This is the first part of an infinite series, albeit with two planned installments. The Giants' farm system isn't getting a lot of love from minor league analysts. You probably shouldn't freak out about the state of the Giants. Both things can be true.
Don't be a typical angry Giants fan on the Internet and read too much into the first part. Baseball Prospectus just released their top-101 prospects list. There are no Giants. And it's possible that there are two Dodgers in the top six, and one could make an argument to put them 1-2. This is no fun.
But that doesn't mean that they're biased against the Giants. Well, Craig Goldstein is, but the rest of BP isn't. Look at the prospects at the bottom of the list. Is it reasonable to put them over Christian Arroyo, a fine hitter without standout tools who probably won't stick at short? Sure, even if you disagree with the decision to do so.
Don't be that Giants fan.
Just kidding, being that Giants fan is a lot of fun. And a top-prospect list without a Giants player is a total drag. This is the first time in the site's history that the organization hasn't had at least one representative. Maybe BP looked back at all the Kyle Crick and Gary Brown inclusions and thought, hey, they're making us look the fool. That's fair.
But before you get too mopey, there's another list. This one is from FanGraphs, and it's entirely based on stats. Scouting a prospect exclusively on numbers is like scouting a life partner entirely on Facebook posts. You might get a pretty good sense of future success, and you should get a great sense of when it's just not going to work out. It's imperfect and limited, but as long as you know that going in, you should be fine.
The FanGraphs list is based on a projection system known as KATOH, which was designed to make you want to play Knights of the Old Republic and evaluate prospects at the same time. The methodology is explained here, and this time, two Giants make the list. One of them is much higher than you would expect.
First, Arroyo does make it, at #78, where he keeps company with some more heralded prospects, like Yoan Moncada. This is a good explanation why:
Strikeout rate matters a lot for hitters, especially when they’re in the low minors.
Walk rate matters very little for hitters, especially when they’re in the low minors. For hitters in Rookie ball, I found no evidence that walk rate is predictive at all.
BABIP matters more for hitters in the low minors than for hitters in the high minors.
Age matters more for hitters in the low minors than for hitters in the high minors.
Height matters more for hitters in the low minors than for hitters in the high minors.
All of that favors Arroyo, so he sneaks on the list. To be fair, he's on most top-100 lists, with BP being something of an outlier.
Second, Clayton Blackburn is on the list. And he's not just on the list. He's the sixth-best pitching prospect in baseball, ranking #28 overall.
Is that a function of stats over scouting? Of course! Does this really make Blackburn one of the best prospects in baseball? Probably not! From Chris Mitchell's writeup:
There aren’t as many head-scratchers as before, which suggests I’m moving in the right direction. There are still players who feel too high to me and others who feel too low to me, though I’d argue that’s not always necessarily a bad thing.
But it does bring to our attention a couple of oft-ignored points:
- Clayton Blackburn was fantastic in Triple-A last year under tough conditions
- He was just 22 last year
- He throws strikes
- We should probably pay a little more attention to Clayton Blackburn
After a brutal May 19 start, Blackburn appeared in 20 games, and didn't allow more than three runs in any of them. He allowed just six homers, which is phenomenal for the Pacific Coast League. Chris Heston is going to be this year's Yusmeiro Petit, but I'd wager that Blackburn is the starting pitcher in a glass case.
There you have it, two lists of prospects. One uses eyes. One uses numbers. The first one doesn't have a Giants prospect. The second one has the most aggressive ranking for a Giants prospect we've seen yet. I'll just assume the answer is somewhere in the middle because it's easier than doing my own critical thinking.