Giants

Giants one of 'most improved farm systems' in 2019 by MLB Pipeline

Giants one of 'most improved farm systems' in 2019 by MLB Pipeline

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said from the beginning to pay attention to the younger guys who will make an impact on the team.

Whatever he has done has drawn some attention. The team's farm system landed on MLB Pipeline's most improved in 2019.

Mike Rosenbaum noted the presence of four Giants prospects on Pipelines' Top 100 list, which is the most they've had since the site began ranking prospects. 

Young shortstop Marco Luciano slashed .322/.438/.616 with 10 homers and a 1.055 OPS in the Arizona League with the Giants Orange, while 19-year-old Alexander Canario had a stellar campaign in rookie ball, posting a .395/.435/1.000 line over 10 games.

Sure, those are small sample sizes, but it doesn't stop there. 

Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos are the top two prospects in the Giants organization and were both promoted to Double-A in 2019. The former first-round draft picks made an impression on the league and gave Giants fans a reason to look toward the future. 

When asked by Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic where he anticipates Bart and Ramos playing in 2020, Zaidi said that both prospects will arrive at camp with "the opportunity but not with the guarantee of starting the season in Triple-A." Things obviously could change as time progresses. 

[RELATED: Bart showcased star potential in AFL]

The Giants are also excited by the talents of outfielder Hunter Bishop, who received praise from none other than Barry Bonds

The team's farm system has come a long way and the future looks bright. That's exactly what the Giants want. 

MLB opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

MLB opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

It's extremely common to hear about a player opting out in baseball. Stars have often had opt-out clauses for the final year of their deals, and in recent years many have given themselves the ability to opt out after just a year or two of a massive contract. At the end of every spring, non-roster invitees opt out to look for a better opportunity elsewhere. 

But this season, those two words take on a different meaning. 

Under a March agreement reached by MLB and the Players Association, high-risk players can opt out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns and still get paid. Players who are not deemed to be at a high risk can also opt out while surrendering their 2020 salaries and service time.

On the first day of the week MLB was set to return, four players opted out. Here's a rundown of where the list currently stands:

Mike Leake (Diamondbacks starting pitcher)

The 32-year-old was the first to publicly make his intentions known. Leake's agent told reporters that the right-hander "took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family." There has been some speculation that Leake had family concerns; his father was paralyzed in an accident a few years ago and that's in part why he ended up close to home with the Diamondbacks.

Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals first baseman)

Zimmerman is exactly the type of player you would think of when it comes to guys who had a difficult decision to make in recent weeks. He's 35 and now is a part-time player, and he's set for life financially and got his ring last October. In a statement put out by his agency, he made it clear this is about concerns for his family, which includes a mother with multiple sclerosis:

Joe Ross (Nationals starting pitcher)

Ross, a 27-year-old Bay Area native who is the younger brother of Tyson, also opted out June 29. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said Zimmerman and Ross decided "not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year."

Ian Desmond (Rockies outfielder)

The 34-year-old announced his decision at the end of a series of Instagram posts that examined injustices in baseball and society. It was a powerful statement, and one you should read in full here:

View this post on Instagram

On my mind.

A post shared by Ian Desmond (@i_dez20) on

Tyson Ross (free agent starting pitcher)

It was a bit of a surprise when Ross was released by the Giants last week. As a veteran who could start or come out of the bullpen, he seemed like a good fit for what they were building in March, and an even better fit in a season with no true five-man rotation. But this seems to explain the decision: 

Welington Castillo (Nationals catcher)

The 33-year-old signed a minor league deal with the reigning champs in the offseason and was set to be part of their pool:

David Price (Dodgers Pitcher)

Price was headed for the No. 3 spot in a rotation built to win it all. He said his decision was in the "best interest of my health and my family's health." 


Felix Hernandez (Braves pitcher)

The 2010 AL Cy Young winner was a candidate to fill a rotation spot for a team that should be in the postseason, but his agent made the announcement: 

After spending the first 15 seasons of his career with the Mariners, Hernandez signed a minor-league contract with Atlanta this offseason. He will turn 35 next April, when the 2021 MLB season is expected to start.

Nick Markakis (Braves outfielder)

The veteran outfielder's decision came after Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and other Braves tested positive for COVID-19, which was reportedly a big factor in his decision. Markakis, 36, hit .285 with nine homers last season for Atlanta.


Hector Noesi (Pirates pitcher)

Noesi, 33, went 0-3 and posted an 8.46 ERA across 12 appearances with the Miami Marlins last season. Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton announced the news recently:

Buster Posey (Giants catcher)

The Giants catcher became the biggest name to opt out of the MLB season to date, announcing Friday he won't play in 2020. Posey and his wife just adopted twin girls who were born prematurely last week, and he cited their health as his primary concern.

"After weighing it for a long time, talking to doctors, I just feel like in the current state that we are right now and these babies being as fragile as they are for the next four months, at minimum, this ultimately wasn't that difficult a decision for me," Posey said. "From a baseball standpoint, it was a tough decision, from a family standpoint and feeling like I'm making a decision to protect our children, I feel like it was relatively easy."

Jordan Hicks (Cardinals Pitcher)

The hardest-throwing man in the game is recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent in June of 2019. But he's also a Type 1 Diabetic which as Belleville News-Democrat reporter Jeff Jones says, could lead to complications from coronavirus. Hicks is the first on this list who is known to be high-risk, and thus he will get to keep his 2020 salary and accrue service time as he sits out. 

Michael Kopech (White Sox pitcher)

The former top prospect missed the entire 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He did not disclose the reasoning behind his decision to opt out.


Collin McHugh (Red Sox pitcher)

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke announced that the former Astros starter will not be playing in the 2020 season, but did not specify a reason.


Isan Diaz (Marlins infielder)

After the Marlins experienced an outbreak with 18 players in the clubhouse testing positive for coronavirus, Diaz decided to opt out of the remainder of the season on Saturday.


Lorenzo Cain (Brewers outfielder)

Milwaukee has had several games postponed as a result of positive coronavirus tests in the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse, and a team press release confirmed Saturday that he'll be opting out of the remainder of the season.


Shelby Miller (Brewers pitcher)

The Brewers announced Monday that pitcher Shelby Miller has opted out of the remainder of the season.

Nine observations from Giants' .500 homestand vs. Padres, Rangers

Nine observations from Giants' .500 homestand vs. Padres, Rangers

Gabe Kapler went out of his way over the last week to stand by Hunter Pence. He was asked about the struggling veteran -- who started the year 0-for-23 -- every day, and he always was positive. During one Zoom session with reporters, Kapler answered a question about another Giant and then pivoted to talk about Pence's work in the cage. 

"I have 100 percent confidence that Hunter Pence's track record is predictive of what's to come for him," Kapler said. 

The reason the Giants were so confident is quality of contact, which has become an overriding theme for the new hitting coaches. If you square three balls up and they're all hit right at guys ... I mean, there's nothing else you can do. That's what Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind preach, and Pence's metrics showed he wasn't completely out of whack. 

Pence actually is fourth on the team with an average exit velocity of 89 mph, right between early MVP candidates Donovan Solano (89.4) and Mike Yastrzemski (88.6). His launch angle is pretty similar to Solano's, too, and he's second to Brandon Crawford in percentage of batted balls (44) hit 95+ mph. 

By expected batting average -- which is based on contact -- Pence is at .215, which isn't great, but certainly isn't anywhere near the .038 average he carries right now. There's a reason the Giants are sticking with him, and he rewarded that faith a bit with a 403-foot triple, a walk, and a run Sunday. 

"It hasn't been that tough to stay positive for me, personally," Pence said. "I think there's a lot of positives because the team is playing well, and so it's been kind of easy."

The Giants went 3-3 on the homestand, showing a habit of coming back late in games, but also that their starting pitching is kind of a problem. Here are eight more takeaways from the first homestand of the year ... 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

--- Look, this won't fully last for Solano and Yastrzemski, who are BABIP gods right now. No reason not to enjoy it, though. Solano finished the first full week of the season as the MLB leader in batting average (.484) and NL leader in RBI (13). Yastrzemski is tied for the league lead with 10 runs and leads the majors with 11 walks. Both of them have a .500 OBP. Yastrzemski feels like an easy choice for NL Player of the Week. 

--- This Rockies series is a homecoming for Rico Garcia, the young right-hander who has been an early surprise out of the bullpen. Garcia made two appearances for the Rockies last year, allowing seven runs in six innings. They had taken him in the 30th round of the draft in 2016. The Giants signed Garcia as a minor league free agent and hoped that his stuff would play better out of the pen. Well ... it definitely has. 

Garcia averaged 90 mph in those two appearances last year but is at 94 in five scoreless relief outings this year, and he was bumping 97-98 on Saturday night. The command has been a little iffy, but it wasn't a huge issue for Garcia in the minors. Perhaps there's an explanation for that, too. 

"In watching Rico pitch (Saturday) I said to myself, I hope Rico is really happy with the 97 and doesn't try to get more, because I think when a pitcher gets to that level of really improving that velocity it can be encouraging and you try to throw it a little bit harder and you give up some of your command as a result," Kapler said. 

--- It was an impressive homestand from Evan Longoria, who didn't get to face live pitching for a couple of weeks as he rehabbed an oblique strain. Longoria was 6-for-14 in four games with two doubles and a long homer. His homer Sunday left the bat at 108.8 mph and traveled 416 feet. So much for rust. 

--- Tyler Heineman has done a nice job at the plate and seems to be a pretty good pitch-framer, but there have been some defensive issues. He was part of a botched rundown Saturday night and had two catcher's interference calls in his first week as the starting catcher. Kapler went into depth about what's going on.

"Early in the Dodgers series we noticed that he was considerably behind the plate, and for that reason we lost a couple of strikes, especially on big-breaking ball guys, 12-6 breaking ball guys," he said. "With (those pitchers) we want him to move up behind the plate, get closer to the plate, so he can stay with the curveball and get up underneath it and get it called for a strike. 

"We've asked him to make that adjustment, not so much on east-west guys, slider guys whose ball moves more horizontally, but definitely on that 12-6 curveball. So he's just getting used to that and sometimes that development comes with hiccups and that's why that's happening."

Heineman didn't have any issues in his last couple of appearances. 

--- Tyler Anderson had a really strong relief performance against the Padres and then gave up a three-run homer to Joey Gallo on Sunday. He's a candidate to start against his former teammates this week in Denver with Drew Smyly now on the injured list. Anderson threw just two innings Sunday. 

Losing Smyly is going to hurt. He was Kapler's best starter so far, and there's no way to survive this road trip if Logan Webb and Kevin Gausman don't show more efficiency and Samardzija keeps lacking swing-and-miss stuff. 

[RELATED: MLB power rankings: Where Giants, A's sit after 11 days]

--- Anderson had the weirdest stat of the homestand. He picked off two Padres in one inning, becoming the first Giants pitcher to pull that off since Madison Bumgarner in the first inning against the Reds on June 27, 2014. 

--- Six different Giants hit a homer during the six-game homestand, and Yastrzemski hit two. They weren't cheapies, either. It might be too early to say that it's much more of a hitter's park, but there's no doubt the ball is flying if you pull it down the right field line.

Full credit to the great Mike Krukow. He was all over that in the first exhibition game, pointing out that right field had a new jetstream because the archways have been closed off. I don't know how the science behind this works, but it's clear he was right. 

--- The quote of the year thus far comes from, not surprisingly, Samardzija. He was asked about players having "a beer" together after games but doing so while adhering to social distancing rules. He repeated the words "a beer" and shook his head.

"Plural," he said. "Go with plural."