An SF GIants high-round draft choice out of high school. Tall, left-handed, with a scholarship offer from a powerful university, signs for a big bonus. Doesn't play pro ball the same year as he signs, dominates Low-A his first full season, and in his second year he cruises through High-A, into Double-A and pitches in the All-Star Futures Game and beyond.
This is the story of a young southpaw from North Carolina. You might remember him; he showed up in San Francisco for good at 20 years old in 2010 (turning 21 during the season), helped the Giants win their first World Series on the West Coast that year, was a rotation stalwart by the time they swept the Fall Classic in 2012 and became a postseason legend with his accomplishments in 2014.
Obviously, this is Madison Bumgarner.
"MadBum", as he came to be known, was the 10th overall selection in the 2007 MLB Draft. Standing 6'4" and weighing in at just a touch over 200 pounds, Bumgarner was seen as a solid first-round talent by the scouting industry with a low three-quarters release point and a fastball in the low- to mid-90s that touched 97.
Bumgarner could have attended North Carolina, which was the NCAA national runner-up in the College World Series in 2006 and 2007 and appeared in the CWS in 2008-09 as well, but he chose to turn pro and signed for $2 million just before the mid-August deadline. His late signing meant he wouldn't play an organized game in the Giants system that year.
In 2008, Bumgarner was sent directly to full-season Low-A Augusta, skipping short-season leagues. He dominated the South Atlantic League as the circuit's youngest pitcher, earning Pitcher of the Year honors with a 15-3 record and 1.46 ERA in 24 starts, striking out 164 and walking just 21 in 141 2/3 innings pitched.
Assigned to High-A (at the time) San Jose to begin 2009, Bumgarner quickly showed mastery of the level and was promoted after five starts, in which he allowed just four earned runs in over 24 innings. He spent the rest of the Minor League season with the Double-A Connecticut Defenders, going 9-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 20 appearances (19 starts). He also was selected to the U.S. roster for the Futures Game but didn't pitch in the contest.
The current SF Giants pitching prospect on the MadBum path
As a high school senior in 2020, a Bay Area lefty saw his season cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He had already signed a National Letter of Intent to attend UCLA and pitch for a program that won a National Championship within the last decade.
Seen as a top talent but a tough sign because of the UCLA commitment, scouts expected him to get passed over or picked lower in the draft than expected, and if he became a Bruin he could possibly be a solid first-rounder in 2023.
That all changed when the 2020 draft came around. In the third round, at the 85th overall pick, the Giants were ready to make some noise. Having saved some money by taking players who would accept lower bonuses than their slot value elsewhere in that year's five-round draft, they felt they had scrounged up enough dough and so made the selection:
Left-handed pitcher Kyle Harrison, from De La Salle High School in Concord.
It took nearly $2.5 million to get Harrison to forego his college commitment and turn pro - but that number is looking like a bargain at this point.
Harrison, like Bumgarner, did not pitch in an official game the year of his drafting/signing (the pandemic cancelled the 2020 minor league season). He began his pro career with a 2021 assignment to Low-A, which is now San Jose. Harrison racked up an incredible 157 strikeouts in nearly 100 innings over 23 starts, though he did have some control issues with 52 walks.
Giants brass gave him the natural promotion to High-A Eugene to begin 2022, and Harrison was even more dominant than the year before. In 29 innings over seven starts with the Emeralds, the young lefty allowed just five earned runs (1.55 ERA) on 19 hits and 10 walks (improving the walk rate from 2021) with a whopping 59 strikeouts. Clearly he was too advanced for the level, so a tough bump to Double-A Richmond was in store at the end of May.
The competition two steps from the Majors has started to make Harrison look more normal. In eight starts so far with the Flying Squirrels, he has a 3.19 ERA in 42 1/3 innings (which looks worse than he has actually pitched thanks to a June start in which he allowed six earned runs and didn't get out of the fourth inning). Harrison's hits allowed have dropped, with only 25 safeties so far, but the walks have risen again (22) while he continues to put up strong whiff numbers (60).
Harrison was also named to the All-Star Futures Game this season - though unlike Bumgarner he did get to pitch.
Drafted high, given a large bonus to forego an impressive college program? Check.
No MiLB participation in the same year as being drafted? Check.
Dominate Low-A for a full season, do the same at High-A the next year in a handful of starts and get bumped to Double-A before the two-year anniversary of being selected? Check, check and check. Harrison's path has been eerily similar to that of one of the best postseason pitchers in history.
Harrison's next step
Where do the Giants go from here with Harrison? Will they keep him at Richmond if his control doesn't improve? Get him to Sacramento if he continues to pitch well? What if the front office decides the big-league team needs pitching help?
This is where the two stories have a good chance to diverge. After the end of the MiLB season in 2009, Bumgarner - who had turned 20 just a month before - was put on the big league roster. He spent September with the Orange and Black, pitching in four games with one start, piling up 10 strikeouts in 10 innings and allowing just two runs. Bumgarner did end up with Triple-A Fresno for the first few months the next year, but he was called up for good in late-June.
Maybe Farhan Zaidi and crew will decide to play it safe with Harrison, especially if the team falls further out of contention in the division. The possibility exists that he gets traded, as he has been mentioned as an important piece of the return if the Washington Nationals trade Juan Soto to San Francisco.
Or Harrison might go directly to Oracle Park from Richmond, skipping Triple-A Sacramento. If the story afterward continues to follow that of the last homegrown star left-handed starter, Giants fans would certainly have many reasons to celebrate.