The future is arriving at Oracle Park a lot sooner than expected.
With the minor league season cancelled and a taxi squad added for the 60-game season, the Giants plan to carry their top prospects throughout the summer and get them crucial developmental work, sources tell NBC Sports Bay Area. The taxi squad will include Joey Bart, Marco Luciano, Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop, the organization's top four prospects.
For Luciano and Bishop in particular, this is a huge leap. Luciano, a shortstop who widely is considered one of the top 25 prospects in the game, is only 18 years old and has just 179 professional at-bats. Bishop, who turned 22 on Thursday, was a first-round pick just 12 months ago.
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Without a minor league season and uncertainty about the ability to have prospects get extra reps in the fall or winter, every club is expected to carry top prospects on the taxi squad. For the Giants, they will work out at Oracle Park initially during Spring Training 2.0 and then go up to Sacramento with veterans and continue to get practice reps throughout the season. Intrasquad games are permitted at the alternate training site but the taxi squad cannot play exhibition games against other taxi squads.
The Giants still are informing players about their spring plans and expect to add several more prospects to the spring roster, which can hold up to 60 players. They hope to begin workouts at Oracle Park late next week. Earlier this week, on the Giants Insider Podcast, manager Gabe Kapler explained why those workouts could include players at the low levels of the minors.
"What we're trying to balance out is who is likely to make an impact on our major league club in 2020 in a very quick season that turns into a bit of a pennant race, and how we can optimize the development of those very important players for our future, guys like Bishop, Ramos, Bart, (Patrick) Bailey, just to name a few," he said. "We're going to have to balance out how we develop them best, get them game-like reps when we can simulate them. If there is an opportunity for some sort of development camp, either in conjunction with the season or postseason, we're going to be considering that."
None of the organization's top prospects are expected to be in the mix for opening day, but Bart and Ramos previously had been talked about as possibilities to debut at some point in 2020, already having reached Double-A. For others, this decision should accelerate the minor league process. It's possible that a summer on the taxi squad allows players like Luciano and Bishop to skip lower levels and begin the 2021 minor league season in Double-A.