Giants

2019 MLB Rule 5 Draft: Giants take right-handed reliever Dany Jimenez

2019 MLB Rule 5 Draft: Giants take right-handed reliever Dany Jimenez

SAN DIEGO -- It'll be easy to tell when the Giants once again are elite on the field, but when it comes to the health of the minor league system and back end of the 40-man roster, the indicators aren't as clear to the public. One good measure of success will be the yearly Rule 5 draft, which provides an opportunity for struggling clubs to add talent to their big league roster by raiding loaded systems. 

The Astros lost three prospects in the first 10 selections Thursday morning. The Yankees, Nationals and Rays also lost players during the first four picks. That's a sign of health for those organizations, of depth the Giants hope to build. They've made strides but they're still far behind, so on Thursday they once again were on the selecting end. 

A year after they took two players in the Rule 5, the Giants used their lone open roster spot on Dany Jimenez, a 25-year-old right-hander who pitched in the Blue Jays' system last year. Jimenez has a live arm and better command than you usually see from Rule 5 picks. The Giants will throw him in the bullpen mix but must return him to the Blue Jays if Jimenez is not on their big league roster.

"We were happy he fell to us," general manager Scott Harris said. "As we talked about all week, we're trying to find talent. We're trying to find new creative ways. This isn't the most creative way but we got an arm we like."

The Giants selected Drew Ferguson and Travis Bergen last December and later acquired Connor Joe, who was their opening day left fielder. Ferguson was sent back to the Astros during the spring and Joe ended up back with the Dodgers after a few games. Bergen lasted a few months but eventually was sent back to the Blue Jays. 

Jimenez has a strong shot at making the opening day roster and has a better shot than most Rule 5 picks of surviving. It's easier to hide a pitcher in your bullpen all year, particularly with the rosters expanding and the Giants able to carry 13 arms throughout the season. Jimenez also has more experience than Bergen did. He reached Double-A last season and dominated, posting a 1.87 ERA and striking out 46 in 33 2/3 innings. 

Harris said Jimenez has a fastball in the upper 90s. He has averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors and has kept his walk rate on the high end of what's acceptable. That might play in the big leagues, giving the Giants a free reliever at a time when their bullpen is undergoing massive changes. 

[RELATED: Three winners, three losers from the MLB Winter Meetings]

The Giants did not lose a player in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. In the Triple-A phase, they added Brewers catching prospect Bryan Torres to the River Cats' roster.

There was one other pick of note. Starting pitcher Stephen Woods was the fourth overall pick of the draft, going from the Rays to the Royals. Two years ago, the Giants sent Woods to Tampa Bay in the Evan Longoria deal. 

MLB rumors: Jerry Blevins signs minor league contract with Giants

MLB rumors: Jerry Blevins signs minor league contract with Giants

The Giants have signed veteran left-handed reliver Jerry Blevins to a minor-league contract, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Monday night, citing a source.

The deal includes an invitation to major-league camp, Rosenthal reported.

Blevins responded to Rosenthal's tweet, all but confirming the news.

Blevins has pitched parts of 13 seasons with four different teams. He's spent time with the A's, Nationals, Mets and Braves.

Last season with Atlanta, the 36-year-old posted a 3.90 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 32.1 innings over 45 appearances.

Blevins appears to be another low-risk, high-reward signing by the Giants' front office. If he makes the team out of spring training and shows that he has value, he could be a prime trade candidate ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.

[RELATED: Who starts for Giants on opening day?]

If Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris can turn Blevins into a future asset, this will look like another stealthy move.

How Antoan Richardson's journey to Giants' staff showed his perseverance

How Antoan Richardson's journey to Giants' staff showed his perseverance

Antoan Richardson was drafted by the Giants in 2005, spent five seasons in the organization as a prospect, and returned last year to be a minor league instructor. But he still will be a fresh face to nearly all of the players when he walks into the clubhouse next month.

It helps to come into that situation with some background in the majors, and Richardson will enter every conversation with two pretty cool highlights in his back pocket.

A speedy outfielder who reached the big leagues with the Braves and Yankees, Richardson notched his first career hit when he poked a single to right off Clayton Kershaw. In one of his final big league games, Richardson raced home from second, beating a strong throw from Baltimore's Nick Markakis to give Derek Jeter a walk-off single in his final at-bat at Yankee Stadium.

Those highlights are nice conversation starters, but what really will stand out as the Giants get to know their new first base coach is a trait that has defined his career: Perseverance. 

Those career highlights came three years apart, as Richardson got four at-bats for the Braves in 2011 as a 27-year-old and then bounced around Double-A and Triple-A before the Yankees called him up in September of 2014. For Richardson, there was never any doubt that he would keep going through those lean years. 

"I come from the Bahamas, it's a small country and I think a lot of my motivation is the people of the Bahamas and recognizing that when you take on a responsibility like this, a responsibility to get to the Major Leagues, there are people that put you in the spotlight," Richardson said last week. "I think continuing to not give up and continuing to pursue things and inspire others and be inspired by others is what kept me going and it's continued to keep me going."

Richardson was beating the odds long before he slid headfirst across the plate as Yankee Stadium erupted. He signed with the Giants as a 35th round pick out of Vanderbilt and was one of just seven players from that class (highlighted by Sergio Romo) to ever suit up in the big leagues. Years before that, Richardson kept pushing after he was cut from his seventh-grade fast-pitch softball team in the Bahamas. 

"You know what it is? It's life, right?" Richardson said, laughing. "Life is going to throw you so many challenges and some of them aren't going to be fun, but you've got to keep going.

"I always tell the story of the buffalo. The buffalo, whenever a storm comes, the buffalo knows that at some point he's going to be on the other side of it. So that's kind of the way I look at it. Whenever the storm comes, keep walking. It feels like forever but at some point you'll be on the other end of it."

Richardson, 36, was one of the last additions to a young staff that will try to lead the Giants out of their current storm. He finished his career in Triple-A with the Dodgers at a time when Farhan Zaidi was the team's general manager and Gabe Kapler was the director of player development, but he didn't know them personally until he met with Kapler at the Winter Meetings last month. Richardson was there to speak at an MLB diversity event.

Less than a month later, the Giants announced that he would be their new first base coach

Kapler said Richardson stood out during the interview process for being thoughtful, introspective and good at self-evaluation.  

“As I was going through my own interview process, I reconnected with Antoan and learned how impactful he is at creating and building a culture dedicated to open communication,” Kapler said. “He brings energy, enthusiasm and excitement to the clubhouse. He’s inquisitive and asks why.

"What 'AR' doesn’t already know about outfield play and baserunning, he’ll go find out. Baserunning is going to be a major point of emphasis for us this year, and Antoan will help everyone on the team improve.”

Richardson’s rise, like so many on this current staff, was meteoric. He was an outfield coordinator in the minors for the Toronto Blue Jays but came back to the Giants last offseason to be a field coordinator for their farm system. He roved throughout the system, overseeing on-field instruction, baserunning, outfield and infield work everywhere from the team's facility in the Dominican Republic to Triple-A Sacramento.

[RELATED: Why Giants' hitting coach compares rebuild to 49ers' rise]

While Richardson is somewhat familiar to many of the team's prospects, he has just one day of experience with the current big leaguers. When previous first base coach Jose Alguacil attended his son’s graduation in June, Richardson was called up to do the job for a day.

He had walked past Oracle Park as a prospect and marveled at the size and look of the place. When Richardson joined Bruce Bochy’s staff for a day, he didn’t take it for granted. Richardson spent some time talking to fellow Vanderbilt alums Tyler Beede and Mike Yastrzemski and then got to work trying to find something that would give the Giants an edge that day. 

The cameo ended up being a preview of a major career move. 

“That was a really cool day,” Richardson said. “I remember Pablo (Sandoval) hit a home run and almost hit my hand off my body when he was coming around first base. And then we won the game, right, so I got to give a high five at the end of that, so that was cool.”