Giants

2019 Giants Position Preview: Question marks behind Buster Posey

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USATSI

2019 Giants Position Preview: Question marks behind Buster Posey

SAN FRANCISCO — In two weeks, the back fields at Scottsdale Stadium will be humming again. 

Pitchers and catchers will hold their first workout on Feb. 13, and soon after that they’ll be joined by position players. Three years ago, all eyes were on Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija as they threw their first bullpen sessions, with the laid-back Cueto stunning observers by essentially playing a game of catch. A year after that, Mark Melancon was the headliner. Last spring, the cameras gathered to see what Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria looked like in orange and black. 

This time around? Well, it should be a bit quieter. 

The Giants have had a slow offseason — joining much of the league — but there’s a season to be played, and nothing brings optimism like that first full-squad workout. 

Before the players take the field, let’s take a look at how they stack up, position-by-position. We’ll start with the catchers, of course, because this is still Buster Posey’s team … 

Returning: Buster Posey, Aramis Garcia.

Posey is coming off serious season-ending hip surgery, but he has been on track throughout the rehab process and the Giants have no reason to believe he won’t be there on Opening Day. They’ll take it easy on him early in camp, and Posey will not see much action down in Scottsdale, but that won’t matter; he got just 34 at-bats last spring and 26 the year before. The Giants expect Posey in the squat 110-120 times, and some of his power should return now that his legs are back under him. 

Garcia is the wild card here — unless the Giants sign another veteran. The 26-year-old had a .800 OPS in a September cameo, hit four homers, and held his own when moved to first base. He also struck out in nearly half his at-bats, and the big league production doesn’t match some of his minor league track record. Zaidi likes versatility and has pushed young players in the past, so it’s possible Garcia gets a shot from the start this time around. 

The departed: Nick Hundley.

Posey’s backup for two years, Hundley is still looking for a job. He hit lefties at a .280/.320/.508 rate last season, so in theory he should be a nice fit for Zaidi’s platoon preferences. But that’s a bit harder to do when your starter is Posey, and Hundley has never played another position, which hurts his cause. Still, he’s an excellent clubhouse presence who could still return. 

I should mention here that Hector Sanchez, a longtime member of the spring catching group, recently signed a minor league deal with the Tigers. I will miss watching Sanchez take grounders at second base on a random March morning. 

Free agent additions

The Giants have added catchers to the system, but none were immediately put on the 40-man roster. 

Non-roster invitees: Joey Bart, Hamlet Marte, Cameron Rupp.

Bart, last year’s first-rounder, is the big name here, but Rupp may be the most interesting this season. He was signed to provide depth for an organization that doesn’t have any at the upper levels of the minors, but he also has more than 1,100 big league plate appearances and currently stands as Garcia’s biggest competition for the backup job. Rupp didn’t play in the big leagues in 2018 but hit 30 combined homers the previous two seasons in Philadelphia. He has a .879 OPS against lefties in his career. 

Marte, 24, spent last season in the Dodgers’ system, like many new Giants. He has a .275/.341/.443 slash line in eight minor league seasons. For now, he’s viewed as a depth piece for the upper levels of the minors, where the Giants have lost several catchers, including Sanchez and Trevor Brown. 

Bart may be the story of camp, although he is destined to begin his season with High-A San Jose. The second overall pick in last year’s draft, Bart is considered the best catching prospect in the minors and could — with a huge season — earn a September call-up. For now, he’s in camp to spend every second he can learning from Posey and catch a few bullpens with Madison Bumgarner and other big-name vets. Bumgarner always lines up with the young catchers at least once, and you can bet that’ll be one of the highlights of the first week of camp. 

This will be a learning experience for Bart, but also a showcase. With Posey sidelined and not much else in the way of depth, he could get some at-bats against big league pitching before being sent to the minors.

Outlook

The Giants have had all sorts of different looks when their catchers gather in early February. For years, Posey was surrounded by intriguing prospects. In 2017 and 2018, it was clear that the tandem of Posey and Hundley was set from the moment the Giants started playing catch at Scottsdale Stadium. Barring a late addition, it looks like there will be a real competition for the backup spot, but that’s not the story here. 

Posey’s health is, and every move me makes will be scrutinized. The Giants don’t look like a contender, but they hope they may surprise some people. That all goes out the window if Posey has a setback of any kind.

Tyler Austin, Mike Yastrzemski positives in uninspiring Giants loss

Tyler Austin, Mike Yastrzemski positives in uninspiring Giants loss

LOS ANGELES -- Giants Bruce Bochy met with the media a couple of hours before Wednesday's 9-2 loss to the Dodgers, and when a reporter brought up Shaun Anderson's first-inning issues, the manager smiled and politely cut the question off. 

"His issues?" Bochy said. "The team's, but go ahead ..."

Yes, it is indeed the team. Bochy keeps hoping something will change, but his starting pitchers seem incapable of flipping that switch. The Giants were allowing a 1.058 OPS to opposing hitters in the first inning -- that would rank fourth in the Majors for an individual hitter -- even before Drew Pomeranz gave up three runs in a very loud opening frame on Wednesday. 

Pomeranz would be charged with seven runs and a whole lot more exit velocity in the loss, as the Giants failed to take advantage of forearm discomfort that knocked Dodgers starter Rich Hill out after just one inning. 

This was, in every respect, more of the same. So let's change it up. Here are three things you can feel good about after a game like that:

--- Tyler Austin hit his sixth homer and played solid defense. 

Austin took right-hander Yimi Garcia deep to right-center, hitting a home run that just kept carrying and carrying, catching outfielders Alex Verdugo and Cody Bellinger by surprise. The Giants don't hit a lot of homers like that. 

Austin had been in a 1-for-20 skid coming into the game, but he's slugging .447 and has started to look much more comfortable in left field. Perhaps he's someone who can be a useful piece for the future. 

The most important part of that will be his ability to play left field, and after a slow start because of elbow soreness and bad weather that kept him from doing outfield drills, Austin has looked much better. The last two games have been his two best defensively since coming over from Minnesota. 

"It's just working in practice. That's the big thing," Austin said of the change. "I feel like it's coming along and getting better every day. I'm starting to feel pretty good out there. Hopefully we can keep that going."

Bochy has always believed Austin -- a DH/1B type in the AL -- has a chance to play out there. 

"He's getting better and better out there," the manager said. "He can run, he's got range, there's no reason why he shouldn't be a good left fielder."

[RELATED: Giants sign 23 draft picks; still waiting on Bishop, others]

--- Speaking of left field, Mike Yastrzemski has been much better than the other former River Cats and minor leaguers the Giants have run through this season. Yaz was a last-minute replacement for Steven Duggar, who has a tight lower back, and hit a solo blast off lefty Caleb Ferguson in the sixth. 

Overall, Yastrzemski has a .250/.316/.426 slash line while playing good defense wherever Bochy puts him. It's early, but he looks capable of being part of the outfield mix next year. Like Austin, he should get plenty of starts in the second half as Farhan Zaidi and Co. try to evaluate what they really have. 

--- I could not get to a third positive thing. Sorry. Here is a video of me eating a hot dog with bologna on it and immediately regretting some life choices. 

Giants sign 23 MLB draft picks, but still waiting on top selections

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AP

Giants sign 23 MLB draft picks, but still waiting on top selections

LOS ANGELES -- The Giants announced on Wednesday that they have signed 23 MLB draft picks, although the list is missing the biggest names. 

First-round pick Hunter Bishop, selected 10th overall earlier this month, has not signed yet. Second-round pick Logan Wyatt and fourth-rounder Tyler Fitzgerald are still playing in the College World Series with Louisville and thus cannot sign. Fitzgerald hit a home run Wednesday as the Cardinals beat Auburn. Eighth-round pick Caleb Kilian also is still playing.

The highest selection to sign thus far is center fielder Grant McCray, a third-round pick who is the son of former big leaguer Rodney McCray. Grant was one of nine position players the Giants drafted on the first two days of the draft, something the franchise had not done in 50 years. 

[RELATED: How Ramos' elite numbers compare to current Giants stars]

Overall, the Giants have signed 15 of their first 20 selections. Trevor McDonald, an 11th-round pick out of high school, also remains unsigned. It's possible that is connected to the top picks -- the Giants might need a bit of excess slot money to lock up a high school arm. 

The Giants did not have any concerns at the time of the draft about their ability to sign Bishop, a star outfielder at Arizona State. They still don't anticipate any problems.