SF Giants top prospects: No. 11 — LHP Sam Long
Highest Level: Class-A (White Sox affiliate)
Acquired: Free Agency (2020)
Future-Value Grade: 45
The early feel-good story of spring training, Sam Long was a late addition to the list but has very quickly justified a ranking among the best pitchers in the organization. This is obviously based on a tiny sample, but Long has already shown the stuff to profile at the back of a big-league bullpen. As the Giants insist he will get a chance to start in the minor leagues, he could soon become Farhan Zaidi’s latest major-league contributor acquired for little cost.
Long was on the short-end of minor-league cuts by the Rays in 2018, and he began pursuing post-baseball careers when he decided to give it one more go. Since beginning his return, he’s continued gaining velocity on his fastball and sharpness on his curveball to pair with an above-average changeup that has been his calling card since he was pitching at Sacramento State.
While he never lit up radar guns, Long holds a career 2.95 ERA with 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and just 55 walks in 155.2 innings pitched. Before seeing him this spring, it was easy to see why the Giants were willing to add him to the organizational depth chart.
Then he showed up at Arizona at another level. In his first outing of the spring, Long located his fastball and curveball on both sides of the plate and never used his changeup to retire the side. His fastball touched 97 mph and showed enough potential to rank among the organization’s top 31 prospects as a high-leverage reliever. The fact that he is already flashing three above-average or better pitches generates the legitimate mid-rotation or better upside that moved him to a 45-grade.
It’s also been a couple of weeks since pitchers and catchers reported. Before then, Long looked like a system depth piece. He could quickly fall back to that if his velocity or command wane, but I believe the Giants would move him back to the bullpen if that happened. At that point, I’d expect him to become a high-leverage arm in the big-league pen quickly.