Ranking the San Francisco Giants’ Top 10 Prospects Heading into 2014
Who is the San Francisco Giants' Top Prospect?
Now that the major and minor league seasons have concluded, it's time to re-examine the standings of prospects across MLB. This holds particularly true for the San Francisco Giants, who will be counting on some young players to step up in the coming years but haven't really gotten effective professional performances thus far from the players who they were counting on to be surefire big leaguers.
This is most true with center fielder Gary Brown, who was the 24th overall pick in the 2010 draft. After hitting .336 with 14 homers and 53 steals during his first professional season with the High-A San Jose Giants, the center fielder has slumped throughout his time in the upper minors. Brown had a horrid start in Double-A before rebounding in the second half to hit .279 in 2012. In 2013, however, he never got going and ended up hitting .231 in his first Triple-A season. After beginning 2013 at No. 2 on MLB.com's Giants prospect rankings he dropped to No. 9 by the end of the season, and he's left off of this list entirely.
Fortunately, the Giants have had plenty of bright spots as well, particularly with their young pitching. While their top prospects probably won't break into the majors until at least 2015, there is a great power pitching movement going on in the Giants system that should be fun to watch over the next couple seasons.
Without further ado, here are the Giants' top ten prospects following the 2013 season.
10. Adalberto Mejia, RHP
While he has less pure stuff than most of his fellow premium pitching prospects, the 20-year-old Mejia is as good of a bet as any to be a steady big-league starter. He skipped straight from the Dominican Summer League to full-season A-ball in 2012, and he took the next step up to High-A in 2013 where he was extremely effective. Over 16 starts, Mejia had a 3.31 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, and 89 strikeouts while holding hitters to a .228 average. He also held his own in a Triple-A spot start. Mejia is likely two years away from contributing in the majors, but when he gets there he should be a reliable member of the rotation for years to come.
9. Andrew Susac, C
Susac is a bit of an unknown, having experienced highs and lows in each of his first two professional seasons. The 2011 second-rounder's numbers improved in Double-A in 2013 as he hit .256 with 12 homers. His defense was also said to have improved. Susac has been effective thus far in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .355 through 31 at-bats. Since 23-year-old Hector Sanchez has come along so well, Susac is probably looking at sliding into the Giants' backup role if and when Buster Posey ultimately moves out from behind the dish.
8. Christian Arroyo, SS
Arroyo, who the Giants selected with the 25th pick of the first round in 2013, was criticized by many initially because of his non-status as an elite draft prospect and his perceived lack of defensive ability. However, the 18-year-old quieted his critics by hitting .326 with a .511 slugging percentage en route to winning the Arizona Rookie League MVP. There are still questions about Arroyo's ability to stay at shortstop long term, but now he seems more likely to reach the majors quickly because of his ability to get on base.
7. Martin Agosta, RHP
Agosta, the Giants' second-rounder in 2012, is undersized at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, but he makes up for that with low-to-mid 90s velocity on his fastball. He was extremely effective with the Low-A Augusta GreenJackets in 2013, putting up a 2.06 ERA with 109 strikeouts while holding hitters to a .180 average in 91.2 innings. The biggest concern with Agosta is his lack of size and potential vulnerability to injuries, which we saw this year with his multiple disabled list stints. If he stays healthy, though, Agosta has the potential to be either a middle-of-the-rotation starter or a powerful late-inning reliever at the big-league level.
6. Chris Stratton, RHP
Stratton, the Giants' first pick in 2012, gets the benefit of the doubt here because of his status as a first-rounder. It's somewhat alarming that the 23-year-old couldn't crack any level higher than Low-A in his first year of pro ball, and he had a few rough patches. He did finish with decent numbers overall as he had a 3.27 ERA in 22 starts and found his success by getting ground balls. At 6-foot-3 and 186 pounds, he's better built to succeed as a big-leaguer than someone like Agosta. However, he was over-aged for the league he played in this year, and it would be nice to see him skip a level at some point so that he can play against a proper level of competition.
5. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
Coming into the 2013 season many considered Blackburn to be the Giants' most exciting pitching prospect. He underwhelmed at Class-A San Jose and was passed up by his rotation mate Kyle Crick, but Blackburn's prognosis is still very good for a big-league career. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound 20-year-old rebounded from a pre-All-Star break performance that saw him collect a 4.25 ERA to post a 3.07 mark in the second half. Overall, he averaged just more than a strikeout per inning while holding hitters to a .224 average. Though he's not quite as hard of a thrower as Crick, Blackburn is exceptionally well-developed for his age and still could end up moving very quickly through the Giants' system.
4. Joe Panik, 2B
Panik was disappointing in his first Double-A campaign, but there is still faith that the 23-year-old can be the Giants' second baseman of the future. When you factor in that Panik was playing in the Eastern League, which tends to challenge even the best of hitters, his .257 average doesn't look that bad. However, it would be nice to see him get more extra-base hits if he's not going to get on base consistently. It remains to be seen if Panik will move up to Triple-A next year, but it would seem to be the logical move if the Giants want to show faith in their former first-rounder.
3. Edwin Escobar, LHP
Escobar has arguably been the biggest mover in the Giants' system over the past couple years. For a while the 21-year-old left-hander seemed to struggle to get things going, but after a fantastic Low-A campaign in 2012 he followed up with a spectacular 2013 season. While splitting the year between High-A and Double-A, he put up a 2.80 ERA in 128.2 innings while striking out 146 and walking just 30. He also held hitters to a .228 average. It would make sense for Escobar to move up to Triple-A in 2013, and it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities for him to join the Giants' rotation by midseason depending on how things go.
2. Heath Hembree, RHP
Hembree was somewhat inconsistent during 2013 in Triple-A, but he found his form over the second half and was absolutely dominant when he came up in September. Over 7.2 innings spanning nine appearances, Hembree gave up just four hits and no runs while striking out 12. While he didn't show the upper-90s velocity on his fastball that he had been known for in the minors, he was extremely effective and probably penciled himself into the Giants' 2014 bullpen.
1. Kyle Crick, RHP
Crick has received comparisons to Matt Cain through his time with the Giants, and in 2013 he showed that those statements are valid -- other than the fact that Crick can throw harder and strike out more hitters than Cain. The soon-to-be 21-year-old Crick was held back by an injury in 2013, but in his 14 starts with High-A San Jose he had a 1.57 ERA while striking out 95 and walking 39 in 68.2 innings. He held hitters to a .201 average. The Giants obviously have a lot of confidence in Crick, but they want to be as cautious as possible with him before they bring him to the majors. For this reason, he probably won't reach the majors until at least mid-season 2015.