Giants have talent worth waiting for

Giants have talent worth waiting for

Before the 2008 season began, took an in-depth look at every big-league team's Minor League system. Now it's time to recap and analyze all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent Draft class.

At the top, it might seem hard to be a Giants fan. After a tough big league season, San Francisco again will be picking quite early in the first round of the next Draft.

But that will only further strengthen a system that has come a long way over the past couple of years. In the Giants' preview, the potential of a star-studded roster at Augusta was touted, and the GreenJackets did not disappoint.

The Class A club won the South Atlantic League crown and was arguably the top team in the Minors, finishing with a Minor League-best .638 winning percentage. Throw in a San Jose team that again made the postseason (with a .607 winning percentage) and the Giants finished second in Major League Baseball with a .568 organizational winning percentage.

And they did it not by stacking those rosters with overage veterans. Augusta was filled with teens from international scouting and the Draft and San Jose had a good share of young talent as well.

That's the good news. The bad news is that, aside from a few players who climbed the ladder to get a long look in San Francisco after the season was lost, some of this talent may take a little while to get to the Bay. But be patient, the wait will be worth it.

Organizational Players of the Year Preseason Picks

Nick Noonan, 2B: We thought the 2007 supplemental first-round pick would use his advanced hitting skills to earn a promotion from Augusta to San Jose and put him on the fast track as a high schooler. Not quite, though the second baseman did have a solid first full season, hitting .279 and stealing 29 bases for a championship club in Augusta. He stepped up in the postseason, going 6-for-18 (.333) with five RBIs in five games.
Noonan drives home two runs

•  Monday, Oct. 6: Washington Nationals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 7: Seattle Mariners
•  Wednesday, Oct. 8: San Diego Padres
•  Thursday, Oct. 9: Pittsburgh Pirates
•  Friday, Oct. 10: Baltimore Orioles
•  Monday, Oct. 13: Atlanta Braves
•  Tuesday, Oct. 14: San Francisco Giants
•  Wednesday, Oct. 15: Cincinnati Reds
•  Thursday, Oct. 16: Colorado Rockies
•  Friday, Oct. 17: Detroit Tigers
•  Monday, Oct. 20: Kansas City Royals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 21: Oakland Athletics
•  Wednesday, Oct. 22: Texas Rangers
•  Thursday, Oct. 23: Cleveland Indians
•  Friday, Oct. 24: Arizona Diamondbacks
•  Monday, Oct. 27: Florida Marlins
•  Tuesday, Oct. 28: Toronto Blue Jays
•  Wednesday, Oct. 29: St. Louis Cardinals
•  Thursday, Oct. 30: Houston Astros
•  Friday, Oct. 31: Minnesota Twins
•  Monday, Nov. 3: New York Yankees
•  Tuesday, Nov. 4: New York Mets
•  Wednesday, Nov. 5: Los Angeles Angels
•  Thursday, Nov. 6: Chicago White Sox
•  Friday, Nov. 7: Milwaukee Brewers
•  Monday, Nov. 10: Chicago Cubs
•  Tuesday, Nov. 11: Boston Red Sox
•  Wednesday, Nov. 12: LA Dodgers
•  Thursday, Nov. 13: Tampa Bay Rays
•  Friday, Nov. 14: Philadelphia Phillies

Kevin Pucetas, RHP: Guess we shouldn't have resisted the urge to go with one of the young guns, like we said we were doing. Not that Pucetas was bad. Going 10-2 with a 3.02 ERA (second in the California League), making the Cal League All-Star team as well as going to the Futures Game is certainly nothing to sneeze at. He just wasn't quite as good as some others in the organization.
Pucetas fans his fifth Postseason Selections

Pablo Sandoval, C: You can't really find fault with anything Sandoval did, hitting .350 with a .972 OPS, 20 homers and 96 RBIs at two Minor League levels before getting called up. Hitting .345 in 145 big-league at-bats was just icing on the cake for one of the better seasons any Minor Leaguer had. He showed even more value by being very versatile, playing first base and third as well as catching for San Francisco.
Three-run double for Sandoval

Madison Bumgarner, LHP: He led all of the Minor Leagues with a 1.46 ERA and went 15-3 for the fifth-highest win total. He was third with 164 strikeouts while playing virtually all year at age 18. Add the fact that he went 2-0 in two playoff starts, giving up only seven hits and one unearned run while striking out 16 (vs. just two walks) in 14 innings and this one is as much a no-brainer as it gets.
Bumgarner notches 10th K

Climbed the Ladder

Tim Alderson, RHP: The Giants knew they had a fairly poised and advanced high schooler when they took Alderson 22nd overall in 2007, so they pushed him straight to the hitter-friendly Class A Advanced Cal League for his full-season debut at age 19. He didn't disappoint, leading the league in ERA (2.79), ranking third in wins (13) and fourth in strikeouts (124). He'll be ready for Double-A at age 20 on a most definitive fast track.
Alderson whiffs two in a row

Madison Bumgarner, LHP: He won the organizational triple crown and, after his first few starts at the beginning of April, he was pretty much lights-out the rest of the way, not posting a monthly ERA over 2.00 and finishing with a 1.05 ERA in the second half of his first full year.

Emmanuel Burriss, SS: Considering Burriss was demoted in 2007 (though he collected himself nicely post-demotion), anyone who would've predicted he'd be that productive in the big leagues should head to Vegas. He wasn't all that effective when he was in Triple-A for 14 games but was a definite spark in San Francisco, hitting .283 and swiping 13 bags in 95 games.
Burriss scores game-winner on wild pitch

Travis Ishikawa, 1B: Talk about resurrecting a career. The Giants took Ishikawa back in the 2002 Draft and his career has kind of progressed (or not) in fits and bursts. He began the year in Double-A, his third season doing so. It's looking like it will be his last. The first baseman spent 64 games in Connecticut before getting bumped up to Triple-A for the first time. He promptly hit .310 with 16 homers (.737 SLG) in 48 games with Fresno, leading to a productive 33-game stint in the bigs, where he hit .274 over 95 at-bats. He finished his Minor League season with a .299 average, 24 homers and 99 RBIs, perhaps a nice cap to a long and slightly winding road to a big league career.
Ishikawa's five-hit game

Sergio Romo, RHP: Last year's Class A Advanced Reliever of the Year, Romo followed that up with a season that carried him into the big league bullpen. The right-hander saved 11 games for Double-A Connecticut before getting the call to the bigs. With only a brief stint down in Triple-A, Romo became a productive member of the Giants' pen, posting a 2.12 ERA and ridiculous .138 opponents' batting average over 34 Major League innings.
Romo sets down Fresno's 15th straight batter

Pablo Sandoval, C: He began the year in the California League, was named to the circuit's All-Star team, went to the Futures Game, was promoted to Double-A and then to the big leagues, pretty much raking every step of the way. Add up his numbers from the Minors and Majors and you get a gaudy line: .349 average (207 hits), 48 doubles, 23 homers and 120 RBIs. He drew 35 walks and struck out only 73 times, all while playing most of the season at age 21.

Kept Their Footing

Nick Noonan, 2B: There's nothing wrong with Noonan's first full year and there's plenty to build on, but there were some -- on this site, for one -- who felt he'd blow up and get promoted by midseason. He may have tired a bit, hitting .264 in the second half (as opposed to .292 in the first half). No matter, he'll move up to the Cal League at age 19.

Kevin Pucetas, RHP: It's hard to improve on a first full season that resulted in being named Minor League Baseball's Most Spectacular Pitcher as well as's Class A Starting Pitcher of the Year. That's not to say Pucetas wasn't outstanding in the Cal League, though, as his 3.02 ERA was second only to San Jose teammate Tim Alderson. He was very stingy yet again, walking only 27 while striking out 102. As a pro, Pucetas is 32-7 with a 2.47 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.

Clayton Tanner, LHP: With the Aldersons and Bumgarners of the world getting all the ink, Tanner might be easily overlooked. But the Aussie southpaw pitched well at age 20 in the Cal League, winning 10 games and posting a 3.69 ERA, good for sixth in the circuit. He does get hit a little -- .274 average against this year, .282 in 2007 -- something he'll have to be mindful of as he moves up in 2009.
Tanner fans two in a row

Angel Villalona, 1B: It's hard to remember a time when a young Giants hitting prospect created this much early buzz. When Villalona debuted in full-season ball at age 17 by hitting .213 in April, there were probably some who wondered if the Giants had rushed the young slugger. But he responded by improving steadily the rest of the year, finishing with a .308 average in August to go with five homers, 20 RBIs and a .529 SLG. Overall, the first baseman hit .263 with 17 homers and 64 RBIs. Look for him to improve on the 118-18 strikeout-to-walks ratio in 2009.
Villalona goes yard

Slipped a Rung

Brian Bocock, SS: It was a positively bizarre year for Bocock, who broke camp as the Opening Day shortstop because of Omar Vizquel's injury, then ended up missing a large part of the season due to injury after being sent down. Bocock made the big league squad largely because of his defense and was clearly overmatched at the plate (.143 average, .414 OPS in 32 games). He wasn't much better when he went down to Triple-A Fresno, hitting .163 in 35 games. He was shut down in late June with a blood clot in his finger and did not return to action.

Wendell Fairley, OF: Maybe we're treating him, ummm, "un-fairley", but with all the young talent excelling in the system, Fairley stands out as one who's been slow to adjust. Taken 29th overall in 2007, he signed too late to play that summer but showed some serious raw tools in instructs. Unlike his pitching counterparts from that first round or the teenage phenom Villalona, Fairley didn't break camp with a full-season club, sticking in extended spring training, partially because of some nicks and bruises that kept him out of action last spring. He finally made his Giants' debut on June 22 in the Arizona League, hitting .259 over 52 games. He did finish strong by batting .289 in August and showed some good plate discipline (.388 OBP), but he's at least a step behind some of his cohorts. That being said, he's still only 20 with plenty of time to develop.

Henry Sosa, RHP: Sosa blew up in 2007, his first full season in the United States and went to the Futures Game as a result. The expectations for the right-hander were big, but he got off to a slow start when offseason knee surgery kept him out of action until he made his 2008 debut with San Jose in late May. He made only 12 starts with the Giants, going 3-4 with a 4.31 ERA. He was shelved again in late July, returning to make two relief appearances at the end of August at Augusta. If he can return to health in 2009, the Giants still have a formidable arm on their hands.

On the Radar

Brian Horwitz, OF: Anytime a non-drafted free agent makes it to the big leagues, he deserves to get some love. An "Under the Radar" player in our preview, Horwitz actually had a down year by his standards when he was in Triple-A. He hit .277 in 86 games, down from his .319 career average. But he did get called up and got 36 Major League ABs, getting eight hits, including a pair of homers.
Horwitz's first big-league homer

Dan Otero, RHP: A 21st-round selection from the 2007 Draft, Otero opened some eyes with a fantastic short-season campaign a summer ago. He showed he wasn't a one-year wonder by racking up 34 saves across two levels in his full-season debut. He posted an 0.33 ERA over 27 innings with Augusta before moving up to San Jose. He was more hittable there, with a 3.67 ERA in 27 IP, but he still was very stingy with the walks, finishing with a combined seven in 54 IP to go with 49 strikeouts.
Otero picks up save with a strikeout

2008 Draft Recap

1. Buster Posey, C: It took right up to the deadline to officially get him signed, but once he did, the No. 5 overall pick squeezed in as much baseball as one could from Aug. 15 on. Posey played in seven games in the Arizona League to get his feet wet, hitting .385. From there, he played three games for Salem-Keizer in the short-season Northwest League (he went 3-for-11 with two doubles) before jumping up to the California League for the postseason (4-for-17). Think the Golden Spikes winner got to rest then? No, though there are worse things than an assignment to Hawaii Winter Baseball, where the catcher got off to a very quick start.
Conference call with Buster Posey

2. Conor Gillaspie, 3B: In perhaps the biggest Draft-related "huh?" move, the Giants called Gillaspie up to the big leagues in September, where he proceeded to get a grand total of five at-bats (with one hit) in eight games. Prior to that, the supplemental first-rounder played in the Arizona and Northwest leagues, hitting a combined .269 in 93 at-bats. Given time to develop, Gillaspie could be a Bill Mueller type at third.
Gillaspie ties game with double

3. Roger Kieschnick, OF: A subpar junior season allowed Kieschnick to slide to the third round. He didn't play during the regular season but has joined Posey in Hawaii and is off to an 8-for-29 start, including a pair of homers, over his first nine games.

Others of Note: After going high school heavy atop the 2007 Draft, the Giants were much more college-centric in 2008. The only high schooler the team took in the first 20 rounds was Ryan O'Sullivan (10) and he didn't sign. Fifth-rounder Edwin Quirarte, a RHP out of Cal State-Northridge, had a 2.12 ERA and finished second in the Northwest League with 14 saves. ... LHP Aaron King (7th out of Surry CC) had one bad outing afer moving up to the Northwest League but still finished with a 4-2 record and 2.97 ERA to go with 45 Ks in 33 1/3 IP. ... LHP Scott Barnes (8th, St. John's), stopped at three levels and finished with a 2.06 ERA, a .155 opponents' average and 63 Ks in 43 2/3 IP. ... 1B C.J. Ziegler (16th, Arizona) may have been a touch old for the AZL, but he still led the league with 43 RBIs and was third with seven homers. ... 19th-round pick Ryan Mantle, an OF out of Missouri State, is a cousin of Mickey Mantle and did his name proud by hitting .310 in 45 AZL games.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.