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Marco Luciano tops Fangraphs’ list of top Giants prospects

No surprises there, but plenty of surprises elsewhere.

Scottsdale Scorpions v Glendale Desert Dogs Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

It’s the time of year where baseball prospect publications start dropping their lists of the top prospects in baseball, both nationally and for specific teams. There are a million such articles around this time, but my favorite is always the Fangraphs list of the top prospects in the San Francisco Giants organization.

Every year Fangraphs rolls out their lists for each MLB team’s farm system, ranking all of the prospects that have a future value (FV) of 35+ or higher. For the Giants, that number is 39 this year, one down from last year’s total.

It features one player with an FV of 55, five players with an FV of 50, four players with an FV of 45, eight with an FV of 40+, 14 with an FV of 40, and seven with an FV of 35+.

There are lots of interesting takeaways from the list, so let’s dive into them.

Marco Luciano reigns supreme

In the least shocking of news, shortstop Marco Luciano topped Fangraphs’ list, as he tops seemingly every list of the organization’s top prospects. They praised his “explosive” and “remarkable” bat speed, before concluding with this:

His likely relocation from a premium up-the-middle position, combined with his High-A growing pains, is enough to keep him from being considered baseball’s best prospect — an honorific that, had both of those factors broken more in his favor, seemed possible as of last year’s report — but his bat still provides more than enough potential to project him as a future major league All-Star.

As has been the case on most prospect lists, center fielder Luis Matos ranked second behind Luciano.

Patrick Bailey still has fans

It’s been a very rough start to his professional career for Bailey, the Giants first-round pick in 2020. He lost what should have been his rookie season to the pandemic, and then struggled with both injuries and performance in 2021. Bailey started the year in High-A, performed quite poorly, dealt with nagging injuries, rehabbed in the Arizona Complex League (ACL), and then returned to the Minors at Low-A, where he stayed until the end of the season. He admittedly performed very well in San Jose, but you kind of expect high-level Low-A performance from someone who turned 22 in May.

As such, Bailey has seen himself fall a bit on most prospect lists. He ranked ninth in our Community Prospect List (CPL), with many people arguing that he should be lower than that, and many believing there’s not much separating him from fellow catcher Ricardo Genovés, who Fangraphs ranked No. 23.

Fangraphs didn’t elaborate too much on why Bailey, with a 50 FV, was ranked so high, but did say this:

A switch-hitter with rare feel for contact from both sides, Bailey prefers a gap approach from the right side, while favoring a pull/lift approach from the left. Unlike other young guys whose bat control results in a swing-happy approach, Bailey’s sometimes sways too far in the opposite direction, and can be overly selective, bordering on passive.

Bailey is now the top catching prospect in the organization according to the publication, with Joey Bart falling to No. 6. Fangraphs called this a “make or break” year for Bart, which certainly feels accurate, and offered this pessimistic outlook:

The questions about his future are both more numerous and [loud]. Bart is a massive human being with immense strength, but at times his size works against him, with multiple scouts believing that his bulk leaves him a touch behind the speed of the game on both offense and defense. Further hampering Bart are swing decisions that were among the worst in all of baseball during his 2020 big league debut and showed little progress back at Triple-A last year.

Needless to say, it’s going to be an interesting year to watch Giants catcher prospects, with Bart likely starting the year in the Majors, Bailey and Genovés trying to prove their worth in the upper Minors, and two other catchers making the top 39: Adrian Sugastey (No. 27) and Brett Auerbach (No. 31, and admittedly a utility player).

Hunter Bishop also still has fans

Everything that was said about Bailey above can also be said about Bishop, except even louder. He’s a year older, and drafted a year earlier, also in the first round. But it’s safe to say that no Giants prospect had a tougher year than the 23-year old Bishop, who dealt with lingering injuries while recording just 56 plate appearances all season. Those place appearances came in the ACL, Low-A, and High-A, levels that he should have theoretically already graduated from. Worse yet, he was awful in those plate appearances, hitting 6-45 with 2 doubles, 0 home runs, 8 walks, and 22 strikeouts.

He looked a bit better in the Arizona Fall League, but still had plenty of issues.

Fangraphs remains mostly unfazed, ranking Bishop at No. 8, only one spot below his placement a year ago. They voiced a lot of concerns, saying, “it’s now been three years since he was a dominant force, which he really only was for a few weeks of pre-conference play during his draft spring,” but also pointing to his excellent speed and 70-grade raw power.

Fangraphs is not overly swayed by recent performance

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Fangraphs’ list is how little the 2021 season seems to have impacted it. Poor performers like Bailey and Bishop remained high on the list, and even left-handed pitcher Seth Corry — who walked 63 batters in 67.2 innings last season — was listed at No. 15, far above where he comes in on most lists (though admittedly Fangraphs now has him listed as a multi-inning reliever, rather than a starter).

Right-handed pitchers Tristan Beck (No. 20), Sam Delaplane (No. 25), and Blake Rivera (No. 30) stayed decently high on the list, despite essentially lost seasons for all three.

On the other end of the coin, some 2021 breakout performers didn’t even make the list. Outfielder Diego Rincones, who dramatically outhit Heliot Ramos (No. 5 on Fangraphs’ list) in AA this year despite being just three months older, was interestingly omitted. So was corner infielder David Villar, who set the Richmond Flying Squirrels franchise record for home runs in 2021, and looks poised to make a run at a Major League promotion this year.

Weirdly enough, neither Rincones (No. 15 in the CPL) nor Villar (No. 19) was even mentioned in the “other prospects of note” section.

Taking stock of the relief depth

One of the intriguing storylines of the Giants Minor League system at the moment is the bevy of notable relief arms. Camilo Doval, Kervin Castro, and Gregory Santos all debuted last year, with varying results. Randy Rodriguez was added to the 40-man roster as a Rule 5 protection, and R.J. Dabovich was lights out in his debut season.

So it’s interesting to see where they’re listed by Fangraphs. We don’t know how the publication views Doval, who was omitted from the list after becoming a staple of the Giants bullpen in 2021. Doval technically still has his prospect status, but it seems Fangraphs is not counting it.

They were incredibly high on Santos last year, and remain that way despite the righty losing most of the season to a drug violation suspension — he comes in at No. 7, dropping two spots. Dabovich was ranked No. 17, and you have to go a bit further to find Rodriguez (No. 24) and Castro (No. 26).

As previously mentioned, Corry is now listed as a reliever at No. 15, with Delaplane splitting Rodriguez and Castro at No. 25. 2021 second-round pick Matt Mikulski, whom the Giants are still using as a starter, is ranked at No. 16 and listed as a reliever as well.

No love yet for Ryan Reckley

The Giants recently made a splash in the international free agency period, signing 17-year old Bahamian shortstop Ryan Reckley to a $2.2 million bonus. Reckley was placed pretty high on most prospect lists, and we retroactively inserted him at No. 11 on the CPL.

Fangraphs needs to see it to believe it, as Reckley was omitted from the list, and placed in the “toolsy youngsters” category in the “other prospects of note” section.

While we’re speaking of exciting international signees, 19-year old starting pitcher Manuel Mercedes, a 2019 international free agent who made his debut in 2021, was ranked No. 14, the third-highest spot for a starting pitcher behind Kyle Harrison (No. 4) and Will Bednar (No. 9).

Be sure to check out Fangraphs’ excellent list, and also to complain about it in the comments.