Bryce Eldridge

Giants' scouting director details ‘creative' MLB draft approach

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A year after they took a player who now is pitching and also serving as a designated hitter in the minors, the Giants used their first-round pick of the 2023 MLB Draft on a pitcher/first baseman. So, are they now going all-in on two-way talents whenever the draft rolls around?

“I guess we’ll find out in ‘24, right?” director of amateur scouting Michael Holmes said, smiling. 

The more interesting development next July might be whether Reggie Crawford and Bryce Eldridge are still trying to follow in Shohei Ohtani’s footsteps, but for now, the Giants again are committed to letting one of the draft's most athletic prospects give it a try.

They took Eldridge with the No. 16 overall pick in Sunday’s draft, and like with Crawford a year ago, Holmes said his staff would turn the rest over to Kyle Haines and player development. Haines and his group have let Crawford pitch while also starting as a DH once a week between starts. In Eldridge, the Giants saw a lot of the same traits that led to them selecting Crawford.

"He's a really good athlete," Holmes said of Eldridge. "He's obviously unique for his size, being 6-foot-7. He has really good body control. At the plate, it's a unique ability to have power. We think he controls the zone. He has a very short swing, is very short to the baseball and has a very balanced stroke.

"On the mound, you probably didn't see his better velocity [this year] -- he was battling an ankle injury. But it's a guy that we've seen up to 95-96 [mph] with a breaking ball. We like baseball players and first and foremost, Bryce is a tremendous baseball player with tremendous instincts. A tremendous individual who will represent the Giants well off the field. We're really excited we were able to get him in the first round."

The Giants have been watching Eldridge for a while, having regularly visited James Madison High in Vienna, Virginia two years ago to scout his teammate, James Triantos, who was a second-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 2021. Eldridge was a sophomore back then, and two seasons later he was the Virginia Player of the Year, posting a 1.06 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings on the mound while also batting .422 with eight homers 

Eldridge also played both ways for Team USA's 18U National Team, which won the gold at the 2022 World Cup. He was named the tournament's MVP. Holmes said that throughout, the Giants saw elite athleticism and body control, as well as another trait that Crawford has, and that Ohtani obviously does.

"The competitiveness, "Holmes said. "He thinks he can be good anywhere he's at on the field, and that's something we look for. If you look at that USA 18-and-under national team that won the gold medal, he had three home runs in the World Cup, he also closed out games, he was MVP of the tournament. 

"You're just talking about an extreme, ultimate competitor. A winner, a proven winner on the field. I think that, first and foremost, will allow him to excel at whatever he wants to do."

While the Eldridge pick immediately was compared to Crawford last year, the remainder of the haul on the draft's first night might have been more reminiscent of 2020. 

Three years ago, the Giants were able to move signing bonuses around to convince third-round pick Kyle Harrison to pass on a UCLA commitment. This time around, they considered Colorado high school shortstop Walker Martin with their first pick, and then ended up getting him at No. 52 overall. The Denver Post reported that Martin, who led the nation with 20 homers in 29 games as a senior, agreed to a verbal deal that was closer to the slot value of a late first-round pick. 

The difference in 2020 was made up by selecting college players -- who generally have less leverage in negotiations -- around Harrison. But on Sunday the Giants still were able to scoop up a first-round-caliber talent with their next pick, taking Joe Whitman at No. 69. The Kent State left-hander was ranked No. 37 on MLB Pipeline's pre-draft big board and No. 42 by The Athletic's Keith Law. 

Asked about potentially moving money around to sign Martin, Holmes offered only that the Giants have "been able to be creative in a lot of ways." On Sunday, that meant adding another two-way player, along with two others who very easily could have gone much higher in the draft. 

"I think the rankings tell you what a lot of people -- not only who put them out, but even in the industry -- think about the players," Holmes said. "I do think it means something. To be able to get three guys like that, it's an exciting thing."

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