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They Might Be Giants

The Prospect Round-Up, 12/21 - Status Of The Farm System

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After all the changes, where does the Giants’ farm system stand?

Pittsburgh Pirates v San Francisco Giants
Christian Arroyo - One of many new Ex-Giants
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Between the Rule 5 Draft and trades, the Giants farm system has a new look. So, what does the system look like now?

Losses:

Christian Arroyo (Longoria Trade) - Well, this is the big one. Arroyo’s a future Major Leaguer, and that’s probably a near-present Major Leaguer. A lot of people are underwhelmed on him from his rough 2017, but judging him by his first sip of piping-hot coffee doesn’t mean that the he’ll only get one cup. His twice-broken hand is the biggest question, however. ESPN’s David Schoenfield calls him “one of the more overrated prospects in the minors,” but hell, they said that about Joe Panik too. Arroyo will be a regular Major Leaguer for someone, and for now that is probably the Rays.

Matt Krook (Longoria Trade) - Krook is the lottery ticket. The Giants picked him the 4th round in 2016, and the big, tall left-hander has incredible stuff with all of his pitches. But he can’t place it at all. He walked nearly 8.5 batters every 9 innings in Salem-Keizer in 2016, and got it down to 6.5 per 9 in San Jose last season, and he had a strong August to end the season. He throws mid-90’s with a slow curve and a biting slider. If he can get consistency on his release point, he could be a very good pitcher. But that’s a big if.

Stephen Woods (Longoria Trade) - The Rays tried to draft him out of high school in the 6th round in 2013, but he didn’t sign and was an 8th rounder by the Giants in 2016. Like Krook, command is an issue, although his 5.24 BB/9IP looks better in comparison. But Woods has taken some big steps forward since college. Woods had a 2.95 ERA in Low-A despite the walks, with a mid-90’s fastball and both a tight curve and cutter. He’s a bit of a sleeper prospect, and has more potential than just a throw-in, although many see him as a future reliever.

Albert Suarez (Rule 5 Draft) - The other Suarez has an unusual amount of major league experience for a Rule 5 draftee, and he’s also unusual in that he was put through waivers at the end of the year and passed through them, getting back to the minors in the Giants system. He wasn’t spectacular for the Giants, but has effective as a swing starter and long reliever. There’s a chance he doesn’t stick with Arizona and comes back, but the Giants have two younger, higher ceiling guys who can fill that role in Ty Blach and Chris Stratton. Plus, that other Suarez.

Skyler Ewing (Rule 5 Draft - Minors) - Ewing was a 6th round pick in 2014 based on his power, but never got past Augusta as a low-batting average first baseman, only breaking double-digit home runs in his third year, 2016 with 10. He’s changed up his career, converting to catcher, and paired it with a career-high 13 home runs. He’s going into his age 26 season in high-A. The Braves will push him to see if they might have a backup catcher in this pick.

Martin Cervenka (Rule 5 Draft - Minors) - Don’t remember him? The catcher just signed with the Giants on December 1st before he got drafted by the Orioles. He hit .278/.343/.418 in High-A last season, his best showing in the pros. He will turn 26 in the middle of the next season.

Drew Muren (Rule 5 Draft - Minors) - Muren was drafted as an outfielder but went to the indies and converted to pitching. He signed with the Giants as a free agent in the middle of the 2017 season, appearing in 5 games and striking out 11 in 7.2 innings. He heads to the Blue Jays.

Gains:

Julian Fernandez (Rule 5 Draft) - Sure, if he sticks with the Giants, it (mostly) means he needs to stick in the Majors (barring the Giants working out a small trade to allow him to go to the minors). There’s no doubting that Fernandez and his 103-mph fastball without control is tantalizing. But he’s a long-shot to stick since he’s never been above High-A.

Eduardo Rivera (Rule 5 Draft - Minors) - Rivera was a Yankees RHP prospect who signed as a free agent with the Reds before the Giants took him in the minor league system. He throws mid-90’s and can touch triple-digits, but has never been above High-A and only pitched in short-season ball last season. He’ll join a system that has been working with a lot of hard-throwing pitchers that have had control problems.

Wander Franco (Rule 5 Draft - Minors) - He is the son of Wander Franco, and brother of Wander Franco and…Wander Franco. Seriously. Hope the Giants got the one they wanted (isn’t that right, Aaron Bond?). This Franco is a 23-year old shortstop who hit .279/.319/.376 in High-A last season with the Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Royals system.

Sam Wolff (Matt Moore Trade) - Wolff had a career breakthrough last year in Double-A and Triple-A, poasting a 2.93 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 43 innings. He’s become a power reliever but will miss at least the first half of 2018 with flexor-tendon surgery. That said, Wolff is looking like a late-blooming reliever that could have an affect in San Francisco this season.

Israel Cruz (Matt Moore Trade) - Cruz had a 5.91 ERA in his second season in the AZL in 2017, and he was trending the wrong direction after posting a 4.36 ERA in 2016. Cruz has worked both as a starter and in relief, but has a very long road before he could even sniff the Major Leagues.

What Does It Mean?

  • The Giants made my and Roger’s life easier, by both losing Albert Suarez (not to be confused with Andrew Suarez) and Stephen Woods (not to be confused with Stetson Woods).
  • That said, researching Wander Franco is going to suck.
  • Losing Christian Arroyo is a big deal for the Giants, especially as they take on more salary for many years with Longoria. To offset all the committed salary, the Giants will need young players with small salaries, and Arroyo was the position player most ready to be a full-time guy. No, he’s not a superstar player, but he’s a guy who will be very worthwhile as a regular. But Arroyo was also their most marketable trade chip. It makes the statement that winning now is the priority…but also that the pain that is coming might be bigger than before.
  • The Longoria trade eliminates one of the two big possibilities of the Giants signing a free agent that would cost two draft picks. If the Giants are going to restock their system, this year is an important year for that, and that second round pick in particular would be important. (Not to dismiss the 5th rounder they would also lose.)
  • Forget who is a Giant right now versus who used to be. Looking at these players is as good an indication as any that power pitchers with strikeout potential are hot commodities right now. The Giants still have a lot of those arms in their system (most notably Reyes Moronta and Rodolfo Martinez), whether it’s to bring up for their own team or to use as trade chips. Not to mention ones in the Majors like Hunter Strickland.
  • Of the newest Giants, Sam Wolff looks like a good pickup that can help address one of the team’s need. His arrival may be delayed due to surgery, but the Giants have a big need for young, reliable relievers. Wolff had one great year in Triple-A, but he certainly has the potential.
  • It sure seems like the Giants may need to find a couple of minor league catchers. If you need job security, teams always need those.
  • Keep an eye on Eduardo Rivera.
  • But then, similarly, you may see Stephen Woods be a nice return for the Rays.

The Final Word

The Giants lost one of their top prospects, and that absolutely hits the farm system and the team pretty sharply (although it’s not like the team didn’t get nothing back for him). Is losing Arroyo enough to knock the Giants down to 30th in minor league depth? Quite possibly.

The bright side is, if trading Arroyo increases the chances of the Giants keeping those two draft picks, it could be a promising tradeoff.