Programming note: Tune in tonight at 10 p.m. for 2017 Giants -- What Happened?!? Only on NBC Sports Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes after team executives sat down with reporters and discussed a rough season, Austin Slater walked through an empty clubhouse.
“I’m done for the day,” he said, smiling, as general manager Bobby Evans offered a greeting.
Slater’s offseason started in the trainer’s room. He spent Tuesday morning rehabbing from sports hernia surgery and he'll be doing that for several weeks. Slater's rehab schedule is a reminder of one of the most disappointing parts of a 98-loss season.
If you’re going to flirt with 100 losses, you might as well come away from that experience with three or four young players who proved without a doubt that they can be part of a turnaround. The Giants feel good about Chris Stratton’s chances of being a rotation contributor, and Ty Blach will certainly have a role on next year’s team, but beyond that it’s tough to point to too many young players who are a good bet to be standing in the dugout next opening day. Slater was on his way after a hot start to his career, but injuries kept him off the field most of the second half and the Giants wish he had gotten more at-bats to try and show what he can do. Other young players suffered from the same bad injury luck.
During an interview that will air Wednesday night at 10pm on NBC Sports Bay Area, I asked manager Bruce Bochy what he makes of 2017’s class of younger players. The Giants have said they want to get more athletic. Did any of these 20-somethings show that they can be part of the solution?
“I really wish that we could have kept these young players healthy so we would have had a longer look and a better evaluation of some of these players who did, I think, show that they can contribute on a major league level,” Bochy said. “Slater, for one, I think he stepped up and he was doing a nice job. Because of the groin injury, we missed him a lot.”
Slater, who turns 25 in December, hit .282 with three homers and a .339 on-base percentage in 117 rookie at-bats. The Giants hope he is able to recover from surgery in time to play winter ball, and doing so would allow him to compete for an outfield job next spring. The Giants plan to give left field to Denard Span, but some of their younger outfielders could see more time in right field, or one could develop into a platoon partner.
It’s unclear where that leaves Parker, who hits left-handed — like Span — and is out of options. The 28-year-old had a .746 OPS after returning and played good defense.
“Here was a guy that you talk about (the) power, and he was going to be our left fielder,” Bochy said. “He runs into a wall and breaks his clavicle, so he never really got a chance to get on track. So that’s disappointing.”
Parker and Mac Williamson are scheduled to play winter ball, along with Christian Arroyo, who provided a jolt in his first couple of weeks but slumped to a .192 average. Arroyo would have returned for another round, but he suffered a season-ending hand injury. He's just 22, and if the Giants don’t add a third baseman, he should compete for that starting job next March.
“He made an impact right away,” Bochy said. “He started to struggle but we did have to rush him up.”
Bochy felt Ryder Jones was put in the same situation. The 23-year-old hit .173 as a rookie while playing at both corners. He is also scheduled to play winter ball.
“I think it’s fair to say we rushed him,” Bochy said. “He didn’t have a full year in Triple-A but we played him. Sometimes this happens to young players — not sometimes, but most of the time, they’re going to struggle. You’re going to suffer with young players who aren’t quite ready, but at the same time you hope to benefit down the road.”
A little further down the road, the Giants have a class of intriguing prospects. For more on the front office’s evaluations of Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Tyler Beede and others, you can watch our season-ending special Wednesday night at 10pm on NBC Sports Bay Area. Bochy, Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and Larry Baer discussed the 2017 year and the roster outlook for 2018. Bochy is hopeful that next year’s squad has a bit more luck with young players.
“Hopefully we do find lightning in a bottle with one of these young guys that can impact our offense,” he said.