Do you remember 2012?
By conventional wisdom, the Giants shouldn’t have competed that year. Do you remember that opening day lineup? Aubrey Huff, hanging onto his career by playing left field with Belt taking over first as a rookie. A light-hitting Brandon Crawford trying to make his first full season happen. Ryan Theriot as a starting second baseman. And the team’s early-season star,
Miguel Melky Cabrera, destined for a gut-punch of a steroid suspension. Santiago Casilla at closer (but not for all season). And even Tim Lincecum showing signs of the coming end of his Giants career.
That team won a World Series?
What happened? People stepped up. Rookies of mixed prospect reputations. Minor league veterans. One really nice trade of another overlooked sort of player.
My point is…gut punches and low expectations don’t mean giving up on a season before it starts. That year, it was primarily hitters stepping up. This year, it needs to be pitchers. So let me give you reasons for optimism this year, by the pitchers coming from the minors and minor league deals, that will need to power 2018.
Chris Stratton - Two words: Spinrate. And one great nickname that someone will help make catch on: Strat-o-matic. Really, though, after a long minor league career, just remember there was a reason he was a first round draft pick and he’s starting to find it again.
Ty Blach - You probably remember him more for a great couple of starts at the end 0f 2016 when he stepped up, more than the 4.78 ERA in his first full season last year. But while Blach is no superstar, he’s just been steady his entire career. And when he struggled in his first year at Triple-A after getting pushed there, he followed that up with nice adjustments his next year. Just one walk in the spring (17.1 IP) after 43 in 163.2 IP last year is one sign of those adjustments. And maybe he’ll get some motivation from getting no respect.
Derek Holland - Yeah, he was torched on a bad White Sox team last year. A big part of that were those home runs he gave up, and that’s been a big problem all career for him. So now he’s playing in a home stadium where home runs go to die, and he spent the spring with a strikeout rate higher than he’s ever had before, so maybe he’ll miss more bats than ever before. Plus, it helps he’s trying to endear himself to Giants fans.
Tyler Beede - Yeah, I pointed out how bad he was in the past couple of weeks, but of all the pitchers who could step up, no one has more upside than him. Sure, he had a rough 2017 and a bad spring, but he’s a year away from a stellar Double-A campaign and has time to bounce back this season. If his velocity returns, he could be back to looking like that first rounder.
Andrew Suarez - The 2015 2nd round pick has moved quick, and although his first major league spring was not great, it won’t take him long to be ready. Suarez is like Blach with more power, with plus control and a plus slider. He could definitely pass Beede in terms of reaching the majors first.
Tyler Herb - Sitting lower in the system, Herb put together a fine Double-A season between the Mariners and Giants affiliates. He’s got average stuff, with a low-90’s fastball and a good curveball he’s improved his consistency on. Herb will be starting the year in Triple-A, but he is on the list of possible callups if needed.
Roberto Gomez - Gomez missed two years thanks to injury, but he came back with a fastball that sits 95-96, and that is not nothing. Sometimes, you need a control pitcher like Ty Blach. Sometimes, you need someone who can blow a batter away. He did pretty decent (4.09 ERA) in Triple-A, and had an even better ERA as a starter (3.88). Both are roles he could help in.
Pierce Johnson - Johnson struggled a bit in Triple-A over the past two seasons. But before that, he had three seasons of sub-3.00 ERA in Double-A and lower. But beyond that, he was optioned down to the minors in early March, but then continued to pitch well and got to help out the Giants in the Bay Bridge Series. That resilience kept him on the Giants radar.
Tyler Rogers - Sometimes, you need a changeup as a pitch. Sometimes, you could use it as a pitcher. A true submariner, Rogers won’t overwhelm anyone with his pitches, but he could get swings and misses from hitters when it counts. All the Giants need to do is to get from one inning to the next. Rogers can be that guy to get one of those innings.
Chris Heston(?) - I put a question mark here, because I’m not sure where he went. There’s no question the owner of a bona-fide major league no-hitter can pitch in the majors, he just hasn’t done it so well recently, and missed much of 2017 with shoulder problems. He got three spring innings in before disappearing in early March. I could not find any news of injury, but hopefully whatever reason he disappeared is not serious. If he’s healthy, he would be in a position to be a candidate.
Quick 25-Man Roster Notes
Steven Duggar is the big name that did not make the roster of all the roster decisions. As every beat writer will repeat (because there are many fans who don’t seem to believe it), this is not a slight against Duggar. His bat really isn’t ready, quite yet. He’ll never be an offensive threat, but he needs to learn how to deal with breaking balls, at least to fight them off. He has a better shot of that in the minors playing every day than maybe going to the bench in the majors.
The move does also hedge some bets on the two outfielders being kept on the bench, Blanco and Hernandez. Either could easily leave (or be claimed on waivers) if they were DFA’d. If Duggar were kept and then struggled in the Majors, the Giants might not have had a good defensive center fielder in the minors to bring up.
Duggar will be back up eventually, maybe sooner rather then later.
The other real news was Kelby Tomlinson beat out Josh Rutledge for the middle infield backup spot. Rutledge made the race very competitive, with a .342/.395/.500 batting line. The next question will be if Rutledge stays in the Giants system or tries his luck elsewhere. Miguel Gomez is likely to be the second baseman in Sacramento, and Ryder Jones is the likely third baseman. Shortstop may still be open, although Orlando Calixte is in that mix as well.
Jarrett Parker DFA’d
It’s the Giants’ own Defense of the Dark Arts position.— SF Lunatic Fringe (@sflunaticfringe) March 24, 2018
Now the question will be: Will Parker accept a AAA assignment if he clears? I would be shocked if he passes through waivers. https://t.co/zObEzyKW85— Giant Potential (@giant_potential) March 26, 2018
Tough day for Parker. Conner is a bit more optimistic about Parker’s chances to get picked up than I am. However, the question about Parker accepting a Triple-A assignment is a pretty good question.
If Parker is off the 40-man roster, he immediately is behind three other corner outfield prospects for a big league spot again (Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Chris Shaw). That’s pretty far down for a 29-year old outfielder to push himself. He might find better chances with another team. We will see this week.
A New Trophy
This is going to look GREAT in the new trophy case. pic.twitter.com/56Vlt1EqXJ— Oakland Athletics ⚾️ (@Athletics) March 26, 2018
Note that they said “New” trophy case. They really haven’t had a reason to buy a new one in a while, have they?
Yep, the Giants and A’s now will have a rivalry trophy of sorts, passed between the winner. A bit like college football rivalry trophies. Made of metal from the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge, no less. That’s kind of cool.
I know this isn’t strictly related to the minors, but the addition of this and the Copa de la Diversion are things that I’ve long thought would be a wonderful addition to Minor League Baseball, to borrow from something that’s been a long-standing soccer tradition. Having rivalries and smaller cups and awards within the minor league season would be a fun reason to bring fans out to games within the season. They can be rivalries between minor league teams, not necessarily their big league partners’ rivalries, that can span changing affiliations.
Obviously, don’t overwhelm things, but as an example, the San Jose Earthquakes have two in-season rivalries. The “California Clásico” is a rivalry between the Earthquakes and the LA Galaxy, for the simple Northern and Southern California rivalry. The “Heritage Cup” is a rivalry currently only between the Quakes and the Seattle Sounders, but was made to be eligible between any teams sharing names of their NASL predecessors.
Can such rivalries be created within the current minor leagues? What about cross-league promotions, such as the Copa de la Diversion, creating rivalries that go beyond just teams playing games against each other? I’d sure like to see it.
NBC Sports is helping make this happen, and so they created this image to parody the artwork famously used for the 1989 World Series:
A New Tradition: Winner of the Bay Bridge Series takes home this trophy pic.twitter.com/RJ5LLTND6X— NBCSAuthentic (@NBCSAuthentic) March 26, 2018
I’m not sure why SF looks like Portland Oregon in this image (other than the ballpark). Were they not allowed to show a single distinctive building from either city? Or why the Golden Gate Bridge appears to come out of the Giants Player’s pocket…
Am I the only one who saw the word “Series” off to the side and initially thought it was showing that the series was sponsored by Snickers?
The Volcanoes Coaching Staff Announced
The last coaching staff announcement was made this week, for the Short-A Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
The staff will be managed by Hector Borg, who led the AZL Giants to a playoff appearance in 2017. Dwight Bernard will be the pitching coach, after having served in that position for Sacramento from 2014-2017. The hitting coach will be Jake Fox, who spent four years in the majors.
Also, as has appeared around the system, the Volcanoes will have a fundamentals coach. That will be Mark Hallberg, who has four years experience coaching in the Cape Cod League. I guess the Giants don’t just look for players to draft from there.
Perfect Game Name Drops The Giants and Matt Liberatore For The Draft
Perfect Game put up their Top 250 Prospects for the draft, with a write up about some of the top guys, with a free preview showing the Top 10 guys. Notable is that their #2 ranked prospect, high school LHP Matt Liberatore, got a bit of a note. After noting he might be ahead of Ethan Hankins in draft stock, they drop this quote:
The San Francisco Giants, who hold the second pick in the draft, have reportedly been especially active in their interest in Liberatore.
In case you want to see Liberatore, here you go from earlier this month.
Video of Matthew Liberatore's pitch mix from his 3/6/18 start. Wait til you see his quick-pitch changeup....oh my pic.twitter.com/PBi1ilTsll— Jason Pennini (@JasonPennini) March 10, 2018
Baseball America’s Draft Chat
The guys at BA held a draft chat, and there’s a lot of tidbits here and there on it, and it’s absolutely worth reading. Here’s some of the things that could be a part of the Giants pick at #2 overall:
- Casey Mize, RHP from Auburn, is their current 1st overall pick.
- Brady Singer, RHP from Florida, is still at the top of the draft, despite some talk his stock is falling.
- Ethan Hankins (HS RHP) is back from injury, and still in the top discussion, but not as much.
- The High School infielders a lot of people have been talking about (Turang, Gorman and De Sedas) have been falling back.
- This draft is still considered a “Deep class” and “Better than average”.
There’s a lot more in it if you’d like to read, including stuff about guys who might be around for the Giants second round pick. Notably, noting about Liberatore, although the draft was directed by reader’s questions, not the writers.
By the way, that second round pick is now #45 overall, thanks to Alex Cobb’s signing. They could still fall to #46 overall, if Greg Holland signs anywhere other than Colorado. (Or further, if the Giants panic and sign Holland themselves).
Talking About The New Pace of Play Rules
Two weeks ago, Minor League Baseball’s new Pace of Play rules were announced and resulted in a fervor of hate I’ve almost never seen on baseball social media (and that really is saying something). I have never seen so many people advocating that they would rather see ties than see “something that baseball isn’t” (a common comment about the extra-inning rule).
The official MiLB site did a Q&A among the people most affected by the change, players and staff of minor league teams. While MiLB.com is hardly an unbiased source for opinions, the division of opinions is pretty clear: Player development staff love the rule to protect young players; Players are a carefully-worded negative; Front Office people talk about how it’ll be easier for their staff.
Other Roster Moves
Thanks to @GiantsProspects for being a great resource!
Giants released C Justin O'Conner. He was signed in November as a MiLB FA. Former first round pick by Tampa Bay, missed a lot time in his career due to injuries. He had 10 PA this spring with the Giants. Looks like he was behind Hector Sanchez and Trevor Brown on AAA depth list.— GPT (@giantsprospects) March 25, 2018
Giants have acquired C Ronnie Freeman (27.2Y, 6'1" 190, 2012 5th round pick, Kennesaw State) from the Diamondbacks. Freeman has been a reserve catcher in the past few years, was in AAA in 2017:— GPT (@giantsprospects) March 26, 2018
243PA .257/.318/.365, 21K%, 8BB%, 3HR
He has been assigned to Sacramento.
It was hardly a surprise the 25-year old O’Conner didn’t make the team, but this at least confirms that he won’t be in the Giants system. With Trevor Brown and Hector Sanchez likely to be nailing down the Sacramento catching spot and Garcia not far behind, he was going to be far down the system. There’s always a need for catchers in the minors, however, so O’Conner should likely find a new team soon.
Freeman was assigned initially to Sacramento, but I and @GiantsProspects both think he’ll end up in Richmond.
Giants traded INF Brandon Bednar (26Y) to the Phillies. Bednar was a 7th round pick in 2013, out of Florida Gulf Coast University. He spent part of 2016 and all of 2017 in AA, playing mostly 3B/2B.— GPT (@giantsprospects) March 27, 2018
Slatton had a really nice 2016, when he had a 2.37 ERA working primarily as a reliever, but he struggled through 2017 with a 8.20 ERA in 60.1 IP.
I could not find what he was traded for. Likely a PTBNL or cash.
RHP Heath Slatton (24.6Y) retired. Slatton was an 18th round pick in 2015 out of Middle Tennessee State University. He spent 2016 in Augusta, and 2017 in San Jose (47.2IP). Career 134.1IP in the org.— GPT (@giantsprospects) March 27, 2018
Giants signed RHP Melvin Martinez (17.7Y) to an international free agent contract.— GPT (@giantsprospects) March 25, 2018
This brings the total players signed in the 2017-18 international cycle to 28.
And…sadly and finally….
Today was my last day wearing a Giants uniform. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to play for such a class-act organization for 5 amazing years. I built so many great relationships with people, including all of you, because of this experience. I’ll up… https://t.co/ox4ZXQDCx0 pic.twitter.com/gbLo8c7rLw— Matt Paré (@HipHip_Pare) March 26, 2018
Matt Paré was known as “Homeless Minor Leaguer” on YouTube, notably having made a video costarring Hunter and Lexi making fun of the issues that minor leaguers go through.
It appears that Matt will continue to pursue being a social media influencer, as his Twitter page features a banner announcing “Out of Left Field”. I don’t know if that’s more videos, a podcast, or what. But Paré is a player who also has a lot of charm, if anyone could pull it off, he could.
Three Days In The Life of a Minor Leaguer
Think minor-league baseball is just a 40 hour/week “seasonal” job? @enosarris looks at three days in the life —and finances—of former MiLB catcher Eric Sim and finds a different reality (free story): https://t.co/fkgikoI5Xz— The Athletic MLB (@TheAthleticMLB) March 27, 2018
Yes, this is still my passion point, I’m not letting it go. It follows Eric Sim, a Giants prospect. Yes, it’s The Athletic, but it is a free article. I assume it’s free so that minor league players can afford it.
is the Dodger Stadium flood confined to the field and the manager's office or has the shit hit the fans?— Michael Baumann (@MJ_Baumann) March 28, 2018
Well, the spill was in Foul Ground, so perfect, right?
The flooding compromised the coaches’ room, according to the clubhouse scuttlebutt.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) March 28, 2018
I have to admit, after everything the last week, I definitely needed a laugh with the way things were going, and the fact that it happens at the Dodgers expense, that just makes it…
Oh…right, the Giants will be playing in the leftovers of that mess on Thursday. Of course they are.
Roll up those pants, boys.