Meet the New Draft, Same as the Old Draft!

Were the Giants getting the band back together?

Photo by Chace Bryson

Last summer friends of ours got married, and on the day that the bridal shower was planned, another of the husbands in the group and I got a wild hair and decided we’d head out to a local amphitheater and take in Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band. After spending decades haunting tiny, out of the way clubs seeking out obscure indy rock bands and honing my cool cred — regaling people with the memory of the time I saw the Pixies before they were even called the Pixies at Jumping Jack Flash the month before it burned down. It felt so liberating to just let go and enjoy me some oldies! “Octopus’ Garden!” I loved that song when I was a kid! “Photograph?” Makes me cry! And the All Starr Band? A mix of Men At Work, Santana, and Average White Band? Man it was awesome. Colin Hay still has a great voice. He crushed “Overkill” — Colin basically had to sing the high parts of everybody else’s songs because nobody else on the stage could reach them. Ringo would have to leave the stage and take a rest now and again — but I can only dream of rocking “It Don’t Come Easy” that well when I’m 80 years old. He even got behind the drum kit once or twice What a night! Oldies are fun! My wife’s still complaining she didn’t get to come with us a whole year later!

The San Francisco Giants flashed me back to that experience last night with some surprisingly familiar old tunes. Here we were all crowded into the 9:30 Club expecting the newest iteration of EDM, and the Giants gave us an oldies festival! They brought back ALL the Greatest Draft Hits from days gone by. A subtle bass groove let us know “High floor/Low ceiling” was about to open. A flick of the high hat and a bass drum kick revved the crowd for the perpetual fave “BA ranked him 100 picks lower.” “(We like our) College Kids” got the folks on the lawn up and dancing. And by the time they launched into a final set of “Going Our Own Way,” “Let’s All Reach 4 It,” and that staple of car commercials “Big on the Cape” the crowd had lost its collective mind. Somewhere in the darkness of the control room Brian Sabean and John Barr smiled and nodded approvingly. And sitting in front of my laptop I just laughed and laughed. Oldies are fun! Let go, enjoy. Feel the comforting strains of nostalgia envelop you! For a few hours of respite, the world felt like it made sense again.

Now all of the above is just half-truths and overstatement and glib cheap shots, of course (hey, everybody needs a bit!). Shallow and unfair to the utmost. And just one day after screenshots of “McCovey Chronicles” famous 2007 Madison Bumgarner freak out were making the rounds of the twitterverse, far be it from me to risk ten-years-from-now stupidity by going to the window and screaming:

No, not me. I laughed like a twelve-year-old boy at a farting contest. And it’s not like I was the only one having fun with it…

In fact, this whole post is just an extended joke because you should be laughing too. I know I saw a lot of disappointment, confusion, and even anger in Giants fans’ virtual faces last night, but don’t panic. Find your towel. The answer is 42. There was cool logic at work here. And in time we’ll all be arguing about how underrated these guys are as prospects. Honest. One of these guys is gonna be the prospect-hill you — yes, you! — choose to die on some day. One of these guys is gonna be the person you point back to when you want to extoll the excellent process of Farhan and Scott and Michael Holmes and Brian Bridges. One of these will be “your guy.” Just wait.

As they said they would, the Giants built a board and played it straight — grabbing their Best Player Available at each slot. They went college heavy because this weird 5-round draft held in the perpetual silence of coronavirus stillness was always set up to be a college heavy pool. In the absence of games, extended track records was going to play to the college kids advantage. They liked their Cape guys because the Cape was nearly the last meaningful baseball anybody was able to scout. All the teams like their Cape guys. The Giants didn’t try to game the proceedings with their extra pool allowance. They didn’t chase shiny upside without track record or without spring growth to follow.

They did, really, what the Giants have long done, with many of the same scouting core who have been doing it for the Giants for years — they got out there and scouted and found guys they liked. Sleepers and grinders and a dude from Wappingers Falls. Oh my! Guys they think they can develop. Guys think they can win with. Guys they think will have value. The way they’ve always done. Of course, doing things the way they’ve always done was, we thought, the thing that got a lot of the “they” relieved of their duties. Which I suppose is what gave this experience it’s overall feel of cognitive dissonance. But behind the scenes there were transitions happening, a more integrated melding of eyes and equations, and if you look hard it’s not too hard to see where the two flushed together.

So yes. While other teams were making splashes by grabbing seemingly unsignable talents in late rounds (looking at you Padres, Mets, and Cards, damn your souls!), the Giants, as they so often have in the past, hewed to their own row and plowed them a field. Retrospects on this approach may come later. But for now, let’s just pause, breath in the morning air, say “huh, how ‘bout that!” and start looking through what it is that the Giants’ scouting group found last night.

Before I start with the Day 2 folks, I do want to amend something I wrote in Thursday night’s piece on 1st rounder Patrick Bailey. It seems as if the normally reliable The Baseball Cube fed me some bad data. Bailey was apparently a .302/.411/.568 hitter at NC State rather than, as I had said .322/.429/.602. Double-check your sources, Roger! And his career BB/K ratio in college was 86/93 with a little more swing and miss than you’d love to see. So, I’ll play down slightly the ability to hit with Bailey and focus on the control of the strike zone and power from both sides.

Ok, on to Day Two:

Pick #49: Casey Schmitt, 3b/RHP San Diego State

Do you like Matt Chapman? Well, of course you do! Who doesn’t? The former Cal State Fullerton star has been one of the dozen or so most valuable players in the majors the last two years! And now you have a Matt Chapman of your very own to love!

Like Chapman, Schmitt brings the following mix of tools:

  • Plus defensive actions at 3b

  • Plus, plus arm which he uses both on defense and on the mound

  • Decent control of the strikezone (drink!)

  • Above average power

  • Some strikeout issues

  • Huge fastball off the mound

Yep, it’s a perfect Matt Chapman starter kit alright — with a side of Michael Lorenzen! While the MLB commentators above seemed to feel pitching was more of a fallback option, Schmitt is a legit two-way prospect and it will be fascinating to see how the Giants handle his development. In the ideal world, Schmitt might one day repeat for the Giants his incredible performance in the final game of the Cape Cod League championship series when he hit two HRs and pitched a scoreless 9th inning to deliver Cotuit the title (and take playoff MVP honors for himself). Though Schmitt showed up lower on a lot of rankings, he was a legit 2nd round kid who dropped somewhat due to surgery for a torn meniscus that slowed him in the spring.

Pick #67: Nick Swiney, LHP, North Carolina State

Farhan Zaidi raised the old scouting axiom “you never want to get beat in your own backyard” the other day. Apparently for the Giants, that notion has been extended to include the backyard of Scouting Director Michael Holmes, who lives in the North Carolina suburbs a few solid 3-wood drives from the home of the Wolfpack. Including the Zack Cozart deal that brought 2019 draftee Will Wilson, the Giants have now added three prominent members of NC State this year, with Swiney being the highest drafted pitcher now in the Zaidi/Holmes era.

If you listened to Pod-Three with Matthew Collier, you might remember that one reason FaBIO was against taking Reid Detmers at the top of the draft was that there were several arms very similar to him who would be available at later picks. One of those Detmers look-a-likes was Swiney. While the 6’3” 180 lb. left-hander doesn’t have the pure strike throwing ability of Detmers (he walked 5 per 9 over his Freshman and Sophomore years), he’s been a strikeout machine in the ACC, striking out 13.6/9 over his career. He set a personal high just before the spring was shut down when he struck out 15 against Purdue, part of a dominant opening to the 2020 season for the lefty. He also was showing much better control of the strikezone in his Junior year.

Swiney doesn’t bring power stuff, topping out his fastball somewhere in the 92-94 range, though with excellent vertical movement (lighting up the Trackman signal!). His bread and butter is a solid feel for a three-pitch mix, the best of which is probably his changeup. Swiney fits comfortably (for me) into a group that included Detmers, Logan Allen (taken by Cleveland at pick #56), and even Long Beach State’s Adam Seminaris (taken by the Angels, who also tabbed Detmers, at pick 141). The knock against Swiney is a limited track record as a starter — he’d spent his first two years with the Wolfpack in the bullpen and didn’t get the chance to prove he was up to a starter’s workload with a full spring this year. But as we move further into the era of “bulk outs-getters” it becomes harder and harder to say exactly how meaningful that is. Seven innings of Blake Rivera and Nick Swiney piggybacking might be the model we’re aiming for down the line. It’s a good left-handed arm to add to the system.

Pick #68: Jimmy Glowenke, SS, Dallas Baptist U

Oh yeah. Here was the pick that really brought back memories for the old timers. Giants twitter was gleaming with anticipation that some hard-to-sign 100 mph gunslinger was coming with the comp pick (give me Alex Santos, Rog cried!) and the Giants threw the old WTF pick right in their faces.

But, again, it’s pretty easy to identify the things the Giants were prizing here. Though he’s almost certainly not a SS (he was known for a fringe average arm even before elbow surgery this year that limited him to DH action in the spring), he does bring solid defensive actions in the middle infield that can serve him probably anywhere on the field. He has a long history of hitting and, yes!, controlling the strikezone, with a 10.5% BB rate at Dallas Baptist and a 1 to 1 BB to K ratio on the Cape.

If Schmitt was your Matt Chapman starter kit, Glowenke might be your Kike Hernandez Kit. He’s made to be an all over the field Utility guy who hits and hits. The power isn’t overwhelming but should be double-digit. The walks will certainly be there as he’ll grind out at bats. Maybe he’s only a 2b but I suspect that he’ll see time beyond there as well. And I think that good friend GPT is right with this observation as well:

The other note for Glowenke — which was a strong constant — having turned 21 just last week he’s one of the youngest Juniors in this year’s draft class. That was true with all the Giants’ picks, with Swiney being the oldest player they selected at just 21 years and 121 days old. We’d heard that the Giants were a team that valued age relative to class highly in their models, and while that didn’t push them to young high school picks this year, they were all over the young college juniors (except ASU’s Gage Workman, which frankly, really surprised me!)

#85: Kyle Harrison, LHP, De La Salle High School (Concord, CA)

Harrison’s selection brought a smile to my face, personally. Indeed, I had called out Harrison specifically in reference to The Athletic’s Melissa Lockard’s piece on draft-eligible NorCal guys.

Harrison has actually been something of a low-level buzz kid in some really interesting corners of the internet in the run up to the draft. Trackman’s Zach Day talked about him in a recent podcast with Prep Baseball’s Nathan Rode (former Baseball America writer and head of Team USA baseball). From a data perspective, Harrison was notable for the spin rate of his sharp curve combined with the flatness of his fastball which gives the fastball extra deception and hop at the top of the zone. Harrison was also picked up by Draftpoint’s AI technology (which uses past Baseball America scouting reports as a learning tool) as a solid potential big league sleeper. Harrison brings a funky 3/4 slot arm angle which gives his fastball run as well and he should grow into some increased velocity with it over time as he matures.

Interestingly, another lesson we seem to be learning with this new draft regime is that they aren’t chasing velocity. Harrison is now just the second prep arm the Giants have drafted in the last two years, and like Trevor McDonald before him, he brings just low 90s velocity (which a chance to grow into more). Instead, both of these kids bigger calling card is a sharp downward breaker that they have excellent feel for. Interesting zag in an industry that is wearing out radar guns with ubiquitous triple digit zigs.

As the only prep player in the Giants’ class AND the only local kid, Harrison heads to the top of the list as potential fan favorite immediately. Look at his fans rave!

Pick #114: R.J. Dabovich, RHP, Arizona State

But it’s not like they’re averse to velocity or anything! They’re not turning it down if offered up freely. Here we have it! Dude Throw Hard! Dabovich is a likely reliever, though the Giants will no doubt try him out in a starter’s role at first, if nothing else to get him reps and innings. His control has historically been a weakness and he’s overhauled his mechanics in the past year, but he can get his fastball up to 98 with excellent spin rates and he complements it with a sharp slider. There’s an occasional splitter in the mix as well and maybe a change. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking Nuke LaLoosh here or anything. He’s around the plate. He’s just not been what you call an elite strike thrower up to now. Like Blake Rivera, you toss him into the Augusta rotation and see if things come together right, and if they don’t, then move him into his comfort zone in the pen and let ‘er rip!

That 84 mph slider at about 1:10 is a beaut!

Pick #144: Ryan Murphy, RHP, LeMoyne University

And now we reach the “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm” portion of the draft. Murphy’s selection (which will surely help with the signability of UCLA-commit Harrison) literally forced BA draft expert Carlos Collazo to have to read a scouting report off a card on air. And left friend of site draft expert Brian Recca with this:

Murphy’s statistical profile was certainly impressive at LeMoyne, where he piled up 215 Ks to just 44 BBs in 203 innings. He also had an impressive summer league, being named Pitcher of the Year in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (same summer league that Giants’ SS prospect Simon Whiteman starred in in 2018). Murphy again doesn’t bring much velocity, though his 90-or-so mph fastball apparently has high spin rates. Instead he fills the zone with an advanced feel for a full assortment of pitches. A pitchability righty! And one the development folks no doubt feels has tools to start working with. Oh and once again, the still 20-year-old was extremely young for his draft class.

So there you have it! An assemblage of oldies and favorites that will certainly keep you coming back for more next year, though maybe you can’t feel it was worth the price of admission just now. So what have we learned about the new draft bosses overall? I think we can start putting together a sketch that works for us:

  • This is still an organization that really believes in scouting

  • Young for the class is highly prized, if not high schoolers

  • Whether pitcher or batter, they want players who control the zone

  • Steady return on investment is likely to be sought out over boom or bust upside

  • Velocity isn’t all that important but feel for breakers is

Friend of site Jules Posner summed it up pretty well I think:

That I think is a thumbnail sketch of the draft philosophy that we can start with and we’ll fill it in more as we go along. Not quite Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss. Maybe more like Meet the New Boss, Transitioned and Modernized But Still Ultimately Recognizable From the Old Boss!

Good luck to the incoming class. There R (new) Giants here and we will get to know and love them (when there’s baseball again)!

Before we leave though, one final (non-Giants related) note on the draft structure we’ve seen this year. Not surprisingly, the opportunities being taken away from kids did not hit everywhere equally. And a sport that claims to worry about it’s popularity among minorities doesn’t always walk that walk:

And that’s a wrap on Draft Week for me. Next week we’ll start investigating the guys who didn’t get drafted who still might be Giants, we’ll try to make sense of it all via podcast, and we’ll follow up on last week’s post by thinking about some pitchers who might benefit from the “Dodgers Model” (which becomes less and less a real thing and more a sign I can use for “change in development strategy”).

I also want to let my readers know that I’m thinking the time has come to start transitioning slowly to some subscriber-only content. I’m very grateful to all of you who are taking the time to read my regular posts, but I’ve also been a bit surprised and overwhelmed to see that even while posting freely for all, I have started to gather some subscribers to this site and I feel the need to reward them for their generosity. So starting next week I’ll change the equation slightly. There will still be free posts, but I’ll also have at least one post a week that will be for my subscribers. And I’ll work on balancing that more as we go forward. Once again, I’d love to hear comments, ideas, or feedback as I move into this slightly changed structure. Have a great weekend all!