Steven Duggar

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. 

Top prospects among Giants group headed to Arizona Fall League

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USATSI

Top prospects among Giants group headed to Arizona Fall League

SAN DIEGO — One of the worst parts of this Giants season has been the injuries to prospects who would have joined the team in September. The front office will use the Arizona Fall League to get two of those players additional 2017 playing time. 

Right hander Tyler Beede and center fielder Steven Duggar, two of the organization’s more advanced prospects, will represent the Giants in the five-week offseason league, along with four other players. Catcher Aramis Garcia and right-handed reliever Tyler Cyr were added to the roster, as well, and the Giants will select two more pitchers to participate. 

Beede, 24, was looking at a September promotion before straining his groin while warming up for a start in late July. He battled inconsistency at times while posting a 4.79 ERA with the River Cats, but also had plenty of starts that showed why he should be in line for a 2018 debut. The Giants need Beede in the Fall League to make up some innings he lost to the strain. He threw just 109 innings before getting hurt after totaling 147 1/3 in Double-A last season. 

“He’s knocking on the door,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’ll be someone competing (next spring) to help our club, whether it’s in the rotation or in the bullpen.”

Duggar is in a similar position to Beede, except with plate appearances. He was supposed to start the year in Triple-A and likely would have been promoted early in the season given the outfield struggles at the big league level, but flexor and hamstring injuries have hampered Duggar since spring training. He played 29 games for Class-A San Jose before a recent promotion to Triple-A, where he has just 21 at-bats. The Giants need the 23-year-old Duggar to get some more experience at the plate, because he’s a prospect who could have a big role in a revamped outfield next season. 

Garcia is headed to the Fall League for a second consecutive year. The 24-year-old has suffered his share of injuries the past two seasons, but the power bat is intriguing; Garcia has 17 homers across two levels this season. 

Cyr, a Fremont native, has a 2.09 ERA at Double-A this season. The 24-year-old has 55 strikeouts in 47 1/3 relief innings. He is said to be a strike-thrower, with a fastball in the mid 90s and a good breaking ball. Cyr is looked at as a potential candidate for the 2018 bullpen. 

Down on the Farm: Coach's view of San Jose Giants' stacked outfield

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San Jose Giants/Tim Cattera

Down on the Farm: Coach's view of San Jose Giants' stacked outfield

If it weren't for a bevy of injuries this year, Steven Duggar would be roaming the outfield for a higher level than the San Jose Giants right now. Just ask his manager. 

"If healthy at the beginning of the year, he could be playing at higher levels or the big leagues," Giants manager Nestor Rojas said before the team's 12-7 win Thursday night.  

Duggar backed up his manager's comments hours later in only his sixth game of the year with San Jose. The 23-year-old hit a grand slam, scored two runs and stole a base. Of his six hits in six games with the Giants, five have gone for extra base hits -- four doubles and Thursday's grand slam. 

"He's a solid player. It's fun to watch him play and go out there and compete every day," Rojas said. 

San Francisco selected Duggar in the sixth round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Clemson. Between Advanced Single-A in San Jose and Double-A with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, Duggar hit .302 with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases while playing center field in 2016. So far with San Jose this season though, Duggar is primarily playing right field. The change isn't permanent and only shows his versatility to Rojas. 

"He’s one of those guys who’s a really good athlete and can play all three positions in the outfield," Rojas said. 

Once he became healthy, Duggar joined another Giants top prospect, Bryan Reynolds, in San Jose's outfield. And like Duggar, center field is Reynolds' first position, but he's been seeing a lot of time in the corners too. 

"I think it's too early to dictate if he'll be in a corner or center," Rojas believes. "He's really good and he has the tools to play center field. He's got speed and he's got range. He can do really well in all three." 

After starting in left field Thursday night, Reynolds has now played 45 games in center, 24 in right and five in left field this season.

At the plate, Reynolds, who was the Giants' lone representative at the Futures Game this year, is slashing .300/.348/.448 in 80 games. He has also hit five home runs, eight triples and 18 doubles. As he becomes stronger and continues to mature, Rojas thinks Reynolds' power will be unleashed with five-tool potential. 

"Yeah, no doubt about it. The power's gonna come," Rojas said. "First of all, he's a good hitter. I believe that will come around later on and he can hit already. He hasn't shown that much, but it will come." 

The key for Reynolds to climb up the ranks is a simple concept and no different than any other prospect. 

"Just be consistent, it's the most important thing in this business," Rojas said. "It is baseball. You're going to be hot for one month and then go into a slump. Consistency will come with better mechanics and an approach at the plate.

"The kid has been very solid here and very consistent with his approach at the plate. He has the tools."

Rounding out San Jose's stacked outfield is the speedy Ronnie Jebavy, Gio Brusa (second on the team with 11 home runs) and Heath Quinn, who Rojas sees as having big-league pop in his bat. 

"The power is there, he’s one of those big-tool players," Rojas says of Quinn. 

While the Giants have gone through a grueling game of outfield musical chairs in San Francisco this season, a bright future awaits just a drive away in San Jose.