Giants high-upside Draft picks already turning heads

March 16th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The top of the Giants system, lefty as the exception, is very hitter-heavy. After Harrison, in fact, there are six straight bats leading their Top 30. The 2022 Draft class could change the balance of power to the mound.

The Giants took six pitchers out of the gate in last year’s Draft and four of them are in this year’s Top 30. The top two picks, and , are in the top 10 and represent a big roll of the dice the organization took at the top of the Draft a year ago.

“When you pick 30th like we did last year and you’re not one of those teams that gets a competitive balance pick, it’s really hard to be creative because you don’t have a pool of money to work with,” Giants senior director of player development Kyle Haines said. “Considering where we picked in both rounds, at the very end, the upside we got? It’s hard to get that when you don’t have pool money to be creative with."

That upside comes with some question marks. Crawford, the first-rounder, was a two-way player at Connecticut, but has just eight collegiate innings on the mound, blowing out his elbow in the fall before his junior year. Whisenhunt, taken in Round 2, didn’t throw a pitch for East Carolina after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. The Giants may have gotten two top of the first round caliber college lefties, or they might have swung and missed.

“The wild card is the Crawford-Whisenhunt mix because those guys could have easily been top 15 picks if things happened differently for them last year,” Haines said. “I feel we’ve gotten two very high risk, but also high reward arms that could easily jump up prospect rankings or just fly through our system. Or they could be behind the 8 ball and their rust could show.”

Crawford was slowed additionally by a bout with mono, so he’ll be a little delayed out of the gate this year. But he’s looked very good in bullpen sessions this spring, already showing the arm strength scouts were initially intrigued by, and the Giants haven’t completely thrown out the idea of letting him keep swinging the bat.

“It’s pretty loud velo and as he’s started to throw some offspeed, it’s good,” Haines said. “He’s much more in control of his delivery than I anticipated myself.

“I think we're still toying with the idea of as he progresses as a pitcher, does he still get to hit and try and work on it? The power is real. I think the hit tool we’ll want to see as he gets more reps to see whether that's real. He's probably a draftable player as a position player probably later in the Draft. But the high round is definitely because of the arm.”

Whisenhunt got a little work in last summer and then some innings in the Arizona Fall League. He’s not coming off an injury, obviously, but there was some concern, given his lack of physicality and long layoff, about what he might look like this spring. The Giants are pleased with the results thus far.

“Carson looks a little more muscular; he’s always had a thinner frame,” Haines said. “We’re continuing to work on his strength. You never know how it’s going to look coming into camp, but he came in ready to go."

Camp standout: Liam Simon

The Giants’ fifth-rounder from last year’s Draft out of Notre Dame, Simon doesn’t have the same name recognition as Crawford or Whisenhunt, but the 6-foot-4 right-hander was on MLB Pipeline’s Draft Top 250 last year because of his arm strength. There’s no question he can miss bats, striking out 13.9 in his career at Notre Dame, 16.4 in 2022. But he had a hard time getting regular innings because of issues with finding the strike zone, with a career walk rate of 8.2 per nine to show for it. The Giants have worked with him on getting his lower half in sync, which was causing his delivery to fall apart, leading to the wildness. Early returns with the new mechanics have been encouraging.

“I’ve been very surprised by his quick growth,” Haines said. “He’s upper 90s with an absolute wipeout breaking ball but command issues kept him off the mound for Notre Dame. He’s been very competitive and his misses are very competitive misses. All the questions have always been around the walk rate, and I think we’ve got him close and in the strike zone enough to where this guy is absolutely electric and could jump to be a top guy, or he could walk guys and you’ll say, 'That guy just walks everybody in A ball who throws 97-99 mph.'

“It will be interesting because he has a great starter’s delivery and plus stuff. If what we’ve seen so far continues to translate and continues to grow, maybe we have something very intriguing."

Something to prove: Patrick Bailey

Bailey was the Giants’ first-round pick in 2020, taken No. 13 overall out of North Carolina State. Currently the No. 11 prospect in the system, the switch-hitting backstop has battled some back issues in his two full years of pro ball, which has certainly limited his offensive production. While there are no complaints about his defense -- Haines thinks he’s one of the best defensive catchers in the Minor Leagues -- his work in the batter’s box (.247/.355/.425 to date) has been just OK, and Haines thinks there’s more in there.

“I think he’s capable of being great,” Haines said. “He seems to always start slow in the season, so he's just making sure he’s ready to go early in the year. He’s in a good spot to take another step. He kind of needs to do it because if he does, there are openings in the big leagues for him.

“The catching? There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll catch. Is he a nice backup? Or is he a nice everyday guy? That’s a question to be answered."

Breakout candidate: Spencer Miles

Let’s finish up with another arm from that 2022 Draft. Miles was the Giants’ fourth-rounder out of Missouri and had a solid, but brief, pro debut after signing. He snuck on to the end of the club’s Top 30 (No. 28), but he could make a large leap with a strong first full season. Haines thinks that pitching for a subpar team in college -- the Tigers went 10-20 in SEC play last year -- kept Miles and his stuff a little bit hidden.

“I watch this guy right now, I don’t know how this guy didn’t dominate in college,” Haines said. “Maybe the defense wasn’t great behind him or balls found holes, that Missouri team wasn’t very good, but I think if he pitches on a better team, I could easily see him in the top 60 picks of the Draft. He has a very good delivery, he’s very athletic, he has a good breaking ball. He looks the part of a guy."