Down on the Farm: Giants flexing versatility with top prospects

Down on the Farm: Giants flexing versatility with top prospects

Through 11 games this season, the Giants have used 14 different position players, including four left fielders (Jarrett Parker, Chris Marrero, Gorkys Hernandez, and Aaron Hill) and three third basemen in (Eduardo Nunez, Conor Gillaspie and Hill).

It’s clear that Bruce Bochy values versatility on defense, and the Giants are making sure their top prospects are comfortable fielding multiple positions. 

Here’s a look at how three of the Giants’ top minor league hitters are being used defensively...

Christian Arroyo, 21, Triple-A Sacramento River Cats

2017 stats: 7 G, .407/.448/.630, 11 H, 1 HR, 3 2B, 7 R, 5 RBI

Positions: SS/3B/2B

Defensive stats: SS (3 G, 29 Inn., 0 E), 2B (2 G, 16 Inn., 0 E), 3B (2 G, 14 Inn., 0 E)

The Giants’ top hitting prospect has exceeded expectations in his first week of Triple-A ball. Arroyo is on a seven-game hitting streak and he belted his first home run of the season on Thursday.

Many consider Arroyo to be the team's third baseman of the future, but by grooming him at multiple defensive positions, the team could make him a valuable piece for Bochy sooner than later.

Jae-Gyun Hwang, 29, Triple-A Sacramento 

2017 stats: 7 G, .280/.357/.400, 7 H, 1 3B, 1 2B, 4 R, 3 RBI

Positions: 3B/1B/LF

Defensive stats: 3B (3 G, 26 Inn., 0 E), 1B (2 G, 18 Inn., 1 E), LF (1 G, 8 Inn., 0 E)

Hwang made his first career professional start in left field Thursday and caught all four balls hit his way. The bat-flipping internet sensation was a power-hitting star in Korea as a third baseman before signing a minor league deal with the Giants in the offseason. He showed his pop with five home runs in 27 spring training games.

Hwang also stood out to his teammates this spring with his hard work, winning the Barney Nugent Award.

“Players love him, and the way he’s come out every day and the effort he puts in. He’s been inspiring with how hard he has gotten after it every day,” Bochy said on Hwang winning the award

Chris Shaw, 23, Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels

2017 stats: 8 G, .269/.387/.462, 7 H, 1 HR, 2 2B, 1 R, 6 RBI

Positions: 1B/LF

Defensive stats: 1B (4 G, 40 Inn., 1 E), LF (3 G, 26 Inn., 0 E)

Shaw has major-league power. His bat will be his ticket to the bigs, but his ability to play a clean left field could also be key. Shaw didn't play one game in the outfield in his first two minor league seasons, but he did play right and left field while starring at Boston College. 

It’s still early in the process, but the Giants are still in search of a franchise left fielder. They've penciled in 10 different Opening Day left fielders in the past 10 seasons.  

Around The Horn

— Veteran outfielder Drew Stubbs made his debut with the Sacramento River Cats on Thursday. He was used as the DH and went 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts. 

— Here’s video of Arroyo's first Triple-A home run. He hit three all of last season. That number is expected to go up this year. 

— Slade Heathcott is another interesting outfielder to watch. The former 2009 first-round draft pick of the Yankees is hitting .346/.414/.423 in eight games for the Richmond Flying Squirrels. 

Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle


Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”