editor's note: Front-paged so I wouldn't have to write the same danged thing, but with more knock-knock jokes and less information.
Ah, the draft. For a prospect hound like me, it’s like Christmas in June. The future of baseball, getting distributed to teams in front of your very eyes. The Giants’ run to the World Series Championship last year was fueled largely by players selected in the Rule 4 draft in the last half decade or so. Just look:
First round, 2002: Matt Cain
24th round, 2003: Brian Wilson
27th round, 2004: Jonathan Sanchez
25th round, 2005: Sergio Romo
First round, 2006: Tim Lincecum
First round, 2007: Madison Bumgarner
First round, 2008: Buster Posey
That’s seven drafts in a row that the Giants picked someone who was a major contributor to their World Series Championship.
So the draft is important, no doubt. How did the Giants do this year? Let’s dive right in, shall we?
First Round, Pick 29: Joe Panik, SS/2B, St. Johns
Yes, there were plenty of puns to be made when the Giants drafted Panik about, oh, twenty or so slots above where he was projected to go. I, for one, definitely Paniked (alright, alright, I’m done, I promise) when I heard Bud Selig announce the pick, but I’ve come around on the selection. Panik is listed at 6’1", 193 lbs., and is built pretty solidly. His range is adequate for short, but his arm will likely necessitate a move to second in the future. He should be a fast mover as he’s a very polished college player. At the plate, he’s got a nice, fluid swing. He won’t produce a lot of power, but his contact skills are second to none. This season, he walked more than twice as often as he struck out (38-17). His top comp in the majors is probably Freddy Sanchez, although if you squint really hard you can see a little Dustin Pedroia (size difference nonwithstanding). It’s worth noting he struggled in the wood-bat Cape Cod League last summer. I expect Panik to sign quite soon, and start at either shortstop or second base for the Low-A Salem-Keizer team.
First Round, Supplemental, Pick 49: Kyle Crick, RHP, Texas HS
Going into the draft, I didn’t know a whole lot about Crick, but the more I see him the more I love him. He reminds me a lot of Matt Cain: they’re of similar size (Crick is 6’4", 220, Cain is 6’3", 230) and he’s got a low-90s fastball similar to Cain. He’s also boasts a hammer curveball that grades out as a plus pitch. He also apparently throws an average changeup and a fringe-average slider. His big issue is command; he walked 44 batters in 63 innings his senior year. Still, his stuff is impressive. He also has fantastic mechanics, and doesn't appear to be a health risk. He’ll be a bit of a project, but I look forward to seeing how he develops. He becomes the Giants’ third most exciting pitching prospect, after Zach Wheeler and Eric Surkamp.
Second Round, Pick 86: Andrew Susac, C, Oregon State
I actually played high school ball against Susac, and I can tell you from firsthand experience he has the defensive skills to stay behind the dish. A broken hamate bone in his left hand held him to only 96 plate appearances this year, so opinions are mixed about his hitting ability. Some see him as a 10-15 HR a year, low contact, plus power kind of hitter, in the mold of Russell Martin or a Chris Iannetta, others think he’ll be a defense first catcher that will struggle to start in the big leagues. I sit more in the second camp, but Susac is intriguing enough to take the chance on. He fell perhaps as many as forty slots as teams were scared off by his hand injury. He becomes the Giants’ third best catching prospect, behind Tommy Joseph and Hector Sanchez. There are also some concerns that he might not sign, as he’s a draft-eligible sophomore, but I doubt the Giants would have picked him if they didn’t want to make a run at signing him.
Third Round, pick 116: Ricky Oropesa, 1B, USC
Ricky Oropesa is a one-tool player, but oh my, what that one tool is: power. In the third, the Giants grabbed a guy with truly elite power potential, and I can’t fault them for that, but I don’t see Oropesa becoming an everyday player in the big leagues. He had contact issues in college, striking out in over 20% of his at-bats his junior season. He also slugged .710, so I can live with the strikeouts, but I just don’t know if I see the power translating to wood bats. I heard a comparison to Chris Dominguez, and I think that’s probably pretty accurate. He also struggled in the Cape Cod League last summer with wood bats. He's also apparently a below-average first baseman.
Other draftees I found interesting/noteworthy:
Fourth Round, pick 147: Bryce Bandilla, LHP, Arizona
I’ve played baseball with Bryce (can’t bring myself to call him by his last name) since we were 8 years old. The thing I remember most about him is him giving up one earned run in 55 innings his senior year, and striking out 78 batters while walking 7. Three years later, he started the season as Arizona’s closer but lost the job early in the season. He’s got an electric fastball that sits mid-90s and can touch 97, and he compliments that with an above-average curveball. He’s got a profile that suggests he can handle more than being a LOOGY. He has a history of starting, as well. Control is a major question mark; he walked more than 6 per nine this season. He’ll be a project for Tidrow. His motion isn’t going to settle any fears either, as it’s quite violent.
Sixth Round, pick 207: Josh Osich, LHP, Oregon State
So we grabbed the Oregon State ace and his backstop. Osich fell this far due to health concerns; he reported left his last start after only 12 pitches after feeling some arm pain, and he sat out last season with Tommy John surgery. I love this pick, and I think it’s potentially fantastic value in a mid-round pick.
He’s a senior, so signability isn’t an issue He's a redshirt junior, so he'll have to get an overslot deal to forgo his senior year. The Giants will want to check him out medically before offering him anything lucrative, and could conceivably ask him to pitch in the Cape Cod League to show his arm strength. He’s got a live fastball that can touch 97 and an average to above-average changeup. He’s also got a slider that is a work in progress. Similar to Bandilla, he profiles as a reliever even though he has a history of starting in college (he threw a no-hitter against UCLA this year).
Eighth Round, pick 267: Jean Delgado, SS, Puerto Rico HS
Finally, a hit-first SS prospect! Delgado was ranked the 5th best Puerto Rican prospect before the draft by Baseball America, and the best hitter. He’s 5’11", 150 lbs., so he’s got room to fill out. Every report I’ve read indicates that he should be able to stick at SS, but he’s not going to be a Gold Glover. He was the highest drafted of the four Puerto Ricans taken by the Giants (one other, Christian Otero, was ranked as the best fielding prospect by BA).
Tenth Round, pick 327: Kentrell Hill, CF, Arkansas Baptist College
Kentrell Hill screams "HIGH UPSIDE!" He's got the potential to become a five-tool center fielder. Perfect Game calls him a plus defender, with plus-plus range and a strong arm. He also has fantastic speed, clocking in with a 4.47 40-yard dash and a 6.46 60-yard dash. I see him as a poor-man's Gary Brown. He's committed to go to Oral Roberts University next year, but I can't imagine it would be terribly expensive to sign him.
His college stats: 203 ABs, 22/21 BB/K, 11 HRs, 36 SBs against only 5 CS. .402/.482/.698
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any video of him.
General impressions on the draft:
Taken as a whole, the front office had a decent draft. The top three of Panik, Crick, and Susac are solid, even if they were drafted in the wrong order. However, there were opportunities for greater returns on that pick. Mikey Mahtook, the outfielder from LSU, was still available, as was HS pitcher Henry Owens. Even if the Giants brass were committed to taking a middle infielder, Levi Michael, Trevor Story, and Jake Hager were all still on the board, and all three were widely considered better prospects than Panik.
What I think happened was all the high-upside pitchers the Giants really wanted came off the board right before pick 29. Tyler Beede went at 21, Taylor Guerreri went 24th, Joe Ross went 25th, and Robert Stephenson went 27th. The draft room panicked (avoiding the pun) and went for need.
That being said, they’re the professionals, and I’m just some kid who should be studying for his finals. They managed to grab a 1st round talent in the 2nd, and in between took a projectable high school pitcher, the type of player they’ve been successful developing in the past. It became apparent after the draft that the Giants probably weren’t drafting with as deep of pockets as we outsiders may have thought they were. Crick and Susac are probably the only two picks that will require anything above slot to sign, and I don’t think they’ll want that much more. All told, this draft will probably cost the Giants $4-5 million, which is quite low. All in all, I thought they had a solid draft.
Now it’s time to get these kids on the field.