Giants

Gabe Kapler breaks down three Giants catchers vying for starting job

Gabe Kapler breaks down three Giants catchers vying for starting job

The Giants have Buster Posey under contract for another year, and with Joey Bart and Patrick Bailey in the system, they feel they'll be set behind the plate through the end of the decade, at least. There might not be an organization in all of baseball with more catching depth if you account for all levels.

And yet, nine days from the opener, the Giants do not have a starting catcher. 

They don't even have a healthy and active catcher on their 40-man roster, as Posey has opted out of the season and Aramis Garcia is recovering from hip surgery

What was once a heated two-man duel to be the backup has turned into a three-man competition for two jobs. The organization that has for so long prided itself on catching stability may not even have a set starter this year, with Rob Brantly, Tyler Heineman and late-riser Chadwick Tromp battling for two jobs. In the wake of Posey's decision, manager Gabe Kapler has tried to stay positive.

"I think it's clear right now that we have three catchers who are putting their best foot forward and giving themselves the best opportunity to be evaluated," Kapler said. "All three of those guys have different skill sets that they bring to the table."

But, Kapler added, the Giants may not have the same two catchers "a month down the road."

Bart looms as one potential option, but for now, Kapler and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi have made it clear they need to see further development. Bart is not a candidate to stand on the line at Dodger Stadium next Thursday, but these three are. Here are the scouting reports Kapler gave on the non-roster invitees vying to replace Posey:

Tyler Heineman

The 29-year-old played in five games last season with the Marlins and signed as a minor league free agent. In that limited cameo, he had a homer off Zach Wheeler and double off Jacob deGrom. 

"Heineman, we identified as obviously a switch-hitting catcher -- those guys are always valuable -- who could do damage against velocity," Kapler said. "You always want to have a hitter on your roster or several hitters on your roster who can catch up with high-velocity fastballs because they're more prevalent around the game. That's one of Tyler's strengths. Obviously the flexibility of having a switch-hitter is important. He's also got exceptional recall. He's a good game-planner and we're really, really confident that he's going to be able to implement our pitching staff's game plans and have good recall around those, which is really important. If a pitcher is working on a specific pitch or has a specific way we want that pitcher to attack an opposing hitter, we want Tyler to be able to lead that charge and get that pitcher back on track, and he's got that sort of skill set."

Rob Brantly

The most experienced of the bunch by far, Brantly, a left-handed hitter, got 323 at-bats for the Marlins in his first two seasons and resurfaced with the White Sox in 2015 and 2017. Brantly has spent most of his career in Triple-A. Kapler got to know him last year in Philadelphia, although Brantly got just one big-league at-bat. 

"Brantly I have a lot of familiarity with from my time in Philadelphia. He's a really good at-bat against right-handed pitching, in particular, he sees pitches and really understands the strike zone well," Kapler said. He understands the strike zone well on the offensive side but also on the defensive side. He's got high energy and he's upbeat and is as positive as any person you'll be around. He's really made the clubhouse environment better."

Chadwick Tromp

The newcomer to the race, Tromp was a late addition to Summer Camp but is making a late charge. He was coming off an injury last year and played just 26 games in Triple-A for the Reds, but the Giants liked what they saw. Tromp hit two homers in a camp game on Sunday, opening some eyes. 

[RELATED: Posey's leadership will be missed by team in 2020]

"I think it's been clear over the last couple of days that he has the ability to drive the ball," Kapler said. "That's evident. I think we're all seeing that. I think the bat speed is real, I think that's something we need to be paying close attention to. It's notable that we feel like he's going to be good against left-handed pitching. In the past, he's had pretty even or even reverse splits, but I don't think we have enough of a feel for what he will do with major league pitching. We'll continue to evaluate.

He's a very good leader behind the plate and is already developing a comfortable but strong rapport with the pitchers. I think pitchers are comfortable with him, but I also think they respect him. He has strong opinions and is vocal about those opinions and he has done a nice job of leading with his words and his body language."

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 6-4 loss to Astros

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 6-4 loss to Astros

BOX SCORE

The Giants have gone all-in on advanced stats, and for good reason. But sometimes you can describe a performance in the most old-school way possible and say everything you need to do. 

Through eight innings Monday night in Houston, the Giants had three errors and just two hits. There's all you need to know. 

A rally in the ninth put the tying run on first, but the hole was too deep and the Giants lost 6-4 to the Astros. This was yet another ugly performance for a team that leads the majors with 21 errors, and the lineup flirted with a no-hitter for a couple hours.

Here are three things to know from the night the Giants fell to 2-6 on the road trip ... 

Deserved Far Better

The frustration showed on Logan Webb's face throughout the third inning, and you can't blame him. Webb needed 36 pitches to get out of the frame and gave up four runs, through little fault of his own. The young right-hander got six outs, but one grounder was booted, another was wiped away by a catcher's interference (the fourth of the year by the Giants, incredibly) and a third was thrown away. 

Only two of the five runs Webb gave up were earned, meaning he has allowed just five earned in four starts this year. He's off to a good start. It would be much better if he had a functional defense behind him.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

No Backup Plan

Donovan Solano made a couple of errors at third base, and he also whiffed on Jose Altuve's grounder that was ruled a single but had a hit probability of just four percent. Solano was starting because manager Gabe Kapler wanted to give Evan Longoria a day off, but as good as he has been at the plate this year, he is miscast at the hot corner. 

The problem for the Giants is that Wilmer Flores doesn't look like he can really play there, either, and Pablo Sandoval doesn't seem like an option. Longoria is close to an everyday player, but the Giants don't really have a good alternative when they want to give him a breather. It might be worth a shot to move Mauricio Dubon over there and let Solano and Flores stay at second base.

[RELATED: Krukow believes Astros getting "free pass" this season]

Slater Tater 

Austin Slater hit a solo shot in the eighth to get the Giants on the board. It was his third homer in three days and came on a 96 mph fastball from right-handed reliever Josh James. 

The Giants didn't have a hit against McCullers until Solano pulled a double past Alex Bregman's glove with one out in the seventh. The hit gave Solano a 15-game hitting streak, the longest by a Giant since Angel Pagan went 19 games in 2016. He later added a second double. 

Astros getting 'free pass' with no fans in 2020, Mike Krukow believes

Astros getting 'free pass' with no fans in 2020, Mike Krukow believes

It was supposed to be a season of boos for the Houston Astros. After being implicated in a sign-stealing scandal this past offseason that saw Houston's manager and general manager be dismissed and suspended from MLB for the entire 2020 season, the Astros became public enemy No. 1 among the other 29 fanbases around the league.

But the coronavirus pandemic forced MLB to play the 2020 season without fans allowed in the ballpark, eliminating the potential for trash can bangs and vocal criticism throughout Houston's games. Prior to the start of the Giants' three-game series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park, broadcasters Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper discussed how Houston is benefiting from the lack of MLB spectators.

"I think the Astros get a free pass this year because there's no fans in the stands," Krukow said on Monday's telecast. "I think that's where the abuse would have come from, they'd had signs that would have been creative, entertaining, mean-spirited, but they deserve it, they got caught."

[RELATED: Laureano-Astros brawl reminder for Giants to be responsible]

On the day before the Astros opened up the series against San Francisco, Houston was involved in a bench-clearing brawl with the A's after Oakland outfielder Ramon Laureano and Astros coach Alex Cintrón exchanged words. Laureano had been hit by a pitch three times in the series, and said the Houston coach mentioned his mother during the argument, causing Laureano to charge toward the Astros dugout.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly already received an eight-game suspension after throwing at and taunting multiple Astros hitters, and Laureano likely will be facing discipline as well.

While the Astros won't face any angry fans during the 2020 season, they shouldn't be surprised to see opposing players who were impacted by the sign-stealing expressing their frustrations.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]