Before the 2007 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.
Over the last few years, the San Francisco Giants have managed to cherry-pick not just some of the brightest Major League-ready talent in the draft (look no further than 2006 first-rounder Tim Lincecum), but they've also supplemented it with scads more talent in the lower levels of the Minors.
Plus, the club has gotten as many contributions from its unheralded players -- lower-level draft picks and free agent signings -- as its "top prospects," a sign of good drafting and good scouting.
On the field, the Giants' affiliates could do little wrong in 2007. Class A Advanced San Jose won the California League championship, and Short-Season Salem-Keizer secured its second consecutive Northwest League title after compiling a record of 57-19 (the best winning percentage in the Minors).
Many of the Volcanoes who won that first of two titles last summer moved up to Class A and led the Augusta GreenJackets to an 89-51 record, best in the full-season ranks. Counting a Dominican Summer League club that went 49-21, six of the Giants' seven teams finished over .500 -- with only Double-A Connecticut ending below that mark. Overall, the organization's .575 winning percentage was second only to the Yankees.
With six first- and supplemental first-round picks in 2007, things should only get better. It just may take a few years for all that talent to become an upper-level glut as opposed to a lower-level one.
Organizational Players of the Year
Emmanuel Burriss, SS: We said, "Give this savvy speedster a full season in the hitter-happy California League, and there is no telling what he'll do." This could be true for 2008, but it turned out that Burriss wasn't ready to skip Class A Augusta following his 2006 debut at Short-Season Salem-Keizer. He struggled at San Jose, hitting just .165 before moving to Augusta, where he kicked into gear and batted .321 with 51 steals.
Tim Lincecum, RHP: We did give a caveat that "he has to last long enough in the Minors to win this honor." Indeed, the 23-year-old righty made all of five starts at Triple-A Fresno, going 4-0 with an 0.29 ERA before heading to the big leagues and staying there.
John Bowker, OF: A third-round pick in 2004 out of Long Beach State, Bowker had long been considered among the organization's top pure hitters. This year he finally showed why, hitting .307 with 22 homers, 90 RBIs and 35 doubles to earn Eastern League All-Star honors with Connecticut. The strong-armed right fielder added a .523 slugging percentage.
Sergio Romo, RHP: Despite a crop of tremendous starting pitching performances, including Kevin Pucetas' Minor League-leading 1.86 ERA, no pitcher in the system was more dominant than Romo, San Jose's relief ace. He led all Minor League pitchers with 14.38 strikeouts per nine innings as he fanned 106 in 66 innings for the Cal League champs and limited hitters to a .155 average.
Climbed the Ladder
Tim Lincecum RHP: While we debated adding a pitcher who spent most of the season in the Majors to this package, he makes the list since as late as Spring Training there was still thought he could start the year at San Jose. Instead, he began the spring at Triple-A Fresno and wasted no time making a splash in the bigs. He looks like he's there to stay.
John Bowker, OF: After he hit .267 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs at San Jose in 2005 and returned to bat .284 with seven home runs and 66 RBIs in 2006, few could have expected Bowker's .307 average, 22 homers, 90 RBIs and 35 doubles at Connecticut, which plays in a league and a ballpark that are nowhere near the "hitters' heaven" known as the California League. The hard-hitting right fielder was both a midseason and postseason Eastern League All-Star.
Benjamin Snyder, LHP: A fourth-round pick in 2006 out of Ball State, Snyder has good baseball bloodlines as his older brother Brad is a Cleveland Indians outfield prospect. Snyder, who posted a 3.66 ERA in 15 games for Salem-Keizer in 2006, dominated at Augusta to the tune of a 16-5 record, 2.09 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 151 innings.
Eugenio Velez, 2B/CF: The switch-hitting Velez, one of the biggest steals of the Rule 5 Draft in recent memory (from Toronto), got a late start due to an outfield collision in Spring Training. After hitting .315 with 64 steals at Augusta in 2006, he made up for lost time despite jumping to Connecticut. He hit .298 with 49 steals in Double-A before a brief stop at Fresno and his debut in the Majors, where he batted .273 with four steals in nine games.
Kept Their Footing
Fred Lewis, OF: In our season preview, we listed Lewis as the club's top Triple-A prospect and he did nothing to diminish that status. A talented athlete drafted out of Southern University in the second round of 2002, Lewis shuttled between Fresno and the bigs for most of the season before being shut down for a few weeks due to injury. He should be very much in the big-league picture come 2008 after hitting .292 with eight homers, 32 RBIs and nine steals for the Grizzlies and .287 in 58 games for San Francisco.
Emmanuel Burriss, SS: A supplemental first-round pick out of Kent State in 2006, Burriss hit .307 at Salem-Keizer in 2006 but stumbled a bit this year at San Jose, hitting well below .200. He regrouped at Augusta and batted .321 the rest of the way to finish at .278 with an organization-best 68 steals between the two stops. His speed is game-changing.
Nate Schierholtz, OF: A converted third baseman who impressed down the stretch in 2006 with a 25-game hitting streak at Connecticut, Schierholtz stayed hot in '07, leading all full-season hitters in the system with a .333 average and adding 16 homers and 68 RBIs. The second-round pick in 2003 hit .304 in his big-league time this year.
Brian Anderson, RHP: A 14th-rounder out of Long Beach State in 2005, Anderson had a 1.86 ERA and led the Minors with 37 saves last year in his first full season at San Jose. This year he moved up to Connecticut and collected 29 saves, though his ERA rose to 3.93 and Eastern League hitters batted .275 against him, compared to last year's .176 mark.
Joey Martinez, RHP: A Boston College product and 2005 12th-round pick, Martinez went 10-10 with a 4.26 ERA in 28 games at San Jose and led the organization with 151 strikeouts in 162 2/3 innings. He was 15-5 with a 3.01 ERA at Augusta in 2006.
Slipped a Rung
Billy Sadler, RHP: One of the Giants' most highly regarded relief prospects heading into 2007 after combining for a 2.43 ERA in 51 games last season, Sadler saw his ERA climb to 5.95 in 40 games at Fresno and ended up spending the final month at Connecticut, where he regrouped. The 2003 sixth-rounder's makeup is so good that hopes should be high for him to return to form.
Eddy Martinez-Esteve, OF: The club's top pick in 2004 (second round, Florida State), Martinez-Esteve has endured injuries as well as questions about his defense. He hit .239 in 37 games at Connecticut before going on the DL for most of the year. He batted .272 in 27 games for the Defenders last season and .319 with 17 home runs and 94 RBIs at San Jose in 2005.
Travis Ishikawa, 1B: Ishikawa made his Major League debut in 2006 but struggled mightily in 2007, hitting .214 with 17 RBIs at Connecticut and .268 with 13 RBIs at San Jose. A 21st-round pick in 2002, he batted just .232 last year with the Defenders -- big-league debut notwithstanding -- and seems to be going backward.
On the Radar
Adam Cowart, RHP: We had Cowart as one of our "Under the Radar" picks coming into this season, pointing out: "No one had a better pro debut than this 2006 35th-rounder.... He was 10-1 with a 1.08 ERA at Salem-Keizer, walking just eight in 83 1/3 innings while striking out 55 and limiting hitters to a .178 average." Cowart was one of the aces of Augusta's staff this year, going 14-7 with a 2.39 ERA and walking 28 in 169 2/3 innings.
Sergio Romo, RHP: Our choice for the organization's Pitcher of the Year was 6-2 with a 1.36 ERA out of the 'pen for San Jose, scattering 35 hits and 15 walks while striking out 106 in 66 1/3 innings. A 28th-round pick out of Mesa State in 2005, Romo split his time between the 'pen and the rotation in 2006 at Augusta, going 10-2 with a 2.53 ERA, and was the starting pitcher in a combined no-hitter on Aug. 10, 2006. He broke his hand soon after.
Kevin Pucetas, RHP: A 17th-round selection in 2006, Pucetas won the second-annual Most Spectacular Pitcher Award this season after leading the Minors with a 1.86 ERA at Augusta. He finished 15-4 with 104 strikeouts and 21 walks in 145 1/3 innings.
Henry Sosa, RHP: Sosa was actually Augusta's ace over Pucetas and Snyder during the first half of the season, going 6-0 with an 0.73 ERA in 13 starts before moving up to San Jose. He represented the Giants in the Futures Game and used his high-90s fastball to limit Sally League hitters to a .144 average in 2007, his first full season. The 22-year-old right-hander went 5-5 with a 4.38 ERA at San Jose and was one of the heroes of the postseason for the Cal League champions.
2007 Draft Recap
1. Madison Bumgarner, LHP: A high school fireballer and 10th pick overall, Bumgarner signed at the deadline and has yet to make his pro debut. He adds a recently developed curveball and slider to his plus-fastball and has shown a feel for a changeup. He also has great poise, going 11-2 with a 1.05 ERA for his North Carolina state champion high school team.
2. Timothy Alderson, RHP: The 22nd pick overall, Alderson tossed five shutout innings in the Arizona League. The high school pick has an unorthodox arm action, pitching exclusively from the stretch, and appears to have good command of three pitches, most notably a low-90s fastball.
3. Wendell Fairley, CF: A high schooler from Mississippi taken with the 29th pick overall, Fairley is an outstanding athlete who was recruited for both baseball and football by several Division I schools. Like Bumgarner, he signed too late to play in 2007. A left-handed hitter with plus-speed, he has excellent tools across the board and should be a very intriguing prospect to keep an eye on.
Others of Note: RHP Daniel Otero (21st round), Salem-Keizer's closer, converted 19 saves in as many opportunities. He limited hitters to a .152 average, posted a 1.21 ERA and did not walk a batter in 22 1/3 innings. ... SS Nick Noonan (1S) hit .316 with three homers, 40 RBIs and 18 steals in the Arizona League. ... C Jackson Williams (1S) batted .231 with five homers and 20 RBIs for Salem-Keizer, while SS Charlie Culberson (1S) hit .286 with 19 steals in the Arizona League. ... 1B Andrew D'Alessio (19) hit .306 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs in the Arizona League, then batted .556 in four games at Salem-Keizer. ... LHP Craig Clark (14) was 5-3 with a 2.98 ERA as a starter for the Volcanoes.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.