Giants let go of nearly half of pro scouts as internal shuffling begins

Giants let go of nearly half of pro scouts as internal shuffling begins

SAN FRANCISCO -- For months, people throughout the Giants organization have expected sweeping changes once the final game is played. The first wave came a bit early. 

On Tuesday, the Giants let go of eight members of their pro scouting staff while informing 12 others that they will be kept on, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said. Brian Johnson, who hit a memorable homer in 1997 and later proved crucial with advance work during World Series runs, was among those let go. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the others are Steve Balboni, Darren Wittke, Matt Nerland, Tim Rock, Glen Tufts, Bob Mariano and Andy Skeels, who managed members of the current core when he was in San Jose. 

"It's a good group of people that have made contributions to this organization over, in some cases, long periods of time and been part of some big moments in Giants history on the field," Zaidi said. "It's obviously sad in that respect, but obviously we're really appreciative of their contributions over that time and we wish those guys the best." 

The Giants had one of the larger pro scouting staffs in the big leagues, but the trend throughout the game in recent years has been to rely more heavily on video work. Zaidi said the Giants will replace some of the fired scouts, but he wasn't sure how many of the spots the organization will fill. 

The Giants already have beefed up their video and analytics staff and much of the traditional "advance scouting" work can now be done by watching clips rather than having a scout in-stadium. They now have two members of the front office traveling with the team and giving data to coaches and players before every game. Zaidi said that it's becoming more and more important to dedicate scouting resources to the low levels of the minor leagues, all the way down to the Dominican Summer League and rookie ball.

"Obviously there's a huge benefit to being in ballparks and the chatter that you hear and getting to watch BP and things that you may pick up," Zaidi said. "But if you're evaluating a pitcher who is on waivers, do you go back to a spring training report or a report from June, or are you going to watch the last 10 innings that he's thrown? 

"Ideally, you have a scout or somebody with pitching expertise doing that evaluation. It's still important in a way to have that expertise and people that, when they lay eyes on a player, whether it's in person or on video, can make that assessment. But maybe some of the mechanics of how the job is done are changing."

[RELATED: How Giants recently have lost nearly all of their bullpen]

The Giants are also assessing their amateur scouting department and front office. Nearly everyone in the organization has contracts that go through just the 2019 season, so changes have long been expected. 

Giants scout compared Mark McGwire to better Dave Kingman as prospect

Giants scout compared Mark McGwire to better Dave Kingman as prospect

It was clear when watching Mark McGwire at USC that he was set for stardom in the big leagues. McGwire was an eighth-round pick in high school but then dominated for the Trojans. 

When Giants scout George Genovese saw McGwire play in March of 1984, he was blown away.

"This boy has outstanding power," Genovese wrote in his official scouting report. "... I feel he will be a good power hitter as he makes good contact and hits to all field with power. He is a tough out at the plate and it takes a good curve ball or excellent pitch to get him out." 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

As's Matt Kelly notes, Genovese even saw a better version of a former No. 1 overall pick -- Dave Kingman -- in a young McGwire.

"As much power and better contact at the plate than Dave Kingman," Genovese wrote.

McGwire wound up hitting .387 with 32 home runs, 20 doubles and 80 RBI at USC in 1984. And the Giants had a chance to select McGwire with the No. 9 pick in the '84 MLB Draft. Instead, they took outfielder Alan Cockrell, who had nine at-bats in his MLB career and never played for San Francisco.

[RELATED: Why Baer believes 2020 MLB Draft requires 'better scouting']

The A's grabbed McGwire one pick later at No. 10 overall, and he became an instant star. The powerful first baseman hit a then-rookie record 49 homers for the A's in 1987 on his way to winning AL Rookie of the Year. 

McGwire finished his career with 583 long balls. Kingman, who started his career with the Giants and ended it with the A's, hit 442. And Cockrell had two career hits ... none went over the fence.

Giants coaches believe players can get ready for shortened MLB season

Giants coaches believe players can get ready for shortened MLB season

For a few weeks now players have been eyeing the first week of July, hopeful that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association find a compromise that gets the game back on the field sometime around the time fireworks are scheduled to go off.

But every day that passes without a deal is one less day for the staff to potentially get players ready. At some point, that might lead to tension as teams look at the calendar, but for now the Giants still believe they have plenty of time to prepare for a shortened season. 

On last week's "Chalk Talk at Home," pitching coach Andrew Bailey and hitting coach Donnie Ecker said they're confident that Spring Training 2.0 can get their players ready in about three weeks. 

"I think it depends on where these guys are coming in," Bailey said. "I think we can do it in the three-week timespan. We may not be seeing a full workload, 100 pitches or whatever you see. I think that we still have to do some buildup there, but we can definitely get guys ready in that timeframe and be a little bit cautious with back-to-backs and different things and monitor (them). Ideally, the longer the better, for sure, on the pitching side of things."

Ecker said the hitting coaches -- himself, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind -- are looking at a similar timeframe, although they do have more wiggle room. 

"I think we need a lot less time from a physiological standpoint than pitchers do," he said. "The three week (schedule) is kind of a sweet spot for us to get enough live at-bats in."

While it takes some work to get your timing down, the Giants should have more than enough time to get their lineup ready. Buster Posey has often gone into a season with just a couple dozen at-bats under his belt, and the veteran-filled lineup is full of players who won't need much more than that if they're able to play games in their second spring. Pitching machines are so advanced these days that players are able to take unlimited hacks against machine-thrown breaking balls or 100 mph fastballs. Many of the team's veterans have posted clips on Instagram where they're hitting off machines at home. 

It's a bit more complicated for pitchers, but Bailey said he is starting to get calls from players who live in areas that have opened up to the point that you can throw live BP sessions and simulated games against hitters. The analytics staff put together a questionnaire that allows the Giants to track and log throwing programs on a daily basis. 

[RELATED: How would Giants feel playing in front of no fans?]

Bailey is leaning on over-communicating, and the message from the staff has been to over-prepare if possible. Ideally, the Giants would like their pitchers to come in more stretched out than they normally would, giving them flexibility when games start. 

"We'll just get creative with our staff, our usage and make sure that their workloads are okay and healthy," Bailey said. "I think obviously winning is at the forefront of everybody's mind, but keeping our players healthy for 2020 is a priority of ours as well."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]