Tuesday, April 3, 2012

OTF Top 30: No. 21-25; Duvall, Correa, Gregorio, Bochy, Galindo

We're winding down with the Top 30, and now we're really delving deeper into the Giants system in terms of finding guys with talent. While a lot of the prospects in this series of the list have talent and some potential, they do carry considerable amount of risk and are still a long ways off from the Major League level. All of the guys are C prospects, so you're probably not going to find them on the Top-15 of many lists (though Gregorio rates high with a lot of scouts and experts because of his youth, size and upside). However, there are a few guys I'm pretty high on in this series whom I think can make major strides with good seasons this year. Don't be surprised to see two-three of these guys rise to C+ or B- grades next year.

No. 21: Adam Duvall, Third Base

Overall Grade: C
Projection: Major League backup; platoon player at the best, could be a career minor leaguer

Summary: When it comes to third base prospects in the Giants system from Louisville, Chris Dominguez gets all the hype. It's understandable. Dominguez mashed in college for four years with the Cardinals, and he was a third round pick in 2009 who sported plus power and arm strength as a prospect. Furthermore, at six-foot, five inches and 225 pounds, he has the size and frame of a player with Major League potential.

And yet, Dominguez may not be the best prospect from Louisville in the Giants system. Adam Duvall, a former teammate of his who took over the hot corner after Dominguez graduated from Louisville in 2009, is quickly catching up to the more ballyhooed Dominguez after a solid 2011 season in the Sally where he earned All-Star honors.

Duvall is an interesting player because he doesn't have the "tools" that Dominguez has. Duvall's got a good frame (six-foot, one inches, and 205 pounds), but it looks diminutive in comparison to his former college teammate. Furthermore, none of Duvall's tools have ever been plus rated by scouts, which explains why he dropped to the Giants' slot in the 11th round of the 2010 Draft. Even Baseball America in their profile on him in their Prospect Handbook for 2012 (they ranked him as the Giants' 28th best prospect) noted that he had average range and arm strength, fringy speed and that his at-bats "aren't likely to be found on an instructional video" (e.g. his swing doesn't impress). In a myriad of ways, Duvall seems to fit the profile of an organizational player at-best.

And yet, his numbers in Augusta were promising, and do flash potential. Yes, he was old for the Sally (22 years old), but so was Dominguez (23 years old), and yet that hasn't prevented scouts and experts from still rating Dominguez as one of the Giants' top 3rd base prospects (Baseball America rated him as the Giants' 16th best prospect this year). Let's take a look at the numbers from their respective seasons in Augusta:

Dominguez (2010):  .272/.326/.456 (average/OBP/slugging), 21 home runs, 85 runs scored, 35 walks, 133 strikeouts, 0.26 BB/K ratio in 608 plate appearances.

Duvall (2011): .285/.385/.527 (average/OBP/slugging), 22 home runs, 69 runs scored, 59 walks, 98 walks, 0.60 BB/K ratio in 510 plate appearances.

If one looks at the numbers and considers the age factor (that Duvall broke into the Sally one year earlier than Dominguez), then Duvall's season looks far superior. Not only did Duvall flash power potential (he hit more home runs is almost 100 less at-bats), but he also displayed a better eye at the plate and made better contact against pitchers in the Sally. Of course, Duvall's line isn't perfect by any means (at 19.2 percent, his strikeout rate is still high, especially considering his age), but it definitely adds a little bit to the debate in terms of which former Cardinal is a better prospect at third base.

As good as Duvall's offensive year was, there still are some serious flaws in his game, mostly with his glove. First off, defensively he sports not only average tools, but he also struggled at times with concentration in the field his first full season in professional ball. Last year, he committed 27 errors and posted a fielding percentage of .908, which is very disheartening. He may not have the athletic gifts to be apremium or even an average infielder. That being said, he needs to cut down the errors in 2012 if he wants to be able to stay at the position as he moves up the Giants system.

What to Expect in 2012: Most of Duvall's value as a prospect comes with his bat. He was four for eight on stolen base attempts last year, and he'll be lucky to steal five bags a year considering the reports on his speed and athleticism. Hence, Duvall doesn't offer much upside with his glove or on the basepaths, so if Duvall wants to move through the Giants system, he's going to have to continue to hit. He has a good plate approach, and his power tool seems to be legitimate (Robbie Knopf made some interesting points about his power numbers in Augusta). In addition, his offensive numbers are bound to get better as he moves to the hitter-friendly California League this upcoming season, so that will certainly be a boost to his stock.

That being said, we have seen prospect bash in the lower minors and struggle once they start to face better pitching and hit in more pitcher friendly environments (the Eastern League will be a huge test). While I am not saying Duvall is going to fall into that category, he hasn't done much to prove that he isn't more than a one year wonder. Duvall's campaign in San Jose should be interesting to pay attention to, especially if he gets off to a hot start. If so, I'll be curious to see if the Giants will take the same path with him as they did with Dominguez (move him to Double-A mid-year after he mashed High-A pitching). If that happens (though I think it is unlikely), that should be a real gauge of Duvall's status and projection as a prospect.

No. 22: Hector Correa, right-handed pitcher

Overall grade: C
Projection: Middle innings reliever; perhaps could find himself in a setup role

Summary: Correa was acquired in a trade in 2009 that sent former left-handed bullpen arm Jack Taschner to Florida. At six-foot, three inches and a 175 pounds, Correa has a tall, wiry frame and has flashed some potential, though he is probably destined for middle relief at the Major League level.

Correa went under the radar when he was acquired because he was battling shoulder issues and missed the entire 2009 season due to surgery. However, when he resurfaced in 2010 in Augusta, he dominated the Sally, striking out 58 batters and only walking 16 in 43.2 IP. His split campaign in San Jose and Richmond last year proved his comeback wasn't a fluke, as he continued to excel on the mound in the Cal and Eastern League. In San Jose, he struck out 37 in 42 innings pitched and posted an ERA of 1.93 and a K/BB ratio of 3.08. While his ERA did jump up to 3.20 with the Flying Squirrels, he still showed excellent command in 39.1 IP, posting a K/BB ratio of 2.67.

His tools and arsenal as a pitcher rate well by scouts and experts, as he throws a fastball that sits 91-92 MPH but can touch the mid-90's. While his slider is rated as a "below average" pitch, according to Baseball America, his changeup is considered to be a strong secondary pitch, and many people believe that Correa can succeed with that two pitch arsenal, especially if he remains in the bullpen. Here is what Dr. B of When the Giants Come to Town said in his writeup of Correa this season (he rated him as the Giants' 20th best prospect):

"Baggs did an Organizational Report on him for BA in November and reported that his fastball was in the "mid-90s" and he combined it with a "plus-plus" changeup. The changeup allows him to be effective against LH batters allowing the Giants to stretch him out to 3 and 4 inning stints in Richmond. He could still be stretched all the way out to starter, but I have to say it's more likely he'll end up as a setup man or long reliever in the majors."

Considered a good athlete with a lean, strong frame and plus makeup, Correa certainly has the potential to be a viable pitcher in the Giants bullpen as soon as this season. He was a top prospect in the Marlins system prior to injury, and now that those shoulder issues seem to be a thing of the past, Correa is starting to live up to the expectations that were placed upon him when he was drafted in the fourth round out of Puerto Rico in the 2006 draft.

What to expect in 2012: Correa was placed on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, and it seems like it was a good idea. With Dan Runzler probably out for an extended time, Correa could break in and have an impact at the Major League roster as soon as this year. Correa didn't get much time with the Big League roster this Spring, but he did strike out 3 in 2.1 innings pitched. However, his two walks and three hits allowed probably displayed that he could use some seasoning in Fresno to begin the year.

I like what Correa brings to the table, but his limited ceiling as a bullpen arm and prior history of injury issues (as I said though, it looks to be in the past, but you never know) limit me from grading him higher than a C. However, should any of the Giants' bullpen arms falter or suffer injury, Correa could be a strong first option the Giants may resort too. He has been stellar the past couple of years, and at 23 years old, he still has a lot of years and mileage left in the tank.

No. 23: Joan Gregorio, right-handed pitcher

Overall Grade: C
Projection: No. 3-5 starter; could be a long or middle innings reliever

Summary: When it comes to pitchers out of Latin America in the Giants system, probably no other prospect (well...except for maybe Adalberto Mejia) generates as much buzz as Joan Gregorio. At six-foot, seven inches and a 180 pounds, Gregorio is the kind of tall, raw but high-ceiling pitching prospect that most scouts and analysts foam at the mouth for.

Gregorio signed with the Giants out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, and immediately started playing in the Dominican Summer League after signing. While his numbers weren't as impressive in the DSL as Mejia's (but then again, few pitchers did what Mejia did last summer), they still were solid overall and displayed that Gregorio wields a tremendous amount of potential. Gregorio made 14 starts and pitched 74 innings for the Giants' DSL squad, and he held batters at bay, posting a 2.80 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and 2.41 K/BB ratio. While his strikeout numbers weren't gaudy by any measure (41 strikeouts), his control (17) and command were still impressive for an 18 year old who had just recently signed.

After the strong performance in the DSL, the Giants moved Gregorio to the Arizona Rookie League in 2011 and he did even better in his second partial professional season. Gregorio increased his strikeout rate (to 7.7) without sacrificing much control (his walk rate rose to 2.9), and he posted a stellar 2.30 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 50 innings pitched and 12 starts in Arizona.

One of Gregorio's strengths as a pitcher, in addition to his control and command, is his ability to induce groundballs. According to Minor League Central, Gregorio posted a GB/FB ratio of 1.14, with a groundball rate of 45 percent. Considering this was his first taste of pitching stateside, the ability to keep the ball on the ground and minimize hard contact (he only gave up a line drive rate of 14.8 percent) bodes good things for his future, especially if he can continue to keep up the stellar strikeout rates and command he displayed in 2011.

John Sickels of Minor League Ball has been high on Gregorio as a prospect in the Giants system going into 2012. Here is what he says about Gregorio in his report:

"He’s hyper-projectable, already throws 89-94 MPH, and may pick up more velocity as he matures. He has a decent curve but is still working on his changeup. He was one of the more promising pitchers in the Arizona Rookie League, but he needs another weapon against left-handed hitters, who hit .333 against him. At this point his youth and projectability are more important than the numbers, but the numbers aren’t bad either."

Of course, as Sickels notes, Gregorio's tools as a pitcher are still works-in-progress, and he's a long way from the Bigs. So, he definitely carries a size-able amount of risk. That being said, the potential is there, and with his long frame and projectable body, Gregorio is far from a polished product as a prospect, which should give the Giants organization and fans a lot of hope for the future with him.

What to expect in 2012: The word on the street is that Gregorio is going to be starting in Augusta, and at 20 years old, that makes sense. He and fellow AZL teammate Clayton Blackburn should make a good 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation in the Sally. As far as what kind of impact Gregorio will have on the mound in his first full season, it's still hard to project because his tools are so raw, but I think Gregorio is trending in the right direction. He's already got some good velocity on the fastball, and as he grows into his body, the velocity will only increase. As of now, reports have him as a two-pitch pitcher, but if he can continue to make strides with his changeup, then he could sport a dangerous arsenal as a middle-of-the-rotation guy. I don't think Gregorio has the upside or potential of a No. 1, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the Giants rotation in the future as well.

If his tools develop as planned, then the Giants will have another home-grown arm to stock their rotation/pen with. Of course, we said the same things about Henry Sosa and Merkin Valdez, but Gregorio's size and frame make him one of the more enticing arms the Giants have had from Latin America in the past few years. He's a C prospect now, but I expect him to make nice strides this year in Augusta and make some kind of a jump in grade in 2013.

No. 24: Brett Bochy, left-handed pitcher

Overall Grade: C
Projection: Middle relief with possibility to be a setup guy or spot closer

Summary: Drafted in the 20th round of the Rule 4 draft, a lot of experts and Giants fans took the pick with a grain of salt. After all, Bochy was the son of manager Bruce Bochy, and while he did have a stellar career at Kansas (he posted a 0.78 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in 23 innings with 34 strikeouts as Kansas' closer his final year in college), scouts weren't exactly bursting with praise about Bochy having a future at the Big League level. Many felt that the pick was either a.) done for publicity purposes or b.) done more as a favor to Bruce.

However, since making his debut in Augusta last year, the six-foot, two-inch lefty has turned around some heads in baseball analyst and scout circles, as many people are starting to recognize that he offers more to the table as a prospect than just being Bruce Bochy's son. Pitching primarily out of the bullpen for the Green Jackets, Bochy made 35 appearances and pitched 39 innings in the Sally last year, and finished the season with a 1.38 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 10 saves.

Bochy's biggest strength as a pitcher is his impeccable command and strikeout ability, which he displayed even at Kansas. In Augusta over the full course of a Minor League season, it was even more evident, as he struck out 53 batters, good for a 12.1 K/9. To make things better, Bochy limited his free passes in the Sally last year (8 total walks), which resulted in him posting a ridiculous 6.63 K/BB ratio. To put things in perspective, the last pitcher who put up K/BB ratios that impressive in the Sally from the Giants organization was Madison Bumgarner, who posted a K/BB ratio of 7.81 in 2008. While Bumgarner's ratio is obviously more impressive because he is a starting pitcher and Bochy is a reliever, it does add some context on how sterling Bochy's numbers were in his first professional season.

If there is anything to knock against Bochy, it may be that his ceiling is limited to a bullpen role at the Major League level, and he may not have the kind of elite stuff to be a closer, either. His arsenal is mainly a fastball/slider combo, with his fastball ranging from 90-93 MPH. His slider also is tough on right handed hitters, according to Sickels in his report on Bochy. Another issue is Bochy's history of arm issues, as he had TJ surgery after blowing out his elbow his last year at Kansas. However, the arm issues didn't seem to be a problem for him at all last season in Augusta.

What to expect in 2012: Because of his age (24 years old) and low ceiling, Bochy could move up quickly this year in the Giants system. The Giants already decided to have him skip High-A San Jose, as he will start the year in Double-A Richmond. Richmond might not be the only destination for him this year, for if his Spring Training was any indicator (he struck out two in an inning of work with the Big League club this Spring), it wouldn't be surprising to see him see some time in Fresno or even the Majors should injuries or ineffectiveness hit the bullpen.

Overall, Bochy could end up being a gem in the rough for this Giants organization. He went from a 20th round pick with arm issues, to a strong reliever with excellent command in the matter of a year's time. The Eastern League will obviously be a step up in competition from the Sally, but if his progress from the beginning of last Spring to this Spring is any indicator, then Giants fans could have a lot more to look forward to from Bruce's son in 2012.

No. 25: Jesus Galindo, outfielder

Overall Grade: C
Projection: Platoon to backup outfielder; could be a starting one if his contact ability improves

Summary: Behind Gary Brown, Galindo probably has the best speed tool set out of any prospect in the Giants system. Last season, he swiped 47 bases on 55 attempts (an 85 percent success rate) in Salem Keizer, his first season stateside (he played the previous two years in the Dominican Summer League). In addition to the stellar stolen base numbers in the Northwest League last year, scouts and coaches have raved about his speed. The biggest endorsement came from Volcanoes manager Tom Trebelhorn who compared Galindo's baserunning ability to Ricky Henderson.

A burner on the basepaths from Venezuela at five-feet, 11-inches and 175 pounds, Galindo sports good athleticism for his size, though he could afford to add some strength to increase his value at the plate. While he has been lauded for his plate discipline (he posted BB/K ratios of 0.76 and 1.17 in 2009 and 2010 in the DSL, respectively, and last year he posted a BB/K ratio of 0.54), his ability to make consistent contact as a hitter has been up for debate. While he did hit .276 last year in the NWL, he struggled to hit for average in the DSL, posting batting averages of .244 and .246 in his two seasons there. Galindo has the ability to make contact, as he posted an 81 percent contact rate a year ago, but he needs to show progress this year that the skills he displayed in 2011 is more of an indicator of what Giants fans should expect from 2012-forward.

Defensively, scouts are high about Galindo's potential, with Rob Gordon of the Minor League Baseball Analyst noting that he covers ground well in center field, and the has a strong enough arm to keep runners honest. Baseball America noted the same things, saying that he maximized his speed by getting good jumps on balls. I'm not sure if Galindo will be a premium defensive outfielder at the next level (it's far too early to tell to be honest), but he certainly has the tools and athleticism to be a strong defender despite his diminutive stature (think Andres Torres-esque).

The main issue with Galindo is his lack of power, as he displayed little last year in the NWL and even less in the DSL. Last year with the Volcanoes, Galindo posted an ISO of .088 and an extra base hit percentage of 21 percent, which are far from impressive. Yes, Galindo has tremendous speed and he's going to have the potential to beat out well-placed groundballs on a regular basis (especially since he's a switch hitter). On that same note though, if he can be able to hit the ball in the gaps, he could be a regular threat to be a 20-plus doubles and 15-plus triples guy on a regular basis. Galindo may never be a home run hitter and with his size, it would be hard for him to project as one too. But, with his speed, if he can garner even a little bit of gap power, then his ceiling as a hitter could be tremendous.

What to expect in 2012: At 21 years old, Galindo could start the year in San Jose, especially with Gary Brown and perhaps Jarrett Parker moving on to Richmond in 2012. It may be wiser to start him in Augusta, simply not to rush him, but he is a bit of an older prospect because he spent a couple of years in the DSL. Wherever he starts at in 2012, Galindo will be an interesting prospect to watch in 2012. He has incredible speed, solid plate discipline and a solid glove in the field. If he can continue to make contact in the Sally or Cal League like he did in the NWL, then the future could look very bright for Galindo and the Giants.

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