With the graduation of Brandon Belt and the trade of right-hander Zack Wheeler in 2011, the top of the Giants prospect list took a bit of a hit. Brown still offers a potential All-Star player at the top but the list quickly drops off to a ton of iffy projection and long shot young kids. With a big league roster in need of offense, Brown could also graduate from this list in 2012 and that could potentially leave the Giants with one of the worst systems in baseball in 2013.
1. Gary Brown (OF)
There’s not much Brown can’t do at least reasonably well. He doesn’t often earn the five-tool moniker but he’s also not far from it either. He has an exceptional ability to hit for average and should hit over .300 in the big leagues. He can drive the ball into the gaps and has fringe-average power potential to go along with easy plus-plus speed that plays in every facet of his game. He is a good defender with a good arm in center field. Brown has everything needed to be a plus regular in center field.
2. Kyle Crick (RHP)
I’m an unabashed fan of Crick’s long term projection and profile. He has a big, durable frame and can already reach 97 mph with his fastball, sitting at 92-94 mph with ease. His slider has plus or better potential and he already uses it well. Crick didn’t need a change-up in high school and his approach to pitching is equally as raw. Though there is a canyon between his present and future projection, Crick could be a well above-average starting pitcher down the line.
3. Tommy Joseph (C)
It’s not flashy but Joseph has the potential to be an everyday big league catcher. He has improved dramatically as a receiver and most scouts now believe he can stay at the position without trouble. His footwork and transfer can get a little messy still but he is improving. On offense, Joseph offers plus raw power though it doesn’t always play because of his aggressive approach his lack of feel for contact. Joseph needs a significant amount of developmental time, despite heading to Double-A this year.
4. Heath Hembree (RHP)
There’s a lot to like with Hembree, namely is plus-plus fastball and plus slider that can both do bad things to a hitter. He can blow it by hitters at any point in the count thanks in large part to the outstanding life he gets on his fastball. His slider is a swing-and-miss pitch that he can rely on to put hitters away. Though he uses a change-up it is likely to become less and less a part of his arsenal. Hembree doesn’t consistently throw strikes and he will need to improve upon that if he wants to pitch the ninth inning.
5. Joe Panik (SS)
A natural hitter, Panik could hit .300+ as a big leaguer but there are questions about what else he will do offensively. He lacks anything more than occasional doubles power and he is nothing more than average runner underway. He maximizes his tools with good instincts and plenty of effort and he could still be a very nice high average second base option in the mold of Placido Polanco. Panik has a chance to move quickly through the system and could be in the big leagues to stay at the start of the 2014 season.
6. Andrew Susac (C)
Prior to a wrist injury hampering his 2011 college season, Susac was seen as one of the best catchers in the draft and a potential mid-first round pick. He still got that kind of money from the Giants in the second round and scouts still love his profile. He can drive the ball out of the park to all fields with plus potential to the pull side. His defense is solid in every respect and he should be able to help control the running game while working well with his pitching staff. Susac doesn’t off the impact raw power of Tommy Joseph, but he might be a safer bet to reach his ceiling.
7. Eric Surkamp (LHP)
Surkamp is a pitchability guy that relies on his location and ability to manipulate the baseball to get outs. He has a below-average fastball that scrapes 90 mph a few times in most starts. While he can do just about anything he wants with the ball, he doesn’t have the ability to reach back and challenge a hitter to beat him. He throws a change-up that scouts like and a big, looping curveball that offers nice velocity separation from his fastball. At best, he profiles as a fifth starter in the big leagues and won’t ever be a guy teams enter the season with a guaranteed rotation spot.
8. Francisco Peguero (OF)
One of the most aggressive hitters in the minor leagues, Peguero will swing at just about anything in his zip code. He lacks pitch recognition skills and believes he can make contact with anything and everything. When he does meet the ball with his bat, Peguero has fringe-average power that leads to more doubles than home runs, along with plus speed that can turn into extra bases when he forces the issue. He absolutely must curtail his approach at the plate to get more than a sniff in the big leagues.
9. Josh Osich (LHP)
Osich has tantalized scouts with his raw stuff for several years and has also battled numerous injuries, including Tommy John surgery. When he’s healthy, he can dial it up to 96 mph from the left side and sits just a tick below that with good movement. His slider has shown promise in the past but he hasn’t trusted it since surgery and will need to bring it back to remain a starter or have success as a left-on-left reliever. He has a plus change-up that helps keep right-handers at bay. Osich could move quickly in a relief role but the Giants have said they want him to start and that could slow his timetable.
10. Ehire Adrianza (SS)
The reports all start with the impressive defense Adrianza offers. He has all the tools to be a standout defender at shortstop, making every play look nearly routine. His offense still remains an enormous question. Adrianza has virtually no power and is only an average runner, leaving him without the ability to force the issue and take an extra base. He controls the strike zone well but advanced pitchers won’t be afraid to challenge him with their best stuff. Without improvements in his offense, Adrianza profiles best as a defense-first utility player.
11. Chuckie Jones (OF)
With the system dropping off quickly outside the Top 10, this ranking is a play on Jones’ raw athleticism and pure ceiling. Jones offers above-average speed, plus-plus raw power, a good arm and solid defensive abilities. What he lacks is the polish to put all of these tools to use in game situations. His swing is aggressive and he has yet to show an ability to recognize and keep from swinging at the breaking ball. His raw tools are as impressive as anyone in the system but he’s a long ways from ever utilizing them all in game situations.
12. Hector Sanchez (C)
Sanchez is a defense-first catcher though he’s not without offensive skill. He receives the ball well and has the catch-and-throw skills necessary to completely lock down a running attack. He has a knack for making contact with the ball and can control the strike zone, but when he does make contact his swing is not designed to do much with it. At best, he is a bottom of the order singles hitter with below-average speed.
13. Mike Kickham (LHP)
Most of Kickham’s value and projection are based on his fastball. He can run it up to 94 mph at times and will sit at 91-92 consistently He showed improved ability to command his fastball last year and even started to add some movement. Both his breaking ball and change-up are below-average and haven’t made much progress since signing in 2010. He has the frame to profile as a starting pitcher but that won’t happen unless one of his secondary pitches steps forward and becomes a reliable offering.
14. Conor Gillaspie (3B)
Gillaspie is still nothing more than a fringe Major Leaguer but he should get there and have opportunities to contribute thanks to the consistent, if slow, improvements he has made since being drafted. He is a solid defender at third base that can make most of the plays required of him. He should hit for a solid average and get on base at a respectable clip but he has nothing more than doubles power and that’s not enough to support the position on an everyday basis. Some scouts believe he would be best served learning the outfield corners and first base and developing into a four-corner utility type.
15. Bryce Bandilla (LHP)
The Giants fourth round pick last summer, Bandilla has plus to plus-plus velocity from the left side. He can pitch as high as 97 mph and will routinely work from 93-95 mph. He struggles to throw strikes at times and must improve his consistency. Scouts believe in Bandilla’s change-up as a potential plus pitch but they remain skeptical of a slider he just hasn’t had the confidence to throw. The Giants may try him as a starter but his future likely resides in the bullpen as a potential setup reliever.