Down on the Farm: Do Giants have their next Matt Duffy in the minors?

Tim Cattera/

Down on the Farm: Do Giants have their next Matt Duffy in the minors?

San Jose Giants play-by-play broadcaster Joe Ritzo knows San Francisco's Advanced Single-A affiliate as well as anyone. This season, he's taking in the play of a talented outfield with top organizational prospects such as the Giants' first pick in 2016, Bryan Reynolds, and the powerful Heath Quinn. 

While he of course has his eyes on the big names, there's an under-the-radar prospect in San Jose that Ritzo has become quite fond of. 

"I really like the young shortstop here, Ryan Howard," Ritzo told Alex Pavlovic on The Giants Insider Podcast. "He flies under the radar here because of Reynolds and Quinn and the outfielders, but all he does is hit." 

That last statement has been particluarly true with Howard this season. Fans witnessed Madison Bumgarner get surprisingly rocked to nine runs in four innings during his rehab start on Wednesday at San Jose Municipal Stadium. As that was far from predictable, Howard's line for the night was. He went 2-for-3 with a double and one RBI. 

Howard's approach to the game brings back memories to Ritzo of two names that should certainly catch the attention of Giants fans. 

"It reminds me of a Christian Arroyo or a Matt Duffy where he's not hitting a bunch of home runs, but he's finding ways to put balls in play," Ritzo says. "He's really hard to strikeout this year and he's just a good, hard-nosed player who does everything the right way."

After a 3-for-3 night on Thursday, Howard has now racked up 102 hits in 74 games, which ranks second in the California League. He owns a .328 batting average (also second in the California League), .360 on-base percentage and a .415 slugging percentage. As Ritzo says, Howard is far from a power hitter, but he has knocked six balls over the fence to go along with nine doubles this season. 

On defense, Howard is seen as an average shortstop. After only playing one position last season, Howard has also found time at third base this year in 23 games, but has seven errors at the hot corner to only two in 50 games at shortstop. 

For his pure hit ability and his long-term position not completely locked in, there's another player he reminds Ritzo of that forced his way up to the Giants this year. 

"Maybe he's someone like an Austin Slater where if you keep hitting .300 every year, eventually you're going to get a shot," said Ritzo.

The Giants liked Howard so much, they drafted him twice. As a sophomore-eligible player the Giants tried to grab him in the 31st round of the 2015 draft, but he played with the collegiate national team instead and returned to Missouri. That was clearly the right call and the Giants stayed on their guy, selecting him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. 

"It's the kind of player the Giants have had a lot of success drafting," says Ritzo, an understatement to say the least with the organization's recent history of drafting middle infielders.

Duffy was never close to a name on a prospect list. Joe Panik didn't garner a bunch of talk either. Ranking systems have been friendlier to Arroyo, yet even he hasn't been seen as a prized prospect despite making the bigs this year at 21 years old. 

If you look at Baseball America, Howard is nowhere among the Giants' top 30 prospects. For MLB Pipeline, he's No. 30. Like Duffy and other Giants infielders have proven in the past, none of this matters. If you hit, that's all that counts. Luckily for Howard, that's all he's been doing for San Jose. 

Around The Horn 

-- ICYMI: Here are the top Giants minor leaguers from June. Yes, 35-year-old Justin Ruggiano made the list.

-- Melvin Upton Jr. joined for the Sacramento River Cats for the first time on July 1. He went 0-for-3 and is apparently dealing with yet another injury after just one game. 

-- Jarrett Parker is struggling in his rehab with the River Cats. The outfielder is now only hitting .208 in 14 games with Sacramento. 

Giants' Farhan Zaidi expresses thoughts on WAR, Buster Posey's value

Giants' Farhan Zaidi expresses thoughts on WAR, Buster Posey's value

Ever since the Giants hired Farhan Zaidi as their president of baseball operations this past offseason, there have been battles between talking heads arguing on the basis of traditional baseball stats and advanced metrics. 

Zaidi, who earned his bachelor of science degree at MIT and his PhD at Cal Berkeley, is widely seen as a baseball mind that leans on analytics. So called baseball fans who don't want the game to evolve argue that he's using too many numbers to try and change the game. At the same time, Zaidi has help lead highly successful teams with the A's and Dodgers. 

So, what are his thought on WAR (Wins Above Replacement)? 

"Yeah, I think it's a good measure on how a guy has produced in the past. I think it's a nice, valuable back of the envelope calculation for how much value a specific player brought you," Zaidi said Wednesday on KNBR

"It's not the be all, end all." 

The last part of his quote stands out. Far too many people assume that Zaidi would look at analytics like WAR and not take into account other parts of the game. What he does appreciate about WAR, however, is the goal of the stat is to show the totality of a player. 

"I do like that it factors in all the contributions a player makes," Zaidi said. "It includes his base running, his defense, his offense and more."

For instance, Giants catcher Buster Posey is second to only Angels star center fielder Mike Trout in fWAR since 2012. In slightly over seven seasons, Trout has been worth 67.4 WAR according to FanGraphs while Posey's WAR is 46.5. Even though his power has significantly declined, Posey's defense and ability to frame strikes is still elite. 

"His framing numbers this year are back at an elite level," Zaidi said. "When you really look at the evidence, having one of the top framing catchers in the league can save you as many runs, or produce you as many runs, as having a great cleanup hitter. 

"Between all the things that he does, doing it at that position with the bat and the offense you get, that's what puts him so high up that list." 

[RELATED: Potential trade partner set to get up-close look at MadBum]

An issue with WAR is the fact that the formula is different depending on what outlet you look at. Posey's WAR since 2012 is 10.1 points lower by Baseball Reference than FanGraphs.

The fact is, however, even the brightest minds in baseball that have more of an analytical background are taking multiple factors into account when constructing their team in the now and for the future.

Giants won't get chance to work with Aaron Altherr after waiver claim


Giants won't get chance to work with Aaron Altherr after waiver claim

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Aaron Altherr Era is officially over.

Altherr was claimed by the New York Mets on Thursday, joining his third team in a couple of weeks and leaving the Giants a bit disappointed that they didn't get to work with a player they liked. Altherr had just one at-bat -- a strikeout -- in four games before he was designated for assignment on Sunday, but the Giants hoped to get him through waivers and take a look at him in Triple-A. 

"We were hoping we would have him in our system and get him some at-bats," manager Bruce Bochy said. "For him, the little I got to know him, you pull for these guys to be in the big leagues, so good for him. The Mets obviously see him the way we saw him, as a guy with tremendous potential.

Altherr, 28, had a huge 2017 season but regressed after that. Still, the Giants liked the bat enough that they were willing to take on the $1 million left on his deal to let Altherr try to get right in Triple-A before getting an audition in the big leagues. The Mets, in desperate need of outfield help, decided to take on the contract and stick Altherr in the big leagues. 

[RELATED: Potential trade partner getting up-close look at MadBum]

Don't feel too bad for Altherr for all the movement. He's a Phoenix resident and got to spend a weekend at home with the Giants before finding out his next destination.