Countdown to Spring Training: No. 5, Looking at the future

Brandon Belt is clearly the top of the Giants’ prospect list, and there’s a drop-off in MLB-ready players. But it is important that the Giants take a long look at some of there younger players.

The 2012 season will be an important season for the Giants’ farm system. With guaranteed contracts and arbitration eligible players, the Giants’ payroll likely will start at around $100 million in 2012. And that does not include any possible free agent deals to fill vacancies at 2B, SS, the outfield and bullpen.

Given that, the Giants likely will want to attempt to fill some of those holes with players in their system. So here’s a look at some prospects who will be in camp this spring.

SP Jose Casilla: The 21-year-old RH reliever went 4-1 with 1.16 ERA in 54.1 innings and 14 saves to low Class A Augusta.

SP Steve Edlefsen: The 25-year-old RH reliever was 7-2 with 2.38 ERA and six saves in 64.1 IPs during his second season at Triple-A Fresno.

SP Alex Hinshaw: A 15th-round pick in 2005, the LH reliever, 28, went 2-4 with a 4.82 ERA in 56 IPs in his third season at Triple-A Fresno.

SP Henry Sosa: The 25-year-old RH pitcher was 7-8 with 4.07 ERA in 115 IPs in his first season at Fresno. He made 14 starts and 36 appearances.

SS Ehire Adrianza: Signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela, the slick-fielder, 21, needs to show he can hit. He hit .256 for high Class A San Jose. But he stole 33 bases.

3B Conor Gillaspie: A former first-round sandwich pick in 2008, Gillaspie, 23, hit .287 with 8 HR and 67 RBI for Double-A Richmond.

OF Darren Ford: Ford, 25, got a good long look at spring last season. But he hit only .251 at Double-A Richmond with 37 SBs. Ford got called up by the Giants in September, but was exclusively as a pinch-runner. He needs to show he can get on base consistently so he can use his speed.

OF Thomas Ford: Ford, 23, saw a drop-off of numbers from Class A in 2009 and AA in 2010. He hit 12 HRs, 69 RBI and .291 for Double-A Richmond. His OPS dropped from 1.010 to .799.

OF Francisco Peguero: Peguero, 22, hit .329 with 10 HR, 77 BI, 16 3B and 40 SBs for Class A San Jose in 2010,

OF Gary Brown: Brown, 22, was the Giants’ first-round pick last June out of Cal State Fullerton. He signed late and only appeared in 12 games between Rookie League and short-season Class A Salem-Keizer, hitting. 159.

SS Brandon Crawford: The former UCLA shortstop, 24, has a big-league glove, but hasn’t really hit much since batting .371 for San Jose in 2009. He hit .241 with 7 HRs and 22 RBI in 79 games for Double-A Richmond.

2B Charlie Culberson: A first-round sandwich out of high school in 2007, Culberson, 21, had his best season as a pro last year. He hit .290 with 16 HR and 71 RBI in 128 games at Class A San Jose. He also stole 25 bases.

2B Nick Noonan: Like Culberson, Noonan, 21, was a first-round pick out of high school in 2007. Unlike Culberson, Noonan got off to a hot start as pro and progressed more quickly through the ranks. But Noonan struggled at AA Richmond, hitting. 237 with 3 HR and 26 RBI in 101 games in 2010.

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