Giants

Pablo Sandoval ahead of schedule, could join Giants early in season

Pablo Sandoval ahead of schedule, could join Giants early in season

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was somewhat of a shock last month when the Giants brought Pablo Sandoval back on a minor league deal, but the longtime fan favorite may not be done with the surprises.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said Sandoval has begun throwing and is so far ahead of schedule in his rehab from Tommy John surgery that he could get some at-bats during spring training. Sandoval won't be ready defensively before Opening Day, but he's still way ahead of schedule. 

"Right now we're targeting him being 100 percent hitting and defensively maybe about a month or so into the season," Zaidi said, "But that certainly can be accelerated."

Sandoval had his right UCL repaired and bone chips removed from his elbow on Sept. 4. The expectation at that time was that he would miss at least the first half of the 2020 season, but Sandoval -- a sneaky-good athlete who can throw with both arms and hit from both sides of the plate -- has proven to be a remarkably quick healer. 

Sandoval will make $2 million if he makes the roster with another $750,000 available in incentives.

Zaidi met with beat reporters a day before the rest of the team descends on Oracle Park for FanFest and said the health outlook for the roster is positive. Steven Duggar and Trevor Gott, both of whom had season-ending injuries last year, will both be 100 percent for the start of camp. Reyes Moronta remains on schedule to be back around August after a shoulder injury. 

[RELATED: Bruce Bochy sticks with Giants as advisor]

Even Tyler Anderson, who was picked up on a waiver claim in November, is ahead of schedule. When the Giants got the left-handed starter from the Rockies they thought he was an obvious 60-day Injured List candidate as he came back from major knee surgery. They anticipated he would be back around midseason. But Anderson is recovering well and could get into games by the end of the spring. He still would not be an Opening Day rotation option. 

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players

The end of the month brought a bit of good news for most Giants minor leaguers, but a potentially career-ending blow for 20 of them.

The Giants have extended their stipend program for minor leaguers through at least June 30, continuing to guarantee them $400 per week. At the same time, 20 minor league players were released Thursday, continuing a trend around the game.

The releases were not a surprise and did not involve any elite prospects. The players being let go around the game right now -- some estimates are that it could be more than 1,000 minor leaguers -- generally are players who were filling out minor league rosters and had slim chances of soon reaching the big leagues. But this is still a rough time for those players, many of whom will see their dreams end this year as the sport deals with the fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

With the draft shortened to five rounds and more than 40 minor league clubs already on the chopping block entering the season, big changes are expected over the next year regarding minor league baseball. Teams generally release prospects at the end of the spring and again before signing a new class of draft picks, but this year's group is larger than past ones. Baseball-America did research that showed teams release 22-25 minor leaguers through May in typical years, with 30-35 still falling in a normal range. The Giants had previously released 17 players in March.

[RELATED: Could Luciano make Giants roster? Zaidi considering it]

While there are some teams that have released significantly more prospects in recent days, others have committed to keeping all of their minor leaguers through the end of what would have been the minor league season. The Giants, by using June 30 as a date for extended pay, fall in line with most of the rest of the sport thus far, although they certainly have the resources to extend the program through August or even later at some point. 

The A's had previously informed minor leaguers that they will not pay players past May 31. When COVID-19 first shut down the sport, MLB announced stipends across the minors through that date.  

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Five Giants hitters who've had much more success when visiting Rockies

Five Giants hitters who've had much more success when visiting Rockies

The Giants and Rockies play 19 times every year, with three series at Coors Field and three at Oracle Park. Those games could not possibly be any more different. 

The ones in San Francisco tend to end with scores like 4-2, 2-1, or, in one wild case last year, 8-5. In Denver, it's predictably a free-for-all. There are normal games, to be sure, but the Giants also won one game last year at Coors Field by a score of 19-2. Another win was 11-8, and there was a 12-11 loss mixed in. 

That's the norm in the season series every year, with wild swings depending on where they play. There's just one real exception, and you know him well. Extrapolate Nolan Arenado's career stats at Oracle Park over a full season and you have 29 homers, 45 doubles and 95 RBI, albeit it with a .819 OPS that's nearly 200 points lower than his career mark at home.

Arenado breaks Giants' hearts no matter where he faces them, and they'll see the digital version of the third baseman in tonight's PlayStation simulation on NBC Sports Bay Area. Tonight's game would have been played in San Francisco, so it likely would have been low-scoring. 

But the Giants-Rockies matchup got us thinking: Which Giants would benefit most from switching ballparks? If you go through the roster, there are some serious outliers. Here are five Giants who stood out for their career numbers at Coors:

Buster Posey

Put Posey on the Rockies for a full season and he might take a run at his second MVP award. In 73 career games at Coors Field, Posey has a .368 average, .435 OBP and .610 slugging percentage that's 172 points higher than his mark in home games. He has 14 homers, his most in any ballpark other than Oracle. 

It all makes perfect sense. Posey has a middle-of-the-field approach, and while Coors is known for being a launching pad, it also has a massive outfield that provides Posey plenty of green to aim at. His .368 average there is the highest among active players and sixth-highest in the ballpark's history for players with more than 250 at-bats. 

The ballpark was particularly helpful in 2012 when he won his MVP award. Posey went 16-for-33 in Denver that year with three homers and nine RBI. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Donovan Solano

Like Posey, this veteran infielder has a solid approach that's tailor-made for the outfield at Coors. Solano went 9-for-18 last year with three homers and five RBI. He first played there in 2012, and overall he has a .306/.328/.597 slash line as a visitor.

Last year's demolition of Coors helped Solano become just the second player since 1979 to hit .400 on the road (minimum 100 plate appearances). He hit .402, joining Ichiro, who batted .405 on the road in 2004. 

Billy Hamilton 

There are others with better numbers -- most notably, Mike Yastrzemski loved Coors as a rookie -- but the new Giants center fielder stands out because he has never been known for his bat. At Coors Field, however, Hamilton has an .875 OPS in 18 games and a .382 OBP that's well above his low career mark (.297). 

Hamilton has never homered at Coors but has six doubles and two triples. He is a perfect 8-for-8 stealing bases. He's a perfect fit for the ballpark defensively, something that'll be fun to watch if the Giants ever make it there this summer. A ball in the gap could put us on inside-the-park watch, too. 

Evan Longoria

He has played most of his career in the American League, but he definitely took advantage of those rare trips to Coors Field, picking up 13 hits and three homers in nine games there while with the Rays. 

Longoria has kept that going as a Giant, and overall he's a .347 hitter in 18 starts at Coors Field, with a .405 OBP, .636 slugging percentage and six homers. Longoria even has four triples, his most in any ballpark other than Tropicana Field. 

[RELATED: Could Luciano make Giants roster? Zaidi considering it]

Wilmer Flores

Gabe Kapler will have some appealing options at first base for his first trip to Denver as a Giant. Brandon Belt has 10 career homers there, including a shot into the third deck a few years ago:

Flores, the right-handed newcomer, has had even more success from an OPS standpoint. He has a 1.054 mark in 15 career games in Denver, buoyed by a .423 on-base percentage. He has driven in 13 runs in just 46 at-bats there.