Melissa Lockard posts that the San Francisco Giants could be preparing to call up their most athletic minor leaguer who might be ready to play in major league action:
Hearing that Tyler Fitzgerald is on his way to join the Giants in LA.— Melissa Lockard (@melissalockard) September 21, 2023
Tyler Fitzgerald was drafted in the 4th round of the 2019 draft as a shortstop out of the University of Louisville, but the org has since moved him around to second, third, and center. The 26-year old doesn’t crack MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 ranking of the Giants’ system, but the McCovey Chronicles community ranked him #18 back in April. At the time, Brady wrote:
He established himself as one of the better defensive players in the organization, capable of playing both middle infield positions, with some discussion that he might be able to play the middle of the outfield, too. He showed off a lot of power, as his 21 home runs broke the Richmond single-season record that David Villar had set the year prior (Fitzgerald does not, however, hold the record now, as teammate Sean Roby one-upped him). He seemed to make some big adjustments as the year went on, with a .540 OPS in April, a .793 OPS in May, and a .530 OPS in June, before rattling off a blistering .901 OPS in July and a .907 OPS in August (his numbers came back to earth in September, though it was just a half month).
In addition to the dingers, he stole 20 bases and he followed up that 20-20 2022 — the first such season for the Giants’ Double-A affiliate, by the way — with a 20-20 2023:
Tyler Fitzgerald has his second consecutive 20-20 season with his 20th big fly of the season. Incredible achievement for the middle infielder who deserves a shot in the Majors. pic.twitter.com/zVC17SM3b3— Giant Prospective (@giantprospectiv) September 3, 2023
He kicked off his season in Double-A and was named the Eastern League Player in the month of April after slashing .324./410/.588 in 78 PA. Since his promotion to the River Cats, he’s slashed .286/.356/.499 in 463 PA and 26 stolen bases in 29 attempts. The 20 home runs + 20 doubles + 4 triples looks great, but there’s a lot of swing and miss in his game: 44 walks against 110 strikeouts. Based on stat scouting Zaidi’s various acquisitions over the years, that 2.5 K/BB is the absolute limit of what he’s found acceptable.
This all comes down to athleticism, the buzzword that got thrown around most of the day after watching the Diamondbacks buzz around the outfield catching virtually every ball the Giants put in the air. Fitzgerald has been getting reps in centerfield, so on top of the speedy baserunning, they might be looking for a little more glove hero stuff in their outfield over this long weekend looming in Los Angeles.
Just last week, Giants minor league prospect guru Roger Munter wrote up Fitzgerald’s strong minor league season (subscription required) reflecting on how the kid had completely transformed himself during the pandemic — specifically, the missed 2020 season. That transformation gave him his 20+ home run power these past two seasons, but it didn’t change everything:
The swing and miss is still a concern (I’d be willing to bet that the slightly high chase rate and slightly low contact rate are behind the Giants’ reticence to give him a look this summer, in spite of their desperately poor production at shortstop). The question really will be how the other skills end up translating to the majors.
I think these concerns are shared by most who cover the Giants. As Brady posted the other day:
I'll admit that I've been lower on Tyler Fitzgerald than a lot of Giants fans and writers. But after watching Arizona's hyper-athletic lineup these last 2 days, and watching Fitzgerald open AAA Sac's game with a walk and 2 stolen bases on 2 pitches ... GIMME SPEED DAMN IT— McCovey Chronicles (@McCoveyChron) September 21, 2023
Then there’s this analysis:
Per FG's numbers, Tyler Fitzgerald at AAA: 33.9% chase%, 81.2% z-con, 109.4 max EV.— Electro (@ImNotHuman123) September 21, 2023
The list of MLBers with a chase rate ≥30%, z-con ≤ 83%, and max EV < 110 MPH this year is... well, not great. pic.twitter.com/cz7yt8UbR1
It’s perhaps not reasonable to make 1:1 comps between major league and minor league numbers, but if you don’t see a lot of footage, maybe it helps you create a picture in your head of what this guy might be like. His Triple-A line is also league average (102 wRC+ per FanGraphs). If you wanted to say that he’s a replacement-level player, I’d support it. But the Giants badly need his speed and hustle. Just tonight, he went 1-for-3 with a walk and 3 stolen bases. The Giants have 7 stolen bases in their last 43 games.
Here’s an interview he just did with Amy G:
Look at that! He hasn’t been beaten down by three months of being a part of the worst lineup on planet Earth. Let the Giants vampire feed off his somewhat-youthful enthusiasm for a week and a half — what’s the harm?
Well, somebody’s going to have to lose their 40-man spot, and it’s this uncertainty that’s compelled me to use hedging language. It’s possible he winds up just being part of the taxi squad while the Giants gather information. These are the only 40-man + 28-man moves I can see:
- Brandon Crawford to 60-day IL
- Alex Cobb to 60-day IL (even though Kapler thought he could appear in the postseason)
- John Brebbia to 60-day IL (phantom?)
- Ryan Walker to 60-day IL (phantom?)
- Sean Hjelle designated for assignment
- Paul DeJong released
It seems unlikely that the Giants would use a pitcher’s roster spot on a position player, but it also seemed unlikely that Fitzgerald would be included in the team’s plans at this point. This afternoon, Brady speculated that it’d be Luciano to take Crawford’s spot and I still think that’s in play. Maybe it’s Crawford to 10-day IL and DeJong to the curb and that gets it done. Or maybe the team recognizes that Luis Matos’s 3-for-his-last-20 isn’t a development thing so much as a fatigue thing and opt for someone whose motor is still purring at this juncture.
Whatever the case, the Giants continue to grasp at straws as the season slips away from them. They have been in control of their destiny all season long, and their decision trees have brought them here. I don’t think this is as sweaty a move as the Meckler situation and it’s worth noting that Fitzgerald’s lackluster batted ball numbers could in theory get some help from a major league coaching staff. We’ve heard about “finishing development in the majors” before and maybe one of these times it’ll actually stick.