Giants

MLB Draft 2020: Giants prepared for huge opportunity on Day 2 of event

MLB Draft 2020: Giants prepared for huge opportunity on Day 2 of event

The Giants won't play a game this month, but years from now we may look back on June of 2020 as a pivotal stretch for the franchise's rise. Taking Patrick Bailey in the first round was a start, but the real heavy lifting will take place today as MLB holds the final four rounds of the shortened draft. 

This is a huge opportunity, with six picks total on the second day -- a league-high -- and three in the first 33 selections. They'll pick at No. 49 overall in the second round, then make compensation picks at No. 67 and No. 68 as a consolation prize for losing Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith -- both of whom were given qualifying offers -- in free agency last year. 

There's a lot of pressure to get this right. There's also a lot of excitement at Oracle Park.

"We were really excited about this draft class, the depth, the way it's spread out," scouting director Michael Holmes said on The Giants Insider Podcast after the first round. "We think there are good players at high school, collegiate, position players, pitchers. We're in a good position and we feel like with the picks it allows us to do a lot of different things. We're prepared and we're ready to go."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

There are no apples to apples comparison, but the Giants should be able to add multiple players today who can jump into their top 10 as an organization and continue to help the minor league system rise in the rankings. For example, Sean Hjelle -- now their sixth-best prospect per MLB Pipeline -- was taken in just about the same area (45th overall) as their first selection today. Their current No. 12 prospect, right-hander Jake Wong, was taken 80th overall in 2018 and the Giants will make two comp picks before today's third round and then select again at No. 85. 

Hjelle and Wong are two of the organization's four best pitching prospects, but overall the Giants are still lacking in that area. Position player talent was a clear need when Farhan Zaidi took over and hired Holmes, and the Giants picked hitters with nine of their first 10 selections last year. They went with a bat Wednesday night, too. 

[RELATED: Five things to know about Patrick Bailey]

Zaidi said he expects more balance today, but the Giants won't be too swayed by the fact that pitching is the perceived weakness of a much-improved system. 

"We obviously have multiple picks (Thursday) and I would expect us still to take a mix of pitchers and position players," Zaidi said. "At this point we're not going to focus on either side. I would imagine that we have a pretty balanced group of selections. That (adding another hitter) wasn't by design and there were some pitchers that we talked about (at No. 13) as well. It was just that we had the strongest consensus and overall evaluation on Bailey."

Farhan Zaidi has targeted Donovano Solano since his Dodgers GM days

Farhan Zaidi has targeted Donovano Solano since his Dodgers GM days

Nobody expected Giants infielder Donovan Solano to be hitting .458 after 18 games this season. Not even Farhan Zaidi. 

But the Giants' president of operations has had his eyes on Solano for a long time now, dating back to his days with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Zaidi first tried to sign Solano in 2016 when he was the Dodgers' general manager, according to The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly. Instead, Solano signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees. 

“It was disappointing but also showed Solano’s character that he was loyal to the organization that gave him a Triple-A opportunity coming off a down ‘15 season,” Zaidi said to Baggarly. “It’s an interesting track record -- a guy who’d spent three years in the big leagues with the Marlins based on his contact and defensive skills, and then seemed to develop power in Triple A in ‘16.”

Zaidi was successful in signing Solano in 2018, but the man the Giants call "Donnie Barrels" never made it to the big leagues that year. Solano dealt with a hamstring injury in the middle of the season and ultimately hit .318 in Triple-A with the Oklahoma City Dodgers. When Zaidi was hired by the Giants ahead of the 2019 season, he again targeted Solano. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Solano signed a minor league contract with the Giants in December 2018, and hit .322 over 24 games in Triple-A with the Sacramento River Cats before being called up to the big leagues. It was his first major league action since a nine-game stint with the Yankees in 2016, and Solano didn't disappoint. He hit .330 with four homers and 13 doubles in 81 games with the Giants. The Giants then re-signed Solano to a one-year deal this offseason, and he has been on fire ever since.

Through 18 games, only two players in San Francisco Giants history have put up higher batting averages than Solano: Barry Bonds (.525) in 2004 and Willie Mays (.470) in 1964. That's not a bad list to join. 

“With all the advanced metrics and tools at our disposal, there’s still a lot of value in hitters who just have a knack for finding the outfield grass,” Zaidi said to Baggarly. “He’s obviously done a great job of that over his time with the Giants.”

[RELATED: Zaidi, Giants reach key milestone with latest prospect trade]

The Giants signed a handful of players to one-year contracts in the offseason. Pitchers Kevin Gausman, Tyler Anderson and Drew Smyly all have panned out so far. None have been Solano, though. 

As the legend of "Donnie Barrels" grows, it's another feather in Zaidi's cap, adding to his long list of impressive moves since joining the Giants.

What's behind Giants' four catcher's interference calls in 18 games?

What's behind Giants' four catcher's interference calls in 18 games?

The Giants knew they would miss Buster Posey's approach at the plate, his arm behind it, his framing and his leadership on and off the field. 

When Posey opted out of the 2020 season after a week of Summer Camp, he left huge spikes to fill, and the front office and new coaching staff knew it couldn't be done. 

But they never really could have anticipated having such issues with one aspect of the position that normally isn't a huge problem at the big league level. When Chadwick Tromp clipped Josh Reddick's bat with his outstretched glove in the third inning of a 6-4 loss, it was the fourth catcher's interference call on the Giants in 18 games. 

To put that into perspective, Posey has three ... in his entire career.

Posey has been called for catcher's interference just one time over the past six seasons, including none last year, when the Giants had just one. The first three this year were called on Tyler Heineman, but the one on Tromp was especially costly. It wiped the second out -- Reddick grounded out softly -- off the board for Logan Webb with the Giants trailing just 1-0. The Astros would end up scoring four runs in the inning.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

After Heineman's second one over the course of the first week, Kapler said the staff had asked the rookie to get closer to the plate for guys with big 12-6 breaking balls. But Kevin Gausman -- who had the third one called during his start in Denver -- doesn't fit that description, and neither does Webb. The issue on Monday was something else, Kapler said. 

"It's a little different with the runner in motion there. One of the adjustments (Tromp) has made has been to get his momentum going through the baseball and I think, witnessing the whole field, he probably got a little bit anxious and went out to get that ball a little bit too soon," Kapler said. "Reddcik has a tendency to lay the bat into the zone pretty early and extend so those two things lined up and he just clipped the glove."

Tromp explained it similarly. 

"My momentum took me to the ball and I think that combined with Reddick, I think he has like a long swing, and I think those two played a factor," he said. "Bad timing. I felt horrible, but that's just kind of what happened. My momentum took me into the throw, and it's just unfortunate."

If this feels like a bizarre mistake for a team to keep making, it's because it is. The Diamondbacks and Cubs led the majors last year with six catcher's interference calls in 162 games. The Giants have four in 18 games, while the other 29 teams entered play Monday with five combined. 

Asked a second question about the trend, Kapler shifted the focus. 

"I just really want to keep this as a team thing. We win as a team, we lose as a team, we stick together as a team. We make a comeback tonight against a rough reliever as a team," he said. "As a team, I think the fewer mistakes we make, the quicker we can clean up those mistakes, the more likely it is those comebacks turn into wins and not just valiant efforts."

[RELATED: Krukow believes Astros getting "free pass" this season]

As a team, the Giants have 21 errors, four more than any other team in the big leagues. They had three on Monday and should have had a fourth. Donovan Solano's whiff of the leadoff grounder in that third inning was ruled a single and got the whole thing started. 

It's surprising that the Giants , who had two encouraging camps, have kicked the ball around so often. It's also costing them wins in a season where every game is the equivalent of 2.7. The lineup scored three runs in the ninth, but too much damage had been done with the early sloppiness.