Image credit: No. 2 overall pick Joey Bart (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
BEST PURE HITTER: The No. 2 overall pick, catcher Joey Bart (1) was considering one of the best pure hitters in the draft, regardless of position. After being a 27th-round pick by the Rays coming out of Buford (Ga.) High in 2015, Bart enjoyed a three-year career at Georgia Tech, where he slashed .321/.407/.544 and led the ACC in batting average (.359) as a junior. Then, in his pro debut, Bart hit .298/.369/.613 in the short-season Northwest League, where he was the league’s No. 1 prospect. Bart has a sizable leg kick in his load, but he showcases an easy swing and exceptional barrel control.
BEST POWER: At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Bart has plus raw power to all fields and hit a combined 29 home runs during his sophomore and junior seasons at Georgia Tech. He hit 13 home runs in his 45-game sample of the Northwest League, which was tied for third in the league and only two behind league leader Curtis Terry (Indians), who played in 22 more games. Bart has the power to project as a middle-of-the-order mainstay, and scouts were impressed with his ability to impact the baseball without completely selling out for power.
FASTEST RUNNER: Outfielder P.J. Hilson (6) was considered one of the speedier center fielders in the 2018 draft class, with scouts consistently putting 70 grades on his speed coming out of Nettleton High in Jonesboro, Ark. While his speed is perhaps most notable when ranging in all directions to track down fly balls in center field, Hilson also proved to be a threat on the base paths in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he stole five bases in seven attempts.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: The best all-around offensive player in the Giants’ 2018 draft class is also the best defensive player, as Bart displays a plus arm and proved to have excellent game-calling ability as a catcher at Georgia Tech. Evaluators complimented Bart’s footwork and overall effort behind the plate in his pro debut, noting his fearlessness when blocking pitches in the dirt.
BEST ATHLETE: A 70-grade runner with above-average range in center field, Hilson also touched 93 mph off the mound in high school. If he would have made it onto campus at Alabama, there’s a real chance Hilson would have been developed as a two-way player, at least initially, and he has the prerequisite athleticism to handle both. As for pitchers, both Keaton Winn (5) and Ben Madison (9) are excellent athletes with fluid, quick-twitch deliveries.
BEST FASTBALL: Grand Canyon’s ace each of the past two springs, Jake Wong (3) routinely sits in the low to mid-90s, and he topped out at 97 mph in the Cape Cod League last summer. Scouts described Wong as possessing a “heavy” fastball, and the 6-foot-2, 215-pound righthander pounds the zone with his heater, walking less than two batters per nine innings in the Northwest League during his pro debut.
BEST SECONDARY PITCH: Standing 6-foot-11, Sean Hjelle (2) can give hitters problems with a potentially plus, low-80s curveball with plenty of power and depth when he’s able to consistently stay on top of the pitch. In addition to his heavy fastball, Wong has a sharp slider that puts him in consideration for this superlative, while Madison’s above-average slider helped him lead all NAIA pitchers with 16 strikeouts per nine innings last spring at Central Baptist (Ark.). Not surprisingly, both Hjelle (9.3 strikeouts per nine innings) and Wong (8.9 strikeouts per nine) showcased the ability to miss bats in their pro debuts, and Madison led the trio with 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings in a 16-inning stint in the Arizona League.
BEST PRO DEBUT: The top prospect in the Northwest League, Bart had one of the best pro debuts of any first-round pick in 2018. Combined with his six-game stop in the Arizona League, Bart hit .294/.364/.588 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs in his first 51 games as a professional, all while playing excellent defense behind the plate. On the mound, Wong recorded a 2.30 ERA in 11 starts in the Northwest League and showed excellent command, posting a 4.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27.1 innings.
MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: The son of the 1987 American League MVP, George Bell Jr. (13) is a 20-year-old outfielder out of Connors State (Okla.) JC. Bell Jr.’s father, also an outfielder, enjoyed a 12-year major league career and was a three-time All-Star, including in the 1987 season when he hit .308/.352/.605 and led the AL in RBIs (134), total bases (369) and extra-base hits (83). Bell Jr., who is one of eight sons of the three-time Silver Slugger award winner, slashed .360/.484/.512 with five home runs and nine stolen bases in 57 games as a sophomore at Connors State in 2018.
CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: Perhaps a bit unfair, Bart will forever be compared to Buster Posey, the catcher the Giants drafted the last time the organization had a top-five pick. And if Posey’s career arc is any indication, then Bart could be on the fast track to the majors. Posey played in just 172 minor league games and made his major league debut less than 16 months after being drafted. Even if the Giants decided to move Bart along slower than Posey, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bart in San Francisco by the end of the 2020 season. Meanwhile, Hjelle, the 2017 SEC pitcher of the year while at Kentucky, has the college pedigree, pure stuff and overall pitchability to potentially move through the minors quickly.
BEST LATE-ROUND PICK: A 6-foot-4, 220-pound lefthander out of College of the Canyons (Calif.) JC, Jacob Lopez (26) impressed in the Arizona League. In nine appearances (four starts) for the AZL Giants Orange, Lopez had a 1.42 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 25.1 innings. Opponents hit just .202 off Lopez, who boasted a 0.95 WHIP. The Giants’ final pick in 2018, third baseman Abdiel Layer (40) received a late-season promotion to low Class A Augusta after 43 games in the Arizona League. A product of Miami Dade JC, Layer showed an intriguing power-speed combination in his pro debut, hitting .271/.344/.400 with 14 extra-base hits (three home runs) and nine stolen bases in 47 games.