For the past two seasons — either in Triple-A Sacramento or the Arizona Fall League — Damon Minor has worked with the Giants prospects trio of Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw and Aramis Garcia. In 2018, Minor saw all three of them as the River Cats’ hitting coach before each player made their major league debuts in San Francisco.
NBC Sports Bay Area recently spoke to Minor, as the former Giants first baseman assessed each hitter’s development at the plate.
NBCS Bay Area: You’ve worked with Steven Duggar the last two years (13 games in 2017, 78 in 2018). He obviously made a big impression on the Giants this past season. What were his biggest improvements the last two years at the plate?
Minor: I think it was just the adjustments to the leagues. He had to adjust to Triple-A pitching with guys who can command the ball better, and learning the strike zone. Obviously when he went up to the big leagues, it was another challenge for him to learn, and Alonzo [Powell] and Schuey did a good job of honing in on him really knowing the strike zone, and staying in the strike zone.
It was just unfortunate that he got hurt because he was starting to break through with it.
[RELATED: Why Giants assistant hitting coach sent Steven Duggar film of Nick Markakis]
Ideally, you’d want him as your long-term lead-off hitter. Can he be that guy for the Giants?
The best thing about Duggar is that I think with his ability, he can lead off, he can go to the 2-hole or 3-hole depending on how hot he gets, he can drop down to hit in front of the pitcher, too. He learned how to hit a little bit in front of the pitcher, so that flexibility that you give a manager, that’s really, really good for him.
Does Chris Shaw have some of the best natural power you’ve seen?
Yes. He has someone of the best natural power there comes from the left side. I was fortunate enough to play with some guys who had that power. It was good for him to go up and see what the big leagues are about.
Just like Duggar did, he just has to make those adjustments and be more of a hitter to be able to get to his power. I think with time, and as young as he is, he will [make adjustments].
[RELATED: Chris Shaw showed potential, needs more time at Triple-A]
Are there any keys you see to Shaw unlocking that power by becoming more of a pure hitter first?
First, it comes down to getting at-bats. And then just knowing the strike zone. It’s not really a swing issues. Little tweaks here and there. It’s more timing. If you have time to recognize the pitch more often, you’ll be more consistent and on time and ready. Your swing will take care of itself, and you’ll hone in on the pitches you want to hit.
For someone like Chris Shaw, what’s the toughest part mentally after struggling right away in the majors as a top prospect?
It happens as a young player. You go up there, and everything’s a little bigger. You got a bigger crowd, it’s the big leagues, and you’ve been striving to get there through the minor leagues. When you do, it is a bigger picture.
You just have to learn how to control the emotions and not let things get overly big for you. For him, he’s a tough kid. He’s from Boston. He’s a hockey player. The best thing about Chris Shaw is that he’s gonna find a way to figure things out. He’s not stubborn, and he’s gonna make changes accordingly to have success in the big leagues.
What was your first impression of Aramis Garcia once he made it to Triple-A?
I was fortunate enough to work with Aramis in the Fall League when I was there last year. I’ve been seeing him work his way up from Double-A to up here the last couple weeks before he was called up. The main thing with him was not only his bat, but being a catcher and being a guy to handle a pitching staff. I think that was the most impressive thing.
It just so happens he’s a pretty good hitter as far as staying through the field, being able to drive the ball the other way, and he’s learning to pull the ball a little better. He has a really good high ceiling.
[RELATED: Aramis Garcia flashes power, opens eyes in September]
He looks like someone who could at least a backup in the bigs sooner than later.
And it took him a little bit of time. He’s a little bit older at 25, turning 26. But that happens with players. He stuck with it, and he’s been more aggressive. You see it as a hitting coach and what he does behind the plate. I’m happy for him.
Going from Sacramento to AT&T Park, do you think there’s a swing or mental adjustment for players?
Fortunately, the Sacramento field actually plays to the tendency of AT&T. It’s got some shadows to it. It’s deep in center field like AT&T, and when the sun goes down, the ball doesn’t carry. It plays fairly fair. But obviously just like anywhere, you still gotta hit and do your damage on the road, like Colorado. In the PCL, it’s Las Vegas and different places like that.
There is a different mindset [to AT&T Park], but the thing is, if you keep your mindset of going up there and staying with your plan, things will take care of itself. If you put too much pressure on yourself — I was fortunate enough to play there, and you crush some balls, and I’m not fast enough to run around even in Triples Alley. There was only one guy that made that place look small, and that was Barry [Bonds].