It’s that time of year again. Time to give this prospect junkie his fix. Last year, I did farm system rankings for all of baseball, and so I wanted to do so again. As I explain with any farm system rankings, this is a completely subjective business. I do watch minor league baseball, I do a lot of research on the players, and I do talk to people who do talent evaluation in baseball. I certainly don’t have the clout in the prospect world that the guys at Baseball America have, nor do I care to. This is meant to be fun for me, and hopefully fun and informative for the reader. At the very least it should allow for some debate from other teams’ fans, as well as allow Tigers fans a glimpse into other organizations farm systems, so when the Tigers make a trade, there may be some knowledge of who they are getting. Last year, the Texas Rangers took the top spot. Who will it be this year?
1. Clayton Blackburn (SP)- I think on most lists, you are going to see someone else in the top spot, but I am a huge believer in Blackburn. A righty with good stuff, and tremendous command, I believe he has #2 starter potential, and think he is vastly underrated overall.
2. Kyle Crick (SP)- Crick didn’t waste any time in his first full season to flash his tremendous talent. He has an above average fastball and breaker, but has to get better with throwing more strikes. Plenty of time to iron that out, and he has a pretty ideal pitchers frame.
3. Chris Stratton(SP)- Stratton didn’t pitch a ton at the end of last season, but should have the ability to move quickly once he gets to full season ball this year. He shows a good feel for mixing his pitches and possesses a low to mid 90’s fastball with good movement, and a slider that is a true swing and miss pitch.
4. Joe Panik (SS)- Anyone remember Joe Randa? I do, and I have the feeling that Panik could have a similar career in major league baseball. He is a guy who shows a real good idea at the dish. Will probably hit a bunch of line drives and doubles, hit for average, and be solid defensively. Has pretty good athleticism but won’t wow anyone with it.
5. Gary Brown (OF)- Brown’s shine has a bit of tarnish after a 2012 season where he didn’t excite nearly as much offensively in 2011. Still, there is plenty of tools there to be an above average CF at the big league level. I just want to see 2013 to see who the real Gary Brown is. At the very least, he is a plus defender with plus speed and that has value.
6. Heath Hembree (RP)- Usually it’s not a good sign to have a reliever this high in the rankings. I feel like Hembree could be a top of the line closer though. A mid to upper 90’s fastball and devastating slider give Hembree two plus pitches.
7. Michael Kickham (SP)- Kickham sits in the low 90’s with his fastball and touches the mid 90’s. He does have some issues with command, and still needs to improve his breaking ball and change up, but he is getting better, and the Giants development staff is good.
8. Andrew Susac (C)- I really liked Susac coming out of college. At the least, I do think he has backup catcher at the major league level written all over him. If the bat comes along just a bit more, he could be a solid regular.
9. Edwin Escobar (SP)- A young left hander with solid stuff, Escobar pitched really well in low A ball last season. I suspect the Giants could develop him into a mid rotation starter.
10. Adalberto Mejia (SP)- Mejia is another young lefty with mid rotation potential. Had good numbers as a 19 year old in low A ball.
Just Missed The List:
Agosta is a strong armed pitcher that could be a back of rotation guy or set up type. Williamson has some solid tools and power potential. The Giants are loaded with relief arms that have strikeout potential.
E.J. Encinosa (SP) and Joan Gregorio (SP)
These guys are both sleepers for the same reason, big framed guys that have the potential for plus stuff, but both still need to learn how to command and pitch.
I went back and forth on this ranking as much as anyone. I think it’s pretty clear that the pitching is the strength of this farm system, and because it lacks a bit of balance, I put it in the back half of the rankings. I really like the top three pitchers, and there are some young Latin guys that have really good potential as well. Add to that the plethora of high end relief arms, and the Giants should have pitching for years to come.
I do believe that Brown and Panik can be every day guys at the big league level, but probably not more than average regulars. Guys like Francisco Peguero haven’t quite developed yet because of plate discipline, but the Giants always seem to find a way. Latin bonus baby Gustavo Cabrera is generating quite a bit of buzz, and outfielder Shilo McCall showed a bit of potential last season as an 18 year old.