Pablo Sandoval

What Hunter Bishop learned from Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval in spring

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What Hunter Bishop learned from Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval in spring

Hunter Bishop grew up going to Giants games with his father Randy and brother Braden. Just like thousands of other kids at the ballpark, Bishop cheered for his favorite players with dreams of one day playing on that same field. 

This spring, Bishop found himself wearing a Giants jersey at Scottsdale Stadium and was teammates with Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval, two players he rooted for as a fan just a few years ago. He let himself take in the moment, but he quickly had to turn the fan side of his thoughts off. 

"It's just all coming full circle," Bishop said to MiLB.com's Katie Woo. "At the end of the day, though, you're able to be a fanboy for a little and then it becomes a reality. For me, it's like I want to take it in, but also I'm not far away.

"I'm one good season away from being right in the mix."

The Giants selected Bishop with the No. 10 pick in the 2019 MLB Draft after the Bay Area native hit 22 home runs as a junior at Arizona State University. This spring, Bishop spent a few games in big league camp and said he saw from veterans like Pence and Sandoval that "they're never too high and never too low" and learned how to have a more mature mentality. 

Bishop learned right away in his first minor league season what a roller coaster professional baseball can be. He had a 1.033 OPS through seven games in the Arizona Rookie League last year before being called up Class A Short Season with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. But he hit just .224 with 28 strikeouts in 25 games at the higher level. 

"This has definitely been a learning experience," Bishop said to Woo. "Coming from college, where you're practicing two hours a day and then your games are four times a week, to go to every day, six to seven hours ... I love it, but it's definitely a learning curve.

"It's a process to get acclimated to the pro ball scene." 

[RELATED: What Benito Santiago remembers from huge '02 NLCS homer]

Bishop, MLB Pipeline's No. 71 overall prospect and No. 4 in the Giants farm system, has all the traits to be a fast riser to San Francisco. The 6-foot-5 center field has both speed and power and has been praised for his attitude and work ethic. When the minor league season starts -- it has been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic -- Bishop very well could be in San Jose, where former Giants outfielder Pat Burrell has been named hitting coach for the 2020 season. 

Whether it be from Burrell, Pence or Sandoval, Bishop is getting the rare opportunity to learn from those he used to watch as a fan. If he puts all his skills together and continues to improve, however, he quickly could go from Giants fan to player before we know it.

How Giants, Farhan Zaidi might choose to use new 26th roster spot

How Giants, Farhan Zaidi might choose to use new 26th roster spot

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As Giants veterans checked into camp last week, a couple of them referred to the 25-man roster in interviews. Like writing a new year on your checks, it'll take a while for players to adjust to having a 26th man.

But on the second floor of the new facility at Scottsdale Stadium, there already have been plenty of conversations about it. 

The front office has an extra roster spot to work with, and few executives will dig that more than Farhan Zaidi, who spent 2019 in an endless roster shuffle as he added depth and talent to the 40-man roster. Zaidi, general manager Scott Harris and manager Gabe Kapler have talked this spring of all the different ways they can go. 

As the Giants go through their spring rotation for the first time, it's far too early to project a full roster, especially in a camp where so many jobs are up for grabs. But we can take a look at how that roster will be impacted by the extra spot. The Giants will have 13 pitchers, that much we know. But what will they do with that 13th position player?

Pablo Sandoval

Just about seven months removed from Tommy John surgery, Sandoval already is taking part in nearly every drill, with some restrictions on his throwing. But he's a month ahead of schedule in that department, and he hasn't ruled out Opening Day. 

The staff is looking more at a May return, but they'll leave the door open for Sandoval. There's some thought that given his age (33) and the fact that he's on the back end of his career, it might be easier to push Sandoval than a younger player. He's not a 24-year-old looking for that life-changing contract; he's someone who above all simply wants to play baseball. 

Sandoval feels he's ready to pinch-hit now and he has looked sharp in early BP sessions. If, say, his throwing arm will be fully healed by mid-April, could the Giants put him on the Opening Day roster purely as a pinch-hitter and let him rehab his elbow before games? They've talked about it. 

Speed/defense

This is the Billy Hamilton section. Hamilton no longer is the 50-stolen base threat he was in Cincinnati, but he still is one of the fastest players in the game and an elite defensive center fielder. He hasn't hit enough in recent years to be a regular starter, but the Giants still could find creative ways for him to impact a game. 

Let's say Mike Yastrzemski starts in center and Hunter Pence in left and Pence leads off the sixth with a single. If you know he won't hit again until late in the game and your preference is to replace him defensively anyway, you can bring Hamilton in to pinch-run and play center, with Yastrzemski sliding to left. The Giants also have discussed making this type of move much earlier in a game to gain a slight edge. 

They don't have a true center fielder and there's not much speed on the locked-in part of the roster. The 26th spot makes it a lot easier to carry a Hamilton or Steven Duggar. 

A full infield

You start adding them up: Brandon Belt, Wilmer Flores, Mauricio Dubon, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria ... that's five infielders before you even get to Sandoval, Donovan Solano (who had a very solid 2019) or Yolmer Sanchez (who won a Gold Glove last year and chose San Francisco over other offers, indicating he was told he has a really good shot at making the roster). 

The Giants could go with four in the outfield and use Dubon as their fifth, while keeping Solano and Sanchez on the Opening Day roster. This team may simply have to carry seven infielders at times, because that's where most of their core guys are. 

Third catcher

The Giants don't have the depth to do this but you can bet some other clubs will. Long term, though, this will be an appealing option. Zaidi has talked a lot over the past year about versatile catchers and it would be a nice boost if they could find a lefty to pair with Buster Posey and Joey Bart next year, ideally someone with options. That would allow Kapler to freely use both Posey and Bart in every game. 

Stephen Vogt, who played some left field, is in Arizona now, but someone like that would make sense in future years. The best bet would be developing a lefty-swinging catcher who could be optioned back and forth as a third guy. 

[RELATED: Watch Bart, Dubon homer in Giants' spring training opener]

Inventory

This isn't about any particular player, but adding a 26th player makes it a bit easier at the end of the spring to stash a veteran who is out of options. There are a lot of waiver claims during that final week before Opening Day rosters are set, but teams generally slow down once the season officially starts. No executive likes to lose a player who is out of options.

The Giants could stash someone on Opening Day, and then DFA him later and try to sneak him through waivers and onto the Triple-A roster. 

Bruce Bochy visits Giants camp, plans to spend time with Gabe Kapler

Bruce Bochy visits Giants camp, plans to spend time with Gabe Kapler

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Pablo Sandoval grabbed a glove from his bag, looked up and saw a familiar figure 20 yards to his left. 

"Bochy!" Sandoval yelled, waving. 

Bruce Bochy, the Giants' longtime manager and current special advisor, stayed away early in camp, trying to show respect for the new manager, Gabe Kapler. But with Team France about to start working out in Tucson, Bochy, its manager, drove to Arizona and visited his former players. He said he plans to be around off and on in the coming weeks, and several players made plans to spend more time with Bochy while he's in the area. 

Kapler did, too. He ran over to shake Bochy's hand after live batting practice and the two talked about getting together. Kapler called Bochy a "legend" and said he hoped he would speak with the full team at some point. 

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"That's something I want to talk to Boch about and gauge his comfort level, but I'm really happy he's here," Kapler said. "It brings a lot of energy to the fields and it's nice to look in there and see Boch there."

Kapler and Bochy met during the search for the new manager and they had some conversations after the decision was made. Kapler said they've been in contact since, although it has been a busy period for both men. Kapler had very little time to put together a new staff and he crisscrossed the country meeting with players. Bochy did some traveling, including a visit to Miami for Sandoval's wedding. He now is preparing for World Baseball Classic qualifying. 

Bochy and Team France will play their first game March 13 in Tucson. His brother, Joe, will be his bench coach and his son, Brett, will be one of his pitchers. Bochy's team will be overmatched -- his best player is likely to be former Giant Alen Hanson, who has some French blood -- but he has thrived in those situations in the past.

[RELATED: Why Giants might not name closer before they break camp]

Kapler's first camp since taking over for Bochy has encouraged players to find any possible way to get better, and that's something the manager takes to heart. He is constantly looking for ways to improve. So what can Kapler learn from spending time with Bochy in his first season with the Giants?

"I think Boch has a really good feel for baseball from all angles," Kapler said. "I don't think there's an area of the game that he's not very developed in. Trying to get a real well-rounded view of the game through his lens is going to be really valuable for me. 

"I also think he has a really good way of just connecting with people, players, media, staff. I want to do a lot of listening when I have a chance to sit down with Boch."