For a team that barely had any sort of the minor league system three years ago, the San Francisco Giants can now say they have one of the best around.
This was affirmed today when Baseball America released its annual Top 100 Prospect List and the Giants had four of the top 45 prospects on the list, with both Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey being named two of the best 15 in all of minor league baseball.
That's something few Giants fans could've imagined when the Giants continually gave up draft pick after draft pick during the glory days of the Barry Bonds era.
Brian Sabean has not only kept the draft picks in San Francisco, but he has also selected some great players for the future that have certainly lived up to the position in the draft.
It started with Tim Lincecum in 2006 and we all know how that pick turned out.
Now, the next wave of the Giants' highly touted prospects are prepping themselves to move up to the big club in the next couple of seasons.
The 19-year-old Bumgarner, who was named the team's top prospect last month, has gotten all types of recognition for his outstanding efforts in 2008.
And being named as the No. 9 prospect in the game only confirms he's one of the best pitching prospects around.
Bumgarner could be batterymates at Double-A Connecticut this year with fellow blue-chip prospect Posey, the 2008 Golden Spikes winner who is the only one of the Giants' big four prospects in big league camp this spring.
Baseball America estimates both will hit the bigs in 2010. Posey will in all likelihood be the Giants' starting catcher a year from now if Bengie Molina isn't re-signed after the upcoming season.
While he does need to learn how to call games and tighten up his defense behind the plate, his best attribute is clearly his bat. As BA points out, Posey had a Division I-best .879 slugging percentage.
If Posey lives up the comparisons between him and Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t become a top-tier catcher.
It's not until back-to-back positions at No. 44 and No. 45 that we find the other two Giants prospects on the list, starting pitcher Tim Alderson and first baseman Angel Villalona.
Alderson, like Bumgarner and Posey, has an estimated time of arrival of 2010.
He could probably be a productive reliever in the bigs right now, but the Giants don’t have any plans to move him from the rotation.
All three players will likely all be September call-ups, but don’t expect them to do much other than watch, sort of like what the Giants did with third baseman Conor Gillaspie last season.
Villalona is the lone top prospect for the Giants who is on the slow yet steady track to the majors. Baseball America projects him to arrive in the bigs in 2012, but because he is only 18, that’s not really a problem.
He has moved up one level a season since he signed back with the Giants for a then-club record $2.1 million in 2007, and the Giants have made it quite clear since the day he signed that he will not be rushed unless he forces them to.
Like Alderson and Bumgarner, 2008 was his first full year in professional baseball. He improved every month and if he can stay away from the buffet and keep improving, he will likely be a regular starter by the age of 21.
And there’s no reason to think the Giants will steer away from the influx of young talent in their system. They hold the sixth pick in the June draft and have been increasingly active in the international market since signing Villalona.
For all the criticism that general manager Brian Sabean gets for signing over-the-hill veterans and pulling the trigger on bad trades, he has to get props for transforming the Giants system from worst to almost the top in just three years.
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