Projecting the 2014 Roster – High Draft Picks
By Joe Ritzo
Taking a look at the top 10 rounds of the last two San Francisco Giants drafts and examining which players could end up in San Jose this season.
– 1st round: Christian Arroyo, SS, Hernando HS
– 2nd round: Ryder Jones, 3B, Watauga, HS
– 3rd round: Chase Johnson, RHP, Cal Poly
– 4th round: Brian Ragira, OF/1B, Stanford
– 5th round: Dan Slania, RHP, Notre Dame
– 6th round: Nick Vander Tuig, RHP, UCLA
– 7th round: Brandon Bednar, SS/2B, Florida Gulf Coast
– 8th round: Tyler Horan, OF, Virginia Tech
– 9th round: D.J. Snelten, LHP, Minnesota
– 10th round: Tyler Rogers, RHP, Austin Peay State
Last June marked the first time since 1974 that the San Francisco Giants used their top two draft picks on high school position players. Both Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones thrived in the Arizona Rookie League last summer (Arroyo won the league MVP award), but a jump to San Jose at the start of this season for either seems unlikely. Look for the teenage duo to man the left side of the infield in Augusta (Class A) when minor league rosters are announced at the end of spring training.
The Giants then went to the college ranks with their third through tenth picks. I noted in an earlier article that the chances seem good that outfielders Brian Ragira and/or Tyler Horan could jump to San Jose from Salem-Keizer this season. Both played major college baseball for three seasons and enjoyed some success in the Northwest League last summer. The lack of top-level outfield prospects on last year’s Augusta team also helps each of their causes for a jump to the California League. Fellow position player Brandon Bednar put up solid numbers with the Volcanoes as well (.272 AVG, 6 HR, 34 RBI) seeing action at second base, third base and shortstop. That versatility should prove valuable and could put Bednar in contention for a roster spot in San Jose this spring.
The remainder of the top 10 picks from last June were college pitchers. Chase Johnson, Nick Vander Tuig and D,J, Snelten are each starters. Of the trio, Vander Tuig probably has the best chance to make the San Jose roster coming out of spring training. A polished right-hander, Vander Tuig was one of the star pitchers on UCLA’s national championship team last year. He has only 10 innings of professional experience entering 2014, but with big-game pitching experience from his college days and pinpoint control, he’ll likely be considered for a spot on the Giants staff. Meanwhile, Johnson was the highest drafted of the group and threw well in Salem last summer (3-2, 4.17 ERA in 10 starts). Johnson though was a middle reliever his final season in college and while he may turn out to be a great find for the Giants, he’s still considered fairly raw and will probably build innings in Augusta this year. Snelton, a 6’7” lefty, was a successful starting pitcher at Minnesota, but has yet to pitch above rookie-ball (had a 1.57 ERA in the AZL last summer).
Slania and Rogers are a pair of intriguing relief arms that should open 2014 in either San Jose or Augusta. Slania, a hard-thrower who is listed at 6’5” and 275 lbs., compiled a 3.95 ERA and was a perfect 3-for-3 in save chances over 12 relief appearances with Salem-Keizer last summer. Rogers, a submarine style right-hander, was promoted to San Jose for the playoffs last September after notching a 3.10 ERA in 14 games out of the Volcanoes bullpen. Rogers struggled in his lone playoff appearance with the Giants (2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB). The bullpen was a real strength for Augusta last season and with many of those relievers likely ticketed for San Jose, both Slania and Rogers will have to impress greatly during spring training games to gain consideration for a promotion to the Cal League.
– 1st round: Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State
– 2nd round: Martin Agosta, RHP, St. Mary’s
– 3rd round: Mac Williamson, OF, Wake Forest
– 4th round: Steven Okert, LHP, Oklahoma
– 5th round: Ty Blach, LHP, Creighton
– 6th round: Stephen Johnson, RHP, St. Edward’s
– 7th round: Eduardo Encinosa, RHP, Miami
– 8th round: Joe Kurrasch, LHP, Penn State
– 9th round: Shilo McCall, OF, Piedra Vista HS
– 10th round: Trevor Brown, 2B/C, UCLA
A few of the top 2012 picks have already seen time in San Jose. Of course, Mac Williamson and Ty Blach were stars on last year’s Giants team and both should be headed to Double-A Richmond for the start of this season. Trevor Brown joined San Jose from Augusta last August and after initially struggling, led the Giants in batting average during the playoffs (.345). Drafted as a catcher, Brown saw considerably more action at second base last year. Brown is expected to return to San Jose this season and play a major role on the club.As it relates to the possible composition of the 2014 Giants roster, Chris Stratton and Martin Agosta figure to be the headline names from the 2012 draft class. Stratton was San Francisco’s first round draft pick a year and a half ago after winning the SEC Pitcher of the Year award at Mississippi State. The right-hander spent all of last season in the Augusta rotation where he fashioned a 9-3 record and a 3.27 ERA in 22 starts. Stratton was second on the GreenJackets staff in innings pitched (132) and strikeouts (123). The 23-year old is considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Giants system (Baseball America rated him #3 entering 2014 – behind only Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar) and could be one of the anchors of San Jose’s starting rotation this season. Stratton reportedly features an 89-to-95 MPH fastball with a plus-slider and an improving curve and change-up.
Agosta, who will turn 23 in April, actually outpitched Stratton in Augusta last season, when he was healthy. Agosta logged a 9-3 record with a sparkling 2.06 ERA in 18 starts for the GreenJackets. He also averaged well over a strikeout per inning (109 SO in 91 2/3 IP) while the opposition hit at just a .180 clip against him. Agosta was limited to just four starts after July 5 due to a pair of stints on the disabled list (a blister issue and then suffered from some arm fatigue). Agosta was a starting pitcher in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game last year and along with Stratton, could form a lethal 1-2 punch in the San Jose rotation in 2014.
In addition to Brown, Stratton and Agosta, the most likely players from the top of the 2012 draft class to start the year in San Jose are relievers Steven Okert and Stephen Johnson. Okert was a solid contributor out of the Augusta bullpen last season compiling a 2.97 ERA in 44 games with 59 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. Okert is expected to be one of the top left-handed arms in the Giants ‘pen this spring. He held left-handed batters to a .189 batting average and just one extra-base hit last year. Meanwhile, Johnson features an electric mid 90’s fastball and should join Okert as a reliable late-inning reliever in San Jose. Last season, Johnson possessed a 3.61 ERA and eight saves in 45 games with the Volcanoes. Johnson was at his best late in the year with no runs allowed over his last 15 appearances (19 innings).
Finally, Kurrasch pitched as a starter in both Salem-Keizer (5.03 ERA in 34 IP) and Augusta (1.78 ERA in 25 IP) last season with mixed results. Encinosa (3.12 ERA, .143 opponents average) was tough to hit in the Volcanoes bullpen a year ago and is probably headed to Augusta. McCall, the only high school player taken in the first 10 rounds by the SF Giants in 2012, hit .235 with four home runs in Salem-Keizer and is likely at least a year away from reaching the California League.