Top 50 Prospects: #45-41

As the Top 50 Prospects rolls on, we start getting serious. There were a lot of great prospects on the California League Champ San Jose Giants; so who was MVP of the Championship Series? And where do these undrafted guys come from, and will they ever amount to anything?

Date of Birth: 04/18/1981 Position: 3B Height: 6'0" Weight: 200 Bats: L Throws: R
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd Round (#93 overall) of the 2003 Draft
2005 Stats
Team-Level AVG OBP SLG OPS AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Norwich - AA .228 .304 .288 .592 215 19 49 8 1 1 23 20 36 5 3
San Jose - High A .282 .367 .422 .789 206 37 58 12 1 5 29 27 47 0 2

Buscher was drafted after leading the University of South Carolina to the College World Series, and many viewed him as the premier third baseman in the Giants system after 2003 and 2004 despite poor numbers. His 2004 numbers were given a bit of a mulligan, as he missed the first part of the season after surgery to remove bone chips. There was a quiet confidence that Buscher’s offense and defense would pick up.

What a difference 3 months at AA make.

Buscher’s poor stint with the Norwich Navigators to start the 2005 season, resulting in a return to San Jose, has robbed Buscher of most of the goodwill prospect evaluators had given him. Buscher had a reputation of being a blue collar overachiever who did everything well, nothing spectacular but nothing bad either. Now Buscher is stalling and pushing, and is a third baseman with no power and questionable defense, and the suggestion that he’s a hitter made for aluminum bats like they use in college.

Buscher’s return from the DL in 2004 was one of the biggest factors in moving Nate Schierholtz from third base to the outfield, a move which has benefited Schierholtz. Unfortunately, the move leaves San Francisco with no high level young prospects at third base and one of the biggest holes in their system.

It’s not entirely inconceivable that Buscher could find a way to turn it around. He has been called a ‘dirt rat’ for his work ethic and love of the game, and those things can help a young player turn it around. But at 25, any turnaround will likely only benefit his career and which minor league levels he might end up making a living at. He’s a long shot to become a major leaguer.

Date of Birth: 03/04/1983 Position: P Height: 5'11" Weight: 185 Bats: R Throws: R
Acquired: Drafted in the 28th Round (#852 overall) of the 2005 Draft
2005 Stats
Team-Level W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG G/F
Salem-Keizer - Short A 7 1 2.75 15 14 0 68.2 70 24 21 7 9 65 .261 0.90

Romo was a late round pick for the Giants out of Division II-A Mesa State College, but he established himself on a Salem-Keizer Volcanoes staff that had several very strong performances.

Before being drafted, Romo piled up a lot of honors in college. He began his career as a reliever/closer at Arizona Western College, leading the team to back-to-back conference championships in 2003 and 2003, and was second team all-conference and all-region. He transferred to the University of North Alabama, where he had a 3.69 ERA working primarily as a starter, with 102 strikeouts and 13 walks in 97.2 innings. He returned to the West Coast in 2005 at Mesa State College, where he was a 7 time Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference pitcher of the week, and an unanimous NCBWA (National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association) Pitcher of the Year selection for the Division II-A West Region and an unanimous selection to the All-RMAC team. He also was named a Division II-A All-American in 2005, the first time the award was given to Division II-A players.

Romo’s biggest strength is his control. In his 2005 season at Mesa State, he walked just 16 men in 124.1 innings. At Salem-Keizer, he only had 9 in 68.2 innings. He also gets a high number of strikeouts, though he had just less than 1 per inning in S-K.

Division II players often get a short stick when they come into professional ball, and Romo spent 2005 very much in the shadows of other S-K pitchers like Brian Anderson, Dan Griffin, Dave McKae and Ben Nieto. However, that shouldn’t play down Romo’s talent. A move up to Augusta is likely, though a push all the way up to San Jose would fit a player with his control. It’s too early to make a good prediction about whether his future is as a starter or a reliever, but his future could be very rosy. A lot about it will be determined this season.

Date of Birth: 11/07/1982 Position: OF Height: 6'1" Weight: 180 Bats: R Throws: R
Acquired: Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2004
2005 Stats
Team-Level AVG OBP SLG OPS AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Augusta - Low A .349 .415 .460 .875 470 77 164 38 4 2 88 50 39 6 6

With all the hitting prospects the California League champion San Jose Giants had in 2005, did the Championship Series MVP really turn out to be Brian Horwitz?

Yup. Brian Horwitz was called up just for the playoffs from Augusta, was planned to be a bench player and pinch hitter for manager Lenn Sakata, but he found his way into the starting lineup in a very few games and won the Series MVP award, going 6 for 12 with a double, 2 runs scored and 2 RBI, including the Series winning one in game 5. Pretty impressive for a non-drafted free agent from Cal who called him a ‘roster filler’ during his time in Augusta.

Horwitz is hard to project. He doesn’t seem like a prospect. He turned down the A’s after being drafted in 26th round of the 2004 draft and went undrafted in 2005. The Giants picked him up, and Horwitz went on to win the batting title in short season Salem-Keizer in 2004. In Augusta, it was more of the same, as he won the batting title there in the South Atlantic League, setting a franchise record with a .349 batting average. He even walked more times than he struck out in 2005.

But where does he fit in? While his batting eye and ability to get hits may be 2nd only to Eddy Martinez-Esteve in the system, he has no other plus tools. He has below average speed, so he can’t take much advantage of his high average and OBP. His defense is above average in the corners, but not spectacular. And he has only 4 career home runs. Hitting for average is a great tool, but he needs to find a way to combine it with something else.

It doesn’t help he plays in a system that is action packed with outfielders. He’s got Martinez-Esteve, Nate Schierholtz, Clay Timpner and John Bowker all directly ahead of him, and Benjamin Copeland and Mike Mooney behind him.

There may be some hope for Horwitz, as he also led the South Atlantic League in doubles with 38. At 23, there may still be some room for natural strength to add to his power numbers, and turn a few of those doubles. If he can get up to at least double digit home runs, he might have a shot to be a starting outfielder. But even if he can’t, his batting eye and ability to make contact and get on base gives him a very good shot to be a 4th outfielder.

Date of Birth: 10/02/1981 Position: P Height: 6'0" Weight: 190 Bats: R Throws: R
Acquired: Drafted in the 15th Round (#453 overall) of the 2003 Draft
2005 Stats
Team-Level W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG G/F
San Jose - High A 2 3 6.64 5 4 0 20.1 29 18 15 5 11 10 .322 1.40
Augusta - Low A 5 4 3.72 19 9 0 65.1 72 38 27 6 15 59 .276 0.96

Thurmond is one of those guys who slipped in the draft due to injury, and one keeps hoping will come back, and becomes one of those guys who is talented but always is brought up with the condition ‘When Healthy…’

Thurmond had a good start to his career, posting a 1.94 ERA in Salem-Keizer in his pro debut, and putting up a 2.54 ERA in Hagerstown in 2004. But 2005 was a step backwards. He started the year hoping to be part of San Jose’s rotation, but got pounded for about a month before he was sent back to Low-A. After a few starts, he missed a couple of weeks due to an apparent minor injury. He came back in June, making a few relief appearances, but then injured himself again and missed a month. He did come back, and started from mid-August through the end of the year, finishing on a high note. He won the final ‘Pitcher of the Week’ award in the SAL with a 7 inning complete game victory where he allowed 2 runs, and struck out 12 with no walks, and then allowed only 1 earned run in 7 innings in the final game of the season.

Thurmond, a high profile pitcher at Winthrop and then at ASU as well as a member of Team USA in 2001, lost nearly 10 MPH on his fastball after being overworked in 2002. It appears to come back in spurts, but he has obviously had problems staying healthy.

If healthy, Thurmond still flashes the talent to be a starter. But he might have to switch to relief to truly have a chance at a major league career, both for production (he had a 4.06 ERA in 9 starts, but a 3.00 ERA in 10 relief appearances) and for his health. A 2nd chance in San Jose, and probably a last one as a starter, is in store for 2006.

Date of Birth: 05/10/1982 Position: P Height: 6'1" Weight: 180 Bats: R Throws: R
Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2004
2005 Stats
Team-Level W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG G/F
Augusta - Low A 12 8 4.20 28 17 0 111.1 93 58 52 6 38 116 .230 0.57

Salankey was another undrafted free agent from 2003 who found ways to stand out, though perhaps not as strongly as Horwitz.

Salankey made his mark as a reliever, earning the honor of being one of the Organizational Playersof the Month from the Giants in May after putting up a 2.16 ERA over the month that included one spot start. He was made a starter in June after a couple of injuries occurred in the Augusta rotation, and finished the season in that role.

However, Salankey wasn’t able to perform as well in the rotation. He put up a 4.52 ERA over his 17 starts, though most of his peripherals stayed the same. That was compared with a 3.16 ERA in 25.2 innings of a reliever. The biggest difference one can find is that as a reliever, a number of runs (5 of his 14 allowed) were unearned, while he allowed only 1 unearned run out of 44 as a starter.

However, Salankey will get more chances to start, most likely. His numbers are not overwhelming, but they show a lot of potential, including being able to put together a strikeout rate of about 1 per inning, and a very good K/BB ratio of 3.05. The pitching in the ranks between the expected Fresno rotation of Valdez, Burres and Begg, and the group that pitched in Salem-Keizer last year isn’t flush with big name starter prospects, so Salankey has room to make his mark. Either as a back of the rotation starter or a middle reliever, this undrafted guy could find his way into the majors.



Have any questions about these prospects, or perhaps some we haven't named? SFDugout.com will be answering your questions throughout this series! Send your questions to sfdugout@yahoo.com!



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