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2023 Willie McCovey Memorial Community Prospect List No. 35

Who is the 35th-best prospect in the San Francisco Giants organization?

Blake Sabol holding a bat behind his head, posing on picture day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We’re quickly moving through the 2023 Willie McCovey Memorial Community Prospect List, and have just 10 names to add before we’ve ranked the top 44 prospects in the San Francisco Giants organization.

Coming in at No. 34 is one of the more intriguing (and new) names in the system: catcher Blake Sabol, a 25-year old left-handed hitter.

Sabol was selected in the 7th round of the 2017 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite a blistering 2022, the Pirates chose not to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, and he was taken fourth overall by the Cincinnati Reds, becoming one of just two position players selected in the draft. Shortly afterwards, the Giants sent pitcher Jake Wong and some cold hard cash to the Reds for Sabol.

Even though the Giants traded for him rather than drafting him, he’s still bound by Rule 5 rules. Which is to say, he needs to spend the entire season on the 26-player active roster, or else he’ll be returned to the Pirates organization. So there’s a very good chance that we look back on this list next year and, whether the ranking is too high or too low, talk about Sabol in “not on the Giants” terms.

Sabol had a stellar offensive season in 2022. He played the bulk of the year for the Pirates AA affiliate, hitting .281/.347/.486 (124 wRC+), with 15 home runs in 412 plate appearances. He took a leap forward after a promotion to AAA, hitting a blistering .296/.426/.543 (157 wRC+), despite a fairly sustainable BABIP.

The peripherals for Sabol’s AAA season were highly impressive: in 101 plate appearances he had 17 walks to just 22 strikeouts, and hit five home runs.

The good about Sabol is that exceptionally intriguing bat that the Giants are very high on. The downside is that he spent his first few years in professional baseball in the outfield, and only started catching in the pros last year ... with very bad defensive results. The Giants surely value his versatility and ability to play across the diamond, but they view him as a catcher — and that’s really his only path to making the roster.

Sabol’s bat may end up determining how good of a Major Leaguer he can be, but his ability to stick at catcher will likely determine whether or not it happens with the Giants.

He’s been making one heck of an impression in Spring Training though: while the defensive holes are on display, Sabol is hitting 6-13 with two homers and three doubles so far. That will open eyes.

Sabol is the fifth player on the CPL to not begin his professional career with the Giants, joining Will Wilson, Tristan Beck, Carson Seymour, and Brett Wisely.

Now it’s time to add to the list, and we have some new names to look at.

The list so far

  1. Kyle Harrison — LHP
  2. Marco Luciano — SS
  3. Casey Schmitt — 3B
  4. Luis Matos — CF
  5. Vaun Brown — OF
  6. Grant McCray — CF
  7. Aeverson Arteaga — SS
  8. Carson Whisenhunt — LHP
  9. Reggie Crawford — LHP/DH
  10. Patrick Bailey — C
  11. Mason Black — RHP
  12. Heliot Ramos — OF
  13. Eric Silva — RHP
  14. Jairo Pomares — OF
  15. Cole Waites — RHP
  16. Keaton Winn — RHP
  17. R.J. Dabovich — RHP
  18. Tyler Fitzgerald — INF
  19. Ryan Murphy — RHP
  20. Landen Roupp — RHP
  21. Will Wilson — INF
  22. Adrian Sugastey — C
  23. Trevor McDonald — RHP
  24. Tristan Beck — RHP
  25. Will Bednar — RHP
  26. Nick Swiney — LHP
  27. Rayner Arias — OF
  28. Carson Seymour — RHP
  29. Hunter Bishop — OF
  30. Sean Hjelle — RHP
  31. Ryan Reckley — SS
  32. Randy Rodriguez — RHP
  33. Brett Wisely — INF
  34. Blake Sabol — C

Note: Clicking on the above names will link to the CPL where they were voted onto the list.

On to No. 35!

No. 35 prospect nominees

Brett Auerbach — 24.6-year old C/UTIL, 94 wRC+ in AA (425 PA)
Hayden Birdsong — 21.6-year old RHP, 2.48 FIP in Low-A (6 IP), 0.02 FIP in ACL (5.2 IP)
Jose Cruz — 22.9-year old RHP, 3.10 FIP in Low-A (51.2 IP)
P.J. Hilson — 22.6-year old CF, 138 wRC+ in Low-A (45 PA), 151 wRC+ in ACL (210 PA)
Gerelmi Maldonado — 19.2-year old RHP, 3.86 FIP in the ACL (39.2 IP)
Nick Zwack — 24.7-year old LHP, 4.17 FIP in Giants High-A (29.1 IP), 2.65 FIP in Mets High-A (63.2 IP), 1.23 FIP in Mets Low-A (12.2 IP)

Note: Each player’s first name links to their Baseball-Reference page, and their last name links to their Fangraphs page.

Reminder: voting is now in the comments!