Chris Shaw

Good news, bad news for Chris Shaw's first week in the Arizona Fall League

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MiLB/Sacramento River Cats

Good news, bad news for Chris Shaw's first week in the Arizona Fall League

Every time the Journey song “Lights” plays throughout AT&T Park, the lyrics When the lights go down in the City ring too true for the Giants’ offense. There’s a power outage in San Francisco. 

The savior to this issue can soon be prospect Chris Shaw, who turns 24 years old on Oct. 20. Shaw, along with five other Giants prospects, is continuing his 2017 season among a multitude of baseball’s best young up-and-comers in the Arizona Fall League. As he takes the field for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Shaw’s bat is far from the top focus for the Giants. 

After playing right and left field at Boston College, the Giants turned Shaw into a first baseman once they selected the 6-foot-4, 235-pound lefty in 2015. This year, the Giants’ front office decided to make a change. As the big league team continued to look for their own answers, Shaw saw himself in left field in 94 of the 125 games he played between Double-A and Triple-A this season. 

“I saw improvements through the course of the year,” Brian Sabean said about Shaw’s outfield defense on The Giants Insider Podcast. “The problem is playing left field in our left field isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do.” 

The AFL is all about reps in left field for Shaw as the Giants have already said he will get a long look in spring training. He earned that right after a breakout year at the plate.

One week into the AFL though, Shaw’s bat is way behind. Through four games, Shaw is batting a pedestrian .133 (2-for-15), both hits being singles. But even in such a slow start there are positives. 

Shaw has walked three times to only two strikeouts. His only downfall at the plate once he reached Triple-A Sacramento was his on-base percentage fell from .390 in Double-A to .328 at the higher level. With the River Cats, Shaw struck out 106 times, leading the team, while taking his base 20 times.

Early on in the desert, Shaw is showing more patience and putting the ball into play more often. The ball simply isn’t finding grass.

In the outfield, every ball Shaw sees -- practice or game -- during the AFL is a step in the right direction for he and the Giants. He is yet to make an error in his short time at the AFL. The big lefty will never be a guy to make the spectacular play, but if he improves his instincts with the glove and improves his eye at the plate, the Giants can finally have their left fielder of the future. 

Brian Sabean: Giants not going to anoint Steven Duggar, but...

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USATI

Brian Sabean: Giants not going to anoint Steven Duggar, but...

SAN FRANCISCO — Two years ago, the Giants went into the offseason eager to add pitchers who could give them 200 innings. Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto fit that mold. Last year, the team desperately needed a closer, and Mark Melancon was brought in. 

This year’s end-of-season press conference focused on two areas. Team officials would like to add a dynamite defensive player in center field, and they would like to close the power gap that exists between the Giants and the rest of baseball. The early indications are that the Giants expect to address these issues through trades, not free agency. But could some of the fixes come from in-house? 

On this week’s episode of The Giants Insider Podcast, I asked Brian Sabean about two players who could potentially fix those problems. First, the power bat. Sabean has seen a lot of left fielder Chris Shaw the last two years, and he said two traits that stand out are that Shaw has made himself into a really good all-around hitter and he has major league power to all fields. Sabean believes that power will play at AT&T Park, even as a lefty.

“Those go hand-in-hand with being a run producer,” Sabean said. 

Shaw hit 24 homers across two levels, leading the organization. The 23-year-old had a .858 OPS after a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento. The current concern is his lack of experience in the outfield, and he’ll play in the Arizona Fall League to get more reps. Sabean said he agrees with general manager Bobby Evans’ assessment that Shaw’s bat is ahead of his glove.

“I saw improvements through the course of the year,” he said. “The problem is playing left field in our left field isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do, but having said that, if you can improve the center field defense — where you really get a ballhawk — then you can strategically kind of (shift Shaw) hitter to hitter or as innings develop.”

That ballhawk could end up being Steven Duggar, a 23-year-old who likely would have gotten a call-up had it not been for injuries. Duggar posted a .302/.388/.488 slash line in 2016 but he was limited to 44 minor league games in 2017, most of which were on rehab assignments. He also will play in the AFL, and the Giants believe he’s a true center fielder. 

“After last year, I think he was on everybody’s board in the organization as a potential five-tool player,” Sabean said. “Very good athlete. A lot of things come natural for him in the outfield. His reads, his breaks, his ability to outrun the ball, is very impressive. While the bat is still on the come, he should be a complementary type of offensive player in a major league lineup. Now, is he let’s say top of the order? I don’t know if we have enough information. But he certainly, far and away, is the next best thing or the next center fielder that we hopefully can produce sooner than later.”

The Giants have said Shaw will get a long look in spring training. Sabean said the same holds true for Duggar.  

“It’s not like we’re going to anoint him as the center fielder or put that kind of pressure on him, but with more playing time and catching up on at-bats this winter, he’ll be positioned to show us how soon he’s capable of contributing,” Sabean said. 

During our conversation, we also talked about this year’s draft class (led by Heliot Ramos), having the No. 2 pick in 2018, getting better in the international market, analytics, and the job Evans did in 2017. 

Down on the Farm: Standout Giants minor league statistics leaders

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MiLB/San Jose Giants

Down on the Farm: Standout Giants minor league statistics leaders

The Giants' last-place season is winding down in its final month of the season. In the minors, the results weren't much better. 

For all the Giants' minor league affiliates, the season has come to an end except in the Arizona Rookie League as the AZL Giants look to stay alive the championship Wednesday night. 

With the season over, here is who led all Giants minor-league affiliates in several categories. 

Home Runs: Chris Shaw, 24

Shaw finished his outstanding 2017 campaign with two home runs in the River Cats’ final game of the season, a wild walk-off win in 10 innings. The powerful lefty, who is ranked as the Giants’ top hitting prospect along with Christian Arroyo, will finish the season as the franchise's top home run hitter across all affiliates, including the big league club. 

After smacking six home runs at Double-A in 37 games, Shaw upped his slugging percentage from .511 to .530 in Triple-A, hitting 18 home runs in 88 games for the River Cats. While he won’t be seen in San Francisco this year, he’s a name to watch for next season and all eyes will be on him at the Arizona Fall League. 

Batting Average: Bryan Reynolds, .312

Reynolds, the Giants’ top pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, edged his teammate Ryan Howard (.306) in six less games. After being named an All-Star and playing in the Futures Game with a first-half slash line of .295/.340/.418 and three home runs, the switch hitter caught fire in the second half to tune of .328/.386/.506 and seven more long balls. 

A natural center fielder, Reynolds was moved all over the outfield in San Jose. He finished the season playing 50 games in center, 42 in right field and 19 in left field. 

Hits: Ryan Howard, 161

While Howard lost to Reynolds for the batting title, he still bested him in total hits. The 23-year-old’s production fell a bit in the second half after a monster first half (.325/.354/.411, 86 hits in 62 games), but he still shined bright as someone seen as a non-prospect by top ranking systems.

"It reminds me of a Christian Arroyo or a Matt Duffy where he's not hitting a bunch of home runs, but he's finding ways to put balls in play," San Jose broadcaster Joe Ritzo says on Howard. "He's really hard to strikeout this year and he's just a good, hard-nosed player who does everything the right way."

Starting Pitcher ERA: Garrett Williams, 2.32

Williams first made his name as a kid in the Little League World Series where he struck out 17 batters in one game back in 2007. Now at 22 years old, he put together a solid season between the Augusta GreenJackets and San Jose Giants. After 12 games and a 2.25 ERA, Williams spent his final six in San Jose, boasting a 2.45 ERA. 

He is the Giants’ No. 20 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. 

Starting Pitcher Strikeouts: Stephen Woods, 113

Woods started 23 games for the Augusta GreenJackets this season and ended with a 2.95 ERA to go with his 113 strikeouts in 110 innings pitched. It all comes down to command and Woods still struggled with that in 2017, walking 64 batters. 

The 22-year-old has the swing-and-miss stuff and is ranked as the Giants’ No. 29 prospect by MLB Pipeline.