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February 26, 2010

Future Shock

Giants Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Buster Posey, C
2. Madison Bumgarner, LHP
Four-Star Prospects
3. Zach Wheeler, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Dan Runzler, LHP
5. Ehire Adrianza, SS
6. Rafael Rodriguez, RF
7. Thomas Neal, OF
8. Roger Kieschnick, OF
9. Tommy Joseph, C
10. Francisco Peguero, OF
Two-Star Prospects
11. Chris Dominguez, 3B

Four More:
12. Jason Stoffel, RHP: A top college reliever in the spring, Stoffel took a huge fall in the draft after a rough season. His stuff still misses bats, and he could prove to be a steal.
13. Nick Noonan, 2B: Scouts still love the tools, but they admit frustration on how slowly they've translated on the diamond.
14. Darren Ford, OF: Ford finally showed some signs of life at San Jose; was it too little, too late for a guy who needed three years at High-A?
15. Brandon Crawford, SS: He has a plus glove, but there are plenty of questions about the bat.

1. Buster Posey, C
DOB: 3/27/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Florida State University
2009 Stats: .326/.428/.540 at High-A (80 G); .321/.391/.511 at Triple-A (35 G); .118/.118/.118 at MLB (7 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 2

Year in Review: This top pick from 2008 performed as well, if not better than expected with the bat, but he showed he still had some work to do defensively.
The Good: Posey could step into the big leagues right now and be an above-average offensive catcher. His approach is excellent, and his quick, compact swing leads to consistent hard contact and at least average power. He's a very toolsy player for a catcher, with average to a tick above-average speed once he gets going. He has an outstanding arm.
The Bad: Posey didn't begin catching until college, so his receiving skills are a bit raw, although most believe his fantastic athleticism for a catcher will allow him to develop into an average-if not more-backstop. His platoon differences are sizeable, as he absolutely destroys left-handed pitching, while he's merely good against righties.
Ephemera: Of Posey's 18 home runs in the minors last year, 11 came against left-handers in just 114 at-bats, as did both of his Arizona Fall League homers.
Perfect World Projection: He's an All-Star catcher.
Path to the Big Leagues: The signing of Bengie Molina was a confusing one, leaving Posey to likely start 2010 in the minors. There were some rumblings about a positional switch, but he's staying at catcher.
Timetable: Posey will begin 2010 working on his defense back at Triple-A Fresno, but he should overtake Molina for the big-league job at some point during the year.

2. Madison Bumgarner, LHP
DOB: 8/1/89
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, South Caldwell HS (NC)
2009 Stats: 1.48 ERA (24.1-20-4-23) at High-A (5 G); 1.93 ERA (107.0-80-30-69) at Double-A (20 G); 1.80 ERA (10.0-8-3-10) at MLB (4 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: The Giants' top prospect entering the year was good, but not nearly as dominant as 2008 due to a disturbing drop in velocity.
The Good: When he's on, Bumgarner can be electric, touching 95-96 mph with a fastball that earns as much praise for its movement as its velocity. He'll show an excellent power breaking ball at times, and earns high praise for his aggressive, fearless style.
The Bad: Bumgarner's velocity fell throughout the 2009 season, with him rarely getting to 90 mph by the end of the year. The Giants believe this was due to fatigue and a self-imposed off-day schedule that had him throwing far too hard. He'll still flatten out a breaking ball on occasion, and his changeup is just a show-me pitch.
Ephemera: While the 10th overall pick in the draft has produced oodles of great hitters, it hasn't been as kind to pitchers, as Jon Garland is the all-time wins leader with 117, and only six pitchers drafted in that slot have even reached double-digits. Tim Lincecum, whom the Giants selected at 10th the year before they took Bumgarner with the identical pick, should shatter Garland's mark.
Perfect World Projection: If the stuff comes back, his potential remains that of a front-line starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: We'll know much more this spring.
Timetable: Bumgarner will get a long look this spring as the potential fifth starter.

3. Zach Wheeler, RHP
DOB: 5/30/90
Height/Weight: 6-4/180
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, East Paulding HS (GA)
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: The top high school arm in the South, Wheeler was the sixth overall pick, but he signed too late to make his pro debut.
The Good: Wheeler has the much-desired combination of right-now stuff and plenty of projection, as his long, skinny frame still has plenty of room to fill out. His fastball sits in the low 90s, touches 95 mph, and he gets a bit of natural sink on the pitch as well. He'll flash a plus slider and already has advanced feel for a changeup.
The Bad: Wheeler's secondary pitches need refinement, as he'll lose feel on both due to overthrowing. His arm slot is a bit low, leaving some to wonder is he'll have trouble against left-handed hitters. More than anything, he just needs innings.
Ephemera: The Giants had drafted sixth overall just twice before, selecting righty Steve Soderstrom in 1993 and shortstop Johnnie LeMaster in 1973.
Perfect World Projection: It's an All-Star level ceiling...
Path to the Big Leagues: ...With plenty of work still to be done.
Timetable: Wheeler should be polished enough to handle a full-season league in his pro debut and will likely begin 2010 at Low-A Augusta.

4. Dan Runzler, LHP
DOB: 3/30/85
Height/Weight: 6-4/230
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 9th round, 2007, UC Riverside
2009 Stats: 0.68 ERA (26.1-8-13-45) at Low-A (19 G); 0.84 ERA (21.1-8-4-26) at High-A (19 G); 0.96 ERA (9.1-5-7-11) at Double-A (7 G); 0.00 ERA (2.0-2-0-1) at Triple-A (2 G); 1.04 ERA (8.2-6-5-11) at MLB (11 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: This relatively obscure lefty began the year in Low-A and ended it in the majors, dominating at every stop along the way.
The Good: Runzler's fastball has plus-plus velocity for a left-hander, but the pitch is just as noticeable for its massive sink, as evidenced by a ground-ball ratio of nearly 4.7-to-1 at Augusta. He'll mix in a curveball that flashes plus at times.
The Bad: Runzler needs to find more consistency with his breaking ball, and he loses the strike zone at times due to almost too much movement on his pitches. He's big and bordering on soft, so his conditioning will need to be monitored.
Ephemera: Big-league lefties facing Runzler went 1-for-17 with six strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: Runzler is a late-inning reliever, maybe even a second-division closer.
Path to the Big Leagues: Runzler's minor-league career is likely over.
Timetable: Runzler is all but guaranteed an Opening Day job in the Giants' bullpen.

5. Ehire Adrianza, SS
DOB: 8/21/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/155
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2002
2009 Stats: .258/.333/.327 at Low-A (117 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Just missed

Year in Review: This Venezuelan shortstop made some progress with the bat while showcasing his always excellent glove work.
The Good: Adrianza is just a special defender, as every aspect of his shortstop play is above average, with outstanding instincts, tremendous range, excellent hands, and a strong arm. He has a patient approach at the plate to go with a contact-oriented line-drive swing that serves him well.
The Bad: Adrianza has very little power, nor projection for any, so the hope is that he can simply hit enough line drives to be an everyday shortstop who bats at the bottom of a lineup. Like many young defensive stalwarts, he'll make spectacular plays yet boot run-of-the-mill ones.
Ephemera: Adriazna hit a robust .320 in 36 games batting sixth for the GreenJackets, but just .229 in any other lineup slot.
Perfect World Projection: Adrianza will be a plus-plus defensive shortstop with just enough offense to be a starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's still at least three years away.
Timetable: Adrianza will likely spend all of 2010 at High-A San Jose.

6. Rafael Rodriguez, RF
DOB: 7/13/92
Height/Weight: 6-5/198
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008
2009 Stats: .299/.392/.362 at Rookie-level (35 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: After singing for a then-Dominican record $2.55-million bonus in 2008, Rodriguez showed plenty of potential in his pro debut.
The Good: Tools, tools and more tools, as Rodriguez passes the scouting sniff test in every way. He's a long, exceptionally fluid athlete who scouts are universal in the belief that he'll develop plus power down the road. He showed a surprisingly advanced approach in his debut, working the count well and making a surprising amount of contact. He's an average to plus-runner who has a plus arm.
The Bad: Rodriguez is still raw. He needs to add loft and backspin to his swing in order to tap into his power, while also learning how to pull fastballs. His routes in the outfield need work, as does his work on the basepaths.
Ephemera: Rodriguez made progress throughout the year, going just 2-for-16 in four June games, batting .286 in July, and a healthy .364/.400/.436 in August.
Perfect World Projection: If he develops fully, he'll be an impact-level corner outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: Just 18 years old, there's no need to rush him.
Timetable: Rodriguez likely showed enough offensive polish to earn a 2010 full-season assignment to Augusta.

7. Thomas Neal, OF
DOB: 8/17/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 35th round, 2005, Riverside CC (CA)
2009 Stats: .337/.431/.579 at High-A (129 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Finally healthy, Neal delivered on the promise the Giants saw in him for some time, finishing in the California League's top five in all three triple-slash categories.
The Good: Neal is a pure hitter with excellent bat speed and hand-eye coordination, and enough strength to rate as having average power. He works the count well and brings a lot of intensity to the plate. His arm is another plus tool.
The Bad: Neal is not very athletic. He's a slow runner and bad outfielder. Despite slugging .579, scouts see him as much more of an average hitter than a power one, predicting a significant drop-off in that department once he's out of the California League.
Ephemera: While Neal played in just 16 day games for San Jose, he hit .441/.514/.881 in those contests.
Perfect World Projection: Neal will be an everyday left fielder with a high on-base percentage and decent power.
Path to the Big Leagues: He could be ready for a big-league look at some point in 2011.
Timetable: Like many who put up big numbers in the California League, the jury is still out on Neal. He'll get a bigger challenge in 2010 at Double-A Richmond.

8. Roger Kieschnick, OF
DOB: 1/21/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2008, Texas Tech
2009 Stats: .296/.345/.532 at High-A (131 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 11

Year in Review: Kieschnick's an athletic outfielder who had an impressive showing at High-A in his full-season debut.
The Good: Kieschnick has solid tools across the board. He takes a healthy cut with plus power, while he's also an above-average runner with a good outfield arm. He gets high marks for his makeup.
The Bad: Kieschnick needs to temper his approach. He sits dead red early in counts and can often get tied in knots by breaking balls when behind in the count, which is often. He has few weaknesses, but some scouts also argue he has no true impact tools, either.
Ephemera: Keith Ginter (38), Josh Bard (34), Joe Dillon (3), Donald Harris (2), and Mike Humphreys (1) are the only players drafted out of Texas Tech to hit big-league home runs.
Perfect World Projection: He projects to be a solid everyday right fielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: Kieschnick's big-league ETA is late 2011.
Timetable: Kieschnick will join Neal in 2010 at Richmond.

9. Tommy Joseph, C
DOB: 7/16/91
Height/Weight: 6-1/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2009, Horizon HS (AZ)
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Among the best power hitters in last June's high school crop, only defensive questions kept Joseph out of the first round.
The Good: Joseph has massive raw power thanks to a quick, simple swing that is backed by a broad-shouldered, heavily muscular build. Even with wood bats, he already puts on a show in batting practice, and he pulls balls as easily as he drives them the other way. His arm behind the plate is well above average.
The Bad: Joseph is a below-average athlete. He lumbers on the basepaths and is a well below-average receiver, with bad footwork and hard hands. Most feel he'll be moved to first base well before he's big-league ready, which only adds to his offensive expectations.
Ephemera: A baseball powerhouse in Arizona, Horizon High also produced former Giants first-round pick and current Pirates prospect Tim Alderson, as well as Angels third baseman Brandon Wood.
Perfect World Projection: Joseph will be a slugger, but as a first baseman.
Path to the Big Leagues: It could take a while.
Timetable: Joseph will remain a catcher for now, and he'll begin the 2010 season at Augusta.

10. Francisco Peguero, OF
DOB: 6/1/88
Height/Weight: 6-0/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006
2009 Stats: .394/.421/.465 at Short-season (17 G); .340/.359/.437 at Low-A (58 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Slowed by injuries early in the season, Peguero recovered to put on a hitting show in the Sally League in the second half.
The Good: Peguero's slash-and-run style is reminiscent of an old-school early-1980s leadoff hitter. He flicks the bat and pokes balls between and over infielders, with enough speed to steal plenty of bases. He's a very good outfielder with an excellent arm.
The Bad: Peguero swings at any pitch within the same area code and needs to develop not only better, but any, plate discipline to project as a top-of-the-order hitter. He's has a career 82-percent success rate as a base stealer, yet at times seems hesitant to run.
Ephemera: In 28 home games for Augusta, Peguero hit .402, but had just a .407 on-base percentage, as he coaxed just two walks out.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a leadoff hitter and a good center fielder, but one scout liked him better as a good ninth hitter for an American League team.
Path to the Big Leagues: His distance to the big leagues is directly correlated to his ability to develop a discernable eye.
Timetable: After spending the 2009 postseason at San Jose, Peguero will spend the regular season there in 2010.

11. Chris Dominguez, 3B
DOB: 11/22/86
Height/Weight: 6-5/235
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2009, University of Louisville
2009 Stats: .306/.375/.528 at Rookie-level (9 G); .254/.298/.442 at Short-season (47 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: One of college baseball's top sluggers, Dominguez showed all the promise-and all the holes-in his game during his pro debut.
The Good: Dominguez has massive, huge light-tower power that rates as a pure 80 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, with one scout joking, "They should sell tickets just to watch him take BP." He's a surprisingly good athlete for his size, with average speed once he gets going and a very strong arm at the hot corner.
The Bad: Unlike many sluggers, Dominguez doesn't look for pitches to drive as much as he simply tries to drive every pitch, leading to few walks and truckloads of strikeouts. While he has the tools to stick at third base, he's a sloppy, haphazard defender who often boots the most routine ground balls and gets his feet tied up on throws.
Ephemera: In the University of Louisville media guide, Dominguez listed the late, great Bruce Lee as his favorite athlete.
Perfect World Projection: The next Russell Branyan?
Path to the Big Leagues: If he doesn't make adjustments, he's going to be known more for his 200-plus strikeout seasons than his big-league profile.
Timetable: Because Dominguez played four years of college, the Giants can't be too cautious with his timetable. He'll likely move to San Jose for his full-season debut.

The Sleeper: Right-hander Henry Sosa still has one of the better arms in the system, and many scouts think he could flourish with a transition to the bullpen

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)

1. Tim Lincecum, RHP
2. Pablo Sandoval, 3B/1B
3. Matt Cain, RHP
4. Buster Posey, C
5. Madison Bumgarner, LHP
6. Zach Wheeler, RHP
7. Dan Runzler, LHP
8. Ehire Adrianza, SS
9. Rafael Rodriguez, RF
10. Thomas Neal, OF

Lincecum and Cain are one of the better 1-2 rotation punches in the game; the fact that both qualify for this list should give Giants fans plenty of reason for optimism. I can't find a scout who think Sandoval's 2009 season was a fluke, so as long as he can stay somewhat in shape, he should be contending for batting titles on an annual basis.

Summary: The Giants' system lacks depth, but it certainly has star power with a five-star battery that is close to contributing to the big leagues. A few things break right, and this team should return to contention in the National League West.


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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