San Francisco Giants Top 2016 Prospects: #13
#13: Ray Black, RHP, Age 25: Those who “know” say you aren’t supposed to give relief-only prospects high rankings, but there was absolutely no way I was leaving Black out of my top 15. He just has too much wow factor for me to ignore.
Most people in these circles know Black’s story pretty well at this point, but the rest of the baseball world might soon start becoming familiar with him too. Alex Pavlovic outlined the righty’s extensive injury history (TJ surgery, broken throwing hand, torn labrum, went completely M.I.A. for two seasons after the Giants drafted him from Pitt) in a piece from last spring.
Black has a true (and incredibly rare) 80-grade fastball. When he’s on the mound, he averages 99 mph. He touched 104 in the AFL just a few months ago. That’s Aroldis Chapman territory, and it’s so incredibly hard not to dream of him overpowering hitters on the AT&T Park mound with that kind of heat. David Lee watched him extensively a couple years ago in Augusta, and had great things to say about his slider. I’ve kept those reports in the back of my mind… he’s not a one-pitch guy, and that’s an important detail for a relief prospect.
What’s holding Black back at this point? Well, he’s never pitched on back to back days in the minors (hopefully he does this season). He also had some pretty significant command problems last year, walking exactly one batter per inning in San Jose, then 6 more in 9 innings of AFL action. But he had 67 K’s in only 34 IP in 2015, so there’s your upside. The Giants certainly have a nice list of potential long term closer candidates post-Santiago Casilla, but they don’t have one guy they’re saving the job for at this point. If Black can avoid anymore serious injury setbacks and improve his command, he could well be one of the most electric 9th inning arms in baseball one day. At the least, I think he could be helping the MLB bullpen at some point this season.
San Francisco Giants Top 2016 Prospects: #14
#14: Andrew Suarez, LHP, Age 23: Suarez turned down a 2nd round selection from Washington in the 2014 draft and returned to Miami for his senior season. He suffered through an early season oblique strain and some inconsistency, but when healthy was again one of the better college southpaws in the country. He was rated right around 75 in pre-draft rankings, and the Giants made him their second round pick last June.
Once Suarez signed his professional contract, the organization didn’t waste much time moving him up the latter. After logging a handful of innings in Arizona, he joined Salem-Keizer’s rotation in the short-season NWL. He allowed 1 hit and no runs over 5 innings in his 5th start for the Volcanoes, and was immediately headed back down the West Coast to San Jose. He’d spend the rest of the summer in the Cal League, allowing 3 ER in 15 innings over 3 starts with the Giants. He took the ball two more times in the postseason.
Suarez is a 6-ft-2 lefty with a bit of a stocky build and a compact delivery. He had labrum surgery that cost him his freshman year at Miami, but was able to enjoy a mostly healthy career upon his recovery. Polished lefties are tough to come by, especially those who offer four average or better offerings and can sit low-90’s with their fastball. To be honest, I feel like he’s too low here, but I also happen to really like the 13 players above him on my list. Nothing is ever guaranteed in this game, and Suarez’ shoulder issues are worth filing away for now. But if he remains healthy, he sure seems like a guy who could zoom through the system and become a reliable #4 or 5 starter.
Top 2016 San Francisco Giants Prospects: #15
#15: Jarrett Parker, OF, Age 27: Parker is one of the more interesting names on this list, and I certainly didn’t see it coming. The Giants 2nd round pick in 2010 (just behind Gary Brown) never really had a breakout minor league season. Yes, he always hit his fair share of HR and swiped a number of bases (28 in 2012), but they were usually matched with low batting averages and gaudy strikeout totals. While Brown was ascending to the top of Giants prospects lists, Parker was being asked to repeat at San Jose in 2012 and again at Richmond in 2014. His numbers, while consistent across the levels, were far from head-turning. In 2015, however, he finally had his breakout.
When Parker got called to the Majors for the first time last year, I couldn’t remember a hitter looking more lost at the plate. I honestly wondered whether he’d ever get another chance in the bigs. But Parker proved me wrong in a big way, surging offensively in Sacramento for 23 HR, then going on a September big-fly binge that will be hard to forget. I was listening to KNBR on my way home during the 3-HR game in Oakland, and Jon Miller’s call gave me goosebumps. There are thousands of minor league prospects in baseball at any one point in time… do you know how many of them will do what Parker did in September 2015 for the Giants? Not very many.
So, now the question becomes, is Parker merely a flash in the pan, or can he continue to produce at the highest level? It’s hard to imagine him (or Mac Williamson) getting a roster spot out of spring camp if the regulars are healthy, especially since Parker would make for 3 LHH outfielders on the 25-man. I just don’t see that happening. With Parker, you get a guy who is solidly built, athletic enough to play any OF position (though he really doesn’t stand out in one spot), and a major hacker at the plate. He might be the greatest “3-true outcomes” hitter in the system, as he has a high tendency to either walk, strike out, or drive one over the fence.
Personally, I think Parker could make for an interesting platoon partner for an MLB team. He should provide nice bench depth for a few years, at the very least. But after hitting a combined 29 HR in 2015, he’s a guy who we have to take seriously at this point.
Top 2016 San Francisco Giants Prospects: #16
#16: Hunter Cole, OF, Age 23: Cole had 3 steady seasons for Georgia, but his power didn’t develop as hoped after hitting 7 HR as a freshman. He seemed like a pretty good bet to return for his senior year when he fell to the 26th round in 2014, but the Giants were able to sign him anyway. A year later, and he was rising levels at a rapid pace. 2015 saw him in San Jose after just 10 games with Augusta, and in Richmond for the final 51 games. Between all 3 stops, Cole hit .301/.358/.474 with 9 HR, 9 3B, and 33 2B. The Giants tried him at 2B (he played 3B and OF in college), but in AA he was a full-time RF.
Like Austin Slater, Cole doesn’t take a ton of walks and is not immune to strikeouts. Also like Slater, he was able to put the ball in play and impact a lot of games consistently during 2015. While the Giants appear to still have Slater working in the infield, it seems that Cole could end up as a corner OF only. They’re overall profiles are very similar, but I have a hunch Cole’s bat will be the difference maker. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him add more power to his right-handed swing, and eventually work his way into at least a platoon MLB left fielder role if the opportunity presents itself.
San Francisco Giants Top 2016 Prospects: #17
#17: Austin Slater, 2B/OF, Age 23: Slater was a 2014 8th round draft pick who (alongside fellow classmate of 2014 Hunter Cole) zoomed to AA in his first full season of pro ball. He was also selected as one of the Giants’ 2015 AFL representatives, playing some 2B and corner OF while hitting .250 for the champion Scottsdale Scorpions in October.
Slater was one of the top talents in Florida during his prep days, and turned down a late-round selection from the Dodgers to attend Stanford. He never showed much power during his collegiate years (not many Stanford hitters do), but he hit .341 during a breakout junior season in 2014. The Giants snagged him that summer, and watched as he actually improved his batting average to .347 in Salem-Keizer. He played primarily RF for the Volcanoes.
Slater earned a 2015 opening day assignment (and a position change, back to shortstop) to San Jose, where he hit .292 with 3 HR in 60 Cal League games. His time at shortstop was short-lived, but he did settle in at 2B for the SJ Giants, and that’s where he played all of his innings after a mid-season promotion to Richmond. He hit .296, without a HR in 54 games at AA.
I like Slater. At this point he really looks to be a guy who can hang defensively at 2B and the outfield corners. The Giants have been looking for a guy like that for a while. While he has shown good bat-to-ball skills up to this point, Slater’s low BB to K ratio (24:92) in 2015 is something he will need to improve if he wants to stick on a MLB roster someday. If he can get on base a bit more and strike out a little less, I can really envision him in a Kelby Tomlinson type role down the road. I’d expect to see Slater back in AA for the start of 2016.
San Francisco Giants Top 2016 Prospects
#18: Ty Blach, LHP, Age 25: Blach was top 10 in my 2014 and 2015 winter rankings, and I still think quite highly of him. The difference this year is that we’re starting to get a better idea of what his MLB career could look like, and the Giants had a plethora of high ceiling arms blossom in 2015 (Chase Johnson, Jordan Johnson, Sam Coonrod). Blach may not possess the eye-popping fastball of others in the system, but he’s certainly got some positive things going for himself too. Southpaws with command can be quite valuable, and Ty has shown tremendous control throughout his professional career. He’s got a 4-pitch arsenal that he mixes quite well, and his changeup may be one of the best in the system.
The first thing people generally notice about Blach’s minor league numbers are his K-rates, which have dipped as he’s moved up the system. He was also very hittable for Sacramento last year, allowing 189 hits in 165.1 IP. However, the thing that really strikes me about Ty is his ability to log innings. He made 27 starts in AAA, and in 9 of his 11 least successful outings (game score 43 or less), he was still able to finish 5, 6, and sometimes even 7 innings of work. Actually, he only made 2 starts that were shorter than 5 IP all season. The Giants have shown they value that kind of durability in a pitcher. Heck, look at Barry Zito for crying out loud.
Blach also had his share of dominant games for the Rivercats in 2015, a 3-hit shutout (game score 85) best among them. I was in attendance for his start on May 3, when he allowed 3 hits and 1 run over 6 IP against El Paso. He only struck out 4 that afternoon, but he appeared in complete control for nearly the entirety of his outing. He likely won’t ever be a high strikeout arm. It’s just not his profile, and it never has been. Personally, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal for him. In fact, with the lack of openings in the Giants MLB rotation going forward, I could see Blach eventually finding his home in the bullpen, where his fastball may play just up a tad (91-93?), and his changeup could help give him an out pitch against righties. I’m not sure they make that move in 2016, but you just never know what kind of need will arise during the season.
San Francisco Giants Top 2016 Prospects
#19: Jalen Miller, SS, Age 19: Miller was one of the top prep SS and a top 50 overall prospect heading into the 2015 draft. He was still on the board in the 3rd round, and the Giants selected him. They signed him to an overslot $1.1M bonus and sent him to rookie ball. While he started hot, Jalen’s bat soon cooled off and he struggled offensively for most of the summer. He hit only .218/.292/.259 in 197 PA, but did steal 11 bases in 13 tries. His speed is rated as above average in the reports that I’ve read, and while he’s gotten a lot of compliments for his contact-oriented approach at the plate, it’s obvious he’s going to need plenty of time to develop his bat. Considering the Giants have the best homegrown infield in baseball, I’d say there’s absolutely no rush.
It seems like nearly every SS the Giants draft gets labeled as a future 2B, and already that’s the case with Miller. Depending on who you read, he either stands out for his defense or he doesn’t quite have the goods to stick at short. Personally, I don’t think the Giants are in any rush to move him off the position. MLB Pipeline rated him #7 in the organization last summer, dropping a Brandon Phillips comp on him in the write-up. For me, putting him near the bottom of the top 20 demonstrates the depth of talented players the Giants have in the farm system right now. It’s also very hard for me to project guys at such a young age, but Miller sure was a pleasant surprise on draft day last June, and I’m excited to follow his development.
2016 San Francisco Giants Top Prospects: #20
**Edit: Ok, I’ve been thinking about this profile since the minute I clicked submit a couple days ago. Honestly, I don’t know whether my ranking of Crick is too high, too low, or just right. I guess that is something we will know more about at the end of the season. But what I’m concerned about is the write-up itself. I just don’t feel like I offered much insight here, and I apologize for that. These projects sometimes get bigger and more exhausting than you remember, and motivation isn’t always so high for each post.
Here’s the deal: Crick has so, so much talent. That’s undeniable. I’ve said this for the past few seasons, and I’ll say it again – Kyle Crick hasn’t faced a professional opponent that can beat him yet. To me, his biggest opposition has been himself, and it’s been a recurring theme for a while now. The best a hitter can really do against him is to leave the bat on their shoulder, and let him run his pitch count up… and that’s generally what they’ve done in Richmond. Still, his H/9 and HR/9 were stellar, as they’ve been throughout his career. So, you want a silver lining here, or something to hang your hat on for Crick? To me, it’s that ability to miss bats and limit hard contact. He’s still only 23, and if he can even find a minor tweak to get his control back in the 5/9 range (not great by any means), he could well be a very effective arm. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess whether that will happen.
#20: Kyle Crick, RHP, Age 23: Much as it pains me to write this, there really wasn’t a prospect in the system who had a more disappointing season than Crick – especially considering he was still #1 on many lists (including mine) coming into the year. For the second consecutive season at AA, the Texas right-hander struggled with command and pitch counts. This time, however, the Giants pulled him from the rotation as his walk rates ballooned out of control. Crick would spend the second half of 2015 pitching in relief, where he still walked over a batter per inning. For the year, he surrendered 66 free passes in only 63 innings. During his two campaigns at Richmond, he’s walked at least one hitter in all 33 combined starts, he’s never completed 7 innings in any one game.
There’s no doubt Crick still has great velocity and strikeout stuff, but his career 6.4 bb/9 is clearly holding him back from succeeding against advanced hitters. I really feel for the kid. He’s got one of the most electric fastballs I’ve ever seen… but until he shows that he can get the walks down to a non-alarming rate (which may never happen at this point), it’s hard to predict him having an impact role for a MLB team.