On his first day in charge at Oracle Park, Farhan Zaidi said he wanted to try and walk a tightrope in 2019. He talked of building for the future, finding members of the next great Giants team, but also being competitive as deep into the year as possible.
In Year 2, the Giants hoped to take that same approach, and that could lead to some fascinating decisions if they're tasked with putting a 50-man roster together over the next couple of months.
The expectation is that MLB teams -- if the sport returns in July -- will have 30-man rosters with taxi squads that might go 20 deep. Should the Giants go all-in on an 82-game season or pull back and fill that taxi squad with top prospects who won't have anywhere else to play with the minor league season surely getting canceled?
"I think it's going to lend to some really interesting decisions," Zaidi said on KNBR on Thursday night. "Your prospects that have been in Double-A and Triple-A, those are kind of no-brainers because you're getting the benefit of Major League depth and some developmental reps. But you are going to have some guys that aren't in any real scenario going to play for you in 2020, but the alternative is them just not getting any competitive reps over the summer. That seems like a really costly thing for your top, top guys."
The Giants have more of those guys than they did a couple years ago, and they seem to be pretty set on some of them. If you're talking about top prospects at the top two levels being "no-brainers," you're adding Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos and Sean Hjelle to that taxi squad, at the very least.
It gets more interesting at lower levels, though. Left-hander Seth Corry and outfielder Hunter Bishop are notable top prospects who probably would have spent most of this season in High-A San Jose. Then there's Marco Luciano, the top Giants prospect on a lot of evaluator's lists. He's only 18 and has just 179 at-bats in rookie ball under his belt, but he's also a potential game-changer for the organization.
Luciano has the highest ceiling of any current Giants prospect, and it would be a blow to lose a year or even a few additional months of development. There's some thought within the game that the Arizona Fall League will be expanded or other minor league games will be added later in the year, and the Giants certainly could send Luciano there and have him also play Winter Ball. But they also are considering keeping him on the taxi squad and letting him work out every day with much more experienced players and coaches.
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"With someone like Luciano it is going to be a consideration," Zaidi said. "Do you bring him in, let him be in that environment, get competitive reps and understand that you're kind of burning a spot that could otherwise go to Major League depth? It's going to be an interesting decision.
"Every organization is going to face decisions like that, but obviously we have an eye to the future. We've got some really exciting players that are still a couple of years away and it's going to lend itself to some tough decisions for us once we start rounding out camps."
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