Chris Shaw

Down on the Farm: Where should Joey Bart rank among Giants top prospects?

Down on the Farm: Where should Joey Bart rank among Giants top prospects?

From Joey Bart to the Giants’ final pick of the 2018 MLB Draft — Lucky No. 1,186 — Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and co. are rolling the dice. Nobody, even the smartest of the baseball brainiacs, knows the future of athletes before they pick up a ball or swing a bat on a professional field. Has this stopped you from reading any further? No? Ok, let’s continue. 

The hope with Bart, the Giants’ highest draft pick since selecting Will Clark in 1985, is that he will have a more successful career than the next 1,212 players picked. 

“Looking at the players available in this draft, the pool of players you’re evaluating, with this pool of players, to be able to get Joey Bart and be able to select him for the Giants, it was really good for us,” John Barr, the Giants’ vice president in charge of scouting, said after the team selected Bart

The Giants envision Bart as a future bat in the middle of the order. Despite Buster Posey being signed through 2021 with a team option for 2022, the team did the right thing and drafted talent over need with the Georgia Tech catcher. So, before Bart plays his first minor league game, where does the No. 2 pick in the MLB Draft rank among the Giants’ top prospects?

I asked the same question on Twitter — a land full of rational sports fans — and the hopeful cheering section believes Bart should be a top-five Giants prospect right away. 

Currently, the most up to date prospect rankings are MLB Pipeline’s — the prospect news website of The Giants’ top five prospects by their rankings are Heliot Ramos, Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Tyler Beede, and Austin Slater. 

Anywhere you look, the Giants will be ranked near the bottom in prospect rankings. Ramos is the one prospect with untapped potential, Shaw has MLB power right now and Duggar can be a big-time player if his bat is ever even close to his glove. Dear Twitter, you may be right on this one. 

Ramos will rightfully remain the Giants’ No. 1 prospect for a while even with down numbers this season. His potential is simply too high. Though Ramos is hitting just .239 this season, he is only 18 years old going up against players who have been able to buy scratchers for years now.

Shaw, currently on the shelf with a groin injury, has shown a hole in his swing this season at Triple-A with 61 strikeouts to seven walks. At the same time, he’s proved his power is for real for the second straight season. Shaw hit 10 home runs in the River Cats’ first 36 games. 

Duggar needs room in his trophy case for his future Gold Glove awards and is hitting .325 over his last 10 games. His spot too is secure, bringing us to Beede and Slater. 

The last two seasons have been a disappointment for Beede. Due to a groin injury, Beede’s season was cut short in 2017, putting his MLB debut on hold. Before his injury, he was 6-7 with a 4.79 ERA. And this year hasn’t been better in the box score. Beede did make his MLB debut this year, but his tendency to miss the strike zone was on full display. 

Beede’s command isn’t on par with control. In two starts with the Giants, Beede struck out nine and walked eight, earning an 8.22 ERA in 7.2 innings. And in Sacramento, he has a 5.60 ERA in nine appearances. Take a look at Beede’s last start, the essence of who he is right now — seven strikeouts and five walks in six innings. The former first-round pick has an arsenal to make major league bats whiff. What he will be for the Giants in the future has become an even bigger and murkier question. 

Slater proved to be a productive bat for the Giants last season when he hit .282 in 34 games. His bat is clearly ahead of Triple-A competition, hitting .368 with a 1.057 OPS this season in Sacramento. He has only played six games for the Giants in 2018 and where he fits on the current roster remains unknown. Slater’s game is solid all the way around and his defensive versatility makes him even more interesting. No one part of his game jumps out, but plenty of teams could use his service. 

This all brings us back to Bart. Where does he fit? We have already eliminated the top three spots. With his upside, we’re bumping Slater down and Bart into the top five. Can he jump Beede, the Giants’ top pitching prospect, too? 

As either a part of the starting rotation or a possible move to the bullpen down the road, the 25-year-old Beede can still play a big part of the Giants’ future. Beede is staying in the top five, as No. 5. 

At Georgia Tech, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Bart gradually improved from Year 1 to Year 3. Here’s his rise as a freshman to a junior — Freshman: .299/.351/.382, .733 OPS, 1 home run; sophomore: .296/.370/.575, .945 OPS, 13 home runs; junior: .359/.471/.632, 1.103 OPS, 16 home runs. 

“I don't know where he's going to start (in the minors) but you look at the size of the kid and his success and would think someone like this would be on the fast track,” Bruce Bochy said after the Giants picked Bart.

After going from the Yellow Jackets’ catcher for three years, to the No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, Bart immediately becomes the Giants’ No. 1 catching prospect and No. 4 overall. 

Down on the Farm: Austin Slater adds new position, Chris Shaw keeps hitting home runs


Down on the Farm: Austin Slater adds new position, Chris Shaw keeps hitting home runs

Austin Slater has worn plenty of gloves in his young baseball career. On Thursday, the 25-year-old added a new one. 

In high school, Slater was a standout shortstop who was drafted by the Dodgers in the 44th round of the 2011 MLB Draft, and would have gone much higher if it wasn't for an injury that kept him out his senior year. When he moved on to Stanford, Slater started out at shortstop and second base before transitioning to the outfield. 

As a professional in the Giants' minor leagues, Slater has played all three outfield positions, the majority of the 2015 season at second base, seven games at shortstop, and now one more game at a new position with a much bigger glove. In the Sacramento River Cats' 5-3 win over Las Vegas on Thursday night, Slater slide over to first base for the first time in his professional career. 

In fact, it has been at least a baker's dozen of years since Slater last played the position, dating all the way back to Little League. 

After his 2-for-4 performance against the 51s, Slater is now slashing .368/.448/.632 with eight doubles, two triples, and one home run in 15 games with the River Cats. In five games up with the Giants this season, the success hasn't followed Slater yet in a short sample size, going 2-for-10. 

“I don’t care where I’m playing as long as I’m hitting,” Slater said in a feature story published before Thursday's game by the San Francisco Chronicle. “My mentality is, I see myself as a hitter who plays defense, hopefully above-average defense. Whatever it takes to be in the lineup.”

For the last few weeks, Slater has been seen taking ground balls at first base. Putting him there in a game is brand new and a development to watch going forward with the prospect. 

Chris Shaw's Power Show

Between the big leagues and the minor leagues, Chris Shaw led all Giants players in home runs with 24 last season. And he's on pace to complete the same feat in 2018. 

Shaw homered for the third time in two games on Thursday night, bringing his season total to eight in 24 games. The big lefty is now batting .263 with an .883 OPS. 

But, that high OPS is based mostly on a .566 slugging percentage. Shaw's on-base percentage is at a low .318 right now, down 28 points from last year. He has also struck out 40 times this season and only has six walks. 

“I don’t ever want to put myself into that category, a power-strikeout guy,” Shaw said in the same interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “Strikeouts are not something I’m OK with, but there’s nothing I can do about the past. I’ve got to move forward, keep looking for my pitch and do what I should be doing with it.”

Shaw's ability to hit the big fly is real and will play at AT&T Park when he gets called up. In the meantime, Shaw has to cut down on his whiffs and find his way on base more if he wants to be the complete hitter he desires to be. 

The Giants start a road trip against the upstart Braves on Friday and both Slater and Shaw bring what Atlanta has and San Francisco lacks: youth, athleticism, power and versatility. 

Down on the Farm: Beede throws one-hitter on Opening Day, could be headed to the bigs


Down on the Farm: Beede throws one-hitter on Opening Day, could be headed to the bigs

Two batters, two walks. That’s how Giants top pitching prospect Tyler Beede started off the 2018 season. It was the last thing he wanted after struggling in big league camp this spring. 

Beede was scheduled to start Opening Day for the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate Sacramento River Cats, but due to bad weather in Washington, the Giants sent Beede to San Bernardino to pitch for the San Jose Giants. The 25-year-old’s trip back to Advanced Single-A started with a walk, a pick-off attempt that resulted in an error by first baseman Gio Brusa advancing the runner to second base, and then another walk. A fly out to center brought Beede his first out, and the first of 11 straight batters retired. 

After searching for the strike zone to start the game against the Inland Empire 66ers, Beede settled in with a 12-pitch second inning on a pop out, strikeout and groundout. The third inning was just as smooth with two more groundouts and his second strikeout. Beede kept rolling with a pop out to catcher Jeff Arnold and his third strikeout of the day in the fourth inning before the streak ended on his third walk. But still, Beede was throwing a no-hitter. 

With two outs in the fifth inning, Beede’s no-hit bid ended on a soft line drive to right field that deflected off the glove of a leaping Jalen Miller at second base. The third out of the fifth inning, a groundout, was Beede’s final batter. He finished his first start of the season going five innings, giving up one hit and one earned run on three walks, and struck out four.

Throughout the game, Beede missed low trying to command his fastball. Those in attendance had him throwing 92-95 mph and he even touched 97 mph. While working to find the zone with his fastball, Beede was effective with his curveball, getting batters to roll over on the breaking ball. 

The big question now is, where will Beede make his next start? It certainly won’t be with the San Jose Giants, but it also may not be with the River Cats either. Beede might go from his first start with the San Jose Giants since 2015 to his MLB debut for the San Francisco Giants.

To start the season, the big-league Giants have gone with a four-man rotation as Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija are on the disabled list. The main reason the front office wanted to make sure Beede was on the bump somewhere Thursday, was all because of April 10. That date is Beede’s next start and it could come at AT&T Park against the Arizona Diamondbacks at 7:15 p.m. 

Once again, Beede proved he has a major-league arm in his Opening Day start. At the same time, he battled control issues with his fastball that have hampered him before. The next time he works on honing in on where his heater goes when he toes the rubber, Beede may be in front of a few more Giants fans.

Around The Horn

— The Giants’ No. 2 pitching prospect had a very similar first outing as the team’s No. 1. Andrew Suarez started the season opener for the River Cats and also only allowed one hit, but he walked four batters in four innings. Suarez did finish with four strikeouts, too. 

— It can only get better for the Giants’ first two picks in the 2017 MLB Draft. Heliot Ramos and Jacob Gonzalez combined to go 0-for-8 in their debut for the Augusta GreenJackets. 

— The River Cats’ first four hitters are all outfielders and names that you know by now. Here’s how they did: Steven Duggar (1-for-4, 2B, 2 Ks), Austin Slater (2-for-4, 2B), Chris Shaw (1-for-4, 2B, 1 K), Mac Williamson (1-for-3, 1 K).