First, Some Injury News
Jae-gyun Hwang has been scratched because of a head contusion. Got hit by a bad hop grounder in BP. Giants say it's a precaution.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) March 18, 2017
Hopefully this is not serious for Jae-gyun Hwang. You may know more by the time you read this sometime Sunday (You read this on Sunday, right???), but for now, the impression being given by sportswriters is that there isn’t a ton of worry. He’s under observation, so he may end up okay. I’d be surprised if we saw him play on Sunday, but if he’s back by Monday, shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
Also, him and Chris Stratton should hang out. And maybe ask what the hell is going on at practice that makes prospect’s heads a target like the clowns at a carnival (or, for us suburban folk, a Dave and Busters).
The push for the various position Non-Roster Invitees has been extraordinary, and maybe one truly unlike what any of us have seen in quite some time. But among pitchers fighting for bullpen spots, the prospects and NRIs have had an interesting time of it.
The good news: Mark Melancon has been great. Great enough that I wouldn’t mind him going with Team USA to the WBC Finals, because those games have had a lot of 9th inning shenanigans by a lot of teams. But he was always going to make the team. So let’s talk elsewhere.
The Southpaws are an interesting discussion. That’s because the one sure thing* (*-if healthy) has been missing almost the entire spring. Will Smith finally got into a game on Saturday, and he looked okay, going two innings. He might be a little rusty, but one wouldn’t be surprised by that. He’s had elbow inflammation in his throwing arm. That’s worrisome on its own, and especially for a guy who has had injury history, but luckily last season’s was a knee problem, so these should not pile on top of each other.
The race for second lefty has been interesting, partially because none of the contenders have to deal with waiver issues if they don’t make the team. Josh Osich, one of the top guys to make the roster, has struggled at the start of the season, having given up 7 runs in 5.1 innings, though only 4 earned. Almost all of them were in his first three appearances.
So you might be wanting a deeper dive. Well, like many relievers, Osich isn’t being used in regular season style matchups, where Osich would be a lefty specialist. In fact, Osich has only faced four LHB, and 19 RHB. Of course, that’s why his numbers are skewed, right? Uh…maybe not. Osich only got one of those four LHB out, giving up three hits otherwise. He has had a .200 BAA with the righties, four hits and four walks on top. That may not be good for a guy who is likely to just be that guy to get the lefties.
So, the door is open for others. And right now, that other that’s kicking the door down is Steven Okert. Okert hasn’t been in as heavy rotation in the bullpen, but in five innings, he’s only allowed two hits and one walk, with three strikeouts. Now, sure, spring stats don’t mean much, but what Okert has done and how he looks puts him in a very good spot to make the team out of camp.
The other left-handed options that came from outside the system have not stood out at first glance, though both have a hidden performance worth noting. Kraig Sitton and Michael Roth have not looked good, ERA-wise, although neither have given up any hits to left-handed hitters. Sitton has walked two of the eight he’s faced, Roth hasn’t done either to seven he’s faced. However, with each having only been used in five games, neither are getting a workload that expected major leaguers are getting.
The other option coming into camp, Matt Reynolds, has already been sent to the minors. Don’t remember Matt Reynolds? Read below and reminisce.
So, if Smith is healthy, at this point, we’re likely seeing Smith and Okert in the lefty role, with Osich as the first man up otherwise.
Among right-handers…well…there's a lot of them, and I won’t dive into them all. But let’s take a look at two NRIs who come with major league experience. Neil Ramirez and David Hernandez both got off to fine starts to the Spring. Ramirez has only recently given up runs in each of his last two outings. David Hernandez, perhaps the NRI-pitcher with the most major league experience, suffered his first rough outing of the spring, three runs and letting four of six batters he faced get on. But he has been hittable otherwise this spring.
They are both interesting because Cory Gearrin has had a rough spring. Gearrin has been dealing with a fingernail issue, which probably explains his poor numbers. If the Giants sent Gearrin down, they’d risk losing him to waivers, but if anyone might be let go to make room for either Ramirez or Hernandez, Gearrin’s the likely one to lose a spot.
Finally, if anyone knows what has happened to Bryan Morris, please let us know. I couldn’t find an answer. He hasn’t pitched since the last day of February, but I could not find any reporting of an injury. However, since Morris missed most of last year with a lumbar disc problem, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s still fighting it.
The Journey of Matt Reynolds
Speaking of Matt Reynolds, you probably remember him as a Giant last season...but you may not realize that he's a Non-Roster Invite this year.
Reynolds, who was a steady pitcher with the Colorado Rockies, has had a rough time of it the last few years. In June of 2013 with the Diamondbacks, he went on the DL with elbow problems that eventually led to Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2014, and spent most of 2015 in Triple-A before getting a call back to the bigs in August with Arizona. He was released by the D-Backs at the end of Spring Training last year, but it took until June for him to sign a minor league deal with the Giants. He worked his way up from Double-A and had two stints with San Francisco over the late part of the 2016 season, though he had a 7.50 ERA in 8 games.
But what people may not remember was that late in the season, the Giants designated Reynolds for assignment in order to make room for Gordon Beckham (whom they got in trade), and after he passed through waivers, the team sent him to Sacramento. Reynolds elected for free agency instead in early November. He stayed a free agent until just before Christmas, when he chose to sign with the Giants again on a minor league deal.
A look at the numbers really says that Reynolds needs to re-establish himself since his surgery. But opportunities are boundless for lefty bullpen guys, and especially with the Giants and their bullpen problems last season. Reynolds will be a guy in Sacramento to keep an eye on, especially if Smith has more injury soreness, or either of the Double-O's struggle.
That 5th Starter Spot
Right about the time Matt Cain’s performance really actually began opening talk for someone else winning the 5th starter spot, Ty Blach began to have struggles. Blach has given up six runs in 4.2 inning over his last two innings, and his batting average against is up to .340. That’s not where you’d want it to be.
That said, we haven’t seen top prospect Tyler Beede on the mound in a week, and there’s been no news he’s been sent down.
Are we going to be talking about Albert Suarez falling into competition for this role? Probably not, but 5th starter isn’t looking like it will be strong to start the season.
Speaking of Versatility...
Jae-gyun Hwang is playing LF for the first time this spring. Made pretty good throw to plate on a sacrifice fly, but required a perfect one.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) March 18, 2017
I really believe at this point Jae-gyun Hwang is aimed at Triple-A to start the season and will focus on playing third, but it’s interesting to see him get some outfield time as well. The Giants really do seem to love his bat, and who knows, maybe left field might be worth looking at, even as Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson both are having very nice springs.
There’s Nothing Prospect-ish About Him, But…
It was very nice to see Matt Moore have a nice outing on Saturday against the Mariners, 5 shutout innings. With the 5th starter spot very much uncertain right now, having stability at the #4 spot will help the Giants be more patient with Blach/Beede/Gregorio in the Majors, whenever it happens.
Ten Thousand Years Will Give You Such A…
The amount of time he’s spent in the minors may sometimes seem like ten thousand years. And trying to fix his control issues may have made him a pain in the neck for his coaches. But Kyle Crick is still here.
Honestly, he hasn’t pitched much in the Major League camp, just like we haven’t talked much about him. He was part of the send-downs on March 16th. But the wild one has had a nice spring. That solo home run is still Crick’s only allowed in 7 innings, but it’s good to hear that the Giants like what they see. Crick’s main problem (walks) hasn’t gone away (3 so far), and his secondary problem (being hittable as he tries to improve his control) isn’t far being (.240 average against).
But Kyle still has a big arm. 2017 may finally be the year the Giants try to see if Crick has anything left to contribute.
SS Gordon Beckham, don't you forget about me. Has a double today, ranging catch of a pop-up, now a lunging play on a lineout.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) March 18, 2017
Forgotten? Never. But on the way to Sacramento? Probably. Boy, the playing time at third between Arroyo, Hwang and him will be interesting.
In The Clubhouse - The System
CSN Bay Area is advertising the premiere of their “In The Clubhouse” series to start today (Sunday, 3/19), and it appears to be based on the Farm System. Since I assume you’re here because you’re interested in the farm system, check it out!
It airs Sunday, 3/19, at 12:30 PM (PST) on CSN Bay Area…but if you can’t catch it then, don’t worry. I’m sure it’ll rerun constantly.
Okay, I know that I’m a big fan of Hwang and it shows. But how could I not include this? Hwang also gets a nice write-up in the Mercury News here.
Okay, I’m done posting about Hwang…this week.