SAN FRANCISCO — Wade Meckler’s storybook journey has quickly flipped chapter after chapter since being drafted by the Giants last July out of Oregon State. It reached its latest stage Monday, as the onetime walk-on became the first player from the 2022 draft class outside the Angels organization to reach the majors.
Thirteen months after the Giants drafted him in the eighth round, the 23-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder made his major league debut in center field, batting second batting second against Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow in the club’s first of three games against Tampa Bay.
“I wasn’t expecting to be here,” Meckler said after arriving in the clubhouse Monday afternoon, “but I was expecting to hit.”
And hit, he has.
And hit. And hit. And hit.
Moving through five levels of the minor leagues, Meckler has a career .377/.472/.527 batting line over 92 professional games, a .999 OPS. He hit .439 in A-ball, .456 at High-A, .336 at Double-A and .400 in 10 games since reaching Triple-A Sacramento.
“It’s kind of silly video game numbers,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “The on-base stuff is pretty impressive. A lot of that is he’s just got really good plate discipline and really good bat-to-ball skills. There’s a little bit of Luis Matos there, but Meckler’s a little different in that it goes back pretty far, the plate discipline.”
The track record goes back to Meckler’s time at Oregon State, where he may have never gotten on the field if not for his perseverance.
Impressive for the most heralded of prospects, Meckler’s quick ascension only carries more weight when you familiarize yourself with his backstory.
Unrecruited out of Anaheim’s Esperanza High, a friend shopped Meckler’s name around to numerous colleges. Nobody bit, except for Oregon State.
Meckler’s bonus money upon signing with the Giants — $97,500 — was just enough to cover his tuition; he never received a cent in scholarship money.
After walking on his freshman year, the Beavers changed coaching staffs, and Meckler was cut before his sophomore season, “the 35th guy on a 34-man roster,” he said.
“They were very respectful about it, but they said we just don’t see a path to playing time here for you. If you want to transfer, we’re not going to hold it against you. I basically told them no, I’m staying, and I’m gonna prove you wrong.”
With his diminutive frame, elite bat-to-ball skills and command of the strike zone, Meckler had an example to follow in another former Oregon State outfielder: Bay Area native Steven Kwan, who took used that skillset to become a fifth-round draft pick and eventually a Rookie of the Year candidate last season with Cleveland.
It was former Giants outfielder Tyler Graham, then a coach at Oregon State, who opened Meckler’s eyes.
“Day one I walk in there, he’s like, you’re just like Steven Kwan, you can be a big leaguer,” Meckler said. “From day one, he was in my ear telling me this stuff, giving me that confidence that if if grinded and worked harder than anyone else and worked the right way that eventually I was going to be a starter there.”
An All-Pac-12 first-team selection by his senior season, that mindset has carried Meckler further than he could have imagined.
It carries similarities to his approach in the batter’s box, which has allowed him to get on base nearly 50% of the time since reaching pro ball and speed through the minor leagues faster than any other member of the Giants’ 2022 draft class.
“I’m just gonna grind out at-bats and make the pitcher break first,” Meckler said. “That’s kind of my whole M.O. – trying to get the pitcher to break before I miss three pitches.”
With Mike Yastrzemski suffering a setback Sunday in his recovery from a strained hamstring — he’ll be shut down for the week — Meckler gives the Giants another left-handed hitting option in the outfield. But there was purpose behind this promotion. They could have just as easily promoted Luis González, but instead they designated him for assignment in a series of roster moves clearing the way for Meckler. Another young outfielder, Luis Matos, was optioned back to Triple-A.
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Meckler’s speed and contact ability are not a skillset widely on display in the Giants’ lineup, which has struck out more times this season than all but one team in the National League and has been the least productive group in the major leagues since mid-June.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that we’re having some trouble putting the ball in play consistently,” Kapler said. “Especially with runners on base and runners on third base with less than two outs, it’s something that we’ve struggled with recently. You can’t really ask a rookie to come in and solve those problems, but you come in and chip away at it by bringing that skillset to the major-league level.”
Meckler has moved so fast through the minor leagues that he had yet to find a roommate since being promoted to Sacramento, only two weeks ago. His longest stint at any level lasted 39 games at Double-A Richmond. He had just disembarked the River Cats’ plane home from Las Vegas when manager Dave Brundage pulled him aside.
“He asked who’s your roommate here? I was like, I don’t have one. I’m kind of by myself,” Meckler said. “OK, cool. Well, we’re gonna get you a new roommate because you’re heading to San Francisco.”
Meckler reached the majors faster than any other member of the Giants’ 2022 draft class, but he is still 2 years older than Matos.
It’s a good reminder that there’s a lot of development left for Matos and fellow 21-year-old Marco Luciano, whose arrivals in the majors this season were ahead of schedule. While showing impressive poise, Matos has cooled off at the plate — a .241 .306 .316 batting line in 175 plate appearances — but last year’s Arizona Fall League Defensive Player of the Year also showed lapses in center field, culminating in his first start in left field in his final game before being sent down.
Kapler left him with two parting messages.
“He can get a little stronger, so we discussed that,” Kapler said. “I think so far this season, he’s been a little frustrated because he’s hit some balls on the nose and sometimes they’re just not falling for base hits. Some of that will just work itself out with time as he gets more physically mature, but he does have some ability to put in some extra work on the strength training side. …
“The second thing is continuing to focus on his jumps in the outfield and finishing plays. Two long-term, big-picture, high-ceiling goals we talked about were to win a Gold Glove and win a batting title. … I think he put a little bit of pressure on himself and he kind of got off to a rocky start in respect to the jumps. He put a little more pressure on himself to get a better jump and maybe second-guessed himself a little bit. You could see that happening where it just took him a second to recognize where the ball was going to be before he went after it.”