Why Giants are excited about South African-born prospect Kieran Lovegrove


Why Giants are excited about South African-born prospect Kieran Lovegrove

You probably missed it, but the Giants made an under-the-radar move late in November that has boom or bust potential. 

Across the minor-league transaction wire, the Giants signed 24-year-old reliever Kieran Lovegrove, a move that can bring major results in the future. Just ask president of baseball operation Farhan Zaidi. 

“He’s a terrific arm, a terrific prospect," Zaidi said Wednesday on KNBR. 

Lovegrove was born in South Africa and was the Indians' third-round pick out of Mission Viejo High School in 2012. This past season was his best to date and he even suited up for Team World in the Futures Game. Mostly pitching in Double-A with three innings at Triple-A and 10 games at Advanced Single-A, the 6-foot-4 right-hander went 4-0 with a career-best 2.73 ERA in 41 relief appearances. 

Ever since being drafted, Lovegrove has had a hard time with his control. Throwing a fastball that sits at 95-96 mph and can touch triple digits, it sometimes has a mind of its own. 

“My fastball is a four-seam, but something about the way I pronate makes it two-seam at times,” Lovegrove said to FanGraphs last month. “When it’s down, it registers as a sinker at 2,500 (RPM). I wish I knew why it does what it does, but it’s working for me right now, and that’s what matters.”

As Lovegrove is coming off his career-year where he struck out 10 batters per nine innings, Zaidi believes the past is the past and his new acquisition will build off the momentum he created in 2018. 

“He’s on the uptick, he’s had some injury issues, but we’re really encouraged by what we saw last year," Zaidi said. "There was a lot of competition for him, so we were excited we were able to land him.” 

The Giants are yet to make a big move this offseason as perhaps the top two arms are off the market in Patrick Corbin (Nationals) and Nathan Eovaldi (Red Sox). But as Zaidi spoke on Lovegrove, he hinted at what his focus may be right now to boost the Giants' roster.

"One of the things I think we need to use is our ability to recruit pitchers as free agents because they know that this is a terrific park to call your home park if you're a pitcher," Zaidi said. "Even pitching in the NL West, I think is generally advantageous.

"That’s one platform that I think we really need to use, not just with a minor-league free agent like Lovegrove, but all the way up to the major league level.” 

While Corbin and Eovaldi are gone, the Giants have their eyes overseas as they've heavily scouted free agent Yusei Kikuchi. Whether it's a minor-league free agent like Lovegrove, a big name in free agency, or searching the trading block, Zaidi sounds like he's looking to take advantage of AT&T Park and building a top-notch starting rotation. 

Giants pick up veteran reliever with strong big league track record


Giants pick up veteran reliever with strong big league track record

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nick Vincent was the latest veteran to walk into Giants camp on a minor league deal, and he arrived just in time for the annual visit from the MLB Players Association. That’s a meeting Vincent is looking forward to. 

The 32-year-old has a 3.17 ERA in seven seasons for the Padres and Mariners, and FIP (3.09) likes him even more. Vincent is durable, with three straight 60-appearance seasons for the Mariners, and he had a 3.99 ERA in 62 appearances last season, striking out nearly a batter per inning. 

That’s the type of reliever who should be locked onto a roster at the start of camp. Vincent walked in two days before the first Cactus League game.

“We’re not Bryce Harpers,” he said of the vast majority of the players still on the market. “You’ve got to prove you can pitch.”

Vincent, a right-hander, certainly can. The Giants know him well, having watched him when he posted a 2.63 ERA in four seasons with the Padres. Vincent knows them well, too. He recalled how many times he had to face the Giants from 2012-2015. 

“That’s when they were the champions every other year,” he said. “I always hated them. When I played against them, I couldn’t stand them. But I always knew it was a good organization looking at how they carried themselves on the field and how it was run.”

The San Diego-area native knows his new manager a bit. He played catch in the offseason with Brett Bochy a couple of years ago.

Vincent has a strong track record, but walked into a crowded room. The Giants return all of their contributors from last year’s bullpen except Hunter Strickland — who is with Vincent’s old team, the Mariners — and they’ve added several intriguing arms over the offseason. Vincent is the latest, even if he had to wait a while. 

"It's a crazy free agent market right now," he said. "Hopefully it gets better."

Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, more Giants will have different look at plate

Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, more Giants will have different look at plate

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After 10 days of watching him take batting practice and do catching drills, the Giants fully expect Buster Posey to be in the lineup on March 28 in San Diego. When he digs into the box, you'll see a different look from Posey, now in his 11th big league season. 

Posey is one of a dozen Giants wearing a batting helmet with a flap this spring. Last year, the Giants had just one player on their active roster -- backup catcher Aramis Garcia -- with a flap protecting his jaw. Posey said he plans to use the new helmet during the 2019 season. 

"I thought about changing last year but I didn't want to do it during the season," he said. "It's just about getting more protection."

Not surprisingly, the catchers appear to be leading the way. Garcia started wearing a helmet flap after suffering a facial fracture in 2016 while playing for the San Jose Giants. René Rivera started wearing the bigger helmet last year, not because of concussion issues -- Posey and Garcia both have had concussions behind the plate -- but because of what he was seeing from pitchers. 

"Everyone is throwing harder every year, and a lot of these guys are throwing up in the zone now," he said, mimicking a fastball that moves quickly towards a batter's head. "It's extra protection at the plate."

The catchers aren't the only ones with the new look. Pablo Sandoval had a flap on his helmet during live batting practice sessions earlier this week, along with Cameron Maybin, who wore one last year with the Marlins and Mariners. Others are expected to follow. 

The change for homegrown Giants has a lot to do with a change by Rawlings. The equipment company has a new helmet that is made to withstand a 105 mph fastball, an increase from the old helmet that withstood 100 mph. The r-flap has been redesigned and is not as bulky. 

Brad Grems, the clubhouse coordinator, said Rawlings engineers will be in the clubhouse Friday to show players their new helmets. Rawlings now has flaps that can be screwed onto the helmet in three different positions, allowing for more flexibility and comfort. Garcia said the old flap, while necessary for him, would often press against his face. 

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According to Grems, the new helmet will be a better fit for players' heads. By 2020, Rawlings plans to roll out the new, better-fitting helmet in every clubhouse. By then, you could see a lot more players protecting their jaws with a helmet flap.