SF Giants quietly building shortstop depth

Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants fields during the game against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on September 24, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants fields during the game against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on September 24, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /

The SF Giants now have some options at shortstop

For years, the San Francisco Giants have functioned with not nearly enough shortstop depth behind Brandon Crawford. However, that is a trend that is quickly changing.

While Crawford remains firmly entrenched in the shortstop role, the Giants’ major league roster has plenty of depth behind the long-time shortstop for the first time in a long while.

Similarly, team president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is adding depth through the minor league ranks as well.

Do you even remember who was the back-up shortstop in 2017? Or 2018?

The answers may surprise you. Kelby Tomlinson and Eduardo Nunez saw some time there in 2017, whereas Tomlinson along with Alen Hanson split time backing up Crawford in 2018.

This is not nearly enough depth, and none of the options above gave the Giants any type of offensive value such as platoon advantages that complemented Crawford.

While the 2020 Giants may not ever make it to the field, this roster is better prepared at a key position.

Behind Crawford, the Giants have both Yolmer Sanchez and Mauricio Dubon. Sanchez and Dubon were expected to handle multiple positions, giving Giants manager Gabe Kapler flexibility and options.

SF Giants minor league depth at shortstop

That said, how does the depth look like at the minor league levels?

Similar to the major league roster, shortstop was not a position that had a lot of impact depth throughout the organization. Oftentimes, the team relied on minor league signings to give the Giants an option on the Triple-A roster, but it never seemed to be enough.

This organization is structured differently now. Though none of the names mentioned below are expected to become stars, except for Marco Luciano, it is an encouraging sign. However, Luciano is not included because while he currently plays shortstop, the belief is that he will eventually need to change positions.

At the high minor league ranks (Double-A and above), the Giants are still a little thin, but this is okay given that the major league roster has Crawford, Sanchez, and Dubon. Abiatal Avelino and Ryan Howard are the most notable names.

Avelino is currently on the Giants’ 40-man roster, but he has appeared sparingly with the big league club since being acquired at the end of the 2018 season in exchange for outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

Howard was expected to become a serviceable utility man but hit a bump in the road in 2019. Across two minor league levels, the right-handed bat posted a .227/.277/.316 line with seven home runs in 504 plate appearances.

The versatile infielder had been building up a nice minor league career up to that point. He seemed poised to bounceback after stringing together some quality at-bats in Spring Training. Though, that seemed like ten years ago at this point.

The lower minor league levels are where the depth becomes more interesting. The overall talent is not overwhelming, but each player carries some intrigue.

In the past couple of years, the Giants have brought in Will Wilson, Tyler Fitzgerald, Jimmy Glowenke, and Aeverson Arteaga at the shortstop position.

Wilson is the most notable name of the bunch as he was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for the Giants doing the Angels a tremendous favor in soaking up the remainder of Zack Cozart’s three-year, $38 million contract.

I am including recent third-round pick Glowenke for now, but I do not believe he can stick at shortstop. Perhaps, in small doses, he would be fine, but I am not optimistic.

Regardless, the Giants have invested a lot of capital into the shortstop position at the lower levels. In addition to using a 2020 third-round pick, San Francisco plucked up Tyler Fitzgerald out of Louisville University in the fourth round of the 2019 draft.

On the international market, the Giants dished out a $1 million signing bonus on Arteaga in last July’s signing period. The Venezuelan shortstop is much further behind in comparison to the other three prospects mentioned.

Not all of these prospects will stick at shortstop, but the belief is shortstops can play anywhere on the diamond, so they will all get experience at other positions as well.

In the case of Wilson, Glowenke, and Fitzgerald, it is even possible that all three appear on the same field simultaneously at some point in the minors. They are all college players, and will likely follow a similar path developmentally.

For years, I have held my breath that Crawford remained healthy because the depth behind him was concerning. However, in his second season at the helm, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has quietly added a lot of depth at a position that desperately needs it. The work is not done yet, but it is several steps in the right direction.