San Francisco Giants’ Top Prospects 2014, Part III: 25-36
25. Michael Kickham (25 years old in 2014, LHP). The Giants’ sixth round draft pick back in 2010, Kickham had a solid year at AAA Fresno at age 24, recording a 4.31 ERA in 20 starts and striking out 90 batters in 110.2 innings pitched. Command remains a problem for Kickham, and this played out in five different trials he received from the Giants in 2013.
Kickham apparently elected to miss out over the plate to major league hitters rather than walk them. While he walked only 10 batters in 28.2 major league innings pitched, he allowed 46 hits including eight home runs, resulting in an incredibly ugly 10.16 ERA. There was at least one positive aspect of Kickham’s time in the National League, aside from the experience gained — he struck out 29 major leaguer batters, showing he has the stuff to get big league hitters out if he can improve the location of his pitches.
26. Gary Brown (25, CF). The 24th overall selection in the 2010 Draft, Brown’s prospect stock collapsed with a lost season at AAA Fresno. After dominating the Class A+ California League in 2011 and more than holding his own in the Class AA Eastern League in 2012, Brown didn’t hit at all at Fresno, a hitters’ park in a hitters’ league. He batted only .231/.286/.375 in 137 games. He struck out a lot, walked little and stole only 17 bases in 28 attempts.
Now that Brown is 25 years old, his days as an elite prospect are almost certainly over. The question is whether he can put this lost season behind him and get back on track to becoming a major league player in some capacity in the future. His past performance suggests he’s a better hitter than he showed in 2013. Also, he appears capable of playing at least major league average defense in center field (Baseball America ranked Brown’s outfield defense as best in the Giants’ minor league system before the 2013 season) and his throwing arm is tremendous (43 outfield assists over the last three seasons).
27. Eric Surkamp (26, LHP). The Giants’ sixth round draft pick back in 2008, Surkamp turns 27 next July, so he’s getting old to be a prospect. As you may recall, Surkamp looked poised to become a major league pitcher at the end of 2011, but elbow problems ultimately resulting in Tommy John surgery in mid-2012 cost him a year. Once rehabilitation was completed, he pitched extremely well at AAA Fresno last year, going 7-1 with a 2.78 ERA with 54 Ks and only 20 BBs in 71.1 IP across 11 starts. Surkamp was briefly called up in late July for a single start in which he was bombed, but that was only the fourth start into his comeback.
Surkamp goes into Spring Training 2014 with at least some chance of beating out Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit for the Giants’ fifth starting slot going into the 2014 season, since neither of the latter two pitchers is without their own question marks.
28. Bryce Bandilla (24, LHP). A big left-hander the Giants selected in the 4th round of the 2011 Draft, Bandilla has electric stuff but not much command. He struck out 72 and walked 25 in 44.1 relief innings at Class A+ San Jose last season. If he can find his command, he could move through the system very quickly.
29. Chase Johnson (22, RHP). The Giants’ third round draft pick last June, Johnson pitched mostly at Class A- Salem-Keizer in 2013. His 3.88 ERA for the season wasn’t impressive, but his 44 strikeouts and only 13 walks allowed in 46.1 innings pitched look good.
30. Adam Duvall (25, 3B). A legitimate power threat, Duvall blasted 17 HRs in 385 at-bats at AA Richmond a year after hitting 30 HRs in the California League. He finished the 2013 regular season with a batting line of .252/.320/.465, and in 37 games in the Venezuelan Winter League this off-season he put up similar numbers (.297/.327/490). On defense at the hot corner, Duvall appears to have good range, but still makes a lot of errors.
If Duvall can put together a big year on both sides of the ball at AAA Fresno in 2014, he may have a shot at the Giants’ 3B job in 2015 if they elect not to re-sign Pablo Sandoval. The thing that hurts him obviously is his age.
31. Angel Villalona (23, 1B). Despite losing two full seasons to murder charges in the Dominican Republic and subsequent visa problems, former bonus baby Angel Villalona remains a prospect due to his still tender age and his great power. In a season roughly split between A+ San Jose and AA Richmond, Villalona hit 22 HRs in 480 at-bats. Villalona walks very little and didn’t hit for average in 2013, leaving him with a dreadful .276 on-base percentage. Villalona could easily develop into a major league player if he can improve his plate discipline, but it remains to be seen whether he can do so.
32. Jacob Dunnington (23, RHP). A scrawny right-hander (6’2″, 160 lbs) with a very live arm (190 Ks in 139.1 minor league innings pitched), Dunnington’s problem is his inability to stay healthy. Injuries limited him to only 14 appearances and 20 IP in 2013 after making only 24 appearances and 25.1 IP in 2012. He struck out 29 in those 20 innings, but didn’t pitch again after August 11th.
33. Matt Duffy (23, SS). An 18th round draft pick out of Long Beach State in 2012, Duffy established himself as a legitimate prospect with a fine season at the A level. He was the best hitter on the 2013 Augusta GreenJackets, batting .307/.405/.418 in 78 games. He was then promoted to A+ San Jose, where he batted .292/.342/.509 in 26 games. His ability to continue playing shortstop as he moves up remains to be seen, as does his ability to hit once he reaches AA ball.
34. Jarrett Parker (25, RF). The Giants’ 2nd round draft pick in 2010, Parker is a toolsy player who has too many holes in his game to be an elite prospect. He batted .245/.355/.430 at AA Richmond last year at age 24 but struck out 161 times in 524 plate appearances, which is just way too often. He’s fast, but not an effective base stealer succeeding only 13 times in 24 attempts. The best thing to be said about Parker is that his right field defense looks to have been terrific last year (13 assists and 2.10 putouts+assists/game). My guess is that by the time Parker harnesses his raw skills, he’ll be too old to have a major league career and his best opportunities will be in Asia.
35. Jesus Galindo (23, CF). In his second season at Class A Augusta in 2013, Galindo hit .273/.342/.322 and stole 48 bases in 54 attempts in only 89 games, making him far and away the best base stealing threat in the Giants’ system. He seems to have a center fielder’s range, so with his ability to get on base and steal bases, he’s definitely got a future.
36. Phil McCormick (25, LHP). A former 31st round draft pick out of college, perhaps because he’s small (6’1″, 184 lbs), McCormick has been an effective left-handed reliever since starting in the Giants’ system in 2011. Last season at AA Richmond, he struck out 57 batters in 56.2 IP. However, his ERA was a relatively high 3.97 because he also walked 34 batters.