4. Sam Coonrod
Drafted out of Southern Illinois in the 5th round of 2014's draft, Sam Coonrod emerged onto the top prospect scene last season with breakout numbers for Class-A Augusta. You'll notice a bit of uniqueness to his delivery, beginning a bit slower and then exploding off the mound toward hitters. This makes his mid-90s fastball, with some sink, appear quicker, which he then counters with an above-average slider than breaks hard almost straight down. He continues to develop his changeup — a pitch that may ultimately decide whether he remains in the rotation or moves to the bullpen. At age 23, Coonrod may be too advanced for the California League and may find himself promoting to Richmond in 2016.
5. Lucius Fox
Long way to go for 18-year-old Lucius Fox, and he'll get a tough assignment with an Augusta GreenJackets placement for his first pro season. Athleticism is his greatest asset, which translates to make other aspects of his game well above-average. His plus speed allows him to reach usually unreachable ground balls as a shortstop, as well as be a potent base stealer. However, some say his quickness doesn't correlate as well as it should in terms of defense. Some even see outfield in his future. His development over the next two to three years should straighten those opinions out. Fox is a switch hitter, and displays slightly better power from the left side, but otherwise both sides are comparable.
6. Clayton Blackburn
Clayton Blackburn is a bonafide finesse pitcher. The Oklahoma high-school product has displayed a balanced approach of, at times, five different pitches in his five minor league seasons. He throws predominantly a two-seam fastball/curveball/changeup combination, with the two-seam and changeup both having good downward, sinking action. He evolved a project cutter into a slider that he now uses consistently. The 12-6 curve is his best pitch, and it continues to improve. Blackburn lives in the lower part of the zone, and while he can show strikeout material, his game is producing ground balls. His Triple-A debut in 2015 at age 22 was remarkable, leading the PCL in ERA at 2.85. The path from Sacramento to San Francisco is short for Blackburn.