Looking for a sneak peak of which players may open the 2011 season in San Jose? Check out the latest edition of Giants Q & A as San Francisco Giants Director of Player Development Fred Stanley chatted with broadcaster Joe Ritzo. Stanley, who played 14 years in the major leagues, is about to begin his 11th season in the Giants organization. Among the topics discussed were the World Series championship, top prospects in the organization and a position-by-position breakdown of who could begin next season in San Jose.
Joe Ritzo: First off, congratulations on the World Championship. It must have been especially rewarding, as someone who works in player development, to see so many of your homegrown players take on important roles in helping the team to the title.
Fred Stanley: It was very gratifying. To see Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and obviously Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Wilson and we could go down the list. There were 13 players on the roster that had come through our system and then there were four more added as the result of trades using minor leaguers. It was not only great for the player development people, but also for the affiliates that had these players. They had a chance to see them and help them along the way to winning the World Series. People in San Jose have had a wonderful thing. They had a chance to see a little bit of Lincecum and for sure Posey. And we've had other rising stars come through there. We try to get our players through San Jose as much as possible. That's why Buster was there and some of the other ones.
JR: Along those lines, why do you think San Jose has been able to sustain their high level of success over the past several seasons (four championships in six years)?
FS: Obviously, scouting. It's probably the backbone of all organizations. We've been very fortunate. Dick Tidrow has been here for as long as I've been here. Now John Barr. We've always put a huge emphasis on pitching in the draft. Now starting with Buster Posey, we've gone out and spent some money on quality position players who you're starting to see. I think in the future we've got young stars who you saw in San Jose. Charlie Culberson had a huge year. Brandon Belt. Brandon Crawford has a chance to be in the big leagues soon. They've gone out and spent some money on position players who I think are going to be up there soon. Our goal would be to have 20 of the 25 at the major league level that came through our system.
JR: Looking now at last year's San Jose club, who were some of the top individual hitters that really impressed you with their development?
FS: I think Charlie Culberson made the most improvement of any hitter in our system. From what he did for the two years that he was in Augusta to what he was able to accomplish last year. Also with making the position switch to second base. I think he, overall, had the biggest improvement - both offensively and defensively. Brandon Belt, my goodness, nobody expected him to put those kind of numbers up as a first-year player. He came out of the Texas program where his primary power, and what he was able to do to get drafted, was to hit the ball to the opposite field. Now, all of a sudden, Bobby Mariano and that group made a few adjustments on him and, boom, he took off. I think you're going to see a lot of good things out of Brandon Belt. He'll probably get an opportunity to start in Triple-A next season and be close to the big leagues if they need him.
JR: How close is Brandon Belt to being ready to contribute at the major league level?
FS: Well, he had a short look at Triple-A last year. One thing he has going for him is that he doesn't have to spend a lot of time working on his defensive tools. He has excellent range and is a solid fielder. He has an excellent throwing stroke and is accurate. He has a strong arm. He's like J.T. Snow out there for us. That part helps him. Now it's going to be pitch-recognition. The higher you go, the pitchers make fewer mistakes. He will be tested and we'll find out a little bit what happens to him with maybe a half year in Triple-A. We'll see where he goes.
JR: Can you give any insight as to the position player composition of this year's San Jose club?
FS: Catching is still something that we're discussing. Whether it's Tommy Joseph or Hector Sanchez. We haven't really decided. We're waiting to see how that plays out in spring training, but one of those two will be there. At first base, you'll probably have Luke Anders. You'll probably have Chris Dominguez at third. Ryan Cavan at second base. Some of these projections are with guys that were in Augusta last year. There's a possibility of Gary Brown as your center fielder. That'll be a test as a first-year player. He was a #1 pick and we feel that with what he was able to accomplish at fall instructional league, that he should be able to handle himself in the Cal League. Shortstop is still up in the air. We're still not sure what we're going to do. Could be (Ehire) Adrianza or he goes all the way up to Richmond. We're going to wait and see how his development goes in spring training. As far as the outfield, Ryan Lollis will have an opportunity to make the club. And we'll have to decide what we want to do with James Simmons and Wendell Fairley and how that all plays out.
JR: You mentioned Gary Brown. He's already well known as a first round pick, but is still very inexperienced at the professional level. What are you looking to get out of him this season if he's coming to San Jose?
FS: I think, offensively, he's going to face better pitching than he did in college. He's facing the #1's all the time. Defensively, he's a very solid outfielder. He charges the ball well, is an accurate thrower, has at least an average arm, maybe a little bit above of an average arm. Accuracy is a big thing for him, much like Francisco Peguero. You saw Peguero and he's got a better arm than Gary, but overall, Gary plays a very solid outfield. He's going to have to work on his base stealing, bunting and do the small-ball stuff that's going to develop him into a leadoff hitter.
JR: Looking at some of the names that you just mentioned, particularly with the infielders, this looks like a San Jose team that's going to have quite a bit of power.
FS: Yes, you will. You'll be surprised how far Cavan hits the ball for a little guy. Dominguez has huge power. He can backspin a ball out of any ballpark, I don't care where it is. He's a little streaky, like all hitters are, but when he's on track, you're going to see some bullets hit out of that ballpark. And Luke Anders is developing into a very solid baseball player. He comes from Texas A&M and they have a pretty good program there. He's a hard working guy. And at 6'6", it's a beautiful frame to throw to at first base. He has a huge wingspan and good footwork around the bag. You're probably going to see a little more power in San Jose. You were lucky enough to have (Roger) Kieschnick and Thomas Neal there (two years ago), which provided some pretty spectacular home runs, but these guys right here will give you something to look at, for sure.
JR: How about the make-up of the San Jose pitching staff?
FS: I think Zack Wheeler has a chance to get there. I would say Kelvin Marte has an opportunity to pitch there. Chris Heston will be given an opportunity there. We have the closer Jose Casilla. Jorge Bucardo as a starter. Possibly Jake Dunning. He's a converted infielder and that'll have to be something that's decided at spring training. Chris Gloor - left-handed and a big kid. He has an opportunity to pitch there. And of course the big right-hander Jose Valdez. 6'7" Dominican, a big kid. Throws 95 miles per hour and has a really good breaking ball, but just needs consistency. That's the line with pretty much any pitcher that we send to the Cal League. Throwing strikes.
JR: You mentioned Wheeler, who is another notable name already. He's very young (20 years old), but has unlimited potential. What are your expectations this season? It's a big jump for him if he's coming to San Jose.
FS: Yeah, it is a big jump. He's a guy who throws 94-96 and keeps the ball down. That's what impressed me the most - his ability to throw low strikes with that kind of velocity. He can move the ball inside and outside. What he's going to have to work on is consistency with the breaking ball. Command is an issue. Not to throw so many pitches. He's got the equipment to move fast through the system. It's kind of like Dan Runzler. You remember Runzler was the guy that one year was struggling with command issues and then, all of a sudden, the next year he goes A-ball, Double-A, Triple-A, big leagues. A guy with a good fastball, movement and can keep the ball down has a chance to move through the system really fast.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.