San Francisco Giants' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 24, 2015

San Francisco Giants' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    While the San Francisco Giants’ system is top-heavy with pitching prospects, many of the organization’s top young arms profile as either back-end-starter types or guys who might not throw enough strikes to even stick in the rotation.

    Right-hander Kyle Crick, 22, might have the highest ceiling in the system, but both his control and command were a mess last season in the Eastern League. Clayton Blackburn, another right-hander, has the highest probability to reach his projected ceiling in the big leagues, as he has good command of a four-pitch mix to go along with a feel for sequencing. 

    Ty Blach, 23, is basically a left-handed version of Blackburn, as he lacks overpowering stuff but features advanced command of three pitches. And don’t sleep on hard-throwing right-hander Keury Mella, who's right there with Crick in the conversation for most upside.

    The Giants went after Vanderbilt righty Tyler Beede in the first round (No. 14 overall) of the draft, and, unfortunately, his lack of control/command puts him in the same boat as Crick. However, based on what Crick hasn’t accomplished over the past two seasons, I’d give Beede better odds of reaching his potential.

    As for the Giants’ notable position prospects—well, there aren’t many. Catcher Andrew Susac will likely serve as Buster Posey’s backup again in 2015 after thriving in the role late last season, while middle infielder Christian Arroyo, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, is a natural hitter with good bat speed, but he’s still several years away from the major leagues.

    Here are the San Francisco Giants’ top 10 prospects for 2015.

How They're Ranked

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: how well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

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    Aramis Garcia, C

    Luis Ysla, RHP

    Chris Stratton, RHP

10. Clayton Blackburn, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 1/6/1993 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 260 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: 16th round, 2011 (Edmond Santa Fe HS, Oklahoma)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 6

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    5545505060

    Scouting Report

    Blackburn’s impressive run through the minor leagues took him to the Eastern League last season, where the 22-year-old pitched to a 3.29 ERA with 85 strikeouts (8.2 K/9) and 20 walks (1.9 BB/9) in 93 innings for Double-A Richmond.

    This 6’2”, 260-pound right-hander has a body built for eating innings, but he will need to keep it in check moving forward to avoid injuries to his lower half. Blackburn’s greatest strength is his plus control of a four-pitch mix, as he demonstrates advanced feel for sequencing and pounds the zone with each offering.

    Working from a high three-quarters arm slot, Blackburn’s fastball sits 87-90 mph with sneaky life as well as some arm-side run. The right-hander’s curveball has a slow pace and tends to break early, but he’s adept at throwing it for a strike and seemingly uses it to toy with overanxious hitters. Blackburn has made strides developing his changeup and slider over the last two years, and both pitches now project to be at least average at maturity, giving him an arsenal of four average-or-better offerings.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 or 5 starter)Low risk

9. Ty Blach, LHP

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: LHP

    DOB: 10/20/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 210 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/L

    Drafted: Fifth round, 2012 (Creighton)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 9

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    5550506060

    Scouting Report

    A fifth-round draft pick in 2012, Blach jumped up the prospect radar in 2013 during his professional debut, as he led the hitter-friendly California League in both ERA (2.90) and walks per nine innings (1.2 BB/9).

    Moved up to Double-A Richmond for 2014, the 24-year-old left-hander continued his under-the-radar climb to the major leagues by posting a 3.13 ERA over 141 innings (25 starts). Blach pitched especially well over his final five starts, with a 1.10 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 32.2 innings.

    Blach lacks a dominant pitch, but his fastball, slider and changeup each project to be average or better at maturity and should play up thanks to his plus command. The southpaw will presumably begin 2015 in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, which would set him up for a second-half debut with the Giants.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 or 5 starter)Low risk

8. Steven Okert, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 7/9/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 210 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: Fourth round, 2012 (Oklahoma)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60605055

    Scouting Report

    A fourth-round pick in 2012 out of Oklahoma, Okert, 23, spent most of the 2014 season in the hitter-friendly California League, where he ranked second with 19 saves and posted a 1.53 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 11 walks in 35.1 innings (33 appearances).

    The left-hander moved up to Double-A Richmond following the All-Star break and enjoyed similar success in the Eastern League, pitching to a 2.73 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with 38 strikeouts in 33 innings (24 appearances). Okert improved his prospect stock even more in this year’s Arizona Fall League, as the left-hander struck out 17 batters against five hits and one walk in 12 innings.

    At 6’3”, 210 pounds, Okert works in the low to mid-90s with his fastball and backs it up with an above-average swing-and-miss slider. However, his fringy changeup and below-average control can limit his effectiveness against right-handed batters, evidenced by their collective .259/.320/.401 batting line last season in 180 plate appearances. The good news is that Okert is really tough on left-handed batters (.165/.240/.209 in 103 plate appearances), which should help him break through in a late-inning role with the Giants in 2015.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (second-tier closer)Medium risk

7. Hunter Strickland, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 9/24/1988 (Age: 26)

    Height/Weight: 6’4’, 220 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: 18th round, 2007 (Pike County HS, Georgia)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    75605050

    Scouting Report

    An 18th-round draft pick of the Red Sox back in 2007, Strickland breezed through the High-A California League and Double-A Eastern League this past season, saving 11 games while posting a 2.09 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .194 BAA and a ridiculous 13.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 38.2 innings (41 appearances). The 26-year-old right-hander received a September call-up with the Giants and made an immediate impact out of the bullpen, combining for seven scoreless innings over nine appearances with nine strikeouts against five hits.

    But as you might remember, Strickland didn’t exactly fare well in the postseason, as he surrendered six home runs over eight appearances across the NLDS, NLCS and World Series. However, that fact that Giants skipper Bruce Bochy continued to use the right-hander in high-leverage situations throughout the postseason speaks to the role he might have moving forward.

    There certainly isn’t anything wrong with Strickland’s stuff, as his fastball topped out at 100 in his big league debut, according to BrooksBaseball.net, and averaged 98 mph during his regular-season and postseason appearances. Strickland’s mid-80s slider features late diving action off the plate that is ideal for missing bats, while his changeup in the upper 80s is at least an average offering and, in my opinion, a vastly underrated weapon considering his fastball-like arm speed and the pitches fastball-like plane toward the plate.

    Based on his usage last October, it would shocking if Strickland didn’t begin the 2015 season at the back end of Bochy’s bullpen.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (second-tier closer)Low risk

6. Christian Arroyo, SS/2B

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    Position: SS/2B

    DOB: 5/30/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Hernando HS, Florida)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 5

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5540504550

    Scouting Report

    Arroyo struggled to begin the season following an aggressive assignment to the Low-A Augusta, as the 2013 first-rounder batted just .203 in 31 games in the South Atlantic League before suffering a left thumb injury. Arroyo returned to action in mid-June and was moved down a level to the more age appropriate Northwest League, where the 19-year-old produced an impressive .333/.378/.469 batting line with 21 extra-base hits in 58 games.

    A 6’1”, 180-pound right-handed hitter, Arroyo has good strength for his size, especially in his hands and wrists, as well as a natural feel for hitting. He employs an up-the-middle approach in order to stay inside the ball, but he at times falls back on a tendency to pull open with his front and roll over hittable pitches to the left side of the infield. Arroyo’s over-the-fence power is limited to his pull side and projects as below average at maturity, but he should always provide a consistent source of doubles.

    Arroyo was a decorated shortstop as an amateur and has continued to undergo development at the position since turning pro. The teenager lacks standout athleticism and is technically just an average runner, but he still moves with fluidity on the infield and possesses both the quickness and instincts to handle the position at higher levels. If he’s forced off shortstop, Arroyo is likely to move across the infield to the keystone—where he played mostly last season while at Augusta.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular)High risk

5. Keury Mella, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 8/2/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    70605060

    Scouting Report

    Mella made his full-season debut at Low-A Augusta in 2014, as the hard-throwing right-hander posted a 3.93 ERA with 63 strikeouts against 13 walks in 66.1 innings before landing on the disabled list in late June with a strained rotator cuff.

    After spending roughly six weeks on the shelf, Mella returned to action in early August but was dropped down to Short Season Salem-Keizer. Unsurprisingly, the 21-year-old excelled during his six starts in the Northwest League, registering a 1.86 ERA with 20 punch-outs in 19.1 innings.

    The right-handed Mella already possesses huge arm strength, armed with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s with late life, while the projection remaining on his 6’2”, 200-pound frame could make him a consistent upper-90s guy in a few years. Mella throws his curveball with velocity in the low 80s with sharp, downer break, and if he continues to make strides in his development of a changeup, it should give him a third average-or-better offering at maturity.

    Overall, Mella’s combination of velocity, stuff and command gives him one of the higher ceilings among pitching prospects below the High-A level. With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see where he’s assigned to begin the 2015 season.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (No. 2 or 3 starter)High risk

4. Andrew Susac, C

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    Position: C

    DOB: 3/22/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 210 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2011 (Oregon State)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4560405550

    Scouting Report

    Susac opened the 2014 season at Triple-A Fresno, but it wasn’t long before he was summoned to the major leagues to make his debut—which he did on May 22 in Colorado. The 24-year-old catcher was optioned to Fresno following the game, and he remained there until the Giants recalled him in late July.

    Susac proved to be a valuable asset over the final two months of the regular season, batting .273/.326/.466 with eight doubles, three home runs and 19 RBI in 95 plate appearances (35 games). Meanwhile, his consistent production allowed the Giants to rest Buster Posey down the stretch, as Susac ultimately made 20 starts behind the plate.

    As a 6’1”, 215-pound right-handed hitter, Susac’s loudest tool is his above-average power—plus raw power, however—as he’s now hit at least 12 home runs with .450 slugging percentage in back-to-back seasons across the sport’s three highest levels. Susac always has shown strong on-base skills as well as an advanced approach throughout his career; however, his game will always feature some swing-and-miss, which in turn should keep his batting average in the .250-.260 range.

    On the other side of the ball, Susac is an advanced receiver with underrated athleticism and above-average arm strength. While his overall defensive profile should be strong enough to hold down an everyday gig, Susac is likely to serve as Buster Posey’s backup in 2015 just as he did toward the end of the regular season—and that formula worked pretty darn well for everyone involved.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (Solid-average regular)Low risk

3. Tyler Beede, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 5/23/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 200 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Vanderbilt)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    6555505545

    Scouting Report

    Beede was a first-round pick (No. 21 overall) of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 but turned down a seven-figure bonus to attend Vanderbilt. He went on to have three largely inconsistent but still promising seasons in the Commodores’ starting rotation before the Giants selected the 21-year-old with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

    After walking 5.6 batters per nine innings over 101 innings between 2012-13, Beede appeared to start figuring things out last year during the first half of Vanderbilt’s season, showing an improved feel for the strike zone with his full arsenal. His control and command issues returned in mid-April and lingered over the rest of the season, although Beede did manage to put it all together for a dominant performance against Xavier in the NCAA regional, in which he struck out 14 batters in eight shutout innings.

    When Beede’s at his best, the 6’4”, 200-pound right-hander features a lively fastball in the low 90s that tops out at 94-95 mph—sometimes even a tick or two more—as well as an average slider with hard bite, a solid-average curveball in the high 70s and a potential plus changeup that registers in a similar velocity range.

    Despite his work with Vanderbilt’s talented coaching staff over the last three years, Beede still lacks the overall consistency—both mechanically and in terms of his pitch execution—typically associated with a first-round college arm, let alone one that projects as a No 3 starter. At the same time, few pitchers from last year’s draft class can match his combination of pure stuff and upside, which is why the Giants were happy to find him still on the board in the mid-first round.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter)Medium risk

2. Adalberto Mejia, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 6/20/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/L

    Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 4

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    55556055

    Scouting Report

    Mejia was one of the younger starting pitchers at the Double-A level in 2014, making more than half of his 21 starts in the Eastern League as a 20-year-old. His 3.78 FIP in 108 innings last season was a stronger measure of his performance than his 4.67 ERA, as the left-hander maintained a solid walk rate (2.6 BB/9) and did a better job keeping the ball in the park (0.8 HR/9), but struck out over two less batters per nine innings than he did in 2014.

    At 6’3”, 195 pounds, Mejia uses his height and extension toward the plate to work on a consistent downhill plane, demonstrating a present feel for working down in the zone with entire arsenal. The 21-year-old’s fastball sits in the low 90s with arm-side life and he’ll show the ability to reach back for 93-94, while his changeup is more advanced than his slider, though both have the potential to be at least solid average at maturity.

    One area for concern with Mejia is that he struggles to put away right-handed batters, as they collectively hit .296/.341/.460 in 373 plate appearances against the southpaw. And even though Mejia’s strike-throwing ability translated well in Double-A last season, older, more advanced hitters exposed his lack of a dominant pitch as well as his problems with executing within the zone.

    Mejia will open the 2015 on the restricted list while serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance. Once he’s eligible to return, the left-hander will take another crack at the Eastern League, though he’ll likely first need to build up arm strength at lower levels.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter)Medium risk

1. Kyle Crick, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/30/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 220 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Sherman HS, Texas)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 1

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    7060606045

    Scouting Report

    Crick’s modest success last season at Double-A Richmond was directly tied to his ability to miss bats (11.1 K/9) and limit hard contact (.234 BAA). Beyond that, however, the 22-year-old was consistently inefficient, as he issued 61 walks in 90.1 innings (6.1 BB/9) and frequently reached his club-imposed 100-pitch limit early in the game. More specifically, Crick averaged fewer than 4.1 innings in his 22 starts.

    A 6’4”, 220-pound right-hander, Crick’s fastball explodes out of his at 93-96 mph with late life, and he’ll reach back for plus-plus velocity as needed. Unfortunately, he’s yet to figure out how to execute his heater within the zone, which has led to entirely too many deep counts and, you guessed it, walks.

    Crick’s changeup is a second plus pitch, thrown with excellent arm speed and considerable fade, and he also throws a pair of breaking balls: an inconsistent curveball that flashes above-average potential, and a hard slider in the high 80s that should help him miss even more bats once refined.

    Crick projects as a No. 3 starter given his age, durability and electric stuff, but his fringy control and well-below-average command continues to hold him back. The Giants still have every reason to continue developing him as a starter, as he’s a legitimate four-pitch guy with serious untapped potential. If that doesn’t work out, Crick’s combination of power and filth will make him a late-inning force out of the bullpen, possibly even an impact closer.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter/top-tier closer)Medium risk