Top 50 Prospects: Q & A #1

So, as with any rankings, our Top 50 Prospects has been garnering questions from our readers. So we're going to take some time to answer some questions and talk about some of the prospects we've gone over. This Q&A is free for all readers, so take some time to check it out. This won't be the last one we do, so keep sending in questions and talking Giants Prospects!

Top 50 Prospects? Do the Giants even have that many? Why do we need to go over so many guys when so few of them make the majors?
Frank C., Walnut Creek, CA.

Well, I assure you the Giants not only have 50 players worthy of mention in the six levels of the minor leagues, there were quite a surprising few who didn’t even make the list.

Certainly, no, not all of the 50 guys who are on this list will find themselves in the majors someday. But all of them have the chance to do so, depending on their future development. But taking a deeper look at more guys that the 10 or 20 you might see with other publications gives you a chance to see not only the obvious possibilities, but also those dark horses who you may never have known was coming. Look at how the Giants bullpen, a problem spot for a few years, was transformed by three pitchers who weren’t on anyone’s Top 10 list last season.

Did anyone see a 12 round second baseman less than a year out of college shooting through the ranks? Or a 27 year old lefty whose early pro career was decimated by injuries spend most of the PCL season with an ERA under 1? Or the former starter recovering from Tommy John surgery find his 97 MPH fastball and a new home in relief?

By looking at 50 guys, you might see a lot of names who will never play in San Francisco, but you’ll also have the chance to see the guys who are on the verge of surprising, and when they do, you can say “Yea, I saw that coming.”

What did you base your rankings off of?
Edward H., San Jose, CA.

That’s a good question. Everyone has a different system for ranking and judging prospects, and I find mine is different from others who do this online.

I try to judge current production as well as future potential equally. A guy could have all the potential in the world, but if he’s not doing anything with it, I just can’t bring myself to put him high in the rankings. But at the same time, a guy that’s playing outside of his head but doesn’t project to have power, speed, defense or any above average tools in the majors is not going to be worth as much as an underperforming guy who’s a slight tweak away from pulling pitches with power.

Other things get smaller considerations. Track records are important, and so are age, level and a timetable for reaching the majors. Younger players can be reasonably expected to grow into higher levels of production. And players who are performing at higher levels get more credit than someone who’s performing extraordinarily at lower levels. A good general assumption is that someone who is closer to the majors is a surer bet than someone who’s got a few years (and levels) to go. How quickly a player advances through the ranks plays a part, as well, since some players can adapt to a new level quickly and rise to the new level of competition, while others seem to take much longer to compete at a new level (sometimes a year or more).

One other thing that gets serious consideration is a player’s health. Injuries are part of the game and, by nature, every athlete is a health risk. But there are some players who just can’t seem to stay healthy, and every injury increases the risk for a re-injury, and potentially hurts a player’s ability to produce even when healthy. I found that, particularly when ranking Giants prospects this year, the health of various players severely affected their rankings.

Lastly, I take a look at intangibles. There’s no numbers to go by for something like this, just my own very debatable judgment. But some players show their hard work, and play with enthusiasm on the field, while others get reports of being lazy and uncaring. One thing I do believe is that you can have all the tools in the world, but it doesn’t make you a carpenter unless you can get the most out of them. Those things also have to be brought into consideration.

Of course, this is all subjective. My Top 10 looks quite different from the Top 10’s of other publications, including one major one (Baseball America) that is being released today. And when it comes to the lower picks, perhaps I could’ve switched players at #40 and #41 without it making a big difference. But rankings are always subject to opinions and personal views, and are meant to spark a debate. These rankings may be an interesting counterpoint to more established rankings that Giants fans are used to reading, but if they spark more discussion and bring more information to the table, then they’ve done their job.

Ultimately, it won’t matter who I’ve ranked #1 or #5 or #27, as it won’t affect how they do on the field. But it’s fun to read (and write), think and project.

Brian Horwitz doesn’t hit for power, nor does he run with speed. So why does he get a mention?
James G., Palo Alto, CA.

Palo Alto? Is this a Stanford fan picking on the Cal product?

No, seriously, the points are valid, and play a big part of why Horwitz was ranked as low as he was while he was a star in both Augusta and Salem-Keizer, where he performed better than teammates who are ranked ahead of him.

However, that’s not to say there’s no hope for him. He’s perhaps the best contact hitter in the system, and seems undaunted so far by moving up levels (as his performance in the California League playoffs shows). That alone gives him an outside chance for the majors, as when it comes to pinch hitters, the ability to get hits of any type is perhaps more magnified when compared to power rather than for starting jobs.

That said, there’s hope that Horwitz’s power can come in. Although he’s a bit old at 22 this year, there’s still room for natural strength growth. He pounded out 38 doubles and 4 triples in Augusta this season. If some of those doubles become home runs as he grows stronger, he’s got a chance to become something more than a bench player. He may never be an elite prospect, but a player who has produced like he has is certainly worthy of discussing.

R.D. Spiehs? Are you kidding? His numbers are terrible!
Larry D., Philadelphia, PA.

Does that count as a question?

Spiehs certainly doesn’t seem that impressive when looking at his AAA numbers, and getting released mid-season is never a good sign. There’s a lot of things that bring up the label of being a AAAA pitcher (for those who aren’t familiar with it, it means a pitcher who’s talent is stuck between the AAA and Major League levels).

But I liked what Spiehs did before his trade to the Padres system put him on a trip across America worthy of a bad pulp road trip movie. And what he did at the end of 2005 in Fresno was only his first taste of AAA. There’s signs of him being a good reliever again.

2005 showed that relief pitchers are not unworthy of consideration as prospects. They may not be the flashiest players, but they are undeniably important. Spiehs may not ever reach the closer level, but he can be a very effective pitcher, and would be considered a possible call-up to the majors in 2006 depending how things go this season, which makes him someone that Giants fans should at least be aware of.

Of the guys that you put into the #40-50 range, which of them do you think is the best bet to get to the majors?
Kyra G., Thousand Oaks, CA.

That’s a tough question, so I’ll answer it in two parts. Who’s the safest bet to make the majors? I’d have to go with #40 Garrett Broshuis. He doesn’t have the most electric stuff, but he’s got a very good makeup and strong control, which are underrated and can carry a guy to the majors as much as having great ‘stuff’ and none of the rest of it. #41 Caleb Salankey also is a good bet to find his way to the majors.

But as for who could be the best player should they make the majors? I’d have to go with #48 Nick Pereira. He’s got some very good stuff, and if he keeps developing it, could find himself topping out as a middle of the rotation starter. #44 Sergio Romo also has a high ceiling.

That’s it for this time. Remember, keep sending in your questions as we continue our Top 50 Prospects throughout the offseason, and we’ll periodically take time to answer your questions!

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

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