ORLANDO — The Giants didn’t leave Florida completely empty-handed. They added a relief prospect Thursday morning, and they believe they might have found a gem.
With the second pick in the annual Rule 5 Draft, the Giants chose right-hander Julian Fernandez, a 22-year-old who spent last season in A-ball for the Colorado Rockies. By rule, the Giants must pay $100,000 for the acquisition and if Fernandez doesn’t spend the entire season on the big league roster, he must be offered back to the Rockies for $50,000.
Rule 5 picks rarely stick — the Padres had three last season and none are really viewed as future contributors — but general manager Bobby Evans said Fernandez will have a real shot at competing for an opening day job. The Giants believe he has the stuff to potentially be in the back end of their bullpen throughout the season.
A talent evaluator familiar with Fernandez said he topped out at 103 mph and his fastball averaged 100 mph last season. In the past, Fernandez has had trouble throwing strikes, but Giants scouts saw a big jump in his command in 2017 and believe it will only get better given how young he is. Fernandez is slender — listed at just 160 pounds — but is said to get good extension on his pitches, allowing all of his stuff to play up a bit. He struck out 57 batters in 58 innings last season in A-ball and walked 18. The previous year, he issued 20 walks in 23 innings. He has a 3.65 ERA in 128 career relief appearances in the minors.
“It’s a plus-plus fastball,” Evans said. “The breaking stuff is not as consistent, but he has upside.”
The Giants also lost a player in the Rule 5 Draft, which allows teams to scoop up guys who were not added to 40-man rosters in time. The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Albert Suarez, who has pitched in San Francisco each of the last two seasons. The Giants took Suarez off their roster last month because he was out of options and would not have made the team in spring training.
ORLANDO — It doesn’t sound like the Giants will fly home with any fresh faces in the fold, but it’s possible that a familiar one will be locked up soon.
General manager Bobby Evans said the front office is “actively pursuing Nick Hundley and hopes (to) get that done.” Hundley said at the end of the season that he wanted to return for another year in San Francisco, and the Giants have put a priority on locking up a quality bat as Buster Posey’s backup.
Hundley’s first season with the Giants included far more at-bats than expected and he took advantage of them. The 34-year-old had nine homers and 23 doubles in 101 appearances. He was just about an everyday player down the stretch as Posey moved to first base after Brandon Belt’s season-ending concussion, and at times the Giants felt Hundley was one of their few power bats.
There was some thought that Hundley might find an everyday job elsewhere, but that apparently hasn’t developed. The Giants will be happy to have him back for multiple reasons. Hundley improved defensively over the course of the year and proved to be a valuable addition in the clubhouse, providing leadership for a group that often looked lost at sea. In late September, Hundley was given the prestigious Willie Mac Award.
ORLANDO — The most important player in most trade discussions the Giants have had this week is still years away from legally being able to grab a drink at the Swan and Dolphin Resort’s busy lobby bar.
After speaking to the Marlins about Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, the Giants approached the Reds about Billy Hamilton. They have talked to the Cardinals about their young outfielders, and done the same with the Brewers and others. They have found that there’s a common theme in these talks: Per sources, just about every team asks for Heliot Ramos, the 2017 first-round pick.
The Giants like to stay open-minded and rarely deem a player untouchable, but Ramos seems to be just about there. The 18-year-old was the 19th selection in June’s draft, and scouts here in Orlando have said he would easily go in the top 10 if the selections were made today. The Giants view Ramos as a five-tool talent, a potential Yoenis Cespedes-type of athlete with a real chance to stick as a center fielder.
Some in the organization believe he could be the rare Giants prospect to bust into the majors at the age of 21 or 22, and Ramos’ professional debut did not temper expectations. In 138 rookie league at-bats, Ramos hit .348 with six homers, six triples and 11 doubles. He stole 10 bases in 12 attempts. His on-base percentage was .404 and he slugged .645.
It’s a small sample, but you can see why the Giants shake their heads every time Ramos is brought up. Given the state of the franchise and the farm system, a strong “no” is certainly the right answer.
With Ramos unavailable, the Giants have found little traction with other teams. The offers they have received have been described as wildly unrealistic, and the front office does not want to make a move just for the sake of making a move before the flight home. General manager Bobby Evans is under pressure to find solutions, but he said the front office is united in a desire to not mortgage the future.
“It’s going to cost our system at some level in trades but we’re going to always make sure we keep the cream of the crop in our organization as best we can,” Evans said.