(Preemptive warning: This post is long.)
With the 2012 First Year Player draft completed, I thought it would be a good time to revisit our 2012 Prospect List to see who is rising, and who is falling.
15. LHP, Mike Kickham
Level: AA Richmond; 2012 statistics: 51.2 IP, 8.19 K/9, 5.23 BB/9, 0.35 HR/9, 3.31 ERA, 3.63 FIP
Why we liked him:
“Kickham starts off our list (in reverse order) as the 15th best prospect in the Giants system. By my estimation, Kickham has two things going for him that get him on the list: 1) he’s a left-hander and 2) he throws in the low 90s. He didn’t have an ultra-impressive year in Augusta (111.2 IP, 3.0 BB/9, 8.3 K/9, 4.11 ERA, 3.48 FIP) but as a LHP that can crack 90 miles per hour, he’ll get his chances.” — Chris Quick
The Giants were somewhat aggressive with Kickham this year, jumping him past San Jose and the results are a little mixed. He’s posting a decent strikeout rate (8.19 per nine) but his walk rate increased by nearly two walks in the transition to Double-A. Kickham is still a lefty with average/above-average velocity and because of that he’ll continue to get chances to figure things out. For now, Kickham gets a ‘neutral’ ranking.Though, with the overall weak state of the system, I could see changing him to a riser by year’s end.
14. 3B, Adam Duvall
Level: A+ San Jose; 2012 statistics: 253 PA, 7.9 BB%, 19.8 K%, .204 ISO, .362 wOBA, 120 wRC+
Whey we liked him:
Adam Duvall doesn’t have draft pedigree (11th round pick in 2010 out of Louisville) or scout love (he didn’t even have an entry filled out by Baseball America in the 2010 Advanced Draft Database), but what he does have is an impressive season at A-level baseball for the Augusta Green Jackets. This past season, while playing mostly third base, Duvall hit .285/.385/.527. In 510 PAs he drew 59 walks, struck out 98 times, and hit 22 home runs. Scouts seem to be down on his defense, and whether or not he fattened up his numbers against poor pitching, but his combination of power and patience is intriguing. — Chris Quick
Much like Kickham, I’m not sure Duvall has really improved his stock this year. Last year he was a below-average defender with the ability to hit for power. This year he is a below-average defender (not sure I’ve heard a good scouting report on Duvall’s defense yet) with the ability to hit for some power. A .204 ISO isn’t overly impressive in the California League, but Duvall hasn’t been a trainwreck. He’s just Adam Duvall. And in this system, that’s probably good enough.
13. 3B, Conor Gillaspie
Level: AAA Fresno; 2012 statistics: 163 PA, 6.1 BB%, 12.9 K%, .142 ISO, .374 wOBA, 123 wRC+
Why we (tepidly!) liked him:
I like Conor Gillaspie’s plate discipline and little else. I recall still holding out hope after his first season in San Jose, when his then-coach mentioned that poor umpiring probably cost him 30 walks that were instead strikeouts. He doesn’t hit for enough power, average, or play any position well enough to provide much value to justify a spot on the 25-man, and his time to prove that he does belong–by distinguishing himself otherwise–is probably now. On the other hand, I’d rather see what he can do at the major league level than Emmanuel Burris at this point. — Rory Paap
Going back and reading some of the staff comments on a guy like Gillaspie is a pretty funny exercise. Most of us were totally “meh” about Conor’s chances. I’ll harp on this until I die, but he makes a lot of sense as a second baseman where his bat would play much better. However, given the Giants’ problems at second base, and the fact that the team has always kept Gillaspie at third base, tells me that the organization believes he doesn’t have the chops to handle the keystone. Bummer.
Also, never forget this:
12. 3B, Chris Dominguez
Level: AA Richmond, AAA Fresno; 2012 statistics: [Richmond] 197 PA, 3.6 BB%, 25.4 K%, .080 ISO, .261 wOBA, 56 wRC+, [Fresno] 23 PA. 4.3 BB%, 30.4 K%, .091 ISO, .338 wOBA, 99 wRC+
Why we liked him:
Chris Dominguez has some issues that keeps him from being a top prospect. He had some ugly at-bats in San Jose last year, swinging at terrible pitches and lacking command of the strike zone. He also had god awful glove work on defense. I don’t know if he improved in Richmond, but I hope he did, because his good qualities are off the charts. He has tremendous power and an elite throwing arm. He also has good footwork around the bag at third and good range. I really want him to stick there, but in the event of a corner outfield shortage (yeah right, they’ll just stick Brandon Belt there and say they’re doing the right thing) having Dominguez out there would not be the end of the world. If he starts out again in Richmond I wouldn’t mind, but I’d like to see him in Fresno sooner than later. — Chris Martinez
The good things about Dominguez can be summed up briefly: raw power and throwing arm. The bad things, well, they go on and on. Dominguez started the year as a AA-repeat and flopped. Hard. He was still walking at the same non-existent rate (and swinging and missing a bunch), but his power was cut in half, dropping his ISO all the way down to .080. By wRC+, while in Richmond, he was 44 percent below the league average batter. Regardless of his AA implosion, the Giants moved him up a level. At 25-years-old, I have a hard time seeing any future for Dominguez in the big leagues as a position player. Maybe a conversion to the mound could be in his future?
11. LHP, Josh Osich
Level: A+ San Jose; 2012 statistics: 8.2 IP, 10.38 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9, 1.04 ERA, 1.58 FIP
Why we liked him:
Every quality system needs to have a nice mix of both high-ceiling and high-probability prospects. Osich fits in very nicely as one of the former for the Giants. Many lists had him as a late first-round or sandwich pick going into June, and were it not for the Tommy John surgery he had, he may well have been a top-10 pick. You have to hope some of his elite velocity will return with more time, as he once touched 98 and still features a decent changeup. There seems an okay chance Osich will jump up on the list or fall off of it completely after 2012, depending on health and how well he pitches in his pro debut. — Rory Paap
Osich’s pitcher-type is something we’ve all seen before: huge stuff, injury concerns. And that’s pretty much what Osich has done so far this year. He’s only pitched 8.2 innings — his MILB.com gamelogs indicate he went from 4/29/12 to 6/5/12 without pitching — and that’s something to worry about. Osich recently tweeted that his arm was OK, but it’s hard not to wonder what’s going on. For now, Osich gets a neutral ranking; he could easily be a riser by season’s end. The stuff is that good.
10. C, Hector Sanchez
Level: MLB; 2012 statistics: 80 PA, 1.3 BB%, 22.5 K%, .130 ISO, .289 wOBA, 80 wRC+
Why we liked him:
While I enjoyed getting a chance to watch Sanchez in the majors last year, I was a little puzzled by his promotion. He had found a nice power stroke in San Jose for a little under a half season, and apparently that was enough for the normally conservative Giants to decide he was done with the lower minors.
Considering any catcher who can hit lefty gets a automatic membership in the International Brotherhood of Backup Catchers, Sanchez seems like a lock to see some big league playing time. He’s certainly an option to backup Posey this year, but I would worry that this could stall his (admittedly quite bizarre) hitting development. — Otis Anderson
Breaking camp with the team out of Spring Training, Hector Sanchez’s bizarre journey continues. Sanchez’s walk-rate is truly horrifying (one walk in 80 PAs) but he’s young, and has flashed some offensive skills at times. I’m not sure what to make of him long term, but he looks like a guy that should be able to carve out a career as a backup catcher with no problem; maybe something more if his bat progresses. For any prospect, having a major league career should be counted as a huge success. Hector’s our first ‘riser’.
9. SS, Ehire Adrianza
Level: AA Richmond; 2012 statistics: 217 PA, 9.2 BB%, 18.9 K%, .053 ISO, .239 wOBA, 41 wRC+
Why we liked him:
I could be the biggest Ehire booster on BCB. In general, the quality of the shortstop position seems low right now (both in the majors and minors) and Ehire does some things quite well; he’s patient (10.6% career walk-rate); he’s an above-average defender at SS; and, at 22-years-old in 2012 he’s still young. He’s not much of a hitter (career .690 OPS in the minors) but with his other tools, he can be an asset in the majors if he can hang around a .700 OPS, and his time in San Jose (.845 OPS, 262 PAs) hints at, hopefully, some maturation on offense. — Chris Quick
The problem with hoping that weak offensive players can eventually figure it out enough to become average — or within range — offensive players is that it often doesn’t work out. The only way to describe Ehire’s season so far is “dismal.” I will note that his BABIP is quite low (.225) in AA, but it’s looking more and more like the window for “potential starting position player” is closing and the window for “late inning defensive replacement bench player” is opening. Let this be a lesson: Hitting is really hard.
8. OF, Francisco Peguero
Level: AAA Fresno; 2012 statistics: 232 PA, 3.9 BB%, 17.7 K%, .148 ISO, .276 wOBA, 58 wRC+
Why we liked him:
Francisco Peguero has loads of tools (hitting ability, running, throwing arm, emerging power) but the man does-not-walk, ever. Peguero owns a career 3.6% walk-rate in the minors and he seemed to get even more aggressive in AA Richmond last year. He battled a knee injury in 2011, but Peguero’s high-upside will keep him glued to many prospect lists. He might have the widest range of potential outcomes of any prospect on the Top 15. — Chris Quick
Looking at Peguero’s numbers in AAA makes my head hurt. Like really, really hurt. Overall, the numbers are poor. At the root of the problem is Peguero’s BABIP which currently sits at a career low .257. Coming into 2012, Peguero had posted the following BABIPs in his minor league career: .377, .331, .444, .396, .382, .345, and .346. Part of me wonders if Peguero’s low BABIP is due to some lost foot-speed, the byproduct of various knee injuries over time. Still, for a guy like Peguero that’s been labeled as an exciting guy to watch on offense, having him thud in AAA is pretty darned depressing.
7. RHP, Kyle Crick
Level: A Augusta; 2012 statistics: 40.0 IP, 11.48 K/9, 5.85 BB/9, 0.23 HR/9, 4.05 ERA, 3.53 FIP
Why we liked him:
Can you even remember the last time the Giants spent a upper round pick on a pitcher that they didn’t manage to either trade for a major league piece or develop into a major contributor? The third round pick on Clayton Tanner in 2006 is probably it. The Giants have earned an awful lot of credibility when it comes to players like Crick. — Otis Anderson
Credibility is right. The Giants have a knack for developing their pitchers and Crick is looking like a top candidate for the best prospect in the system at the moment. He’s coming off a 10 strikeout game on June 7th. Crick’s best pitch is still his fastball — a pitch he can pump into the mid-90s. The walks are high, but he’s new to pitching and the raw stuff is just too much to overlook. And he’s just 19-years-old in a league in which the average batter is 21-years-old. Keep your eye on Crick.
6. C, Andrew Susac
Level: A+ San Jose; 2012 statistics: 163 PA, 14.1 BB%, 25.2 K%, .111 ISO, .340 wOBA, 106 wRC+
Why we liked him:
Susac has yet to start his pro career, but he ranks highly in the Giants’ system on skills alone. He profiles as an athletic catcher with above-average power. Some thought, due to positional scarcity, Susac could go as high as the first round in the 2011 First Year Player Draft. The Giants should be thrilled to have picked him up in the second round with the 86th overall pick. — Chris Quick
Susac’s year so far in San Jose hasn’t been disappointing, but he it hasn’t been great, either. He’s walking a lot. He’s striking out a lot. He punched a guy in the face. He’s doing Susacy things. You probably expect a little more out of a college pick, performance-wise, but he’s still got a chance to be a pretty good prospect.
5. RHP, Heath Hembree
Level: AAA Fresno; 2012 statistics: 20.1 IP, 7.52 K/9, 4.43 BB/9, 0.89 HR/9, 5.31 ERA, 4.58 FIP
Why we liked him:
Keith Law made Hembree–shown here–the Giants’ sleeper prospect of 2011, and he basically nailed it. Hembree had an excellent year split between A-Advanced and Double-A, though he was slightly less successful–but with a better WHIP–in Richmond. Still, he has plenty of arm and has missed bats at a clip of 14 per nine innings so far in the minors.
There are a couple of reasons that Hembree doesn’t rank higher here. The first and most prominent is that he’s just a reliever, which is obviously a lot easier to find, draft and develop than a starter. The second is that he lacks polished command and a true second offering. Still, there’s a great chance he not only makes it to the big club soon but that he also contributes significantly. The Giants’ bearded closer is about one nagging injury and a few blown saves away from losing his job and saving the Giants a bunch of cash, assuming Hembree plays along with my little fantasy. — Rory Paap
It’s been tough going for Hembree this season in Frseno. His strikeout-rate has plummeted to a mere mortal 7.52 per nine; his walk-rate is still high at 4.43 per nine; and he’s battled some arm-tenderness more recently. I’m a stickler when it comes to grading relief prospects, but even so, Hembree’s struggles this season are a little shocking. I had visions of Hembree replacing Wilson sooner rather than later. If Hembree can A) get healthy and B) re-harness his stuff, he could finish the year on stable footing. But remember: pitchers are fickle creatures.
4. LHP, Eric Surkamp
Level: Injured; 2012 statistics: Injured
Why we liked him:
Despite Surkamp’s relatively disappointing debut last September, I’m also a pretty big fan of the southpaw. His numbers throughout his minor league career have been spectacular. I remain convinced that his unremarkable appearances in the bigs were the product of being a bit rushed and overwhelmed; his strengths–particularly control–seemed non-existent to the point that he hardly looked like the pitcher that we’d read about–and I’d actually seen in San Jose. I think he will settle in nicely in the middle or back of the rotation if he stays healthy, continues to control and mix his repertoire and maintains a high-80s heater. — Rory Paap
Remember that thing about pitchers being fickle creatures? Yeah. Surkamp threw 16.1 innings in Spring Training and hasn’t been heard from since. Details on Surkamp’s injury are a little sketchy. At one point he underwent a MRI on his pitching elbow that indicated that there was no structural damage, but in May he supposedly had a setback. The Giants will take their time with Surkamp.
3. C, Tommy Joseph
Level: AA Richmond; 2012 statistics: 167 PA, 6.0 BB%, 16.8 K%, .124 ISO, .317 wOBA, 95 wRC+
Why we liked him:
Tommy Joseph is a nice problem to have: a great hitting young catcher with good defense, but what do you do when you have that behind Buster Posey? Switch Joseph to first? It might come to pass, just to keep Joseph’s bat around. I am pleased at the swing the system has taken lately, to include more position players among the elite prospects, and I am also very blessed that I got to see guys like Brown, Joseph, Surkamp, Hembree, et. al. recently in San Jose. I believe I addressed some questions about Joseph’s defense and instincts behind the plate last summer in a piece on Bay City Ball. I saw good things from Joseph as a catcher, especially for someone so young. He should be in Double-A next year, which is fine for his track record, age, and development curve. — Chris Martinez
At first glance, Joseph’s numbers might not impress you, but consider the following: he’s a 20-year-old playing in AA that’s holding his own. The transition to the AA-level can be one of the most difficult jumps in minor league baseball. Joseph, to his credit, has advanced a level and kept his head above water. It’s also worth nothing that Joseph suffered a concussion in May. Joseph still profiles as a young catcher with good power. Another good trend with Joseph is that he’s cut his strike-rate each season he’s played — 24.5%, 18.2%, and 16.8 %. He could end up being the team’s #1 prospect by year’s end.
2. SS, Joe Panik (borderline: )
Level: A+ San Jose; 2012 statistics: 258 PA, 11.2 BB%, 8.1 K%, .097 ISO, .304 wOBA, 83 wRC+
Why we liked him:
The Giants will give Panik every chance to stick at SS, even though there are some doubts on whether or not he can handle the position. Panik, the Giants’ first round pick in the 2011 First Year Player Draft, jumped right into pro-ball without skipping a beat; in 304 PAs at Salem-Keizer, Panik hit .341/.401/.467 with 10 2B, 3 3B, and 6 HR. Panik doesn’t have any huge standout tools, but he’s well-rounded and his bat profiles well. He’ll make contact and flash gap-power. In addition, I think it’s worth noting that in a system full of hackers, Panik’s BB/K ratio while playing for the Volcanoes was 28 to 25, giving him some semblance of a patient and balanced hitter. — Chris Quick
Here’s the thing: if you’re considered an overdraft, you need to really hit at every level in order to prove yourself. After blistering the Northwest League last year, the Giants pushed Panik up to San Jose this year. The results, to put it mildly, have been disappointing. Panik came out of college and thus, carries the dreaded “college prospect” tag; meaning that he should move somewhat quickly. Panik, however, has struggled in San Jose. The walk-rate is good, but not much else is noteworthy.
1. CF, Gary Brown
Level: AA Richmond; 2012 statistics: 258 PA, 6.6 BB%, 15.1 K%, .072 ISO, .297 wOBA, 81 wRC+
Why we liked him:
Maybe I’ve just listened to too much Kevin Goldstein, but I’m really psyched to see what Gary Brown can do in the majors. A lot of people who know what they are talking about had Wheeler above Brown before the Beltran trade, but this was the guy that I was excited about.
The main thing that catches the imagination about Brown is how annoying he would be to play against. He’s an on-base threat who is also a threat on the bases. A speed guy with enough power that you can’t just groove one to him. A centerfielder that can turn triples into doubles and doubles into well-hit outs. He sounds like a total pain in the ass. — Otis Anderson
Remember when Gary Brown was going to be the speed demon that sprayed hits all over the field while playing mean, mean defense? Brown’s year in AA has been the ultimate gut-punch in a struggling system. The Giants famously chose to keep Gary Brown over Zack Wheeler — do not look at this — in the Carlos Beltran trade, and you’ve got to wonder how the team feels about that move these days. Brown still has some loud tools in his defense and baserunning, but the bat looks like it’s taken enormous steps backwards. It’s the difference between being a starting player and a bench player.
So, to recap:
Risers (): Kyle Crick, Tommy Joseph, Hector Sanchez [no longer a prospect]
No-changers (): Mike Kickham, Adam Duvall, Conor Gillaspie, Josh Osich, Andrew Susac, Joe Panik
Fallers (): Chris Dominguez, Ehire Adrianza, Francisco Peguero, Heath Hembree, Eric Surkamp, Gary Brown
It’s pretty clear that for the Giants, the first couple of months haven’t been kind to their farm system. I count just two risers in Crick and Joseph. When one looks at the top tiered talent in the system — Susac, Panik, Surkamp, Brown, Peguero — it’s a grim picture; almost all of the top level guys have had disastrous starts. Brown’s hitting seems entirely out of whack in AA; Surkamp has been hurt; Hembree’s been dealing with some injury issues and he’s been unimpressive when healthy; and Joe Panik isn’t hitting. Most systems can withstand a few of their top prospects crashing at the same time. But, for the Giants, I count a handful of pretty important prospects that have stalled out.
Things look even worse when you consider that the players that are surviving — Kickham, Duvall, Gillaspie — are hardly pieces that you want to build a major league roster around. Those are nice players to have, but if you’re looking for impact talent, it’s not there. The silver lining is that there’s still time left. Most minor league teams play until early September. A good three months can almost turn around anyone’s season. That’s one of the reasons why I’ll revisit this list at season’s end, but it’s clear that the overall health of the farm system, right now, is very poor.