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I try not to draw too many conclusions from observing how a team drafts from the outside looking in, but there are always some interesting draft day patterns worth noting. For the San Francisco Giants, off the bat, it is pretty clear to see a surprising lack of, well, bats. Outside of Mac Williamson, there wasn’t a position player drafted by the Giants that I think even the most prospect-obsessed could realistically say is a potential big league regular. A case could be made for any one of Ryan Jones, Tyler Hollick, or Shayne Houck as the next best bet, but, like many of the hitters drafted by San Francisco, they all currently profile best as backups.
That actually leads to the next observation of the Giants 2012 draft: depth selections identified by the ability to play multiple positions. Jones, a second baseman by trade, also has extensive experience at the hot corner. Hollick currently plays a mean center field, but has shown well at second in the past. Prior to the draft, teams I spoke to were split 50/50 on whether or not Houck worked best as a third baseman or left fielder professionally. You can do the same with almost every position player drafted by the Giants. Trevor Brown, a prospect I’ve heard compared to a lighter, lesser version of current Giant minor leaguer and former Cal State Fullerton star Brett Pill, is a catcher who can also hold his own at any non-shortstop infield spot. Matt Duffy has played all over the diamond. Mitch Delfino has split time between third base and the mound, and Sam Eberle has done the same at third base and catcher. Andrew Cain has seen time at both corner outfield spots and first base. Even the owner of the Giants’ biggest draft bat, Williamson, a great athlete who many once believed had the agility and arm strength to be moved behind the plate, has pitching experience.
As for the talent level of the hitters drafted, well, there isn’t a ton of great news for Giants fans. The majority of the position players selected by San Francisco look like the kind of players typically considered organizational guys. The infielders (Brown, Duffy, Delfino, Eberle) all lack the type of raw physical tools associated with ballplayers capable of playing at the highest level. You can never totally rule out players capable of playing solid defense up-the-middle (good news for both Brown and Duffy, and potentially Eberle), but none of the aforementioned infielders will crack any offseason top thirty prospect list for the organization. Of all their drafted infielders, Jones stands the best chance of someday seeing time in the big leagues as a utility infielder.
Things are better in the outfield, though I realize that may sound like damning with faint praise. The selection of Williamson, he of above-average big league corner outfielder upside, alone makes this a better group of prospects over the infielders. There’s currently too much swing-and-miss to his game for him to reach his considerable ceiling, but college guys with power hitting track records are becoming a dying breed. In that light, a third round gamble makes some sense. I compared Williamson to Adam Brett Walker prior to the draft, but a more natural comparison seems to be his new organization-mate with the Giants, former Louisville standout and fellow third round pick Chris Dominguez. I know a lot of people like to hate on comps, but, come on, that’s a good one: fourth-year juniors from underrated baseball schools, similar size (6-4ish, 230ish), third round picks, strong enough arms to pitch, big raw power, trouble with anything that isn’t a fastball, worrisome strikeout totals – this thing writes itself! Williamson’s superior athleticism and speed give hope that he’ll adjust better to pro ball and/or provide more long-term defensive value. I’m already on record as stating Williamson alone makes the outfielders a better group than the infielders, but that shortchanges the potential contributions of a few other fly catchers taken by the Giants. It isn’t just Williamson that makes the outfield group intriguing. I’ve mentioned my affinity for Hollick already, but let’s go a little deeper. An argument can be made that Hollick, a player I didn’t give nearly enough love pre-draft, is the best position player drafted by the Giants. His scouting profile reads similar to current Giants prospect Gary Brown, but Hollick has a much stronger track record of working deep counts and drawing walks. McCall also deserves consideration as San Francisco’s top 2012 position player selection, though I’d have him behind Williamson, Hollick, and perhaps Jones. McCall is athletic enough to play either corner spot with an arm that should play at least average in right. The big question is, of course, whether or not he’ll hit enough to hold down an offensively demanding position in the big leagues. I’m encouraged by both what I’ve seen and heard, but would be lying if I could answer beyond that with any kind of certainty. Unlikely as it may be, a future all 2012 Draft outfield of McCall-Hollick-Williamson, from left to right, is fun to dream on. That trio could be backed up down the line by a pair of solid organization depth pieces in Cain and Houck. Both are older prospects – another San Francisco draft trend – who found themselves on the wrong side of 22 before notching their first pro at bats. Cain appears similar to Williamson on paper (big, good runner, intriguing power), but his tools aren’t quite as loud. Call him a deep sleeper as a 24th round pick and be prepared to either look super smart someday or, more likely, forget about him after he fails to make it to AA. Houck’s value would get a big boost if he shows he can play a little third base in addition to the outfield corners, but, like Cain, he’ll need to get his rear in gear in pro ball if he wants to keep cashing those sweet, sweet minor league paychecks.
San Francisco’s draft strategy when it comes to their approach to pitching was fairly clear in 2012: load up on college arms, early and often. The emphasis on high-floor/low-ceiling older arms wouldn’t be as troubling if buttressed with a few interesting long-term gambles at the high school level, but there is nary a signed prep arm to be found in this class. Fortunately, getting a pitcher like Chris Stratton with the twentieth overall pick makes it all worth it. Quibble with the no high school pitching approach if you must (seriously, though, what’s up with that?), but the Giants have a strong track record of identifying and developing pitchers at the top of their drafts. The last six drafts have produced the following first day pitchers: Kyle Crick, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Alderson (the weak link of the group, but, hey, he did enough to bring value in a trade), and Tim Lincecum. It’s a little bit scary to think that Stratton could wind up as the fourth most successful pitcher of that group (fifth if you’re a big believer in Crick) and still be considered a major steal in this spot. There are some legitimate concerns surrounding his age (22 in August, old for a college junior) and workload (multiple 2012 starts well past 120+ pitches), but there’s really no questioning his outstanding stuff. Stratton boasts a full arsenal of pitches (FB, CB, CU, SL, cutter, two-seamer) that is as impressive in quality as it is in depth. I promised I wouldn’t turn these draft recaps into warmed over rehashes of my pre-draft analysis, but it’s probably worth mentioning that Stratton was my sixth favorite prospect in the entire draft, one spot ahead of the far more famous Mark Appel. Martin Agosta is another easy to like young righthander with a good chance of one day taking a big league mound as a starting pitcher. Two above-average offspeed pitches (cutter/slider thing and changeup) to go along with his solid fastball (made better be excellent command) are exactly what teams are looking for in prospective starters.
Steven Okert and Ty Blach could also be considered potential starters, but I think both will settle into relief roles after some of the adorable draft optimism (I only say this because I’m guilty of it every year) wears off. Okert goes plus fastball/above-average slider while mixing in a usable changeup with the chance for more. Blach’s stuff is more solid across the board – slider is just as good though not as consistent as Okert’s, but he’ll compensate by using a much more effective change – so the thought of him starting is a little bit easier to envision. I think both guys are ultimately relievers with Okert potentially being a darn good one.
I actually liked what the Giants did in targeting hard throwing yet flawed college relievers, though, upon closer review, the flaw in their approach becomes alarmingly evident. Okert, Stephen Johnson and EJ Encinosa are all almost certainly (call it a 99% certainty) relievers professionally. All are quality arms coming off really strong college seasons. All three throw hard, have good size, and feature at least one above-average or better secondary pitch. We’ve covered Okert already as a potential starting pitching convert, so we’ll focus on the two college relief aces. Johnson has arm strength you can’t teach but is in dire need of a consistent offspeed pitch, which hopefully you can. Encinosa profiles as a high-floor sinker/slider middle reliever, but with more mustard on both his four- and two-seam fastballs than your typical sixth/seventh inning guy. I like all three picks: cheap, controllable arms are big parts of what I think make good teams good. The less money spent on unpredictable, fungible middle relief, the more money is freed up to acquire elite talent at positions that have a greater nightly impact on the game. If all you achieve from one draft class is a half dozen or so legit big league relief options, then you’ve potentially saved yourself millions down the line. Then again, you could always avoid the temptation to blow money on veteran relievers in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there. What does come into the play is the concept of opportunity cost. A good argument could be made that of all the relievers selected by the Giants, the guy taken in the sixteenth round (we’ll get to him soon) is the most talented. If you can get quality relievers that late, and you can, then why spent a fourth, sixth, and seventh on relievers in the first place? Even Jason Forjet and Brandon Farley, 31st and 33rd rounders respectively, can be called potential big league relievers. They may not be on the level of Okert, Johhnson, or Encinonsa, but the cost of using a late-round pick on them is significantly less. Another example is 26th rounder Mason McVay. McVay throws hard (when healthy), has good size (6-8, 240 pounds), and features at least one above-average or better secondary pitch (curve). Sound familiar? Back to our aforementioned friend from round sixteen: Ian Gardeck continues the theme of plus fastball velocities with his mid- to upper-90s heater. His slider is devastating when on, a true plus big league out-pitch that hitters have a hell of a time recognizing before swinging over it. That’s the good news. The less good news is that I’m only half-kidding when I say the Giants might think about getting Gardeck’s eyes checked because it looks like he has no idea where the catcher is crouching half the time. The problem is likely in his mechanics, and not his arm, eyes, or head. If he can upgrade his control from nonexistent to “effectively wild,” then he’ll join Johnson in having big league closer upside.
All in all, I think we’re looking at five potential above-average big league relievers: Okert, Johnson, Encinosa, Gardeck, and McVay. Since wishing for different picks is fruitless at this point, all we can really do now is hope that two or three (or four!) live up to their promise and do our best to forget about what might have been. You don’t want to make a habit of rooting for a sweet relief pitching haul to be the best part of your draft class, but it’s better than nothing, right?
We’re just short of 3,000 words in what was intended as a short recap, so let’s hustle up and finish this thing. I am honestly surprised that Joe Kurrasch jumped to pro ball – he simply didn’t look ready when I saw him, and I heard similar things throughout the spring. Forjet and Farley both flash enough big league stuff to warrant follows as they travel through pro ball. I personally prefer Farley because he’s shown a little more zip on his fastball over the years, but when you’re debating the merits of two college relievers picked past the thirtieth round, everybody wins. Andrew Leenhouts is intriguing as a cold weather pitchability lefthander with the three pitches to start for a bit. His best chance of advancing to the bigs is probably via the bullpen (like so many college lefties, I’d love to know his splits to see if the lefty specialist path makes sense), but I think his talent level is closer to Blach’s than Kurrasch’s. That can be read in one of two ways, depending on your outlook on life: a) Leenhouts was good value for a 23rd round pick, or b) Blach was a serious overdraft in the fifth round.
Position-by-Position Breakdown of Prospects of Note
(Players are listed by draft order…included below each name, in italics, are each player’s pre-draft notes and ranking within position group)
10.328 Trevor Brown (UCLA)
77. UCLA JR C Trevor Brown: good defensive skills; good athlete; smooth defender at first base; can also play 2B; lack of power limits his offensive ceiling, but defensive versatility and a competent bat could carry him farther up the chain than you’d think; 6-2, 200 pounds
13.418 Ryan Jones (Michigan State)
22. Michigan State rJR 2B Ryan Jones: good speed; good approach; limited power upside; already a good defender at 2B and can also play 3B effectively; no standout tool, but easy to walk away impressed with him as a heady, instinctive ballplayer who does the little things right; 5-10, 170 rounds
18.568 Matt Duffy (Long Beach State)
58. Long Beach State JR SS Matt Duffy: nice swing; can play average defense at least at all spots on diamond; utility future; 6-2, 170 pounds
20.628 Mitch Delfino (California)
65. California JR 3B Mitch Delfino: average defender with what looks like a good enough arm once he gets his throwing mechanics retooled; has shown enough promise with the bat to get a look in the mid-rounds; 6-3, 210 pounds
25.778 Sam Eberle (Jacksonville State)
52. Jacksonville State SR C Sam Eberle: decent defender who might fit best at 3B in pro ball; good athlete; strong; good runner for either defensive spot; bat could be above-average if allowed to catch at next level, but he’ll have to improve footwork and speed of release; 6-1, 220 pounds
3.115 Mac Williamson (Wake Forest)
32. Wake Forest rJR OF Mac Williamson: impressive raw tools, emphasis on raw; above-average to plus arm strength; too aggressive at plate, gets himself out too often; I’ve long wanted to see him move back behind plate, but realize that dream is dead – as it is, he’s a good defender with the prototypical arm for RF; physically mature and very strong; plus power upside; above-average speed, but slow starter – once he gets underway, you see his speed; much improved as hitter in 2012, chasing fewer bad balls; Williamson is interesting for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being his consistently strong power performances and improved plate discipline; if it all comes together in pro ball, Williamson is a five-tool player (four of which are decidedly above-average, the most questionable tool being his bat) with big league starter upside – he profiles very similarly to Adam Brett Walker as a hitter and athlete, but with a higher floor based on his added defensive value; has also shown promise on the mound over the years: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; good sinker; good CB; shows CU; 6-4, 240 pounds
9.298 Shilo McCall (Piedra Vista HS, New Mexico)
151. OF Shilo McCall (Piedra Vista HS, New Mexico): good speed; good athlete; strong; above-average arm; 6-2, 215 pounds
14.448 Tyler Hollick (Chandler-Gilbert CC, Arizona)
79. Chandler-Gilbert (AZ) JC SO OF Tyler Hollick: plus speed; good CF range; I like his bat, others not sold; crazy production in 2012
24.748 Andrew Cain (UNC Wilmington)
29.898 Shayne Houck (Kutztown, Pennsylvania)
37. Kutztown (PA) SR 3B Shayne Houck: above-average hit tool; big raw power; can handle 3B and LF – stock goes way up if a team believes in him as a defender; 6-1, 200 pounds
1.20 RHP Chris Stratton (Mississippi State)
4. Mississippi State JR RHP Chris Stratton: 88-92 FB, 93-96 peak; velocity up in 2012 – more often 90-94, peaking at 95-96 consistently; leaves his FB up on occasion and it leads to trouble; holds velocity really well; really tough to square up on anything he throws, leaving him with reputation as a groundball machine; quality 77-80 CB; emerging 81-83 CU that is a good pitch now, could be plus in time; good 82-87 SL that flashes plus, but is hit or miss depending on start; solid cutter; added an effective two-seam FB; seen as four-pitch starter, but, depending on how you want to classify his fastball variations, he could eventually throw six legit pitches for strikes; above-average control and command; this is a comp that is decidedly not a comp, but a scout who saw Stratton said that, at his best, he reminded him of a righthanded version of Cliff Lee, mostly because his repertoire is so deep that he can use whatever pitch is working best on any given day; the fact that he throws two distinct breaking balls and has the fearlessness/understanding about how to use them is really impressive for an amateur prospect; 6-2, 200 pounds
2.84 RHP Martin Agosta (St. Mary’s)
23. St. Mary’s JR RHP Martin Agosta: 91-93 FB, 95-96 peak; sometimes sits 89-92 with 94 peak; 80-85 SL with upside, flashes plus – has also been called a cutter; good CB; above-average CU; plus overall command; gets better as game goes on; Agosta’s FB-SL-CU and command make him a good starting pitching prospect, and the chance he’ll continue to find ways to further differentiate his breaking ball – gaining some separation with his cutter and curve from his slider would be a start – make him especially intriguing; 6-1, 180 pounds
4.148 LHP Steven Okert (Oklahoma)
82. Oklahoma JR LHP Steven Okert: 88-91 FB, 92-94 peak; up to 94-97 out of bullpen; good SL; CU is better than often given credit; command comes and goes; reminds me a little bit of Chris Reed before Reed became last year’s “it” first round pick – could be a dominant reliever if everything breaks right, but also has the chance to continue starting at next level; 6-3, 220 pounds
5.178 LHP Ty Blach (Creighton)
254. Creighton JR LHP Ty Blach: 89-91 FB, 92-94 peak; good CU that has improved in last calendar year; attacks hitters on the inner-half and is a renowned strike thrower; low-80s SL flashes plus; good overall command; has the three pitches to start and above-average velocity from the left side, but lack of draft year dominance at the college level is a tad disconcerting; 6-1, 200 pounds
6.208 RHP Stephen Johnson (St. Edward’s, Texas)
64. St. Edward’s (TX) JR RHP Stephen Johnson: consistent 93-96 FB, 98 peak; has reportedly been as high as 101, but typically tops out upper-90s; 77-81 SL that has gotten harder (mid-80s) and better over the past year; hard 84-88 CU that is better when softer; great deception; closer upside; 6-4, 200 pounds
7.238 RHP EJ Encinosa (Miami)
131. Miami JR RHP EJ Encinosa: had him originally with a 87-91 FB with sink, 94 high school peak but hadn’t seen it in a while, instead peaking at 91-92; once committed to bullpen, velocity shot back up – now sits 94-95, and has hit 98 in 2012; no matter the velocity, the fastball remains an excellent pitch – very consistent plus-plus sink; plus low-80s SL; good, but inconsistent CU; reliever all the way (and likely not a closer), but a good one all the same; 6-4, 235 pounds
8.268 LHP Joe Kurrasch (Penn State)
315. Penn State rSO LHP Joe Kurrasch: as starter, sits 87-90, 92 peak; can get it a tick or two higher as reliever; average CU; has done a good job getting in better shape over past year, but doesn’t have the depth or quality of stuff to make much of a pro impact at this point; Cal transfer; 6-2, 200 pounds
16.508 RHP Ian Gardeck (Alabama)
256. Alabama JR RHP Ian Gardeck: 94-96 FB, 98-100 peak; plus to plus-plus mid- to upper-80s SL; bad control and command; mechanics need overhaul; stuff was down as he had an awful spring, but still showed enough flashes of two potential wipeout big league pitches that somebody will bite; 6-2, 225 pounds
23.718 LHP Drew Leenhouts (Northeastern)
270. Northeastern SR LHP Andrew Leenhouts: 87-88 FB, 90-91 peak; good CB; average CU that sometimes shows better; FB command needs work, and pitch is presently too straight; clean mechanics; 6-3, 200 pounds
26.808 LHP Mason McVay (Florida International)
103. Florida International rJR LHP Mason McVay: 87-91 FB post-injury as starter; solid potential with CB, plus upside; mechanics need cleaning up; control is an issue; peaked at 95-96 out of bullpen in fall 2011, so, if healthy, he can throw some smoke; Tommy John survivor; good coaching and good health will go a long way in determining his pro future, but his two potential plus pitches and size give him more upside than your typical double-digit round pick; 6-8, 240 pounds
31.958 RHP Jason Forjet (Florida Gulf Coast)
418. Florida Gulf Coast SR RHP Jason Forjet: upper-80s FB, low-90s peak; CB; CU; very good command; good athlete; 6-2, 200 pounds
33.1018 RHP Brandon Farley (Arkansas State)
393. Arkansas State SR RHP Brandon Farley: 89-92 FB, 94-95 peak; 6-2, 200 pounds