To say Jim Callis is a draft and prospect expert is an exercise in understatement. He’s been covering the draft since 1988. In other words, since before “draft coverage” was a thing — he cut his teeth in the days when MLB actively attempted to hide the information of what players had been selected by what teams, and he has the fun war stories that go along with such experience. Jim was the longtime Executive Editor of Baseball America and currently works with MLB.com as their prospect and draft guru.
More importantly, he is infallibly gracious and generous with his knowledge and once again this year, took the time to talk with McCovey Chronicles about the Giants’ draft.
McCovey Chronicles: Starting with the broad picture, how would you assess the state of the Giants’ system now as they bring Hunter Bishop and the class of ‘19 into the org? And what do you think the timeline is for starting to produce talent at the big league level that can reverse recent fortunes.
Jim Callis: The Giants system is thin right now, so it’s going to take some time before it can plug all the holes at the big league level. Joey Bart, Sean Hjelle and Jake Wong should move pretty quickly, but Marco Luciano and Heliot Ramos are going to need time to develop. It feels like it will be hard for them to contend before 2022.
McCovey Chronicles: In your mocks leading up to the draft, it seemed your intel suggested the Giants were interested in acquiring pitching (given your legendary status at Mock Drafts, I don’t feel too guilty about mentioning this). Were you surprised with the direction the Giants took in this draft, not just at the top but throughout? They didn’t select a pitcher at all until the 8th round.
Jim Callis: I kept hearing a lot that they wanted a college bat too, and Hunter Bishop was a very good value at 10, so taking him there wasn’t a surprise. I had him at 10 in my final mock draft before a last-minute piece of info convinced me to change it! The Giants are deeper in pitchers than in position players in their system (after Bart and Luciano), so maybe they targeted position players? I hadn’t realized they didn’t take a pitcher until the eighth round until you mentioned it, and that’s unusual.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Since I do feel guilty anyway for besmirching Jim’s awesome Mock Drafting cred, I’ll mention here that he was the only one who connected Heliot Ramos to the Giants in 2017. Plus, of course, he has this little bit of magic in his portfolio.]
McCovey Chronicles: For me, Hunter Bishop was the player who seemed reasonably likely to be available at 10 who I most hoped would get there. And I think the Giants must be thrilled that he was available with that pick. Tell us what kind of player we should expect to see in Hunter and how his development timeline might dovetail with Joey Bart’s and Heliot Ramos’.
Jim Callis: That’s an accurate assessment — Bishop was the best player who reasonably could get to No. 10. Very good athlete, took off with a more disciplined approach this year, tremendous power, showed he could handle center field. I could see first Bart and then Ramos arriving in San Francisco in 2021 — no reason to rush Bart if you’re not contending — with Bishop getting there in early 2022.
McCovey Chronicles: Skipping to the other end of the draft — the Giants spent much of Day 3 selecting players who they would seem to have very remote (to no) chance of signing. I think this is an area of the draft that fascinates and confuses a lot of fans. Can you tell us in general, what are teams trying to accomplish when they draft players who are unlikely to sign (say a Brooks Lee)?
Jim Callis: It’s not always clear cut, to be honest! Brooks Lee could have gone in the first round if he were signable, but he’s not — he’s committed to play for his dad at Cal Poly. Same with Will Rigney, a top-two-rounds talent who went in the 38th. Sometimes, the team is taking a flier on these guys in case someone doesn’t sign higher up in the draft, though you lose your pool money for a pick that doesn’t sign in the top 10 rounds, so I don’t see any way they would sign Lee or Rigney. Sometimes a team will take a guy like that as kind of a tip of the cap to a talented player, not that it will accomplish much.
McCovey Chronicles: Back up to the top, Logan Wyatt seemed to be something of a polarizing figure, with a wide variance in various outlets’ rankings. What kind of player do you think the Giants have found themselves in Wyatt? Michael Holmes mentioned that he though Wyatt was athletic to try OF. What have you heard from scouts on this topic?
Jim Callis: As a hitter, Wyatt kind of reminded me of what Brendan McKay was at Louisville, a guy who focused on making contact and managing the strike zone while leaving some power untapped. He’s at least a 20-homer guy if not more if he gets more aggressive. I had mixed reviews on him playing left field. He’s not a bad athletes but some scouts thought that was a stretch.
McCovey Chronicles: The 3rd pick — Grant McCray — sounds somewhat similar to last year’s 6th round pick Patrick Hilson (who we’ve heard has been making some noise in extended this spring). How would you compare these two OF?
Jim Callis: I feel like Hilson is a full grade better runner -- a 7 on the 2-8 scouting scale -- while McCray was more advanced as the same stage and has more offensive upside.
McCovey Chronicles: 4th rounder Tyler Fitzgerald as a pick is a little reminiscent of Brandon Crawford in that earlier in his career people anticipated he might end up higher in the draft, but his college performance never quite lived up expectations. Could he possibly fall into that Giants model (Crawford, Duffy, Tomlinson, Ryan Howard) of middle infielders who seem to blossom in the pro system?
Jim Callis: I see what you’re getting at, though Fitzgerald did come on stronger in the second half of his junior season. I don’t think he’ll get to Crawford’s ceiling (a 21-HR season and Gold Glove defense) but he’s probably better than the rest of those guys. He has a chance to have close to average or better tools across the board and has a high baseball IQ.
McCovey Chronicles: 5th rounder Garrett Frechette sounds like he was a tough player to scout this spring, due to injury and illness. And as a result, I imagine there’s a wide variety of opinions on him in the scouting community. What are the highs and lows of scouting opinion on Frechette?
Jim Callis: I think there’s more of a consensus on Frechette than you might think, just not as much track record this spring as scouts would have liked to seen. He has a chance to hit for average and power, decent athlete but the offensive potential is what got him drafted.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Update!
5th-rder Garrett Frechette signs w/@SFGiants for $800k (pick 146 value = $371,600). California HS 1B/OF, has a chance to hit for average and power, decent athlete who could man an outfield corner. San Diego State recruit. @MLBDraft— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) June 13, 2019
McCovey Chronicles: For much of Day 2, the Giants prioritized players with one big tool in their picks (e.g. Armani Smith’s power, Grant McCray’s speed, Dilan Rosario’s glove etc). Of that Day 2 group, who do think has the best chance of translating their loud tool into production.
Jim Callis: Rosario’s defense would be the most reliable tool among that bunch.
McCovey Chronicles: As touched on above, the Giants’ draft went heavy on position players. Which of the pitchers taken stands out to you?
Jim Callis: The 11th-rounder, Trevor McDonald, whom they will get signed. He’s a fourth-sixth round talent with a low-90s fastball and a pair of promising breaking pitches.
McCovey Chronicles: Do you have any favorite sleeper picks here?
Jim Callis: I don’t count McDonald as a sleeper even though he slipped because of his price tag, so I’ll go with Caleb Killian in the eighth round. He’s an athletic right-hander who throws strikes and has a solid fastball/slider combo.
McCovey Chronicles: And lastly, a top 5 (or so) pick in 2020 seems a likely part of Giants’ fans future. Who should we start getting excited about wanting next June?
Jim Callis: I just did a 2020 way-too-early projection of the first 10 picks (https://www.mlb.com/news/early-2020-mock-mlb-draft), and the Giants had the No. 7 pick when I wrote it. I gave them Texas A&M left-handed Asa Lacy, who can miss bats with his fastball, changeup, curveball and slider. He dominated as a sophomore.
As always, my great thanks to Jim Callis for taking the time to chat with us today. If you don’t already, you should be following Jim for more of his great content on twitter @jimcallisMLB or at his MLB.com page.