Giants Prospects Report

The following is a brief look at some of the Giants' minor league prospects, with their stats from '03 and presented in a Gammons-esque musical theme. Pitching remains the Giants' strong suit; however, this should come as no surprise, since the last homegrown Giants position player to make a significant impact in the majors was… um… er… hey, Matt Williams?! You get my point.

Even if you don't accept the given fact that Brian Sabean is a genius (and for you doubters, give him some time this winter… we'll see), you still know that he has worked his proverbial tail off in trying to get the Giants over the hump when it comes to the late-season trade deadline. Yet the prospects that have been dealt away in the past couple of seasons (most of whom have yet to make any significant Major League waves with their new organizations, aside from one Keith Foulke) plus the quick promotions of wunderkinds Jerome Williams and Jesse Foppert have served to deplete the Giants' farm system. The prospects for Giants prospects to shine in '04 are slim overall, but a couple of potential beauties sit at the top and bottom of the list.

Sitting on the Dock of the (SF) Bay
But unlike the rest of the song, these guys certainly aren't "wasting time" getting to the big leagues:

Kevin Correia, RHP (3-1, 3.66 ERA with SF; 1-0, 2.84 with Fresno; 6-6, 3.65 with Norwich) – went AA-AAA-majors in 2003, and was impressive in the majors as an emergency starter, pitching well in all but one of his five starts. His 2-to-1 career Ks/BB ratio and decent number of strikeouts per nine innings suggest good things for the future. He's currently on the 40-man Major League roster for '04, and barring a poor spring training performance, should have no problem staying there for years to come.

Noah Lowry, LHP (0-0, 0.00 with SF; 1-0, 2.37 with Fresno; 9-6, 4.72 with Norwich) – showed a flash of promise in his brief ML call-up last fall (5Ks, 0ER in 6.1 IP). Like Correja, Lowry also pitched in three levels last year, has good Ks/BB and Ks/9 ratios, and is currently on the 2004 Giants 40-man roster. He was second on the team to former Giants prospect Boof Bonser with 97Ks in 118.1 innings in AA. A starter during his minor league career, Lowry might be squeezed out of a position in both the starting rotation (too inexperienced) and the bullpen (with the presence of Scott Eyre and a healthy Jason Christianson), and sent down for another season of seasoning, but stranger things have happened.

Movin' on Up
… or they would be, if there were room at the Major League level.

Jason Ellison, OF (.100/0/0 with SF; .295/6/39 with Fresno) – led the Grizzlies with 21SBs in '03. He's not likely to make the final cuts come April, but a decent prospect nonetheless.

Trey Lunsford, C (.000/0/0 with the Giants; .287/2/9 with Fresno) – decent backstop and a good backup, but blocked by both A. J. Pierzynski and Yorvit Torrealba.

Lance Niekro, 1B/3B (.200/0/2 with SF; .302/4/41 with Fresno) – labeled the Giants' 7th best prospect by Baseball America prior to '02, and hasn't shown any signs to the contrary. No knuckleballs like his famous predecessors, but has a good eye (only 39Ks in 381 Abs). Needs include improving his fielding and power.

Eternal Flame
If these guys think they can keep riding the "potential" gravy train, well…

Luis Estrella, RHP (2-9, 5.56 ERA, 5 SV with Fresno) – spent first full season in Fresno in '03, and struggled. He has led the Grizzlies in wild pitches thrown the past two seasons and walks in ‘03. The need for control is probably an understatement.

Todd Linden, OF (.211/1/6 with SF; .278/11/56 with Fresno) - monster shot at Dodgers Stadium last year notwithstanding, had a decent year in AAA (including 14 steals, which tied for second on the team) but led the team with 105 Ks in 471 at-bats. Linden was named the organization's Player of the Year by USA Today in '02. He's only 23, so there's both time and room for improvement.

Tony Torcato, OF (.188/0/1 with SF; .296/3/48 with Fresno) – has been touted since being drafted out of Woodland High as one possessing a good eye and stroke, with power on the way. Well, perhaps partly due to injuries, his power has yet to emerge, and will likely stay at the AAA level until it does.

Carlos Valderrama, OF (.143/0/0 with SF; .277/3/10 with Fresno; .308/1/18 with Norwich) – on the 40-man roster, but appears headed back to Fresno when the '04 season opens, due to the logjam in the SF outfield. A smooth fielder, Valderrama doesn't overwhelm you with much of anything else – no power to speak of, and a total of 20 SBs. He was batting .358 and was second in doubles as of last week in the Venezuelan league, however, so you can't fault a guy for trying.

Backdrifts (Honeymoon is Over)
The Magic 8-ball says "outlook not so good" on these players:

Manny Aybar, RHP (0-0, 6.00 with SF; 2-4, 4.08, 17SV with Fresno) – served as Fresno's primary closer. He has decent stuff, but with the amount of baggage he possesses, he needs to move on.

Doug Clark, OF (.238/0/0 with Fresno; .301/4/49 with Norwich) – sadly, not much Thrill here despite the namesake. After his brief stint with Fresno in '03, Clark will return to Norwich for the start of the '04 campaign. And as he is approaching his late 20s, there's not a whole lot of time to prove the naysayers wrong.

Ryan Jensen, RHP (0-0, 10.80 with SF; 1-10, 5.30 with Fresno) – currently 0-1 in the Venezuelan league (and I have a sneaky suspicion that the good people at the Fresno Grizzlies website withheld his ERA on purpose). He's gritty, and from all sources a really good guy, but his chances of rejoining SF are slim and none.

Too early to judge now, but some promising numbers nonetheless:

  • Matthew Cain, RHP, A Hagerstown – 4-4, 2.55, 90Ks/24BBs in 74 IP
  • J.B. Thurmond, A Salem-Keizer – 5-0, 1.93, 45Ks/9BBs in 51 IP
  • Jesse Floyd, A Salem-Keizer – 6-4, 1.73, 76Ks/19BBs in 83.1 IP (& only 67 hits allowed)
  • Josh Habel, LHP, A Hagerstown – 11-7, 2.36, 127Ks/35BBs in 122 IP.
  • Julio Pavon, RHP, A San Jose – 5-4, 3.54, 103Ks/26BBs in 112 IP
  • Merkin Valdez, RHP, A Hagerstown – 9-5, 2.25, 166Ks/49BBs in 156 IP
  • Brad Vericker, A Salem-Keizer - .284/15/47, 58Ks/48BBs in 243ABs

    Don Shin eats, breathes, thinks, and bleeds in Orange and Black. Pac Bell Park officially opened on his 25th birthday (the one year he decided to move out of the Bay Area!!!). For the 2000 playoff drive, he dyed his hair orange while studying in Korea. He watched Game 6 of the '02 World Series at a restaurant in LA, and couldn't finish his meal afterwards. Feel free to write him at to commiserate, cheer, and complain.

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