Thursday, February 9, 2017

2017 Top Prospects Primer

Welcome to the 2017 top prospects primer! I'll write anything and everything about the top prospects for the upcoming 2017 season from my top prospects list to the possible breakout stars this year. I'll write thoughts about the guys on every list and I'll be as fair as I can and do as much justice in regards to ranking the prospects. 

Trip Back Memory Lane

The 2016 season has been very good for the Giants farm system. The season started with the complete domination of Phil Bickford of the Sally League as well as the early struggles of Tyler Beede. The rest of the 2015 draft class showed its potential with the breakout performances of Steven Duggar and C.J. Hinojosa.  Prized IFA Lucius Fox also showed his tools but struggled with the bat throughout the season. Miguel Gomez also broke out as he has proven that pitchers are no match to his bat.

As the season reaches the midway point, many of the best players in San Jose got promoted to Richmond and guys like Bickford and Dylan Davis got promoted to San Jose. Bickford continued to dominate while Davis broke out and started mashing baseballs. Several other prospects continued to play well. The 2016 draft class also infused 2 polished OFs in Reynolds and Quinn and they hit very well in every stop that they went. The trade deadline also saw Bickford, Fox, Andrew Susac, Michael Santos depart from the farm system to improve the Major League roster.

As the season draws to a close, Austin Slater made PCL his own launchpad and hit homers almost every game, Beede aged like a fine wine this season where he improved as his season that culminated to an EL ERA title, and saw Ty Blach pitched very well at September and October for the Giants. 

Giants Farm’s Top 30 Prospect List

This is where you will find the finest prospects of the San Francisco Giants organization. If you are a follower of my blog, you might know that I don’t like ranking prospects. Instead, I separate when to tiers where I can segregate then easily and I felt that this group of people have the same value and it’s unfair to rank them. I still included a ranking from 30-1 to the people that like rankings.

Top 30 Initial Analysis

The state of the farm system is directly related to the current roster of the San Francisco Giants. The Giants have an obvious weakness in the outfield as well as an aging starting rotation (except for Bumgarner) so the Giants loaded up on their pitching depth like they always do recently as well as in the outfield highlighted by their first two picks in the 2016 draft. All in all, there are only 4 players in the top 20 that are not pitchers or outfielders. In fact, Aramis Garcia is the only catcher in the top 30 and possibly in the top 50 of some deep rankings but if the starting catcher in the Major League club is the best in the sport, they can afford to not develop a lot this time.

The 2015 draft class also performed very well with 7 draftees inside the top 30 list (it could have been 8 if Bickford didn’t got traded) plus the 2016 draftees have fared well so far especially the top picks Bryan Reynolds and Heath Quinn. The Giants have proven to be better at developing hitters than pitchers but there are more pitchers in the Top 30 than hitters (17 vs 13) but it felt that there has been more noise coming from the hitters.

All in all, John Barr and the scouting crew has made the farm system a middle of the pack farm in baseball even though the club won 3 championships in recent years and they have not been aggressive in the international market unlike their rival Dodgers. The front office have been drafting a lot of high floor guys up top with some risk due to some untapped ceiling in recent years and they also value the output in the Cape Cod League probably more than other organizations and it showed in the Top 30.

Tier 1

1.    Tyler Beede  RHP  AA
2.    Christian Arroyo  3B/SS  AA

The two have been going 1A and 1B on my mind for the past 2 years now. I gave Tyler the nod for this year because of the steps forward that he took last season. Statistically, some will argue that Tyler benefitted vastly at home (1.63 home ERA) and Christian struggled (.224 BA). What really got me though is the eye test. Beede showed in 2016 what kind of guy that the Giants really expect from him when they drafted him, a future workhorse in the middle or top of the rotation. Even though Arroyo still displayed his masterful bat stroke and fielded many positions then settling at the hot corner, I give Tyler the slight edge also of the position that the two plays. Nonetheless, both will be integral to the Giants plans moving forward.

Tier 2

3.    Bryan Reynolds  OF  A+
First off, it’s tough for me to leave Reynolds off Tier 1 but he doesn’t have a standout tool to match the two above him. He does bring the polish and the untapped potential as an above average Major Leaguer and don’t be surprised to see him in Richmond next season.

4.    Steven Duggar  OF  AA

Speaking of untapped potential, Duggar has been starting to tap to his potential when his bat showed up all year, playing better in AA than in A+, while playing good to very good defense. Base stealing is still an issue for him to address to be a true leadoff hitter.

5.    Andrew Suarez  LHP  AA

Suarez has struggled since he got promoted except for a masterful performance in the final day of the season where it looks like he starts to adjust to the competition in AA. His command of his pitches is Major League-quality now and helps his good stuff play up.

6.    Chris Shaw  1B/DH  AA

Shaw also struggled to adjust to better pitching as well as hitting in a tougher hitting environment, sapping his power numbers but there’s still promise in the swing that I can see that he’ll hit for a better average once he adjusts his approach. Good thing that first base isn’t a defense-first position but he needs to improve his defense there to stay and play in NL.

7.    Ty Blach  LHP  MLB

I know Blach is placed higher on their rankings than mine but I have some points to say. First, in evaluating, I value age and the development curve.  He’s going to hit 27 next season, which is the peak for athlete’s physique, and he’s still considered a prospect. Second, when he pitched in the Majors last season, Baseball Savant recorded his spin rate on his pitches and it’s not that good. He got below average spin rate on his fastball (2107 RPM average in 4SFB, 2145 RPM for 2SFB) and average to below average on his secondary pitches (2335 RPM for SL, 1982 RPM for CH, 2209 RPM for CB). His perceived velocity isn’t good either.  But he knows how to pitch and he pitch well. He should carve up a nice career as a Major Leaguer.

8.    Austin Slater  OF  AAA

I am probably a bit higher on Slater than other people here. There are massive improvements in Slater’s bat this season. First, he carried his patience from his Fall League stint in 2015 to his 2016 season where he doubled his walk rate compared to his 2015 regular season. His power stroke also improved a lot, producing 18 homers in 2016 and transforming as a doubles hitter to a true homer threat. His swing will always be unbelievably long which will make him strike out often but if he continues to roll in 2017, he can compete with Mac and Parker for the corner OF spot.

9.    Heath Quinn  OF  A+

Quinn is in the same mold as Mac Williamson with less speed. I have liked this Giants pick last year and he should continue to mash baseballs in the hot California League.

10.  Sam Coonrod  RHP  AA

Coonrod’s numbers last season makes me question his ability to get hitters to strike out with his stuff at the next level and if he tried to pitch to contact last season, he still allowed hitters to hit the ball in the air more than on the ground. 2017 will be a nice litmus test for him if he’s going to be an asset in the Major Leagues.

11. Sandro Fabian  OF  ROK

Fabian has pushed to the national spotlight this season as an advanced hitter with power and impressive arm. The bat speed of Fabian is relatively average but his feel is impressive. Comparing him to last season’s top international prospect Lucius Fox, Fabian already got a better hit tool than Fox as well as better raw power but Fabian doesn’t have the speed and defensive potential to match. It would be exciting to follow him next season.

12.  C.J. Hinojosa  SS/2B  AA

You can throw away all of Hinojosa’s college scouting reports away. He broke out in a big way this season, flashing his ability to hit, body control to defend short and his intelligence and baseball instincts. He’s will probably move to the opposite side of the middle infield but he looks like a Major Leaguer.

Tier 3

13. Joan Gregorio  RHP  AAA
14.  Chris Stratton  RHP  MLB
15.  Steven Okert  LHP  MLB
16.  Dan Slania  RHP  AAA

The four can be interchangeable easily because they are all similar. The four are starters now that will be a bullpen weapon in the Major Leagues (in case of Okert, he’s been a reliever ever since). Stratton and Okert already had a taste of the Majors last season and both have mixed grades in my mind. I can see that the Giants brass will give Stratton every chance to start and he should compete for the 5th spot in Spring Training. Gregorio got impressive stuff and the deception and the mechanics to be a deceptive reliever while Slania has the shortest arm action I have seen from a Giants prospect, like he’s throwing a football there. The four project to be relievers in the long run.

17.  Aramis Garcia  C  A+

Hit by a nasty face injury that made him miss 2 months of action. He’s been playing well before it, batting .298, 3 2B, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 8 BB, 20Ks in that span.  He never recovered that early season magic once he came back from the injury though. His defense has improved but there’s still some room to grow. If his offense came back in 2017 like how he started 2016, he’ll be a top 10 prospect in the system.

18.  Dylan Davis  OF  A+

It’s not Chris Shaw or Austin Slater who lead the organization in homers in 2016. It’s Dylan Davis with 26 and he also tallied up 92 RBIs. He has finally learned on how to utilize his power fully in games by having a better pitch selection. The swing and miss will always be present but he could hit enough to carve a Major League career.

19.  Cory Taylor  RHP  AA

Having been bounced around and across three levels, Taylor didn’t disappoint and surprised me by starting and starting very well even with just two quality pitches highlighted with his plus plus-quality sinker. A changeup and improved conditioning will make wonders for him but that sinker alone should catapult him at least to a bullpen spot in San Francisco. It’s that good.

20.  Matt Gage  LHP  AA

Gage isn’t the type of prospect that would get you excited right away but he’s worth following. He’s similar to Ty Blach: while his stuff won’t blow hitters away, he gets outs on a daily basis with deception, size and command.

21. Matt Krook  LHP  A-

While Krook has a high ceiling, there’s more risk than reward currently for him. His command last season since coming back from Tommy John had came and went. His fastball velocity is also just in the high-80s that leaves more to be desired. His curveball has been as good as advertised but a good curveball needs good fastball command and Krook doesn’t have that right now. If his command of his fastball improves in 2017, the sky’s the limit.

Tier 4

22. Tyler Rogers  RHP  AAA

He doesn’t have the mid-90s fastball and the nasty slider but what Rogers brings is the true submarine style of pitching. His fastball is at mid-80s but it has nice sink and stays low in the zone. He will bring a nice change of pace in the high octane bullpen that the Giants are building.

23. Rodolfo Martinez  RHP  AA
24. Reyes Moronta  RHP  A+

You might argue that I put Martinez ahead of Moronta but Martinez has been better than Moronta in High A in terms of stuff (mid to high-90s fastball). Both pitchers’ command were similar but the wheels fell off for Martinez once he got promoted in terms of velocity and command while Moronta has been steady. I can guess that Martinez got a dead arm right now.  If Martinez can regain the 102 MPH fastball that he had in the middle of the season, he’ll stay ahead but Moronta’s creeping up. And if the two can sustain their success in San Jose in 2017, the two will be a big part of the Giants pen for a long time.

25.  Miguel Gomez  3B/1B/C  A+

All that Gomez does is just hit. He improved his conditioning and he actually looked fit physically and he reaped his reward this season. The problem for him to be this low is his age. His defense is also a suspect before but he’s a passable 3B at best right now. Lots of Giants fans can see some Pablo Sandoval traits in him and they may not be wrong.

26.  Jalen Miller  2B  A

It’s another season of struggle for Miller in his first full season and that’s nothing to be ashamed of because the SAL is unforgiving for young players with a developing bat. Miller’s defense has improved and flashed above average, his bat and his eye is still raw. 2017 is the year that he should put up the stats or he’ll start to slowly fade.

27. Jordan Johnson  RHP  A+

Johnson’s season has been a disaster as he has showed his true stuff for the first time. He started well (1 start with more than 3 ER in 7 starts) but when the hot California summer came, his stuff and mechanics faltered, relying more on his changeup because his fastball command is bad. He picked it up at the end (2 starts with more than 3 ER in his final 8 starts). I will still give him the benefit of the doubt entering 2017 but he needs to shrug off the ugly 2016 past him and learn from it.

28. Ryder Jones  1B/3B  AA

This season, Jones has finally showed his raw power into good use, hitting 15 this season in Richmond. While he still plays 3B once in a while, his defense at first impressed me. In the end, he still need to impress with his bat in terms of hitting for a good batting average to be a Major Leaguer.

29.  Clayton Blackburn  RHP  AAA

A year after winning the PCL ERA title, there have been some chatter if Blackburn or Blach will pitch in the Majors first but we now know who did. Blackburn still pitched to contact but his way didn’t played well this time in he unforgiving PCL. Based on his 2016 season, I can say that Blackburn’s future is going to be a spot starter.

30. Tyler Cyr  RHP  A+

Cyr is a promising reliever with a knockout fastball-curveball combo from the right side. Command has plagued him in college and in his first taste as a pro but has improved on attacking the zone and the results are very good. He has the ability to move quickly in the system if he keeps improving the command of his fastball.

Other Prospects That I Like In No Particular Order

Jacob Heyward- The younger brother of Jason, he has impressed me with his bat speed and his competitive drive. His ability to draw walks and the overall hit tool will be a question for the 2017 season to be answered. He looks poised to join the Top 30 if he produces a very good year.
Sandro Cabrera- Young but very skinny, Cabrera showed a good fastball-curve combination in the Arizona League but he has just made his Sally debut this season at age 21 (1 relief stint) and he’ll be 22 this year so there’s a lot of time to catch up to. He needs to fill up his frame as well in the offseason.
Gustavo Cabrera- His first taste of full season baseball, Cabrera fared pretty well but it was obvious that there are still a lot of things to work on as his bat looked very raw and rarely draws walks. When he hits the ball well though, the ball flies.
Hunter Cole- Austin Slater has leapfrogged Cole on who’s the better prospect between them. While Slater improved dramatically his power stroke, Cole battled inconsistency and his bat still got too much swing and miss to be excited about his bat.
Ronnie Jebavy- The defensive wizard at center field, his questionable hit tool has been exposed and had been some sort of a power hitter rather than hitting for average, hitting 12 homers but with 153 Ks. His defense will continue to carry him towards the Upper Minors but the ability to hit for average must improve.
Garrett Williams- Quite an enigmatic pitcher, his fastball-curveball flashes plus when he’s on. The problem is that he rarely gets on even though his mechanics looks repeatable. There’s some Kyle Crick in him so here’s to hoping he’ll figure it out.
Caleb Smith- The second best lefty reliever in the organization after Okert, hitters really had a tough time squaring up his pitches and he packs some deception as well but he’s 24 and yet to crack San Jose. If he continues to blow by hitters in 2017, he’ll be an asset from the left side.
Ryan Howard- He’s the type of players that gets you. He got average tools across the board but plays up because of his instincts. But he still needs to improve on his tools for him to succeed.
Jean Angomas- One of my readers named Carmot’s has him as under the radar players, he has been stuck as a third string OF in the Augusta roster but he got tools that warrants some attention.
Gio Brusa- A corner OF power threat but he got a long swing and he needs to cut down on his strikeouts to make some noise.
Ricardo Genoves- Possibly the second best catching prospect in the organization, he’s still in Dominican Republic as a defense-first catcher. He hit well early but struggled with hitting for average as the season worn down. If he can continue to improve his hitting to pair up with his defense that’s starting to impress me (check out his catching workouts in his Instagram), he has a chance to play in the upper Minors or possibly the Majors 4 to 5 years from now.
Manuel Geraldo- A young and athletic player with good speed, Geraldo’s bat is still raw but for me, he’s a better prospect than his fellow Dominican Kelvin Beltre.
Johneshwy Fargas- Absolutely outmatched in his San Jose stint and since his demotion to Augusta, he has produced similar stats that he produced in 2015. The question in my mind is if this is his offensive ceiling. In 2017, he should answer that question because if his career as an outfielder will be done, his arm capable of throwing mid-90s fastballs should be a nice second career as a pitcher.
Jonah Arenado- Nolan’s younger brother still profiles as a corner infielder but there’s too much strikeouts and too little walks to excited. 
Chase Johnson- Bullpen stint has done good things on him but the stock went crashing down this season.
Dillon Dobson- First baseman’s bat really needs to show up to have any value in that position and Dobson’s bat fared good in Augusta but he looks like a High Minors player than a true Major Leaguer.
Melvin Adon-A pitcher who throws in the mid-90s and has impressive slider is certainly going to intrigue me. The problem that he’s not that high on me is that he is going to be 23 this year and he is yet to reach full season ball. His command is also suspect currently so he needs time to catch up.
Malique Ziegler and Jose Layer- A 2016 draftees out of Puerto Rico with exciting tools in the outfield, both will be in my list to follow in the 2017 season.

Biggest Risers

Steven Duggar- A change in the swing (specifically, the bat path and the angle of attack) resulted to a big boost in average and partner it up with his impressive eye at the plate, an above average hit tool is a big possibility.
C.J. Hinojosa- Came out of nowhere, his eye is very good and his swing produces hits at a constant rate. Kind of like Arroyo-lite, he should be good.
Sandro Fabian- A guy with average tools the first time I saw him, he’s better than I thought when I saw his videos in Arizona League.
Austin Slater- His power stroke massively improved and he should be ready to help the club in one to two years.
Matt Gage- He produced the stats to back up his breakout campaign, highlighted by three near no-nos.

They Have Joined The Cellar Dwellers Folks

Kyle Crick- He is still in the Richmond starting rotation, don’t worry. The coaches made him pitch to contact this season and it improved his walk rate from a little more than a walk per inning to half a walk per inning. His strikeout rate massively declined and he got lit up to a 5 ERA with his FIP close by. Looks like he doesn’t have any traction anymore as a starting pitcher and I am begging for more than 2 years now to convert him to a reliever where his strikeout stuff should play. I am one of the biggest Crick critics since the start of 2014 but I still have some hope in him to be a viable pitching asset.
Ray Black- Did Ray Black died? The answer is *no. The asterisk is where it’s questionable. In 2016, he is still the classic Ray Black, striking out 15 per 9 innings but continues to walk a batter an inning. He got shut down in August due to an elbow bone spur injury. He’s going to be 27 and honestly, I have little expectations for me anymore, if there are. He’s going to be just a Steve Dalkowski legend of a legendary fastball but couldn’t harness it.

Five Highest Ceiling Prospects Outside The Top 5

Chris Shaw- If his hitting checks out and if the defense is at most average, he can be an above-average masher of baseballs.
Sandro Fabian- He got a long ways to go but the bat and the defense showed promise to be an above average OF.
Heath Quinn- If the offense continues to show up in 2017, he fits the mold of a classic RF.
Matt Krook- Still a long ways to go but if everything clicks, his ceiling is as high as it gets, possibly a #2 SP.
Jalen Miller- His bat is still as raw as a piece of meat in the butcher’s shop but if he can make significant strides with the bat and the defense continuing to improve, he’ll be an above average second baseman.

Possible Breakout Players for 2017

Pat Ruotolo- You might say WHOOOO??? but Ruotolo is really a nowhere pick that I project to break out. He’s the closer for the Volcanoes in 2016 and he flashed a nasty fastball-curveball mix. The mechanics is also very deceptive as he reaches as far back as he can like Ubaldo Jimenez and repeating it consistently in the bullpen will be his biggest challenge.
Sandro Fabian- I know he’s in the top 10 of many already but there’s still a lot more room to tap on and if everything will be well, he got a good shot to be the organization’s best prospect in 2 to 3 years.
Garrett Williams- My personal pick to break out this season, Williams has to take a big step forward in his command for his stuff to reflect in the box scores. I think that there’s just some minor tinkering to be done because the overall motion looks repeatable.
Ronnie Jebavy- His swing really is all that he needs to focus on. I think that he’s pressing too much at the plate, thinking of doing damage all of the time. While that’s good, I think that he’s hurting his stock even though he produced double-digit homers. If he gets on base and utilize his plus speed more, he’ll be as good as Duggar.

Riskiest Players To Follow

Sandro Fabian- I know he’s all over my lists but he deserves it. He’s going to be 19 and he got a lot of room to fill in terms of his ceiling so there’s an obvious risk involved here even though he’s more polished than most teenage hitters.
Garrett Williams- I chose him to break out in 2017 but I’m not as confident to say that as when I chose Steven Duggar to be my break out prospect last year in this interview. The present and potential command is so far off that he might not reach it if he doesn’t work enough.
Jalen Miller- He’s going to be in this list as long as his hit tool is still a question. He’s still very young and he’s poised to take at second shot at the unforgiving Sally League so hopefully, he’ll improve this time around.
Jordan Johnson- His stock is as volatile as a ticking time bomb. His ceiling can be as high as a mid-rotation option or as low as an organizational filler so he really need to step up in his command and his stamina in order to succeed in 2017.
Matt Krook- As a guy who failed his physical as a HS draftee by the Marlins to a blown elbow, Krook’s value is as volatile as it gets. The command should improve as he moves away from the surgery but there’s still the burning question of how good his command will be post-TJ. The early reviews are mixed but let’s see next season if he can improve on his command, fastball velocity, and arm action.

Best Tools (Descending from 1st to 3rd)

Hit: Christian Arroyo, Miguel Gomez, Steven Duggar
Power: Chris Shaw, Dylan Davis, Heath Quinn
Speed: Ronnie Jebavy, Steven Duggar, Johneshwy Fargas
Arm: Johneshwy Fargas, Steven Duggar, Sandro Fabian
Glove: Ronnie Jebavy, Steven Duggar, Bryan Reynolds
Athleticism: Steven Duggar, Johneshwy Fargas, Jalen Miller

Fastball: Ray Black, Reyes Moronta, Rodolfo Martinez
Tyler Beede, Tyler Cyr, Garrett Williams
Slider: Andrew Suarez, Joan Gregorio, Steven Okert
Tyler Beede, Ty Blach, Andrew Suarez
Command: Ty Blach, Andrew Suarez, Clayton Blackburn

I hope that you enjoyed reading this prospect primer as well as my first post! I also hope that you will keep on reading my work and my colleague’s works here at Giants Farm!

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