The 2022 season is over, and it definitely did not go the way it was expected to. Some of the highest-rated prospects had huge struggles…but also, there were a few players who had breakout seasons and have established themselves as forces to watch in future seasons.
So here, we take a look at the Top 10 prospects as they were ranked before the season (other than Joey Bart, who spent almost the entire season in the Majors), as well as several players who were quick risers through the system.
Top Prospect Watch
#1: Marco Luciano
Arizona: .318/.444/.545 – 7-22, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 4 BB, 7 SO, 0-0 SB-SBA
High-A: .263/.339/.459 – 54-205, 10 2B, 0 3B, 10 HR, 22 BB, 51 SO, 0-0 SB-SBA
The Giants’ undisputed top prospect coming into the season had a shortened and mixed season. Marco Luciano moved up to High-A as expected and started the year off solidly over the first two months, batting .288 with eight home runs and eight doubles though early June, but then a lower back strain caused him to miss two months of the season. After two weeks rehabbing in Arizona, Luciano returned to Eugene in mid-August. After returning to High-A, Luciano was just 12-for-59 (.203), with two doubles and two home runs over 17 games, though both home runs were grand slams.
Luciano did win a ring with the Emeralds, his second minor league championship ring after winning with San Jose in 2021, and got a Double-A debut in the postseason. Luciano hit 3-for-13 with a double and a home run over three games in Eugene’s postseason, and was 1-for-8 with a double in two games with Richmond.
#3: Luis Matos
Arizona: .429/.500/1.000 – 3-7, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0-0 SB-SBA
High-A: .211/.275/.344 – 78-369, 14 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 27 BB, 65 SO, 11-14 SB-SBA
At the start of the season, Luis Matos was considered by some to be just as good a prospect as Marco Luciano, but he had as bad a start to the season as you could imagine. Through May 4th, Luciano was batting .149 and had not had any extra-base hits in 19 games when he suffered a quadriceps strain. Matos missed just over a month, and returned to a short 2-game rehab stint in Arizona, where he had his first extra-base hits of the year. However, his struggles continued in Eugene.
It wasn’t until August when Matos began to really hit well. He went .297/.321/.505 with seven doubles, a triple, and four home runs, although he finished things with a 6-for-30 (.200) performance in September’s regular season finish, but went 5-for-14 (.357) with two doubles in Eugene’s championship run. But there was one other silver lining about Matos, and that was that he continued to show off his strong plate discipline, striking out just 65 times in 407 plate appearances with 27 walks.
#4: Kyle Harrison
High-A: 1.55 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .179 Avg – 7 G, 7 GS, 29.0 IP, 19 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 2 HR, 10 BB, 59 SO
Double-A: 3.11 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .201 Avg – 18 G, 18 GS, 84.0 IP, 60 H, 30 R, 29 ER, 11 HR, 39 BB, 127 SO
If 2021’s 3.19 ERA and 157 strikeouts were a successful debut, his 2022 between Eugene and Richmond was a star-maker season. In 25 starts, Kyle Harrison had 186 strikeouts, the second-highest total in all of the minors over 113.0 innings. The minor leagues leader, Brandon Pfaadt, had 218 (just 32 more) in 167.0 innings (54 more innings).
Harrison started the year in dominating fashion in Eugene, and very quickly earned his way up the ladder at just 20 years old. Now 21, Harrison did have moments of struggles, including both in his first couple of Double-A games, and a string of rough ones late in the season, but overall was still very dominating. Harrison also started Richmond’s first playoff game of the season, striking out nine in 3.0 innings, though he did allow two runs on four hits and a walk, leading to the loss.
#5: Heliot Ramos
AAA: .227/.305/.349 – 97-427, 17 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 41 BB, 112 SO, 6-12 SB-SBA
MLB: .100/.182/.100 – 2-20, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 2 BB, 6 SO, 0-0 SB-SBA
Heliot Ramos hit a home run in the first game of the Triple-A season, and made his MLB debut in April during the Giants’ first homestand, collecting two hits in his debut. It was all downhill from there, though. Ramos got three more callups to the big leagues, and never got any more hits there. In Triple-A, he would struggle all season at making consistent contact and striking out, although he showed a little more life at the end of the year, batting .260 in September with four doubles and three home runs.
#6: Will Bednar
Low-A: 4.19 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .167 Avg – 12 G, 12 GS, 43.0 IP, 25 H, 22 R, 20 ER, 7 HR, 22 BB, 51 SO
The Giants’ 1st round pick in 2021, Will Bednar, had a very auspicious start to his first full season, hitting five batters in 3.2 innings. But after his June 12th start, he was put on the Injured List due to a still-undisclosed reason. Bednar would miss the rest of the year.
Bednar struggled with his velocity all season, down a few ticks from where he was in his 2021 college standout season that got him drafted. He finished with a 4.19 ERA with 51 strikeouts to 22 walks in 43.0 innings, and 12 hit batters after his struggling debut start. We still don’t know what caused Bednar to miss time, but he is returning to go to this year’s Arizona Fall League.
#7: Jairo Pomares
Arizona: .533/.563/1.333 – 8-15, 3 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0-0 SB-SBA
High-A: .254/.330/.438 – 86-338, 20 2B, 0 3B, 14 HR, 36 BB, 127 SO, 0-0 SB-SBA
In 2021, Jairo Pomares had a breakout couple of months in San Jose that put his name on the map as a slugger, perhaps the best in the Giants system. In 2022, Pomares returned to Eugene, where he finished 2021, and had a decidedly more mixed year. Pomares struggled with strikeouts, doing so once every three plate appearances, but still slugged out a total of 17 home runs, just behind his 20 in 2021.
Pomares started off cold, similarly to Matos, batting just .182 in 12 games in April to start the year. He would miss the end of the season, a disappointing end after he hit .350/.419/.575 with six doubles and four home runs in August, easily his best run of the season.
#8: Aeverson Arteaga
Low-A: .270/.345/.431 – 136-503, 35 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 49 BB, 155 SO, 11-17 SB-SBA
One of the Giants’ most notable international signings of the past couple of years had a splash debut in 2021 in Arizona, and Aeverson Arteaga followed it up with a solid showing in San Jose for his first full season. Arteaga came to the Giants better known for his defense than his offense, but still showed the pop to hit 14 home runs and 35 doubles. Arteaga struggled a bit over the summer in his first full season, and was striking out a little more than once every 3.5 plate appearances, not a surprise for a young player on either account.
#9: Hunter Bishop
Arizona: .000/.000/.000 – 0-2, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0-0 SB-SBA
High-A: .235/.320/.406 – 74-315, 11 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 31 BB, 117 SO, 20-22 SB-SBA
After the cancelled 2020 season, and missing just about all of 2021 to injury, 2022 was a hugely important season for Hunter Bishop. Unfortunately, it was a mixed result for him. Bishop started off April batting .145 with just two home runs. Things did improve as the season went on, peaking in June with a .284/.393/.547 batting line, but he fell off again and then missed nearly a month from mid-July to mid-August with an unspecified injury. Bishop also had strikeout problems, striking out once every three plate appearances. But Bishop did show off the power stroke he was drafted for, and stole 20 bases as well, which remain a tantalizing combination of power and speed, plus his strong defense in the outfield.
#10: Nick Swiney
High-A: 3.84 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .193 Avg – 21 G, 20 GS, 89.0 IP, 63 H, 48 R, 38 ER, 7 HR, 45 BB, 105 SO
Nick Swiney played about half a season in 2021, but was extremely good when he was on the mound. His first full season was more a season of ups and downs. He gave up 10 runs, seven earned, over his first three starts for a 4.73 ERA, but spent much of the season whittling that down from there. He was prone to big blowups, with six games in which he allowed four runs or more, and his control would waver. In June, he had a 1.71 BB/9 rating, but in July it was a 8.20 BB/9, then in August it was down to 2.00. He was also limited quite a bit in the season, averaging about 4.1 innings per start, though some of that was due to the blowups. He did give up just seven home runs in the relatively home run-happy Northwest League all year, with four of them coming in his last two starts.
Low-A: .346/.427/.636 – 79-229, 14 2B, 5 3B, 14 HR, 25 BB, 67 SO, 23-26 SB-SBA
High-A: .357/.455/.623 – 55-154, 10 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 21 BB, 52 SO, 21-24 SB-SBA
AA: .000/.000/.000 – 0-2, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0-0 SB-SBA
Vaun Brown could well have been the Giants minor leagues hitter of the year with his breakout performance. The 2021 10th round pick, the team’s highest-drafted hitter that year, Brown rocketed through the levels before things came to an unfortunate end. It was actually a modest start for Brown, as he hit just .263 in April, but he really took off, punctuated by four straight games with a home run in early May. Brown would get promoted to High-A in late June, and immediately took off for Eugene, and hit even better there. In late August, Brown got a promotion to Double-A, but things quickly ended, as he suffered an unspecified injury early in his first game at the level. The injury ended his season, but he’s expected to be ready for 2023. Despite the early end, Brown achieved a series of stats met by only five minor leaguers since 2006: 20 home runs, 20 steals, .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and a .600 slugging percentage in a single season.
Low-A: .291/.383/.525 – 127-436, 21 2B, 9 3B, 21 HR, 58 BB, 148 SO, 35-45 SB-SBA
High-A: .269/.387/.423 – 14-52, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 9 BB, 22 SO, 8-8 SB-SBA
After being drafted in 2019, and losing 2020 to the pandemic, the very athletic Grant McCray has been on the verge of breaking out for a while, and the 21-year old did just that in San Jose. After a slow start in April that saw him miss a week, he broke out in May with a .327/.410/.607 month, and stayed hot until a late-August promotion to High-A, where he was challenged but still performed well. McCray did struggle with strikeouts like many this season, striking out once every 3.35 plate appearances, but he also was one of the system leaders with 43 steals in 53 attempts, had the power to hit 23 home runs and a lot of doubles and triples, and may have supplanted Hunter Bishop as the organization’s most impressive defensive outfielder.
High-A: .273/.363/.474 – 91-333, 14 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 42 BB, 86 SO, 1-3 SB-SBA
AA: .342/.378/.517 – 41-120, 10 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 6 BB, 29 SO, 2-2 SB-SBA
AAA: .333/.313/.600 – 5-15, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 0 BB, 5 SO, 0-0 SB-SBA
No one would be surprised to hear that Casey Schmitt was better than his injury-ridden 2021 season showed, but it may have surprised some just how good he could be. Schmitt’s season ebbed and flowed, but he was Eugene’s best hitter by far in April. As the summer went on, Schmitt’s batting average slipped, as he hit just .238 in July, but his walk-rate improved significantly and he kept his OPS above .800 even has his batting average dropped. That earned him an August promotion to Richmond, where he came out hot and dominated in a little over a month. That led to one final promotion, just a cup of coffee in Triple-A Sacramento for the season’s final three games. With his defense at third, Schmitt firmly announced himself this season.
AAA: 4.92 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, .287 Avg – 22 G, 22 GS, 97.0 IP, 112 H, 62 R, 53 ER, 11 HR, 38 BB, 80 SO
MLB: 7.20 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, .326 Avg – 7 G, 0 GS, 20.0 IP, 29 H, 19 R, 16 ER, 3 HR, 7 BB, 20 SO (In Progress)
Sean Hjelle finally burst through the ceiling (sorry, couldn’t help myself) and made it to the big leagues, but 2022 was a difficult season for him. Hjelle made his big league debut in May, for just a single game, and proceeded to make three one-game appearances in the bigs until coming up for good in September. Ultimately, the biggest problem for Hjelle was how hittable he was. From 2018 through 2021, Hjelle’s batting average allowed was pretty even, from .272-.273. He allowed a .287 average in Triple-A for 2022, and a .326 average allowed in the big leagues. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate has dropped (8.7 K/9IP in 2019 to 7.4 K/9IP in AAA). But Hjelle has always been a contact-reliant pitcher going for ground balls, and in that way, he posted career-bests GO/AO in 2022 (2.26 in AAA, 3.00 in MLB). Hjelle has not been helped by the defense behind him at any level, but he will be defense-reliant in his career.
High-A: 2.90 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .180 Avg – 7 G, 7 GS, 31.0 IP, 20 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 1 HR, 12 BB, 47 SO
AA: 9.35 ERA, 2.19 WHIP, .265 Avg – 2 G, 2 GS, 8.2 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 HR, 10 BB, 7 SO
Arizona: 9.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, .400 Avg – 1 G, 0 GS, 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 0 BB, 0 SO
Low-A: 10.80 ERA, 2.40 WHIP, .375 Avg – 1 G, 0 GS, 1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 3 SO
These stats above are organized in the order in which they happened for Ryan Murphy, who had a breakout 2021. Murphy’s season did not start until mid-May due to a back problem, but once he was on the mound, he had a strong month-plus with Eugene. That earned him a promotion to Richmond at the end of June, where he was hit hard initially, and bounced back in his second game with 5.0 innings without a hit. After that, back problems put him back on the Injured List. Murphy would stay on the IL until August, when he made a single rehab start on the 20th in Arizona, but again went on the shelf, making just one more appearance in San Jose, after Arizona’s season had ended.
High-A: 3.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .208 Avg – 13 G, 0 GS, 12.2 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 27 SO
AA: 1.71 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .162 Avg – 18 G, 0 GS, 21.0 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 0 HR, 15 BB, 38 SO
AAA: 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, .120 Avg – 7 G, 0 GS, 8.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 3 BB, 11 SO
MLB: 2.08 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, .313 Avg – 5 G, 0 GS, 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 3 SO
In 2021, the Giants made a statement of what they thought of Cole Waites, assigning him to the Arizona Fall League, where he was hit hard by more advanced players. His fastball carried him, as shook off a solid start in Eugene to have a strong run in Richmond, and earning two more promotions, including his MLB debut. Waites can reach triple digits with his fastball, but sat 94-96 this season as he made his rise.
High-A: 3.38 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .193 Avg – 16 G, 13 GS, 50.2 IP, 35 H, 21 R, 19 ER, 5 HR, 24 BB, 71 SO
AA: 6.30 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .184 Avg – 6 G, 0 GS, 10.0 IP, 7 H, 10 R, 7 ER, 2 HR, 8 BB, 19 SO
AAA: 10.50 ERA, 2.33 WHIP, .143 Avg – 5 G, 0 GS, 6.0 IP, 3 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 HR, 11 BB, 7 SO
Randy Rodriguez was added to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft in November 2021, and so it was expected that the Giants wanted to put him on the fast track. But Rodriguez saw his role chance when he started the year as part of the Eugene rotation. As a starter, he had a 3.86 ERA over 13 starts, but as July came around, he was shifted back to relief. In three relief appearances at Eugene (6.1 innings), he struck out 14 with just one walk, and that prompted his push up to Double-A and Triple-A, though he had various struggles at each level in brief stints.