Breyvic Valera

How Giants' spring training cuts so far could have role in 2019 season

How Giants' spring training cuts so far could have role in 2019 season

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants made their first round of cuts on this day a year ago, and the press release that day was most notable for the fact that players like Steven Okert and Miguel Gomez got optioned to minor league camp. Buried in the stories that day was this line: 

The Giants also reassigned five players to minor league camp: Tyler Cyr, Jose Flores, Dereck Rodriguez, Madison Younginer and Alen Hanson. 

You never know how quickly a player might bounce back and make an impact at the big league level, as Rodriguez and Hanson did last year. So let's take a run through the Giants roster moves so far, which cut the spring roster down to 45, and see what's next for the prospects and hopefuls no longer in camp. 

March 2-4: Jamie Callahan, Conner Menez, Garrett Williams and Sam Wolff are reassigned to minor league camp

Callahan, a pitcher picked up from the Mets over the offseason, is still rehabbing after shoulder surgery. The Giants will let Menez, who piles up strikeouts, and Williams, a breakout performer in 2017, continue to start as the Giants rebuild minor league depth. Wolff is hoping to build off a solid Fall League. 

March 8: Merandy Gonzalez and Logan Webb are optioned; John Andreoli, Jandel Gustave, Ryan Howard and Hamlet Marte are reassigned to minor league camp

Gonzalez, Andreoli and Gustave are among the large group of flyers Zaidi has added to the minor league system. Andreoli and Gonzalez were claimed on waivers.

There are some talent evaluators high up in the organization who believe the 22-year-old Webb will be the organization's best pitching prospect at some point this season. Howard got just 10 at-bats in camp but roped three doubles; the Giants are hopeful they have a second Matt Duffy here. Marte has strong minor league numbers and will catch every day at Double-A. 

March 9: Carlos Navas and Kieran Lovegrove are reassigned

Lovegrove might have been the most interesting player in the clubhouse. He gave up four runs in four spring appearances, but it's a live arm and the Giants went hard after him early in the offseason. They're hoping to get him on track in the minors. 

March 10: Jose Lopez and Melvin Adon are optioned

Lopez, picked up from the Reds last month, should provide starting depth in Triple-A. Adon hit 102 mph a couple of times and is being moved from starting to relieving, and he might move quickly. He's likely to start the season in Double-A.

Given how many pitchers the Giants plan to use, it wouldn't be a surprise to see both these guys in the big leagues at some point. 

March 11: Abiatal Avelino, Sam Coonrod, Ryder Jones, Chris Shaw and Breyvic Valera are optioned; Shaun Anderson, Enderson Franco and Keyvius Sampson are reassigned

The biggest cuts came Monday, and there's a lot to unpack here. Shaw might have had the most impressive swing of the spring, but he wasn't in the mix for an outfield job and it's time to get him four at-bats a day.

He has also hit a bit of a crossroads, as he'll be in Triple-A for a third straight year. The Giants are still waiting for more consistent contact. 

Jones was a bit behind as he came off knee surgery and never had a shot at making the team. It'll be interesting to see if the Giants move him around in Triple-A; he's blocked in the infield but there's been talk of getting him outfield reps. That's something Jones, still just 24, would like to try. 

One of Avelino or Valera could be in trouble when the Giants need a roster spot for Yangervis Solarte. If they survive, they're both on the 40-man and infielders often get shuttled back and forth because of injuries.

The Giants love Avelino's energy and may move him all over the field as they look for versatile role players similar to what Farhan Zaidi had in Los Angeles. They really need one of these guys to break through and provide an infield option from the right side of the plate

Franco and Sampson were part of an offseason effort to add new arms to the upper levels of the minors. A holdover is Coonrod, who will pitch exclusively out of the bullpen this year in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. He's back up to the high 90s with his fastball. 

Anderson is the organization's best pitching prospect and had two solid appearances in his first camp. He'll start the season at Triple-A and is currently somewhere around ninth on the starting depth chart, but he should make his debut this season. Anderson is a former closer and could break in as a boost for the bullpen.

[RELATED: Joey Bart needs to improve this part of his game, Mike Krukow says]

If the Giants sell at the deadline, he's likely to get an early crack at a 2020 rotation spot. 

Giants' youth infusion fully underway despite otherwise quiet offseason

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Giants' youth infusion fully underway despite otherwise quiet offseason

SAN FRANCISCO -- The social media reaction to the report that the Giants had signed Brandon Beachy was predictable, and at times, to be fair, funny. Shoutout to the person on Twitter who responded by pointing out that “he was really good in 2012” applies to most of the current Giants roster. 

But one tweet caught my eye and got me thinking. It was a complaint about how the Giants added another aging player, which in the past has been as valid as any gripe. 

Every year Giants executives say they would like to get younger and more athletic in the offseason. Just about every year, we look up in February and the clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium is brimming with new 31-year-olds.

Farhan Zaidi went down the same road in his introductory press conference, saying he wanted to add “more youth and athleticism to complement the culture of selflessness.” He hasn’t added much in terms of marquee free agents, but he has made the Giants’ 40-man roster and spring clubhouse younger, and while we haven’t seen most of these guys in action, many do come with reputations for being speedsters and versatile athletes. 

Just take a look at the outfield. Zaidi still has multiple holes to fill and could still turn to free agents in their mid-thirties, but at the moment, it’s a much younger group than the Giants have had in the past. 

The oldest outfielder on the 40-man roster is John Andreoli, picked up Friday. He turns 29 during the season. Ditto for Mac Williamson. Austin Slater and Rule 5 pick Drew Ferguson just turned 26. Chris Shaw and Steven Duggar are 25. Mike Gerber, who was claimed and then passed through waivers, is 26. 

Anthony Garcia, a non-roster invitee, is 27. Henry Ramos, the other non-roster outfielder, is 26. 

It’s not a particularly strong group at the moment, but the Giants believe there’s upside here, and that’s something you can dream on when all your outfielders are years from their dirty 30 parties. It’s a new experience for the Giants, too. Last year’s most-used outfielders included Andrew McCutchen (31 last opening day), Gorkys Hernandez (30), Hunter Pence (34), Gregor Blanco (34) and Austin Jackson (32). 

[RELATED: More questions than answers for Giants' outfield situation]

The Giants also will be a little younger in the infield if the non-roster list is any indication. This year’s non-roster group is about a year younger on average than last year’s and includes a pair of 24-year-olds: Zachary Green and Ryan Howard. Offseason addition Breyvic Valera, 27, will be among those fighting for a job. While Cameron Rupp is 30, the other non-roster catchers -- Hamlet Marte and Joey Bart -- are 24 and 22, respectively. 

The three free agent pitching additions -- Derek Holland, Drew Pomeranz and Pat Venditte -- are all in their thirties, but on the position player side, the Giants have certainly aimed to get a bit younger and more athletic.

That doesn’t always pay off. McCutchen, for example, was the team’s most consistent hitter for five months last season. But if you’re looking for upside, you look for more youth, and the Giants have managed to do that during an otherwise quiet offseason. 

2019 Giants Position Preview: Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik have company

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2019 Giants Position Preview: Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik have company

SAN FRANCISCO — When Joe Panik broke through and solidified a spot alongside Brandon Crawford, it looked like the Giants could be set up the middle for a decade. They even came up with a name for the duo, Crawnik, which the organization uses often on social media. 

With new leadership, though, comes a new path, and it’s no secret that the duo was nearly broken up over the winter. Panik was brought up often in trade discussions and the Giants did their due diligence on free-agent second basemen, most notably DJ LeMahieu. 

But here we are, in the month when spring training begins, with everything intact up the middle, and a wide variety of possibilities for how the infield will look at this time a year from now. In Part III of this preview series — here’s Part I, on the catchers, and Part II, on the corner infielders — we take a look at the middle infielders: 

Returning: Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, Alen Hanson, Abiatal Avelino

Crawford was a borderline MVP candidate in the first half last season, but his numbers tailed off after the break as he dealt with nagging injuries. Still, it was a seventh consecutive two-WAR season, and there’s no reason to think that streak will end. You can bet he comes into this spring with a little extra motivation, too, after losing his Gold Glove to Nick Ahmed. 

Barring a surprise February trade, Panik will get a shot to reestablish himself. He is coming off the worst season of his career, but he’s still just 28, and still has elite bat-to-ball skills. Perhaps an upgraded analytics department can find a way to build on what Panik does best. If not, he could be headed for a platoon. 

Hanson was a nice story last year and could be a very interesting dude under the Zaidi regime. He had a .781 OPS against right-handers last season with all eight of his homers, and he can play all over the field, including in left, where there’s currently a gaping hole. That’s the type of skill set that could have him in the lineup quite often to take advantage of platoon splits. 

While Hanson succeeded as a left-handed hitter, Avelino has a chance to make a mark given his status as a righty in an infield full of the opposite. He impressed coaches last September with his energy and enthusiasm, and while he didn’t put up big numbers in winter ball, his work in the field is notable.

He played six different positions for Gigantes in the Dominican Republic, including left field and center field. The Giants believe he has a good shot at being a do-everything type

The departed: Kelby Tomlinson, Chase d’Arnaud, Miguel Gomez. 

These three combined for 265 plate appearances but very little production at the plate. Tomlinson is now a D-Back, d’Arnaud is with the Rangers, and it’s unclear where Gomez has landed. Zaidi has focused on upgrading the back end of the roster, and this is one area where the Giants can surely do better. 

Additions

The Giants did not sign anyone in a loaded second base market, but they did trade for Breyvic Valera at the beginning of the new year. The 27-year-old is a .299 hitter in the minors with on-base skills and the ability to play second, short, third, left or center.

He's on the 40-man roster, so he enters the spring with a leg up on some others vying for bench jobs. 

Non-roster invitees: Ryan Howard, Levi Michael, Donovan Solano

Howard, 24, is one of those players you hear about all the time when talking to team executives and scouts. The Giants drafted him twice and he’s had a steady rise, batting .287/.335/.391 in the minors.

[RELATED: Giants prospect Ryan Howard embraces being an underdog]

Howard doesn’t strike out much and the Giants are hopeful his doubles power (32 last season) turns into more as he matures. He could start the year in Triple-A and develop as the No. 2 to Crawford at short, with the ability to move around. 

Michael, 27, had a .858 OPS at two levels for the Mets last season. He has flashed solid on-base skills throughout the minors, which is an emphasis as the Giants rebuild their roster.

Michael has primarily been a second baseman in the minors, but has also played plenty of short, as well as third and all three outfield spots. You might have heard that versatility is another point of emphasis.  

Having taken over 1,000 big league at-bats, Solano is an outlier with this group, but he adds some experience. He spent all of last season in the minors with the Dodgers and can move all over the infield. 

Outlook:

Crawford is as dependable as any Giant, but the rest of this group is unpredictable. If Panik can get back to his old form, the middle of the field should be a strength for the Giants. Long-term, though, they’ll need to start finding some additional depth and developing contributors again.

It’s been a long time since Crawford, Panik and Matt Duffy broke through …