Luciano leads list of Giants prospects to watch in '24

April 4th, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- The Giants have already turned to their farm system to help boost their pitching staff early this year, with Landen Roupp, Erik Miller, Kai-Wei Teng and Nick Avila each making their Major League debuts over the first week of the regular season.

The quartet of relievers figures to be only the first wave of players who will have a chance to impact the big league roster, especially since several of the club’s most promising prospects are opening the 2024 campaign with Triple-A Sacramento.

With that in mind, here’s a look at which top prospects will be must-see viewing at each of the Giants’ full-season Minor League affiliates this year:

Triple-A Sacramento
Player to watch: SS Marco Luciano (Giants’ No. 2 prospect)
Luciano couldn’t claim the Giants’ starting shortstop job out of Spring Training, but it might not be long until he hits his way back to the Majors. The 22-year-old rookie began to heat up toward the end of Cactus League play and has kept that going at Sacramento, going 7-for-16 (.438) with two doubles and two RBIs over his first four games for the River Cats.

Pitcher to watch: LHP Carson Whisenhunt (No. 3)
Whisenhunt rocketed to Double-A Richmond before suffering a season-ending left elbow sprain last July, but he’s healthy now and could move quickly if he keeps dominating in the Minors. The 23-year-old certainly impressed in his Triple-A debut against Salt Lake on Sunday, racking up six strikeouts and allowing only one hit over three scoreless innings.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: RHP Mason Black (No. 8), OF Wade Meckler (No. 17), RHP Carson Seymour (No. 18), RHP R.J. Dabovich (No. 23), RHP Randy Rodríguez (No. 30)

Double-A Richmond
Opening Day: Friday, 3:35 p.m. PT at Somerset

Player to watch: OF Hunter Bishop
The Giants’ 2019 first-round Draft pick, Bishop has been snake-bitten by injuries and missed all of last season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The setbacks have slowed his development, but the 25-year-old still possesses some intriguing tools and could have a chance to reestablish himself as a prospect if he can stay on the field this year.

Pitcher to watch: RHP Hayden Birdsong (No. 7)
A 2022 sixth-round Draft pick out of Eastern Illinois, Birdsong is already looking like a hidden gem after recording a 3.31 ERA over 28 appearances (25 starts) across Single-A San Jose, High-A Eugene and Double-A Richmond in 2023. His mid-90s fastball and sharp breaking ball are already considered plus pitches, so he’s another big arm that could have a chance to break into the Majors at some point this year.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: OF Grant McCray (No. 14), OF Vaun Brown (No. 16), OF/1B Victor Bericoto (No. 21), C Adrián Sugastey (No. 25)

High-A Eugene
Opening Day: Friday, 7:05 p.m. PT vs. Tri-City

Player to watch: SS Diego Velasquez (No. 19)
Velasquez headlined the Giants’ 2019 international signing class after landing a $900,000 signing bonus out of his native Venezuela. The 20-year-old switch-hitter earned California League All-Star honors last season after leading the circuit in hits (127) and doubles (32), while ranking second in batting average (.298), extra-base hits (41) and total bases (185) over 111 games with Single-A San Jose.

Pitcher to watch: RHP Manuel Mercedes
Mercedes, 21, recorded a 3.64 ERA over 25 appearances (21 starts) after repeating the Single-A level last season, using his mid-90s power sinker to generate a 62.9% groundball rate that ranked third among qualified Minor League pitchers in 2023.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: C Onil Perez (No. 26)

Single-A San Jose
Opening Day: Friday, 7 p.m. PT vs. Fresno

Player to watch: 1B Bryce Eldridge (No. 4)
Eldridge was drafted as a two-way player last year, but he’s expected to focus exclusively on first base to give him a chance to develop more quickly as a hitter. The 19-year-old slugger raked after making his pro debut last year, so he’ll be looking to pick up where he left off in his first full season in the Minors.

Pitcher to watch: LHP Joe Whitman (No. 11)
A 2023 second-round Draft pick out of Kent State, Whitman is a true three-pitch starter who features a fastball that sits at 91-94 mph and touches 96, as well as a low 80s slider and changeup. He impressed after making his pro debut last year, logging a 1.86 ERA with 13 strikeouts over 9 2/3 innings in six appearances (five starts) between the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League and Single-A San Jose.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: SS Maui Ahuna (No. 10), SS Cole Foster (No. 27)