The Giants stunned the industry by reeling off a franchise-record 107 wins and capturing the National League West title this past season, but they had plenty to celebrate at the lower levels of the organization, as well.
Even with the cancellation of the Minor League season in 2020, the Giants saw several of their top prospects take promising steps forward in their development this year. Two of their biggest standouts -- outfielder Jairo Pomares and right-hander Ryan Murphy -- were recognized as the Giants’ hitting and pitching prospects of the year, respectively, by MLB Pipeline.
Pomares, who is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Giants’ No. 9 prospect, missed the first six weeks of the season while rehabbing a back injury, but he made up for lost time once he returned to the field. The 21-year-old slugger hit a scorching .372 with a 1.122 OPS and 14 home runs over 51 games with Low-A San Jose before earning a promotion to High-A Eugene in August.
“I think we've always viewed him as one of those kids that had a natural ability to hit,” director of player development Kyle Haines said. “It was easy to see that someday his power would develop. I didn't know when it would develop, but we kind of envisioned it more at the Double-A or Triple-A level, or even in the Major Leagues. I think it was a very pleasant surprise that his ability to hit and then also drive the ball for extra bases and home runs really popped up really quick.”
Pomares, a native of Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, who signed for $975,000 in 2018, slowed down against more advanced competition, hitting .262 with a .774 OPS over 26 games with the Emeralds. He continued to flash his left-handed power stroke, though, recording a .505 slugging percentage over 103 at-bats at the next level. Overall, he placed third in the Minors in slugging (.629), fifth in OPS (1.007) and sixth in hitting (.334).
“I thought he handled the jump fairly well,” Haines said. “That seemed to be a big jump for a lot of players this year. I think with the reduction in the size of the Minor Leagues, each jump is now going to become greater than it was before. He went through some ups and downs, but overall, he was still a force in the middle of that lineup and really jumped in. He definitely didn't destroy [pitching] like he did in San Jose. It was going to be hard to keep up that pace the rest of the year, anyways.”
The Giants considered trying Pomares in center field, though Haines said the organization feels he’s best suited to play the corner outfield.
“I think we kind of hoped that maybe he could try to survive in center field,” Haines said. “But it kind of looks like he's just more destined for the corner as he's filled out and gotten stronger and kind of settled in there. It kind of fits his demeanor a little better, too. Center fielders, sometimes you want that leader out there helping shift defenses around. Pomares is kind of a quiet kid who just kind of likes to do his thing. Between his athleticism and his demeanor, he probably fits best on the corners.”
“They've been around each other for a long time,” Haines said. “I think they’re buddies, but they're also trying not to let one get ahead of the other. They’ve got a good competitive spirit.”
Selected in the fifth round of the 2020 Draft out of Division II Le Moyne College, Murphy enjoyed perhaps the biggest breakout season of any Giants prospect this year, logging a 2.52 ERA over 21 starts between San Jose and Eugene.
The 22-year-old right-hander, who signed for $22,500 as the Giants’ seventh and final pick of last year’s truncated Draft, ranked second in the Minors with a 39.3 strikeout percentage and third with 164 strikeouts over 107 1/3 innings. Murphy mixes a low- to mid-90s fastball with a slider and changeup, giving him a high floor as a No. 4 or 5 starter.
“I really give a lot of credit to Ryan Murphy,” Haines said. “I think he thrived in the environment and asked really good questions. He really did a great job of obviously listening to coaches but also developing himself. I think he's very driven. He's very hungry for knowledge, and he wants to get better. He deserves a lot of credit for the year that he had and his development this year.”
Murphy, who is ranked the Giants’ No. 21 prospect, was limited to six starts at Eugene by a back injury, but he came back to strike out seven over five scoreless innings in Game 4 of the High-A West Championship Series, clinching the title for the Emeralds.
“I think that might have been one of the biggest stories all year for him because he kind of had a little back thing that popped up,” Haines said. “It would have been very easy for someone who had such a good year to almost mentally check out and think his year is over. But he kept pushing himself to come back. When he came back, he was just as good. He didn't really miss a beat as he took some time off to get right. And then he went out there in that Game 4 and really threw the team on his shoulders. He really showed why he was one of the more dominant pitchers in Minor League baseball this past year.”
The Giants still haven’t decided where Pomares and Murphy will open the 2022 campaign, but neither is likely to reach the Majors next year. Still, Haines said he believes the postseason experience both received at Eugene could help create a winning culture from top to bottom and help sustain the positive momentum the entire Giants organization generated this year.
“In general, it’s great for these players to develop and win at the same time,” Haines said. “Because that’s what we’re going to ask of them in the Major Leagues, to continue to grow themselves and then also make sure each and every night make sure their team comes out on the positive end of the scoreboard. That demeanor definitely has an effect on their ability to be a successful Major League player and win in the big leagues.”