Heading into the first weekend after the all-star break, the Giants sat in fourth place in the NL West. Despite that, this season has a chance to be the bounceback the team needed after a brutal 2017. The Giants stood two games above .500, a far cry from last year’s 64-98 record that earned them the second pick in the 2018 draft.
It also leaves them in a difficult nether-world. San Francisco is only four games out of first place, but it is also among a logjam of teams battling for either the wild card or NL West title. The Dodgers have added Manny Machado to their lineup and are likely to make further moves. The Giants traded pitching prospect Jason Bahr to the Rangers as the price of sending away the salaries of outfielder Austin Jackson and righthander Cory Gearrin. That move clears enough salary to ensure the Giants stay below the luxury tax threshold this year, but it does nothing to clear enough space to make any major acquisitions.
In other words, while the Giants may tweak around the periphery of their roster, a playoff push will rely on getting a boost from the now healthy Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner. The Giants are reaping the draft benefits of picking second in the draft as Joey Bart and Sean Hjelle immediately place among the best prospects in the system. The Giants willingness to spend big on shortstop Marco Luciano on July 2 gives the team another potential impact bat.
Because of those moves, the farm system has more talent at the top than it has in recent years, but the depth has taken a hit thanks to a busy offseason of trades.
1. Joey Bart, C
Catchers often take a little longer to develop than hitters with less defensive responsibilities, but Bart’s arrival in San Francisco could end up being well-timed. Drafted second overall from Georgia Tech and signed for $7.025 million, Bart becomes the Giants long-term catcher of the future. Buster Posey is under contract through 2021 when he will be 34. Bart’s arrival in 2020 or 2021 should help Posey slide to a less-demanding position. Bart has the power and defensive skills to be a future everyday catcher, although whether his fringe-average hit tool develops bears watching.
Low Class A Augusta
Ramos is of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League and his youth has been apparent. So far he’s been overmatched in in the Sally League, expanding the strike zone too often and being surprisingly helpless against lefties. If Ramos can be more patient and work himself into better counts, he should start driving the ball more with his plus raw power. Ramos still projects as a power-speed center fielder, but he has a long way to go.
3. Marco Luciano, SS
Signed 2019 contract
Luciano has a rare combination of power and athleticism for a 16-year-old. Ranked as Baseball America’s No. 2 international prospect 2018, Luciano signed for $2.6 million, making him the Giants’ biggest international signing since they spent $6 million to sign Lucius Fox in 2015. Luciano will have to prove he can stay at shortstop over the long term, but his power and bat speed should be fine if he eventually has to move to third base or the outfield.
The 6-foot-11 Hjelle is understandably being held on a tight innings limit after he threw 99.1 innings with Kentucky this spring. The Giants second-round pick will likely be moved more aggressively starting next year, as he has the control to cruise through the low minors despite his height. Hjelle attacks hitters with solid but unspectacular stuff. Some scouts say they believe the still-skinny Hjelle could fill out and gain another couple of ticks to his fastball, but even if he doesn’t, he projects as a useful back-of-the-rotation starter.
Shaw is blocked from playing the position that fits him best because of Brandon Belt’s long-term contract. He’s continuing to work on trying to master left field instead, but he’s going to have to hit a lot to make his left field defense worth living with. It’s become in question whether he can. Shaw’s plate discipline has steadily deteriorated as he’s faced more advanced pitchers, with a 35.6 percent strikeout rate this season that overshadows his 19 home runs and .532 slugging percentage.
The Giants’ spacious outfield makes Duggar more valuable to them then he would be in a much smaller park. His above-average speed, defense and arm all work very well in center field and can also play in right field. Duggar’s offensive game remains focused on lining singles and doubles and being aggressive on the basepaths. He’s got strength, but his swing just isn’t conducive to elevating and celebrating.
The Giants have a number of starting pitchers (Logan Webb, Gregory Santos and Seth Corry to name three) with more upside than Anderson, but all of them are much further from the majors. Anderson is a nearly ready back-of-the-rotation starter with an above-average 92-94 mph fastball, a hard slider and a changeup and curveball that are just good enough to keep hitters off balance. After reaching the Futures Game and earning a promotion to Triple-A, his big league debut isn’t far off.
Acquired with Anderson last year in the trade that sent Eduardo Nunez to the Red Sox, Santos is the highest-ceiling starting pitching prospect in the Giants system. He’s years away from San Francisco, but it’s easy to get excited about a physical 6-foot-7 righthander with advanced control for his age, a 93-95 mph fastball that touches 98 and a hard breaking ball (it’s on the borderline between a curve and a slider) that could be plus. He’s still figuring out his command, having allowed more than a hit per inning at short-season.
Rookie-level AZL Giants Black
After blitzing the Dominican Summer League last year, Canario had a rough introduction to the AZL but has rallied recently, hitting .272/.398/.346 with seven steals in 19 games. He still shows five potentially above-average tools or better and in July he’s flirted with a 1.000 OPS to show it’s still in there for him to get to them.
High Class A San Jose
Ray Black’s long-delayed ascent to the big leagues offers an excellent reminder of why the Giants will be patient with Adon. As a starter, Adon sits at 97-98 mph throughout his starts and he can sit 99-100 for innings at a time when he feels good. Adon’s control is below-average and he doesn’t yet have a secondary offering he can really rely on, but he can still overwhelm hitters with pure gas.
- RHP Jose Marte has always had plenty of velocity (94-97 mph at his best) but even more encouragingly his control and secondary offerings have improved this season. He is 6-4, 3.84 at low Class A Augusta.
- RHP Ray Black was dropped from the 40-man roster and designated for assignment last year, seemingly felled by his long list of injuries. Instead he bounced back this year to earn his first callup to the majors. Black still can touch 100 mph, but he’s learned that dialing back to the high 90s helps him control his fastball better. If he can stay healthy and improve his below-average control his fastball/slider combo could make him a setup man.
- RHP Tyler Beede reached San Francisco for two poor starts, and his always-shaky fastball command has gotten worse this year. His lack of fastball command has kept him from being able to handle a starting role, and now the Giants are seeing if a move to the bullpen can provide a Kyle Crick-style resurgence.
- OF Sandro Fabian’s wild, free-swinging ways have resulted in a .218/.263/.339 line at high Class A San Jose. He has always been a player whose well-rounded game stands out despite the lack of many plus tools, but for Fabian to reach expectations, he has to hit for average and get on-base to make up for his modest power, which he’s not doing.
- LHP Garrett Williams’ control problems that he seemed to tame last year returned this season with 45 walks in 54 innings as a starter at Double-A Richmond. A move to the bullpen has arrested the worst of his control issues and may be an indicator of his future role.
- C Aramis Garcia has long been known as a bat-first catcher. His glove got better this year, but his bat has disappeared, which makes for a rough trade-off. He’s batting .238/.284/.414 at Double-A Richmond, and may need a third straight year at the level next season.
- SS C.J. Hinojosa is back on the field after missing the first half of the season with an Achilles injury and a 50-game suspension for a second positive test for a drug of abuse.
- OF Heath Quinn missed a month with a hamstring injury but has returned and been productive high Class A San Jose.
- LHP Andrew Suarez has proven to be a very reliable and durable member of the Giants rotation as a rookie.
- RHP Reyes Moronta has been one of the best relievers in the Giants bullpen this year as a rookie.
- OF Austin Slater has served as a backup outfielder/pinch hitter in two stints with the big league club.
- RHP Pierce Johnson has been ineffective but he needs only one more relief appearance to exhaust his prospect eligibility.
- RHP Dereck Rodriguez has proven to be a very useful minor league free agent signing. He stepped into the Giants rotation after injuries to Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto and now needs only 3.2 more innings to graduate from prospect eligibility.