How Giants' 2018 MLB Draft class is faring in first full season as pros

How Giants' 2018 MLB Draft class is faring in first full season as pros

NEW YORK -- For the first time in 50 years, the Giants went with nine position players in their first 10 picks of the 2019 MLB Draft. They didn't take a pitcher until the eighth round, which gives a clear indication of what the plan -- rightfully -- was going into this draft, but also puts some pressure on the 2018 class. 

The Giants don't just have gaps in their lineup. They also are missing frontline starters in their system and could have a gaping hole at the big league level if they trade Madison Bumgarner. Any deal could bring back a top pitching prospect, and the Giants may also benefit from trading the likes of Will Smith and Tony Watson. 

For now, their future is in large part dependent on the pitcher-heavy 2018 draft class, which was led by a catcher. Before the 2019 class starts to sign, here's a look at how last year's draftees are doing a year into their pro careers:

Joey Bart (first round)

He's the best catching prospect in the minors, had a nice stretch in big league camp, and has consistently dominated minor league pitching. Bart hit 13 homers in short-season ball last year and has a .300/.378/.625 slash line in 11 games for the San Jose Giants. He has missed most of the season after taking a pitch off the hand, but homered Tuesday night in his return to the lineup.

The injury may have cost Bart a September call-up, but scouts rave about his defense, and that should allow him to move quickly. He should be in the big leagues early next season, and could push for an Opening Day role. 

Sean Hjelle (second round)

The 6-foot-11 right-hander was recently promoted from Augusta to San Jose. Hjelle, 22, had a 2.66 ERA in nine Low-A starts with more than a strikeout per inning. He has allowed eight runs -- five earned -- in 11 innings for San Jose so far.

The most encouraging thing about his line is the lack of walks; you would think someone his size would have issues repeating his delivery, but Hjelle is averaging just two walks per nine innings in 23 minor league starts. 

Jake Wong (third round)

The right-hander had some sleeper buzz when he was taken last year and has dominated the low minors so far. Wong, 22, had a 1.99 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in Augusta and has allowed seven runs in 16 innings with San Jose. He has 77 strikeouts in 84 minor league innings and has held hitters to a .219 average.

Pitchers move slower, so you can expect Hjelle and Wong to spend the whole year in San Jose. 

Blake Rivera, Keaton Winn, Solomon Bates, Ben Madison

The Giants took seven college right-handers with their first 10 picks, and the majority of this group is at Augusta. Bates, pitching out of the bullpen, had the most eye-popping stats and is now in San Jose.

He had 41 strikeouts and and two unintentional walks in 26 innings with Augusta. 

[RELATED: Giants pitching prospects from 2018 MLB Draft impressing in 2019]

Patrick Hilson, Edison Mora

These were the other two position players taken in the top 10 rounds, but both teenagers are far from the big leagues. Hilson, an 18-year-old outfielder, played short-season ball last year and is currently working out at the facility in Arizona.

Mora, an 18-year-old shortstop, also is in extended spring training. Their season starts in a couple of weeks. 

David Villar

The 22-year-old third baseman went under the radar last summer because of Bart's demolition for Salem-Keizer, but Villar also hit 13 homers. The 11th-round pick started this season in San Jose and enters play Wednesday with a .242/.305/.375 slash line and three homers. 

Matt Frisbee

The 15th-round pick out of UNC Greensboro pitched well in Augusta in April and was quickly promoted to San Jose, where he has a 4.25 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in six starts. The right-hander has 36 strikeouts and just five walks in 29 2/3 innings for San Jose. 

Barry Bonds' record-setting 762nd home run ball up for auction again

Barry Bonds' record-setting 762nd home run ball up for auction again

Nobody has ever hit more home runs in their MLB career than Barry Bonds. His 762 homers during his 22-year career still remains the all-time record.

That 762nd home run ball is a piece of history, and someone is going to own it soon.

The Action Network's Darren Rovell reported Tuesday the ball has been put up for auction. The bidding starts at $50,000.

The two-run homer came against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Sept. 5, 2007, off of Ubaldo Jimenez in the first inning of the 5-3 win for the Giants. 

And this ball had a weird, historic journey since it was hit.

Jameson Sutton was the lucky fan who retrieved the ball, but it wasn’t as storybook as that. Sutton actually reached over the fence to make the catch which meant umpires could have ruled fan interference in what would have made a dent in history.

[RELATED: What Tony Gwynn Jr. remembers about Bonds, dad exchanges]

This is also not the first time the ball has been up for sale. Back in April 2008, it sold for $376,612, according to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Last year, it sold for $282,900 at auction.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Farhan Zaidi explains worst-case scenario of calling Joey Bart up early

Farhan Zaidi explains worst-case scenario of calling Joey Bart up early

Farhan Zaidi hears your rallying cries begging for the Giants call up Joey Bart.

What's there to lose, right? Well, the Giants' president of baseball operations believes there's a lot to lose, and is doing everything in his power to make sure Bart's transition to the big leagues is as smooth as possible

"What we have to lose is putting Joey Bart on a career path that doesn't allow him to get the most out of his ability," Zaidi recently said to the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea on the "Giants Splash" podcast. "What we have to lose is calling him up, maybe a little too early, having him struggle, having that impact his confidence and that's the last thing we want to do.

"Frankly, we'd rather be a little late on calling him up than a little early on calling him up." 

Bart, 23, is considered the second-best catching prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft hit .278 with 16 home runs last season between Single-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond. He also missed multiple weeks after fracturing his left hand and then fractured his right thumb early on in the Arizona Fall League.

When Zaidi was the Los Angeles Dodgers' general manager, he faced similar decisions with calling up top prospects like Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. Bellinger was just 21 years old when he made his MLB debut against the Giants in April 2017. Seager also was just 21 when he debuted in September 2015. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

But Bellinger had 399 at-bats in Double-A and 78 more in Triple-A before he reached the big leagues. Seager had 228 in Double-A and 421 in Triple-A. Bart hasn't played a single game in Triple-A and only has 79 at-bats in Double-A. 

The goal is to make sure Bart follows a similar path as Bellinger and Seager. Bellinger won the NL MVP in just his third big league season. Seager won NL Rookie of the Year and already has been named to two All-Star Games. Those kind of accolades certainly are what Zaidi and Co. envision for Bart. 

With no minor league season this year, Bart is training at the Giants' alternate site in Sacramento. There, he's learning how to play first base and working on very specific aspects of his overall game. He isn't able to play in full games right now, but Zaidi believes he still is able to grow as a player. 

[RELATED: Zaidi, Giants reach key milestone with latest prospect trade]

"I still view him as getting important reps, because he's facing good pitching in Sacramento," Zaidi said. "We've got guys like Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez -- those guys are with the taxi squad right now -- but he had the opportunity to face those guys, as well as other guys who are Triple-A, big league pitchers.

"I think those are valuable reps." 

The Giants don't view Bart as someone who will just help them one day. They know he has superstar potential. And sometimes, that comes with a frustrating amount of patience.