All-Star Break Stock Up, Stock Down for San Francisco Giants' Top 10 Prospects

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All-Star Break Stock Up, Stock Down for San Francisco Giants' Top 10 Prospects
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The landscape of the San Francisco Giants' farm system is noticeably bleaker than it was at the beginning of the season, with slow development from key players (primarily top pitching prospects) due to underperformance and long-term injuries.

As the All-Star break nears its close, the Giants prospects are gearing up for a second half that will play a big role in determining the future of many of the team's brightest young stars. For a minor league system as thin as San Francisco's, that will indeed be a crucial time period.

For the sake of switching things up, this list attempts to compile the organization's 10 best Giants prospects by using an aggregate of rankings from around the Internet, while also taking the prospects' 2014 performances into account. (The list had previously relied on Baseball America's 2014 Top 10 Prospect Index.)

 

10. Chris Stratton, SP, San Jose (High-A)

2014 Stats

16 GS, 6-8, 4.95 ERA, 35 BB, 92 K, 87.1 IP

 

Overview

2014 has been a bit of a disappointment for Chris Stratton, who was expected to breeze through the minors (as are most first-round college pitchers) after being drafted out of Mississippi State in 2012. But after successful stints in Low- and High-A, the right-hander has run into his first speed bump this year, with a 4.95 ERA across 16 starts.

Consistency is Stratton's main issue, mostly from a control standpoint, but it hasn't been all bad this season. Though he has won back-to-back starts just once all year, Stratton has shown flashes of his dominant self, stringing together seven quality starts while striking out eight or more batters on four separate occasions.

Overall, there has been more bad than good from Stratton this season, but don't mistake him for a bust simply because of his underperformance. He'll have an opportunity to right the ship in the second half.

 

Stock

Down

 

9. Christian Arroyo, SS/2B, Salem-Keizer (Low-A)

2014 Stats

Low-A: 22 G, .272 AVG, .333 OBP, .391 SLG, 15 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI

Single-A: 31 G, .203 AVG, .226 OBP, .271 SLG, 10 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 14 RBI

 

Overview

Like Stratton, Christian Arroyo's status as a first-round draft pick carries weighty expectations, perhaps ones that are unreasonably high.

Through 31 games at Single-A, Arroyo couldn't put together any type of consistency, posting a .497 OPS up until he sprained his thumb and had to sit out for a significant chunk of the season. But upon returning to the field, this time with Low-A Salem-Keizer, he came out strong and has maintained his solid hitting at the plate with an encouraging .725 OPS.

The shortstop out of Brooksville, Florida, doesn't project as an All-Star-caliber infielder by any means, and his tough season has lowered expectations further. However, Arroyo could still contribute to the depth-starved Giants team in a few years, and as one of the few hitters in the farm system with the potential to do so, everyone will be keeping a close eye on him in the coming months.

 

Stock

Down

 

8. Heath Hembree, RP, Fresno (Triple-A)

2014 Stats

38 G, 1-2, 16 SV, 3.65 ERA, 11 BB, 44 K, 37.0 IP

 

Overview

Heath Hembree slides down a spot from his initial ranking not necessarily by virtue of his owning failure, but rather because of the improvement of some of the team's other top prospects.

By and large, the good has outweighed the bad for Hembree this season, with his 16 saves ranking second in the Pacific Coast League. But while there has been some noticeable improvement from the Fresno closer this season, he still has yet to show the dominance that is characteristic of future closers in the minors.

That lack of really dominant stuff has kept Hembree in Triple-A for three years now, though he figures to once again see some time in the majors as a September call-up for the second year in a row. It's too early to tell whether Hembree can actually fill the closer role for the Giants in the future, but he'll have a chance to prove it one way or another, as he's likely spending his last full season in the minors right now.

 

Stock

Even

 

7. Adalberto Mejia, SP, Richmond (Double-A)

2014 Stats

16 GS, 5-6, 5.52 ERA, 20 BB, 60 K, 76.2 IP

 

Overview

Perhaps the most disappointing player in the team's farm system this season, Adalberto Mejia's struggles have been pronounced enough to push him back three spots on the list.

Not a whole lot has gone right for the left-hander out of the Dominican Republic, with his disappointing strikeout rate (7.0 per nine) and alarming inability to put away batters (.292 batting average against, 10.6 H/9, 1.435 WHIP). The struggles are especially surprising because Mejia came into the season fresh off an impressive campaign in the hitter-friendly California League at High-A, and his stuff was thought to be some of the best in the organization.

And yet, it might be time to recalibrate the high expectations for Mejia, who could use some time back at the lower levels to hone his mechanics and command if he continues to produce similar results in Double-A.

 

Stock

Down

 

6. Ty Blach, SP, Richmond (Double-A)

2014 Stats

17 GS, 7-4, 2.98 ERA, 22 BB, 56 K, 90.2 IP

 

Overview

When the Giants drafted Ty Blach in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Creighton, they knew they were getting a polished pitcher who could make it through the minors at a relatively quick rate. So far, so good.

It would hardly be possible to be more consistent than Blach has been this season, as he's allowed three earned runs or less in all but one of his 17 starts. However, as I've been quick to note in the past, poor strikeout rates often don't translate well to the higher levels, and Blach has just 56 punchouts in 90.2 innings.

And yet, plenty of pitchers make a living getting hitters out by inducing contact; it's just a matter of Blach continuing to do that once he moves past Double-A. Also worth noting: Blach is only in his second professional season, and he's already pitching at the second-highest level in the minors. Even the likes of Matt Cain didn't keep up with that pace, so it's not yet time to panic because of an ugly peripheral stat like K/9, so long as Blach continues to get results in the categories that matter.

 

Stock

Up

 

5. Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants

2014 Stats

Majors: 17 G, .216 AVG, .281 OBP, .255 SLG, 4 R, 2 2B, 4 RBI

Triple-A: 74 G, .321 AVG, .382 OBP, .447 SLG, 50 R, 14 2B, 5 HR, 45 RBI

 

Overview

Joe Panik was getting dangerously close to "bust" territory after his rough 2013 season, in which he batted .257/.333/.347 in a full season with Double-A Richmond.

But the former first-round pick has made that performance seem like a distant memory, hitting .321 at Triple-A Fresno before being promoted to the big league club midway through the season. After a tough start to his career, Panik has turned things around lately, with three multihit games in June.

The Giants are currently still looking to upgrade their second base position and it's pretty evident that Panik still could use some polishing before becoming a big league regular, but his amazing progress this season and ability to hold his own upon promotion to the majors is an indicator of a bright future for the young infielder.

 

Stock

Up

 

4. Edwin Escobar, SP, Fresno (Triple-A)

2014 Stats

19 GS, 3-8, 5.06 ERA, 34 BB, 93 K, 105.0 IP

 

Overview

Edwin Escobar was the lone Giants invitee to the All-Star Futures Game this season, and though he struggled in his outing (he allowed three hits and a run), the fact that he was a minor league All-Star despite his poor season thus far is an indication of the potential he still has.

At 22, Escobar is also young for Triple-A, and his peripherals look solid. He's striking out eight batters per nine and walking a respectable 2.9 per nine, which is a sign that the left-hander could be poised for a rebound.

"My numbers aren't like they were last year," said Escobar, via MLB.com's Chris Haft. "But I've been working hard and getting experience."

And yet, the converse of that argument is Escobar's 10.5 H/9 rate and 15 homers allowed in 105 innings, something that's part of the learning experience of pitching in Triple-A for the first time but also a bit of a concern for one of the organization's top young arms. But if Escobar continues to mature and adjust to life outside the lower levels of the minors, where he has dominated, a strong second half could be right around the corner.

"There's a lot of veteran guys coming down every week from the big leagues," Escobar said, according to Haft's article. "You get used to it...I feel great to be in the league." 

 

Stock

Down

 

3. Clayton Blackburn, SP, Richmond (Double-A)

2014 Stats

10 GS, 3-5, 3.10 ERA, 12 BB, 41 K, 52.1 IP

 

Overview

Thanks in part to underwhelming performances from other top prospects, but more so to his own success, Clayton Blackburn has shot up the Giants prospects list.

The amazing part is that he's only made 10 starts in Richmond (plus two short rehab starts in rookie ball), with a rib injury limiting his otherwise stellar season. But aside from his numbers, the high ranking for Blackburn is also a tribute to his stuff, which has looked superb this season. That has been coupled with good control (2.1 BB/9) and command that has been good enough for Blackburn to avoid allowing a single home run this year.

One of the more interesting storylines for next season will be Blackburn's ability to transition to Triple-A, but if this season is any indication, the move will be no problem.

 

Stock

Up

 

2. Andrew Susac, C, Fresno (Triple-A)

2014 Stats

57 G, .268 AVG, .381 OBP, .454 SLG, 16 R, 7 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBI

 

Overview

Andrew Susac debuts on this list at No. 2 thanks to his pleasantly surprising offensive showing at Triple-A, his breakout performance in spring training at the beginning of the year and his overall impressive skill set that gives him the look of a solid big league player.

Indeed, the two areas in which Susac has excelled this season (and arguably for his entire professional career) have been in the realm of plate discipline and defense. With a .381 OBP that would place him in the top 20 in the Pacific Coast League if he qualified, along with steadily improving defense behind the dish, Susac could arrive on the scene just in time for Buster Posey's move to first base.

Susac also has some pop. He's slugging .454 on the season with nine homers, and scouts laud his ability to drive the ball to all areas of the park. It all adds up to a bright future for Susac, who appears to have what it takes to succeed as a starting catcher in the major leagues.

 

Stock

Up

 

1. Kyle Crick, SP, Richmond (Double-A)

2014 Stats

16 GS, 6-4, 3.23 ERA, 44 BB, 81 K, 69.2 IP

 

Overview

Kyle Crick is a rare talent when it comes to his stuff, but as anyone familiar with the Giants top prospect knows, control has always been the right-hander's Achilles' heel.

Much to the chagrin of the Giants organization, nothing has changed with Crick this season. Though he's getting results in Double-A, his walk rate—the one missing piece of the puzzle—has actually gone up, to 5.7 per nine, compared to 5.1 in 2013 and 5.4 in 2012.

The fact that the control issues are still lingering is disconcerting, and they indicate that Crick might be better suited to a bullpen role if the problem turns out to be an unsolvable one. But for now, no other pitcher in the organization—and few throughout the minors—has better stuff than Crick, and if he can harness his control, the Giants will have an ace pitcher to add to their already stellar rotation.

 

Stock

Even

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