Giants

Giants should target Cardinals prospect Dylan Carlson in Will Smith trade

Giants should target Cardinals prospect Dylan Carlson in Will Smith trade

The Giants added a former local prep star full of power when they selected Hunter Bishop out of Arizona State with the No. 10 pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. They could use the same philosophy at the July 31 MLB trade deadline. 

As the Cardinals reportedly have long been interested in a trade for Giants closer Will Smith, the Giants should be just as interested in a Cardinals outfield prospect. Sacramento native Dylan Carlson, who was the No. 33 overall pick out of Elk Grove High School in the 2016 MLB Draft, is the exact kind of player the team needs. 

Carlson, 20, is a 6-foot-2 switch-hitting outfielder, who has crushed the ball this season for the Cardinals' Double-A affiliate. Through 81 games for the Springfield Cardinals, Carlson is hitting .294 with 14 home runs and a .902 OPS. He's stolen 13 bases, too. 

Though many outlets project Carlson as a right fielder in the major leagues, he has the ability to play all three positions in the outfield. This season, he's played 62 games in center field, nine in right and five in left. He also has showcased a strong arm with 32 career outfield assists in the minors.

While every member of the Giants outside of Smith was on vacation during the All-Star break, Carlson joined Giants prospects Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos on the NL squad at the Futures Game. He started in right field and went 1-for-2 with an RBI single. And he's been on fire since showcasing his talents against the best prospects in baseball. 

In three games since the Futures Game, Carlson has gone 8-for-15 and hammered a solo shot to right field Thursday night. 

Carlson is an interesting case to look at with him being a switch-hitter, too. He has way more at-bats left-handed this year than from the right side -- 253 to only 60 -- and has had some more success as a lefty. From the left side, he's hitting .300 with 10 homers and a .917 OPS compared to .267 with four long balls and an .838 OPS right-handed. But many evaluators believe his right-handed swing is more consistent.

Here's a look at Carlson's spray chart for his entire career in the minors, via Baseball Savant. It's clear he has power to all field as a switch-hitter. 

The Giants need right-handed power hitters with how Oracle Park plays, but Carlson being a switch-hitter shouldn't scare off the front office. His left-handed power could be just as valuable if the team does indeed move in the fences to cut off Triples Alley in right-center field. 

[RELATED: Five bold predictions for Giants in second half of season]

Now, would the Cardinals trade their No. 2 prospect who looks to be on the fast track to the big leagues? Trying to acquire him surely will be a tough game of tug of war for the Giants front office, and it could certainly cost more than a few months of Smith. If that is the case, the young outfielder is worth it. 

The Giants need to get younger, more powerful and more athletic at the trade deadline. Carlson checks all the boxes. 

Why Giants brought in umpires for second round of bullpen sessions

Why Giants brought in umpires for second round of bullpen sessions

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Andrew Suarez kicked at the dirt on the bullpen mound Saturday and looked in at his catcher, most of what he saw was similar to every other bullpen session of his life. There was one key difference, though: An umpire in full uniform crouched behind the catcher.

Suarez fired a fastball, and the umpire emphatically pointed a finger to his left, signaling a strike. 

"It was different, but I liked it," Suarez said. "You get a good feel for the plate."

The Giants have made a lot of subtle changes to drills under manager Gabe Kapler and a 13-person coaching staff. Pitchers fielded pop-ups Sunday, an extreme rarity in a sport where the default move for a pitcher is to get out of the way and let an infielder take over. The outfield drills more closely resemble the NFL combine, with cones meticulously set up and coaches focusing on change-of-direction. But the biggest difference through a week of camp has been the addition of three real professional umpires to bullpen sessions.

The Giants brought the umpires, who live locally, in for their second round of bullpen sessions. They have four mounds going at a time and pitchers could opt out if they preferred to just throw to a catcher, but they seemed to enjoy the extra touch of intensity. Kapler said it was something he did in Philadelphia. 

"The concept obviously is to try to create heightened awareness and add a little competition to it," Kapler said.

[RELATED: How Giants plan to build on submariner Rogers' 2019 debut]

When Andrew Bailey met with coaches earlier this month, one thing the new pitching coach preached was making sure every pitch of every bullpen session had a purpose. The Giants record every session and pitchers can stop to watch video or get the spin rate or velocity on a previous pitch. The hope was that the addition of umpires would ramp up the intensity a bit, but Kapler said it wasn't just designed for pitchers. 

"The catchers are getting some feedback," Kapler said. "The bullpen sessions are as much for the catchers as they are for the pitchers, and you see how much attention and emphasis our catching coaches are putting on receiving. I think it's been good so far."

Why Austin Slater took grounders at shortstop during Giants' workout

Why Austin Slater took grounders at shortstop during Giants' workout

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brandon Crawford took his turn, showing off his usual defensive skills while taking a set of grounders at shortstop on a back field at Scottsdale Stadium. Then came Maurico Dubon, and then Kean Wong and Austin Slater. 

Wait, Austin Slater? 

This is Camp Versatility, but even by that standard, it was a bit surprising to see Slater getting work in as a shortstop Friday morning. He then moved on to work at second base, and manager Gabe Kapler said Slater wasn't just having fun. He'll get reps at all four infield spots this spring, along with his usual work in the outfield. 

Slater, getting ready for his fourth big league season, is into it. But what exactly is his position right now?

"I'm a Right Handed Batter's Box," he said, laughing. 

The Giants, as you might have heard a time or two, are going all-in on platoons, and Slater could be a big part of that. He had a .838 OPS against left-handed pitchers last season and could be a nice counter to Alex Dickerson and Mike Yastrzemski in the outfield and Brandon Belt at first base. 

But platoon life isn't just about the other day's starting pitcher. The Giants know they have a talent deficit. They hope to gain an edge by literally exploiting every platoon advantage they can over nine innings.

There could be times when Slater pinch-hits for Belt, or for Crawford, with a more natural shortstop like Mauricio Dubon sliding over to short and Slater getting a few innings at second base. 

"The mentality is let us over-prepare right now and see how the roster stacks up," Slater said. "I enjoy doing it."

Slater has 23 big league starts at first base but just a handful of innings at second and third. But he has nearly 900 minor league innings at second base and last year the Giants had him try third 11 times in Triple-A. He has always done extra infield work during batting practice, so this is just a natural extension for the 27-year-old. It could also be his best way onto the roster. 

It'll be an interesting spring for Slater defensively, but the real work will be done in the cages. He has more raw power than most on the roster but just nine homers in 544 plate appearances. 

[RELATED: Giants ship Smith to A's in Bay rivals’ first trade in 16 years]

Slater made swing changes last offseason to try to increase his launch angle and is continuing to work on that this spring. He lit up when talking about the three new hitting coaches, saying they already have a good understanding of what he's trying to do.

The Giants can do all they want with defensive positioning to get Slater on the field more often, but they do need to see that pay off with more power production for the lineup. 

"I think we want to create the best possible path for Austin, so when he drives the ball he drives it in the air," Kapler said. "He definitely has raw power, dating back to his time at Stanford. We know about the pedigree and we just want to see that come out frequently in games."