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Roundtable #7: Rookie Superlatives

In the latest McCovey Chronicles roundtable, we give the rookies some much needed praise.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The latest roundtable — I’m making this a compound word because it feels right, dammit — is all about the rookies. Carmen thought they were all deserving of superlatives, and we had no trouble coming up with many.

Bryan Murphy, Managing Editor

Andrew Suárez

He’s the player I’ve felt most compelled to write about all season long and I can’t entirely explain why… maybe it’s because he feels like less of an illusion? You can see him struggle and you can see him execute a game plan and maybe it’s the lack of frills or on-field personality to distract from what he’s doing that’s made him really easy for me to read him.

Or, at least, make me think I can read him.

What I see, though, is great. He’s not going to be the next Randy Johnson, but he’s the gritty, hard-nosed type of player the Giants seem to love. He’s gritty. He pitches with guts. He loses his fastball for at least 2 innings every start and just has to struggle through with whatever else is working until it comes back. And he’s done it.

For all the rightful talk of Dereck Rodríguez’s advance sequencing and “veteran calm” on the mound, Suárez has show similar flashes all season long. Maybe I’m overrating his ability to not let us see him sweat, but you have to admit, in professional sports, that’s a good quality to have. Beyond just the mound presence, though, and based on just a few pitching categories, it looks like the Giants have their own version of Dallas Keuchel.

For example, his 2.47 BB/9 is tied for 28th in MLB with Dallas Keuchel and David Price). That sparkling 52.4% groundball rate is third in MLB, behind Clayton Richard and Dallas Keuchel. He’s also 25th in MLB in xFIP (3.71), better than Andrew Heaney, Kyle Hendricks, Dallas Keuchel, Zack Wheeler, and Mike Foltynewicz.

I’ll take it.

Doug Bruzzone, Chief Sacramento River Cats correspondent

Steven Duggar

Duggar had an OPS+ of 90 this year, which is totally adequate for a great defensive center fielder, and “totally adequate” is the greatest superlative any member of the 2018 Giants offense could hope for. It took very little time for Duggar’s defense to become a given -- he’s the phenomenal everyday center fielder the team hasn’t had since Andres Torres in 2010 (Gregor Blanco doesn’t count because of the “everyday” qualification; Angel Pagan doesn’t count because lol), and he should be around for years to come. So the question really became whether his bat was good enough that he could start in center, and while a .255/.303/.390 line isn’t going to put him on the All-Star team, at AT&T Park it’s certainly good enough to make him a good player. The Giants, as they continue their delightful ride down the mediocrity slide, desperately need good players.

More to the point, he’s exciting. A guy hits a ball in the air anywhere remotely near center field and you think, “Oh man, Duggar’s got a shot at it.” Duggar lines a ball into the gap and you think, “That’s a triple for sure, and maybe an inside the parker?” He comes up with a guy in scoring position and even though his overall numbers aren’t that great, you’re still happy he’s up there because it just feels like he’s gonna put up a super ungiants at bat. He’s fun in a lot of ways, and should be for a while.

Also, I asked him a question in a postgame media scrum one time and he clearly thought it was a good question. Counts for a lot.

Kenny Kelly, Staff Writer

Reyes Moronta

Reyes Moronta might not have the impact of Steven Duggar: League Average Starting Centerfielder or the upside of Andrew Suárez and Dereck Rodríguez, but he’s helped the Giants win more than any other reliever not named Tony Watson. Among Giants relievers, Moronta ranks second in ERA, third in K%, second in win probability added, second in clutch, and third in innings pitched. He’s, uh, last in walk rate, but Carl Edwards Jr. has gotten by while also walking about five batters per nine innings.

Moronta has been a key part of the best pitching staff by ERA since June 1. It’s not just that he prevents his own runs, he stops other pitchers’ runs, too. Out of 40 inherited runners this year, the most of any Giants reliever, he’s only allowed 9 of them to score. The only reliever with a better prevention rate has been Hunter Strickland, but Strickland has only inherited seven runners.

One of my favorite moments of the season was when Moronta came into a bases loaded, nobody situation against the Oakland Athletics. At the time, the A’s weren’t the unstoppable killing machine they are today, but the Giants were still playing for something. It was a moment that made me think that maybe there was something special about this team. There wasn’t, but Moronta was one of the guys that made this season at least somewhat enjoyable.

KNBR’s Carmen Kiew

Dereck Rodriguez

I’ll be Captain Mister Obvious here but I’m gonna take the guy who came from what felt like nowhere and became the pillar of the Giants rotation. Unpopular opinion: I am inclined to take D-Rod over Madison Bumgarner in an imaginary one-game playoff situation if it happened tomorrow. I don’t care. Come for me.

I think we’ve all been intentionally or unintentionally waiting for the other shoe to drop because Rodríguez has been such an unexpected surprise. Over the course of 20 appearances in the season, he ranks first in ERA (2.50) among rookie pitchers. He leads the Giants starting pitching with 14 quality starts over 18 starts. If he had enough innings, he might be a serious candidate for Rookie of the Year. The numbers speak for themselves.

In a lot of ways, Rodríguez seems to have assumed the role as the new Matt Cain. Quiet, well-liked and respected by his teammates, eats innings, and well, there’s this little thing called run support he just doesn’t seem to get when he’s on the mound.

As for the intangibles, I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard this, but the man is Pudge Rodríguez’s son, he’s got a pedigree, etc, word vomit, etc. But what I like most about the guys is his confidence - he goes out there, commands the zone, and he looks and acts like a veteran but with the excitement of a rookie. It’s the dream combo.

Also, the guy has great tattoos and likes video games. He’s a keeper.

Sami Higgins, New Cat-Haver

Aramís García

García’s debut was one of the last few fun moments in this dreadful season. In a 7-0 win over the Mets, Garcia had gone 0-for-2, as had his fellow debuting teammate, Chris Shaw. Then García went 2-for-2 in the same inning with two RBI, including a home run for his first career hit. Not too shabby.

He’s gone on to hit two more home runs (as of Tuesday morning), he’s batting .333 with a .556 slugging percentage and an .889 OPS in 45 plate appearances. None of this is to say that this will continue but it sure has been fun to watch.

The Athletic’s Brady Klopfer

Chris Shaw

At some levels, Chris Shaw is the humorous, hyperbolic caricature of the modern hitting approach: Adjust the launch angle, swing for the fences, or strike out trying. He strikes out like it’s the fashionable thing to do, but when he puts the barrel on the ball . . . my goodness. It’s a new era of baseball, and Shaw is taking it to an extreme. It’s kind of amazing that Dusty Baker hasn’t walked right out of the organization just because of Shaw.

Shaw’s long-term efficacy remains to be seen, but he’s impressed in his September showing. After a ghastly start to his MLB tenure, Shaw has displayed balance, patience, and a strong approach at the plate. Since beginning his career with just one hit in his first 25 plate appearances (with 13 strikeouts!), Shaw has settled into something of a rhythm, hitting 9-27 with 5 walks and just 9 strikeouts. His OPS in that time has been .845.

He only has one home run, but it was the Giants longest dinger in more than two years, so it counts for like five, at least. And besides, the ability to hit home runs was the last thing anyone was worried about. It was a matter of whether he could turn a few of the strikeouts in his suitcase into walks and singles. So far, so good.

Also, since Carmen let us all down by failing to mention this about Rodriguez, I am going to comment on both Shaw and D-Rod: The baseball men. They are very good looking.