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They Might Be Giants

Rounding Up the Giants’ 2018 Draft

3 days, 40 rounds later, the draft is done. Let’s look at the players, the stories and the numbers you should know from the SF Giants’ 2018 draft!

MLB: General Managers Meetings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with the biggest topic on everyone’s mind...

What Does Joey Mean For Buster?

I’m already sick of the Bart puns. And I’m the guy who loves puns more than anyone.

Part of it is that this pick seemed almost pre-ordained. For almost a month, nearly everyone has agreed the Giants would take Bart, and they did. Even Bart was ready.

“I said dang, I hope the Giants want me because that’s where I want to be and everything worked out for the greatest,” he said in a post-draft interview. So let’s address the elephant in the room.

What does Bart mean for the Giants’ future, and particularly, Buster Posey?

Now, listen closely… for all the possibilities and moving parts, I’m going to whisper the answer to you.

It Doesn’t Matter.

There are a lot a moving pieces here. Bart isn’t going to be at a Major League level for a couple of years, at least. And in a couple of years, anything could happen. There could be injuries, there could be moves, there could be anything.

The bottom line is that there is no possible way to plan for what’s going to happen in 2020, or 2021, or 2022. So don’t worry about then.

In the meantime, root for Bart to be a superprospect, a Top-50 level ranking across the country, to live up to his draft spot. It’ll make the decision in the future that much harder, but it’s better to have a no-lose situation than a every-choice-is-meh situation.

The Most Controversial Pick

It’s been a bit surprising to see the mix of reactions to 2nd round pick Sean Hjelle’s drafting.

And it comes down to how even one of Hjelle’s biggest fans projects him.

“Back of the rotation” is the phrase that has motivated complaints about Hjelle. The impression is that Hjelle is a “safe” pick, a high floor, low ceiling sort of a pitcher.

And the truth is, yes, he’s a safe pitcher. He’s the 2017 SEC Pitcher of the Year as a sophomore, and has been very consistent throughout his college career. He’s considered a pretty safe pick to be a successful pitcher as it is.

What I think is an incorrect assumption, however, is the idea of him having a low ceiling.

For being a high floor pick, there is a lot of room for Hjelle to grow, and that’s meant quite literally. Out, not up. Anyone who looks at Hjelle, who has probably caused a few waking Slenderman nightmares for some, you might notice he’s rather… thin. Even as thin as near 7’ people go, he skinny. There is a lot of room on that frame, and with that should come more velocity on a good fastball.

Now, consider that if there is ever a great pitcher who knows what tall pitchers go through, the Giants know how to reach him. Despite having been on the team for a season, the Giants keep Randy Johnson in the fold and often invite him to talk to their younger pitchers. Imagine Randy getting a chance to teach Hjelle how to keep on top of his breaking ball or how to add more life to a fastball that already has sinking action.

Hjelle has a higher ceiling than people think. And he’s now on the right team to help him reach it. Will he be an ace? No, of course not. If he was going to be that easily he would’ve gone in the Top 10. But back of the rotation is likely just his floor. He could be better.

Survivor

When we look at prospects, one thing people look at is youth. A little too much in my opinion. We can get so concerned with youth that age is looked at as the enemy, as an irreversible condition that we can not be cured of.

Well, I guess it kind of is, but we still think about it too much.

Right now, I want to bring your attention to the oldest player the Giants drafted, LHP Dylan Dusek. He was the only 5-year senior the Giants drafted, with a birthdate of 2/20/1995. And while he might be a robust 23 years old, he brings a quality that I find admirable; the experience of getting through and past things.

At age 6, after nearly three years of treatment for acute lymphocyctic leukemia, he beat cancer. I can’t overstate how devastating cancer is, and what the treatments are like, so I hope I can just leave it at stating how strong a 6-year old must be to get through it and continue living life, and become an extremely talented baseball player, to impress you.

And his talent made him the No. 2 starter at Texas Tech in his freshman year, when he had an 8-0 record and a 1.94 ERA. In the NCAA tournaments, he made two appearances and was unscored upon in 13 innings.

And then, in his sophomore season, he had Tommy John surgery, one of two surgeries that cost him nearly two years of his college career. He made a return midway through 2017, now a reliever. That’s why he was a 5-year senior, and the only one the Giants drafted.

In 2018, he worked primarily as a reliever, but also made three starts. He also had the best strikeout rate of his college career, working more than one per inning for the first time.

Dusek’s certainly going to come in and be older than most of his teammates as he starts his pro career, but that’s okay. I don’t know what his stuff is like, or whether he’ll ever dominate like that freshman back in 2014. But one thing he’s going to bring to this team is experience with dealing with setbacks and struggles. That’s something every baseball player faces, in their own way. I’m sure that Dusek will be able to share a little wisdom with them as his teammates need it.

And you know what? I have a feeling he’ll still be pretty damn good on the mound, too.

The Big Confusion

In the 17th round, the Giants drafted RHP Ryan Olenek.

Or did they?

The official draft tracker lists him as a RHP, and he did pitch this season. For 2/3 of an inning.

Olenek did have a nice career at Ole Miss, playing in center field, left field, third base and shortstop, but mlb.com thinks he’ll be a second baseman as a pro.

There is a bit of debate about Olenek, and how good of a pick is.

But one bigtime evaluator, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs called Olenek one of his favorites when asked about who to like before the start of Day 3. If he was signable, but McDaniel assumes he isn’t.

So maybe it won’t matter how he’s listed in Draft Tracker, because by next season, he’ll be doing whatever he’s doing back in Ole Miss.

The Breakdown

By Position

C - 4

SS - 4

3B - 2

OF - 7

RHP - 17

LHP - 5

By School

4-Year - 25 (20 JR, 4 SR, 1 5R)

JC - 10 (1 J1, 8 J2, 1 J3)

HS - 5

Is this the Junior College revolution? Last year, the Giants took only 5 Junior College players, and only 4 the year before. Is this how the Giants are pushing for younger players, rather than focusing too much on high school players? Well, one year does not make a trend, so perhaps it’s a bit early to suggest this is a new thing, but with four JC players in the top 15 rounds, it’ll be interesting to see if they sign, and how they perform and sign over the next few seasons.

Prejudiced Against Southpaws

The Giants waited a long time for one kind of player that is so commonly high on draft lists. And the lack of drafting one had a few people worried and wondering what was going on.

And then they drafted one. In the 14th round. That’s how long it took to draft a left-handed pitcher. It was Bryce Tucker, a left-handed reliever.

By the time the Giants found another left-handed pitcher, it was the 26th rounder Jacob Lopez. In the end, the Giants only drafted five left-handed pitchers, including one long-shot lottery ticket who probably won’t sign. So in this draft class, you probably won’t get a lot of lefties.

The Important Scouting Video On The Internet

The internet has made trying to learn about obscure late-round draft picks much easier. Finally, you can put a face to a name, and even a batting stance or pitching motion. But once in a while you find the really important information.

Like, can your new pitcher win a tire flip?

Well, in the case of 36th rounder Bryan Hoeing, the answer is yes. Yes he can.

TAKE THAT, Athletics And Your Surprise Two-Sport Pick

The A’s made the early big splash in the draft, drafting two-sport star Kyler Murray, prompting many questions about whether the University of Oklahoma quarterback would sign and play baseball or football.

Well, the Giants wouldn’t be outdone.

In the 34th round, they found a spectacular find. Lucas Krull, and his 96 MPH fastball, pitching at junior college Jefferson College. He also is the third biggest JuCo football prospect in the country. And Jefferson College doesn’t have a football program.

Unfortunately, it seems that Krull is on the record saying that it would take “Life-changing money” from an MLB team to make him consider not going into football. Even though he had 27 strikeouts in 16.2 innings. Oh, wait.

He had 38 walks in those 16.2 innings?

Maybe it might be safer if he chooses football.

Old Friends

It’s not unusual for the Giants to find themselves drafting the same player a second time (Some of us remember Andrew Barbosa, aka Player Deja Vu), but the Giants did it twice in a row on Day 2. 4th round pick Blake Rivera and 5th round pick Keaton Winn were both drafted by the Giants in 2017 (32nd and 20th, respectively).

Both represent some interesting upside, particularly Rivera, so it’s understandable why the Giants would keep revisiting past pickups.

Puerto Rican Players (Again)

Last year, we talked about the Giants taking Heliot Ramos in the first round, and being the highest drafted player from Puerto Rico. Now, the Giants have taken at least one player from the island in seven of the past eight seasons.

This year, the Giants took three players from Puerto Rico: Edison Mora (7th), Bryan Hernandez (18th) and Angel Guzman (21st). This is not unprecedented. The Giants drafted three Puerto Rican players in 2013 and 2014, and four in 2011. Few of them have had big impacts, with Johneswy Fargas (11th round, 2013) having the biggest so far. Gut then, most of the Puerto Rican players have not been highly drafted. Mora this year, in the 7th round, would be the highest-round pick for one other than Ramos; however, so we’ll see how he does.

Good Taste

The 3rd round pick of Jake Wong has drawn some praise from evaluators, and the consensus is that the Giants did well in that round.

But there is one concern I have about Wong. After reading this article, and seeing his old family photos, it’s clear his sister has much better taste in baseball teams than he did. Hopefully she can teach him a few things.

School History

19th round pick Randy Norris has been one of the best baseball players in Division-II Winston-Salem State University history, being named Player of the Year among independent programs and leaving the school with the all-time school Hits record.

He’s also the first player drafted to the MLB from the school since Ray Chadwick went in the 16th round in 1985.

What’s interesting about that is that WSSU didn’t have a baseball program then, nor did it have one in 1982, when Michael Winbush (WSSU football team’s QB) was drafted by MLB. WSSU disbanded its baseball program in 1973, and it had only been brought back in 2011.

I assume both Chadwick and Winbush played on independent league teams to get drafted, but still, you wouldnt see that in today’s structure.

Maybe Good Taste?

Another note about Randy Norris. He tried to take care of his team when they had to play during Spring Break, when most of the school was closed. He cooked for the team.

Teammate Matt Maudlin said he didn’t have any since he lived off-campus. “But I heard it was edible,” he said.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Luckily, the Giants have nutrition experts, so he doesn’t need to have an 80 cooking tool.

The Best Names

I’m saving this for the end, because, well, this wasn’t a great draft for strange names. Sure, the puns about Joey Bart will not stop. Ever.

*sigh*

It’s going to be hell.

Even the names that seem perfect just aren’t quite. Matt Frisbee is a pitcher, but he doesn’t throw sidearm. And Jett Manning doesn’t quite run like Benny, with only three steal in five attempts in his college season. Sean Hjelle (pronounced like Jelly) is mildly amusing since he’s from Kentucky. As in KY. But it’s still not an 80-grade name.

As such, the top name in this draft may very well be pitcher Trenton Toplikar, the Giants’ 16th round pick from UC Riverside. Sure, just how great will depend on how he pronounces the last name, but that’s about the best the Giants have. Honorable mention goes to Austin Edgette (33rd round).

One bonus: Lucas Krull might not be going to play baseball… but that’s a top name for a football player, especially a big, bruising tight end.

I’m just sad the Giants didn’t get Tigers’ 10th round pick BROCK DEATHERAGE, a name who must always be typed in caps and uttered in fear. I hope his walkup music is always metal.

The Wrap-Up

This was one of the most important drafts for a system that is devoid of top prospects. Did the Giants do what they needed to do? Debate about Hjelle aside, they got one of the top few players available with the draft in Bart, got a 2nd round player who most people feel is a future Major Leaguer, and have several interesting players with talent deeper in the draft. So, I think it was a good draft.

But, if you want my feeling on the later-round picks who could be very good, here they are:

  • Blake Rivera (4th) - There’s something about him that feels successful. I’m getting the vibe of a late inning reliever out of him.
  • Ben Madison (9th) - NAIA picks can rack up cartoonish numbers, but clearly Madison has a live arm with potential. It’ll be interesting to see if he stays a starter or goes to relief.
  • David Villar (11th) - Don’t put too much into college stats, but sometimes you can see the talent under the numbers. Villar has some hidden power that a good coach might be able to unlock as he gets older.
  • Randy Norris (19th) - Norris has all the qualities you look for in a player who’s going to work his butt off to be really, really good.

Alright, that’s it. You good? I’m good. Let’s get these kids signed, and get the short-season leagues going. I can’t wait to see them at work.