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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 Prospects, Harrison Freed
Harrison Freed #21 of Butler University makes contact with the ball during the second inning of their game with Xavier University at Hayden Field on April 18, 2019. The SF Giants drafted him in 2019. (Photo by Jason Whitman/Getty Images)

SF Giants Draft Trends
2. Final-Year Breakouts

The most significant change in the Giants’ evaluations of draft prospects from Barr to Holmes might not be the type of profile they target but how each player builds their profile. Barr prioritized consistency and prolonged collegiate success. Holmes has done the opposite, betting on players that showed massive improvements the year of the draft.

In 2019 alone, the Giants drafted five players in the top ten rounds that improved their OPS by at least 165 points in their year of draft eligibility from the season prior. The organization never drafted three players that had shown such a draft-year improvement in the top ten rounds under Barr. In fact, San Francisco often prioritized hitters with first-year or sophomore success that had seen their stock regress.

The disparate priorities of long-term success and recent growth have played out on the pitching side as well. The Giants have prioritized pitchers like Trevor McDonald and Swiney in the past two drafts. McDonald, a prep-righty, saw his draft stock explode after a noticeable jump in velocity his senior-year. Swiney moved to the NC State rotation in 2020 after showing flashes of dominance out of the bullpen in his previous two seasons. A dominant four-starts before the cancellation of the collegiate season was enough to entice the Giants to pay Swiney second-round money.

Such quick shifts in stock rest in stark contrast to the Giants’ selections of players like Andrew Suarez, Phil Bickford, and Tyler Beede, three pitchers selected in the top-two rounds under Barr that had previously been selected (but went unsigned) in the same round.

The Giants have had success betting on players with draft-year slides; Crawford remains the strongest example. However, there have been a massive number of underwhelming pro careers as well. It’s worth noting that none of the hitters the Giants drafted in 2020 showed substantial statistical improvements the spring before the draft. Still, given the nature of the pandemic shortened season, it seems likely to be a blip moving forward.

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