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December 29, 2006

Future Shock

San Francisco Giants Top Ten Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Excellent Prospects
1. Tim Lincecum, rhp
Very Good Prospects
2. Angel Villalona, 3b
3. Jonathan Sanchez, lhp
Good Prospects
4. Emmanuel Burriss, ss
Average Prospects
5. Eddy Martinez-Estevee, lf
6. Sharlon Schoop, ss
7. Fred Lewis, lf/cf
8. Nate Schierholtz, lf
9. Billy Sadler, rhp
10. Mike McBryde, cf

1. Tim Lincecum, rhp
DOB: 6/15/84
Height/Weight: 5-11/160
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2006, University of Washington
What he did in 2006: 0.00 ERA at Short Season (4-1-0-10), 1.95 ERA at High A (27.2-13-12-48)
The Good: Best pure stuff of any 2006 draftee. Despite looking like a 13-year-old on the mound, Lincecum's unorthodox mechanics and the fastest arm action you'll ever see allow him to unleash 92-96 mph fastballs while touching 98-99 and maintaining that velocity throughout the game. Curveball is an even better offering, grading out by many scouts as a pure 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Slider and changeup are there and usable. Despite size and delivery, arm was remarkably resilient in college, as he often closed 1-2 days after racking up a high pitch count without ever having problems with arm soreness.
The Bad: Control can be a problem at times. Lincecum walked 216 in 342 college innings, and while he made significant improvements this year, his rate was still a relatively high 4.52 per nine innings.
The Irrelevant: The three highest single-season strikeout totals in Washington history are Lincecum's junior (199), freshman (161) and sophomore (131) seasons.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: An all-star starter or an all-star closer.
Gap Between What He is Now, And What He Can Be: Low - Lincecum could have pitched out of the Giants bullpen at the end of 2006, but the team decided against it for a variety of reasons. He'll likely start 2007 at Double-A, and could be in the majors as early as the All-Star break.

2. Angel Villalona, 3b
DOB: 8/13/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Signed: 2006, Dominican Republic
What he did in 2006: Signed a contract three days after his 16th birthday that included a $2.1 million bonus.
The Good: Absolute man-child and the top international prospect of the year. Already has plus-plus power to all fields and advanced pitch recognition. Good fielder with soft hands and a plus arm. Even an above-average runner.
The Bad: Um, he's 16! There will obviously be some weaknesses in his game, but we won't know what they are until they are exposed. At his age and his size, he could easily outgrow third base, but he's athletic enough where the backup plan is right field instead of first base.
The Irrelevant: International scouts saw Villalona hit a 400-foot home run with a wooden bat . . . when he was 13.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: The sky is the limit, though Villalona is still on the ground. Whispers of the next Miguel Cabrera are understandable at this point.
Gap Between What He is Now, And What He Can Be: Very High - Again, he's 16. The Giants won't reveal their plans for Villalona, but all signs point to either a slow introduction to professional baseball with a year in the Dominican Summer League, or a half season in the Arizona Rookie League.

3. Jonathan Sanchez, lhp
DOB: 11/19/82
Height/Weight: 6-2/165
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted: 27th round, 2004, Ohio Dominican University
What he did in 2006: 1.15 ERA at AA (31.1-14-9-46); 3.80 ERA at AAA (23.2-13-13-28); 4.95 ERA at MLB (40-39-23-33)
The Good: Strong-armed lefty was moved to the bullpen in order to accelerate his progression, but moved back to the rotation and ended up making big league debut as a starter. 91-93 mph fastball is a plus pitch for a lefty, and changeup features excellent arm action. Goes after hitters with aggressive style that serves him well.
The Bad: Has tendency to overthrow breaking ball which causes it to lose break and get elevated, leaving it highly hittable. Has problems throwing strikes at times.
The Irrelevant: Sanchez's dominating four-year career at tiny NAIA Ohio Dominican included four no-hitters.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A No. 3 starter.
Gap Between What He is Now, And What He Can Be: Low - The signing of Barry Zito makes things a little more difficult for Sanchez, but he'll likely beat Brad Hennessey out for the final slot in the Giants rotation.

4. Emmanuel Burriss, ss
DOB: 1/17/85
Height/Weight: 6-0/170
Bats/Throws: S/R
Draft: 1st round, 2006, Kent State
What he did in 2006: 307/384/366 at Short Season (293 PA)
The Good: In a draft remarkably thin on college middle infielders, Burriss was among the best of the bunch. Consummate leadoff man who understands his primarily skill is getting on base thanks to excellent contact skills and a patient eye. Plus-plus runner and an excellent base stealer. Very good range to both sides at shortstop and capable of acrobatic plays.
The Bad: Has no power and likely never will, so he needs to continue hitting .300 and drawing walks to have offensive value. Arm at shortstop is accurate, but lacks that extra oomph needed from plays in the hole.
The Irrelevant: Burriss went to Wilson High School in Washington D.C. and is believed to be the first player drafted who went to a public school in our nation's capital in over 15 years.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: An old-school leadoff man/shortstop.
Gap Between What He is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. Burriss will play his first season at Low A, as coming from a smaller school he's not as advanced as most college players. The Giants hope he'll be a finished product by the time Omar Vizquel is finally ready to step down.

5. Eddy Martinez-Esteve, lf
DOB: 7/14/83
Height/Weight: 6-2/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 2nd round, 2004, Florida State
What he did in 2006: .272/.324/.446 at AA (105 PA)
The Good: Best pure hitter in the system with a patience and power to all fields. Ignore the 2006 numbers as a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery hampered his swing. He can hit.
The Bad: While the bat and the power are plus, they are also his only tools. He's both bad and indifferent defensively, and previous surgery on his other shoulder (the throwing one) limits him to first base or left field and he's pretty bad at both positions. His attitude has turned off many a scout, manager and teammate.
The Irrelevant: Martinez-Esteve went to the same high school, Westminster Christian in Miami, that produced Alex Rodriguez and Doug Mientkiewicz. He helped his team win the Florida 2A championship by hitting a game-winning bases-loaded double in the championship game while also picking up the victory from the mound.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A middle-of-the-order RBI machine.
Gap Between What He is Now, And What He Can Be: Average - Martinez-Esteve is wrongly cast in the Giants system as a future DH for a team that rarely needs one. If he comes back and proves he can hit again, he's probably just proving that he's a nice trading chip for the organization.

6. Sharlon Schoop, ss
DOB: 4/15/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/160
Bats/Throws: R/R
Signed: 2004, Curacao
What he did in 2006: .310/.437/.405 at Rookie Level (160 PA), .286/.500/.286 at Short Season (10 PA)
The Good: Exciting young infielder already has plus defensive skills, and bat is making quick progress. Very good instincts, above-average arm and smooth actions make him a pure shortstop. Smooth swing and impressive hand-eye coordination give him excellent contact skills, and good pitch recognition helps the cause. Above-average runner.
The Bad: Differentiating opinions on power potential. Some see him as a slap hitter, others seeing him adding some juice as his wiry frame fills out. Tendency to get out of control defensively, leading to silly errors.
The Irrelevant: Flipped primarily between first and third in the AZL Giants lineup, Schoop hit .500 (21-for-42) in the leadoff role, but just .214 (12-for-56) out of the three hole.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: An every day shortstop.
Gap Between What He is Now, And What He Can Be: Very High - Schoop is one of the few young, toolsy high-ceiling prospects in the system, and his full-season debut will be one to keep an eye on.

7. Fred Lewis, lf
DOB: 12/9/80
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: L/R
Draft: 2nd round, 2002, Southern University
What he did in 2006: .276/.375/.453 at AAA (517 PA); .455/.455/.545 at MLB (11 PA)
The Good: Excellent athlete has at least average tools across the board. Has some patience and enough power to sting mistakes into the gap. Above-average speed.
The Bad: Can still be fooled into chasing breaking balls outside the zone. Limited in center field because of below-average instincts. Still learning how to convert his speed into stolen bases. The Irrelevant: Fred's cousin is 12-year veteran and two-time All-Star Matt Lawton.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A very good fourth-outfielder/occasional starter.
Gap Between What He is Now, And What He Can Be: Low - Lewis lacks that one over-the-top skill to make him an every day player, but he can do so many things that he should carve out a nice career for himself. The Giants have too many outfielders right now for it to start in 2007, however.

8. Nate Schierholtz, rf
DOB: 2/15/84
Height/Weight: 6-1/215
Bats/Throws: L/R
Draft: 2nd round, 2003, Chabot JUCO (California)
What he did in 2006: .270/.325/.443 at AA (510 PA)
The Good: Plus-plus raw power finally began to show up in games with eight of his 14 home runs coming in the last month of the season. Good athlete for his size who runs well and has plus arm strength.
The Bad: The Giants worked on eliminating, or at least limiting Schierholtz's ridiculously long bat-wrap, and while he reduced his strikeout rate in 2006, his still adjusting to finding his power with a shorter swing. Drafted as a third-baseman, his jumps and routes in the outfield are still a work in progress.
The Irrelevant: Despite setting a Chabot single-season record with 18 home runs, Schierholtz was a relative unknown entering the draft to teams other than the Giants. Team Vice President Dick Tidrow is a graduate of Chabot and knows how to keep a secret.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A low-average/high-power corner outfielder who bats fifth or sixth in the lineup.
Gap Between What He is Now, And What He Can Be: Average - Schierholtz goes to Triple-A in a strange position - at the cusp of the big leagues, but not really as ready as most at that level.

9. Billy Sadler, rhp
DOB: 7/21/81
Height/Weight: 6-0/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 6th round, 2003, Louisiana State
What he did in 2006: 2.56 ERA at AA (45.2-23-29-67); 1.80 ERA at AAA (10-5-2-12); 6.75 ERA at MLB (4-5-2-6)
The Good: Undersized reliever blossomed in third year at Double-A, working his way up to majors by missing plenty of bats with a 92-95 mph fastball that features tailing action and a plus curve that also adds some horizontal fade to make him equally effective against lefthanders.
The Bad: Because of his height, Sadler doesn't get a lot of downward plane on his pitches. He has a tendency to have trouble controlling the curveball, putting him behind in the count and forcing him to throw fastballs.
The Irrelevant: Sadler has shared a locker room often with fellow farmhand Brian Buscher at multiple stops on the Giants chain. Buscher hit a game-tying single off Sadler in the righthander's final college game, an 11-10 loss to South Carolina that eliminated the Tigers from the 2003 College World Series.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A right-handed setup man.
Gap Between What He is Now, And What He Can Be: Low - Sadler was outstanding in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 22 in 14 innings, which should give him a leg up as he competes for a job in a crowded Giants bullpen.

10. Mike McBryde, of
DOB: 3/22/85
Height/Weight: 6-2/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 5th round, 2006, Florida Atlantic University
What he did in 2006: 276/344/400 at Short Season (255 PA)
The Good: After playing just three games in the college season due to a torn hamstring, McBryde quickly shook off the rust in his pro debut. He's a plus-plus runner with tremendous range in center field and a rocket arm. Athletic frame is compared by one scout to that of Rocco Baldelli.
The Bad: Like a young Baldelli, McBryde is a raw hitter who isn't very good now, but has big upside. Power potential and bat speed are there, approach and fundamentally sound swing mechanics are not.
The Irrelevant: While a hamstring limited him to just three games as a junior, McBryde doubled as Florida Atlantic's closer in college, striking out 55 in 41.1 innings with good command of an average fastball and truly plus curve.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A good hit/great glove center fielder.
Gap Between What He is Now, And What He Can Be: High - The Giants feel they got a steal in McBryde, as few got a chance to see him at all this year. They think he'll thrive at Low-A in 2007.

The Sleeper

2006 third-round pick Clayton Tanner held his own in the Northwest League after high school, an impressive feat by any measurement. A skinny lefthander who already possesses an 88-92 mph fastball, Tanner has solid mechanics and good projection.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies 25 Years Old Or Younger (As Of Opening Day 2007)

1. Matt Cain, rhp
2. Tim Lincecum, rhp
3. Angel Villalona, 3b
4. Jonathan Sanchez, lhp
5. Emmanuel Burriss, ss
6. Eddy Martinez-Estevee, lf
7. Sharlon Schoop, ss
8. Fred Lewis, lf/cf
9. Nate Schierholtz, lf
10. Billy Sadler, rhp

Giants + young talent has pretty much been an oil/water situation for a few years now. That said Matt Cain is a total stud, and anybody who saw him pitch in the second half of last year knows it. He'll be a better pitcher in 2007 than Barry Zito. Book it.

It's not a good system by any means. This is what happens when you throw away first round picks, like the organization did with the Michael Tucker fiasco a few years back. Hopefully, with the 2006 draft, they've learned that sometimes it's a good idea to sign amateur players.

Next: The Washington Nationals

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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