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Other possible minor signings

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Yesterday’s addition of Drew Robinson got me thinking: what other random players could the Giants sign?

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at St. Louis Cardinals Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

You probably don’t know who Drew Robinson is and given the large failure built into the system of baseball, there’s a decent chance you’ll never find out, but yesterday, the Giants signed the IF/OF to a minor league deal.

Robinson was drafted by the Rangers in the 4th round of the 2010 draft (the Giants would take Seth Rosin two picks later), made his debut with them in 2017, and was traded to the Cardinals last December. He broke camp with St. Louis, but was optioned to Triple-A in the first month of the season, then had Tommy John surgery in June. They released him in August in order to clear some space on the 40-man roster ahead of September call-ups.

There are two main reasons why the Giants jumped at the chance to get him: power and versatility. 27 of his 45 major league hits (253 PA) have been extra base hits — 9 home runs, 8 doubles) — and he has an .800 OPS for his minor league career. Also this:

This is a Four Farhan player. On paper. In practice, his astronomical strikeout rate is an issue. On the other hand, check out this power swing:

Here’s a home run:

That’s against a lefty and in Seattle, a tough place in which to hit home runs. Theoretically, the Giants could run him through the car wash of their development machine — which seemed to coach up a lot of stuck in the mud prospects this yer — and have themselves a power-hitting super utility guy. Getting that major league strikeout rate beneath 30% will be the key. His minor league number is 27%, so, there will always be a lot of strikeout in the bat.

But the Giants can’t subsist on fringe players and diamonds in the rough alone. We can all appreciate the bulk buy of these prospects — the “Meh, Maybe” Leads — but whenever the Giants do finally become a decent team, it will be because of above average players they’ve drafted and developed and players with healthy track records and projectable future contributions signed in free agency or acquired via trade.

Still, this decent team is years, maybe even decades away from becoming a reality. Or maybe it will never happen at all. There are no guarantees in baseball. Or life. But we can safely assume that the Giants will keep digging up these types of players in hopes of plugging them into the active roster as soon as possible.

By my count, there are approximately 50 more of these Drew Robinson-types out there right now . . . presuming, for the moment, that players without minor league options are not completely off the table (Robinson has one remaining). That 26th roster spot beginning next year could make the Giants more try-curious at the beginning of the season to see if they can find an out of options player to go Full Yastrzemski.

With that in mind, if we consider what the Giants have said they’re looking for on offense — youth, positional versatility, and power hitting — and what we can assume they’re looking for with pitching — velocity and strikeout stuff — here are some players who stand out.

Hitters

Blake Swihart - IF/OF

Once upon a time, Dave Dombrowksi thought he was the most important prospect in the Red Sox organization, refusing to include him in the trade for Chris Sale at the end of 2016. 28 months later, Swihart was traded to the Diamondbacks for Double-A outfielder Marcus Wilson, then Arizona’s #7 prospect (per MLB Pipeline), now Boston’s 17th-best.

He hit just .136/.186/.273 in 70 plate appearances following the trade before being outrighted to Triple-A. He elected free agency at the end of the season.

Pros:

  • “Youth” (turns 28 in April — younger than 30, ok?)
  • Positional versatility (C, LF, RF, 1B, 2B, 3B)
  • Switch-hitter
  • Above average sprint speed (27.7 ft/sec)

Cons:

  • No power (sub-.400 slugging percentage in minors and majors)
  • Average defender at best
  • Out of options

He’s basically a multi-position Joe Panik at this point. If there’s something in the numbers that’s not publicly available, maybe the Giants take a chance or see a way to improve him. Otherwise, he’s a young-ish multi-position player with a little bit of major league experience.

Dustin Garneau - C/LF

The Giants might need to replace Stephen Vogt in 2020, and all he did was play catcher and left field . . . admirably . . . while providing some pop and plate discipline. Dustin Garneau is a right-handed version of that. On paper.

Pros:

  • Positional versatility (C, 1B, LF)
  • Power (.588 SLG in 19 PA with OAK, .800 OPS in minors)
  • Average all over the place

Cons:

  • 32 years old
  • Out of options

Of course, the other “con” here — as is the case with all these players — is that he just hasn’t been very good in his major league career. He’s not a free agent because he’s played out his arbitration years or free agent contract — he was cut. His greatest contribution so far has been as the catcher of the Angels’ combined no-hitter following the death of Tyler Skaggs.

Left-handed relievers

It’s unfair to say that the Giants’ pitching staff is a shambles right now, but when you take into consideration that Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith, and Tony Watson all might be leaving for free agency and Reyes Moronta’s future is uncertain, it’s not difficult to form an opinion that neighbors “a shambles”.

Wandy Peralta and Kyle Barraclough may have pitched themselves into major league deals and full years from Tyler Rogers and Trevor Gott might help but teams can always use more pitching. And the Giants certainly ran through a host of lefty relievers in particular last year.

Zac Rosscup - RP

The 31-year old was drafted by the Rays in 2009, and over the last decade he’s pitched for seven different franchises, including two non-consecutive stints with the Dodgers. Zaidi signed him last year, then Zaidi left for the Giants, then Andrew Friedman released him and he signed with the Mariners, then the Mariners DFA’d him, the Blue Jays claimed him, then DFA’d him, then outrighted him, he elected free agency, re-signed with the Dodgers, was DFA’d by the Dodgers who traded him to the Cardinals, and then he elected free agency at season’s end.

Pros:

  • 75th percentile slider spin (2,492 rpm) in 2018 / 63rd-best out of 200 who’ve thrown at least 500 sliders since 2015
  • 113 strikeouts (12.2 K/9) in 83.2 major league innings
  • 46th in baseball since 2015 in terms of swing-and-miss on the slider
  • Just a real Slider Monster

Cons:

  • 55 walks (5.9 BB/9) in 83.2 major league innings
  • No spin on fastball (~2,000 rpm on both 4-seam and sinker)
  • Out of options

He’s just a guy. Previously a sinker-slider guy, now an endangered species in the launch angle era, but one who doesn’t have much movement on his non-slider pitch. Maybe the Giants might try to work with him to figure out another pitch, but that’s a healthy slider just sitting on the free market. His minor league BB/9 of 3.6 suggests a more stable reliever is possible, but seven organizations have already tried and failed to harness it.

Reymin Guduan - RP

Ah, a lefty reliever discarded by the Astros. That makes him better than the average discard! He’s a four-seam fastball-slider guy, so he’s already setup for the modern game. The only problem he has is a problem that transcends eras: command and control.

Pros:

  • Averages 95.6 mph with fastball (84th percentile in 2019)
  • 2,397 rpm on fastball was 80th percentile in 2019
  • 26 K in 24.2 MLB innings | 470 K in 382 MiLB innings
  • Slider has been a strong pitch for him (50+% Whiff) despite low spin
  • 28 in 2019
  • 1 option remaining

Cons:

  • 6.2 BB/9 across all professional levels for his career
  • 4.78 ERA in 434.2 professional innings
  • 35th percentile slider spin (2,184 rpm)
  • Fastball gets crushed (.394 batting average against in MLB career — 66 AB)
  • Possible off-field issues pending or could potentially reoccur —

He missed two months of the 2019 season due because the Astros suspended him for an unknown violation of the team rules.

Right-handed relievers

Austin Adams - RP

Not the good one who pitches for the Mariners, but the 33-year old with an average fastball velocity (96 mph) in the 91st percentile, per Statcast. He wound up being a bad reliever for both the Twins and Tigers this year (6.99 FIP in 14.2 IP with 14 K and 13 BB), but just paper scouting him, there’s stuff to dream on.

Pros:

  • 96 mph four-seam fastball
  • 2,504 rpm slider (77th percentile)
  • BB/9 range of 3.6 (MiLB) to 4.1 (75.1 MLB innings)
  • Statcast pitcher comps: Matt Barnes (1.3 bWAR), Felipe Vazquez (2.9), Will Smith (2.1)

Cons:

  • 33 in 2019
  • Out of options
  • Hasn’t translated command/control and strikeout stuff (9.3 K/9 in MiLB, 6.9 in MLB)

Juan Minaya - RP

I haven’t been able to find anything specific about a team suspension or criminal matter that would explain why the White Sox would walk away from totally fine back of the roster depth. For his ML career, the 29-year old has amassed 1.5 bWAR in 128.1 IP. In the past two seasons, he’s been a combined 0.8 wins above average.

Pros:

  • 10.0 K/9 in ML career (142 K in 128.1 IP)
  • 2,313 rpm on four-seam fastball spin (62nd percentile)
  • 93.4 mph average four-seam velocity (56th percentile)
  • 3.51 ERA / 3.97 FIP over past two seasons

Cons:

  • Out of options
  • 5.66 xFIP in 2019 (37th-worst in baseball, min. 20 IP)
  • 4.83 xFIP from 2016-2019 (11th-worst in baseball, min. 120 IP)

Starting pitchers

The Giants need starting pitching as much as they need relief pitching, but decent starters can paper over the lack of bullpen depth. Maybe the Giants re-sign Madison Bumgarner and add Gerrit Cole (lol no), but they still need depth. Shaun Anderson might be a better bet for the bullpen, and Dereck Rodriguez and Andy Suarez took big steps backwards. At the very worst, these two names might merit some consideration.

Brady Rodgers

Ah, another Houston Astros castoff. These feel like fully vetted candidates. You can look at released Astros in two ways: unfixable or untradeable. But because they’re Astros farmhands, “untradeable” doesn’t feel quite so insulting.

In Rodgers’ case, he might be at a career crossroads, a situation the Astros needn’t explore on account of all the other talent they have on hand. But a rebuilding team like the Giants? Maybe there’s an opportunity for a lost soul to find a home.

Pros:

  • 33rd-best slider by spin rate (2,820 rpm) in 2019 (36.4% whiff rate)
  • 37th-best curve ball by spin rate (2,876 rpm) in 2019
  • Rarely-thrown cutter (14 times thrown in Statcast era) has ~2,400 rpm spin (90th percentile)
  • 1 option remaining
  • Extreme fly ball pitcher (bad for new baseball, good for Oracle Park)
  • 1.7 BB/9 in 686.2 MiLB IP

Cons:

  • Two Tommy John surgeries (2019 was his first year back from second surgery)
  • 7.2 K/9 in 686.2 MiLB IP
  • Heavily impacted by new ball (1.5 HR/9 in 2019, 0.9 HR/9 for MiLB career)

Aaron Slegers

Like Rodgers, I’m not sure if there’s untapped talent or coachable performance in here, but I’m intrigued by Sleger’s height. He’s 6’10”. He’s also a Tampa Bay Rays reject, a team whose quality control might be on the same level as Houston’s.

He was really bad in Triple-A this year, though: a 5.77 ERA in 112.1 IP with 22 home runs allowed (1.8 per 9) and a 1.41 WHIP. He had a good 2.2 BB/9, but just 6.4 K/9. But maybe the Giants can take whatever lessons they’ve learned from the Sean Hjelle experience and see if they can reprogram Slegers?

Pros:

  • 2 options remaining
  • 27 in 2019
  • 6’10” tall!

Cons:

  • Does not throw hard (84 mph changeup, 90 mph fastball)
  • Below average spin on all of his pitches
  • Always valued as a C-level prospect

Don’t worry. I am very certain that none of these guys will actually be guys the Giants sign. They’re just the ones who stuck out to me as interesting.

But Drew Robinson has a very particular skill set (power and versatility) that he’s been able to demonstrate in flashes at the major league level. If not for surgery and rehab — which the Giants can afford to wait on — he might have been claimed. The option year puts him over the top versus most of these other players.

This list doesn’t include minor league free agents (perhaps that will be a future article, should anyone actually read this one?) or guys on 40-man rosters who might become free agents as the deadline for protecting players from the Rule 5 draft draws closer. These are just guys they could, as they did with Robinson, sign right now. They really are just some guys and the overwhelming likelihood that they go unsigned by most major league teams or ignored by the Giants demonstrates that The Churn doesn’t operate on volume alone.