San Francisco Giants: PJ Hilson could be hidden gem of 2018 MLB draft

SF Giants hat. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
SF Giants hat. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

While the 2019 MLB draft has been in the spotlight this past week, it looks like the San Francisco Giants may have uncovered a gem during their 2018 draft.

The San Francisco Giants selected Patrick (PJ) Hilson out of Nettleton High School in Jonesboro, Arkansas in the sixth round of the 2018 MLB draft.

Hilson, an outfielder, turned in a forgettable pro debut after signing last spring with a .186/.280/.335 line over 182 plate appearances at the rookie ball level in the Arizona League.

Despite that less-than-stellar stat line and the fact that he is one of the rawest players in the Giants’ farm system, his loud tools demand attention.

Last month, when FanGraphs released their top prospect rankings for the Giants, he checked in at No. 10 on the list.

That ranking has more to do with projecting his physical tools, rather than his current on-field performance. Even FanGraphs recognizes that the gap between his current ability and future projection might be one of the biggest in baseball.

Here’s what they had to say about Hilson:

"He has scintillating physical ability. Speed, arm strength, barrel quickness, burgeoning power, hit-thieving defensive ability in center field. But he is raw as steak tartare and often takes hapless, juvenile swings that demonstrate an alarming lack of baseball feel, as evidenced by his 67 strikeouts in 166 2018 at-bats."

Hilson is at the beginning of his developmental curve, and FanGraphs rightly identifies him as a long-term project:

"It will likely take a long time and there will likely be developmental bumps in the road, but Hilson has monster, long-term potential and would be a peacock feather in the cap of Giants player dev if he can realize it."

The San Francisco Giants will need to be patient with Hilson, but given his tools, this will be an excellent challenge as the Giants transition to a new coaching and development team under Farhan Zaidi.

Unlike some Giants prospects, Hilson has a very high ceiling.

In the past, the Giants have made a habit of targeting safe prospects in the draft, opting for guys that have a high floor rather than a high ceiling. These types of prospects have less of a developmental curve, and the probability of reaching their potential is higher, albeit with a lower ceiling.

That’s not Hilson.

The probability of him reaching his full potential may be lower compared to many prospects, but the reward could be much higher. In the limited information available from extended spring training, the 18-year-old has impressed thus far:

He’s likely getting ready to do a second tour of duty in rookie ball this season. Given his raw skill set, Hilson is the type of prospect who will spend considerable time at each minor league level, rather than one who receives aggressive promotions.

The Arkansas native may not be the highest-rated prospect in the San Francisco Giants system, but he is part of a very young and exciting contingent that includes Heliot Ramos, Gregory Santos, Alexander Canario, and Marco Luciano.

Next. Building a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies

It’s still early days, but Hilson has done enough in his very brief professional career to inspire as much intrigue as any of his counterparts.