Brown, pitchers highlight Giants' prospects

Brown, pitchers highlight Giants' prospects

Brown, pitchers highlight Giants' prospects
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have a wealth of knowledge about their top prospects, and for good reason.

Each of the organization's top 10 players listed on MLB.com's Prospect Watch is a veteran of at least one Major League Spring Training camp, which has further exposed each of these players to scrutiny and evaluation.

For example, Double-A Richmond center fielder Gary Brown has participated in the last two big league camps. Brown's still working on broadening his offensive skills. The Giants already have a strong sense of what he can do defensively.

"This guy's a true shutdown center fielder," said Class A San Jose manager Andy Skeels, for whom Brown played last year. "One thing that he does better than anybody I've ever seen in center field is charge the ball and get rid of it in a hurry. And it's not just getting it back into the infield. This kid can throw."

The Giants have weathered some criticism for parting with right-hander Zack Wheeler in last July's trade that brought them outfielder Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets. Not only did Beltran not propel San Francisco to a postseason berth, but the Giants didn't even receive an extra Draft choice, since Beltran's contract prevented him from receiving the salary arbitration offer that would have given the Giants a compensatory pick. Meanwhile, Wheeler is thriving for the Mets' Double-A Binghamton club.

But the Giants believe that they have an ample supply of pitching talent remaining in their system.

"Last year we added some power arms," insisted scouting director John Barr, referring to the likes of right-handers Kyle Crick, Chris Marlowe, Raymond Black and Cody Hall and left-handers Bryce Bandilla and Josh Osich -- all selected in last June's First-Year Player Draft. Hall will represent low-Class A Augusta at the South Atlantic League All-Star Game on June 19.

Another hard thrower, right-hander Heath Hembree, might be the prospect who's closest to making a true impact in the Majors. The Giants didn't summon Hembree, who was selected in the fifth round in 2010, when closer Brian Wilson underwent Tommy John elbow surgery, but they didn't have to, because Santiago Casilla was available to step into the role. Hembree has struggled with his command at Triple-A Fresno, but everybody agrees that he still possesses a lively arm. The organization will eventually need Hembree in San Francisco, though it might not happen this year.

The Giants already have received help from their Minor League system this year. Injuries prompted them to summon infielders Charlie Culberson and Conor Gillaspie, who started five games apiece at second and third base, respectively. Though neither made an enormous impact, they contributed enough to help keep the Giants afloat in the National League West.

The Giants encountered some bad luck as left-hander Eric Surkamp, who entered the season as an outside candidate for the fifth spot in the big league starting rotation, injured his throwing elbow. Surkamp still hasn't pitched competitively this season.

But when one prospect fades, another rises. Augusta right-hander Clayton Blackburn has pitched 22 consecutive scoreless innings, following up on a strong performance in the Rookie-level Arizona League last year.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.