Starting in October and running through the end of the year, MiLB.com's State of the System series will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each Major League organization, highlights prospects who've made the biggest strides in 2020 and offers a peek at 2021.
Following a decade in which the San Francisco Giants won three World Series titles, the National League West club began 2020 with a new manager and revived hope after missing the postseason three years in a row. The Giants made a push for a playoff spot this season, finishing just outside of the picture.
That push included some of the team’s top prospects making their big league debuts, among them Joey Bart (No. 1) and Luis Alexander Basabe (No. 18) while Jaylin Davis (No. 13) returned to The Show after getting a taste of it in 2019.
Including Bart (No. 11 overall), five Giants stand ready to make an impact rank among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects -- just one behind the Mariners, Rays and Marlins for the most by an organization -- with Marco Luciano (No. 29), Heliot Ramos (No. 60), Hunter Bishop (No. 66) and Seth Corry (No. 94).
The arrival of Bart in the Majors was much anticipated and he didn’t disappoint, showcasing his defensive skills behind the plate while hit .233 with five doubles, two triples and seven RBIs in 103 at-bats down the stretch in the playoff race. Kyle Haines, the Giants’ director of player development, believes Bart possesses a special talent.
“Just his ability to be an above-average catcher with a power bat,” Haines said. “It just really sets him apart from his peers, and obviously really good for him to be able to get some time in the Major Leagues and try to help our team make the playoffs and take his development to that level.”
System strengths: It’s a good problem to have, but Haines and the Giants may have too much potential in the outfield, specifically in the middle. Four of the club’s top 10 prospects -- Ramos, Bishop, Alexander Canario (No.7) and Luis Matos (No. 9) -- can fill the No. 8 spot on the scorecard.
“We just have a lot of really good talents out there, especially center fielders,” Haines said. “We can't even get them all in center field for the playing time, because we have so many of them.”Ramos is quickly climbing up the ranks. The 19th overall pick in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft put together a solid 2019 season between Class A Advanced and Double-A, posting a .290/.361/.481 slash line with 16 homers, one triple, 24 doubles, 64 runs scored and 55 RBIs while committing just two errors in 193 total chances, earning a spot on the Giants’ MiLB.com Organization All-Stars.
Bishop, the 10th overall pick in 2019, only has 32 professional games under his belt. In time at the Rookie and Class A Short Season levels, the 6-foot-5 outfielder hit .229 with five dingers, one triple, four doubles, 25 runs and 12 RBIs. Possibly one of the best athletes in the Giants system, he originally committed to play football at Washington. Instead, he decided to focus completely on baseball at Arizona State.
Canario had his best pro season last year, batting .318 with 16 homers, 54 RBIs and 51 runs across two different levels, while Matos also burst onto the scene in 2019. The 18-year-old Venezuela native raked for a .367 average with seven homers, 25 doubles, 65 runs, 48 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in just 60 games.
Areas for growth: Out of the top 14 Giants prospects, only three are pitchers, but those three are coming along nicely, especially Corry. The 6-foot-2 southpaw earned almost every award possible in 2019 including Most Outstanding Pitcher in the South Atlantic League. In 27 appearances (26 starts), Corry posted a 9-3 record and 1.76 ERA over 122 2/3 innings. The 22-year-old led the Sally League -- and the organization -- with 172 strikeouts while limiting opponents to a Minor League-best .171 average and walking just 58.
“He's really done a great job over last year, going back into mid-2019 at limiting those walks,” Haines said. “Those were always what seemed to bite him. He's always shown the plus stuff even out of the Draft, but we're seeing good fastball. We saw a little bit of a fastball velocity increase in instructionals this fall. He's throwing strikes, and now the changeup has come around. So we're looking for a three-pitch lefty with three average to above-average pitches.”
Sean Hjelle (No. 10) is an intimidating guy on the bump. At 6-foot-11, the right-hander can bring the heat up to 96 mph and sports an excellent knuckle-curve along with great command, especially for a pitcher his size. In 2019, he put up a 2.66 ERA in nine Class A appearances and a 2.78 ERA in 14 Class A Advanced appearances, although he struggled a bit with the jump to Double-A, allowing 17 earned runs in 25 1/3 innings spanning five starts.
What changed in 2020: Actually, not much. The top four prospects stayed the same while Logan Webb, ranked No. 5 in 2019, graduated.
In the June Draft, San Francisco surprised some by taking a catcher, Patrick Bailey, with the 13th overall pick. Bailey became the club’s sixth-ranked prospect, and according to director of amateur scouting Michael Holmes, the team's not fretting about having another top-tier catcher.
"We don't look at it as a bad thing to have two of the very best," Holmes told MiLB.com in June. "I actually think it creates opportunity when they get to the Major League level for our manager to have some flexibility ... depending how the game moves forward with the expansion of rosters and possibly the universal designated hitter. There will be plenty of opportunities for both Joey and Patrick."
The Giants then took two-way player Casey Schmitt at No. 49 and the team projects him to be a third baseman. With two compensation picks in the second round, they opted for left-handed pitcher Nick Swiney (No. 67) out of North Carolina State and Jimmy Glowenke (No. 68), a shortstop from Dallas Baptist University. Another lefty in Kyle Harrison (No. 85), right-hander R.J. Dabovich (No. 114) and righty Ryan Murphy (No. 144) rounded out the Draft take this year.
Alternate site standouts: Haines didn’t hesitate to point out Hunter Bishop as a prospect who stood out during workouts at the alternate site in Sacramento. Despite a late start after testing positive for COVID-19, the 22-year-old outfielder still had time to impress.
“When he was able to get into game shape, I thought he drove the ball really well,” Haines said. “I thought his approach and his swing-and-miss reduced. He just seemed to become the well-rounded player I think we expected when we drafted him.”
Luciano also made substantial improvements during his time in Sacramento.
“I thought he made the most progress on the defensive side,” Haines said. “He worked really hard at the alternate site with our infield coordinator [Jason Wood], did a really nice job each day, taking that work serious. Obviously, he got a lot of valuable at-bats there, and the bat is what everyone likes to talk about. But our hope is that hopefully [he'll be] a shortstop, and we'll see where it goes, but that he could be a key piece of our team going forward for a long time.”
Impact rookies: All the attention was on Bart, and deservedly so. He has been crowned the heir apparent to Buster Posey since his selection with the second overall pick in the 2018 Draft. In 231 1/3 innings behind the plate for the big league Giants, Bart committed just two errors while allowing two passed balls.
Haines thinks the sky is the limit for the 23-year-old catcher.
“Really think he has a chance to really be a big part of our offense going forward and then also be an above-average defensive catcher and help in both scoring runs and preventing runs,” he said.
Next big thing: Well, there's Bart, Luciano, Ramos and Corry, and those four are definitely expected to be part of a young core who will be at the big league level sooner than later. Then look out for Bailey, the young catcher to make some noise in the Minors and work his way up the ladder once he gets used to the professional game.
Right-handed pitchers Blake Rivera and Gregory Santos are also guys to keep an eye on. Rivera has an above-average fastball and an excellent curveball that could make him lethal as a reliever. In 2019, the 6-foot-4 righty struck out 87 batters in 75 frames. Santos, who came over from the Red Sox in a 2017 trade involving Eduardo Nunez, has a plus fastball that reaches 98 mph and has a drop that makes it difficult on hitters.
Brian Stultz is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianjstultz.