It’s been just over a week since the start of the 2022 MLB draft when, armed with the 30th pick in each round, the San Francisco Giants made 20 selections over the course of the three-day event, hoping to find the stars of tomorrow at Oracle Park. Over the past week, I’ve familiarized myself with the team’s picks and spoken with several industry sources to learn about each player.
Before I dive into things, though, we have to get into some important notes about the MLB draft. There are a number of notable differences between the MLB Draft and the more popular NBA and NFL events. First of all, players drafted in the MLB draft—even in the first few rounds—are likely at least 2-4 years away from being ready for big league action. The vast majority of picks will never play at the highest level.
The best draft prospects still require years of development, and so teams do not draft for need at the big-league level. Organizations do occasionally have needs for positional depth in the minor-league ranks that can inform late-round picks, but that’s about filling out minor-league rosters, not helping the MLB club.
However, the most significant difference involves player leverage and financial flexibility. Players selected in the NFL and NBA draft have to declare for the draft. By doing so, they forfeit their eligibility to play collegiate sports again. The MLB draft doesn’t require players to do that and also allows players from high school and junior college to become professionals.
Every selection in the NBA and NFL draft is bound by a stringent collective bargaining agreement that prevents teams from offering players more money than predetermined values. MLB teams are under no such restrictions.
Draft spending is limited by a complicated set of rule. Picks in rounds 1-10 are assigned values and give each team a total amount of pool money they are allowed to spend without penalty. Teams must pay a fine if they go over their allocated pool and lose future draft picks if they exceed their pool by 5% (no team has ever done this). Undrafted free agents and picks in rounds 11-20 do not have their bonuses count against the pool unless they are larger than $125,000 (in which case the amount that exceeds $125,000 will be charged against their pool).
So a signing bonus is often more reflective of a prospect’s ranking than their pick. If a team has a second-round pick with a recommended slot value of $1.5 million and a 10th-round pick with a recommended slot value of $150,000, nothing prohibits them from giving their 10th-round selection the $1.5 million bonus and their second-round selection a $150,000 bonus. That particular swap wouldn’t make much strategic sense, but is within the confines of the rules.
Here’s a better example of how some teams strategize in this system: let’s say I have the 15th ($4 million slot), 45th ($1.7 million slot), and 75th ($875,000 slot) picks in the draft, and there’s a high school prospect with a $2.5 million bonus that most people consider a 2nd-3rd round prospect, but I believe is worth a first-round pick. I can expect that no other team is going to draft that player because they are not going to spend $2.5 million on a prospect they don’t have a first-round grade on.
Then, rather than taking that player 15th overall, I could target a late first-round prospect who will agree to take a $3 million bonus at 15 and then a third-round prospect at 45 who agrees to take a $1 million bonus before taking the high school prospect at 75. In this scenario, I’d end up with two players I had first-round grades on. By the way, this is approximately the strategy the Giants followed in 2020 when they drafted Patrick Bailey in the first round, Casey Schmitt in the second, and Kyle Harrison in the third.
All these potential strategies are why the consensus top prospect in the MLB Draft is far less likely to go first overall than in other leagues. If you still want to understand the rules better, Billy Stampfl did a good job explaining them in this piece from 2016.
Lastly, this year’s draft has a new (but old) wrinkle: draft-and-follow prospects. If you’ve been following Giants prospects for a while you might remember Thomas Neal (who the Giants eventually traded for Orlando Cabrera back in 2011). The Giants drafted Neal in the 36th round of the 2005 draft but allowed him to play for Riverside Community College the following spring before he officially signed in May of 2006. This process is known as draft-and-follow and was removed after the 2005 draft before returning this year. Teams can allow a prospect to attend a junior college and then sign them prior to next year’s draft for up to $225,000 without being charged against their pool.
With all of that accounted for, let’s dive into my full breakdown of this Giants 2022 draft class. It is the fourth draft since Farhan Zaidi became the Giants president of baseball operations and hired Michael Holmes as the team’s scouting director.
Round 1(30): Reggie Crawford, 1B/LHP, UCONN
I’ve been covering the Giants drafts and farm system since 2019 and had a handful of industry sources by the 2020 draft. Yet while the Giants have had two top-15 picks and far more pool money in their two previous drafts, the reports I’ve heard from sources about Reggie Crawford have easily been the most impressive I’ve heard about any Giants draftee. As one source put it, “the potential is sky high.”
A few years ago, Crawford was an exciting high school prospect, posting elite sprint speeds and exit velocities, and reaching the upper 90s off the mound from a fairly projectable frame that struggled with consistency. Then, over his collegiate career, Crawford added 25 pounds of muscle and refined his mechanics at the plate and on the mound.
Crawford hit .365/.414/.558 in his first taste of college action in 2020 before COVID cut the season short. However, he followed it up with a Big East-leading 13 homers and a .295/.349/.543 line in 2021. While he was clearly the best hitter in UCONN’s lineup, he also dominated out of their bullpen, recording a 2.35 ERA with 17 strikeouts, 3 walks, 5 hits, and just 1 home run allowed across 7.2 innings pitched (6 appearances).
Then, last summer, Crawford split time between the Cape Cod League and traveling abroad with the Team USA Collegiate team. One industry source I spoke to said Crawford was up to 101 mph with his fastball, sitting in the upper 90s, alongside a breaking ball that flashed plus-plus (70) potential. The source was also high on Crawford as a hitter, noting his plus power potential and an advanced feel to hit. In this source’s looks, “He hammered everything.”
Between the Cape and Team USA, Crawford struck out 12 batters without issuing a walk and surrendered just 1 hit over 6 shutout innings. He also posted a solid .277/.320/.447 triple-slash with a manageable 22%-strikeout rate in 50 plate appearances. Not bad for someone pulling double duty.
By the end of the summer, Crawford was a consensus top-10 prospect in the class and had a shot to emerge as the 1st overall pick in the draft. However, he suffered a torn UCL during a fall pitching session and underwent Tommy John surgery. With a limited track-record of performance and a serious injury, his stock fell, leading most outlets to rank him as a second or third-round prospect. Crawford is set to transfer to SEC powerhouse Tennessee, where he would’ve tried to play his way back into the top of round one. The Giants, though, were willing to bet on his upside with the 30th overall pick.
As a hitter alone, Crawford was probably a Day 2 prospect, which is nothing to scoff at either. He has the power to be a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat, but will likely need to develop a more patient approach (he’s never walked much) and contain his strikeouts. I really hope (assuming he’s healthy) that the Giants give him a chance to DH at the ACL this season to see where his bat is following his hiatus. If the bat is legit, the Giants will have a fun opportunity to deploy Crawford in a myriad of ways long-term.
Alongside the injury/track-record concerns, Crawford lacks a third pitch and has never worked deep into outings. Crawford has a changeup that he’s expressed confidence in, but he’s never had to use it in games. His fastball and slider are elite enough to carry him as a starter if he can hold his velocity, but that remains to be seen. If not, it’s easy to envision Crawford shifting to the back of the bullpen and becoming one of the best closers in MLB. Considering the added upside that comes from his bat, it’s an exciting pick at the end of the first round that comes with enough ways for Crawford to prove the Giants right that I’m not as worried about the injury/track-record concerns as I normally would be.
Round 2(66): Carson Whisenhunt, LHP, East Carolina
No one would have considered it a reach if the Giants had drafted Carson Whisenhunt with their first-round pick. In fact, every major outlet ranked Whisenhunt ahead of Crawford with Baseball America (28), MLB Pipeline (30), Keith Law (17), and FanGraphs (18) all ranking him as a first-round prospect. The fact that the Giants were able to take a swing on Crawford’s upside and still land a pitcher like Whisenhunt at the end of round two is quite impressive.
One source I spoke with lauded the Giants for their top selections, pointing out that Crawford and Whisenhunt, “Both would’ve likely been in the running for best LHP, possibly best college pitcher period had they not endured their own separate unfortunate fate... I believe both players will look like steals.”
While Crawford suffered a severe injury, Whisenhunt was suspended for the 2022 college season after failing a PED test last fall. Whisenhunt cited supplements he purchased from a nutrition store without checking if they were on the NCAA’s list of approved products as the cause of his positive test. Make of that what you will, but PED rules at the college (and minor-league) level are more restrictive because those athletes do not have unions to limit the scope of testing. It’s a lot more believable that a college athlete like Whisenhunt could make an honest mistake while on winter break than we’re accustomed to with high-profile PED cases.
On the field, Whisenhunt has an advanced three-pitch mix and a repeatable delivery that usually gets college southpaws drafted in the first 20 picks. His fastball sits in the low 90s, topping out around 94, and barring a jump in velocity likely tops out as a 50-grade pitch (although one source I spoke with had a 55 on it). However, he has a curveball with above-average potential that has generated whiffs at impressive rates and a lethal changeup that might be the best changeup of anyone in the class. At its best, it looks like a 70-grade pitch.
Whisenhunt’s repeatable delivery and athleticism have helped him get an impressive reputation for command, but his college numbers suggest he’s still refining his location. An industry source who saw Whisenhunt this summer on the Cape said his command wasn’t up to his reputation and likely played a role in his fall to the back of the second round. With that said, it’s not unreasonable to expect command to be a struggle for someone who was unable to play for an entire college season.
Round 3(106): William Kempner, RHP, Gonzaga
William Kempner, a San Jose native, is a stocky 6’0’’ righty with a big arm and a funky sidearm delivery. His fastball has reached 100 mph and sat in the mid-90s deep into his starts this spring at Gonzaga. His slider is his best swing-and-miss pitch and he teams it with a developing changeup to round out his arsenal.
Kempner did miss some time this season with a ligament injury in his finger, but he racked up 48 strikeouts and recorded a 3.00 ERA in 36 innings pitched. Kempner is still working on his control, issuing 6.3 walks per nine innings over his college career (5.3 this spring), and given his unorthodox mechanics, he might never be able to locate his pitches well enough to stick in the rotation. On the other hand, it’s always going to be difficult for right-handed hitters to square up pitches from Kempner’s arm angle, giving him a good shot to be able to shift to the bullpen in that scenario.
It will be interesting to see how much of their pool money the Giants ultimately have to spend on Crawford and Whisenhunt. Crawford clearly had leverage to head to Tennessee to potentially be a top-ten pick next summer, and Whisenhunt could justifiably ask for above-slot money given his prospect pedigree.
The Giants did not make any huge reaches on Day 2 of the draft, but they also drafted no one I would expect to command an above-slot bonus. Perhaps the Giants will be handing out full-slot bonuses to everyone, but I wouldn’t be surprised if several of San Francisco’s Day 2 picks end up inking deals to create a little bit of savings that goes toward Crawford and Whisenhunt. Kempner, for example, was mostly ranked in the 140-180 range by major outlets, roughly a round before he was selected. That’s not a big enough gap to be sure he agreed to take a below-slot deal, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up signing for a little less than the full $576,900 slot for the pick.
Round 4(136): Spencer Miles, RHP, Missouri
If Spencer Miles had managed just solid numbers in college, his pitch arsenal probably would have carried him to a Day 1 selection. However, Miles had a career 6.27 ERA at Missouri, posting a 6.20 ERA this spring with less than a strikeout per inning, and that’s why he was available for the Giants at the end of the fourth round.
Miles is the type of selection that usually upsets fans, who tend to be more drawn to amateur stats because scouting information is harder to come by and translate into laymen conversations. However, Miles has the traits to one day be a mid-rotation starter, which is hard to come by at this point in the draft.
Miles was primarily a position player in high school, and that athleticism shows up on the mound with a smooth delivery that should be easy to repeat. Despite his struggles, Miles has never been derailed by walks, posting a reasonable 7.1% career walk rate during his time at Mizzou. Mix in a fastball that sits around 93 mph and has reached 97, with a slider, changeup, and curveball that have flashed at least 50-grade potential, and it’s easy to see why the Giants bet on him.
One source I spoke with said he believed Miles’ problems came from trying to do too much. He threw a sinker, four-seam fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, and changeup in college. This source believes if Miles focuses on developing his sinker, four-seamer, slider, and changeup that he might be able to take a huge step forward.
Most rankings placed Miles as a late Day 2 prospect, but he had an excellent combine (per the same source) and impressed teams with his on-field work and interviews. While I haven’t confirmed any numbers, I’m hearing that Miles is signing for a slightly below the slot bonus of $430,900 (around $350,000).
Round 5(166): Liam Simon, RHP, Notre Dame
The Giants kept betting on their ability to help pitchers one day become the best versions of themselves. While Miles had decent command but a fastball that had been hit hard, Liam Simon has the opposite profile.
Simon held his own at Notre Dame, recording a 4.19 ERA in 62 innings pitched, but was consistently held back by erratic control, walking 57 batters. He has a starter’s 6’4’’ frame and his fastball has gained velocity over the course of his career. He has hit 101 mph in abbreviated outings although he’s mostly sat in the mid-90s with one source I spoke to saying he topped out at 96 mph in his looks. Simon’s slider is his best secondary offering, flashing plus potential, although he has toyed with a changeup that some think has long-term potential.
Most think Simon’s struggles with command will force him to the bullpen as a two-pitch player, and that’s probably where he’ll end up long-term. With that said, Holmes has said in post-draft interviews that the team wonders if his erratic control was fueled by jumping between roles in college.
Simon oscillated between starting, long relief, and one-inning relief throughout his amateur career. While it was a small sample, he easily posted the best walk rates of his career this summer at the Cape Cod League (4.1 per nine innings) across three starts when he was pitching on a consistent schedule. If he can find consistent mechanics, he has the frame, arm angle, and potential third pitch to make it work.
Most rankings place Simon’s draft stock around where SF selected him, suggesting he’ll probably get roughly the full $322,600 slot for the pick. The Giants will give Simon an opportunity to find consistency in longer outings, but I suspect his lack of a third pitch and well below-average command will force him to the bullpen sooner than the other college starters in San Francisco’s class. Still, the fastball’s velocity and traits could be enough to carry him to a big-league pen.
Round 6(196): Hayden Birdsong, RHP, Eastern Illinois
Hayden Birdsong almost exclusively pitched out of the bullpen this year, making just 2 starts across 28 appearances between the Cape Cod League and Eastern Illinois. He has consistently worked multi-inning outings, so don’t be surprised if he gets stretched out a bit more than a standard reliever prospect,
Birdsong is another projectable pitcher with a 6’4’’ frame that has some room to fill out. He has a fastball that has reached the mid-90s alongside a curveball that he manipulates well to give opposing hitters different looks.
He posted a 3.35 ERA this spring with EIU, but his numbers were muddled by a couple of bad outings. A similar story played out this summer at the Northwoods League, where Birdsong finished with a 4.15 ERA across 17.1 innings pitched. However, Birdsong surrendered six runs in his second outing this summer. In the rest of his outings at the Northwoods League, Birdsong allowed just 7 hits, 5 walks, and 2 runs across 16 innings pitched (1.13 ERA) with 29 strikeouts.
Birdsong was unranked by every major outlet, which would suggest the Giants will save some pool money here, inking him for less than the $251,300 slot. However, draft media tended tend to focus more on the Cape Cod and MLB Draft League, occasionally missing popup prospects from other leagues. Given how dominant Birdsong was this summer (42.5% K-rate), don’t be surprised if he gets closer to a full slot bonus than rankings would suggest.
Round 7(226): Zach Morgan, C, Fresno St.
The Giants added another NorCal native, with their first position-player prospect of the class. Stockton-born Zach Morgan is a quintessential Day-2 catcher with a good chance to be a big-league backup and possibly a little more.
Morgan had a breakout season this spring as a redshirt junior, hitting .381/.454/.592 while catching in all 55 of Fresno State’s games. However, Morgan is a hit-over-power prospect with more doubles than home run power, but he’s never struck out much (9.6% K-rate over his college career) and showed improved patience this spring. His .305/.347/.385 triple-slash from 2020-2021 seems more in line with his high-end offensive upside. That would be enough to be an everyday player, though, if he sticks behind the plate.
He was one of just three finalists for the Buster Posey Award, given to the best catcher in college baseball, and allowed just 5 passed balls all season. Morgan is considered a good bet to stick behind the plate, making a contact-oriented backup outcome the most likely scenario (e.g. Kevin Plawecki).
Morgan was ranked in this range by a few outlets, which would normally mean he’d definitely receive a full-slot bonus ($198,700), but he is a redshirt junior who will be 23 next season, not giving him a lot of leverage. Still, given his pedigree, I’d be surprised if he ends up getting a bonus below $100,000.
Round 8(256): Wade Meckler, OF, Oregon St.
The Giants added another older college performer when they drafted Wade Meckler out of Oregon State. Meckler was a consistent contributor for one of the strongest college baseball programs in the country, hitting .347/.456/.478 this spring with more walks (53) than strikeouts (49).
Meckler lacks power potential and is not a standout athlete, which always kept him from top-round consideration. With that said, he has played every position except for catcher, pitcher, and first base over the past few years and has always had an excellent penchant for drawing walks while putting the ball in play. Over his career at OSU, he walked 76 times against just 87 strikeouts in 513 career NCAA plate appearances (with even better strikeout & walk-rates in summer league action).
Ultimately his defensive ability will have a huge impact on Meckler’s chances of reaching the majors. Most evaluators see him limited to left field and second base, which would force him to hit much more than if he’s able to handle center or some other positions.
Meckler is already 22 and was unranked by most major outlets (although Prospects Live slotted him in at 516), so I would expect him to receive a signing bonus below the $168,100 slot for this pick.
Round 9(286): Jack Choate, LHP, Assumption Col.
Jack Choate is a lanky southpaw who was dominant this year for Division-II Assumption College. Choate racked up 127 strikeouts in just 70.1 innings pitched (43.3% of the batters he faced) and posted a 2.45 ERA across 13 appearances. Below-average control remained an issue for the tall lefty, who issued 35 walks and threw 14 wild pitches.
Listed at 6’6, although I’ve seen some list him at 6’9, Choate has a fastball that sits in the low-90s, plays up because of his extension, and has a chance to gain velocity if he can bulk up in pro ball. He also has a good feel for his two secondary pitches (slider and changeup), which play off his fastball well.
If Choate can find consistent command, the southpaw has some intriguing upside. Usually, Division-II prospects are signable for below-slot deals, but Choate is young (having turned 21 in April) for the class, which could change the calculus. Without close connections, it’s hard to read what his bonus will look like. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the full $156,000 slot for the pick or ends up coming in below-slot.
Round 10(316): John Bertrand, LHP, Notre Dame
A definite money saver, John Michael Bertrand was an excellent college performer who exhausted his NCAA eligibility this year and will be 25 next February. The slot for this pick is $149,500, but Bertrand will almost assuredly sign for something in the $10,000-$50,000 range.
Bertrand started his college career as a walk-on at Furman, becoming a member of their rotation as a sophomore before an excellent start to the 2020 season (before COVID cut the season short) enabled him to transfer to Notre Dame, where he has been a key part of the Fighting Irish’s rotation over the past two seasons.
This spring, Bertrand averaged more than 6 innings an outing while recording 111 strikeouts, just 21 walks, and a 2.81 ERA in 109 innings pitched. Bertrand’s command is easily his best tool. His fastball has reached 94 mph but sits mostly between 88-92 mph. He throws several secondary pitches, making sure to check the “crafty lefty” box, although his changeup and curveball are probably the best of the bunch. His skillset should perform well in the lower minors, and if he can refine his secondaries and possibly gain a little velo in pro ball, Bertrand could become a backend starter.
Round 11(346): Sam Bower, RHP, St. Mary’s (CA)
With their first pick on Day 3, the Giants decided to gamble on Sam Bower from nearby St. Mary’s. Bower was a command-first pitcher in 2021 for the Gaels with high-80s velocity and some solid secondary pitches. He only struck out 59 batters in 81.1 innings pitched, but had a 3.43 ERA while averaging nearly 6 innings a start and surrendering just 13 walks.
Over the offseason, though, Bower added some weight and refined his arsenal. In his first few starts this spring, his fastball was sitting in the low-90s and reached 95 mph, making him an intriguing pop-up prospect to watch. A series of injuries, however, including to his arm, ended his college season after those three outings.
Less than three months past his 21st birthday, Bower could return to school in 2023 to rebuild his draft stock, but given his selection here, it seems like the Giants are prepared to pay him Day 2 money to turn pro. Like Bertrand, Bower should be able to perform well in the lower minors with his command and pitch mix but will probably need to maintain his velo gains to reach the majors.
Round 12(376): Tyler Vogel, RHP, Jacksonville
Tyler Vogel was a starter for two years at Eastern Florida State College, striking out more than a batter per inning with a 4.01 ERA over two years of junior college ball. After transferring to Jacksonville, though, he immediately shifted to the bullpen and became their closer. Between his college season and a short stint in the Cape Cod League, Vogel has an incredible 1.57 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 46 innings pitched.
Vogel has the pitch mix to be a starting pitcher. While his fastball mostly works in the low-to-mid 90s, it has reached 97 mph and has the characteristics that help it play better than the velocity suggests. He also has three secondary pitches (changeup, curveball, and slider) that all could be above-average offerings. His changeup might be his least developed but highest potential pitch. It flashes plus-plus with excellent fade and a 15-mph gap with his fastball.
However, Vogel works from a funky delivery that could be described as “subtle Tim Lincecum” that has seemed to limit his control. While he’s shown an excellent ability to avoid hard contact, he issued more than 6 walks per 9 innings this spring for Jacksonville. It’s easier to see him honing his craft in the bullpen, but his pitch mix is exciting enough that I expect the Giants to stretch him out to 50-70 pitches an outing early in his pro career to see how he fares.
Round 13(406): Thomas Gavello, C, Pacific (CA)
Thomas Gavello was the second NorCal catcher drafted by the Giants this year, except unlike Morgan (who caught every one of Fresno State’s games this year), Gavello has never once played catcher during his three years in college.
It’s clear the Giants view Gavello as a Brett Auerbach-esque super-utility player. Although Auerbach played catcher consistently throughout his college career, they both played all over the field in college. Gavello was Pacific’s starting shortstop in 2020, third baseman in 2021, and second baseman this spring. He was a Day 2 prospect coming into the year after an excellent sophomore season where he hit .335/.458/.601 with 10 homers. However, a spike in his strikeout rate fueled a less impressive .247/.393/.495 triple-slash this season and pushed him to Day 3.
Gavello is a good hitter with fringe power who combines a decent approach with an elite ability to get hit by pitches (31 HBP in 448 plate appearances his last two years at Pacific) to fuel high on-base percentages. Pushed to his athletic limits at shortstop and in the outfield, catching could be an intriguing avenue for Gavello to find his way to the big leagues.
Round 14(436): Nomar Diaz, C, Carlos Beltran Academy (PR)
The Giants made Puerto Rican catcher Nomar Diaz their first prep selection of this year’s class. Diaz is a good athlete who is more advanced defensively than at the plate. One source I spoke with said he thought Diaz was worthy of a late Day 2 pick and was signable. He described him as a “super athletic catcher with arm strength... gap-to-gap hitter with occasional power.” He also complimented Diaz’s intangibles.
Round 15(466): Tanner O’Tremba, OF, Arizona
Tanner O’Tremba spent his first two college seasons at Texas Tech before transferring to Arizona to finish out his college career. He’s played primarily as a bench platoon bat before this spring, when he hit .351/.446/.591 with 11 home runs for the Wildcats as an everyday player.
O’Tremba was the top high school recruit out of Colorado back in 2018 primarily because of his impressive power potential. However, he struggled to tap into that pop prior to this spring, and even then was showing more doubles than homer power. He’s not the fastest mover, which could force him to first base down the line. Regardless, the key is going to be unlocking his power while controlling his strikeouts.
O’Tremba is already 22 so I expect him to sign without using any pool money.
Round 16(496): Andrew Kachel, 2B, Fresno St.
Andrew Kachel has been a consistent hitter over the past three seasons at Fresno State, hitting at least .300 each year with a career .312/.407/.563 triple-slash. He lacks power potential and is probably limited to second or third base defensively, but consistently gets the barrel on the ball.
Kachel was a borderline Day 2 candidate heading into the draft, although a notable spike in his strikeout rate this spring probably pushed him to Day 3. While he still has college eligibility remaining, Kachel will turn 22 in December and is a Bay Area native (he attended Christopher High School in Gilroy). I’d expect him to sign for a bonus in the $100,000-$125,000 range.
Round 17(526): Justin Bench, SS, Mississippi
Justin Bench has been an excellent everyday player for Mississippi over the past two years, splitting his time between third base and center field. The Giants announced him as a shortstop, a position he may have played if not blocked by a future first-round pick, but he’ll likely play all over the field.
Bench has never hit for exceptional power or had great walk rates, although (like Gavello), Bench has boosted his on-base percentage by drawing hit by pitches at an impressive rate (7.7% of his plate appearances). He’s posted an .863 and .846 OPS in the past two seasons, respectively, and is a good athlete. If he can generate enough consistent offensive production, his defensive versatility gives him a shot to reach the majors.
Round 18(556): Tanner Thach, 1B, Perquimans HS (NC)
High school first baseman do not have a great track record, but Giants scouting director Michael Holmes made his name scouting the Carolinas. Thach posted a 98-mph exit velocity at a PBR event over a year ago, making it reasonable to speculate that he’s already posting triple-digit exit-velos, which is impressive for an 18-year-old. However, Holmes has focused on Thach’s feel for the strike zone and defensive prowess at first base in post-draft interviews.
Thach was the MVP of a two-time state champion over the past two years and actually spent a good deal of time on the mound in high school, where he’s reached the upper-80s with his fastball. While the Giants are eyeing him as a first baseman, it showcases a little more athleticism than associated with the usual high school first baseman.
A UNC-Wilmington commit, Thach should conceivably be more signable than a Power-5 commit, but it’s far from a guarantee. A report by a local area paper said he, “turned down offers that would have had him drafted in earlier rounds,” suggesting the Giants either had a significant handshake deal to get Thach to the late-rounds, or he’s probably heading to school.
Round 19(586): Cade Perkins, LHP, Manhattan HS (KS)
The Giants final high school selection of the class, southpaw Cade Perkins is an intriguing projection prospect. A source I spoke to said Perkins’ fastball was 86-90 mph with a developing frame and seemed like an ideal draft-and-follow prospect. Committed to a junior college, Perkins could sign with the Giants and then spend the 2023 season playing JuCo ball.
In post-draft interviews, though, Holmes has said the 6’1, 190-pound lefty has reached 93 mph and held low-90s velo with a feel for spin. That profile seems more likely to entice the Giants to bring Perkins immediately into their system.
Why would the Giants not want to prioritize bringing Perkins into their developmental ranks? it’s important to remember MLB’s new 180-player cap on minor league players in each organization.
The Giants may like Perkins as a prospect but could be hesitant to lose another minor leaguer for a player who they believe needs more early-stage development. Plus, while signing Perkins in the next few weeks for a $225,000 signing bonus would cost the Giants $100,000 in pool space, they could sign him for the same amount after a junior college season with no penalty.
Round 20(616): Ethan Long, 1B, Arizona St.
The best position-player prospect the Giants drafted was arguably their final pick: Arizona State first baseman Ethan Long. A draft-eligible sophomore, Long hit .340/.414/.704 with 16 home runs as a freshman and had a chance to play himself into Day 1 consideration this spring.
However, a wrist injury limited him to just 167 plate appearances this spring, when he hit .294/.377/.525 with just 7 home runs. Still, he posted elite exit velocities and flashed the 70-grade power potential that will make him a tantalizing prospect whenever he turns pro. He also has elite arm strength, having reached 97 mph off the mound in high school. He’s not fast, and is probably limited to first base and left field, although he does have the arm for third.
The Giants have signaled confidence that they will get all of their selections signed, but Long is clearly the biggest longshot. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Long could return to school and immediately jump into Day 1 conversations with an excellent junior year. If the Giants did create the necessary pool space to sign him, they basically added a 3rd-5th round prospect with the final pick in the draft, a fantastic addition to a system that lacks left-handed power.
However, one source I spoke with said Long won’t be signing. They aren’t close enough to the situation to make that a guarantee, but they have enough proximity that I’m skeptical he signs. Granted, that could change if one of the Giants over-slot agreements falls through and they have a surprising amount of cash to offer Long.
The Giants drafted pitchers with their first nine picks last year, but that followed a leaguewide trend. Last year’s class was considered light on premium hitting and deep in arms. Several teams followed a similar strategy, with the Angels drafting pitchers with all 20 of their selections.
However, this year’s class was considered deeper in college hitters with some questions about its pitching depth. The Giants were the only team in MLB to draft pitchers with their first six picks. One industry source noted, “Crawford and Whisenhunt both have a chance to be legit dudes,” but was lower on the Giants’ overall strategy because they believed the draft was light on pitching.
I understand that criticism and was surprised to see the Giants take this approach. However Holmes and his staff deserve credit for consistently finding undervalued pitchers over the past few drafts. The Giants gave Trevor McDonald, Kyle Harrison, and Eric Silva signing bonuses’ that bucked most consensus rankings. Thus far, all three are outperforming expectations. From the college ranks, Caleb Kilian, Ryan Murphy, and Mason Black have been standouts too. Obviously, there’s never a guarantee with draft prospects, but this regime has earned some leeway when drafting pitchers.
Most statistical analysis will tell you that pitchers are generally “riskier” prospects than hitters. However, what Moneyball oversimplified is how small in magnitude those disparities really are. Everything is a risk in the draft. If one type of prospect is 10% more likely to reach the major leagues than another, that probably only coincides with a 2% gap in the real difference (e.g. 22% is 10% higher than 20%).
While the Giants front office clearly values every potential advantage, comparing entire demographic groups is not very useful when thinking about the draft. Sure, a college hitter could, on average, be a successful pick 20% of the time in a given range, while a college pitcher could, on average, only be a successful pick 15% of the time in a given range, but should that really impact an assessment of specific players when each of them has their own background, track records of performance, and advanced analytical data? I don’t think so.
The Giants took some big swings with their 2022 MLB Draft class. Given their limited draft capital in picking 30th in each round, it’s an impressive collection of upside. Obviously, that upside comes with some added risks, but those are the chances teams should take in the draft. Now let’s see who the Giants are able to sign and how they fair in pro ball.