I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found the offseason to be great prospect discussin’ time. The news generally slows down in baseball over the winter months and it provides us with ample time to rank, discuss, and lobby for our favorite prospects. This year we’re adding a new feature to the site in that we’re going to be posting a prospect list — in an “official” capacity — for the first time.
The format is basic: We’ve ranked the best 15 prospects in the Giants system. Me and Otis individually ranked 15 prospects on our own and then traded emails back-and-forth to create a composite list. We will be posting the composite list over 3 posts. Each post will highlight 5 of the prospects with commentary/blurbs from both Otis and me.
Let’s get the list started…
15. Charlie Culberson, 2B (we hope) 21 years old in 2011
Otis Anderson: After not hitting for two years, and not fielding at two positions, Charlie Culberson started hitting in the Cal League (where everybody hits) and then kept hitting into the Arizona Fall League (where everybody AND Conor Gillespie hits). Everybody has started falling all over him and apparently I’m the only one standing here with my arms crossed. The scoutish types say not to worry, he’s awesome now but then mumble something about having to change the batteries on their stopwatch when you ask about his defense at second. Culberson would win me over this year by doing any two of the following: sticking at second, improving his approach or continuing to hit dingers.
Chris Quick: After looking completely terrible in his 2 years at Augusta (.610 OPS, 871 PAs, 75 errors) the Giants decided to start Culberson out in the California League for the 2010 season. Oddly enough, Culberson had his best year as a prospect batting .290/.340/.457 while committing only 15 errors at second base. Drafted as a SS, Culberson has moved around the diamond from SS, to 3B, now to 2B. Error totals aren’t a good way to judge defense, but when a player commits 75 errors over a 2 year period, I think that means something. Culberson’s year in San Jose was nice, but his.797 OPS was only 30 points better than league average. Next year will define Culberson as a prospect. He should start in AA and that’s often the toughest transition for a prospect. I’m doubtful that he’ll be able to hit in AA, but we’ll see.
14.Mike Kickham, SP 22 years old in 2011
OA: Mike Kickham is left-handed and throws hard(ish). Those two facts make him a prospect. Of course he’s inconsistant, because if young hard(ish) throwing left-handers aren’t inconsistant, that just wouldn’t be fair. Even modest success could plant this guy into the top 5 next year.
CQ: Kickham was drafted in this year’s the 2010 draft in the 6th round. The Giants ended up paying him $410K to sign. Reports indicate that he can throw 90-92 and he’s seen an uptick in his velocity as of late. There’s also been some positive reports on his breaking stuff. I definitely agree with Otis that he’s a guy that could make quick work of this list with a modest debut in 2011. For now, he’s more of an “interesting” guy to me than a top 10 prospect. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing since he’s yet to throw a pitch in the minors for the Giants.*
*Correction: Kickham actually pitched 2.1 innings last year in the Arizona League. Still, I think my point stands, let’s wait and see how he does in the upcoming season.
13. Jose Casilla, RP 21 years old in 2011
OA: He’s got a wicked sinker (2 HR in 185 professional innings!) but didn’t miss many bats this year in Augusta. The Giants have handled him with kid gloves so far, as those 185 innings have come over five years and at no level higher than the Sally league. At 21 years old, it’s probably time to aggressively promote him.
CQ: Jose, Santiago Casilla’s younger brother, has shown a power-sinker in his minor league career. I admit that I’ve got a bit of a bias when it comes to ranking relievers on prospect lists — generally anyone can be a reliever and they tend to be over-valued — but #13 seems like an appropriate spot for Casilla. He profiles best as a setup man that can get groundballs with regularity. Not a huge ceiling, but the arm is somewhat intriguing. For what it’s worth: The Giants liked him enough to add him to the 40-man roster earlier in the offseason.
12. Hector Sanchez, C 21 years old in 2011
OA: The thing I like about Sanchez is that he’s got all the skills that you can’t teach, but he’s pretty crap at just about everything that can be picked up. He’s got a great arm and excellent delivery times to second, but crappy blocking skills. He’s got good BP power and a good eye, but has too much noise in his swing. He’s also got some conditioning problems (i.e. he’s a fatty). The way forward for him is to play catcher and continue to get on base.
CQ: I’m the first to admit that I don’t know a lot about Hector Sanchez. However, any catcher that can stick at the position defensively and show some modest tools on offense is a top 15 prospect in my book. Like Otis noted above, Sanchez has shown the ability to take a walk and his approach at the plate seems solid. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.
11. Brandon Crawford, SS 24 years old in 2011
OA: Crawford is more likely than the other guys at the bottom of this list to see major league playing time. But hey, Dan Ortmeier also saw major league playing time, doesn’t mean he did anything with it. Crawford is said to be a good fielder, but has just gotten the bat knocked out of his hands at AA. This is pretty much his last year to hang on to prospectdom.
CQ: I’ve been a bit of a Crawford fanboy and even I had some trouble ranking him at #11. The good news is that Crawford’s defense at short is outstanding. He boasts excellent range and a cannon for a throwing arm. As they say, his defense is ‘major league ready’ right now. The bad news is the strikeouts. Oh, lord, the strikeouts. Since turning pro, Crawford has had issues making contact. His career strikeout rate of 26.3% hints at the problem. He did show some positive signs at the plate — mostly in the walk department — last year in AA before a broken hand put him on the shelf. Time will tell, but with the bar set so low on offense for shortstops in the National League, (.713 OPS league average in 2010) Crawford might have enough on offense to eek out a career.
Be sure to stay tuned for the rest of the list as we post it online. Also, be sure to leave comments to let us know how we are doing. These lists generally generate a lot of good discussion and that’s what we’re hoping for.