Checking in on the Prospects at Camp

Who's been revving up your prospect engine?

In Wednesday’s post, I defended my forays into some of the dustier corners of the farm system rather than focus on the prospect activity going on in the here and now. But, having written that, it does seem like it’s time to check in on….duh…the stuff right in front of our eyes!

As spring training moves into its final two weeks, we’re going to be seeing much more veteran-heavy lineups. But the last three weeks have offered a cornucopia of prospect viewing pleasures.

So, let’s check in on the progress of various prospects thus far at camp, shall we?


Marco Luciano

20 PA, 2 hit, 1 BB, 13 K

The top prospect in the system has been getting it handed to him pretty well this spring, as pitchers have been successfully throwing fastballs by him most of the spring. The 19-year-old phenom has absolutely looked overmatched facing much older competition (as reports suggested was true at the Alternate Site last summer). That’s more or less to be expected, especially given the lack of game playing for Luciano over the last 18 months. It takes a while to get one’s sea legs for gearing up against the best pitchers in the world, especially when you’re a teenager who hasn’t faced all that much high-level competition. It takes a while to translate this:

…into repeatable game skills against major league-quality pitching with fastballs coming in mid-to-upper 90s with several inches of vertical movements.

His best moment at the plate did show off some easy power to the opposite way, a 95 mph fly to deepest right-center field:

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the above was written Luciano has picked up two straight hits in spring games including a booming double to the opposite field as the timing starts to dial in.]

Luciano’s struggles against the competition were possibly more notable given the work his 2019 AZL contemporaries Bobby Witt, Jr. (Royals) and C.J. Abrams (Padres) have been doing in their camps this spring (worth noting Witt is a year older). And that is, perhaps, why Farhan Zaidi has said that he anticipates Luciano getting a Low A assignment in San Jose this spring.

That’s good for all of you Bay Area prospects watchers because I would anticipate that he’ll be there for a decent bit of the summer. I know Luciano has talked about being ready for the majors in a year and his performance could dictate that kind of timeline if he really comes out and dominates. But I won’t be surprised if we end up seeing a more modest timeline with him spending maybe half of the season in San Jose and half in Eugene. If he can force a September promotion up to Richmond (something like Heliot Ramos in 2019), that would be an extremely positive development. But let’s see how A ball goes first; it’s a big jump even for a prodigiously talented teenager. For what it’s worth, when Ronald Acuña, Jr. and Fernando Tatis, Jr. were set to head to Low A for the first time, they were both two years away from making their big league debut. Even Juan Soto, the reincarnated version of Ted Williams currently manning RF for the Nationals, took a year and a half to go from his Low A debut to the majors.

On the other hand, I think everyone has been pretty positively impressed by the work Luciano’s done in the field this spring. He’s looked smooth at SS, showing good hands and feet. He’s also displayed the kind of arm you need to make those throws from the hole. All in all, it’s been an impressive spring for keeping faith that he can remain a SS throughout his development. That’s my biggest takeaway from the spring for Marco.

Joey Bart

22 PA, 8 hit, 1 HR, 2 BB, 6 K

Bart was the Loud Buzz of the (shortened) 2020 spring training, as well as the Summer Camp 2.0 that followed. But, after being thrown into the deep end of the pool in his big league debut, he came to camp knowing that he was ticketed for some much needed time in Triple-A in 2021. Maybe it was those expectations that have led to a somewhat tone-downed camp for Bart.

He did crush one long home run against the Cubs, but, other than that, it’s been a quietly effective spring for the heir apparent. It seems clear that he’s been working on improving his swing decisions that led to a 41 to 3 K/BB ratio in 2020. That’s led to several strikeouts looking this spring, as he looks to hone in on pitches he can drive.

We also saw a return to the communication issues that plagued Bart last year when he was teamed up with Johnny Cueto this week. Cueto said after the game that “it seems like we’re always lost.” That’s obviously something that needs to get worked out as well, as Catcher-Pitcher relationships are a fundamentally important aspect of the job. Barring injury, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Bart get in a more or less full season of work in Sacramento this summer and hopefully get the upper minors reps he really needs to continue his development.

Heliot Ramos

29 PA, 11 hit, 1 2b, 3 HR, 1 BB, 7 K

I just wrote an entire piece on Ramos last Friday, so there’s no need to regurgitate everything I said there. But suffice it to say that Ramos has been the talk of the camp. And that buzz only got louder when Ramos was NOT sent out in the first round of cuts along with Bart and others (and yes, being “sent out” is rhetorical in this case since there’s nowhere to be sent to. Mostly it just impacts the players’ wallets and meal money).

Ramos carries himself with the confidence and swagger that defines successful major leaguers, and he’s made no secret of the fact that he feels that he’s ready to compete for a big league job now. That’s not going to happen, but keeping him around for an extended look does seem to signal that Ramos is in the Giants’ plans in 2021. As does Gabe Kapler’s comments just today that he is “confident” that Ramos can play CF (probably the least stable position in the Giants lineup at this point).

Ramos has been showing off his power swing all spring, hitting seemingly everything hard. Talking Stick is the one facility in Arizona equipped with Hawk Eye system that is somewhat publicly obtainable, so I can say quite literally that even his outs have been hard as he blistered a 97 mph lineout in Wednesday night’s game.

I’m still guessing that the Giants send Ramos back to Richmond for at least a quick taste in May. It’s still a level he hasn’t gotten to dominate yet and I think a quick 100 at bats just to let him flex his muscles isn’t a terrible idea. But, if he keeps performing the way he has, one has to wonder if they don’t jump him straight to Sacramento to start the year (starting the inevitable avalanche of “when will Ramos get called up?” questions — possibly reason enough not to start him in Triple-A). And I also wonder if Ramos’ performance isn’t whittling down slightly the number of at bats the Giants’ front office will want to see from him before they start talking about a call up in earnest. On Friday I suggested that they’ll want to see some 500-600 PA in the upper minors from him (counting the 2019 time in Double-A). Could that number get cut down to 400 with a big performance push? I think the Giants will be conservative about that final promotion, but that’s the kind of number that could be in play if they get aggressive.

Will Wilson

32 PA, 5 hit, 1 2b, 3 BB, 10 K

Wilson has gotten a lot of playing time this spring and you can see some of the things the Giants really like about him. He seems to put together solid at bats pretty regularly and has had some hard contact, even when hitting in bad luck. Wednesday night at Talking Stick, he hit three balls 94 mph or harder without a lot to show for it (one single, two lineouts). His best moment came early against the Angels when he brought everybody home with one big swing.

That was his only extra base hit of the spring so far. He’s also had a good amount of strikeouts, which was a knock on him coming out of school and bears watching as he develops through the minors.

Wilson has had a rougher time of it on defense, particularly playing the left side of the infield. In, I believe, the same game pictured above, he made two errors at SS and had another crucial throwing error Wednesday night against Colorado. The Giants would, I’m sure, like to see Wilson develop the ability to play any spot in the infield, so showing that he has the tools to stick on the left side will be another important component of his development. I can see him sticking as an above average starter at 2b though.

Hunter Bishop

10 PA, 2 hit, 1 2b, 1 BB, 4 K

Bishop hasn’t seen the same level of playing time as some of the other major prospects, with his highlight being a double scooped down the line against the Dodgers. But Bishop has found a way to make an impression regardless, as Kerry Crowley reports that “no one in Giants camp swings harder than Hunter Bishop.”

Bishop reportedly looked great at the Alternate Site last summer and smoked a ball 119 mph at Instructional League (tied with Marco Luciano for the hardest any Giants player has hit a ball in the Statcast era). Bishop says he’s working on improving his swing this spring to cover more of the zone:

He’s also told Crowley that he’s working to become a more complete hitter “and not just a guy who strikes out and hits home runs.”

Bishop has a chance to be a big riser in the system this year. I’m anticipating that he’ll start out at Eugene and that he has a chance to get to Double-A quickly if his performance on the field reflects the reports that we heard on him in Sacramento and Scottsdale last year. Meanwhile, seeing Bishop unleash his fearsome power or his speed at some point this spring would give us a nice teaser. Meanwhile, here’s a little of the speed (and by the way, I wouldn’t want to be getting in Bishop’s way once he has a head of steam going):

Logan Wyatt

19 PA, 3 hit, 1 2b, 2 BB, 2 K

As I wrote in the NRI preview, Wyatt’s inclusion in big league camp was one of the bigger surprises of the invite list. I feel like I’ve discussed the 2019 2nd rounder enough to rebrand this site There Is Wyatt, but as long as the Giants are interested in him, so am I. The one thing that absolutely jumps out of the above stat line (compared with everyone else we’ve discussed) is the 2 strikeouts (screwed up his stat line last night). He continues to show an elite eye at the plate.

The question will continue to be whether he can translate that extraordinary knowledge of the strike zone into hard hit balls. So far this spring, the jury’s still been out as he’s mostly put the ball on the ground. Again, we do have an extremely tiny sample of Statcast data from a couple of appearances at Talking Stick, and, according to the data, his one single Wednesday night was blistered at 104 mph, though it was again on the ground. In his other at bat on Wednesday, he popped an 83 mph flyout. Against the D’backs last weekend, his one appearance resulted in a 76 mph ground out. As I say, the jury’s still out on this experiment.

A lot is made of the similarity between Wyatt and a young Brandon Belt. But it’s worth noting that Wyatt so far has 183 professional PA at the short season and Low A levels which have produced a .278/.388/.377 slash line. In Belt’s first 185 pro PAs (all at High-A) he slashed .384/.481/.563 and was four weeks away from getting promoted to Double-A. Worth remembering that all comparisons have their limits.

I’d anticipate Wyatt starting out at Eugene as well, along with Wilson, Bishop, and Bailey.

Camilo Doval

5 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 2 HB, 7 K

Kerry Crowley has long taken to describe Reyes Moronta appearances as “the Reyes Moronta Experience™,” but he may need to do some rebranding soon when Doval makes his eventual big league debut. Doval’s shown off the full whirlwind of his arsenal this spring, and has been in the strike zone enough to show how well the stuff plays.

Interestingly, we haven’t really seen the best of Doval in his spring outings, as he’s been throwing his four-seam fastball in the 96 range mostly, topping out at 98 in his two Talking Stick appearances. However, even at a slightly reduced velocity, his fastball has been elite “under the hood.” His fastball spin rate both Sunday and Wednesday was hitting 2800 and topped out at 2880. The major league leader in average spin rate in 2020 was Trevor Bauer with 2776.

The spin rate on Doval’s slider (which has been getting a lot of his swing and misses this spring) was in the 2500 range, which is lower than I’ve seen it reported in previous years. Doesn’t quite have the snap on it yet. As far as Statcast can tell, Doval’s also experimented with a curveball a few times this spring, coming in about 5 mph slower than his 86 mph slider.

Just by means of comparison, Yunior Marte was throwing his fastball nearly as hard as Doval (~1 mph less) and his slider at very comparable speeds, but both of Marte’s pitches had a spin rate of about 200-300 less than Doval’s. Camilo just puts an insane amount of torque on his pitches. It feels like Doval is a great candidate for Pitch Design work. If he started experimenting with various grips and got on the Seam-Shifted Wake bandwagon (an article for another day), his stuff could get really nasty. I have to believe that we’ll be seeing Doval at Oracle this summer. Hopefully making batters look like this:

Kervin Castro

4.2 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 K

Castro got lit up a bit in one outing, but he’s impressed the Giants coaching staff, including Gabe Kapler, who came away from one outing saying “that’s a major league pitcher.” Kapler was particularly effusive about Castro’s pace (and I think we’re all ready to see more relief pitchers working quickly), but the 6 K/1 BB (like Wyatt, Castro messed up his pristine “no walk” stat line last night) is another part of Castro’s game that attracts attention. He pounds the zone relentlessly with a fastball that has a good plane and hops up in the zone. From there he pairs a downward breaking curve that maybe more than anything got him on the 40-man this winter. It’s a simple mix but the Giants are very much all about the way those two pitches play off each other.

Castro was “sent out” in the first round of cuts, and I’d guess we won’t see much more of him, as the Giants really need to drill down on the many, many arms in camp as they start working on the initial active roster. The bigger question for me is where the Giants assign Castro. As I’ve written, he has no full season experience at this point. But he’s also starting his options clock so they likely are going to want to skip him over some levels and push him closer to a big league debut. Does he go to Eugene to start working his way up as a reliever, or can he survive a big push up to Double-A Richmond? If the Giants think he could potentially provide some value this year, then the answer is likely Richmond. But a more conservative route to Eugene makes sense to me.

Others

Patrick Bailey has gotten a little work this spring going 1 for 10 with 4 K and 3 BB. He had a 102 mph lineout against Arizona Wednesday. Ricardo Genoves likewise has seen some game action, going 1 for 6 with a walk and 3 strikeouts.

Sean Hjelle has pitched one inning this spring, allowing a hit, while neither walking nor striking out a batter. Kai-Wei Teng showed some big league jitters, uncharacteristically walking two batters in his lone appearance, leading to one earned run. Tyler Cyr likewise walked three in his single inning of work, similarly leading to an earned run. Cyr did also strike out a pair.

Gregory Santos was hit fairly hard in his lone outing. He allowed three hits and four runs, while also walking two, and was ultimately relieved before finishing an inning. Oddly, most of the hard contact came off Santos’ sharp breaking ball, making me wonder if he was tipping pitches somehow. Like Castro, Santos’ assignment is something I’ll be watching keenly. In addition to the level (Eugene, likely), I’m most interested in seeing whether the Giants give him another year to develop as a starter. If you’d like to know how excited that possibility should make you, here’s what Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen had to say about Santos last week:

Three months and about three miles per hour of velocity separate Santos and Kumar Rocker. If a college arm were to come out of the gate with stuff as good as Santos showed during 2020 Instructional League, they’d be the early-season favorite to go first in the draft.