Steven Duggar

How new MLB draft rules would have hurt Giants like Steven Duggar

How new MLB draft rules would have hurt Giants like Steven Duggar

They are images that have been synonymous with draft coverage for decades. During the NBA draft, there always is one player sitting at his table much longer than expected, awkwardly looking away from cameras as the first-round picks go by. The later rounds of the NFL draft are filled with shots of 21-year-olds nervously sitting on their couches and eyeing their cell phones, trying to figure out how they have dropped so far. 

The MLB draft isn't anywhere near the TV spectacle of those other two, but that doesn't mean there's any less nervousness for prospects. They sit and they wait, often for rounds at a time, and this year there will be quite a bit more urgency. 

The draft has been cut from 40 rounds to five, meaning hundreds of players won't see their dreams come true this week. It will have a huge impact on the minors and on the Giants, who once upon a time drafted Sergio Romo in the 28th round, Brian Wilson in the 24th and Matt Duffy in the 18th. Those are the types of prospects who won't have much to think about during Thursday's later rounds, but the 2020 version of Steven Duggar will be in for a tense night. 

Five years ago, Duggar was one of the most athletic prospects available, a Clemson outfielder who had put up solid numbers in three years and popped during a summer in the Cape Cod League. Some scouts thought Duggar might go as high as the second round, and he had similar hopes, but he lasted until pick No. 186, with the Giants scooping him up late in the sixth round. 

"As I started to fall, you start to question it a little. 'Do you want to go back (to school) and play another year?' I was kind of in that boat," Duggar said this week. "I was like, I really want to go play (professionally) and hopefully somebody gives you that opportunity. The rest is history.

"But I was in that position where if I had kept falling, I probably would have gone back to school."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Duggar is grateful with how it all worked out. He was thrilled to land with the Giants and has developed into a big leaguer. Even in the sixth round he got a signing bonus of $248,000, which is more than 10 times what a similar prospect might be faced with this season. 

In an effort -- one that looks remarkably short-sighted -- to save a little money, the owners shortened the draft and changed the rules for 2020. Undrafted players will be able to sign with any team for up to $20,000, a pittance compared to past years. The player who would have been taken in Duggar's slot will miss being drafted by 26 picks, and he'll be faced with a brutal decision if he's a similar type of prospect, a junior with just one year of eligibility remaining. 

Do you take the $20,000 and start your career by making a couple hundred thousand less than you expected, or do you go back to school and hope for better luck in 2021, when you're part of an overstuffed draft class?

"It's tough," Duggar said. "When I first saw that they went from 40 to five -- obviously there's COVID and everything and we're in unprecedented times -- but it's definitely a tough question. Guys might second-guess whether to stay or go depending on their situation. It definitely puts guys in a position they probably didn't see themselves being in.

"I can't speak for all those guys. Personally speaking, if it was five rounds I would probably have a general idea of where I should go and have a stopping point depending on certain circumstances and situations. The draft itself is always unpredictable and now it being five rounds, it definitely puts kind of a finality on it for guys earlier than they were expecting."

[RELATED: The case for Giants picking Soderstrom again 27 years later]

This year will present an unprecedented decision for young players, and it's hard to say how they'll react. Asked about the $20,000 rule, a couple of agents who represent mostly minor leaguers said they don't see many players finding it appealing, noting it really only makes sense for college juniors if they were going to be drafted in the teens or later rounds anyway and don't anticipate doing any better next year. 

Hopefully this all changes back to normal in a year, but in 2020, perhaps some players will find that the opportunity becomes more than they expected. Duggar went lower than he hoped, but five years later, he's happy with the way that experience played out. 

"I thought I was going to go earlier and I didn't, but it worked out and it worked out for the best," he said. "I ended up in an organization that I wanted to be in. The guys that I've been able to meet and play with from the front office down, they're just incredible people.

"My situation worked out perfectly."

Why Shaun Anderson, Steven Duggar were optioned as Giants hit pause

Why Shaun Anderson, Steven Duggar were optioned as Giants hit pause

The coronavirus shut down the sports world, but for baseball executives who were days away from finalizing an Opening Day roster, the action didn't fully come to a halt.

On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi revealed that Tyler Beede was having Tommy John surgery and also that the staff had made a couple of minor roster moves. Shaun Anderson and Steven Duggar were optioned to Triple-A, taking them out of the mix for Opening Day, whenever that is.

"We had a meeting to go through the roster and we just approached it from the standpoint of, on our 40-man roster, which guys did we think would have a real chance to make the Opening Day roster," Zaidi said. "That was how that determination was made."

Zaidi said the staff felt both players needed more time in Triple-A. The moves bring a bit more clarity to races that were starting to crystalize when spring training was shut down last week.

Duggar came to camp fully healthy but was a long shot from the start because of the depth the Giants feel they've accumulated in the outfield. Mike Yastrzemski is expected to play somewhere in the outfield just about every day and Hunter Pence and Alex Dickerson should split the starts in left field. Mauricio Dubon might play a lot of center field and Jaylin Davis and Austin Slater remain in the mix. When camp was shut down, the Giants still had several non-roster outfielders vying for time, including Billy Hamilton, who is somewhat similar to Duggar. 

[RELATED: Beede posts update after undergoing successful surgery]

The Giants said early on that Anderson, who moved from the rotation to bullpen last summer, would be stretched back out. At the very least he figured to have a strong shot to win a job as a reliever, and possibly be the closer when Tony Watson's shoulder flared up, but Anderson had a rough spring. The right-hander gave up 10 runs in four appearances and the staff started working on a different grip for his fastball. 

The moves shouldn't have an immediate financial impact for either player since they're on the 40-man roster. It's also possible that the Giants revisit before their actual first game. There's a chance MLB increases roster sizes to account for a shortened and frantic season, and several veterans who were in camp have opt-out clauses that will come into play before Opening Day. 

Giants' Mauricio Dubon expected to get 'quite a bit' of outfield time

dubonoutfieldusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Giants' Mauricio Dubon expected to get 'quite a bit' of outfield time

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Late in one of the first full-squad workouts of the spring, Mauricio Dubon jogged out to center field and spent a few minutes running down line drives to the gaps. He looked like a natural, like someone who had spent his whole life patrolling center field. That's exactly what a Red Sox scout thought four years ago as he watched Dubon, then a 21-year-old shortstop, shag fly balls for fun.

Dubon was so fluid that day that he was told he would be playing center field in the Arizona Fall League. He made five starts there, along with a dozen at shortstop, before returning to the infield full-time the next season after a trade to the Brewers. 

Now one of the most exciting players in a third organization, Dubon is reliving the experience. When they dealt for Dubon last July 31, the Giants were open about their internal evaluations that the wiry infielder could turn into San Francisco's version of Chris Taylor of Kiké Hernandez. After watching Dubon float around the field at Scottsdale Stadium for a month, manager Gabe Kapler has no doubt. 

"I can really, legitimately see him playing center field quite a bit," Kapler said Friday. "I think earlier in camp I was saying we're going to take more of a wait-and-see approach. I think at this point he has demonstrated he can play center field, he can play shortstop for us."

Kapler said he would like to see a bit more of Dubon at third, and he started there Friday against his old team. Dubon is the starting center fielder on Monday, with Steven Duggar sliding over to right so the newcomer can get some additional reps. 

Thus far, Dubon has played 28 innings at second base, 11 at shortstop, five in center field and three at third base. The Giants are confident he can handle left or right in a pinch (he is experienced with both angles since he has played second and short in the minors) and Kapler has talked of getting Dubon some reps at first base. Dubon hasn't done much work there but has worked on scoops. The concept is a simple one: Dubon has a chance to impact the Giants every single day, and they would like him to do it at different spots, allowing Kapler to mix and match with his veterans. 

Dubon has just over 100 big league at-bats and some organizations might prefer for a player like that to settle in at one position. But the Giants feel Dubon can mentally handle it, and there's little doubt that their best chance -- perhaps their only chance -- at having a competitive lineup is to get creative. They'll look a lot better against left-handed starters, for instance, if Dubon can play center, with Donovan Solano at short and Wilmer Flores at second. It'll be much easier, too, for Kapler to make mid-game double-switches if he's confident Dubon can slide from position to position and fill the gaps. 

The Giants have had this in their back pocket since they dealt Drew Pomeranz for Dubon last July, and the talk ramped up when Kevin Pillar was non-tendered. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said that day that Dubon could be an option to fill some of those innings, and over time the Giants have become more confident. 

Dubon still has a little work to do on some throws to become truly comfortable as a utility player. He was off with one at third on Friday, but Kapler said Dubon is working on getting more carry with those longer throws. Earlier in that game, he drifted back on a pop-up down the left-field line and easily snagged it as he approached the seats. It was the kind of play that reminded the staff why they were so confident this offseason that Dubon could handle the outfield. 

[RELATED: Pence continues hot spring training, homers in Giants' win]

"I think it's just the way his hips move," Kapler said earlier this spring. "He's flexible in his hips, but he's also explosive with that first step and light on his feet. There's plenty of arm strength. So he has got what it takes to move around out there."