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Predicting the 2018 Barney Nugent Award

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Formerly known as the Harry S. Jordan Award

MLB: Miami Marlins at San Francisco Giants John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

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 two years ago, which seems like it’s laziness, but actually it’s superstition. Three years ago, I didn’t realize Matt Duffy was eligible, but two years ago, 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.

Disclaimer about the disclaimer: I stole the text of the paragraph talking about stealing the text of the first paragraph from this article last year, because I got that one right too. When I fail, it’s not gonna be because I did anything differently; it’s gonna be because I’m dumb. That is my promise to you, the McCovey Chronicles reader.

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 - Matt Duffy
2016 - Trevor Brown
2017 - Jae-Gyun Hwang

The first thing we do here is figure out who’s even eligible. First, we look at the list of non-roster invitees. Then we look at who the Giants added to their 40-man roster this offseason and see who is eligible there. Then we look at the current 40-man roster and try to spot anyone we missed. Then we go through and get rid of anyone who’s been invited to a big-league camp before. In the end, the list of possibilities looks like this:

Pitchers

• RHP Tyler Cyr

• RHP Julian Fernandez

• RHP Jose Flores

• RHP Tyler Herb

• RHP Dereck Rodriguez

• LHP D.J. Snelten

Outfielders

• Chris Shaw

Flores appeared in 4 games in Spring Training in 2014 with the A’s, but he didn’t get an invite to camp and I don’t think he was on the 40-man roster, so he stays on the list. Minor league catcher Justin O’Conner was on the Rays 40-man for Spring Training 2015, so he’s off (shout out to all the Justin O’Conner superfans who would have been very disappointed had I not spent 15 minutes trying to figure out Justin O’Conner’s roster status three years ago for a different organization). And Pierce Johnson was in Cubs camp last year, so he’s out too.

So what we’re left with is six pitchers and Chris Shaw. Of the pitchers, I would immediately eliminate Dereck Rodriguez (the son of Ivan Rodriguez!); he was a decent reliever in AA last year, but I doubt that he’ll have a whole lot of chances to prove himself in camp. He’s the only one I’m pretty sure about, though I think it sufficiently unlikely that Jose Flores will use all of his minor league experience to have a shockingly great spring (known as “pulling a Mark Minicozzi”) that I’m going to say he’s out too.

Now we get to the guys who I don’t think are especially likely to win, but certainly have a reasonable chance of surprising me. Tyler Herb came over last year as the PTBNL in the Chris Heston deal (essentially, anyway, and let’s not dwell on the technicalities of baseball’s trade rules), and while scouting reports say he doesn’t have the pure stuff to blow guys away, he could have the kind of impressive spring that teammates and coaches would take notice of. Tyler Cyr was excellent last year in AA, but like Rodriguez, the twin handicaps of his performance being two levels removed from the majors and the team having a lot of bullpen arms they want to look at means he’s got a tough road ahead of him.

Julian Fernandez is a big enough deal that Pavs has already written a whole article about him. He got his own write-up in Kevin’s Prospect Roundup. He consistently throws 100 MPH and his fastball can get up to 103. If he can harness his stuff, then he’s almost a shoo-in to win both this award and a big league job. That’s a big if, though. Fernandez was good in A-ball last year — that’s single A, as in the Rockies equivalent of Augusta — but not dominant. He didn’t quite manage to strike out one batter per inning, and he gave up a little less than one hit per inning. Those numbers, four levels below the majors, make it seem pretty unlikely that Fernandez will make the jump this spring that he’ll have to make. Not impossible, since he throws 100, which is why he’s getting his own paragraph here. But not likely.

D.J. Snelten is a left-handed reliever who had an excellent season in Richmond and Sacramento last year. Now, advanced metrics are a little more down on his year after he got to AAA — his ERA was still good, but his strikeout and walk numbers didn’t line up with that. But it was his first time in AAA and an adjustment period isn’t exactly a shock, and besides, he really was spectacular in AA. He’s got good stuff, he’s positioned to make the leap to the majors, and I think he has a legitimate chance here, but not quite as good as...

Chris Shaw, who is my pick to win. Because let’s be honest here: Shaw has the best prospect pedigree, is closer to the majors than anyone else, and is overwhelmingly likely to end up being the best player of the group. He had a very good season last year, and the main offensive weakness he showed in AAA — a high strikeout rate — isn’t likely to be much of an issue in Arizona, when breaking balls don’t break and control is still a bit spotty.

And then there’s the unmistakable fact that dude hits dingers. I have witnessed the dingers, and lo, they were dingery. Here’s the thing about dingers: I like dingers. Chris Shaw hits dingers. Dingers are fun and when I watch Chris Shaw hit a baseball, it will often go into the stands in fair territory, resulting in a dinger. The Giants, as a team, are dinger starved. The Giants, as a team, would be very excited to see some dingers. Therefore, as an organization, they will vote for the dinger guy.

Chris Shaw for 2018 Barney Nugent award winner. May he hit many dingers in triumph.