Friday, April 29, 2011

OTF's 32 Most Interesting Prospects: No. 27, Brock Bond, 2B

As a prospect, Brock Bond's ceiling has been a hot topic with many Giants fans. After all, he is 25 years old, has been in the minors since 2007 (he is starting is second year in Fresno), and his stats in the minors over five seasons are pretty impressive. His minor league career batting average is .308, his OBP is .406 and his OPS is .791 in 1,723 plate appearances. He has posted solid BB/K ratios throughout his minor league stops (he's never had a BB/K ratio under 0.65 going into this seasons, sans a 0.30 mark he had in Richmond where he only played 12 games), and he can occasionally steal a base here and there as well (46 stolen bases).

Unfortunately, while his numbers may suggest that he's an "under the radar" prospect, many experts and fans have a hard time buying the Bond hype. First off, he was a 24th round pick out of college, not necessarily a bad thing (a lot of late round picks have carved out good careers), but it illustrates that he didn't really have that high of a stock when he graduated from Missouri. Second, his slugging numbers have been questionable, as his career slugging percentage is .385 and he has only hit 93 extra base hits in his five seasons in the minors (he has only hit three home runs to boot). While not having much power doesn't bury him immediately, he still lacks the other complements or strengths of other "slap" hitters who have produced good careers in the Majors (e.g. he doesn't have much speed or base-stealing ability to make up for his lack of extra base hits).

Another issue with Bond is just the fact that he's playing at such a crowded position in the Giants system. Emmanuel Burriss has Major League experience. Charlie Culberson, Nick Noonan and Carlos Willoughby are guys in the minors who have more upside and money invested in them than Bond. And Freddy Sanchez seems to have a stranglehold on the position, as he just fresh off a contract extension as well. Even if Bond proves to be Major League ready, he might not get an opportunity with talent lingering in the lower minors and veterans ahead of him on the active roster (e.g. delving into Kevin Frandsen territory).

This year though, he is expected to be a major contributor to the Grizzlies' offense, which is still a good tag to have at this point (like I said, he's only 25 years old, so it's not like he's an older guy playing in Triple-A like a Tyler Graham or Edgar Gonzalez). While he isn't hitting too hot out of the gate (.213 average in 52 plate appearances), he is still showcasing the plate discipline (0.63 BB/K ratio) that made him such an interesting prospect when he was tearing it up in the Eastern League with the Connecticut Defenders (the Giants' Double-A affiliate at the time before they moved to Richmond last season).

To be honest, I ranked Bond this high mainly because I'm sympathetic with guys in his boat. Frandsen deserved a more serious shot and never got one despite putting up very good numbers in Fresno. Bond isn't like Frandsen in terms of his skill set (Frandsen has more power, but Bond is better in terms of getting on base). However, you can't deny the fact that they are in very similar situations, and if history repeats itself (and it often does in the Giants' minor league system...after all, Brian Sabean has been the general manager since 1997), Bond will most likely go through many of the same growing pains, flip-flopping constantly between Fresno and San Francisco (and that might be the best case scenario...he could be buried in Fresno more than Frandsen was).

Of course, you never know. Sanchez has had injury problems, as has Burriss and Mark Derosa, and God knows how effective Mike Fontenot will be as a backup infielder. If Bond gets a chance (and it is possible concerning the injury history and effectiveness of the middle infielders on the Giants active roster), maybe he can make the most of a callup ala "Eugenio Velez" style (e.g. a crazy ridiculous streak that garners him more playing time). Guys who get hits, get on base, showcase solid defense (which has been the report on Bond...good but not spectacular) and scores runs, then there will be a place for Bond on a Major League roster.

As a Giants fan, I would hope it would be on the Giants. (I want the Giants to develop and play their OWN players...isn't that the point of the farm system, really?). That being said, while I can be as optimistic as I want about Bond, it is probably a stretch he'll be a regular or even spot contributor in a Giants uniform at any point in the future.

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