2014 Top Prospects – Part 2
Giants’ Top 10 lists have been rather intriguing and spread out…at least, after Kyle Crick. There are varying thoughts about which of the mess of pitchers the Giants have are ahead of the others, there are disagreements about the ceilings of the low-ceiling offensive players, as well as how much to believe in some short-season stats.
That’s not going to stop me from entering my hat in the ring. So, here’s the SF Lunatic Fringe Top 10 with quick notes…
1. Kyle Crick, SP - Duh.
2. Chris Stratton, SP - The other pitchers had better showings, but Stratton has the best tools of any of them.
3. Joe Panik, 2B - A little of this is banking on the hamstring issue being the reason for a lackluster 2013, but a high floor and perfect fit elevates him.
4. Edwin Escobar, SP - Escobar became one of the darlings of the system…I still have some doubts, though.
5. Andrew Susac, C - Ranking catchers can be like ranking kickers in fantasy football – they just have different criteria than everyone else. But Susac should be an everyday catcher for a long time.
6. Derek Law, RP - As with any relief pitcher, health permitting, but I’ll bet on a reliever with a funky release, control, and a touch of groundball and strikeout tendencies.
7. Mac Williamson, OF - DINGERZ! Just, um…do it anywhere other than with San Jose, okay kid?
8. Ty Blach, SP – A stealth prospect last year, has a lot to follow up with this year. He could move quickly.
9. Clayton Blackburn, SP - Last year’s prospect darling had a rougher go than expected in San Jose. Velocity will always be an issue, but he righted the ship in the second half.
10. Christian Arroyo, SS/2B - The Arizona Rookie League MVP gets the short-season discount for a good performance. He may have the highest ceiling of any position player on this list…but also the longest road.
There are some near misses here. Adalberto Mejia ranks high on some lists, but misses mine. Then again, he might easily take Blackburn’s spot at some point. Keury Mella is an intriguing pitcher, but in the AZL, he’s a long ways away. Heath Hembree will likely be a major leaguer this year, but he still frustrates me a little too much. Mitch Delfino and Matt Duffy might be sleepers off of last year’s Augusta team, and Kendry Flores is the pitcher Giants fans may always forget, but other systems would love to have him.
There is, however, a lack of star power, to be sure. But there are definitely a few players here behind Crick who could be cogs in a championship machine.
On to the prospect reports!
Gary Brown, CF - Oh, Gary.
Gary Brown’s speed is for real, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the stats. The first round pick’s .231 average in Fresno with a .660 OPS is below pedestrian. That amazing year in 2011 at San Jose feels so far away now. About the only place where he looked good was in power…and that’s not the skill he needs to have.
Brown has stuck to his very non-traditional stance and swing, and it’s killing him. A speed player like him needs to be getting on base (he had a .286 OBP last season) and getting bases through steals as much as doubles and triples. But Brown’s 17 steals in 28 attempts (a pedestrian 60.7% success rate) just makes it look like a kid who isn’t using his tools.
But Brown’s speed keeps him on the map…for now. He is a very good defender still, as well, which will probably be enough to make him a major league benchwarmer. But if he doesn’t use last year as a wake-up call to make adjustments, he won’t be on anyone’s lists anymore.
Joe Panik, 2B - Joe had a rough year, injuring his hamstring in big league camp, and never truly recovering for most of the year. Panik struggled mightily in the Virginia summer, suffering a .198 batting average in June, and showed a rough platoon split for a while. However, he eventually evened out and showed the tools that many people see in him.
Panik may have been a relatively low-ceiling first rounder, but the Giants see a Marco Scutaro-type of player. Until 2013, Panik had taken more walks than striking out, made good contact and picked up more than his share of extra-bases, mostly in doubles but a few triples. Even with the hamstring injury, he’s managed double-digit steals in each of his three seasons.
If Panik stays healthy, he should be in Fresno this year, putting him on track to be a major leaguer in 2015. As that will be the last year of a 39-year old Scutaro’s contract, the Giants should be please with that, and Panik would be, at his best, an ideal number 2 hitter in a lineup.
Christian Arroyo, SS/2B – I put both shortstop and second baseman because he’s currently playing shortstop, but most people seem to think second base will be his future home. (Sorry, Joe Panik.) Arroyo had a monster year as a rookie in the Arizona League, winning the MVP award with a .326 batting average, a .388 on-base percentage and a .511 slugging percentage, with 19 walks against just 32 strikeouts. The Giants will likely advance him slowly to be careful with the 18-year old, moving him to Augusta for 2014.
Arroyo has a great bat, and while his batting eye isn’t as good as Panik’s, Arroyo’s bat speed is better and will get him more extra-base hits. However, he’s not a speedster, and his range is the primary reason he’ll likely be moved from shortstop. He does, however, have the arm of a third baseman, which will come in handy at second base. And to top it off, Arroyo has won points for being a smart competitor, and that may be his biggest asset as he moves up the system and faces better competition.
Derek Law, RP - Like many relief pitchers, it can take a lot to get noticed, and Law was having a solid little minor league career with the Giants for a couple of years until his late-season run. As a midseason call up to San Jose, he took over the closer role and picked up 11 saves in 22 games, putting up a 2.10 ERA. Oh, and he walked only one batter in 25 2/3 innings, while striking out 45. He actually ended the season with 102 strikeouts and 12 walks in 66 1/3 innings. Then, he went to the Arizona Fall League, which is kind of like glorified batting practice at times, and had an even 0.00 ERA (1 unearned run allowed), striking out 16 in 12 1/3 innings.
That will get you noticed.
Law has good velocity, usually around the mid-90’s, and uses a curve and a slider to mix things up. Really, however, his biggest asset is a bit of an unorthodox motion, which has helped keep scouts worried enough about him to not let him get over-exposed, and a nearly overhand release point, which gives his 6’3 frame a fastball with the kind of downward motion you’d get from a guy closer to Randy Johnson’s height.
I doubt we’ll see the same number of strikeouts as he rises in the system, and his change up will be needed to keep lefties at bay, but he’ll still be effective with ground balls and outs.