Giants

How Logan Webb shot up Giants' prospect rankings through the weight room

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Photo via Richie Anderson

How Logan Webb shot up Giants' prospect rankings through the weight room

The NFL has almost a year's worth of mock drafts. The NBA has viral one-and-done stars joining their league as teenagers. Baseball is a game with a longer view, where we have to guess who will be the stars not of tomorrow, but years from now after going through the wringer of the minor leagues. 

Enter, the obsession over prospect rankings. 

Before spring training every year, the likes of Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and more release lists for the top prospects in the game. Continuing a trend they hope to buck soon, the Giants are once again nowhere near the top of the best farm systems in MLB. Outside of Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos, you won't find another Giants prospect among the experts' top 100. 

Within the Giants organization, though, there's a rising prospect the front office first saw at Rocklin High School, two hours away from Oracle Park.

"My dad likes looking at that stuff, but it doesn’t mean much to me," pitcher Logan Webb said when asked about prospect rankings in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area.

Webb, 22, entered the 2018 season outside of the Giants' top 30 prospects, according to Baseball America. Going into the 2019 season, however, he has catapulted up to the No. 6 prospect in San Francisco's farm system.

How did he jump into the top 10 that quickly? It all starts with a mindset change after he underwent Tommy John surgery during the 2016 season. 

After only nine starts and a 6.21 ERA at Class A Augusta, Webb went under the knife in June of that season. It's a procedure no pitcher hopes to endure, but one that changed his outlet and mentality when it comes to his body. 

"The best way to put it is almost a blessing in disguise," Webb said. "It gave me a year to really work on my body, to get the right mechanics, and get my arm to where it should be. It was obviously tough — just the mental part of it. It was a great thing for me to have, honestly."

Richie Anderson, Webb's trainer at Results Physical Therapy and Training Center in Sacramento, agreed. 

"He did a big 180," Anderson said. "It’s probably the best thing to happen for him — to take a step back and realize the things he had to get done." 

Both the pitcher and the trainer stated Webb wasn't a big weight room guy before the surgery. Anderson has worked with him ever since the surgery and now calls Webb a "gym rat" and "student" of the body. 

"I think I just became more committed to my body and I learned so much stuff that goes into it," Webb said. "After I learned about all this stuff, I just love being in the gym. Working out with all the guys is awesome. I kind of just take that mentality that I got from rehab."

Once Anderson received the green light during Webb's rehab, he had the pitcher begin to do lower body exercises that didn't require any stress on the elbow. Biomechanically, everything starts from the ground up.

"When I was drafted, I was 185 (pounds) I think," Webb said. "Now I’m like 222 right now. I think that has a lot to do with my legs getting a lot stronger and a lot bigger." 

Since the two started training, they have focused on single-leg exercises and unilateral movements. Absorbing force in your lead leg correlates to higher velocity, Anderson explained, and Webb is someone who can light the radar gun up at 97 mph. 

Webb returned to the mound on June 15, 2017, slightly one year after surgery. Right away, the work in the weight room was seen on the mound. He went 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 28 innings pitched a Short-Season Single-A. 

The moment the season ended, he was back in the weight room. 

"He progressed leaps and bounds," Anderson said. "We were pretty limited the year before coming off surgery, but 2017, going into 2018, he crushed it. He looked better than he ever had." 

The same can be said for how pitched in 2018.

Webb dominated Advanced Single-A as a member of the San Jose Giants, posting a 1.82 ERA in 21 appearances (20 starts). His performance earned him a promotion to Double-A for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, where he had a solid 3.82 ERA in six starts. He finished 2018 with a 2.41 ERA over 104.2 innings pitched. 

After his highly successful year, strengthening his legs was once again the main focus for Webb heading into this current offseason. The Giants had him on an innings limit in 2018 and many of his starts were only three or four innings. 

"I wanted to prepare myself for a bigger workload this year," Webb said. "It got frustrating at times, but it’s for a good reason to benefit me. This year, I’m sure I’ll have some sort of limit. I’m not sure what it will be, but it will definitely be more innings with my starts. I don’t think I’ll be throwing three innings in a start.”

In order to build stamina for this increased workload -- you guessed it -- Webb hit the weight room. His favorite workout is the barbell hip thrust, which correlates to a pitching motion and involves hip flexion and extension.

Another area of his game that Webb wanted to focus on this offseason was getting through his backside on each pitch to improve his command. Before airing it out, usually with fellow Giants pitching prospect Jordan Johnson, Webb would go through a progression of throwing weighted balls against the wall. 

Webb is also developing a changeup this offseason, and the soft plyocare ball gave him the ability to really feel the flight out of his hand. 

The Giants added Webb to the 40-man roster in November. He flew to Arizona on Jan. 10 to get acclimated to the surroundings he'll face in his first big league camp. 

For 2019, Webb's goals have nothing to do with where he'll wind up after spring training.

Double-A Richmond? Triple-A Sacramento? A September call-up to San Francisco? That's out of his hands. 

"My goal is really to go longer in my outings and really give my team the best chance to win," Webb said. "I don’t really have a choice in where I go or where I end up, so I’m just gonna go in there, give it all I got and hopefully force a hand. 

"No matter where I end, just be happy with where I started and how I finished." 

But now that Webb is healthy and hitting the weight room, he's putting up numbers that may have him in pitching in Oracle Park sooner rather than later.

Why the Giants will use an in-game interpreter for native Spanish speakers

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USATSI

Why the Giants will use an in-game interpreter for native Spanish speakers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Picture this scenario. The Giants have a one-run lead in the seventh inning at Oracle Park, with a young reliever trying to strand a runner on second and two outs. He came to the United States when he was 17, and while his English has improved, he still is not close to being fluent.

In a huge spot, with 30,000 people staring down at him, the pitcher is trying to communicate his pitch preference in a language he has not yet mastered, to a catcher and a manager who can chat with him but did not grow up speaking the same language. 

The Gabe Kapler Era has thus far been dominated by curiosity, by a desire to find a different and more efficient way to do things. As Kapler sits around with his 13-person coaching staff, the question is often a simple one.

Is there a better way to do this?

During one meeting, Kapler and bench coach Kai Correa asked quality assurance coach Nick Ortiz if there was a better way to communicate with Spanish-speaking pitchers during games. The Giants asked for and received permission to have Ortiz in the dugout as an in-game interpreter. He will not replace one of the seven coaches allowed in the dugout per MLB rules, but he will be more visible than most of them.

Every time Kapler or pitching coach Andrew Bailey goes out to the mound to speak to a pitcher whose first language was Spanish, Ortiz will come along as an interpreter. 

"It's something that definitely will make an impact," Ortiz said. "Every time you try to bring information to someone, you want to make sure they have a 100 percent understanding of what you're trying to do."

Once you hear the idea, you wonder why teams haven't always done it this way. When an organization signs a veteran from Japan or South Korea, he always gets his own interpreter, someone to walk to the mound with the manager and help with communication. But for some reason, teams have not done that with Spanish-speaking players. 

The new-look Giants asked a simple question: Why? Why are we putting these players at a disadvantage?

"It feels really intuitive, because there are so many nuances in those conversations on the mound, between a pitching coach and a pitcher, and to some degree when you're taking a pitcher out of the game as a manager," Kapler said. "You really want to send a concise message and you want not just the words to be translated, but the intent of those words to be communicated effectively. When the adrenaline is running high, I think it's easier to digest when something is shared with you in your native language. It does feel really intuitive and like something that we really want to experiment with."

It wasn't until 2016 that MLB required every team to have full-time Spanish language interpreters. The Giants use Erwin Higueros, a member of the organization's broadcast team and PR staff for interviews, but he is not in the dugout or clubhouse during games. Before that, in a sport where many of the biggest stars come from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, players often had to speak to reporters and coaches through teammates who were fluent, or close, in both languages. Gregor Blanco helped plenty of young Giants over the years, but sometimes it was someone like Emmanuel Burriss, who spoke good Spanish. 

Kapler said he thought about trying this in Philadelphia, but the staff there never felt like the situation was quite right. He has hired a young group that is focused on being open-minded and trying new things in San Francisco. When the Giants announced most of their staff at the Winter Meetings, Kapler said one of the final remaining hires would be a native Spanish speaker. The Giants hired Ortiz, a 46-year-old who spent 15 seasons in the minor leagues and 16 offseasons in the Puerto Rican Winter League, in January. Ortiz was born in Puerto Rico. 

"He's got a really good way about him and a delivery that makes you want to listen," Kapler said. "It just felt like the right combination at the right time."

The Giants will start using Ortiz as an in-game interpreter this spring to help players get comfortable. They plan to use Ortiz for every native Spanish speaker, including Johnny Cueto, who speaks English well but still prefers to use Higueros as an interpreter for interviews. The staff also wants the catchers to get used to the transition.

"I'm sure there were certainly times where I've been out there and thought I was communicating better than I was," catcher Buster Posey said. "This'll button up the communication."

[RELATED: Giants' Moronta set to take big step after gruesome injury]

The hope is that this catches on and becomes part of the norm. On the 40-man roster alone, the Giants have eight pitchers who were born outside of the United States, and for the first time, their player-specific spring training workout plans and goals were handed to them in Spanish. 

Kapler wants this to give the native Spanish speakers a little more help during games. He speaks Spanish himself, but he said there were times in the past when he would have said more to a pitcher on the mound had an interpreter been there. 

"I would have expanded on a thought and had the ability to influence the conversation differently had I had a native Spanish speaker with me," he said. "There's a huge investment, on my part personally but also with our coaching staff, to have our native Spanish speakers feel like they're on equal footing as our native English speakers. I just care deeply about that."

Giants' Reyes Moronta set to take big step in rehab from gruesome injury

Giants' Reyes Moronta set to take big step in rehab from gruesome injury

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Gabe Kapler gathered the 71 Giants players, 13 coaches and the rest of the support staff at Scottsdale Stadium on Monday morning, it should have been the official start of the biggest spring of Reyes Moronta's career. 

Moronta likely would have entered the spring as a favorite to become Kapler's closer, but he suffered a devastating shoulder injury at the end of August and had surgery on September 10 to repair his labrum. Moronta will spend the whole spring and most of the season rehabbing, but the first full workout day still was an important one for Moronta.

He was set to play catch Monday for the first time since getting hurt. 

"It's a big day," Moronta said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. "Since I got hurt, I've been waiting for this day."

It's a small step, but an important one for a player who is expected to be out until August. The Giants will be careful with Moronta, who holds an interesting spot on the roster. In a camp where Kapler wants every young pitcher to get stretched out, Moronta is one of the few true relievers with big league experience for the Giants.

The Giants plan to be creative this spring, and pitchers are preparing for the possibility that four of five with starting experience might end up in the bullpen going two or three innings an outing. Kapler has been hesitant to hand out specific roles, but the Giants do figure to lock Tony Watson into the late innings somewhere.

After that, there are a lot of question marks, and long term, Moronta still profiles as a closer or setup man. Before the injury, he ranked in the top 20 among NL relievers in batting average allowed (.197) and opponents' slugging percentage (.298). 

A big step will be taken Monday, but Moronta knows he won't fully mentally clear all the hurdles until he gets back on a big league mound. His injury was awful to watch, and it's the type that often lingers when a player starts ramping it up. He said the pain matched the scene, but he didn't realize how much damage had been done to his throwing shoulder until later.

"It was awful pain," he said. "But I feel good now."

[RELATED: How Giants plan to build on submariner Rogers' 2019 debut]

For now, the focus is on getting healthy. Moronta spent his offseason in Scottsdale to focus on rehab, taking a short break to get married. It's a goal for him to follow Johnny Cueto's lead and get back late in the year, if only for a few appearances. 

"It's very important for me and for the team and for my family," he said. "It's important for me to at least pitch a month or so and know that I'm healthy."