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. 

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. 

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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.

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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.