Giants pick Kyle Harrison earned Chris Sale comparison at De La Salle


When the Giants selected Kyle Harrison in the third round of the 2020 MLB Draft, David Jeans was doing what he does best: Coaching baseball. 

Jeans, who coached Harrison for three seasons at De La Salle High School in Concord, was at a baseball facility in the East Bay with a handful of his players when Harrison was drafted. Just like Harrison's teammates, Jeans couldn't have been happier for his left-handed ace. But, he was a bit surprised. 

The bewilderment had nothing to do with Harrison's skills, though. Far from it. 

"I thought if he wouldn't go in the top of the second round, I didn't think he would get to his number," Jeans said to NBC Sports Bay Area in a phone interview. "So it caught me by surprise a little bit, but I'm not surprised a team wanted him so bad." 

The Giants clearly saw Harrison as much more than a third-round talent. Harrison, a Scott Boras client and UCLA commit, reportedly agreed to a $2.5 million signing bonus, which is well above slot for the No. 85 pick in the draft.

Jeans spoke to a handful of teams before the draft. Scouts would ask about Harrison's competitiveness, attitude and how his teammates felt about him. The coach says his star checked every box with ease. 

The Giants were eyeing Harrison for quite some time, too. Harrison's senior season was cut short due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but the Giants had been holding Zoom meetings with him for quite some time. His coach believes everything couldn't have worked out any better for the lefty.

"It actually worked out perfectly," Jeans said. "You can't argue with the San Francisco Giants. Their minor league teams are in San Jose and Sacramento and spring training's in Arizona, so it kind of just worked out for the local guy."

Harrison's season on the field couldn't have gone any better, either. Before baseball was shut down, he dominated for the Spartans, going 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA in his two starts this year. Over nine innings pitched, Harrison allowed one earned run on two hits and struck out 18 batters.

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The 6-foot-2 lefty was seen as one of the most polished pitching prospects in the entire draft. He throws from a funky three-quarters arm slot, sits in the low 90s with his fastball and has a deadly breaking ball. The 18-year-old models his game after Boston Red Sox ace and seven-time All-Star Chris Sale, and Jeans could see the comparison every time Harrison stepped on the mound. 

"He's not as fiery as Madison Bumgarner on the mound," Jeans said. "He's competitive, but Kyle doesn't yell and scream. He doesn't do that kind of stuff. He's a super competitor. He's quiet but he has confidence in his ability. He thinks he can beat anybody and he just goes about his business.

"Chris Sale, his mechanics are very similar. As a left-handed hitter, it's tough to hit against him."

What makes it even more impossible for left-handed hitters to get the best of Harrison is his devastating slider, which makes the Sale comparison that much more spot on. The pitch nearly is unhittable, just take a look. 

"For a left-handed hitter, it looks like it's coming from behind your back," Jeans said. "You have to catch it early or it's going to disappear on you. For a left-handed hitter, when you have 91 miles per hour, 92 miles per hour running in on your hands and then you have to be aware of the slider away.

"You have to cover both sides of the plate, and that's tough to do." 

San Francisco's scouts and front office certainly were enthralled with Harrison's elite offspeed pitch. Matt Daniels, the Giants' coordinator of pitching sciences, tweeted out how excited he was to work with the prep star and his breaking ball soon after the selection was made.

Harrison's fastball, slurvy breaking ball and developing changeup helped him lose a grand total of one game in his high school career. He went 21-1 with a 1.19 ERA over three years on varsity while striking out 192 batters in 124 innings pitched. His career was one for the ages at a school known for non-stop winning. 

As a junior, he went a perfect 10-0 with a 1.26 ERA, racking up 103 strikeouts in 61 innings. Harrison struck out 10 batters in 5 1/3 innings to win the North Coast Section championship, topping off De La Salle's 29-1 season, and was named NorCal Baseball Pitcher of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle. But there's one award he didn't win that still doesn't sit well with his coach. 

Harrison lost out on the California Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior to Turlock High School's Tyler Soderstrom, who was selected by the A's in the first round of the draft this year.

"I know Soderstrom's a great kid. He got state Player of the Year this year, but his team never won a championship," Jeans said. "That's not a knock against him. Kyle was able to bring a winning mentality to guys around him. That's something that the Giants have to look forward to.

"You want guys who want to win. You can't just draft talent. I think the Giants did a great job of that."

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That's exactly what Jeans wants Giants fans to know about Kyle Harrison. The numbers speak for themselves. The accolades are great, so is playing for Team USA and multiple All-American games.

What Jeans reiterated throughout our conversation, however, was how much Harrison "bought in." He was announced during the draft at 200 pounds, but his coach says he's up to 215 after living in De La Salle's weight room. They made sure to limit his innings and he never complained. They took him out of no-hitters and he handed them the ball without argument. 

"He'll be a Giant true and true. He'll want to win all the time. He's a winner," Jeans said. "The No. 1 thing Giants fans should know about Kyle is, he wants to win. It's not about him, it's not about the numbers. He wants to win."

That's better than any Player of the Year trophy. It's better than having your name called in the first round. Maybe there's a reason a giant hole on his trophy case is waiting to be filled. 

In a year full of curveballs moving every which way, Harrison stuck to the plan and his coach believes it brought him exactly where he belongs.

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