Giants

Why Giants' improving farm system continues to rise in Keith Law's eyes

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Ali Thanawalla

Why Giants' improving farm system continues to rise in Keith Law's eyes

When The Athletic's Keith Law was asked late last month which team is building the next elite farm system, all he needed was one word: Giants. 

Law further explained his reasoning Friday with KNBR's Mark Willard. While the prospect evaluator isn't head over heels about one player in general, he believes San Francisco is building its system where the sum is greater than its parts. And it all goes back to teenagers like shortstop Marco Luciano. 

Prospects like Joey Bart and Hunter Bishop, who already are 23 and 21 years old respectively aren't who make Law so intrigued. It's the players like Luciano (18), Alexander Canario (19), Luis Toribio (19) and Luis Matos (18) that excite Law.

"The No. 1 reason is because they have this really intriguing group of very young prospects, mostly guys from that large Latin American prospect class they signed a couple of years ago," Law said when asked why he's so high on the Giants' farm system "... Now, Marco Luciano looks like he might be a really elite prospect. Alexander Canario, Luis Toribio, Luis Matos, these guys have at least performed well enough in the early going at young ages to increase my confidence levels that at least some of them will turn into really elite prospects.

"When you add that to some of the guys who are already in the system like the Joey Barts and the Hunter Bishops, I am much more optimistic about what we're gonna think about this system in say a year from now." 

That's just the first reason for Law, too. While a handful of the Giants' top prospects and recent players to make their big league debuts come from the Bobby Evans era, Law is a big believer in president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. 

He believes Zaidi will only take the Giants to the next level.

"I just really think highly of Farhan Zaidi and the group that he's put together there," Law said. "I think he's brought in some really smart people from other organizations on the scouting side and on the player development side.

"One, they have a lot of talent coming into the system. And two, they're going to continue to add to that going forward."

Giants fans will have to wait a while to see prospects like Luciano and Canario make their way to San Francisco. Bart is a different story. He dominated spring training once again, and if it weren't for the coronavirus pandemic he likely would have started the season in Triple-A Sacramento before making his big league debut. 

Law, however, doesn't exactly envision a superstar in Bart like many Giants fans do. He has Bart as No. 44 on his top 100 prospects list, much lower than a lot of other major outlets. 

"There's risk that he's maybe a backup catcher," Law says. "He's going to strikeout quite a bit, he's not going to hit for a whole lot of average." 

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Between Single-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond, Bart hit .278. He also struck out in 22.7 percent of his at-bats, which shouldn't be too concerning with the power he has. His swing is long and has some moving parts that could hurt him against higher velocity, though. 

While he doesn't love Bart, Law wants to make it clear he has him as his top Giants prospect for a reason. Law just sees a lot more floor than ceiling for Bart.

"The reason that I have him as the No. 1 prospect in the system is that he's got the highest floor of anyone in that farm system, because he's a big leaguer," Law said. "There's no chance that Joey Bart doesn't spend several years in the big leagues, unless he just has a catastrophic injury.

"He can catch and throw and he has some power. That's a backup catcher in the big leagues for 10 years or more. If he just stays healthy enough, he will play in the majors. But I do not view him as a slam-dunk everyday player."

[RELATED: What former Giants GM thinks of Bart-Posey comparisons]

Law also is hot and cold on the Giants' top draft pick from last year, Hunter Bishop. The powerful outfielder might have a higher ceiling than Bart, but there are reasons for concern. Many are the same as Bart's, too. 

"It's top-end power," Law said. "Some of the best exit velocity that I've ever seen for a college-hitting prospect. He's got the bat speed and the potential to hit for average and hit for power. He also strikes out too much. And when the competition got better last spring in the Pac-12, he got worse.

"He did most of his damage in non-conference play when he was facing better pitching in the Pac-12. His numbers did begin to dip."

Looking back at the numbers, Law is correct. Bishop hit .342 overall as a junior at Arizona State, but only .264 in conference play. He hit 22 homers overall and only seven against Pac-12 teams. 

The upside, however, is huge. 

"He may develop a little more slowly because of a lack of a lengthy track record of performance and there still is some swing and miss there," Law explained. "I just think the upside is so tantalizing. As long as he makes enough contact to hit for a decent average, he'll hit for more than a decent average because he makes such high-quality contact and he'll probably hit 25 to 30 home runs." 

There are plenty of reasons to be excited for the Giants' future. As Law notes, the real talent might take a little longer to see in the big leagues.

Ex-Giants manager Dusty Baker reveals his challenge when MLB returns

Ex-Giants manager Dusty Baker reveals his challenge when MLB returns

Dusty Baker has been a part of professional baseball since 1967, and if and when the sport returns in 2020, he will have to kick a few habits he's probably been doing since he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves.

All players, managers and coaches will have to stop spitting, among other things.

In the name of health and safety during the age of the coronavirus pandemic, MLB sent a 67-page document to teams outlining what the players can no longer do.

For Baker, the former Giants manager and current Houston Astros skipper, he isn't sure how he's going to stop spitting.

“Now the biggest challenge is gonna be what my mom has been chastising me about my whole life — spitting,” Baker told The Athletic's Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville. “I am not kidding you. That’s the first thing my wife asked me. She goes, ‘How you gonna stop spitting?’ I don’t know.

“And my mom, I swear — she has been getting on me since I was 10 years old about spitting. Know what I mean? And I used to practice spitting. I’m the most accurate spitter in the world.”

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

If you've seen Baker anywhere near a baseball diamond, he always has a toothpick sticking out of his mouth. Those little pieces of wood have become synonymous with the 70-year-old.

Baker told Stark and Glanville that there was a time in his career where he called a toothpick company trying to get an endorsement. Yes, a toothpick endorsement.

“So they wrote me back,” Baker said. “Nice letter. And they said, ‘Thank you, Dusty. It’s a great idea. But we don’t need you to sell toothpicks.' ”

Only Dusty could try to get a toothpick endorsement.

[RELATED: Zac Efron's epic Dusty autograph story]

Whenever baseball returns, Baker will manage an Astros team coming off a turbulent offseason in which they were severely punished for a sign-stealing scandal. Former manager AJ Hinch was fired for his role, opening the door for Baker get the chance to lead his fifth MLB team to the playoffs.

If Baker gets back to the playoffs, he'll have to do it without his trusty toothpicks.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Why Giants' Hunter Pence feels such 'deep connection' to organization

Why Giants' Hunter Pence feels such 'deep connection' to organization

Hunter Pence was part of two World Series-winning teams with the Giants in 2012 and 2014. He rejoined San Francisco's roster in February after an impressive comeback season in 2019 that included All-Star honors with the Texas Rangers.

The 37-year-old outfielder joined 95.7 The Game on Friday and explained why he decided to return to San Francisco.

“Obviously I feel a deep connection with the Giants organization,” Pence said. “The city, and these years, you never know which one is gonna be your last. I think everyone thought two years ago was my last year, and I’ve been fortunate that I made some adjustments.

“I want to be a part of passing on a lot of the things that I’ve learned to the young people, and I wanna come and transition back into the winning ways.”

[RELATED: Five Giants hitters who've had much more success when visiting Rockies]

Pence also noted that he’s appreciated getting a chance to work with the organization’s new leadership.

“It’s been really exciting to learn from Farhan, and the new metrics and I learned a lot of that with the Rangers. So I’m excited to share. I wanna pass all that on, I feel right at home, I’m in love with the city and the organization, and in love with everything with the Giants. It feels like home, it feels like family and it means a lot to be a Giant.”

Pence hopefully will be able to once again take the field in a Giants uniform soon.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]