December 8, 2015
San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects
The State of the System: The good news is that the Giants win the World Series every other year. The bad news is that even with the usual collection of hard-throwing right-handers, this is the weakest San Francisco system in years.
The Top Ten
1. Christian Arroyo, SS
The Arroyo pick was mocked by many as a significant reach, but it appears the Giants knew what they were doing. His feel for hitting is outstanding, and his line-drive swing and above-average bat speed allow him to make consistent hard contact. He’s an assertive hitter who will swing early in the count, and his ability to make good contact on pitches outside the zone makes him a classic “bad-ball” hitter. Like many young hitters, that assertiveness can lead to aggressiveness, which can lead to weak contact/strikeouts. There's also fringe-average power—mostly to the pull side—with the occasional double into the right-center gap
Arroyo’s hit tool makes him a potential starter at every infield position except first base, which is good, because he’s likely to move off shortstop at some point. He’s a fringe-average runner with fringe-average range, and though he gets rave reviews for his instincts, they can only take a player so far. The bat plays best at second base, but a non-traditional third baseman who can hit .300 with 10-12 homers is also possible.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Yeah, it’s another one of those systems. The best version of Arroyo is probably similar to former Giants’ second baseman Freddy Sanchez, in that almost all of his value will be derived from his batting average ability. If he’s a .290-plus hitter, he’ll contribute enough in the other categories to be a MI option in mixed leagues. If not, he’s best reserved for NL-only and very deep mixed formats.
Major League ETA: 2017
2. Lucius Fox, SS
Fox, who played high-school ball in Florida, likely would have been a top-20 pick in last year’s draft had he not been declared an International Free Agent in April, a ruling that earned him an extra $4 million or so. He oozes athleticism and has a swing that works from both sides of the plate, staying through the zone with quick wrists and very little wasted movement. There’s more power from his natural right side at this point, which will probably change as he gets stronger; still, anything more than 40 power is unlikely because of his size/swing plane. The approach as a Florida prep left a lot to be desired, though there’s plenty of time for that to develop.
He has the speed and arm strength to stick at shortstop, but plenty of scouts I spoke with believe his ultimate landing spot is center field. The Giants will give him every chance to stay in the infield, and if he can he’s a potential .280/.350/.400 player who can steal 40 bases.
Please note that I did not make a Batman joke. [Editor’s note: no fewer than seven Batman jokes were removed during editing. You’re welcome, Earth.]
Bret Sayre's Fantasy Take: There’s just so much lead time here, but the upside is worth getting him drafted in deep dynasty leagues this offseason. That said, if he’s being taken before the third round, it’s a poor pick. There’s certainly 30-40 steal potential, and in today’s depressed speed context, that makes him attractive. Though, in five years, there could be a lot of speed out there. We have no idea.
Major League ETA: 2020
3. Tyler Beede, RHP
Beede has the stuff you look for in a top-of-the-rotation starter. He's got a four-seam fastball that will touch 97, as well as a two-seamer with the downward movement that creates ground-ball outs. He keeps the same arm speed on his change, and the late fade makes it a swing-and-miss pitch to both left- and right-handed hitters. The curveball is rarely a strike, but the hard downward spin can fool hitters sitting on something else.
Control and command have been his issues, but it appeared he had turned a corner earlier in the year, walking nine batters in just under 53 innings for San Jose. Then, upon his promotion to Richmond, he walked 35 in 72. Some of that might have been wear at the end of his first full professional season, but he often struggles to repeat his delivery and battled poor control in college. With the stuff to be a frontline starter but the command of a no. 5, Beede likely splits the difference. There’s a lot of volatility.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Volatility is not a bad thing at all when it comes to investing in dynasty league pitchers, and Beede has it in spades. Given the raw stuff and the strong player development staff that the Giants have in place, Beede is the top mixed league fantasy prospect in this system for me—it’s tough to match his SP2 upside, even if he’s pretty unlikely to get there.
Major League ETA: 2017
4. Jalen Miller, SS
Miller was the fourth player taken by the Giants in the 2015 draft, but his ceiling is the highest of any player they signed, as reflected by his over-slot bonus. His best assets are strong wrists, which help him get through the zone with plus bat speed. There is some glide to his swing, creating some timing issues, but his natural bat-to-ball skills give him a chance to possess a solid-average—maybe higher—hit tool. There’s also some loft to the swing plane, and there’s fringe-average power potential if he maxes out physically.
Like Arroyo—and almost every other shortstop in the minor leagues—there’s a good chance he’s going to have to play a different position. Even with his plus speed, his range is only average, and even with a quick release, his arm grades at just average. He should be plus at second base, but Miller profiles best as a utility infielder who can play all over the infield and give you 10-12 homers and 20-plus stolen bases off the bench. If the range improves and he can stick at shortstop, that’s an everyday player.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you love Lucius Fox, you’ll like Miller. If you’re in a dynasty league that rosters fewer than 250 prospects, you’ll love neither. There’s just too much value in a roster spot to let Miller occupy one in any league shallower than that, even if he could steal 30 bags one day.
Major League ETA: 2018
5. Phil Bickford, RHP
Bickford has a lot in common with Beede. Both are hard-throwing right-handed pitchers, both are former first-round picks of the Blue Jays who chose to attend college, and both are now Giants pitching prospects. Coincidence? Probably.
Bickford’s arm strength is elite, and when he’s working in short spurts, he’ll touch the high 90s with a four-seam fastball that has late life. His slider is maddeningly inconsistent; he struggles to repeat his three-quarters arm slot, and it will vary from a 40 pitch that he can’t locate to a 60 with hard tilt. The change is very much a work in progress, and like the slider its grade varies wildly from appearance to appearance. The control is ahead of the command, but he does a good enough job filling the strike zone that he should be able to start. However, because the stuff is so much better in shorter outings, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he ends up making his living as a reliever.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The problem with Bickford isn’t that he can’t start, it’s that he’s unlikely to be a valuable fantasy commodity if he does. Best case scenario, he'll light up the radar gun without getting as many swings and misses as he should, and he'll reside as a decent SP4. Think present-day Nate Eovaldi..
Major League ETA: 2018
6. Samuel Coonrod, RHP
Coonrod was one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2015 season, and although he was on the older side for the level, his stuff suggests that this is sustainable—for the most part. His four-seam fastball sits 90-94, and when he reaches back for more he’ll touch 97. He complements that pitch with an above-average slider. He has shown improving feel for the pitch and can now throw it for a strike, something he didn’t do much of while at Southern Illinois. He’ll mix in a 40 change, an offering that doesn’t have much life and that is delivered with an occasional drop in arm speed and slot.
If the Giants were to move Coonrod to the bullpen, he’d be a future closer, but no one can blame them for seeing if he can pitch every fifth day. His ability to miss bats with two pitches while throwing strikes makes it a realistic possibility.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: At this point, Coonrod remains a player just to track in fantasy leagues, despite the temptation to pounce based on his performance and potential future home park. He’s still far more likely to be a reliever long-term, and dynasty leagues are not kind to relief prospects (nor should they be).
Major League ETA: 2017
7. Christopher Shaw, 1B
If you’re looking for power from the left side, Shaw is your man. He’s massive, and his natural strength and ability to transfer that weight allows him to take the ball out to any part of the field. He’s not just a power hitter, though, as he shows patience at the plate, routinely working counts into his favor or drawing walks. The swing can get violent with added length and there’s plenty of swing-and-miss, so he’ll pile up strikeouts.
Shaw played both the outfield and first base at Boston College, but don’t let that fool you; he’s a 20 runner who has no chance of being a professional outfielder (though he does have an above-average throwing arm). That puts a lot of pressure on his bat, and ultimately this is a player who profiles best as either a platoon first baseman/DH or a weapon off the bench.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s enough potential with the bat here to take Shaw in the first three rounds of dynasty drafts over the next few months, but he’s likely a better bet in on-base leagues than batting average ones. The big lefty could be a .260 hitter with 25-plus homers in time, but let’s wait until he gets to full season ball to get too interested here.
Major League ETA: 2018
8. Kyle Crick, RHP
In a system filled with frustrating prospects, Crick is the most frustrating.The Giants finally had enough last season, as they threw in the towel on his starting career and moved him to the bullpen. He’ll show two out-pitches, led by a four-seam fastball that touches 99 and sits 92-96 with heavy sink. His slider is another strikeout pitch with hard bite, and those two offerings alone make him a guy who can give right-handers fits.
Crick’s flaws recede a bit in the bullpen role, but they’re still present. His control/command are woeful, and he lacks a competent third offering to get left-handed hitters out, as seen in the .432 on-base percentage they had against him in 2015. Go to the “right” game and you’ll see about 15 different arm slots, which, as you might guess, isn’t conducive to throwing strikes.
If someone can finally get Crick to throw strikes, he’s a potential closer. Right now he’s just not reliable enough to project as a high-leverage reliever.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: As far as dynasty relief prospects go, Crick is one of the better ones out there. That statement is the very definition of damning with faint praise. If you can still trade him based on name recognition, you should probably do that.
Major League ETA: 2016
9. Aramis Garcia, C
When you hear the term “offensive-minded backstop,” they’re describing Garcia. Despite his struggles in San Jose, his strength and above-average bat speed give him above-average power. The swing is compact, and though he doesn’t have elite hand-eye coordination, he makes enough hard contact to project at least a fringe-average hit tool. He’s a smart hitter who recognizes pitches well and will draw his share of walks (he can be too passive, however, which puts him behind in too many counts).
Garcia works hard behind the plate, but he’s a below-average defender at this point. The arm is only average, and his lack of athleticism leads to slow pop times. He also struggles to block pitches in the dirt at times, and his framing skills need to show growth.
Still, Garcia has enough offensive upside to profile as a backup big leaguer. The ceiling isn’t huge, but he can fill a role as a backup/platoon behind the plate or at first base.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If Garcia were a strong defender, there would be some reason for optimism in dynasty leagues, but his bat doesn’t project to be good enough to carry his poor defense at the position—and his bat won’t make him important for our purposes at another position. Garcia is best left for two-catcher formats and very deep leagues.
Major League ETA: 2017
10. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
Mejia missed the first 50 games of the season after testing positive for Sibutramine — a weight loss stimulant — and while the stats were fine after his return, the overall stuff took a step backward. He still shows a quality change from his quick arm and will touch 94 mph with his four-seamer. Unfortunately, the slider was slurvy for the most part, and he struggled to throw strikes, a recurring problem for the southpaw. In (albeit limited) looks at him in the AFL, he was much better, with the change flashing plus and more feel for both the fastball and slider. His waistline has grown significantly in his time with the franchise, leading to questions about his eventual durability..
If Mejia shows the same stuff he did in Arizona in 2016 he’ll shoot up this list, but because of the lost developmental year—and the fact that the AFL is such a small sample—it’s tough to have a lot of trust in this type of profile.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It seems strange to say at this point in a poor list, but Mejia might be the second-most valuable name in the Giants system for fantasy purposes because of his combination of proximity and potential. He still could be an SP4 who is stronger in the ratios than the strikeouts, but we’ll probably know pretty quickly into 2016 whether he’s worthy of a roster spot or not.
Major League ETA: 2018
Five who are just interesting:
Ray Black, RHP – Black throws harder than you do. In the AFL he was lighting up 101 with his four-seamer, which rarely dips below 96. He’ll also show an above-average curveball at times, but when he overthrows it it stays flat and slurvy (and he overthrows it quite often). He also has well below-average control right now (25 walks in 25 innings in San Jose), so as with Crick it’s hard to picture him pitching in pressure situations. Yet when you can miss bats like he does (51 strikeouts in those same 25 innings), there’s always a chance.
Mac Williamson, OF – If you’ve followed the Giants closely, you probably know that developing outfielders hasn’t exactly been the team’s strong suit. It’s not terribly likely, but Williamson has the best chance of becoming an outfield regular in years. There’s plus power in his right-handed bat thanks to his size and natural loft, and he has the extension necessary to hit line drives to every part of the field. Having the tool only goes so far, however, as Williamson gets extremely pull-happy, and the swing’s length and lack of bat speed mean he’s going to strike out. A lot. His arm is plus and he’s a deceptively good athlete, so if he can hit enough you could justify playing him every day in right field. It’s far more likely he’s a lefty-killer off the bench.
Andrew Suarez, LHP – Suarez was one of the best senior arms in the class (he was the Nationals’ second-round pick in 2014 but chose to return to Miami), and though he doesn’t offer much upside, the floor is high. He commands both his two- and four-seam fastballs to both sides of the plate, and while he's been seen as high as 96 MPH, he's in the 91-94 range more often than not. He’ll show three off-speed pitches with varying level of success; the best is a slider that will occasionally flash plus. Both his curveball and change are potentially 50 pitches, and he throws all four pitches for strikes from an easy delivery that he repeats well. There’s nothing particularly sexy about this arsenal, but four competent pitches and the ability to throw strikes make him a potential starter with very little margin for error.
Austin Slater, IF/OF – Slater is the type of player who doesn’t have a set position, but doesn’t really need one. He possesses a toned down version of the “Stanford Swing” (high-contact, go the other way, nuts to power), but he was never going to be a big power hitter anyway. There is enough bat speed and strength to put the ball into the gaps and put his plus speed to work. He spent most of the year at second base, but the Giants had him play the outfield corners in the AFL, and his speed and above-average throwing arm play well there. He’s not an everyday player, but Slater’s versatility makes him interesting, and he could help the Giants’ bench at some point this summer.
Mac Marshall, LHP – Marshall was victim of MLB’s insane draft rules when Brady Aiken wasn’t signed, as his seven-figure agreement was voided. The Astros’ loss was the Giants’ gain. Marshall shows three average pitches, the best being a change that will routinely flash plus with late fade. He won’t miss many bats with his 90-92 four-seam fastball and somewhat-slurvy slider, but because he throws strikes with all three pitches from a smooth delivery, there’s a great chance of him pitching at the back of someone’s rotation someday.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/90 or later)
For the first time in several years this Giants list is not headlined by left-handed stud Madison Bumgarner. That change alone results in a dramatic shift in the overall quality of this under-25 ranking, even though reality says the Giants still have a wealth of “young” talent at the big league level in 20-somethings Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Strickland, and Chris Heston.
Among those young players who still qualify for this list, second baseman Joe Panik has made those who believed in him coming out of college look smart, while other evaluators are left wondering how the Giants yet again found an underrated and highly productive player. Panik is an all-around player who can hit for average, get on base in other ways, and shows an ability to drive the ball to the gaps, making him an extremely valuable commodity in any lineup.
While Christian Arroyo is an intriguing shortstop option, and he ultimately should carry additional defensive value, Panik’s demonstrated major-league performance and all-around ability reduce risk and make him a better bet for this type of list.
For as much as Panik surprised some evaluators with his big-league performance, third baseman Matt Duffy has proven to be an even more perplexing developmental case, with hitting ability and power playing to levels few imagined as he came out of Long Beach State. Duffy is the Giants' everyday guy at the hot corner for at least the foreseeable future, and with that level of certainty it is impossible to push for a raw prospect like Lucius Fox to rank ahead of him.
With the remainder of the under-25 list comprising the same prospects listed above, there appears to be a lack of young talent in San Francisco. As alluded to earlier, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Further, even though they're too old for this list there are additional players such as Andrew Susac, Jarrett Parker, and Josh Osich in the primes of their careers and with enough ability to contribute to the big-league roster.
Regardless of the appearance of this 25-and-under list and the overall prospect ranking, the Giants remain well positioned to challenge their rivals in the National League West. They may not have the flash, make the headlines, or have the money of some of their division opponents, but the Giants are a young, talented team with considerable potential left. —Mark Anderson
Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations: Brian Sabean
Say this about the Giants: They know what they want, and outside of the outfield stuff, they do as good of a job as anyone of developing their type of player. Barr and company have received their share of criticism for their selections (Arroyo, Joe Panik, etc.) but the player development team—led until 2013 by Fred Stanley—has done a great job of maximizing those players’ seemingly limited skill sets. Say what you will about process over results, but front-office members don’t get fired because their bosses were unsatisfied with the “process” of draft picks.
With that being said, San Francisco’s player development hasn’t been without flaws. Outside of Fox they haven’t spent big on the international free agents—or developed those they have spent money on—and the Dombrowski-esque love for hard-throwing right handers with no command or feel for pitching has left this system in trouble. Some of that falls on the player-development staff, but it also falls on the front office for failing to recognize that high-probability isn’t such a bad thing to have in a system. When the majority of your system is low-floor, medium-reward, you probably aren’t setting yourself up for future success, and I only say probably because there’s a non-zero chance the Giants will win the World Series every other year regardless.