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Giants clearing a path for two rookies

Zach Green and Conner Menez are up, but who’s leaving?

Chicago White Sox v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Earlier today, Henry Schulman reported that the Giants planned to move Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen and replace him in the rotation with Connor Menez. A little over an hour ago, he followed up that report saying that infielder Zach Green would also be called up tomorrow from Triple-A. What does this mean for players currently on the 25- and 40-man rosters?

It means something’s going to change.

First, though, let’s look at Green and Menez. Doug interviewed Green earlier this week

Green is hitting .311/.414/.717 with 22 homers in 241 plate appearances. He’s already set a career high in homers for a full season, and he’s on track to set personal bests in walk rate (currently at 13.9%) and ISO (.416), as well as every part of his slash line.

There were mechanical adjustments over the offseason. Specifically, he worked on swing sequencing, getting his body working in harmony to get the bat head out in front of him easier, which had helped him with pitch selection.

“That, I think, is the biggest knock on me is swing and miss and chase rate,” Green said. “A lot of people have that issue, but I think if I have more time in the box, and I can trust that my bat head will get there, I think that will help me make better decisions.”

He was born in Sacramento and went to Jesuit before being drafted by the Phillies in the third round of the 2012 draft. After six years, they didn’t want to add him to their 40-man roster, so he became a minor league free agent.

The Giants, his childhood team, were aggressive in their pursuit of him and they’ve reaped the rewards of his mutual interest and offseason swing adjustments, and now here he is on the cusp of making his major league debut. Can he be this year’s Dereck Rodriguez?

The 25-year old has played just first base this year, but in prior years he’s dabbled at third base and spent time at shortstop. The hot play by Donovan Solano and 4-for-4 day by Pablo Sandoval creates a lot of questions about who goes off the roster to make room for him.

Same deal with lefty Conner Menez, who starts tomorrow in place of Drew Pomeranz. The 24-year old was a 14th round pick by the Giants in the 2016 draft, making him the first Giant to debut for the Giants from this draft. Technically, the first pick of this draft for the Giants to make his debut was Bryan Reynolds, the Giants’ top pick, but they traded him to the Pirates for Andrew McCutchen. All he’s done since his callup on April 20th is post a .927 OPS with a 2.7 bWAR.

Meanwhile, Menez has carried a 10.02 K/9 through four minor league seasons (396 IP), and in six starts at Triple-A, he has a 3.82 ERA. That’s important because the league average ERA is, like, 5.40 or something — seriously, the offensive numbers in Triple-A, already a hitter-friendly league, are otherworldly — and, so far, in a very small sampling, he’s done fine.

MLB Pipeline rates him as the Giants’ #21 prospect, but just a 40 overall rating. That projects to being a substitute player at the major league level. But that’s just where they project him based on the current situation. They also say of him:

Menez works at 90-93 mph and touches 95 mph with his fastball, which he can work to either side of the plate. It generates a surprising amount of swings and misses because its high spin rate creates the illusion that it rises. His slider also misses bats and serves as is his best secondary pitch, followed by his changeup and curveball.

Menez has some deception in his delivery that throws off hitters’ timing, though he sometimes battles the strike zone as well. He has enjoyed more success against left-handers than right-handers, and he should have a floor as at least a situational reliever.

That’s why he gets that “40” tag. His floor is still a major league player, just not necessarily one who will be much better than league average or much above replacement level. Again, that’s just current projection. They graded his fastball a “55” and curveball and changeup “50”, which are all basically league average ratings. The Giants are trying to see if they can find a lefty starter with a bit more consistent command and control, even if he doesn’t throw 94+. The Pomeranz experiment might be coming to an end.

We’ll find out in just a few short hours how this all shakes out. The Giants don’t need 25-man roster spots as much as they need 40-man spots, as their 40-man roster is full. Neither Green nor Menez have been added yet. Here are the players who could be on shaky ground:

Ty Blach

This seems like the easiest move to make. He gave up seven hits and three earned runs in three innings of work and couldn’t really soft toss his way through the Mets’ formidable lineup. In previous years, his utility has been to eat up blowout innings and spot start against the Dodgers. But even these skills seem to have eroded beyond the point of their previous utility.

The Giants could probably get him through waivers very easily if they still wanted to keep him in the organization, but he also figures to be a player they wouldn’t necessarily miss were he to go; and, presumably, he’s a player who’s spot they’d rather give to a player acquired in trade as we near the deadline.

Tyler Austin

Since June 1st, he’s struck out 27 times in 67 plate appearances (40.3%), with just seven hits (three of them homers), and eight walks. He’s started just 12 of the 32 games in which he’s appeared. Austin Slater’s power spike, bat control, and positional versatility — he played second base without much incident earlier today once the Mets put the game out of reach — not just duplicates Austin’s utility but surpasses it. He’s the primary candidate for release.

Drew Pomeranz

It makes more sense to demote him to the bullpen first, see how that goes, and then make a move, but it also seems like having both Pomeranz and Holland in the bullpen as blowout game innings eaters is unnecessary. One should suffice, and Holland, despite a 4 runs allowed inning of work today, has been better here than Pomeranz, who has really been erratic all year.

Pomeranz’s deal is so cheap that he’d get picked up pretty quickly once he cleared waivers, and so maybe the whispers of a demotion to the bullpen are part of a last ditch effort to see if the Giants can trade him first before cutting ties.

Derek Holland

Maybe the four-run inning winds up being the final straw and the Giants feel they’re better off without him on the roster. It feels almost like a coin toss between these two at this point, even if Holland is guaranteed far more money the rest of the way. Somebody would probably try to pickup Holland, and maybe the Giants like him enough to be the late inning stabilizer or blowout innings eater.

Joe Panik

For a while, he was the best defensive second baseman in baseball, but as his playing time has diminished, so has his standing in that category. Just by straight up fWAR, he’s the fourth-worst player in baseball (-0.3), and while I still think he has a modicum of valuable as a trade chip, he’s done nothing to distinguish himself from the other recent roster additions. This would be a case where Farhan Zaidi’s lack of organizational ties and lack of sentimentality might actually help. Maybe Joe Panik’s best days are behind him or with another organization.

Or maybe there’s a trade looming and that’s what we’ll discover very soon. Just as likely as a pair of DFAs is a pair of trades or a trade of two players. But otherwise, if I had to guess — but not bet because Murphys are terrible gamblers — it’s Austin and Blach.