Every team strives to fill its minor league ranks with studs like Brandon Belt or Zach Wheeler. But not every minor-leaguer can be a future rookie of the year candidate.
Sometimes, all a team can do is simply accumulate depth across the board.
Depth throughout a system is not necessarily a bad thing. For one, it increases the chances that at least one player will make it to the big leagues. Secondly, it gives the parent club options for trades if organization-wide depth has become unbalanced.
Here are the five deepest positions in the San Francisco Giants farm system, as well as their trade potential in the upcoming years.
The Giants actually have three promising young catchers in their system, but all in the lower levels.
Daniel Buckhart, a tenth round pick in 2009, is in his first full year of pro ball in Low-A Augusta, and Hector Sanchez is currently in High-A San Jose. Both are under 21, and are steadily progressing through the system.
Tommy Joseph is one of the Giants top prospects, and a guy that the Giants scouts were really excited about getting.
A second-round pick in 2009 draft, Joseph is only 19 years old, but has tremendous power upside. He is currently sharing time with Sanchez in San Jose.
Trade Potential: Strong
Catcher is a position the Giants will definitely be looking to shop.
With Buster Posey already entrenched as a star behind the dish, and Eli Whiteside a well-respected backup, the Giants have little need for new young catchers.
As Joseph progresses through the minors, look for his name to swirl more and more in trade talks.
He has the ability to play first base as well, increasing his value to other teams, but unfortunately probably not to the Giants: Brandon Belt's presence makes him even more expendable.
We all know about the Giants No. 1 prospect, Brandon Belt.
He'll be in the majors by midseason, and due to the weakness of this year's offensive rookie class still could factor into Rookie of the Year discussions.
The guy people almost never know about is Brett Pill, the other Fresno first baseman.
Pill has taken the long road through the minors, spending exactly one year at each level until this year, which is his second in Fresno.
Although already 26, Pill has the skills to make an impact at the next level. He is currently hitting .324 for the Grizzlies with five homers, 10 doubles and three steals.
Trade Potential: Possible
Pill is not likely to attract many suitors because of his age. However, should the Giants call him up this September and Pill perform, he could be dealt over the offseason.
Between Pill and aforementioned Tommy Joseph, the Giants will likely get a deal done involving a minor league first baseman sometime in the next couple years.
Steve Edlefsen was by far the best reliever for the Triple-A Grizzlies through May 4th.
He has a 1.20 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 15 IP, until on May 5th he cratered for six earned runs in a third of an inning. His ERA for the day was 162.0, and raised his overall numbers to a 4.70 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.
Excluding that one terrible outing, Edlefsen had been dependable in Fresno, with an 11:3 K:BB ratio, and no homeruns allowed.
If the big league club is willing to overlook his recent blip, Edlefsen is most likely the first reliever called up in case of injury or ineffectiveness.
Jason Stoffel was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 draft as a closer, a role he occupied for San Jose last season and is now performing for Richmond.
He is still behind Marc Kroon in the closer hierarchy, but at 22 years old has an advantage on the 37-year-old Grizzly (or should i say grizzled?) closer.
Another reliever to keep an eye on is San Jose's Heath Hembree, who has 22 strikeouts to six walks to go along with a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings of work.
Last year he whiffed 22 batters and walked none in 11 innings in the Arizona Fall League. He has yet to allow a homerun in his professional career.
Trade Potential: Weak
Bullpen depth is one of the most underrated strengths in baseball.
On one hand not many teams want to give up position players for guys that pitch an inning or two a week, but on the other a solid bullpen can save a season.
Since the Giants only have a handful of potential impact relievers, I don't see this crop of players moving anywhere.
San Francisco would be best served to hold on to their relievers, since they likely won't get top value from them in a trade, and they may come in handy one day down the road.
Darren Ford is already in the big leagues.
He'll likely be back in Fresno once Torres returns from injury, but he's certainly found himself a role on the big league team as a speedy pinch runner and defensive replacement.
Thomas Neal, age 23, is hitting .333 in Fresno, but has seen his playing time severely decreased by an emigration from first base to the outfield—Brandon Belt and Travis Ishikawa have been eating up at-bats, with 147 between them compared to Neal's 39.
Francisco Peguero, a highly touted prospect out of the Dominican Republic, has been around the Giants system for several years in their developmental leagues.
The guy can flat out run—in 122 games in San Jose last season Peguero notched 40 steals and no less than 16 triples on his way to a .329 average. He has respectable power to boot, knocking 10 big flies in 2010.
Peguero has been statistic-less thus far in 2011, listed on the Giants inactive roster.
Gary Brown and Jarrett Parker were the Giants first and second-round picks in 2010, and both are playing for High-A San Jose.
Brown is having considerably more success, hitting .366 with 21 steals, compared to Parker's .227 average. While Brown projects as a speedster, Parker is more of a power guy, with four homers and five doubles, his low average notwithstanding.
Trade potential: Weak
The Giants will definitely be moving one or more of their outfielders soon, but more likely at the major league level.
Besides the opening day major-leaguers, the Giants have Ford, Neal, and now Ishikawa and Belt angling for an outfield spot.
Sabean will almost cetainly hold on to the younger trio of Peguero, Brown and Parker for the time-being.
If all three live up to their enormous potential, then the Giants would probably deal one for another position of need. Otherwise, look for San Francisco to hang tight in the outfield.
Zach Wheeler headlines San Francisco's starting pitching prospects.
The 2009 first round pick is currently 2-1 with a 4.00 ERA for the San Jose Giants. He also has a solid 1.04 WHIP and an impressive 34:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Wheeler's command is even more impressive considering last season he posted a 5.8 BB/9 last year in Low-A Augusta. It is good to see a young player overcome adversity so thoroughly this early in his career.
With a repertoire including a mid-to-high-90s fastball, a curveball and change-up, Wheeler is projected as a front-end of the rotation starting pitcher.
Eric Surkamp, another top pitching prospect, is currently throwing for Double-A Richmond. He's logged a 1.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and .205 AVG against in a team-high 32.2 IP over six starts.
The 23-year-old looks to be eyeing a midseason jump to Triple-A Fresno, and could possibly be used in relief for the big league team in September.
Ryan Verdugo, another Richmond Flying Squirrel, has started 2011 well, with a 2.16 ERA and 25 strikeouts in his 25 innings pitched.
A reliever in 2010 for Augusta and San Jose, Verdugo posted a 1.87 ERA in 62.2 IP over 44 games.
Did I mention he recorded 94 strikeouts? That's an absurd 13.5 K/9. Verdugo is not often ranked as a top prospect, but is doing his best to prove scouts wrong.
Mike Kickham was a sixth round pick out of Missouri St. in 2010, and made High-A San Jose this year, but has been sidelined by a finger injury so far this year. We'll keep track of his progress once he starts pitching.
Trade Potential: Possible
As of now, it is safe to assume the Giants would consider Wheeler off-limits to trades.
But even if he himself won't be traded, the possibility of any trade involving starting pitchers hinges almost entirely on Wheeler and his progression.
The Giants currently see Wheeler as the fifth and final piece to their rotation, since his arrival to the majors is projected to be around the time Zito's contract expires.
Should Wheeler appear on the track to major league stardom, the Giants may feel free to deal other starters in their system.
Until that point, look for the Giants to hang on to upper level starters like Surkamp or Verdugo as insurance.