The Giants went ahead and made two Rule 5 picks this past December that meant two roster spots on the 25-man roster would be given over to two strangers for the entire season unless they really tanked in Spring Training.
Given how brilliant and never wrong Farhan Zaidi has been in his front office career, there’s little chance a right-handed outfielder with a career minor league OBP of .393 and lots of speed and defensive ability in center field on a team that lacks all three of those things and a left-handed reliever who just strikes people out at will despite not possessing overpowering stuff were going to tank this Spring Training, so let’s assume that they’re not going to be offered back to their original teams (Astros for Ferguson, Blue Jays for Bergen) and project how they’ll do on the roster in 2019.
Now, right off the bat, I need to call myself out for the smarmy assertion that Farhan Zaidi has never made a transaction that didn’t work out in some wildly successful way. Ferguson has played 19 games this spring and is slashing .111 / .273 / .111 in 33 plate appearances (27 at bats). His three hits are two more than Madison Bumgarner has, but Bumgarner has just four at bats.
It has not been a good spring for Drew Ferguson. The Giants are giving him a long look — he has as many at bats now as Austin Slater did before he was optioned back to the minors — but Cameron Maybin leads the team with 42 at bats... that’s Ferguson’s competition to be the platoon player with Steven Duggar. In this particular, it’s still pretty close:
CF competition ‘19
Maybin has the veteran experience that might make him a more attractive option in Bruce Bochy’s mind, but Drew Ferguson carries potential (again, that .393 minor league OBP) and a cheaper price tag (the league minimum) versus Maybin, who’d earn $1.75 million if he made the team. Another point in Ferguson’s favor is that the Giants would have “control” of him beyond this year, whereas they’d have Maybin for just the season.
On the projection system front, good ol’ ZiPS projects Ferguson to be a 1-win player with a slash of .244 / .329 / .359 while Maybin figures to put up just a little bit less — 0.8 fWAR and a slash of .255 / .329 / .368. That’s mainly due to Ferguson’s speed and age (Maybin turns 32 at the beginning of April). The Giants are giving Cameron Maybin every chance to take this spot from Drew Ferguson, but there are enough compelling reasons to believe he’ll make the team out of Spring Training.
Ferguson has struggled over the past 6-8 months. In addition to the 19 games he’s played with the Giants this spring, he played 24 between the Arizona Fall League and Puerto Rican Winter League, slashing .172 / .219 / .241 (32 PA) in the former and .208 / .323 / .208 (62 PA) in the latter. Maybe he just needs some rest? His addition doesn’t futz up the roster too much.
The Giants carried these five to open last season: Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez, Austin Jackson, Andrew McCutchen, and Hunter Pence. If they carry five again, and considering that the Chris Shaw and Austin Slater were just cut from Spring Training camp, the depth chart would look like this on Opening Day:
Outfielders — Mac Williamson, Steven Duggar, Gerardo Parra, Cameron Maybin, Drew Ferguson?
The tools are there, but he’s a light-hitting outfielder that gets on base who’s hit too lightly and isn’t getting on base at even a league average clip against generally the same quality of competition (or slightly worse) than he’ll be facing once the season begins. I think he makes the team, but he won’t hit the ground running.
Technically no, but also yes.
According to the Rule 5 system, the Giants would have to put Ferguson on waivers first before being able to option him. If he clears waivers, then they must offer him back to his original team — the Astros — for $50,000. If the Astros decline, then the Giants can option him to the minors.
I think he makes it out of Spring Training on the 25-man roster, does poorly, gets placed on waivers, clears waivers because of his poor performance and teams not wanting to sink one of their 25-man roster spots on an unproductive player, and then once he clears waivers, the Astros decline to take him back due to their own roster crunch: seven outfielders already on their 40-man roster, meaning the Giants will be able to option him at some point.
There are no questions about the lefty reliever’s talent and after a very nice spring so far (0 runs and just two hits allowed in 7 innings), very few questions about his place on the Opening Day roster. He’s yet to pitch above Double-A, but it must be noted that after his promotion last year with the Blue Jays, he posted an ERA of 0.50 in 35.2 innings and a strikeout to walk ratio of 43:9. He had a 20.2 innings scoreless streak mixed in there, too.
His career minor league strikeouts per 9 rate of 12.02 (in 84 IP) is eye-popping in much the same way the Ferguson’s MiLB .393 OBP is, but Bergen has been able to repeat some version of that in Spring Training. And just to back up my claim:
#SFGiants fall 3-0 to the Dbacks this afternoon. Rodriguez continues his impressive spring with only 1 run & 2 hits allowed in 4 2/3 innings. Travis Bergen retired all four batters he faced - now at 7 scoreless IP overall. SF held to three hits. Host Angels tomorrow.— Joe Ritzo (@JoeRitzo) March 14, 2019
Rule 5 lefty Travis "He Is So On This Team" Bergen this spring: 6 G, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K. #SFGiants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) March 14, 2019
Eight shutout innings this spring now for Rule 5 lefty Travis "Get Him A Locker" Bergen. Struck out three in the inning. Also walked a guy. #SFGiants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) March 18, 2019
Scouting reports suggest he’s able to get out righties as well as lefties thanks to his slider-cutter mix. He doesn’t have to be a primary reliever to be useful and effective for the Giants this year. He can be what Josh Osich, Steven Okert, or Dan Runzler were supposed to be all these years — maybe a solid guy to bring in for the middle innings if things get out of control or someone who can spell a tired primary reliever after the seventh inning.
Still, you might be skeptical, given that we have just 91 professional innings to look at here, but the scouting reports have always been bullish on him. From MLB.com:
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 40
Bergen lacks overpowering stuff but hitters from both sides of the plate rarely manage to barrel his pitches. His low-90s fastball plays much better than its velocity because his crossfire delivery gives it run, sink and deception. His slider/cutter acts as a solid second pitch at times, and he also has a changeup to keep hitters off balance.
The Giants have always had a knack for uncovering hidden bullpen gems like Bergen and with the infusion of Driveline Baseball instruction, there’s good reason for us to be just as bullish as the scouting reports.
That’s basically Pierce Johnson’s season, only Bergen is left-handed and only 25. If that doesn’t seem bullish to you, just remember that he’s never pitched above Double-A.
No. He’s just too (potentially) good and useful for the Giants to offer back to the Blue Jays.