Welcome to the kickoff of Grading on the Curve’s annual top 15 prospect lists, where we scrape through the catacombs of every organization and carefully select the 15 unknown and unseen dwellers who will one day be illuminated by the bright wash of major league stadium lighting. Well, not quite. Our methodology, like that of any site or front office, is neither precise nor scientific. But it’s not random either; we weigh upside, probability, and proximity to the majors to determine the best prospects of each MLB team. In honor of their World Series run, we’re starting with the Giants this year, and will get to the Royals next.
Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Joe Panik, and the rest of the homegrown cast San Francisco leveraged into three titles belies a weakening farm system, which underscores the need for Sabean to retain Pablo Sandoval and remain active this winter. Graduations and July trades have thinned the stock, as they do to any repeat contender. Still, some high octane arms remain at the top, with some low-upside, high floor bats below them. It’s not a strong system, but it has the enough potential to give the team trade flexibility and to shore up the up the lineup and rotation as veterans age or leave.
Time and budgetary restrictions prevent us from seeing every player, as such scouting reports are compiled by looking at a vast array of expert analysis, namely:
Triple-A: Sacramento River Cats (Pacific Coast League)
Double-A: Richmond Flying Squirrels (Southern League)
High-A: San Jose Giants (California League)
Class-A: Augusta Green Jackets (South Atlantic League);
Short-Season A: Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Northwest League)
Matt Duffy – 2B
Date of Birth: January 15, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2″/170 lbs
Acquired: 18th round of the 2012 draft
Analysis: The story of a fifteenth round pick ascending to the major leagues in two years is surprising. It becomes astonishing when you take a closer look at the history of Matt Duffy, who made his big league debut for the Giants in August and now has more world series hits than regular season home runs.
Duffy hit .332/.398/.444 in 367 Double-A plate appearances in 2014, with three home runs and 31 extra base hits. Over the course of his entire college career at Long Beach State, he hit .253/.305/.289 in 501 at bats with zero home runs and 17 extra base hits. It’s almost a wonder he was drafted at all. But LBS is a notoriously poor hitting environment and scouts were taken by his defense and contact skills, so the Giants took a flyer on the scrappy Californian. He fared no better in his first taste of professional ball, though, his decent .361 Northwest League OBP eclipsed by a .247 average and a .286 slugging percentage.
But, as John Sickels notes, the raw tools – contact, speed, glove, batting eye, – were always present, Duffy just needed to fill out. He did and it paid huge dividends in 2014. The Giants don’t have a superstar on their hands here, and Joe Panik has stationed himself firmly at second base. Still, with the ability to play second, third, and short, Duffy has the upside of a solid utility-man. Sickels compared him to former Cardinals World Series hero David Eckstein. Who knows? If things fall through with Pablo Sandoval, Duffy could find himself fighting for a third base job.
2015 Prognosis: Might start the year in Triple-A, but should get a full opportunity to serve off the San Francisco Bench in the first half of 2015.
Joan Gregorio – RHP
Date of Birth: January 12, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’7″/180 lbs
Acquired: Signed International Free Agent, March 2, 2012
|2014||22||-0.2||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-A+||SFG||4||9||.308||4.37||19||17||1||0||0||1||90.2||77||51||44||4||40||1||92||1.290||7.6||0.4||4.0||9.1||2.30|
2014 Prognosis: Gregorio will return to San Jose, where he’ll look to shore up his command and develop a nascent change-up.
Daniel Carbonell – OF
Date of Birth: March 29, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’3″/196 lbs
Acquired: Signed international free agent
|2014||23||1.1||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-Rk||SFG||31||138||128||27||43||6||3||4||16||11||2||8||23||.336||.384||.523||.907||67|
Analysis: Cuban Outfielder. Natural Athleticism. Running Back footspeed. Strong arm. Excellent glove. Sound Familiar? Daniel Carbonell, who the Giants signed out of Cuba for 1.4 million this past June, fits the generic mold of the major Cuban signees who came before him. Speed and defense are his primary tools; he reportedly runs 4.0 first to home (grade 80 speed) and should be an above average defensive outfielder.
The question is contact. Carbonell has power, but not as much as Yoenis Cespedes or even Yasiel Puig, and not enough to make up for an average around the Mendoza line. He hit well in limited time this summer, but it was only 128 at bats against younger competition. Baseball America projects a Roger Bernadina type fourth outfielder, but if the bat develops, there’s potential for a lesser Mike Cameron.
2015 Prognosis: Carbonell has no at-bats above High-A and lacks the talent to make the quick jump to the majors that Puig or Cespedes did. Nevertheless, the Giants outfield is thin and Carbonell tore through California league last season. If he can do the same in Double-A next spring, the NL west could see another Cuban outfielder by summer.
Adam Duvall – 1B/3B
Date of Birth: September 4, 1988
Height/Weight: 6’1″/205 lbs
Acquired: 11th round of the 2010 draft
2014 Minor League Stats
2014 MLB stats
Analysis: If Pablo Sandoval finds another type of green inside the Green Monster or if the Yankees moneyed overtures prove too persuasive, it’s possible Adam Duvall finds himself as the improbable third baseman of the defending World Series champs. An 11th round pick in 2010, Duvall quietly slugged through the minor leagues for three years before finally catching the Giants eye with 27 home runs for Triple-A Fresno this season. He earned a call up in June, and promptly thumped a solo shot in his first career game. His major league performance wasn’t much after that, but it was enough to land him a roster spot for San Francisco’s wild-card playoff and eventually a world series ring.
His power is unquestionable – 22+ home runs in three out of four professional seasons – but how far will that take him? He’s not particularly disciplined at the plate (7.6% walk rate), his career minor league average is .269 and in the field, he’s “merely mediocre” according to John SIckels. His fielding percentage (.917 in 371 professional games at third base) agrees, as does the Giants’ decision to give him about even time at first and third this season.
2015 Prognosis: Even if Sandoval leaves, Brian Sabean will doubtless bring in a new third baseman. Duvall’s power, though, is a precious commodity in today’s game and if the new third baseman proves less than stalwart, a Duvall-led coup could be in the works. That’s the dream, at least, for Duvall, and not an impossible one. But in a more, the 26 year old rookie will compete for a bench spot in spring training and shuffle between the majors and minors until he learns to maintain a respectable average at the game’s highest level.
Christian Arroyo – SS
Date of Birth: May 30, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’1″/180 lbs
Acquired: First round, 2013 draft
|2014||19||-2.2||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A–A||SFG||89||392||361||49||105||17||3||6||62||7||3||22||53||.291||.330||.404||.734||146|
Analysis: The Giants shocked baseball last year when they took Arroyo, a relatively unknown Florida high school shortstop, with the 25th pick of last year’s draft. Baseball America projected him as a fourth round pick, an appraisal most major scouting outlets agreed with. The jury should be out on Arroyo for a while, but 17 months in, the Giants are looking a lot better than they did on draft day.
Arroyo is an offensive minded middle infielder who could grow into power as he ages. He took the Arizona rookie league by storm (drought?) last summer, earning MVP honors after leading the league in seven categories, including Slugging Percentage, OPS, and extra base hits. An aggressive promotion to Class-A Augusta didn’t work out, but after the young shortstop went down with a thumb injury, the Giants sent him to Northwest League, where he replicated his 2013 performance. Drafted as a shortstop, most scouts originally viewed Arroyo as a second baseman, and the Giants appear to be coming around. He played 26 games at second first Augusta, just five at short.
2015 Prognosis: Arroyo struggled to hit older pitching in Augusta this season. A year older, he’ll get another shot in 2015. If he can come anywhere close to his MVP level performances in short-season ball, he could enter the national prospect radar.Feb 23, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Mac Williamson (85) poses for a photo during photo day at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mac Williamson – OF
Date of Birth: January 15, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’5″/240 lbs
Acquired: 3rd Round, 2012 MLB draft
Analysis: If it weren’t for Tommy John surgery that cost him almost all of 2014, Williamson could easily be listed among the Giants top 5. prospects The 6’5 240 pound outfielder launched 25 home runs in his first full professional season and was raking in High-A in 2014 before getting struck by baseball’s fastest growing epidemic. A lost year is not a death sentence. But Williamson is already 24 and with his poor pitch recognition, needs all the at-bats he can get. His hit tool is only mediocre, especially in comparison to his plus raw power, but he can make up for it with solid plate discipline (career 8.6% walk rate). In right field, his strong arm (grade 60, per MLB.com) is an asset. The question for Willamson is simply how well he adapts to advanced pitching in the upper levels.
2015 Prognosis: Time is biting on Williamson’s heels. The Wake Forest Standout will turn 25 in July and has just one complete professional season to his name. Expect him report to Double-A next season, where he will have to prove he can hit advanced breaking pitches and make consistent contact. But even if Williamson struggles, the prospect of power will keep him relevant in this pitching-dominated era.
Luis Ysla – LHP
Date of Birth: April 27, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’1″/185 lbs
Acquired: Signed International Free Agent
Analysis: After seeing Ysla pitch in May, Fangraphs’ Nathaniel Stoltz wrote that the GreenJacket had “easily the best fastball I’ve ever seen from a lefthanded starter.” Hyperbole aside, Ysla’s harball is equal parts sharp and elusive, averaging 92-94 and reaching 97 late in games. Even worse for opposing hitters is the pitch’s hard sink and the deceptive side-arm delivery it comes from. The slider is a weapon as well, inconsistent, but low-80’s with late two-plane break when on.
The problem for Ysla is his delivery. Ysla only reaches the upper 90’s when he maxes out his motion, whirling his body in a cyclonic display of force that makes him unhittable, but also puts undue strain on his arm and command. That along with a change-up that may never grow out of its Beta testing stage could relegate Ysla a bullpen role, where his two pitch mix and violent delivery could open the . Still, not bad for a player signed out of Venezuela for just 7,500 dollars.
2015 Prognosis: Ysla will move up to High-A next year, but considering his advanced age and 2014 performance, it could be a short trip. Double-A then will prove a challenge if Ysla can’t learn to repeat a delivery. But even so, don’t expect a move to the bullpen.. In an effort to maximize innings and facilitate development, San Francisco will probably keep Ysla in the rotation for as long as possible.
Aramis Garcia – C
Date of Birth: January 12, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’2″/195 lbs
Acquired: Second round of the 2014 draft
|2014||21||0.4||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A–Rk||SFG||28||114||102||11||23||6||0||2||15||0||0||10||25||.225||.301||.343||.644||35|
With former MVP Buster Posey and rookie catcher Andrew Susac, the Giants had little need for another young catcher. Nevertheless, they couldn’t resist when Garcia was available in the second round and they took him, leaving the FIU standout to find his own route through heavy traffic.
It’s not as if Garcia is some toolsy backstop who will take years develop, either. ESPN.com’s Keith Law reports that his hit tool is already big-league ready, and his glove should be soon. His on base ability is above average (9.8 BB%) and he could develop 15 homer power. Scouts have long praised Garcia’s makeup and work ethic, which could speed his development, and quickly give the Giants a glut of catchers and a lot of leverage in trade negotiations.
2015 Prognosis: An advanced college bat, Garcia should report to San Jose next season. The high-flying California League environment should pad his numbers and put him in Double-A before the season is through.
Clayton Blackburn – RHP
Date of Birth: January 6, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’2″/260 lbs
Acquired: 16th round of the 2011 draft
|2014||21||-3.4||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-Rk||SFG||5||7||.417||3.31||20||20||0||0||0||0||98.0||98||42||36||1||20||0||94||406||1.204||9.0||0.1||1.8||8.6||4.70|
Analysis: Blackburn lacks an elite offering, but he compensates by effectively wielding three above average pitches in his fastball, curve and change-up. Faced with stiff and older competition at Double-A this year, he proved unfazed, leading the Eastern League in Fielding Independent Pitching (min. 90 IP) and allowing just 1 home run in 93 innings pitched. His ceiling is probably that of a number three starter, but at 6’2, 260 pounds, he’ll be a durable one, and if the Gaints need a man midway next season, Blackburn could get the call.
2015 Prognosis: Blackburn will start next season with the Triple-A Fresno. If he can thrive in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, the majors should not be far off.
Chris Stratton– RHP
Date of Birth: August 22, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’3″/186 lbs
Acquired: First round (20th overall) of the 2012 draft
|2014||23||-0.5||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-AA||SFG||8||9||.471||4.78||24||23||0||0||0||0||122.1||132||71||65||15||48||0||120||2||1.471||9.7||1.1||3.5||8.8||2.50|
Analysis: A first round pick in 2012, Stratton pitched well in his first full professional season but disappointed in 2014, getting hammered in High-A San Jose. The good news is that while his ERA and home run rates spiked, his peripherals – 3.5 BB/9, 8.8 SO/9 – were almost identical to his 2013 line. Considering his ground ball rate has been roughly constant, Stratton’s struggles may be traceable to the inflated home run environment of the California League. But it also could be that were hitters were simply squaring him up. Only his performance in the coming year will tell. It may be meaningless but he finished his season strong, striking out 11 and giving up just two earned over his last two starts and ten innings.
2015 Prognosis: Stratton will start 2015 in Double-A Richmond, where he’ll look to pick up where he left off last season. It could be a make or break year for the former first round pick, who will look to bring his ERA and home run rate down in a more neutral hitting environment.Oct 12, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants pinch hitter Andrew Susac hits a single against the St. Louis Cardinals during the 9th inning in game two of the 2014 NLCS playoff baseball game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Ty Blach – LHP
Date of Birth: October 20,, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’1″/210 lbs
Acquired: 5th round of the 2012 draft
Analysis: Lefthanded. Polished command. Easy three quarter delivery. Three legitimate but not overpowering pitches. Statistical success in the minors. Tyler Blach has all the makings of a solid back of the rotation starter. He led the California League with a 2.90 ERA and a 1.2 BB/9 in his first professional season, followed it up with 3.13 and 2.50 marks in 2014. A ground ball machine, Blach relies on a low-90’ sinker and has allowed just 16 home runs in 271.1 career innings (0.5 HR/9). The Creighton best secondary offering is a changeup, though his slider can get outs as well. He will also be on-deck in event of injury next season.
2015 Prognosis: He’s succeeded at every level thus far. If he does the same in Fresno next season, he should be in the major leagues by September.
Adalberto Mejia – LHP
Date of Birth: June 20, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’2″/195 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent
Analysis: The Double-A stats don’t do Mejia justice. The Giants aggressively promoted the then 20 year old to the Double-A Eastern League, where he began the year as the second youngest player in the league. Needing time to both elevate his arm strength and adjust to advanced hitting, Mejia was hammered early. On June third, he had 11 starts under his belt and an ERA of 6.45. But that’s when the Dominican lefthander turned it around. He amped up his fastball to his standard 92-93 and pitched to a 2.95 ERA and over his final 11 starts. That fastball, pounding the zone with natural cut or sink, has always been an asset and plays up thanks to a potentially plus slider and a convincing change. The lowered punchout rate this season is mildly concerning, but Madison Bumgarner struck out just 6.3 and 6.4 batters per nine in his last two minor league seasons, respectively. The walk rate is the more notable stat. Mejia’s command has always set him apart from his peers and should smooth his eventual transition to the majors.
2015 Prognosis: Mejia’s strong second half should be enough to send him to Fresno in what’s stacking up to be a prospect-deep Triple-A rotation. The control artist will look to keep his c
Tyler Beede – LHP
Date of Birth: May 23, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’4″/200 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (14th overall) of the 2014 draft
|2014||21||0.2||2 Teams||2 Lgs||Rk-A-||SFG||0||1||.000||2.93||6||6||0||0||0||0||15.1||16||6||5||0||7||0||18||0||1.500||9.4||0.0||4.1||10.6||2.57|
Analysis: Finishing under .500s in between championship seasons has its advantages, and last year it netted the Giants the 14th overall pick and Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede. A first round pick out of high school as well, Beede flashes three plus pitches, with a fastball that reaches 97, a deep curveball in mid-70’s, and a low-80’s change-up. It’s an arsenal befitting a top-5 pick. Beede fell to 14th overall, though, because he struggles to throw it with any consistency. He doesn’t repeat his delivery well. He walked 64 batters in 101 innings during his Junior year at Vanderbilt. There were stretches in college where he lost feel for his curveball entirely. Early professional returns promising and the potential for an ace is here, but Beede still has plenty to prove.
2015 Prognosis: For all his deficiencies, Beede has electric stuff and will learn little from the lower levels. Look for the Vanderbilt left-hander to start the season in High-A and be in Richmond by season’s end.
Andrew Susac – C
Date of Birth: January 15, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’1″/215 lbs
Acquired: Drafted 2nd round of the 2011 draft
2014 Minor League Stats:
2014 MLB Stats
Analysis: He gets on base (13.5% career walk rate), he hits for power (1 Hr/21.6 at bats over last two seasons), he is a solid plus receiver behind the plate. Andrew Susac, ignored in prospect circles for years, has no standout tool tool but does everything well and should make for an above average everyday backstop. The main question is what city he will spend his career in. The catcher spot in San Francisco is sufficiently blocked by a player many have compared to Derek Jeter. The Giants could continue Posey’s slow transition to first base and give Susac 300+ at bats per year filling in behind the plate and in the corner. In light of Brandon Belt’s struggles, it’s an attractive option. But the Giants may not be ready to give up on the former top prospect, who was raking before a thumb injury derailed his season in May. With Pablo Sandoval potentially defecting, Susac could serve as a trade chip.
2015 Prognosis: Susac is lining up to be baseball’s best backup catcher in 2015. Considering the general fragility of catchers and the Giants’ caution with Posey in particular, expect the rookie to accrue at least 300 at bats.
Kyle Crick – RHP
Date of Birth: November 30, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’2″/220 lbs
Acquired: Drafted 1st round (49th overall) of the 2011 draft
Analysis: Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner….. Kyle Crick? Coming up for an organization that has produced best crop of young pitching since at the least the early 2000’s A’s, Kyle Crick will have lofty, probably unfair, expectations as he ascends the latter. The 22 year old righthander throws as hard as Lincecum did as a rookie, sitting 95-98 MPH deep into games, and at 6’2, 220 lbs, he has the frame to maintain that velocity as his career progresses. His slider is an asset as well, mid-80’s with late two plane break. The result is troves of strikeouts for the former first round pick. His 28% strikeout rate would have led the eastern league, had he had enough innings to qualify.
The problem is he didn’t, and not because of any of the usual suspects: injury or promotion. Crick can’t throw strikes consistently and his pitch count skyrockets early. His 6.1 BB/9 would led the league by a full two batters per nine. His 15.3 BB% was 5 points higher than the qualified leader, Warren Saupold. Crick threw 49.2 fewer innings than Saupold, walked four fewer batters. As a result, scouts are divided between those who see Crick’s frontline stuff and think frontline starter and those who think his command will relegate him to the role of a closer, or even set up man.
2014 Prognosis: If Crick wants to be a starter in the mold of Cain or Lincecum, he’s in the right place. The Giants will be patient with the right-hander, keeping him in double or Triple-A for the bulk of the season as he wrests with his command. A September call-up, though, is not out of the question. Command or no, Crick could offer Royal dominance out of the pen.