The 2016 San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects

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And for those wondering what CALs are, here’s an article on the Comparison And Likeness program I designed.

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1. Phil Bickford, RHP                                      
Born: 07/10/95 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Cody Kukuk, Kono Kela,

Jason Knapp, Felix Sterling, Gavin Dlouhy

Height: 6-5 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 19 R 22.3 0 1 2.01 1.89 12.90 2.42 38.1% 7.1% 0.00 75.0%

Background: It was a peculiar move at the time, though one that wasn’t unprecedented either. But Bickford spurned the Blue Jays’ offer as the tenth overall selection in the June amateur draft and opted to take the collegiate route instead. It was reported at that time that the prep right-hander was seeking a deal in excess of $4 million – essentially top five money despite the assigned value for the pick being approximately $2.9 million. Bickford packed his bags and made the trip from Oaks Christian High School to Cal State Fullerton – for a year. After the hard-throwing 6-foot-5, 205-pound hurler dominated the Big West competition as a freshman, throwing 76.0 innings while averaging 8.76 K/9 and a barely-there 1.54 BB/9, he once again packed his bags and headed to another school – the College of Southern Nevada, a JuCo which would allow him to become draft eligible. He, of course, was ridiculously dominant against inferior competition: 86.2 IP, 1.45 ERA, 166 freakin’ strikeouts, and just 21 walks. He averaged more than 17 punch outs every nine innings.

San Francisco would grab Bickford eight picks after his original selection and sign him to a deal that was about $600,000 less than what was assigned as the 10th overall pick in 2013.

Anyway, Bickford looked too good for the Arizona Summer League during his pro debut, posting a 32-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 22.1 innings of work.

Projection:  Here’s what I wrote prior to the draft last season:

“A rare breed, Bickford offers up the perfect trifecta of youth, power, and control. And while his swing-and-miss ability this season puts him in some elite company – he’s averaging a smidge over 17 punch outs per nine innings – it’s important to add some proper context.

Current Chicago Cubs farmhand – and former third round pick – Donn Roach, owner of a fringy upper 80s fastball, fanned 142 in 111.1 innings during his lone season at Southern Nevada. Roach also fanned 22 in just over 40 innings of work at Arizona during his freshman season.

With that being said, Bickford is one of the better, more promising arms in the class – one that could potentially move quickly through the system despite his relative youth. [He’s a] solid #2/#3-type ceiling.”

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

2. Tyler Beede, RHP                                               
Born: 05/23/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs:   Deunte Heath, Rafael Dolis,

Drew Verhagen, Christopher Lee, Chasen Shreve

Height: 6-4 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 21 R 8.7 0 1 3.12 2.88 11.42 4.15 29.0% 10.5% 0.00 66.7%
2014 21 A- 6.7 0 0 2.70 3.07 9.45 4.05 23.3% 10.0% 0.00 81.8%
2015 22 A+ 52.3 2 2 2.24 3.43 6.36 1.55 17.2% 4.2% 0.34 67.0%
2015 22 AA 72.3 3 8 5.23 4.21 6.10 4.35 16.0% 11.4% 0.50 58.3%

Background: Taking an eerily similar path as his new organization-mate – and future big league rotation-mate – Phil Bickford, Beede was also drafted by the Blue Jays in the opening round of the draft, 21st overall, but spurned the ballclub’s best efforts and headed to a big time collegiate program. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound hurler spent three years in Vanderbilt’s rotation, throwing 286 innings for Pitcher U. with 287 strikeouts and a whopping 148 walks – or 9.03 K/9 and 4.66 BB/9. He would finish his collegiate career with a 3.56 ERA. Following his junior season, San Francisco grabbed him with the 14th overall selection and sent him to the Arizona Summer League (briefly) before bumping him up to Salem-Keizer. Last season Beede bypassed Low Class A and jumped feet first into the California League without missing a beat; he fanned 37 and walked just nine with some new found above-average control in 52.1 innings. He would spend the second half of the year with the Flying Squirrels in the Eastern League where his previous control problems resurfaced (72.1 IP, 49 K, 35 BB). Overall, Beede finished his first full professional season by averaging 6.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 to go along with a 3.97 ERA.

Projection: First off, here’s what I wrote prior to the 2014 draft:

“One of the best collegiate arms available in this year’s class, particularly coming from the rotation, Beede has the makings of a #2-type pitcher, though that depends upon how he [commands] the strike zone at the next level. His control has wavered in the earlier parts of his career, and he’ll need to continue to show that this season’s strong showing is more than just an aberration. Outside of N.C. State’s Carlos Rodon, Beede has [ceiling as] high as any collegiate hurler. That, of course, comes with a little more risk.”

Beede certainly looked the part of a potential upper-rotation caliber arm at points throughout his full-season debut last year: he fanned 11 and walked one in seven innings in his final start in the California League immediately comes to mind as does his seven inning two-hitter in his first start with the Squirrels. But the strides he made in reducing his walk rate quickly dissipated in Class AA; of his 13 starts with Richmond, Beede walked at least three batters nine times.

San Francisco develops arms as well as any organization in baseball, both in terms of pure development but also their uncanny ability to keep hurlers healthy, so Beede still has a shot to reach his #2-type peak. But after last year’s run in the Eastern League he looks more like a mid-rotation arm.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016/2017

 

3. Christian Arroyo, SS                                      
Born: 05/30/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Marco Hernandez, Mauricio Dubon,

Jorge Polanco, Yamaico Navarro, Starlin Castro

Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 209 18 5 2 0.326 0.388 0.511 0.185 9.1% 15.3% 145
2014 19 A- 267 14 2 5 0.333 0.378 0.469 0.136 6.7% 11.6% 135
2014 19 A 125 3 1 1 0.203 0.226 0.271 0.068 3.2% 17.6% 35
2015 20 A+ 409 28 2 9 0.304 0.344 0.459 0.155 4.6% 17.8% 117

Background: If anything can be said about longtime San Francisco Giants front office member – and likely future Hall of Famer– Brian Sabean, it’s this: never, ever offer up snap judgments about any of his latest moves. Take for example the club’s selection of Arroyo as the 25th overall pick in the 2013 draft – a move that was widely panned as an overdraft. That is, until the prep shortstop stepped into the Arizona Summer League and torched the rookie level arms to the tune of .326/.388/.511 with 18 doubles, five triples, a pair of homeruns, and three stolen bases in 45 games. After that showing the front office aggressively pushed the then-19-year-old shortstop up to the Sally to begin the 2014 season and after floundering for 31 games – he hit .203/.226/.271 – Arroyo got demoted to the more age-appropriate Northwest League where he would bat .333/.378/.469 the rest of the way.

So he would probably spend at least part of the 2015 season back in the Sally, right?

Wrong.

San Francisco continued to aggressively push the budding shortstop and pushed him right past Low Class A and into the California League. This time Arroyo was up for the challenge: in an injury-shortened campaign he slugged .304/.344/.459 with career highs in doubles (28) and homeruns (nine) – despite appearing in just 90 games thanks to a pesky oblique issue.

Projection: Granted, the California League tends to inflate offensive numbers a bit – only the Pioneer League and DSL averaged more runs per game in 2015 – but it was an impressive showing for Arroyo. He struggled against southpaws last season, batting .215/.300/.342, but that issue hasn’t popped up previously so it should prove to be nothing more than a speed bump. The actual bat is the best of his offensive showings; otherwise; it’s mostly an average toolkit. He could be a league average bat, maybe a tick better, maybe a smidge below.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

4. Mac Williamson, LF/RF                                    
Born: 07/15/90 Age: 25 Bats: R Top CALs: Matt Spencer, Ryan Rua,

Johan Limonta, Danny Dorn, Aaron Cunningham

Height: 6-5 Weight: 240 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 22 A+ 597 31 2 25 0.292 0.375 0.504 0.212 8.5% 22.1% 129
2015 24 AA 290 16 2 5 0.293 0.366 0.429 0.135 8.6% 18.3% 129
2015 24 AAA 227 12 0 8 0.249 0.370 0.439 0.190 11.5% 24.2% 120
2015 24 MLB 34 0 1 0 0.219 0.235 0.281 0.063 0.0% 23.5% 42

Background: Proving that not only pitchers undergo the knife for Tommy John surgery, the former 2012 third round pick out of Wake Forest University got off to a scorching start with San Jose two years ago – he mashed to the tune of .318/.420/.506 – before his season was interrupted by the elbow ligament procedure after 100 plate appearances. Finally healthy, Williamson jumped up to the Eastern League without missing a beat: in 69 games with the Flying Squirrels, the 6-foot-5 corner outfielder slugged .293/.366/.429 with 16 doubles, a pair of triples, five homeruns, and three stolen bases. He got the call up to Sacramento in late June where he batted .249/.370/.439 while topping the league average production by 20%. San Francisco promoted him up to the big league club for help down the stretch.

Projection: A very typical San Francisco type prospect, Williamson offers up a well-rounded offensive package without a true standout tool. He’ll bat .280 or so with 15- to 18-dingers, a handful a stolen bases, and strong OBPs. He won’t be a star by any stretch of the imagination, but Williamson has the potential to carve out a 10-year career as a solid player.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

5. Clayton Blackburn, RHP                                      
Born: 01/06/93 Age: 23 Bats: L Top CALs: Jonathon Niese, Vin Mazzaro,

Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Davies, Liam Hendriks

Height: 6-3 Weight: 230 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A+ 133.0 7 5 3.65 3.86 9.34 2.37 25.2% 6.4% 0.81 63.7%
2014 21 AA 93.0 5 6 3.29 2.54 8.23 1.94 22.0% 5.2% 0.10 67.7%
2015 22 AAA 123.0 10 4 2.85 3.55 7.24 2.34 19.1% 6.2% 0.44 76.0%

Background: Not in the same mold as the other top arms in the system, Blackburn doesn’t rely on a scorching fastball or an ungodly breaking pitch. Instead, he’s a steady innings eater with guile and an above-average feel for the strike zone. And that was once again on display as the then-22-year-old right-hander out of Oklahoma made quick work of the Pacific Coast League in 2015. Making 23 appearances with the Sacramento River Cats, 20 of which were starts, Blackburn hurler 123.0 while fanning 19.1% and walking just 6.2% of the total batters he faced. He finished the year with an impressive 2.85 ERA and a 3.55 FIP. For his career, the five-year minor league veteran has averaged 8.7 strikeouts and just 1.9 walks per nine innings to go along with a 2.95 ERA.

Projection: I’ve long been on the 6-foot-3, 230-pound right-hander’s bandwagon, originally ranking him as the franchise’s #3 prospect two years and their #2 prospect heading into last season. Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“[He’s] sort of the anti-Kyle Crick. Blackburn’s control is simply on a different planet. The 6-foot-2 right-hander has averaged just 1.7 free passes every nine innings for his entire career. Again, he’s solid mid-rotation-type arm. Blackburn should be among the first wave of call ups during the year.”

And while he’s not ever remotely close to being overpowering, Blackburn does everything he needs to do to be successful. Limits free passes? Check. Miss an average amount of bats? Check. Generate a ton of action on the ground? Check. Consistently handle older, more advanced competition? Check? Keep the ball in the ballpark? Check.

With Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Jake Peavy, and Matt Cain slated as the club’s top five, Blackburn will have trouble cracking the Giants’ rotation. So he’ll either be (A) called upon when the inevitable injury strikes or (B) a valuable trade commodity for added pieces down the stretch.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

6. Chris Shaw, 1B                                              
Born: 10/20/93 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Mark Hamilton, Kevin Cron,

Henry Moreno, Steffan Wilson, Chris Vinyard

Height: 6-3 Weight: 229 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 21 A- 200 11 0 12 0.287 0.360 0.551 0.264 9.5% 20.5% 156

Background: Fun Fact Part I: Prior to Shaw’s selection as the 31st overall pick last June, San Francisco has taken just three other first baseman in the first round since 1965, one prep player and two from college. Fun Fact Part II: the last collegiate first baseman taken in the first round by the Giants was none other than borderline Hall of Famer Will Clark, who was the second overall pick in the 1985 draft – a draft, by the way, that featured B.J. Surhoff, Clark, Barry Larkin, and Barry Bonds all going within the top six selections. Anyway, the Giants plucked the 6-foot-3, 229-pound lefty-swinging hulkster after a stout career at Boston College. He would finish his run with the Golden Eagles as not only the third highest drafted player in school history but also a .274/.358/.470 career hitter. San Francisco had Shaw bypass the rookie leagues and pushed him directly into short-season ball; he would bat .287/.360/.551 with 11 doubles and 12 homeruns in 46 games with Salem-Keizer.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to the 2015 draft:

“He has a surprisingly strong knack for making contact, especially for a potential middle-of-the-order bat. [He owns] above-average to plus-power potential with the ability to slug 20- to 25-homeruns in a full professional season. It’s also important to point out that the Eagles’ home park, Eddie Pellagini Diamond at John Shea Field, is incredibly pitcher-friendly. Good, though far from great, eye at the plate.

Shaw looks like a solid, better-than-average first baseman who, once he’s further removed from the hamate injury [suffered in 2012], should surprise people with his minor league production.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

7. Lucius Fox, SS                                                     
Born: 07/02/97 Age: 19 Bats: B Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-0 Weight: 160 Throws: R

Background: Signed on the dotted line for a whopping $6 million bonus, money equivalent to the top in the draft.

Projection: Typically I avoid writing about newly signed international free agents because the data, even compared to stateside prep prospects, is non-existent. But the pure dollar amount that the young shortstop signed for was eye-catching. Fox’s bonus was the highest given out to a non-Cuban player and nearly double that of the next highest, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It’ll be exciting to see Fox in action in 2016.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

8. Chase Johnson, RHP                                           
Born: 01/09/92 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Danny Rosenbaum, Brad Mills,

Erik Davis, Scott Alexander, Eric Berger

Height: 6-3 Weight: 185 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 R 5.3 1 0 1.69 1.94 11.81 1.69 33.3% 4.8% 0.00 83.3%
2013 21 A- 41.0 3 2 4.17 3.64 8.12 2.63 21.8% 7.1% 0.66 58.6%
2014 22 A 110.3 4 7 4.57 3.83 7.67 3.26 19.5% 8.3% 0.41 59.7%
2015 23 A+ 111.0 8 3 2.43 3.39 9.00 2.76 24.7% 7.6% 0.41 77.0%
2015 23 AA 13.7 1 1 5.93 2.39 11.85 5.27 27.3% 12.1% 0.00 62.5%

Background: A sparsely used hurler during his three years at Cal Poly, Johnson’s playing time gradually dropped from 49.0 innings as a part-time starter as a freshman to a full-time reliever the next year to a barely used reliever during his junior campaign at the school. In total, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-hander finished his amateur career with 86 punch outs, 43 walks, and a 3.28 ERA in 107 innings of work. Despite the relatively light workload, the Giants grabbed Johnson in the third round in 2013, the 101st overall pick, and immediately converted the hard-throwing hurler into a full-time starting pitcher. Johnson posted a 44-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46.1 innings during his debut, and he followed that up with a decent showing in the Sally two years ago. In 110.0 innings with Augusta, Johnson averaged 7.7 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings. Last year, the club pushed him up to San Jose for 18 dominant starts – he fanned 111 and walked only 34 to go along with a 2.43 ERA – before having him finish with three games in Class AA.

Projection: Very, very difficult player to get a handle on. Johnson wasn’t good enough to convince the Cal Poly coaches that he was worthy of a spot in the rotation, a staff that did have quite a bit of professional talent, but the Giants, a typically savvy drafting organization, grabbed him in the early rounds.

Then to complicate matters they immediately convert him into a starting pitcher and Johnson – unsurprisingly – struggles during his first full season of action. He, of course, follows that up by posting the fourth highest strikeout percentage of batters in the hitter-friendly Cal League.

I like him, probably more than most. But Johnson has quite a few things working in his favor – namely, his lack of experience. Meaning: he should – theoretically – only get better.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2017

 

9. Josh Osich, LHP                                              
Born: 09/03/88 Age: 28 Bats: L Top CALs: Stephen Shackleford, Jay Buente,

Rob Wooten, Ronald Uviedo, Barret Browning

Height: 6-2 Weight: 230 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 24 A+ 40.3 3 1 2.45 2.46 10.71 2.23 29.6% 6.2% 0.22 71.4%
2013 24 AA 29.7 2 3 4.85 3.53 8.49 3.64 23.0% 9.8% 0.61 62.5%
2014 25 AA 33.3 1 0 3.78 5.18 7.29 5.40 18.9% 14.0% 1.08 71.4%
2015 26 AA 34.0 0 1 1.59 2.62 9.00 2.65 24.8% 7.3% 0.26 85.9%
2015 26 AAA 7.0 0 0 0.00 1.31 14.14 2.57 40.7% 7.4% 0.00 80.0%

Background: It took longer than expected, but the former 2011 sixth round pick reached the big leagues at the ripe old age of 26 last year. And here’s how he did it: after Tommy John surgery – and some other bumps and bruises – San Francisco simultaneously pushed Osich into a fulltime relief role and up to High Class A for his professional debut in 2012. Without missing a beat, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound southpaw posted a promising 34-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32.1 innings of work. He followed that up by spending the first half of 2013 back with San Jose in the California League where he would average nearly 10 strikeouts per innings with slightly better control. The club would bump him up to the minors’ most challenging test – Class AA – in early June and Osich would see only a slight downturn in production. Then after spending the entire 2014 season back in Richmond – where he posted dominant numbers – the club once again pushed the southpaw back into the Eastern League in 2015. He would then spend the remainder of the year yo-yoing between the PCL and San Francisco.

Projection: Osich’s flashed an above-average, sometime plus heater during his 28.2 innings with the big league club last season, complementing it with a hard low-90s cutter and a mid-80s change. One wonders what took San Francisco so long to promote Osich, but he’s here to stay as late-inning southpaw who can handle both lefties and righties equally well.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

10. Adalberto Mejia, LHP                                      
Born: 06/20/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: James Parr, Brian Flynn,

Richard Castillo, Troy Patton, Jacob Turner

Height: 6-3 Weight: 195 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A+ 87.0 7 4 3.31 4.20 9.21 2.38 25.1% 6.5% 1.14 77.8%
2013 20 AAA 5.0 0 0 3.60 9.17 3.60 3.60 9.1% 9.1% 3.60 100.0%
2014 21 AA 108.0 7 9 4.67 3.78 6.83 2.58 17.9% 6.8% 0.75 64.1%
2015 22 AA 51.3 5 2 2.45 3.41 6.66 3.16 18.1% 8.6% 0.35 79.3%

Background: The good news: Mejia, 6-foot-3, 195-pound hurler out of the Dominic Republic, continued to look like a burgeoning big league starting pitcher – when he made it to the mound last season. Which brings us to…the bad news: the southpaw got popped for sibutramine, an appetite suppressant, and received a 50-game suspension that began at the start of the season. Now the ugly news: nine starts into his season he hit the DL for a month-plus due to some left shoulder issues. The portly left-hander finished the year with 38 punch outs, 18 walks, and a 2.45 ERA in 51.1 innings of work. And at the time of the writing, Mejia also made another seven starts in the Arizona Fall League as well, posting a less-than-impressive 26-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 31.0 innings.

Projection: Mejia hasn’t produced a solid strikeout rate since his dominant showing with San Jose in the California League in 2013. Since then he’s totaled 159.1 innings in Class AA while averaging just 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s compensated the subpar swing-and-miss totals with a strong feel for the zone. He looks like a #4/#5-type arm.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

 

Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.