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Underrated Giants prospects to know before 2021 MiLB season

/ by Dalton Johnson
Presented By Cadillac
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Will Wilson

May the fourth be with Minor League Baseball fans.

No more alternate sites. No more begging for videos out of extended spring training. The wait is over. 

Opening Day is here all around the minors on Tuesday, including three of the Giants' affiliates: The San Jose Giants, the Eugene Emeralds and the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Their Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats, will begin their season Thursday in Las Vegas.

By now, the majority of Giants fans are well aware of the franchise's top prospects like Marco Luciano, Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos. But what about the players who aren't receiving enough recognition right now?

NBC Sports Bay Area spoke with Giants director of player development Kyle Haines in late March to talk about those exact prospects. 

Here's what he had to say. 

Dalton Johnson (DJ): Who are some underrated or under-the-radar prospects we should have our eyes on going into the season?

Kyle Haines (KH): That’s always a tough question for me to answer to be honest, because I love them all so much. Anybody who’s wearing the Giants uniform, I almost have some hopes for them to break out or else they wouldn’t be here. I think under the radar prospects, I think of someone like Grant McCray really stands out for me. I think he’s got the physical tools to match anyone.

 

We just haven’t seen much because he signed out of high school and then we didn’t really get to see him play a full season last year. I think he flies under the radar behind a lot of these names that are usually mentioned at the top 20 or 30 prospects. I think he’s one year away from having a good year and growing to where he’s gonna be in the same breath. 

DJ: He has the speed and athleticism. Is the bat the only thing holding him back a little bit right now?

KH: It’s just the rawness of his whole game. He shows a chance to be a very well-rounded player both offensively and defensively and just be high upside in every area of the game when you start to really break it down. He just needs to get stronger and he needs to really just learn the game of baseball and translate his speed in the outfield to actually running down balls in the gaps and things of that nature.

Then putting his speed to play on the bases and just developing his entire offensive game.

DJ: Garrett Frechette is a guy who has created some more noise lately. What are your thoughts on him?

McCray and Frechette are always gonna be teamed together because they were the first two high school position players picked in that (2019) draft, third and fifth-round, respectively. Frechette, him and McCray are almost in the same category where it’s a high school kid who went out in the Arizona League right out of high school and performed while they adjusted to the pro game and then didn’t get to have that chance to see if they broke out last year. But Garrett, he can hit.

We think he can hit but he missed his senior year of high school mostly with mono. Then obviously played in the summer and did great. We think there’s more developing power there as well as a well-rounded hit tool. You just kind of hope that what we’ve been dreaming on for almost two years now comes out in the game action. Everything we’ve seen to this point -- this is a young kid who still has a lot of youth on his side that could potentially break out and once again be mentioned in that same category we mention with a lot more familiar names.

DJ: Frechette’s a 6-foot-3 first baseman. Is there a chance he could play outfield in the future?

KH: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve actually talked about trying to get him some reps in the outfield. We just have so many outfield prospects right now. We’re a little thinner depth-wise at first base than we are in the outfield. I think in our perfect world, we would see him in the outfield some this year to get some experience. 

 

DJ: Is there an underrated prospect from last year’s draft class who stands out to you? 

KH: I think Nick Swiney was on his way to climbing up draft boards last spring the way he was pitching at NC State. I think we got him in a spot that really was … we thought, very good. If he continues to pitch the rest of spring all of 2020 at NC State the way he did the start of the 2020 college season, I think if he continues that trend he showed, he might be flirting with the first round. 

With the amount of strikeout to walk ratio that he showed, and then the stuff -- three pitches, lefty … sometimes you see guys like that sneak into the first round as people look for safe college picks. I think potentially with his three weapons and the fastball being average or maybe above that at select times, if he could have done that longer, I think you’ve got some people with some first-round grades. 

DJ: Is Will Wilson someone who can be a fast riser through the farm system? 

KH: The thing about Will is, he just grows on you the more you watch him play. He’s kind of very reminiscent of what the Giants were really good at for a long time, which is kind of developing the homegrown infielder. Just that solid all-around player. 

DJ: Panik and Crawford. 

KH: Yeah, and obviously I don’t want to put too bold of expectations on him, but he’s in that mold. Maybe if you watch him for a game or a series, you kind of like him. But when you watch him over a long sample, he just really grows on you. When you watch him play more and more you realize the value he brings to a team as he gets to play more and more. 

RELATED: Three things to know about Giants' MiLB Opening Day rosters

DJ: Luis Matos isn’t so much under the radar anymore. But can he get to that Marco Luciano level in the near future? 

KH: He’s almost like very similar comments on McCray and Frechette where what we’ve seen we really like, but you just want to get him out and get him more experience and kind of see what we have. When it comes to Marco, he came with a huge amateur pedigree and then he proved it in the Arizona League. Matos, and even a guy like Jairo Pomares -- what we’ve seen, we really like these guys. And they could potentially shoot up some of these prospect lists or justify some of the hype.

With Luis, we almost want to temper expectations just because we haven’t really seen enough of him yet, especially with competition in the United States. Is he capable of that? Yeah, he’s capable. I just think before he jumps up into that next group of guys that are currently at big league camp, it’s kind of like the Grant McCrays of the world. We’ve got to get them out there and play. Those are guys with a normal 2020, we might be talking about them in that context. But we just don’t know. 

 

DJ: Can you expand on Pomares? I'm a big fan of his swing.

KH: Yeah, he can hit. He should have more power down the road. Power’s just the last thing to develop, but he can hit. He’s a strong kid and I think he might hit doubles and homers out in the future more as he plays more. He’s definitely more of a corner outfielder. He can probably fill in in center field, but I think probably looking more at the corner outfield mold. Center field right now is a bit of a stretch, but he can man it if he had to.

But yeah, the value’s in the bat. He’s kind of in that Frechette mold where you hope the advanced bat that we’ve seen so far translates to the higher levels and the extra bases come as he finds the barrel and learns pitching and strategy more.

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