How Giants prospect Abiatal Avelino fits Farhan Zaidi player prototype

How Giants prospect Abiatal Avelino fits Farhan Zaidi player prototype

The most eye-catching thing Abiatal Avelino did on the Giants last year was look like he's auditioning for the next Karate Kid before he walked to the plate. 

In six games with Giants after his September call-up, Avelino went 3-for-11 at the plate. The 23-year-old infielder, whom the Giants acquired from the Yankees in a trade centered around Andrew McCutchen, was praised more for his hustle and passion than his play in San Francisco.

Under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi's direction, though, Avelino can be the type of prospect the Giants need.

Originally signed by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, Avelino still is young and much more raw than polished, especially at the plate. He was repeating Double-A to start the season last year after making it to Triple-A in 2017, and wound up hitting .254 with a .767 OPS between two minor league levels in two different organizations.

What makes Avelino so intriguing, though, is his athleticism and expanding his versatility. He stole 27 bases in the minors last year, but what he's doing right now in the Dominican Winter League is the prototype of a Zaidi player on the 40-man roster. 

Zaidi's Dodgers featured a roster full of positional versatility last season. This certainly is something Zaidi wants to bring to the Giants, who have lacked multi-positional players for quite some time. 

“I do think it has a cultural impact on a roster when players move around and they don't identify as 'I'm the shortstop and I'm the third baseman,' " Zaidi said. "You're just a baseball player, and you're part of the team and you do whatever the team asks or needs of you, and that creates a different kind of culture that I think is really conducive to a winning environment."

Make no mistake, Zaidi will have to overhaul the Giants' roster a bit to make this happen. While Zaidi also serves as the Giants' GM, Avelino is the kind of athlete the team needs.

Avelino is playing this winter for the Gigantes del Cibao. He has cooled off a bit at the plate lately, but he's batting .297 with a .354 on-base percentage in 17 games so far. The best way Avelino is helping himself right now for the future is adapting defensively.

Throughout his minor league career, Avelino has primarily played shortstop and second base. For the Gigantes, Avelino still is playing some up the middle, but he's also playing a lot of third base and even wearing a bigger glove as a left fielder.

Avelino's biggest strength is his arm. On a scale of 20 to 80, MLB Pipeline rates him as having a 60-grade arm. With his speed and arm, Avelino could be a viable backup option in the Giants' outfield. 

"I think this is a roster that can use some multi-position guys on the infield to keep those guys fresh and maybe play matchups a little bit more and give some of the lefties days off against tough left-handed pitching, and vice versa," Zaidi said about the Giants' well-established, veteran infield. 

Good news -- Avelino is a right-handed hitter who can play any position in the infield, and now can add depth to the outfield. This is the kind of roster flexibility the Giants need, and just one example of a young player who can provide that.

Why Giants' improving farm system continues to rise in Keith Law's eyes

Ali Thanawalla

Why Giants' improving farm system continues to rise in Keith Law's eyes

When The Athletic's Keith Law was asked late last month which team is building the next elite farm system, all he needed was one word: Giants. 

Law further explained his reasoning Friday with KNBR's Mark Willard. While the prospect evaluator isn't head over heels about one player in general, he believes San Francisco is building its system where the sum is greater than its parts. And it all goes back to teenagers like shortstop Marco Luciano. 

Prospect like Joey Bart and Hunter Bishop, who already are 23 and 21 years old respectively aren't who make Law so intrigued. It's the players like Luciano (18), Alexander Canario (19), Luis Toribio (19) and Luis Matos (18) that excite Law.

"The No. 1 reason  is because they have this really intriguing group of very young prospects, mostly guys from that large Latin American prospect class they signed a couple of years ago," Law said when asked why he's so high on the Giants' farm system "... Now, Marco Luciano looks like he might be a really elite prospect. Alexander Canario, Luis Toribio, Luis Matos, these guys have at least performed well enough in the early going at young ages to increase my confidence levels that at least some of them will turn into really elite prospects.

"When you add that to some of the guys who are already in the system like the Joey Barts and the Hunter Bishops, I am much more optimistic about what we're gonna think about this system in say a year from now." 

That's just the first reason for Law, too. While a handful of the Giants' top prospects and recent players to make their big league debuts come from the Bobby Evans era, Law is a big believer in president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. 

He believes Zaidi will only take the Giants to the next level.

"I just really think highly of Farhan Zaidi and the group that he's put together there," Law said. "I think he's brought in some really smart people from other organizations on the scouting side and on the player development side.

"One, they have a lot of talent coming into the system. And two, they're going to continue to add to that going forward."

Giants fans will have to wait a while to see prospects like Luciano and Canario make their way to San Francisco. Bart is a different story. He dominated spring training once again, and if it weren't for the coronavirus pandemic he likely would have started the season in Triple-A Sacramento before making his big league debut. 

Law, however, doesn't exactly envision a superstar in Bart like many Giants fans do. He has Bart as No. 44 on his top 100 prospects list, much lower than a lot of other major outlets. 

"There's risk that he's maybe a backup catcher," Law says. "He's going to strikeout quite a bit, he's not going to hit for a whole lot of average." 

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Between Single-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond, Bart hit .278. He also struck out in 22.7 percent of his at-bats, which shouldn't be too concerning with the power he has. His swing is long and has some moving parts that could hurt him against higher velocity, though. 

While he doesn't love Bart, Law wants to make it clear he has him as his top Giants prospect for a reason. Law just sees a lot more floor than ceiling for Bart.

"The reason that I have him as the No. 1 prospect in the system is that he's got the highest floor of anyone in that farm system, because he's a big leaguer," Law said. "There's no chance that Joey Bart doesn't spend several years in the big leagues, unless he just has a catastrophic injury.

"He can catch and throw and he has some power. That's a backup catcher in the big leagues for 10 years or more. If he just stays healthy enough, he will play in the majors. But I do not view him as a slam-dunk everyday player."

[RELATED: What former Giants GM thinks of Bart-Posey comparisons]

Law also is hot and cold on the Giants' top draft pick from last year, Hunter Bishop. The powerful outfielder might have a higher ceiling than Bart, but there are reasons for concern. Many are the same as Bart's, too. 

"It's top-end power," Law said. "Some of the best exit velocity that I've ever seen for a college-hitting prospect. He's got the bat speed and the potential to hit for average and hit for power. He also strikes out too much. And when the competition got better last spring in the Pac-12, he got worse.

"He did most of his damage in non-conference play when he was facing better pitching in the Pac-12. His numbers did begin to dip."

Looking back at the numbers, Law is correct. Bishop hit .342 overall as a junior at Arizona State, but only .264 in conference play. He hit 22 homers overall and only seven against Pac-12 teams. 

The upside, however, is huge. 

"He may develop a little more slowly because of a lack of a lengthy track record of performance and there still is some swing and miss there," Law explained. "I just think the upside is so tantalizing. As long as he makes enough contact to hit for a decent average, he'll hit for more than a decent average because he makes such high quality contact and he'll probably hit 25 to 30 home runs." 

There are plenty of reasons to be excited for the Giants' future. As Law notes, the real talent might take a little longer to see in the big leagues.

Where Barry Bonds, Will Clark, Buster Posey rank on 'Sweetest Swings' list

Where Barry Bonds, Will Clark, Buster Posey rank on 'Sweetest Swings' list

Those who utter the term, "baseball is boring," must not have been around when Giants' legendary slugger Barry Bonds would step up to the plate.

Not many were able to mimic what he could do -- both on the field, and from the comfort of your own homes. He would make you stop what you were doing and turn the channel to when it was his turn to hit. That simply doesn't happen anymore.

His ways with a bat were highlighted in Bleacher Report's "The 20 Sweetest Swings in MLB History."

Bonds landed at the No. 4 spot, but almost didn't make the list altogether from how it changed after he bulked up. BR's Zachary Rymer did, however, say aspiring hitters would study Bonds' ways. And why wouldn't they? The guy is the all-time leader in home runs and walks. Watching him launch one into McCovey Cove was a treat. 

Reds first baseman Joey Votto told NBC Sports California last season he would grow up studying the seven-time MVP's offensive ways obsessively. He wanted to be "unpitchable" to, just as Bonds was. 

Right behind Barry at No. 16 was Will Clark, who had a similar feel when he approached the plate. Not only did he have a presence, but he also had a sense of "swagger," that BR highlighted. It was almost as if Clark had an eight-count worth of choreography and he was about to perform for the crowd.

The Thrill was a six-time All-Star select, two Silver-Slugger Awards and a career .303 batter. Whatever he was doing, appeared to work for him.

Catcher Buster Posey landed at the No. 13 space due to how stealthy and smooth his swing is. Despite the downtick in productivity in recent seasons, BR recognized the fluidity. 

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During the spring, Giants manager Gabe Kapler complimented what he saw, and what other coaches said, from Posey in the cage. He was also putting extra work in with the organization's director of hitting, Dustin Lind, and maintained an optimistic attitude about that and how his body was feeling after coming off major hip surgery

[RELATED: Mays, McCovey are Baer's all-time favorite Giants]

And the guy is known to hit a walk-off or two ... or more than that. He was the NL batting champion in 2012, and holds many accomplishments to his resumé. 

The trio joins the historic names of Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and Ted Williams on the list. 

Talk about great company.