At the start of the 2011 season, MLB.com unveiled Top 10 prospect lists for all 30 Major League organizations on Prospect Watch. Over the course of the season, those lists changed due to graduations to the big leagues, trades and performances. With the season completed, MLB.com will review how the prospects on those lists fared in 2011.
It's almost unfair to be a top hitting prospect in the Giants organization these days, with expectations to move quickly the norm.
Buster Posey started it, getting drafted in 2008, starting his first full season in Class A Advanced San Jose and finishing it in the big leagues. Brandon Belt kept up the tradition. He, too, began his first full season in San Jose and played at three levels. He was in the big leagues in 2011 after one year of Minor League ball. Even Brandon Crawford raised the bar by going from San Jose to the big leagues this past season.
"I'd be lying to say I didn't [think about a promotion]," said 2010 first-round pick Gary Brown, who spent all season with San Jose in 2011. "I think it got in my head in June, and that's when I started going downhill. I was able to calm down, learning that you can only control what you can control.
"There are only two levels -- the Minor Leagues and the Major Leagues. It's not about where you are. I'm a Minor Leaguer right now."
Brown, currently the Giants' No. 1 prospect, certainly began the year playing like he wouldn't be in San Jose for long, hitting .333 in April and .397 in May. June wasn't kind, as Brown hit .202, but he rebounded quickly and hit .346 in the second half.
"For my first full season, I thought I did well," said Brown, who played in the All-Star Futures Game. "I proved I could play through a long season, struggle and come out of it. It was important to me to do that."
It's important to point out that not every player has the same developmental path, so even though previous college hitters moved very quickly, that doesn't mean the Giants have a set blueprint for all bats in the system. It's much more complex than that.
"It was a little bit of a conservative approach; it's hard to find that middle ground," Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans said. "It was more important to get a full season with a group of guys. We felt it was in his best interest not to rush him. him. We let the Arizona Fall League be his challenge."
Among other things, Brown was continuing to work on his running. Yes, he did steal 53 bases on the season, but he's looking at his 19 times caught stealing as something he'd want to erase, given what he thinks is the most important thing for a player of his skill set.
"I need to improve on my base running," Brown said. "A guy like me, it's most important for me to get on base and score runs. One of the only goals I had statistically was to score 100 runs, and I did that.
"I want to work on getting thrown out less. What a lot of people don't realize is you can get in a funk stealing bases just like you can hitting. You have to be just as calm."
Top 10 review
Giants top 10 prospects
A look at how the Top 10 Prospects list looked at the beginning and end of the 2011 season:
Brandon Belt, 1B/OF
Zack Wheeler, RHP
Gary Brown, OF
Francisco Peguero, OF
Charlie Culberson, 2B
Eheire Adrianza, SS
Thomas Neal, OF
Heath Hembree, RHP
Eric Surkamp, LHP
Chris Dominguez, 3B
Tommy Joseph, C
Hector Sanchez, C
Brandon Crawford, SS
Conor Gillaspie, 3B
Players in bold were removed from the list after reaching the rookie eligibility threshold.
The Giants' top 10 prospect list is quite a bit different than it was when the season began. Some of it came because of graduations. Belt, despite being up and down, showed strides and graduated from the top spot on the list. Crawford, because of the need in San Francisco, also amassed enough playing time to move from the list.
"We're pleased to have players to choose from," Evans said. "Our primary focus is to make the Major League team better. It was a well-rounded effort and a success [even though it fell short]."
Two more of the original top 10 were traded away, with Thomas Neal being sent to Cleveland and the big deadline deal which sent top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler to the Mets for Carlos Beltran. That trade didn't work out as planned because of Beltran's health. But on paper, it was exactly the kind of move you look to make with a deeper farm system.
"It was a unique injury for Beltran and it could have been the difference," Evans said. "He was a difference-maker. We got what we hoped for. You have to give up something to get something. No regrets there, the fans deserved our best effort. We did that, we just came up short."
Organizational Players of the Year
MLB.com's Preseason Picks Charlie Culberson, 2B: After a huge 2010, Culberson showed it wasn't a fluke, hitting for average and some power while stealing some bases. He did hit 10 homers and steal 14 bases, though he finished with a .259 average, striking out 129 times against just 22 walks.
Eric Surkamp, LHP: Health and the Eastern League were supposed to help the left-hander top the organization in ERA and strikeouts, and that's exactly how it played out, as Surkamp had a 1.94 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 2011
MLB.com's Postseason Selections Brown, OF: In his first full season, Brown won the organizational batting title by hitting .336. He also stole 53 bases and got on base at a .407 clip. He even showed some pop, with 14 homers and a .519 slugging percentage.
Surkamp: Hitters batted just .212 against him all year, and he struck out 10.3 per nine innings. His success led to some time in San Francisco, where he made six starts.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.