Giants

EXTRA BAGGS: Belt rings into spring with a new attitude

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EXTRA BAGGS: Belt rings into spring with a new attitude

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brandon Belt didnt receive a World Series ring last season when his Giants teammates were awarded their baby blue boxes from Tiffany. But hes assembling quite a jewelry collection. And now its going international.Belt played six weeks for Escogido in the Dominican Republic earlier this winter. The club went on to win the Caribbean Series on Feb. 6. And Belt will get his piece of the prize.Its nothing new. Belt has more rings than Sonic the Hedgehog.He picked up an Arizona Fall League ring and a Cape Cod League ring. Even his wooden-bat showcase club in the Texas-Oklahoma collegiate league won its circuit. And lets not forget his ring from the 2010 San Jose Giants, who won the Cal League title.(Belt jokes that he never gets to wear any of them because his father ends up taking them and showing them off.)

Belt believes he picked up much more than a trinket in the Dominican. The Giants hoped playing in that frenzied environment would help their sometimes awkward Baby Giraffe play with a little more poise. Although Belt resisted the teams request at first, he came to realize it was a good opportunity and he ended up throwing himself into it.He said he felt more confident about his approach after competing well against some quality pitching. He stopped being pull conscious and let the ball travel a little deeper, where hes able to square it up and split the outfielders in either gap. He believes he is ready to carry that approach over into this season, too.As the Giants begin the spring, Buster Posey is the most important player in the clubhouse. He will be the most scrutinized of anyone in camp.But Belt is a key figure, too. No player could change his fortunes or impact how the roster is constituted more than he can. If he convinces the Giants that he is ready to be an impact performer, they could be forced to shuffle a lot of pieces (Aubrey Huff in left field? Melky Cabrera from left to right? Nate Schierholtz on the bench?) to carve out a regular spot for Belt at first base.Manager Bruce Bochy is certainly leaving the door open, mentioning that Belt, Huff and Brett Pill will see time at first base and left field."It's going to be competitive -- moreso than in earlier years," he said.To a large extent, the situation is out of Belts control. For example, suppose Poseys ankle doesnt respond well and he has to play more first base as a result. Not only would that take away opportunities for Belt at first base, but it also might necessitate a third catcher and the need for an additional roster spot.Ive covered enough spring training baseball to know: teams almost always act to protect their inventory when they decide who stays and who goes to Triple-A Fresno. So even a terrific spring might not win Belt a job if Huff has an equally impressive camp. If the choice for a roster spot comes down to Belt and Emmanuel Burriss, only Belt has minor league options remaining.But heres the key: Belt understands all this now. He doesnt plan to let his self esteem ebb and flow with every clue or every roster decision, as it did last year. He mentioned a conversation in the Dominincan with scouting director John Barr, who gave him a simple message: We believe in you. We know the kind of player you are and who you will be. He said those words made an impact.And listening to him speak in casual conversation, Belt did strike me as having a different edge in his voice and look in his eye. He spoke of feeling a sense of belonging, and if he starts to go into a tailspin at the plate, he knows its a matter of mechanics and not mentality.Like everything in life, its easier said than done. Those little blue boxes from Tiffany dont come easy, either.--Yes, Angel Villalona has a locker in the major league clubhouse. The former top prospect, who hasnt played in two years while facing a murder charge in the Dominican Republic, is due to report with position players. Major League Baseball removed Villalona from its restricted list after charges were dropped late last year.--In other locker news, Tim Lincecum took over the corner space that Barry Zito had inhabited since 2008. Zito held that spot ever since Barry Bonds left the scene, but said he felt too trapped in there.--The Bod Pod is no more.The training room device, which measures body fat percentage, made for some classic moments last spring. Jeremy Affeldt, who had bragged he could beat Brian Wilson in a race up Camelback Mountain, was forced to backtrack twice as fast. When he donned his shower cap and skivvies and jumped in the bubble-like contraption, his body fat percentage ended up higher than manager Bruce Bochys measurement.Yeah, I beat out a few guys, said a grinning Bochy, remembering he did better than Mark DeRosa, too.But the Bod Pod did not make a return this spring. Maybe Affeldt paid to make it disappear."--It was a pretty typical reporting day for pitchers and catchers, who simply have to check in with staff and schedule a physical. There were a fair amount of position players here, too. Belt, Brandon Crawford and Nate Schierholtz were hitting in the cage before 8 a.m. Emmanuel Burriss is here, too. He spent all offseason working out in San Francisco -- hopefully on his flexibility, as hell probably be asked to play five or six positions this spring.

Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park

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AP

Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have made a habit in recent winters of “kicking the tires,” so to speak, on as many free agents as possible. General manager Bobby Evans is committed to being thorough, but at times there is probably no need. 

Hitters have made no secret of the fact that they prefer friendlier confines, and if you’re a power hitter, you’re going to ask Evans for a significantly larger check to play 81 of your games at the harshest power park in the majors. That’s what makes Giancarlo Stanton, readily available via trade, so intriguing. But would Stanton be fully immune to the realities of AT&T Park?

The numbers, at least in a small sample, suggest he would. Stanton has played 27 games in San Francisco and taken 108 at-bats. He has nine homers, 11 doubles and a triple. His .676 slugging percentage at AT&T Park isn’t far off his mark at Coors Field (.714), and his 1.048 OPS is higher than his OPS during the 2017 season, when he hit 59 homers. 

The damage has been done in limited time, but the Giants clearly believe it’s fully sustainable, and a recent study done by ESPN’s Dan Szymborski backs that up. Szymborski ran his ZiPS projection system to estimate Stanton’s stats over the next 10 years for a variety of suitors. The numbers in orange and black are overwhelming. 

The projections have Stanton at 46.2 WAR over the next 10 seasons, including 7.1 in 2018 and 6.8 in 2019, the two seasons the organization should be focused on given Madison Bumgarner’s contract situation. ZiPS projects Stanton at 46 homers next season if he plays for the Giants, followed by 43, 42, 39, 35 over the following four years. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Belt led the Giants in homers each of the last two seasons and he has 35 total during that span. 

Any sort of projection system needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, especially with a player who has had injury issues in the past. But ZiPS believes Stanton -- who plays in a huge park already -- is a rarity, the kind of power hitter who can keep crushing well into his 30’s and put up huge numbers even if he is limited by the realities of getting older and getting hurt. Szymborski’s projections have Stanton playing just 102 games in 2025, but he’s still projected to hit 23 homers, 20 doubles and post an OPS+ of 121. Even in the 10th year of the projections, ZiPS has Stanton down for 16 homers. 

There are no sure things in this game, but as Evans continues to chase a blockbuster deal, he can be confident that Stanton is one player who should be able to provide power for years to come, no matter what AT&T Park does to hold hitters down. 

Former A's slugger Gomes offers Ohtani scouting report: 'Big fan of the dude'

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AP

Former A's slugger Gomes offers Ohtani scouting report: 'Big fan of the dude'

Former A's left fielder/DH and Bay Area native, Jonny Gomes, last played Major League Baseball in 2015. The next year, Gomes looked to continue his career in Japan with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. 

Gomes struggled in Japan, batting just .169 in 18 games. While in Japan though, Gomes saw firsthand the two-way talent of Shohei Ohtani. 

"The dude throws 100 miles per hour consistently," Gomes said Tuesday to MLB Network Radio. "That plays."

With MLB, the Players Association, and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization agreeing to a new posting system, Ohtani should soon be available as a free agent to MLB teams. Gomes was adamant that Ohtani will live up to the hype. 

"If you have the arm speed to throw 100 miles per hour, guess what your slider's gonna do -- yikes. And he also has a split, which is yikes with that arm speed. And he also has a changeup, and he also has a curveball. You're talking about five plus, plus, plus pitches.

"If he was in the draft, I think it would be a no-brainer right now that he'd be No. 1 overall," Gomes said. 

Since turning pro as an 18-year-old, Ohtani has been a dominant force on the mound. The 6-foot-3 right-hander owns a 42-15 career record with a 2.52 ERA and 1.076 WHIP. 

What makes Ohtani, 23, so intriguing is that he's not only the best pitcher in Japan, he may be the best hitter too. In 2017, Ohtani hit .332 with eight home runs in 65 games. The left fielder/DH owns a .286/.358/.500 career slash line with 48 home runs. 

"Now hitting wise, is it gonna transfer, is it not? I've seen the dude hit a fly ball that hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome," Gomes remembers. "So, what does that tell you? That bat speed's there, that power's there, that he's generating a lot out front.

"To be able to hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome is way more impressive than hitting any other roof in the states. It would be like hitting the roof in Seattle when it was closed, it's way up there."

Everyone knows about Ohtani off-the-charts talent. The stats are there. What we don't know as much about is his personality. Gomes does and he believes his leadership will make him be a star in the states. 

"I'm a big fan of the dude," Gomes says. "I saw his work ethic, I saw how players treated him, I saw how respectful he was. Over there it's all about seniority. Granted he was the biggest star on the field at any given moment, but still gave the utmost respect to seniority guys on his ball club."