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Young Giants who deserve a legitimate chance in 2019

Even if you hate the farm system, you’re gonna have to give some of them a chance if the Giants are going to rebuild.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants
Chris Stratton throws during his shutout of the Colorado Rockies on September 14, 2018.
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we’ve reached that time where it’s en vogue to complain about everything, including the farm system. Especially the farm system. And hey, the Giants suck, so it’s hardly unwarranted.

But if the Giants are going to rebuild, they will need to let some of their young players have a real chance to play. That’s how the Giants stay cheap and can have role players who will last for a while while the real blue chip prospects come up. There may be a temptation to sign free agents to fill every hole on the roster. But some spots should be left open for these young players.

But who are the young players they should trust?

Chris Stratton

Okay, Stratton is the reason I want to write this. He has a less-than-stellar 4.66 ERA on the year, and was even sent to the minors to work on things this year. But last night, Stratton had a complete game shutout…the first complete game of the Giants season. And this wasn’t a throwaway game in September; he did it against a first place team in the middle of a very tight playoff race, with the 2nd-best OPS in the NL.

So who is Chris Stratton? The fantastic pitcher in mid-September (or early April), or the one that gave up big bursts of runs in the middle of the season? What set off his month of May, when he had a 6.31 ERA? Well, it might have been something that doesn’t show up in the game logs: paternity leave.

Stratton left the Giants in late April for the birth of he and his wive’s second child. He’d had a string of strong games in April, and had a 2.32 ERA in his first five starts. He came back in time for his scheduled start against the Dodgers in a double-header. He only went 1.1 innings, giving up six runs in the first game. Two games later, he gave up five in Philadelphia, and four the next, and his May was not in good shape.

A new baby does not all of Stratton’s struggles. Stratton had a strong June before giving up a pair of bad starts and heading back to the Minors to work on his mechanics. Since his return, he’s been very up and down, including 8 innings of shutout ball just three starts before his complete game shutout last night.

Ultimately, Stratton is inconsistent at best. But he’s got a 1st-round pedigree, and the potential to be very good. And the Giants have a lot of rotation question behind Bumgarner. Stratton should be someone they specifically save a spot for.

Derek Rodriguez

Duh.

Austin Slater and Mac Williamson

Austin Slater hasn’t looked like anything like a star in his second long-term stint with the big league team, but he hasn’t been what’s wrong with the team, either. As of Friday, he’s batting .270/.350/.333, lacking a bit in power but also with five steal on the year. Is his future as a fringe-average starter, or a 1B-OF bench player.

For Mac Williamson, it was the story of two seasons. After working with a new batting coach, he was white-hot in Spring Training, and damn near blue-hot in Triple-A, batting ..487/.600/1.026 over two weeks in April at Triple before forcing a callup, and then batting .316/.317/.789 with a power stroke in a week in the Majors. And then he hit the wall at AT&T Park and suffered a concussion.

Although Williamson came back in May, he wasn’t back fully, and began to suffer. He hit just one home run in a month back in the Majors, and finished on a 3-for-32 slump before going back to Triple-A and eventually being shut down again.

Williamson will be out of options next season. He’s had mostly down stints in the Majors over parts of four seasons. Why should he be given a chance? Well, there’s three reasons. One is that he’s got significant power when he’s hitting well, and the Giants have needed power. Secondly, things looked very well for him after a new coach, and the reason he struggled was his concussion. And third, the Giants have two corner outfield spots up to claim.

As long as they are rebuilding, they should leave one spot unsigned for these two young players to compete for. Whether they get something out of Williamson’s upside, or get the steadier production from Slater, the Giants have the young players to fill this spot. They have a lot of shake up coming, but finding a lot of good outfielders is hard. Find two is hard. Might as well limit the pressure on free agency, and give these two one more chance.

Ray Black

His 4.74 ERA doesn’t look like Major League quality, but his velocity is. Black needs to hone his skills at the Major League level. He’s got a closer’s potential, and the Giants should use the opportunity in a rebuild to let him fight for it at the top level.

There’s not much more to say, or many more young players to count on.

You may notice I’m not including Steven Duggar on this list. The Giants shouldn’t reserve center field for him…this year. Labrum surgery is not a small thing, and Duggar’s bat was already borderline this season. He may be healthy enough to play at the start of next season, but he shouldn’t be counted on offensively right away. The Giants should plan on him getting back his swing in Triple-A while he has options remaining. The Giants should probably look at getting a temporary option in center field, or to count on Gorkys Hernandez there for another year before counting on Duggar for more.