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 Thursday, April 20
Giants minor-league report
 By John Sickels
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System overview
The Giants farm system burns the candle at both ends. Recent years have seen a flurry of prospect-for-veteran trades that left the upper levels of the farm system dry. At the same time, the scouting staff brought an influx of talent into the system, since the Giants have had lots of compensation picks for the loss of free agents. The end result is a system that currently has less depth than most, but has shown the ability to quickly recharge.

There are weaknesses. The Giants only have one short-season club, and both of their Class A teams are in the high level California League. This makes it difficult to bring along unpolished, raw players without rushing them significantly. As a result, they focus on college talent in the draft, with an emphasis on hard-nosed guys with good fundamentals. The high school guys they do select are often force-fed, with mixed results. Another problem is lack of a strong scouting effort in Latin America.

Overall, the Giants walk a narrow tightrope with their system, allowing themselves little margin for error. This magnifies the importance of mistakes made in the draft, and injuries to top prospects, especially pitchers, which takes on added importance.

1999 Minor League W-L Percentage: .502 (ranked 13th)

1999 amateur draft
San Francisco had four picks in the first two rounds, and used them to recharge their pitching depth with a mix of high school and college talent.

First-rounder Kurt Ainsworth, from LSU, is a polished college pitcher with a surgically-repaired elbow, but owns a 93 mph fastball. He is expected to move very fast. Supplemental first-round selection Jerome Williams, a high school pitcher from Hawaii, is a step behind Ainsworth in velocity, but has a very high ceiling. Second-round pick John Thomas, from high school in Orcutt, California, blew out his elbow shortly after signing, and underwent Tommy John surgery. Jack Taschner, a power left-hander from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, rounds out the quartet. Like Ainsworth, he is expected to make quick progress.

Third-round pick Sean McGowan, a first baseman from Boston College, isn't much of a fielder, but has a strong bat, capable of high averages with power. The impressiveness of the draft class fell off after him, though seventh-round pick Joe Jester, a shortstop from the University of Arkansas, looks promising.

The success of this class will depend on how the four pitchers drafted early develop.

Top prospects
1) Tony Torcato, 3B: 1998 first-round pick, has a pure stroke, was rushed to the California League and still hit .291. Power hasn't developed yet.

2) Jake Esteves, RHP: Four-pitch starter, breezed through the California League and held his own in Double-A. Could see the majors in 2000.

3) Ryan Jensen, RHP: Often overlooked, but has a good mixture of stuff and command, struck out 150 in 156 innings. A 5.12 ERA in the Pacific Coast League is nothing to be ashamed of.

4) Kurt Ainsworth, RHP: 1999 first-round pick. Polished, throws hard, could see the majors this year if all goes well.

5) Ryan Vogelsong, RHP: Like Esteves, a four-pitch starter who had no trouble in the Cal League. Double-A was tougher, and there are concerns about his durability.

Others of note
Giuseppe Chiaramonte, C: Good power, but may not hit for average in the majors, and needs to improve his throwing.

Doug Clark, OF: Solid skills across the board, hits for average with a little power and a little speed.

Calvin Murray, OF: 1992 first-rounder took forever to develop, but posted a solid season in Triple-A, and should have a job in 2000.

Damon Minor, 1B: Better prospect than brother Ryan in the Orioles system, due to superior strike zone judgment. Blocked by J.T. Snow.

Michael Riley, LHP: Inconsistent left-hander, but posted 2.11 ERA in Double-A, to earn place on 40-man roster.

Other names to know: Jay Canizaro, 2B; Robbie Crabtree, RHP; Tim Flaherty, 1B; Joe Jester, 2B; Chris Jones, LHP; Scott Linebrink, RHP; Chris Magruder, OF; Arturo McDowell, OF; Sean McGowan, 1B; Sammy Serrano, C; Jack Taschner, LHP; Jeff Urban, LHP; Jerome Williams, RHP.

John Sickels is the author of the 2000 STATS Minor League Scouting Notebook. You can email your questions to him at

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