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Some Thoughts on the Giants’ Draft

June 21, 2009
Zack Wheeler was the logical, and correct, choice for the Giants at #6.

Zack Wheeler was the logical, and correct, choice for the Giants at #6.

Well, the draft is long gone and it looks like my predictions were way, way off. I never expected Pittsburgh to go with Tony Sanchez, nor did I ever expect Baltimore to go with Matt Hobgood. Both picks honestly look like signability picks to me—while Sanchez is a polished catcher and should reach the Majors relatively quickly, and Hobgood is a fine young right-hander, there were a good number of players on the board that profile as making a bigger impact in the Majors than those two. Perhaps those organizations know something we don’t; but both picks really seem like a reach to me.

The Giants’ selection of Zack Wheeler sixth overall was not only a predictable move; it was the right one. While I’m sure the Giants love Tyler Matzek, his commitment to Oregon State and signing bonus demands made the Wheeler pick all the more reasonable—you get a very similar talent for a substantially lower price. Wheeler offers the Giants an extremely projectable frame with already dominating stuff—if he can tighten up the spin on his breaking pitch and develop a sound change, it’ll make his mid-90’s sinker all the more unhittable. What I love most about Wheeler is his room for growth; he already throws so hard while having a frame that’s yet to fill out. His mechanics are a bit awkward for me (the way he moves his hands before he begins to drift through the balance point) and he reminds me some of Atlanta’s Javier Vazquez. Wheeler projects to be a front-of-the-rotation starter, and he certainly looks the part already.

It should be noted, however, that high school pitchers drafted in the first round have a depressingly low success rate. In the ‘90’s, roughly eight percent of High School pitchers became regulars for their team (2 WAR per season) and three percent became stars while under their team’s control. 70% of high school pitchers become busts, and averaged .438 WAR a season. Hitters from either the collegiate or high school ranks had a rate almost double that. (Hat Tip: Future Redbirds)

This makes me worry some about Wheeler, of course. I know, the Giants have a reputation of developing pitchers—and one can easily point to the success of Matt Cain (let’s not include Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson in the discussion until they succeed in the Majors). It does make me worry, but considering the dearth of quality hitters and collegiate pitchers with Wheeler’s potential, they ultimately made the right choice. Anyways, my thoughts on some of the other picks the Giants made this year:

-The Giants nabbed a catcher in the second round (to the surprise of many) in Tommy Joseph, out of Horizon High School in Arizona. Joseph is a former teammate of Alderson, and he’s certainly not lacking in the power department—with raw power of 70 on the 20-80 scale, his bat will play anywhere if he is unable to stick behind the dish. With Buster Posey being a superior defender, I see Joseph moving off the position—perhaps to first base or one of the corner outfield positions. The bat is special, and he’ll find a way into a lineup one way or the other. The Giants were well-aware of their lack of premium power-hitting prospects, and they certainly grabbed one in Joseph. Should he pan out, he could be the type of hitter that the Giants have been craving since the departure of Barry Bonds—a solid hitter that can mash 35+ home runs out of the park in any given season.

-Chris Dominguez was selected in the fourth round, much to the delight of some Giants fans. The intimidating (6’4”, 235 pounds) third baseman has ridiculous light tower power and can hit the ball out anywhere. While the power is there, the contact isn’t—Dominguez struggles to hit breaking balls. Unless the ball is straight and right in his zone, he won’t make sound contact. But when he does, the ball launches out. He has game-changing power, but unless he learns how to improve his contact rate, he’ll fizzle in the Minor Leagues. Dominguez has the arm for third base, but not the hands or range. He’s best suited for first base because of his size. Honestly, he reminds me a lot of Texas’ Chris Davis, another huge slugger with contact issues that had to move off of third base. The Giants made an interesting decision in taking an intriguing player like Dominguez, and he could be a valuable player should he pan out.

Jason Stoffel sort of reminds me of Brian Wilson—he has good stuff, he’s aggressive, but he pitches much better in high leverage situations and loses focus when there’s no pressure. He and 2008 draftee Edwin Quirarte should form a formidable duo in the late innings in San Francisco should they both pan out. College relievers have a tendency to move quickly, and considering that Stoffel’s gotten comparisons to Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth from last year’s class, there stands a good chance that he’ll be the first member of the Giants’ draft class to reach the Majors. He has a lower ceiling than a good number of players the Giants selected, but he should make for a useful piece in the future.

-I hadn’t heard much about Brandon Belt, the Giants’ fifth-round selection out of Texas. He’s a big first baseman that has yet to tap in to his power, exhibiting an opposite-field approach—but the fact that he has advanced plate discipline and that he’s so large gives me some hope that he’ll eventually become a legitimate slugger. He’s a definite sleeper candidate.

Matt Graham is the ultimate project. He’s all arm and no legs, and both his stuff and command are extremely erratic. At times he’ll flash a plus fastball and a great curveball, and other times he’ll show a mediocre fastball and an ineffective breaking pitch. He has quite possibly the ugliest mechanics I’ve ever seen of a drafted player, but with his size and upside, the Giants must have some confidence that they can clean up his mechanics and turn him into a legitimate pitching prospect. Best-case scenario, Graham develops into a mid-rotation starter or a good reliever. Worst-case scenario, Graham blows out his arm and we don’t hear about him again. He’s the quintessential “high risk, high reward” type of player.

There were fifty rounds (not including supplemental), and I don’t have the time or knowledge to give my thoughts on every single player. So far, the Giants have signed Jeremy Toole, their tenth-round pick out of Brigham Young University. Like many of the other pitchers the Giants drafted this year, Toole has a power fastball and a plus breaking pitch. Because of his delivery and command issues, he profiles better as a reliever. The Giants seemed to target players with power early on in the draft—be it a power arm or a power bat. They didn’t go for “safe” picks, either: they grabbed players that have game-changing potential, and it’s picks like those that will hopefully bolster their already strong system and turn it into a top three organization.

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