It is never too early in a season to open up the cupboards and take a gander at just how much talent is waiting in the wings.
For the casual fan, the vast rosters of the minor leagues can be a little overwhelming. Keeping track of the up-and-coming stars that were acquired in past drafts is often difficult to follow all the way from draft-day selection to final call-up.
However, these are the players that your team is banking on to hold down the fort in the future and many of these names will be making an MLB debut or reappearance before you know it.
Here is a list of my top prospects hanging around the San Francisco Giants organization. This list will be updated periodically throughout the year on The McCovey Cove Splash so please stay tuned for future editions.
1. Buster Posey, C–Fresno Grizzlies (Triple-A)
Any Giants fan with an internet connection knows the name Buster Posey by now. In fact, most MLB fans from coast-to-coast have heard at least a blurb about the hitting prowess of this talented catcher. Posey ranked 19th in MLB.com’s Top 50 prospects and has grabbed his fair share of attention the past couple of years.
Posey starts off his second season within the Giants organization in Fresno, largely due to a rather tame spring training performance. Buster posted a respectable batting average (.315) but his other offensive numbers during the spring don't exactly jump off of the page.
It hasn’t necessarily been all sparkles with Posey during his few appearances on an MLB roster, so returning Posey to the minors was the right move and he should benefit immensely from it.
He is definitely on the right track and if he keeps improving at his current rate, fans in San Francisco should be seeing him again very soon.
2. Madison Bumgarner, LHP–Fresno Grizzlies (Triple-A)
If Buster Posey’s spring ball disappointed you, then the junk that Madison Bumgarner slung in Scottsdale probably made you question the entire Giants farm system.
Bumgarner looked unimpressive in his three spring training appearances, posting a 6.43 ERA and striking out zero. In one outing, he failed to break the 90 MPH mark in four innings pitched.
Nonetheless, Bruce Bochy and company are not overly concerned about his current showing but he still needs to prove that he can pitch higher up in the Giants minor league system before people get too excited.
Concerns may grow if Bumgarner can not start strong out of the gate. An early season struggle with the Fresno Grizzles could not only do a number on his psyche but also retard the growth of this talented pitching prospect.
3. Zach Wheeler, RHP– Augusta Green Jackets (Single-A)
Zach Wheeler, the Giants’ first-overall pick in the 2009 draft, will start off his first season within the Giants organization in Augusta. The buzz surrounding this pitching prodigy adds to the excitement already surrounding the long list of spectacular pitchers lined up in San Francisco’s system.
Wheeler has been heralded for his tremendous arm strength. His fastball tops out at 95 mph but he tends to hover around 90-93mph. While the heater is currently his best asset, it is hardly his only pitch.
He also possesses a plus curveball but currently has trouble keeping it within the strike zone. Wheeler isn’t afraid to use the curve in tough situations though, and it should be interesting to see how the more advanced hitters in Single-A ball adapt to it.
4. Ehire Adrianza, SS– Augusta Green Jackets (Single-A)
Ehire Adrianza signed with the Giants as a undrafted free agent several years ago when he was just a teen in Latin America, and now, at the ripe age of 20, he will desperately strive to live up to the lingering hype.
Adrianza played at various levels within the San Francisco minor league system in 2008, but was held strictly to time in Single-A Augusta last season. While his numbers with the Green Jackets were not exactly mind-blowing (.258 AVG, 46 RBI, 7SB), his speed and defensive abilities help enrich this shortstop’s potential.
If he can start to show the slightest signs of consistency at the plate, don’t be surprised to see Adrianza graduating up to greener pastures fairly soon.
5. Rafael Rodriguez, RF–Richmond Flying Squirrels (Double-A)
Another undrafted free agent, Rafael Rodriguez spent his entire 2009 season in rookie ball for the Giants.
Best known for his enormous signing bonus (Rodriguez inked a $2.55 million bonus two years ago, the largest by a Latin America hitter), the talented outfielder appeared to experience growing pains with the AZL Giants last season.
Rodriguez has been touted for having excellent raw power but he still needs to fill out his 6'5'' frame. However, he will have to show vast improvement from his 2009 numbers to get anyone really excited about his presence in the Giants organization.
While time is certainly on this youngster’s side, that enormous signing bonus definitely adds more pressure for this hitter to start showing signs of life.
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