I have questions. I have questions about whether Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi actually knows what he’s doing or is in over his head. I have questions about whether the previous era was a success (three World Series trophies!) or a failure (a losing record in the 2010s and a decimated farm system). And I certainly have questions about why the Giants approached the 2020 draft the way they did, but we’ll get to that. I have a few other questions first.
How, you ask, are the Sim Giants doing?
The Sim Giants were playing the Sim Marlins at Oracle Park last night, and believe it or not, after the Giants won last night’s 9-4 slugfest, the two teams now have identical records of…wait for it…40-29. HA! Didn’t see THAT coming, did you? I’ve been watching these games every week for awhile now, and I have a few observations about the 2020 Sim Giants.
- They’re hitting a bunch of home runs. Belt already has 19 on June 12. Yaz has 13. Posey has 8, and if that doesn’t impress you so much, remember that he only had seven all last season. Pablo Sandoval, who hit a monster pinch-hit homer 435 feet to right-center, already has six, and he didn’t even start the season with the team and mostly plays off the bench.
- The middle of the order is raking. Posey’s hitting a mediocre-for-him .245 or so, but Pence, Flores, and Belt are all well over .300. Flores has turned out to be a great pickup so far, and Pence is hitting like it’s 2014. (For some reason, the game thinks that Pence will play RF while Yaz plays left, and with Pence being 37 now, that seems unlikely to me. But whatever.)
- Mauricio Dubon seems to be the everyday centerfielder now. Haven’t seen Billy Hamilton in weeks, and Steven Duggar’s name is never mentioned. Dubon is beginning to look a lot more comfortable out there and can really go get the ball. He isn’t hitting much, though.
- Sim Drew Smyly gave Sim Gabe Kapler some attitude when Kapler pulled him from the game, flipping the ball at him in disgust. It was so noticeable that Krukow and Kuiper commented that “Kapler’s not gonna like that.” We thought it was funny that the Sim game included that detail.
- Trevor Cahill seems to have settled into a nice middle-relief role and gets a ton of ground balls. Overall, though, the pitching’s not very good, but I guess it doesn’t have to be with all this great offense.
And that’s your weekly Sim Giants round-up.
How are the MLB & MLBPA “negotiations” progressing?
I’ll let former UC Davis Aggie Daniel Descalso explain how things are going.
MLB: Do you want a half dozen donuts?
MLB: Oh, So you want 6?
MLBPA: That’s the same thing
MLB: Our mistake. How about 2 sets of 3?
MLBPA: Never mind.
MLB: Wait wait, I can give you 3 sets of 2. How’s that?
— Daniel Descalso (@DanielDescalso) June 13, 2020
So earlier this week, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that “I can tell you unequivocally we are gonna play Major League Baseball this year” and that he as commissioner will “exercise [the] right” to set the number of games that will be played if he has to, though he’d prefer the league and the union come to a negotiated compromise. Yeah…good luck with that. It’s looking more and more like if there is baseball in 2020, it will be 48-50 games or so plus a postseason. I’m still enough of a baseball junkie that I’d even take that, but many fans wonder if such a mockery of a baseball season is worth having at all.
The 2020 Draft: What were the Giants thinking?
Over the last few days, I’ve listened to a bunch of podcasts and read a lot of articles to try to understand what the Giants did on Wednesday and Thursday. I think I now understand what they were up to (which doesn’t mean I agree with the approach). With the obvious caveats that ranked pre-draft lists are always just someone’s opinion and you can’t judge a team’s draft class for at least 3-5 years, I’ll summarize what I’ve learned about the approach and why I, as a fan, was disappointed with it.
What they did
The list below is a composite of several sources who are pretty much in agreement with other. I’ll link my sources at the end of the list.
- The Giants played it safe and conservative. Lacking current data (i.e., full college and high school seasons in 2020), they went with track records (college players for 6 of their 7 picks) rather than raw tools and risk with possibly exciting upside.
- With regard to hitters (three of the seven picks, including the first- and second-round picks), they prioritized “staying in the zone”–good pitch selection, good plate discipline–over raw power. For you Brandon Belt haters, fasten your seatbelts because it appears that the Zaidi regime loves that kind of hitter. They feel like power can be unlocked through development, but they’re looking for smart, selective hitters when they draft them.
- With regard to pitchers, they don’t seem to care very much about high-octane fastballs, but they do care a lot about the pitcher being “a competitor.” I heard that term used for three of the four pitchers they drafted (Swiney, Harrison, and Dabowitz). Ryan Murphy, their fifth-rounder and seventh and final choice (not to be confused with the creator of “Glee”), was described as a “sleeper” pick, but more on that in a minute.
- The peculiarities of this year’s draft (only five rounds, limited recent data) had a huge effect on what teams actually did. Andrew Baggarly has a great feature published last night on Darren Baker, Dusty’s son, who did not get drafted at all, though in a normal year he certainly could have expected to be. (And no, the Giants aren’t getting him for $20,000 tomorrow. He’s going back to Cal for another year of school.) Here are Darren’s thoughts about what happened on Thursday, the second and final day of the draft.
Baker said he remained hopeful when the second day of the draft began on Thursday. A few months ago, he and his advisor had anticipated that he could be taken as high as the third round. But his heart dropped as he began to see a pattern in the players that teams began to select in the fourth and fifth rounds.
“It came down to teams not having enough money this year,” Baker said. “I feel college juniors kind of got squeezed out, and it sucks for everybody. It’s not just me. Friends of mine in Washington, in Florida — I know what everyone’s going through right now.”
When you read Darren’s comments, the pieces begin to fall into place about the Giants’ underwhelming picks in the fourth and fifth rounds, Murphy in particular, and even their second comp pick, Jimmy Glowenke. Clearly they wanted to preserve their bonus money to sign their top four guys (Bailey, Schmitt, Swiney, and Harrison)–especially Harrison, as they’ll have to make it worth his while not to go play at UCLA. So their last three picks were “eh–whatever.”
By the way, I recommend the entire article about Darren Baker. He just sounds like a terrific young man. Hard to believe it’s been so many years since J.T. Snow rescued three-year-old Darren from being trampled in the 2002 World Series. When we visited the Hall of Fame in 2013, we were charmed to see a big photo of that moment prominently featured.
Ben Kaspick, Locked on Giants podcast
Kerry Crowley, Bay Area News Group (Crowley has moved near the top of my list of favorite beat writers. He has a mind of his own.)
Andrew Baggarly, The Athletic
Why I’m disappointed
I understand the usual caveats about any draft. I also understand the extraordinary circumstances surrounding this year’s draft. I’m still disappointed, and here’s why. The primary reason why the Giants have been in such a bad spot organizationally for the past four years is terrible scouting and drafting in the 2010s, leading to a barren farm system and marginal talent coming up to the major leagues. (Ryder Jones, anyone? Andrew Suarez? etc.) With a new regime–Zaidi and the new scouting directors–I’d hoped to see a different approach, not the same old one that had not worked for the previous decade. So cliches like “Trust the process” don’t make me feel better because my trust level is low right now.
In this year’s draft, the Giants had seven picks, tied with the Cardinals for the most of any team. They thus had more bonus pool money. They’re also in a clear rebuilding phase, so they didn’t need to skew heavily to advanced college players who could help sooner rather than later. They could have taken risks on high-upside but very young high school players or on talented but injured players–maybe not for all seven of their picks, but certainly for some of them. (I’m not sure I’d characterize Harrison as a “risk” other than the risk that he’ll go to college instead of turning pro.)
Maybe this draft class will turn out to be terrific. Bailey and Bart will be a two-headed catching monster. Schmitt will win multiple Gold Gloves and hold down the hot corner for the next 5-10 years. Swiney will be a polished starter always paired with his college batterymate. Harrison will be a top-of-the-rotation guy in 2025. We won’t know for awhile, and we can always hope for the best. But for now, for this week–I wanted to see something different. I wanted to see that Zaidi and team had learned from the mistakes of the Barr regime. Why keep doing the same thing that hasn’t worked?
What happened on this day in Giants history in 2012?
I started with the surprisingly good Sim Giants, so I’ll end on a positive, too. Happy Matt Cain Day! Lefty out.