At the moment, the Giants’ farm system is in a bit of a lull. Most prospect analysts currently rank the system around the #25 mark, some worse, and some a little better. The system is in a downswing for a couple of reasons, maybe one of the biggest is that the Giants have graduated a few players to the majors like Brandon Belt that have hurt the overall depth of the system, that seems like a good problem to have.
Earth shattering assertion: the Giants are going to be offensively challenged this season. There’s a huge amount of pressure on Buster Posey to not only come back healthy, but come back and continue hitting. The outfield, overall, looks pretty weak with a Melky-Pagan-Schierholtz configuration taking the field most days. Pablo Sandoval is a terrific hitter, maybe one of the best young hitters in baseball, but he’s largely surrounded by below average offensive pieces. And it remains to be seen if the Giants will give playing time to Brandon Belt who, despite some struggles in 2011, could be the third best hitter on the roster right now.
Another key piece that returns to the equation this season is Freddy Sanchez. The oft-injured second baseman will return for his 11th season of professional baseball this year. Sanchez has never had a bat that would carry a lineup, but for the most part he’s been a league average hitter with good defense at second base. An entirely valuable package if he wasn’t so injury prone.
If Sanchez can’t come back healthy — and make no mistake, it’s almost a certainty that he’ll miss time in 2012 at some point — the Giants’ options at the keystone position are as follows: Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, and Emmanuel Burriss. I didn’t include the comedy Brett Pill option because everyone knows he’s not really a second baseman. And if you didn’t know that, here you go, “Brett Pill really can’t play second base.”
While the combination of Theriotenotiss might not excite you, I have to wonder why the Giants haven’t paid a little more attention to minor league infielder, Conor Gillaspie.
A few statistics and then a question.
First, the top five walk-rates of all Giants’ prospects (minimum of 250 at-bats) in 2011:
Name Age Lev BB% Conor Gillaspie 23 AAA 13.1% Jarrett Parker 22 A+ 13.0% Adam Duvall 22 A 11.6% Joel Weeks 26 A/AA 11.6% Carlos Willoughby 22 A 11.1%
Second, Gillaspie’s career statistics (PA, wOBA, wRC+) in the minor leagues.
Season Level PA wOBA wrC+ 2009 A+ 530 .341 101 2010 R 80 .395 124 2010 AA 540 .331 100 2011 AAA 503 .371 109
And third, Gillaspie’s career fielding numbers in the minors.
Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G 2008 20 2 Teams 2 Lgs A--Rk SFG 3B 18 2008 20 Giants ARIZ Rk SFG 3B 3 2008 20 Salem-Keizer NORW A- SFG 3B 15 2009 21 SanJose CALL A+ SFG 3B 116 2010 22 Richmond EL AA SFG 3B 122 2011 23 Fresno PCL AAA SFG LF 2 2011 23 Fresno PCL AAA SFG 3B 111 2011 23 Fresno PCL AAA SFG 1B 9 4 Seasons 378 3B (4 seasons) 3B 367 1B (1 season) 1B 9 LF (1 season) LF 2
That might seem like overkill, but the essentials boil down to he knows how to take a walk — something desperately lacking on the big club — and he’s been a league average batter at each minor league level. The weird thing is that Gillaspie’s reputation has always been that of a player that wouldn’t defensively stick at third base. Every scouting report that I’ve ever read on him states that he’s a poor defender at third. And yet, here we are, 367 career minor league games at third base. Which makes it even stranger that the Giants haven’t had Gillaspie taking balls at second base at some point in his minor league career. Doubly strange when you consider the overall health of Sanchez and the current major league options at the position.
ZiPS has Gillaspie projected at a slash of .261/.324/ .376 (90 OPS+) which is totally fine for second base. Gillaspie isn’t a flashy prospect by any stretch of the imagination, but if he can even adequately handle second base there’s a real chance that he might have something of a major league career. It’s strange the Giants haven’t moved Gillaspie to second base yet. He’ll most likely start the year in AAA and if he’s taking balls at second when the season opens the Giants might very well be making a statement about second base. Depending on Sanchez’s health and the other options at second, trying to get Gillaspie some feeling for the position seems like a smart idea. We’ll have to wait and see.
I have to include this video
Ty Wigginton, major league right fielder.