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They Might Be Giants

What can Farhan Zaidi’s past drafts suggest about the Giants’ 2019 draft?

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Can we predict anything by what has passed?

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

For the first time in over two decades, the Giants have a new brain trust running their draft, and that makes trying to predict what the team will do very, very difficult. Not that they weren’t already one of the most unpredictable teams in the draft.

What goes into a draft is the work of many people, and it doesn’t all fall on one person. Dozens of people provide input for every draft class. Zaidi wasn’t the even the top man in Los Angeles — he was under Andrew Friedman — but as GM, his opinion or deferral power weighted heavily. Now with the Giants, Zaidi is working with a new team of scouts.

While he’s brought in some new names, much of the team he’s working with is the same that’s handled the last few drafts. He’ll need to rely on a group that’s not entirely his own while at the same time mixing his own philosophies and organizational goals with the parts of the previous regime and orthodoxy he thinks might mix well with them.

So, what sort of prospects might we get in Farhan Zaidi’s first draft?

Let’s take a look back at the drafts by Zaidi while he was Dodgers’ GM and see if we can learn anything. I’m going to focus on the first ten rounds, since going deeper is always a crap shoot. All the rankings listed below are from MLB Pipeline.

2015

Walker Buehler - Majors
Top 30 prospects: #12-Edwin Rios (6th Round)
Unsigned - Kyle Funkhouser (1st-S)
Top 10 Rounds:
Pitchers: 7
Position: 5
High School: 2
JC: 1
College: 9

Zaidi’s first draft with the Dodgers might be the most telling, as he still had a brain trust that was in place from the pre-Friedman regime. The Dodgers’ first round pick, Walker Buehler (#24 overall), has made the majors and is an effective player, but the rest of the draft is notably lacking in prospects. Most notable is the supplemental round pick Funkhouser having gone unsigned.

Zaidi went with 4-year university picks in the first round and a high schooler in round 2. Four of the first five picks were used on pitchers.

2016

Top 30 Prospects: #2-Gavin Lux (1st); #3-Dustin May (3rd); #4-Tony Gonsolin (9th); #5-Will Smith (1st-S); #8-Mitchell White (2nd); #10-DJ Peters (4th);
Top 10 Rounds:
Pitchers: 6
Position: 6
High School: 2
JC: 2
4 Year: 8

This draft will be impacting the Dodgers for years. The Dodgers had two picks in the 1st supplemental round to add to their normal picks, and for the most part, they did very well. Lux and Smith (the latter of whom is a a top ranked catcher) were absolute hits, but 3rd round pick May and 9th round pick Gonsolin really make this an impactful draft class. Only one of the picks in the top 3 rounds has not made their top rankings, #36 overall pick Jordan Sheffield, who is struggling with control.

The top pick, Lux, was a high school pick, as was the 3rd round pick. The Dodgers went to the JCs in the 4th and 5th round picks. This was an incredibly balanced draft, in terms of picks and sources.

2017

Top 30 Prospects: #13-Connor Wong (3rd); #15-Jeren Kendall (1st)
Top 10 Rounds:
Pitchers: 6
Position: 4
High School: 1
JC: 0
4 Year: 9

The results of this draft are a little surprising. First round pick Jeren Kendall was a toolsy pick who has not panned out very well as of yet. Connor Wong is yet another catcher that Zaidi has taken or acquired, and has a lot of versatility in the infield.

This was a very college heavy class, as extreme as it gets. Only one of these players was traded, 4th round pick pitcher James Marinan (the only high schooler), but he would not have impacted the Top 30 rankings.

2018

Top 30 Prospects: #14-Michael Grove (2nd); #22 Braydon Fisher (4th); #23-John Rooney (3rd)
Unsigned: J.T. Ginn (1st)
Pitchers: 5
Position: 5
High School: 2
JC: 0
4 Year: 8

J.T. Ginn is the second major unsigned player in Zaidi’s draft classes, which is interesting and unsettling. It’s been barely a year for this draft class to mature, so the lack of top prospects from it is not a big deal, especially with their first round pick Ginn going unsigned.

This draft was pitching heavy, with the top four picks, and four of the top six, being pitchers, so clearly Zaidi is not uncomfortable with going heavy in one direction. Also, for the second straight year, no JC picks in the top 10, although the Dodgers did grab several of them overall in the draft.

Summary

4 years of drafts is a remarkably small sample size to judge drafting strategy by, but there are a few things that I’m going to draw from these drafts:

  • Farhan has no extreme tendencies with the levels he drafts from, unafraid to go with high schoolers or college players high, and is willing to draft JC players in the top 10 rounds.
  • Farhan is willing to go extreme when it comes to drafting pitchers, especially looking at his 2018 draft.
  • The quality of prospects coming out of the various drafts are pretty varied.

What does this mean for the draft coming up in a couple of weeks? Not much to say right away. Zaidi’s results have been varied enough that it doesn’t do much to predict this one draft. There’s not much to predict on this one, especially in the first round.

Except this: Don’t be surprised if the team drafts catcher Shea Langeliers with their first pick. This man does love having catching prospects.