The Top 40 Giants Prospects

Jesse Foppert (Getty Images/Jed Jacobsohn)

The San Francisco Giants' farm system continued to improve in 2002, as the rehabilitation of the farm system began to reach its end game.

The system was one of the worst in baseball five years ago. After years of neglect during the last financially troubled years at Candlestick park, it was bankrupt of talent, had terminated its Latin American Program, and had no low-level farm teams for the development of younger prospects. With the opening of PacBell park, the team began to turn the system around and has not looked back since. Since 2000, the Giants have started a rookie level team in the Arizona Rookie League, acquired a low-A team in the Sally league, re-established the Latin American program by re-opening their Dominican Republic Academy, and finally, in 2003, shedding a dead-end Texas League AA franchise for a significantly stronger Eastern League team. With this renovation has come a rise in the quality of the prospects possessed by the Giants. What was only 4 years ago one of the worst farms in baseball is now a top-ten system, possessing perhaps the best collection of pitching prospects in baseball.

Make no mistake about it, the Giants' strong point is pitching. They have every kind of pitching prospect you can think of: front of the rotation stoppers, back of the rotation junkballers, power righties, power lefties, bullpen arms of all kinds and descriptions. The drafts have emphasized pitching, and the minor league staffs are consistently strong performers. The system is light in position players, as one would expect from a franchise which has not had a top 15 draft pick since the early 90s, but the team has developed several draft strategies, such as scouting the Cape Cod League, two-sport players, and local Bay Area products to compensate, and they are beginning to see the first crop of Latin players in the lower minors.

Brian Sabean's prospect philosophy is that of a deal maker, and Giants fans never know from one week to the next whether top prospects will be exchanged for veterans needed to fill holes at the major league level. Nearly 80% of the key contributors on the Giants 2002 squad came to the Giants via either trade or free agency, and only a few (Russ Ortiz and Ryan Jensen) were home grown products–and more than anything, that statistic is a tribute to a thriving farm system that continues to produce trade value for big league need.

The Giants scouting system is one of the smallest in baseball, yet they continue to score in the early rounds. Giants V.P. of Player Personnel Dick Tidrow is one of the premier talent evaluators in the game. Assistant G.M. Ned Colletti and S.D. Matt Nerland have also contributed to finding diamonds in the rough or closing difficult prospects deals, such as Travis Ishikawa and Todd Linden. The most impressive thing I see is that although the Giants are very college player-focused on draft day, they have been quite successful with the high school players they've picked and, in particular, the early selections including Williams, Bonser, and Torcato. Director of Player Development Jack Hiatt has been with the club for 11 years, and the Giants have lined the "lean and mean" player development staff with experienced, capable minds that rank among the most respected and talented in the industry.

1. Jesse Foppert (P)  Age: 22  Ht./Wt.: 6-6/210   Bats/Throws: R/R
AA      ERA: 2.79    BB/SO: 21/74  SO/9: 11.2  Average Against:.199  IP 61
AAA   ERA: 3.99  BB/SO: 35/109  SO/9: 11.7  Average Against:.244  IP 79

If you are reading a prospect list, you already know about Jesse Foppert. Foppert is generally acknowledged as the premier pitching prospect in all of baseball. A second round draft pick in 2001, he dominated the NWL in his debut and was jumped straight to AA to start the 2002 Season. He finished 2002 at AAA, where he continued to show dominant stuff, before tiring towards the end of August. Foppert throws a mid-90s fastball that was clocked as high as 99 at AA, plus an excellent splitter and slider. His delivery has been described as flawlessly smooth and effortless, and bodes well for a long, injury free career. His change-up needs a little refining, but complements the fastball well, which despite its speed, has been described as ‘sneaky fast'. Foppert could pitch in the show today, but is still green, requiring more experience in the art of pitching before he will reach his potential as a "top of the rotation" starter. He will begin the season at AAA, but don't expect him to stay there long.

2. Jerome Williams (P)  Age: 21  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/185  Bats/Throws: R/R
AAA  ERA: 3.59  BB/SO: 50/130   SO/9: 7.2  Average Against:.234  IP 161

A first round pick in 1999, Williams has moved quickly through the system and was the youngest pitcher last year to reach the AAA level. He throws a 90-92 mph fastball, but can pitch it as low as 88 and high as 94 as the situation dictates. His change-up and curve are considered plus pitches, and he can also throw a slider for strikes, displaying poise and pitching savvy well beyond his years. Williams will return to AAA, and this should be an interesting year to follow him, as he has never before been granted the luxury by the Giants of pitching against players at his own level. A completely different style of pitcher than Ainsworth, he has a similar high ceiling and will join the San Francisco rotation no later than next year.

3. Kurt Ainsworth (P)  Age: 24  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/190  Bats/Throws: R/R
AAA  ERA: 3.41  BB/SO: 43/119  SO/9: 9.1  Average Against: .238  IP 116
ML     ERA: 2.10  BB/SO: 12/15    SO/9: 5.5  Average Against: .237  IP 26

A 1999 first round pick, Ainsworth has nothing left to prove after two strong years at AAA, so the Giants were so anxious to see him in the major league rotation after they gave Livan Hernandez a bums' rush out of town. Not that the extra time at AAA hurt him–Ainsworth has always pitched a touch tentatively, and the extra year at AAA taught him to trust his stuff more and challenge hitters. And he does have good stuff: A 92-94 mph 4-seam fastball, a sinker in the 88-90 range, a slider, a curve, and a change. All are major league quality pitches, and he can throw them all for strikes. An analogy would be Russ Ortiz with slightly better command.

4. Boof Bonser (P)   Age: 22   Ht./Wt.: 6-4/230   Bats/Throws: R/R
A+   ERA: 2.88   BB/SO: 70/139    SO/9: 10.0   Average Against: .195   IP 128
AA   ERA: 5.55    BB/SO: 14/23      SO/9: 9.0     Average Against: .316   IP 24

Possessing one of the best names in baseball, Bonser also possesses one of the best fastballs, which he used to dominate the Sally league in 2001 and the California League in 2002. A 200 first round pick, he got off to a rocky start in 2002 when the Giants inexplicably tried to rush him straight to AA, where he found he couldn't throw his curve and change for strikes. Redirected to San Jose, he responded with a no-hitter in his first appearance and ended with the second best era in the Cal league. He throws a mid-90s fastball, and though his curve and change-up need to be more consistent, but they are quality pitches when working. Bonser will take a second run at AA this year, but figures to be better prepared this time around.

5. Todd Linden (OF)  Age: 22  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/210  Bats/Throws: B/R
AA      AVG: .314  OBP: .419  SLG: .482  HR 12  RBI 52  AB 392
AAA   AVG: .250  OBP: .380  SLG: .380  HR 3    RBI 10  AB 100

A 2001 first supp round pick, Linden caught the Giants eye in the Cape Cod League, where he won the 2000 batting crown. His pro debut was delayed until 2002 because of contract issues, but he made up for it by tearing up Double-A and reaching Triple-A. Linden is a switch-hitter with 30-homer potential who sprays the ball around the field and is willing to draw walks, so he'll probably hit for average as well. He has a strong arm suited for right field. He runs well enough to get to balls in the outfield and steal bases if he's left unattended. Linden's stroke can get long, and he occasionally overswings; he needs work on his routes to fly balls, and there are a few questions about his mental make-up that linger. Linden finished 2002 in Triple-A and will return there this year.

6. Ryan Hannaman (P)  Age: 21  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/200  Bats/Throws: L/L
A   ERA: 3.99  BB/SO: 35/109  SO/9: 11.7  Average Against: .244  IP 132
A+  ERA: 3.99  BB/SO: 35/109  SO/9: 11.7  Average Against: .244  IP 6

A position player in high school, Hannaman didn't even know which side of the rubber to stand on when the drafted him as a pitcher in the 4th round of the 2000 draft. He's still raw, but he was the most improved player in the Giants system last year. His fastball is in the mid-90s, his slider is in the low-90s, and both have wicked movement. He needs to lose a little wildness and develop a change up, but his learning curve to date indicates that he should be able to do so, and he is young enough that the Giants shouldn't rush him. Hannaman is in the San Jose rotation this year.

7. Francisco Liriano (P)  Age: 19  Ht./Wt.: 6-2/180  Bats/Throws: L/L
A  ERA: 3.49  BB/SO: 31/85  SO/9: 9.1  Average Against: .210  IP 80

More polished than Hannaman but only slightly so, Liriano is the first fruit borne by the resurgent Dominican Academy. He too throws a mid 90s fastball but has cranked it up to 97 mph on occasion. His secondary pitches and approach to pitching need a lot of work, but Liriano is intelligent and mature for his age and should develop these skills in time. The one possible speed bump for Liriano is his health–he has been brittle his first two years, and the Giants are worried about whether he has the durability to be a starter, so at some point, he may be moved to the bullpen. Liriano will begin the year at San Jose and will move as fast as his health and learning curve allow.

8. Lance Niekro (3B)  Age: 24  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/210  Bats/Throws: R/R
AA  AVG: .310  OBP: .327  SLG: .424  HR 4  RBI 34  AB 297

The son of knuckleballer Joe Niekro and nephew of Phil Niekro, Lance is another Cape Cod League batting crown winner. Since being drafted in the 2nd round of the 1999 draft, he has had a minor league batting average over .310. Why isn't he higher on the list? Because he walks as often as a lunar eclipse, he's had injury problems in each of the last three season, and he has yet to develop home run power. There are some good signs: Niekro made a conscious effort in the AZL to work on his pitch selection, and he shows gap to gap power. What he really needs to become a top tier prospect is to stay healthy long enough to get some at bats. Niekro will start the season at AAA and should spend the entire season there or on the disabled list.

9. Noah Lowry (P)  Age: 22  Ht./Wt.: 6-2/190  Bats/Throws: L/L
AA  ERA: 2.10  BB/SO: 20/62  SO/9: 9.0  Average Against: .186  IP 59

Lowry was drafted in the first round of 2001. In his first two season he pitched only 80 innings, but this was more out of caution from concern at soreness from his being overworked than any major injury. When he throws, he has a 91-92 mph fastball complemented by an above average change, an excellent curve, and a cutter. Lowry will start 2003 at AA, but if he is healthy, he will be quickly promoted to AAA.

10. Tony Torcato (1B/OF)  Age: 23  Ht./Wt.: 6-1/190  Bats/Throws: L/R
AAA  AVG: .290  OBP: .330  SLG: .429  HR 13  RBI 64  AB 490
ML    AVG: .273  OBP: .273  SLG: .364   HR 0   RBI 00   AB 11

Drafted as a 3B out of high school in the first round of the 1998 draft, Torcato has become stalled at AAA. Although he has a superb batting stroke and could easily hit .270-.280 in the majors, he is limited by his lack of position. Injuries have permanently precluded him from remaining at 3B, and he has not taken as well to the outfield as the Giants had hoped and is currently being evaluated for a move to 1B. Regardless of where he ends up, Torcato hasn't shown the power necessary to be a corner outfield/ first base starter. Torcato was beat out by Rueben Rivera in spring training for the 5th OF position and returns to AAA, but you can expect him back up with the major league club as the first injury replacement, and he may stick for good as a 4th outfielder in 2004 if Marvin Benard moves on at the end of the year.

11. Matt Cain (P)  Age: 18  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/180  Bats/Throws: R/R
RA  ERA: 3.72  BB/SO: 11/20  SO/9: 9.0  Average Against: .197  IP 19

The Giants have a record of pulling surprises in the first round, often selecting players seen as second-round material by other clubs. They did this again in '02, picking Matt Cain. Cain throws in the mid-90s and could pick up another couple mph as he matures. His curve was a bit wild in the ARL, but he showed significantly better feel for his secondary pitches in instructional league. Cain will spend the year at low A Hagerstown, at which time we will see whether the Giants have again been a better judge of talent than conventional wisdom.

12. Fred Lewis (OF)  Age: 22  Ht./Wt.: 6-2/190  Bats/Throws: B/R
SA  AVG: .322  OBP: .396  SLG: .397  HR 1  RBI 23  AB 239

Though raw, Lewis is as close to a five tool player as you will find in the Giants system. He played more football than baseball in college before being taken by the Giants in the second round, but displayed a good eye in the NWL, hitting .322 and being named the best position prospect in the league. Though fast, he needs to learn how to use this speed to steal bases, and though he hit for average, he needs to work counts better and draw more walks. If he can correct these deficiencies, he has the makings of a fine center fielder. Lewis will start the season on the DL because of a broken bone, but should be in Hagerstown or San Jose in four to six weeks.

13. Jason Ellison (OF)  Age: 25  Ht./Wt.: 5-10/180  Bats/Throws: R/R
A+     AVG: .270  OBP: .325  SLG: .357  HR 5  RBI 40  AB 322
AAA  AVG: .311  OBP: .389  SLG: .408  HR 3  RBI 8    AB 196

Ellison was a 22nd round pick in 2000 out of Lewis and Clark College, the same college as Marvin Benard. Like Benard, he is one of those players that plays well beyond his natural ability, but he has better raw tools. Ellison jumped straight from A to AAA last year, put up pretty decent numbers at AAA, and continued to impress this spring. Ellison is a slap hitter with a little power, a fair amount of speed, and well-developed plate discipline. He can play all three fields and is developing into a decent lead-off hitter. Ellison will spend the entire season at AAA.

14. Travis Ishikawa (1B)  Age: 19  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/190  Bats/Throws: L/L
RA  AVG: .279  OBP: .364  SLG: .441  HR 1  RBI 10  AB 68
SA  AVG: .307  OBP: .347  SLG: .386  HR 1  RBI 17  AB 88

Ishikawa was stolen by the Giants in the 21st round of the 2002 draft. Projected to be a 2-3 round pick, he fell in the order because of a firm college commitment and pre-emptive statements relating to how large a signing bonus he would require. The Giants drafted him anyway, and after being offered 2nd round money he signed. He had an extremely successful debut, moving beyond the ARL to compete against college draftees in the NWL. Ishikawa has a good batting eye and a mature approach for his age. He shows good defense and good speed and is projected to develop above average power as he fills out. Look for Ishikawa to spend the year at Hagerstown.

15. Jesse English (P)  Age: 18  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/220  Bats/Throws: L/L
RA  ERA: 1.99  BB/SO: 17/78  SO/9: 14.4  Average Against: .194  IP 47

English dropped to the 6th round in the 2002 draft for no explicable reason, as he was projected to be drafted in the 2nd or 3rd. In his pro debut in the ARL, English established his change up as a strike out pitch, complementing it with a low-90s fastball and a curve. The Giants have kept English in Arizona for extended spring training, with the intention of sending him to the NWL when play begins in June.

16. Brad Hennessey (P)  Age: 23  Ht./Wt.: 6-1/185  Bats/Throws: R/R
Did not play

When drafted in the first round of 2001, Hennessey's slider was considered to be the best breaking ball in the draft, complemented by a 92-94 mph fastball. Hennessey's development came untracked last year when he needed to have a tumor removed from his back, and then had to have it removed a second time when it grew back. The report is that he is now healthy and in extended spring training. As his condition was not on his pitching shoulder, he has an excellent chance of getting back on track by the end of the year, however, with all the premium pitching in the Giants system already, there's no real need to rush him.

17. Merkin Valdez (P)  Age: 21  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/170  Bats/Throws: R/R
RA  ERA: 1.98  BB/SO: 12/76  SO/9: 9.2  Average Against: .193  IP 68

The Giants received Valdez as a throw in prospect in the Ortiz-Moss trade, and as throw in prospects go, he's pretty good. He throws his mid 90s fastball for strikes, and though his secondary pitches are raw, he shows the ability to learn and improve them. Valdez began the season Thursday in the Hagerstown rotation, and registered 12 strikeouts in 5 innings of shutout work.

18. Carlos Valderrama (OF)  Age: 25  Ht./Wt.: 6-0/180  Bats/Throws: R/R
A+  AVG: .314  OBP: .384  SLG: .569  HR 15  RBI 45  AB 299
AA  AVG: .244  OBP: .304  SLG: .370  HR 4   RBI 15  AB 135

Talk about injury-prone–Valderrama had less than 400 ABs between 1997-1999 due to various arm and back injuries. Finally, in 2000, he was healthy and put up a big season in Bakersfield. He had gotten off to a good start this past season at Shreveport before being sidelined with a torn rotator cuff. Last year, he bounced between DH duties in San Jose and Shreveport, because his shoulder hadn't healed sufficiently for him to play in the outfield. Valderrama is as close to a five-tool player as anyone in the Giant organization. His defense would allow him to play any of the OF positions including CF. He is reportedly now healthy, and if he could get past the injury issue, it's possible that he could be a solid #4 OF candidate by the end of the year. He'll start the season at Norwich.

19. Erick Threets (P)  Age: 21  Ht./Wt.: 6-5/240  Bats/Throws: L/L
RA  ERA: 6.67  BB/SO: 28/43  SO/9: 14.2  Average Against: .224  IP 28

Threets, a 7th round pick in 2000, has the best fastball in all of baseball. He throws it consistently at 99-100 mph, and has been clocked at 103. He also has no idea where it will go, no idea if on any given day he will be healthy enough to throw it, and no idea what a breaking ball is. Threets is the poster child for what Mike Krukow once described as "The brain dead heaver." If he could learn a little about pitching and improved his mechanics, he could become a superb closer, but he has a lot of improvement ahead of him. Expect Threets to return to San Jose.

20. Cody Ransom (SS)  Age: 27  Ht./Wt.: 6-2/190  Bats/Throws: R/R
AAA  AVG: .207  OBP: .283  SLG: .352  HR 13  RBI 46  AB 449

If Cody Ransom could learn just a little about plate discipline, he could be the next Neifi Perez. He has excellent defensive skills and could be a very good defensive short stop, except that his below-Mendoza line production is even lower than what is acceptable in a defensive replacement. At age 27, Ransom's time is about up, though the lack of any true SS prospects in the high farm means that he will get yet another chance to learn the art of plate discipline. Ransom will spend the year at AAA, but will get a call if Aurilia or Perez becomes injured.

21. Julian Benavidez (1B)  Age: 21  Ht./Wt.: 6-2/215  Bats/Throws: R/R
A  AVG:.265  OBP: .339  SLG: .413  HR 11  RBI 72  AB 465

Eyebrows were raised when the Giants drafted Benevides out of Diablo Valley Community College in the third round of 2001, but the surprise selection appeared to be well-made after he debuted with a .319 average in the NWL. His star dimmed considerably in 2002, when he displayed extremely poor plate discipline and took a step backwards defensively. On the positive side, when he did connect, the ball went a very long way, and well, nobody at Hagerstown appears to have been instructed in the art of plate discipline. This year Benevides will be in San Jose under the tutelage of new batting coach F.P. Santangelo, who knew how to draw a walk better than most, and Benevides is expected to shift over to 1B, which is better suited to his defensive abilities.

22. Jeff Clark(P)  Age: 23  Ht./Wt.: 6-6/240  Bats/Throws: R/R
A+  ERA: 2.05  BB/SO: 18/129  SO/9: 8.6  Average Against: .224  IP 140
AA  ERA: 5.05  BB/SO: 2/20      SO/9: 5    Average Against: .308  IP 36

After having the best era in the Sally league in 2001, the best era in the Cal League in 2002, and a gaudy BB/K ratio, it would be understandable Clark's low ranking earned some confusion. Clark is a control specialist whose fastball doesn't touch 90 mph. Control specialists like Clark often hit a wall in AA when they begin to face more disciplined and advanced hitters, so this will be an important year for discerning whether or not Clark is for real. Clark is scheduled to start in Norwich.

23. Dan Ortmeier (OF)  Age: 22  Ht./Wt.: 6-4/220  Bats/Throws: B/R
SA  AVG:.292  OBP: .352  SLG: .426  HR 5  RBI 31  AB 195

Ortmeier was drafted in the 3rd round last year, and though a shoulder injury resulted in his being shut down early, the Giants were very happy with him. He's a switch hitter with size, speed, and power, shows good plate discipline, and has center field defensive skills. He is starting the season at San Jose.

24. Greg Bruso (P)  Age: 23  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/190  Bats/Throws: R/R
RA  ERA: 1.99  BB/SO: 17/78  SO/9: 8.9  Average Against: .201  IP 81

Bruso was a 16th round pick last year, and though he doesn't have much of a fastball, he displayed extemely advanced pitching skills in the NWL, with the lowest era in the league. He has the ability to throw strikes and keep batters off balance. Bruso throws a low-90s fastball, a very good slider, which is his out pitch, and a changeup. As a 4-year college pitcher, he was drafted at an advanced age and so will go directly to the San Jose rotation.

25. Clay Hensley (P)Age: 23  Ht./Wt.: 5-11/190  Bats/Throws: R/R
RA  ERA: 2.53  BB/SO: 25/84  SO/9: 8.8  Average Against: .214  IP 81

Drafted in the 8th round last year, Hensley had an excellent debut in the NWL. Hensley's fastball is major league average, which he complements with a very good curve and a change. For a pitcher who relies on location, he has a high strikeout rate. He will start the season in the rotation at Hagerstown.

26. Jeff Urban (P)  Age: 26  Ht./Wt.: 6-8/240  Bats/Throws: L/L
RA  ERA: 3.41  BB/SO: 36/72  SO/9: 6.3  Average Against: .254  IP 103

Urban isn't a hard thrower, relying on pinpoint accuracy and his off speed pitches. Though he has not fulfilled his promise to become an established starter and has never fully recovered from the rotary cuff tear he suffered in 2001 during a pick-up basketball game, he is firmly established as the next bullpen lefty for the Giants after Christiansen, Eyre, and Zerbe, and he could end up in the major league bullpen if more than one goes down.

27. Joe Jester (2B)  Age: 24  Ht./Wt.: 5-10/180  Bats/Throws: R/R
AA  AVG: .279  OBP: .335  SLG: .437  HR 11  RBI 40  AB 359

A hard-nosed middle infielder that can hit the ball, Jester is another one of those players that won't impress the "tools" guys much. He really broke out at AA in 2001 and is defensively strong enough to play in the big leagues. His plate discipline is still a big concern, but it's improving. It's probably a longshot to picture Jester as more than a decent utility infielder in the majors, but the world needs spear carriers too.

28. Anthony Pannone (P)  Age: 21  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/220  Bats/Throws: R/R
RA  ERA: 3.11  BB/SO: 61/116  SO/9: 6.2  Average Against: .247  IP 168

A 16th round pick in 2000, Pannone showed a pretty good idea of how to pitch at Hagerstown last year. His fastball reaches 90-91 mph, but its is complemented by good sinking movement. He also throws a slider, a curve, and a change-up, sometimes even for strikes. He will be in the starting rotation in San Jose.

29. Doug Clark (OF)  Age: 27  Ht./Wt.: 6-2/205  Bats/Throws: L/R
AAA  AVG: .269  OBP: .330  SLG: .392  HR 54  RBI 19  AB 212

A 7th round pick in 1998, Clark continues to quietly hang around, putting up decent but not spectacular numbers. He has steadily risen through the system, and spent all of 2002 at AAA, which he should repeat. Still raw at 26, he played very little baseball before being drafted, and still could learn to hit with a bit more power.

30. Randy Walter (OF)  Age: 22  Ht./Wt.: 6-2/210  Bats/Throws: R/R
SA  AVG:.287  OBP: .342  SLG: .430  HR 6  RBI 40  AB 258

Selected in the 9th round last year, Walter displayed 5 tool skills in the NWL. He is expected to start the season in the Hagerstown outfield.

31. Angel Chavez (3B/SS)  Age: 21  Ht./Wt.: 6-1/180  Bats/Throws: R/R
A+  AVG: .257  OBP: .303  SLG: .372  HR 8  RBI 62  AB 471

Chavez is listed as a 3B, but he came up as a SS, and could be shifted back to that position. He has, to date, shown poor plate discipline and is another project at San Jose for F.P. Santangelo, but he has very good power when he does connect. This is, however, his third year in San Jose, so he needs to turn the corner now.

32. Trey Lunsford (C)  Age: 23  Ht./Wt.: 6-1/200  Bats/Throws: R/R
A+       AVG:.255  OBP: .321  SLG: .373  HR 1  RBI 5     AB 51
AA      AVG:.281  OBP: .379  SLG: .357  HR 1   RBI 20  AB 210
AAA   AVG:.175  OBP: .258  SLG: .281  HR 2   RBI 9    AB 57
ML     AVG:.667  OBP: .667  SLG: 1.00   HR 0   RBI 1    AB 3

Drafted in the 33rd round of 2000, Lunsford spent time at A, AA, AAA and with the major league club last year. His natural level was AA last year, and if you isolate his stats at that stop, his offense projects to be acceptable for a defensive catcher. Look for Lunsford to spend the year at AAA.

33. R.D.Spiehs (P)  Age: 23  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/220  Bats/Throws: R/R
A+  ERA: 3.66  BB/SO: 32/80  SO/9: 9  Average Against: .267  IP 84

A 33rd round pick in 2001, Spiehs showed good enough numbers at San Jose last year to earn him an invitation to the AFL. His fastball is average, topping out at 93 mph, but he has an effective sinker/slider combination to complement it. Look for Spiehs to be the closer at Norwich this year.

34. Daniel Portorreal (P)  Age: 21  Ht./Wt.: 6-2/180  Bats/Throws: R/R
RA  ERA: 3.00  BB/SO: 22/64  SO/9: 8.9  Average Against: .232  IP 72

Portorreal is a product of the Dominican Academy, who made his pro debut last year in the ARL, showing a mid-90's fastball. His curve needs some work, as does his changeup. Like all pitchers this young, he has a lot of development ahead, but the initial reports are promising. Portorreal has been pencilled into the Hagerstown starting rotation.

35. Jamie Athas (SS)  Age: 23  Ht./Wt.: 6-2/195  Bats/Throws: B/R
A+  AVG: .251  OBP: .328  SLG: .320  HR 1  RBI 40  AB 466

Athas is a left-handed hitting middle infielder who can run, throw, and hit for some power. The problem is that he tries to show off that power too often, which hurts his ability to make contact and contribute offensively. He struck out once every 3.8 at-bats in 2002 in high class A. The Giants hope Athas can get his swing under control, because the problem is more mental than mechanical, and he made some strides in instructional league. If he continues improving, he has a chance to rise quickly in a system thin with middle infielders.

36. John Thomas (P)  Age: 21  Ht./Wt.: 6-2/190  Bats/Throws: L/L
A+  ERA: 6.08  BB/SO: 22/29  SO/9: 14.4  Average Against: .329  IP 40

I could have easily listed Jack Trashner or Chris Jones in this position of the list, but I chose Thomas as the class representative of the Giants plethora of promising but injury-prone young lefties. Thomas blew out his elbow soon after being drafted in the second round of 1999 and required Tommy John surgery. Just as he was recovered last year, he suffered a shoulder injury and missed more time. When healthy, he has a good fastball, a very good change-up, and a curve.

37. Joe Horgan (P)  Age: 25  Ht./Wt.: 6-1/210  Bats/Throws: L/L
A funny thing happened to Joe Horgan this spring in the major league camp: he started throwing strikes. When he started throwing strikes, he suddenly became an effective bullpen pitcher. If he continues to throw his major league average fastball and sinker, he could pass Jeff Urban to be the next bullpen lefty at AAA.

38. Carlos Sosa (OF)  Age: 21  Ht./Wt.: 6-1/175  Bats/Throws: R/R
AA  AVG:.316  OBP: .386  SLG: .498  HR 5  RBI 33  AB 209

Sosa played in the AZL last year as Carlos Cleto, hitting .262-1-35. As part of the crackdown on age falsifications, his identification and date of birth were revealed, adding two years as well as a new last name. At the same time, he added some power and .054 points to his average, blossoming in his second season in Arizona. Sosa could hit 20-30 homers annually ,and he also shows good speed on the bases. He has good, raw power now, with center-field skills and a right-field arm. Sosa is slated to play this year in Hagerstown.

39. Mitch Walk (P)  Age: 24  Ht./Wt.: 6-2/195  Bats/Throws: L/L
AA  ERA: 2.89  BB/SO: 50/68  SO/9: 4.4  Average Against: .256  IP 124

As a quasi-finesse lefty starter last year, Walk had the best era in the Texas league. Like most finesse pitchers he gives up a fair number of hits but few hard hit balls and few runs. Thursday night, he pitched the season opener for Norwich and had, for him, a typical line: 5 innings pitched, 4 hits, no walks, no runs, 5 strikeouts. He's getting a little old for AA, but the AAA rotation is full.

40. Ryan Cox (P)  Age: 22  Ht./Wt.: 6-3/190  Bats/Throws: R/R
AA  ERA: 4.39  BB/SO: 32/72  SO/9: 4.4  Average Against: .266  IP 145

Drafted in the 5th round in 1999, Cox was in the starting rotation last year at Shreveport. While nothing special, he is effective enough to fill out many a major league bullpen. He will be starting again at AA this year.

Honorable Mention: Luis Estrella, Brion Treadway, Justin Knoedler, Sean McGowan, David Stone, Luke Nelson, Albert Montes, Aaron Sobieraj, Kevin Coreia, Jack Trashner, Luke Andersen


Abreviation Key

RA - Arizona Rookie League (Arizona Giants)
SA - North West Short Season League (Salem Kaiser Volcanoes)
A - South Atlantic League (Also Called Low A League)(Hagerstown Suns)
A+ - California League(Also Called High A League)(San Jose Giants)
AA - Eastern League (Norwich Navigators) (in 2002 Texas League Shreveport Swamp Dragons)
AAA - Pacific Coast League(Fresno Grizzlies)
AFL - Arizona Fall League

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