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Giants have golden gate(way) for talent
Williamson, Panik racing along the fast track to San Francisco
12/06/2013 5:00 AM ET
Mac Williamson led all Giants farmhands in homers (25) and RBIs (89).
Mac Williamson led all Giants farmhands in homers (25) and RBIs (89). (Kenny Karst/MiLB.com)

This offseason, MiLB.com will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organizations. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

The San Francisco Giants continued their habit of grooming prospects at all levels and teaching their players the value of success by putting winning products on the field. They went a combined 436-324 across the Minors, posting the best winning percentage (.574) of all 30 big league clubs.

San Francisco's rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League posted the third best record (41-14, .745) in all of the Minors to clinch a championship, and the Dominican Summer League team went 45-22 before wrapping up the season with a title of its own.

Salem-Keizer and Augusta also made the playoffs, and San Jose rode the postseason train all the way to a spot in the Cal League Finals. Richmond finished just two games below .500 and Triple-A Fresno -- statistically the worst of the Giants farm teams -- still went a respectable 68-75.

Catcher -- Johnny Monell, Fresno (121 games), San Francisco (eight games): After repeating the Eastern League in 2012, Monell went through the Pacific Coast League to the Majors this year.
His .275 average led all full-season catchers in the organization, and he also ranked first among backstops in homers (20), RBIs (64), runs scored (71) and doubles (27).



"He had a breakout season, obviously," Fresno manager Bob Mariano said. "He had a solid season for us. I was a hitting coordinator for eight years before I started managing and I always knew he could hit. I knew he had that ability. He was probably our most consistent hitter in Fresno last year.

"He can catch behind the dish and ... he can play first base. He's a great pinch-hitter, too, and we can use him off the bench as a left-handed hitter to create matchups. He's a hard worker, and he did what he needed to to get on the 40-man roster."

First base -- Brett Pill, Fresno (68 games), San Francisco (48 games): California native Pill saw time in the Majors in both 2011 and 2012, so it was no surprise to see him post good numbers back in the PCL before another return to the Giants in 2013.

He hit a robust .344 -- a career high and the best among all Giants first basemen -- with 18 homers and 79 RBIs in 68 games. He recorded 174 total bases in half a season, making him one of the most productive players across the Minors. He batted .224 with three long balls and 12 RBIs on his callup to AT&T Park.

"I had him when I was the hitting coordinator in Salem and Augusta, and every time I came into town he always hit. But this was his best year and he swung the bat better than I had ever seen him do in the Minor Leagues," Mariano said.

"He was our best hitter, day in and day out. He's a gap-to-gap guy, but he has pull power to left field and left-center field. Two of the things he did this year better than any other was not chasing the breaking ball in the dirt and using right field with two strikes."

Second base -- Joe Panik, Richmond (137 games): Panik, San Francisco's first-round pick in the 2011 Draft, continued his journey through the farm this year. The 21-year-old hit .257, ranking first among Giants second basemen in homers (four, tied for first), RBIs (57), walks (58) and doubles (27). Panik, who posted a .333 on-base percentage, also stole 10 bases, the third consecutive year he has reached double digits in this category.

Third base -- Chris Dominguez, Fresno (132 games): Dominguez may never replicate his 20-homer, 100-RBI season from the South Atlantic League in 2010, but he has maintained his power stroke while improving his average and cutting down the strikeouts.

Dominguez batted a career-high .294 with 15 homers, the latter of which ranked second among third basemen. His 44 extra-base hits also ranked second among Giants at the hot corner and his 65 RBIs were enough to finish third. Boosted by the inflated average, his .334 on-base percentage, .464 slugging percentage and .798 OPS percentage were all personal bests.

"He was a guy that was a high-strikeout guy when I was a roving instructor, but he has high power upside -- light-tower power, he's so strong," Mariano said. "If he eventually figures it all and cuts down on those strikeouts, he'll have big-time power to all fields.

"He's outstanding defensively and he has a Howitzer for an arm. I saw him make plays that I've not seen third basemen in the big leagues make.

Shortstop -- Jeremy Sy, Salem-Kaizer (46 games): In his first year of pro ball, Sy -- a 5-foot-8 24-year-old Illinois native -- batted .294 with eight homers in 46 Northwest League games. Only one San Francisco shortstop -- Matt Duffy, who played 104 games -- went deep more often than Sy, who also ranked third with 41 RBIs and tied for fourth with 13 steals in 15 attempts.

Outfield

Mac Williamson, San Jose (136 games): Williamson batted .292 in the California League this season, leading all Giants outfielders in homers (25), RBIs (89) and runs scored (94).

The 23-year-old Wake Forest product ranked fourth among outfielders with 51 walks, leading to a .375 on-base percentage and .879 OPS. He also swiped 10 bases in 11 attempts in his second year of pro ball, his first in a full-season league.

Devin Harris, San Jose (129 games): Selected by the Giants in the 48th round of the 2010 Draft, Harris set career highs in a number of offensive categories including homers (23), doubles (40) and RBIs (84). His .258 average was his highest mark in a full-season league, and it was 43 points better than what he hit across three levels in 2012.

Francisco Peguero, Fresno (70 games), San Francisco (18 games), AZL Giants (six games):
An Organization All-Star in 2010, Peguero returned to the list again this year. His .315 average was the second-highest mark among Giants outfielders, and he collected 43 run scores and 37 RBIs despite recording 298 at-bats in 76 Minor Legaue contests. He also had 19 extra-base hits, including 12 doubles, four homers and three triples.

As in 2012, Peguero got a cup of coffee in the Majors, batting .207 in 18 big league appearances.

"He got off to a great start in Fresno," Mariano said. "He's versatile, probably a better right fielder, but he came up as a center fielder and even played a lot in left field.

"He is a guy that has tremendous bat speed, probably the best in our organization. But it's just a matter of him shortening his swing up in terms of his mechanics. He's a free swinger, but when he played for me he was consistently batting around .300."

Utility -- Javier Herrera, Richmond (131 games): Herrera hit .296 with 16 homers, 74 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 131 Eastern League games. The 28-year-old outfielder ripped 37 doubles and came home to score 70 runs, combining excellent speed and raw power to help post a .376 on-base percentage and .861 OPS.

Expectations were relatively low for Herrera entering 2013. He had not played in an affiliated league since 2009, having spent the past three years playing for one of three independent outfits after struggling in the Texas League as a 23-year-old in '08.

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Chris Johnson, Salem-Keizer (15 games): Johnson went 6-3 with a 2.49 ERA in 15 Northwest League starts for the Volcanoes. He held opposing hitters to a .207 average and struck out 78 batters in 83 innings. Arguably more impressive, Johnson yielded just eight walks and one home run, improving in every category from a year ago when he was 2-4 with a 6.84 mark in his rookie season in Salem-Keizer.

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Ty Blach, San Jose (22 games): Blach had a banner year in his first go in pro ball. Selected in the fifth round in June's Draft, the Creighton University product went 12-4 with a 2.90 ERA in 22 games, including 20 starts.

His 12 wins tied for the most of any Giants pitcher, while his ERA and 117 strikeouts each ranked sixth. No San Francisco farmhand who pitched more innings than Blach had a lower ERA. He won the fans' vote for Starting Pitcher of the Year.

Relief pitcher -- Raymundo Montero, Salem-Keizer (25 games): The 24-year-old saved 14 games -- tied for the fourth most among Giants pitchers -- to go along with his 1.82 ERA this season. He fanned 43 batters over 29 2/3 frames and limited hitters to a .183 batting average.

The Giants tried to convert Montero into a starter last year in Salem-Keizer, but a 4.38 ERA and .293 average indicated a move back to the bullpen was likely. In hindsight, it appeared to be the correct move, with the Dominican Republic native thriving in the one-inning role.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB, This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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