Giants

Giants' top prospects should usher in bright new era in near future

Giants' top prospects should usher in bright new era in near future

When MLB announced there would be a 60-game season, the projections weren't great for the Giants. Caesar's Sportsbook gave San Francisco the fifth-lowest win total (24.5) in the league, and ZIPS' projection (25) was just slightly better than that.

Realistically, the Giants weren't going to compete. And if they did, it was going to be a major surprise.

That was before Buster Posey made the decision to opt out of the 2020 MLB season on Friday. If San Francisco was going to struggle with him, imagine what it could be like without him.

So, yes, it's understandable if Posey's decision removed what little realistic optimism Giants fans had for this abbreviated season. With everything currently going on in the world, it would be easy to focus on the bad.

San Francisco's present might not offer a ton of hope. But luckily for Giants fans, there is plenty of reason to be excited about the not-too-distant future.

One could argue the Giants' farm system is in as good of a spot as it has ever been. It was identified as one of the five most improved in all of baseball back in January, as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has spearheaded a rapid turnaround. The system is loaded with high-quality prospects, and unlike previous times when pitching was the obvious strength, most of San Francisco's current top prospects are position players.

The Giants know how important pitching is as well as any team in the league. That's how they won three World Series titles in five years. Well, that plus some timely hitting. In the seasons since, though, they've struggled mightily on offense, which has resulted in multiple years of better draft position.

Nothing is guaranteed, but it sure seems like San Francisco has capitalized on the opportunity that was created out of that offensive deficiency and directly addressed it.

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As things currently stand, the Giants have five prospects ranked within MLB Pipeline's Top 100. That's more than they've ever had since MLB.com started ranking prospects.

Catcher Joey Bart leads the way at No. 14 overall, while 18-year-old shortstop Marco Luciano is one of the fastest climbing prospects in all of baseball, currently ranked No. 35. Outfielder Heliot Ramos, a 2017 first-round pick, lands at No. 65, and he's followed by 2019 first-round pick Hunter Bishop at No. 71. Finally, Seth Corry, one of only two pitchers currently ranked among San Francisco's top 10 prospects, comes in at No. 99.

All of those prospects are projected to reach the big leagues at some point during or prior to the 2022 season.

Then there's 20-year-old outfielder Alexander Canario, the Giants' sixth-ranked prospect, who likely just missed being included in the Top 100. It's probably only a matter of time until he is, and he might have the highest offensive ceiling of any prospect not named Luciano within San Francisco's system. 

Canario currently is projected to make his big league debut in 2023, as are 19-year-old third baseman Luis Toribio and 18-year-old outfielder Luis Matos -- the Giants' seventh and eighth-ranked prospects at the moment. Pipeline cites Toribio as possibly being "the best pure hitter" in the system, while Matos was singled out by Giants director of player development Kyle Haines as currently being underrated, but will be heard from down the line.

Filling out the remainder of San Francisco's top 10 prospects are ninth-ranked pitcher Sean Hjelle and 10th-ranked infielder Will Wilson. The 6-foot-11 Hjelle offers tantalizing potential, while getting Wilson -- the Los Angeles Angels' 2019 first-round pick -- at the Winter Meetings was a major steal.

Hjelle and Wilson are projected to make their big league debuts in 2021 and 2022, respectively, while San Francisco's current 11th and 12th-ranked prospects already have. If getting Wilson was a steal, acquiring 11th-ranked Mauricio Dubon was the equivalent of highway robbery. And 12th-ranked Logan Webb has been turning heads -- particularly Posey's -- in Summer Camp.

Many of those prospects, particularly the position players, likely would have been ranked much higher in previous years. But now, the Giants boast depth that most other teams envy.

And, that doesn't even include San Francisco's 2020 first-round pick, Patrick Bailey. As soon as he begins his professional career, the power-hitting catcher likely will fall somewhere between No. 5 and No. 7, inevitably nudging a great prospect out of the Giants' top 10.

So over the next one to three seasons, San Francisco is likely to experience a massive influx of highly-skilled, young talent, something that the franchise has been lacking since ... let's just say it's been a long time. That talent could form the backbone of a team that could contend, not just for one season, but possibly for the next decade. Or, it could be used to acquire a current star.

[RELATED: Posey's decision might make Giants revisit plans for Bart]

The Giants now are in a position where they can compete on a prospect level in any potential trade discussions for an already-established star. Of course, moving forward, they'll also be in far better financial position to compete for top free agents than they have been in recent years -- in which case they wouldn't have to sacrifice any prospects.

So, yes, the 2020 season likely wasn't going to be a very successful one to begin with, and Posey's absence should only exacerbate that. But the Giants' not-too-distant future could be very, very bright, and fans should focus on that whenever in need of some optimism.

Madison Bumgarner placed on IL after rough start to D-backs career

Madison Bumgarner placed on IL after rough start to D-backs career

This isn't how anyone expected to expected Madison Bumgarner's career with the Arizona Diamondbacks to begin.

As if his stats weren't already bad enough, the longtime Giants ace was placed on the 10-day injured list for a mid-back strain just four starts into his career in the desert.

Bumgarner allowed six earned runs over only two innings pitched Sunday in Arizona's loss to the San Diego Padres. He also allowed four home runs in a game for the first time in his career. It's now clear his struggles have been more than a rough change of scenery. 

Since the start of the season, Bumgarner has continued a troubling trend. The 31-year-old keeps declining with his four-seam fastball velocity. He topped out at 87.7 mph while getting shelled in San Diego, and his average fastball velocity through four starts this season is 87.8 mph. That's a big difference from his last season in San Francisco.

After a three-year run of his four-seam fastball dropping in velocity, Bumgarner was back up to 91.4 mph last season for the Giants. His decline in velocity this season very well could be due to back issues, but it's concerning nevertheless.

The D-backs signed Bumgarner to a five-year, $85 million contract in December. Meanwhile, the Giants signed starting pitchers Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly and Tyler Anderson to one-year deals. Gausman looked great Sunday against the Log Angeles Dodgers, Smyly has a 3.24 ERA and Anderson's is even lower at 2.14.

[RELATED: Why Kapler pulled Gausman after 80 pitches in Giants' loss]

Bumgarner, on the other hand, leads the league in losses (3), hits (20), earned runs (18), home runs (7) and hit by pitches (4).

Both D-backs and Giants fans alike surely hope this only is a minor setback for Bumgarner in the long run.

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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.


Marcus Stroman (Mets pitcher)

Stroman announced that he has opted out of the rest of the 2020 MLB season due to "too many unknowns" around COVID-19