Giants

Shawn Estes advises Giants starters on how to stay ready during hiatus

Shawn Estes advises Giants starters on how to stay ready during hiatus

Every day seems to bring a new round of terrifying updates regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and as baseball players sit home and digest the news, they have no idea when they'll be able to play again. But they're staying ready, as many, including several Giants players, have made clear on their social media pages. 

Evan Longoria recently posted a video of a session in his indoor batting cage and Mauricio Dubon has been working out on his balcony. Dereck Rodriguez's wife posted a clip of a portable pitching mound the right-hander now has. 

The starting pitchers are the ones who have the most work to do right now, and a former Giants starter gave his suggestions on how to stay ready on this week's episode of The Giants Insider Podcast. Shawn Estes, who pitched in the big leagues for 13 years and now is an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, said starters should try to replicate their normal routine as much as they can given what they're working with. 

"I would try to keep it as a starting pitcher as close to (my) every-five-day routine," Estes said. "You can still go out and get your cardio in, you can get your lifting in, you can throw a bullpen if you have that opportunity ... On your fifth day go out there and kind of do a simulated game, obviously without hitters there. Throw to a catcher and sit down, and I would probably do that for 80 pitches. 

"You know there's still going to be at worst a three-week spring training that you can actually get your arm ready to throw 100 pitches. I wouldn't overdo it until they announce that there's going to be a spring training but I would try to be at 80 pitches if at all possible. I would try to keep it as close to my five-day routine as I could."

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Giants starters were getting into that range just as camp was shut down. If there is a season, the biggest baseball issue for teams will be making sure pitchers are ready to restart and throw at least four to five innings right away without getting hurt. Rosters are sure to be expanded to add coverage, but starting pitchers will still carry a heavier load than others, and they won't have a six-week spring training to ramp back up. Some on other teams have posted clips where they've thrown to catchers recently, although those guidelines might soon be changed. 

Estes talked about what a spring training might look like on the podcast and also touched on how a shortened season might help the Giants, the current vibe in his hometown of Scottsdale, and the possibility of pitchers getting hurt. You can stream the podcast here or download it on iTunes here.

Justin Viele explains what Giants hitting coaches are focused on

Justin Viele explains what Giants hitting coaches are focused on

Justin Viele was a shortstop at Santa Clara University as the Giants were taking over the even years, and he took advantage of his school's location. Viele and friends would hop on Caltrain a few times every year and head straight to Oracle Park, the home of his future employer. 

The ballpark will look different when Viele finally walks through as the co-hitting coach. The fences are coming in, a boost not just to the hitters but to the men -- Viele, Donnie Ecker and Dustin Lind -- tasked with getting the most out of them. That's not their focus, though. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Viele said the focus remains on what hitters can control. The ballpark is still going to heavily favor pitchers, and the new staff will continue to preach having a proper swing and controlling the strike zone. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"If the ball doesn't carry but we hit it really hard, in the expected numbers that really looks good," he said. "It doesn't look good in the batting average, but the expected numbers look good because you're hitting the ball hard. That's really what we can control. Swing at the right pitches and hit the ball hard."

The hope is that a solid approach leads to more success over time, and even if the Giants get Oracle'd, they still hope to hammer teams offensively on the road. They were much improved last season, but over this three-year dip, they rank 23rd in runs scored away from home, 27th in road homers, and 28th in road wRC+. The new staff is trying to teach a better approach, and Viele summed it up neatly. 

"We like to break it up into three different bullet points," he said. "It's (first), how well are you moving. That's so many things. Some people say it's dancing with the pitcher, it's the timing, how you pick up your leg, how you move forward, all these different things. Do you have a big swipe act? Do you have a big jump forward? Are you controlled? All these different things, but ultimately it's how well are you moving. Can we make you move better?"

The second focus is on the bat and what it's doing as it comes through the zone. 

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"How adjustable is your path, are you able to get on plane with multiple pitches," Viele said. 

Finally, what are you swinging at?

"How prepared are you to face that certain pitcher, how is he going to attack you and how are you going to beat him. How is he going to win," Viele said. "It's understanding those three things: How well you're moving, the bat path, and then the game-planning portion of it."

2020 MLB Draft: Three hitters Giants could target with No. 13 pick

2020 MLB Draft: Three hitters Giants could target with No. 13 pick

The shortened 2020 MLB Draft that begins June 10 now is less than one week away. In what could be the strangest draft we've seen, the Giants are in good position with seven picks over five rounds. 

This is your first reminder that the MLB draft is unlike the more popular drafts of the NBA or NFL. This isn't about team needs, and it's extremely unlikely any player drafted plays in the pros this season, if there even is a season. Baseball fans have shown a lot of patience this year, and they'll need more when it comes from prospects drafted, especially this year as players' seasons either were shortened or canceled. 

Will the Giants continue their pattern of taking hitters in the first round? They have done so with their last four first-round picks, and certainly could do so again this year.

They're in an interesting spot at No. 13, right above the halfway mark of Round 1. With money slots and odd circumstances when it comes to scouting challenges this year, players could rise and fall for many reasons. After looking at multiple mock drafts and lists of top prospects, here are three hitters the Giants could target with their top pick.

Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock High School

Soderstrom has been connected to the Giants time and time again throughout the draft process. He's listed as a catcher, however, he's much more than that. The prep star split time at third base, can play first base and has the athleticism to possibly play a corner outfield spot.

That certainly could help his case with the Giants. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi values versatility around the diamond. Zaidi was the Los Angeles Dodgers general manager when they took Will Smith in the first round of the 2016 draft. Smith, like Soderstrom, is listed as a catcher but also played third and second base in the minor leagues. 

Soderstrom will be picked for his bat, though. Defensive versatility is nice, but hitting dingers is much sweeter. The left-handed hitter packs plenty of power, too. 

Prior to his senior season being shut down, he hit .357 with one homer through five games. As a junior, Soderstrom hit .450 with four home runs and 1.340 OPS. Soderstrom also has a strong track record against top talent with a wood bat, and hit .364 with 10 RBI over nine games for the Team USA on the 2019 18U National Team.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA

Mitchell might have some of the best tools in the entire draft. Baseball America gives him 80-grade speed, the highest a player can have. He is a true center fielder who only got better and better at the plate throughout his college career. 

After a strong freshman year, Mitchell broke out as a sophomore by hitting .349 with six homers, 14 doubles and a UCLA single-season record 12 triples. He also stole 18 bases. Before his junior season ended, Mitchell was hitting .355 with six doubles and ended the year on a 10-game hitting streak. 

Mitchell also has Type-1 Diabetes, and some teams might be worried about his health risks. As far as tools and skill set go, the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder is one of the best in this year's draft class.

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Robert Hassell, OF, Independence High School

Hassell might be the best pure high school hitter in the country. There also is a real chance the top of the draft goes college-heavy, especially with shortened seasons and scouts not able to see as many prep prospects this year. 

If Hassell still is available at No. 13, the Giants should seriously consider him. The two-time Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year hit .423 with 14 homers and 22 steals as a junior, and then slashed .514/.548/.866 for the 18U USA National Team last September at the WBSC 18U World Cup in South Korea. 

With the 13th pick in the draft, the Giants could be in prime position for this young, advanced bat to fall to them. They also could look at high school outfielders Pete Crow-Armstrong and Austin Hendrick, along with high school shortstop Ed Howard. 

It would be a shock if Arkansas slugger Heston Kjerstad still is available at No. 13. But if he is, the Giants would have a hard time passing on his bat after hitting .345 with 35 homers over his college career.