Let me start with a general discussion of drafting philosophy and analysis, then I'll get into the specifics for this year's draft.
1. This is my draft board for the Giants. If I were drafting for some other team it would most likely look a lot different.
2. I don't think the concept of drafting the best player available (BPA) is the be-all and end-all bible for the baseball draft like it is in football and basketball. The history of the draft is such a crapshoot, where even a large percentage of the guys drafted in the top 5 picks each year have failed to pan out, that I don't believe anybody can consistently define who is the BPA when it their time to draft. That being said, I also don't think a team should draft wholly based on need either. I think a team should take into account the following when they draft:
......(a) A player that they'll have a very good chance of signing.
......(b) A player that fits into the developmental strengths of their minor league system. The Giants have shown very little aptitude for developing hitters (especially HS hitters) into MLB hitters when they don't already have a well above-average hit tool and an advanced approach at the plate. They do have a very good track record of developing pitchers (both college and HS) and, to a lesser extent, catchers.
......(c) The comparative strength and weaknesses of the draft pool. In other words, where is the quality and depth in the draft pool - HS pitcher's, college bats, college hitters, ...?
......(d) A player that fits their home park. For the Giants, that would be RH position players and pitchers that don't allow a lot of fly balls to LF.
......(e) A player that's career trajectory fits into the current makeup of your MLB roster. For example, if your team has no chance to make the playoffs now or in the near future, then go ahead and take more chances on younger, high-ceiling players that will take longer to develop. If you're on the cusp of contending and your team isn't alreay full of aging vets, then lean toward players that should make it to the majors quicker.
......(f) A player that fills a major need on their Major League team.
3. Other things being equal, I prefer guys that have good baseball smarts, love to work hard, sacrifice for the team, and do the little things it takes to win consistently. In hitters, that means guys that work the count, that don't hack away at everything thrown them or strike out a lot, that stay within themselves, and that can execute situational hittimg. For pitchers, that means guys that have a feel for pitching, rather than just throwing hard, and guys that have command and control of their pitches. I'd rather have a guy that throws 90-92 mph, has at least 2 other reliable pitches, and knows how to change speeds, location and planes to keep a hitter off balance; over a guy that can consistently throw mid-90s, or more, but has no control over where it goes and doesn't know how to set up a hitter.
4. In light of #1 - 3 above, I will be biasing my picks in the following order:
......(a) College hitters. I prefer power hitters and RHHs, but am looking especially for guys that have an advanced hit tool.
......(b) High school pitchers. I don't care so much about his physical size. I do want arm strength and arm speed. Other things being equal, I prefer a guy with a mechanically smooth, low-effort, and repeatable delivery. He should also have some grasp of the concept of the art of pitching.
......(c) College pitchers. Same comments as in (b) above, but they need to be have more advanced pitchabliltiy.
......(d) High school hitters. I'll leave the toolsy, low-floor, high-risk athletes for other teams. I want a guy that projects to have an above-average hit tool, and hope for power to blossom.
GIANTS FARM SYSTEM ANALYSIS
When you look at the Giants farm system, the only true power hitters that jump out at you are Roger Kieschnick, Chris Dominguez, Tommy Joseph, Adam Duvall. All but Joseph have enough major question marks in their offensive game to make it almost impossible to count on them to be future significant contributers at the major league level. Leonardo Fuentes is another name that might be put on this list, but I want to see how he handles the NWL this year before I do that. Chuckie Jones does have plus power, but he has such an issue with just hitting the ball often enough that he can't be counted on. Andrew Susac and Ricky Oropesa have the potential to be above-average power hitters, but they have yet to display anything of the sort in their short pro careers. That's not a list that any Giant fan or member of management should be satisfied with. Prior to last year's draft, I bemoaned the lack of projectable quality starting pitching in the system. Since then the Giants have traded Zack Wheeler and Ryan Verdugo, and Eric Surkamp has developed a serious arm injury. Even with those setbacks, I feel much better about the state of the starting pitching prospects in the system than at this time last year. Kudos have to go to the draft team for doing a good job of replenishing the system through the 2011 draft (Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Bryce Bandilla, Chris Marlowe, Derek Law and Demondre Arnold) and the Caribbean IFA (mainly Adalberto Mejia and Enmanuel DeJusus). We also have seen promising developments in the development of holdover older prospects Mike Kickham and Chris Heston, and the younger Caribbean trio of Kendry Flores, Lorenzo Mendoza and Joan Gregorio. The one other area of glaring need in the system is at shortstop. Ehire Adrianza has been a major disappointment in AA this season, and he's no longer so young that we can shrug it off. The only SS in the system that I have any faith in at this point is Joe Panik, and even he has legitimate question marks about his abilityt to stick at SS in the majors. Kelby Tomlinson plays above-avearge D at SS with an above-average arm, and is a lot faster and more of a disruptive force on the basebpaths than I expected, but he's having trouble just hitting the ball out of the infield in the Sally at the age of 22.
So, to my mind the Giants 3 biggest areas of need are:
1. Power hitters
3. Starting pitchers
For this year's draft, I'm repeating my call for the Giants to focus on power and pitching, but I'll throw in a wish that they remain flexible enough to jump on an opportunity to grab a quality shortstop in the first few rounds when available.
The good news is that the Giants draft at a high enough spot in the first round that they are sure to have an excellent pitcher and a very good power hitter available to them. Also, this draft looks to be quite deep in quality HS and JuCo starting pitchers, so the Giants should be able to grab a high-upside arm with both their 2nd and 3rd round picks if they so choose. The bad news is that the power bat that should be available to them at #20 is almost surely going to be a HS postion player - and we all know how uncomfortable John Barr feel about picking those types in the first 5 rounds (Barr has only done it once in 4 years). The other bit of bad news is that there's not any depth in shortstops (and all of the depth comes from the HS ranks) and the new CBA rules make it next to impossible to draft and sign all of the good pitching prospects once we get past the 4th round.
I think that this draft is thin on superstar talent at the top (as compared to guys like Strasburg, Harper, Bundy and Bauer in the past 3 years), and pretty much average, or even below-average in terms of it's depth of quality prospects. The top of this draft (approximately the top 125 prospects) can be separated into 5 distinct tiers of talent and potential.
Tier 1: the top 5 prospects (Correa, Buxton, Gaussman, Giolito and Zimmer - Giolito is almost undraftable due to the injury and bonus demands)
Tier 2: the next level of prospects is only about 10 people deep
Tier 3: this level includes about 20 prospects of similar potential
Tier 4: this level includes about 35 prospects of similar potential
Tier 5: this level includes about 55 prospects of similar potential
Going beyond the generality of the tiers, I believe that the strength of this draft lies in the following areas:
1. High school pitchers (throughout basically every tier from top to bottom)
2. High school position players (a really good mix across all positions)
3. College pitchers (mainly in the top 3 tiers - but a thin class overall)
4. College position players (mainly in the top 2 tiers - but an historically thin and poor class overall)
As you can see with a simple arithmetic calculation of the tiers, the Giants are guaranteed to have a chance to draft at least a tier 3 prospect with their #20 overall pick in the first round. They also have an outside shot at stealing a tier 2 prospect if he should fall to #20 for some reason (Marcus Stroman is the most likely guy in this scenario). Because the draft is so thin in quality power bats and position players, and is so relatively deep in quality pitching, I want the Giants to focus on a position player with the #20 pick. I don't want them to reach for somebody just because they have such a need for a bat, but unless the available pitcher is clearly a better prospect than the available hitter then I think the Giants should grab the hitter. There's sure to be a very good quality pitcher available at #20, but I do think that the Giants will have several pitchers still on the board when they pick at #84 overall in the 2nd round that will be very close in potential to the pitchers that they would be passing up at #20. However, the signable hitters that will likely still be on the board at #84 will be noticeably below the talent level and potential of the hitters that should still be on the board at #20. In addition, I think that there should still be some very good and signable pithcers still on the board when the Giants pick at #115 overall in the third round.
HOW WILL THE RADICAL NEW CBA RULES AFFECT THE DRAFT?
The new CBA rules will change the way teams draft - there's no question about that. I 've already posted a piece (link above) that takes an in-depth look at the new cap limit rules and how it will likely affect the Giants, so I'll only hit the highlights here. There are 3 key aspect to the new rules:
1. The slot limits fall off dramatically once you get past the first 4 picks, drop below $1M after the #50 pick, and below $500K once you get past the #95 overall pick (which is at the end of the 2nd round this year).
2. Once a team's total amount of overslot bonuses exceeds 5% of your assigned cap limit, the team starts to lose future draft picks.
3. Unlike in past years, if a team fails to sign a player that they draft in the first 10 rounds then the amount of the slot for that pick is subtracted from the team's total assigned cap and possible penalties are calculated from this new, lower cap amount.
How does all of this affect the Giants? To begin with, it probably means that if they want to draft a highly-rated HS prospect then they'll have to do that with one of their first 3 picks - because their 4th round pick is #145 overall. It also should mean that the Giants will be even more biased towards taking a college player with their picks in the top 10 rounds than they have been since John Barr took over their drafts prior to the 2008 season (more on these stats can be found below). They are also going to be a lot more biased towards college players with picks taken after the 10th round, because very few HS players are willing to sign for $100K or less. If the Giants do find an unloved gem like Clayton Blackburn, Brandon Allen or Alec Asher (all of whom signed for around $180K-200K) that they like in the HS ranks then they'll have to draft him in the 5th through 8th rounds in order to have enough room under the slot limits to sign him. Because of the new rules and the Giants general preference for college prospects, I look for the Giants to draft a maximum of 3 American HS prospects in the entire draft - at most 1 after the 10th round. I also want the Giants to work the new system to their favor by finding young prospects (ie. guys that aren't college juniors or seniors) that have good upside and are easier to sign for slot than an American HS draftee would be. For this year's draft, that means that I want the Giants to really mine what should be the best collection of talent (in both quality and depth) to come out of Puerto Rico since the island was included in the June draft back in 1990. I also want them to focus a lot on an excellent group of JuCo freshmen and sophomores (mainly pitchers).
I have no specific sources that I can point to for specific prospects in this year's draft, but in past years we have seen that Puerto Rican HS kids and American JuCo players have been cheaper to sign than American HS and 4-year college prospects. We just have to look to last year's draft to see how the Giants were able to draft and sign 3 Puerto Rican HS prospects between the 8th and 18th rounds (Jean Delgado, Christian Diaz & Cristian Otero) and 4 American JuCo players between the 9th and 44th rounds (Derek Law, Kentrell Hill, Demondre Arnold & Travious Relaford) for amounts that were much less than a comparable American HS talent would have demanded.
One other path I'd like to see the Giants take, and this is something they did in fact put into practice last year, is to look for
college relievers with live arms that they believe can make a successful transiton to starting pitching - after the first 4 rounds. I believe that guys like that can give the Giants a lot more upside for the slot amounts that MLB will be tieing them to in this year's draft. Last year the Giants took 3 relievers between the 4th and 7th rounds that fit that category - Bryce Bandilla, Chris Marlowe, and Ray Black - and this year there is a deep crop of college relievers that can be mined in a similar manner.
Now the fun part. I'm going to list the names of the guys that I'd like to see the Giants target in this year's draft, along with a brief thumbnail sketch. This isn't a true "draft board" because I'm not listing every player I have rated from #1 to #500 and I'm not going to include guys on my board for the #20 pick that obviously won't be on the board, or won't be signable, when the Giants pick (ie. Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, Kyle Zimmer, ...). I've already written, in another fanpost, in-depth profiles of a large group of prospects that interest me for the Giants (see the link directly below). For the sake of brevity and readability, I'll just include the player's names and bio-line, with a brief description of why I like them for the Giants at that spot. If you want to read the longer analysis (with stats and links to video clips) of the specific prospects then just click on this link:
MY DRAFT BOARD FOR ROUND 1 (#20 overall)
1. Marcus Stroman: RHP, Duke Univ., (5'9", 180) DOB=5/1/91
BA has him ranked as the #10 prospect. He's unlikely to still be on the board at #20, but stranger things have happened. We all know the blind spot that teams have when it comes to undersized pitchers (remember Timmy falling to #10 in 2006?) and I've been seeing rumors of it again this year. Stroman already has an above average 3-pitch arsenal and has shown this season that he has the stamina to be a successful starter in the majors. He should get to the majors very quickly (I wouldn't be surprised to see him in 2014) and he's one of the younger college guys in his draft class. And he's a great guy. What more could you ask for?
2. Carson Kelly: 3B/RHP, Westview HS, Portland, OR (6'2", 200) DOB=7/14/94
Ranked the #43 overall prospect by BA. News on Kelly has been quiet this spring as other HS prospects in warmer climes have been hyped, but he has a history of performing well against the highest level of competition on the summer showcase circuit in the past few years. Kelly will stick at 3B, and has the upside of a Evan Longoria in terms of power, hitting and defensive combinationn. Univ. of Oregon commit.
3. Victor Roache: RHH, RF, Georgia So. Univ., (6'2", 175) DOB=9/17/91
He was ranked as the 9th overall draft prospect by BA back in February, but slipped to #22 in their mid-May rankings due to his wrist injury. He would be #1 on my list if not for the uncertaintly surrounding the long-term health of his wrist. Roache would be a top 10 talent that the Giants could steal at #20. He has hit for power and average in college and on the Cape, his swing is short and blazingly quick, and he has a better eye and patience at the plate than some are giving him credit for. His cast off on April 18th and he's been playing catch for about 2 weeks now, so teams should be able to have gotten some type of medical read on him by now. He so young for his college class that sitting out the rest of the season to rest and rehab the wrist shouldn't set him behind his peers.
4. Nick Travieso: RHP, Archbishop McCarthy HS, Pembroke Pines, FL (6'2", 210) DOB=1/31/94
Ranked the #40 overall prospect by BA. I look at his delivery, arm strength and 2 fringe-plus pitches (FB + SL) and can't understand why he's so far down on their list and behind pitchers that I think he's clearly better than. This is a kid that has been sitting where the other HS kids have only been touching, and he's been touching Giolito-level velocity of 99 mph several times in the past 6 weeks. This kid has to have Dick Tidrow drooling. Univ. of Miami commit.
5. Zach Eflin: RHP, Hagerty HS, Chuluota, FL (6'5", 200) DOB=4/8/94
He was ranked as the #31 prospect by BA. He likely would have been at least 10 spots higher if he hadn't been shelved for 6 weeks in April and May due to "tricep tendonitis". He has come back and thrown pain-free in 2 live games and in workouts for scouts over the last 4 weeks. The velocity and "stuff" were there, so most teams think there's no long-term arm issue. What sets Eflin apart from all of the other HS flamethrowers is that he already throws a plus changeup to go with his mid-90s FB. With a breaking ball that is at least average, Eflin has one of the most complete arsenal of pitches this side of Giolito. I also give him extra points for being one of the younger kids in the HS class. Univ. of Central Florida commit.
6. Corey Seager: 2B/SS, LHH (throws RH), Northwest Cabarrus HS, Kannapolis, NC (6'2", 190) DOB=4/27/94
Ranked the #19 overall prospect by BA. If I was more certain that he could stick at SS then I would have him right behind or just ahead of Stroman on my board. I do believe in his hit tool and think that he has intriguing power potential. Everybody is calling for him to end up at 3B or SS, but I think that he would be most valuable at 2B (where his defense would be well above-average and his bat would be a huge plus) if he can't make a go of it at SS. He's the younger brother of the Mariners 3B Kyle Seager. Univ. of South Carolina commit.
7. Chris Stratton: RHP, Miss. State Univ. (6'3", 200) DOB=8/22/90
Ranked the #18 overall prospect by BA. Another advanced college pitcher with great swing-and-miss stuff who we could be seeing in the majors as early as 2014. He's not a brain-dead hurler. He has command and control of his FB and SL and knows the subtle art of when and how to subtract and add velocity to mess with a hitter's timing. He'll throw the FB and slider to all 4 quadrants of the zone. Teach him an above-average changeup and he could easily be a #1/#2 starter for a decade. Then only knock that he gets from me is that he's way too old for his college class.
8. Courtney Hawkins: RF, RHH, Carrol HS, Corpus Christi, TX (6'2", 210) DOB=11/12/93
Hawkins is ranked the #15 prospect by BA. I want to rank him higher on this list, because his power, athleticism, and competitiveness are top-shelf, but the aggressive approach at the plate and lack of a good hit tool worry me too much. The Giants don't have a good track record of developing HS talent that fits his profile. Univ. of Texas commit.
9. Stryker Trahan: C/RF, LHH (throws RH), Acadiana HS, Lafayette, LA (6'1", 220) DOB=4/25/94
Ranked the #27 overall prospect by BA. Trahan's profile is very similar to Hawkins, but he doesn't have the same arm strength or athleticism as Hawkins and Trahan's power comes from the LH side of the plate. Love his power and sweet, smooth swing. The kid can run a 6.5 60 yard dash, so I don't think he would have any problem converting to a corner OF spot - from where his path to the majors comes a lot faster. The 2 drawbacks are his questionable hit tool and not knowing how he would play defensively in the OF. Louisiana State Univ. commit.