Down on the Farm: Giants prospect Shaw catches fire for River Cats

River Cats/

Down on the Farm: Giants prospect Shaw catches fire for River Cats

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 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.

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Eight years ago in this very space, I postulated that Brian Sabean had done a lucrative deal with Satan.Co to win the Giants’ first World Series in 56 years. He never denied it, so I took that as silent affirmation.

Now, it seems Beelzebub has brought the bill, to be paid in full on receipt of same.

The San Francisco Giants, who needed as few things as possible to go wrong to start this season, just got two full-on groin shots in the space of less than a week, the second of which was delivered when Madison Bumgfarner fractured his hand trying to repel a line drive from Kansas City second baseman Whit Merrifield during Friday’s Cactus League game.

The injury did not look serious at first because, well, because Bumgarner pretends to be made of adamantium, but an X-ray revealed the fracture and though no time for recovery was listed, Bumgarner may return to health before the Giants do.

And yes, I know spring training is no time for fans to lose hope for a cheery season, but you take the fact as they present themselves, and the Giants are already 40 percent down from their projected starting rotation. Jeff Samardzija is already on the disabled list with a hinky pectoral muscle, and as the Giants know all too well, things like this tend to come in sixes, if not eights.

The 2010 Giants hit on every midseason trade and parlayed that good fortune and the assets already on board to a storied October run. A year later, Buster Posey got Scott Cousin-ed, and his broken ankle snapped the team’s hope of repeating.

The Giants then won in 2012 and ’14 without too much incident, but starting midway through 2016, continuing into last year when Bumgarner flipped his dirt bike, and now down to today, it’s been nothing but seeds and stems for Giantvania.

The rumor mill has been quick to offer up possible replacements for the Bumgarner vacancy (though not for his expected results), but at a time in the game’s development when the best and most progressive-thinking teams are talking about four-man rotations and Staff on every fifth day, a strategic development that requires strength in numbers, the Giants have neither that strength nor those numbers.

Their best internal choices are veteran Derek Holland, who might already have been penciled in as Samardzija’s replacement, and phenom-in-training Tyler Beede. But that essentially uses up the in-house bank of usable goods, so Sabean can either buy something very off-the-rack or hope he and Bruce Bochy can fake it long enough for Samardzija (three to four weeks) and then Bumgarner (six to eight, according to ESPN's Buster Olney).

This seems awfully daunting, especially for a team that has buzzard’s luck and a rotting bat rack for a season and a half. But with six days before the regular season starts in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers...oh, the hell with it. If you’re a Giant fan, start drinking, and continue until further notice. The evil lord of the netherworld will tell you when it’s time to stop.

Bumgarner fractures bone in pitching hand in final tune-up before season

Bumgarner fractures bone in pitching hand in final tune-up before season

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after the Giants lost one of the game's most durable pitchers, they took a much bigger blow. 

Madison Bumgarner fractured the fifth metacarpal in his pitching hand when he was hit by a line drive Friday in what was to be his final appearance before facing Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on Opening Day. The Giants did not have an immediate timetable for how long their ace will be out, but he is expected to miss a significant portion of the season for a second straight year. The rotation is already without Jeff Samardzija for the first month of the season because of a strained pectoral.

Bumgarner told reporters he will have surgery on Saturday to insert pins into his hand. He expects the pins to be removed in four-to-six weeks, and that he'll be able to pitch before the All-Star break. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that, in all, Bumgarner will be out for six-to-eight weeks.

Bumgarner looked poised for a huge season, and he threw well all camp. He was injured when hit by a liner off the bat of Kansas City's Whit Merrifield. Ironically, Bumgarner and Merrifield grew up close to each other in North Carolina, and Merrifield has told a story about getting beamed by an intimidating 11-year-old Bumgarner in little league.

The Giants had little rotation depth coming into the season, and the group is now in shambles. Derek Holland, a non-roster invitee, may be the No. 2 starter. The Giants will also have to lean heavily on young pitchers Chris Stratton and Ty Blach. Johnny Cueto is the de facto ace, but he's coming off a down year and at times has struggled this spring. 

There are not many appealing options left in free agency and the Giants likely would have to go into the tax to sign one. Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez are the top in-house options.