A shortened spring training led to an odd situation for Giants minor leaguers.
Because MLB players were locked out into March, minor league camp actually started before big league camp, allowing a few older prospects to get their swings ready before trying to impress Gabe Kapler and the big league coaching staff in Cactus League games. Most prospects were held back entirely, as there wasn't enough time to give guys like Marco Luciano and Luis Matos a couple weeks of reps at Scottsdale Stadium before reassigning them.
To top it off, the Triple-A season actually began two days before the big league season, forcing the Giants to cut down to what is essentially their Opening Day roster a few days earlier than usual.
The lockout messed with the calendar, but the minors will get going on time, and there's a lot to pay attention to if you're a Giants fan. The organization now boasts one of the deepest farm systems in baseball with some serious future star power. With minor league rosters now fully released, here are three things to know about where the Giants placed the next generation of stars:
Plan Your Trip to Oregon
The Eugene Emeralds, the organization's High-A affiliate, are absolutely loaded. There's a high bar to reach, because Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford and other members of the dynasty came through the minors at the same time, but Eugene might have more raw talent than any affiliate in franchise history.
Marco Luciano, the Giants' best prospect in a decade, will return after finishing last season there, and he'll be joined by fellow top 100 prospect Luis Matos, a center fielder who was the Low-A MVP last season.
Outfielder Hunter Bishop and catcher Patrick Bailey both spent some time in Eugene last year before fighting injuries and both will return. The infield includes 2020 second-rounders Jimmy Glowenke and Casey Schmitt, along with Luis Toribio. Jairo Pomares, perhaps the most underrated prospect in the system, and Armani Smith join Matos and Bishop in the outfield.
The pitching staff is led by 20-year-old lefty Kyle Harrison, the Giants' best pitching prospect, and includes Randy Rodriguez, Seth Corry, Prelander Berroa, Cole Waites and Nick Swiney, a second-rounder who was limited to just 12 starts last season by injuries.
Six of the organization's top nine prospects on MLB Pipeline's list are on Eugene's roster, and they have 11 players listed on the top 30. If you're looking for a road trip in April or May, drive up to Oregon. Some of these guys are going to hit or pitch their way to Double-A Richmond pretty quickly.
Ricardo Genoves, a big 22-year-old catcher out of Venezuela, has gotten overshadowed by the Giants taking two catchers with recent first-round picks, but he has a lot of fans in the organization, and he's taking a big leap this season. Genoves ended last season with six games at Triple-A -- going 10-for-22 -- and will start there this year.
That's notable because it means Genoves skips Double-A altogether. He spent nearly all of last season with Low-A San Jose and High-A Eugene, and in all, he had a .812 OPS and 14 homers across the three levels. It's rare that a catcher skips a level like Double-A, but Genoves is kind of in a rare spot.
He has been in big league camp three times already, so he's very familiar with most of the big league staff. Genoves was also Rule 5 eligible this past offseason, so if the Giants want to keep him long-term, at some point soon they'll have to put him on the 40-man. The keyword there might be "soon." The Giants don't have a lot of upper-level catching depth, and it's possible an injury gets the young catcher known as "Geno" on the big league roster this season. He's now a short drive away.
Genoves is part of perhaps the deepest crop of young catchers the Giants have ever had. Joey Bart takes over at the big league level and Brett Auerbach is at Double-A after a huge spring. Bailey is in Eugene but shouldn't be there long.
Keep an eye on Adrian Sugastey, who signed out of Panama for $525,000 in 2019. Sugastey hit .358 in rookie ball last year and team officials are very, very excited to see what he does in his first full season.
Playing It Slow
This has been a hallmark under Farhan Zaidi, Scott Harris and Kyle Haines, who do not want to push prospects before they're ready -- and they don't really need to with all the depth they've built on the 40-man.
Genoves is really the only player who stands out for taking a big jump. Many of the organization's top prospects are returning to levels where they finished in 2021, including Luciano, who had just a .283 OBP and one homer in 36 games for Eugene late last season.
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R.J. Dabovich will start the season back in Double-A after striking out 34 of the 81 batters he faced for the Flying Squirrels, although he's a hard-throwing reliever who should move quickly. The High-A roster is filled with former college stars, including some of the Giants' best pitching prospects. The Triple-A roster is filled nearly entirely with older minor leaguers and guys with some big league time.
Coming off 107 wins, the Giants can be patient, and they are. When their top prospects arrive, they want them to be ready to hit the ground running.