Down on the Farm: Q&A with San Jose Giants 1B/3B Jonah Arenado

Down on the Farm: Q&A with San Jose Giants 1B/3B Jonah Arenado

The Giants know Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado all too well. In 76 games, Arenado has a .308 batting average against the Giants with 20 home runs, his most off any team in all of the majors. 

Playing in Advanced Single-A, the Giants have their own Arenado. Brother Jonah Arenado plays first and third base for the San Jose Giants and hit 19 home runs in 2016. 

Before the younger brother went 2-for-4 against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Thursday night, NBC Sports Bay Area spoke over the phone with Arenado. Below is the full transcript where we talk his hitting approach, frustrations with the Lakers, trash talk with Nolan in ping pong and much more. 

Dalton Johnson: “You guys are now three weeks in, but I want to actually go back to Opening Day real quick. I know you guys ultimately lost, but it was a 16-inning game. Was that the longest game you’ve ever played in?” 

Jonah Arenado: “No, the longest game I ever played in was 17 innings.” 

DJ: “Really?! Wow! When was that?” 

JA: “I played 17 innings in Lakewood. I was playing for Augusta at the time. We were playing in New Jersey. So we went 17 innings, but we didn’t even get to finish the game. The fog got so extreme that we had to just cancel the game.” 

DJ: “The fog? That’s just crazy. So you were out in Augusta for the GreenJackets?” 

JA: “Yeah.”

DJ: “I was actually out in Savannah for college ball. I’m not sure if you guys ever played against the Sand Gnats.”

JA: “Yeah we were there the last year they had that stadium.” 

DJ: “Grayson Stadium. That was a really fun park. But a 16 or 17-inning game, I’m going to guess that the dugout has to get a little weird at some point, right?” 

JA: “Yeah you're just getting like... it gets kind of monotonous you know. It’s kind of like okay, when are we gonna score or when are they gonna score. And obviously you don’t want to lose the game, but you just want something to happen.” 

DJ: “What are you guys bringing out the rally caps or doing anything different?” 

JA: “No, no rally caps, but there’s times where a couple innings go by and someone will come into the dugout and try get jacked up or excite everyone. When it doesn’t work, it’s like alright here we go again.” 

DJ: “Off the field, I think you’re a Southern California guy and this is your second year out in Northern California in San Jose. Obviously you guys are always busy, but do you ever get to go out and check the Bay Area scenery at all?”

JA: “I’ve been to Santa Cruz and the beach over there. I’ve been to San Francisco. I went to San Francisco on an off day last year to watch the Giants-Rockies game. But besides that, no I rarely ever get to go out to San Francisco or anything like that.” 

DJ: “Off day, or you a golf guy or more of a relax guy? What are you trying to do on an off day?” 

JA: “I’m just trying to relax. Maybe hang out by the pool, just relax and hang out. Go to the beach. And if you do get to relax, I’m not trying to do anything that’s like a workout.” 

DJ: “Are there any places in San Jose where if someone’s coming from out town, you say, ‘Hey, this is where you need to go.’ San Jose, where would you go for one day?”

JA: “Oh, San Jose...” 

DJ: “Just go to a game? Tell them to go to a San Jose Giants game?” 

JA: “Yeah, yeah go to a San Jose Giants game and if not, Santa Cruz is 30 minutes down the road. I’d go to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is nice.” 

DJ: “And then on the field, you’re someone who hits for power. You hit 19 bombs last year. With the way different people are starting to look at the swing now, are you someone that’s actually trying to swing for the fences a little bit? Are you trying to hit a home run? What’s your approach?”

JA: “No, I feel like the more I try to hit a home run, the more I don’t. When I go in thinking line drive to the middle or stay through the middle, I feel a lot better. I know last year I didn’t start off well, and I’m not starting off well this year either, but I know if I think like I have to drive this ball or I have to hit a home run then that never happens. Try to stay simple, try to stay short is usually when things start working out.” 

DJ: “Well there’s all these different advanced analytics and you can track everything now. Are you someone that actually looks into something like launch angle or exit velocity? Or is it more see ball, hit ball?” 

JA: “I don’t like thinking about those 40-degree angles. Hitting is hard enough. To think about all that stuff is too much. But I know that a lot of people, that’s the new thing. Launch angle and try to lift the ball, and that’s all great. It’s whatever works for that person. I know Donaldson preaches it and he loves talking about it, but that’s him. That’s what works for him. I know for me, trying to lift the ball doesn’t work. When I try to lift the ball, I usually pop up. So when I’m trying to hit a hard line drive, that’s when I usually can drive that ball.” 

DJ: “Yeah it seems like when you’re practicing, you’re on the tee or getting front toss or whatever, that’s when you can kind of work on those things. But I couldn’t really imagine taking that over to the game. Once it’s game time, it’s get a pitch, be aggressive, hit it hard. Are you just trying to make things, like you said, as simple as possible once it’s go time?” 

JA: “Yeah, when I’m in the game I’m just trying to be as ready as I can for that fastball. Just see it and hit it. There’s nothing more to it, honestly. Obviously, when you’re struggling you start trying to fix things. When I’m going well, it’s never thinking about what this guy is gonna throw or make sure your foot is doing this. No, I never think about that. I think about see the ball and hit it as hard as I can.” 

DJ: “In the minor leagues, are these tracking systems as prominent or is that more available the higher you go?” 

JA: “I think it’s more available for the big leaguers. It’s hard to watch our swings on video because sometimes our games aren’t taped. We watch our home games because they are streamed, but besides that it’s hard to get all that stuff done.” 

DJ: “Can that almost be an advantage at the same time though? When you’re younger I think if you look too far into then you might press or try to do too much. If you’re just figuring things out on your own, that might even be a little better. Am I right or wrong there?” 

JA: “I think you’re both wrong and right. There’s times when you think too much and sometimes you think it’s your swing and it’s really not your swing, it’s your approach. I think that’s when it can hurt you. When you’re looking at it on video, but that was never really the problem, so then you’re changing a swing that was actually working, but your approach was what’s messed up so now you’re changing your swing and your approach. So that can hurt you. But it can also help you because if there is something mechanically wrong, you can fix it. If you can’t watch it, then how are you gonna know? When you’re in the box, you feel completely different. You never feel like that’s your swing. When you’re in the box, everything is different. When you see it on film, you see I’m dropping my hands, but in the box I’m telling myself to stay on top of the ball so you don’t think you’re dropping your hands, but you’re still dropping your hands, you know what I mean?” 

DJ: “It’s almost like a best of two evils.” 

JA: “Yeah, yeah.” 

DJ: “Back on the field, clearly you’re obviously from a very athletic family. For you, was it just baseball all the time?” 

JA: “My older brother played soccer, my oldest brother played basketball too and Nolan just played baseball. He played soccer for a little, but then went with just baseball. For me, I played basketball also. Basketball is my favorite sport.” 

DJ: “Oh, really?” 

JA: “Yeah, it was. Basketball is just so much fun. You go out and shoot down the street by your house and technically that’s practicing, you know what I mean?” 

DJ: “Oh yeah. Baseball obviously you can go hit off the tee, but basketball, I mean I shot for 20 minutes at the gym today and you feel great.” 

JA: “Yeah, you can work on so many different things. If you’re hitting like crap that day, then it’s really hard to fix it that day. Basketball, if you’re shooting and keep shooting, eventually it’s going to go in.” 

DJ: “So, who’s your team?” 

JA: “Oh, the Lakers. Unfortunately, yeah.” 

DJ: “Are you feeling good about the rebuild or how are you feeling about all that?” 

JA: “I don’t know, man. Magic Johnson’s in there, so I hope he’s the answer. But they need to get a superstar. The Lakers are my team, they have always been my team, but the players on the team are bothering me lately.” 

DJ: “I’m sure you and your brother Nolan and all of your brothers competed against each other all the time growing up. Whether it be shooting hoops or playing video games or anything else, what was the one thing, especially with Nolan, where you knew you could beat him no matter what?” 

JA: “Oh man, that’s tough. It’s really hard to beat him. Him losing to me is like death, but he’ll do anything he can to not lose to me because he knows if I win I’ll talk. I’ll just keep talking about it. It’s hard to say. There’s days in ping pong, I’m not gonna say I’m a better ping pong player, but we’re both pretty competitive. If I beat him in ping pong, I mean, it’s over. He’s distraught and then he’ll just want to rematch me until he can beat me.” 

DJ: “If you beat him, you said you’re a talker. What’s your go-to angle when it comes to trash talk?” 

JA: “I just never let him forget it. If I beat him in ping pong that series or that day, you better believe all day I’m gonna wear it out.” 

DJ: “Were you guys video game guys at all or more outside?” 

JA: “We played video games here and there. Mostly it was outdoors. Wiffle ball was always big with me and my family. We still play to this day. We still play wiffle ball all the time.” 

DJ: “Wiffle ball, you’re in the backyard 1-on-1. Who wins between you and Nolan and if you have one pitch, what are you throwing him?” 

JA: “Throwing him? I’m throwing fastball at his face.”

DJ: “Fastball at his face?!?” 

JA: “I’m just kidding, just kidding.” 

DJ: “That might be the only way the Giants can slow him down.” 

JA: “I’ll throw some chin music and then try to throw a little changeup away.” 

DJ: “I got you there, I got you. One last question. Video game wise, if EA Sports could bring back college baseball or college football, what are you picking?” 

JA: “Baseball.” 

DJ: “That was the go-to right there.” 

JA: “I forgot, but there was a college baseball game. I forgot which one it was that we played all the time, but it was one of the best games we ever played.” 

DJ: “I remember they had Texas on the cover or something like that—”

JA: “Exactly! That’s exactly the one.” 

DJ: “They have to bring it back.” 

JA: “That game is the best.” 

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.”

Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too


Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too

Will Clark won his first and only Gold Glove at first base for the Giants at age 27 in 1991. It was Clark's sixth year in the major leagues. 

Steven Duggar won't have to wait that long to win the biggest hardware for his defense in Clark's eyes. 

"He can play Gold Glove center field right now in the big leagues. He can flat out go get it in center field," Clark said on the Giants' prospect Tuesday on KNBR. "He can definitely, definitely play a Gold Glove center field." 

Clark, who now serves a role in the Giants' front office after playing in five straight All-Star Games for his former team from 1988-92, has watched Duggar closely for more than just this spring training. When asked about his feelings on the 24-year-old, Clark made them clear right away. 

"I've seen Steve parts of the last two seasons in the minor leagues and I am definitely a Steven Duggar fan," Clark said. 

The question with Duggar has always been his bat. He has elite speed, gets great jumps in center field and everyone from Bruce Bochy to Buster Posey has praised his ability to track down fly balls. 

"His thing is, how quick is he going to make the adjustment in the big leagues with the pitching. I know there's a lot of people that are asking that question right now," Clark. 

Count The Thrill as one of the leaders in Camp Duggar. He joined many others in complimenting his glove left and right. But what he has to say about the Clemson product's bat is what puts him over the top. 

"He's succeeded at each level he's been at," Clark pointed out. "He will do it at the major league level and I'm kind of staking my reputation on that."

This is confidence -- to say the least -- coming from someone who was a .303 lifetime hitter and bashed 284 home runs in 15 seasons. 

Over three years in the minor leagues, Duggar is a .292 career hitter with a .384 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage. Duggar started off scorching hot this spring with the Giants, but has cooled down with the Cactus League soon coming to a close. In 16 games, Duggar is slashing .250/.353/.545 and has shown more pop with four home runs.