As a San Francisco Giants fan and Baseball America geek, my mouth dropped and visions of what the future holds came rushing through my head when the San Jose Giants announced their 2009 Opening Day roster.
The Giants' Single-A affiliate was good last year, finishing with an 85-55 record, but this year's squad resembles one that could very well make up a portion of the big club within the next few years.
Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson, the organization's top two pitching prospects, will be throwing to Buster Posey, the top hitting prospect. The infield will consist of Angel Villalona, Nick Noonan, and Conor Gillaspie.
Six of the Giants' top seven prospects will be playing on the same team.
Yes, you heard that correctly.
Throw in left fielder Scott Barnes, No. 9 in Baseball America's Giants rankings, and that's seven out of the top 10 who will start the season in the South Bay.
Want a look at the future? San Jose will be the present opportunity.
However, it's not expected to last long.
The reason the Giants' minor league stars are in San Jose is to avoid the poor weather of their Double-A affiliate in Norwich, CT.
Catch 'em while you can.
After winning the California League ERA title a year ago, Alderson will be the first to make the jump to Double-A when the weather warms up a bit. If Posey and Bumgarner show they can hang—and there is no reason why they shouldn't—they'll be promoted as well.
Noonan, who has drawn comparisons to Phillies second baseman Chase Utley over the past year, could make the jump as well, but being 19, he won't be rushed unless the Giants are forced to do so.
The one player who is likely to be in San Jose the entire season is first baseman Villalona. With Big V being just 18 years old, he still has a lot to learn. Combined with the Giants saying there are no plans to rush the hulking Dominican, going one minor league level per year seems the likely path.
That's not bad.
One level a year will mean Villalona should make the majors at 21. By that time, it'll seem like he's been around forever.
Regardless of how many prospects remain in San Jose this summer, this is certainly one of the most exciting times the Giants minor league system has gone through. Gone are the days of throwing away draft picks for overpriced veterans.
Now, the vision is to not spend the money solely on free agents but to spend just as much on the development of youngsters.
This change in philosophy has certainly seen the Giants storm up the organization rankings. Just five years ago, the Giants were the model of how to not build a franchise from within.
Now, with all the losses and frustrations, the Giants have stockpiled first-round picks and zoomed to the top five of Baseball America's rankings.
The good side is starting to come to the forefront and fans should only concentrate on what the future has in store.
The difference is that there are hitters as well. Take notice: On the list of top prospects in San Jose to begin the season, there are more hitters than there are pitchers.
Get used to these guys, Bay Area baseball fans. These kids will be around for awhile.
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