The trade deadline approaches. When I read stuff like this, I get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. Trading for Marco Scutaro — when he was easily available earlier in the offseason — seems like a particularly Giants thing to do.
A trade is coming. Or not, I have no idea. It’s no lie to say that the Giants’ farm system has taken a beating this year. Prospects have struggled, been hurt, or a combination of the two. If the season ended today, most would rank the Giants’ farm around the back-end of baseball. But, if the Giants do decide to make a trade, it raises the question: “Who is valuable in the system?”
Let’s take a look.
The big trade chips:
- Gary Brown, CF – After adjusting to Double-A Richmond – and working on his swing mechanics – Brown has recovered a good bit from a difficult start, posting an overall batting line of .290/.353/.410. In the Eastern League, that batting line is approximately 10 percent above average. Brown’s package of plus-defense and blazing speed on the basepaths will continue to be his selling point. The good news is that his bat probably isn’t as bad as it looked at first glance in Double-A. He’s still the team’s No.1 prospect.
- Tommy Joseph, C – Joseph is still a young catcher – he just turned 21 – that’s held his own in Double-A Richmond. His batting line of .264/.313/.400 isn’t the stuff of legend, but his raw skills combined with his age, league context, and improvements on defense make him a pretty solid prospect.
- Kyle Crick, SP – Crick seems like your classic hard-throwing prospect with control issues. He’s relatively new to pitching, and it’s shown at times. The raw stuff, however, is undeniable. This is traditionally the kind of pitcher the Giants have had good success with. His strikeouts-per-nine (K/9) currently sits at 10.08; and, his walks-per-nine (BB/9) sits at 6.29. Crick is a high-upside power-arm that would improve any team’s farm system.
- Clayton Blackburn, SP – We largely whiffed on Blackburn on our pre-season Top 15 Prospect List. What Blackburn has done this season has been hugely impressive, and most likely pushed him into the top five prospects in the system. A 2011 16th round pick, Blackburn has thrown 96.1 innings for the Augusta Greenjackets. Over those 96.1 innings, Blackburn has struck out 106 batters versus 14 walks. That’s an eye-popping K/BB ratio of 7.57. Blackburn is looking like a major draft day steal and a fast riser in the system.
The smaller trade chips:
- Joe Panik, 2B/SS – Panik has “draft pedigree” but he’s struggled this year in San Jose. He’s unlikely to stay at SS in the majors and his hit tool – which was graded as his only average or above-average tool on draft day – hasn’t shown up. Panik is hitting .267/.349/.374 in an offense first league (California League). That’s about seven percent below league average for the CAL. He’s shown the ability to work a walk, but everything else about Panik’s game looks like it has stalled. It would be a different story if he could play SS in the majors, but he can’t. At the moment, Panik’s future looks like one of a utility infielder.
- Mike Kickham, SP – Kickham’s a lefty with decent velocity and emerging breaking stuff, but one that’s had trouble throwing strikes (5.1 BB/9). Pre-season we had him ranked at #15 in the system. Due to system attrition, Kickham might move up a few spots, but he hasn’t done much to warrant an increase in rank.
- Chris Heston, SP – The Giants would probably be willing to part with Heston in a minor trade. Heston’s ceiling is probably a 4/5 starter in the majors. He’s having a great season in Double-A Richmond – 2.30 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 8.09 K/9, 1.96 BB/9 – but he’s more of a sinker/control guy than a hard-throwing strikeout machine. Because of the stuff, his ceiling is limited; though, that doesn’t mean he’s valueless.
- Conor Gillaspie, “3B” – Gillaspie is off to another perfectly normal year in Triple-A Fresno, batting .302/.367/.420. Conor’s biggest strength is hit hit tool – he’s always had the ability to get the bat on the ball – but he doesn’t hit for enough power to fit the traditional third baseman mold, and his defense is below-average at the position. It probably says something that the Giants have gone with players like Joaquin Arias and Emmanuel Burriss over Gillaspie this year. On the right team, Gillaspie would be a nice bench/role player.
The feeling with the Giants, at the moment, is that the team will upgrade with minor pieces — probably another bullpen arm and a bench player. So, it’s likely that none of the “big chips” will move at the deadline. But, you never really know, and if the Giants do decide to make a bigger trade, they’ve got a couple of pieces to use.