These Giants prospects are on the rise

October 19th, 2022

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.

The Giants’ farm system took a dip in MLB Pipeline’s most recent organizational rankings, falling from No. 11 to No. 18 this year following a bit of regression from some of the club’s better prospects.

To bolster their player development efforts, the Giants recently hired Pete Putila away from the Astros and named him their new general manager under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. Putila, who has an extensive background in player development, should play a major role in shaping the club’s development processes and infrastructure moving forward.

The ultimate aim for the Giants will be establishing a steady pipeline of talent that will help turn them back into perennial contenders in the near future. Here’s a look at a few rising prospects who could be part of San Francisco’s next core of homegrown stars.

3 players who forced their way onto the radar this year 

1. LHP Kyle Harrison (Giants No. 2 prospect, No. 21 overall) 
Viewed as the top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, Harrison led the Minors in strikeout rate (14.8 per nine innings) and strikeout percentage (39.8) while posting a 2.71 ERA, .196 opponent average and 186 strikeouts in 113 innings between High-A Eugene and Double-A Richmond. Harrison is expected to open the 2023 campaign at Triple-A Sacramento, but Zaidi has already said he expects the 21-year-old to be part of the Giants’ pitching plans next year.

“We expect him to be in our rotation at some point next year,” Zaidi said. “Could even be relatively early in the season.”

2. OF Vaun Brown (No. 10) 
No Giants prospect raised his stock this year as much as Brown, who went from a 10th-round fifth-year senior sign in 2021 to leading the Minors in hitting (.346) and OPS (1.060) while ranking third in slugging (.623) and sixth in on-base percentage (.437). He posted 23 homers and 44 steals in 103 games while climbing from Single-A San Jose to Double-A Richmond. At 24, Brown is on the older side, so he’ll have to continue to prove himself as he faces tougher competition at each level.

3. OF Grant McCray (No. 4) 
A third-round Draft pick of the Giants in 2019, McCray was slowed by injuries early in his career, but he finally put it all together this season, delivering the first 20-20 season in the 34-year history of the San Jose Giants. Overall, the 21-year-old batted .289 with an .897 OPS, 23 home runs and 43 steals in 120 games between Single-A San Jose and High-A Eugene in 2022.

2 possible breakout players to watch in 2023 

1. OF Luis Matos (No. 3) 
Matos endured a disappointing season with High-A Eugene this year, batting only .211 with a .619 OPS and 11 homers over 91 games. The 20-year-old Venezuelan missed time with a quad injury and never seemed to find his rhythm at the plate, but he’s looking more like himself in the Arizona Fall League, where he entered Wednesday batting .256 with a .769 OPS and two homers over 11 games. Despite his struggles, Matos is likely to open next year at Double-A Richmond and could move quickly if he regains the form he showed during his breakout season in 2021, when he hit .313 with an .852 OPS and 15 homers over 109 games with Single-A San Jose.

2. INF Casey Schmitt (No. 6)  
An elite defender, Schmitt appears in line to eventually succeed Evan Longoria as the Giants’ long-term answer at third base. The 23-year-old was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento at the end of the 2022 season, batting .293 with an .854 OPS and 21 home runs in 126 games across three Minor League levels. Schmitt frequently draws comparisons to three-time Gold Glove Award winner Matt Chapman, so if he can continue to take steps forward with the bat, he could be making his debut in San Francisco sooner rather than later.

1 big question for next season 

When will No. 1 prospect Marco Luciano arrive? 

A back injury sidelined Luciano for two months this year, but he continued to flash his tremendous raw power and exceptional bat speed when healthy, batting .263 with a .798 OPS and 10 homers over 57 games with High-A Eugene. The 21-year-old shortstop is recouping at-bats by playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic this offseason, which could set him up to make his long-awaited leap to the Majors in 2023. Like Matos, Luciano is expected to open next year at Double-A Richmond, but the Giants won’t hesitate to promote him if he shows he can dominate at each remaining level in the Minors.