Monday, February 24, 2020

Making Some Sense on the Spring Training Games

Ah yes, Spring Training. The sun basking the diamond and players are getting their reps in. It's always nice to see baseball back and for the Giants, another year to make the best fanbase on Twitter blurt out sarcastic to disappointing comments. A couple of Spring Training games in, and I think that it is time to put some things to context.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Pitchers, Catchers and I Report

It's back. The sport that we all love is back. Baseball is back, with pitchers and catchers now reporting to the camp. It's been a rather wild offseason for the most part, from the Yankees just slapping every other team with their wallets in signing Gerrit Cole to the clown fiesta that is the Astros sign-stealing scandal and the very, very last minute Dodgers deal for Mookie Betts. I can honestly say that this is one of the noisiest offseasons that I have ever seen in baseball. 

The Giants had an offseason that made plenty of fans whimper and are launching burner accounts left, right and center to try to mess up the front office. If this is just being used as part of a propaganda or a destabilization plot I don't know (this is coming from a guy who is living on a country where people are actually getting paid for up to $4,000 a month by the government itself to build troll accounts on Facebook, Twitter and all other forms of media not only to spat on their opposing party but also to boost the fandom of the current administration) but what I can say that even though it is definitely not a good look online, I truly believe that this is definitely not the representation of the entire fanbase. The moves that Zaidi and company might not win a championship in 2020, but it brings plenty of intrigue in my book as we head to Spring Training.

The theme of the 2020 Spring Training is all about competition, depth and platoon splits. I mean the Giants are in a much better footing already to start off 2020 as compared to the 2019 campaign, where the Giants fielded relatively nobodies like Connor Joe and Michael Reed in the Opening Week outfield spots and would start off the 2020 campaign with established players like Alex Dickerson, Mike Yastrzemski and Steven Duggar along with the homecoming of Hunter Pence, the signing of Billy Hamilton and giving prospects like Jaylin Davis and Chris Shaw a chance. The infield sure looked crowded as well with players like Wilmer Flores, Yolmer Sanchez and Kean Wong adding to the veteran core of Longo, BCraw and Belt with the ever promising Mo Dubón. The rotation also looks to be filled with plenty of intrigue as newcomers Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly would try to fit in with mainstays Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, youngsters Tyler Beede and Shaun Anderson and relative rookies Logan Webb and Conner Menez. The bullpen also has some company but is definitely a shell of its former self with no true closer at the moment (if you don't consider Tony Watson as one).

To be honest, I like what the Giants has done in the offseason, knowing that the Dodgers will still triumph in the NL West by a big margin, the Padres have their loaded farm system with some of their best talents already in the Majors like Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Giants definitely do not have the talent and the depth to put up a fight this year. The Giants went in a way like how I often build teams in Out of the Park Baseball whenever I would challenge myself and build a contender from scratch by signing two or three-stared players to cheap contracts, loading up with as much depth as possible (investing in a manager with excellent player development skill and hiring a great scouting director). It allows a revolving door of good players and you can just keep on playing for load management and most especially, injuries. 

I read a very interesting Jay Jaffe article on FanGraphs discussing Wilmer Flores' role in a crowded mix of infielders and it discusses how can Kapler utilize the plethora of options in the infield so go check that out. The interesting thing overall is that the Giants signed players who can either hit like Flores and Pence (welcome back!) or who can defend really well like Sanchez and Hamilton. That allows for plenty of mix and match in the field depending on the situation like when you need to field your best fielders in, Kapler could sub out Crawford and play Sanchez and move Dubon to short and bench Pence and have Hamilton defend left field. 

Speaking of outfield, when talking about its state, it is mostly filled with guys who already had established big league careers like Pence, Hamilton, Dickerson and guys like Duggar and Yaz who contributed well last year. It does not have much room for guys like Jaylin Davis, Chris Shaw and others to get a clear-cut shot in an everyday role and will definitely take an injury (most likely from Dickerson) for one to be pushed into the starting role. But take into consideration also that Dick, Dugg and Yaz are all left handed and Davis and possibly another righty like Austin Slater can get playing time when the Giants sit out one of the lefties (most likely Duggar). 

Another debate is who is going to be Buster's backup now that Aramis Garcia, the definitive favorite to land the role this year, is going to sit out all of 2020 due to injury. The Giants scooped up Rob Brantly to battle Tyler Heineman for that coveted spot. To be honest, I have no idea who would win the job, but one thing is sure in my mind and that is to not give Joey Bart the backup job even if he will go bonkers in Spring. There's not much incentive in terms of development if the Giants are going to have Bart sit in the bench and be a pinch-hitter or as a defensive replacement. Better just give him the reps in Sacramento until they can truly feel that Buster is due to move out of the crouch for good.

The pitching side of the Giants is more a question mark but is also very interesting in 2020. The rotation is going to be interesting how good can Gausman and Smyly can be in the rotation with Shark and Cueto with Beede and Webb (along with Smyly) possibly be battling for the back-end. Our old opener Nick Vincent is back and could be in position to help the bullpen that definitely has questions coming in. ESPN Depth Charts have Shaun Anderson as the closer and that is definitely an interesting idea, with Anderson being a closer in college and his mentality definitely fits the position. Reyes Moronta could have a bigger role possibly as a set-up man, folks like Tyson Ross and Tyler Anderson could definitely play a piggybacking option or be an occasional starter while being a mainstay in the pen. Very interesting how the Giants will plan to mix it up and build their Opening Day roster.

Those kind of things, the Xs and Os, the pitch-by-pitch decision-making, will push Kapler really hard in his first season managing the Giants and will definitely need the resources and most especially, the feel for his players on whether they are in the best positions that they can be. Predictions for the 2020 Giants are still ridiculously early, but I can definitely see the club being a potential sneaky player for the Wildcard when mid-season comes.

This is the part where in the past, I would be putting in the Something Extra segment where I talk about other things of note but not in a detailed manner. I am looking to bring that back whenever I talk about prospects. 

Earlier in January, the Giants held a voluntary minicamp for their prospects to start the season where the prospects got to enjoy some of the latest tech like Blast for the hitters and had fun. I am really happy that the Giants invest heavily on their young players and with the Papago complex going to be finished next year as the extended Spring Training home  and as the workout center for the organization. Very happy for the players and the organization. 

The college baseball season is underway and while I do not have the time to fully do a write-up of prospects that could be in play for the Giants, I am putting in the time to watch film and study the prospects. I am going to share here what I thought of the players before they play in the regular season, all of them college players. 

- Tork is a freaking tank. Vladito in the college level.

- Reid Detmers reminds me of Sean Doolittle in his arm action that hides his fastball very well but his overall tools are more above average than plus (50+ fastball, 55+ curveball, 50+ change, 50+ control) and is likely more of a #4 like what I have seen from David Peterson in 2017.

- JT Ginn has very good stuff with his fastball reaching 97 with sink and potential command and his slider has sharp break. He is not tall but he is very athletic and has the elements of gaining more velocity by developing a stronger tempo in his mechanics. Definitely could take a Walker Buehler-type leap in pro ball.

- Asa Lacy is like this year's AJ Puk with a big strong body, nasty repertoire but has questions in terms of command. I think that while Lacy has less knockout stuff than Puk, Lacy has a better command projection because of his calmer actions on the mound.

- My favorite player at the moment might be Carmen Mlodzinski. The frame looks very good, his stuff is very nasty as his sinker can reach mid-90s with plus sink and his slider snaps very sharp with a potential above average changeup. I love the tempo of his mechanics (very aggressive and a Major League-type tempo) and hides the ball really well in his body. He reminds me a bit of Charlie Morton and Corey Kluber at the very best. 

- Garrett Crochet looks like a very big CJ Wilson-type in terms of mechanics and if his newfound velocity last fall, now up to 99-100 MPH, sticks throughout the 2020 campaign, he will be the first pitcher outside of Emerson Hancock to be selected.

 - Casey Martin is an intriguing prospect in terms of tools as he has some of the best power-speed combination in college baseball. Kind of like the Keoni Cavaco of this year's draft, I can definitely see plus in terms of raw power, raw speed and arm strength but his ability to hit with his current mechanics is suspect.

This is all for now on my side. I hope that you enjoyed reading my piece today. It did not brought up a brand new school of thought as most of the points that I talked about the 2020 Giants roster have been discussed in better detail by many but I hope that you find my take on the topic as a good one. Oh, and the little bit of detail about the January rookie minicamp and the very early stages of the 2020 draft. Remember as of this moment, the Giants have the ever coveted 69th pick. Whoever will be picked in that spot will be experience an in-depth following from me. Onto to the next one!