|Original Published Date: January 4, 2019|
The cost of three Championship in five years is a bottom five farm system and a large rebuilding effort in front of the San Francisco Giants. Their remaining star player’s value has diminished and at least two, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey are iconic, so moving them would be emotionally difficult for the team.
While the system is shallow, there are three potential impact major league players at the top of the system, one who has star potential. Their first-round pick from 2018, Joey Bart is not Buster Posey but has the skills to have a long major league career. Heliot Ramos failed to build on his nice 2017 season but still has intriguing and impactful skills. Marcos Luciano is only 16 but was one of the Top International signees last season and has impact skills. He’s five years away, but if things come together, he has star potential.
After those three, things get murky. While I like Alexander Canario, Sean Hjelle and even 28-year-old Ray Black, the rest you can put in a bag, shake it hard, and then order them how you like.
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1. Joey Bart (C)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 C
After an impressive junior year at Georgia Tech, the Giants made Joey Bart the second overall pick in last June’s MLB Draft. The $7 million dollars signing bonus was significant but when you post a 1.103 OPS with 16 home runs with plus defensive, teams take note.
Once signed, Bart kept on hitting. In 51 games across the AZL and the Northwest League, he hit .294/.364 with 13 home runs. Leading up to draft day, the one concern express about Bart was the hit tool. In his debut, those concerns were still not answered as he struck out too much (21%) and rarely walked. But he’s a catcher and if he can hit 20 home runs and play great defense, most teams will live with a .240 to .250 batting average.
Defense is where Bart will excel. He’s a good catcher with a plus arm and despite being 6-foot-3, moves well behind the plate. One evaluator that I spoke with compared him to Matt Wieters, who in his prime was a very good defensive catcher who could provide some pop at the plate.
While I’m anxious to see Bart play against more advanced competition, the ceiling for me is a Top 10 catcher in fantasy with an average of .250/.320 with 20 home runs. He’s a 40-grade runner so stolen bases will not be part of the equation. The total package should make him one of the top catchers taken in fantasy drafts but will not put him in the discussion of the elite offensive catchers in the league.
2. Heliot Ramos (OF)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
The two top positional players last year in the AZL were Giants first-round draft pick Heliot Ramos (pick 19) and Los Angeles Angels first-round pick Jo Adell (pick 10). In fact, in limited action, Ramos posted an OPS 150 points higher than Adell. Spin forward 12 months and there has been some clear separation from the two elite prospects. Adell totally blew up last season, making it to Double-A as a teenager, and Ramos struggled, starting the year in Low-A and finishing the year at the same level.
What happened? Well, Adell’s hit-tool was more advanced than anyone thought (maybe except for the Angels). Ramos, on the other hand, posted a 25% strikeout rate and only walked 6.5% of the time. Because of his inability to make contact and a poor approach, he was in poor hitting counts far too often and he was unable to get to his secondary tools. Consequently, he only hit 11 home runs with a .396 SLG, stealing only eight bases.
But, if you dig a little deeper and look at the splits, most of his struggles were in the first half. At the end of May, he was hitting a paltry .224 with a .365 SLG. Things improved as he adjusted to the league and he hit .260 with a .420 SLG the rest of the way. Granted, those numbers won’t get you in the Hall of Fame, but I still like the swing and believe there is 20 plus home run potential. While he’s a good runner, as he fills out, the 20 stolen base potential he has now will regress.
3. Marcos Luciano (SS/3B/OF)
Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2023+ Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS/3B or Top 30 OF with extreme risk
The Giants signed Marcos Luciano, arguably the Top International talent available in the 2018-19 signing period. He didn’t come cheap as they shelled out a $2.6 million dollar signing bonus to secure the 6-2 shortstop. His carrying tool is premium bat speed that could project into double-plus in-game power. In showcases, he’s shown a smooth and leveraged right-handed swing with a sense of an approach at the plate. He’s athletic and is a good runner but as he naturally fills out, his speed will likely fade.
At 16-years-old, he has yet to play in even the DSL so he’s a lifetime away from the Major Leagues. In fact, I’m not even sure what position he will ultimately play. While he’s played shortstop to-date, there’s a good chance he’ll grow out of the position and move to third or even the outfield. If you’re in a Dynasty League and have five or more years to wait, Luciano should be a target in rookie drafts this spring.
4. Sean Hjelle (RHP)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
I’m not sure what to think of Sean Hjelle. First, he was very effective over his college career at Kentucky. As a freshman, he closed eight games before moving to the rotation where in his draft year, he pitched to a 3.44 ERA striking out over eight per nine while walking less than two per nine. Once drafted, he continued with similar production. In 12 starts in the Northwest League, he posted a 5.04 ERA striking out over a batter an inning while continuing to show plus control. The stuff is good with a fastball that sits in the low-90s and can touch higher with an average breaking pitch.
The red flag is he’s 6-foot-11. That’s an outlier and there isn’t a lot of pitchers, sans the obvious one, who has ever been that tall and had success. It’s fascinating that he has such great control as tall pitchers usually struggle with their control. Two positives are that he gets great plane on his pitches and the angle must be murder on batters to pick up. Is that enough to give him success? I don’t know.
For now, I have put his ceiling as a number four pitcher, but it could clearly rise if he can find a little more velocity and improve his secondary pitches. Both are possible. First, pitchers do improve their secondary pitches as they throw more, and second, Hjelle only weighs 225 pounds. At 6-11, that makes him pretty svelte. Said another way, there is some physical projection and as he puts on weight, there could be velocity improvement.
5. Alexander Canario (OF)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
Alexander Canario was signed in 2016 out of the Dominican Republic for only $60K and is already returning a profit for the Giants. You might look at the word profit and not understand the context. You see, players are assets and as those assets grow in value, they become currency. Sure, sometimes they play for the team in the Major Leagues, but many times they are traded. Based on his first two seasons in professional ball, Canario has shown tremendous tools with the ability to hit, hit with power with a little speed. Sure, it’s only the DSL and AZL, but he’s worth much more than $60,000.
In 45 games in Rookie Ball, he hit .250/.357 with six home runs and eight stolen bases. His swing can get long, and the 24.5% strikeout rate reflects that, but he also walked 13% of the time. But the bat speed and raw power are real. The ceiling is a power hitter outfielder with a little bit of speed with some pressure on the batting average. However, the fact that he’s already demonstrating an understanding of the strike zone at such a young age, gives me hope that he could be a .260/.360 hitter.
6. Shaun Anderson (RHP)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP with an outside chance to be a closer
Drafted in 2016 by the Boston Red Sox, Shaun Anderson was traded to the Giants for Eduardo Nunez in July of 2017. He had a solid if unspectacular season covering Double and Triple-A. In 24 starts, he pitched to a 3.69 ERA striking out 8.1 batters per nine and demonstrating excellent control (2.0 BB/9).
The stuff is solid with a fastball that sits 92 to 93 MPH, a nice slider and a workable changeup. His arsenal plays up though, because of his ability to throw strikes. But the stuff is average to above-average and that gives him the ceiling of a number four starter. Now, in college, he was a closer and if the Giants decide to move him back there, the velocity should tick-up and the equation might change. But, believe it or not, a number four pitcher, in general, is more valuable than a bullpen arm (in real baseball, not fantasy). As long as he’s useful in that role, he’ll likely stay in the rotation.
7. Chris Shaw (1B)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 1B or Top 60 OF
I could tell you that Chris Shaw reminds me a lot of Hunter Renfroe, but that would be boring. So, let me write 150 words that say the same thing. Shaw’s calling card is his plus raw power that has translated in each of his years in professional baseball to 20 plus home runs. Last season, he hit 24 home runs in Triple-A and one in the Major Leagues. The power doesn’t come cheap as it comes with a poor approach and a ton of strikeouts.
Last season, he posted a 34% strikeout rate and a 5% walk rate. In fact, his swing and miss has increased since he entered the high minors which are concerning, to say the least. He’s also a poor defender at first base and even worse in the outfield. Ironically, the Giants played him primarily in the outfield last season. Finally, he’s a 30-grade runner, so speed is not going to be part of the equation.
For those familiar with Hunter Renfroe, there are a lot of offensive comparisons. They are both country-raw strong with a poor approach at the plate and a ton of strikeouts (although Shaw strikes out a lot more). Renfroe is a better defender and has a little more speed than Shaw does, but otherwise, there are a lot of similarities.
8. Gregory Santos (RHP)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
Gregory Santos was acquired as part of the Eduardo Nunez trade in July of 2017. He has arguably the best arm in the system with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s. The delivery isn’t great with some stiffness and a very long arm swing. He also has very poor balance on his landing. I’m not sure how he does it, but he’s able to throw strikes walking less than three per nine in 49.2 innings last season.
9. Logan Webb (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
After having Tommy John reconstructive surgery in 2016, Logan Webb started to build his arm strength back to pre-surgery levels and looked good doing it. In 21 games in the California League, he was dominating at times posting a 1.82 ERA and striking out a batter an inning. He also walked four per nine but most of the problems surfaced early in the season. The success did lead to a promotion to Double-A where he continued to pitch well.
He’s got a plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a curveball that is inconsistent but does miss bats. His delivery is simple and clean and looks like he’s able to repeat his release point. Therefore, the control issues that he’s had in the past appear to be solvable.
10. Jake Wong (RHP)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP
The Giants drafted Jake Wong in the third round of the 2018 MLB Draft and he immediately got off to a hot start. Playing in the college-heavy Northwest League, he excelled. In 11 starts, he pitched to a 2.30 ERA striking out nearly a batter an inning and only walking six in 27.1 innings. The stuff is solid with a fastball that sits in the low-90s and a slider that misses plenty of bats. His delivery has some reliever risk and he has pitched effectively out of the bullpen in the past. For now, the Giants will continue to use him as a starter.
11. Ray Black (RHP)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
I think Ray Black is the oldest prospect I’ve ever included in these write-ups. But I did for a reason.
First, it’s been a long and arduous journey for the 2011 seventh round pick but he finally made his Major League debut last season. He pitched ok showing a triple-digit fastball and a swing and miss slider. Assuming he can stay healthy, which has not been in the cards to-date, there is Closer upside. He has a career minor league strikeout rate of over 17 per nine. The problem is he’s also had a 6.1 walk rate. However, he’s shown better control of late.
It’s a long shot and I’m not suggesting Dynasty League owners run out and pick him up, but the Giants are rebuilding (at least I think they are…if not, they should be), he throws had and most importantly, he’s cheap.
12. Heath Quinn (OF)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 OF
Heath Quinn had a nice statistical bounce-back season after repeating High-A in 2018. He improved his strikeout and walk rate while improving his SLG by 100 points. However, his .300 batting average was propped up by an unstainable .371 BABIP.
As a high draft pick (third round) and a college player, the Giants would have hoped that Quinn would be further along in the development process. He still shows plus raw power in batting practice, but his hit tool still has a way to go for him to get full-time at-bats in the Major Leagues.
13. Tyler Beede (RHP)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Bullpen Arm
Tyler Beede followed up a poor 2017 season with another poor season in 2018. He started off the year making two starts for the Giants that didn’t go well. While he struck out nine batters in 7.2 innings, he also walked eight. Over the past year, his control has backed up and he’s now routinely walking over four per nine. In addition, his ability to locate his fastball has also backed up and when he does throw strikes, he’s getting hard. With all of this in mind, the Giants moved him to the bullpen in June, but the results did not improve.
The future is murky for Beede as both the stuff and control have regressed since he was taken in the first round in 2014. While the ceiling could still be a back of the rotation starter, he’s more likely a bullpen arm, when and if he makes it back to the big leagues.
14. Abiatal Avelino (SS)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
Originally signed by the Yankees in 2012 out of the Dominican, Abiatal Avelino has been a defensive-first player who has flashed a decent approach at the plate with plus speed. His swing is contact-oriented, so power is not part of the equation.
Avelino is likely a utility player at the big-league level. However, if given the chance to play in an injury replacement situation, he might be able to provide enough contribution to help a fantasy team. I would not be rostering him in a Dynasty League, but he’s a name to know when and if he gets playing time.
15. Jalen Miller (2B)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver Wire Pickup
Drafted in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Jalen Miller has had a slow start to his professional career. He repeated High-A in 2018 and while he showed more power (90 points more in SLG), he still didn’t demonstrate an ability to control the strike zone. In 123 games, he struck out 22% of the time but only walked 4.9% of the time. The uber-aggressive approach needs to be improved if Miller is to develop into a Major League asset. That said, he has a little power and is an above-average runner, so there are some fantasy friendly skills. For now, he should be monitored in Dynasty Leagues.