Mac Williamson

Giants review: Mac Williamson's concussion cut short potential breakout

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USATSI

Giants review: Mac Williamson's concussion cut short potential breakout

SAN FRANCISCO — There was an odd thing about all the major injuries the 2018 Giants suffered. Most organizations watch pitcher after pitcher go down, and the Giants certainly took some blows there. But for the most part, the biggest hits came to the lineup. 

The result was a September lineup card that included just about every position player on the 40-man roster.

This morning, we looked at the pitchers who are on the 40-man roster but didn't join the team — for various reasons — in September. When you do the same with position players, you’re left with just two: Miguel Gomez and Mac Williamson. Gomez didn’t do enough on the field to warrant a promotion. Williamson likely would have been the Giants' starting left fielder the whole second half, but he was shut down with a concussion. 

Here’s a breakdown of two Giants prospects with uncertain futures.

What went right

Gomez, 25, was once viewed as a Baby Panda. He’s an aggressive switch-hitter with serious bat-to-ball skills, and at the very least it looked like he would carve out a role as a nice pinch-hit option for Bruce Bochy. We’ll get to the issues in a moment. The good news here is that he posted a .313/.333/.479 slash line in Double-A, and even though his overall numbers in Triple-A were poor, he did manage to bat .273. 

Williamson looked like a breakout star all spring after overhauling his swing in the offseason. The work with Doug Latta nearly put him on the roster on Opening Day, and after posting a 1.626 OPS (yes, that’s correct) in his first 11 Triple-A games, he forced his way up. Williamson homered in three of six big league games before getting hurt.

The Giants had 13 balls hit with an exit velocity of 110 mph or above, and Williamson had three of them in limited time. He had the hardest-hit (114.2 mph) homer of the year by a Giant. There is power here that is just about unmatched in the organization.  

What went wrong

The Giants believe Gomez is a man without a position, and he doesn’t hit enough to make that work. He had six homers and drew just nine walks in 423 at-bats across two minor league levels. In the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, he posted a .648 OPS.

For Williamson, the main thing that went wrong in 2018 involved a two-decades-old decision to put the bullpen mounds along the left field line at AT&T Park. He went down hard on April 24 and suffered a concussion, and the hot streak was over when he returned.

Williamson had a .571 OPS and just one homer in 23 games, and after similar issues in the minors, he was shut down and sent for further evaluation. The concussion symptoms had been there all along, and Williamson didn’t play after Aug. 7. 

Contract status 

Neither player is arbitration eligible. Gomez has one option remaining. Williamson is out of options. 

The future

The emergence of Alen Hanson and Abiatal Avelino could end Gomez’s time on the 40-man roster. The Giants feel pretty comfortable with their depth at second base.

The Williamson decision is fascinating. Before he tumbled over a bullpen mound, he looked poised to break out and possibly grab the left field job for good. It’s possible the Giants will look at Williamson, Austin Slater and Chris Shaw, and decide that one way or another, they’ll go young in left field next season. In that case, a healthy Williamson could start the season in the lineup. It’s also possible that the front office will be scared off by his concussion and acquire a player who again blocks the path to playing time.

Williamson waited a long time for his shot at an everyday job. The hope is that one injury didn’t take that away from him. 

Months after concussion, Mac Williamson once again being evaluated

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USATSI

Months after concussion, Mac Williamson once again being evaluated

SAN FRANCISCO — As the Giants try to sort out their roster for the rest of the season and decide if they want to take extended looks at minor leaguers, a powerful outfielder has been sidelined because of a lingering injury. 

Mac Williamson was put on the Triple-A disabled list on Saturday and will undergo additional testing to determine if he is again having issues related to a concussion he suffered in April. Williamson has not played since August 7. General manager Bobby Evans said the Giants are gathering info, and Williamson’s current issues are “possibly connected to his concussion earlier in the season. (He is) being evaluated.”

Williamson, 28, appeared on the verge of a breakout earlier this season. He overhauled his swing in the offseason and had a huge spring before posting a 1.626 OPS and hitting six homers in his first 11 minor league games. Williamson made an immediate impact upon his promotion, hitting three homers in his first five games, but he went down hard after tripping over the bullpen mound on April 24. 

Williamson missed 27 games and saw a specialist when the Giants visited Pittsburgh in May. He couldn’t recapture that early magic after returning, batting .187 in 23 games before getting sent back down. At times, Williamson appeared to be finding traction in Triple-A, but overall his numbers were down significantly. Williamson was 3-for-26 in August before getting shut down. It’s unclear when he might have started dealing with symptoms again. 

The Giants figured to take a look at several young players in September if they fail to make a dent in the standings over the next couple of weeks. At some point, they need to figure out what they have in Williamson and Chris Shaw, who has had strikeout issues in Triple-A but also has 22 homers this season. 

--- Brandon Belt joined Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday and will play five innings. He should be back by Tuesday. Hunter Strickland will pitch another inning on his rehab assignment tonight. He is expected to be activated when eligible August 18. 

Down on the Farm: Joe Panik starts rehab assignment, Mac Williamson hits moon shot

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AP

Down on the Farm: Joe Panik starts rehab assignment, Mac Williamson hits moon shot

The Giants’ infield gained Evan Longoria on Thursday just as they lost Brandon Belt to the DL. In Sacramento, the big league club’s infield got even closer to full strength with who was playing second base down in Triple-A. 

For the first time since July 6, Joe Panik was back on the field to begin his rehab assignment from a groin injury. Panik started at second base for the Sacramento River Cats and batted second in the lineup, one spot ahead of familiar face Mac Williamson. 

In his first at-bat back, Panik shed off any rust he might have had. After working the count to three balls and two strikes with three foul balls, Panik finished an eight-pitch at-bat with a fly ball single to right field. One batter later, Williamson followed with a towering 457-foot home run to straightaway center field. 

Williamson is doing everything he can to make it back to San Francisco in what is now a crowded outfield. In his last 10 games, Williamson is batting .325 (13-for-40) and now has three home runs in his last seven games. How to get him back on the 25-man roster will be a puzzle in itself, but there’s no denying the power when healthy. 

Overall, Panik played five innings before being replaced by Miguel Gomez at second base in the sixth inning. He finished the night 1-for-3 with his single and two fly outs, one to center field and one to left field. 

Before Panik went on the DL, he struggled at the plate for June and the six games he’s played in July. Between the two months, Panik hit just .218 (24-for-110). The lefty isn’t striking out — taking a seat just seven times with no strikeouts in July — instead he simply hasn’t found any holes this season. 

Last year, Panik had a BABIP of .301, meaning his batting average of balls in play was .301. This season, that number is down .238 which is the lowest in his major league career. Panik is not finding hits when he puts the ball in play despite his hard-contact rate of 30 percent tying his career high. 

Anderson takes the loss

Shaun Anderson, making his second Triple-A start, saw firsthand how tough the Pacific Coast League can be for pitchers. And Raley Field isn’t nearly close to one of the worst pitchers parks in the league. 

The Omaha Storm Chasers totaled 14 hits on the night, eight coming off Anderson. When it was all said and done, he left the game allowing nine runs, but only six earned as the River Cats made three errors including one by Anderson himself in the first inning. 

On a positive note here, despite giving up a season high in runs and allowing the second-most hits in a start this year, the 23-year-old Anderson still got through six innings and has not gone under five innings in any of his starts this season.