SF Giants Outfield Prospect Highlights: Hunter Bishop & More
By Marc Delucchi
After radio silence at the beginning of instructional league play, the SF Giants have begun posting highlights and updates about the prospects in Arizona. Let’s take a look at what we’ve seen from the team’s outfielders.
For the first time since Spring Training, SF Giants fans are getting to see actual highlights of the organization’s prospects. While the team provided no updates on the players at the beginning of instructional league play, they have since picked up their social media presence.
Over the past week, they have shared plenty of highlights from the games. 2020 third-round pick out of De La Salle High School (CA), Kyle Harrison, already turned heads with a strong outing that included some unexpected premium velocity. Then top prospect Marco Luciano recorded an absurd exit-velocity on a majestic home run.
While Harrison and Luciano have rightfully gotten the most attention, plenty of other prospects have had highlight-worthy plays at the instructional league. It’s worth keeping tabs on them as well.
Let’s dive in!
SF Giants Outfield Prospect Highlights: Armani Smith
SF Giants prospect Armani Smith has been one of the biggest sleepers in the system since he fell to the 7th round of the 2019 MLB draft. C.C. Sabathia’s nephew, Smith, shares his uncle’s powerful frame. When the 6’4″, 215-pound outfielder connects, the ball goes a long way. Some scouts have been willing to project Smith to have 80-grade power.
In high school, Smith played shortstop at Bay Area powerhouse De La Salle but moved around during his time at UCSB. He currently is a fringe right fielder that will probably have to move to left.
Smith struggled in his first two seasons in college, unable to even slug .400. However, before his junior campaign, he worked with UCSB associate head coach Donegal Fergus on a new swing to maximize his launch angle and found massive results. In 2019, Smith hit 11 home runs alongside a .325/.395/.636 line in the pitching-focused Big West Conference. Furthermore, even with the increased power, his strikeout rate was a manageable 15 percent.
Smith saw his strikeout rate spike in his pro debut at Low-A Salem Keizer in 2019, but he still managed an .826 OPS. As you can see in the highlight above, Smith blasts a double with a 114 mph exit-velocity. If he can continue developing his hit tool, he could be the steal of last year’s draft class.
The only prospect we’ve received multiple highlights on, Luis Matos, was the third highest-paid member of the Giants international free-agent signings in 2018. From his pro debut, Matos seemed like another great find.
After posting a .362/.430/.570 line while stealing 20 bases in 55 games at the Dominican Summer League in 2019, the organization finally brought Matos to the Arizona League. He went 7-for-16 in five games before the rookie ball season concluded.
As a teenager, speed seemed like Matos’ calling card and his only potential plus tool. However, Matos has shown some explosive bat speed and even greater upside in his short professional career. There’s now an outcome with potential plus power and speed paired with an above-average hit tool and decent centerfield defense.
His swing is geared more for line-drives than power, but so far, he’s overmatched his competition so much it hasn’t made a difference. Matos hit 34 extra-base hits in just 60 games in 2019.
While it seems plausible that Matos could stick in center field, even if he were forced to move to an outfield corner, the success it seems like he’s been having with the bat in Arizona looks like it will be strong enough to play there too. Matos made the biggest jump of any prospect in our updated SF Giants prospect rankings, becoming the organization’s 7th-best prospect.
The Giants drafted Hunter Bishop with the 10th overall pick in the 2019 draft. Bishop’s combination of power and athleticism has piqued scouts’ interest for years, and his tantalizing power was too much for Giants brass to pass up. He currently ranks as the 5th-best prospect in the organization, per our updated rankings.
After a pair of middling seasons in the Pac-12, Bishop exploded out of the gate in his junior year at Arizona State. While he faded toward the end, he still finished with a monstrous .347/.473/.765 line that included 22 home runs.
He played center field in college, and his speed gives him the potential to stick there, but he tends to struggle with reads and has shown a concerningly inconsistent arm. As a result, he likely profiles as a future left fielder with above-average range.
Bishop’s hit tool will ultimately determine whether the pick is a bust or a steal. Before his breakout season, Bishop routinely struck out in over 30 percent of his plate appearances and struggled to tap into his power. He trimmed his strikeout rate considerably last spring and during his brief pro debut, but concerns remain.
For Giants fans, it’s not hard to see Bishop’s power showcase in the highlight above. Only time will tell whether he can sustain last season’s success during his pro career. Still, given how his power inconsistently played in games prior, it’s a definite positive sign to see it playing up now.
It’s unfair to read too much into any of these selective highlights produced by the SF Giants. Still, it’s always good to see Giants prospects doing good things on the field. Ultimately, this instructional league is the first step to getting players back in organized baseball, and hopefully, a (safe and responsible) minor-league season in 2021.