Prospect season in review: Giants’ Harrison
MiLB.com's Prospect Season in Review series spotlights players who shined brightest during the 2021 campaign. Here's a look at fifth-ranked Giants prospect Kyle Harrison. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here. There are seasons like the one Kyle Harrison just put together for Low-A San
MiLB.com's Prospect Season in Review series spotlights players who shined brightest during the 2021 campaign. Here's a look at fifth-ranked Giants prospect Kyle Harrison. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here.
There are seasons like the one Kyle Harrison just put together for Low-A San Jose that might lead teams to a more open-minded Draft strategy.
Harrison is one of 15 players since 1998, including nine in the past five Drafts, to be selected in the third round and receive a reported bonus of at least $2 million. On that list, six players signed for a bonus more than three times their respective slot value. Rays right-hander Cole Wilcox and Pirates outfielder Hudson Head -- who were both drafted by the Padres and subsequently traded to their current clubs -- are the only third-rounders to sign for more than four times their slot value.
Harrison’s reported $2.47 million bonus was nearly 3.5 times the size of his slot value, which ranks fifth in that group behind Wilcox (4.29 times), Head (4.15), Blue Jays right-hander Adam Kloffenstein (3.75) and Mets righty Matt Allan (3.74).
The recent structure of the MLB Draft made these high-risk, high-reward plays a little more popular -- teams receive compensation picks for failing to sign any player selected in the first three rounds.
But clearly teams are still hesitant to take a chance and commit to a strategy that could land a potential first-round talent in the third round. But when they do, they’d be lucky to get the immediate payoff that Harrison provided the Giants in 2021.
One of the youngest pitchers at the level, the club’s fifth-ranked prospect went 4-3 with a 3.21 ERA and 157 strikeouts over 98 2/3 innings. He tied with Astros righty J.P. France for the eighth-most punchouts in the Minors, while his 14.32 K/9 was third-best among all pitchers to complete at least 90 innings.
"I always have to temper my enthusiasm, but this is one of the better raw-ingredient players that the Giants have had on the mound in a long time," San Francisco director of player development Kyle Haines said during KNBR radio’s Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks podcast in October.
The Giants plucked Harrison out of their own backyard from De La Salle High School in Concord, California -- less than 30 miles from Oracle Park. Throughout high school and during his time with Team USA at the 2019 Under-18 World Cup, the left-hander’s fastball hung around the low-90s. But after adding some muscle and making some mechanical adjustments, he was reportedly reaching 98 mph during the pre-Draft process.
“We've really seen his development over the last eight to 10 months,” amateur scouting director Michael Holmes told MLB.com last June. “We've seen his velocity improve. We've seen his breaking ball improve. He's always been able to command the baseball to both sides of the plate. It's more of a three-quarter to lower-three-quarter slot with a little bit of a cross-body look, so it's a very deceptive delivery. Hitters have a tough time seeing the baseball. But this kid is a smart kid on the mound. He's got tremendous feel. He's got good stuff. He definitely is a really competitive kid that we got a chance to know really well.”
The No. 99 overall prospect didn’t really get the team involved much during his introduction to professional baseball, recording 22 of 27 outs via strikeout over his first three starts. He did, however, issue nine walks and hit four batters over that span.
That spotty control proved to be an issue for Harrison as he made just one start over the course of the season without allowing a walk. It was a July 11 outing against Fresno that also happened to be the only time he completed seven innings all season, and he still managed to strike out seven while yielding a pair of runs.
Following that start against the Grizzlies, Harrison completed just 24 innings over his next seven outings, during which he had a 4.50 ERA with 16 walks. Although he’d been reeled in a bit, he was ready to be let loose during San Jose’s run to the Low-A West title.
Harrison finished the regular season with four consecutive starts of at least five innings, including a career-best 12-strikeout effort against Visalia on Sept. 2. He allowed two runs over those 21 innings while punching out 37 batters and yielding seven walks.
His run continued with a curtain call in San Jose’s championship series. Harrison allowed a run on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in Game 1 of an eventual sweep of Fresno. It was just the second time he completed more than six innings all season.
There’s clearly a lot to appreciate about the 6-foot-2, 200-pound southpaw. In addition to that explosive fastball, he wields a sharp-breaking slider and a changeup with some arm-side fade. But it would obviously benefit him to reign in his control. There were only 28 other pitchers in the Minors this season with a BB/9 higher than Harrison’s 4.74.
Fortunately for Harrison and the Giants, he is just 20 years old and there is plenty of time to iron out those wrinkles.
"Kyle Harrison's gonna be as good as he wants to be. If he wants to get after it each and every day and have a great work ethic and continue to grow with a growth mind-set, the sky's the limit for this guy. He's the real deal,” Haines said on the podcast. "On and off the field, maturity beyond his years. I cannot be anymore excited to have him in the organization. He's got a chance to be a man amongst boys once he settles in, and he's shown that already this past season."
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.