In what really is a minor move, but a somewhat confounding one all the same, the Giants have traded within their division, acquiring OF Alex Dickerson from the Padres in exchange for RHP Franklin Van Gurp.
First thing’s first: I’d like to apologize for not formally recognizing the sovereign citizen that is Franklin Van Gurp. It’s a beautiful name. That we didn’t honor it once a month is a failure on my part as this site’s managing editor, and for that, I apologize.
McCoven Lars the Wanderer raises an interesting point about this particular transaction:
So the giants giving away a 23 year old pitcher for some rando 29 year old outfielder is part of the process now?— Lars (@LarsTheWanderer) June 10, 2019
Our beloved and now departed Van Gurp has a minor league career strikeouts per 9 of 12.17, which is really good. Per this snippet of a scouting report on FanGraphs, I can relay the following information:
Van Gurp is a sinker/slider short-strider with entertaining on-mound mannerisms and 40 control.
He is a 25th-round draft pick of the 2017 draft who has struggled at the higher levels (10.13 ERA in Double-A, 6.95 ERA in high-A), but besides the high walk and home run rates, he still manages to strike out batters fairly consistently. This is a fringey gamble of a relief arm, a solid get for a team that just DFA’d a player.
Yeah, that’s right. The Padres designated Alex Dickerson for assignment last week. Why are the Giants interested in their table scraps, especially when they’re giving up a lottery ticket arm of their own? It’s more than just simple org “depth”, it’s philosophical reinforcement.
Farhan Zaidi and Michael Holmes are trying to remake the Giants into a zone control organization. Dickerson’s minor league career walk rate is 7.4% and strikeout rate is 17.1%. Hardly elite, but actually a tick above average.
Dickerson has had 312 major league plate appearances and some of that plate discipline has translated — 26 walks against 54 strikeouts (8.3% walk rate, 17.3% strikeout rate) — along with his general power (.505 career minor league slugging — 10 major league home runs on a .429 slug).
“Zone control + power” is what the Giants want and that’s what they’re going for: selective hitters who can do some damage when they finally choose a pitch. This is a departure from the Sabean era of contact and “tough A-Bs”. The Giants sought players who were adept at grinding and putting the ball in play, but with no specific target of players who could punish the ball with that contact.
Instead of looking at these rates, though, a more helpful column to look at when wondering why Farhan Zaidi traded for a certain player is the K/BB ratio. On that note, Dickerson stands out a little bit with a career 2.30. For comparison, Barry Bonds’ K/BB was 0.60, Cody Bellinger’s is 1.94 (2.11 in the minors), Pedro Feliz’s was 2.88 and on the negative extreme, Jose Hernandez, who struck out 1,391 in 1,587 major league games (or 27.3% of the time) had a 3.62 career ratio.
Mike Yastrzemski has a 2.13 K/BB in the minors, Tyler Austin’s is 2.21 (in the minors), Michael Reed’s is 1.57, and Connor Joe’s is 1.37, so you can see the pattern here. The Giants are just trying to remake their organization from approach down to the types of players drafted (Hunter Bishop? 2.00 K/BB).
We don’t know if selectivity plus a little power will translate or help the major league team this year or next and there’s a good chance that if Dickerson sticks around over the next month that we’ll see him called up to the majors, either because of injury or trade, and then we’ll see if he can recapture his solid 2016 season (.791 OPS in 285 PA).
Dickerson has missed parts of the last three years due to two major injuries: back problems that wiped out his 2017 season and Tommy John surgery that ended his 2018 season. Dickerson doesn’t have the same great name that Van Gurp has, but he’s the same kind of lottery ticket: potential, but loads of risk. For a team trying to relearn how to score runs, this is a good bet for them.
Still, we’ll miss you, Van Gurp. We’re not going to have much to cheer for the next couple of years, but we could’ve had you, Franklin Van Gurp.