Mike Yastrzemski

Giants outfielder Chris Shaw excited to play for Gabe Kapler, new staff

Giants outfielder Chris Shaw excited to play for Gabe Kapler, new staff

Chris Shaw's 2019 season gave the Giants outfield prospect a little bit of everything.

A September call-up was the tail end of his successful season as a member of the River Cats, who were crowned Triple-A National champions. While he sported the orange and black, he got to return home to his native Boston and create memories that were the main conversation among his family during the holidays.

But it's next season he's looking forward to the most.

When he had heard the Giants' new manager would be Gabe Kapler, he was excited. He grew up watching Kapler, who was a member of the 2004 World Series champion Red Sox -- a season that sticks out to Shaw. 

"I heard nothing but great things from any guys that have played for him and I grew up watching him to a certain extent," Shaw said in a recent interview with KNBR. "He actually came to Boston last week and had lunch with [Mike Yastrzemski] and myself -- it was really cool to sit down and get to know him on a personal level and I couldn't be more excited for the direction of the organization's heading under him."

In addition to Kapler, the Giants' coaching staff has a bunch new faces -- another factor Shaw looks forward to being a part of.

"It's obviously great to have new people come in with new perspective and guys that have track records," Shaw added.

The 26-year-old then complimented former Reds coach Donnie Ecker, who was hired earlier in December as the Giants' new hitting coach

"As soon as he was hired, he reached out within the first couple of days and he even told me the next time I'm flying out to Los Angeles, he's going to fly down with me and we'll go work together with our hitting guy, so it's really encouraging just to see how hands-on the staff is and how invested they seem." 

"It's got a lot of guys excited in the organization," said Shaw. 

[RELATED: Giants one of 'most improved' farm systems]

Last season, Shaw started in Double-A and found himself with the big-league club not too far after that. In those 20 plate appearances at the big league level, he got just one hit, a couple of walks and eight strikeouts. He knows next season he will be presented with more ways to prove himself.

"Going into camp this year, it's just nice to know that you will have some sort of opportunity and I feel like I've played long enough at this point where I kind of know how to manage expectations and control my emotions when I go out there," he said. "I'm putting in the work now so that when it comes time when the lights come on, it's just second nature and everything you put in up to that point kind of just flows on its own."

MLB free agency: Giants might look to upgrade in these three areas

MLB free agency: Giants might look to upgrade in these three areas

SAN FRANCISCO -- For the first time in 13 years, the Giants spent the beginning of their offseason hiring a new manager, but that wasn't the only heavy lifting president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and the rest of the front office had to do.

A new general manager, Scott Harris, also was hired, and since Harris and manager Gabe Kapler came on, the organization has spent weeks putting together a young coaching staff

Now comes an even more tedious job. The Giants need to seriously upgrade their roster. Zaidi, Harris and Kapler sat down with the media on Monday afternoon and had their first opportunity to lay out some of that vision, and during the half-hour session, they hit on three spots that stand out as obvious holes.  

Infield Depth

At least on paper, the Giants are set here. Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria will start on the left side, Mauricio Dubon should enter camp as the second baseman, and Donovan Solano was signed to a one-year deal in November. But three of those four hitters are right-handed. 

"We're still looking at options to add infield depth," Zaidi said. "We've talked a little bit about (how) a left-handed bat might make more sense ... but we're not limiting ourselves to that. When you get to the middle infield it's always nice to have depth and those guys can always obviously move around to the corners."

Adding another middle infielder could allow the Giants to push Dubon to center field, something they discussed before non-tendering Kevin Pillar and continue to assess, Zaidi said. At the very least, the Giants figure to add a left-handed bat who can play third.

Pablo Sandoval is a free agent and out for most of 2020 (although he did get married over the weekend with plenty of former teammates -- including Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, Mike Yastrzemski and Bruce Bochy -- in attendance).

A Bat In The Outfield

While the Giants are right-handed on the infield, they're awfully left-handed when you get to the outfield. Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson and Steven Duggar might be the three Giants currently locked in for the most playing time out there, although Austin Slater and Jaylin Davis are both right-handed. 

Enter Nicholas Castallanos? Maybe. The Giants are interested in the right-handed slugger, and he could be the jewel of their offseason. Either way, a right-handed bat is high on the wish list. 

"With the extra roster spot next year, there's always a possibility to do a little bit more matching up, so you want to have balance on all parts of your roster," Zaidi said. 

Yastrzemski actually crushed lefties last year but Dickerson was just 4-for-21, so the Giants will certainly try to add another platoon option for one of the corner spots. 

Veteran Catcher

A year after they let Nick Hundley move on, the Giants watched Stephen Vogt sign with the Diamondbacks. It's a move that stings, because Vogt was a clubhouse leader and a left-handed hitter who had almost formed a platoon with Buster Posey by the end of the season. 

You would think the Giants would want another veteran in the mix, especially because they went so far -- remember Erik Kratz? -- to keep Aramis Garcia off the opening day roster last year. But Zaidi said that's not necessarily the case. 

[RELATED: Report: Seven teams outside of Giants interested in MadBum]

"We'd like to see him get an opportunity," Zaidi said of Garcia. "He's putting in a lot of work this offseason and he's a guy we would like to see get an opportunity as well. I guess we're not closed off to (adding) but we have some good young catching depth and at some point we want to create opportunities for these guys."

Garcia, who turns 27 in January, is more than capable of backing up Posey and he's playing Winter Ball this year to prepare himself. The Giants also have top prospect Joey Bart on the fast track, so this is one area where perhaps there's no need to put another veteran in the room with Posey. 

What are Giants' plans in center field after Kevin Pillar non-tender?

What are Giants' plans in center field after Kevin Pillar non-tender?

SAN FRANCISCO -- The decision to non-tender Kevin Pillar, like several others made over the past year, was not a popular one with Giants fans.

Pillar was a Willie Mac Award winner who did two things that fans could easily cheer: Hit home runs and make diving catches.

Go on Twitter and you'll find fans who say they won't attend a game next season and a weird contingent that believes Farhan Zaidi is a secret agent still working for the Dodgers. But all that anger ignores one key fact. The man who decided to move on from Pillar is the same one who acquired him a week into the season for two players who are no longer with the Blue Jays and one who had an 8.11 ERA in the minors. 

The Giants hired Zaidi to make good decisions, and there's no doubt that the trade for Pillar was a brilliant one. Zaidi believes moving on after one season is the right move, too, and time will tell if he's correct. 

What we know for now is that there's no going back, and there will be a new look in center field. In a conversation on Monday afternoon, Zaidi said the emphasis will be on adding production to the corner outfield spots. It's hard to find a good center fielder in free agency anyway, so the Giants will go young and go in-house.

Here's what that might look like in 2020:

The Favorite

Mike Yastrzemski got just 30 innings in center field last season because Pillar was an everyday player, but he generally looked comfortable out there, and he should. Yastrzemski actually has more minor league starts in center field (224) than any other position, and he has over 2,000 professional innings of experience in the middle of the outfield. 

Yastrzemski probably won't be climbing many walls or diving nearly as often as Pillar did, but he did a nice job in the corners last year and was worth seven Defensive Runs Saved in right field and eight overall. 

The Giants are fully confident that Yastrzemski can handle center field at Oracle Park -- the dimensions are shrinking a bit, too -- and if the season started today he would be their center fielder. 

The Young Guys

A year ago at this time, Steven Duggar was the Center Fielder of the Future. Duggar is still just 26 years old and is expected to be 100 percent for spring training after another season-ending shoulder injury. 

The Giants can't go into 2020 counting on much from Duggar, but they certainly are hoping for a breakthrough. If he improves his plate discipline and taps into his natural speed, Duggar could be the everyday center fielder. He's the organization's best defensive center fielder and would have been even if Pillar was brought back.

Jaylin Davis is another player the Giants want to take a long look at, although he has just 30 minor league starts in center field. Davis may see time out there in the big leagues, but he's more likely to benefit from the Pillar decision in a different way. With Yastrzemski set for lots of time in center, Davis -- a 25-year-old who hit 35 homers in the minors last year -- will have an opportunity to win at-bats in one of the corner spots. The same holds true for Austin Slater and potentially Chris Shaw. 

The Wild Card

When Zaidi traded a week of strong Drew Pomeranz relief appearances for Mauricio Dubon, he mentioned that one thing the Giants loved about Dubon was his potential as a super-utility player. On deadline day, Zaidi compared Dubon to Chris Taylor, but another Dodger could be a better fit. Kiké Hernandez mostly started at second base for the Dodgers last year but also made 43 appearances in the outfield, and Dubon is expected to shag plenty of fly balls next spring. 

Given where the roster is right now, Dubon is also the starting second baseman and a strong option to split time with Brandon Crawford at shortstop. But if he can handle center field, the Giants would have more of the flexibility they're seeking. They plan to be active in the infield market this offseason. If they add another middle infielder who hits right-handed, could you see that player at shortstop against left-handers with Donovan Solano at second and Dubon in center? 

The Future

When the Giants drafted Heliot Ramos in 2017, some scouts predicted he would move to right field. But the Giants have kept Ramos in center and there's no indication that he'll need to be moved next season. There were fears that Ramos would outgrow the position as he hit his early 20s, but he appeared slimmed down in the Arizona Fall League and the Giants will keep him in the middle of the diamond for now. 

[RELATED: Dickerson returns to Giants on one-year deal]

Now, Ramos is only 20 and doesn't even have 100 at-bats above A-ball, but the new regime wants to be aggressive with top prospects and Ramos will come to Scottsdale in February with a strong chance to earn a promotion to Triple-A. The plan is for Ramos to spend all, or most, of the season in Sacramento, but a September call-up seems likely and the Giants won't hold their No. 2 prospect back if the bat proves ready earlier than that. 

If you're looking way down the line, Hunter Bishop, last year's top pick, is also a center fielder. Bishop is likely at least a couple of years away, but he should start next season in San Jose.