The San Francisco Giants have been quite successful in the past decade at raising their own draftees into Major League stars. Their infield and pitching are particularly well supplied with homegrown talent. But the Giants have not been known in recent years for having a stacked minor league system, especially when it comes to “having the pieces” to make blockbuster trades.
Young talent, after all, is what teams want when they sell off their top veterans and go into rebuild mode. The Giants just haven’t had enough of it to spare.
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That appears to be different now. The Giants are set for years at all five infield positions, two of their outfield spots are settled for the next three years, and much of the pitching staff is solidly in place. Meanwhile, the minor league system is brimming with talented young players with clear path to the majors.
So, when the Giants are in the thick of a playoff battle in late July, they will have the pieces to make a major play at the trade deadline.
Top prospect, Shortstop Christian Arroyo, for instance, doesn’t have much to look forward to in San Francisco, with Brandon Crawford blocking him. Teenage shortstop prospects Lucious Fox and Jalen Miller are in the same predicament.
Trevor Brown apparently can handle backup catching duties in San Francisco. So can Andrew Susac, who is currently with Triple-A Sacramento. And Single-A catcher Aramis Garcia is showing some promise. So there’s a surplus of young catchers.
Chris Shaw, one of the Giants’ two first-round picks in 2015, is a hulking first baseman who is impressing with the bat: he slugged .551 in his pro debut last year, and thus far in 2016 the 22-year-old is batting .300 for San Jose—this while skipping a level and heading to High-A.
Shaw could possibly move to the outfield—he played some there in college—but he’s considered to slow to do so. So, with Brandon Belt entrenched at first base, the Giants have a surplus at this position, as well.
The Giants also have a ton of pitching talent, led by recent first-rounders Tyler Beede and Phil Bickford. Sean Coonrod and lefties Adalberto Mejia and Andrew Suarez have some major league potential, as do relievers such as Ray Black, Steven Okert and Derek Law (whom the Giants just called up from Triple-A).
Trading prospects has its pros and cons, of course, since it could be mortgaging the franchise’s future for an immediate boost, but it’s also using unknown commodities to acquire more known entities.
To illustrate the latter point, let’s look at Kyle Crick. Two years ago, Baseball America and MLB Pipeline ranked the right-handed pitcher as the Giants’ best prospect. Now he’s not even among the top 10. He had the top ranking at the time largely due to a dearth of talent in the Giants’ farm system at the time. But he was still a valuable commodity then, while he isn’t so much now.
Even when a prospect is highly coveted, there’s a risk to holding onto him.
Zack Wheeler was the last top prospect the Giants traded away to acquire an impact veteran, when they got Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets in 2011. The move was considered risky at the time because Wheeler was so highly touted, while Beltran was due to become a free agent after the season.
The Giants ended up failing to make the playoffs, while Wheeler went on to prove to be the real deal—except that he hasn’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014. The net result: the Giants took a risk that didn’t pay off, but had they not taken it, they would still be without either player right now.
The point being, the Giants have a contender-worthy team, and when the time comes for them to improve their roster for the stretch run, they have plenty of trade chips—and they shouldn’t hesitate to cash them in.