Down on the Farm: Giants' top two prospects set to shine in Sacramento

Down on the Farm: Giants' top two prospects set to shine in Sacramento

Only 84 miles from AT&T Park, the Giants’ top young arm and bat will suit up this season at Raley Field for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. Starting pitcher Tyler Beede and infielder Christian Arroyo headline a talented crop of players that will give Giants fans a glimpse of the team’s future and perhaps also its present this year. 

Beede, 23, got hit first taste of competing against major league talent on a big league mound in the final exhibition game of the Bay Bridge Series against the A’s on April 1. He earned the win after allowing two runs and striking out five in four innings pitched. After the win, Beede spoke on the experience of facing the A’s at the Coliseum. 

“It was a fun experience and it’s just kind of the first bite of the ice cream, you want more of it,” Beede said. “I just look forward to getting back up here. But I need to stay focused and continue to work and improve upon what I need to improve on.”

Beede is yet to throw out of the bullpen in the minors, but that may be the Giants’ plan to get him to San Francisco this year as Bruce Bochy hinted at in spring training. 

"I'm not saying that's what he's going to do, but it keeps his options open and ours if we need help in the 'pen," Bochy said. "He's at 94-95 (mph) and he's a guy that holds runners well. He's a guy with good stuff.”

In his second big league camp, Beede pitched in six games for the Giants — two starts — and showed off his big league repertoire. The Giants’ 2014 first-round draft pick went 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched. 

“I think it exceeded my expectations just in terms of what I wanted to do,” Beede said on his spring training performance. “I really wanted to have a good impression on these guys. Knowing that I wasn’t necessarily competing for a spot per se, but that when the time comes that they know what they have with me, so that good impression was kind of my expectation.” 

Looking at the offensive side of the ball, Arroyo is the man to watch with the River Cats this season. Arroyo’s spring training stats were down this year (.250/.286/.400, one home run) after his monster big league camp in 2016 in which he hit .556 with two home runs. The ability as a pure hitter at only 21 years old is still certainly evident though and it showed against the A’s in the last game before the regular season began.

Arroyo went 0-for-1 with a ground out to third base, but his pro approach was on full display in his first at-bat. He fought off multiple foul balls in a 3-2 count before taking a walk against Simon Castro to finish a 13-pitch at-bat. After reaching first base, Arroyo swiped second and then scored on Justin Ruggiano’s two-run homer. 

“His mechanics are very solid,” Bochy said halfway through spring training. “It’s a good foundation, good balance, and he doesn’t try to do too much.” 

Last season, Arroyo hit just three home runs in Double-A for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, his lowest total since his first year in the minors, while playing 74 more games. He did hit 36 doubles though, eight more than his previous career high, and his power numbers should certainly rise in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. 

“The bat stays in the zone a long time and he uses the whole field well,” Bochy said on Arroyo’s approach. “He’s a good hitter. He’s only going to hit for more power. The power is going to come, too.”

The most interesting factor this season for Arroyo will be where he plays on the field. Selected with the No. 25 overall pick by the Giants in the 2013 draft, Arroyo is a natural shortstop. His fastest route to the bigs is third base, though he will still play plenty of shortstop in Sacramento while also getting time at third and second base. Arroyo played 48 games at shortstop, 48 at third base and 19 at second base last season. 

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”