The 2022 MLB Draft is only a month away and it's the best time to catch up to the draft prospects who could soon be potential members of the San Francisco Giants organization.
SF Giants 2022 MLB draft chat with Prospect Live's Brian Recca
I often try to stay on top of the draft but with my commitment to cover the Giants, I have failed to do so. So with that, I enlist the vast knowledge of Brian Recca of Prospects Live and a fellow Giants fan. If you have not known Brian's content before he joined Prospects Live, he's been on this big podcast that we did a year ago along with Marc Delucchi, Roger Munter, and Kevin Cunningham where we drafted our all-Giants prospects squad. Brian has always been a good friend of mine and he's always open to talk about the draft he's as on top of this year's draft as anyone.
Wrenzie: First of all, thank you for the time. You've been on top of things 2022 Draft-related and it's been awesome to read your content on Twitter, your site, and Prospects Live. Can you give us a general sense of this year's draft, and its strengths and weaknesses?
Brian: Thanks for having me, as always, Wrenzie. The 2022 draft is essentially the first "normal" draft cycle we've had in a couple of years because of the pandemic. The return to a sense of normalcy has been a welcome change, yet this year’s class has seen many twists and turns. I think you have to start with the overall weakness of the college pitching class. There’s a high probability that we won’t see a college pitcher selected in the top 10 picks, which is practically unheard of. The college crop of arms has been decimated by injuries, completely altering the landscape of this class. There are still talented arms, but it’s hard to find pitchers who project to remain starters long term. The high school arms are a more robust group, and we could see teams dipping into that demographic early in the draft to compensate for the lack of college arms.
Several high-quality bats headline the class, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the first 7-10 selections ended up being hitters. I’m not sure if the class has a significant number of“stars.” However, I think guys like Druw Jones, Termarr Johnson, and Jackson Holliday have that kind of upside from the hitting group. Still, it’s loaded with guys that project to play every day (Brooks Lee, Kevin Parada, etc.) or serve some type of valuable MLB role. I think it’s an average class as a whole, but it’s structured in a very unordinary fashion.
W: That’s a very deep insight. We are here to talk about the draft but also what the Giants could do this year. With them having the best regular-season record last season, the team will pick last in every round of the draft. You mentioned that college pitching is a big letdown this year but with where the Giants are selecting, plenty could potentially be available. Who do you think are the college pitchers that could be selected in the first round this year, let alone be on the Giants’ radar?
B: So I think it’s important that we don’t disregard the college arms as a whole. There will be big-league arms that come from this group. The 2019 college pitching group was criticized quite a bit, yet Alek Manoah, Nick Lodolo, George Kirby, and others look like quality big league arms. Regarding first-rounders for this year, our latest mock draft at Prospects Live had four college pitchers going in the first round. Gonzaga ace Gabriel Hughes was the first off the board at #13 to the Angels, followed by Campbell’s Thomas Harrington at 16, Oklahoma State’s Justin Campbell at 21, and Cooper Hjerpe from Oregon State at 23. I think there’s a chance we could see a handful more go in the first round like Blade Tidwell, Carson Whisenhunt, Jonathan Cannon, and Connor Prielipp. And then there’s Rocker (22nd overall in our mock), who has looked like a first round arm during his two indy league outings.
The Giants picking at 30th overall certainly puts them in a position to grab a college arm. There’s a collection of college pitchers that make sense in the 20-50 pick range, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Giants dipped into that group. One of our previous mocks had the Giants selecting righty Thomas Harrington. He’s a big, projectable arm with a starter’s pitch mix. He’s also young for the class a draft-eligible sophomore. I like that fit for the Giants, but he may have pitched his way further up boards. I also wouldn’t rule out the Giants dipping into the pool of arms that have seen minimal mound time over the past year like Whisenhunt or Prielipp. The Giants under Zaidi and Holmes have targeted college players in the 1st round, so a college arm is possible this year, even in a weaker college pitching class.
W: Very interesting thought. I want to squeeze a bit more info on Kumar Rocker here because of two things. The first is that he is a special case where he elected to pitch in Indy ball after failing to sign with the Mets last year due to medical issues that actually prompt a rule change in the existing CBA. The second is that I know a lot of Giants fans love Rocker ever since he was a prep prospect. Plenty didn’t even mind the team sucking in 2020 just to have the opportunity to select Rocker. You’ve actually seen him pitch in person for his first two starts this year. Do you still see first-round stuff out of Rocker’s right arm and do you think he can still be a definitive first-round pick (even if it’s not the Giants)?
Full disclosure, I’ve been a huge Rocker fan since he was a prep. But even I had him in the 2-3 round range heading into this Indy ball experiment. Rocker was really, really impressive. I don’t know exactly what I was hoping to see from him but I couldn’t help but feel like he exceeded my expectations. Rocker’s stuff fluctuated while at Vanderbilt, especially at the end of the college season last year, but he’s looked like vintage Rocker through two outings. He hit 99 MPH with his fastball and I don’t think he’s thrown a fastball below 94 in his two outings. He’s showing four pitches and his slider is every bit as devastating as it was at Vandy. He combines power stuff and advanced pitchability, both of which have been on display during my looks.
Because of everything that has happened with Rocker over the last year, I think it’s hard to say he’s definitely a first-round pick. There are questions that the media, fans, and perhaps even teams won’t have answers to heading into the draft. With that said, I would be surprised if Rocker wasn’t selected at some point in the first round. I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Rocker is the best arm available in this entire class. I think he makes sense in the top 10-15 picks but I could also see a scenario where he’s still on the board for picks 20-30. I’d bet on him being gone before the Giants pick at 30 but there’s been so many twists and turns with Rocker that you can’t rule anything out.
W: I’m sure Giants fans will and will not be happy about that. Haha! Plenty of us will hope for Rocker to drop but any of the top college pitchers will be fine as well. In most mocks that I have seen though, the Giants have been linked to late-first-round college bats. The PL crew had mocked Dylan Beavers in your latest mock draft and BA has mocked Jacob Melton in their latest one. Beavers would be a very Giantsy move picking college bats with familiarity (Ian Villers last year) from California. Aside from the two, who do you think are late-first round college bats that could potentially be a fit to what the Giants are looking for in the first round?
B: The college outfielder group is really deep. You mentioned Beavers and Melton and I agree that both feel like good fits. Both are premium athletes with massive raw power that has shown up in games. There’s also the Florida duo of Jud Fabian and Sterlin Thompson, Brock Jones of Stanford, and Spencer Jones of Vanderbilt. I think Jones would be good value for the Giants at 30 since he was seen as a potential top 15 pick prior to the college season. He got off to a mediocre start but has been one of the best hitters in college baseball the past month or two. In total there are over half a dozen college outfielders that are likely to be selected in the 15-50 range so there’s a decent chance that the Giants end up going in that direction.
My Giants prediction early on this year was Eric Brown who is a shortstop at Coastal Carolina. He hit really well on the cape and then had an excellent spring. He has an excellent eye at the plate, handles velocity, rarely swings and misses, and has recorded some impressive exit velos. His swing is highly unorthodox but he’s done nothing but hit since last summer. I didn’t love what I saw from him at shortstop and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up in a corner outfield spot long term, though I think he could get a shot at second base. If Max Muncy can fake it at the keystone, then why not give Brown a try there?
As with Thomas Harrington, there’s a chance Brown ends up going closer to the middle of the first round. But if he’s there at 30 I think the Giants would be thrilled to scoop him up. The Giants have really hit the Carolinas hard the last few years which makes me think Brown is high on their wish list. You can throw in Oklahoma’s Peyton Graham, an uber-projectable shortstop with power/speed and strikeout concerns, and Virginia Tech sophomore Tanner Schobel, into that college hitter mix as well.
W: Even though the Giants have always selected college players in the first two rounds of the Zaidi-Holmes regime, their current position leaves them with limited flexibility in terms of the pool which could prompt a very different approach this year. Drafting a prep prospect in the first round seems like a solid option if available. I do love some local flavor for the Giants with Palo Alto native Henry Bolte but I’ve seen him get mocked in the top ten as a massive under-slot candidate. Do you think the Giants will finally buck the trend and draft a prepster this year (I mean hey, the Dodgers did it last year so why can’t the Giants?), and who are potential targets in the first two rounds?
I’m not a firm believer in draft trends as we generally look at them. The Giants didn’t take a pitcher in 2019 until the 8th round and then took two hitters before taking an arm in 2020. What did they do in 2021? They took 9 straight pitchers to open the draft. For that reason I don’t think you can completely rule out a high school hitter or pitcher at pick 30. Bolte makes sense but nailing down where he’s likely to be selected is very difficult right now. I have questions about his bat-to-ball ability but he’s tooled up and he’s hit for power in games against some good arms. There are some profile similarities between Bolte and Elijah Green.
Some other high school bats I think could be on the board for the Giants include infielder Tucker Toman outfielder Roman Anthony and catcher Malcolm Moore. Toman is another prospect from the Carolinas and really boosted his draft stock this spring with his combination of hittability and budding power. There’s some debate as to where he fits defensively with second base and third base being possibilities. Anthony was someone that performed against good competition in Florida this spring. He’s a five-tool type of player and is explosive at the plate. Anthony really grew on me and has become one of my favorite prep outfielders. Moore is a California kid who I think is a mid-first-round talent. He’s a catcher committed to Stanford, two factors that make it difficult to predict how he’s treated on draft day. He might not be signable for the Giants at 30th overall without some bonus shenanigans later in the draft. He’s a power bat with quality swing mechanics and a decent shot to stick behind the plate.
I think the prep arms are a major strength of this draft class. That demographic has been historically risky which has made teams hesitant to go in that direction early in the draft. The Phillies have done it and are sitting pretty with Mick Abel and Andrew Painter, so I wonder if teams might start reevaluating how they tackle the prep pitcher group this year. With that said, this could be the perfect opportunity for the Giants to grab an arm that falls.
There are about 5-6 arms that would make sense if available. One guy I really like is Jacob Miller from Ohio. He’s a Louisville commit who’s always shown advanced feel for his secondaries and good size. His fastball velocity ticked up in a big way this spring and he’s touched 97-99 MPH recently. I would love to see what the Giants player development team could do with Miller in tow. There are also a couple of Vanderbilt commits from the midwest that makes sense but would be tough to sign at 30. Noah Schultz is nearly seven feet tall but shows good body control and can repeat his mechanics. His fastball velo also ticked up this spring and both his fastball and slider feature elite spin rates. Andrew Dutkanych is an explosive athlete with a mid-90s fastball and a potential double-plus slider. He lacks some polish and has recently struggled to throw strikes which might push him to campus. I’m not sure what either Schultz or Dutkanych are asking for in terms of bonus dollars but it’s believed to be high enough that it might not makes sense for the Giants to go over-slot and limit what they can do later on during the draft. Righties Walter Ford and Owen Murphy are 1st round talents for me and I’d be happy with either of them as well. I also think you have to look closely at Jackson Ferris, a lefty who plays high school ball with Elijah Green down in Florida. He’s a premium on-mound athlete and I love the way he moves on the bump. He’s up to 97 MPH from the left side with good fastball metrics. Ferris had an up-and-down spring but the upside is immense.
W: That’s a bevvy of prep talent that you brought up which shows the talent available in this draft class. However, the draft does not only last until two rounds. The Giants have seen a number of success stories in the second day and even the third day over the past three seasons, and it’s been by design with the way the concept of bonus pool spreading. Do you have some prospects who are Day Two or Three talents that you really like? I know you’ve been into Jaden Noot for a while and it’s a big fit for the Giants because he is a California prepster whose been a known commodity for a while now that throws plenty of strikes but I know you have more prospects that you absolutely love.
B: The Giants' ability to find legitimate talent in the later rounds of the draft has been a massive organizational strength. You’re right, they like to spread bonus dollars around to grab someone they like later in the draft. I know I just said I don’t fully buy into draft trends but in each of the Zaidi/Holmes drafts the Giants have given a huge over-slot bonus to a prep pitcher of their liking. In 2019 it was Trevor McDonald, in 2020 it was Kyle Harrison, and last year it was Eric Silva. That’s a really strong group of arms and you almost have to expect the Giants to use this strategy again in 2022. It’s harder to pull off with the smaller bonus pool but it’s not impossible, especially if they feel comfortable drafting a few guys like Vaun Brown who signed for under $10,000 last year. I wouldn’t expect a Kyle Harrison type of over-slot, but another McDonald or Silva is certainly possible.
I do like Jaden Noot. He’s an LSU commit who has really good size and strength. His stuff is consistent start-to-start, something that you don’t typically see from high school arms. It’s hard to predict who that over-slot player will be, I didn’t expect any of McDonald, Harrison, or Silva. I’m going to throw out a late riser in prep southpaw Brennan Phillips from Oklahoma. He’s got really athletic actions on the mound and a deceptive delivery. He also has a projectable body and while he sits in the low 90s now, it wouldn’t surprise me if he made a Kyle Harrison-like leap in velocity. He has four usable pitches and his curveball could be a plus pitch or better. Phillips also has really good pitch data and some outlier qualities. My colleague Joe Doyle compared Phillips’ profile to Alex Wood.
I also have to include Zach Maxwell here. He’s been a personal favorite of mine since high school and I’d love to see if the Giants could fix some of the flaws in his game. Maxwell has never really performed in games and his strike-throwing has been a huge issue throughout his time at Georgia Tech. But when Maxwell is on he’s capable of shutting down the best hitters in the game. He might have an 80-grade fastball and the pitch data backs up that potential. He was up to 101 MPH in his final outing this year and he’ll flash a plus slider to go with it. He’s a huge, intimidating presence at 6’7/280 and looks like a future shutdown reliever at the pro level to me. He just needs to throw strikes. I think he will be taken in the 3-5 round range and I’d be ecstatic if the Giants were the ones that pulled the trigger.
W: Phillips would be awesome actually. The Alex Wood comp is not too far-fetched and if he’s signable to a degree then I would like that idea as well. Maxwell is such a John Barr-esque pick with his stuff as well. One final thing before we wrap this up. If you are a betting man though and you would all-in on a prospect who would be selected in the first round by the Giants this year, would it be still Eric Brown or someone else?
B: I'm going to stick by my Eric Brown prediction. I think he's the type of college bat that a lot of the more progressive teams like to grab in the first round. He also has the cape performance and Carolina connection working in his favor. If Brown is off the board I'll pivot to Brock Jones as the Giants' first-round selection.
W: If Brock Jones will be selected by the Giants, it will fulfill the prediction that you personally told me a year ago to look out for the Stanford outfielder. It’s always a lot of fun talking about the draft and baseball in general with you, Brian. Talk to you later!