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SF Giants: 5 Recent Draft Trends to Watch

Jun 21, 2018; Omaha, NE, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders pitcher Caleb Kilian (32) throws against the Florida Gators in the first inning in the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. (Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports)
Jun 21, 2018; Omaha, NE, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders pitcher Caleb Kilian (32) throws against the Florida Gators in the first inning in the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. (Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports)
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SF Giants, SF Giants Draft, RJ Dabovich
Arizona State’s RJ Dabovich pitches during the first inning against Xavier at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in Phoenix, Ariz. The SF Giants drafted him in the 4th round of the 2020 MLB Draft.

SF Giants Draft Trends
1. No High-Cost Relievers

High-powered (often wild) relievers were a staple of Barr’s draft tenure. Over the 11 drafts he oversaw, the Giants selected pitchers Heath Hembree, Jason Stoffel, Bryce Bandilla, Christopher Marlowe, Steven Okert, Chase Johnson, and Dan Slania in the first five rounds. Most of them never received an extended opportunity to start in college, and all seven were primary relievers during their final amateur season.

In fact, the Giants drafted 19 pitchers in the top ten rounds under Barr who were either primary relievers their final year in college or were immediately moved to the bullpen by the organization. The 2011 draft remains the starkest example of this approach. The Giants drafted Bandilla (fourth round), Marlowe (fifth), Ray Black (seventh), and Derek Law (ninth), who combined to start zero collegiate games the year they were drafted. Furthermore, the Giants drafted Oregon State starter Josh Osich in the sixth round and immediately converted him to a reliever.

The organization attempted to transition players like Bandilla, Marlowe, and Johnson to starting but found no long-term success. Most starting pitching prospects end up in a big-league bullpen already; Kyle Crick and Sam Coonrod are two recent examples from the Giants organization. Prioritizing players already pitching in relief seems like an obvious high-risk proposition without the necessary upside to justify a move.

The Giants have only drafted four pitchers in the top ten rounds in Holmes’ two drafts. R.J. Dabovich, the Giants’ fourth-round pick in 2021, was moved to the bullpen his last college season and seems likely to stay there as a professional. However, changes to the draft’s rules make his selection noticeably different than most under Barr.

In the most recent iteration of the draft, teams are allotted a pool of spending money that they cannot exceed by more than 4.95% without forfeiting future picks. In a normal year, the system incentivizes teams to select players who will sign for a well-below slot signing bonus in rounds 7-10 while going above slot with players later.

In the condensed 2020 draft, Dabovich accepted a below-slot bonus that helped the team sign southpaw starters Kyle Harrison and Nick Swiney to above-slot deals. For the majority of Barr’s bullpen selections, this system was not in place. Instead, the organization seemed keen on prioritizing relievers in the draft. It’s still too early to tell if that will carry over to Holmes, but thus far, he’s shied away from drafting relievers with his most valuable picks.

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