The Giants Instructional League roster for 2020 is 66 players, which is unusually large since they’re fielding two teams this fall, which helps make up for lost playing time this pandemic-ridden season. But not every top prospect is there. Why not?
First, a general thing about the Instructs is that they are normally aimed at the lower levels and more inexperienced players, and secondarily at players who have suffered injuries and need to recover playing time. The 2020 pandemic really changes all that, as many players have lost playing time, but you still see mostly younger players on this roster.
40-man rostered players generally do not participate in the Instructional League, but exceptions can be granted. That is the big reason why you do not see Joey Bart (ranked #1 by MLB Pipeline) there, nor Jaylin Davis (ranked #13 by MLB, #17 by Baseball America).
Other reasons will be speculation, although one big piece of speculation is that international travel may be limited for some players, so that may be the cause of any of the notable international players missing.
Of course, it’s also a limited roster size, so some choice may just be that there wasn’t room for them.
The most notable missing player is Sean Hjelle, one of the Giants’ top pitching prospects. While he finished the 2019 season with five Double-A appearances, he spent most of it in Single-A. The Giants didn’t bring many low prospect pitchers to the Alternate Training Site, noting that pitchers are better equipped to work out, train, and stay in shape at home. Hjelle is a little old for the Instructs, but not extremely. And Heliot Ramos, who finished at Double-A and had a similar path in 2019 as Hjelle, is in the Instructs. There’s no known injury that may be limiting Hjelle either, so his absence is a mystery. Ranked #10 by both MLB and BA, he is the highest ranked prospect who isn’t currently in the Majors who is not at Instructs.
So, which other top prospects are not there? Let’s compare the Giants’ top prospect lists and see.
Bart, Davis, Mauricio Dubón, Logan Webb, Conner Menez, Jordan Humphreys, and Luis Alexander Basabe are all ranked on either the BA or MLB rankings, but they are all players that were in the Majors in 2020. This does not explicitly exclude them from attending, but it would be unusual for them to be in the Instructs.
Jairo Pomares (MLB: 14; BA: 17) – One of the more interesting ones, Pomares (20) had a big 2019 in the AZL and even made a jump to Short-A, though he was less successful there. Pomares is a bit of a unique travel situation, as he is Cuban, and that could be a reason here, though fellow Cuban Julio Rodriguez is.
Aeverson Arteaga (MLB: 21; BA: NR) – One of the Giants’ top 2019 IFA signees, Arteaga’s absence is again noticeable with three others going. Arteaga is from Venezuela, but nine other Venezuelans are in camp, so who it’s not strictly a travel issue from his home.
Kai-Wei Teng (MLB: 22; BA: 21) – Teng is another surprising omission, as his strikeout-laden performance after his trade to the Giants in 2019 opened a lot of eyes. Again, don’t discount travel issues here, as Teng is from Taiwan.
Melvin Adon (MLB: 24; BA: NR) – Adon technically finished 2020 on the Major League roster, as he was brought up as a reserve, but he did not make a Major League appearance. The 26-year old struggled in Triple-A in 2019, and would’ve been the oldest player in the Instructs for the giants by some margin, so that likely is a reason why he’s not there.
There are some other players whose absence is notable. Jacob Gonzalez was appearing to be working on a move to first base in real spring training, although he possibly has the best access to off-site training possible. PJ Hilson is a young raw player with a ton of talent who last appeared in the AZL, and I’m very surprised he’s not there. Jesus Tona is a bit older, but finished in San Jose a bit rough last season, and could use the seasoning. Samuel Quintana didn’t get many innings in the DSL but has shown strikeout stuff. It’s not easy to know what circumstances left these players out of the instructs, but all will be worth watching in 2021.