Major league ETA: 2017

6. Christian Arroyo
Position: SS/2B
DOB: 05/30/1995
Height/Weight: 6’1” 180 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft, Hernando HS (Brooksville, FL)
Previous Ranking: On The Rise
2014 Stats: .203/.226/.271 at Low-A Augusta (31 games), .333/.378/.469 at short-season Salem-Keizer (58 games)
The Tools: 5+ potential hit; 5 present run; 5 potential glove

What Happened in 2014: The former first-rounder followed up his loud professional debut with a slow start at Low-A Augusta where a sprained thumb shelved him for much of May. Arroyo returned to action in short-season ball where he raked his way through the Northwest League over the final three months of the season.

Strengths: Simple and balanced swing produces regular contact across the diamond; solid leverage; contact-friendly path that seeks out pitch plane; above-average bat-to-ball ability; shows feel for strikezone and solid plan of attack; solid strength; could grow into average power down the line; hands work well up the middle; arm strength can play on the left side; solid footwork around the bag.

Weaknesses: Average runner at present and could lose a step or two as body matures; may fit best at keystone long term; can get front-of-center in weight transfer, causing rollover and soft contact; reliant on reads to add value on bases; bat could fall short of impact; lacks carrying tool outside of hit potential.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division regular

Realistic Role: 5; average major leaguer

Risk Factor/Injury History: High; yet to establish footing in full-season ball.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The combination of ETA and lack of upside makes Arroyo a bad bet in most fantasy leagues. In very deep formats, he could be an interesting late roster guy, but we’re really talking about a pretty empty .280 hitter—at least for fantasy owners.

The Year Ahead: It isn’t a sexy profile, but Arroyo has the raw materials in place to help him grind his way to the majors and establish himself as an offensive-minded middle infielder will pull-side pop and steady hands. Even if the bat doesn’t reach its ceiling, there is enough glove and arm for the Hernando High School prep product to provide ample value as a versatile utility option capable of logging innings across the dirt. Arroyo should get another shot at Low-A Augusta in 2015, and could breakout in a big way thanks to a strengthening physique, balanced swing, and advanced approach. There is still a long developmental lead here, but the payout could be well worth the wait.

Major league ETA: 2018

7. Steven Okert
Position: LHP
DOB: 07/09/1991
Height/Weight: 6’3” 210 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 4th round, 2012 draft, University of Oklahoma (Norman, OK)
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: 2.73 ERA (33 IP, 24 H, 38 K, 11 BB) at Double-A Richmond, 1.53 ERA (35.1 IP, 33 H, 54 K, 11 BB) at High-A San Jose
The Tools: 6 FB; 6 SL; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2014: Okert carved through the California and Eastern Leagues before putting the Arizona Fall League on lockdown over his 12 innings of relief work, in which he tallied 17 strikeouts to just five hits and one walk.

Strengths: Low-angle heater works easily low to mid-90s with arm-side life; sharp, tilted low- to mid-80s slide piece is second plus offering; capable of working the quadrants with both offerings; can pitch off fastball or slider with ease; shows some feel for changeup; comes with some funk; uniform release and trajectory on fastball and slider adds to deception.

Weaknesses: Lacks consistent offering against right-handed bats despite high-quality pairing at top of arsenal; slider can flatten out of lower slot and stay on plane for righty bats; if stuff doesn’t play to same impact level as in AFL, could top out as late-inning matchup arm.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division closer

Realistic Role: High 5; late-inning relief/second-tier closer

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; standard relief arm volatility risk; some potential left/right split issues.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you’re into relievers, Okert is easily a top-20 dynasty relief prospect out there. Of course, you shouldn’t be into relievers.

The Year Ahead: Okert’s dominant showing in the Arizona Fall League elevated his stock from that of a potential late-inning arm to a near major-league ready contributor with shutdown potential. At their best, Okert’s slider and fastball are true high-leverage weapons, capable of neutralizing left- and right-handed sticks alike, thanks to a parallel trajectory that camouflages the offerings and prevents early identification. The changeup is a show me offerings that has some utility against righty bats, and will be necessary if his primary offerings aren’t quite as crisp when he returns to action next spring. If this fall was an indication of a true step forward, the Giants could have a future closer candidate ready to join an impressive collection of power arms in the big-league pen. Even if Okert falls short of that lofty upside, he should be a valuable lefty arm ready to help the big club sooner rather than later.

Major league ETA: 2015

8. Hunter Strickland
Position: RHP
DOB: 09/24/1988
Height/Weight: 6’4” 220 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 18th round, 2007 draft, Pike County HS (Zebulon, GA)
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: 0.00 ERA (7 IP, 5 H, 9 K, 0 BB) at major-league level, 2.02 ERA (35.2 IP, 25 H, 48 K, 4 BB) at Double-A Richmond
The Tools: 7+ FB; 6 SL

What Happened in 2014: Strickland blew away High-A, Double-A, and major-league bats alike through September before allowing a jaw dropping six home runs over eight postseason appearances.

Strengths: Borderline elite fastball sits comfortably in the upper 90s; pounds the strikezone; comfortable working the inner-half; mid-80s slider shows late bite and can miss bats and barrels alike; late-inning mentality; prototypical late-inning power pairing.

Weaknesses: Fastball and slider can both be flat and hittable when arm drops; lefty bats do not seem to struggle picking up offerings out of the hand; can lack deception; can get fastball heavy and predictable; lacks consistent offering to disrupt oppo bats; command is loose.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division closer

Realistic Role: High 5; late-inning relief/second-tier closer

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; standard reliever volatility risk.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Being right-handed, Strickland is more likely to end up with a closer job than Okert is, but the same comment still applies. Friends don’t let friends invest in relief prospects, but at least Strickland has seen the majors.

The Year Ahead: Strickland enjoyed a dominant season and was riding a euphoric wave before crashing in spectacular fashion during the Giants’ World Championship march. While the shocking nature of Strickland’s postseason home run binge was largely blown out of proportion due to the stage, it does underscore the concern evaluators have envisioning the big righty as an impact closer. In order to reach his potential heights as a true shutdown relief arm, Strickland will need to develop either a vertical offering to get bats (and particularly lefty bats) off his fastball/slider plane or a usable off-speed pitch capable of disrupting timing. Short of that, this is still a late-inning arm capable of racking up whiffs and doing so from the jump in 2015.

Major league ETA: Major-league debut in 2014

9. Clayton Blackburn
Position: RHP
DOB: 01/06/1993
Height/Weight: 6’2” 260 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 16th round, 2011 draft, Edmond Santa Fe HS (Edmond, OK)
Previous Ranking: #5 (Org)
2014 Stats: 3.29 ERA (93 IP, 94 H, 85 K, 20 BB) at Double-A Richmond
The Tools: 5+ fastball; 5 potential CH; 5 potential SL

What Happened in 2014: The big-bodied righty posted impressive 4.3 and 9.0 strikeout-to-walk rates over 93 Double-A innings and 11 Arizona Fall League innings, but allowed more than a hit per inning along the way.

Strengths: Will show three major-league caliber offerings and a fringy curve, and can work the zone with all four; strong frame and durable build; plus control; can pound the lower third of the zone with a heavy upper-80s to low-90s fastball; slider and changeup play well off the heater with similar path and varying finish; as feel for sequencing continues to develop could regularly produce soft contact; enough life on fastball to garner empty swings, particularly when set up by secondaries.

Weaknesses: Arsenal lacks impact; body was soft in 2014, and will work to profiles detriment if not monitored; low-70s curve is loopy and only effective when bat is properly prepped; will be reliant on steady defense to keep batters off base; needs to be more judicious as to when and where to work his stuff; could benefit from working more effectively out of the zone.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 4 starter

Realistic Role: High 4; swingman/middle reliever

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; solid Double-A showing.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Blackburn is a very undervalued arm in deep leagues (think more than 16-team mixed), as he has a good chance to be a back-end starter in a park that makes back-end starters look better than they really are—sort of like Chris Young’s 2014 season.

The Year Ahead: Blackburn is the epitome of a high-floor, low-ceiling arm. While that label in and of itself can fail to capture the imagination of evaluators, Blackburn further did himself a disservice by sporting a soft body and low-energy approach on the diamond, resulting in more evaluative vitriol than was probably warranted. This is never going to be a front-end arm, and in fact, Blackburn is unlikely to wield the requisite stuff to approach consistent mid-rotation production. But provided the former 16th-rounder can keep his body and mechanics in check, there is more than enough feel and quality of stuff for Blackburn to carve out a productive career in the back of a big-league rotation. He should make the jump to Fresno in 2015 and could compete for a spot in the big-league rotation a year from now.

Major league ETA: 2016

10. Ty Blach
Position: LHP
DOB: 10/20/1990
Height/Weight: 6’1” 210 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Acquired: 5th round, 2012 draft, Creighton University (Omaha, NE)
Previous Ranking: #10 (Org)
2014 Stats: 3.13 ERA (141 IP, 142 H, 91 K, 39 BB) at Double-A Richmond
The Tools: 5+ FB; 6 CH; 5 potential SL; 5 potential CB

What Happened in 2014: Blach showed durability and pitchability over 140-plus Double-A innings, while keeping the ball in the park and maintaining his developmental trajectory as a solid future back-end starter.

Strengths: Good feel for four major-league quality offerings; fastball can work heavy in the upper 80s to low 90s (two-seam) and will reach as high as 94 mph up in the zone (four-seam); changeup is a legit weapon with arm speed and arm-slot deception, showing late tumble; slider and curve show distinct shape and each serve as potential average offerings at maturity; good balance; repeats mechanics; can fill up strike zone with full complement of pitches; some herky-jerk deception, does not affect execution.

Weaknesses: Stuff falls well shy of impact; will be high-contact arm at highest level; arsenal loses effectiveness up in zone; very slim margin for error; fastball command can get loose in the zone, opening up possibility for extensive damage at highest level; ho-hum velocity combined with lack of quality breaking ball could limit major-league utility to swingman/middle-relief role.

Overall Future Potential: 5 no. 4/5 starter

Realistic Role: High 4; swingman/middle reliever

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; near major-league ready

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Blach really shouldn’t be owned in mixed dynasty leagues, but if he somehow squeezes his way into a rotation spot in 2015 for the Giants, there are worse players to spend some FAAB on in NL-only leagues.

The Year Ahead: Blach’s floor mirrors that of Blackburn’s, with the latter offering a shade more upside thanks to a slightly greater ability to miss bats. Evaluators seem to prefer Blach at present, however, in large part due to his mound presence and professional approach to attacking hitters. At the end of the day, the lefty will need to continue to operate at the same high level of precision if he’s to survive turning over major-league lineups with regularity, and even then there simply may not be enough here for him to stick as a fixture in the San Fran rotation. His penchant for producing soft contact would play very well out of the pen—should he end up there—and at a minimum he should be a useful asset as a swingman capable of stepping into a starter’s role as needed over the long haul of the major-league season. Blach should tackle Triple-A in 2015 and is ready for the challenge of big-league bats as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Major league ETA: 2015

Prospects on the Rise:

1. RHP Michael Santos: Santos is the latest projectable low-level arm to emerge for the Giants, with the 2012 international signee making his stateside debut in the Arizona Rookie League at the age of 19. Santos boasts a broad frame and developing trunk and core that should be able to pack on significant bulk as he matures and continues to build strength. The young righty utilizes a simple step-in to kick-off his up-tempo and limby mechanics. There’s a fair amount of deception, and he hides the ball well, helping his low-90s heater to play up at present and preventing hitters from getting clean early looks at the secondaries—a solid low-70s, 12-to-6 curve with good shape and a budding low-80s change with fade. Santos figures to continue to add velocity, and could stand with three true plus offerings when all is said and done. He should see some time in full-season ball next year, and could start the season with Low-A Augusta if the organization feels he’s physically prepared to handle the load.

2. C Aramis Garcia: Garcia came off the board to San Francisco in the second round of last June’s draft, as the 52nd overall pick. The Florida International product hit his way into the hearts of Florida area scouts and national evaluators alike last spring, slashing .368/.442/.626 with 25 walks to just 23 strikeouts over his 199 plate appearances. Garcia does a good job keeping the barrel in the hit zone, enabling hard contact to all fields, though he can get pull-happy at times and particularly when seeking out fastballs. With continued development he could blossom into a solid bat for average with on-base ability, capable of working the count to find his pitches and possessing enough feel to turn tough offerings into hits. Defensively, Garcia gets the job done and could grow into an average receiver with a solid catch-and-throw game. He already shows some feel for blocking and deadening the ball, though his lower half is a tick slower than evaluators generally like to see. He should be ticketed for Augusta to start 2015 and could emerge as an easy top-ten prospect in the system by this time next year.

3. LHP Luis Ysla: The native Venezuelan enjoyed a solid full-season debut with Low-A Augusta, logging over 120 innings and averaging more than 5 innings per start. The hard throwing lefty generates above-average velocity out of a sturdy lower half and core and does a solid job of consistently hitting his low arm slot with the slider and changeup, as well. There is a fair amount of effort involved and the up-tempo mechanics paired with a longish arm on the backside can often lead to drag and an inconsistent release, forcing fastballs up and to the arm side and leaving his slider ineffective. Still, the fastball and changeup could both grow to plus offerings, and the slider isn’t far behind given its late bite and tilt. With incremental improvements and more consistency in his execution, Ysla should step comfortably into the top ten next year, and looks the part of a potential mid-rotation arm or late-inning asset.

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2015)

1. RHP Chris Stratton: The Mississippi State product continued his steady climb through the system, logging over 120 innings this past year and finishing the season with five starts at Double-A Richmond. Stratton will show four distinct offerings, anchored by a heavy upper-80s to low-90s fastball and 82 to 84 mph short slider with borderline cutter action. He is often too loose with his low-80s change and upper-70s curve, and will need to focus on firming up each if he is to survive in a rotation, long term. There is a solid case to be made for converting Stratton into a sinker/slider relief arm that could air it out in shorter spurts, potentially with his four-seamer playing to mid-90s heat. He could help out the Giants in short order should the organization go that route, and could provide added value as a spot starter or multi-inning option out of the pen, as needed.

2. RHP Erik Cordier: Cordier is yet another big velo arm that will be competing for quality innings out of the pen in 2015, bringing to the table a prototypical late-inning fastball/slider combo and intimidating presence on the bump. Cordier sits comfortably in the mid- to upper 90s with his fastball, showing some late life down and a truer trajectory when elevating. The slider is a hard mid-80s offering that grades out as plus with sharp bite. Control can come and go, though he did a solid job staying on line and pounding the zone during his brief 2014 call-up. He lacks the feel of San Fran’s other late-inning options, but nevertheless could prove an important contributor along the way, while also providing a safety net should one or two of the arms ahead of him on the depth chart slip or miss time due to injury.

3. SS/2B Matt Duffy: The former Long Beach Stater probably lacks the defensive chops to hang as an everyday big-league shortstop, and the gap power is far from ideal elsewhere on the infield. Still, Duffy could prove a useful utility option for the Giants next season, with steady hands that work up the middle and enough arm to play across the diamond. The glove work is much more dependable than flashy, and his range is stretched at the margins when occupying the six-spot, but he can get the job done across the infield and will do so while posting solid contact rates at the plate. Though the former 18th-rounder has below-average straight line speed, Duffy handles himself well on the bases and could chip in as an additional contributor in a pinch run capacity.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/89 or later)

  1. Madison Bumgarner
  2. Adalberto Mejia
  3. Kyle Crick
  4. Andrew Susac
  5. Tyler Beede
  6. Joe Panik
  7. Keury Mella
  8. Christian Arroyo
  9. Steven Okert
  10. Clayton Blackburn

It would make sense that the defending World Series champions would have enough going for them already without being able to top their under-25 list with the reigning World Series MVP and one of the budding studs among Major League starters.

Madison Bumgarner is so far ahead of everyone else on this list that he practically deserves his own section of this article. Blessed with excellent raw stuff, an ability to manipulate the baseball, excellent command, and deception, Bumgarner is poised to be one of the elite starters in the game for years to come. Barring an unforeseen injury, the Giants will have an ace to front their rotation for the rest of the decade, at a minimum.

After not ranking in last year’s Top 10 prospects, Panik surprised many within the scouting community by posting a .305/.343/.368 line in 73 games, and solidifying the Giants roster at second base. That surprise aside, I still have a hard time envisioning Panik as anything more than a fringe regular going forward. While the contact was frequent in his debut, Panik was rarely successful at driving the ball to the gaps and may struggle to handle consistent hard stuff as pitchers adjust to his strengths and weaknesses. Panik’s glove and overall heady play may keep him in the lineup, but his performance in 2014 very well could be the best numbers fans see from him.

The Giants offered few other players worth more than a passing glance when compiling a list of this nature, but with relative youth not previously mentioned here like Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Matt Cain on the roster, they should have enough talent to continue their recent run of success.

While the Giants overall roster never seems to have the sex appeal of some other rosters, even their primary division rival Dodgers, they have a knack for getting the most out of their young players throughout the season. As they continue to develop players like Adalberto Mejia, Kyle Crick, Andrew Susac, and Tyler Beede, the Giants should remain competitive and may continue their dynasty. –Mark Anderson

A Parting Thought: Though lacking a truly elite prospect at present, San Francisco continues to fill its system with future major-league contributors and should have no issue maintaining a solid baseline of talent at the major-league ranks. Upside arms throughout give the Giants additional juice as a potential breakout organization on the prospect front next year.

Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP. The views he expresses at Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.

Nick J. Faleris is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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