Giants

How Giants' spring training cuts so far could have role in 2019 season

How Giants' spring training cuts so far could have role in 2019 season

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants made their first round of cuts on this day a year ago, and the press release that day was most notable for the fact that players like Steven Okert and Miguel Gomez got optioned to minor league camp. Buried in the stories that day was this line: 

The Giants also reassigned five players to minor league camp: Tyler Cyr, Jose Flores, Dereck Rodriguez, Madison Younginer and Alen Hanson. 

You never know how quickly a player might bounce back and make an impact at the big league level, as Rodriguez and Hanson did last year. So let's take a run through the Giants roster moves so far, which cut the spring roster down to 45, and see what's next for the prospects and hopefuls no longer in camp. 

March 2-4: Jamie Callahan, Conner Menez, Garrett Williams and Sam Wolff are reassigned to minor league camp

Callahan, a pitcher picked up from the Mets over the offseason, is still rehabbing after shoulder surgery. The Giants will let Menez, who piles up strikeouts, and Williams, a breakout performer in 2017, continue to start as the Giants rebuild minor league depth. Wolff is hoping to build off a solid Fall League. 

March 8: Merandy Gonzalez and Logan Webb are optioned; John Andreoli, Jandel Gustave, Ryan Howard and Hamlet Marte are reassigned to minor league camp

Gonzalez, Andreoli and Gustave are among the large group of flyers Zaidi has added to the minor league system. Andreoli and Gonzalez were claimed on waivers.

There are some talent evaluators high up in the organization who believe the 22-year-old Webb will be the organization's best pitching prospect at some point this season. Howard got just 10 at-bats in camp but roped three doubles; the Giants are hopeful they have a second Matt Duffy here. Marte has strong minor league numbers and will catch every day at Double-A. 

March 9: Carlos Navas and Kieran Lovegrove are reassigned

Lovegrove might have been the most interesting player in the clubhouse. He gave up four runs in four spring appearances, but it's a live arm and the Giants went hard after him early in the offseason. They're hoping to get him on track in the minors. 

March 10: Jose Lopez and Melvin Adon are optioned

Lopez, picked up from the Reds last month, should provide starting depth in Triple-A. Adon hit 102 mph a couple of times and is being moved from starting to relieving, and he might move quickly. He's likely to start the season in Double-A.

Given how many pitchers the Giants plan to use, it wouldn't be a surprise to see both these guys in the big leagues at some point. 

March 11: Abiatal Avelino, Sam Coonrod, Ryder Jones, Chris Shaw and Breyvic Valera are optioned; Shaun Anderson, Enderson Franco and Keyvius Sampson are reassigned

The biggest cuts came Monday, and there's a lot to unpack here. Shaw might have had the most impressive swing of the spring, but he wasn't in the mix for an outfield job and it's time to get him four at-bats a day.

He has also hit a bit of a crossroads, as he'll be in Triple-A for a third straight year. The Giants are still waiting for more consistent contact. 

Jones was a bit behind as he came off knee surgery and never had a shot at making the team. It'll be interesting to see if the Giants move him around in Triple-A; he's blocked in the infield but there's been talk of getting him outfield reps. That's something Jones, still just 24, would like to try. 

One of Avelino or Valera could be in trouble when the Giants need a roster spot for Yangervis Solarte. If they survive, they're both on the 40-man and infielders often get shuttled back and forth because of injuries.

The Giants love Avelino's energy and may move him all over the field as they look for versatile role players similar to what Farhan Zaidi had in Los Angeles. They really need one of these guys to break through and provide an infield option from the right side of the plate

Franco and Sampson were part of an offseason effort to add new arms to the upper levels of the minors. A holdover is Coonrod, who will pitch exclusively out of the bullpen this year in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. He's back up to the high 90s with his fastball. 

Anderson is the organization's best pitching prospect and had two solid appearances in his first camp. He'll start the season at Triple-A and is currently somewhere around ninth on the starting depth chart, but he should make his debut this season. Anderson is a former closer and could break in as a boost for the bullpen.

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If the Giants sell at the deadline, he's likely to get an early crack at a 2020 rotation spot. 

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. 

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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."

Giants, A's end trade drought, make first deal together in 16 years

Giants, A's end trade drought, make first deal together in 16 years

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The rivalry has thawed, kind of. 

The Giants sent right-hander Burch Smith to the A's on Saturday morning in exchange for cash considerations, marking the first deal between the two Bay Area teams since 2004, when the Giants sent pitcher Adam Pettyjohn to the A's for cash. 

The Giants designated reliever Burch Smith for assignment earlier in the week when they added Jarlin Garcia, but this is the kind of deal that people on both sides have been on the lookout for since Farhan Zaidi joined the Giants in November of 2018. Zaidi started his professional career with the A's and said at the time of his hiring that he anticipated making deals with them. A's general manager David Forst said the same. 

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The sides still have another barrier to cross. Their last two deals have essentially sold one player to the other side, but you have to go back to 1990 to find a Giants-A's trade that actually involved players going the other way for both sides.

That winter, the A's sent Darren Lewis and a player to be named later to the Giants in exchange for infielder Ernie Riles. 

The Giants had a clear advantage in that trade. Riles hit .214 in one season for the A's while Lewis went on to play five years for the Giants, winning a Gold Glove Award.