While the rest of Major League Baseball is busy hitting home runs at a record rate, the Giants are losing playing a game of pepper.
The Giants rank dead last in the majors by 11 home runs through June 29 with only 66 on the season. For their power outage alone, the front office has to be smiling when watching one of their top prospects Chris Shaw in Triple-A Sacramento.
Shaw caught fire in the River Cats’ last two games, with his easy power stroke on full display. In the two wins, Shaw went 7-for-10 with three home runs and seven RBI.
Baseball is in a fly-ball revolution in the age of advanced analytics and the 6-foot-4 lefty’s swing fits the mold.
"The way I've always hit has fallen into that kind of mind-set," Shaw said to MiLB.com after the win. "Maybe I wouldn't categorize myself as a flyball type of hitter before this year, but for me — and this goes for any player — your best swing shouldn't be a hard ground ball up the middle or a hard liner up the middle. It should be something with backspin that's going to carry into the gaps.”
In the second inning Thursday, Shaw took a Tyrell Jenkins fastball and blasted it over the center-field wall to give the River Cats their first run of the game. One inning later, he took the first pitch he saw and launched it to left-center field for his second home run on his second swing of the day.
"The past two weeks or so, I feel like I've put a lot of good swings on the ball," Shaw said. "And the balls that I have put in play, I've been barreling and putting it in the air, which is what I'm trying to do -- barrel the ball and put it to center field. After that, whatever happens, happens.”
Since earning his promotion to Sacramento from Double-A Richmond, Shaw now has six home runs in 30 games with the Rivers Cats. Between the two levels, he has hit 12 long balls in 67 games. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Belt leads the Giants with 14 in 78 games this year. Buster Posey is second on the team with 10 in 68 games.
Shaw put together his first four-hit day (4-for-5) on Thursday one day after falling a triple shy of the cycle on Wednesday. The Giants’ top draft pick in the 2015 MLB Draft has risen to the occasion this season on both offense and defense with his transition to left field. He has no errors in 45 games played as an outfielder this season.
Despite his continued success, Shaw is searching for ways to make his game grow.
"Every day, I'm learning something new," Shaw said on his time with the River Cats. "I don't really look at the numbers as much as I look at the ways I can improve as an overall hitter, just based off the way guys pitch up here because it's a lot different than Double-A. You could argue that, at Double-A, guys may have more raw stuff and guys might have more velocity.
“But everyone up here knows how to pitch and can throw any pitch in any count for a strike. I'm learning a lot about myself and how to maximize my skills against guys who know how to execute a gameplan.”
Giants president and CEO Larry Baer expressed to Insider Alex Pavlovic that the team is not in rebuild mode as they sit 23 games out of first place in the NL West. When the Giants completed their first sweep of the season on Wednesday, their starting lineup consisted of seven players who have seen time in Triple-A with the River Cats, including starting pitcher Ty Blach. To reload instead of rebuild, the Giants can first look in-house as Shaw gives them a true power bat the team has been missing for years.
Around The Horn
— Jarrett Parker hit his first home run Thursday since rehabbing from a broken right clavicle with the River Cats. Parker is hitting .267 in nine games played with Sacramento.
— Derek Law earned the save for the River Cats on Thursday, but he's been far from lights out since his demotion. In four appearances, he is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in 4.2 innings pitched.
— Bryan Reynolds is representing the Giants in the Futures Game this year. The team's top pick in 2016 is batting .311 with four home runs in 65 games for the San Jose Giants.