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Prospect Prologue: Giants Foursome Comes Up Short

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In recent years, San Francisco’s clubhouse has been a retirement home, with each offseason providing general manager Brian Sabean another opportunity to add maturity and mediocrity.

But heading into the 2009 season, a silver lining appeared – and, no, it wasn’t Randy Winn’s hairline.

Help was on the way for Tim Lincicum and Matt Cain and Co. The organization’s farm system was named one of baseball’s 10 best, with a foursome as elite as any.

Left-handed hurler Madison Bumgarner, catcher Buster Posey, first baseman Angel Villalona and righty Tim Alderson were sure to form the nucleus of a contender for the next decade.

Funny thing about those prospect rankings – the path from potential to reality can be long and windy, and sometimes a dead end.

Now, at the end of the 2009 season, and we find the Giants with 50 percent of that foursome out of the picture, and another a disappointment.

First, the Giants, in a move reminiscent of the Kazmir-for-Victor Zambrano debacle, shipped Alderson at the trade deadline to the Pirates for, appropriately, the aging Freddy Sanchez.

Most recently, the 19-year-old phenom Villalona’s career was put on life support. Or maybe death row. He was jailed on murder charges Monday stemming from the fatal shooting of a man at a Dominican nightclub.

Perhaps Sabean has been smart to stay away from high-profile youngsters for the most part.

Bumgarner, 20, would seem to be progressing, becoming the second-youngest San Francisco Giant to start a game on Sept. 8, but he has lost a significant amount of zip on his fastball. While he was regularly hitting 95-97 mph with his heater last year, he’s now throwing 89-91. It might be because his arm slot has gone from about three-quarters to almost side-arm. Instead of appearing like an eventual ace, he looks like a situational reliever.

Bumgarner has had success in his two big league appearances (6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K), but his K/9 has fallen to 7.0 in the minors this season from 10.4 last year.

While he is available in Yahoo leagues, and you may consider stashing him to see if he rediscovers the life on his heater, I find myself jumping off the MadBum bandwagon.  

Admittedly, it’s a pretty steep decline in my assessment in one season. I had previously favored him over Tommy Hanson and Brett Anderson. We can only hope Bumgarner has simply run out of gas, or his mechanics will soon be corrected.

The bright light on the horizon for San Francisco’s farm system now beams from Posey, who had a tremendous season hitting .325, 18 HRs, 80 R, 80 RBI, 62 BB, 68 K and a .947 OPS. He is 1-for-3 in the Majors after a September call-up and is a must-grab in all keeper leagues for that day when Bengie Molina is put out to pasture for good.

Of course, that’s also assuming Sabean doesn’t go out and sign Pudge Rodriguez.