Now let’s all make sure we’re on the same page here right from the start: I’m not talking about THE Rookie of the Year here. Oh no! Not that one. For the fourth consecutive year, we can be reasonably certain that no Giants’ players will be receiving any votes for the national award in 2019.
No, we’re here to talk about the Giants’ roster itself. Last year the Giants got solid-to-excellent contributions from a variety of rookies — pitchers Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez, and Reyes Moronta, infielder Alen Hanson, and CF Steven Duggar, who the Giants hope may be the first starting OF the team has developed since Marvin Benard (for themselves that is, hi Adam!). The question on the table is: what first year players might capture our attention, and maybe even our hearts in the coming months?
Admittedly, this post will likely be more exciting next year, when we might reasonably be talking about 2018 #2 overall pick Joey Bart. But even if 2019 isn’t going to bring that level of fervent anticipation, there should still be little treasures waiting in store for us this summer. Let’s take a look at the contenders!
We’ve Already Seen these Guys
First looks can leave lasting impressions (this old timer can still remember John Montefusco’s major league debut with crystal clarity), but they’re not always the most accurate predictors of where careers are heading. While from the vantage point of winter 2019, it might well seem like Tyler Beede is destined to walk five out of every four hitters forever, that Ray Black is dinger-prone, or that Chris Shaw is a Whiff-machine while Aramis Garcia is all clutch dingerbot, the possibility exists that any or all of these careers might ultimately take different shapes.
It’s good to look past the first impression.
The bigger problem for several of these players is imagining a clear path to an opportunity to shine. As Farhan Zaidi has back-loaded the 40 man depth of the pitching staff, Beede’s path to either starts or a bullpen position has gotten muddier. The same is true of Chris Shaw’s OF opportunities (though Cameron Maybin and Gerardo Parra won’t block him if he shows the requisite improvements in the first half in AAA).
I would say the same of Aramis Garcia’s chances to nab the backup Catcher slot to open the year, what with vets like Stephen Vogt, Rene Rivera and Cameron Rupp around. But, he keeps on showing power, and Farhan did lay out a teaser:
Farhan Zaidi said Giants will have three lefty relievers, which could help a guy like Travis Bergen, the Rule 5 pick. One early impression he’s had in camp: Aramis Garcia’s power. “That’s been a revelation to me,” he said.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) February 19, 2019
It still seems most likely Garcia starts the year back in Sacramento — my guess is the Giants will construct the Opening Day lineup in such a way as to maximize the organizational depth they’re keeping on hand, which means guys with options are going to struggle to see Opening Day in a Giants uni — but he can force his way back to SF and there’s power in the swing if he hits enough to get to it. Backup Catcher has been important enough spot on this team to launch a Willie Mac Award winner, I suppose it could launch a ROY too.
Ray Black’s options might possibly mean he, too, reports to Sacramento on opening day thanks to the glut of relief arms currently in camp (though I hope not), but he’s certain to be bringing his high octane velo to Oracle Park in the not too distant future and it’s not that hard to imagine him locking down a high leverage position in the pen, much the same way Reyes Moronta has—by announcing his presence with authority (plus a plus breaking ball).
Tyler Beede remains, as always, a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, chucked a foot inside and back to the backstop. Despite my above plea for open-mindedness, I remain skeptical in this particular case, though the raw materials are definitely here for a successful major league pitcher, and he’s made one of the strongest impressions of any player early in camp this spring. Could he break from the pack and grab a rotation spot if, say, Drew Pomeranz can’t begin the year healthy? If Beede were to find success this year it surely would be a boon for the organization’s new hires:
Zaidi’s machinations have churned up a host of newcomers seemingly daily who could manage to be part of the equation (or could be DFA’d next week). Two of the newcomers are Rule 5 draftees LHP Travis Bergen (from Toronto) and Conner Joe (from LA by way of Cincinnati) who both figure to make the team at this point (although that appears to be a dangerous proclamation this spring). The Michael Reed pickup adds another potential opening day piece, and potentially the makings of a RH bat to pair with Duggar’s rest days.
Originally, Bergen’s path to sticking would looked like it would benefit from either Will Smith or Tony Watson getting traded before spring was sprung. But even without a spring move, it appears he’s secured a roster spot as an audition for a future, Smith- or Watson-less version of the Giants. Bergen’s collective 0.95 ERA last year in High A and AA and 11.8 K9 are certainly intriguing as a third lefty out of the pen.
Conner Joe, a late addition to the team, seems to have taken a development leap in his time with the Dodgers last year, opening up his stance to produce a huge .299/.408/.527 line between AA and AAA. The former supplemental 1st rounder out of the University of San Diego has always been an offensive oriented player, but he’ll move around the corners and try to unleash that bat on LHP.
The Giants have gotten tremendous value out of exactly this category in the past — from DRod to Vogie to Santiago Castilla to Andres Torres — and given the organizational thinness from a prospect POV, this is probably a good place to look for 2019’s breakout performers.... well... “breakout” performers.
This group represents the Giants’ “closest to the majors” group of prospects — all have performed at AA or AAA, all are getting within range of major league ready. If the first half of 2019 leads us to a July sell-off and a two-month audition period, it’s quite conceivable that any of these players could be the beneficiaries.
Melvin Adon, he of the 100+ fastball and the video game numbers in the Arizona Fall League in October, is probably the easiest to imagine forcing himself into the mix. Now that he’s a full-time reliever it’s not that difficult to think of him repeating Black’s trajectory from 2018.
Shaun Anderson will be ready for the call as soon as injury and or trade opens up a spot for him (or the spot that opens up after the spot that Andrew Suarez or Dereck Rodriguez step back into, I suppose). And given the recent health history of the top four starters pencilled into the Giants’ rotation, it’s not crazy to think that spot opens up sooner rather than later.
If the last two months become a real free for all, perhaps we could even get a look at Logan Webb, in my opinion the one potential impact starting pitcher that the club has in the upper minors. He’s more likely looking at a 2020 debut, but his arm could force matters if things start to get woolly later this summer.
I don’t much like being confined to just one choice so I’m gonna give a few different ones. Rules? Don’t Kobayashi Maru me—I wrote this danged thing! I’ll do as I please! So let me handicap a few different scenarios:
Ray Black: 1:1
Lazy, perhaps, but obvious. Black shows up from day one throwing 102 and breaking hitters down with his wicked slider. He gets better at staying out of the middle of the plate (Black on the black!), the home runs normalize, and he’s pitching the 8th or 9th inning by August.
Travis Bergen: 3:1
Despite plenty of competition for LH relief arms, the Giants hang on to Bergen in their bullpen throughout first half of year, and in July when Smith and Watson are traded away he becomes the premium lefty out of the pen. That high spin fastball continues to be a weapon in the majors just like it was in AA.
Conner Joe: 8:1
Confession: I really wanted to put Chris Shaw here. In fact, I started out by writing a plausible scenario by which Shaw comes up in May and whacks 15-20 taters while keeping the OBP semi-respectable. But since the Zaidi zeitgeist has us all chasing after the next Max Muncy (SPOILER: good chance there isn’t one), I made a last minute switch to Joe (much as Zaidi himself did!), who seems as likely a candidate as any. The 26 year old 1b/UT INF/LF has a solid, contact oriented swing with excellent control of the zone and emerging power. And being RH doesn’t hurt either. Is it wild to imagine he might post something like a.275/.375/.450 line? Probably. But what fun is that?
Melvin Adon: 10:1
Adon replicates Black’s 2018, dispensing with AA in a month, trouncing AAA hitters through the spring, and forcing his way to MLB in June. Unlike Black though, he skips the bumps and bruises of a MLB introduction, looks an awful lot like his AFL version of nastiness and is fully installed as Closer of the Future by September. T-shirts and animal heads are in production by year’s end.
Shaun Anderson, 20:1
Drew Pomeranz is still broken, Jeff Samardzija makes four more trips to the DL, and Bumgarner and Holland are moved on July 31. Anderson has spent the first four months of the year honing his four pitch mix, improving his ability to attack the zone and sequence. He returns to the majors ready to make an impression and provides two months of 2.50 era with Ks from all pitches.
That’s how I see it. Ok, now let me get to work on that Joey Bart 2020 ROY piece...