Logan Webb

Where Giants' top five prospects will start 2019 minor league season

Where Giants' top five prospects will start 2019 minor league season

The season of either excitement or disappointment is here.

Opening Day brings fans World Series aspirations or Twitter fingers calling for firings up and down the front office. What comes the day after, however, is a look to the future. 

Minor league rosters have been announced, as the season starts Thursday across all top levels. Here's where the Giants' top prospects will begin the 2019 season, though there will be plenty of changes throughout the year. 

*Marco Luciano, whom I have as the Giants' No. 2 prospect, is not on the list due to the fact that it's unknown if he'll make his debut in the Arizona Rookie League at just 17 years old.

Joey Bart, Catcher

Joey Bart to the Giants! Well, not exactly.

Bart will skip Low-A and start his first full season in the minors with the San Jose Giants in Advanced Single-A. The No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft burst on the scene last season by hitting .298 with 13 home runs in 45 games of short-season Single-A for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

Bart impressed Giants coaches and teammates alike this spring. He hit .350 with one home run, two doubles and seven RBI in 15 games, and won the Barney Nugent Award, which is given annually to the player who performs best in his first big league camp. 

If you're in the Bay Area, get a ticket to see Bart in San Jose at the beginning of the season. He'll move up the ranks in a hurry. 

Heliot Ramos, OF 

Joining Bart in San Jose is the Giants' 2017 first-round pick. 

Ramos, 19, had a down year in Low-A Augusta, hitting .245 with 136 strikeouts in 124 games. But the ultra-athletic outfielder also hit 24 doubles, eight triples and 11 home runs. 

The strikeouts and .313 on-base percentage aren't encouraging, but Ramos still is so young. He has the potential to hit 20 homers and steal bases. Watching him in the same lineup as Bart should be a lot of fun. 

Shaun Anderson, RHP

Anderson will headline a solid staff in Triple-A Sacramento, though he should make his big league debut at some point this season. He impressed Giants manager Bruce Bochy by throwing three innings on short notice against the A's in an exhibition before the season opener.

The Giants acquired Anderson from the Red Sox for Eduardo Nunez at the 2017 trade deadline. Anderson made his Triple-A debut last season, going 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA. 

Logan Webb, RHP

Webb, a Rocklin native, is the Giants' fastest rising prospect. He finished the 2018 season at Double-A Richmond and will start there this year as well. 

The 22-year-old posted a 1.82 ERA in 74 innings for San Jose before his promotion. If he continues to progress, Webb could wind up in Sacramento this season.

Sean Hjelle, RHP

The Giants' second-round pick is joining a stacked pitching staff to start the season in Low-A Augusta. But he'll certainly stick out in the rotation at 6-foot-11. Yes, you read that right. 

[RELATED: Minor League Baseball announces three-batter minimum rule for pitchers]

Hjelle is a really good athlete for his size. He doesn't exactly have the power stuff that one might expect at his height, but he is a polished young arm. 

Other notable names

-- The biggest surprise of the Giants' minor league rosters is Chris Shaw. After he got a cup of coffee in the bigs last season, he's been demoted to Double-A. 

Shaw last spent time in Double-A two seasons ago. He'll get everyday at-bats, and it'll be interesting to see how long he stays there. 

-- Seriously, the Augusta GreenJackets are starting the season with a stacked pitching staff. It was thought Wong, Hjelle or Santos could have started in San Jose, though they easily can get there in no time. 

-- Melvin Adon and Garrett Williams also will join Webb in Richmond. Both players impressed in the Arizona Fall League, and don't be surprised if Adon makes his way to San Francisco this season.

-- Jacob Gonzalez, the Giants' second-round pick from 2017 and the son of Luis Gonzalez, again will be in Low-A Augusta. He's slid down prospect rankings after a rough first full season in the minors, but the potential with his bat still is there at just 20 years old.

How Giants' spring training cuts so far could have role in 2019 season

How Giants' spring training cuts so far could have role in 2019 season

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants made their first round of cuts on this day a year ago, and the press release that day was most notable for the fact that players like Steven Okert and Miguel Gomez got optioned to minor league camp. Buried in the stories that day was this line: 

The Giants also reassigned five players to minor league camp: Tyler Cyr, Jose Flores, Dereck Rodriguez, Madison Younginer and Alen Hanson. 

You never know how quickly a player might bounce back and make an impact at the big league level, as Rodriguez and Hanson did last year. So let's take a run through the Giants roster moves so far, which cut the spring roster down to 45, and see what's next for the prospects and hopefuls no longer in camp. 

March 2-4: Jamie Callahan, Conner Menez, Garrett Williams and Sam Wolff are reassigned to minor league camp

Callahan, a pitcher picked up from the Mets over the offseason, is still rehabbing after shoulder surgery. The Giants will let Menez, who piles up strikeouts, and Williams, a breakout performer in 2017, continue to start as the Giants rebuild minor league depth. Wolff is hoping to build off a solid Fall League. 

March 8: Merandy Gonzalez and Logan Webb are optioned; John Andreoli, Jandel Gustave, Ryan Howard and Hamlet Marte are reassigned to minor league camp

Gonzalez, Andreoli and Gustave are among the large group of flyers Zaidi has added to the minor league system. Andreoli and Gonzalez were claimed on waivers.

There are some talent evaluators high up in the organization who believe the 22-year-old Webb will be the organization's best pitching prospect at some point this season. Howard got just 10 at-bats in camp but roped three doubles; the Giants are hopeful they have a second Matt Duffy here. Marte has strong minor league numbers and will catch every day at Double-A. 

March 9: Carlos Navas and Kieran Lovegrove are reassigned

Lovegrove might have been the most interesting player in the clubhouse. He gave up four runs in four spring appearances, but it's a live arm and the Giants went hard after him early in the offseason. They're hoping to get him on track in the minors. 

March 10: Jose Lopez and Melvin Adon are optioned

Lopez, picked up from the Reds last month, should provide starting depth in Triple-A. Adon hit 102 mph a couple of times and is being moved from starting to relieving, and he might move quickly. He's likely to start the season in Double-A.

Given how many pitchers the Giants plan to use, it wouldn't be a surprise to see both these guys in the big leagues at some point. 

March 11: Abiatal Avelino, Sam Coonrod, Ryder Jones, Chris Shaw and Breyvic Valera are optioned; Shaun Anderson, Enderson Franco and Keyvius Sampson are reassigned

The biggest cuts came Monday, and there's a lot to unpack here. Shaw might have had the most impressive swing of the spring, but he wasn't in the mix for an outfield job and it's time to get him four at-bats a day.

He has also hit a bit of a crossroads, as he'll be in Triple-A for a third straight year. The Giants are still waiting for more consistent contact. 

Jones was a bit behind as he came off knee surgery and never had a shot at making the team. It'll be interesting to see if the Giants move him around in Triple-A; he's blocked in the infield but there's been talk of getting him outfield reps. That's something Jones, still just 24, would like to try. 

One of Avelino or Valera could be in trouble when the Giants need a roster spot for Yangervis Solarte. If they survive, they're both on the 40-man and infielders often get shuttled back and forth because of injuries.

The Giants love Avelino's energy and may move him all over the field as they look for versatile role players similar to what Farhan Zaidi had in Los Angeles. They really need one of these guys to break through and provide an infield option from the right side of the plate

Franco and Sampson were part of an offseason effort to add new arms to the upper levels of the minors. A holdover is Coonrod, who will pitch exclusively out of the bullpen this year in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. He's back up to the high 90s with his fastball. 

Anderson is the organization's best pitching prospect and had two solid appearances in his first camp. He'll start the season at Triple-A and is currently somewhere around ninth on the starting depth chart, but he should make his debut this season. Anderson is a former closer and could break in as a boost for the bullpen.

[RELATED: Joey Bart needs to improve this part of his game, Mike Krukow says]

If the Giants sell at the deadline, he's likely to get an early crack at a 2020 rotation spot. 

Giants finally have intriguing pitching prospects coming through system

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Giants finally have intriguing pitching prospects coming through system

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — During his playing career, former Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was popular with reporters because he told it how it was, even if that sometimes led to uncomfortable exchanges. The Giants like having him as a roving instructor in the minor leagues for the very same reason. 

So my ears perked up the other day when Vogelsong, in the midst of a longer discussion about the organization, mentioned how much he believed in the young pitching the Giants have coming through the pipeline. Vogelsong travels to the affiliates during the season and spends time with pitching prospects, and he’s encouraged by what he has seen. 

“First of all, they’re all very talented, but the thing that I like the most is they’re all hungry,” he said. “They all want to be perfect. I know sometimes that can be a bad thing, but in their case it’s a good thing.”

The Giants sent Vogelsong to a Madison Bumgarner rehab start last year to give him a familiar sounding board, and young pitchers have found a similar sense of comfort. Logan Webb, featured here, raved about the work Vogelsong has done with him. Vogelsong said he has found eager pupils. 

“They listen, they’re open to adjustments, and that all goes along with it,” he said. “But the biggest thing is they’re hungry and they all want to be great.”

It’s been a while since the Giants consistently developed pitching. Their Opening Day rotation could feature just one player — Madison Bumgarner — who they drafted. The last four guys in the bullpen — Will Smith, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon — were all signed or acquired in a trade. Even one of last year’s breakout starters, Dereck Rodriguez, spent most of his career with the Twins. 

But there’s a group of young starters in camp that may become contributors over the next two years. Here’s a breakdown of how they’ve done thus far: 

Shaun Anderson: He has pitched in just one Cactus League game, giving up two unearned runs in two innings, but coaches are impressed by his stuff. He looks like Noah Syndergaard and like Webb, he has a reputation for being competitive in a good way. Anderson is the organization’s top pitching prospect and may debut this summer.

Webb: He has pitched twice this spring and struck out three in 2 2/3 scoreless innings. 

[RELATED: How Logan Webb shot up the Giants' prospect rankings]

Garrett Williams: Last season, if you asked about a sleeper in the system, you heard about Webb. Two years ago team officials would tell you about Williams, a lefty starter. The 24-year-old had a 2.32 ERA in 2017 but took a big step back with his command last year, walking 61 in 81 2/3 innings in Richmond. He hasn’t given up a run in three relief appearances this spring, striking out three and walking one in 2 1/3 innings. 

Conner Menez: He doesn’t get mentioned often, but the lefty’s peripherals tell an interesting story. Menez has averaged more than a strikeout per inning since the Giants took him in the 14th round in 2016, but he also has had walk issues. Last year he pitched at three levels and struck out 171 in 135 1/3 innings. Some scouts think he may ultimately be a good reliever, but for now the Giants will keep him in a rotation. 

Tyler Beede: He’s part of a different class and already has made his big league debut, but he’s also just 25, and he has gotten himself back on the radar with an impressive spring. Beede simplified things over the offseason, cutting down to a three-pitch mix, and his velocity is back to 97-98 mph range that made him a first-round pick. The breaking ball has been nasty, too. Beede talked about his new approach on a recent episode of The Giants Insider Podcast, and if he keeps it up, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him leapfrog some guys ahead of him on the starting depth chart and work his way into the rotation by the end of the season.