Giants

Down on the Farm: Q&A with San Jose Giants 1B/3B Jonah Arenado

Down on the Farm: Q&A with San Jose Giants 1B/3B Jonah Arenado

The Giants know Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado all too well. In 76 games, Arenado has a .308 batting average against the Giants with 20 home runs, his most off any team in all of the majors. 

Playing in Advanced Single-A, the Giants have their own Arenado. Brother Jonah Arenado plays first and third base for the San Jose Giants and hit 19 home runs in 2016. 

Before the younger brother went 2-for-4 against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Thursday night, NBC Sports Bay Area spoke over the phone with Arenado. Below is the full transcript where we talk his hitting approach, frustrations with the Lakers, trash talk with Nolan in ping pong and much more. 

Dalton Johnson: “You guys are now three weeks in, but I want to actually go back to Opening Day real quick. I know you guys ultimately lost, but it was a 16-inning game. Was that the longest game you’ve ever played in?” 

Jonah Arenado: “No, the longest game I ever played in was 17 innings.” 

DJ: “Really?! Wow! When was that?” 

JA: “I played 17 innings in Lakewood. I was playing for Augusta at the time. We were playing in New Jersey. So we went 17 innings, but we didn’t even get to finish the game. The fog got so extreme that we had to just cancel the game.” 

DJ: “The fog? That’s just crazy. So you were out in Augusta for the GreenJackets?” 

JA: “Yeah.”

DJ: “I was actually out in Savannah for college ball. I’m not sure if you guys ever played against the Sand Gnats.”

JA: “Yeah we were there the last year they had that stadium.” 

DJ: “Grayson Stadium. That was a really fun park. But a 16 or 17-inning game, I’m going to guess that the dugout has to get a little weird at some point, right?” 

JA: “Yeah you're just getting like... it gets kind of monotonous you know. It’s kind of like okay, when are we gonna score or when are they gonna score. And obviously you don’t want to lose the game, but you just want something to happen.” 

DJ: “What are you guys bringing out the rally caps or doing anything different?” 

JA: “No, no rally caps, but there’s times where a couple innings go by and someone will come into the dugout and try get jacked up or excite everyone. When it doesn’t work, it’s like alright here we go again.” 

DJ: “Off the field, I think you’re a Southern California guy and this is your second year out in Northern California in San Jose. Obviously you guys are always busy, but do you ever get to go out and check the Bay Area scenery at all?”

JA: “I’ve been to Santa Cruz and the beach over there. I’ve been to San Francisco. I went to San Francisco on an off day last year to watch the Giants-Rockies game. But besides that, no I rarely ever get to go out to San Francisco or anything like that.” 

DJ: “Off day, or you a golf guy or more of a relax guy? What are you trying to do on an off day?” 

JA: “I’m just trying to relax. Maybe hang out by the pool, just relax and hang out. Go to the beach. And if you do get to relax, I’m not trying to do anything that’s like a workout.” 

DJ: “Are there any places in San Jose where if someone’s coming from out town, you say, ‘Hey, this is where you need to go.’ San Jose, where would you go for one day?”

JA: “Oh, San Jose...” 

DJ: “Just go to a game? Tell them to go to a San Jose Giants game?” 

JA: “Yeah, yeah go to a San Jose Giants game and if not, Santa Cruz is 30 minutes down the road. I’d go to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is nice.” 

DJ: “And then on the field, you’re someone who hits for power. You hit 19 bombs last year. With the way different people are starting to look at the swing now, are you someone that’s actually trying to swing for the fences a little bit? Are you trying to hit a home run? What’s your approach?”

JA: “No, I feel like the more I try to hit a home run, the more I don’t. When I go in thinking line drive to the middle or stay through the middle, I feel a lot better. I know last year I didn’t start off well, and I’m not starting off well this year either, but I know if I think like I have to drive this ball or I have to hit a home run then that never happens. Try to stay simple, try to stay short is usually when things start working out.” 

DJ: “Well there’s all these different advanced analytics and you can track everything now. Are you someone that actually looks into something like launch angle or exit velocity? Or is it more see ball, hit ball?” 

JA: “I don’t like thinking about those 40-degree angles. Hitting is hard enough. To think about all that stuff is too much. But I know that a lot of people, that’s the new thing. Launch angle and try to lift the ball, and that’s all great. It’s whatever works for that person. I know Donaldson preaches it and he loves talking about it, but that’s him. That’s what works for him. I know for me, trying to lift the ball doesn’t work. When I try to lift the ball, I usually pop up. So when I’m trying to hit a hard line drive, that’s when I usually can drive that ball.” 

DJ: “Yeah it seems like when you’re practicing, you’re on the tee or getting front toss or whatever, that’s when you can kind of work on those things. But I couldn’t really imagine taking that over to the game. Once it’s game time, it’s get a pitch, be aggressive, hit it hard. Are you just trying to make things, like you said, as simple as possible once it’s go time?” 

JA: “Yeah, when I’m in the game I’m just trying to be as ready as I can for that fastball. Just see it and hit it. There’s nothing more to it, honestly. Obviously, when you’re struggling you start trying to fix things. When I’m going well, it’s never thinking about what this guy is gonna throw or make sure your foot is doing this. No, I never think about that. I think about see the ball and hit it as hard as I can.” 

DJ: “In the minor leagues, are these tracking systems as prominent or is that more available the higher you go?” 

JA: “I think it’s more available for the big leaguers. It’s hard to watch our swings on video because sometimes our games aren’t taped. We watch our home games because they are streamed, but besides that it’s hard to get all that stuff done.” 

DJ: “Can that almost be an advantage at the same time though? When you’re younger I think if you look too far into then you might press or try to do too much. If you’re just figuring things out on your own, that might even be a little better. Am I right or wrong there?” 

JA: “I think you’re both wrong and right. There’s times when you think too much and sometimes you think it’s your swing and it’s really not your swing, it’s your approach. I think that’s when it can hurt you. When you’re looking at it on video, but that was never really the problem, so then you’re changing a swing that was actually working, but your approach was what’s messed up so now you’re changing your swing and your approach. So that can hurt you. But it can also help you because if there is something mechanically wrong, you can fix it. If you can’t watch it, then how are you gonna know? When you’re in the box, you feel completely different. You never feel like that’s your swing. When you’re in the box, everything is different. When you see it on film, you see I’m dropping my hands, but in the box I’m telling myself to stay on top of the ball so you don’t think you’re dropping your hands, but you’re still dropping your hands, you know what I mean?” 

DJ: “It’s almost like a best of two evils.” 

JA: “Yeah, yeah.” 

DJ: “Back on the field, clearly you’re obviously from a very athletic family. For you, was it just baseball all the time?” 

JA: “My older brother played soccer, my oldest brother played basketball too and Nolan just played baseball. He played soccer for a little, but then went with just baseball. For me, I played basketball also. Basketball is my favorite sport.” 

DJ: “Oh, really?” 

JA: “Yeah, it was. Basketball is just so much fun. You go out and shoot down the street by your house and technically that’s practicing, you know what I mean?” 

DJ: “Oh yeah. Baseball obviously you can go hit off the tee, but basketball, I mean I shot for 20 minutes at the gym today and you feel great.” 

JA: “Yeah, you can work on so many different things. If you’re hitting like crap that day, then it’s really hard to fix it that day. Basketball, if you’re shooting and keep shooting, eventually it’s going to go in.” 

DJ: “So, who’s your team?” 

JA: “Oh, the Lakers. Unfortunately, yeah.” 

DJ: “Are you feeling good about the rebuild or how are you feeling about all that?” 

JA: “I don’t know, man. Magic Johnson’s in there, so I hope he’s the answer. But they need to get a superstar. The Lakers are my team, they have always been my team, but the players on the team are bothering me lately.” 

DJ: “I’m sure you and your brother Nolan and all of your brothers competed against each other all the time growing up. Whether it be shooting hoops or playing video games or anything else, what was the one thing, especially with Nolan, where you knew you could beat him no matter what?” 

JA: “Oh man, that’s tough. It’s really hard to beat him. Him losing to me is like death, but he’ll do anything he can to not lose to me because he knows if I win I’ll talk. I’ll just keep talking about it. It’s hard to say. There’s days in ping pong, I’m not gonna say I’m a better ping pong player, but we’re both pretty competitive. If I beat him in ping pong, I mean, it’s over. He’s distraught and then he’ll just want to rematch me until he can beat me.” 

DJ: “If you beat him, you said you’re a talker. What’s your go-to angle when it comes to trash talk?” 

JA: “I just never let him forget it. If I beat him in ping pong that series or that day, you better believe all day I’m gonna wear it out.” 

DJ: “Were you guys video game guys at all or more outside?” 

JA: “We played video games here and there. Mostly it was outdoors. Wiffle ball was always big with me and my family. We still play to this day. We still play wiffle ball all the time.” 

DJ: “Wiffle ball, you’re in the backyard 1-on-1. Who wins between you and Nolan and if you have one pitch, what are you throwing him?” 

JA: “Throwing him? I’m throwing fastball at his face.”

DJ: “Fastball at his face?!?” 

JA: “I’m just kidding, just kidding.” 

DJ: “That might be the only way the Giants can slow him down.” 

JA: “I’ll throw some chin music and then try to throw a little changeup away.” 

DJ: “I got you there, I got you. One last question. Video game wise, if EA Sports could bring back college baseball or college football, what are you picking?” 

JA: “Baseball.” 

DJ: “That was the go-to right there.” 

JA: “I forgot, but there was a college baseball game. I forgot which one it was that we played all the time, but it was one of the best games we ever played.” 

DJ: “I remember they had Texas on the cover or something like that—”

JA: “Exactly! That’s exactly the one.” 

DJ: “They have to bring it back.” 

JA: “That game is the best.” 

Would Giants take another shot at risky starting pitcher?

usatsi_11403702.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Would Giants take another shot at risky starting pitcher?

SAN FRANCISCO — There are generally two types of starting pitchers: Those who have been hurt, and those who will get hurt. 

That’s just the reality of pitching, and despite the risks, just about every team will dive into the starting pitching market this offseason. It’s just too hard to have a fully homegrown rotation. Even when he was with the Dodgers, a player development powerhouse over the past decade, Farhan Zaidi occasionally gave out tens of millions to starting pitchers. 

The Dodgers tried to mitigate some of the risk by signing veterans to shorter deals, but even that was a mixed bag. 

Scott Kazmir signed a three-year, $48 million deal after the 2015 season and made just 26 starts for the Dodgers. Brandon McCarthy got that much over four years, and he made double-digit starts just once over the next three seasons. Rich Hill signed for — you guessed it — $48 million over three years and has pitched well, although the Dodgers have at times managed his workload. 

Zaidi may change his methods now that he’s in San Francisco, but in Los Angeles the front office certainly had a type. Andrew Friedman and Zaidi were not afraid to take risks on older players, knowing that they had the rotation depth to make up for injuries. At the same time, they shied away from the massive deals, which lessoned the blow a bit when those guys got hurt. 

This year’s list of free agents presents some guys who would fit that mold. J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton are on the high end of that market in terms of talent, and guys like Gio Gonzalez and Anibal Sanchez should fit the “two-year contract” mold. Perhaps a marquee starter like Dallas Keuchel finds the market to be unexpectedly cold. 

There’s one guy, though, who fits right in with McCarthy, Hill and Kazmir in terms of risk and reward. Nathan Eovaldi is a late bloomer who twice has had Tommy John surgery. At the same time, he’s only 28 years old, his fastball averages 97 mph and he was one of the stars of the Red Sox run to a title. 

Eovaldi checks off a lot of those boxes that made guys like Hill attractive to the Dodgers. When he’s right, he’s dominant, and in the postseason he certainly showed that he’s a selfless teammate, something that’s important to Zaidi and to the holdovers in the Giants front office. 

The Giants could look at the health concerns in a couple of ways. They have the starting depth — with the emergence of Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez — to monitor someone like Eovaldi closely and try to maximize his performance without running him out there 33 times. On the other hand, the Giants have a $130 million starter (Johnny Cueto) on the shelf and they’re unsure of what they’ll get from a $90 million starter (Jeff Samardzija). Any pitcher with Eovaldi’s injury history may scare them off from the start. 

With the Dodgers, Zaidi wasn’t scared off by injuries. The Dodgers took big swings to try to add rotation depth, and Eovaldi would certainly fit with Zaidi’s past pursuits. 

MLB free agency debate: Where will Manny Machado sign this offseason?

MLB free agency debate: Where will Manny Machado sign this offseason?

Editor's note: Each day this week, Giants insider Alex Pavlovic and A's reporter Ben Ross will debate where one of the top five free agents might land this offseason. Wednesday's free agent to discuss is Manny Machado, a four-time All-Star infielder who has spent the last half of the 2018 season with the Dodgers.

ALEX: Ben, people have been looking forward to this free agent class for years, but it ended up being a little underwhelming. Clayton Kershaw didn't opt out, guys like Dallas Keuchel, Josh Donaldson and Andrew McCutchen dropped off a bit, and former All-Stars like Hunter Pence have totally fallen off the map.

But it's still a historic class with two young superstars at the top -- Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. We talked about Harper on Monday. Machado is the better all-around player, but there's a cloud hanging over his head after his postseason behavior.

[RELATED: Debate -- Where will Brantley sign?]

Personally, I don't think that'll cost him money. Aroldis Chapman got paid and Roberto Osuna got traded to a contender. Machado will get his big deal somewhere. What do you think?

BEN: Agreed. Machado is a special talent. He’s already a four-time All-Star and still just 25 years old. He is going to get his $300+ million contract from someone. So who are the contenders? I’m thinking the Yankees and Phillies are the frontrunners.

I don’t see him staying with the Dodgers, but maybe the Angels try to make a splash? How about the Cubs or White Sox? Who am I missing?

ALEX: I do wonder if the Mets will get involved if their new GM can convince them to spend. The Angels are a nice darkhorse for a lot of these guys. Some people have speculated he could go home to Miami.

But it sounds like the Yankees and Phillies have been out in front of this one. I'm going to lean towards the Phillies, because they have to get Harper or Machado, and I think Machado is the better fit. What's the official Ben Ross prediction? 

BEN: I've thought all along he would end up with the Yankees and I'll stick with that. I know there are reports they're concerned with Machado's comments about hustling -- not to mention his other antics -- but I don't think they'll be scared off. They have the opportunity to put Machado, Stanton, and Judge all in the same lineup. I'll say Machado gets 12 years, $325 million.

ALEX: I'm going to take the under. If the Yankees aren't that serious, there aren't enough major suitors out there to push his market where he wants it to end up. I'll say the Phillies get their guy, but at $261 million over nine years.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Wednesday is dedicated to free agent infielder Manny Machado.