Giants

Where Hunter Bishop should rank among Giants' top prospects right away

Where Hunter Bishop should rank among Giants' top prospects right away

Hunter Bishop took the first steps towards his childhood dream when he signed with the Giants last Saturday. 

Bishop, a Palo Alto native who attended Serra High School, soon will join top prospects like Marco Luciano in the Arizona Rookie League. As the former Arizona State star heads back to the desert, where should the power-hitting outfielder rank next to the team's top prospects like Luciano and others? 

Before he takes his first swing as a professional, Bishop will become one of San Francisco's top prospects. Just how high is the real question. 

Leaping over the Giants' top three prospects -- Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos and Luciano -- is out of the question. Bart and Ramos recently were ranked as two of the top 60 prospects in baseball by MLB Pipeline. And Luciano, only 17 years old, has been the most impressive of the trio this year. 

Now that he has professional at-bats under his belt, Luciano could be ranked as the team's top prospect before we know it.

After the three bats, four arms -- Logan Webb, Sean Hjelle, Jake Wong and Gregory Santos -- make up the Giants' Nos. 4 through 7 prospects. There's an argument to place Bishop ahead of all four of them. 

Bishop, 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, should be able to climb up the farm system fairly quick. After making changes to his stance and approach at the plate last summer in the Cape Cod League, Bishop went from batting .250 with five homers as a sophomore to .342 and 22 long balls as a junior. The big left-handed hitter still strikes out plenty, but the power appears to be real. 

Even if he doesn't hit near an average of say, .342, Bishop still should have the ability to launch home runs. Should his speed-power combination propel him to be ranked as the Giants' No. 4 prospect? It might not be that simple. 

While Wong and Santos have been impressive, it's Webb and Hjelle who Bishop could have a hard time jumping off the bat.

Before Webb was suspended 80 games for a positive PED test, he was one of the fastest risers in the team's farm system. The 22-year-old had a 2.00 ERA through five starts for Double-A Richmond this season. Meanwhile, Hjelle, the 6-foot-11 second-rounder, has been phenomenal in his first full season in the minors. Between Low-A Augusta and High-A San Jose, he has a 2.28 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 17 starts. 

[RELATED: Giants prospect models game after MadBum, Scherzer]

It won't be easy to top those two pitchers, who both could factor into the Giants' starting rotation by 2021.

On the high end, Bishop could be slotted in as the Giants' new No. 4 prospect. Conservatively, he could land at No. 6. Either way, the Giants have a power bat in the farm system who soon could make their dream come true in San Francisco.

Farhan Zaidi explains worst-case scenario of calling Joey Bart up early

Farhan Zaidi explains worst-case scenario of calling Joey Bart up early

Farhan Zaidi hears your rallying cries begging for the Giants call up Joey Bart.

What's there to lose, right? Well, the Giants' president of baseball operations believes there's a lot to lose, and is doing everything in his power to make sure Bart's transition to the big leagues is as smooth as possible

"What we have to lose is putting Joey Bart on a career path that doesn't allow him to get the most out of his ability," Zaidi recently said to the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea on the "Giants Splash" podcast. "What we have to lose is calling him up, maybe a little too early, having him struggle, having that impact his confidence and that's the last thing we want to do.

"Frankly, we'd rather be a little late on calling him up than a little early on calling him up." 

Bart, 23, is considered the second-best catching prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft hit .278 with 16 home runs last season between Single-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond. He also missed multiple weeks after fracturing his left hand and then fractured his right thumb early on in the Arizona Fall League.

When Zaidi was the Los Angeles Dodgers' general manager, he faced similar decisions with calling up top prospects like Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. Bellinger was just 21 years old when he made his MLB debut against the Giants in April 2017. Seager also was just 21 when he debuted in September 2015. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

But Bellinger had 399 at-bats in Double-A and 78 more in Triple-A before he reached the big leagues. Seager had 228 in Double-A and 421 in Triple-A. Bart hasn't played a single game in Triple-A and only has 79 at-bats in Double-A. 

The goal is to make sure Bart follows a similar path as Bellinger and Seager. Bellinger won the NL MVP in just his third big league season. Seager won NL Rookie of the Year and already has been named to two All-Star Games. Those kind of accolades certainly are what Zaidi and Co. envision for Bart. 

With no minor league season this year, Bart is training at the Giants' alternate site in Sacramento. There, he's learning how to play first base and working on very specific aspects of his overall game. He isn't able to play in full games right now, but Zaidi believes he still is able to grow as a player. 

[RELATED: Zaidi, Giants reach key milestone with latest prospect trade]

"I still view him as getting important reps, because he's facing good pitching in Sacramento," Zaidi said. "We've got guys like Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez -- those guys are with the taxi squad right now -- but he had the opportunity to face those guys, as well as other guys who are Triple-A, big league pitchers.

"I think those are valuable reps." 

The Giants don't view Bart as someone who will just help them one day. They know he has superstar potential. And sometimes, that comes with a frustrating amount of patience.

How Giants' Austin Slater made adjustment to show early signs of breakout

How Giants' Austin Slater made adjustment to show early signs of breakout

For seven innings Monday night, the Giants were playing their worst game of the season. There was very little to be positive about, but in those final two frames, Austin Slater took a couple of swings that at least guaranteed the coaching staff would sleep a bit easier. 

Slater homered in the eighth and then kept the rally going with a single in the ninth. Both hits came off right-handed pitchers. Both went to right field. They had launch angles of 28 and 29 degrees, respectively. 

Slater has worked hard since debuting in 2017 to get the ball in the air more and take advantage of his natural strength, and he might finally be seeing consistent results. At the end of his Zoom press conference after a 6-4 loss, manager Gabe Kapler took some time to credit Slater for his pre-game work.

"When a player trains for the outcome that he had tonight, which is a home run to right-center field off a righty, I think it's worth noting," Kapler said. "Today in his batting practice session out on the field, we had the machine set up from an arm angle on the right side of a pitcher firing him fastballs. We were watching him in BP training for that moment, driving balls into the opposite field. 

"So when that practice session shows up into the game and rewards a player for that kind of high-level training and effort, I think it's worth noting. It's a good example for all of us to train at that speed and in a way that's pretty uncomfortable, and we can see the results translating."

Slater has three homers in the past three games, including two off Clayton Kershaw. He became the first Giant to homer off Kershaw twice in a game, but the shot off Josh James on Monday might have been more important to his development. 

The Giants know Slater sees lefties well. He's their leadoff hitter against them. But to avoid being a strict platoon piece, he'll have to do much better than his .238 average and .303 slugging percentage against righties last year. It's a very small sample, but Slater has five hits -- including that homer and a triple -- in 18 at-bats against right-handed pitching this season. He is doing damage against both, and doing it by driving the ball more. 

Slater's launch angle his first three seasons ranged from 1.6 percent to 3.4, with many of his hits coming on hard grounders through holes on the right side. He still doesn't pull the ball much, but this season that launch angle is 8.7 percent. He ranks 23rd in the big leagues and leads the Giants in percentage of batted balls that are barreled. 

The tools have always been there for Slater to be a good big league outfielder. He can play all three spots, has a strong arm, is a plus runner (he has four stolen bases already this year), and has a good approach at the plate. The biggest adjustment was driving the ball in the air, and early on, the signs are positive. 

[RELATED: Zaidi targeted Solano since Dodger days]

After taking Kershaw to dead-center twice on Saturday, Slater said it's been nice to see results. But he knew the work wasn't anywhere close to done. 

"That's still going to be an intention of mine, trying to get the ball in the air as much as possible," he said. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]