With the amateur draft now right around the corner, Marc Delucchi will provide a three-part preview to the San Francisco Giants plans for the 2019 MLB draft.
Today, we’re playing a simple game: What would I do?
There has been a lot of debate amongst fans between UNLV shortstop Bryson Stott and West Virginia right-hander Alek Manoah, the two players most frequently linked to the Giants.
I’m in another ballpark entirely.
Maybe it is simply my contrarian self trying to go against the grain, but it’s at least a fun thought experiment.
If I’m the San Francisco Giants, I select prep right-hander Daniel Espino.
No pitcher in this draft has more upside than Espino. His premium velocity is the best in the class and his slider already looks like a putaway pitch.
Last month, Baseball America wrote a piece titled “Why High-Octane High School Velocity is Scary” where they highlighted the risk involved in drafting someone like Espino and the limited track record of success with high school power pitchers in recent years.
However, I think we sometimes get too caught up in recent draft trends.
Yes, high school pitchers have high variability. They can also develop into aces. Look no further than the breakout performance of Lucas Giolito with the Chicago White Sox this season.
Despite his impressive stuff, Espino is ranked outside the top 25 on almost every major website’s big board. The highest I’ve seen him mocked is to the Los Angeles Dodgers at No. 25 overall.
It all seems like a massive over-correction, and that’s exactly why he intrigues me so much.
This take could age horribly, but I also think people are over analyzing Espino’s mechanics. He has work to do pitching out of the stretch, but from the windup, he shows great balance and consistently executes his pitches.
A signing bonus of $2.75 million would be larger than the slot value of the No. 25 overall pick and should be enough to lock him up. The No. 10 pick has a $4.7 million allotted slot value, which means the Giants would have roughly $2 million to work with for the rest of the draft.
This isn’t the year to try floating guys, I’ll admit that. A number of teams have multiple first-round picks and sandwich picks and they are going to poach a large amount of the top high school talent.
While there’s no telling how it will all play out, taking Espino higher than expected could leave a college player on the board that teams picking below No. 10 overall expected to be gone. That could have a domino effect that dislodges some top talent for the Giants to scoop up later in the draft.
Jack Leiter fits the bill.
A late first-round talent who could slide due to a rumored bonus demand of $4 million and a strong commitment to Vanderbilt, he would be a fantastic pairing with Espino to give the Giants two high-ceiling pitchers.
If a player like Leiter doesn’t make it to the Giants, then I’d play it straight from Round 2-10. Take the best prospects that will sign for a fair number. Then in Round 11, I’d circle back to the best high school players left and see what I can do with that $2 million.
If Espino agreed to a $2.75 million signing bonus at No. 10 overall, the slot savings would be roughly equivalent to acquiring the No. 39 overall pick in the draft. That money could be divvied up in a number of different directions, or it could all got to someone like Jerrion Ealy if he falls through the cracks.
Ealy ranks in the 60s on most draft boards. He’s a raw two-sport standout who is committed to play baseball and football at Ole Miss. He wasn’t mentioned in FanGraphs most recent mock draft, which suggests he won’t go in the top 75 picks.
If he’s willing to sign for second-round money, the Giants could wait back and take him in the 11th round or later and still give him the bonus he’s seeking.
The Giants have not gone outside the box like this with their first-round pick since the implementation of the bonus pool system. Doing so would not be a win-now move. A player like Stott or Manoah could conceivably move quickly through the system and begin forming a core with Joey Bart in 2021 or 2022. There are no sure things in the draft, though.
Espino would likely take longer to contribute, but his ceiling would also be considerably higher.
I understand the risk of a player with Espino’s profile and I’m not arguing that he is a superior prospect to Stott or Manoah. Not every top 100 draft prospect hits. The more chances you get at grabbing top talent, the better chance you have of finding an impact player. The approach I’ve laid out gives the Giants more chances.
Should the Giants pass on a player like Stott to land Espino and Ealy?
Should they pass on Stott and Florida State third baseman Drew Mendoza—recently mocked to the Giants by FanGraphs in Round 2—for Espino and Leiter?
Should they pass on Stott for Espino and four players drafted late who were worthy of being taken within the first eight rounds?
My answer is yes.
We’ll see what the San Francisco Giants answer is when the 2019 MLB draft kicks off on Monday, June 3rd.