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College talent is crux of Giants' Draft haul

Catcher Bart and pitchers Hjelle, Wong, Rivera highlight early-round picks
Special to MLB.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants, traditionally a franchise with a college emphasis in drafting, surprised many last season when they took a trio of high-upside high school prospects in the first three rounds of the 2017 MLB Draft.

Draft Tracker: Every Giants pick

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants, traditionally a franchise with a college emphasis in drafting, surprised many last season when they took a trio of high-upside high school prospects in the first three rounds of the 2017 MLB Draft.

Draft Tracker: Every Giants pick

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

But in 2018, San Francisco reestablished its focus on college talent, and pitching in particular, as it used the second overall pick on the mature bat of Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart and took college arms with seven of its next nine picks.

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

San Francisco added five prospects ranked in MLB Pipeline's top 200, headlined by Bart (No. 6) and a trio of established college aces in Sean Hjelle (Kentucky, No. 44), Jake Wong (Grand Canyon, No. 72) and Blake Rivera (Wallace State CC, No. 111). The club took No. 94 prospect Brett Hansen, a left-hander from local Pleasanton, Calif., in the 38th round, but he is expected to attend Vanderbilt in the fall.

Giants dig deep to draft pitching talent

The Giants, who had drafted 19 high schoolers in the previous three Drafts, used 35 of 40 picks on collegiate talent. Ten came from junior colleges, headlined by fourth-rounder Rivera, fifth-rounder Keaton Winn (Iowa Western CC) and 13th-rounder George Bell Jr. (Connors State College), the son of 1987 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner George Bell.

Giants draft son of former MVP Bell in 13th

In fact, of the five high schoolers selected by the Giants, only Hansen and speedy sixth-round outfielder Patrick Hilson, drafted out of Nettleton HS (Ark.), were from the continental United States.

Video: Giants select Sean Hjelle in 2nd round

Shortstop Edison Mora (Round 7), outfielder Bryan Hernandez (Round 18) and catcher Angel Guzman (Round 21), the other three pre-collegians, were all drafted out of Puerto Rico.

Selected with a rare top-five pick, only the fifth in franchise history, Bart gives the Giants the sure bat they coveted (.359 average, 16 homers, 1.103 OPS in 57 games this season) in a Draft light on premier catching talent, and perhaps an heir apparent to the 31-year-old Buster Posey behind the plate, though the Giants are a "best player available" organization that doesn't consider Major League need in its drafting.

Video: Draft 2018: Giants draft RHP Jake Wong No. 80

"We, as a philosophy here -- and that's throughout our organization here -- we don't draft for need for what our big league club is, because a lot can happen in a one-year period of time or different years," scouting director John Barr said.

San Francisco has built a large chunk of its homegrown core with effective drafting in the middle rounds, with a number of first-rounders (Madison Bumgarner, Chris Stratton, Posey, Joe Panik) complemented by players like second-rounder Andrew Suarez, third-rounder Mac Williamson and fifth-rounders Brandon Belt and Ty Blach.

SF's 4th-rounder drawing Kimbrel comparisons

With that in mind, the Giants' selections in the top 10 rounds suggest that this could be a class that builds towards the pitching staff of the future, with Hjelle (7-5, 3.44 ERA) and Wong (9-3, 2.81 ERA) flashing potential as rotation arms.

Video: Draft Report: Blake Rivera, College pitcher

Rivera's curveball might be one of the best pitches in this Draft, and he has drawn comparisons to Craig Kimbrel for his journey, repertoire and mentality despite having started for two years in college. Winn excelled as both a starter and a reliever at the junior college level.

In total, the Giants drafted 23 pitchers, four catchers, seven outfielders and six infielders. According to MLB Pipeline, the Giants' top 30 prospects include 14 pitchers, two catchers, nine outfielders (including five in the top six) and five infielders.

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

San Francisco Giants