A little while back I previewed some of the pitchers the Giants might be targeting in this year’s amateur draft. Now I’d like to look at some of the hitters.
It’s interesting to note that, since John Barr took over as scouting director five years ago, the Giants have drafted exactly one high school position player in the top 5 rounds — Tommy Joseph in second round in 2009. Past draft preference doesn’t necessarily inform future draft strategy, but I think it’s an interesting note. In general, it seems like the Giants are more comfortable to pick from hitters that have gone through the crucible of college, but don’t show as much of that bias when evaluating pitchers.
There are only two high school hitters that I like in the first round:
Nick Ciuffo, C, Lexington (S.C.) High School. 6’1″, 205 lbs. #22 BA, #18 Keith Law
There are three prep catchers that could go in the first round: Ciuffo, Jonathan Denney out of Oklahoma, and Reese McGuire from Washington. Of the three, Ciuffo is probably the most well-rounded, but he doesn’t have the stand-out tools of the other two. He’ll take a little development with the bat but he’s got good instincts and movements on defense. Baseball America compares his competitive fire to A.J. Pierzynski, which might make you cringe but I believe is meant to be a compliment. He committed to the University of South Carolina before taking a varsity at-bat, but I believe he’d be signable at the 25th pick. Pretty high likelihood he’s off the board by the time the Giants pick, however.
Billy McKinney, OF, Plano West (Texas) HS. 6’2″, 195 lbs. #27 BA, #28 Keith Law
McKinney has a good chance to be on the board when the Giants pick, and he’s a bat-first high school prospect. He’s got a sweet left-handed swing with good bat speed that should generate both contact and power. He’s got good makeup and competitiveness, according to all accounts. His biggest red flag is the fact that he’s likely ticketed for left field in pro ball, which means he’s going to have to hit a lot to be a prospect. Still, at this point, there’s no reason to think that he won’t. A Texas Christian University commit, he should be signable at pick 25.
College hitters I like in the first round:
Eric Jagielo, 3B, University of Notre Dame. 6’3″, 215 lbs. #16 BA, #26 Keith Law
My favorite hitter that’s likely to be available at #25 is Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo. He’s a pure hitting who will hit for both average and power in the big leagues, with good bat speed, good zone control, and gap- and home-run-power that makes him one of the most polished hitters in the draft. His biggest knock was that scouts weren’t sold on his ability to stick at third, but he’s shown a lot of improvement in that area this spring and many feel that he’ll play average defense in pro ball. He hit 13 home runs in the wood-bat Cape Cod League last year in 160 plate appearances, as well as winning the league’s home run derby.
Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford University. 6’5″, 245 lbs. #29 BA, #15 Keith Law
Wilson is a tooled-up specimen of a human being who’s never tapped in to those tools fully at Stanford — a trait that happens a lot to hitters at that school, leading to some scouts to refer pejoratively to “the Stanford swing.” In any case, Wilson is an Athlete with a capital A, who will play right in pro-ball but has an above-average arm and great athleticism that will make him a plus fielder. His bat needs some work, but he’s got easy power — Law grades it a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He’s got some funky hitting mechanics that will need ironing out but the team that can do that could unleash a monster.
Aaron Judge, OF, Fresno State University. 6’7″, 255 lbs. #30 BA, #17 Keith Law
Aaron Judge is so big, he gets honest-to-goodness physical comparisons to Clippers forward Blake Griffin. Judge is a fantastic athlete who will stick in right. He’s got a short swing that helps him limit strikeouts as much as possible for a guy with a zone the size of Rhode Island, but it limits his in-game power. He shows off good power in batting practice, and a team that is willing to sit through 150 strikeouts could get 30 HR out of Judge. He’s an intriguing prospect because of his tools and his size, but there’s significant risk here as well.
Tim Anderson, SS, East Central (Mississippi) Community College. 6’1″, 180 lbs. #26 BA, #42 Keith Law
Anderson is an intriguing prospect for a lot of reasons. He didn’t play much baseball in high school due to basketball, only focusing on the sport his senior year. He didn’t even get drafted after his senior year last year; this year he could go in the first round. He’s a good athlete with an arm that might not last at short but could play well either at second base or in center field. He got more doubles power than home run power and an average hit tool. Offensively he’ll take some development but he should be able to hold his own in a position that won’t require a whole lot of offense. He’s committed to University of Alabama-Birmingham but he’ll sign with the team that drafts him.
Hunter Dozier, SS, Stephen F. Austin University, 6’4″, 220 lbs. #39 BA, #53 Keith Law
Dozier won’t be a shortstop in pro ball, but that won’t matter since he’ll likely hit wherever he plays. He’s got the arm and agility to be a good defensive third baseman, but probably doesn’t have the lateral quickness to stick at short or play second. He’s jumped up draft boards in the last year as he made some adjustments to get better leverage in his swing, resulting in extremely impressive statistics and Stephen F. Austin. He’d be an overdraft at 25 but that doesn’t matter to me, he’d be a solid pick there and he won’t last until 64, when the Giants have their second round pick.
Those are the hitters I like for the Giants’ first round selection in the amateur draft this year. Rather than have a “type” that they like to draft, it seems like the Giants build a board and draft the highest guy remaining when it’s their pick, which is a strategy I heartily endorse. That said, the farm system is rather devoid of truly impact-level players, and if given a choice I’d like the brain trust to go after someone with an elite ceiling.