Memories of the 2008 Augusta GreenJackets squad were brought back when the Giants' Low-A team revealed their 2016 opening-day roster on Friday. The teams, separated by almost a decade now, are similar in both age and breadth of prospect talent. The group will consist of one 18-year-old, four 19-year-olds, and even three more that are just 20. By comparison, the 2008 team had one 17-year-old (Angel Villalona!), one 18-year-old, two 19-year-olds, and four who had just reached their 20s. With an average age of 21.5, the current batch of prospects playing in Augusta will be just a few notches below the 21.9 average of 2008.
Madison Bumgarner led the charge eight years ago for the GreenJackets, posting a ridiculous 1.46 ERA, 0.932 WHIP, and 7.81 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 141.2 innings. According to Baseball America, he was the No. 3-ranked prospect in the organization. Villalona was the top dog for the Giants, getting 500 plate appearances that year before he could legally buy cigarettes, while Nick Noonan (ranked 6th at the time) picked up 139 hits in what was his first full season as a pro.
Off to the South Atlantic League to prep for the team's season opener at Rome on April 7 are two from Baseball America's current top-10 list, three more inside the MLB's top-30, and 12 players drafted less than a year ago. Here's a preview of the starting rotation:
- RHP Phil Bickford
- RHP Michael Santos
- RHP Cory Taylor
- RHP Logan Webb
- LHP Mac Marshall
- RHP Michael Connolly
Bickford will be the main attraction. The No. 3-ranked prospect and 2015 first-round pick will look to prove that he belongs as a starter, as many see him becoming a reliever down the road. Low-to-mid 90s fastballs, both four and two-seam, a well-groomed slider, and a work-in-progress changeup make up this lanky right-hander.
Santos (video here) may disappoint some because he's repeating in Augusta, but keep in mind that he turns 21 in May and he missed a good chunk of time in 2015 with arm soreness. I, as well as GreenJackets beat writer David Lee, am high on Santos. The fastball/curveball combination is potentially a special mix and should continue to progress with age and maturity, and maybe some muscle.
Speaking of Lee, be sure to take a look at his wonderful write-up of Santos from last season.
Taylor, a 2015 eighth-round selection out of Dallas Baptist, caught my eye more than just because he was the first player I watched last week at minor league spring training. At his size, 6'2" and just over 250 pounds, he has the potential to be an innings-eater if they decide to put him in the rotation. He didn't log a start in 2015 with Salem-Keizer, but I expect to see him revert back to a role he excelled in during his final year in college. He pitched five or more innings ten times while maintaining a 3.50 ERA before hitting the draft board last June. Observe the potency of his slider in the video below.
Rounding out the potential starters are 19-year-old Logan Webb (video here), Mac Marshall (last year's fourth-round pick), and Michael Connolly, who transitioned into taking on more starter-type innings in 2015.
Backing up the rotation in the bullpen are:
- RHP Tyler Cyr
- RHP Ryan Halstead
- RHP Connor Kaden
- RHP Ryan Koziol
- RHP Jake McCasland
- RHP Matthew Pope
- RHP Heath Slatton
- LHP Caleb Smith
- LHP Grant Watson
Cyr, a Northern California native, is the highest draft selection of the group, being taken in the 10th round this past June. (Note: I have video of him, as well, but have yet to uplaod). He's making his return to Augusta after pitching just over 17 innings there in 2015.
Here's where it gets good. The projected starting lineup:
- C Matt Pare
- 1B Skyler Ewing
- 2B Lucius Fox
- SS Jalen Miller
- 3B Kelvin Beltre
- LF Gustavo Cabrera
- CF Seth Harrison
- RF Dylan Davis
- DH Dillon Dobson
Honestly, your guess is just as good as mine when it comes to projecting that lineup. There is very little third-base experience with their seven listed infielders. The Giants are sending a heavy dose of middle infield prospects to Augusta and it will be interesting to see how and where the pieces are moved.
The big-ticket items are certainly young shortstops Fox and Miller — who are 18 and 19, respectively. My guess is that Miller will get more looks at short than Fox, but others claim Miller projects more to an eventual second baseman. Miller's defense has always been the talk, but McCovey Chronicles minor league specialist Roger Munter and I witnessed a set of strong, lightning-fast hands and were even lucky enough to catch his first professional home run.
Over at first base you have Ewing, who had a promising start to his pro career with Salem-Keizer in 2014 but fell victim to the notorious South Atlantic hitter's slump a year later.
Cabrera is the well-documented comeback-kid, profiled by Giant Potential in 2015 and Andrew Baggarly in 2016. He signed for 1.3 million in 2012, and will be making his highly-anticipated full-season debut next week. All eyes will be on the box scores.
Geraldo is notable in that he makes the jump straight from two years in the Dominican Summer League to full-season ball in the United States as a 19-year-old.
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