For years, the Giants were thought of as the clams of the the MLB draft. “Close to the vest.” “Hard to read.” “Tough to predict.” These were the phrases you tended to hear in mock drafts when it came to the Giants’ predictions. But with their highest draft position in a generation, the Giants were pure chalk — taking two players at the top of their draft to whom they’d been connected for more than a month. And then they rounded out their top 5 rounds with two different pitchers that they’d already selected in the 2017 draft.
Let’s take a look at what the top of the 2018 draft brought the Giants.
1.2 Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech (DOB: 12/15/96)
The Giants interest in Bart was the worst kept secret in baseball leading up to the draft, with Fangraphs reporting that the Giants had been on Bart “more than any team has been on any player this draft.” Bart combines some of the draft class’ best RH power with an incredible arm and solid defensive skills. Practically a unicorn among amateur catchers, Bart is also renowned for calling his own game, rather than taking pitch calls from the bench. In addition, the Giants, fell in love with Bart’s work ethic and mental toughness. And they’re not the only ones who loved them some Bart — Joey ended the year as the ACC’s Player of the Year.
In the run-up to the draft, Giants fans got in something of a lather as to what the selection of a C meant for the future of Buster Posey. But it’s a solid philosophy that in drafting you take the guy you want and let the future work itself out. It’s also a solid philosophy to spend top 5 picks on the best college bats, and with their pick of the litter, the Giants got the one they loved the most. Bart’s batting practice sessions this year were something of a thing of legend, as he’d methodically spray balls out of the park to right, to center, and then to left.
As for his defense?
— Josh Nelson (@soxmachine_josh) May 9, 2018
In a draft without a great supply of college hitters with a track record and with very little in the way of catcher depth, the Giants feel like they walked away with the best college hitter and by far the draft class’ best Catcher.
2.45 Sean Hjelle, RHP — University of Kentucky (DOB: 5/7/97)
The Giants have shown a strong love for tall right handed pitchers for years, so their affection for the Wildcats bean pole wasn’t terribly surprising. In Hjelle they’ve got an athletic pitcher with a very unique arm angle and plane, who still has room to fill out his 6’11” frame. If Hjelle makes it to the majors, he’ll be the tallest player in major league history. (Of course, it wasn’t so long ago that draft experts wondered if Aaron Judge, who is the tallest position player to play regularly in the majors, was too big for the game as well).
This draft was famous for it’s large pool of flame throwing high school right handers, but the Giants all along had their eye on Hjelle (whose name is pronounced “Jelly”) at the #45 spot. And college observers had long been in love with SEC Pitcher of the Year as well:
Love the Giants Sean Hjelle pick. Going to be a long-time big leaguer. May be more back of the rotation than front of rotation, but really good feel, solid stuff and impressive competitiveness.
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 5, 2018
3.80 Jake Wong, RHP — Grand Canyon University (DOB: 9/13/96)
The Giants didn’t have to go far to scout Wong, who plays his regular season game just a few miles away from their spring training home (and minor league headquarters) in Scottsdale, AZ. But if they did need extra looks, the RHP gave it to them at their favorite scouting grounds — the Cape Cod League. Wong combines a mid-90s fastball with intriguing secondaries that may round out into a starter’s repertoire — but if not he could move quickly as a reliever. The Giants will certainly give him every opportunity to develop as a starting pitcher however.
Interestingly, Wong wasn’t his family’s only star athlete at Grand Canyon University!
— McCovey Chronicles (@McCoveyChron) June 5, 2018
4.106 Blake Rivera, RHP — Wallace State Community College (DOB: 1/9/98)
— JockJive Sports (@JockJive) April 28, 2018
It’s a truism of Giants‘ development that “they like who they like,” and nowhere is that more clear than in their 4th and 5th picks this year — both of whom were redrafts from their 2017 selections. The Giants drafted Rivera in the 32nd round out of High School, but he chose to head to a Community College and see if he could move up in the draft instead. In 2018, the Giants selected the Auburn University commit 28 rounds higher and this time, they got their guy.
For a Junior College kid, Rivera’s got some pretty high expectations to live up to. It so happens, that the live-armed right-hander with one of the nastiest breaking balls in the draft class, attended the same JC as Craig Kimbrel. And his college coach thinks Rivera is more advanced coming out of WSCC than the more famous alum:
Wallace State baseball’s Blake Rivera was drafted in the 4th round by the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday, the highest draft pick out of WSCC since Craig Kimbrel. Rivera was also the first JUCO player selected! Check out his thoughts here: https://t.co/81X6kbR4xB @WallaceBaseball pic.twitter.com/BPyCyxCZ43
— Wallace State (@wallacestate) June 5, 2018
No pressure, kid! Rivera could be posed to move very quickly in the Giants‘ system as a high leverage, late-inning reliever.
5.135 Keaton Winn, RHP — Iowa Western Community College (DOB:2/20/98)
The Iowa JC ranks have been good to the Giants lately, as they plucked OF sleeper Malique Ziegler from Northern Iowa Community College three years ago. This time they went to Western Iowa to grab Winn, who they had missed out on with their 20th round pick in 2017. The RHP made use of his year in college, striking out 56 batters in 51 IP and standing out in a strong community college competition in the midwest:
— IWCC Reiver Baseball (@ReiverBaseball) April 25, 2018
Other Sleeper Picks
The Giants went heavy after college pitching in this draft, but one interesting college bat they took in the 11th round was University of South Florida’s 3b David Villar, who made strides with both his defense and his in game power in 2018.
17th rounder Ryan Olenek, out of University of Mississippi made a fan of Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, who named him one of his favorite potential Day 3 draft picks.
PJ Hilson was the Giants first (and one of the very few) picks out of the High School ranks. The plus speed CF could have a fallback option on the pitching mound, as he features a plus plus arm. First he’ll give the hitting thing a try though.
And finally, the draft is only one half of the mid-summer amateur acquisition season. In two weeks the international signing season will open, and if there’s been a more persistent rumor this year than the Giants‘ interest in Joey Bart, it’s been their attachment to Dominican SS Marco Luciano, considered one of the top two hitters in this year’s J2 class. The top of the Giants‘ prospects lists are about to get a shakeup.
The most effective defensive positioning I've seen yet against Marco Luciano. Athletic, power-hitting SS from the Dominican Republic, one of the top 16-year-old international prospects in the 2018 class. Eligible to sign on July 2. 📹 @ben.badler – #hitting #homerun #baseballplayer #mlb #baseballislife
Featured image graphic – via MLB.com
Roger is a hopelessly lost Californian living in Capitol Hill in Washington DC. A life-long Giants fan raised on the days of Mays, McCovey, and Marichal, he can remember seeing the legendary players of the 50s and 60s (Aaron, Clemente, Robinson) but still loves the legendary players of today just as much (Trout, Harper). Roger also writes for McCovey Chronicles on SportsNation, where he chronicles the daily box scores of the entire Giants’ system. He can be followed on Twitter @rog61.