5 Giants prospects on the rise

October 12th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

If there was one silver lining to the Giants’ subpar 2023 season, it was the fact that they debuted 12 rookies, many of whom have the potential to develop into core players for the franchise.

Catcher Patrick Bailey, shortstop Marco Luciano and outfielder Luis Matos could become fixtures up the middle, and Kyle Harrison, Keaton Winn, Ryan Walker and Tristan Beck will be aiming to establish themselves as mainstays on the pitching staff.

“One of the real positives of the season was how many young players came up and I think are going to be part of this team and organization going forward,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said. “We had a really good group of rookies. We have more guys coming from the system who are going to help us in the next couple of years, and I think that’s why we have a chance to build the foundation of a sustainable contender.”

Here’s a look at where San Francisco’s farm system stands and which prospects appear poised to take similar steps forward in 2024:

3 players who forced their way onto the radar this year
OF (Giants’ No. 11 prospect): Meckler struggled after reaching the big leagues a little over a year after he was selected in the eighth round of the 2022 MLB Draft, but his meteoric rise through the Giants’ farm system remains one of the best player development stories of the season. The 23-year-old slashed .371/.456/.510 with six home runs, 49 walks and 58 strikeouts over 83 games across three Minor League levels this year, becoming only the fourth member of his Draft class to reach the Majors.

Meckler hit .232 (13-for-56) with 25 strikeouts over his first 20 games with the Giants, but the club believes he’ll be able to overcome the rough start and earn a bigger role in the outfield mix in 2024, especially if he uses his elite speed to develop into a true basestealing threat.

LHP Carson Whisenhunt (No. 3): Whisenhunt, a 2022 second-round Draft pick, also appeared to be on the fast track until he suffered a season-ending left elbow sprain in July. The 22-year-old spent the second half of the season rehabbing, though he managed to avoid surgery and is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

Prior to the injury, Whisenhunt logged a 2.45 ERA with 83 strikeouts over 58 2/3 innings in 16 starts between Single-A San Jose, High-A Eugene and Double-A Richmond. If he stays healthy, he could become a rotation option for the Giants sooner rather than later. He sits at 92-94 mph with his fastball and features one of the nastiest changeups in the Minors.

INF/OF Tyler Fitzgerald (No. 30): Fitzgerald, 26, had to wait until the penultimate week of the regular season to earn his first callup with the Giants, though he used the late opportunity to showcase the power-speed combination that yielded two straight 20-20 seasons in the Minors.

A natural shortstop, Fitzgerald received looks in the outfield for the first time this year and “might be the best defensive center fielder in the organization,” according to Zaidi. The Giants will once again be looking to improve their defense and athleticism, so Fitzgerald could be part of the solution moving forward.

2 possible breakout players to watch in 2024
RHP Mason Black (No. 9): Like Whisenhunt, Black appears to be on the cusp of breaking into the Majors after posting a 3.71 ERA with 155 strikeouts and only 52 walks over 123 2/3 innings in 29 starts between Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento this year. A 2021 third-round Draft pick, Black sits at 93-96 mph with his fastball and also misses plenty of bats with his plus mid-80s slider.

OF/RHP Bryce Eldridge (No. 4): The Giants drafted Eldridge as a two-way player in July, though the 18-year-old made his professional debut exclusively as a hitter this year, batting an eye-popping .294/.400/.505 with six home runs over 31 games between the Rookie-level ACL Giants and Single-A San Jose. Eldridge said he hoped to get a chance to return to the mound during instructional league this fall, so it will be interesting to see how the Giants map out his development plan next season.