San Francisco Giants Top Prospects 2013, Part I: 1-12
I thought it would be fun to list the Giants’ top 60 prospects, as I see them, heading into the 2013 baseball season. I’m only including players who have actually played in a professional league to date, so no 17 year old Caribbean bonus babies who haven’t even played in the Dominican Summer League yet, although I may decide to note a few at the end of this series. Here goes:
1. Joe Panik (SS, age 22 in 2013). Panik was the 29th player selected in the 2011 Draft, and he’s coming off a strong season for a young middle infielder at A+ San Jose, where he hit .297 with a .368 OBP and .770 OPS. Panik’s defense was good enough that the Giants elected to keep him at SS and play Carter Jurica, their 3rd round pick in 2010, at 2B.
Panik hit poorly in the Arizona Fall League this fall, hitting only .205 with a .565 OPS in 20 games. However, given his age and the fact that he had only played about a year and a half of professional baseball as of the end of this regular season, I don’t see his poor performance in the AFL as cause for concern.
2. Kyle Crick (RHP, 20). The 49th pick of the 2011 draft, Crick had the kind of year you want see from a young right-hander. His 2.51 ERA at Class A Augusta was impressive for a 19 year old and so were his 128 Ks and only 75 hits allowed in 111.1 innings pitched. His command isn’t there yet, so he will likely need at least two more full seasons in the minors, which gives him time to blow out his arm before ever reaching the Show. Even so, he’s definitely very promising.
3. Clayton Blackburn (RHP, 20). A 16th round pick in 2011 out of high school, Blackburn actually pitched better at Augusta in 2012 than Crick did. Blackburn recorded a 2.54 ERA with a pitching line of 131.1 IP, 116 hits, 18 walks (!), and 143 Ks.
I rated Crick higher as a prospect than Blackburn because of Crick’s Draft pedigree and his better swing and miss stuff at this level of professional ball. However, Blackburn’s better command could get him to the major leagues faster.
For what it’s worth, Crick is listed as 6’4″ and 220 lbs, while Blackburn is listed as 6’3″ and 220 lbs, and both are from Texas. They certainly have the body types you look for in your right-handed pitching prospects. For comparison purposes, Matt Cain, who has an archetypal RHP’s body, is listed as 6’3″ and 230 lbs, but, of course, he’s nearly a decade older.
4. Nick Noonan (SS, 24). As the AAA Fresno Grizzlies’ starting shortstop in 2012, Noonan hit .296 with a .347 OBP and a .763 OPS. Noonan was the 32nd pick of the 2007 Draft, and, as a player coming out of high school, it’s taken him awhile to develop. After tough years at the plate in 2010 and 2011, he looks back on track as a top prospect.
In fact, he’s very close to being a major league player at this point, and with just a little improvement with the bat in 2013 I expect that he’ll be called up no later than the 2013 All-Star Break.
5. Gary Brown (CF, 24). Brown was the 24th player selected in 2010, and he had a terrific year at A+ San Jose in 2011. However, his stock has dropped somewhat in my mind, after a less impressive year at AA Richmond. Brown hit .279 with a .347 OBP and .731 OPS. Also, Brown stole 33 bases in 51 attempts, a 64.7% success rate, which is not effective base running.
Richmond is a tough, tough place to hit, and Brown’s offense might explode again at AAA Fresno, a great place to hit, in 2013. However, I’m going to wait until Brown actually does so. Brown did hit .313 with a .357 OBP and a .732 OPS in 17 games in the Arizona Fall League this Fall.
Joe Panik is two full years younger than Brown at one level below, and Nick Noonan is six months younger than Brown at one level above (in 2012), so I rate Panik and Noonan higher than Brown at this moment.
6. Chris Stratton (RHP, 22). Although Stratton was the 20th player selected in the 2012 Draft and the Giants have a stellar success record for pitchers they’ve drafted in the first round, I can’t rank him any higher than sixth, because his professional career to date consists of only 16.1 inning pitched at short-season Salem-Keizer. In those 16.1 innings, Stratton gave up six runs, five of them earned, on 14 hits and ten walks while striking out 16. Promising, but not exceptionally so.
7. Andrew Susac (C, 23). The Giants’ 2nd round draft pick in 2011, Susac had a fine first season in professional baseball at A+ San Jose in 2012. While he batted only .244, his .351 OBP and .731 OPS were solid numbers for a young catcher. Susac also made 14 errors, however, suggesting he still needs to work on his defense behind the plate.
8. Michael Kickham (LHP, 24). A 6th round pick in the 2010 Draft, Kickham went 11-10 with a 3.05 ERA for the AA Richmond Flying Squirrels in 2012. His pitching line was 150.2 IP, 119 hits and 75 walks allowed and 137 strikeouts. In short, Kickham looks to have major league stuff, but does not yet have major league command.
9. Edwin Escobar (LHP, 21). A smallish (6’1″, 185″) lefty from Venezuela, Escobar was another fine young starter for the Class A Augusta Greenjackets. His 2012 ERA was 2.96 with a pitching line of 130.2 IP, 121 hits and 32 walks allowed and 122 Ks. Escobar’s strike out numbers have always been pretty good, but 2012 was the year he found his command.
The Giants acquired Escobar from the Texas Rangers in the April 2010 trade of LHP Ben Snyder, who is six years older and still hasn’t reached the majors.
10. Shawn Payne (LF, 23). Payne was far and away the best hitter at Class A Augusta in 2012. He led the team by large margins in batting average (.309), on-base percentage (.413) and OPS (.842). He also stole an astounding 53 bases in 56 attempts.
Unfortunately, Payne’s blazing speed apparently does not translate into his being a great defensive outfielder, as he spent the year playing left field and DHed on 21 occasions. Further, Payne was a 35th round draft pick out of college in 2011, which means the Giants aren’t going to give him anything he doesn’t earn and then some. Despite the year he was having, he wasn’t promoted to A+ San Jose until the last couple of games of San Jose’s season.
11. Jacob Dunnington (LHP, 22). It’s hard to know what to make of Dunnington, who the Giants signed in 2010 as an undrafted free agent, except that he appears to have great stuff. He’s rail thin at 6’2″ and 160 lbs, and he only made 24 relief appearances during the 2012 regular season, 11 at Class A Augusta and 13 at Class AA Richmond.
Strangely, Dunnington pitched much better in AA ball than he did in Class A (1.76 ERA compared to 4.50 ERA). For the season, his pitching line was 25.1 IP, 20 hits and 13 walks allowed and 32 Ks. For his professional career, he has 161 Ks in 119 innings pitched (12.2/9 IP), which is extremely impressive.
Dunnington also pitched in the Arizona Fall League this fall, which means the Giants consider him a prospect. His 6.75 ERA there was poor, but his pitching line (9.1 IP, 13 hits and 4 walks allowed and 14 Ks) suggest he’s still trying to harness great stuff. I rank Dunnington this high mainly because of his age and his fantastic strikeout rates.
12. Ehire Adrianza (SS, 23). Adrianza has been a highly regarded prospect for some time — for example, MLB.com rated him as the Giants’ 8th best prospect a year ago. After making slow but steady progress in 2009 through 2011, Adrianza ran into something of a wall at AA Richmond in 2012.
Ehire hit only .220 with an awful .599 OPS in this first stab at AA ball. However, his .310 on-base percentage was not terrible for a middle infielder, and he stole 16 bases in 20 attempts. Adrianza’s defense at shortstop has always been highly regarded, although he did make 17 errors there in 2012. A native of Venezuela, Adrianza hit .276 with a .379 OBP and .769 OPS in 25 games in the Venezuelan Winter League this year.
Adrianza’s goal in 2013 is to hit well enough at AA Richmond to get himself promoted to AAA Fresno, a much, much better place to hit. There’s a good chance Adrianza’s bat will come around, at least by the time he turns 24.