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MLB Pipeline’s top 30 Giants prospects heading into 2023

Kyle Harrison and Marco Luciano lead a pack of surprising names.

A picture of three San Francisco Giants prospects: third baseman Casey Schmitt, shortstop Marco Luciano, and left-handed pitcher Kyle Harrison
L-R: Casey Schmitt, Marco Luciano, Kyle Harrison
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants have sure done a lot of losing and put in a lot of work in order to improve their farm system and it’s safe to say the results have been mixed! This morning, MLB Pipeline unveiled their preseason top 30 prospects in the Giants’ system, and if there’s one thing the McCovey Chronicles community, the Baseball industry at large, and the San Francisco Giants organization can agree on it’s that the Giants’ best prospect is Kyle Harrison.

After that, the MLB Pipeline top five deviates from the community rankings:

1. Kyle Harrison, LHP (MLB No. 18)
2. Marco Luciano, SS (MLB No. 22)
3. Grant McCray, OF
4. Casey Schmitt, 3B/SS
5. Vaun Brown, OF

McCray came in at #6 in the community ranking, but if you’ve listened to old friend Roger Munter talk about the Giants’ system, then this rise for McCray should come as no surprise. A little over a week and a half ago, McC’s former minor league guru ranked McCray #5 and wrote:

What we need is a hero to guide us out of the blighted landscape and into a new era of hope. For every curse, the world will someday receive its [anointed] curse-buster, the one who will stand and say “history means nothing to me,” and then hack their way through the daemons that come.

What does that mean? Munter firmly believes McCray will break the Giants’ curse of being unable to develop outfield prospects ever since scouting savant George Genovese left the Giants for the Dodgers.

A curse-busting prospect??? I’ll just take an every day major league player at this point, something that has been incredibly difficult for the Giants to do; and, in my lifetime (::cough:: now 40-something years) there have only been two clusters of interesting prospect-turned-major leaguer development (1987-1989, 2010-2012). But enough about me. Here’s Jim Callis on to back me up on this:

But since selecting Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Zack Wheeler with Top 10 picks in 2006-09, San Francisco has had little success in the first round, a trend that continued last year.

To add injury to insult, Callis goes on to say that the last five first round picks (so, going back to 2017), who were all in Pipeline’s Giants Top 10 last year failed to crack that list heading into 2023. Woof, ouch, and yikes.

But hope springs eternal, not because the Giants have the smartest front office in the history of professional sports, but because prospect development is 1) never linear (meaning any of those struggling first rounders could turn it around!) and 2) total luck. We cover them because seeing their minor league exploits can be so exciting that they fuel our imaginations, and using your imagination has been one of the most diminished qualities of the human experience since the turn of the century. Probably because of all the real life horrors, but never mind that now; let’s return to Baseball.

One of the great parts of Callis’s writeup is this list of Best Tools in the system. Using the 20-80 scouting scale (50 is average), here are some select tools (go to the article to see the full list; “Players in parentheses have the same grade”):

Power: 65 — Marco Luciano
Run: 70 — Vaun Brown (Grant McCray)
Defense: 65 — Casey Schmitt
Fastball: 70 — Cole Waites (Reggie Crawford)
Curveball: 65 — Landen Roupp (R.J. Dabovich)
Changeup: 70 — Carson Whisenhunt

Crawford and Whisenhunt both go from 2022 draftees to top 10 talents in the Giants top 30 (click here for the full list), which both does and doesn’t come as a surprise. The organization is really high on these guys, and it’s only because a lot of other players have lost their shine that these raw talents are already getting people excited.

Some of the aforementioned first rounders who lost their top 10 status still have decent shows. Joey Bart has obviously graduated out of prospect status, but Patrick Bailey is on the list at #11, Will Bednar is #16, and Heliot Ramos is at #20 somehow.

Two more notables: Carson Seymour (#17) and Brett Wisely (#24), both acquired via trade. Wisely has 63 stolen bases in two pro seasons — great for the new rules — and his 50 hit tool includes this note:

Wisely has a sound left-handed swing, knows the strike zone and uses the entire field. While he’s more hitter than slugger, he uses a leg kick to help him drive the ball in the air and trades some strikeouts to get to most of his fringy raw power. He has the upside of a .275 hitter who provides 15 homers per season while also drawing a good amount of walks.

Of Seymour, I can only say this: after reading Pipeline’s writeup on him, he seems like a machine dreamed up by the Giants’ pitching lab.

Seymour’s best pitch is a turbo sinker that sits in the mid-90s and touches 97 mph, and its late life and the downhill plane he creates with his 6-foot-6 frame resulted in 2.4 groundout/flyout ratio in 2022 (seventh among Minor Leaguers with 100 innings). He also can carve up hitters with an upper-80s slider/cutter that helps him keep left-handers at bay more than his sinking changeup with similar velocity.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this list changes when they do their midseason rankings. Now, personally, that’s because I’m wondering if Callis and the rest of the industry just haven’t really been paying attention to what’s been going on with Marco Luciano’s back. As a Nervous Nelly, I’m someone who hears “chronic back problems” and thinks, “Well, that person is not going to be able to play professional sports long-term.” I’m also not a doctor or an athletic trainer or a front office person tasked with managing hundreds of millions of dollars and public expectations simultaneously.

Callis starts of the post by calling the system “volatile,” and I think that’s probably a good descriptor of how things have gone — which is a completely fair way to judge this sort of thing — but when I look at the system and read what industry professionals have to say, I’m encouraged not because it’s got a lot of star talent, but because it has the ingredients for something good to come out of it.

Now, that’s not the way player development works most of the time and Baseball is already a game built upon failure, but if some good or many good things one day emerge from the Giants system — and, again, David Villar could already be one of them — then it won’t be a surprise.