The Giants were supposed to have a dreadful farm system. By most accounts, the Giants still have a dreadful farm system, at least relative to the other 29 teams. Right now, the Giants are getting a ton of help from their farm system.
It's all true. It's a paradox, at least at first glance. The immediate success of Joe Panik and Andrew Susac is making me rethink a few things about farm systems, though, and I've come up with a catchy slogan to help me remember this season in the future. Here goes:
They don't all have to be Bumgarners.
By which I mean, there are other ways for farm systems to be useful other than by spitting out gigantic teenaged aces who win World Series games. This seems like a revelation because for years, the Giants had such trouble coming up with useful parts. It was either TIM LINCECUM or Pat Misch, or BUSTER POSEY or Dan Ortmeier. There wasn't an in-between.
When the Giants farm system were put at the bottom of every ranking -- look at this dingus, smh -- it wasn't as if the lede paragraphs were "None of these guys will ever play an inning in the major leagues. Most of them are lacrosse players, to be honest, and they don't know why the Giants keep giving them paychecks." There were buzzwords involved. Other teams have prospects with impact talent. They have high ceilings. They have dynamic tools. The Giants had some prospects who did some things well, but hardly any who had made other people shoot buzzwords out of their nose.
That's not exciting, so I get it. The Giants didn't have a Bumgarner or a Posey. They didn't have a 19-year-old first baseman hitting 30 homers at San Jose, a gigantic specimen who's big enough to have dandruff the size of Mark McGwire. Other teams did, or something comparable. Have you watched Miguel Sano hit baseballs? It's a delight. Have you watched Byron Buxton do anything? Also, a delight. As such, the Twins get the sort of attention the Giants didn't.
What the Giants had, though, were players with a chance to be solid contributors, possibly soon. Edwin Escobar was supposed to be close, with Clayton Blackburn and Ty Blach not too far behind. They didn't factor into the 2014 season. But in the Giants' darkest hour, they turned to the light of Andrew Susac and Joe Panik, and now the team is harassing the Dodgers again.
Panik was supposed to have a hit tool, sure, but he didn't hit for power. He was never going to be a Gold Glover. He wasn't fast enough to steal bases. The only thing he had going for him was that, at every stop, he exhibited good bat control, even when he was a little young for his league.
Susac was intriguing as a catcher with a little power and improving defensive skills. He didn't make a lot of top-100 lists, but it's not like the prospectnogsticators hated him. It's just that other prospects had that 70-grade something that could turn them into All-Stars, whereas it would take a little more for Susac to have Bob Brenly's best years, say.
Both of them are contributing. Both might yet slump horrendously, so it's not like the beak is out of the egg just yet and we should start counting All-Star appearances. But it's not like they're doing anything that surprising. Panik might be more of a .290 hitter in the near future than a .320 guy, but that almost feels like splitting hairs. He was supposed to be a bat-control guy with a solid hit tool who could pay a decent-to-good second base. Susac was supposed to be a solid catcher with dinger potential, and that's what he looks like over 55 plate appearances.
They don't all have to be Bumgarners.
I sure helps if they are, of course. And I'd still trade all the current limited-ceiling guys for one Byron Buxton, for one shot at another Buster Posey. Forgive me, though, for having what might be an obvious moment. Even the worst farm systems can spit out a Rich Aurilia and Bill Mueller, and those guys can help the team beat the stupid Dodgers. I should have remembered that from 1997. I should probably remember that in the future. They don't all have to be Bumgarners.