The 45 FVs and Relief Pitcher Value Talk
It is now time for the prospects in the 45 FV range. These are the prospects that have everyday potential or more but are not quite ready to join the prestigious 50 FV. These are (in order) Will Bednar, Aeverson Arteaga, Casey Schmitt, Matt Mikulski, Ryan Murphy, Adrian Sugastey, Camilo Doval, and Sean Hjelle.
Leading off with Camilo Doval because relievers were not considered on the final update of 2021 rankings because relievers are the most versatile demographic among all positions. If a starting pitcher fails, pitching in the bullpen is the fallback option. A catcher who is bad at playing defense? Never worry because first base is an option. A shortstop who is too slow for the position? There is third base, second base, or the corner outfield. For relievers? There is no fallback. Relievers are like left fielders, second basemen, and first basemen, but the risk associated with pitchers makes pitching in relief more volatile than the other fallback options in the baseball field.
However, after plenty of deliberation, adding them to the list once again is the correct choice. Listing them separately felt like a blessing and a curse. A blessing because they can make the big leagues even as unranked or unheralded prospects because of their unique nature, and a curse because it felt unfair to list them separately because they are prospects after all.
After the 2021 season, Doval should be the highest-listed full-time relief prospect in the organization after the stellar job that he did for the Giants at the end of the season. It's just a matter of where to have him. The only pitchers that came to my mind that should be ahead of Doval are the pitchers who have the best chance of sticking in a big-league rotation.
Three pitchers came to mind right away: Bednar, Mikulski, and Murphy, and that is pretty much it. Sean Hjelle is still valued on the ranking and his unique profile should allow him to reach the big leagues. However, his uniqueness is a better fit in the bullpen rather than in the rotation, as his stuff is more solid-average. He could be dominant in the bullpen like Doval and Tyler Rogers, where hitters will only see him once and completely feel his funk.
After thinking of starting pitching options, position players who project to provide similar value to Doval were up next in the discussion. Those players are Arteaga, Schmitt, and Sugastey. With six prospects ahead of him and a prospect behind him, that firmly put Doval at 13 and Hjelle at 14.
The first one in the discussion is Will Bednar. He earned to be at top of the 45 FV class because of his performance in the College World Series and he was considered being the second-best pitcher in the entire tournament behind only number two overall pick Jack Leiter. His fastball and slider were dominant. However, several concerns resulted in him being graded as a 45 FV prospect.
The first is that his fastball did not look impressive when he pitched in San Jose. He only sits in the low-90s with his fastball with underwhelming life rather than the overpowering mid-90s gas that he threw in the CWS. The second is that his changeup did not look impressive in college. There were reports that his changeup induced a high number of whiffs, but it was more likely due to pitch usage rather than pitch quality. His curveball is a better pitch than his changeup, but it is only average at best.
A good friend and fellow Giants prospects writer Roger Munter brought up the similarities between Bednar and former Giants' first-round pick, Chris Stratton. If Bednar indeed will follow the career path of Stratton, it does not sound very promising.
The next two prospects that are ranked behind Bednar are defensive-minded position players. The lesser risk associated with position players was the biggest factor for ranking the foursome of Arteaga, Mikulski, Murphy, and Schmitt. Arteaga and Schmitt are stellar defenders in their respective positions, with Schmitt being more mature and better than Arteaga. However, Arteaga plays the toughest position in the infield (except for catcher) while Schmitt plays the second-toughest.
Even if both players provide 0 WAR with their bat which currently is their most likely outcome, their defense should be good enough to provide 1.5-2 WAR, and that folks, is a straight-up 45 FV value. If both could provide positive WAR offensively, then they will sniff up 50 FV value. Arteaga projects as an Orlando Arcia-type player while Schmitt is a middle-class or even a clone of Matt Chapman at the hot corner.
The next two pitchers currently have the biggest chance of pitching in a starting rotation out of the rest of the pitching prospects, as mentioned earlier. Matt Mikulski’s mechanics scream more of a reliever than a starter, but his four-pitch repertoire is fit for a legitimate starting pitcher. Moreso, his highly deceptive mechanics, which are hard to time, show the ball as late as possible, and from a low release height allow his pitches to play better.
A left-hander that can reach 98 MPH with his fastball does not grow on trees, let alone also have three out pitches alongside the high velocity. What Mikulski lacks is a track record of strike-throwing with his refined motion and his 2022 season should answer the debate of whether he is a better fit in the rotation or the bullpen.
Murphy is a pitcher that stood out as early as late May last season when his numbers match the stuff upon doing film study. Murphy is the definition of a pitchability righty with solid stuff across the board. The only concern entering this season is whether his solid stuff will play in the high-Minors and that could only be answered by pitching in the high-Minors. Murphy has worked hard in the off-season to remove that concern by refining his pitching motion and his secondaries. This is the year for Murphy to prove that last season is not a fluke.
That only leaves one 45 FV prospect. Sugastey was the highest-ranked prospect that belonged in the 2019 IFA class in the 2021 Primer because of his impressive hitting ability while playing the toughest position on defense. The belief in the bat was justified after the Panamanian posted the highest batting average among all qualified hitters in Rookie ball.
However, a couple of concerns arose that ultimately resulted in him getting surpassed by his fellow 2019 IFA classmate Aeverson Arteaga. The first is the slight concern with his athleticism as he gets older. The second is that his bat speed is more solid than explosive, though his bat control is impressive for a teenager. If Sugastey can finally tap to his raw power consistently without sacrificing his natural hitting ability, he should only continue to rise the ranks.