San Francisco Giants: Full Scouting Report for Each Prospect at Spring Training
The San Francisco Giants' run of dominance over the last four seasons has been built predominantly on the team's ability to acquire and develop amateur talent.
Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Sergio Romo form the Giants' current homegrown core. Brian Wilson and Jonathan Sanchez were late-round draft picks who played key roles on the 2010 title team.
Zack Wheeler, one of the game's top prospects, was drafted by the Giants and then used as a trade chip to acquire Carlos Beltran at the 2011 trading deadline. The Giants also used the farm system to acquire right fielder Hunter Pence and second baseman Marco Scutaro in deadline deals last July.
Ryan Vogelsong, an All-Star in 2011 and the team's best pitcher last postseason, was also drafted and developed by the Giants before being used in a trade to acquire Jason Schmidt more than a decade ago. He returned to the organization on a minor league deal prior to 2011 and is now a staple in the rotation.
General manager Brian Sabean and top lieutenants John Barr, Dick Tidrow and Jeremy Shelley have done an excellent job of acquiring amateur talent. Barr, Tidrow and Shelley were rewarded with promotions on Wednesday for their work in the front office. Sabean, the game's longest-tenured GM, could be the recipient of a long-term contract extension in the near future for his efforts in guiding the Giants to two of the last three World Series championships.
With talents like Wheeler, Posey, Bumgarner, Crawford and Belt exiting the minor leagues via promotions and a trade, the team no longer possesses a top-notch farm system. However, most of the Giants' top prospects are in camp this spring.
Let's take an in-depth look at each of the current Giants prospects who are at spring training.
No. 1: Gary Brown
Brown is the Giants' top prospect in camp, and he ranks as the top position player in the farm system. After a down year at Double-A Richmond, he's fallen back on every prospect ranking list. Baseball America dropped him off of its list after ranking him 38th last season, and MLB.com dropped him from 48th to 100th on its list.
His range in center field and speed on the bases will allow him to be a sure-fire big league player in the near future. If his hitting ability doesn't improve from where it was last season, his ultimate role could be that of a fourth outfielder. If he can get his offense closer to where it was two years ago at High-A San Jose, he has a chance to be not only an everyday player in center field, but a perennial All-Star.
Cameron Maybin, Drew Stubbs, Michael Bourn, Ben Revere, Denard Span, Gregor Blanco and Coco Crisp are all starting outfielders predominantly because of their defense and baserunning abilities. As offensive output throughout baseball continues to decline, teams are placing more of a premium on preventing runs with defense and creating additional runs on the bases.
That shift should benefit Brown even if his offense doesn't improve in the upper levels of the minor leagues. His athleticism and plus speed are his calling cards, and those tools are in high demand right now.
No. 2: Joe Panik
Panik is the second-best prospect in camp behind Brown. He doesn't have an elite tool like Brown's speed, but he does everything well.
Defensively, he's a solid defender at second base and shortstop with a decent arm. At the plate, he has excellent discipline and good contact skills. He's walked more than he's struck out thus far in his minor league career, leading to a .312/.379/.424 batting line.
His performance at Double-A Richmond this season will go a long way toward determining his future with the Giants. If he can perform as well there as he did last year in San Jose, he could begin to push veteran Marco Scutaro for the everyday job at second base next spring.
The overall offensive output is currently low for middle infielders in Major League Baseball. The average MLB second baseman hit just .256/.317/.382 last season, which is a bar Panik should be able to clear.
His ceiling is that of an everyday middle infielder. In the worst-case scenario, he should at least be an above-average utility player.
No. 3: Andrew Susac
The Giants used their second-round draft choice in 2011 on Andrew Susac, a catcher with a high ceiling out of Oregon State.
He had a bit of a disappointing season at San Jose last year, hitting just .244 while striking out 100 times in 426 plate appearances. He did manage to put up a .351 on-base percentage despite his low batting average, and scouts remain high on his tools.
With catcher Tommy Joseph being sent out in the trade for Pence at last year's trading deadline and Hector Sanchez graduating to the big leagues, Susac is currently the best catcher in the system.
However, with Posey and Sanchez entrenched as the catchers for the Giants for at least the next four years, Susac's best opportunity for advancement will be through a trade.
No. 4: Michael Kickham
Kickham has struck out 243 hitters in 264.2 minor league innings using a four-pitch mix that includes a fastball, slider, curve and changeup. The curve and changeup are still developing, according to Marc Hulet of FanGraphs, but the slider is plus and the fastball can get up to 94 MPH.
Kickham had an excellent 3.05 ERA at Double-A Richmond last season while striking out 137 and giving up only eight home runs in 150.2 innings of work. Additionally, he held right-handed hitters to a .221 batting average last season.
Missing bats, keeping the ball in the park and getting opposite-handed hitters out are three of the keys to pitching at the top of a rotation. However, the one thing holding Kickham back is his control, as he's walked 3.9 hitters per nine innings pitched (W/9) thus far in his minor league career.
If his control doesn't improve, he could still be a candidate for a fifth starter job down the line. If he can cut down on the walks, he could be a mid-rotation starter as soon as 2014.
No. 5: Chris Heston
Heston doesn't have the same type of velocity as Kickham, but he's had more success in the minor leagues because of his outstanding control.
He's a sinker-ball pitcher who throws strikes and has what scouts call pitchability—an advanced understanding of how to pitch. Thus far in his minor league career he's done everything you'd want a future starter to do: Throw strikes (2.3 W/9), miss bats (7.9 K/9), get opposite-handed hitters out and keep the ball in the park (0.3 HR/9).
He should open the season at Triple-A Fresno, and he could be the first pitcher called up if the Giants need an emergency starter. The jump from the pitcher-friendly Eastern League to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this season will help the Giants determine if Heston can compete in the big leagues despite having below-average velocity.
Like Kickham, he profiles as a mid-rotation or back-end starting pitcher. With Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito hitting free agency after this season, Kickham and Heston could be in the running for a rotation job at this time next year.
No. 6: Heath Hembree
The Giants have had success drafting and developing relievers, and Hembree could be the next closer to come up through the system.
He has the fastball velocity and wipe-out slider needed to follow in the footsteps of Brian Wilson and current closer Sergio Romo. He could contribute for the Giants out of the bullpen as soon as this season, but he isn't likely to make the Opening Day roster. Veterans like Ramon Ramirez, Chad Gaudin and Scott Proctor have the inside track at the final spot in the bullpen.
Hembree needs more seasoning in the minor leagues after an injury derailed his season last year. He also needs to refine his control after posting a 4.7 W/9 ratio at Triple-A Fresno last year. He has the stuff to miss bats in the late innings, but free passes are a manager's worst nightmare in those critical situations.
If Hembree can improve his control this season, he should get his first look with the Giants in the middle innings this year and eventually step in as a setup man or closer. Guys who can run it up there in the high-90s don't stay in the minor leagues for very long after all.
No. 7: Roger Kieschnick
The Giants 2008 draft might not be done bearing fruit, as Kieschnick still has a chance to develop into a contributor for the Giants. The Giants drafted Posey in the first round that year and also got their starting shortstop in Brandon Crawford in the fourth round.
In between Posey and Crawford, they used a third-round pick on Kieschnick. He had a very solid season as Posey and Crawford's teammate at San Jose back in 2009—hitting .296/.345/.532 with 37 doubles and 23 home runs.
However, Double-A chewed him up over the next two years as he hit only .254/.307/.409 while also battling injuries that limited him to 60 games in 2010.
Kieschnick is back on the radar after hitting .306/.376/.604 with 15 home runs at Triple-A Fresno last year. Unfortunately, an injury once again limited him to only 55 games.
Scouting director John Barr told Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area that the Giants still have high hopes for Kieschnick:
“We drafted a physical guy with big-time power who could be an offensive and defensive contributor. We saw an everyday player. I still believe he can be an everyday player, and a good one.”
His struggles at Double-A and his injury history will probably lead the Giants to conclude that he needs more time in the minor leagues this season. However, if he stays healthy and has another big season there, he could get a look in the big leagues this season.
The Giants' left field combination of Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres could prove to be offensively challenged, and that would open the door for Kieschnick. At 26 years old, this is the time for him to prove that he can be more than an extra outfielder for the Giants.
No. 8: Francisco Peguero
Peguero probably has the best chance to make the Opening Day roster out of all of the prospects in camp.
He's a right-handed hitter with excellent bat speed and the ability to hit for average. He also has good speed on the bases, enough range to play center field and a rocket for an arm.
However, Peguero's plate discipline limits his ceiling to that of a fourth outfielder. He's walked only 95 times in 2,582 minor league plate appearances, which is why his on-base percentage is only .335 despite a career .305 batting average.
Peguero will have to battle Cole Gillespie and Brett Pill for a job on the Giants bench this spring. He's off to a good start in spring training—going for 4-for-8 with a double in four games thus far.
His plate discipline and power will have to take giant leaps forward for him to become more than a fourth outfielder. At the age of 24, there's still time for him to develop, but the clock is ticking.
No. 9: Adam Duvall
Duvall has kept putting up big numbers at every stop in the minor leagues after being drafted in the 11th round back in 2010 out of Louisville.
He hit .285/.385/.527 with 22 home runs at Low-A Augusta in 2011 and followed that up by hitting .258/.327/.487 with 30 home runs at High-A San Jose last year.
As the 52 home runs over the last two years show, Duvall can hit for power. He also has an excellent arm at third base, but there are questions about his ability to stay at the hot corner.
Current third baseman Pablo Sandoval is under contract for the next two seasons. That makes Duvall's performance at Double-A this season critical.
If he carries his power from the lower minor leagues forward, he could show the organization that he is the heir apparent to Sandoval at third base. If he struggles to make the transition against stiffer competition this year, the organization may need to spend next offseason exploring a long-term deal for Sandoval.
No. 10: Brett Bochy
Brett Bochy, the son of Giants manager Bruce Bochy, dominated at Double-A Richmond last season before being shut down due to arm fatigue late in the year. He also underwent Tommy John surgery in college, so durability remains a concern.
Bochy has been able to miss minor league bats without elite fastball velocity. He's struck out 11.9 hitters per nine innings en route to a 2.05 ERA thus far in his minor league career. He has shown better control than Hembree in the minor leagues, but he doesn't have the same caliber of stuff.
He's behind Hembree and the veterans in camp on the bullpen depth chart, and he was hit hard in his first outing this spring. Bochy will likely spend the season at Triple-A Fresno, though a September call-up is a strong possibility if he continues to pitch well and stay healthy.