As the MLB Draft on June 10 inches closer, the San Francisco Giants were tied to a new prospect by FanGraphs.
Given the depth of the pitching in this year’s draft class and the relative dearth of high-upside arms currently in the Giants’ system, a lot of draft pundits have maintained that San Francisco will add one of the premier collegiate arms (like Cade Cavalli, Reid Detmers, Cole Wilcox, or Garrett Crochet).
A few high school hitters, like Ed Howard and Tyler Soderstrom, have entered the discussion, but on Monday Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs released his Mock Draft 2.0 that added a new wrinkle. In it, Longenhagen chose Mississippi State second baseman Justin Foscue for San Francisco with the 13th overall pick.
Foscue is a very good draft prospect but has been ranked more in line with a late first-round selection in this year’s draft. The stout second baseman ranked 32nd overall in MLB.com’s draft rankings, 26th in FanGraphs’s board, and 22nd overall by Giants draft expert Brian Recca.
Foscue is considered one of the safest picks in the draft and those players tend to go higher than ranked, but 13 still seems like a stretch.
However, Longenhagen notes the selection is not in a vacuum. In his description of the pick he adds, “I think part of the reason so many high schoolers get mentioned on the phone in connection with the Giants is because they’re assessing signability in case someone falls to their next pick.”
This implies that Foscue is viewed as a selection who would take an underslot bonus to allow San Francisco to allocate more money to later picks.
It’s important to put the potential pick in context though. Unlike the NFL or NBA draft, MLB selections have the leverage to negotiate financial specifics with their teams. Instead, teams must stay within a draft allocation pool, which assigns a financial value to each pick, or be forced to pay severe fines and forfeit future draft picks.
This system allows for interesting strategic manipulation. Prior to last year’s draft, I discussed how I would have tried to use the system to the team’s advantage.
While the draft is drastically different than previous years, shrunk from 40 to five rounds, and featuring prospects who were unable to play full seasons, strategies that redistribute funds are still very much in play.
In fact, for the Giants, who have an additional two compensation picks following the departure of Will Smith and Madison Bumgarner in free-agency, these strategies could be even more advantageous.
Taking Foscue gives Giants flexibility to float in the draft
You might ask yourself, why would the Giants take a prospect like Foscue if they really want a high school player, why not just select the high school player at 13? There are multiple reasons why.
Since high school players are harder to sign because they have the leverage of going to college, it’s easier for a player to pretend they have no interest in going pro to prevent other teams from selecting them. This is known as floating.
A college player like Foscue will not be available at the Giants next selection, but if they are confident in floating a high school prospect they might in essence be able to have their cake and eat it too.
Another common misconception of the industry is that consensus exists. I spend as much time as anyone reading through all the various experts and writers coming up with prospect rankings and big boards, but the reality is the differences between amateur prospects are incredibly difficult to compare.
Teams have individual preferences and rankings that may substantially differ from what we see publically. In the Giants’ draft room, Foscue very well could rank on par with prospects like Soderstrom and Cavalli. If he does and is willing to take less money, the Giants will obviously capitalize on the savings.
That could turn into floating a bigger prospect to Round 2 or the comp rounds, and it just gives the Giants more flexibility with all of their six remaining picks.
Aside from all that noise, it’s important to step away from the minutia of the draft strategy when analyzing a prospect. Foscue, as Longenhagen wrote in his mock, “is a model darling” loved by statistical projections.
He’s especially young for a collegiate junior (just turned 21) and has played and performed since day 1 in the SEC.
Giants fans might associate “safe second base prospect” with Joe Panik, but Foscue’s ceiling is more aligned with a bopper like Brian Dozier than the defense and contact-oriented Panik. Foscue has a pull-heavy approach that builds off his above-average to plus grade raw power, but has yet to come with large amounts of strikeouts.
Scouts and industry officials rave about his character and makeup as well.
Defensively, he has the tools to stay at second base and probably play third, but he has a long way to go. He’s not a particularly gifted athlete and his fundamentals still lag well behind where they need to be to stay on the infield. It’s also worth noting that he struggled to hit for power last year with team USA and some scouts are worried about his transition to wood bats.
While he maintains an aggressive approach at the plate, his numbers show a good eye, walking 10 times more than he struck out in college. It’s worth noting that even Dozier, who struck out around 150 times a season at his peak, walked more than he struck out in college, but he did it against much weaker competition and still walked at a lower clip than Foscue.
Foscue is the definition of a performer. Watching him play in any one game might not leave much impression, but the more you watch, the more you see the productivity.
"SF Giants MLB draft 2020: Ranking pitching prospects available at No. 13"
Still, there remain reasons for concern and it doesn’t appear he shares the ceiling of some of the other players that will be available to the Giants with the 13th overall pick. If indeed the Giants do select Foscue, they’ll be sacrificing value if they do not save signing bonus money and allocate it to higher upside prospects later in the draft.