The Giants always planned to take a different path with their instruction this season. Gabe Kapler, who has a strong background in player development, was hired and immediately put together a 13-person staff, one that is young, diverse and ready to challenge the way organizations always have viewed coaching.
They've had to pivot over the last three months. The staff gets better at situational baseball by playing PlayStation and participating in massive simulations. The players are working on pitch grips, swings and strength by digesting detailed plans sent over by staffers. They use apps to track their progress. The finer points of the game, like playing the new dimensions at Oracle Park, are discussed over Zoom calls.
That creativity has allowed the Giants to continue progressing at a time when they're limited in how they can interact, and it now will be unleashed on a draft class. In a traditional summer, the Giants would sign their draft picks, take them through an in-person orientation, and send them to Arizona to play a few weeks before a stint with short-season Salem-Keizer. None of that is possible with this year's group, and the Giants will have to find a new way to make sure Patrick Bailey and the rest hit the ground running.
"I think from a strength and conditioning standpoint, it's having programs for these guys, and to whatever extent, we can develop drills for them to be working on on their own," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said. "A lot of these guys have access to cages or other types of facilities that they can work out at from a baseball standpoint. A lot of it is going to be about being able to develop a remote curriculum, which we've been working on already, for just kind of acclimating to professional baseball.
"We usually do an orientation with guys. It'll depend on how things go the next few weeks and what's allowable, but there's a lot of stuff that we usually like to do to get guys acclimated to being in professional baseball that we may have to do remotely. We're kind of hard at work putting this stuff together for these guys."
Zaidi said that there are restrictions on interaction until there's an agreement between MLB and the MLBPA, which thus far has taken weeks longer than expected and now might not happen at all. If a season does still happen, the expectation is that MLB would then provide some guidelines on what is allowable for minor leaguers.
The minor league season has not been officially canceled but will not take place. Teams are hopeful that the Arizona Fall League is extended and there are additional instructional leagues, and there's a possibility that MLB will allow "stay hot" camps at the team's spring training facilities. The Giants, for instance, could then allow some of their more advanced prospects to spend the summer in Arizona, going through daily workouts and altering their mechanics and swings.
The return of big-league play -- whatever that looks like -- is expected to include the creation of taxi squads where teams can stash 20-30 players at a facility within 100 miles of their ballpark. The Giants plan to do this with several of their top prospects, and may get pretty aggressive depending on how lenient the rules are. In theory, it's an opportunity to fast-track a few top minor leaguers at a time when more competitive opponents might be focused on depth for their big league roster. But Zaidi said he wouldn't anticipate Bailey or any other 2020 draftees being part of the taxi squad.
"My sense is that it's going to be limited numbers-wise," he said. "Whether any of our undrafted players would be in that pool I think is pretty unlikely, but hopefully there's some other accommodation that we can make on a league-wide basis for these guys."
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