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Predicting the Barney Nugent Award

Formerly known as the Harry S. Jordan award

San Francisco Giants v New York Yankees
Most of the photos of Trevor Brown in the photo tool are of him high fiving people, and I really appreciate that.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

At the end of every spring training, Giants players, coaches, and trainers vote on the "player in his first big league camp whose performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit." So I thought, hey, wouldn't it be fun to try to predict the winner? And that's what I'll try to do!

Disclaimer: I stole that text from when I wrote this article last year, which seems like it’s laziness, but actually it’s superstition. Two years ago, I didn’t realize Matt Duffy was eligible, but last year, I successfully predicted who would win, so like a baseball player who won’t change his underwear during a winning streak, I’m reusing it without even washing the dang thing. That paragraph’s pretty gross and there’s a weird smell to it. Please spray some Febreze.

Here are the former winners of this award, by year:

1988 - Joe Kmak, Francisco Melendez
1989 - James Steel
1990 - Eric Gunderson
1991 - Mark Leonard
1992 - John Patterson
1993 - Greg Brummett
1994 - J.R. Phillips
1995 - Joe Rosselli
1996 - Marvin Benard
1997 - Dante Powell
1998 - Russ Ortiz
1999 - Damon Minor
2000 - Ben Weber
2001 - Pedro Feliz
2002 - Felix Escalona
2003 - Jason Ellison
2004 - Brian Dallimore
2005 - Scott Munter
2006 - Derin McMains
2007 - Tim Lincecum
2008 - Brian Bocock
2009 - Joe Martinez
2010 - Darren Ford
2011 - Brandon Belt
2012 - Dan Otero
2013 - Brock Bond
2014 - Mark Minicozzi
2015 - Greatest Human Being Of All Time And Sure Thing Hall Of Famer Matt Duffy
2016 - Trevor Brown

Who’s eligible to win this year? First, you take a look at this year’s list of non-roster invitees:

  • Every single human being who has ever lived

Cool, cool. Then you look at who the Giants have invited over the last couple years and get rid of them. Then you look at who’s left who was in another organization and figure out who’s been in a big league spring training camp before. Then, finally, you look at the Giants’ 40-man roster additions this offseason and see who’s eligible in there. Then the final step is later finding out you missed somebody and hoping he doesn’t win and make you look stupid, but that comes way after this article.

Anyway, we end up getting something like this:

Pitchers (4)

  • Carlos Alvarado
  • Roberto Gomez
  • Reyes Moronta
  • Dan Slania

Infielders (3)

  • CJ Hinojosa
  • Miguel Gomez
  • Jae-Gyun Hwang

Outfielders (2)

  • Steven Duggar
  • Austin Slater

So who can we eliminate right away? Well, generally speaking, the award goes to someone who would be a leading candidate for the 26th spot on the roster, so Miguel Gomez, great as he was in Augusta and San Jose last year, is probably out. CJ Hinojosa didn’t do especially well in Richmond last year, so as someone who’ll probably need more seasoning in the minors (and facing playing time competition from every single backup infielder in baseball today), he’s out too. And Roberto Gomez hasn’t pitched above Rookie ball since 2014, so he probably won’t stick around too long either.

The next category I like to fill out is the Probably Nots, which in this case consists of the other three pitchers. Alvarado did very well last year in Richmond, but it was in limited time and he was old for the league. Moronta had an excellent year for San Jose, but that’s several steps away from the majors, which is a hard bridge to cross in just one offseason. And Slania is going to have a tough time distinguishing himself as a starter with at least eight guys ahead of him on the depth chart. There are ways all three of them could show up and win, but it’s not especially likely.

That leaves us with three guys: Jae-Gyun Hwang, Steven Duggar, and Austin Slater. Duggar is probably the least hyped around here and certainly the least likely to make it to the majors this year; he was very good in San Jose last year, moved up to Richmond and continued hitting, but he seemed to leave his power in California. He had a solid 2016, but there were enough red flags against tougher competition that it’s likely he’ll have a tough time this spring.

To me, the competition really comes down to Slater against Hwang. Slater had a spectacular year last year in Richmond, got promoted to Sacramento, and didn’t slow down at all. His year was a bit of a surprise, as it far outpaced what he did in 2015, but he opened up a lot of eyes in the Giants organization and among people who watch the Giants minor leagues desperate to find someone they can get super hyped about. He was outstanding.

Hwang, meanwhile, is fun and new and I desperately want him to be good. It would be so, so fun if he ended up being good. After an excellent career in the KBO, he was especially great last year, and if that transfers over to the US (I wrote a whole thing about it!), he’ll be a special player.

So who’s going to win? I’m going to go with Hwang, mostly because I want him to win. There is an excellent and unimpeachable case for taking Slater, and one that’s probably better supported by facts and evidence, but Hwang has lots of potential and, hey, I’ve never seen him fail. Also, when I started writing this article I did it with the idea that I would pick Hwang at the end, and so if I did pick Slater and Hwang won, I would be very annoyed with myself. McCovey Chronicles: only the best and most thought out analysis.

Jae-gyun Hwang for 2017 Barney Nugent Award winner. May he flip his bat one more time in triumph.