Stock Up, Stock Down for San Francisco Giants' Top 10 Prospects at Midseason

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Stock Up, Stock Down for San Francisco Giants' Top 10 Prospects at Midseason
Gregory Bull/Associated Press

As we approach the halfway mark of the 2014 MLB season, the shorter minor league season has already surpassed that point. The San Francisco Giants farm system experienced a particularly forgettable first half, with many of the organization's top prospects either missing time due to injury or simply underperforming for large stretches of the season. (For some, injuries and disappointing performances have been the case.)

The Giants' minor league teams aren't winning games either. The Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies have slumped back down to .500 after a recent losing stretch, and the lower level San Jose Giants and Augusta Green Jackets are both below the .500 mark.

But it hasn't been all bad for the Giants farm system this season. Breakout performances from players in need of big seasons (like recently-promoted Joe Panik) have given the team some hope, and a surplus of pitching prospects still dominates the team's top prospect list. Even so, the team's minor league system as a whole will be looking to bounce back in the second half after a tough opening act.

 

10. Clayton Blackburn

Gregory Bull/Associated Press

2014 Stats

8 GS, 2-5, 3.40 ERA, 9 BB, 32 K, 42.1 IP

 

Overview

Injury has limited an otherwise fantastic season for Blackburn, who is pitching in Double-A having just turned 21. The right-hander has risen steadily through the Giants farm system since the team took him in the 16th round of the 2011 draft, surviving the hitter-friendly High-A level before being promoted to Richmond during the offseason.

Prior to his injury, Blackburn was making the transition look seamless, posting a 3.40 ERA over eight solid starts. He hasn’t been dominant—52 hits in 42.1 innings—but he also hasn’t allowed a home run yet while walking just nine batters, good for a rate of 1.9 BB/9. As long as the right-hander maintains his production after he comes back from rehab—which should be soon—we’ll see Blackburn in Triple-A next season, with a shot to appear with the big league club before long.

 

Stock

Even

 

9. Joe Panik

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

2014 Stats

70 G, .321/.382/.447, 14 2B, 5 HR, 45 RBI, 50 R

 

Overview

Panik made his major league debut on Saturday (he walked in his first plate appearance) before picking up a pair of hits in his first career start on Sunday. Needless to say, Panik’s success at Triple-A—a huge relief for the organization after the infielder’s slow 2013 year—followed by a fast start in the majors has given him a huge boost in stock, and he’ll be among the top of any Giants prospect list next year. That is, if he even qualifies as a “prospect” by the end of the season.

Indeed, the Giants will likely inject Panik into the starting lineup regularly if his hitting in Triple-A carries over to the majors and Brandon Hicks continues to struggle. With Marco Scutaro out for the foreseeable future and Hicks striking out in around half of his at-bats as of late, expect Panik to stick around in the majors for awhile.

 

Stock

Up

 

8. Ty Blach

Gregory Bull/Associated Press

2014 Stats

13 GS, 4-4, 2.79 ERA, 17 BB, 39 K, 67.2 IP

 

Overview

Blach came into the Giants farm system out of Creighton in 2012, and the organization certainly showed it had faith in the left-hander’s preparedness when it placed Blach in High-A right off the bat.

But after handling the high expectations, Blach has been just as good at Double-A this year. His ERA is a sparkling 2.79, and it would be considerably lower if the left-hander could figure out how to keep the ball in the yard. His eight home runs allowed already matches his 2013 total—in over 60 fewer innings. Even so, the 23-year-old’s quick progression through the farm system means he’ll likely have a shot with the big league club within the next few years.

 

Stock

Up

 

7. Heath Hembree

Stephen Lam/Getty Images

2014 Stats

30 G, 0-1, 14 SV, 3.45 ERA, 9 BB, 33 K, 28.2 IP

 

Overview

Hembree’s 3.45 ERA isn’t very indicative of his performance this season, with one very poor outing badly skewing his total. He has 14 saves for Triple-A Fresno thanks to an excellent strikeout rate (10.4 K/9) and fantastic command (2.8 BB/9, a huge step up from his 4.7 in 2012).

But there have also been a few red flags. Hembree’s WHIP is 1.395, his highest total (by far) at any level of the minors (his 31 hits allowed in just 28.2 innings were the main culprit).

Nevertheless, Hembree nearly made the big league club out of spring training and is expected to see time in the majors during September call ups, as he did last year. Closing out the season strong would give Hembree a strong shot at bypassing the minors altogether next season.

 

Stock

Up

 

6. Christian Arroyo

2014 Stats

31 G, .203/.226/.271, 3 2B, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 10 R

 

Overview

Arroyo’s struggles at Single-A Augusta were put on hold when he sat out for over a month with a sprained thumb. His rehab stint at Low-A isn’t going well either—one hit in 11 at-bats—and if the struggles continue, the Giants might have to seriously reassess their decision to expend such a high pick on Arroyo in the 2013 draft.

But that’s a bit premature, especially considering Arroyo’s success in rookie ball last year, when he hit .326 in 45 games. Arroyo wouldn’t be the first hitter to rebound from a tough season, and the organization didn’t draft him 25th overall for no reason. If he can finish the season strong, the team’s faith in him might be justified after all.

 

Stock

Down

 

5. Mac Williamson

2014 Stats

23 G, .318/.420/.506, 7 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 16 R

 

Overview (From Last Week)

Though Williamson’s stock is technically down thanks to his season-ending Tommy John surgery, his excellent performance prior to the injury makes it hard to penalize a hitter who has consistently put up good numbers for the Giants organization throughout his time in the minors.

The good news is that Williamson will likely be ready for spring training because position players generally recover from Tommy John surgery faster than pitchers do. When Williamson does come back, however, he’ll need to get a move on. He turns 24 next season and still has yet to make it to Double-A.

 

Stock

N/A

 

4. Adalberto Mejia

2014 Stats

13 GS, 4-5, 5.46 ERA, 17 BB, 51 K, 64.1 IP

 

Overview

Mejia just turned 21 and is already pitching in Double-A, a fact that’s easy to forget with the left-hander’s struggles so far. And yet, the 5.46 ERA is concerning, as are the 74 hits allowed in 64.1 innings, along with just 51 strikeouts.

But a solid performance at High-A last season coupled with stuff that scouts still drool over means Mejia’s future looks bright. Plus, he’s a tall lefty, which works in any pitcher's favor.

Mejia is also trending in the right direction. He has allowed three runs in his last 17.1 innings, perhaps an indication that he’s finally adjusting to Double-A. A strong finish to the season from Mejia would be a big plus for a farm system riddled with injuries and underperformance from top prospects.

 

Stock

Down

 

3. Chris Stratton

2014 Stats

13 GS, 4-7, 4.75 ERA, 28 BB, 70 K, 72 IP

 

Overview

The 2014 season has been a bumpy ride for Stratton, with a few more downs than ups. The right-hander out of Mississippi State is coming off a solid performance at Single-A Augusta last year, but he has failed to replicate his performance, with a 4.75 ERA and a 1.375 WHIP across 13 starts.

As McCovey Chronicles’ Chris Quick pointed out, some of Stratton’s numbers aren’t bad on paper. He’s still striking out nearly a batter per inning while walking a respectable 3.5 batters per nine. But the poor hit rate and, more alarmingly, 12 home runs allowed in just 72 innings have to have the Giants worried a bit, especially considering Stratton is coming out of college and should be expected to progress a little faster than he has.

 

Stock

Down

 

2. Edwin Escobar

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

2014 Stats

15 GS, 3-6, 5.31 ERA, 27 BB, 75 K, 81.1 IP

 

Overview

It’s never promising when one of the top pitchers in an organization struggles like Escobar has this year, but he gets let off the hook a bit because he’s pitching in Triple-A at age 22 (nearly five years below the league average), and like Mejia, he’s still a left-hander with plus stuff and command.

Even so, Escobar’s numbers are troubling, to say the least. He’s allowing hits in droves—10.6 per nine—and giving up a lot of home runs to boot. At the very least, his strikeout numbers are solid (8.3 per nine), which shows that he has the ability to get hitters out at high levels; he just has to do it with a little more consistency going forward. With Escobar’s recent success at High-A and Double-A, it’s far too early to panic.

 

Stock

Down

 

1. Kyle Crick

Elsa/Getty Images

2014 Stats

12 GS, 4-3, 3.88 ERA, 33 BB, 50 K, 48.2 IP

 

Overview

Crick’s 2014 season started off well enough, but the hard-throwing right-hander has taken a turn for the worse recently.

Heading into the season, Crick’s red flag was poor control, and he hasn’t made any strides in that regard. In fact, with a BB/9 rate of 6.1 (a full walk higher than last year), Crick has taken a step back with his control issues. At the more challenging Double-A level, it’s much harder to get away with that than it was in the lower levels of the minors.

The slow progression has to be frustrating for an organization that has put so much stock in Crick, but it’s important to remember that the former first-round pick is still only 21 (almost four years below the Double-A average), and his stuff is still front-of-the-rotation worthy. The results haven’t been ideal, but there’s little reason to give up on Crick just yet.

 

Stock

Down

 

There is a seemingly endless supply of organization prospect lists all over the Internet. For the sake of consistency, this list follows the rankings from Baseball America’s 2014 Top 10 Prospects Index.

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