Giants

Giants Review: Aramis Garcia flashes power, opens eyes in September

Giants Review: Aramis Garcia flashes power, opens eyes in September

SAN FRANCISCO — After Aramis Garcia was called up to the big leagues, his family had to wait around for nearly a week before seeing his debut. With the way Garcia would go on to play the rest of the year, they should have plenty of opportunities to watch him at AT&T Park. 

Garcia was the standout of September, backing a strong run at the plate with solid defense behind it and a surprising ability to handle first base. No player upped his stock over the final month more than Garcia, who might have changed the organization’s thinking at a crucial backup spot. We’ll get to that in a second. First, the highs and lows from Garcia’s 2018 season: 

What Went Right

Garcia was called up on August 26 when Buster Posey committed to hip surgery, but he didn’t play until August 31. He made the most of that opportunity, crushing a solo homer for his first MLB hit. Garcia joined Eliezer Alfonzo as the only Giants catchers to pick up their first hit and homer on the same swing. From that day on, he led the Giants in homers (four) and tied for the lead in RBI (nine) despite not playing every day. 

Per Statcast, Garcia had the highest hard-hit rate (40.6) of any Giant who got at least 50 at-bats. He was third on the team in average launch angle (18.6) and slugged .492 in his 63 at-bats (for comparison’s sake, no full-time catcher in the NL finished above .485). 

Defensively, Garcia has a reputation as a good game-caller and solid defender, and that showed in limited time behind the plate. He made 10 appearances at first and surprised the staff with how easily he transitioned and how many difficult plays he made. 

What Went Wrong

Garcia had a .500 BABIP, which is about 200 points higher than you would expect, so the .286 batting average was pretty flukey. He struck out in 47 percent of his at-bats and walked just twice in 65 plate appearances. He certainly hit the ball hard a lot and the homers were impressive, but there are red flags hidden in his numbers. 

You can't ignore what Garcia did in the majority of his season, either. He had a .233/.287/.395 slash line in 80 Double-A games and went .237/.268/.263 in 10 Triple-A games. The Giants will weigh all that against what he did in September. 

Contract Status

Garcia has two minor league options remaining. 

The Future

Garcia was drafted as a bat-first catcher and had some impressive swings in September, so it’s fair to think that he can be much more productive than the player the Giants saw in the minors this season. At the same time, his peripherals say he’s not the slugger they saw in September. Regardless, he opened eyes.

"This was a good chance to see what he was about and this kid has shown a lot,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He's shown toughness and his ability to handle major league pitching, so that'll be a tough decision -- do we keep his development going or is he ready (to be the) backup?"

That decision will depend on what a new head of baseball operations wants to do with Nick Hundley. If the Giants can bring Hundley back on another one-year deal, they likely will, ticketing Garcia for more development at Triple-A. If they don’t bring Hundley back, Garcia looks ready to handle life as a backup catcher. The Giants believe his glove is ready, and he’s shown enough promise at the plate that they should be comfortable that he can clear the standard for backup catchers.

It’s also possible that the Giants carry Hundley and Garcia on their bench at some point. The rookie showed he can adequately back up first base and provide pop off the bench, and with Posey coming off hip surgery, there’s a chance the Giants will carry three catchers early in the season. 

Will Smith thanks Giants fans, Bruce Bochy after signing with Braves

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USATSI

Will Smith thanks Giants fans, Bruce Bochy after signing with Braves

Will Smith spent the last three-and-a-half years with the Giants. He missed one of those seasons to Tommy John surgery, but certainly will never forget his time in San Francisco. 

Smith, 30, signed a three-year, $39 million contract on Thursday to go home and join the Braves. The veteran reliever expressed his gratitude to Giants fans with a message sent to NBC Sports Bay Area's Amy Gutierrez later that night. 

Smith went out of his way to thank the Giants, their fans, the training staff and former manager Bruce Bochy. 

View this post on Instagram

Talked to @white_willy13 about his time with the @sfgiants. He will be missed and I want to personally wish him all the best with the @braves. Here’s what he wanted to say to the fans, the team and the Giants organization: I’d like to thank the Giants for giving me the opportunity that they did back in 2016.. it was my first taste of the playoffs I’ve had in my career and it is something I’ll never forget. The Giants are a first class organization hands down and welcomed me and my family with the utmost respect. Without their training staff, coming back from TJ surgery would not have been possible and for that I am forever thankful. Furthermore, I can never express the gratitude I have for Boch. Playing for him was an absolute honor. To my teammates... thank you for having my back on and off the field. Thank you for thinking as highly of me as I do of you and honoring me with the Willie Mac award. Something I will forever have and take with me from my time with you guys. Thank you for all the good times. And to the fans thank you for the constant support and loyalty. I’ll never forget my time wearing the orange and black. #BeatLA

A post shared by Amy Gutierrez (@amyg) on

San Francisco acquired Smith from the Brewers on Aug. 1, 2016, right before the MLB trade deadline. When healthy, he was Mr. Reliable for the Giants. 

[RELATED: How Smith signing with Braves affects the Giants' bullpen]

Smith made his first All-Star Game appearance this past season with San Francisco. He finished the year with a perfect 6-0 record, 2.76 ERA and had 34 saves. 

Over his two-and-a-half seasons on the Giants, Smith went 9-4 with a 2.70 ERA and saved 48 games.

MLB rumors: Giants have checked in with Marcell Ozuna representatives

MLB rumors: Giants have checked in with Marcell Ozuna representatives

The Giants finally gave fans a reason to be excited about their outfielders last season after years of disappointment.

They found a diamond in the rough with Mike Yastrzemski, and Kevin Pillar is expected back next year after knocking 21 homers and bringing defensive highlights every night. And yet, the outfield still has question marks. 

It's unclear this early in free agency if new general manager Scott Harris will explore adding a veteran bat to the mix. Nevertheless, the Giants reportedly have eyed one of the bigger names on the open market. 

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported Wednesday night that the Giants "have at least checked in with the representatives" for free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. This isn't the first time the Giants have been tied to Ozuna this offseason, either. 

Earlier this month, MLB Trade Rumors predicted Ozuna to sign a three-year, $45 million contract with San Francisco. His age -- he turned 29 years old two days ago -- and power (29 homers in 2019) make plenty of sense for the Giants to explore. 

[RELATED: How Smith signing with Braves affects the Giants' bullpen]

Ozuna was handed a qualifying offer from the Cardinals going into this offseason, and declined it on Thursday. Any team that signs Ozuna would lose a draft pick next June, but not their first-round pick. However, the Giants will gain a draft pick from the Braves signing Will Smith, and the same goes for any team that signs Madison Bumgarner

Since 2014, Ozuna has averaged 24 homers per season. He easily would be the Giants' biggest power threat right away, something San Francisco has lacked for years.