State of the Farm:And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”

Prospect rankings primer

The Top Ten

  1. RHP Kyle Crick
  2. RHP Clayton Blackburn  
  3. RHP Chris Stratton
  4. CF Gary Brown
  5. RHP Heath Hembree
  6. C Andrew Susac
  7. OF Mac Williamson
  8. IF Joe Panik
  9. RHP Martin Agosta
  10. OF Francisco Peguero

1. Kyle Crick
Position: RHP
DOB: 11/30/1992
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 220 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, Sherman High School (Sherman, TX)
2012 Stats: 2.51 ERA (111.1 IP, 75 H, 128 K, 67 BB) at Low-A Augusta
The Tools: 7 potential FB; 6+ potential CB; 5+ CT

What Happened in 2012: The big Texan made his full-season debut and didn’t disappoint, showing electric stuff and looking like a future impact arm at the highest level.

Strengths: Excellent size/present strength; athletic delivery; arm is very fast; fastball is easy plus offering and could end up a 7 pitch; can work 92-95; touch higher; nice life; curveball has money-pitch potential; two-plane break and velo; plus with more potential; will show good utility on short cutter with late glove-side movement.

Weaknesses: Mechanical inconsistencies; loses release points; struggles to maintain a good line to the plate; below-average command at present; lacks solid command profile; changeup is often too firm; lacks quality movement (sink/fade).

Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2 starter

Explanation of Risk: High risk; fringe command; changeup needs grade jump.

Fantasy Future: Has the type of stuff to miss bats and log innings; high ceiling as a starter and in relief, with closer potential if command/changeup fall short.

The Year Ahead: With only one season of full-season ball under his belt, Crick is still in the infancy of his developmental process. His raw stuff was good enough to overpower Sally League hitters, but he will need to refine his mechanics and find consistency in his release to find sustainable success going forward. It helps when you have plus stuff and a strong, athletic frame, but adding pitchability to the mix isn’t a given, and will have a heavy hand in Crick’s long-term role, whether that comes near the front of a major-league rotation or at the back of a major-league bullpen.

Major league ETA: 2015

2. Clayton Blackburn
Position: RHP
DOB: 01/06/1993
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 220 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 16th round, 2011 draft, Edmond Santa Fe High School (Edmond, OK)
2012 Stats: 2.54 ERA (131.1 IP, 116 H, 143 K, 18 BB) at Low-A Augusta
The Tools: 6 fastball; 6 potential CH; 5 potential CB

What Happened in 2012: Like rotation mate Kyle Crick, Blackburn made the jump to the full-season level in 2012, showing advanced feel for pitching and a knack for missing barrels.

Strengths: Physically mature; big, durable body; arm works well; very fluid; pumps upper-80s/low-90s fastball in lower zone; plus vertical movement; very difficult to lift; excellent feel for command; pitch plays to plus; good feel for changeup; plays well off fastball; has weight and some fade.

Weaknesses: Lacks much projection; stuff can refine, but unlikely to intensify; curveball can get flat; can spin it, but it needs work; not on same level as FB/CH.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3 starter

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; mature body; good feel for command/change.

Fantasy Future: Not a fancy arm, but a workhorse in the making, with a heavy fastball that he can pound the zone with, a promising changeup to keep hitters off the fastball, and a curveball that has the potential to be a solid-average offering.  A 200-inning type who keeps the ball on the ground.

The Year Ahead: Blackburn is an advanced arm for his age, with a man’s body and a seasoned vet’s feel for the strike zone. If he can keep the sinking fastball away from the middle of the plate, use the changeup to both lefties and righties, and refine the curveball to the average level, he’s going to cruise until he reaches the upper minors. Even then he might not face a big challenge if the command holds up. It’s not a sexy ceiling, but it’s solid and relatively safe. Blackburn might not emerge as the next great arm in the Giants system, but I bet he’s still standing when the music stops.

Major league ETA: 2015

3. Chris Stratton
Position: RHP
DOB: 08/22/1990
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Mississippi State University (Mississippi State, MS)
2012 Stats: 2.76 ERA (16.1 IP, 14 H, 16 K, 10 BB) at short-season Salem-Keizer
The Tools: 6 fastball; 6 slider; 5 curveball; 5 changeup

What Happened in 2012: A low mileage arm that was taken 20th overall in the 2012 and has a chance to be on the fast track given his deep arsenal and pitchability.

Strengths: Prototypical size; good delivery; has some deception; two-seam velocity is average, but shows good late wiggle to the arm-side; four-seamer can work plus and touch mid-90s velo; thrown with good angle; slider plays well off fastball and has good glove-side slice; can add/subtract from length; can change sight line and plane with average curveball; can turn over changeup; pitches well in sequence; has pitchability.

Weaknesses: Lacks electric stuff; fastball is more pedestrian and flat when elevated; arm can show drag in delivery; curveball is inconsistent; lacks plus depth; secondary command and execution needs refinement; can throw strikes, but needs to turn control into command to reach ceiling.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3 starter

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; low-mileage arm; good feel; deep arsenal.

Fantasy Future: Without high-end stuff, Stratton will rely on sequence and location to force weak contact and disrupt timing. He shows the feel for pitch manipulation and could end up with four average or better pitches in his deep arsenal. Could settle in as a slightly better than league-average type at middle of rotation.

The Year Ahead: Stratton is a good candidate to move quickly thanks to his ability to execute a four-pitch mix and his overall feel for the craft. If the slider reaches plus he could have an out pitch, and if the changeup takes a step forward, he might have a chance to play above his projection. Lots to like here.

Major league ETA: 2015

4. Gary Brown
Position: CF
DOB: 09/28/1988
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, California State University Fullerton (Fullerton, CA)
2012 Stats: .279/.347/.385 at Double-A Richmond (134 games)
The Tools: 7 run; 5+ glove; 5+ potential hit

What Happened in 2012: Brown was a consensus Top 100 player in the minors coming into the 2012 season, but an up-and-down Double-A campaign damaged his status, and left many wondering what happened to the impact potential.

Strengths: Plus athlete; well above average run; covers ground in center; can flash plus leather; reads/routes are solid; can put the bat to the ball; contact and speed should allow for offensive opportunities; very strong against lefties; high major-league floor.

Weaknesses: Hasn’t been able to make many adjustments at the pro level; many sources suggested “he’s the same player he was in college”; tendency to open up early; loses the ability to drive the ball; loses all-field approach; power won’t be a big part of his game; baserunning needs work; makes too many outs on the field; tools play down.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average player

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; already achieved Double-A level; has defensive profile to play in majors.

Fantasy Future: Has the wheels to steal and the bat for average; unlikely to provide over-the-fence power, but could be extra-base hit threat if bat reaches ceiling.

The Year Ahead: After a hot-and-cold 2012, Brown will look to re-establish himself as a future impact player at the highest level. The adjustment issue and lack of growth is a red flag, but the overall athleticism and glove-work give him a high floor. Even if the bat is only average, the defensive profile will have use on a major-league bench (eventually). If he can refine his baserunning and help his tools to play up to their level and not down, he has a chance to be a down-the-lineup center fielder at the highest level.

Major league ETA: 2013

5. Heath Hembree
Position: RHP
DOB: 01/13/1989
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 5th round, 2010 draft, College of Charleston (Charleston, SC)
2012 Stats: 0.00 ERA (5 IP, 0 H, 7K, 1 BB) at High-A San Jose; 4.74 ERA (38 IP, 29 H, 36 K, 20 BB) at Triple-A Fresno
The Tools: 7 fastball; 6 slider

What Happened in 2012: An elbow injury took a bite out of the season, but a strong showing in the AFL kept Hembree’s name in the prospect queue and on the door of the majors.

Strengths: Excellent size; big arm strength; very fast arm; two-seamer works in easy plus range; 91-95 and can touch higher; heavy movement; slider in low-mid 80s; short cutting movement to the arm-side; late-inning approach/ferocity.

Weaknesses: Command can be loose; delivery can throw him out of whack; loses line/release; slider can be quite short; break can be flat; changeup is rarely on the menu.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; set-up reliever at major-league level

Explanation of Risk: Low risk; some injury concerns, but stuff can play at level at present.

Fantasy Future: Late-inning arm with strikeout ability; fastball is plus-plus offering and can force weak contact; set-up potential.

The Year Ahead: Thanks to a few setbacks on the hill and on the injury front, Hembree wasn’t able to reach the majors as expected in 2012. If he can stay healthy and refine his command, he can find work at the highest level. The fastball is a very good offering, a low-mid 90s, bottom-heavy pitch that he backs up with a low-mid 80s cut slider, and should be a hard duo for right handers to deal with at any level. Most likely a setup arm, Hembree has impact potential and should get the chance to prove that very soon.

Major league ETA: 2013

6. Andrew Susac
Position: C
DOB: 03/22/1990
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2011 draft, Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR)
2012 Stats: .244/.351/.380 at High-A San Jose (102 games)
The Tools: 6 raw; 5+ arm; 5 glove

What Happened in 2012: Making his professional debut in Advanced A-ball, Susac was extremely cold for most of the summer, but finally found his groove in August, producing a .904 OPS.

Strengths: Plus raw pop; good strike-zone awareness; has a plan at the plate; shows good extension and can make loud contact; good catch/throw skills; solid arm; good lateral movements; backstop intangibles.

Weaknesses: Swing mechanics can get stiff; swing-and-miss; struggles to cover inner third; hit tool is below average; plus raw could play down; lacks loud defensive tools.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average major-league player

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; bat wasn’t great in hitter-friendly league, but catching skills can play; mature approach. 

Fantasy Future: Has the pop to hit 20 bombs from a premium defensive position; most likely a sub .260 hitter; some on-base skills; not a stolen base threat.

The Year Ahead: With a few tweaks to the offensive game, Susac could blossom into a much better prospect than his 2012 stats might suggest. He has promising raw pop, but the swing is limiting and was exploited by A-ball pitchers. If he can shorten up and use his approach to work himself into fastball counts, he isn’t going to be an easy out. The defensive profile is solid and he projects to remain behind the plate. If the bat shows some life, his prospect status will rise in 2013.

Major league ETA: 2014

7. Mac Williamson
Position: OF
DOB: 07/15/1990
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 240 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 3rd round, 2012 draft, Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC)
2012 Stats: .176/.263/.529 at complex level AZL (4 games); .342/.392/.596 at
short-season Salem-Keizer (29 games)
The Tools: 6+ power potential; 6+ arm; 5+ run; 5 glove

What Happened in 2012: Good college hitters are supposed to crush in short-season ball, and Williamson did just that, hitting for average and power in his brief run through the Northwest League.

Strengths: Huge man with loud tools; power potential is easy plus; raw power is at least plus-plus; shows natural feel for hitting; brings a plan to the plate; runs very well for size; arm is very strong; solid glove; potential to show all five tools.

Weaknesses: Mixed reviews on hit tool; swing can show length; slow to trigger; some struggles against soft/spinning; how much power plays?; high-maintenance size.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: High risk; short-season resume; loud tools but bust potential.

Fantasy Future: Prototypical corner profile, with big power potential; 25-plus HR pop; good secondary skills.

The Year Ahead: Williamson’s raw tools are legit, but scouts are mixed as to whether he will be able to hit at the highest level. He’s a good candidate to move fast and mash in the lower levels, but the swing could limit his success against better pitching and he has bust potential as a result. With a limited sample, the future is still very cloudy, but Williamson has a rare tool package for a college draftee and a very high ceiling should the bat play.

Major league ETA: 2015

8. Joe Panik
Position: IF
DOB: 10/30/1990
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, St. John’s University (Queens, NY)
2012 Stats: .297/.368/.402 at High-A San Jose (130 games)
The Tools: 5+ hit; 5 arm; 5 glove

What Happened in 2012: After raking in his short-season debut in 2011, Panik made the jump to the California League, where the bat showed some life and the game skills were solid.

Strengths: Baseball instincts; bat-to-ball skills; very good hands at the plate; short to the ball with excellent bat control; hit tool has above-average potential; good plan at the plate; good actions in the field; arm is solid; game type that can play above tool grades.

Weaknesses: Lacks impact tools; power is below average; fringe run; fringe range at shortstop; better fit for second; might be tweener type.

Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division player

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; awaiting the Double-A test; good game skills.

Fantasy Future: Has a chance to be a starting second baseman; hit tool player with some secondary skills; .275-plus with doubles pop.

The Year Ahead: Panik will move to the Double-A level, where his approach will keep him in counts and his contact ability should allow him to put the ball in play. He’s not going to be a big power threat, but he can drive the ball and use the gaps. If scouts were sold on his ability to stick at short, his prospect star would shine brighter, but the reality of his skill set will most likely keep him on the right side of the infield, where it will take more than contact ability to find value at the highest level. He’s a very good baseball player with a utility floor, but if the bat can carry the weight, he has a chance to develop into a regular at second.

Major league ETA: 2014

9. Martin Agosta
Position: RHP
DOB: 04/07/1991
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2012 draft, St. Mary’s College of California (Moraga, CA)
2012 Stats: 4.22 ERA (10.2 IP, 8 H, 19 K, 9 BB) at complex level AZL
The Tools: 5+ fastball; 5 slider; 6 changeup

What Happened in 2012: Agosta might lack the flash of a higher ceiling arm, but with solid-average stuff and good feel for pitching, he could be a fast riser in the system.

Strengths: Athletic; good delivery; creates angles; fastball is 90-93 with good movement; can work either side of the plate; changeup is plus offering; good arm speed and late action; slider plays to average; feel for sequence; pitchability.

Weaknesses: Lacks prototypical size; stuff is more solid-average than plus; loses fastball command at plus velocity; will work up; breaking ball isn’t big bat-missing weapon; relies more on sequence and setup than stuff; command needs to be sharper.

Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4/5 starter

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; mature stuff; complex- league resume.

Fantasy Future: It won’t be sexy, but the stuff has a chance to play; pitchability and pitch mix for rotation; middle-relief floor.

The Year Ahead: Agosta is ready to move, and is a good candidate to find immediate success at the full-season level. His fastball is a lively offering, normally working in the low-90s, but can top out a little higher. The changeup is a major-league quality pitch, one he felt comfortable throwing to both lefties and righties in college. The breaking ball isn’t special, but he knows how to use it. With refined command, the solid-average arsenal will play, but he’s not a pitcher that can live loose in the zone without getting exploited.

Major league ETA: 2015

10. Francisco Peguero
Position: OF
DOB: 06/01/1988
Height/Weight: 5’11’’ 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2005, Dominican Republic

2012 Stats: .272/.297/.394 at Triple-A Fresno (105 games); .188/.188/.188 at
major-league level (17 games)
The Tools: 6+ run; 6 arm; 5 glove; 5 potential hit

What Happened in 2012: After a strong 2011 season, the toolsy outfielder took a step back in Triple-A, showing contact ability and speed, but an approach that won’t play at the highest level.

Strengths: Athletic body; lean; good contact ability; hands work well; some pop; easy 6 run; 6 arm; good range in the outfield; can handle up-the-middle role.

Weaknesses: Bad approach; good/bad contact; doesn’t work counts; doesn’t show patience or a plan; below-average power; speed can play down; not a plus defender; low-effort player at times.

Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division player

Explanation of Risk: Low risk; has the glove/speed for major-league role; bat/effort are question marks.

Fantasy Future: Contact ability with plus run; some extra-base potential because of speed; not impact player.

The Year Ahead: The approach killed Peguero in Triple-A, making him an empty contact threat with little on-base ability beyond his average. The glove and speed could make him a bench outfielder at worst, but he has the potential for a little more if he can refine his overall approach at the plate and work himself into more favorable spots. He’s never going to kill the ball, but he can swing a bat and he has some defensive versatility, so a major league future is there if he wants to take it.

Major league ETA: 2012

Prospects on the Rise:

1. LHP Adalberto Mejia: 19-year-old Dominican lefty with a heavy two-seamer and a good slider, Mejia is ready to claim a top 10 spot next season. The stuff isn’t crazy, but he shows pitchability and a starter’s arsenal, so if he can refine his command and hit his spots, he should be able to find success all the way up the chain. Good arm.

2. LHP Ty Blach: A fifth round pick in 2012, Blach is a good candidate to move forward in 2013. He brings a low-90s fastball with above-average movement and a promising changeup that should develop into an above-average offering. It’s not flashy, but like Mejia, he shows feel for the mound and has a starter’s arsenal, so he could move quickly and take a big step forward next season.

3. OF Gustavo Cabrera: High-profile Dominican Summer League player that is absolutely jacked with tools, Cabrera might possess the highest ceiling in the Giants system. With plus-plus speed and big power potential, the young outfielder has the potential to be an impact prospect. It remains to be seen if Cabrera can actually play baseball, or if he’s just a toolshed, but if he can bring the raw tools into game action, his star will be on the rise.

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013

1. RHP Chris Heston: After a solid Double-A season, former 12th round pick Chris Heston positioned himself for a major league look in 2013. It’s not an impact profile, but if he can spot his heavy two-seamer down in the zone and use his off-speed stuff to keep hitters off the fringe velocity of the fastball, he can find some success at the highest level.

2. LHP Michael Kickham: The 24-year-old has good stuff from the left-side—including a plus fastball—with feel and utility for a deep secondary arsenal. Some scouts think Kickham would be a better fit in the bullpen, where his velocity could play up and his command issues could play down, but he has the body and the arsenal to develop into a back of the rotation workhorse. Either way, Kickham is a major-league arm and should see action in 2013.

3. OF Juan Perez: Catalytic player with a high motor and some defensive skills in the outfield, Perez is a likely role player at the highest level. He isn’t going to wow you with his bat, although he can jump on mistakes and make a pitcher work for the out. It’s more about the speed and the glove, and if he can produce enough while he’s waiting in the wings, his call to the show might come sooner rather than later.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/87 or later)

  1. Buster Posey
  2. Madison Bumgarner
  3. Kyle Crick
  4. Clayton Blackburn
  5. Chris Stratton
  6. Gary Brown
  7. Brandon Belt
  8. Heath Hembree
  9. Mac Williamson
  10. Hector Sanchez

Winners of two of the last three World Series titles, the Giants have a bevy of young, talented players, including many that fall just a couple years outside this list. With a talented young roster and routine additions of veterans that can fill a specific role, it is no wonder they continue to succeed at the highest level and win championships. The pitching staff still draws much of the acclaim but the fact remains that this organization is led by their reigning MVP, catcher Buster Posey. A supreme leader, high-end defender and exceptional offensive talent, Posey is a superstar talent that should be the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future.

While pitchers like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain draw much of the front-page notice, left-hander Madison Bumgarner is a tremendous talent who will pitch nearly the entire 2013 season, his third full campaign, at the age of 23. Bumgarner has the upside of a dominating no. 2 starter and if not for positional scarcity may have a strong case for ranking ahead of Posey on this list. As members of the Giants pitching staff begin to age, most notably Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito, the Giants should have arms waiting in the wings as pitchers like Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Chris Stratton, Mike Kickham, and Adalberto Mejia continue to develop. The Giants have seemingly maintained a healthy pipeline of pitching talent to augment the big-league staff, both in the rotation and the bullpen, and I don’t see that changing in the coming years.

Though he struggled to make some adjustments in the first half of his Double-A debut, outfielder Gary Brown looked better in the second half, hitting the ball harder, stealing bases and playing strong defense up the middle. I’m still a believer in Brown’s long-term potential and his up-the-middle tools help him rate slightly ahead of Brandon Belt.

Following a string of four seasons where they did not win more than 76 games, the Giants have been highly competitive in each of the last four seasons including two World Series titles. Don’t expect that trend to change in 2013, and if they can maintain their ability to develop pitchers to keep the staff stocked from within, that trend may not change for quite a while. –Mark Anderson

A Parting Thought: The system lacks depth and high-impact potential, but they find a way to make it work and have a good track record of developing young arms to their potential.

Last year's Giants rankings

Special thanks to Mark Anderson and Nick Faleris for their input and influence on this list.