The San Francisco Giants Rule 5 Draft protections are officially in, and I’ll just say it: I got things very wrong. I thought the Giants would play it light with their protections, but they went in the opposite direction and protected six players ahead of next month’s draft.
Shortstop Marco Luciano, the top prospect in the organization, was protected, which we all knew would happen. And center fielder Luis Matos, widely seen as the team’s No. 3 prospect — and fresh off of winning AFL Defensive Player of the Year honors — was also protected, despite his down season in 2022.
The other four names were less predictable. The Giants protected right-handed starter Tristan Beck, the Stanford alum that they acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the Mark Melancon trade. It’s easy to compare beck to Sean Hjelle, whom the Giants protected this time last year. Like Hjelle, Beck didn’t have good numbers this year: he had a 5.64 ERA and a 4.28 FIP in AAA, though he was excellent in AA before a promotion. And, like Hjelle, Beck has a lot of interesting stuff in his arm that would likely entice another organization ... and will likely lead to him making his MLB debut in 2023.
Two other right-handed pitchers were protected: Keaton Winn and Jose Cruz. Winn is a bit further away from Beck, as he started 2022 in High-A before a midseason promotion to AA. He’s being developed as a starter, but the fact that he has such good control — he walked 2.43 batters per nine innings in High-A and just 1.78 in AA — means another team might have been interested in stashing him on their roster as a reliever. After missing all of 2021 to injury, and all of 2020 to the pandemic, Winn returned this year with a vengeance, and flew up prospect lists — Fangraphs just ranked him as the organization’s No. 9 prospect, with a 60/60 splitter.
Cruz is perhaps the most surprising, as he’s yet to pitch above Low-A. But he was a beast of a strikeout artist last year, with 14.79 Ks per nine innings, while keeping his walk rate mostly in check (3.96 per nine innings), and his ERA beautiful (2.06). He’s a reliever, and the Giants are clearly worried — as they were with Randy Rodriguez last year — that another team would scoop him and see if his strikeouts could play at the MLB level.
And last but not least, the Giants protected infielder Brett Wisely. If you’re not familiar with that name, it’s because the Giants traded for him just a few moments prior to the protections, sending Tristan Peters to the Tampa Bay Rays. Wisely, a 23-year old left-handed hitter, had a 121 wRC+ last year with the Rays AA affiliate.
To make room for the six protections — and to accommodate the return of Joc Pederson — the Giants had to get rid of seven players. The most notable names were two players who played a big role on last year’s roster, lefty reliever Jarlín García, and third baseman Jason Vosler. The Giants also DFA’d right-handed pitcher Sam Delaplane, whom they traded for in May of 2021, but who had only pitched 3.2 innings over his two years with the Giants due to injuries.
Infielder Colton Welker, a midseason waiver claim who spent the year on the 60-day Injured List was also cut, as were the Giants three waiver claims from last week: right-handed pitcher Drew Strotman, and catchers Dom Núñez and Meibrys Viloria.