Q&A

Deric McKamey is the author of Minor League Baseball Analyst:

The 2008 Minor League Baseball Analyst profiles over 1000 minor league prospects and includes detailed scouting reports, sabermetrics, Major League Equivalencies, organizational lists, Top 100 list, and Potential Ratings.

The book can be purchased through Baseball HQ at http://www.baseballhq.com, where the purchaser will also receive a free update to the lists in the book. People may also purchase the book through any of the major on-line bookstores. The Minor League Baseball Analyst is expected to arrive mid-January.

He offered to answer some questions about the Giants' minor-league system, and I based most of my questions on his top-15 list:
  1. Angel Villalona
  2. Henry Sosa
  3. Madison Bumgarner
  4. Nick Noonan
  5. Tim Alderson
  6. Nate Schierholtz
  7. Eugenio Velez
  8. Emmanuel Burriss
  9. Clayton Tanner
  10. Billy Sadler
  11. Eddy Martinez-Esteve
  12. Marcus Sanders
  13. Osiris Matos
  14. John Bowker
  15. Nick Pereira
The book has detailed summaries for all of the above players. Click the "read more" link just below to read the interview. Thanks to Deric for taking the time to answer these questions.

McCovey Chronicles: Was the preference of Bumgarner over Alderson a question of ceiling, or something else?

Deric McKamey: Mostly ceiling. I really like Bumgarner's clean delivery, which gives him easy velocity and excellent pitch movement. He has two versions of his curveball that are both used effectively, and is advanced for his age. Alderson may have been one of the more polished (high school) pitchers in the 2007 Draft. His command is impeccable and knows how to attack hitters. Despite his gaudy strikeout numbers in the Arizona League, I don't think he's going to be a big strikeout pitcher. His arm action isn't very fluid and wonder if that will affect his stamina long-term.

Nate Schierholtz is ranked sixth on your list. Is this because he's a fairly average prospect, or was the Giants' 2007 draft that strong?

A little of both. I don't see a big upside with Schierholtz. If he is any more than your third best outfielder, than your team probably isn't going to score many runs. His power is outstanding and somehow has managed to keep his batting average high despite his marginal plate discipline and a long swing. He's always going to strike-out, but I think you can live with it if he hits for power and produces runs. Defensively, he'll be average at best in RF and still needs work in taking proper routes, but has a very powerful arm.
The Giants did well in the 2007 Draft, as three of the top five prospects were 2007 draftees.  It was nice to see San Francisco go after real talent and I think these guys will pay dividends down the road.

Bumgarner was a 2007 draftee who didn't play for the Giants' rookie-league team, yet he made your top-15. Was Wendell Fairley, a player with similar circumstances, considered for the list?

Yes he was, and narrowly missed the list.  Fairley is an incredible athlete with plus speed.  From the scouting video I saw, his bat speed is very good and should be able to hit for power, but no one seemed real confident on how his bat will play-up.  The reports I got on his plate discipline were also very good.  He ranges well in CF and possesses an average throwing arm.  He wasn't a high-profile player in high school and didn't have the amateur experience that Bumgarner had.

During the recent Baseball America chat on their top-10 Giants list, Andrew Baggerly hinted that it might be time for Marcus Sanders to get his real estate license (my words, not his). Sanders was one of my favorite prospects a couple of years ago, so I'm curious as to his inclusion in your top-15. What puts him there?

Sanders has three tools that will play at the Major League level (plus speed, ability to hit for average, and defense), and at worst, will be a solid utility infielder.  The shoulder surgery took what little arm strength he had and will play exclusively at 2B, where he can be an above average fielder with his range and soft hands.  He never was a power hitter, but makes excellent contact and will draw walks.  I'd give him another year before writing him off.

Almost identical question to #4, but with Eddy Martinez-Esteve. What puts him on the list, and what puts him above Bowker?

Martinez-Esteve's season was about as disappointing as you could possibly get.  He didn't hit for power, struggled to make contact, and battled a shoulder injury, but on the flip side, we haven't seen him 100% healthy since 2005.  He was one of the better, pure hitters in the minors at that point and I just don't see how you can ignore that.  Yes, the poor defense is a huge concern, but like Sanders, I'd like to give Martinez-Esteve a chance to prove himself before throwing in the towel.

Bowker had a real solid season at Connecticut, but his adjusted MLE OPS was just .745.  His hands and bat speed are real quick and gets good extension, so I think he has a chance to hit for average.  His power is limited to the pull field and his plate discipline is lacking.  For me, his upside is a notch below Martinez-Esteve, and grades-out to a reserve outfielder.

What separates Clayton Tanner from Ben Snyder? Is it age, stuff, or a combination of both?

Combination of age and stuff.  Tanner is two and a half years younger, pitching at the same level.  There is also a large variance in their stuff.  Neither throws very hard, but Tanner possesses a plus pitch (slider) that should make him better equipped to succeed at the upper levels and his velocity projects.  Snyder relies more on mixing pitches and keeping hitters off-balance.  Both will struggle to miss bats, but have the command and intelligence to compensate.

The Giants have a bunch of pitchers with a history of minor league success - like Adam Cowart, Kevin Pucetas, and Sergio Romo, to name three - with fringe stuff. Are there any that you think will have success in the majors or high minors?

When compiling names for my book, I couldn't believe all of the statistically strong pitchers that the Giants had in the lower levels that had less than stellar stuff.  I think Romo has the best chance to succeed in the upper levels (I gave him an 8D) (ed. note: in McKamey's rating system, the "8D" means his upside potential is as a "solid regular" with a 30% chance of reaching that potential.)  He has exceptional arm action that provides excellent movement to his sinker and curveball.  His frame is stronger than the other pitchers mentioned, which may allow him to hold and increase his velocity.  In addition, he has already been moved to the bullpen, whereas the others are trying to make it as starters.  Romo led all minor league relievers in K/9, and though he was old for his level, I think he can carve-out a role as a setup reliever.

How does the Giants' system rank in comparison to other MLB organizations?

I ranked the Giants in the bottom third of all MLB organizations, but that was mainly due to the lack of top-end talent.  As we discussed earlier, the top portion of their prospect list is full of 2007 Draftees, so their ranking could be very volatile.  Within the NL West, I have them ranked fourth, ahead of the Diamondbacks.

Is Villalona a first baseman, or does he still have a chance to stick at third? How much does that affect his potential value to the franchise?

Despite his large, muscular frame, he does have some agility and has a chance to play 3B.  His arm strength is excellent and has soft hands.  His bat may be very special and will make-up the majority of his value, so his potential value doesn't really take a massive hit if he has to move across the diamond to 1B.

Billy Sadler was in the mix for a big league job out of camp, but really struggled with his control throughout his minor league season. What prompted his ranking on your list?

I've seen Sadler pitch live three times, and in all three outings, he has been sensational. I'm aware of the command problems, which is secondary to not repeating his low ¾ slot.  His fastball moves very well, has a dynamic curveball, and is deceptive, which allows him to miss bats like few others can.  I don't know if he has all the ingredients to close, but if the Giants can't use him in short relief, I know a lot of other clubs who could.

How do you reconcile "ceiling" with "likelihood of having a major league career"? For example, how do you compare a guy like Kevin Frandsen, who has a decent chance of a Mike Lansing-type career, and a toolsy player in low-A with no statistical success but a ton of projectability?

Comparing players that are so divergent in talent is really a two-step process.  First, I analyze all pertinent information (statistics, scouting reports, first-person observance) and try to establish where I think this player is going to end-up from a position and role standpoint.  Finally, when making the comparisons and a final ranking, I ask myself, "If I'm a GM or scouting director, which player do I want?"  The grading system I use isn't tilted one-way towards performance or tools, so there isn't a trend where one type of player is always ranked ahead of another.

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