Giants farm director identifies two prospects who could be sleepers

Giants farm director identifies two prospects who could be sleepers

It's a lot of fun to go through top 100 prospect lists, but scouts and talent evaluators that work in front offices will tell you they don't pay much attention to them.

They would generally rank their players differently, and often you'll see highly-ranked prospects traded because a team doesn't feel the same way about the player as Baseball America or MLB Pipeline. 

Years ago, Giants officials would insist that Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik were underrated by prospect lists. They were right. Last spring, you could find Giants people talking about how 22-year-old Logan Webb should have been a top 100 prospect. 

It's an imperfect science, so it's best to go to the evaluators who know these players best. On a KNBR podcast this week, director of player development Kyle Haines was asked to give a pitcher and hitter who will be heard from down the line but might not be household names for Giants fans. 

"I've got a lot of them," Haines said. "Being the guy who is with these guys every day there are so many guys I want to speak up for, because I see their hard work."

Haines settled on two in particular. From a position player standpoint, he chose outfielder Luis Matos, an outfielder signed out of Venezuela for $750,000 in 2018. The 18-year-old tends to get listed in the back end of the organization's top 10, but he's a player team officials are starting to whisper about a lot.

"I'm a big fan of his," Haines said. "He does a lot of things really well. I think he's a center fielder. He doesn't have that Billy Hamilton speed by any means but he's got enough speed to play center and he seems to just learn things really quickly and takes a lot of pride in his work. At a young age you see how he handles himself differently than most kids his age. He can hit, he can hit for power, he can hit a double, he can steal a base, he can play center field. He's not going to hit the ball to the moon like Alexander Canario is but he does everything really well."

Matos has a .367 average and seven homers in 60 career professional games. He can hit. Seriously, just take a moment and watch this teenager square up baseballs:

There's a reason the Giants are so excited about Matos, who was part of the same international class as top prospect Marco Luciano. 

[RELATED: Giants to carry four top prospects on Taxi squad]

From a pitching standpoint, Haines chose a right-hander who came over in the Sam Dyson trade with the Twins last year. Kai-Wei Teng is just 21 and has a 2.28 ERA in the minors. He has 135 strikeouts and has allowed just one homer in 122 1/3 professional innings. Haines said he anticipates Teng sticking as a starter.

"He's a guy that probably not a lot of people know about that we really like," Haines said. "I think he could be even a quick mover, who knows. I think we're probably higher on him than most in the industry are."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Why Giants GM Scott Harris wants Joey Bart to learn another position

Why Giants GM Scott Harris wants Joey Bart to learn another position

Buster Posey still is mulling over his plans for the 2020 MLB season, but the Giants do have a young catcher on the cusp of the majors in Joey Bart. The top catching prospect was expected to start the season in Triple-A Sacramento, however, with the minor league season canceled, Bart is a part of San Francisco's 60-man roster. 

That doesn't mean he will start in the big leagues, though. No matter what Posey decides, the Giants don't want to force Bart up

Before the No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft makes his debut, general manager Scott Harris would like to see two key parts of development grow for Bart.

“A couple of developmental priorities for him will be first to improve the game calling," Harris said Thursday on KNBR's "Murph & Mac" show. "Not that we’re at all concerned about his game calling, I just think there is a critical mass of games you need to catch at the minor league level before you’re fully prepared to call a game in the big leagues."

Bart actually called games at Georgia Tech, something that even Matt Wieters wasn't allowed to do from the sam college coach. Harris is right, though. Calling games is a skill that catchers must continue to grow and the Giants hoped that would happen for Bart in Sacramento. 

The second part to Harris' answer might be even more important for Bart and the Giants.

“The other thing we talked about quite a bit is we want to expose him to other positions on the field," Harris said. "Not because we are concerned about his catching at all, we already think he is a plus receiver and thrower, but because one of the main tenants of our developmental philosophy is versatility.

"We want to give our major league manager as many opportunities as possible to get our best bats in the lineup. We think the demands of the catching position are such that that it is a benefit of both the player and the team to be able to play multiple positions.”

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Since the Giants drafted Bart, he hasn't played anywhere on the field other than behind the plate. The same goes for his college career. Learning a new position would have been a perfect opportunity for Bart in the Arizona Fall League, but he fractured his thumb hitting in the AFL.

Now Bart will have Summer Camp to learn a new skill, making the name of spring training 2.0 that much more fitting. He will be in camp with Patrick Bailey, a fellow catcher who the Giants took in the first round of the draft this year. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Giants had Bailey work on another position as well. 

[RELATED: Why Bart, three Giants pitchers are intriguing Kruk, Kuip]

Versatility is the name of the game for the Giants and the rest of baseball right now. Bart currently is lacking it, though that soon could change. He has a strong arm behind the plate and moves well for his 6-foot-2, 238-pound frame. It will be interesting to see if the Giants simply hand him a first baseman's mitt, or if he learns another position like third base or the outfield.

“The more that Joey can move around, the more options that his major league manager is going to have to get his bat in the lineup, and I think that’s really important for his career and for the future of the Giants," Harris said. 

Bart could find his way to a major league game during this 60-game season. The Giants will make sure they feel he is 100 percent ready first, though. There's no doubt he holds a key to San Francisco's future success, and there's no reason to rush and open that door too soon.

Matt Duffy gives 'never say never' answer to future Giants reunion

Matt Duffy gives 'never say never' answer to future Giants reunion

The Giants have brought back many players for a second rodeo in the past.

Hunter Pence was their latest example this past offseason when the Giants signed the two-time World Series champion to a one-year contract, and he certainly won't be the last player to come back for Round 2 in San Francisco. Perhaps there could be another reunion for a fan-favorite in the future. 

"Never say never," Matt Duffy said Wednesday to KNBR's Mark Willard. 

Duffy, 29, signed with the New York Yankees on June 28. He signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers, but they released him before announcing their 60-man roster for Summer Camp. New York quickly swooped in and signed the infielder. 

The Giants called to "check in" over the offseason as well. But there is no reunion in place. At least, not yet.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"We did have some dialogue with the Giants this offseason, but it just didn't seem like the interest was there and as mutual as some other opportunities," Duffy said. "But yeah, like I said, never say never."

Duffy made his big league debut with the Giants in 2014, and instantly became a fan-favorite. He hit .267 over 34 games that year, then starred as a rookie the next season. Duffy finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting after he hit .295/.334/.428 with 28 doubles, 12 homers and 77 RBI in 149 games.

Unfortunately for Duffy, that has been his only full season in the big leagues. In 2016, Duffy was hampered by an Achilles injury and played in 70 games for the Giants. Then on Aug. 1, 2016 the Giants traded Duffy with prospects Lucius Fox and Michael Santos to the Tampa Bay Rays for left-handed pitcher Matt Moore.

[RELATED: Posey, Belt face inevitable risk amid coronavirus pandemic]

Duffy played 21 games for the Rays in 2016, but underwent season-ending Achilles surgery and missed the entire 2017 season. He hit .294 for the Rays in 2018, and only played in 46 games last year. 

Injuries have hampered Duffy throughout his career. However, if healthy, Giants fans certainly would welcome a reunion in the future.