SF Giants 2022 Top 30 Prospects: May Update
It takes two to tango
It's been quite established after a month of play that both Kyle Harrison and Marco Luciano have separated themselves from the rest of the pack as the two best prospects in the organization right now. Luciano has been quite good offensively for the Emeralds amidst the harsh weather in the Pacific Northwest throughout the month. The work that he put into improving his physique as well as having a second go on the High-A level is paying off for the Dominican.
I still can't flip him over Harrison though because Harrison is off to an even better start (I'd rather take out the start where he allowed seven runs while feeling physically sick) as he made positive strides of his own in terms of conditioning and strike-throwing. Also, even though Luciano looked more refined with the easy, routine plays at short, he still has plenty of issues, particularly moving to his right, to still not think of him as a long-term solution for the position in the big leagues.
The calm before the storm
I ranked Heliot Ramos ahead of Luis Matos right now not because Heliot's been mind-blowing but it's because Matos is off to a cold start this season for Eugene. Matos has an OPS below .450 in April and he's pulled the ball more than ever but you see that his walk rate nearly doubled. Ramos has been alright for the River Cats but one of the best fantasy baseball writers out there Chris Clegg of Fantrax noted that Ramos' high groundball rate and the subsequent launch angle resulted in his hard-hit balls being pounded to the ground so there's more room for improvement for Heliot.
The next two prospects after the standout outfielders are Will Bednar and Casey Schmitt. When I made the pre-season rankings, I was thinking of whether to place Schmitt ahead of Bednar and it's still a hair's width of separation in my opinion between the two after a month of action. I must say that Schmitt's numbers went back to normal over the past week and Bednar's been the usual Bednar recently making us forget about his first outing of the season. Both are still awesome by the way and I think you already know what I feel about Schmitt by now.
Both Jairo Pomares and Aeverson Arteaga complete the top eight. Pomares has not hit for power like what he did last season and he's been getting more aggressive than ever, something that worries me because it makes him an even more volatile prospect. Arteaga meanwhile is not exactly crushing the Low-A level either as he often gets beat by breaking balls and he still has some internal clock issues on defense. The good thing about Arteaga is that his added muscle to his frame helped him gain more bat speed resulting in a maximum exit velocity of 116 MPH, as good as Pomares, this month. Maximum exit velocity does not matter much but at least we know that Arteaga has juice now.
While there were just minuscule movements from Kyle Harrison down to Aeverson Arteaga, there was literally chaos afterward, especially in the 40 FV tier. I felt that there's a lot of uncertainty past that though I still stuck with both Ryan Murphy and Sean Hjelle even though Murphy hasn't pitched yet due to injury because I felt that while there are some pitching prospects below him that have as good if not better stuff, Murphy has enough stuff to compete while also being the best strike-thrower by a good margin.
Honestly, there are only around nine Giants prospects that I am comfortable with right now (Harrison to Murphy). After that top nine prospects (make it ten if you are really feeling good bout Hjelle right now which I am only feeling slightly good), the first month of the season threw a wrench on my pre-season rankings for good and bad reasons. I still have them in the 40 FV tier though so the rankings ultimately will not matter that much as I feel all of them are just separated by the tiniest of margins.
There are two prospects who I moved up from 40 to the 45 FV tier: Mason Black and Eric Silva. I am not saying that both are already as good as the Bednars and Schmitts of the world but I am seeing the potential of them sticking in this tier at the end of the season. It all boiled down to me on one thing: stuff. Mason Black can reach up to 98 MPH out of the rotation, something that's very rare in this farm system, while Silva developed his off-speed pitches very well while turning his fastball that runs up to 96 MPH into a killer pitch high in the zone. Black's stuff is as good as anyone in the 2021 draft class (even better velocity than Bednar but Bednar has a bit better strike-throwing ability) while Silva has as much strike-throwing projection while also having the stuff in the draft class.
There's a bunch of prospects in the middle who were not ranked during the pre-season that jumped to the middle of the pack as a result of their hot first month of the season. Let's tackle the hitters first. David Villar, Sean Roby, and Armani Smith have been the standout hitters for Sacramento, Richmond, and Eugene respectively. All three have shown their extreme three-true-outcomes traits (Villar has a 52.3% three-true-outcomes probability, Smith has 52.6% and Roby has 63.8%) but they have three of the best wRC+ among Giants prospects so far.
The next two are pitchers whose stuff plays very well at the moment: Trevor McDonald and Nick Sinacola. Just by watching McDonald's 2021 and 2022 tape and you will see a massive difference in how he throws the ball. McDonald's swinging strike rate tops all Giants' prospects so far this season while also having a 67% strike rate. He's made the leap. Meanwhile, I feel that Sinacola has the repertoire (low to mid-90s fastball, gyro slider, nasty splitter) and control to continue pitching in a starter's workload in the long term. People compared Sinacola to Murphy as a pitchability guy from a small school in the Northeast but Murphy clearly has a step ahead of Sinacola in terms of control when comparing the two.
Rounding out the risers we got a couple of prospects who performed well and what I saw on tape matched the performance. Speaking of one of the best performers, Ghordy Santos is right up there among the best performers in the entire farm system statistics-wise for the month of April. The lefty-swinging infielder has found himself into consistent playing time as a guy who plays multiple positions in the dirt while flashing a mature approach at the box. The other position player prospect who looked good is Will Wilson. Don't let the batting average fool you, Wilson is having a strong start to his 2022 season. Wilson like other Giants hitting prospects is flashing hard three-true-outcomes traits so far this season (49.4%) but the thing that I like from Wilson is how spry he looks on both sides of the ball.
For the pitchers, Tristan Beck looks like he is back after an injury derailed his 2021 season and he's been called up to Sacramento last week. He's looked as healthy as ever on the mound, throwing as hard as ever and still having that beautiful north-south curveball. He's also flashed his other secondaries (slider and changeup) as well. Last but not least is Cole Waites whose strikeout rate for the Emeralds have been off the charts once again. The velocity that is Waites' trademark is ramping up and I am also quite pleased with the development of his slider as his secondary out pitch though his heater still does most of the talking.
If there are risers, there are also fallers. Let's begin to discuss those who fell but are still inside the top 30 then those who are previously included in the top 30 but were dropped afterwards.
The prospect who dropped the most is Adrian Sugastey who dropped eleven spots. His dropping was a combination of a lot of things. First is his own struggles with the bat with an OPS below .575. The second is that he struggled with quality breaking balls so far this season and the bat speed and trunk rotation are more average than plus. The third is that there was a run on prospects who raised their stock to the teens, leaving Sugastey at the back of the line. There are some tell-tale signs that I might have bumped Sugastey too low (BABIP's an abysmal .220 that should climb back up, walk and strikeout rates are holding well, his batted ball data is also consistent with last season), and don't be shocked if I bumped Sugastey high once again if he starts to wake up with the bat because I am a believer of his potential.
A couple of NC State prospects dropped ten spots after a cold start to their 2022 season. Nick Swiney's numbers this season has been way off. The walk rate's way up, the strikeout rate is way down, his groundball rate is lower than ever, his BABIP is actually lower than usual so there's a chance that he might turn to an even worse, and his xFIP (the best indicator of a pitcher's future performance correlation-wise) is absurdly high. Granted it's only two starts, but the fastball velocity was around the high-80s and it got hit pretty hard even with strong execution. The changeup control also was a bit worse though the quality is still as good as ever. Just overall worse general control for Swiney.
Meanwhile, it looks like Patrick Bailey and High-A ball are not the best of friends with another terrible start of the season for the Emeralds, this time with an even worse wOBA than last season. I will never likely be a fan of Bailey's swing on both sides of the plate and there's just no other words to describe his start to the season other than disappointing.
Another prospect who fell hard for me is Matt Mikulski. This is not because of his most recent start which was easily the worst of the season but it's this one crucial stat: swing and miss ability. Of all pitchers in the 2021 class, only Tyler Myrick and Ian Villers has a substantially lower strikeout rate than Mikulski and only Villers has a lower swinging strike rate than Mikulski. I thought that Mikulski will induce a much higher swing and miss rate than what he's shown so far this season because the immense funk in his delivery should create a lot of problems on hitters who are still working on their hitting craft but that was just not the case. The overall stuff now is in question. I will still be on the lookout if this below-expectations swing and miss rate is just a blip or signs of things moving forward.
There are also a couple of pitchers who have struggled so far in my opinion. The Randy Rodriguez starter experiment is off to a pretty shaky start with him struggling to throw strikes but the stuff (up to 96 MPH with his fastball, plus slider) is still very much present. The other one is R.J. Dabovich. Yes, take away his initial outing and he's been scoreless for his past five appearances and he has not walked a batter yet. However, the strikeout rate is unusually low and I have noticed that there's less zip on the fastball this season compared to last year.
Let's now talk about the prospects who fell out of the top 30 after the first month of play. The first two are Ismael Munguia and Carson Ragsdale who are injured. Still unsure about Munguia's injury (I guess we'll know when he's back) but Ragsdale underwent thoracic outlet surgery and that injury has ruined a good amount of pitchers. Hopefully, that's not the case for Ragsdale.
The next five who we will talk about are more towards their performance or where they are in their development. Grant McCray just barely missed the cut but he's still definitely in the conversation even with a slow start to his 2022 season. He's taking walks at an astronomic rate but the hit tool is a serious question with him still getting beat by sequencing resulting in a ton of strikeouts. Like McCray, Diego Rincones has not looked particularly bad but he's performed below expectations so far after a stellar 2021 season. His physique has not looked particularly good and that's the biggest aspect of his game that needs the most attention. He's still making contact at a very good rate (one of the lowest swinging strike rates in the Giants farm system) but the thump is not particularly there.
Speaking of performance, both Ricardo Genoves and Hunter Bishop have struggled mightily. I must say that given the circumstances, Genoves has done a pretty solid job by skipping Double-A to be the River Cats catcher on both sides of the ball. The blocking looked better and he's hit a couple of homers though there's plenty left to desire on. Bishop, on the other hand, has just looked not it. The numbers have been putrid aside from the pair of home runs that he hit. The quality of contact has not been good for the most part, the ability to draw walks which is one of his greatest strengths dipped below double digits this season. A lot of things just have not been right for Bishop so far.
The final prospect who fell out of the rankings is Manuel Mercedes. I'll make this one short. Mercedes' stuff is definitely there but the control is definitely not. The fastball is up to the mid-90s with death-defying movement along with his sweeping slider and fading changeup but his delivery definitely needs a lot of work. He rotates too quickly and the arm action needs plenty of polish.