Giants

How Giants' Mark Melancon trade helped set up team's future success

How Giants' Mark Melancon trade helped set up team's future success

For most of the last decade, the release of the MLB schedule wasn't all that dramatic for Giants fans. The organization loved to hold onto its own, and it was rare that a big name would end up elsewhere and the first matchup would be a story. 

That's changed the last couple of seasons, and Friday's game certainly would have been one that came with some juicy storylines. The Giants were supposed to be in Atlanta tonight, facing a Braves club that has built its bullpen around a pair of former Giants, Will Smith and Mark Melancon. 

The game was simulated on PlayStation's "MLB: The Show" and aired on NBC Sports Bay Area on Friday, and it was a somewhat familiar feeling for any Giants fans tuned in. The digital version of Melancon gave up a long two-run homer to virtual Hunter Pence in what was a one-run game. The Giants won 7-4. 

In real life, this game would have been part of a tough three-city trip that would have determined a large part of the early-season direction for a franchise thats rebuild kicked into a higher gear when Melancon was dealt. 

It took a while for Farhan Zaidi to earn the trust of the fan base, but he made big strides last July 31, when he managed to get out from the roughly $18 million left on a contract that partly led to the ouster of his successor. Zaidi has been pushing to find financial flexibility since he got hired, and that move certainly helped. The Giants have given out just one multi-year deal -- Wilmer Flores at $6.25 million -- under Zaidi and expect to dive back into free agency in the coming years as their previous financial commitments are cleared. 

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The underrated part of that deal, though, was the return. Dan Winkler is no longer in the organization but the Giants are excited about 23-year-old right-hander Tristan Beck, a Stanford product who had a 2.27 ERA in six starts for San Jose after the trade. The Giants sent Beck to the Arizona Fall League, where he saw an uptick in velocity. Whenever the minor league season resumes, he should head to Double-A Richmond, joining Sean Hjelle and the next wave of pitching hopefully headed to Oracle Park. 

The Melancon deal set the Giants up nicely moving forward, and it also worked out for the veteran pitcher. In the last year of that massive four-year contract, he was preparing to team with Smith on a Braves club that would have entered this season as one of the favorites in the National League.

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players

The end of the month brought a bit of good news for most Giants minor leaguers, but a potentially career-ending blow for 20 of them.

The Giants have extended their stipend program for minor leaguers through at least June 30, continuing to guarantee them $400 per week. At the same time, 20 minor league players were released Thursday, continuing a trend around the game.

The releases were not a surprise and did not involve any elite prospects. The players being let go around the game right now -- some estimates are that it could be more than 1,000 minor leaguers -- generally are players who were filling out minor league rosters and had slim chances of soon reaching the big leagues. But this is still a rough time for those players, many of whom will see their dreams end this year as the sport deals with the fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

With the draft shortened to five rounds and more than 40 minor league clubs already on the chopping block entering the season, big changes are expected over the next year regarding minor league baseball. Teams generally release prospects at the end of the spring and again before signing a new class of draft picks, but this year's group is larger than past ones. Baseball-America did research that showed teams release 22-25 minor leaguers through May in typical years, with 30-35 still falling in a normal range. The Giants had previously released 17 players in March.

[RELATED: Could Luciano make Giants roster? Zaidi considering it]

While there are some teams that have released significantly more prospects in recent days, others have committed to keeping all of their minor leaguers through the end of what would have been the minor league season. The Giants, by using June 30 as a date for extended pay, fall in line with most of the rest of the sport thus far, although they certainly have the resources to extend the program through August or even later at some point. 

The A's had previously informed minor leaguers that they will not pay players past May 31. When COVID-19 first shut down the sport, MLB announced stipends across the minors through that date.  

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Five Giants hitters who've had much more success when visiting Rockies

Five Giants hitters who've had much more success when visiting Rockies

The Giants and Rockies play 19 times every year, with three series at Coors Field and three at Oracle Park. Those games could not possibly be any more different. 

The ones in San Francisco tend to end with scores like 4-2, 2-1, or, in one wild case last year, 8-5. In Denver, it's predictably a free-for-all. There are normal games, to be sure, but the Giants also won one game last year at Coors Field by a score of 19-2. Another win was 11-8, and there was a 12-11 loss mixed in. 

That's the norm in the season series every year, with wild swings depending on where they play. There's just one real exception, and you know him well. Extrapolate Nolan Arenado's career stats at Oracle Park over a full season and you have 29 homers, 45 doubles and 95 RBI, albeit it with a .819 OPS that's nearly 200 points lower than his career mark at home.

Arenado breaks Giants' hearts no matter where he faces them, and they'll see the digital version of the third baseman in tonight's PlayStation simulation on NBC Sports Bay Area. Tonight's game would have been played in San Francisco, so it likely would have been low-scoring. 

But the Giants-Rockies matchup got us thinking: Which Giants would benefit most from switching ballparks? If you go through the roster, there are some serious outliers. Here are five Giants who stood out for their career numbers at Coors:

Buster Posey

Put Posey on the Rockies for a full season and he might take a run at his second MVP award. In 73 career games at Coors Field, Posey has a .368 average, .435 OBP and .610 slugging percentage that's 172 points higher than his mark in home games. He has 14 homers, his most in any ballpark other than Oracle. 

It all makes perfect sense. Posey has a middle-of-the-field approach, and while Coors is known for being a launching pad, it also has a massive outfield that provides Posey plenty of green to aim at. His .368 average there is the highest among active players and sixth-highest in the ballpark's history for players with more than 250 at-bats. 

The ballpark was particularly helpful in 2012 when he won his MVP award. Posey went 16-for-33 in Denver that year with three homers and nine RBI. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Donovan Solano

Like Posey, this veteran infielder has a solid approach that's tailor-made for the outfield at Coors. Solano went 9-for-18 last year with three homers and five RBI. He first played there in 2012, and overall he has a .306/.328/.597 slash line as a visitor.

Last year's demolition of Coors helped Solano become just the second player since 1979 to hit .400 on the road (minimum 100 plate appearances). He hit .402, joining Ichiro, who batted .405 on the road in 2004. 

Billy Hamilton 

There are others with better numbers -- most notably, Mike Yastrzemski loved Coors as a rookie -- but the new Giants center fielder stands out because he has never been known for his bat. At Coors Field, however, Hamilton has an .875 OPS in 18 games and a .382 OBP that's well above his low career mark (.297). 

Hamilton has never homered at Coors but has six doubles and two triples. He is a perfect 8-for-8 stealing bases. He's a perfect fit for the ballpark defensively, something that'll be fun to watch if the Giants ever make it there this summer. A ball in the gap could put us on inside-the-park watch, too. 

Evan Longoria

He has played most of his career in the American League, but he definitely took advantage of those rare trips to Coors Field, picking up 13 hits and three homers in nine games there while with the Rays. 

Longoria has kept that going as a Giant, and overall he's a .347 hitter in 18 starts at Coors Field, with a .405 OBP, .636 slugging percentage and six homers. Longoria even has four triples, his most in any ballpark other than Tropicana Field. 

[RELATED: Could Luciano make Giants roster? Zaidi considering it]

Wilmer Flores

Gabe Kapler will have some appealing options at first base for his first trip to Denver as a Giant. Brandon Belt has 10 career homers there, including a shot into the third deck a few years ago:

Flores, the right-handed newcomer, has had even more success from an OPS standpoint. He has a 1.054 mark in 15 career games in Denver, buoyed by a .423 on-base percentage. He has driven in 13 runs in just 46 at-bats there.