On Tuesday, ESPN prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel released his annual list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. McDaniel, who has worked in multiple front offices as well as at Fangraphs, always has one of the most comprehensive and interesting prospect lists out there.
His take on the San Francisco Giants prospects differs a little bit from most of the lists we’ve seen this offseason. While most prospect lists see a massive gap between the team’s consensus No. 1 prospect — shortstop Marco Luciano — and the rest of the organization’s top prospects, McDaniel sees things as being more bunched up. That’s the result of both being lower on Luciano than most people are, and being higher on some of the team’s other prospects.
McDaniel ranked Luciano as the No. 30 prospect in baseball, a year after having him at No. 7. Here’s part of what he had to say:
On the offensive end of things, he crushed low-A as a 19-year-old and is still doing the goofy bat speed, power-and-patience thing well, but his 36 games in high-A were worrisome (his 37% strikeout rate, first and foremost). It was the end of the season and he was still a teenager at the time, so it’s not a red flag, but it points at what could be a problem he runs into at higher levels. All in all, the report isn’t that different now than it was last year. We just have a better idea of his limitations.
Waiting not far behind Luciano was center fielder Luis Matos, who was ranked at No. 42, which is, I think, the most optimistic ranking I’ve seen for him. McDaniel pointed to Matos’ extremely low strikeout rate of 12%, while adding this:
Matos has plus-plus bat speed, above-average raw power that’s still developing, strong exit velos especially for his age, an improving fly-ball rate to tap into it, plus speed, and he fits as an average defender in center field. He’s definitely not a finished product, but this is a premium ball of clay for the Giants to continue molding that’s already putting up solid numbers.
Matos also had a teammate hot on his tail: left-handed pitcher Kyle Harrison, who was ranked No. 50. McDaniel seems pretty optimistic that Harrison could move further up this list:
Coming through one of the best development systems in the game and having the craftiness and deception uncommon in young strikeout pitchers, Harrison is a pick to click for many in the industry again heading into the 2022 season.
While Luciano, Matos, and Harrison are all young players who are likely quite a ways away from making their MLB debuts, the fourth and final Giant on the list is someone in a quite different position: catcher Joey Bart, a 25 year old who already has MLB experience, and is the presumptive opening day starter, assuming there is an opening day.
McDaniel ranked Bart at No. 72, and while everyone is fairly aware of Bart’s situation entering this season, McDaniel summarized it nicely:
Bart has been a standout defender dating to high school, and he has plenty of arm, along with all the intangibles you’d ask for in a catcher. He has easy plus raw power and you’ll notice I didn’t mention how much contact he makes because that’s the problem here.
Noticeably absent from the top 100 list is outfielder Heliot Ramos, who has been a staple on most of these lists for a few years, but put up very pedestrian numbers in 2021.
And if you’re looking for reasons for pessimism, the prospects in the last two drafts that people were most critical of the Giants for passing on — local catcher Tyler Soderstrom in 2020 and prep shortstop Kahlil Watson in 2021 — were ranked No. 10 and No. 40, respectively.
Checking in on the rest of the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers had five prospects in the top 100 (Nos. 26, 59, 61, 68, and 87), the San Diego Padres had four (Nos. 4, 31, 67, and 80), the Arizona Diamondbacks had four (Nos. 14, 21, 29, and 90), and the Colorado Rockies had two (Nos. 20 and 85).
The Giants also had four players on McDaniel’s list last year: Luciano (No. 7), Bart (No. 32), Ramos (No. 62), and catcher Patrick Bailey (No. 100).