Giants Mid-Season Top Prospects

Again, my apologies for not being timely or thorough with this project. Sometimes life just gets in the way! As promised though, here is the list I put together about a month ago, with a little blip on the players I wasn’t able to profile.

One note here: I didn’t want to change my original rankings from last month, but if I had to do it over, Mikey Edie (#23) and Steven Okert (#21) are two players who are making some serious cases for a higher ranking.

1. Kyle Crick, RHP, AA: Crick’s stock has plummeted in the eyes of some – not me. He’s young, healthy, and needs to continue logging innings. Best raw stuff in the system, but control is the big issue.  He has the slight edge over Beede for top prospect in the organization right now, but next year should help sort things out.

2. Tyler Beede, RHP, AZL: Beede’s signing was delayed because Vandy took down the College World Series. He’s a big, strong, power pitcher who got top 10 and even some top 5 draft consideration before conference play. He should start his pro career sometime this week, and like Crick will need to focus on his command.

3. Andrew Susac, C, AAA: Susac has again missed time due to multiple injuries, but he’s been red-hot offensively this month (.302, 4 HR in 43 AB) after struggling in June. He may never be the best defensive catcher in baseball, but recent reports say he is improving behind the dish. The Giants greatest offensive prospect will surely have his name come up in trade talks. Will the Giants bite?

4. Keury Mella, RHP, Low A: He was in my preseason top 10, with the potential to shoot up depending on how he performed in full-season ball. Well, shoot up he did. Through 12 starts, he logged a 3.93 ERA and 63K/13BB in 66 IP for Augusta. He struck out 10 on June 20, and hasn’t made an appearance since. According to beat writer David Lee (who has proclaimed himself the bus driver of the Mella bandwagon), Keury was sent to Arizona with an undisclosed injury. You hope that it isn’t an arm issue, but I’m worried that he won’t pitch again this year. Either way, he’s solidified himself as a top prospect in this organization in my book.

Video c/o Conner Penfold

5. Joe Panik, 2B, MLB: Posted a .321 average in 74 games with Fresno before getting the call all prospects dream of. He’s currently 13-61 (.213) in the big leagues, and has shown a solid glove and range at 2B. If the Giants can’t swing a deal for a major upgrade at the deadline, I believe Panik is capable of helping this club down the stretch. I still see a future as an everyday starter for a guy that took his knocks last year in AA.

6. Edwin Escobar, LHP, AAA: I struggled with this ranking, but Escobar just hasn’t produced the consistent results in Fresno this year I was hoping for. He’s been durable, throwing 105 innings in 19 starts. He hasn’t, however, been consistent. We’ve seen flashes of the pitcher he can be, but his .338 BAA and 15 HR allowed against righties really makes me question whether he’ll be a starter at the MLB level. He’s very young for AAA, but I’m sure the Giants would like to see some 2nd half adjustments.

Escobar Futures Game Article

7. Adalberto Mejia, LHP, AA: One of the youngest pitchers in the Eastern League has shown his age and inexperience this year. Like Escobar, the consistency just hasn’t been there for Mejia. His peripheral stats really aren’t far off his career averages, but a 5.52 ERA just isn’t going to cut it. The kid is big, durable, and left-handed though, so I’m sure he’ll get plenty of opportunities to succeed.

8. Clayton Blackburn, RHP, AA: Blackburn has struggled with injuries for the first time in his career this season, and finds himself back on the DL after making only two starts since his last bout with injury. Scouts knock his body and lack of a premium fastball, but my gut says he’s still got a future as an MLB starter ahead of him. Let’s hope he can get back on the mound again very soon.

9. Ty Blach, LHP, AA: While his younger rotation mates in Richmond have battled some demons this year, Blach has been a model of consistency (again). He’s currently got a 2.95 ERA through 18 starts, and his walk rates are impressive, albeit more than he posted in all of 2013. His low strikeout totals (63 in 97.2 IP) make you question whether his stuff will hold up at the highest levels, but I have a crazy feeling he’ll end up having the best career of anyone on that highly-touted Richmond staff.

10. Mac Williamson, RF, DL: Mac’s injury was the heartbreak of the year for me, as I was very excited to see how he hit in Richmond. He won’t play again this year after having Tommy John surgery, but he should be ready to roll by next spring, where he’ll be 24 in AA. He will likely always have high strikeout rates, but if the power and athleticism can play in the Eastern League, I think the Giants have a serious offensive prospect on their hands.

11. Kendry Flores, RHP, High A: Flores is one of my favorite arms in the organization. He had a rough time in his first couples months as a Cal-Leaguer, allowing 9 HR through 10 starts. For the last month and a half, however, he’s been flat-out dominant. Take out his ERA and here’s what you get for the season: 17 GS, 91.1 IP, 28 BB, 100 K. Couple that with the fact that he’s allowed only 4 ER in 3 July starts, and I think this guy is on track for a huge second half. Nobody’s talking about him, but they will be soon.

12. Aramis Garcia, C, AZL: Garcia was the Giants 2nd round pick in June, and he signed on the dotted line early last week. Admittedly, I’m not in love with this draft class (yet), but I did really like the Garcia pick. Coming from a smaller school like FIU, it’s certainly not a done deal that he’ll hit, but he has the potential to be a solid all-around catcher if he does. I’m envisioning less power but more batting average than Susac if things come together. Garcia should debut soon.

13. Derek Law, RHP, AA: In the year of Tommy John, Law was the big pitcher to go down in the Giants system. He was having a solid season as the closer in Richmond before coming off the mound with forearm tightness on June 8. We know this kid has the stuff to be a late-inning reliever in the majors, but we’ll have to be patient over the next year while he works his way back from surgery.

14. Matt Duffy, SS, AA: Duffy is a gamer, and I had an incredibly hard time not ranking him higher than this. The guy is hitting .344/.411/.453 as a 23 year old in his first season at AA. How is nobody talking about him?! Well, I can tell you we’re talking about him around here. This guy hits everywhere he goes, and he’s 20/23 stealing bases this year on top of it. I’m not sure if it’ll happen, but I’d love to see Duffy in Fresno by season’s end.

15. Adam Duvall, 3B, AAA: He’s on his way back to the Show with Belt hitting the DL, and is hitting .302 with 26 HR for the season in Fresno. Duvall has already shown he can take an MLB pitcher deep. Can he do it consistently? This might be a great time to find out. As much as I love what he’s doing offensively, I’m not sure his defensive skills will ever allow him to be an NL regular. For that reason, I can see him being included in a trade this summer, as his value may never be higher than it is now.

16. Luis Ysla, LHP, Low A: Ysla is a name you likely won’t see on other lists, but he’s one of the most underrated prospects in the system in my book. The Giants signed him for dirt cheap out of Venezuela at the age of 19, and he’s been nothing but impressive since debuting last summer in Arizona. This year, he’s survived some bouts of wildness while anchoring a pretty good Augusta rotation. The now 21 year old southpaw can run his fastball up to 96, and he truly does have the stuff to pitch in the big leagues. Whether he can refine his secondary offerings and hone in his control will likely determine whether he’ll be a starter at the higher levels.

17. Christian Arroyo, 2B/SS, Short Season A: Arroyo has had a tough first season as a pro, and this ranking reflects those struggles. He was moved off of shortstop in Augusta in favor of Ryder Jones from day 1, and I truly think that had a greater effect on him offensively than most realize. Arroyo just wasn’t really able to find a rhythm offensively, although David Lee reported that he was squaring up the ball quite frequently. He suffered a thumb injury and was eventually re-assigned to Salem-Keizer, where he’s been playing SS and hitting well. He’ll get another shot in the SALLY next year, but for now I’m being cautious with the kid.

18. Ryder Jones, SS/3B, Low A: Jones has done what Arroyo wasn’t able to this year, staying healthy and in the Augusta lineup. He is, however, struggling mightily at the dish right now, hitting only .103 in his last 10 games and .095 for the month. David Lee had a nice writeup on Jones recently, reminding all of us just how much of a grind it can be for a high school draftee in his first full year of pro ball. He’s got 7 HR on the year (he hit 5 in May alone), but the errors have been piling up lately as well. Obviously, it’s much too early to determine what the Giants have in either Jones or Arroyo.

19. Chris Stratton, RHP, High A

20. Joan Gregorio, RHP, Low A

No’s 21-25No’s 26-30

HM HittersHM Pitchers

 

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Post-Break Jottings

Howdy, folks. It’s been a little hectic around here lately, between the move from Montana to the Golden State and settling into a new career. We’re well overdue for a check-in, so I thought I’d offer up a few thoughts about Los Gigantes. This will be more of a “quick-hits” type post than lengthy paragraphs. Sometimes it’s just easier to get everything out that way.

First, an admission on the mid-season prospect rankings: It seems I bit off way more than I could chew this time around. My apologies for not being timely, but I am planning to release my overall list (hopefully with a couple thoughts on each player) very soon.

Another screw-up on my part: I nearly bought tickets for last Sunday’s game before talking myself out of it (the seats were rather expensive… people must love their bobble-heads). My cousin and his wife were there. They got to see history, and we missed out. But I look at it this way. I’ll probably never get to see something like that again, but neither will he, or you, or anyone else! Either way, huge win heading into the break.

Props to the Giants for starting the “2nd half” off right. Friday’s win was a thing of beauty. Saturday was methodical. A sweep was there for the taking today, but 2 of 3 in Miami this time of year works just fine for me. The G’s played great ball this weekend. 

Injury updates: Pagan’s out through the All-Star break now, and Belt is back on the DL with a concussion stemming from a fluke accident in warm-ups. Get healthy, Belter. For the meantime, Adam Duvall is headed back to the bigs. The kid has been confident with the bat since returning to Fresno, and I’d play him every day while he’s up. 

It’s great to have Scutaro back on the squad! Personally, I’d save him for pinch-hit opportunities in September, when the division is really on the line. Don’t burn that back out in July!

Some trade news: The big names swirling around are Zobrist and Utley, while there hasn’t been much talk about Dan Murphy. As of this weekend, Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Aviles are Giants targets. I think Aviles is a great fit, and the type of under-valued player that Sabean usually looks for this time of year. I still really like Zobrist… and I don’t believe the David Price rumors for a second.

Roster issues: Whether or not Sabean lands a big fish, it’s time to add some depth to this club. Injuries have hit, and the role players just aren’t pulling their weight. I don’t see the point in having both Arias and Adrianza on this team. Adrianza is younger, cheaper, and likely has more potential. No hard feelings, but I’d like to see Arias replaced. 

We also seem to be in 2013 mode with Pagan out and Blanco seeing most of the playing time in CF. What should be done about that? Does Colvin get more time out there… Does Pence move to center… do the Giants try Gary Brown as a RHH platoon partner? I was ridiculed for this on Twitter last week, but the Cubs are a team willing to part with just about anyone not in their future plans. A guy like Ruggiano could probably be had for pretty cheap. Would Bonafacio be worth a look? There has to be something better than watching Blanco struggle offensively every game.

Lastly, the Giants are in a wonderful position right now. Remember, baseball isn’t a sprint. This baby is a marathon. Tune out the negativity, and glance at the standings. It’s going to be a true fight to the finish with LA, and I’m looking forward to it. 

Mid-Season Prospects: #19

19. Chris Stratton, RHP, San Jose (High A)

2014: 16 GS, 87.1 IP, 4.95, 88 H, 35 BB, 92 K

You might see this ranking and wonder how a credible blogger could drop a 1st round pick (and Baseball America’s #3 Giants prospect) almost out of the organization’s top 20. But Stratton has just been too inconsistent for my liking since he turned pro, and I really feel every player I have ranked above him has a great case to be there.

So, what’s the deal with this guy, who the Giants were thrilled to draft 20th overall just a couple summers ago? Honestly, I don’t know, because I’ve never seen him pitch in person. But I have a pretty good idea, based on the reports that are out there. Stratton peaked during his junior year at Mississippi State, and entered the draft as a power arm, pairing a plus slider with a FB that hit 95 most outings. But that velocity seems to have dropped off pretty significantly since he entered the organization. More often than not, you hear/read about him working more 87-91 with his FB. His slider is still a strikeout pitch, as you can see by his increased K rate this year in the Cal League. But with that kind of velocity, he has to really show great command, which he hasn’t in his career thus far. As painful as this is to say, if you throw his SEC and 1st round pedigree out the window, and evaluate him solely for what he’s done the past couple years, he really doesn’t look like a top prospect.

I’ll say this about Stratton: he’s pitched much better in spurts lately. 5 of his last 10 outings have been quality starts, and he’s got 22 K in his last 3 starts (15.1 IP). He’s shown some flashes of the dominant pitcher the Giants were hoping for. He was even clocked up to 93 in his most recent start, which is another positive sign. If he can make strides in his command, the Giants will give him every opportunity to make it to the big leagues in a couple years. The problem is, he’s almost 24 years old in High A. For me, everything adds up to a player whose prospect status has really slipped.

(Video c/o Conner Penfold)

Mid-Season Prospects: #20

20. Joan Gregorio, RHP, Augusta (A)

2014: SJ – 6 G (5 GS), 22.2 IP, 6.75, 27 H, 13 BB, 27 K
2014: AUG – 4 G (3 GS), 14.2 IP, 4.30, 8 H, 2 BB, 14 K

Gregorio is a lanky 6-ft-7 righty with a ton of upside who’s taken a step backward in 2014. Like many of his rotation mates in San Jose, he just hasn’t performed up to expectations this year. In fact, Gregorio was actually reassigned to Augusta after returning from an early-season injury. Really, for someone who showed great durability on the mound in his first 3 summers with the organization, he’s had a tough time staying healthy in his 1+ full-season campaigns. But it’s not just injuries that have hurt his stock this year. He walked 13 batters in 22.2 IP with San Jose, which is pretty eye-opening for a guy who allowed only 17 BB all of 2013. As is the case with any tall pitcher, you have to wonder whether he lost feel for his arm slot. That is my best guess at this point.

He throws a fastball that can reach mid-90′s when it’s on, and his go-to secondary pitch is his changeup. Greogorio was dominant in stretches for Augusta last year, and his 11 K performance (5.2 IP) for San Jose in April told me he definitely still has the stuff. Right now, he’s got to take a step back and try to regain that stuff, as well as his confidence. Hopefully he can work his way back to the Cal League before the season ends. He’s got easy velocity and a solid 3-pitch mix, and I could still see him making the bigs as a reliever if his body and mechanics don’t hold up as a starter.

(Video c/o Conner Penfold)

 

Mid-Season Prospects: #21-25

21. Steven Okert, LHP, Age 22

San Jose (A+): 35.1 IP, 19 SV, 1.53, 33 H, 11 BB, 54 K

**Update: Okert was indeed promoted to AA Richmond last night, as announced via Twitter. The promotion is well deserved.

Okert was a pretty well-regarded lefty when the Giants drafted him out of Oklahoma in 2012 (4th round). He pitched well in Salem-Keizer that summer, but he struggled with consistency in Augusta last season. On the surface, his 2013 numbers don’t look all that bad, but they aren’t quite what you’d expect from a lefty said to be pumping mid-90’s in college. Apparently he wasn’t lighting the radar gun up as great as advertised down the stretch in the SALLY. But all reports indicate his velocity is back this season in San Jose, and he’s been arguably the best left-handed pitching prospect in the organization to this point. Everyone knows how tough the Cal League can be on hitters, but Okert has surrendered only 6 ER in 33 appearances this year. I’ve seen his fastball mentioned as high as 97 on the gun, and he adds a beauty of a slider to go with it. He was selected to the Cal/Car All-Star game, where he opened eyes by getting the CAL squad out of a hairy situation with runners on and no outs in the 9th. The dude earned the save, and earned himself an Aaron Rodgers-style championship belt in the clubhouse for his efforts. Okert’s emergence this year is a wonderful surprise. If he keeps pitching like this, I believe he’ll be in Richmond very soon.

(Video from Conner Penfold)

22. Daniel Carbonell, CF, Age 23

Salem-Keizer (ssA): N/A

The Giants signed Carbonell to a 4-year deal last week, giving him a $1M signing bonus and a spot on the 40-man roster. He’s a Cuban defector with tremendous athleticism and speed, and it sounds like he should report to short-season A-ball in Oregon (by way of his current home, Mexico) in the next couple of weeks. Carbonell is not a polished player like Cespedes or Puig. He is a project, and the Giants will need to help refine his game. But the videos I’ve seen show a guy who looks like he can do incredible things on a baseball diamond. He’s got 80 speed on the bases, and should be fun to watch in CF. The big question, as always, is whether he can hit. If so, look out! Really, this is a great move by the Giants. There is relatively little risk in taking a chance on a player like Carbonell. I’m excited for him to make his pro debut. This, in my opinion, is a step in the right direction for an organization that’s lacking international hitting talent in its system.

23. Mikey Edie, CF, Age 16

DSL Giants (R): 72 AB, .236/.368/.264, 8 SB (4 CS)

Edie was the Giants top international position player signee last winter, and he recently made his debut in the Dominican Summer League. He’s very, very young (turns 17 next week), and at 5-11, 175, there’s certainly time for him to get bigger and stronger. Through 18 games, you can already see the Venezuelan CF has the chance to become an impact player, much like Gustavo Cabrera did in the DSL last summer. Edie was a standout in international competition at a young age, and that is a trait professional teams certainly look for when scouting foreign-born players. He reminds somewhat of Derek Hill, the OF from Elk Grove High who I really wanted the Giants to draft earlier this month. Hill is obviously older and more polished, but Edie’s game profiles very similarly. Both players have a chance to become 5-tool prospects if their bats develop. For now, there’s not a ton of information out there about this kid, but he and fellow Giants signee Kelvin Beltre are off to fine starts to their pro career. Honestly, the sky is the limit for guys like this. Now we have to sit back patiently and see if they can put everything together.

24. Angel Villalona, 1B, Age 23

Richmond (AA): 228 AB, .263/.323/.443, 8 HR, 41 RBI

Villalona has become somewhat of a lightning rod among Giants prospect followers these days. I’m finding that a good number of people (fans) I talk to wouldn’t blink an eye if the Giants designated him for assignment. I can assure you, the Giants have no plans of doing that, as he would be scooped up in a hurry. Look, I realize Villalona likely isn’t the future all-star most people had hoped he’d become when the Giants made him a millionaire in 2007. He’s 23 years old now, and still strikes out in bunches as he always had. But Angel V. is very much an intriguing prospect in my book. I think people forget that he missed 3 full seasons of professional ball in the US. That’s an incredibly long time for any athlete, let alone a baseball prospect. We found out last winter (from Pavlovic, I believe) the Giants still have a couple of option years left on him, so there really is no rush to do anything crazy at this point. Although he’s on the DL at the moment, Villalona was having a very nice June, hitting .298 with 3 HR in 13 games. I’ll admit, the very few times I’ve seen him play, I wasn’t all that impressed with his plate approach. But the kid has monster right-handed power, and his numbers in Richmond this year are already an improvement from last season. He’s still very inexperienced in baseball terms, so I’m reserving judgment on the kid for now. We should see him in Fresno next year, where I believe he can easily hit 20+ homers over a full season.

25. Dylan Davis, RF, Age 20

Oregon State: 237 AB, .283, 7 HR, 21 BB, 31 K

3rd round pick this year out of Oregon State; he has not signed yet, but I don’t have much doubt that he will. He played high school ball in Washington with his college teammate and All-American Michael Conforto. The two were held in pretty similar regard heading into their junior year, but Davis saw his average drop from .327  in 2013 down to .283 this spring, while Conforto hit well above .300 all season en route to a 1st round selection. This is a prototypical Giants 3rd rounder – College corner bat with power potential and contact issues. Looking a little closer, Davis reminds me a lot of Chris Dominguez, another former 3rd rounder (2009). Dominguez is bigger in size, and a tad more athletic, but he offered major power potential and a cannon for an arm coming out of Louisville. Davis has a similar arm, and apparently can pump it up to 97 on the mound. Obviously, you don’t draft a hitter this high with the intention of changing him to a pitcher. But you just never know. Davis was ranked #74 on MLB.com’s top 200 draft prospects. He’s an interesting pick, and hopefully he inks a deal soon. If the Giants can get him to Salem-Keizer in the next few weeks, he’ll likely provide a nice offensive boost, and I’m sure the fans out there would love to see another Oregon boy in the lineup, like they had with Blake Miller last summer.

Cove Chatter: One Year Later

Just thought I’d share this little tidbit. Today is the one-year anniversary for Cove Chatter. Boy, time flies when you’re having fun! In all seriousness, though, it seems like only yesterday I wrote that very first post. Honestly, I don’t even remember what it was about. It probably wasn’t very good though! The goal of this blog was to share my thoughts about a baseball team that literally consumes about 90% of every waking thought on my mind. Over the course of a year, I have learned so much about this organization, from the majors all the way to the rookie leagues. Heck, I even took an interest in the MLB draft, and created what I felt was a pretty well informed mock draft. That was definitely a first for me.

Anyone can start a blog, and many folks have. But dedicating yourself to it is quite a challenge. Believe me, there were certainly a few occasions where my drive waned a bit. But if you truly love something, the passion and excitement are always there. That, I feel, is why I’ve been able to keep rolling out posts (for the most part) for the past year. Really, it’s amazing what starting something like this will do for your life. When you’ve researched as much as I have for projects like the Cove Chatter 100, and conversed with some of the greatest minds in the Giants blogosphere, you really start to feel like an expert on the subject.

Obviously, I am no baseball expert. But I do believe I could bust out a pretty accurate scouting report today for about 80-85% of the prospects in the Giants organization without doing a Google search. One year ago, when I started my mid-season prospect rankings, I literally had to dig up information on every player. Talk about a transformation!

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(Packing for the games, April 2013)

There have been many small milestones for Cove Chatter since its creation, and I feel I have benefitted greatly as a person since starting this blog. But I truly believe the greatest impact this blog has had on me is all the different people it’s introduced me to. DrB, Shankbone, Obsessive Giants Compulsive, Conner at Giant Potential, Foothills Ryan, Dana (Dr. Lefty), and so many other knowledgeable posters have helped make me a better fan. Many of these folks have been mentors for me in the blogging world, and I am in awe to even be mentioned in the same sentence as them. These folks truly are the heavyweights among Giants bloggers and online community members, and I strive to be like them in my own way.

This also seems like an appropriate time to get everyone caught up on some major changes that have taken place in my life recently. About two months ago, I interviewed for and accepted a teaching position in the Chico area in northern California. I earned my degree in Elementary & Special Education a few years ago, so this will be my first teaching position. I start school in August, and could not be more excited. My best friend, who both introduced me to the wonderful world of Giants baseball, and accompanied me on a wild move to a foreign land (Montana), will be teaching 8th grade at the same small school… and I can’t tell you how excited I am about that. As it is, I’ll be relocating from Montana to my hometown in the Sacramento Valley. I’m leaving in a week, actually!

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(At the Yard, August 2013)

My last professional position (which I finished a week ago) didn’t always keep me busy. In turn, I had quite a bit of extra time to dedicate to the blog, even if some of those posts were coming from Minneapolis, Denver, Chicago, Fargo, Pasadena, and many other places I have traveled in a year’s time in search of prospective college students.

Unfortunately for this site, that “free time” likely will not be the case with my future 4th grade classes, especially in this first year. It is inevitable that Cove Chatter will have to move down the priority list a bit. I can tell you with honesty, however, that I have no plans to disband the blog. Even if I am only able to check in a handful of times by this fall (as the Giants are hopefully making another October run!), I know that I just can’t let this thing go. It’s become too big of a part of my life, and I just enjoy writing and interacting with all of you too much. So, even if the activity dwindles a bit at times around here, I sincerely hope all of you will still try to make a little time for old Cove Chatter each month, as I certainly hope to do the same for you.

For the time being, we are right in the middle of the mid-season Giants prospect updates. I am very excited to release the top 25, and will continue to work on them as I am moving to California. I would hope that we could get to #1 (which is actually up for a bit of debate around Giants circles lately) within the next couple weeks. This is probably the most well educated list I’ve compiled, as I’m learning more and more about these players.

So, to make a short story long, Happy birthday Cove Chatter. Thanks for giving me something to work toward for the past year. I am very proud of how this blog has evolved in a year’s time, and can’t wait to see what the future holds. Lastly, thanks to all of you for supporting my efforts here, basically from day one. Without your following, this little project wouldn’t have lasted long. Thanks for reading, and as always, GO GIANTS!

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(Leaving on the ferry, August 2012)

 

Mid-Season Top Prospects: #26-30

26. Kendry Melo, RHP, Age 20

AZL Giants (R)

If you’re a Giants fan who’s been following the careers of Adalberto Mejia and Keury Mella, and you’re wondering who the next Dominican sensation might be… well, here’s your guy. Melo is a sturdy righty (6-3, 210) with no prior professional experience. According to Ben Badler, he signed with Toronto in 2011, but MLB nixed the deal after some age concerns sprung up. Two years later, he’s a Giant for the price of $500k. We think he’s 20 years old, but there’s no questioning his size and stuff. Apparently Melo was chucking fastballs up to 93 this spring in Arizona, adding in a sharp low-80’s slider (this all according to Badler) as well. He’ll likely make his debut very soon with the Giants AZL rookie club, which just started its season last night. Between he and fellow newbie Rodolfo Martinez, the organization has some very tantalizing international pitching in the desert this summer.

Badler Notes:

27. Martin Agosta, RHP, Age 23

San Jose (A+): 21.1 IP, 10.55, 35 H, 17 BB, 16 K, .376 BAA

Agosta was #4 in my mid-season rankings last summer, down ten spots to #14 in the pre-season top 50, and now out of the top 25 in June. Maybe that’s not entirely fair, as we’ve seen what he can do when he’s healthy. The problem is, he hasn’t really been healthy since last summer. Even in his roughly 5 weeks of action for San Jose during the first half, Agosta just didn’t seem right. He only lasted 5 innings twice in 7 starts, and tossed a mere 3.2 innings in his final two appearances before heading back to the DL. To be honest, I can’t find the official diagnosis anywhere, and I truly don’t remember hearing much even when he went on the DL back in May. I also don’t know how well he is progressing, and when we should expect to see him back in the San Jose rotation this year. All I know is, Agosta is a guy with incredible potential, as we saw for four months in Augusta last year. Will he be healthy enough to show us that potential again? I hope so.

(Video courtesy of Conner Penfold)

28. Blake Miller, IF, Age 24

San Jose (A+): 250 AB, .304/.356/.484, 7 HR, 52 RBI, .955 FLD%

Blake Miller – gamer, grinder, and one of my favorite players in the organization. The Giants grabbed him in the 25th round of the draft last summer out of D2 Western Oregon. He had played two years at WOU after spending his first two college seasons as the starting SS at Sac State. Turns out, all this dude does is hit no matter where he plays. After hitting at a .309 clip for Salem-Keizer (his hometown) last summer, the Giants gave him some AB’s with the big league club in spring training, then sent him straight to San Jose. He responded by becoming one of the most reliable hitters in the Giants order in the first half. While he’s a little old for the league, his season to this point is still very impressive for a player taken that late in the draft. He’s a good-sized kid, and though the roster lists him as a 1B, he’s actually played all but 6 games this year at either SS or 2B. His bat is strikeout-prone, and he’s certainly going to have to prove himself at every level. But I’d say he’s off to a nice start.

29. Ray Black, RHP, Age 23

Augusta (A): 14.1 IP, 2.51, 7 H, 4 BB, 27 K, .140 BAA

7th round pick out of Pittsburgh in 2011 never showed up in any box scores that summer. Or the next. Or the next. But Conner Penfold finally found him this spring in Arizona (video below), and wrote a great piece about his roller-coaster ride of a pro career. Turns out Black had labrum surgery, and had spent the majority of 2012 and 2013 trying to get back to full strength. Three years after he was drafted, the 6-5 beast of a reliever is finally healthy, and he’s throwing GAS in Augusta. David Lee has had him as high as 101, and he regularly works in the 96-98 range. He also throws a slider that shows plus potential at times. The Giants have been careful with him, and sent him to the DL after his shoulder flared up on him on Opening Day. He’s been absolutely dominant since returning. Look at those numbers… yep, that’s a 17.0 K/9. Personally, I don’t think he has anything to prove in the SALLY if he’s healthy. Will the Giants get him moving later this summer? I hope so. Black was one of the nicest surprises this spring, and it’s hard not to root for a guy like this. He’s a name to watch out for in the second half, and a prime candidate to shoot up this list if he keeps blowing his fastball past hitters all summer.

(Video by David Lee)

30. Hunter Strickland, RHP, Age 25

Richmond (AA): [2 levels] 12.2 IP, 3.55, 10 H, 3 BB, 18 K, .227 BA

Strickland stays in the same spot I had him in the preseason top 50. He was a minor league journeyman of sorts before coming to the Giants in 2013. He was sent to close games in San Jose, where he embarrassed Cal League hitters with a mid-90’s fastball. Tommy John surgery cut his promising season short, but the Giants made a curious move by protecting him on the 40-man. To do that for a 24 year-old pitcher who’d spent only 2 months with your organization, the front office really made a statement about this guy’s potential. He returned to action this May and made only 3 appearances in San Jose before being promoted to Richmond. Strickland has the ideal frame for a power pitcher (6-4, 220), and he’s a guy who could be in Fresno… if not the big leagues… by September.

Mid-Season Prospects: Honorable Mention (Pitchers)

Five arms who missed the top 30 cut. Videos of Johnson and Hall are courtesy of Conner Penfold (Giant Potential). Video of Castillo is courtesy of Nathaniel Stoltz (Fangraphs).

Jose De Paula, LHP, Age 26

Fresno (AAA): 26.2 IP, 5.06, 34 H, 9 BB, 22 K, .306 BAA

If De Paula isn’t a name you’re totally familiar with, don’t feel bad. If you recall, though, the Giants claimed him off waivers from San Diego last year around Thanksgiving, giving him a spot on the 40-man. At 26, he’s not exactly a blue-chip prospect. But I gave him a spot here because I was so blown away by what I saw in spring training, that I really believe he has the tools to be a solid reliever in the majors. De Paula’s a Dominican native who’s been in pro ball since 2007, but has missed significant amounts of time to injuries and visa problems. He’s got a lean build and a powerful arm from the left side, but he’s not unlike Mike Kickham in that the stats haven’t always matched the stuff. He’s only made 9 appearances (5 starts) in Fresno this year, and he’s allowed 15 ER in those 26.2 IP. So, obviously he still has a ways to go. But I like his 91-95 mph fastball, and his sweeping curve was absolutely unhittable to lefties at times this spring. I think the Giants would be wise to keep working him strictly out of the bullpen to see if they can’t get some better results.

*Fast-forward to the 1:00 mark on the video below to see some clips of De Paula and some comments from Bochy.

Christian Jones, LHP, Age 23

Augusta (A): 59.2 IP, 2.72, 46 H, 13 BB, 57 K, .213 BAA

Jones might be the most intriguing story among pitchers in the Giants farm system this year. Here’s a guy that had an impressive sophomore season as a starter at Oregon (followed by an All-Star worthy Cape Cod campaign that summer), but ended up having Tommy John surgery and missing his junior season. He returned to the hill in 2013 but pitched strictly out of the bullpen for the Ducks. The Giants nabbed Jones in the 18th round of the draft that summer, and decided to give him a look in the Augusta rotation. He’s responded with a 2.72 ERA over 12 starts, including a dominant 7-inning outing in his first start after the SALLY All-Star game. He’s striking out nearly a batter an inning, and he’s only allowed 13 walks in 59 IP. His stuff isn’t overpowering, but David Lee reports that he’s developed a 2-seamer this year to go along with the 4-seam. Between the two fastballs, he ranges 87-92 from the left side, and features an average slider and a changeup with plus potential. Right now, he’s pitching like an advanced college pitcher should in low-A… but for a guy who hadn’t started in three years, color me impressed. He’s definitely worth keeping an eye on going forward, as I think he’s a very nice sleeper in this system.

Stephen Johnson, RHP, Age 22

San Jose (A+): 32 IP, 3.66, 31 H, 20 BB, 30 K .256 BAA

I gave him a #26 ranking in my offseason Top 50, and looking back that was probably a bit generous. He’s a former 6th round pick from D2 St. Edwards, and a guy who made a name for himself pumping 100 mph fastballs in college. Nowadays, he works comfortably at 92-96, and adds in a nice wipeout slider to boot. If you haven’t seen the video Conner Penfold took of him in minor league spring training, I’ve posted it below. For a guy who’s listed at 6-4, 205, Johnson looks lanky to me. The big concern is his delivery, which just looks uncomfortable on his arm. But he hasn’t had any major arm troubles in his pitching career that I’m familiar with. His issues are more in the command department, where he owns a career BB/9 of 5.5. This season, he’s issued 20 BB in 32 IP for San Jose – but 13 of those came in April. He’s actually been very impressive in May and June, combing for a 2.70 ERA and 21k/7bb in 23.1 IP. He keeps the ball down, and if he can ever shake the command problems, we could be looking at a nice late-inning arm here.

Luis Castillo, RHP, Age 21

Augusta (A): 27.1 IP, 3.29, 32 H, 14 BB, 25 K, .291 BAA

Castillo is a curious prospect. He’s been strictly a reliever in his 2+ years with the organization; he repeated the DSL after throwing 54 innings as a 19 year-old in 2012; and he was assigned straight to Augusta after his second season pitching overseas. This kid throws major, major gas, although I haven’t seen any velocity reports from Augusta beat writer David Lee this season. At any rate, the Giants don’t just send guys from the DSL to full-season ball unless they think very highly of them. Castillo isn’t a very big guy, but he’s a little lanky at 6-2, 170. You can hear in the video below that he threw a changeup at 83, and in a couple of the other clips from Nathanial Stoltz on Youtube Castillo’s FB clocks in at 95 and 96. Man-o! He’s allowed 14 free passes in 27.1 IP as Augusta’s closer this year, so obviously the Giants would like to see him improve his command. If he can, that fastball could get him moving through the organization rather quickly.

Cody Hall, RHP, Age 26

Richmond (AA): 31 IP, 3.19, 28 H, 8 BB, 40 K, .241 BAA

Hall is a guy, in my opinion, that has been pretty overlooked in the organization. He was a college senior out of Southern U. when the Giants drafted him in 2011 (19th round). This is his third full season as a professional, and he earned a promotion in each of his first two. Between the second half of last year and the first half of 2014, he’s now made 49 appearances in Richmond, where the results have been pretty darn impressive (67 K, 16 BB in 57.1 IP). He, like a few of his hard-throwing teammates in the Squirrels’ bullpen, got off to a rough start this spring. But he’s settled in nicely since April, and has seen his ERA drop and K’s rise since replacing the injured Derek Law in the closer’s spot. If he keeps pitching like this, I’d have to think he’ll work his way to Fresno at some point this summer. Hall has a major league fastball that works mid-90’s, but at this point he’s likely still trying to find a reliable secondary offering. If he does, he’s got back back of the bullpen potential.

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