SAN FRANCISCO — Every August, Bobby Evans would make the drive to Sacramento to meet face to face with members of the Triple-A squad. He would either give them the good news that they were joining the big league club in September, or the bad news that their season would end with the River Cats’ final out.
Chris Shaw was told he was somewhere in the middle.
The Giants were not planning to call Shaw up in September, but when Evans, since fired, visited his Triple-A players, he was in the process of trading Andrew McCutchen to the Yankees. A few hours after that deal was announced, Shaw was on his way to San Francisco.
The month surely did not go the way Shaw hoped, but he got his first taste of the big leagues, playing in 22 games before heading back to Boston for the winter. Here are the highs and lows of the first month in The Show for a 24-year-old prospect.
What Went Right
Shaw had just one homer after getting called up, but man, did he make it count. On Sept. 3, Shaw blasted a pinch-hit, go-ahead homer at Coors Field, picking up his first career hit in the process. He became the first Giant since Damon Minor, his Triple-A hitting coach, to get his first career hit on a pinch-hit homer. The bomb had an exit velocity of 108 mph and went 468 feet, giving Shaw the longest homer of the year by a Giant and their longest since a Brandon Belt blast at Coors Field in 2015.
Shaw got off to a brutal start, striking out 13 times in his first 22 at-bats and picking up just that one homer. But he worked on swing adjustments and found traction, batting .281 over his final 11 appearances with a pair of doubles. He struck out 10 times over that stretch, but balanced that with five walks. For a minute there, Shaw was the everyday left fielder, and he generally handled himself fine on defense. That shouldn’t be a concern going forward.
Before he got called up, Shaw posted his second consecutive 24-homer season in the minors.
What Went Wrong
Shaw had to spend much of his time in the big leagues answering questions about the strikeouts, and they remain a legitimate concern. You can strike out a lot in the modern game, but the Giants still want to see Shaw cut them down, and he has tried to make that an emphasis. Shaw whiffed 144 times in 394 at-bats in Triple-A and drew just 21 walks. At the big league level, Shaw struck out in 37.1 percent of his plate appearances, which would have been worst in the majors over a full season (Chris Davis led MLB at 36.8).
Overall, Shaw hit .185/.274/.278 in his cameo, and while the one homer was impressive, the Giants were hoping to see him run into a few more. On the other side of the ball, Shaw looked fine in left field, but the staff has concerns about his arm, and teams would surely run on him if he were made the everyday left fielder.
Shaw is as fresh as it gets. He earned a prorated portion of the MLB minimum — $545,000 — in September. He has all three options remaining.
At the end of the season, Brian Sabean described Shaw’s stint as “baptism under fire.” Bruce Bochy said the 24-year-old was rushed, and while the manager went out of his way to compare Shaw to other power hitters who needed a while to develop, he added, “he needs more reps.”
Unless the Giants go into full rebuild mode, it’s hard to see a scenario where Shaw starts the 2019 season in the big leagues. Team officials have made it clear they believe he needs to continue making adjustments and playing every day in the minors, but there is some good news for Shaw. This is a lineup that desperately needs power, and Shaw is pretty much the only option at the upper levels of the minors.
He’s now on the 40-man roster, so he should get another shot at some point early next season to show that he can bring a different dimension to a light-hitting lineup.