Brian Sabean was interviewed on KNBR yesterday (the full audio is embedded below) and covered topics such as Coors Field (“a hellhole”) and the NL West (it’s competitive), and in addition to being asked about the younger impact players on the roster (D-Rod, Moronta, Suarez), he also responded to a pair of questions concerning the Giants’ top prospects.
Of course, “top prospect” is relative, but we’re talking about the guys most people who follow the team observe to be important parts of the organization — at least for now. If you read Roger’s Minor Lines and Kevin’s Prospect Roundup, then you know all about a lot of interesting players in the system. It’s rare when the Giants’ VP of Baseball Operations weighs in on specific players and it offers an even rarer glimpse behind the scenes and insight into the organization’s thought process concerning prospects.
What’s just your overall impressions of where your system is and how optimistic are you that there’s some guys down there that are gonna be on this roster next year and help out?
[SABEAN:] Well, first of all, we’re optimistic for the folks that we have seen to this point, and we just brought up Shaw.
Do we think Shaw is ready? No. Shaw’s going to have to become a good hitter first before he can get to his power and have that power translate. He’s going to have to cut down on strikeouts. But, with the trade of McCutchen, this allowed us the freedom to do that.
Unfortunately, in my estimation — this is just one man’s opinion that’s done this for a long time — most of our, let’s say “name prospects”, are the ones that we really covet internally are at the lower levels.
So, we really graduated a lot of folks either under duress, or more so, need, to the big leagues; and, we’ve gotten, I think, a pretty good report card to this point, but it’s still incomplete until the season’s over.
And then you’re gonna have to drill down: “Hey, is this guy a starting player?” “Is he a platoon player?” “Is he a matchup player?” “Is he better served off the bench?” “Is he better served going back to the minor leagues?” Same thing with the pitching.
That Shaw analysis isn’t controversial, nor is the view that the Giants’ best prospects are at the lower levels and, therefore, years away from being major league contributors.
Doesn’t make the situation feel better, of course, but there it is: the Giants have graduated all their best prospects who can help the current team and in the immediate future. There’s no ace pitcher or 30-home run hitter coming through that door anytime soon.
We definitely knew that even without the team’s confirmation, but I find little comfort in that knowledge because it means the team will once again have its work cut out for them over the next couple of seasons.
This next question was fairly straightforward, so it was disappointing when Sabean didn’t answer what was asked of him.
[We’ve heard a lot about Bart], so, is there any guys down there that maybe we haven’t heard of that have jumped out at you and their ability to progress or what you’ve seen from them?
Well, we thought we had a real good draft and that was pitching-centric, but to the question: obviously Bart’s sticker shock — we think he’s gonna be an All-Star.
Ramos [Sabean pronounced it RAY-mos], who I think was one of the youngest players in lower level baseball that played a full season after just playing in the Arizona State League [AZL: Arizona League] last year, and, you know, that’s a tough league that he was in...
Those two guys, I think, are, you know, are front-burner, whether it’s us or the outside world. Now, obviously, on different tracks, but should have very bright futures.
Here’s the controversial part of Sabean’s organizational review: a difference of opinion in the front office evaluations!
The kid we keep hearing about that had a really nice season for you down there was Shaun Anderson. Is he a guy that you would think would be a rotation piece next year?
You know, I think so, but the only reason I didn’t mention Shaun is that he’s a unique individual, period. Because, he came into professional baseball as a closer in the amateur ranks and then Boston — who we were able to get him in trade from when we did the Nunez deal — converted him to a [starting] pitcher.
And, I think we may be a house divided whether his quickest path to the big leagues and, perhaps, best suited role is probably split between starter — and then, to your question, “how ready could he be for next year?”
Or, is he better suited as a reliever, and what does that mean? Does that mean end of the game?
But he’s certainly on our radar.
I’ve just assumed he was a starter the Giants were lucky to acquire. Didn’t see him as a #1 pitcher, but as a quality mid-rotation arm. It’s not unusual for teams to get pitchers to the big leagues faster by putting them in the bullpen, but you have to wonder if the “he’s a starter / he’s a closer” fracture is a weird “he came in as a closer and so that’s how we’ve always viewed him and his stuff” versus “the conversion worked and we think he can continue to make adjustments to be a starter”.
And did the house become divided over time or has that been the case since they acquired him? In any case, if there’s some indecision about his role, then it suggests that we might not see Shaun Anderson next year. Or, if we do, it could come in the bullpen, which would seemingly create even more need in the rotation for 2019 and beyond.
On the one hand, I applaud the Giants for seeking internal options for the bullpen instead of dropping CBT-hampering dollars on a free agent closer, but on the other hand, it feels like the team is making it harder on themselves.