A year ago, the on-field present of the SF Giants appeared to be improving but still mediocre, while the future was bright: three prospects in the front half of Baseball America's Top-100 list, with a couple more showing the potential to join them with good seasons.
Of course, we know what the MLB Giants put together in 2021: a franchise-record 107 wins to stave off the rival Los Angeles Dodgers and win the National League West for the first time since 2012. On the farm, the system's improved depth showed in a pair of league championships and the cream of the crop seemed to each have campaigns that would convince evaluators that they remained among the best future MLB stars.
Baseball America might take more convincing. In the midst of the MLB lockout nearing the end of the second month with little news about MLB players, the long-running prospect-focused publication released their annual Top-100 prospects (subscription required) on Wednesday for the 2022 season...and every Giants player from 2021 took a tumble down the list.
All five Giants from 2021 made the list again (2021 rank in parentheses): infielder Marco Luciano (9), catcher Joey Bart (39), outfielder Luis Matos (45), outfielder Heliot Ramos (71) and left-handed pitcher Kyle Harrison (83).
Luciano, the last big-money international signing (in 2018) before the most recent crop of international players agreed to contracts a few days ago, dropped eight spots, to 17th. He started 2021 with Low-A San Jose and played well, batting .278 with 18 home runs in 70 games. He was promoted to High-A Eugene and struggled, hitting .217 with just one round tripper in 36 contests. The biggest flaw - and likely the reason BA dropped him so far - was 54 strikeouts in just129 at-bats with Eugene.
Joey Bart took the biggest fall
The #2 overall selection in the 2018 draft, Bart bounced back from a rough 2020 MLB debut (.233, 0 homers in 33 games) to bat .294 with 10 home runs in 67 games at Triple-A Sacramento. His future hitting ability grade (aka "hit tool") lost a half-grade (from 45 to 40) in BA's eyes, which was probably why he fell to #71 in the new Top-100.
Despite an improvement in his hit tool from 55 to 60 and consistent above-average grades on the rest of his tools, Matos took a dive to 73rd. Bringing good contact (.313 average, just 61 K's in 451 at-bats), power (35 doubles, 15 homers), speed (21 stolen bases) and good defense to the table for San Jose at 19 years old in 2021, the reason for his drop is unclear.
Ramos was the team's first-round selection in 2017 out of Puerto Rico. He came in as the #94 prospect in the new rankings after running into a tough hitting environment at Double-A Richmond (.237 with 10 home runs in 62 games), but he bounced back to a .272 average in 54 games at Sacramento. Ranked as high as #63 previously (prior to 2020), Ramos has a good chance to make his MLB debut in 2022.
Harrison, a third-round pick in 2020, made his professional debut with a dominant showing in San Jose. The Bay Area native struck out 157 in 98 2/3 innings and had a 3.19 ERA, but his biggest flaw was control as he issued 52 walks. Baseball America's grade on his control dropped from an above-average 55 to a below-average 40, necessitating the southpaw's fall to 95th on the list.
Despite the dearth of Giants prospects improving in the eyes of scouts, having five players listed is still an impressive look for the farm system as it is tied for the third-most of any team. Baseball America is also only one ranking; Baseball Prospectus put out their Top-101 on Thursday and dropped Luciano only one spot (8th to 9th) from 2021, while Matos, Bart and Harrison all ranked higher than in BA's eyes (Ramos didn't make the list, but Jairo Pomares, another outfielder in the system, did).
The upcoming season will provide an opportunity for each player to show why he belongs higher on the list, or even make their mark at Oracle Park (Bart is expected to be the main backstop for the Giants, and maybe Ramos will take an outfield spot and cement his place on the roster).