Picking #30 overall, the Giants were in a different position than the last few years. Their draft bonus pool was much lower than in the past. That meant that they didn’t have the money to go underslot early and draft a high-ceiling high school player to sign away from a college commitment, like they had the last two seasons.
But that didn’t mean that there weren’t some easily identifiable trends the Giants were chasing in this draft. There might be a lot to learn about the what the team values in their prospects, and some hints about the team’s future, looking at these trends.
Although the Giants weren’t quite drafting as many pitchers early as they did in 2021 (the first nine picks were pitchers), the Giants still drafted a lot of pitchers, with seven in the first ten rounds, plus a 2-way player, not to mention two more to start Day 3. And what’s more, most of these pitchers were ones who reportedly did well with advanced data.
For several of those pitchers, this came in the form of an overwhelming pitch. Second round pick Carson Whisenhunt might have had the best changeup in the entire draft. Others, including 1st round pick Reggie Crawford, 3rd round pick William Kempner and 5th rounder Liam Simon, have high-90’s fastballs with a lot of potential. Spin rates and movement were a big pull for the Giants in this draft.
Ironically, this may have had another affect on the draft, just like last year: Lots of pitchers. 9 of the first 12 players the Giants drafted were pitchers, and another is a two-way player likely to end up on the mound. Why? It’s quite possible that the Giants are more confident spending high picks on pitchers is because there is more data to try and predict with pitchers than with hitters.
This might be a side-effect of pursing pitchers with one strong pitch with good spin or movement.
Every starting pitcher who has been drafted ever carries the risk that they may not succeed in the rotation and move to relief. But for the Giants, they seemed to draft a ton of pitchers who seem aimed for the bullpen from the start. Only three of those 10 top pitchers (or TWP), only three have a real upside at starter long-term, but even Reggie Crawford and Sam Bower are huge risks at that, coming off of injury and giving a limited background to how they’ll handle starting. 2nd rounder Carson Whisenhunt seems like he has a strong chance at starter, but of course even him might not end up that way.
This fits with what the Giants have been doing recently. In the infamously pitching-heavy draft of 2021, scouts have commented on how few pitchers from that draft look like starters long term, even first rounder Will Bednar, who’s currently injured and had been inconsistent even before that. And for the pitchers who have been starting in the minors, many are being kept on short stints even now in July, as opposed to being stretched out.
For the higher-level hitters that the Giants did pick, one thing that was clear was that the Giants were looking for players with good contact skills, with patience also being valued.
This is a relatively new trend, as in the past, the Giants were not afraid to draft hitters who had potential but had strikeout risks. That has not been something that has paid off in the last couple of years in the farm system.
Pursuing the contact skills may also have been a result of the pitching priorities, since power-laden hitters are often taken in the first few rounds, and searching for contact skills is easier to do in later rounds.
Several of the position players the Giants signed notably have skills at other positions defensively. Now, that’s not unusual for college position players, who often shift to different positions as a pro. But in this case, many of these players were already being used at multiple positions in college. 13th round pick Thomas Gavello was drafted officially as a catcher by the Giants, but was listed as a 2B/3B by many scouting sites, and also played in the outfield. 17th round pick Justin Bench was listed as a shortstop, even though he didn’t play much there at Ole Miss, and played all over the infield.
Oh yeah, and there’s first round pick Reggie Crawford, who is the ultimate in versatility. He’s a very promising pitcher, but also a power hitting first baseman. And he was officially listed as a TWP: a Two-Way-Player. So, we’ll see how that goes.
Every draft over the last 20 years, there’s been a few players who come to the Giants with local ties. But this draft, it just seemed to be a theme.
3rd round pick William Kempner kicked this off, as he went to Gonzaga in Washington, but was born in San Jose. 7th rounder Zach Morgan (Fresno State from Stockton), 11th rounder Sam Bower (St. Mary’s College from Visalia), 13th rounder Thomas Gavello (UOP, from Danville), and 16th rounder Andrew Kechel (Fresno State, from San Jose) made up five draftees with Northern California ties, a full 25% of the Giants draft.
The Giants have made good use of this to help get signees, as the local tie was probably a big factor in drafting Kyle Harrison in 2020, as well as signing undrafted free agents like University of San Francisco’s Rob Emery. But this is the first draft where this high a percentage of players came from the local area.
This may be just a coincidence for this year, but it is an interesting thing to see.
It’s hard to tell if these trends will reflect long-term strategies. Some may have obvious effects, as the heavy drafting of pitchers, has led the Giants to be short position players at the lower levels, with needs being filled from international free agents, but also minor league free agents from the independent leagues.
The pitching philosophies, including the increase of shorter stints among starting pitchers, also could effect things down the road. Will this mean the end of starters in baseball? Probably not, but you can see the Giants pushing towards more bullpen games, and less on traditional starter pitchers.
Until we know for sure, we’ll just have to keep watching. And this draft should be a lot of fun to follow.