It’s that time of year again. Baseball is back. Pitchers and catchers are reporting. The free agents are signed (well, some are). The cacti are covered in frost (Wait, really?). The math nerds are working on taxes (in more ways than one).
Okay, maybe this year isn’t like most years.
As Grant mentioned yesterday, this year the Giants are about as deadset as ever at staying under the luxury tax to reset the penalties under the CBA. That’s pretty important as they try to win now but also start looking at building the future.
This Spring, the Giants will have seven players competing for the low-salary jobs, and again as Grant said, the veterans signed to minor league deals are going to have a tough time making the cut with the Giants staying under that line, financially. Because of that, the team will have a lot of young guns up in the majors filling out the bench.
Now, I know that The Prospect Round-Up tends to be the territory for the dedicated few who love the minor leaguers, but this week, we’re here for everyone. I’d expect Lyle, Free FP, quincy, giantator, and others to know these names by heart, but for some of you, these names may be new, or unfamiliar. If so, we’re here for you.
Of the 7 cheap spots, tree should go to names that fans will be well aware of: Ty Blach, Derek Law and Kelby Tomlinson. Top contenders for the other roles are familiar names: Gorkys Hernandez, Gregor Blanco, Hector Sanchez and Pablo Sandoval.
So let’s give you a rundown on the other names you should know.
Chris Stratton - I’ll start with him, even though he’s also a fairly familiar name. The first round pick from 2012 has had a frustrating development path, but he finally got significant playing time last year and was…solid. But if you know his name, it’s because of one phrase.
No, it’s not Strat-o-Matic. It should be, but it’s not.
It’s Spin Rate. Stratton made a name for himself posting the leading spin rate on a curveball in the Majors, and a very high spin rate for his slider as well. And to that end, it’s made people forgive a minor league career that’s had a lot of ups and downs, including a 5.11 ERA in Triple-A last year. At his best, he has two fastballs (two and four-seam) and three off-speed pitches (adding a changeup to the curve and slider). That arsenal alone is tantalizing. But with the Giants with two rotation spots unclaimed, Stratton needs to be more than tantalizing.
Tyler Beede - Once upon a time, the Giants future seemed to hinge on a trio of three high-drafted pitching prospects. Kurt Ainsworth, Jesse Foppert and Jerome Williams. That did not quite turn out as planned. While Stratton, Beede, and Kyle Crick weren’t exactly looked at the same way, there’s no denying that all three had lost their shiny prospect luster until last year. Beede remains the biggest mystery, after a poor and then injury-filled 2017, and yet, he’s certainly expected to step up for 2018.
Beede’s 2017 struggles came in part due to a drop in his fastball velocity, going from mid-90’s to the low-90’s. That will be the single biggest thing to watch for this spring, to see if his velocity is back. He’s struggled with control int he past, although he’s pushed himself to being average in that department. He’s no longer viewed as a top starter anymore, but he could be good in the middle or back of one.
Steven Duggar - Duggar is one of those names that you may not have started hearing much about until late 2017. If you look at his minor league performance, you might not be too impressed. He had an interesting first full season in 2016 across Low-A and High-A, but injuries robbed him of much of 2017. However, he’s got a legitimate chance to be a center fielder in the Majors because of his defense.
Duggar has both plus range and a plus arm, so those tools are there. The offensive profile is more of the question. Duggar’s best offensive skill is his batting eye, as he will take walks to get on base. The bat is not spectacular, and his power is going to be doubles and triples more than home runs. He’s not being looked out for power, however. He has good speed, but he’s still learning how to be a threat on the basepaths. However, with the additions of Longoria, McCutchen and Jackson, he doesn’t need to be a great offensive player. If Duggar can be average at the plate, he’ll make the team and contribute on defense.
Julian Fernandez - Here’s the interesting one. Back in early December, the Giants were pursuing Stanton and Ohtani, but the Rule 5 draft was going to be an intriguing way to possibly add a young player from another system. Someone talented and risky, but blocked, and someone at a high enough level to contribute in the Majors (or else, if he got cut, he’d be sent back).
Instead, the Giants drafted a player who struggled in A-Ball, but had one of the hardest fastballs in baseball. Fernandez can throw up to 103 with mid-90’s slider. Of course, he has control issues, and he gave up a lot of hits for someone with that fastball in A-Ball. All that is interesting, but the most interesting is the precariousness of his status with the team. Either he makes the 25-man roster out of Spring, or he goes back to Colorado, or the Giants work out a trade to keep him. The Giants have a lot of pitching prospects vying for a few spots. Fernandez will have to be very good to make it, but he might have more chance to be mediocre and make it.
Reyes Moronta - As one can see with Fernandez, the Giants love power arms. Moronta is one of those arms on the verge. Moronta throws mid ’90’s, but it is a very straight fastball and he’s gotten in trouble with it getting hit. But he pairs it with a slider that has a lot of movement.
Moronta thrived on that slider in San Jose in 2016, with 93 strikeouts in 59 innings. But 2017 was a mixed bag for him, struggling early in the season in Richmond but putting things together later in the year and making his Major League debut. In most cases, Moronta would be the kind of player to return to Triple-A, and wait for his return. But the cost may be enough to push him into the Majors, if he has that big spring.