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Which players would the Giants protect in a mock expansion draft?

Pick 15 players you want the Giants to keep. The Las Vegas Regrets will get to sniff around the rest. Good luck.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo published a mock MLB expansion draft. Or, rather, he published lists of which players all 30 teams would protect. I provided advice on the players the Giants might protect. Your job is to yell at me for giving bad advice.

For the first round, we’ll need to protect 15 players from the rosters of the entire organization. Not just the majors. Not just the 40-man roster. The whole thing. There are some notable exceptions, though:

  • Players drafted in 2016 and 2017 are automatically protected
  • Players who were 18 or younger when drafted or signed in 2015 are also protected
  • Players who are free agents after the end of the 2017 season don’t need to be protected

So we don’t need to worry about Bryan Reynolds or Heliot Ramos, as well as some of the younger kids, like Kelvin Beltre or Jalen Miller.

We need to find 15 players who don’t fall into those categories. Start with the obvious keeps.

Obviously protected

Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Joe Panik, Christian Arroyo, Tyler Beede, Chris Shaw

We’ll start with the obvious of the obvious. No big contracts (other than Posey, but c’mon), and plenty of team control. There is nary a Brandon on the list, but that’s because we’re doing the easiest of the gimmes.

Almost certainly protected

Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Matt Moore

Crawford is an obvious keep just because of his popularity, but also because he’s probably worth his contract, even if he doesn’t hit much more than he’s hitting now. If he hits like he has for the past few years, he’s a steal.

Belt isn’t making that much money compared to his production, even if that guy sitting next to you at the bar has no idea what park effects are. He stays. Belt, that is. The guy at the bar can go.

And Matt Moore is far too cheap and far too talented to give up on. It’s too hard to find a quality starter for that kind of money, and the Giants aren’t going to bail after a few awful months.

We have nine players projected. There are seven left, and we haven’t really messed with the farm.

Probably protected?

Ty Blach, Jeff Samardzija, Andrew Suarez, Ryder Jones

Hunter Strickland isn’t going to make my list, and he allows us to introduce a rule of thumb, and it’s presented in the form of a question: Could (player) be traded for a prospect that’s as good or better than the prospect the Giants would be forced to leave off the list? If so, it’s a simple decision.

If you think that Strickland would bring back a better prospect than Ryder Jones, it’s probably wise to keep him (and his years of cheap team control) around. I’m not so sure.

Blach isn’t a future ace, but I’m thinking the Giants will like his low-cost ability to fill the back of the rotation for years. Suarez is one of the few pitching prospects in the upper minors who is pitching up to his potential.

Samardzija is a weird one because he’s owed a lot of money, and it’s possible that the Giants would want to be rid of it, but use that Strickland rule of thumb again. If you’re forced to leave Joan Gregorio off, do you think Samardzija could be traded for a better prospect than a 25-year-old sinkerballer who was just suspended for PEDs? Probably. And, really, the Giants want him around to eat innings and stop being so unlucky.

(Note: When I consulted with Cotillo, Gregorio was still active. My list will reflect the change, but his won’t because I forgot to change it.)

That’s 13 projected. You can see how this is a mess.

The last two slots

Austin Slater, Steven Duggar

Slater doesn’t have the prospect pedigree, but we also know that the Giants don’t really care what publications or other teams think about their prospects. His performance might be a little fluky at the moment, and the average will come down, but I’d guess that he’s impressed the Giants a whole bunch, and they would be scared to lose him. He would be a very, very expansion-draft player to lose.

The list used to have Gregorio on it, but I think Duggar sneaks on now that he’s healthy and playing again. He’s more of a true center fielder than Slater, and he does come with the prospect pedigree.

The list, then:

  1. Buster Posey
  2. Madison Bumgarner
  3. Christian Arroyo
  4. Tyler Beede
  5. Chris Shaw
  6. Joe Panik
  7. Brandon Crawford
  8. Brandon Belt
  9. Matt Moore
  10. Jeff Samardzija
  11. Ty Blach
  12. Andrew Suarez
  13. Ryder Jones
  14. Austin Slater
  15. Steven Duggar

Now we get to see who’s exposed. I really went back and forth on Strickland, but in the end, I’m not sure he brings back a prospect in a trade that’s better than Jones, Slater, Suarez, or Dugger, and I don’t think he brings back a player who’s likely to help the immediate roster out as much as Blach. Strickland was my last cut.

Kyle Crick might be Hunter Strickland, just cheaper and less-grudgy. Would the Giants get a better prospect than Jones back for Crick? It’s close. Real close. Crick might still be the better prospect, even. I could see him making it instead of Blach or Suarez.

Stetson Woods is 6’8” and throwing strikes, and I could see him interesting a team looking to build an instant farm system. Josh Osich and Steven Okert would both be candidates to go, with Okert a possible protection candidate because of his age (25). Will Smith is busted, but he’s still under team control for reasonable rates, and I might keep him over Strickland. Reyes Moronta is hurt and his command got weird, but it would still be a shame to lose him and his 99-mph fastball.

Mac Williamson, Ronnie Jebavy, Aramis Garcia, Ryan Howard, and newest Giants superstar Miguel Gomez would all interest a new team looking for depth and prospects. The Giants don’t have a great system, but they would definitely be in danger of losing some guys if they wanted to project Samardzija and Moore.

Hunter Pence and Denard Span are both great guys, but they’re aging and expensive, and it’s unlikely that an expansion team would want to pay them that kind of money for dubious short-term benefits.

And sweet, sweet Jae-gyun Hwang would be exposed, which would mean his first All-Star appearance might be with another team.

Have at it, then. Which players would you keep around if you could pick just 15? It’s a harder exercise than you think, and I’ll be over here, second-guessing myself for the rest of the day.