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Revisiting the 2017 draft

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You remember this one!

MLB: Spring Training-Texas Rangers at San Francisco Giants Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

As we noted in our previous post, on the final day of the 2016 draft, the Giants walked off against the Dodgers giving themselves a 4 game lead in first place in the NL West. The team was vaulting itself towards the best record in the majors at the break. And, as a result of this big league success and the lack of a 1st round pick, the 2016 draft no doubt drew somewhat muted attention from the Giants’ Faithful.

Indeed, the draft was barely mentioned at all on the official Giants twitter feed over the three days it was held, with Bryan Reynolds selection in the 2nd round the sole mention that it was taking place. Much more attention was being given to the reunion of the 1986 Giants team taking place that weekend. As well as exciting happenings on the field, of course.

What a difference a year would make. On June 12, 2017 as the Rule 4 draft began, the Giants sat buried 14 games below .500 and 15 games out of 1st place. The amateur draft thus loomed as a sign of hope, a potential balm, a resting place on what had already become a grueling trudge from something stupid to nothing at all.

So how did it play out?

2017 Draft Results

Rd Pick Player School
Rd Pick Player School
1 19 Heliot Ramos Leadership Christian Academy, PR
2 58 Jacob Gonzalez Chaparral HS, AZ
3 96 Seth Corry Lone Peak HS, UT
4 126 Garrett Cave U of Tampa
5 156 Jason Bahr U of Central Florida
6 186 Bryce Johnson Sam Houston St.
7 216 Logan Harasta SUNY-Buffalo
8 246 John Gavin Cal St. Fullerton
9 276 Aaron Phillips St. Bonaventure
10 306 Rob Calabrese U of IL-Chicago

Perhaps it was the changing fortunes of the big league club that in turn motivated a changing philosophy in the draft room. In the nine previous drafts that John Barr had run, the Giants had selected 7 high school players in the top 5 rounds out of 46 picks. It’s true, on two previous occasions, Barr had selected high school players with the top two picks — 2009 when Zack Wheeler was followed by Tommy Joseph, and 2013 when Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones went back to back.

Still this felt like something different: three straight High School picks. And unlike previous picks like Arroyo and Jones, these weren’t necessarily highly polished High School kids, especially not the guy at the top. To quote from Baseball America’s scouting report:

Ramos has become a divisive prospect, with some teams enthused by his loud tools while others are wary of his limited track record of hitting with a wood bat against high-level competition.

Woah! Raw and toolsy high school kid? This was not your typical Giants pick!

And they doubled down with Seth Corry in the 3rd round, a tremendous athlete known as well for his football accomplishments in High School as for baseball (Corry and Logan Webb can share tails of high school football glory). According to Corry, Tampa Bay had indicated they might select him at both the #31 and #40 picks, but ended up going a different direction both times, allowing him to slide to the Giants.

In between Ramos and Corry, the Giants took another somewhat divisive pick, the son of former D-back legend Luis Gonzalez. Jacob was compared to fellow Arizona high schoolers CJ and Kevin Cron going into the draft, and he has the size and potential to grow into that kind of power, though he hasn’t shown much of it yet. The Giants might do him a favor by relieving him the demands of trying to play 3b sooner rather than later.

As is typical of the current draft format, to help pay for high school draftees at the top of the draft, nearly all of the 5-10 round picks were “value picks” — players who could be signed somewhat underslot to help carve back the extra needed to get the young kids on board. Still, the Giants found some intriguing arms and a speed and defense player in Bryce Johnson. The best of the arms looks like it might have been Jason Bahr. Bahr brought a heart-warming story of perseverance — he had been cut twice by his college coaches before breaking out under a new coach in his final year — and a lively arm. Sadly, he was sacrificed to the CBT gods during the ill-fated 2018 season. Bahr is currently having an interesting season in A+ though he is not listed in the Rangers’ top 30 prospects at this time.

Still this draft is almost certainly going to be remembered for what Ramos turns into. So far in his pro career, he’s lit the Giants fandom afire with his spectacular AZL debut at age 17 (.348/.404/.645 with 6 HRs and 10 SB), then caused a modicum of concern with both fans and scouts in A ball at age 18 (.244/.313/.396 with 136 Ks in 535 PA). And most recently, Heliot has displayed some tantalizing improvements in pitch recognition, plate discipline and power before being injured in April of this year.

He’s been on BA’s Top 100 (#79) after 2017, dropped off it after 2018, and could well be heading to a reappearance when this year is done.

WAAAAAAAAAIT a minute? What are we saying here? Great in 2017. Meh in 2018. Great in 2019? Could Heliot be positioning himself to lead the Giants into a glorious new era of ...

ODD YEAR BULLSHIT?

Get that head a-nodding, Heliot!


Best Prospects from Top of 2017 Draft:

  1. Heliot Ramos
  2. Seth Corry
  3. Jacob Gonzalez

Ramos has enticed Giants’ fans and officials alike. How close the organization can develop him to his potential — and how fast they can get them there — will tell a significant part of the tale of the Giants rebuild.

Corry, alongside Gregory Santos and Logan Webb, likely represents the highest potential upside of any starting pitching prospects in the system, but expect it to be a long, slow climb towards reaching that potential as he still has much work to do with his mechanics, as well as the more nuanced aspects of learning pitching.

Jacob Gonzalez was Ramos running-mate after a fantastic AZL debut. But his star has dimmed greatly since then as the soon-to-turn 21 year old is suffering through a second consecutive disappointing season in the Sally. There’s still great power potential there once he grows into his body — IF he can learn to keep the ball off the ground.

KEVIN’S TAKE: I have less problem with a high-floor approach when you’re at the back of the first round than some do. Joe Panik’s 7.4 WAR at #29 in 2011 might not match the 12.0 of Jackie Bradley at #40, but there’s 11 other teams that got next to nothing out of their picks at that level. Sometimes, a 75% chance of getting a good major leaguer is better than a 15% chance of a superstar and an 85% chance of nothing. I know that is a hugely unpopular opinion these days, but I’m okay with it. That said, I do like the risk they pursued with Heliot Ramos in the mid-first round. They’ve hit well in the last two drafts so far, hopefully Zaidi can keep it up. And don’t sleep on Gonzo, either. This year we’ve seen two other draftees with Major League bloodlines (Jacob Heyward, Jonah Arenado) begin to wake up a little later in their prospect lives after several disappointing seasons.


Best Prospects from Rest of 2017 Draft:

  1. Franklin Van Gurp (25th round)
  2. John Russell (16th round)
  3. Logan Baldwin (21st round)
  4. Aaron Bond (12th round)

If you don’t count Blake River and Keaton Winn (both of whom were selected again and signed the following year) this isn’t a particularly intriguing group. Van Gurp is probably the best of a group of relief arms who could conceivably turn into contributors someday but aren’t terribly likely to. That group also includes Russell, Frank Rubio, and Joey Marciano.

Baldwin and Bond are both fast, athletic OF (and in Bond’s case, powerful too) who haven’t shown a great ability to hit yet. 19th rounder Frankie Tostado has had an interesting full season debut, but on the whole it’s hard to spot any legitimate sleeper potential in this group.