The San Francisco Giants had a season to forget at the major-league level in 2013, but their farm system is vastly improved from a year ago. As veterans like Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Brandon Belt hit their arbitration years and beyond (and attendant salary raises) the availability of cheap, homegrown talent will become more important than ever. The farm system has a wealth of potential role players but a real lack of impact talent, especially on the position player side. Still, the system has made a lot of positive strides in the past year and has the pitching depth to match up with most systems in the league.
Triple-A: Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League)
Double-A: Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League)
High-A: San Jose Giants (California League)
Class-A: Augusta Greenjackets (South Atlantic League)
Short-Season A: Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Northwest League)
Complex-Rookie: AZL Giants (Arizona League)
Gary Brown – OF
Date of Birth: September 28, 1988
Height/Weight: 6’1″/190 lbs.
Acquired: 1st round of the 2010 draft
Analysis: 2013 was a disastrous year for Brown, the former first-round pick and top prospect. Just about everything that could go wrong, did: a .660 OPS in a hitter’s league, a dreadful SB%, a K/BB ratio over 4. In addition to all that, reports out of Fresno indicated that Brown had some makeup problems and wasn’t making adjustments, especially against right handed pitchers. He’s struggled in his career against righties, culminating in a .221/.276/.356 line against them in 2013. He’s a plus defender in center field, but despite his natural speed he’s had steadily declining stolen-base percentages over the last three years. He’ll get opportunities at the highest level because of his defense, but he still has a long way to go to reaching the potential he showed in his excellent 2011 season in San Jose.
2014 Prognosis: Brown will be back in Triple-A, hopefully sporting a new swing. As is, he’s a candidate for the 5th OF spot in San Francisco, but the organization will undoubtedly want Brown to get everyday at-bats and instruction in the minors. He could be up in September, however.
Derek Law – RP
Date of Birth: September 14, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’3″/218 lbs.
Acquired: 9th round of the 2011 draft
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Analysis: Law had an impressive breakout season in 2013, with a K/BB ratio of 8.5 over 3 levels and an eye-popping 45:1 K/BB ratio in 25.2 innings in San Jose. Numbers like that are going to draw some attention, but Law isn’t just a stat sheet curiosity. He attacks hitters with a deceptive motion and a four-pitch arsenal which includes a mid-90s fastball, and a plus curveball. To back up his 2013 regular season performance he went to the Arizona Fall League, where he didn’t allow a run in 12.1 innings while striking out 16 and walking 6. His extreme over-the-top motion and dynamite 12-6 curveball generate a ton of ground balls.
2014 Prognosis: Rumors have Law starting next season in Triple-A but a more realistic guess would have him in Richmond. Either way, if he continues to pitch like he has, he could be in the majors by the All-Star Break.
Joan Gregorio – SP
Date of Birth: January 12, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’7″/180 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent, signed March 2010.
Analysis: Pay no attention to the ERA, Gregorio had an excellent season as part of an intriguing Augusta starting rotation. The 6’7″ stringbean showed unusual command for someone that tall, and he backed that up with an outstanding K/9 for a K/BB ratio approaching 5. His mechanics are inconsistent, like many tall pitchers, and he fought injuries in 2013 including an oblique injury and a blister problem. His fastball sits 90-93 and can touch 95, and he complements it with a slider and a changeup. Augusta beat writer David Lee describes his slider as “slurvy at times” but scouts think it could be an above-average offering in the future. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches, causing some to throw a future bullpen role on Gregorio.
2014 Prognosis: He’s headed to San Jose. The most important thing to Gregorio is to stay of the disabled list. If he can throw 120-140 innings and show some development with his off-speed stuff, he could end up in the top 5 on this list next year.
Heath Hembree – RP
Date of Birth: January 13, 1989
Height/Weight: 6’4″/210 lbs
Acquired: 5th round of the 2010 draft
Analysis: It was an up-and-down season for Hembree which culminated in a successful September call-up to the big league squad. Hembree’s season was a tale of two halves. Through the end of June, he had a 5.08 ERA in 33.2 IP with unimpressive peripherals, including 6 home runs allowed. He made some adjustments in July, however, and his stats from July to September are impressive: a 2.45 ERA in 22 innings with a 24:5 K/BB ratio and, notably, only one home run allowed. He was called up during roster expansion and didn’t allow a run in 7.2 innings. Hembree’s arsenal features a fastball at 92-94 and a plus slider with two-plane movement. He worked on his changeup last season but it will likely never be better than average.
2014 Prognosis: Hembree should start the season in San Francisco. The team has three openings in its bullpen and could use his heat from the right side.
Keury Mella – SP
Date of Birth: August 2, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’2″/200 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent, signed September 2011
Analysis: Mella might have the second-highest pure ceiling of any pitching prospect in the Giants system, after Kyle Crick. He’s young and very raw, but he throws an mid-90s fastball and complements it with a curveball that has plus potential. He also has a changeup that shows potential but it lags behind at this point. His ceiling is a #2 starter, but he’ll likely end up as a high-leverage reliever.
2014 Prognosis: He could head to short-season Salem-Keizer, but hopefully he’ll get an aggressive promotion all the way to Augusta.