It’s deja vu all over again, as the San Francisco Giants took a 2-Way Player for the second straight season with their first pick in the MLB Draft.
The Giants selected Two-Way Player Bryce Eldridge with their 1st round pick, a high school pitcher and first baseman out of James Madison high school in Virginia. In the second round, at pick #52, the team selected shortstop Walker Martin out of Eaton High School, Colorado. And with their extra pick at #69, the Giants took LHP Joe Whitman out of Kent State.
The team had three picks in the first two rounds on Day 1 dues to getting a compensation pick for Carlos Rodon signing with the New York Yankees in the offseason. That extra pick was put in the second compensation round.
It was the second straight season that the Giants went with a two-way player in the first round, a rare and possibly unique scenario in modern baseball. For many years, two-way players were encouraged to pick and stay in one position, and when drafted, they would be announced as either a hitter or as a pitcher. It’s rare any players are drafted and announced as two-way players, and the Giants now have two top-drafted ones.
In 2022, the Giants drafted two-way player Reggie Crawford with their first round pick, with the #30 overall pick. There’s a lot of similarities with Crawford and Eldrige, though Crawford was a college pick.
Bryce Eldridge was a right-handed pitcher and left-handed first baseman both for his high school and with Team USA’s under-18 for the World Cup tournament. He was named the tournament MVP, and hit .316 with three home runs and 13 RBI, and pitched three innings, allowing just one hit. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Virginia, where he had eight home runs with a 1.716 OPS. As a pitcher, he had a 1.06 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 39.2 innings pitched.
Eldridge is committed to the University of Alabama.
On the mound, he catches the most attention with his fastball, where he sits in the low 90’s while reaching 96 occasionally. He pairs that with a low-80’s slurvy slider, and has a solid changeup that could get better. He’s got good command, and is generally around the zone. As a hitter, his power has gotten the most attention, although scouts seems split on grading it, as Baseball America graded it at 60, but MLB Pipeline graded it at just 50. His hit tool is graded a bit lower, as he has a lot of strikeout risk, and is a below average runner, which is no surprise at his size.
He’s an imposing physical specimen, standing at 6’7” and weighing 223 lbs as a 18-year old high schooler. Part of that adds to the hope that he can add additional strength and power as he gets older, both at the plate and on the mound. But bigger bodies can sometimes lead to health issues, and Eldridge dealt with an ankle injury in his senior season and hamstring issues in his junior season.
Eldridge is the first high school player the Giants have taken in the 1st round of the draft under President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, and first since 2017, when the Giants drafted Puerto Rican outfielder Heliot Ramos.
With so much focus in draft talk being about Eldridge was a two-way player, many have cited the Giants as being a team that is willing to develop Eldridge as a two-way player. Crawford’s development has been slow as he’s recovered from Tommy John surgery. He debuted as a hitter in 2022, though he was just 3-for-19 in six games in Arizona. In 11 games as a hitter in San Jose this season, he’s 4-for-16 (.250) with two doubles and one home run, and zero walks to four strikeouts. He’s made seven pitching appearances, with a 4.09 ERA in 11.0 innings, with 18 strikeouts to four walks. He has yet to begin playing as an everyday player, though he’s still less than two years past that TJ surgery.
Walker Martin was highly connected to the Giants in regards to their first round pick at #16 overall, and he slid significantly for reasons that weren’t clear. Martin was ranked the 24th best prospect in the draft by Baseball America and 30th by MLB Pipeline. Martin led all of high school baseball in hitting home runs, with the significant asterisk that he was playing in Colorado. His stats of a .633 batting average, 20 home runs, and a 1.632 slugging percentage look amazing, though high school stats should not be judged through the same lens of pro stats.
Even with the Colorado help, Martin is a 6’2” shortstop with good power from the left side of the plate, with room to grow. Martin grades out as above average in all five tools, though without a truly plus tool. He’s a good athlete, and has the range to play shortstop, though he does need to improve his hands and fundamentals if he were to stay there. He should be a good third baseman if he slides over to that position.
In 2022, the Giants were connected to Carson Whisenhunt in the first round, but he slid to the second round and still got him there.
Drafted at #69, Joe Whitman slipped a bit from his pre-draft rankings. He had been ranked #35 by Baseball America and #37 by MLB Pipeline. Whitman really rose up the draft rankings in his 2023 season, improving his command and becoming Kent State’s top starter and won the Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year award. He had a 2.56 ERA over 15 starts, with 100 strikeouts and 29 walks in 81.0 innings.
Whitman throws a low-90’s fastball that touches 96 that got better control over this season. His best pitch is a low-80’s slider that has a ton of movement and a ton of spin, which gets a lot of swingthroughs. He also has a changeup that is still developing.