SF Giants chase upside with first two MLB Draft picks

Farhan Zaidi
Farhan Zaidi / Victor Decolongon/GettyImages

The annual Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, where MLB teams select amateur talent to help refill their farm systems and shape their franchise futures, began Sunday evening as part of the All-Star Game festivities.

The SF Giants, by virtue of putting up the league's best record in 2021, were saddled with the final pick in each round, leading to a wide range of possibilities for their picks, according to experts who put out mock drafts.

Since the team's first draft under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi in 2019, the Giants haven't been shy about taking risks. They drafted toolsy breakout outfielder Hunter Bishop from Arizona State with the 10th overall pick in 2019, and he is just starting to show what he can do after dealing with injuries and COVID.

The abbreviated 2020 draft saw NC State catcher Patrick Bailey get taken above players many thought were better, and his results haven't quite lived up to the 13th overall selection that year. The Giants did hit on prep LHP Kyle Harrison, who was ticketed for UCLA, with a third-round pick and over-slot bonus offer to get him to turn pro, which has been an excellent move as Harrison is now regarded as one of the top prospect pitchers in the game.

Last year's first-rounder, right-hander Will Bednar out of Mississippi State, was more of a safe pick with a higher ceiling and less upside at #14 overall, but some lower-round players are upside shots.

For 2022, it appears Zaidi and crew decided they would chase players on the first day who would have been higher picks but had one or two strikes against them in the profile. Both ended up being left-handed pitchers, with one having a twist on his potential future position.

SF Giants first-round pick, #30 overall: TWP Reggie Crawford

Not familiar with the "TWP" designation? It stands for "Two-Way Player". As evidenced in the Giants' tweet, Crawford can both pitch and play the field.

The southpaw from UCONN is more likely to stick on the mound. He didn't get much playing time before COVID canceled the rest of his 2020 freshman year, and in 2021 he pitched less than eight innings but hit 13 home runs in 51 games. He played for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer and stood out as a pitcher, striking out eight batters in four innings with one hit allowed.

Crawford didn't get on the field in 2022 with UCONN thanks to Tommy John surgery, but his scouting report is flashy. According to Baseball America ($), Crawford, listed at 6'4" and 235 pounds, with a fastball that touches 99 (other reports have him hitting triple-digits last summer with Team USA) and a possible plus slider. He hasn't had a lot of experience, so the command and other secondary pitches might be raw and need some time for refinement. At the plate he has above-average raw power but some swing-and-miss issues.

SF Giants second-round pick, #66 overall: LHP Carson Whisenhunt

Another southpaw, this without a chance to become a hitter, was the Giants second-round selection. Carson Whisenhunt is another who didn't play in 2022, but for a different reason.

Whisenhunt, out of East Carolina University, was suspended by the NCAA for failing a drug test, which he has explained was from a supplement he took over the winter from a "nationwide nutrition store".

Whisenhunt was a teammate of Crawford with Team USA last summer, turning in 10 strikeouts in six innings with three hits and just one run allowed for the Red, White and Blue.

He also had a chance to go in the first round even after the drug suspension, as Baseball America rated him the 28th-best draft prospect.

Whisenhunt is 6'3" and 205 pounds with a fastball that reaches into the mid-90s but sits around 92, according to Baseball America ($). He also has a curveball with good movement, but his primary offering is a changeup described as one of the best in the draft class that he regularly buries at the bottom of the zone.

Whisenhunt was able to pitch four times in the Cape Cod League, but other than racking up strikeouts it was a little rough. In 16 innings he allowed 16 hits and 6 walks, with 14 runs (all earned) despite 21 whiffs.

The draft continues Monday and concludes Tuesday.