SF Giants: Ranking 3 players to watch in the MLB draft

SF Giants hold the No. 13 MLB draft pick overall

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A hat in the SF Giants' dugout. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

The mock drafts have been all over the board regarding who the San Francisco Giants might select in the first round, and the fact that scouting is being done remotely makes it incredibly difficult to guess who will even be available when the team is on the clock.

Still, there are a few players who will not be available for the Giants by then. Spencer Torkelson, Austin Martin, Emerson Hancock, and Nick Gonzales are just a few of the names who will likely be picked well in advance of the 13th overall spot.

Similarly, my assumption is, the Giants will not be drafting a pitcher in the first round.

Team president Farhan Zaidi telegraphed his strategy in an interview with KNBR prior to last year's draft. He indicated that the front office would lean heavily on drafting and developing position players while looking to free agency and trades to bolster the pitcher staff.

His belief was that the Giants' home field is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball, making it easier to bring in pitchers than hitters.

Zaidi followed through on that approach as the Giants took a position player in nine of the first 10 rounds as he looked to quickly inject offensive talent back into the farm system.

The question is will that strategy continue into this year's draft? This year's class is not short on pitching prospects, and this may create an opportunity for the Giants to nab a top bat as the other teams focus on pitching talent.

While there is a lot of uncertainty heading into this year's draft, there are a handful of prospects I am fairly certain will be available for the Giants to scoop up. Below are my power ranking of these prospects:

  1. Outfielder Robert Hassell III
  2. Catcher Tyler Soderstrom
  3. Shortstop Ed Howard

SF Giants MLB draft watch: Robert Hassell III

While the San Francisco Giants are beginning to put together an impressive group of outfield prospects, there is plenty of room for one more.

As an 18-year-old prospect, Independence High School outfielder Robert Hassell fits in the same age category of some of the Giants top prospects such as Heliot Ramos (20) and Marco Luciano (18).

Is this an important factor? Not necessarily, but unlike a college prospect, a prep outfielder would likely make his major league debut around the same timeframe as both Ramos and Luciano as well as others.

The infusion of talent to the major league roster would happen all at once, and that tends to be when the competitive window cracks open.

On the field, the left-handed bat brings one of the better hit tools to the table. For his age, he has a surprisingly quiet stance, load, and stride. These factors may be what helps him to track pitches so well.

In the batter's box, he controls the strike zone, works the count, and features solid gap-to-gap power. As Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com notes, there are questions about Hassel's power upside:

"There's some debate as to how much pop he'll ultimately have, with some scouts envisioning solid raw power and believing he'll tap into most of it, while other evaluators think he's more lean than projectable and more of a 15-homer guy."

The outfielder has a very lean frame currently, and will need to fill out quite a bat to tap into that power potential. Regardless, Hassel has one of the sweeter swings in the draft and a contact-oriented approach that covers the plate well.

Similar to his questionable power, there are concerns about whether Hassell can stick in center field. If his power does not fully develop, then it will be especially important for the 18-year-old to prove he can handle center field.

Many of the mock drafts have the outfielder being a mid-first round pick, so the Giants have a legitimate shot at landing Hassell. He would join an outfield contingent that has quickly become a strength in the Giants farm system with key prospects including Ramos, Hunter Bishop, Alexander Canario, and Luis Matos.

Hassell is one of the top prep outfielders and has committed to Vanderbilt University. Vanderbilt has become a sort of factory for premier prospects, and despite this, it is going to be difficult for Hassell to improve his draft stock three years from now.

Given this, Hassell has considerable leverage in contract talks given his commitment. The 13th pick carries a $4.1 million slot value, and the Giants may need to use the entire slot value to lure the 18-year-old away from his college commitment.

If San Francisco does this, it may limit their ability to sign a player in the later rounds, but Hassell looks to be worth the bet.

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SF Giants MLB draft watch: Catcher Tyler Soderstrom

On the surface, Tyler Soderstrom would be a bit of a risky pick. Soderstrom's primary position is at catcher, and the Giants already have their heir apparent to Buster Posey in Joey Bart.

The MLB draft is a bit unique in that teams tend to draft the best player available, rather than the best fit for the team. This is due in part to the fact that it takes several years for prospects to develop into major league talent.

Soderstrom is from Turlock, California, and Farhan Zaidi made it a point to reel in more local talent in last year's draft. The first round could offer Zaidi an opportunity to continue that trend with Soderstrom.

Still, do the Giants need another catching prospect?

The short answer is no, but the old baseball adage is that teams can never have enough catching depth.

Catcher is not the only position Soderstrom plays. Soderstrom, the son of former Giants pitcher Steve Soderstrom, has shown enough athleticism to handle third base as well as the outfield.

This versatility gives Soderstrom options if catching does not pan out as Mike Axisa of CBS Sports notes:

"...Soderstrom has the athleticism and skill set to play elsewhere on the diamond...His defense is still developing, and if catching doesn't work out, the outfield is a viable alternative"

As a catcher, Soderstrom possesses a strong arm and shows off good pop times while limiting the running game. Though, he struggles in terms of blocking and game management.

However, in Farhan Zaidi's brief tenure, he has shown a preference for players who can handle multiple positions. The value that versatility brings is evident each time the Giants face off against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and players such as Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez move all around the field.

Soderstrom brings that versatile skill set on defense to the table.

Since the Giants are a bit light on infield prospects in their system outside of Marco Luciano and Will Wilson, it would be an intriguing experiment to see how well Soderstrom can handle the hot corner.

There is plenty of risk in this experiment if Soderstrom cannot transition to the hot corner or as a corner outfielder. This would limit his upside.

Despite this, the bat is far ahead of the glove and the 18-year-old's batting practices produces plenty of loud contact:

As the video shows, the catching prospect has an advanced feel for hitting with the ability to barrel balls consistently. Though, he has shown gap-to-gap power as a prep hitter, he displays massive raw power that is likely to translate to the game with modest swing changes to generate more loft.

Similar to Hassell, the left-handed bat is committed to UCLA, so he carries considerable leverage as the draft approaches.

The Giants would need to sway Soderstrom away from his commitment, but the fact that his dad also played for the Giants could be an intangible factor that makes it a good fit for both parties. Though, I like Hassell a bit more due to his overall profile, there are a lot of reasons for the Giants to take the California native, if available.

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SF Giants MLB draft watch: Shortstop Ed Howard

Positionally, Ed Howard is exactly the type of prospect Farhan Zaidi covets. The high school shortstop is a strong defender and should have no problem sticking at shortstop at the higher levels.

Despite this, Zaidi has proven repeatedly that he likes shortstop prospects because of the ease with which they can be moved around the field. So, on paper, Howard seems like a solid fit as he offers that versatile potential.

Howard Cole of Baseball America leaves little doubt that the glove is the strength in Ed Howard's profile:

"While he has upside as a hitter, the polished part of Howard’s game comes from his glove. He’s a no-doubt shortstop at the next level as a solid athlete with reliable hands and a strong, accurate throwing arm...moves fluidly in the middle of the diamond and has the ability to throw from all angles with excellent body control and a solid internal clock."

In addition to this, the 18-year-old has an impressive physical build as he continues to fill out his 6-foot-2 frame.

There really is not anything Howard does not do well on the baseball field. He possesses a high baseball IQ, especially for someone his age.

In the batter's box, the right-handed bat has a short, simple swing that produces solid gap-to-gap power with the ability to spray the ball all over the field:

Given his size and athleticism, Howard's gap-to-gap power should translate to more long balls as he continues to develop. The question remains, how much power will the shortstop be able to milk out of his swing?

Unlike Soderstrom, Howard does not have the type of raw power that will translate to more than 15 home runs per season, especially in a ballpark such as Oracle Park. His power would need to come from extra-base hits.

Few mock drafts have Howard being selected before the 13th pick. For example, Baseball America has Howard falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers at 29th overall as a draft-day steal.

So, if the Giants decided to nap the shortstop prospect, it would be a slight overdraft, but this means he will likely be easier to sign than the other prospects profiled.

The Giants have a big decision ahead next month. As they hold the 13th overall pick, San Francisco will look to add a solid contributor to their organization.

This draft is very heavy on pitching prospects, and that might be an opportunity for the Giants to nab a top position player as teams will lean toward pitchers.

A lot can change from now until the draft, but the high school talent pool should be an appealing area when the Giants are on the clock. This is a big draft for San Francisco as they hold a bevy of high picks, and it begins by making the right move in the first round.