Blake Sabol is one of the most interesting storylines in Giants camp so far. Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
It’s been a full week now since the Giants started their Cactus League schedule, and what have we learned? After yesterday’s split-squad games, their record is 3-5, and whatever–no one really cares about spring training results, and some of the losses have come at the hands of relief pitchers who aren’t going to be on the team. So far what I’ve noticed is that the hitting seems robust, the pitching is a bit shaky, and the defense seems to have stabilized after a really rocky start (six errors in the first game!).
The Giants have been hitting (third-best team OPS in the NL so far) and are tied for the league lead with 14 homers. If you look at the Giants’ individual stats, you immediately notice a bunch of catchers at or near the top: Joey Bart, 2.267, 1 HR, and Blake Sabol, 2.156, 2 HRs–even minor leaguer Brett Auerbach and non-roster invitee Austin Wynns have each hit a homer. In all, Giants catchers have hit five of the team’s 14 home runs. This is interesting, of course, because catcher is the only position on the team where there (purportedly) is an open competition.
Now, Bart has always hit well in spring training–he has a career batting average of around .400 with nine (9) homers–but Sabol, who got the “featured image” honors at the top of the column, continues to be an intriguing story. Sabol’s line so far, in four games, is .556/.600/1.556/2.156 with 2 HRs, 5 RBIs, and 2 strikeouts in ten plate appearances. He can hit, and he bats lefty–and the Giants’ options from the left side aren’t quite as robust as they are from the right. And, of course, as a Rule 5 player, Sabol is in the “use him or lose him” category.
But where would Sabol play? Can he get up to speed quickly enough to serve as the regular backup catcher? Do the injuries to Luis Gonzalez and Austin Slater open the door for Sabol to stick as a part-time outfielder, catcher, and pinch-hitter? Another interesting thing about Sabol: He’s half-Samoan, just like Sean Manaea, and if he were ever to catch Manaea in a regular season game, it would make MLB history as the first all-Samoan battery. Sabol is also a second cousin to NFL Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu (a great USC Trojan, where Sabol also played his college ball).
The Giants give the Barney Nugent Award every year to the player who’s most outstanding in his first camp. Right now, Sabol would have to be the runaway leader for that award. Do you really give the Nugent Award winner back to the Pirates at the end of camp?
Another possible Nugent Award winner is Casey Schmitt, who so far is hitting .444/.444/.889/1.333, with one homer, 4 RBI, and no strikeouts. This is very interesting, too, because the only question about Schmitt is how soon he can be ready to hit at the major league level.
You know who’s not hitting? Any of the guys expected to be regular position players for the Giants (other than Bart), including David Villar, who’s 0 for 8 so far. J.D. Davis is hitting .333, and LaMonte Wade Jr. is hitting .250 with a homer, but pretty much everyone else is hitting .100 or lower. But it’s early yet.
With a 6.78 team ERA, the Giants currently sit at 27th in the majors. They’re in the bottom half in giving up homers and in the top ten in strikeouts–both good stats–but have given up too many walks so far (tied for tenth most in MLB). It’s hard to say how much the new rules, especially the pitch clock, are affecting the Giants’ pitchers. Of course, the new rules apply to all the teams, but one thing I’ve heard a bit is that players who’ve spent time in the minors over the last couple of years are already acclimated to the pitch clock rules. The Giants have a lot of veteran players and especially veteran pitchers. With the exceptions of Sam Long and Camilo Doval, none of those guys have spent time in the minors in several years. So maybe they’re at a bit of a disadvantage. Again–it’s early.
On the good news front, Anthony DeSclafani made his first start yesterday, and it went very well: two innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 walks, and 3 strikeouts. From Maria Guardado’s gamer (on MLB.com):
“That looked like him at his best in 2021,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He looked like him at his best prior to the injury, so I feel good about his performance today. I feel good about the strike throwing, the ability to get in the zone with all of his pitches. He’s throwing hard and moving well.”
Final line for @ADeSclafani:
2.0 IP | 1 H | 0 R | 0 BB | 3 K pic.twitter.com/mGFDC0QU2h
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) March 3, 2023
It would be a huge boost for the rotation if they really had the 2021 version of DeSclafani back. In other pitcher news, the Rogers brothers made back-to-back appearances in yesterday’s win. It may have been a first for them (since high school or Little League or whatever), but it’s not likely to be the last time.
When Tyler Rogers had completed his inning, he didn't head straight for the showers. He had good reason to remain in the dugout. His twin brother, Taylor, was emerging from the bullpen doors.
"I was thinking about watching him while I was pitching."https://t.co/XKeXFxiVOP
— Evan Webeck (@EvanWebeck) March 3, 2023
Top prospect Kyle Harrison made his Cactus League debut on Wednesday, and overall, it seemed to go well.
Kyle Harrison brought the 🔥 in his @SFGiants Cactus League debut.
MLB's top LHP prospect hits 96 mph on his first K: pic.twitter.com/lOqnf6tg5O
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 2, 2023
Good news about Marco Luciano, it would seem.
After being limited to start camp, #SFGiants top prospect Marco Luciano (back) is now taking batting practice and participating in all other baseball activities.
📹 Here he is, moving well, in infield drills this morning: pic.twitter.com/x0euJgKjto
— Evan Webeck (@EvanWebeck) March 3, 2023
Another intriguing prospect, outfielder Vaun Brown, hit a homer in the Giants’ win over the Rockies at Scottsdale Stadium yesterday.
Vaun Brown blasts his first homer of the spring 🤩
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) March 3, 2023
MLB Pipeline released its list of the Giants’ Top 30 prospects this week, and Brown was ranked #5 on that. The list included a couple of names about which I had to refresh my memory (Spencer Miles and Hayden Birdsong, both pitchers from the 2022 draft, and Rayner Arias, the outfielder who was their top international signing in January). It did not include 2019 first-rounders Hunter Bishop or Will Wilson at all, which is not surprising considering they were both left unprotected (and unselected) in the latest Rule 5 Draft. The highest first-round pick on the list is 2022 first-rounder Reggie Crawford at #9, but that’s all due to pedigree (draft position) rather than professional track record.
Don’t forget to enter–or update, if you’ve already entered–this year’s contest to predict the Giants’ Opening Day roster. See last week’s column for full details.
To enter, click this link.
Today’s Games (Split Squad)
Diamondbacks at Giants, 12:05 p.m., Scottsdale Stadium, Alex Wood starting–lineups here
Giants at Brewers, 12:10 p.m., American Family Fields of Phoenix, Logan Webb starting–lineups here
It’s the game in Scottsdale that will be broadcast on KNBR. You can probably pick up the other one (Brewers’ announcers) if you go on MLB.com or the At Bat app.
Next week, I’ll be reporting from Scottsdale, and I absolutely cannot wait. Lefty out.