Giants pitching prospects from 2018 MLB Draft impressing in 2019 season

Giants pitching prospects from 2018 MLB Draft impressing in 2019 season

The Giants are playing the waiting game with their top two prospects, catcher Joey Bart and outfielder Heliot Ramos. Both players are currently injured but expect to be back in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, several other prospects have been impressive as the Giants shuffle through roster changes. It all starts with the players that San Francisco selected right after Bart in the 2018 MLB Draft. 

After taking Bart with the No. 2 overall pick, the Giants then selected four straight pitchers last June. Three of the four have formed an impressive trio in Class A for the Augusta GreenJackets with the fourth, Keaton Winn, not too far behind. 

Here's a look at the progress of the first three arms the Giants took behind Bart last year. 

Sean Hjelle

FanGraphs released their most recent scouting reports Friday on Giants top prospects and they describe Hjelle's body as a "young Pau Gasol." That's both hilarious and true. The evaluation also praises his athleticism for someone who stands 6-foot-11 and weighs 215 pounds. 

The long and lanky Hjelle is off to a great start this season. Through eight starts, he's 1-2 with a 2.50 ERA and has 40 strikeouts compared to eight walks in 36 innings pitched. 

Hjelle, 22, usually sits in the low 90s with his fastball, but his extension creates an uncomfortable at-bat for hitters.

Oh, and his sock game is incredibly strong. 

Jake Wong

Wong, 22, is in the midst of a second stellar minor league season after the Giants selected him in the third round of the draft last year out of Grand Canyon University. So far, he's been nearly perfect. 

Or at least unhittable. Literally. 

He was named South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week on May 6 after going 12 straight innings without allowing a single hit. Over those two starts, Wong struck out eight batters and only allowed two walks. 

Wong is 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA over eight starts this season. Opposing batters are only hitting .186 off him and he has just a 0.91 WHIP.

Blake Rivera

The third of this trio is Rivera, whose numbers aren't quite as eye-opening as the previous two but they're nothing to scoff at. And the Giants like him so much, they've actually drafted him twice. 

After being selected by the Giants in the 32nd round as a freshman at Wallace State Community College in 2017, he returned for his sophomore season and was then drafted by San Francisco in the fourth round. 

[RELATED: Giants quarter-season review]

Rivera, 21, is 1-2 with a 4.03 ERA, though that's largely due to control issues. He's walked 21 batters this season but also has 33 strikeouts in 29 innings. Opposing batters are only hitting .204 against him. 

Down the road, Rivera might turn into a reliever. For now, he's a live arm that's worth watching.

The Giants' big-league roster is in flux as they look to get younger and start a new era. They built their success on young arms, and could soon do so again.

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 same 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.