Top 50 Prospects Preview

Let's face it, prospect hounding has always been a guilty pleasure of Giants fans. It's never been a focus of the team, but who can't help but smile and think about what could be when looking at the players in the system? Who are the stealth prospects in the system? Who are the ones who could move quickly? Who's the best? No one takes a deeper look at the Giants system as is about to! 50 Giants prospects ranked and studied!

50 Giants prospects? Are we sure there’s that many in the system?

There sure are. Although the prospects may not all be locks to make the majors, you never know when someone will step it up. It’s easy to look at a system and get hyped about the power hitters and the pitchers who strike out every third batter, but what about that energetic second baseman who seems to get the hits when they matter most? What about that starter with terrible numbers, but who could become an ace reliever? Or the hitter who slumped the first half of the season so that people that just look at the final numbers pass him by?

Well, that’s what is here for. The day is coming very soon when the Giants as the fans know them will be gone. How soon? Probably less than a year. As it stands now, after the 2006 season 6 regular position starters and the Giants’ top starting pitcher all are scheduled to have their contracts expire and likely leave. Names like Bonds, Alou, Schmidt, Durham and Alfonzo. The only veterans who will still be under contract in 2007 will be Omar Vizquel, Mike Matheny and Armando Benitez, and their deals all expire after 2007. Other than that, the Giants will be in the hands of young players you already know, like Noah Lowry, and those you may not know about.

Surely, the Giants will sign other veterans to fill out the team. But whom and how many will depend on how the young players the Giants have perform this season. So a savvy Giants fan with his eye beyond 2007 will want to keep an eye on the goings on in the minors this season to be ready for the changes coming.

So what makes a prospect?

• Potential – What could a player become? It’s easy to dream, but hard to predict. The growth potential of a player is the most exciting and important part of a young player, but even if a player has all the potential in the world, there’s no guarantee he’ll reach it, which is why another thing that’s important is…

• Production – Not just consistent production, but a player who shows advancement both in their own numbers and in the levels they perform at. Some people get a little too focused on potential but forget that if a player isn’t scoring runs (or stopping other teams from scoring), it doesn’t matter. Of course, others focus too much on the production and miss some great players who are in down years or have other circumstances. No one said this was easy.

• Age – In general, youth is good. The younger a player is, the more production he can be expected to grow into. Not that older players in the minors are worthless. 27 year old Jack Taschner finally made his debut in the majors, and had the lowest ERA on the Giants. But age does play a role in scouting.

• Health – Very important, and very underrated. A player may have all the talent in the world, but if he can’t stay healthy for a full season, he’ll never be able to show it. It’s easy for early injuries to derail a career, just ask former top prospects Kurt Ainsworth, Jesse Foppert and Erick Threets.

• Level – Putting up a sub 1.00 ERA in rookie ball sure looks nice, but it’s still rookie ball. The higher the level, the more difficult the opposition, so therefore the higher a prospect is in the system, the better the production looks.

• ETA – Another underrated but simple concept: the closer a prospect is to the majors, the better a prospect he is. The longer it could take a player to make the majors, the more time there is for a player to be injured, derailed or otherwise.

• The Intangibles – These are the things that frustrate the stat watchers. You can’t quantify it, no matter how you try. Sometimes there are just players who come up huge every time it matters, and are always on winning teams. And sometimes, there’s a player with all the tools in the world, but doesn’t care enough to do anything with them. Maybe they can’t be quantified, but they may be as important as anything when evaluating talent.

So, starting on Tuesday December 6th, will bring you the results of exhaustive research and evaluations. No one goes as deep as we go. The first 15 will be brought to you in groups of five over the next week, and after that, we’ll bring you 3 prospects each week, for subscribers only. So, as you read the next few months, see if you can find:

• Which Giant prospect, who hails from the school that has produced half a dozen Giants in the last 15 years, hit .500 in college (yes, a .500 batting average!)?

• What former Norcal Junior College Player of the Year is on the verge of a breakout?

• What San Jose native got the unique chance to start the season at home, and ended up playing in 4 different minor league levels in one year?

• What 5th round draft pick had the best strikeout rate in Division I-A the year he was drafted?

• What top college starter did the Giants find in the 24th round, pick up despite having serious surgery, and now is throwing in the high 90’s and on the verge of the majors?

• Who has the best chance of winning the Giants their first Rookie of the Year award since the Giants won 4 in 18 years, ending with John Montefusco’s win in 1975?

Are you ready to meet the next generation?

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