For us prospect hounds, its a time of year to reflect on the good and bad of the previous season. There are definite strengths, and there are definite weaknesses.
First, the bad: the heralded pitching prospects didn't catch fire. From the top of Sickels top 20 for the start of 2014: Kyle Crick still has the BB bug, he didn't get a lot of innings because of pitch counts knocking him out early. Innings are a big deal for GMs. Big deal. Just being able to eat 200 innings has a ton of value. Edwin Escobar struggled in the PCL - again, a big test for pitchers, not a quick finishing school - and was traded for Jake Peavy. Adalberto Mejia continued his pattern of early struggles followed by good adjustments in AA. Clayton Blackburn had to battle injuries, he pitched pretty well when healthy, but has a soft tosser label to live down now. Chris Stratton had a pretty meh performance including a 5 plus ERA in the California, got a promotion to the Eastern. Heath Hembree continued to be hit for the 3rd straight year in the PCL, got traded for Peavy.
The next guys are Ty Blach, who had a very low K/9 but finished 5th in ERA in the Eastern. He also had the most IP of any highly rated pitcher. Martin Agosta battled injuries and struggled. Joan Gregorio did as well, and ended back down in Augusta again, doing well against inferior competition. Keury Mella flashed plus potential with one of the best fastballs in the system, but also had injury concerns. Derek Law wasn't quite his shutdown self, it turned out he needed TJ. Josh Osich pitched OK at Richmond, missed some time. Kendry Flores proved hittable in the California, took a step back but still has a stellar K/BB (although down from his amazing 2013 #s). Gave up a lot of HRs, it happens in the CA.
Hitting? Mac Williamson had to have TJ, a lost season for the big right handed bat. Angel Villalona struggled with injuries, contact and the big bad eastern. Gary Brown put up much the same meh numbers in the PCL. Juan Perez clocked the PCL by comparison. The two yoots drafted high in 2013 struggled with Augusta, Christian Arroyo having a hand injury and Ryder Jones wearing down. Both rallied at S/S S/K, but it was a set back.
Now the good: Joe Panik happened. The maligned 1st rounder came up, took over the keystone and the Giants rampaged. That basically takes all that news up above and shoves it in the recycle bin. In addition, Matt Duffy came up, took on the hardest role in baseball: pinch hitting, as a rookie, and passed with flying colors. Andrew Susac turned out to be legit, he isn't going back to the minors. And Hunter Strickland had a great ease in (with amazing, amazing lacks of BBs) and then ran into a little bit of "welcome to the show" in the playoffs. Brown had limited action, Adam Duvall hit a couple HRs while not getting trusted with 3B at all, Erik Cordier pitched some in cleanup.
I pegged (loudly) the Giants as a sleeper system. Well? Their minor league players arguably had the biggest impact out of all 30 teams. Where are they ranked? Sickels generally slots them in the teens, most others put them in the early to late 20s. So it goes... Ratings are imperfect. Despite high profile struggles, the Giants kicked ass this year from the farm.
Sickels has 38 names, I don't have much to argue with on it, I would note that Tyler Horan and Brian Ragira bring power to the table, I'd add Mikey Edie as a must follow, I think that the youngest pitcher in the system doing well in the DSL is worth a note because he posted great K/9 and K/BB, even if those stats should be taken with a gallon of salt. I like a couple lefties as good deep sleepers, I like a couple of the catchers as good backup candidates, I like some very longshot righties based on their performances and I like a couple randoms.
Here is the year by year acquisition list:
*= IFA signing, ^=milb FA or waiver, my additions are in bold, my deletions are in strikethrough
2014: Beede, Garcia, Davis, Webb, Coonrod, Ewing, Slater, Carbonell*
2013: Arroyo, R. Jones, Ragira, Horan, C. Jones, Miller, Cordier^, Strickland^, Edie*
2012: Stratton, Williamson, Okert, Blach, Duffy, Gustavo Cabrera*, Mella*, Ysla*, Santos*
2011: Crick, Susac, Black, Law,
Big names getting long in the tooth: Angel Villalona, Chris Dominguez, Gary Brown, Jarrett Parker, Adam Duvall. Villalona and Dominguez have plus power but huge contact issues. Brown might need to hook up with another org for a breath of fresh air. That pains me. Parker has contact issues, I see him going the route of Roger Kieschnick, getting claimed in a couple of days if the Giants try to sneak him off the 40. Duvall cannot play 3B, which severely limits his value for the Giants. He could be a interesting trade guy for an AL team.
The IFA pitching pipeline: Took a step sideways. Flores gets to AA, Gregorio gets protected most likely, he most likely goes to High-A again, Mejia has to sit out, Mella might get to High-A. Santos has a chance to zoom. Ysla goes to SJ as well? This is a lot of IFA pitching in SJ. Sleepers I think should get a mention: Victor Concepcion as the youngest (along with Webb). He's undersized. As is Eury Sanchez. Both strike out a lot of batters.
The IFA hitting pipeline: Gustavo is BACK! Mikey Edie impressed, look for him in rookie ball. And Carbonell is most likely in Richmond. That's 3 exciting fast OFs. Fun times!
The lefties who might be loogies: Mike Kickham, Ysla, Mason McVay, Matt Lujan, Christian Jones. With Escobar traded, Mejia suspended, Ty Blach is the great hope. But Steven Okert has been progressing huge. The Giants don't look nearly as strong in the lefty department as they did last year. They neglected lefties in the 2014 draft. Need some more, stat! Weakness
The pen guys: Law, Black, Hall, Cordier, Coonrod, I think Davis eventually. The Giants have easily a half dozen who could pull a Black or an Okert and come up next year. This area's covered, and they continue to cover it every year. Strength
The starters: Crick, Blackburn, Beede, Mella, Blach are the top 5. Hard to see clearly beyond that. Need more lefties! The righties are out of control, but 3 of 4 have great fastballs.
The power: all eyes on Mac Williamson and Richmond.
The 2011 guys have to be protected, time is up for 2009, almost up for 2010. We'll see how many of the 2011 guys make the show now, it is looking strong. The 2012 efforts are pitching heavy, big year for them but ironically the best 2 guys might be Duffy and Williamson. 2013 is too soon to tell but it might be a 2010 type effort where the Giants went with 2 youths instead of 2 OFs. 2014 looks strong, but its early, a lot will change.
Strength: Catchers: Posey/Susac/Hector Sanchez/Aramis Garcia along with sleepers Jeff Arnold, Ty Ross and Ben Turner matches up with MLB and kicks teeth in.
Weakness? OF? I don't know, I am pretty excited about the next wave of Williamson, Horan, Carbonell, Cabrera, Edie as well as Austin Slater and a favorite sleeper Hunter Cole.
Strength: Scrappers. Joe Panik, Matt Duffy, Christian Arroyo backed by Blake Miller, Brandon Bednar and Ryder Jones? That's a pretty sweet set, even if the Giants did pay premiums at times.
Weakness: Power types. The Giants take a shot every year. They generally use their 2nd-4th pick, and it hasn't turned out yet. All those guys long in the tooth are evidence. But Williamson is up next, they keep at it and at some point they'll hit. The newest one Skyler Ewing has great contact rates with his pop. Horan and Ragira have swing/miss but they did succeed in connecting for good HR totals, as has Duvall. The 1B only is a tough one, its possible that Ragira will struggle like fellow Pac12 guy Oropesa.
We have to acknowledge at that draft position its a long shot. But power is the rarest commodity, and you need to take your shots.
Weakness: 1B and 3B are undefined right now. But you have Ragira/Ewing and Jones/Arroyo/Miller (and Matt Duffy right there right now) as well as utility guy Bednar who hit quite well. You desperately need a win in the OF, and the Starting pitcher.
Strength: lots of ready to slot in: Duffy, Susac, Williamson - you only have 12 spots. There appears to be a lot of depth.
There are some good follows next year. Tyler Beede and Kyle Crick with the control. The OF in the Eastern. Where Duffy and Susac slot in. The SJ staff. The first Sacramento staff. And seeing how the 2014 guys do into the new season. Austin Slater is a great deep sleeper, he hit the daylights out the ball.
Overall, same as last year: underrated, sleeper, fun to follow. You gotta like these kids.