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Giants dig deep to draft pitching talent

Day 2 features arms from colleges below Division I
Special to MLB.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- On Monday night, Giants assistant general manager John Barr reiterated his team's "best player available" approach to drafting, as opposed to drafting to fill any perceived need on the Major League roster.

Draft Tracker: Follow every Giants Draft pick

SAN FRANCISCO -- On Monday night, Giants assistant general manager John Barr reiterated his team's "best player available" approach to drafting, as opposed to drafting to fill any perceived need on the Major League roster.

Draft Tracker: Follow every Giants Draft pick

If the Giants' selections in Rounds 3-10 of the 2018 MLB Draft on Tuesday were any indication, it seems that they're identifying a wealth of collegiate pitching talent at schools off the beaten path.

The Draft concludes Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 9 a.m. PT.

Giants pick C Bart 2nd, tall righty at No. 45

San Francisco used six of its eight picks Tuesday on college pitchers, but only one came from a major conference school (Solomon Bates, USC), and Grand Canyon University right-hander Jake Wong, the club's first selection of the day, was the only other Division I player taken by the Giants.

In Blake Rivera and Keaton Winn, the Giants redrafted two high-upside junior college arms they found last season but didn't sign, and they also claimed Ben Madison and Alex DuBord out of the NAIA, a lower division of college baseball, with their final two picks of the day.

Round 3: RHP Jake Wong, Grand Canyon University (Ariz.)
Tim Salmon, by far the most notable alum of Grand Canyon's baseball program, threw out the first pitch when GCU opened its new baseball stadium in 2018.

But Wong formally christened the stadium by throwing six shutout innings and nine strikeouts against No. 4 TCU. Playing in the Western Athletic Conference, Wong didn't get to face premier opposition often, but when he got those chances, he'd rise to the occasion. He hurled six more scoreless innings against Penn State a month later, striking out 10. He also held Oklahoma State scoreless in the 2017 season opener. He departs college with the second-best ERA (3.59) and third-most strikeouts (168) in GCU Division 1 history.

Though he made his name as the Friday starter at GCU after transitioning from the bullpen after his freshman year, Wong saw perhaps the best success of his career as a reliever in the Cape Cod League, typically considered to be the toughest summer league. He finished as the 2017 league leader in WHIP (0.74) and retired 34 of the 36 hitters he faced in a remarkable July. He uses a sharp curveball and a changeup to complement his best pitch, a fastball in the low- to mid-90s.

Round 4: RHP Blake Rivera, Wallace State Community College (Ala.)
Eleven years ago, in the 2007 MLB Draft, a freshman right-hander out of Wallace State was drafted in the 33rd round. He returned to college, improved his Draft stock and was drafted in the third round a year later.

Last year, in the 2017 MLB draft, freshman Rivera of Wallace State was drafted in the 32nd round. He returned to college, improved his Draft stock and now finds himself a fourth-round selection of the Giants.

By the way, that first guy's name? Craig Kimbrel.

Drafted by the Giants for the second year in a row, the 6-foot-4 Rivera complements a power fastball with a changeup and a sharp curveball described as one of the best pitches in the southeast, and commands all three pitches well. He posted a 17-1 record with 170 strikeouts in 122 2/3 innings in two seasons for Wallace State, but scouts have inquired about his ability to close as well. He will always draw Kimbrel comparisons due to his circumstances -- and head coach Randy Putnam, who coached both at Wallace State, thinks Rivera is more polished now than Kimbrel was when he was drafted.

Video: Draft Report: Blake Rivera, college pitcher

Round 5: RHP Keaton Winn, Iowa Western Community College (Iowa)
Hailing from Ollie, Iowa, a small town of 215 located 40 miles from the nearest interstate highway, Winn largely escaped the notice of major college programs despite starring in football, baseball, basketball and track in high school.

But after going 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 51 innings as a freshman starter in 2017 for powerhouse Iowa Western Community College, the 6-foot-4 right-hander's strikeout numbers blew up in 2018, when he converted to closer and punched out 59 hitters while walking only nine in 36 1/3 innings.

Winn, like Rivera, was drafted by the Giants for the second year in a row; he had been San Francisco's 20th-round selection last season but opted to return to school. His best pitch is a 83-85 mph slider, which complements a two-seam fastball with life and a four-seamer in the low 90s.

Round 6: OF P.J. Hilson, Nettleton Senior HS (Ala.)
Speed is the name of the game for Hilson, who stole 45 bases in 73 games in his Nettleton career, but the toolsy switch-hitting outfielder can do it all: He walked 42 times with only 27 strikeouts in high school and also developed a power stroke during his senior season, in which he hit six homers and 12 doubles in 87 at-bats while hitting .402. He is committed to the University of Alabama, where he could also pitch, with his fastball having been recorded as high as 93 mph.

Hilson supplemented his high school career with appearances in the American Legion League, a youth league for ages 13 to 19 that counts 72 members of the MLB Hall of Fame among its alumni, playing for a team based in nearby Paragould, Ark.

Round 7: SS Edison Mora, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
You don't need to look too far to find a success story involving a shortstop from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy -- Astros star Carlos Correa was educated there before he was selected with the first overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft.

At 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, the right-handed Mora doesn't have Correa's prodigious physical tools at shortstop, but has a frame to build on and bolsters a Giants farm system that only has three middle infielders in its top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline.

Round 8: RHP Solomon Bates, Southern California
A native of Victorville, Calif., just northeast of the Los Angeles area, Bates stayed close to home by committing to USC, where he played alongside older brother R.J., a walk-on, for the Trojans. He didn't make an immediate impact, redshirting his freshman season before recording a 1-1 record and 4.50 ERA as a sophomore reliever.

Bates then emerged as a do-it-all force as a junior in 2018, pitching the second-most innings on the team and leading Trojans starters with a 3.14 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings, though he did struggle with the long ball, allowing a team-leading 10 homers. He was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention.

Round 9: RHP Ben Madison, Central Baptist College (Ala.)
As a junior in 2018, Madison dominated hitters with a fastball touching 96 mph, setting a Central Baptist College record and leading the NAIA with 172 strikeouts in 96 2/3 innings, good for a 16.0 K/9 rate. He was named NAIA All-America honorable mention, America Midwest Conference Co-Pitcher of the Year and first-team all-AMC as he led Central Baptist College to its fifth straight 30-win season.

Round 10: RHP Alex DuBord, Faulkner
Though originally slated to enroll at Middle Tennessee State University, DuBord remained at Neosho County Community College in Kansas for his sophomore season before enrolling at Faulkner as a junior in 2018. The 6-foot-5 native of Fargo, N.D., was a three-sport athlete in hockey, football and baseball in high school and went 7-1 with a 4.01 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 14 walks in 51 2/3 innings for Faulker, the No. 1 seed in the 2018 Avista-NAIA World Series.

Do-Hyoung Park is a contributor to MLB.com based in the Bay Area.

San Francisco Giants