Not many people had heard of catcher/outfielder Blake Sabol when he was traded to the SF Giants just a couple of months ago. However, the left-handed bat is making the most of his chance as a Rule 5 pick in camp.
SF Giants Rule 5 pick is off to an impressive start in camp
Sabol was drafted in the seventh round of the 2019 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of the University of Southern California. He was plucked away from the Cincinnati Reds in the Rule 5 draft this past December and shipped to San Francisco a couple of hours later.
Despite the trade, the 25-year-old is still considered a Rule 5 pick, meaning that he cannot be optioned to Triple-A without being exposed to waivers. If he clears waivers, then he must be offered back to the Pirates unless they and the Giants work out a trade to acquire his rights.
Typically, Rule 5 picks have a good chance at making the Opening Day roster if they avoid a prolonged slump in the spring. However, the problem is keeping them on the roster, especially when it comes to position players. Teams can hide pitchers in the back of the bullpen, but a bench is limited as is, so every player needs to fill a role.
Sabol was brought in with a couple of other veterans catchers to push Joey Bart for playing time. That said, the catching prospect is one of the more inexperienced backstops in camp. He has appeared in a total of 94 games behind the plate as a pro but the metrics paint a slightly favorable picture of his work.
Catcher is not necessarily a new position for Sabol. He appeared extensively at the position in college, but committed to the outfield as a pro before volunteering to return behind the plate.
As a lefty bat, Sabol is a natural platoon complement on the strong side whether the other catcher is Bart, Austin Wynns, or Roberto Pérez. Left-handed-hitting catchers are not that common, but that could prove to be beneficial for Sabol. Giants manager Gabe Kapler leans heavily on platoon matchups, so if Sabol gives them any type of leverage against right-handed pitching, he could stand to see a lot of plenty time.
That said, the odds of a Rule 5 pick sticking are not great. There just are not a ton of examples of it happening, but to his credit, Sabol is making the most of his opportunity.
It is a very small sample and spring training stats rarely carry any weight, but it is hard to do more than what Sabol has produced so far. In seven at-bats, he has recorded four hits including two doubles and two home runs while leading the team with five RBI.
On a more subjective note, he does seem like a very personable and engaging person. That may not show up in the box score, but he has quickly built up a base of Giants fans. There are several weeks remaining in the Cactus League, but Sabol is making a positive first impression and positioning himself to make the Opening Day roster.