With the finalization of Bruce Bochy's 25-man roster, it's time to take a look at where the San Francisco Giants' top prospects landed following the all-important decision. Only a few lucky youngsters cracked San Francisco's 2014 big league squad, with the majority of the top talents sent back to the minor leagues to continue to hone their skills.
With that being said, let's take a look at where the Giants' top 10 prospects stand at the beginning of the 2014 season and what we can expect from them in the future.
For the sake of consistency, these rankings follow MLB.com’s top 20 list of Giants prospects. While there’s no real consensus about the team's actual top 10 prospects, MLB.com’s compilation is the most recently updated list from a reputable source, and it should provide a good overall look at the best young players in the organization.
Notable Exceptions: Heath Hembree (No. 11), Joe Panik (No. 14), Gary Brown (No. 16), Michael Kickham (No. 17)
10. Derek Law, RP
Drafted: Fourth round of 2011 draft
There was quite a bit of speculation that Law would make the big league club right out of spring training thanks to his strong overall performance. However, the 23-year-old will instead start the season at Double-A Richmond, with a chance to make it to the majors later on.
On paper, Law wasn’t dazzling this spring, posting a 4.50 ERA in six innings of work. But he only allowed one run in his first 4.2 innings, showcasing a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a nice sinker that’s particularly tough to track because of Law’s deceptive motion.
The right-hander does have a pretty unconventional delivery, but it doesn’t impede his ability to throw strikes. He posted a ridiculous 45/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (that isn’t a typo) at High-A ball last year, which helped him post a minuscule 0.82 WHIP along with 11 saves. He projects as a solid setup man in the majors.
9. Mac Williamson, OF
Drafted: 3rd round of 2012 draft
In an organization filled with pitching prospects, Williamson is one of the better hitters in the Giants system. Taken in the third round in 2012, the young outfielder hasn’t disappointed, putting up solid numbers across the board at the lower levels in of the minors.
Williamson actually used to be a catcher in high school, and Wake Forest recruited him as a pitcher, but the Giants converted him to the outfield upon drafting him, and he’s stuck in right field ever since. As you might have guessed based on his prior positions, one of Williamson’s primary assets is his plus arm, but he also carries plenty of pop in his bat.
“Mac” hit 25 home runs in 136 games (597 PAs) at High-A last year to go along with 89 RBI and a .292 batting average. He has a decent eye at the plate (51 walks, .375 OBP), but his plate discipline could still use some work, as evidenced by his alarming 132 Ks.
Williamson will start the year in Single-A, as he still has some developing to do, but he could be in the Giants outfield as early as 2015, with a more realistic arrival time of 2016.
8. Clayton Blackburn, SP
Drafted: 16th round of 2011 draft
Blackburn’s greatest asset is his overall repertoire, as opposed to just one dominant pitch. He has a nice breaking ball that, according to MLB.com, can act as a 12-to-6 or a slurve. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and he also features a serviceable slider and solid changeup.
The right-hander also has plus control, walking just 1.7 batters per nine over his minor league career. His command, as he consistently pounds the lower half, is what allows him to get by with unspectacular stuff.
Projecting Blackburn’s career is tough because he hasn’t really established just how good he can be. While his tools indicate he’s destined to be a solid bottom-of-the-rotation starter, the right-hander has also shown consistent strikeout ability while also keeping batters off base (1.00 career WHIP) at the lower levels. We’ll learn a lot about Blackburn at Double-A in 2014.
7. Chris Stratton, SP
Drafted: 1st round of 2012 draft
The right-hander out of Mississippi State has lived up to his billing after being taken 20th overall in the 2012 draft. In 22 starts at Single-A last season, Stratton went 9-3 with a 3.27 ERA. While his control leaves something to be desired (47 walks in 132 innings), Stratton has the frame (6’3") and command to eventually become a solid starter in the majors.
Like Blackburn, Stratton doesn’t have a fastball that can blow hitters away, but his ability to locate it down in the zone is what makes him tough. The right-hander is particularly adept at working his heater on both sides of the plate, and he complements that pitch with a nice slider.
Overall, Stratton projects as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. He doesn’t have tons of upside, but with his good mechanics and plus command, Stratton should see the majors before the end of 2015.
6. Ty Blach, SP
Drafted: 5th round of 2012 draft
Possibly the most underrated prospect in the Giants organization, Blach put himself on the map last season by posting the best ERA in the California League, a High-A league that’s notoriously hitter-friendly.
Much of that success is attributable to Blach's fantastic control (1.2 BB/9 in 2013), which is arguably his greatest asset on the mound. He also does a good job of keeping the ball in the park, surrendering an average of 0.6 HR/9 last season.
As far as his repertoire goes, Blach certainly doesn’t have a blazing fastball, but he commands it very well, and the pitch has some late sink to it. The left-hander also features a good changeup, and his overall four-pitch repertoire is nothing to sneeze at.
Putting up impressive numbers like he did in the California League, in his first professional season no less, has really allowed Blach to establish himself as a prospect to watch. Like many of the other top pitchers in the Giants organization, he should reach the majors in 2015.
5. Christian Arroyo, SS
Drafted: 1st round of 2013 draft
The Giants' first-round pick last year, Arroyo came straight out of high school, and he didn't disappoint in his stint in rookie ball, posting a .326 batting average and an .898 OPS.
What's most exciting about Arroyo is his offensive potential, which is unusually high for a middle infielder. His bat speed is especially impressive, translating into fantastic gap-hitting ability. In 184 at-bats in the minors last season, Arroyo had 18 doubles and five triples—meaning those extra base hits could become home runs as he gets stronger.
Arroyo still has some work to do with his fielding, and he has plenty of developing to do overall, so Giants fans who are anxious to see a top hitting prospect make it through the farm system will have to wait a few more years. But if Arroyo keeps hitting like he did in 2013, it'll certainly be worth the wait.
4. Andrew Susac, C
Drafted: 2nd round of 2011 draft
Susac was viewed as a bit of a disappointment over his first couple of seasons in the minors, batting .249 with alarmingly high strikeout totals.
That changed quickly after the young catcher batted .360 with a .987 OPS in the Arizona Fall League, then put up impressive numbers (.263/.391/.526) at spring training this year.
Susac's greatest asset is undoubtedly his power, but he also has a good eye at the plate, with a 13.5 BB% last year (per FanGraphs). Add in his solid (but unspectacular) defensive ability, and he projects to be a starting catcher in the majors, perhaps allowing Buster Posey to eventually move to first base.
Susac has shown an ability to handle pitching at high levels—he played at Double-A last season, in addition to his experience in the fall league and at spring training. If he can continue to put up good numbers in 2014, it's not outside the realm of possibility to see Susac grabbing some big league at-bats late in 2014.
3. Adalberto Mejia, SP
Drafted: Signed Mar. 18, 2011 out of the Dominican Republic
The 6'3" left-hander made the leap from High-A to Triple-A last season after the Giants realized he had no trouble handling the offense-favoring California League in 2013. Mejia only got a small taste of Triple-A (five innings), but he'll likely have a shot to return there after beginning the season at Double-A this year.
Mejia's presence on the mound gives him an advantage, but his repertoire is what really makes him tough. His fastball isn't particularly quick, sitting in the low 90s, but it has plenty of movement to it, and the left-hander also locates it well. Mejia's best secondary pitch is his slider, which has a good speed differential from his fastball and breaks hard when it's "on."
Look for Mejia to appear in the majors in 2015, where he should settle in nicely as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.
2. Edwin Escobar, SP
Drafted: Acquired from Texas in 2010
Escobar impressed everyone in the Giants organization this spring, putting up some dominant outings in his time with the club before being sent down to the minors.
While the left-hander will likely appear in the majors later in the season, the Giants could have to call him up earlier than they would prefer if Ryan Vogelsong struggles. Indeed, Escobar could be the most logical choice to replace Vogey should the latter continue to get battered around like he did this spring.
Admittedly, Yusmeiro Petit is probably a more likely replacement candidate, but given Escobar's upside and his ability to pitch at high levels, there's no reason to pass him up. In that case, Giants fans should familiarize themselves with Escobar in case he sees regular time in the majors.
Should the Giants need to call on Escobar this year, they'll have a pitcher whose arsenal speaks for itself. Just ask Jeff Arnold, his catcher at times during spring training and in the minors. Arnold spoke to the San Jose Mercury News' Alex Pavlovic this spring about Escobar:
He’s a left-handed guy who can run it up to 96. The thing that stands out about Escobar is the way he changes speeds on his fastball, which proves that he’s got a great feel for pitching. He can still command it if he takes 5-6 MPH off. His secondary stuff is still a work in progress but I think his changeup is probably his best secondary pitch right now. Once he gets more confidence in his secondary stuff, you’ll see more of it. But if he can get away with throwing fastballs and hitting spots, I’m sure he’ll stick with that.
At the very least, Giants fans will see Escobar in a big league uniform at some point this year, starting role or not.
1. Kyle Crick, SP
Drafted: 1st round of the 2011 draft
The crown jewel of the Giants' farm system, Crick has some seriously nasty stuff, giving him the potential to develop into a bona fide ace if he can harness his control a bit.
Crick suffered from an oblique strain last season, but he still managed to strike out 95 batters in 68.2 innings of work, to go along with a 1.57 ERA. The right-hander sports a blazing fastball to go along with a hard slider, both of which serve as legitimate swing-and-miss pitches. Arnold, again per the Mercury News' Pavlovic, had plenty to say about Crick as well:
Crick is an overpowering guy. He can really challenge guys with his fastball and a lot of them can’t catch up to it at this point in time. His changeup really improved last year and now he’s just going to work on getting more consistency with his breaking ball, so hitters can’t really sit on one pitch and he can keep them guessing. (Swings on the fastball) are really just late. His fastball doesn’t move a ton but it gets on you quick. He’s one of those guys that can kind of get away with pitching up in the zone because of the velocity of his fastball. We’ll see if that translates to the upper levels.
If Crick can continue to improve his control while further developing his changeup and avoiding injury, there won't be much preventing him from joining the Giants' slew of aces in the majors. Barring an unexpected turn of events, Crick is a future No. 1 starter.
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