Stop hitting F5! Here's the second part of the organizational depth chart!
Corner Outfield (LF/RF)
High minors: D+
Low minors: D
Left field was a historically chronic hole for the Giants that was finally filled by Fred Lewis this year. Lewis was an average offensive left fielder, so even if he doesn’t improve at all, his panicked-yet-strangely-effective defense pushes him just into the top half. Dave Roberts is a decent backup, albeit an expensive one.
Randy Winn is good. Not average, not acceptable, but good. I feel like I’ve made a breakthrough. Of course, this acknowledgment probably comes with a .260/.320/.340 line next year, so I’ll have to enjoy it while I can
The rest of the system is iffy, at best. Only Nate Schierholtz projects as a potential starter, and even that’s debatable. He’s the only thing saving the high minors from a failing grade. If Winn were traded, I’d be more than happy to start Schierholtz. Heck, most of us would trade Winn for the express purpose of getting Schierholtz at-bats. But if Schierholtz is the starter, there isn’t a great young hope anymore. There isn’t a medium young hope, and there isn’t a passable young maybe. Brian Horwitz could probably be a decent bench player right now, and Eddy Martinez-Esteve might be one in the future. Thus endeth the good news.
High Minors: D-
Low Minors: D
Aaron Rowand, when defense and offense are both taken into account, is a slightly above-average center fielder. Maybe. I guess. Kind of. I’m not convinced he will remain one for very long. I’m not that impressed with his range, and his post-May hitting implosion has been ugly. When I watch him hit right now, I can’t imagine how he’s ever had a season better than, say, Pedro Feliz. For now, I’ll give Rowand some slack based on his fast start and his past history of mixing brilliant seasons with ugly ones.
Apart from Rowand and Winn – and I guess Fred Lewis wouldn’t kill a team if pressed into emergency service – the Giants don’t have anything at the higher levels of the system. After 2007’s .301/.363/.395, Clay Timpner seemed to be a defense-first backup-in-waiting, but he was awful this year. Antoan Richardson had .356 on-base percentage in Connecticut, which isn’t the end of the world, but he complements that with total unpower and poor contact skills.
Mike McBryde was a bright spot in the low minors. According to some scouts, he’d instantly be one of the better defensive players in the game if he were promoted, so it was nice to see him put up a .295/.368/.383 line, even if he was a 23-year-old in high-A. Of course, he was also a 23-year-old in high-A. Wendell Fairley is the best center field prospect the Giants have in the minors, but he hasn’t made it out of rookie league. And, really, the dude’s 20 already, so I can’t take his merely decent numbers with as much salt as I’d like.
High minors: D-
Low minors: A
See, I’ve confused myself. If Bumgarner and Alderson are going to start in AA next year, for which group do they qualify? High minors or low minors? It’s almost like I’m making the rules up as I go along.
Lincecum and Cain, and pray that Sanchez’s control can maintain? Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez, and pray that Zito doesn’t make us anxious? And if you don’t think that "Sanchez" rhymes with "anxious", it’s because you’re from Wales, or something. Leave me alone. At any rate, it’s a fantastic front two, I have a lot of hope for the third starter, and then…blech. Zito will pitch until he can’t, and I’ve lost a ton of faith in Kevin Correia this season. Still, if Sanchez can be more consistent, and if Zito and the eventual fifth starter can pitch like league average fourth and fifth starters, the rotation will be the biggest strength of the team.
Matt Palmer was called up to start a major league game this season. That’s about all one needs to say about the state of the starting pitching prospect in the Giants’ upper levels. Joe Martinez is about the best thing above A, but his numbers were helped a great deal by his league and park.
But, oh, were the Giants stacked in the low minors. They have two top-25 pitching prospects in Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson, other interesting prospects like Henry Sosa and Kevin Pucetas, and a mixture of high- and low-upside arms scattered throughout, like Clayton Tanner, Jesse English, and Scott Barnes. The Adam Cowart Award for low-level control-based excellence was given to Mike Loree, which isn’t a bad thing for a 50th-round pick. If everything goes well, the grade for the high minors will go from "D-" to "A" next season.
Majors/High minors: B-
Low minors: No idea.
The promotions and demotions of players like Geno Espeneli, Billy Sadler, Sergio Romo, Alex Hinshaw, and Osiris Matos made it pointless to try and differentiate the majors from the high minors. The Giants have a ton of hard-throwing, plate-missing relievers. This could turn out really well, or it could end in tears. All that I know is that Brian Wilson is kind of a badass, that Sergio Romo is 31 different varieties of awesome, and that every non-youngster in the bullpen is completely expendable.
And the only thing I know about the low minors is that Edwin Quirate seems like a pretty solid player for a fifth-round pick, so that rates a big, fat incomplete.
The Giants have a good prospect at every position except for left field and center field, and both of those positions are filled for the long term. The organization has at least four top-100 prospects in the system, and Aaron Rowand is the only long-term solution over 30. Compared to what things looked like at the end of last year, I think we all would have taken that. There’s probably still a whole mess of short-term pain ahead, but this is the first time I remember having interesting young players at almost every spot on the diamond. It feels…odd.