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10 Giants prospects to watch in spring training and beyond for 2023



© Matt Kartozian | 2023 Feb 16

The reports of the Giants’ farm system’s demise may be exaggerated. 

In Keith Law’s annual rankings, the Giants sank from ninth to 18th. ESPN plummeted San Francisco from 11th last year to 20th heading into 2023. 

Recent first-round picks Heliot Ramos, Hunter Bishop, Patrick Bailey and Will Bednar haven’t yet panned out. Injuries have disrupted the development of promising young talents Marco Luciano and Luis Matos. Joey Bart, once seen as Buster Posey’s heir apparent, enters the spring in an open competition against a veteran who has played 62 games in the past two years, a Rule 5 player who hasn’t caught a MLB game, and a defense-first option that nobody claimed when San Francisco designated him for assignment. 

But the Giants have also produced their ace for the future, Logan Webb; an All-Star-caliber closer, Camilo Doval; a potential everyday third baseman, David Villar; and the top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, Kyle Harrison. 

External evaluations aren’t everything. 

“There’s this random sentiment that I occasionally get that we’re struggling in the minor leagues,” Giants senior director of player development Kyle Haines told KNBR. “I think people forget: we were one of the worst, if not the worst farm system just a few years ago. I think probably when we had a lot of those young players, they got way too much hype too early. That set the bar a little higher than what it was really. But our system’s in a healthy state right now.” 

First-rounders aren’t everything, either. During the Giants’ golden era, which was built from homegrown stars like Posey, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, the team also whiffed on high picks like Wendell Fairley, Tim Alderson, Charlie Culberson, Jackson Williams and Nick Noonan. 

After striking out on signing Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa this offseason, the Giants’ best chance at a superstar is by developing one. Under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, there’s still internal optimism on that front. 

Haines, who knows SF’s farm system better than anyone, is particularly bullish. 

“I think overall, we have a very good, deep group of prospects,” Haines said. “I just think we’re still in that stage of trying to get people to pop up at the top impact level. That takes time. It takes a lot of patience in the minor leagues.” 

Here are 10 intriguing Giants prospects to track this spring training and for the 2023 season, with input from Haines. 

The big names 

Kyle Harrison, LHP, 21

2022 (A+/AA): 113 IP, 2.71 ERA, 14.8 K/9, 3.9 BB/9

The Giants expect Harrison to contribute at the big-league level this year, evidenced by both their aggressive Triple-A placement and their public comments.  

Harrison dominated in Eugene, earning a promotion to Richmond after seven starts. At Double-A, he fanned batters at a similarly elite rate, but his walks crept up. 

With more reps, particularly against better hitters, Harrison should gain comfortability. The command isn’t a worry, Haines said, and consistency will come with experience. 

If his fastball-curveball combination continues to be unhittable against Triple-A competition — where batters chase out of the zone less frequently and work counts more fervently — Harrison could make himself undeniable quickly. 

Harrison, who’s still college-aged, is the Giants’ best pitching prospect since Madison Bumgarner. He’s as sure a thing as any prospect in baseball and the clear-cut best bet to become one of SF’s future faces of the franchise. 

Marco Luciano, SS, 21

2022 (RK/A+): 65 G, .269/.350/.467, 11 HR, 0 SB

A back strain cut out two months of last season, and a fractured lower back has already impacted the start of this spring. The most heralded position player prospect in the system, Luciano’s development has been stunted by injuries and the lost 2020 season. 

Currently, Luciano is ramping up his throwing and hitting progression as he recovers from the injury sustained during winter ball in Dominican Republic. 

“I don’t think we have any reason for (caution) right now,” Haines said. “We’ve kind of seen this before in all kinds of athletes, they get ‘growing pains.’ And as workload goes up, they get some aches and pains going around…Marco should be good. The prognosis, everything’s fine. The tough part is it takes him off the field, takes his ability to get some game action off the plate. We’ll just have to try to bridge it off the field, development wise, as he progresses.” 

He’s still only 21 and on the Giants’ 40-man roster. If the back issues are more growing pains than anything chronic, as Haines said, there’s still a good chance Luciano reaches his potential. 

Whether or not Luciano is able to physically stay at shortstop will impact his overall — and potential trade — value, but he projects as a productive player anywhere given his swing and athletic frame. 

Casey Schmitt, 23, 3B 

2022 (A+/AA/AAA): 126 G, .293/.365/.489, 21 HR, 3 SB

No longer an unknown commodity, the 2020 second round pick has emerged as a potential blue-chipper. He, along with Harrison, is starting 2023 in Sacramento — one hot stretch away from The Show. 

Schmitt’s scouting report coming out of San Diego State was that his power was more prevalent in batting practice than in games. But that discounted the fact that he also dedicated practice time to closing games for SDSU; he led the team in saves as a sophomore. 

Schmitt’s power certainly played in the minors last year. He hit 21 bombs, including one in his four Triple-A games. And his best tool is his MiLB Gold Glove-level fielding that’s drawn comparisons to Matt Chapman and flashed at both third and shortstop in the minors. 

“I think if he had more draft pedigree going into that draft in 2022, he’s on those Top 100 lists,” Haines said. “But since he’s more of an emergence in the last year, the people with already the hype next to their name tend to pass those types of players.” 

If Schmitt continues to produce like he did last year, he belongs in the conversation with Luciano and Harrison as the most exciting prospects in San Francisco’s system. And with the Giants’ well-known struggles defensively, perhaps they’ll need Schmitt’s glove sooner rather than later. 

Potential breakout stars

Vaun Brown, 24, OF 

2022 (A/A+/AA): 103 G, .346/.437/.623, 23 HR, 44 SB 

The 24-year-old went under the radar at Florida Southern College, and he broke out during a time in which the games were closed to fans and scouts because of the pandemic. Giants area scout Jim Gabella watched his games through a fence, and the Giants picked him in the 10th round. 

Last year, his first full professional season, he played against competition mostly younger than him, but Brown may have been the single most dominant player across the minor leagues last year. He was that good. 

“The tools are real,” Haines said. “The physical athleticism is real. He’s a plus runner. He’s a plus defender. He’s got plus power. He’s a plus defensive player in the outfield. He’s a smart player out on the bases. Makes good, fundamental decisions. When you look at the athleticism, the tools, a lot of times that encompasses a lack of performance. This is not the case. He’s got high performance and high tools. Those people tend to have pretty good odds at being star players.” 

The only knocks on him, then, are that he wasn’t branded a capital-P Prospect and that he’s already 24 years old. 

“If he wasn’t (older), he’d be challenging Luciano and Harrison up there at the top, if you ask me,” Haines said.

The Giants rave about Brown’s work ethic and invited him to big-league spring camp. He’ll likely start the year where he finished, at Double-A, but if he repeats his 2022 campaign, there’s no ceiling on what he could accomplish. 

Patrick Bailey, 23, C

2022 (A+): 83 G, .225/.342/.420, 12 HR, 1 SB

Among the Giants’ recent first-round picks who have yet to debut — Bednar, Bishop and Bailey — Bailey might have the most to prove in 2023. 

Bailey is a switch-hitting catcher who has displayed significantly more pop as a lefty (.851 OPS) than a righty (.460 OPS). Haines said the Giants still believe he can succeed as a switch-hitter and cautioned against making judgements on small sample sizes; there aren’t many left-handed pitchers in the low minors, and infrequent trips to the batter’s box can make things challenging. 

He was the 13th overall pick in 2020 and has dealt with a back injury. But given the Giants’ current catcher amalgam, could Bailey, not Bart, be the Giants’ catcher of the future? 

“I feel like he’s going to play in the Major Leagues a long time,” Haines said. “The catching position’s always hard to find. I think he’s going to be a pleasant surprise for our Major League team at some point. When that is, that’s up to others. But I think he’s a great breakout candidate.” 

Grant McCray, 22, OF

2022 (A/A+): 120 G, .289/.383/.514, 23 HR, 43 SB 

A third-rounder in 2019 out of high school, McCray has held his own at every level the Giants placed him at. And last year, he did much more than that. 

Like Brown, McCray displayed a rare combination of power and speed last year — only he did it at 22 years old. 

If he continues on his current trajectory, McCray could become one of the most exciting position players in the system. When Haines describes the farm as deep, it’s players like McCray he’s referring to. 

Knocking on the door 

R.J. Dabovich, 24, RHP

2022 (AA/AAA): 51.1 IP, 3.51 ERA, 12.1 K/9, 4.6 BB/9

The walks ballooned when he got promoted to Sacramento, but the right-handed reliever is a small modification away from being ready to join the Giants’ bullpen. 

Relievers with Dabovich’s arsenal — a fastball in the high-90s and a breaking secondary — profile as prospects who can rise fast through the minors. He’s done just that, needing just 11 High-A games to advance in 2021 and spending half of last year in Triple-A. 

Every team can always use bullpen help, and young arms with options, like Dabovich, are coveted. The Giants’ staff is crowded with established pitchers, but Dabovich will likely get a shot this year. 

Tristan Beck, 26, RHP

2022 (AA/AAA): 111.1 IP, 5.25 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9

Beck’s super power is command; he walked just 29 batters in 97.1 Pacific Coast League games, where the hitters are more selective. 

Already 26, Beck is at a natural stage in his development to reach the big leagues. After an injury-plagued 2021, the Stanford product needed only three Double-A games to earn a promotion. And then in the offense-friendly PCL, he allowed just 10 homers in 20 games.

Beck doesn’t walk batters and he keeps the ball in the ballpark. That’s a blueprint for success.

Manager Gabe Kapler mentioned Beck as a potential option this year. He’s on the Giants’ radar. And given how the organization values strike-throwers, it makes total sense. 

The wild cards 

Reggie Crawford, 22, 1B/LHP

2022 (RK): 6 G, .158/.238/.396, 0 HR, 0 SB 

Crawford’s first taste of pro ball came as he was still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, so he was limited only to first base work. It was also the first live pitching he’d faced in over a year.

Brimming with potential and with both a physical and mental makeup every team dreams of, Crawford’s ceiling as a two-way force makes him arguably the most interesting prospect in the system. 

Until he gets fully healthy and on the mound, the Giants won’t know exactly what they have with their 2022 first round pick. 

“People say ‘Is he a hitter? Is he a pitcher? What is he?,’” Haines said. “I know one thing: he’s a good Giant…The person is someone that all Giants would be proud of wearing the Giants uniform.” 

Ronald Guzmán, 28, 1B/LHP

2022 (AAA): 105 G, .255/.344/.478, 16 HR, 2 SB 

Guzmán isn’t technically a prospect, but given the intrigue, he can be considered one for spring training. 

Guzmán has played 246 MLB games at first base. He’s a strong, athletic defender, but his hit tool has never come around. So, naturally, he’s converting to the mound. 

A potential two-way option, Guzmán has flashed a plus fastball and a plus breaking ball, Haines said. He was a heralded prospect as a hitter, but the pitching side is unknown. 

A 6-foot-5, 235-pound physical specimen, Guzmán could, at the very least, draw eyes lining up against chain-link fences.