The San Francisco Giants season is 50 games in, and from the results at this point here is my attempt at an early-season prognosis: This team is built to contend for years.
Does this help at all for the current season?
Probably not, but Giants fans have grown to become so used to having contending teams and so worried about winning now, that the future has been mortgaged for the sake of the present. It is this very principle that really hung the farm system out to dry, producing very little optimism of what was coming up the pipeline (paging Brian Sabean).
Fast forward to 2009 and the Giants have plenty of farm system talent from San Jose to Fresno, which can produce the next wave of contending teams without having to overpay for free agents.
Players like Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Pablo Sandoval, Fred Lewis, Brian Wilson, and others are just the tip of the iceberg.
In the farm system, here are a few players to keep an eye on who might just end up with a September call-up to the bigs, along with some other names for down the road:
IF Kevin Frandsen (.317, 5 HR, 22 RBI; AAA Fresno)
He's been with the big club before, and he is suffering from hurting his Achilles' tendon last year, but with everyday playing time he can be serviceable.
SP Kevin Pucetas (5-1, 3.47 ERA, 59.2 IP; AAA Fresno)
He's been an under the radar starter but he was impressive during his full season in the Cal League with San Jose and has continued his steady hand in Fresno.
OF John Bowker (.339, 4 HR, 31 RBI; AAA Fresno)
One of the next young outfielders that could come through sooner rather than later, Randy Winn's expiring contract along with Schierholtz currently with the club makes for an interesting situation.
SS Brandon Crawford (.273, 1 HR, 3 RBI; AA Connecticut; .371, 6 HR, 17 RBI; A San Jose)
This is yet another gem unearthed in the draft out of the fourth round of last year's draft. If the plan to keep Burriss at second is set in stone, this could be a fun double-play combo for years.
SP Madison Bumgarner (4-0, 0.78 ERA, AA Connecticut; 3-1, 1.48 ERA, A San Jose)
The most highly touted pitching prospect in the Giants farm system right now. The way he's going, it wouldn't be a stretch to see him in a cameo appearance at AT&T this fall. Let's remember this though: He turns 20 in August.
SP Tim Alderson (2-1, 2.00 ERA, AA Connecticut; 1-1, 4.15 ERA, A San Jose)
In his first full pro season in the Cal League last season, Alderson looked like anything but a kid straight out of high school. His stuff and makeup are great, and he could be a front-end guy for years. Imagine a rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Alderson, and Bumgarner...oh my...
OF Roger Kieschnick (.321, 6 HR, 26 RBI, A San Jose)
He hit a home run at Municipal Stadium that hit the video board in right center, typically death valley for lefty power hitters. He has a great bat and plays a excellent outfield.
1B Angel Villalona (.313, 8 HR, 33 RBI, A San Jose)
They're not rushing this kid, and it's a wise choice. His bat is unbelievable, in fact hitting a 463-foot titanic blast the other night. The mental side of his game needs cultivating, but he'll only turn 19 in September. Patience is key with him.
C Buster Posey (.303, 8 HR, 39 RBI, A San Jose)
In terms of his bat, he is definitely ready to be moved up by now. As long as they continue to work with him behind the plate, he will be a great catcher by the bay for years.
OF Thomas Neal (.320, 8 HR, 34 RBI, A San Jose)
This is a prospect that no one seems to be talking about. I can sum up his bat like this; if he squares up on a pitch, forget about it. His bat speed is exceptional, and his defense is great as well.
There are plenty more in the farm system, but this is just showing how deep the minors are with talent.
The years are bright for the black and orange, and as long as the front office continues to show a commitment to building from within, this is a homegrown team that fans will really get excited about and pack the jewel by the bay for great baseball well into the next decade.