Top 30 Prospects, Part III: 16 -20

Is Madison Bumgarner in this batch? Well, you'll just have to click the link to find out....

20. Henry Sosa - RHP

Sosa is the new Merkin. Wait for the explanation before you ask your beautician for a "sosa" to cover up that Nair ‘n’ duct tape accident. It seems like Sosa has been a prospect for so long, that when he has an injury-filled, low-strikeout season, it’s way too easy to write him off. He’ll only be 24, and the strikeout-rate drop makes sense now that he’s recovering from a torn shoulder muscle.

Sosa should be ready early in 2010, and he’s one of the only starters in the organization who has top-of-the-rotation stuff (when he’s right, of course) in the upper minors. He might be a bullpen candidate soon, but as long as he’s a starter – and assuming that he’ll be able to reclaim his mid-90s fastball – this is probably too conservative of a ranking.

19. Clayton Tanner – LHP

I’m pretty sure that I’ve consistently overrated Tanner for years because he’s been a little young for his level. He repeated the California League, but he almost did everything right: he dropped his walk rate, improved his strikeout rate, and allowed fewer baserunners. His home runs allowed total, though, when from one to 17. He must have munterated a lot of sinkers last year.

I’ll always give lefties the benefit of the doubt, especially young lefties who can keep the ball on the ground. Tanner is the kind of pitcher that might not have flashy numbers in the minors, but surprises in the majors once he gets to play in front of a good defense. He’s above Sosa, Graham, and the hard-throwing right-handed relievers because of little more than a hunch.

18. Darren Ford – CF

Ford is probably the most enigmatic player on the list. He’s old for his level, and he was repeating a league. Red flag. His performance in San Jose was heavily aided by an unusually high BABIP. Red flag. He can take a walk. Red flag (Giants front office only). Why should he be ranked in the top 20?

 

I’ll go against my gut and trust the scouts on this one. They say Ford is toolsy, unrefined type who turned into a different player in the second half of last season, which is when he stopped switch-hitting. Sometimes the toolsy, unrefined types figure it out late. If I had to place a wager, I’d put Ford down for a Calvin Murray career path. But I wouldn’t want to place the wager, if that makes sense.

17. Conor Gillaspie – 3B

Gillaspie doesn’t have a big platoon disparity, he can take a walk, and he’s expected to hit for a little more average. So why was his year so disappointing? The expectations were too high, for one. Gillaspie was expected to move quickly through the system – it’s likely why the Giants weren’t scared to give him a 40-man roster spot right away. But if he isn’t going to hit for any power, he’ll have to hit better than .286 to have any value at third without a stellar glove.

Something in Gillaspie’s defense: He’s young. For all of the Bill Mueller comps that Gillaspie gets by default, Mueller wasn’t tearing up the Cal League until he was two years older than Gillaspie is now. It was almost certainly a mistake to give him a 40-man spot, but he’s still an interesting prospect.

16. Hector Sanchez – C

It’s probably a good idea not to project Sanchez as a perennial .400 on-base guy in the majors based on his performances in the Arizona League. The sample isn’t a big one, and he wasn’t super-young for the league. But reports of Sanchez’s glove are positive – in his 2010 Prospect Book, John Sickels goes as far as to call Sanchez a "glove-first" guy. If his defense is above-average, and he can keep up the bat control and patience, he’ll be a ridiculously valuable player – think of this guy as a perfect-world offensive comp. If the defense is even close, then, shucks, Sanchez can be an All-Star too.

It’s a bad idea to get goofy over AZL stats, though. If Sanchez has a similar performance in low-A, he’ll probably be worthy of the top ten. Until then, this is probably a little too optimistic of a ranking based on two things: a) guys who take walks in the Giants organization are beautiful, rare creatures, and they should be given praise, plaudits, and flowered leis at every opportunity, and b) good-fielding catchers who can hit even a little bit are really, really valuable.

Plus, once Sanchez catches over 200 games in the minors, he’ll magically become worthy of a starting spot in the majors. There will be the Ritual of Flames and Swords, the Blood Oath will be taken, and Sanchez will become a Major League Catcher until the end of time. Then he’ll be able to push Buster Posey to first base. Maybe the NL will adopt the designated hitter by that time, and we’ll really get some value out of Posey. We can only hope.

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