Reflecting On The Year
The regular season is winding down, but this week will be the last of the Prospect Round-Ups, as the news out of the Alternate Training Site has slowly disappeared and Instructional Leagues usually have no press at all even when pandemics aren’t a factor.
This year already would have been a notable year with the Professional Baseball Agreement ending as it were. But the pandemic has made it tragic for some teams, as some teams and a couple of entire leagues will disappear without the opportunity to even get to say goodbye. In 2021, minor league baseball and all of developmental baseball will be wildly different. Some things might be better. Some things will be worse. But that’s the echoes of 2020.
Instead, when the pandemic ended up cancelling minor league baseball, everyone was left scrambling finding out what to do. And there were some things that were discovered, and that perhaps were silver linings.
Offseason Baseball Training facilities and the tools being used by them were thrust to the forefront. Driveline Baseball was known to a lot of minor league fans, but it’s fair to say their name, or the facilities like them, were not very well known to all baseball fans. But this year, we’d see more and more video of our stars and prospects broadcasting from them.
Because of 2020, it’s likely these training facilities will begin to go mainstream. Forget taking a bucket of balls out to the local park to get your work in, more and more players of all levels will head into these warehouses with sensors of all types, and computers simulating where the ball was going if they were in a stadium and not in a batting cage. And we may begin to see MLB training facilities (it’s becoming unfair to limit them by calling them Spring Training facilities) to adopt more of that technology and look more like them…starting with Papago Park for the Giants hopefully in 2021.
We also saw renewed public focus on the rights and troubles of minor league players, particularly in terms of pay. As workers of all types were going without pay during the pandemic, or outright losing their jobs, many pointed out the hypocrisy of billionaire sports owners not paying players who were to be the futures of their franchises. When the Athletics declared they would stop paying minor leaguers after May 31st, they were publicly shamed and changed course quickly. Other teams who tried to stop paying players throughout the year got similar public campaigns to pressure them into changing.
Along this line, for the first time, players in the fall instructional leagues will be paid salaries, on top of housing and food stipends. This did not even require any public pressure, as the pay was announced alongside the announcement of the league happening at all.
However, scouting will also change forever. This year, we saw teams start making major layoffs to their scouting and baseball operation departments. With more electronic information available, and an inevitable push of that technology into minor league stadiums, more and more scouting information will come from technology and less from human scouts. They aren’t going away entirely, but the number of scouts attending every game will likely be far down in the future.
Giants Year in Review
So, that’s the big picture year in review…but what about the Giants?
Well, there’s not a lot to say. There are very few actual results to report, only a lot of workouts, spring training, and ancedotal reports. But let’s take a look at who had it good and not so good.
Mauricio Dubón – Dubón came into this season with his future uncertain, and the Giants trying to get him to play a new position, center field, and no guarantees. While the transition hasn’t been smooth, with some obvious defensive gaffes and some early offensive troubles, Mauricio has solidified himself for now in the outfield. Dubón’s offensive output is still not ideal, with a .724 OPS this year overall, but he’s gotten better as the short season has gone on, batting .320/.397/.460 in September with a .857 OPS. His role beyond this season is assured for at least one more season.
Caleb Baragar – No player had as big a step up as Baragar. Baragar had two straight seasons with 4+ ERA before 2019, when he posted a 3.45 ERA as a starter in Double-A Richmond, and a 3.82 ERA overall (blown up by one bad start in Triple-A). But he was a late addition to the Giants 60-Man pool, and was on the MLB team’s opening day roster. While his MLB ERA ballooned to 4.58 over August, and he’s been used more sparingly, he’s elevated his status and could be in the major league picture for a while.
Marco Luciano – No one had more good press this year. A ton of glowing reviews of how he was doing, both at the Summer Spring Training and later at the Alternate Training Site. There was very little game action we saw of him, only in some of the Summer Spring Training games, but him getting experience with the big leaguers certainly was good for him in the long run.
Tyler Cyr – Cyr was impressing a lot of people back in the original spring training, and he was still doing well in the summer. The 27-year old bay area native had a dominating 2019 working in relief in Richmond. His Spring results didn’t look great, but the pitches he was throwing had a lot of people excited. He didn’t get a chance to make his major league debut this year, but he could be a big bullpen guy for the future, in an area the Giants will need arms.
Sean Roby – One more guy who was getting good press in the first spring training. The 12th round 2018 draft pick spent 2019 splitting time with Augusta and Salem-Keizer, struggling at the former and excelling at the latter. But the Giants brought Roby in for big league spring training, where he was likely to get playing time late in games early and get sent back to minor league came as April rolled around. Roby overacheived, appearing in four games, batting 5-for-7 with two doubles, two walks, and no strikeouts in four games. Four games is not going to change anything in a career, but in a season without many opportunities, Roby made the most of his.
Joey Bart – Joey Bart got his much-awaited callup, and it’s fair to say it hasn’t been what Giants fans wanted. Bart has struggled mightily, particularly against breaking pitches, and everyone knows it. As of today, Bart has 30 strikeouts in 25 games, against just two walks, many of those strikeouts swinging wildly at curveballs. His OPS in his first year is at .606. It is clearly not the future that was wanted. Him and Ramos both suffered more than perhaps any other prospects by losing seasons that should have been at the high minors, learning about curveballs. Instead, he got pushed without that experience, and it showed. With that, and a noticeable problem with the current Giants ace Johnny Cueto, this was the exact opposite of Buster Posey’s permanent promotion.
Starting Pitcher Prospects – The Giants really don’t have many top starting pitching prospects, but none of them got to be involved in the post-pandemic season. The Giants didn’t invite any to the Alternate Training Site, not even Sean Hjelle, with comments that they felt pitchers could do more at home to stay in shape and practice than hitters could. But they’ve still all lost a year of facing hitters. Guys like Hjelle and Seth Corry will probably get time in the Instructional League, but it’s different than a year’s worth of competitive at-bats.
Jaylin Davis – Davis was one of the players that all offseason was talked about as getting a long look in 2020, going back to being a justification of the Kevin Pillar release. Davis made the opening day roster, and other than an emotional home run, didn’t do much, batting 2-for-12 in four games. And then he was gone. Davis has yet to get another chance in the big leagues, even as the Giants face outfield shortages with injuries to Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater, and Alex Dickerson on paternity leave. And no one has said anything about how Davis is doing in the ATS. And when the Giants control all information coming out of the camp, no news is quite very possibly bad news.
Dany Jimenez – The Giants Rule 5 pick last winter made two appearances, with three walks, one strikeout, one hit, and 1.1 IP. In Farhan Zaidi’s world, that’s your shot, and you don’t get much more of one. He was sent right back, like Connor Joe before him. In a season with expanded rosters and the Giants not having a lot of expectations, one might have thought the Giants would’ve be able to find a way to keep him around for the high potential. But nope. Two games, and the churn moves on.
This was a hell of a minor league team, albeit not all of those future Major Leaguers were on the playoff roster. Just good memories all around.
One more comeback try?
He’s not really a prospect anymore, but some good news from someone that could’ve made an impact in 2020. Tyler Beede had to have Tommy John surgery, and while maybe missing 2020 with injury might be better than most other seasons, it still was a year in which he was hopefully going to establish himself. Well, he’s at least making the first steps to coming back.
There really has been precious little to come out of the alternate training site this past week, but Henry Schulman did get a prospect diary from Will Wilson, so you can at least feast your eyes on that this week.
Not that this is part one of a two-part series, with the next part focusing on players not in the ATS coming this week.
Roger did a post on the upcoming Instructional League and what we might see, and Melissa Lockard’s post on what that will look like for the A’s is a worthwhile listen in companion to that.
There’s still another week of the regular season and playoffs, but with the PRU wrapping up, I thought I’d leave you with a piece from @natt0, to leave you dreaming for 2021, and hopefully just a normal season.