by DrLefty

For baseball fans, this is the week we’ve been waiting for throughout the long, dark, cold winter. The end of the Super Bowl will mark the unofficial start to the baseball “season,” and pitchers and catchers will report to spring training. Greek Giant already covered the Giants’ list of non-roster invitees, which is…long. Adding the players on the 40-man roster to the 37 NRIs, that’s 77 players who will be bumping into each other at Scottsdale Stadium. I’m guessing that may be in large part because of the World Baseball Classic and players leaving for their national teams (NOT Logan Webb, though, which I’m fine with).

As we head into a big week, let’s recap a couple of interesting stories.


Keith Law Ranks the Giants’ Top-20 Prospects

I know Ryan was sharing some tidbits from this yesterday. I found the list and Law’s accompanying discussion fascinating, so I want to riff on it a bit, hopefully without belaboring it for those of you who subscribe to the Athletic and have already perused the article. First of all, here’s the list itself:

  1. Kyle Harrison, LHP (#12 on Law’s top 100)
  2. Marco Luciano, SS (#21)
  3. Luis Matos, OF (Just Missed list)
  4. Aeverson Arteaga, SS
  5. Grant McCray, OF
  6. Casey Schmitt, 3B
  7. Carson Whisenhunt, LHP
  8. Vaun Brown, OF
  9. Reggie Crawford, LHP (Law is not having any of this “two-way player” stuff)
  10. Mason Black, RHP
  11. Patrick Bailey, C
  12. Carson Seymour, RHP
  13. Landon Roupp, RHP
  14. Heliot Ramos, OF
  15. Eric Silva, RHP
  16. Adrian Sugastey, C
  17. Will Bednar, RHP
  18. Ryan Reckley, SS
  19. Trevor McDonald, RHP
  20. Cole Waites, RHP

Others “of note”: Nick Zwack, LHP; Jairo Pomares, OF; Ryan Murphy, RHP; Nick Swiney, LHP; Seth Lonsway, LHP; Randy Rodriguez, RHP; RJ Dabovich, RHP; Erik Miller, LHP

Fell off a cliff: Hunter Bishop, OF

So a few comments about this list:

  • It is very pitcher-heavy, especially when you add in the “of note” guys. Ten of the initial 20 and all but one of the “of note” list are pitchers.
  • That said, after Harrison at #1, the next five names are position players. So while Law clearly thinks the bulk of the Giants’ minor league talent is on the pitching side, the position players who were ranked (and I’m not counting Reggie Crawford on this list) are among their top prospects.
  • Among the ten position players, there are four outfielders, two catchers, and four infielders, three of whom are shortstops. No 1B or 2B names. If you add Jairo Pomares from the “of note” list, that’s five outfielders.
  • One player on the top 20 was acquired via trade (Seymour at #12). Two others, Zwack and Miller on the “of note” list, were also acquired via trade. (Zwack came in the same trade as Seymour, for Darin Ruf.) Five were international signees (Luciano, Matos, Arteaga, Sugastey, and Reckley), and two of those five were signed in the Bobby Evans era (Luciano and Matos, plus “of note” Pomares).
  • The list includes four first-round picks (Ramos, Bailey, Bednar, and Crawford), and Bishop was notably excluded. Law added that Bishop is the only top-12 pick of his 2019 draft class not to already have made his major league debut, and he wasn’t even close, topping out the 2022 season in High A Eugene.
  • It also includes two second-round picks (Schmitt and Whisenhunt), with other Zaidi second-rounders Logan Wyatt and Matt Mikulski nowhere to be found. Harrison, McCray, and Black were third-rounders; Silva was a fourth-rounder, and the others (Brown, Roupp, McDonald, and Waites) were later-round picks. Waites is the biggest sleeper on the list. An 18th-round pick in 2019, he is the first/only member of Zaidi’s first draft class to actually have appeared for the Giants. (Pitcher Caleb Kilian, who was traded at the deadline in 2021 for Kris Bryant, has also debuted with the Cubs.)

One thing that struck me about Law’s analysis is not just the sheer quantity of pitchers on the list but their relative quality. I remember reading too many of these lists in previous years, by Law or others, that relegated nearly all the Giants’ pitching prospects to relief or to “fifth starter” ceilings. It’s nice to see Law projecting several of these pitchers as top-half of the rotation prospects. Harrison, of course, projects as a #1 starter. Law sees Whisenhunt as a third starter but possibly even higher if he can improve his curve. He has Black as a likely fourth starter and seems especially bullish on Seymour as a top-three starter. So by the time we get through #12 on the list, there are four starting pitchers whom Law thinks could be 1-4 starters, and this is not counting Logan Webb (c’mon and extend that guy, already!). I see a point in the not-too-distant future where we might have left-handed and right-handed Carsons (Whisenhunt and Seymour) to go with our right-handed and left-handed Rogers(es?).

Going down just one spot on the list, Law likes Roupp (#13) as a fourth starter and sees potential for Silva (#15) as a mid-rotation starter. That is a lot of prospect depth for the future rotation, especially when you add names like Swiney and Murphy, both 2020 draftees, to the pile. The other pitchers on the list are ones that Law sees as future bullpen pieces, which is OK except in the case of Bednar, a first-round draft pick (#14) in 2021. You would hope to do better than a reliever with a top-half first-round pick. Law also doesn’t really know what to make of Reggie Crawford yet–no one does–but he expressed the strong opinion that the Giants should immediately abandon the “nonsense” that he’s going to be a two-way player and develop him solely as a pitcher once he’s healthy.

Looking ahead, the Giants will likely be able to stock their own rotation from within over the next two years or so, which lines up nicely with the end of the short-term contracts they have with veteran starters right now. If two of Matos, McCray, Brown, and Ramos pan out, the Giants could have a pretty good homegrown outfield, and they will likely be OK on the left side of the infield. First base, second base, and a long-term answer(s) at catcher seem to be the biggest questions at the moment. But all in all, it’s not bad, and it seems stronger to me, top to bottom, than lists we saw 6-7 years ago headed by the likes of Jarrett Parker, Tyler Beede, Chris Shaw, or Mac Williamson (no disrespect to any of those guys, but…).


Tim Kawakami Interviews Farhan Zaidi

I don’t know if this was mentioned on TWG this week, but TK recorded a podcast interview with Zaidi, which anyone can listen to, and then wrote up his thoughts in an article for the Athletic (subscription only). The most interesting tidbits I gleaned from both sources were:

  • Zaidi declined to answer two pointed questions from TK about whether he’s already gotten an extension on his contract or is about to get one.
  • Zaidi’s general take on the Giants’ last couple of years seems to be that they (way) over-performed expectations in 2021 and (somewhat) under-performed in 2022. Gee, ya think? Anyway, his view is that the 2021 Giants weren’t as good as they seemed, but the 2022 Giants weren’t as bad as they seemed. Somewhere in the middle of those two is the reality. (Adding some fuel to this perspective is the Fangraphs ZiPS projection that came out yesterday, predicting the Giants to win 88 games and finish a fairly close third place behind the Dodgers and Padres, tied at 91 wins.)
  • They talked about the farm system, and Zaidi pointed out that (a) some of their lower-round picks have performed well (obviously Harrison, a third-rounder, and Schmitt, a second-rounder, stand out here); (b) First-rounders Ramos and Joey Bart were disproportionately affected by having the 2020 season disrupted and then being locked out during the 2021-22 offseason (Bart was already on the 40-man from the 2020 season, and Ramos was added just days before the lockout); and (c) his own three first-rounders, Bishop, Bailey, and Bednar, have all been slowed down by injuries (so don’t give up on them yet)–and I suppose you could even add Crawford to that list, though his injury was obviously known when they drafted him. In short, Zaidi agreed that the 2022 season was an overall disappointment as to the farm system but, not surprisingly I guess, expressed optimism that better days are ahead, especially for some of these top picks. (We’ll see. The Bishop pick in particular is looking disastrous, especially when you recall that Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner were also #10 picks back in the day.)

There was more, and I thought the podcast was worth a listen just to discern the somewhat awkward responses to some of the probing questions (TK is known for those), but those were the observations I found most interesting.


Back to ZiPS

I thought Dan Szymborski’s blurb on the NL West was quotable:

ZiPS surprised me a bit with the NL West. Not so much in terms of the order of the standings, but with the relatively small gap between the Dodgers and the Padres, and then the Giants. The first two are both terrific teams, but there are real downside concerns. The Padres have serious questions at DH and the quality of the rotation drops off quickly, and the Dodgers’ issues aren’t all that dissimilar. The Giants seem to have a lower ceiling than their rivals, but like the Braves and Cards, ZiPS sees them eking out a few extra wins simply by having enough depth to reduce the number of downside scenarios in the mystery bucket.

Do the Padres and Dodgers really have “downside concerns”? I guess, but especially in the case of the Dodgers, they always seem to figure things out, especially with their rotation. I thought they might be exposed last year after Scherzer left as a free agent and Buehler went down to Tommy John surgery, but…nope. Even though Kershaw had his annual rest on the IL, Urias became the team ace, and back-end guys Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson were unlikely All-Stars–and the damn Dodgers won 111 games.

Anyway, it’s an interesting projection for the Giants, who would be in the third wild card spot if ZiPS has the whole National League right. I for one would be thrilled with 88 wins and a playoff spot. This is going to be a year of marking time (Is it the last year of Zaidi’s tenure? How will the new GM factor in? Will all the opt-out guys opt out after the season? How will the top prospects do in the minors/majors? Etc.), so it might as well be an entertaining one with solid baseball. Here’s hoping.

So…happy Baseball Is Back Week, and as for the Super Bowl, I’m rooting for some awesome commercials, and welcome back, Rihanna. Lefty out.