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SF Giants Rule 5 Draft Preview

New York Yankees pitcher Trevor Stephan (81) pitches during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees pitcher Trevor Stephan (81) pitches during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports)
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SF Giants, Zack Brown
Milwaukee Brewers starting pitching prospect Zack Brown (74) is available in the Rule 5 draft and could be a very intriguing selection by the SF Giants. (Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Marc’s Top SF Giants Rule 5 Draft Targets: Zack Brown, Enyel De Los Santos, Brian Howard, Trevor Stephan

While I’d lobby for a player like Reed, the SF Giants front-office (rightfully) is trying to compete in 2021 and probably will not be willing to dedicate a roster spot to someone they cannot see handling any consistent role. However, this seems like the perfect opportunity to add starting pitching depth, let them compete for a spot in the rotation in Spring Training, and see if they can pack enough punch out of the pen if it does not work out.

Zack Brown is the best prospect of the group, still ranked as one of the better pitching prospects in the Brewers system, but he also comes with some substantial red flags. Brown has been erratic his entire career, dating back to his collegiate days at the University of Kentucky. In 2018, he looked destined for a big-league debut after managing a 2.40 ERA in Double-A with nearly a strikeout per inning over 127.2 innings. However, at the Pacific Coast League the following season, Brown saw his walks jump, strikeouts dip, and posted a 5.79 ERA. He still has a mid-90s fastball, potential above-average curveball, and a decent changeup that could form a starter’s arsenal. If not, he still has a decent shot to be an effective reliever.

Enyel De Los Santos was a well-regarded starting pitching prospect, reaching his peak value after pitching to a 2.63 ERA across 22 starts at Triple-A in 2018 at just 22-years old. He made his big-league debut with the Phillies but only made 12 appearances in a couple of stints, primarily in long relief, since. While his progress has stalled, he maintains mid-90s velocity on his fastball and has a solid changeup and developing curve. He’s still only 25 and manager Gabe Kapler should have some familiarity with him from his time in Philadelphia.

Brian Howard has a far less erratic track record than Brown but lacks the upside. At 6’9,” he consistently generates difficult looks for hitters with a fastball that sits in the low 90s and a 12-6 curveball. He also reportedly more consistently hit 95 mph at the Athletics’ alternate site. He probably will never be more than a back-end starter and might be better suited for a long reliever role, but he could conceivably be ready to be in a rotation next spring.

Not considered as likely to be selected as the other three, Trevor Stephan remains my sleeper. The Yankees third-round pick in 2017, Stephan began pitching late in his amateur career but had the athleticism to project s a premium arm. He’s had his flashes but has struggled to limit runs. Still, he’s struck out over a batter an inning as a starter, has a plus fastball, and a potential above-average slider that could easily profile in the back of a pen.

It’s worth noting as well, that while his 4.01 High-A ERA and 5.24 Double-A ERA were not impressive, his respective FIP at both levels (2.77 and 3.37) and xFIP (2.81 and 3.56) were both very strong. Of the players in this group, I’d probably be most inclined to bet on him having a breakout 2021 regardless of whether he’s drafted or not.

More. Did The Giants Future Shortstop Just Become A Free Agent?

The Rule 5 Draft will take place on Thursday, December 10th at 12:00 pm eastern time. The SF Giants have the 14th pick in the draft and have four spots available on their 40-man roster.

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