As I promised in my latest Giants pitching prospects weekly rundown, it is now here.
After watching the first couple of weeks of the 2022 Minor League season, it is now time to write my first impressions about the 2021 SF Giants pitching class, see where they are at, and hopefully, see what they have done ever since getting to pro ball and whether it has worked for them or not.
First impressions on the 2021 SF Giants pitching class
Disclaimer: Stats are accurate as of April 24, 2022
First-round pick: Will Bednar
2022 stats: 3 G (3 GS), 11.2 IP, 5 H,6 HBP, 2.31 ERA, 6.3 BB%, 29.2 K%
Of course, we will start off with their first-round selection, Will Bednar. Based on watching three starts of him, it's now pretty safe to say that Bednar's 2022 debut is an outlier but we can still learn a lot from his debut.
First impression: Good, but not other-worldly.
The good part: The grit and ability to handle pressure situations is definitely there for Bednar. Even in his debut when his feel is definitely not there, he still got out of it relatively unscathed which shows his ability to dig deep when he's backed in a corner. What's also good is his general strike-throwing. Take out his debut and you will see that he's thrown 71% of his pitches for strikes.
The concerning part: The fastball velocity. While we have known that Bednar has touched 96 during his College World Series run, he was more in the low-90s for the majority of last season. I came with a sense of optimism that with the help of some tweaks, he could gain a bit more velo, potentially up to 98 MPH. He did not gain velocity (still topped 96 but is more low-90s) even with the tweaks in his mechanics. There are still starter traits here but the ceiling is capped for Bednar if he is just sitting in the low-90s instead of the mid-90s.
Second-round pick: Matt Mikulski
2022 stats: 3 G (3 GS), 12 IP, 10 H, 1 HBP, 1.50 ERA, 2.22 BB%, 22.2 K%
First impression: Good, but swing and miss ability is a question.
The good part: The control and everything else is there for Mikulski. It has been noted that Mikulski has adapted his current short arm action with plenty of hitches last season and he looks to hone it better this season. So far, so good with a 65% strike thrown rate resulting in a low walk rate. He's not exactly pinpoint but he's been around the zone and is executing well. Whenever there are runners on base, his control of the run game is also impressive having already picked off two runners, showing off his quick and a plethora of pickoff moves.
The concerning part: The quality of his secondaries. Before the 2022 season, I graded out Mikulski's slider and changeup as above-average pitches based on what I have seen in his college days. Now, it looked like it is more average. It should also be noted that the changeup grip now looks more like a splitter rather than a circle changeup and its quality is more average now. It has resulted in a 7.50 K/9, a far cry from his strikeout rate when he was in Fordham. He is very funky so you might expect more low-Minors hitters to swing and miss more so the low strikeout and whiff rate are surprising.
Third-round pick: Mason Black
2022 stats: 3 G (3 GS), 11.2 IP, 11 H, 3.86 ERA, 2.1 BB%, 38.3 K%
First impression: The best stuff in the entire pitching haul for the Giants.
The good part: The stuff. Man, oh, man. Mason Black's stuff is so good. I can honestly say that Black has legitimate two plus pitches right now. His fastball is pretty insane, topping out at 98 MPH with plenty of late life. It's more of a tailing fastball than a true sinker where he flashed flyball traits. The slider looks insane as well with plus sweeping break that compliments the horizontal movement of his fastball well. His changeup also looks good with plenty of tumble and sink when thrown correctly. Those pitches come out of a low 3/4 arm slot from an around 5.5 feet release height.
The concerning part: Honestly, there is not a lot of concern so far so I'll be a bit nitpicky. Even though Black has thrown 66% of his pitches for strikes, he's still more control than command (not exactly spotting his pitches). The changeup is also thrown sparsely and his feel for it is clearly less than his fastball and slider, almost like a pitch exclusively against lefties though it has the potential to get righties as well.
Fourth-round pick: Eric Silva
2022 stats: 3 G (3 GS), 7.2 IP, 9 H, 5.87 ERA, 6.1 BB%, 33.3 K%
First impression: As good as I expected.
The good part: The stuff. Yes, he's on a 45 to 50-pitch limit early on his pro career, but Silva's pitches are some of the best in the class on a pound-per-pound basis. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and up to 96 MPH with good life up in the zone, his slider has become an absolute weapon, and his curveball and changeup are good pitches albeit thrown sparingly. He's not also shy on how to attack hitters as his fastball has great plane on the upper third of the zone to help set up his breaking balls.
The concerning part: I guess if there is one worry about SIlva, it's the fact that he's not yet Ryan Murphy-esque in terms of control where he will at times miss quite badly with his pitches like yank a fastball in the dirt. If there is also another worry, it's something that has yet to happen and that is Silva's velocity dip as the season rolls along. I like what the Giants have done in terms of pitch count to ensure Silva saves more of his bullets further down the season.
Fifth-round pick: Rohan Handa