The SF Giants entered the 2022 MLB Draft in a precarious situation. They picked last every round and they have the second-smallest bonus pool to work with. The combination of the two made it tough to do the sort of shenanigans that we have seen them do over the past three years in terms of spreading their bonus pool around. As a result, they have not drafted a single high schooler in the first two days of the draft. What was incredible is that when Farhan Zaidi, Michael Holmes, and company had their backs against the wall, the more daring they got resulted in a very ballsy draft class.
Intriguing pitchers rounds out the top five picks of the 2022 SF Giants draft class
No team has won a draft right after the very last pick was made, nor has nobody won the "who drafted the most high-ranked prospects in Baseball America's top 500" category. It's all about the tools and what each prospect can bring to the table in terms of helping the big-league club hoist the World Series trophy. That could only happen at least a couple of years from now. Are there any potential foundational pieces of a future championship-winning Giants squad? We're here to get a first in-detail look at the 2022 SF Giants draft class, continuing with the selections made on the second day of the draft up to the fifth-round selection.
You can read the day one draftees here!
Round 3: William Kempner
I do not usually get what I want, especially with regard to draft prospects. From Tyler Soderstrom in 2020, I was still hopeful that one of the prospects that I really like will be drafted under the Farhan Zaidi-Michael Holmes regime. I have cast a wide net before the 2022 season after all. William Kempner was not included in that post but when I saw this Tweet, something instantly clicked in my head that got the juices flowing, and instantly loved this prospect. Hey, it was a pipe dream after all! But when the Giants made Kempner their first pick on the second day, I was very delighted and instantly have to backread my previous post on him to celebrate.
What I got excited about upon watching Kempner is just the way he pitches. First off, let's talk about the mechanics. It is as funky and deceptive as they come in this draft class, or in all of baseball. His torso tilt in his leg kick (like he's leaning back akin to the Juan Marichal's of old) allows him to generate massive momentum towards home plate like a pendulum at the apex of its motion (or science dudes call it the maxima). One of the most obvious things that will instantly be noticed is the inverted W in his arm action. There will be a ton who will instantly point that out and say he's an injury red flag but personally, I don't mind the inverted W as long as the elbow is below the shoulder plane. In other words, if a pitcher throws from a low slot like a sidearm, I don't mind the inverted W because it's the way the body generates the energy needed to throw fast. Throwing over the shoulder is not a natural motion so inverted W is not for me. It's not a proven fact (workload is more of a prime factor for injuries than freak motion, anyway) but it's a nice rule of thumb to have.
Kempner's unique motion allows for him to generate an ultra-low vertical approach angle or plane on his pitches, making him effective up and down in the zone. Kempner's not just a funky pitcher either as he has some of the best stuff in the draft class as well. Kempner has three pitches that potentially grade out as at least above-average. Kempner's fastball checks out a lot of boxes. Velocity? Up to 99 MPH at best and 92-96 MPH in a starting role. That's a check. Spin rate? Maxed out at around 2700 RPM, one of the best in the sport. That's a check as well. Movement? Ultra-heavy sinker with tons of late, arm-side movement even when thrown high in the zone. Another check. Flat fastball plane? With a release height that hovers around four feet, it makes the sinker effective both up and down in the zone. Another check. It's a plus pitch and even plus-plus if he can find consistency with it.
While the fastball is the centerpiece, Kempner's secondaries are not far off. The slider's the main secondary pitch at the moment, a low-80s offering with a spin rate similar to his fastball. The pitch flashes above average but there's inconsistency in terms of quality as it has shown to be more effective as a result of velocity difference rather than mind-numbing movement. The changeup might be the third pitch but it could actually be the best secondary in Kempner's arsenal. It's a hard one, thrown in the high-80s, but it has a low RPM (around 1800s) and it has more mind-numbing movement than his sinker while replicating his fastball arm slot and arm speed. Once again, a changeup can be effective by either having great velocity separation or great movement or both. Kempner might not have the velocity separation but it has the movement.
So, what's next for Kempner? Honestly, not much. Yes, the walk rate is high but once he steps into a pro setting, what should be the most important thing for Kempner is to trust his stuff and just plain throw it inside the zone because the movement and the deception should be more than enough to get low-Minors hitters out. Against High-Minors, further refinement of his slider to make it a consistent pitch should be on the agenda as well as refining the motion a bit to make it visually cleaner.
A lot of people are already writing him off as a bullpen arm but with three distinct pitches, Kempner should be given all the opportunity in the world as a starting pitcher in pro ball. He suffered a finger injury this Spring that kept him out of action that one should get sorted out right away. He's going to sign (but no word on the signing bonus yet) and could likely see some innings this season for his hometown team, the San Jose Giants. The Giants under Michael Holmes have made the third round their specialty by drafting studs for the past three years (Grant McCray, Kyle Harrison, Mason Black) and with the way things look right now, Kempner should be the next in line as he is a Top 30 prospect, at least in my eyes.
Before I proceed, if you want to watch some highlights of the Day Two selections, my buddy Sean Bialaszek made a wonderful video on it that you should watch!
Round 4: Spencer Miles
After writing a novel that is William Kempner, I will be making things a bit shorter on the rest because of the limited information on them. Next up is Spencer Miles. If you like your college performers, well, Miles is not one of those guys. In his sophomore and junior season for Mizzou, Miles posted a 7.01 and 6.20 ERA respectively. ERAs are not the most reliable thing in the world so are his peripherals any better? Well, he posted a 6.6 and 8.7 K/9 in his sophomore and junior season. He does show out in terms of control with 3.3 and 3.0 BB/9.
What the hell are we doing here, then? Well, I think the reason that Miles was drafted is because of the potential that he showed against top competition in the Cape Cod League last year where he posted a 2.55 ERA and a 12.2 K/9 in 17.2 innings pitched. Miles has a starter's mix with a low-90s fastball, low-80s slider and changeup, and a high-70s curveball. The heater can reach 98 MPH with good life up in the zone (again, you want that metric-friendly fastball and it looks like one visually) and the curveball is the best secondary pitch that flashes above-average at times and he has the ability to add more sweep on it at will.
Even though the performance in college was never there for Miles, there are some ingredients for the player development staff to cook up something pretty good here. The chances currently look pretty slim though (again, just never found any form of consistency in college so going to a pro program might give him a fresh start) so we need to see if he could turn in a much more refined pitch mix and motion next season.
Round 5: Liam Simon
Now, this might get interesting. Simon often gets compared to former teammate and Reds draft pick last year Joe Boyle: throws very hard but has little idea where it's going. Just look at the horrendous 18.4% walk rate that he posted this season. Throughout his college career, his BB/9 never dipped below seven. Seven! The ability to get strikeouts, however, continued to improve from a 9.9 in his freshman season to 11.7 as a sophomore and a whopping 16.4 as a junior. 16.4!
So we know Liam has the good stuff, but how good really is that stuff? As a full-time reliever, he can hit 99 MPH on his fastball. Again, like the first two picks so far, it's also metric-friendly with plenty of late life up in the zone and oftentimes just looks overpowering. As a starter or a multi-inning guy, he will sit around 93-97 MPH on the fastball though there will be some instances where it can dip as the pitch count increases. He's flashed much better control in this season's Cape Cod League by essentially trimming his walk rate by half (8.2 to 4.1) but he also trimmed his strikeout rate which is not ideal (16.4 to 7.4). Simon has a slider and changeup that will flash above-average at times though it's very inconsistent. At best, the slider has a late, vertical break while the changeup has plenty of fading action.
Yes, Simon's control is very on and off but he can be outright dominant when he is on. The good thing for Simon is that the development is far from over for him. His pitching motion looks far from the final form that it might take if he would tweak his arm action and his balance. Even if the final form might be in a relief role, I would not mind trotting him out in a starter's role first and see if he took the mechanical tweaks that I expect him to make, and who knows, he might finally throw enough strikes while still having that overpowering fastball to succeed.