San Francisco Giants 2009 Minor League Review
Overall farm rankings via Baseball America (2009)
2009 (5) | 2008 (23) | 2007 (20) | 2006 (18) | 2005 (17) | 2004 (24)
Record of Major and Minor League Teams
MLB: [88 – 74] NL West
AAA: [71 – 73] Pacific Coast League
AA: [83 – 59] Eastern League
A+: [93 – 47] Carolina League
A: [76 – 63] South Atlantic League (Sally League)
A(ss): [49 – 27] Northwest League
R: [39 – 17] Arizona Rookie League
The Run Down
As the baseball world focuses on Stephen Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman and Jayson Heyward, San Francisco has watched their once consensus number one overall prospect, Madison Bumgarner, struggle since the second half of 2009 and during the 2010 Spring Training. His lost of velocity at end the 2009 season has been written about ad nauseum. He’s still only 20 and people are worried. Don’t fret, be patient and he’ll eventually become a post-sleeper candidate. Scouting the Unknown broke him down last summer, and there shouldn’t be much more to add. However, another Scouting the Unknown article about Angel Villalona may be meaningless as he is currently charged with murder in his home country (Dominican Republic). This once top prospect is facing, if charged, 20 years in prison. The Giants have some plus talent hitters in their lower minors moving up to their Double-A team (Thomas Neal, Roger Kieschnick, Brandon Crawford) and some great pitching throughout their farm system (Bumgarner, Dan Runzler, Zack Wheeler). Three of the minor league levels were at the top team in their respective levels (A+, A(ss), R), with the High-A and Rookie level winning their league. The Giants have finally turned around their minor league system with two straight years in the top five (ranked fourth in the 2010 Baseball America Handbook). Look for several prospects in the Giants’ farm system to mature this year (Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Dan Runzler, and Steve Johnson).
Players of Interest in 2010
#2 Buster Posey | C | A+/AAA | 22 | .325/.416/.531 | 42 AB | 50 XBH | 18 HR | .206 ISO | 6/1 SB/CS | 68:62 K:BB | .354 BABIP | 52.9 GB% | 17.8 LD%| 29.3 FB%
Who’s this Buster Posey everyone is talking about? Seriously? I mean, with comparisons to Joe Mauer he must be good. Okay, enough chiding. Posey is considered the best hitting prospect in the Giants system, which isn’t saying a whole lot (they haven’t produced an all-star hitting prospect since Will Clark and Matt Williams). With control of the strike zone that matches Mauer, a clean swing, and more power than Mauer ever exhibited. All right, the debate between Carlos Santana, Buster Posey and Jason Castro (not to forget Tyler Flowers, Austin Romine, Derrick Norris, Wilson Ramos, Hank Conger, or even Jesus Montero, who won’t stay at catcher) for 2010 may be dirty, but in the long run, I want Posey. ‘Nuff said.
Brock Bond | 2B | AA | 23 | .333/.429/.409 | 450 AB | 27 XBH | 1 HR | .076 ISO | 13/15 SB/CS | 69:67 K:BB | .399 BABIP | 63.7 GB% | 20 LD% | 16 FB%
Accidentally drafted by the Giants in 2007 (in round 24), Brock Bond has been their Sparky Anklebiter, except he’s 5-10. Praised for his scrappy play and work ethic, Bond has exceeded most expectations. His defense is fringe-average, his plate-discipline/strike zone judgment is good, and he has great speed. This great speed hasn’t translated to a ton of steals as he gets caught far too often (15 times in 28 attempts). He runs the bases aggressively and breaks up double plays. Not that the Giants need scrappy infielders, but with Freddy Sanchez perpetually injured, Bond may get a call up during the season. His ceiling is a major league utility man.
#24 Matt Downs | 1B/2B/3B/OF | AAA | 25 | .300/.343/491 | 424 AB | 50 XBH | 14 HR | .191 ISO | 8/2 SB/CS | 58:24 K:BB | .321 BABIP | 36.3 GB% | 19.4 LD% | 44 FB%
Not much of a prospect anymore as he has aged out of that definition, Downs has transitioned from third base to second this past year. The Giants’ GM, Brian Sabean, has compared Downs to Shane Spencer (the Yankees super-utility a decade ago), meaning that he is a good hitter and will do whatever it takes to play. Downs has an above-average short swing that makes him a hard out as he works each at-bat. If given full playing time in the majors, he won’t reach 20 homers, but 10 to 12 homers with a slash line of .280/.335/.425 is plausible. He isn’t extraordinarily fast, but he has above-average speed and runs the bases like a wise veteran, which he’s approaching at 25. He has played everywhere on the diamond besides SS, CF, C and or pitching. Think a Mark DeRosa. I think Downs would get the call up before Bond if a Freddy Sanchez, or any injury for that matter, happens.
Dan Runzler | LHP | A/A+/AA/AAA | 24 | 12.7 K/9 | 3.7 BB/9 | 59 IP | .76 ERA | 2.61 FIP | .797 WHIP | .3 Hr/9 | 3.5 H/9 | .188 BABIP | 64.7 GB% | 5 LD% | 28.6 FB%
Runzler played at every level in the Giants, including nine innings at the major league level. As a closer in the minors, Runzler annihilated the opposition in 2009. Aided by an unbelievably low BABIP (.188), Runzler used his mid 90’s fastball and devastating curveball to blow through the minors. Currently, Runzler is projected to be the closer after Brian Wilson, but Wilson was just signed through 2012.
#15 (LAD) Steve Johnson | RHP | A+/AA | 21 | 9.5 K/9 | 3.8 BB/9 | 145 1/3 IP | 3.41 ERA | 4.45 FIP | 1.29 WHIP | 1.1 Hr/9 | 7.8 H/9 | .294 BABIP | 30.9 GB% | 8.6 LD% | 52.7 FB%
A Rule-5 draft pick this offseason, the Giants have to have Johnson on their major league roster or offer him back to the Orioles (he was traded to the Orioles from the Dodgers last year in the George Sherrill-Josh Bell swap.). Johnson throws a 88 to 91 mph fastball combined with an average slider, curveball and change-up. If he stays with the Giants, he’ll be used as a long-reliever.
#26 Osiris Matos | RHP | AAA | 24 | 8.0 K/9 | 2.2 BB/9 | 54 1/3 IP | 3.48 ERA | 4.27 FIP | 1.27 WHIP | 1.2 Hr/9 | 9.3 H/9 | .325 BABIP | 29.2 GB% | 24 LD%| 43.9 FB%
Throwing a mid 90’s fastball, Matos is great, except his second offerings are inconsistent. Scouts lament about how his fastball projects him to be a MLB closer and the remaining pitches will keep him at Triple-A. Guess that would be why he wasn’t ranked in the newest Baseball America Handbook. If he was a lefty, he would have a shot to be situational lefty. His statistics would indicate a solid reliever, and that may come to past, but his prospect shine has dulled. Look for him to return to Triple-A and only be on the major league roster if the Giants need bullpen help. He could be an intriguing trading chip or a Rule-5 draft pick next year too.
#23 Thomas Neal | LF | A+ | 21 | .337/.431/.579 | 475 AB | 67 XBH | 22 HR | .242 ISO | 3/0 SB/CS | 98:65 K:BB | .382 BABIP | 46.2 GB% | 18.7 LD% | 34.9 FB%
Neal formed part of a devastating lineup at High-A (along with Kieschnick – see below). Drilling extra base hits all over the field, Neal showed that he could be a middle of the order stalwart for the Giants for years to come. He may have high strikeout totals, but his plate coverage and strike zone judgment (65 walks) will keep his slash line fairly consistent – even with a high BABIP. Although he only had three steals during the regular season, while playing in the Arizona fall league, he went 12 for 15 in his steal attempts at AFL. His defense is average but his arm is quite strong as he had 15 outfield assists. He’ll move up to Double-A in 2010 and may even be pushed to right field as his defense has improved and his arm strength would play well at that position.
#14 Roger Kieschnick | RF | A+ | 22 | .296/.345/.532 | 517 AB | 68 XBH | 23 HR | .236 ISO | 9/1 SB/CS | 130:36 K:BB | .355 BABIP | 43.6 GB% | 16.6 LD% | 39.8 FB%
Neal’s bash brother, Kieschnick struck out farm more often than Neal and walked considerably less. The better defender, stronger arm, and higher power ceiling than Neal, Kieschnick isn’t as refined. He may have the pedigree (father was a major league ball player and Roger was a higher draft pick), but if he doesn’t fix his poor strike zone judgment and holes in his swing, he’ll become a fringe major league outfielder. He’ll team up with his bash brother again at Double-A in 2010.
Brandon Crawford | SS | A+/AA | 22 | .282/.328/.414 | 497 AB | 42 XBH | 10 HR | .132 ISO | 13/11 SB/CS | 132:30 K:BB | .358 BABIP | 51.7 GB% | 17.5 LD% | 30.3FB%
His 105 at-bats while playing at A+, inflated all his numbers. He had a ..478 BABIP at High-A while slashing .371/.445/.600; he hit .258/.294/.365 at Double-A with a .332 BABIP in 392 at-bats. His defense is excellent, his arm is accurate and he has 15 to 20 homer potential. The Giants brass believe he could progress and turn out like a pre-2009 J.J. Hardy. He should return to Double-A to fix his terrible hitting.
Craig Clark | LHP | A+ | 24 | 8.2 K/9 | 2.2 BB/9 | 147 2/3 IP | 2.86 ERA | 4.49 FIP | 1.13 WHIP | 1.2 Hr/9 | 8.0 H/9 | .279 BABIP | 43.9 GB% | 15.5 LD% | 37.5 FB%
Clark throws a high, watch-the-ball-to-the-catcher’s-mitt 80’s MPH fastball that he mixes with a high 70’s slider, a low 70’s curveball and a changeup. Reminds me of Mitch Stetter or even Tim Wakefield without the knuckler. He’s a pitcher and not a thrower. However, I would expect him to max out at Triple-A, but you never now. His strikeout rates are average, he has good control, and keeps the ball on the ground more than in the air, but he has a case of gopheritis and his FIP is over a run and half over his ERA. See how he fairs in 2010 while pitching against better hitters at Double-A.
Eric Surkamp | LHP | A | 21 | 11.6 K/9 | 2.7 BB/9 | 131 IP | 3.30 ERA | 2.99 FIP | 1.28 WHIP | .4 Hr/9 | 8.9 H/9 | .380 BABIP | 46.3 GB% | 12.8 LD% | 33.5 FB%
Another high 80’s fastball pitcher, but Surkamp is able to keep the ball deceptively hidden – it’s been commented that the ball appears to “come out of his shirt.” He also throws a very good curveball and an average changeup. Posting solid strikeout rates (third most in the minors) and displaying good control, he’ll need to face better hitters before one can jump on his bandwagon. Several sources compared him to similar pitchers who flamed out at Double-A. He’ll start at High-A in 2010.