Caleb Baragar holds up his MVP trophy after the Sacramento River Cats win the AAA championship game, Sept. 17, 2019
I’ll get to the Giants and their last ten games and playoff chances in a minute, but I thought for this week’s column, we’d check in on our rookies. It’s been a big year for rookies in this organization. While Gabe Kapler isn’t a rookie manager, it’s his first year with the Giants. It’s Scott Harris’s rookie year as the Giants GM, most of the coaching staff had no major league experience before this season, and there have been plenty of rookies on the roster.
One of the more surprising rookie debuts this year has been that of Caleb Baragar, and that’s why he gets the “featured image” spot up top. This week also marked the one-year anniversary of the Sacramento River Cats winning the AAA championship, with Baragar the starting and winning pitcher and the game’s MVP. The River Cats had a fun tweet about it, which I’m re-posting here.
— rivercats (@RiverCats) September 17, 2020
So many rookies
Here’s the comprehensive list of Giants’ players who either made their major league debut this season (e.g., Baragar) or entered the season still holding rookie status (e.g., Logan Webb).
- Caleb Baragar
- Joey Bart
- Luis Alexander Basabe
- Dany Jimenez
- Joe McCarthy
- Chadwick Tromp
Rookie status entering 2020
- Jaylin Davis
- Mauricio Dubon
- Rico Garcia
- Conner Menez
- Tyler Rogers
- Sam Selman
- Logan Webb
How are the rookie years going?
For the purposes of this discussion, I’m limiting myself to position players with 25+ at-bats (Bart, Dubon, Tromp) and pitchers with 15 or more appearances (Baragar, Rogers, Selman), plus Logan Webb (11 starts). I’m also going to throw in a few thoughts about Basabe, just as bonus material. Let’s discuss them in order of Fangraphs WAR for the 2020 season to date.
- Mauricio Dubon (.285/.338/.374, wRC+ 97, 2 HRs, 14 RBI, 2 SB, 21% K-rate, 0.5 WAR): Dubon is turning in a nice rookie season after a rough start. Though he doesn’t have much power, his batting average is good and his strikeout rate has dropped steadily. He’s had some clutch ABs in important spots. Probably more memorable about Dubon’s season is that he’s played three positions, two of them quite well: 2B (4 Defensive Runs Saved), CF (2 DRS), and SS (-2 DRS). It’s been over a month since Dubon has played even an inning in the infield; since then, he’s been installed as the everyday CF, and has really done a pretty nice job for learning on the fly. But it’s worth remembering that Dubon’s 2B metrics have been quite good, too. I could see a scenario in a couple of years when Heliot Ramos or Hunter Bishop arrive and Dubon then moves back to the infield. Dubon is interesting because his bad moments are really bad. There have been a couple of costly base running gaffes and some overaggressive throws from the outfield. But overall, assuming he can learn from his mistakes, his future with the Giants seems bright.
- Joey Bart (.250/.313/.316, wRC+78, 0 HRs, 5 RBIs, 33.7% K rate, 0.2 WAR): Overall, bringing Bart up on August 20 has worked out well for the Giants, who have gone 15-9 since his arrival. Though Bart hasn’t set the world on fire at the plate–he is, surprisingly, still looking for his first big league homer, despite a 60-grade power tool on his scouting report–he has been an upgrade from the Brantly/Heineman/Tromp days. Most importantly, he’s gained valuable experience both at the plate and behind it. As Grant Brisbee noted in an article this week, Bart’s debut has actually gone ideally for the Giants: He’s gaining experience but he hasn’t been such a world-beater that there will be any controversy when Buster Posey returns for the 2021 season–and Bart should benefit greatly from being mentored by Posey next year.
- Chadwick Tromp: (.179/.186/.358, wRC+ 38, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs, -0.2 WAR): Not too much to say here. Tromp’s had a couple of nice moments with his homers, but his biggest attribute at the moment seems to be “Doesn’t piss off Johnny Cueto as much as Joey Bart does.” But you know who else doesn’t piss off Johnny Cueto? Buster Posey. Maybe Tromp sticks as AAA depth next year, but that’s about it.
- Logan Webb (11 starts, 48.2 IP, 2-4, 5.73 ERA, 45K, 21 BB, 7 HBP[!!!], 4 HRs, WHIP 1.5, ERA+ 76, WAR 0.7): We’ve talked a lot about him in the comments this week, and even the pro-Webb contingent would likely admit that this season has been disappointing. A couple of counterpoints, though–one, his FIP is 4.14, which suggests that he has indeed been victimized by poor defense behind him. Second, he’s only given up four homers this season (contrast that with Gausman , Cueto , and Samardzija [6 in only 13.2 innings!]). So yes, Webb is walking and hitting way too many batters, but at least he’s not then giving up three-run ho–wait, I guess he did exactly that last night. Here’s another counterpoint: Webb only made one AAA start, ever (before being called up in August, 2019). In an alternate (=regular) universe, he might have spent a couple of months in Sacramento this year, and maybe that’s what he needs to do next year to work on his command issues. He is still just 23 years old.
- Tyler Rogers (25 games, 24.2 IP, 2-3, 3 saves, 5.11 ERA, 25K, 6 BB, 2 HRs, WHIP 1.3, ERA+ 86, WAR 0.4). Rogers has had a bit of a Jekyll-Hyde season. In 19 of his 25 appearances, he’s given up 0 runs. He gave up 10 runs (9 earned) in two July appearances, but since then, he’s given up only 5 runs total. So his ERA is a bit skewed by a couple of really bad outings early in the season. His strikeout rate is good, as is his K/BB ratio, and he’s given up just two homers. Used properly, he seems like an asset.
- Sam Selman (19 games, 16.2 IP, 1-1, 1 save, 2.70 ERA, 20K, 8 BB, 1 HR, WHIP 1.02, ERA+ 163, WAR 0.2). Selman did not start the season with the big club but was up from Sacramento within a week, and he’s quietly had one of the best seasons of anyone out of the bullpen not named Tony Watson. In the “late-bloomers from Vandy” department, Farhan Zaidi is 2 for 2 with Mike Yastrzemski and Selman.
- Caleb Baragar (20 games, 18.2 IP, 5-1, ERA 4.82, 14K, 5 BB, 3 HRs, WHIP 1.071, ERA+ 91, WAR 0.2). Baragar is amusing if for no other reason than he leads the Giants in wins with 5–and he wasn’t even on the original 60-man list for summer camp, let alone on the big league active roster. But it’s better than that: He’s in the top five in the NL in wins! Anyway, before a disastrous outing on Wednesday when he was clearly covered in rust, Baragar had only walked two batters all year (he walked three in a row, forcing in two runs, on Wednesday). Baragar was a starter his whole career until this season, and I wonder if the Giants might send him to AAA to provide rotation depth next year.
Bonus rookie: Luis Alexander Basabe
Basabe doesn’t qualify for discussion under my own self-imposed guidelines, but I want to talk about him anyway. Basabe is a toolsy prospect obtained for cash from the suddenly loaded Chicago White Sox on August 9. He was signed by the Red Sox as a 16-year-old in Venezuela and was later traded to the White Sox as part of the package that sent Chris Sale to Boston. He’s been known as a speed/defense/good strike zone awareness prospect who’s had his development slowed by injuries. Still just 24, Basabe was obtained by the Giants for basically nothing, and we may see more of him in this final week with Yaz hurting and Alex Dickerson’s wife due to give birth any minute.
To summarize, Dubon and Bart clearly appear to be part of the Giants’ future, as does Webb, even if he spends some time in AAA next year. Selman and Rogers look like they’ll be in bullpen for years to come, Baragar has had some intriguing success, and Basabe adds some depth to an already deep outfield of the present (Yaz, Dickerson, Slater, Dubon) and the future (Ramos, Canario, Bishop, etc.). Not bad at all, really. As to rookie development, 2020 has moved the needle, and that’s all you can ask for.
Playoffs? I don’t see it
I want to be more optimistic. Even if it were just for the three-game wild card round, it would be super fun to have the Giants in the postseason for the first time in four years, and we’ve all starving for fun these days.
But the math doesn’t add up. The Giants have 10 games remaining, 6 of those against the A’s and the Padres. Against the A’s, Padres, Dodgers, and Astros this year, the Giants’ record is 6-17. Against everyone else (Rockies, Diamondbacks, Angels, Mariners, Rangers), they’re 19-8. They are good enough to beat bad teams and not good enough to beat good teams. And with Yaz hurting and the rotation leaking like a sieve, it’s hard to see how they’re going to turn that record around in the last week against the A’s and the Padres, against whom they’re now 1-9 this season.
All that said, the Giants have proven to be a gritty, resilient team this year, and anything can happen in a ten-game stretch. That’s what’s uniquely great about baseball: no predetermined outcomes. So let’s all put our positive-thinking caps on and hope for the best in these final ten games.
Giants at A’s, 1:05 p.m. at the Oakland Coliseum
Kevin Gausman (3-2, 4.05 ERA) vs. Jesus Luzardo (2-2, 4.32 ERA)
C’mon, guys! Don’t get skunked by the stinkin’ A’s! Gross!!! Lefty out.