By Evan Webeck
If the Giants want to sustain the success from their 107-win season a year ago, it starts with building the foundation of organizational depth that hasn’t necessarily existed in the lean years since their last championship.
With the 30th and final pick in the first round of Sunday’s MLB draft — a direct result of that success last season — the Giants added to their farm system a large, athletic left-hander who can throw 99 mph and regularly hits the ball 400 feet as a first baseman. The potential risk: He is coming off Tommy John surgery and has a short collegiate track record.
His name is Reggie Crawford, a 21-year-old out of the University of Connecticut, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds. MLB.com ranked him as the No. 80 prospect entering the draft. Baseball America, which considered him the No. 59 prospect in the class, described Crawford as “one of the biggest wild cards in the draft,” considering “his talent, limited track record on the mound and medical history.”
Crawford pairs the fastball that touches triple digits with a plus slider but underwent Tommy John surgery in October, which shut him down for the entire 2022 season. Between his freshmen and sophomore seasons, Crawford slugged 14 home runs and slashed .309/.362/.546 as a first baseman but logged only eight innings on the mound.
Michael Holmes, the Giants senior director of amateur scouting, confirmed that the organization will start Crawford on a two-track development as both a pitcher and a first baseman once he is fully recovered from the elbow procedure.
“We think this guy’s a special talent. He has the ability to do both,” Holmes said. “He’s a plus defender at first base. He’s got big raw power. … On the mound, he’s a big physical lefty that’s up to 99-100 mph. … It’s a hard slider. It’s a big fastball. It’s a developing changeup.”
Holmes said he believed the Giants got a “top first round” talent with the 30th pick but more than anything raved about his personality, which he described as “engaging … special … (and) top of the charts.”
At No. 66, the Giants nabbed 21-year-old left-hander Carson Whisenhunt, out of East Carolina University, who also didn’t pitch this past spring. After being named a preseason All-American, Whisenhunt tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (he has said he didn’t know the ingredients of a supplement from a chain drug store) and was suspended for the season.
“He’s another guy on the mound we obviously like quite a bit,” Holmes said. “He’s a big, tall left-hander. We think he’s got an arsenal to attack both righties and lefties. He’s got the ability to soften the baseball. He can change directions with his breaking ball. And he’s got an effective fastball that he can command. A starter’s mix for Carson.”
Crawford continues a trend in the Farhan Zaidi regime of selecting college players in the first round, though he breaks from the mold a bit as a player considered to have higher upside but also a lower floor. He follows selections of right-hander Will Bednar (2021, Mississippi State), catcher Patrick Bailey (2020, NC State) and outfielder Hunter Bishop (2019, Arizona State) since Zaidi took the reins as the organization’s president of baseball operations.
Because they picked last, the Giants also have the smallest pool of funds to use to sign their draft picks, at $5.8 million. The suggested slot value of the No. 30 pick was $2.485 million, while the slot value at No. 66 was $1.05 million.
Crawford confirmed that he intends to sign with the Giants, rather than return for his junior season. He had announced plans to transfer to the University of Tennessee shortly before the draft.
Crawford enters a restocked San Francisco farm system that generally ranks in the middle of the pack — still an improvement on their standing by the end of the Brian Sabean/Bobby Evans eras. The Giants rank 12th according to ESPN’s Kiley McDaniels, 15th in FanGraphs’ latest rankings and 17th according to Baseball America.
Left-hander Kyle Harrison, their third-round selection in 2020 (out of De La Salle, for well over slot), is fresh off an appearance in the Futures Game and headlines the system, along with shortstop Marco Luciano, one of the many international signees who encompass most of the top talent.
Draft selections of Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner provided a core to build around that eventually delivered three World Series titles. The current crop of homegrown talent on the major-league roster includes two players who were a part of those teams, Brandon Crawford (2008, round 4) and Brandon Belt (2009, round 5), but Logan Webb (2014, round 4), Austin Slater (2014, round 8), Joey Bart (2018, round 1) David Villar (2018, round 11) and Tyler Rogers (2013, round 10) round out the only remaining players drafted and developed by the Giants.
The MLB draft concludes with rounds 3-20 on Monday and Tuesday.
Source: Paradise Post