Giants

Giants Mailbag: Could young starting pitchers be headed for bullpen?

Giants Mailbag: Could young starting pitchers be headed for bullpen?

While the Bay Area focused on the 49ers this week, the Giants had their eyes on a different patch of grass. They're currently holding their developmental camp in Scottsdale, giving prospects an early chance to impress before the real fun starts next month:

We're two weeks from FanFest, and a few days after that, the players will actually take the field under new manager Gabe Kapler for the first time. Baseball season is coming fast, so let's run through another round of Giants questions (from my Instagram followers) as we wait for pitchers and catchers to report ... 

"In all seriousness Alex -- why should I watch/spend money on the Giants in 2020?" -- erniepomin

Well, first of all, we have a new state-of-the-art set that'll allow us to do a lot of cool things on the pre-game show next season, so that's a start. Plus, Kruk and Kuip! Come on, that's all you need. 

As for the team, I've long said that I'll never tell people how to spend their money when it comes to the Giants. It can get expensive, so if you'd prefer to sit out a couple years, you have every right to do so. But, I do think this season is going to be more interesting than the past couple. 

I happen to think "youth breaking through" is an intriguing storyline, so shortstop Mauricio Dubon and pitchers Tyler Beede and Logan Webb could provide plenty of reasons to watch early on. Catcher Joey Bart will be up at some point this year, and there's a chance that somebody like outfielder Jaylin Davis or infielder Chris Shaw finally puts it together.

Every Johnny Cueto start has the chance to provide plenty of entertainment regardless of the team's record.

Regardless of your feelings about Gabe Kapler, I do think it'll be interesting watching a different manager pull the levers for the first time in over a decade. If you're tuning in expecting to watch a win, you'll be disappointed more often than not. But if you try and view this as the start of something, I think you'll have a lot more fun in 2020. 

Are the Giants one of the rumored teams to have made a multi-year offer to Ozuna?" -- mgmatter17

I never once heard of any interest in Marcell Ozuna this offseason, and the fit wasn't really there. He's a good player, but not a game-changer, the type you re-arrange all your (rebuild) plans for. And if he was looking to re-establish his value as a power hitter, Oracle Park is a terrible place to play. 

"Is Sean Hjelle going to be one of the main focuses for at least early spring training?" -- aedinbratton18

Hjelle, the organization's top pitching prospect, is always going to be a focus purely because of his height. You can bet that early in camp someone will tweet out a photo of him dwarfing his fellow pitchers. 

But seriously, he will get plenty of attention for what he's capable of. He spent limited time in San Jose so we haven't really seen much of him, and it's going to be fascinating to see what his mechanics look like in early bullpen sessions. Hopefully, he's able to get into a game or two before getting sent to minor league camp. 

"Who will be the Giants' ace now that Bum is gone?" -- dianebertocchinoonan

Cueto has done it before, but he is coming back from Tommy John and there's a decent chance he gets traded before the end of his deal. Long term, this is a hell of a question.

Beede and Webb have the stuff to get there eventually and Hjelle is their top pitching prospect, but the organization is pretty thin on high-end starting pitching. I don't think you can look at anyone the Giants have right now and think, "He's going to start on Opening Day in 2022."

"If Beede or Webb don't make the rotation, do you think they'd let them pitch out of the bullpen?" -- _juanvillaseno_

This is a question we'll legitimately be asking in a couple weeks, because Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Drew Smyly and Kevin Gausman have the inside track on four spots. Either one of these young guys could be a good bullpen piece, but the Giants aren't ready to go there. 

They really made a commitment last year to giving Beede a shot in the rotation, even when he had some brutal starts, and he showed what he's capable of at times. The Giants are going to give him every opportunity to make the rotation his long-term home. As for Webb, there's been enough "innings limit" talk this offseason that it seems likely he starts the year in the minors, but he's definitely still a starter. 

[RELATED: Giants sign veteran Drew Smyly]

The caveat here is that I do think the Giants will try some new things this year, using semi-regular openers and potentially "piggybacking" guys, allowing them to go 3-4 innings at a time. That might lead to some "relief" appearances for young starters. 

"Why will Logan Webb have an innings limit this season?" -- tyler.j.burton

Webb threw 104 2/3 innings in 2018 but was limited to 103 across all levels last season because of the suspension. Ideally, he would have gotten around 130-140 last year, but that wasn't possible, so the Giants will hold him back a bit this season so he's not jumping from 103 to 160-170. 

Remember, he just turned 23. His health is a priority right now, even if that costs him some time in the Majors. 

"Will ticket prices drop this season with the current state of the team?" -- rioscristian15

I'm not sure of exact rates -- the Giants usually talk about that side of the business at their media day in March. I will say, it's pretty easy to find a cheap ticket to a game on the secondary market during the season. A lot of fans told me they were getting in for like $6 the last couple of seasons. Take advantage of the lack of interest while you can. 

"Which core veteran player is most likely to have a good bounce-back year?" -- shockmaan

I know the staff is really excited about working with Brandon Belt and there's a belief that Buster Posey will be much more productive after a normal offseason. I don't know which veteran is most likely to bounce back, but I will say I'm most curious to see what kind of season Brandon Crawford turns in. 

He's 33 now, but he's athletic enough that the age shouldn't be an issue yet, and he's not far removed from All-Star caliber play. Crawford hit .292./.363/.462 in the first half of 2018 and basically carried the lineup for weeks at a time. There are newcomers to the organization who have looked back at that stretch to see what the difference was, because it really wasn't that long ago. 

"Any way to find out if they are adding anything crazy to the menu like a 25-inch corndog?" -- takem84

The Giants traditionally unveil new menu items and giveaways at their media day. Last year, I asked my bosses if a cameraman could follow me around as I ate every single thing at the stadium and they somehow said yes. That ultimately led to me standing in the heat at SunTrust Park eating a burger covered in chicken tenders, nacho cheese and tater tots. Life comes at you fast. 

"Favorite restaurant to hit up during spring training?" -- uscgabe

The lock of the spring is that every Giants beat writer and a dozen team employees will be at ChopShop after the first team workout on February 12. That's the go-to for lunch, and The Mission is the place you have to hit up for dinner. I also try to visit Rudy's BBQ a couple of times because it's a Texas treasure that has somehow found its way to Arizona.

(Full disclosure: There's a Chick-fil-A outside half the Cactus League ballparks and a Shake Shack in the Scottsdale mall, so spring training is peak "This place doesn't exist in San Francisco so I might as well go here 17 times while I'm in Scottsdale" season.)

Pregame decision, sloppy defense cost Gabe Kapler, Giants in 7-6 loss

Pregame decision, sloppy defense cost Gabe Kapler, Giants in 7-6 loss

It almost seemed like a mistake when the Giants' lineup card was posted.

Steven Duggar, the best defensive outfielder on the roster, was listed in left field. Alex Dickerson was the right fielder for just the second time in his big league career. 

It seemed like a mixup, but Gabe Kapler explained before Monday's game why it made sense. Left field at Coors Field has significantly more real estate than right, and the gap is much harder to play on that side of the field. Kapler said the staff had gone over the spray charts for Rockies hitters and decided it made more sense to put Duggar, who had two previous professional innings in left, there Monday. 

"It's a little bit unpredictable," Kapler said in the afternoon. "Sometimes you get that right and sometimes you don't."

A few hours later, it felt like the decision ended up being costly. Dickerson, who previously had only played right when Brandon Belt was the left fielder, had two misplays in the five-run sixth inning of a 7-6 loss to the Rockies. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

With the Giants up by a run, Ryan McMahon hit a one-out shot to right that Dickerson got a glove on as his feet hit the warning track. But he bobbled the ball and dropped it as McMahon raced into third. The Rockies took the lead later in the inning on a single to right that turned into a two-run play when Dickerson's throw back to the infield overshot the cutoff man. Pitcher Wandy Peralta and catcher Chadwick Tromp ended up converging on the ball near the dugout as the trail runner easily took a vacated plate. 

Kapler said a night like that does lead to second-guessing, but he added that "sometimes you set them up and you set them up the right way and it doesn't work out."

"In hindsight, you question was that the right call. Honestly I bet Dick makes that (catch) 19 out of 20 times," Kapler said. "The throw, I bet he makes almost every time. There's no question."

The Giants were confident in their process, but at this point it might be hard to be too confident in how those decisions will play out on the field. The defense has been a mess through 11 games, a bit of a surprise given the intensity of both camps. They lead the NL with 13 errors. Evan Longoria booted a grounder in the first inning that led to the first run off Johnny Cueto, who was later charged with two more on a Nolan Arenado homer. 

That blast, Arenado's first of the year, started the five-run outburst. The Rockies kept tacking on thanks to the defensive mistakes, and perhaps the pre-game decision. 

[RELATED: How Giants are developing players at alternate site]

Dickerson said the switch might have factored in "a little bit" on the angles he took and said something caught his eye on the throw, perhaps because he was in an unfamiliar spot. But Dickerson said there were no excuses, and those were plays that should have been made regardless of his lack of experience in right. 

"At the end of the day you're still an athlete," he said. "You've got to be able to go catch a ball like that. I just kind of had one of those innings where there were two big flukes that really cost us."

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 7-6 loss to Rockies

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 7-6 loss to Rockies

BOX SCORE

Through their good times and bad early on this season, there's been one consistent theme for the Giants. They've been sloppy defensively, and on Monday that was a killer.

The Rockies scored five runs in the sixth, pushed along by a couple of defensive misplays from right fielder Alex Dickerson, and held on for a 7-6 victory. The Giants fell back a game under .500.

Here are three things you have to know from the first night of a 10-game road trip:

Step in the Right Direction

Johnny Cueto entered with a 5-2 record and 3.26 ERA in eight career starts at Coors Field, which is rare, obviously. He had his longest start of the young season, going five innings for the first time and allowing three runs, two of which were earned.

Cueto was cruising along until Nolan Arenado did what he has always done, crushing an elevated fastball into the empty seats for a two-run homer. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Same Old Nolan

Arenado entered the game with a .226 average and no homers, but he took Cueto halfway up the bleachers in left in the sixth inning. That was the last batter Cueto faced. 

The homer was the 228th of Arenado's career, which moved him past Carlos Gonzalez and into fourth place on the franchise list. He has hit 227 of those against the Giants.

[RELATED: Nine observations from GIants' homestand]

Still Powerful

The Giants hit some long homers on the 3-3 homestand and kept crushing on their first night in the best hitter's park around.

Chadwick Tromp homered for the second straight day and red-hot Mike Yastrzemski hit his third in 11 games. The most impressive shot came from Dickerson, who one-handed a low slider over the right field wall. It was his second career homer off a lefty. Coors!