If you’re at all curious about your team’s minor league system, Giants readers and non-Giants readers alike, you owe it to yourself to get Baseball America’s prospect handbook. Even if you know your team’s system pretty well, the book is still a handy tool.
As you probably figured out, a dork like me reads that thing cover to cover. My volume is color coordinated with tabs corresponding to leagues, levels, and organizations that I cover. I’ve scribbled all over that sucker with notes and other important things that nobody else cares about or understands.
While I was in power dork mode I saw that the Giants list was in serious need of an overhaul.
This is intended as a state of the system address. It’s an update, not a brand new list. It’s intended in part to comment on what has happened with prospects in 2011 and as a result, what could happen in 2012 for system rankings. These rankings are one part ceiling, one part current ranking in the system, one part 2011 performance, and one part player history (i.e., what the player has done to get to this point).
My process involved a few steps. First, I went over Baseball America’s list from the 2011 prospect handbook and determined who would stay on the list and who would go. Then, I considered how many open spots of the 30 were left and I started looking at guys who weren’t on the list.
That step in itself took a few phases. I went over each affiliate’s roster and looked over guys who were having good years. I added those guys to the “watch” list; that is, a list of players I wanted to add to the updated rankings. Then I went over the 2011 draftees to see how they would fit into this.
This series will come at you in three parts: #1-10, #11-20, and finally #21-30. I broke it up for the TL;DR crowd, and also to generate more content for the blog. Don’t say I never gave you anything.
With this list, I had many open spots. 15 to be exact. I retained 15 of the guys who were on the list at the publication of the prospect handbook. The organization lost four of the top 30 guys from the BA list to trades: Zack Wheeler, Thomas Neal, Jason Stoffel, and Henry Sosa. That meant two top 10 slots were also suddenly open. Oh and I know Sosa wasn’t really a prospect but I went with the list.
An interesting thing happened while I was making these rankings. Seven of the top 10 on the updated list are hitters. Jose Casilla made my life hell the week I started the research on the players for rankings. He was released August 5 and reassigned within the system as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. I wore out my panic button before I knew what his true fate was.
I did a piece like this for Baseballin’ on a Budget, the A’s affiliate on the Sweet Spot network. Over there I had a much different experience. Their top prospects, even with the trades that have gone down since last offseason, didn’t change all that much. Definitely didn’t change as much as the Giants list here did.
I know I’ll catch hell for putting some of the lower-level guys on the list. Wait til’ you see Adalberto Mejia. That’s the combo of ceiling and 2011 production. I felt a guy like Mejia would be better suited in a state of the system discussion than perhaps Juan Perez, who hasn’t produced as well as he could and should at Double-A.
That said, come at me! I like a good debate.
|Brandon Belt||1B/OF||Fresno (AAA)/San Francisco|
|Francisco Peguero||OF||San Jose (Advanced-A)/Richmond (AA)|
|Gary Brown||OF||San Jose|
|Tommy Joseph||C||San Jose|
|Hector Sanchez||C||San Jose/Fresno/San Francisco|
|Heath Hembree||RHP||San Jose/Richmond|
|Joe Panik||SS||Salem-Keizer (short season rookie)|
|Hector Correa||RHP||San Jose/Richmond|
|Jarrett Parker||OF||San Jose|
The first five names were pretty easy to rank. Brandon Belt, Francisco Peguero, Gary Brown, Tommy Joseph, and Eric Surkamp have all proven themselves as top tier talent in this system. Joseph has been especially impressive to me as a hitter and behind the plate and Surkamp has exceeded my expectations coming off an injury plagued 2010 year. He’s surpassed his 2009 innings total–131 that year, 142 2/3 this season–and has great strikeout numbers in a tougher league.
Surkamp has become a favorite prospect among the Giants faithful lately. It’s all well deserved. When I saw Surkamp throwing in the Cal League in 2010 I really liked what I saw, so his hip injury that year was devastating.
Peguero’s in the same boat as Surkamp, getting points for recovering well from an injury, although I’m not pleased with his blah performance in Richmond. He’s hitting .296 but the power went away, he’s striking out too much, and he’s not stealing bases. He’s still raw so I’m giving him a pass for his ceiling and past performances.
Belt needs no further explanation other than my pleas to just play him, damn it. Brown, as I discussed in a previous prospect mailbag, has had a great year that has proven my fears about him wrong. As the third best guy on this updated list, he has some of the highest expectations facing him. Belt’s proven he can hit.
Surkamp jumped the first true test of pro talent by taming Double-A hitters. Joseph also has to hang in with the higher level of competition next year, but Brown is advanced with his college experience. He’ll need to do it right away, whereas if Joseph initially stumbles in 2012 I won’t be as concerned.
Next comes an interesting group at 6-10. Hector Sanchez, Heath Hembree, and Hector Correa all had breakout years this season.
I like Hembree and Correa as secret weapons in the bullpen, the next generation of Sergio Romo if you will. They also get points for pitching well at the higher level after decimating the Cal League. Yes, their ERAs are over 3, but both fell victim to a few crappy outings. Otherwise they’ve been nails. I liked what I saw of them in San Jose.
Sanchez surprised me by hitting well in San Jose and then by hanging in with Fresno. His callup was another complete surprise but a good story nonetheless. He’s back in the City thanks to Eli Whiteside getting his bell rung.
Joe Panik has blown everyone away, including me. He’s hitting .345 with five home runs, 47 RBIs, and has 24 walks to 21 strikeouts. He’s showing off a little speed with 12 steals as well. He’s played almost all of his games at short and he’s the Volcanoes number three hitter. Panik is 20 years old in a rookie level league, although the Northwest League and the other short season leagues are the more advanced circuits. I would not be surprised to see him in San Jose next year. San Francisco likes to push their top prospects and they’ve never shied away from aggressively promoting a college guy who has proven he can play.
Jarrett Parker is probably a bit too high at 10, but I like his ceiling. He was a second round pick out of Virginia in 2010 and is an example of the high round draft pick/college player the Giants like to push through the system. He showed he was a power hitter and a base stealer in two good years at Virginia. All I heard about him before this year was “toolsy.” That is the case with Parker, but I also see that term as a cop-out. A lot of the time it means that the person has no real knowledge of the player’s ability and just throws around buzzwords to shut us up.
Parker started the year off a little slow, hitting .212 in the first month, but has shown consistent power all year and is typically in the two or three hole in the lineup. His walk rate is okay at 119 stirkoeuts and 68 walks. He has a good arm in right and I rarely see him make poor plays. He has good speed both as a baserunner and in the outfield. I haven’t seen anything really outstanding about his hitting. He’ll probably be in Richmond next year. Perhaps the other Chris can scout him in 2012.
Tomorrow I will bring you #11-20.