Giants

Report: Giants 'were sniffing around' young Phillies 3B at Winter Meetings

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USATSI

Report: Giants 'were sniffing around' young Phillies 3B at Winter Meetings

One of the Giants' big offseason goals is to find an everyday third baseman.

That search appears to have included checking in with the Phillies on Maikel Franco.

According to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Giants "were sniffing around" the 25-year-old third baseman during the Winter Meetings last week in Orlando.

Franco burst onto the scene at the end of the 2015 season with 14 home runs and 50 RBI in 80 games. He backed that up with 25 home runs and 88 RBI in 2016.

But the 2017 season was a mixed bag for Franco. He managed to hit 24 home runs and drove in 76 runs, but his average fell all the way to .230 with an OBP of .281 and a slugging percentage of .409.

Franco is under team control through the 2021 season.

No word if the Giants and Phillies actually talked about a deal or if an offer was ever made.

At this moment, Pablo Sandoval is penciled in as the Giants' starting third baseman, manager Bruce Bochy told NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic. But the Giants would prefer to use Sandoval in a utility role.

Giants Review: Casey Kelly finds success in late season call-up

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USATSI

Giants Review: Casey Kelly finds success in late season call-up

SAN FRANCISCO — Few players on the Giants roster have a background to match Casey Kelly’s. The right-hander was a first-rounder in 2008 and made Baseball America’s Top 100 list four times, peaking at No. 24. 

Kelly never lived up to that hype, but in 2018, he finally found some big league success. Playing for his third big league team, Kelly had a 3.04 ERA in seven appearances for the Giants. That’s enough to get your own story in this end-of-season look at the 2018 team.

Here are the highs and lows from Kelly’s first year with the organization … 

What Went Right

Kelly earned an August promotion by consistently going deep into games in Triple-A, with a bunch of dominant starts mixed in. He had six appearances of at least seven innings with the River Cats, allowing five total runs in those starts. At the time of his call-up, Kelly led the Pacific Coast League in innings pitched. 

He earned a big league start by going five scoreless relief innings in his Giants debut. Kelly became just the third pitcher in San Francisco Giants history to throw at least five innings of relief in his team debut, joining Don Larsen and John Montefusco. His first start came six days later, and he pitched in front of his father, the bench coach for the Reds. 

What Went Wrong

That first Giants start didn’t quite go as hoped. Kelly allowed just one run over 4 1/3, but gave up nine hits as the Giants lost as part of a crushing sweep. Overall, nothing really jumped off the page. He had a 1.39 WHIP in the majors and his strikeout rate (6.1) was low.

Kelly works quickly, but his stuff is no longer dominant. Those sharp minor league starts were matched by plenty of clunkers. Kelly had a 4.76 ERA overall with the River Cats. 

Contract Status

Kelly initially signed a minor league contract with the Giants. 

The Future

If you remember Kelly the super-prospect, it might be shocking to know he still is just 29. He heads into the offseason with no obvious path to early playing time with the Giants. Their rotation is somewhat deep, and they’ll either bring Derek Holland back or add in free agency.

Kelly has been a reliever in the past, but the Giants don’t really view him that way, so it seems likely that he’ll be jettisoned off the 40-man roster this offseason as the team clears spots for younger prospects. Still, he could be back.

Kelly is exactly the kind of pitcher you love to have on your Triple-A club, and if he’s willing to accept that role again, the Giants could use him on a River Cats squad that doesn’t have any starting depth. 

Giants Review: Austin Slater's future comes down to how healthy he is

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AP

Giants Review: Austin Slater's future comes down to how healthy he is

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants drafted Austin Slater in 2014, watched him hit his way through the minors, and had him in their big-league lineup more than 100 times the past two seasons. They still don’t quite know what he is as a major leaguer, though. 

Slater, at his best, has a strong arm in the outfield, an opposite-fields approach that can put him on base a lot, and enough tools to be a solid contributor. But there’s no doubt that he needs a serious launch-angle adjustment, and he had some odd moments defensively in 2018. 

As they summarized the season, Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy didn’t exactly light up when asked about Slater. 

“Slater, we’ve got some work to do there,” Bochy said.

“I think Slater needs to make some swing adjustments,” Sabean added, “But he’s certainly shown that he can be an extra player.”

The Giants have more time to try and figure out how Slater fits. In 2018, he showed positives and negatives … 

What Went Right

Slater had four separate runs in the big leagues, and through his first 36 games, he was batting .308 with a .429 on-base percentage. He showed off some impressive raw physical tools. His only homer of the year went 425 feet, and he threw a runner out at the plate with a 99.6 mph throw. Slater had two of the 28 hardest throws from the outfield in MLB in 2018 and six throws that registered at 95 mph or above; Alen Hanson, with one throw at 95.6, was the only other Giants outfielder to clear that barrier. Slater is also sneaky on the bases; he was successful on all seven stolen base attempts. 

Slater hit .274 with runners in scoring position and .370 with runners in scoring position and two outs. That simple swing can come in handy sometimes. 

What Went Wrong

In the era of Launch Angle, Slater is doing it his own way. His 63.1 groundball rate was the highest in the Majors and his 16.2 percent flyball rate was the lowest. This added up to just one homer, one triple and six doubles. There were 177 NL hitters who got at least 200 plate appearances and Slater ranked 164th in slugging percentage (.307). The lack of pop dragged his OPS down to .640 and was a source of a lot of discussion for the staff. They want to see him catch the ball out front and use some of his natural power, but that hasn’t shown in two seasons. As Sabean said, the Giants want to see swing adjustments. 

That could be hard to do if Slater’s elbow proves to be an issue. He came out of a game the final weekend with elbow pain and an MRI showed a mild sprain. The Giants are hopeful that Slater is ready for spring training, but there are no guarantees with the elbow. Serious injuries there aren't just limited to pitchers. 

Contract Status

Slater still has not accrued much service time. He has two minor-league options remaining. 

The Future

First of all, Slater’s immediate future will come down to how healthy he is. There was some concern about his elbow as the Giants packed up for the season, and if he eventually needs some sort of procedure that obviously would be a big blow.

The good news for Slater is that he certainly has shown enough of a hit tool and enough promise defensively that he should, at the very least, be a strong bench option. He was better than expected at first base, and as a fourth outfielder/backup first baseman/pinch-hitter, he should be on the Opening Day roster. Team officials want to see more — specifically, more power — before putting him in an outfield corner on an everyday basis, but if the Giants are unable to sign veterans, Slater very well could start in left or right on Opening Day.