No. 16: Ricky Oropesa, First Base
Overall Grade: C+
Projection: Starting first baseman; at worst, pinch hitter off the bench.
Summary: A third round pick by the Giants in the 2011 draft, Oropesa has some big upside as a potential power threat, but carries a size-able amount of risk. A physical specimen at six-foot, three inches and 225 pounds, Oropesa has the look and some of the plus tools of a future home-run mashing first baseman. He hit 40 home runs total in his career at USC and posted a career slugging of .596 and OPS of 1.007 as a collegian. Furthermore, he has had moments where he had just wowed scouts in person, with his most eye-popping feat being a home run he absolutely crushed off of UCLA's Gerrit Cole, the eventual No. 1 pick in last year's draft.
And yet, despite the power and solid, Big-League frame, Oropesa for the most part comes off as a bit of a one-trick pony. The scouting reports on his defense are average at best, he doesn't sport a lot of speed on the basepaths or in the field (pretty much limiting him to first base or a corner outfield position), and he isn't expected to hit for much average as a professional either. Yes, his career collegiate batting average is .331, but he only posted a contact rate of 77 percent as a collegian, and in 2010 in the Cape Cod, he only hit .222 in 153 at-bats with 52 strikeouts to boot.
For better or worse, a lot of Oropesa's stock and projection as a prospect weighs on his ability to hit for power as a professional. Hence, the amount of risk weighing on that one tool really prevents me from thinking he's a Top-15 prospect in the Giants system at this point (and he didn't sign in time to get any time in Rookie Ball or the Northwest League, so that also hurt his rating since he hasn't been exposed to professional pitching yet). That being said, even though he had a down year his junior year at USC (he only hit 7 home runs after belting 13 and 20 his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively, though I imagine the change in bats had something to do with the regression in power numbers), he did hit a league-high seven home runs in the Cape, so Oropesa certainly has the ability to hit for power with wooden bats.
What to Expect in 2012: Oropesa will always be susceptible to strikeouts because of his long, uppercut swing. That being said, he has a good eye at the plate (career 0.59 BB/K ratio, with it being 0.65 and 0.63 the past two years at USC) and that could make up for the amount of whiffs Giants fans will see in the minors from him. He definitely has Carlos Pena-esque potential, as it seems like his power is legitimate and he could post good OBP numbers that will make up for the low averages (I don't see Oropesa projecting to be more than a .250 hitter in the Majors). Of course, we have seen offensive-heavy collegiate prospects flame out before (Eddy Martinez-Esteve being the biggest recent example), but Oropesa does have some good ceiling, and if he can mash home runs on a consistent basis that are in a similar mold to the one he rocked off Cole in college, then he could make some noise in the Giants system. It is likely that the Giants will take a slower route with him, like power hitting third base prospect Chris Dominguez, and start him off in Augusta. However, he could start off the year in San Jose if he makes an impressive enough impression on the Giants brass this Spring (though with Angel Villalona starting the year in San Jose, that is probably unlikely).
No. 17: Mike Kickham, Left-handed pitcher
Overall Grade: C+
Projection: No. 3-5 starting pitcher
Summary: Mike Kickham entered the Giants as somewhat of a sleeper prospect after being drafted in the 6th round in the 2010 MLB Draft. A polished college pitcher from Missouri State, Kickham has the size and frame of a starting pitcher with Major League potential. Kickham made a lot of noise in the Summer Collegiate League circuit after having a great campaign in the MINK League (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas College summer league) where he went 3-0 with a 0.29 ERA in 24 innings of work. He also struck out 42 batters and only allowed 7 walks for the Sedalia Bombers that summer (good for a K/BB ratio of six). Though his summer in the MINK was cut short due to the Giants drafting him in the sixth round, it was a nice campaign that got Kickham on many prospect experts' radar.
While Kickham's traditional numbers didn't impress in college (he posted a 4-9 record with a 5.25 ERA and 1.36 WHIP), he did show solid command (3.43 K/BB ratio) and ability to rack up strikeouts (9.66 K/9) in 96 innings pitched his sophomore year with the Bears. He did prove to be hittable at times (9.47 H/9), but for the most part, sans the ERA and W-L record, Kickham did have a lot going for him in his last year as a collegian.
In his first full professional season in the Sally, the same problems seemed to hound Kickham in Augusta. He didn't post a great W-L record (not totally his fault, since the Green Jackets were one of the worst offensive teams in the Giants system and the Sally is tough on hitters) and he still allowed a lot of hits (9.0 H/9) in 111.2 innings pitched. However, he transitioned his impeccable command to Single-A (2.78 K/BB ratio), and got better as the year progressed. Dr. B of When the Giants Come to Town said this about Kickham in his Top 50 rankings profile (where Kickham also ranked No. 17):
"Mike Kickham continued a pattern from college of posting peripheral numbers that look much better than his ERA. What's encouraging about Kickham's performance for Augusta is he got progressively stronger as the season went along. Over his last 10 starts, he went 4-5, 3.25, 55.1 IP, 13 BB, 40 K, GO/AO=2.36. He really turned it on over his last 6 starts starting August 5: 3-3, 2.23, 36.3 IP, 5 BB, 25 K."
Kickham was a bit old for the Sally at 22, but he has all the tools you would want from a starting pitcher. He has an enticing frame at six-foot, four-inches and a 190 pounds, and his fastball sits in the 92-94 MPH range according to reports. Also, Kickham sports a curve ball, slider and a changeup, so his four pitch repertoire bodes well for his future as a starting pitcher.
What to Expect in 2012: Kickham most likely will start the year in San Jose, which will be a challenge for him considering the hitter-friendly environments of the California League. Kickham does induce a lot of groundballs (thanks to his breaking pitches), but how he avoids contact will be a big factor for him in terms of whether her progresses or regresses as a prospect in High-A. His strikeouts per nine numbers were solid last year (8.3), but they weren't spectacular by any stretch. Kickham's strong finish last year provides a lot of hope for the future, and with his frame, there is hope that he can gain more velocity as he fills out into his body (which hopefully will help his ability to strike batters). Overall, there is a lot to like about Kickham, and I think he has more upside than an Eric Surkamp, who had amazing command and strikeout ability, but lackluster tools. That being said, Surkamp dominated in the Cal League, and Kickham needs to do the same in 2012 if he wants to really gain steam as a prospect in the Giants system.
No. 18: Seth Rosin, right-handed pitcher
Overall Grade: C+
Projection: No. 4-5 starting pitcher; most likely a bullpen arm, maybe a setup guy
Summary: Another former Green Jacket, Rosin is a powerful right handed arm that struck out guys in bunches in the Sally last season. Much like Kickham, Rosin entered the draft as a polished college arm out of the University of Minnesota. In his last year with the Golden Gophers, the six-foot, five-inch right hander went 9-4 with a 4.72 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a 95 strikeouts in 103 innings pitched.
Like Kickham, the ERA numbers didn't impress, but Rosin's excellent command in college (7.92 K/BB ratio) prompted the Giants take him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. After striking out 9 batters and allowing 9 hits in an 11 inning-stint in Salem Keizer in 2010, Rosin had a good year in his first full professional season in Augusta. He appeared in 39 games and made 10 starts with the Green Jackets, pitching 89 innings total in 2011. Despite the inconsistency in roles, he still posted good numbers, as he finished the year with a 3.34 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and a K/BB ratio of 3.10.
As evidenced by him striking out 95 batters in 89 innings, his ability to strike batters out makes Rosin an intriguing prospect. He sports a 92-94 MPH fastball, a a 72-76 MPH curveball and a changeup that sits in the 81-84 MPH, according to a scouting report by John Klima of the Baseball Prospect report. While his curve ball and changeup still need a lot of work, his lively fastball and impeccable command should carry him as a prospect as he moves up in the Giants system.
He has a big frame, but at 235 pounds, his size probably projects him to be more of a bullpen arm rather than a rotation guy. I just don't think he will have the stamina to pitch 150 plus innings in his professional career. Furthermore, his three pitch repertoire also limits his potential to be a consistent play in the rotation. That being said, if he can get into better shape and develop his pitches, he could have end of the rotation or spot-starter potential.
What to Expect in 2012: Rosin will join Green Jacket teammate Kickham in San Jose, most likely starting in the bullpen (though it is possible that he could get an end of the rotation spot). Rosin is a big, powerful arm who has great stuff and even better command. Much like Kickham, he's a bit of an older prospect, but he has held his own as a professional thus far. The Cal League will be a challenge for him, but his command is a bit better than Kickham's at this point, so the transition should be less arduous for Rosin than Kickham. It'll be interesting to see what the Giants do with Rosin (either make him a starter or reliever), but either way, he has the tools to be a player in the Giants pitching staff in a couple of years.
No. 19: Jarrett Parker, Outfielder
Overall Grade: C
Projection: Utility outfielder; maybe a Major League backup
Summary: Parker came into the Giants system with some lofty hype after posting a .333/.428/.593 slash with 10 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 243 at-bats in his final season at the University of Virginia in 2010. The Giants selected the polished, athletic collegian in the second round of the 2010 draft. The selection of Parker, along with first round pick Gary Brown, showed the Giants commitment to acquiring more position prospects who could move quickly in the minor leagues.
Much like Brown, Parker started his first full season in San Jose. Unlike Brown though, Parker struggled in his first year, though his numbers weren't terrible by any means. Parker did flash a lot of speed in his first year, as he stole 20 bases in 25 attempts, and he did display a good eye at the plate, as evidenced by his .360 OBP and 13 percent walk percentage. However, Parker struggled to put the bat on the ball consistently in High-A ball, as he struck out 144 times (a 25.2 percent rate) and posted a contact rate of 70.4 percent.
Hitting for average as a professional may be a struggle for Parker (even in college his contact rate was under 80 percent), and that was evidenced by his .253 average in San Jose. That being said, his plate approach and ability to get on base could maximize his value, especially considering his skill on the basepaths. In terms of power, he did sport some pop at the University of Virginia (26 home runs combined his last two years with the Cavs), and in his first year in San Jose, as evidenced by his 13 home runs and 33 percent extra base hit percentage. His power probably projects more as gap to gap power rather than pure home run power, but with his speed, the ability to hit the ball to the gaps will only maximize his value as a prospect.
Defensively, Parker has been graded as a plus defender, as Jonathan Mayo in his 2010 Draft Day scouting report of Parker said that he had plus defender skills and range to be a good center fielder (though he did note that he had below average arm strength). Statistically though, Parker will have to work on some things, as he did commit 10 errors and posted sub-2 range factors at every position he played in 2011 (though he may have been playing out of position in San Jose, as he mostly played right with Brown in center).
What to Expect in 2012: Parker's stock took a big hit in 2011, though to be honest, he's kind of been on a bit of a downward trend since his phenomenal 2009 where his team bested a Stephen Strasburg-led San Diego State team in the NCAA Regionals (he was rated as the top prospect going into the Cape Cod in 2009 and he struggled in the Cape). Parker will probably begin the year in San Jose again, though that might not be a bad thing, for he will probably play more at his natural position of center field and he could use some more time to hone his approach at the plate and cut down on the strikeouts. Overall, Parker is a great athlete and baserunner, and his careful eye at the plate should produce .340-plus OBPs wherever he should go in the Giants system. If he gets off to a hot start in his second year in the Cal League, it wouldn't be surprising to see him join classmate Brown at Double-A Richmond at some point in 2012. That being said, the Giants will need to see significant progress from Parker in San Jose before they rush him up to Double-A.
No. 20: Chris Dominguez, Third Base
Overall Grade: C
Projection: Utility corner infielder; could be a career minor league player if approach doesn't improve
Summary: A 3rd round pick by the Giants in the 2009 draft, Dominguez came in with some high expectations after mashing at Louisville in college. He was one of the best hitters in the Big East, leading the conference in batting average his last two seasons, while also displaying considerable power as a collegian (he hit 46 home runs combined his last two years, and also posted extra base hit percentages of 39.6 and 43.8 percent his junior and senior years, respectively). Hence, the Giants figured Dominguez would be a fast-moving prospect in their system after playing four years with the Cardinals.
However, Dominguez moved slowly in the Giants system, starting in Augusta his first full year in 2010 (at 23 years old, he was old for the league). While he did flash some home run power potential (he hit 21 home runs in 608 plate appearances), he struggled with pitch recognition and plate discipline with the Green Jackets. Mike Newman of Fangraphs and Scouting the Sally said this about Dominguez in his scouting report following the 2010 season:
"After watching him play, I referred back to a scouting report on Dominguez by Frankie Piliere back in 2008 to find little had changed in the two years since that report was written. Dominguez seemed like the same player he was as a junior in college which leaves me questioning his ability to adjust at a more advanced age than the average “Sally” prospect."
Newman noted his plate discipline issues, especially when he saw breaking pitches. Newman said that Dominguez had "significant problems adjusting to breaking pitches; Even below average breaking balls gave him fits." Despite these issue, with his power, size and arm strength, a lot of experts out there were still high on Dominguez after the 2010 season despite his advanced age for the level.
Dominguez made the transition to San Jose in 2011, and predictably (considering the hitter-friendly confines), he did well in the Cal League, posting a slash of .291/.337/.465 with an .802 OPS and 11 home runs in 279 plate appearances. The strong start in San Jose prompted the Giants to promote Dominguez to Richmond, and he got off to a fast start (he was named Eastern League player of the week after hitting .458 with a home run, seven doubles, a triple and eight RBI during the week ending June 26th). However, he struggled as EL pitchers adjusted to him, as he finished the year with a slash of .244/.272/.403 with a .675 OPS and seven home runs in 313 plate appearances in his tenure with the Flying Squirrels.
Tools wise, Dominguez may be the most impressive third base prospect in the Giants system. His power and arm are rated as plus tools by scouts, and at six-foot, three inches and 215 pounds, Dominguez has a big frame and some decent athleticism for his size (though defensively his range is graded as below average). His plate approach seems to be the key to whether or not he will become a future Major League player, as he is known for posting a lot of strikeouts with little walks to counter them (he has a career BB/K ratio of 0.21). Even if he does have "Major-League" power, many wonder if Dominguez will make enough contact as a professional (career minor league contact rate of 74 percent) to ever make use of it.
What to Expect for 2012: At 25 years old, Dominguez is one year away from his "peak" year. So far, he has flashed some promising signs (his San Jose campaign, 21 home runs in the Sally, his fast start in Richmond), but for the most part, the negatives of his game (lackluster plate approach, below-average defensive skills, older age for levels played) have outweighed the positives in my mind. Tools-wise, as stated before, he may be better than any other third base prospect in the Giants system (and I'm including Conor Gillaspie). However, I just don't know if he has the plate discipline to adjust to better pitching. His BB/K ratio was an atrocious 0.12 in Richmond last year, and his contact rate was also sub-average at 74 percent. To me, that isn't the sign of a replacement level Major League player, let alone a Major League starting one. Dominguez most likely will start again at Double-A to improve his approach, but he will need to make major strides in his second year in the Eastern League. If he can improve and be more patient at the plate, he could salvage his status a little bit, but I would say at his age, the chips are heavily stacked against him.