What Giants' Farhan Zaidi learned from Max Muncy, Chris Taylor discovery


What Giants' Farhan Zaidi learned from Max Muncy, Chris Taylor discovery

SAN FRANCISCO — Over time, the Giants expect Farhan Zaidi to rebuild their farm system and get a pipeline of international talent headed towards AT&T Park. At some point, perhaps as soon as next winter, he’ll go out and spend much more on the free agent market. The first step of this "rebuild that’s not called a rebuild" has been much more modest.

Zaidi has added two Rule 5 picks and three players who spent most of last season in the minor leagues.

With this group, the Giants are hopeful that Zaidi can partially replicate his success in Los Angeles by finding the next Max Muncy or Chris Taylor. Muncy, 28, came out of nowhere to hit 35 homers for the Dodgers last season, more than doubling the Giants’ leader. Taylor, also 28, was the breakthrough star of 2017 and has been worth 8.9 WAR over the past two seasons. 

Zaidi said there are two main lessons that stand out from the discoveries of Muncy and Taylor, who are big parts of the Dodgers’ plans for 2019 and have plenty of team control remaining. A key one for the Giants in 2019 will be that you have to give guys a look. 

“We have to, as an organization, have a mindset of giving guys opportunities,” Zaidi said at the Winter Meetings last month. “The Chris Taylor and Max Muncy success stories weren’t just about their acquisition, but it was also about giving them the chance at the big league level and giving them some runway.”

Muncy had a .195 average in 96 previous big league games with the A’s when he was called up last April because of injuries to third basemen Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe. 

“That wasn’t his natural position," Zaidi said. "It was a position that was a little bit of a stretch for him, at least initially, and we as an organization were committed to just giving him at-bats."

Muncy was batting just .200 with two homers through his first 18 games, but the Dodgers kept running him out there, and in June he broke through with 10 homers in 76 at-bats. Zaidi remembers Taylor coming up in a platoon role and quickly earning more at-bats. It’s no secret that the Giants have been hesitant to give young players a long leash in recent years. 

“As we acquire players like this, it’s going to be important that we not only make those acquisitions but that we give them an opportunity when they arise,” Zaidi said. 

Perhaps this means the Giants will let waiver claim Mike Gerber or Rule 5 pick Drew Ferguson sink or swim in the outfield. Or maybe they’ll let holdovers like Mac Williamson, Chris Shaw or Austin Slater try to prove that they’re everyday players. Williamson, in particular, could fit this mold. Like Taylor and Muncy, he’s 28, and he looked headed for a breakout before a concussion ruined his 2018 season. 

There are well over 1,000 plate appearances still available in the outfield, and the Giants look poised to let young players handle many of them. Zaidi brought up Gerber, an outfielder picked up from the Tigers, while discussing a second lesson learned from Muncy and Taylor. The new president of baseball operations said it’s important to look at the complete track record. 

“By track records, you’re just not talking about what have you done for me lately,” Zaidi said. “When we got Max Muncy, he was coming off probably his worst season as a professional in 2016. Same with Chris Taylor. He had gotten to a point in his career where he had plateaued and was sort of up and down between Triple-A and the big leagues a little bit.

You try to look at the totality of work and not just what they’ve done recently, and that was certainly the case with Michael Gerber, who had a really good professional career and had his worst season in 2018. There are some things we are encouraged by in his track record.” 

Gerber had a .688 OPS in Triple-A last season and struck out 21 times in 42 big league at-bats. But if you throw out 2018, you find a more intriguing 26-year-old prospect.

He posted a .304/.373/.496 slash line across three levels in 2017, continuing a trend where he hit at every minor league level. Breyvic Valera fits here, too. His numbers were down in 2018, but a year earlier he hit .314 for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate with more walks than strikeouts. 

[RELATED: Giants nowhere near roster depth goal]

Players in this bin are all long shots. If they weren’t, they would already be holding down a job elsewhere. But Zaidi is happy with the crop he has brought in thus far, and if he can hit on one — perhaps finding the next Muncy or Taylor — it would go a long way toward getting the Giants back in contention. 

Alex Dickerson's bright future with Giants clouded by injury concerns


Alex Dickerson's bright future with Giants clouded by injury concerns

SAN FRANCISCO -- Once he hires a manager and general manager, Farhan Zaidi will turn to the heavy lifting. The main goal this offseason is to make the Giants lineup more competitive, particularly at home. It would be a lot easier to do that if the Giants knew exactly what they could count on from a midseason acquisition. 

Alex Dickerson changed the course of the season when he joined the Giants at Chase Field in late June against the Diamondbacks, bringing left-handed thunder to the lineup and life to the dugout as a struggling team briefly put it all together with a memorable July run. But Dickerson's season ended up going a familiar route.

He was available to Zaidi only because he had been unable to stay available for the Padres, and an oblique injury wrecked Dickerson's second half. 

That didn't leave a bad taste in his mouth, though. As Dickerson stood in front of his locker the final week of the season, he pointed out that he didn't play an inning in the big leagues the previous two seasons. 

"I just wanted to get out and compete again, and I knew there were going to be ups and downs," he said. 

The highs were game-changers for the Giants. Dickerson drove in six runs in his Giants debut and didn't slow down until he was forced to the Injured List the first week of August. In 30 games over that stretch, he hit .386 with six homers, 10 doubles, 23 RBI and a 1.222 OPS. The Giants went 20-10 when he was in the lineup. 

That's certainly not sustainable, but nothing about what Dickerson was doing looked particularly flukey, either. He has always flashed power and he showed good plate discipline and a short swing that first month. 

The oblique injury put a halt to all that, and when Dickerson returned, it was touch-and-go the rest of the way. He never felt quite comfortable, hitting .164 with three extra-base hits over his final 67 at-bats, which were scattered because he was able to start only 14 times the final six weeks. 

Looking back, Dickerson feels he returned earlier than he should have, but he has no regrets because the Giants were trying to stay in the race. He said his swing got out of whack and he was never able to find it again because he didn't go through a normal rehab process. 

There were positives, though. Dickerson's surgically-repaired back and elbow were not an issue, and he plans to be aggressive in attacking the oblique pain this offseason. Dickerson said he will do additional research and talk to as many experts as he can in an attempt to increase his core mobility and make sure the oblique pain does not return. For the first time in a long time, he's not rehabbing going into the offseason. That's a comforting feeling. 

"It'll just be a normal offseason and building up and getting in shape to hopefully play a full season next year," he said. 

[RELATED: Watch Giants prospect get ejected on call by robot ump]

Given Dickerson's history -- he has never played more than 84 games -- the Giants can't count on a full year. But they're hopeful that Dickerson, who is arbitration-eligible and a lock to return, can be part of the solution. They can manage his health as long as that bat is still helping win games. 

"With the impact potential he showed, he's going to play as much as his body will allow," Zaidi said. 

MLB rumors: Giants interested in Astros' Joe Espada for manager role

MLB rumors: Giants interested in Astros' Joe Espada for manager role

Go ahead and add another name to the candidacy list to take over the Giants' managerial role after Bruce Bochy announced his retirement following the 2019 season.

San Francisco reportedly has asked the Houston Astros for permission to speak to Joe Espada, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman. Espada also is a candidate for the Cubs' managing job.

Espada, 44, currently is the bench coach for the Astros. His background before joining Houston includes a stint with the New York Yankees as the special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman in 2014, where he later was named the team's third-base coach. Before that, he was the third base coach for the Miami Marlins.  

He also coached the Puerto Rican team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. 

Espada was drafted by the Oakland A's in the second round of the 1996 MLB Draft and spent a decade playing internationally and made it through to Triple-A.

[RELATED: Astros call Giants' Cole 'West Coast guy']

He joins a list of potential Giants managers that includes Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro, former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler and A's quality control coach Mark Kotsay ... to name a few.

As Heyman points out, this is a younger group of candidates, which appears to be the theme across the board for Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.

There surely will be many more names to come before we know who will man the Giants' dugout in 2020.