I’ll just be upfront with y’all: This is a double-duty title today. I’m going to talk about the tiny little tidbits of San Francisco Giants 2024 news that emerged this week–and I do mean tiny tidbits–and then pivot to talk about the MLB top-100 prospects list that was released yesterday. (Spoiler: the Giants have four players on the list for now, not bad. But I’ll get to that.)
“Prospects” for the 2024 Giants
Another week of the offseason has gone by, and we are now just 19 days from pitchers and catchers reporting to Scottsdale. (It’s easy to remember this year because the date is already both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.) Since the addition of Jordan Hicks was leaked two weeks ago, there have been no further additions to the 2024 Giants, unless you want to count Dusty Baker (new special adviser) and Alyssa Nakken’s baby daughter (who makes history as the first baby born to a MLB coach that actually gave birth to the baby).
Anyway, such as they are, here are the tiny tidbits.
- Ross Stripling: It came out on Twitter yesterday that Stripling has been working this winter on a new pitch, a slider he’s calling “the Deathball.” If you click the link, you’ll see video of Stripling throwing it and also him talking about it. (“I don’t miss many bats,” he observed. Yeah. We noticed.) One Giants pundit replied to the tweet saying that he hoped “the Deathball” is an improvement on Stripling’s 2023 specialty, the Gopherball. (Stripling gave up 20 homers in 89 innings last year. That is…not good.)
- Robbie Ray: The Giants’ early January trade acquisition surfaced and gave some money quotes this week. Andrew Baggarly has a whole new piece in the Athletic about him this morning. The TL:DR version: Ray had both UCL reconstruction (Tommy John) surgery AND flexor tendon repair in May 2023. The time line for recovery from that is more complicated than a straight TJ would be. In other words, don’t expect much soon, although he is now throwing on flat ground from 120 feet. He is working out at the Giants’ Arizona complex, Alex Cobb is his new rehab buddy, and it sounds like Logan Webb and Hicks are around, too. Ray also said this in a conference call with beat writers: “I think we’re in a really good spot with arms. We could probably add a few bats. A couple bats wouldn’t hurt. But we’ve got the arms to do it.” Um. Yeah. And we could also use another arm or two because you’re still hurt, Robbie.
- Players NOT signing with the Giants: Most notably, local guy Rhys Hoskins signed with the Brewers this week. Chronicle beat writer Susan Slusser reported that the Giants had been interested in Hoskins but didn’t come near the Brewers’ offer. (Hoskins got two years/$34 mil with a player opt-out after one year, which sounds like a Zaidi Special if I ever heard one.) The rest of her article was puzzled musings about how the Giants have been linked to top free agents such as Matt Chapman, Blake Snell, and Cody Bellinger, “but after some initial overtures the team doesn’t appear to want to be aggressive in setting the market. Instead, the Giants are getting a reputation for missing out, as they did most recently with Hoskins. If you let other teams set the market, by definition you’re not getting the player…”
None of this should surprise any of us, right? I’ve been saying for several years that Farhan Zaidi is passive and risk-averse. Slusser’s piece seems to confirm every bit of that impression. She also mentions that maybe the Giants want to sit this year out and try to get Juan Soto next year but that shooting for the top of the market hasn’t worked out very well, either.
Does the history of Zaidi pursuing the likes of Judge and Ohtani contradict the “risk-averse” narrative? Not really because (a) it’s not a risk if you’re pretty convinced they won’t sign with you, anyway (you’re just putting on a show); and (b) Judge and Ohtani are not “risks.” Actually guys like Bellinger and Snell and Chapman are great examples of the kinds of risks that Zaidi is averse to.
The 2024 Top Prospects List
OK, onto a happier topic. As I mentioned above, the Giants have four prospects in the new MLB top-100 list:
- Kyle Harrison (#26 overall; #1 LHP prospect)
- Marco Luciano (#39 overall; #10 SS prospect)
- Carson Whisenhunt (#83 overall; #6 LHP prospect)
- Bryce Eldridge (#96)
The Cubs lead MLB with seven prospects on the top-100, followed by the Orioles with six and then the Reds, Pirates, and Padres with five each. So four is not bad, but for the Giants there’s the caveat that Harrison and Luciano are expected to be on the major league roster on Opening Day, and if all goes reasonably well, they’ll drop off the list in fairly short order. Whisenhunt, too, could quite conceivably make his major league debut this year. There are others from last year’s draft who could crack the list such as second-rounder Walker Martin or fourth-rounder Maui Ahuna, or the Giants’ top international prospect, Rayner Arias. But absent some leaps forward, it wouldn’t be surprising if only Eldridge is left on the list when they do the midseason update–and since he’s all the way down at #96, there’s no guarantee he’s staying on it, either.
Let’s talk about Eldridge for a minute (that’s him at the top of this post, if you’re wondering). As a reminder, he was the Giants’ first-round pick last year at #16. He was drafted out of a D.C.-area high school as a two-way player, but in his pro debut last summer, he was only a hitter, playing first base and right field. Eldridge is a lefty-hitting slugger who hit six homers in his first 31 pro games (Arizona Complex League and San Jose). His scouting grade for power is 60. Though the Giants have promised him an opportunity to try pitching this next season, it is widely expected that his path to the majors is as a hitter. Eldridge is still just 19 years old, and he should be fun to keep an eye on this year.
So…sighhhhhhhh…that’s about it for Giants news this week. Did I mention Baby Nakken? Yeah, I did. Oh, and Joc Pederson is taking his talents to Phoenix this year. They’re paying him $9.5 mil for the 2024 season, which is less than half of the money Zaidi threw at him for 2023. But I’m sure the Diamondbacks will enjoy that card game he likes to teach everyone. And if Snakes’ fans are lucky, they’ll never have to watch Joc play outfield. Anyway, goodbye and good riddance, Joc.
I’m writing this from a hotel in Newport Beach–the Mr and I are here visiting the in-laws this weekend–but we’re scheduled to fly home in plenty of time for tomorrow’s 49ers game. After last week, I’m vacillating between being nervous or feeling that the Niners are playing with house money since they didn’t really deserve to advance after how things went against the Packers. They’ve been a hard team to understand this season. Sometimes they look like no one will ever beat them. Other times you wonder why anyone even thinks they’re good. Will be interesting to see which version shows up tomorrow, but it’s not supposed to be raining, so there’s that. Good luck to them! Lefty out.