As Major League Baseball goes into their first lockout in 26 years, it's a great time to look back at the season and re-watch what was an extraordinary 2021. The highlights of the extraordinary season do not only apply to the Major League level but also to the Minor League level as the SF Giants' Low-A and High-A affiliates won their respective league titles.
Building The Ideal SF Giants Position Player Prospect
With a good amount of star power and immense depth, the Giants farm system is one of the best in the sport and will supply the current veteran roster with plenty of youthful talent in the coming years. Plenty of talent, in fact, that we are doing a little bit of exercise today by building the Giants' perfect position player prospect made up of the best tools in the farm system. Because we are building the best prospect based on tools, there will be instances where an unheralded prospect could leapfrog a top prospect because of how loud that one tool is from the unheralded prospect. Without further ado, let's get to it.
Frame - Hunter Bishop
Building our ideal position player prospect begins with the frame because it is the first thing that our eyes will see. "How does he look?" and "How projectable is the frame?" are a couple of questions typically asked when talking about a player's frame. It is also important to mention that I am not taking into account any issues regarding health. With those things in mind, there are two frames that come to mind: Hunter Bishop and Marco Luciano.
Bishop is well-built at 6'5", 210 lbs. and while Luciano is only listed at 178 lbs. in his 6'2" frame, he is way heavier and muscular than his weight would indicate. In terms of frame, both have reached or are close to their physical ceilings but their frame is just way too good to build our player around. At the end of the day, I would be choosing Hunter Bishop over Marco Luciano because aside from their frames, their athleticism and quick-twitch are also important factors in choosing our frame to build around and Bishop has Luciano beat convincingly on both aspects.
Raw Power - Marco Luciano
Raw power, when putting it in a hitter's perspective, will answer the simple question "how hard can a hitter hit a baseball?" In the current landscape of the farm system, there are plenty of prospects who can hit a baseball hard. Names like Jairo Pomares, Sean Roby, Armani Smith, and others will get mentioned in this conversation as they can hit the baseball north of 110+ MPH. However, after Connor Cannon was traded to the Yankees to complete the Mike Tauchman trade, there is only one prospect in my opinion who has the most raw power in the system and that is the top prospect Marco Luciano.
If there is a baseball player in the Giants organization who has the best shot of hitting a baseball 120 MPH, I would bet my money on Luciano. His homer that he hit in last year's Instructional League came off the bat with a 119 MPH exit velocity and has hit plenty of balls this season that went over 110 MPH. His plus-plus raw power is driven by his massive frame and sheer strength and his 19 homers across two levels this season is tied for the second-most in the farm system. There is a reason why he is the top prospect in the farm system.
Swing Mechanics - Luis Matos
Swing mechanics are subjective. Just like pitching mechanics, Player X's swing might not work for Player Y. That is why you see the Hunter Pence's and the Craig Counsell's of the world because the way they swing is comfortable for them and is able to simply focus on the ball and forget about their swing entirely. With that said, I am going to choose a swing that looks the prettiest and among all of the swings that I have seen in the Minors, I would be choosing Luis Matos' swing.
The 19-year old Venezuelan ranked fifth in the Low-A West in batting average with .313 while also keeping his strikeout and swinging-strike rate to around 12%. Matos also led the Low-A West in doubles with 35 while also hitting 15 homers and stealing 21 bags. One of the big reasons that Matos' hit tool is considered a plus tool by many is because of his comfortable batting stance and a loose, silky-smooth, and whippy right-handed stroke with a majestic follow-through. It is a no-brainer when I am thinking of whose swing I would choose for my ideal position player prospect.
Hit For Contact - Ismael Munguia
Hitting for contact is more than just hitting for a high batting average. Making contact also means having the ability to avoid swinging and missing. There are seven qualified hitters in the organization aged 25 years old or younger that finished their 2021 season with a batting average equal to or better than .300. Among those seven prospects, there are only four who had a strikeout rate of less than 15%, and among those four, there are only two prospects who played in full-season ball and had a swinging strike rate of less than 15%. And among those two, there is only one who had a single-digit strikeout rate and swinging-strike rate: Ismael Munguia.
The 22-year old might not be a household name but he has plenty of fans in the Giants prospect scouting community because of his high-intensity play matched with high exuberance. The Nicaragua native stepped up his game in 2021 as he hit nine homers this season - compared to three in his previous four years combined - and stole a career-high 15 bases while also winning the High-A West batting title with a .336 batting average. Matos is also not a bad choice here; however, Munguia has shown that he can up his power game while still maintaining his high-contact approach and that is an impressive feat of its own and is a well-deserved decision.
In-Game Power - Jairo Pomares
It is one thing to have the power and it is another thing to apply that power consistently under the spotlight and the stresses inside a baseball game. While there are nine under-25 qualified hitters who have hit at least 15 homers this season, there are only three who did so in under 400 plate appearances. Out of those three, there is only one who had a slugging percentage above .600. His name is Jairo Pomares.
It was a breakout season for the Cuban as he is tied with David Villar with the most home runs in the organization this season with 20 even though he only started playing in the middle of June. Aside from his slugging, he is also the only hitter in the farm system with an OPS above 1.000 and has the highest HR/FB rate at 22.7%. He has shown not only to know where to drive mistake pitches, close to the wall or over the wall, but he has also shown he can drive pitcher's pitches with his .334 batting average. His better all-around production while only being a year older than Marco Luciano gives Pomares a compelling case as one of the best prospects in the organization.
Plate Discipline - Logan Wyatt
Plate discipline in the Minors is in a bit of a grey area. On one hand, having a good strikeout to walk ratio is indeed good. On the other hand, merely looking at the walk rate stat tells very little about the plate discipline of a hitter because the pitchers in the Minors are just learning to control their repertoire, especially in the low-Minors, and a hitter can exploit that by being passive at the plate and let the walks come to them instead of generating their own walks. When looking at the data, there is only one hitter who stood out from the rest and he is Logan Wyatt.
Wyatt's production this season was not ideal. He posted an OPS below .700 and only hit a single home run this season which for a first baseman is abysmal. However, if there is one thing Wyatt is good at and that is drawing walks. His 18.5% walk rate tops Giants hitters age-25 or lower and his 0.97 BB/K ratio is far ahead of his peers. To put his BB/K ratio gap into context, the gap from Wyatt to second place Luis Toribio (0.97 to 0.56) is the same from second to 36th. Based on watching him all season long, he is very passive on the plate which is discouraging. However, his ability to draw walks can't be denied and is a nice compliment to the offensive tools that are already selected. I would not be far more encouraged if the ability to draw walks comes with the aggressive approach of Jairo Pomares.
Speed and Baserunning - Simon Whiteman
Speed is one of the easiest tools to quantify because all you need is a stopwatch. The typical question often associated with speed is "How fast is this guy?" but "How good is he on the bases?" is a question often looked past that should not be at all. Being a smart base stealer and base runner is important because being picked off or getting caught on the base paths is a momentum killer that hurts a team's opportunity to score. There are a good number of speed demons in the organization. Guys like Bryce Johnson, Brett Auerbach, Luis Matos, and Alexander Suarez stole at least 15 bases this season but there is one prospect who is a step quicker on everyone: Simon Whiteman.
Last August, I timed Whiteman's home-to-first at 3.8 seconds on a hustle infield single. That, folks, is as 80-grade as it gets. It does not just beat the bar, it sets the bar. Whiteman's 34 stolen bases lead all Giants hitting prospects and he did it with great efficiency as he only got caught four times. I bet he would have wreaked even more havoc on the base paths if he was a better offensive player (.706 OPS and 28.8% K rate this season). However, his pure speed alone gives him a shot of becoming a big-leaguer as a pinch-runner even if his offensive profile does not improve.
Arm Strength - Casey Schmitt
Like swing mechanics or plate discipline, arm strength is in a bit of a grey area. Sure, we can just line up all of the position players in front of a radar gun and have them chuck it. That's easier said than done. It does not exactly work like that in the Minor Leagues. Assists and caught stealing percentage are a couple of stats that do help but do not paint a clear picture. With that said, I am going to base my choice based on what I saw on film this season and I am going to go with Casey Schmitt.
There are plenty of candidates here like Joey Bart and Patrick Bailey who all had strong arms and Diego Rincones who racked up a whopping 11 outfield assists in 2018 that has looked similar on film this season. However, I am choosing Schmitt because I am certain of his arm strength on the mound (up to the mid-90s as the closer for San Diego State) and he has shown that he can pump that velocity when he is throwing across the diamond from multiple arm angles and body positions with very high accuracy.
Fielding Prowess - Casey Schmitt
Whenever I look at players on defense, I look at three primary things. The first is whether he looks natural in his position. Natural in the sense that he does not look stiff in his actions, is able to react quickly to all sides without losing a step, a good internal clock, etc. The second is does he do the fundamentals correctly. Balance, footwork, the first step, glove-hand transfer are some of the things that I look for. The third is the ability to do spectacular plays such as diving catches and acrobatic but accurate throws. Doing the spectacular is highly important because it flashes a player's defensive potential and if he works on his fundamentals, the spectacular will always be there as a bail-out option and turns a good defender to great.
Once again, there are a number of prospects to choose - Joey Bart and Aeverson Arteaga to name a couple. However, there is only one prospect that I am choosing here and once again, it's Casey Schmitt. Schmitt's defensive work at third base this season has been exceptional and filled with spectacular efforts such as diving plays to the third base line and barehanded tumbling throws. In my opinion, Schmitt could have thrown out even more runners if he has the extra speed and range to gain just a step ahead of very quick runners. He only committed three errors in 106 total chances this season and if his bat catches up to his defense, he is an everyday big leaguer. Imagine pairing Simon Whiteman's speed and range to Schmitt's defensive prowess. My goodness, I am salivating already.
Defensive Versatility - Brett Auerbach
With how rosters are now built in the big leagues, having the ability to play multiple positions has trickled into the Minors, meaning a prospect could play at least two positions in a season. Drafting prospects with multi-position potential has also been of greater emphasis over the past couple of years and prospects who could move off positions are around since the Draft was started half a century ago. With that said, there is only one legitimate contender for this category and that is Brett Auerbach.
The NDFA signee a season ago was a revelation for the Giants in 2021 after posting a near 20-20 season with 17 homers and 30 stolen bases across two levels. He's also posted a .907 OPS and has held his own after getting promoted to High-A where he started turning on pitches and hit 15 homers as a result. Auerbach, however, is not beloved by the prospect community not just because of his offensive prowess but mostly because of his ability to play multiple positions. Auerbach has played at least an inning on six different positions this season (C, 2B, 3B, LF, CF, RF) but what separates Auerbach from the rest is not just that he plays multiple positions but that he plays those positions very well. He only committed a total of six errors this season. I repeat, he's committed as many errors as positions played this season. It is not hard to gush about Auerbach and he is an easy choice here.
There you have it, our ideal Giants position-player prospect. This laboratory-made prospect we will nickname "The Sultan" has impressive tools across the board that starts off with Hunter Bishop's 6'5" strong and athletic frame that will bat left-handed and will throw right-handed like Bishop with the plus-plus raw power of Marco Luciano capable of hitting 120 MPH rockets all over the park that can be tapped in games as consistently as Jairo Pomares. The majestic swing of Luis Matos and the contrasting styles of Ismael Munguia's aggressive, high-contact ability and Logan Wyatt's passive but effective plate discipline should marry well to produce a batting average north of .300 while having a high walk rate but a low strikeout rate. Speed might be the best tool in the box of The Sultan as the 80-grade speed of Simon Whiteman while batting on the left side will make him be almost uncatchable on infield singles and has the potential to steal north of 50 bases. That speed will marry really well with Casey Schmitt's defensive prowess giving The Sultan an absurd amount of ground that he can cover while making spectacular plays and is a Gold Glove contender almost anywhere on the field because of his Brett Auerbach-esque ability to play on all three levels of the field (behind the plate, on the infield dirt, and on the outfield).
I think I have made a legitimate monster here and that just shows how good the position player talent is in the farm system at the moment.