Giants

Drew Ferguson focused on skill Farhan Zaidi coveted to make Giants roster

Drew Ferguson focused on skill Farhan Zaidi coveted to make Giants roster

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For young players in camp, every inning in a Cactus League game is an opportunity to add to the resume and pad a stat line that hopefully will put you on the roster when decisions are made.

Perhaps you'll be the position player who hit .392 or slugged six homers and can't be sent to the minors. Or the pitcher who compiled a 1.50 ERA.

That's what has made Drew Ferguson stand out to the staff this spring. With the pressure on, he has been his usual, patient self, working counts and trying to have good plate appearances in situations where others might be swinging for the fences. That's exactly what Farhan Zaidi, the man who ultimately will decide Ferguson's fate, wants to see. 

"It's tough in this kind of setting with this kind of sample size to expect a certain stat line," Zaidi said. "I don't think he has a lot to show for a lot of those quality at-bats. But we're not going to evaluate him based on the batting average. We're looking for overall at-bat quality."

That's a good sign for Ferguson, who was in a tough spot to begin with. As a Rule 5 pick, he must make the Opening Day roster or else he'll almost certainly end up back with the Houston Astros. The Giants don't want Ferguson to feel that pressure. They want him to be himself, and he certainly has shown that.

While getting the opportunity to lead off on Saturday, Ferguson took a close 2-2 pitch from Cole Hamels and then drew a walk ahead of Buster Posey. The high was followed by a low -- Ferguson got picked off. 

Overall, the 26-year-old is hitting just .143 this spring, but he has a more respectable .333 on-base percentage thanks to five walks in 27 plate appearances. 

There will be growing pains, but Zaidi said he feels Ferguson has run the bases well and played good defense in center field. The coaching staff views him as one of the fastest players in camp. And, "he has had really good at-bats," Zaidi said.

That's something that has always been the key for Ferguson, who doesn't have prototypical size or a big school background. He's listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, and was a 19th-round pick out of Belmont University, but throughout his minor league career with the Astros, Ferguson showed an innate ability to get to first base. 

Ferguson has a .393 on-base percentage in the minors and posted a .432 OBP in 316 plate appearances across two levels last season. In 65 Triple-A games, the center fielder had a .305 average and .436 OBP. 

"I kind of realized when I was younger that it was important," he said. "I followed advanced stats in high school and already knew about sabermetrics and analytics, whatever you want to call it. I kind of just saw that it's really important to get on base. I think I just prioritized that over the years and developed the skill, and the Astros, they valued that skill as well, and helped me develop it further."

The Giants could use more of it. Much more. 

They finished 28th in the majors last year with a .300 on-base percentage, their lowest team mark in 33 years and the eighth-lowest in franchise history. All 10 postseason teams finished in the upper half of the majors in on-base percentage, and in an era when launch angle is all the rage and players are changing their swings to get loft, Ferguson remains focused on the stat that was at the heart of the previous revolution.

"Here's the thing," he said, "People talk about the game changing or how it's going in a different direction. But it's always been valuable to not get out."

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Zaidi made that an emphasis as soon as he came on, adding hitters at all levels who do a better job of simply reaching base. He is looking for right-handed help in the outfield and views Ferguson as a potential boost, regardless of what the batting average has been this spring. 

"Drew factors in there," Zaidi said of the outfield race. "The Rule 5 guys, it's find a spot for him or lose him, so that definitely factors in."

Giants to increase minimum pay for minor leaguers before most of MLB

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Ali Thanawalla

Giants to increase minimum pay for minor leaguers before most of MLB

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stepped up to the podium Tuesday in Arizona and spent nearly every second of his half hour press conference talking about the Houston Astros. 

The cheating scandal has taken over the sport, and for good reason, but once this all passes, there are other important issues on players' minds. First and foremost for prospects and older minor leaguers is one familiar to any worker. They want to be paid what they believe is fair, and this season the Giants will take a step in that direction. 

The organization will raise the pay for minor leaguers across the board a year ahead of similar raises that will go into place across the sport for the 2021 season. According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman, who first reported the raises, the raises will add up to more than $500,000 per year for the franchise. 

That's right around the MLB minimum for just one player, so this is an issue that is far from settled from a minor leaguer's perspective. But the raises are a start, and one the Giants have been contemplating for a while. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he has wanted to do this, and the organization was headed in this direction even before he came on board. 

"There was a lot of momentum, a lot of support from ownership, from the business operations side, so it was really a consensus that had been built," Zaidi said. "There was some momentum behind it before I came into the organization. Just from a personal standpoint, I'm excited that we're able to do it.

"It does a lot of good for the organization and I think it's the right thing to do."

MLB already was set to raise Triple-A minimum salaries from $502 a week to $700, with Double-A going from $350 to $600 and Single-A going from $290 to $500. The Giants are raising the Triple-A salaries a tad higher, to $750, and will add housing allowances, per The Chronicle. 

The Giants became the second team to do this, joining the Toronto Blue Jays, who instituted raises last season. Later Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Chicago Cubs will have increases of at least 50 percent this season. 

Minor league pay is a problem that is headed for courts and has caught the attention of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who tweeted late last year that he would demand that MLB pay minor leaguers "a living wage." It makes little sense that MLB could approve raises but make players, many of whom have offseason jobs to get by, wait until 2021 to see a change in their paycheck, but Zaidi said the Giants were talking about moving the timetable up before they found out MLB was planning any raises at all. 

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The Giants have put significant resources into making life easier for their players, with a new $50 million facility now in place at Scottsdale Stadium and another one for minor leaguers being built a few miles away. Players would tell you they still could do more, though, and Zaidi said there could be further raises down the line. 

"I don't know that the adjustment that we've made for 2020 is an endpoint," he said. "I think we'll continue to evaluate it. We're going to be looking to get feedback from players on how it's helping. It's a quality of life issue, a convenience issue, a time issue. Just getting a better sense of all that is something we'll continue to evaluate."

Giants' Mike Krukow has no sympathy for Aubrey Huff, says he 'blew it'

Giants' Mike Krukow has no sympathy for Aubrey Huff, says he 'blew it'

You can add Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow to the list of people who have no sympathy for Aubrey Huff after the former first baseman was informed that he would not be welcome at Oracle Park for the celebration of San Francisco's 2010 World Series championship team this coming August.

"I think that Aubrey Huff blew it, and I think him not being included is something he needs to take to heart," Krukow said Tuesday on KNBR's "Murph & Mac Show." "I don't think it's going to affect the invitation in 20 years should he compose himself a little more responsibly on social media. He had a chance to represent the Giants away from the community, even though he's not under contract, I think it's a contract you sign for life ... I just think he's been irresponsible and he's paying a price for it.

"The one thing that never really gets discussed: In every contract you ever sign with a professional team, is they have a clause in there where they talk about how you as a player have to comport yourself in an appropriate manner. Those are words that when you sign your contract, they’ll stop the discussion and point to it and say ‘Do you understand this?’ The whole idea is to create a positive image in the community on behalf of the Giants."

The Giants are in Scottsdale, Ariz. for spring training, and several players were asked about the team's ruling on Huff. Buster Posey deferred "to the people that make the decisions," while Pablo Sandoval insisted that he "won't be sad" that Huff won't be at the World Series reunion. Krukow feels similarly.

"Me personally? No," he responded when asked if he'll miss Huff on Aug. 16.

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As San Francisco and Krukow have made clear, there's a give and take to that whole "Forever Giant" thing.