The Giants have had extreme success developing high-end pitchers in recent years and looking through the Top 15 should provide continued hope for the future with several quality pitching prospects that could impact the big league roster. The Giants have little in thew way of significant position player prospects on the way, but Gary Brown could arrive to help out by the end of 2013 and could be a fixture in the coming years. The Giants system never has a lot of flash but seemingly produces contributing MLB players with regularity.
1. Kyle Crick – RHP (Last Year’s Rank: 2)
A supplemental first round pick in 2011, Crick is a physically mature pitcher with a great frame and good durability. He shows 93-94 mph velocity consistently and some scouts I spoke with reported seeing him in the 97-98 range during his starts. He offers both a curveball and change-up that have average potential and his biggest road block right now is the development of his control, and then later his command. Crick has the tools to become a number two or three starter but the loftier end of that projection is more of a pipe dream until he shows improved feel for pitching.
2. Chris Stratton – RHP (NR)
The team’s top pick last summer, Stratton has projection remaining in his athletic 6-foot-3 frame. His fastball rests in the low-90s but will touch 94-95 mph even in the late innings of his starts. His slider and change-up are both promising pitches that he regularly incorporates into his sequencing. He has good raw stuff and good feel for his craft, giving him a chance to be a number three starter down the line.
3. Gary Brown – OF (1)
Brown was a highly hyped prospect entering the 2012 season and he struggled to a .279/.347/.385 line in the Eastern League. An 80-grade runner, Brown has a chance to steal 30-plus bases per year if he can improve his reads and jumps. His speed plays well in center field where he is a quality defender. Brown is an aggressive swinger that likes to attack early in counts and he has the innate feel for contact to make it work. He struggles to drive the ball consistently and most scouts believe he ends up as more of a classic leadoff hitter that hits for average, gets on base and steals bases while playing up the middle.
4. Mike Kickham – LHP (13)
There’s a lot to like with Kickham and the Giants have good reason for pushing him aggressively and believing in his long-term ceiling. With a long levered body, Kickham creates deception on his low-90s fastball that arrives on a steep downward plane. His slider and change-up are both future average pitches and I even saw some quality curveballs out of him last summer. Kickham must refine his control to take the next step toward becoming a solid mid-rotation inning eater, and that development could take some time as he learns to control his body more throughout his delivery, eliminating the variance in his release point.
5. Clayton Blackburn – RHP (NR)
Drafted much later (16th round) than Kyle Crick, both players are expected to move through the system together. Despite being equally as physical as Crick, Blackburn is a completely different pitcher. His fastball sits in the fringe-average range, occasionally touching 92 mph when he needs a little more. He relies heavily on his ability to vary his breaking balls, mixing both a curveball and slider with equal effectiveness. His change-up made strides last year and it is easy to project in the average range down the line. Blackburn’s command is very advanced for his age and helps his arsenal play up, but his lack of pure stuff forces him to execute with precision or risk being knocked around the pack. If he can continue to develop his command and possibly see his fastball tick up, he could be a number three or four starter.
6. Adalberto Mejia – LHP (NR)
Often lost in the shuffle among Giants farmhands, Mejia has similar potential to pitchers like Stratton, Kickham and Blackburn ahead of him on this list. Another pitcher with a quality frame, Mejia creates good angle on his average fastball and scouts that have seen him touch 92-93 mph believe he could sit in that range as he reaches physical maturity. He offers both a change-up and slider that have potential and his ability to mix his arsenal is impressive. Mejia has moved quickly despite being just 19-years old and he could be on the big-league radar late in 2014.
7. Heath Hembreee – RHP (4)
Hembree’s raw potential still rests in the late innings of close games. He has an electric fastball with explosive life that sits in the 94-95 mph range and has touched as high as 98-99 on occasion. His slider can be a dominating pitch when on and while he has worked on his change-up it is not likely to be a useful pitch for him in the Major Leagues. Hembree loses the strike zone at times and must throw more consistent strikes to truly profile in high-leverage situations. He has the powerful two-pitch mix to profile in the closer’s role but there are steps that need to be taken before he jumps from his current setup profile.
8. Joe Panik – SS (5)
There’s nothing flashy or sexy in Panik’s profile but he will be a big leaguer and will likely carve out a lengthy career. He is an excellent contact hitter that grinds out at-bats and makes pitchers work deep into counts. While he sprays line drives to all fields, he lacks a significant power profile and some scouts believe better pitchers will challenge him more and he will struggle to make them pay. He is an average runner down the line and that also results in fringe-average range at shortstop. His defensive profile is more decent than anything and many scouts I spoke with believe he ends up more of a big-league utility player than everyday guy.
9. Gustavo Cabrera – OF (NR)
Many international scouts considered Cabrera the top talent available at the opening of last year’s signing period. He is loaded with tools and draws tons of praise from scouts. Aside from plus-plus speed that he uses well on the bases, Cabrera also owns tremendous bat speed and the potential for huge raw power. His hitting mechanics are inconsistent and contact can elude him at times, but Cabrera could be an impact player with massive tools and production.
10. Stephen Johnson – RHP (NR)
Nabbed in the sixth round of last year’s draft, Johnson may only have a relief profile but it could be as an impact reliever. With a fastball that sits in the 95-96 mph range in short bursts and reports of him hitting triple digits last spring, Johnson can blow his heater past hitters. He throws a hard breaking ball that doesn’t truly resemble a curveball or slider, but can be effective when on. There is some deception in his delivery thanks to a complex arm action that also impedes his ability to refine his command. Johnson profiles as an eighth inning arm but could become more than that with some refinement of his control and command.
11. Roger Kieschnick – OF (NR)
Kieschnick impresses physically when he steps off the bus, offering a great frame and excellent strength. He is a quality athlete with the tools, including a strong arm, to fit in right field. At the plate, Kieschnick has legitimate plus raw power that comes from a healthy hack at the ball. He has improved his approach at the plate but there are still skeptics in the scouting community, most wondering how much contact he will make when asked to face top-notch pitchers every day. Even with only modest contact rates, Kieschnick could become a decent corner outfielder that always tantalizes with bigger tools.
12. Steven Okert – LHP (NR)
Another 2012 draft pick, Okert should join Stephen Johnson at the back end of games when he reaches his ceiling. Okert’s fastball jumps out of his hand and in short bursts it can reach 94-95 mph and even scrape 97 at times. His slider improved during his third season in college and the pitch has some plus potential, particularly when he lets it loose in relief. Okert could be a dominating late-inning lefty.
13. Francisco Peguero – OF (8)
Thanks to an impressive package of tools, Peguero is one of the most tantalizing players in the Giants’ system. He is a plus runner that shows plus raw power, though both tools lack punch in game situations. He is extremely aggressive at the plate, taking himself out of at-bats by swinging too early and chasing pitches out of the zone, ultimately sapping much of his power. On the bases, his reads and jumps need improvement but he could steal 20 bases a year down the line, Peguero has center-field skills and a plus arm that fits in right field. If it all comes together, Peguero could be an impact player but he may fall short of that without some adjustment to his aggressive style of play.
14. Martin Agosta – RHP (NR)
Agosta has two paths in front of him in pro ball, either in the late innings or at the back of a rotation. In short stints, Agosta can show mid-90s heat with good life, complimented by a cutter that shows plus potential and can give both lefties and righties fits. In a rotation, his velocity dips to the 91-93 mph range and he will have to improve the consistency of his slider and change-up to have the ability to work through a lineup more than once. Most scouts I spoke to on the west coast last spring felt he fit better in short stints and that is likely where he ultimately ends up.
15. Nathaniel Javier – 3B (NR)
Another big-dollar signing during last year’s international signing period, Javier was considered by some scouts to be the second-best offensive talent in last year’s class. Javier is very physical for his age and he could have a premium MLB-body once he reaches physical maturity. He is a good hitter with a solid plan at the plate and big raw power, giving him robust offensive potential. There is a long developmental road ahead here but Javier is a serious talent that should be watched.