Giants

How Giants' top five MLB prospects from preseason performed in 2019

How Giants' top five MLB prospects from preseason performed in 2019

While the Giants have tumbled down the standings in the final month of the season after making an earlier postseason push, the team's farm system experienced quite the 180 this season. 

The Sacramento River Cats won the Pacific Coast League and now play one final game Tuesday against the Columbus Clippers in the Triple-A National Championship. San Francisco's Triple-A team was one of the Giants' five affiliates to make the playoffs this year. In one season, the Giants went from one of the worst collections of minor leaguers in baseball to a middle-of-the-pack farm system with prospects on the rise. 

Through trades, call-ups and players rising and falling, the Giants' top prospects list has changed for the better. Trading for a player like Mauricio Dubon, who looks like an everyday solution up the middle for the long term, only helps. 

Prior to the season, and the Giants improving their farm system, here is how MLB.com ranked the team's top five prospects: Catcher Joey Bart, outfielder Heliot Ramos, shortstop Marco Luciano, pitcher Shaun Anderson and pitcher Logan Webb.

Let's look at how each performed this year and what it says about their future.

Joey Bart, Catcher

Bart entered the season with unreasonable expectations. He hit .298 with 13 homers for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Class A Short Season last year after the Giants selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. Fans really started clamoring for his MLB debut when he hit .350 for the big league club in spring training, and took home the Barney Nugent Award

Bart began the 2019 season with the San Jose Giants in Class A Advanced. He had two hits and two RBI in his team debut and really hit his stride in July when he batted .289 with six homers for the month. 

His time in San Jose came to an end in early August when the Giants promoted the catcher to Double-A Richmond. After a slow start, Bart caught fire to end the year. He was named the Eastern League Player of the Week to end the regular season when he hit .538 with a homer, four doubles, a triple and six RBI in his final seven games. 

[RELATED: Why Giants top prospects exceeded expectations]

Between San Jose and Richmond, Bart hit .278 with 16 homers and an .824 OPS this season. He will take the next big step this week when the Arizona Fall League begins Wednesday. There, he could learn another position for the first time, advancing his ETA to big leagues. 

Though it likely won't be at the beginning of the season, expect Bart to join the Giants at some point next year.

Heliot Ramos, Outfielder

Ramos, who just recently turned 20 years old, came into the season after a down year in Low A Augusta. He made the needed adjustments over the winter, however, and was the Giants' most impressive prospect this year. 

Built more like a running back than a center fielder, Ramos showed off his five-tool potential this year. The Giants' top pick in the 2017 draft hit .306 with 13 homers and an .885 OPS. He was promoted to Double-A the same day as Bart and hit .242 with three more homers for the Flying Squirrels. 

At the time of his call-up, Ramos was the youngest prospect ever to play for Richmond. He hit .290 with 16 homers, 24 doubles and an .850 OPS. There's no overstating just how special he was this season at such a young age. 

Ramos will be 20 all next season. The Giants want he and Bart to be on similar paths to the majors, but will they bring him up that young? 

When the Giants drafted Ramos, he said he wanted to play at Oracle Park in three years. It's quite the stretch, but don't doubt the young star.

Marco Luciano, Shortstop

For as much hype as Bart and Ramos garnered this year, Luciano might have earned even more. 

Luciano turned 18 less than a week ago. Like Ramos, he's extremely advanced for his age. Already standing 6-foot-2 and 178 pounds, Luciano hit .322 with 10 homers and a 1.055 OPS over 38 games in the Arizona Rookie League. He also added nine doubles, two triples and eight stolen bases. 

Before he even turned 18, Luciano played nine games with Salem-Keizer. His season was cut short due to an ankle injury, but it's not thought to be serious.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has raved about Luciano and the shortstop already is getting compared to a young Alfonso Soriano. Giants fans will need some patience with this one, but he looks to be worth the wait. 

Shaun Anderson, Pitcher 

All Anderson needed was eight starts with Sacramento this season to get called up to San Francisco. His future, however, still is a bit of a mystery.

Anderson, 24, was 2-1 with a 3.76 ERA for the River Cats over eight starts when he received his promotion. He has had his ups and downs with the Giants, especially as a starter. 

The young right-hander had a 5.33 ERA with six strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 starts with the Giants. He recently has pitched as a reliever, striking out 11 batters in 9 2/3 innings. Anderson is posting 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings out of the bullpen and his strikeouts-to-walk ratio has jumped to 2.8. 

There's no doubt Anderson will have a future on the mound in the majors. Whether he's starting games or relieving -- possibly as the Giants' closer -- is yet to be determined.

Logan Webb, Pitcher 

Webb came into the year as the Giants' fastest rising pitching prospect. He then had a 2.00 ERA with Richmond after the first month of the season, but was suspended 80 games for PEDs. 

The 22-year-old breezed through the minors upon his return and was called up to the Giants on Aug. 17. He's looked like a future ace at times, but also has had moments where he's seemed overmatched.

Webb has struggled with his command in the past and is dealing with the same issues in the bigs. He only has lasted at least five innings in two of his five starts so far. That doesn't mean he can't lead this staff one day, though. 

For now, the Giants can deal with Webb's shortcomings. He has the repertoire and tenacity to stay in the rotation for a long, long time.

What Giants new manager Gabe Kapler learned from time in Philadelphia

What Giants new manager Gabe Kapler learned from time in Philadelphia

SAN FRANCISCO -- For most of an hour Wednesday, Gabe Kapler answered questions from the media about what he had learned in Los Angeles. Kapler may never outrun that incident in the eyes of many Giants fans, but at some point, the focus of his tenure will turn to another question. 

What did he learn in Philadelphia?

The Giants felt comfortable enough with Kapler and his past to hire him and give him a three-year deal. Will he last all three? That will be determined by his ability to handle a clubhouse, develop the next wave of Giants and actually win games between the lines.

Kapler went 161-163 in two seasons in Philadelphia, finishing third and then fourth in the NL East. The Phillies improved by 14 games in his first season, but they tailed off down the stretch both years, and 2019 certainly was a disappointment given how much ownership invested in the team over the offseason, led by the additions of Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto.

The front office wanted to keep Kapler around, and Farhan Zaidi got rave reviews from his counterparts. Members of the Giants ownership group spoke to members of the group in Philadelphia and heard similar reviews, with the caveat that Kapler’s time in Philadelphia had simply run its course. Those who were around him for two years say Kapler did a good job of managing up, but sometimes lost his ability to fully connect with the clubhouse. There were questions about the way he handled the pitching staff, in particular.

The Giants digested all that and decided Kapler would take Bruce Bochy’s place, and during the interview process, the two managers spoke about how much better you can be the second time around, as Bochy was. You can learn from your mistakes.

So, what did Kapler learn in Philadelphia?

“The thing that I learned most, and it was pretty abrupt, was in my first year as a Phillies manager in 2018 I thought a lot about every little strategic edge, every little strategic advantage, and sometimes at the expense of some of that confidence that we’ve talked about,” Kapler said. “My biggest learn was: Sometimes a confident player is a better baseball player, and that outweighs the strategic advantage you get of calling just the right pitch at just the right time.

“I’ll use a pitcher analogy. If all of the information says that your curveball is your best pitch in a particular situation but that pitcher does not want to throw that pitch, you don’t force him to throw that pitch. You let him throw a different pitch with a lot of conviction, with a lot of energy, with a lot of confidence, and maybe that’s the best pitch in the moment. So probably my biggest learn is now to blend those two things.”

In an appearance on MLB Network a day later, Kapler gave a specific example. On Opening Day in 2018, he pulled starter Aaron Nola after just 68 pitches because he didn’t want him facing a lineup a third time. That has become a somewhat common strategy in recent years – but Nola had allowed just one run on three hits in 5 1/3 innings at the time. The Phillies bullpen gave up eight runs and the team lost, but it wasn’t the end result that stuck with Kapler.

“What we didn’t know is what an emotional impact that would have on the dugout. It had a pretty big, significant blow," Kapler said. "What I learned from that is learning how to trust Aaron Nola deeper into games and so we did that for the rest of the 2018 season and 2019 season as well, understanding that what we were seeing with our eyes was equally important to what we were seeing on paper.”

Nola wasn’t pulled that quickly again the rest of the year and went on to finish third in the Cy Young Award balloting. Kapler certainly will need a longer leash if Madison Bumgarner returns, but even for veterans like Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, he will need to continue to adjust. The Giants learned that in 2019 when they tried early on to limit Samardzija’s innings and exposure to opposing lineups, but instead they found that he was one of their most reliable pitchers. By the end of the year, Samardzija’s workload more closely resembled previous seasons.

[RELATED: Kapler shares his regrets from Dodgers assault controversy]

Kapler said he plans on going on a “listening tour” to find out the preferences of Giants veterans. The Phillies did that after his first season, inviting team leaders to their Florida facility to discuss things like when they would stretch before games and how they wanted pre-game work to be handled.

“Every good clubhouse that I’ve ever been a part of … players have to be part of that raising the bar, they have to be part of that accountability that takes place,” Kapler said. “They have to be active participants in that conversation, and so those are some of the things that I’ll focus on.”

How Gabe Kapler plans to accentuate strengths of Giants' veteran lineup

How Gabe Kapler plans to accentuate strengths of Giants' veteran lineup

SAN FRANCISCO — The game of baseball has changed, but if you sit with most big leaguers, particularly those who have been around a few years, you’ll hear them talk of how important traditional statistics still are. 

Hitters often point to runs and RBI, not OPS+ or WAR, and pitchers still prefer ERA and, yes, wins, to xFIP or spin rates. During the final week of the season, Giants outfielder Kevin Pillar summed it up while discussing a low on-base percentage that may impact the decision to bring him back.

“(For) as long as this game has been played, scoring runs and driving in runs is an important statistic,” Pillar said. “Last time I checked, that's how you win games, if you score more runs than the other team."

Pillar likely will play for Gabe Kapler next year, and while Kapler’s introduction largely consisted of discussing off-field issues, he did give several examples of things he has learned as a manager and executive. Kapler didn’t mention many current Giants, but at one point, asked about the ballpark, he brought up Brandon Belt, which was interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, Belt is as likely as any longtime Giant to be traded before Kapler fills out his first lineup card. He has a limited no-trade clause, but it’ll be much more difficult for the new-look front office to deal other veterans if they truly want to shake it up. Belt still has plenty of fans in opposing front offices despite declining power numbers.

The second aspect was that Kapler was demonstrating how the new front office and staff might approach their evaluations of current Giants. 

"I've thought a lot about Brandon Belt and specifically what he brings -- how impressive it is to watch him take an at-bat, independent of the outcome of the at-bat. He tends to look over pitches and make really good swing-or-don't-swing decisions," Kapler said. "I know the power has dropped off a little bit but taking the things that he does very, very well and highlighting some of those things might lead to some more of that power production."

Kapler hit on what has always made Belt a polarizing player. His plate appearances are as controlled as anyone’s, and over the course of a game or series or season, there’s a lot of value in that. Every time Belt shakes his head at a pitch that was half an inch out of the zone, he’s adding to a starter’s workload and increasing his own odds of getting on base. 

Even in a disappointing season, Belt's .339 on-base percentage was the highest of any Giants regular. He ranked 15th in the National League by seeing 4.09 pitches per plate appearance, something Zaidi and Kapler's old clubs excel at. The Dodgers and Phillies ranked third and fourth in the NL, respectively, seeing 4.00 pitches per plate appearance. The Giants were ninth at 3.89. In 2018, Kapler's first year, the Phillies finished behind only the league-leading Dodgers, while the Giants ranked ninth in the league. 

[RELATED: Watch Kapler laugh at Belt for trying to bunt]

The ability to have consistently good plate appearances is something that was a focus throughout the organization in Zaidi's first year, and Kapler sure seems to be a fan. If the new staff can get some more power out of Belt, great, but if not, they still plan to focus on his strengths as a hitter. 

Kapler said that will be an emphasis with all of his players and the minor leaguers who come up. The Giants still lack in overall talent, but they believe there are ways to squeeze more juice out of this roster, regardless of what the ballpark's dimensions might do to hitters. 

"It's about instilling confidence in players for the things they do really well, and then reminding them how those positive steps forward can play in the environment that they play in specifically here in San Francisco," Kapler said.