Giants

Blanco setting himself up for prime role with Giants

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Blanco setting himself up for prime role with Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Giants manager Bruce Bochy cant begin announcing his opening-day roster. Not with 18 days between now and the National Anthem at Arizona's Chase Field.

But ask himabout non-roster outfielder Gregor Blanco, and Bochy has a hard time containinghis excitement.

I cant give you anything definite, but I will say hesplayed as good a ball as anybody here this spring, Bochy said. Gregor hasreally swung it well, run the bases well. Were very excited about having him.

Samuel Morse couldnt have telegraphed it better.

A late injury or two can change the calculus. An unexpectedtrade discussion, too. But as it stands, Blanco, the speedy little 28-year-oldoutfielder from Venezuela, has earned a place with the 2012 Giants.

And maybe not just a place on the bench, either.

He leads the Giants with a .444 average (which also ranksseventh in the majors) and his seven stolen bases (in eight attempts) paceseveryone under the Florida and Arizona sunshine. He also ranks second in themajors with 10 runs.

Spring stats are meaningless, of course. But the manner in which Blanco is compiling them is not. He's scoring his runs in exactly the manner the Giantshope to support their pitchers this season always pushing for that extra base, whetherits going first to third, second to home or turning any momentary bobble intoan extra 90 feet.

Blanco didnt lose any momentum from the Venezuelan winterleague, where he was named MVP after leading all players in on-base percentage(.478), stolen bases (18) and runs scored (47) for Tiburones de la Guaira.

This is great for us to have him here, said young catcherHector Sanchez, who had his own banner winter for Tiburones to win the leaguesrookie of the year award. Hes the best leadoff hitter Ive ever seen.Everything he does, he does with energy.

Back in November, though, it was Sanchez and fellowVenezuelan Pablo Sandoval who brought the energy. They both made their ownrecruiting pitches to Blanco, who also was offered minor league contracts and spring training invitations from the Miami Marlins,Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies.

I knew the things he can do, Sandoval said. I see itevery year in winter ball. You know what? I told him, Youll get anopportunity with us. You can run, throw, hit and catch. We need a guy likethat. Hes getting an opportunity in spring training and hes working hard.

Hes a great guy, too. You need a guy like that on yourteam. Winning an MVP as a leadoff hitter thats tough to do, really tough. Im excited hes here.

How would Sanchez describe Blancos performance in winterball?

Oh, oh, extraordinary, the 22-year-old catcher said. I am sohappy hes here. I helped him make that decision. Its probably the bestdecision he could make.

Said Blanco: I knew they had a great group of guys. I knewId be playing for a good team. Hector, Pablo, they really supported me.Everybody told me Id like it here, Id like my teammates. And I always likedthis team. The Giants have a good history, especially as a winning team.

I think Im a winner. I wanted to be a part of it.

Given his huge winter, the Giants were lucky that Blancomade his decision in November. They didnt need to see him win an MVP award to knowhe could be an asset. Their Triple-A coverage scouts identified his athleticismand his ability to get on base, vice president Bobby Evans said.

It was easy to discount the .196 and .203 averages he postedlast year for the Triple-A affiliates of the Kansas City Royals and WashingtonNationals. For one, Blanco was playing with an injured left wrist that requiredsurgery in June. For another, even swinging one-handed, he still managedon-base percentages of .384 and .335.

Blanco recently examined a photo of himself in the battersbox for Omaha. He was choking up three inches on the bat.

Thats the only way I could hit, he said. Its very hardto play like that. I never realized how much it would affect me.

Triple-A pitchers knew he was hurt, too. Yet Blanco stillfound a way to get aboard. Now that hes healthy, its been hard to keep himoff the basepaths.

I really feel good about myself, Blanco said. I had theinjury and I came back. Thats the biggest improvement. I really work hard forwhat I try to do. Last year, I lost 20 pounds. Now I am the kind of player Iwant to be.

Blanco, a left-handed hitter, still swings and misses with alarming frequency. Itsone of the major reasons he didnt stick with the Atlanta Braves, who developedhim and gave him an opportunity in 2008, when center fielder Mark Kotsay wentdown with an injury. Blanco ended up playing in 144 games, hitting .251 with a.366 on-base percentage in just more than 500 plate appearances.

He feels he is a smarter, more aggressive player now.

Bochy is letting me play and I really appreciate it,Blanco said. I always wanted to have that with a manager or a team. InAtlanta, it was different. They gave me an opportunity to play in the bigleagues and I really, really appreciate that always. But I was always stopped.I always believe I could steal bases.

Although the Giants will face a roster crunch, as every teamdoes every spring, its become clear that they need a true fourth outfielderbehind Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan and Nate Schierholtz especially given Paganand Schierholtzs reputations for coming down with nagging injuries.

Pagan hasnt exactly dazzled this spring, either. And youdont have to delve too far into Giants history to find a non-roster invitee(Andres Torres) eventually taking a starting job from an established,higher-salaried player (Aaron Rowand).

Theres still 18 days go. For Blanco, thats just 18 more opportunities to put his game on full display.

The way Im playing now, I think this is me, he said. Itfeels great.

Report: Giants make trade offer for Giancarlo Stanton

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USATSI

Report: Giants make trade offer for Giancarlo Stanton

The hot stove is heating up. 

Giancarlo Stanton is the biggest name swirling in trade rumors and the Giants are reportedly pushing forward in their attempt to acquire the slugger. San Francisco's front office has proposed a trade to Miami for Stanton, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic

Details of what the Giants offered have not been reported yet. 

Stanton, who recently turned 28, is guaranteed $295 million over the next 10 seasons. His contract includes a full no-trade clause and an opt-out after 2020. 

On Thursday, Stanton was named the National League MVP after hitting .281 with a league-leading 59 home runs and 132 RBI. The last MVP to be traded in the offseason after winning the award was Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers to the Yankees before the 2004 season. 

How seven Giants prospects performed in the 2017 Arizona Fall League

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USATSI

How seven Giants prospects performed in the 2017 Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League came to an end for seven Giants prospects on Thursday as the Scottsdale Scorpions (12-17-1) came up short from playing in Saturday's championship game. 

Let's take a look at how these seven names fared against some of the top young talent in all of baseball. 

The Hitters

As the Giants are linked to trade targets in center field like Billy Hamilton and Jackie Bradley Jr., a young in-house option only helped his case in the desert.

Steven Duggar likely would have seen the AT&T outfield this season, but his season was hindered by injuries, keeping him to only 44 games between three levels. With the Scorpions, Duggar took advantage of his opportunity with more at-bats. 

Duggar left Arizona with a .263/.367/.421 slash line over 20 games. The speedy lefty also stole nine bases and hit three home runs. Even if the Giants go for an experienced glove in center field this offseason and keep Duggar, the 24-year-old has also played 135 games in right field during his minor league career. 

For the second straight year, the Giants sent catcher Aramis Garcia to the AFL. And he's sure to be coming home much happier this go around with an up-and-down campaign.

Splitting time behind the plate with three other catchers, Garcia appeared in 13 games and slashed .259/.293/.333 and hit one home run. Garcia struggled to get one base with only one walk to 10 strikeouts, but showed his natural ability to drive runs in with 10 RBI. 

Rounding out the Giants' trio of bats they sent to Arizona is arguably their top prospect, but his time in the AFL was cut short. Chris Shaw only played in five games and hit .158. He dealt with a sore shoulder.

The Pitchers

The Giants sent two starting pitchers (Tyler Beede and Joan Gregorio) and two relievers (Tyler Cyr and D.J. Snelten) to the AFL. 

Pitching for the first time in nearly three months, Beede showed exactly why he's the Giants' top pitching prospect. Beede went 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts, but his final three show the potential he's full of -- 14 innings pitched, three earned runs, a 1.93 ERA, 10 strikeouts and only one walk. 

Gregorio, who was suspended this season for Performance Enhancing Drugs, pitched in eight games (three starts) for Scottsdale. He left with a 1-0 record and 5.87 ERA. In Triple-A, Gregorio went 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA this year over 13 starts. The 25-year-old presents an interesting arm that can help sooner than later in the bullpen. 

Cyr's stats don't look pretty (0-1, 5.63 ERA, 8 IP), but he's catching some attention. The right-hander was named to the Fall Stars Game and is most likely to start 2018 in Triple-A after converting 18 saves at Double-A in 2017. 

Snelten, a 6-foot-7 lefty, impressed in eight appearances out of the bullpen. He didn't allow an earned run until his final outing of the fall, bringing his ERA from a perfect 0.00 to 2.25 in 12 innings pitched.

After combining for a 2.20 ERA to go with an 8-1 record between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017, Snelten is a name to know as the Giants look to find more lefties for their bullpen.