Top 10 Augusta GreenJackets prospects:
1. Chris Stratton
2. Kendry Flores
3. Joan Gregorio
4. Matt Duffy
5. Martin Agosta
6. Stephen Johnson
7. Jesus Galindo
8. Chuckie Jones
9. Tyler Mizenko
10. Mitch Delfino
Honorable Mention: Ian Gardeck
1. Chris Stratton: Stratton could have started his first full season as a pro in San Jose and been just fine, but luckily for me, I was able to watch all of his home starts in Augusta. Stratton began the season consistently in the low-90s with a few 94-95 in each start, and he ended up 89-93 by mid-August. He spotted his fastball well in most starts, keeping it low and away, and he was able to get by on higher fastballs at times.
Stratton's slider was a plus offering all season, showing excellent two-plane break and tight spin when diving away from right-handed batters. He also backdoored it at times with some success, and I expect that offering to consistently be there in the future. Stratton's slider is a true out pitch. At this level, you see pitchers flipping breaking balls and leaving them arm-side with loose spin sometimes, which is the definition of a lack of feel. Stratton just didn't do it, or if he did, it was rare. He has true feel for the pitch.
Stratton's changeup developed some, although it still needs some work. It has good separation and sinking action, and he shows a decent feel for it, but his body slows some, and it's not always as low in the zone as he'd like. With more work, I think it has the makings of an average pitch, but it's not there yet.
Stratton's curveball is more of a token offering in the later innings, but it's there if he needs it during a third trip through an order. It's fringe-average based on inconsistent command, as he sometimes spins it early out of the hand or chokes it in the dirt. It does have a good change of pace from the slider, but the spin isn't as tight, and I think command isn't quite the same. It has average potential.
One reason I know for why Stratton's velocity decreased slightly was his tendency to go to a two-seamer late in the season. It took a tick or two off the gun, but he made up for it with good downward movement and an increase in ground balls. It's just another option for him if he needs it.
The one big thing about Stratton that Giants fans might want to log in the memory bank for the next few years is his ability to work inside to batters. The GreenJackets coaching staff rode him on this during the season, because it's something he will have to do more often in the higher levels. To this point in his career, including college, Stratton has lived on the outside corner and gotten away with it, but a pitcher has to establish the inner half to make it against advanced competition, and Stratton will have to adapt. He showed glimpses of this during the season, and was at his best when he did so, but it wasn't often enough. It might take a few less-than-stellar outings in a higher level for him to establish inside on a more consistent basis.
2. Kendry Flores: I can't make the claim that Flores made the biggest strides of any player in the Giants system, because I don't have the ability to watch every Giants minor league game, but he has to be near the top of the list. He definitely made the most strides of any GreenJackets player.
Flores had plus command/control all season, and that was the No. 1 reason for his success. He spotted the ball better than any pitcher on the staff, and he walked only 17 in 141.2 innings. He has a good motion that allows for consistent command, and his frame held up over his first full season.
Flores throws a low-90s fastball with tailing action, and his two-seamer runs arm-side very well. He commands it well to the outside corner, but he still needs to work inside more. The effectiveness of his curveball and changeup wavered back and forth over the season, with one coming up big at times, then the other doing the same in his next outing. But his changeup has the better potential.
Flores' changeup fades very well and has good separation, and his command of the pitch is enough to where it could pitch a tent on the outside corner and camp there for days. It's an effective out pitch against left-handed batters, which is why he had a reverse split this season and will probably do the same in the future. Based on his command of the pitch, Flores' changeup is a plus-potential offering.
His curveball comes and goes based on feel. When it's on, Flores can dive it away from right-handed batters with tight spin and late break. But sometimes he loses feel and it spins early and arm-side. It's an average pitch.
Flores' stuff won't wow anyone, and it wasn't even the best in the GreenJackets rotation, but his command/control profile is outstanding. If his changeup continues to develop and his curveball is right behind, Flores can find success in the upper levels and reach a 4-5 ceiling.
3. Joan Gregorio: Gregorio might be the lankiest pitcher I've ever seen. No matter how much he fills out, he will forever be lanky with height disproportionate to his weight. Yet, he's able to maintain good command/control despite that and the subsequent unrepeatable delivery.
Gregorio has different arm slots and finishes; you're likely to see at least two arm slots per game. It's the result of his body, as long limbs make it difficult to repeat mechanics. Despite this, he allowed just 17 walks in 69.2 innings this season, and he showed good command for most of the season.
Another result (however direct or indirect it is) of his body is an increased worry surrounding his health. He missed a good part of the season because of an oblique injury. Whether that is because of his frame or just a freak injury, you can't tell. But people will point back to his body anyway. He also missed time with a blister problem, but that's a freak thing which can happen to anyone.
Getting past his body, Gregorio has a low-90s fastball that ran up to 95 at times, with some movement. He was pretty neutral in the batted-ball department, so his fastball didn't induce a lot of ground balls despite some tailing action. He commanded it well, especially to the arm side.
His secondaries were on a similar level to Flores, with his changeup showing plus potential and the slider flashing wipeout ability in an inconsistent way. Gregorio's changeup has deception because of the long arm action, and it gets natural tail like his fastball. He keeps it down in the zone well. The feel on his slider is inconsistent, but the movement is worthy of a plus-potential tag of its own. When he gets the two-plane break he desires, it's a wipeout pitch, but it doesn't occur often enough. With more work, he could have two plus-potential secondaries and reach a 3 ceiling, but questions will linger about his frame.
4. Matt Duffy: I've written extensively about Duffy this season just because I have a soft spot in my heart for college products who play the game hard and have the instincts to make their tools play up. As I wrote in my best tools recap for print, Duffy's overall profile won't drop jaws, but he's a steady contributor who should continue to climb the ladder based on an overall advanced feel for the game.
Perhaps Duffy's best tool is speed, as he stole 22 bases in 78 games for the GreenJackets. He did make a few mistakes on the basepaths that causes his overall run tool to drop some, but the tool should always be an advantage for him. Also an advantage is his approach, which is advanced as a college product. He knows how to walk and picks up spin pretty well.
Duffy's hit tool is above average at best, but it should never hinder him in the upper levels. He can spray the ball with some authority, but any real raw comes to the pull side. He's a gap to gap guy. His defensive profile is solid average, with pretty good hands and solid range, while his arm is enough to stick at shortstop. He has enough to stay at the position, in my opinion.
As I said, Duffy won't wow you with tools, but he's a hard-nosed player with a feel for the game and an approach at the plate. That's enough to get you to the upper levels, and his type of profile often makes it in utility form. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
5. Martin Agosta: I might have written more words about Agosta than anyone on the team this season, because he fought injuries all season and had one of the more interesting seasons on the mound. He recorded an outstanding 2.06 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 91.2 innings. He also walked 43 and never regained feel after his most recent disabled list stint. It was an up and down year.
Agosta showed many times why he's a second-round pick. He threw a plus-potential fastball in the low-90s that ramped up to 95 on occasion early in the year. That included an ability to both tail and cut the ball. However, a dead arm and blister issues caused a few DL stints, and by the end of the season, he was throwing high-80s with a lack of movement.
Agosta's slider is a plus offering, showing excellent two-plane break and tight spin away from right-handed batters. He also showed the ability to back-foot it on lefties, but he never gained a real feel for backdooring it. He lost feel for the pitch late in the season and nearly lost the pitch entirely in his final outing.
Agosta's changeup needs to take a step forward in development soon. He showed flashes of a quality offering, but it wasn't enough to make it more than a fringe-average pitch. There was a lack of feel for it, and different grips didn't lead to much progress.
I try to temper negative words about Agosta's season, because the numbers were so good. His fastball/slider combination dealt many blows to SAL batters, and he stayed near the top of the league in strikeout percentage all season beacause of it. On the other hand, he had injuries, didn't finish well and never gained a true feel for his changeup.
I wouldn't be the first to slap a reliever tag on Agosta if I were inclined to do so. Some scouts labeled him as such when he was drafted. His 2013 season didn't do him any favors in avoiding the label. If I'm the Giants, I'm keeping him in the rotation as long as possible, but at some point the discussion might have to be made.
6. Stephen Johnson: Had a strikeout percentage above 30 percent thanks to a plus wipeout slider that might have the been the best pitch on the GreenJackets staff. He pumped mid-90s heat all season and came back from a sore right shoulder to have his best outings after extended rest. Johnson has late-inning potential if he can limit the walks even a little.
7. Jesus Galindo: Galindo's speed was probably the best tool among position players this season. He stole 48 bases and was efficient at doing so, getting caught only six times. Galindo has 40 or more steals in four consecutive seasons. If he can stay healthy and get on base in the upper levels, he has a future as a fourth outfielder/second-division guy.
8. Chuckie Jones: I was asked more questions about Jones than any other position player this year. He has tools, flashing above-average raw and run, and that's a pretty nice combination to have. The problem is putting the rest of his game together. He strikes out a lot and struggles picking up spin, although a 10 percent walk rate helps offset it some. His defense in right field isn't quite on par with the rest of his tools, although he does have pretty good range. He isn't an efficient basestealer, although that can come with time. So Jones has these abilities if he can tap into them more, and that's the story for 99 percent of all minor leaguers.
9. Tyler Mizenko: Mizenko was the best reliever in the league for much of the season, and he was named as such by Baseball America. But he ran into bad luck, mental blocks and a need for rest down the stretch, which threw some of his second half out the window. Mizenko had some of the best movement on the staff, throwing a hard sinker that touched mid-90s and induced tons of ground balls. He paired it with a solid slider that got swinging strikes. He has a future late-inning role in the upper levels, provided BABIP is on his side.
10. Mitch Delfino: Delfino led the team with 13 home runs and came around in the second half to produce pretty good numbers. He never showed a real ability to walk in Augusta, and he often relied on BABIP for his success. But he also has above-average raw and tapped into it in-game fairly often in the second half. His defense is fringe-average at third, so he will need to develop solid in-game power to climb the ladder.
Honorable Mention - Ian Gardeck: Gardeck deserves this mention based on how he looked down the stretch. His numbers won't wow you, but Gardeck had some of the best stuff the bullpen had to offer, throwing mid-90s heat with downward movement and a very good slider to pair it with. Gardeck struggled with control, but the potential is there as a middle reliever with a very quick arm and heavy fastball.