Top Prospects, Part MCMXVII: The top two

2. Steven Johnson - RHP

Well, I’d kind of be excited to watch Johnson win the fifth starter’s job over Bumgarner, at least.

2. Madison Bumgarner - LHP

I don’t think I’ve ever been satisfied with an answer for Bumgarner’s reduced velocity. "His arm is tired." Wait, what? His arm is tired? But he pitches with that thing! Maybe there are loose tendons or pulleys in there! "This happens to young pitchers all the time." You know what else happens to young pitchers all the time? They go out for a metaphorical pack of smokes and never come back. Bumgarner’s reduced velocity (high-80s rather than low-to-mid-90s) and decreased strikeout rate in AA both scare me.

He never stopped preventing runs, though, which is a little consoling. The reason I’m still giddy about Bumgarner, though, is that he has that je ne sais quoi, which is French for "A fastball that’s hard to hit even when you’re sitting on it." Every player from Lake Elsinore to Binghamton knows that Bumgarner’s breaking ball and change up are works in progress. Pick a side of the plate, sit on the fastball, and jump on it. Easy.

It doesn’t work out that way, though. There’s something about Bumgarner’s fastball that is unusual. Maybe he hides the ball well, the movement is unusual and late, or there’s some other deception that’s hard to pin down unless you’re trying to hit against him. And while his offspeed stuff is still raw and inconsistent, it’s still common to hear or read that Bumgarner doesn’t have an offspeed pitch at all. Not true. You can see the potential of the last pitch he threw to Juan Pierre in that clip. He has a breaking ball; he just can’t throw it consistently yet.

I’m less opposed to Bumgarner being in the rotation than a lot of people here are, but even I’ll concede that it makes far more sense for him to start in AAA. Here’s hoping the velocity is back, the endurance builds, and he makes some impressive September starts.

1. Buster Posey - C

I can’t add anything to the lore of Posey. He was formed Serpentor-like in a lab, created from the DNA of Will Clark, Roger Bresnahan, Ulysses S. Grant, and Chuck D. He is of whom the legends foretold; the chosen one, our beacon, praise be unto he. The first World Series parade in San Francisco history will be because of Buster Posey. And there’s absolutely no pressure, Buster! Just do your thing. We aren’t expecting a whole lot.

So instead of bleating on about Posey, I’ll defer to an expert. Most managers don’t compile scouting reports on their own, but Bruce Bochy is kind of old school that way. My vast, vast network of spies can come through every now and again. This is one of those times. So I’m proud to present an exclusive copy of Bochy’s scouting report on Posey:

 

Strenghs:

Listens well. Nice, neat haircut. Does not chase other players around with garden shears. Likely plays a slick first base.

Weaknesses:

Can’t hit major-league pitching yet. Looks to be a .117 hitter right now, with potential to improve with more at-bats. Recommend he doesn’t get more at-bats until he improves his batting average.

Fields inconsistently. Moves a lot before he gets set. Head twitches and shakes like Don Knotts on ecstasy. Finds out names of umpires’ mothers and makes sexually charged jokes about them between each inning. Doesn’t call for fastballs because they hurt his hand.

Calls games with obvious inexperience. Regularly calls three straight balls to attempt to confuse hitter. Constantly asking pitchers to do the crazy Bugs Bunny windup before changeups, hoping to get three swings on one pitch. Causes delays to game after pitcher walks a hitter, as he waits for the pitcher to go to the penalty box before throwing the ball back to the mound.

Hasn’t paid his dues. Doesn’t know what it’s like to sit behind catchers than whom he is more qualified. Never played behind goofs like Alan Ashby, John Stearns, Terry Kennedy, and Benito Santiago, knowing that he’s better but not getting the chance. Hasn’t built up the gumption that’s developed by sitting on a bench for years. Still under the latest arbitrary cutoff for minor league games caught. Always, always, always sings that "We make the phones ring" jingle in the shower.

Occasionally has thoughts about chasing other players around with garden shears. You can tell.

Clearly, Posey is on the slow track. He’s the best position prospect the team has had since Will Clark, though, and expectations are probably unfairly high. But he can hit, he has a strong arm, he’s athletic for a catcher, and he controls the plate well. The Giants missed out on the golden age of young, athletic center fielders (Maybin, McCutchen, Fowler, Kemp, Rasmus, etc...) but they’re set up for the next wave of sweet-swinging catchers.

Just to have it in one place (makes it easier for the Library of Congress), here's the full list:

1. Buster Posey

2. Madison Bumgarner

3. Thomas Neal

4. Zack Wheeler

5. Rafael Rodriguez

6. Nick Noonan

7. Brandon Crawford

8. Roger Kieschnick

9. Dan Runzler

10. Tommy Joseph

11. Ehire Adrianza

12. Francisco Peguero

13. Eric Surkamp

14. Jorge Bucardo

15. Aaron King

16. Hector Sanchez

17. Conor Gilaspie

18. Darren Ford

19. Clayton Tanner

20. Henry Sosa

21. Jose Casilla

22. Matt Graham

23. Waldis Joaquin

24. Jason Stoffel

25. Craig Clark

26. Chris Dominguez

27. Brock Bond

28. Edward Concepcion

29. Mike McBryde

30. Ryan Cavan

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