The San Francisco Giants have rebuilt a two-time World Series championship franchise from the ground up. Much of the team's recent success can be attributed to the organization's farm system as opposed to free-agent stars demanding hefty paychecks.
Two Cy Youngs, a Rookie of the Year and an NL MVP. That's what comes out of a crop that includes Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Sergio Romo, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford.
All homegrown. All integral parts of the Giants' success.
The question now: who's next?
The Giants' minor league system has struck gold before. Several new prospects, both the expected and unexpected, are looking to prove the Giants will hit the motherlode again.
In terms of pitching, two of the top prospects in the farm system, right-handers Clayton Blackburn and Kyle Crick, are performing well in the early weeks of the San Jose Giants' 2013 season.
San Jose Giants' manager Andy Skeels is impressed with his 2013 roster, as per Glenn Reeves of the San Jose Mercury News:
"This group reminds me of 2009 when we had Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford...A lot of kids with very high ceilings. This pitching staff is a collection of some of the finest arms I've seen in a long time."
Skeels should be impressed with his San Jose Giants; nine of the top 30 prospects in the Giants' system play for San Jose. Of those nine, seven are pitchers: Crick, Blackburn, Adalberto Mejia, Edwin Escobar, Chris Marlowe, Josh Osich and Cody Hall.
Who is the top pitching prospect in the Giants' farm system?
So far, Crick has posted a 0.93 ERA in 9.2 innings. Although his control remains iffy (nine walks in nine innings pitched), the 20-year-old has also accumulated 12 strikeouts. His fastball and slider remain at the top of his repertoire, but as he continues his professional career, his off-speed pitches should improve along with any control problems.
One minor hiccup: an oblique injury sidelined Crick April 19th, according to Jonathan Raymond via MiLB.com.
Crick's success should come as no surprise, seeing how he is currently ranked 84th on the MiLB.com "Top 100 2013 Prospect Watch."
Not to be overshadowed, Clayton Blackburn is off to a stellar start of the season. In four starts, Blackburn is 2-0, going 22 innings and posting a 1.64 ERA (MiLB.com).
Moving away from pitching, several Giants prospects are establishing themselves at the plate.
Potential slugger Gary Brown is already on the Giants' radar and remains a highly touted prospect. However, Brown has struggled in Triple-A Fresno thus far, batting .200 with 16 hits—coupled with 16 strikeouts.
Still, other prospects are finding success at the plate. Catcher Johnny Monell went on a tear in spring training (.476/.522/.714) before eventually being demoted to Triple-A Fresno. Monell has managed to maintain his hot streak offensively, posting a .297/.395/.676 slash line.
Back in San Jose, second baseman Ryan Cavan has begun to distinguish himself both offensively and defensively. He is off to a red-hot start in 2013, batting .345 right out of the gate. Comparatively speaking, Cavan batted .228 while in Double-A in 2012.
Cavan's splits are still lopsided: .240 against lefties versus .390 against righties. He is more consistent defensively, having been named the top defensive second baseman in Minor League Baseball in 2012. While Cavan's timetable toward possible MLB service is less certain than Brown's or even Monell's, his performance in San Jose thus far merits consideration.
The organization's farm system currently boasts a wide range of talented prospects looking to make their mark and become the next Matt Cain or Buster Posey. As the season continues, the Giants will have a clearer picture on who the future faces of the franchise will be. They certainly have a long list to choose from.