It didn't take long for Hunter Bishop to show why the Giants didn't waste any time in the 2019 MLB Draft when the Bay Area native was available with the No. 10 overall pick.
Following a dominant junior year at Arizona State, Bishop had a strong pro debut for San Francisco's farm system. Despite batting just .229 between the Arizona Rookie League and Short Season Low-A, Bishop hit five home runs and four doubles, stole seven bases and had an .867 OPS thanks to 38 walks in 32 games. The problem is, Bishop has barely seen the field.
That has been true until right now with Bishop suiting up for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. Bishop now has played nine games in the AFL. He appeared in only 16 games over the entire 2021 minor league season between three levels.
The former first-rounder started the year in High-A ball for the Eugene Emeralds. That lasted only three games after Bishop went down with an injury to his right throwing shoulder while swinging. He missed nearly three months before returning and playing 11 games in the Arizona Complex League and then two in Low-A for the San Jose Giants.
Not only did he miss nearly the entire 2021 season, he came down with COVID-19 last year when the minor league season was canceled and was late to the Giants' alternate site.
Now that he's healthy and consistently on the field, the Giants are more than happy with what they've seen out of Bishop. They're almost shocked how good he has looked.
"He's been a very pleasant surprise so far," Giants director of player development Kyle Haines said last Thursday on KNBR. "I'd say he's played as good as any of our contingent down there, if not better than anyone."
Bishop hit just .133 (6-for-45) and struck out 21 times in the 16 games he played this season. Through nine games in the AFL, he's batting .250 with a .782 OPS after going 0-for-2 with one run, one RBI, two walks and two strikeouts for Scottsdale on Tuesday. There's more to those numbers, though.
Five of Bishop's seven hits have been doubles. He also has five RBI and has a .429 on-base percentage. The downside is that he has 14 strikeouts, which are half his at-bats. That should be expected though for a power hitter who missed so much time with an injury to his front shoulder.
Even though Bishop was drafted more for his bat than his glove, his focus actually has been on defense in the desert.
"I really put an emphasis on getting my defense to be elite," Bishop recently said to MLB.com's Jim Callis. "I think it's getting a lot better. My throwing is getting a hell of a lot better, so I feel really confident with all aspects of my game.
"It's amazing to be back on the field."
The 6-foot-5 sprinter was drafted as a center fielder and has played the majority of his time there in the minors. With so many top prospects sharing rosters in the AFL, Bishop has only played one position and it isn't center. He exclusively has been a right fielder.
He also only played left field in the ACL and many see that to be his position of the future due to his arm strength. Haines thinks otherwise.
"I think he can play center, myself," Haines said. He then said Bishop is "as good or better as Bryan Reynolds was defensively."
Reynolds is a former Giants prospect who made the All-Star team this year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. While he's recognized more for his offense, Reynolds did play 137 of his 153 games this season as a center fielder.
Bishop hit .342 with 22 home runs and a 1.226 OPS as a junior at ASU and stole 12 bases before becoming Zaidi's first draft pick for the Giants. He's a true 30-30 threat when he puts it all together and stays on the field. Haines calls him a "really powerful, explosive athlete" and he's not alone in his evaluation.
Seeing stats put up next to Bishop's name is great. As Haines and the Giants know, having him healthy is what matters most.
"First of all, he looks healthy, he looks strong, he looks explosive," Haines said. "I feel like he's been around a long time but I don't know if we've really seen that best version of himself and that's what we've seen these first two weeks."