Marco Luciano

Giants taking ‘sink-or-swim' approach with young players this season

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The Giants, for better or for worse, will rely on a few rookies and young players at key positions for the 2024 MLB season.

Affording these opportunities to unproven youngsters sometimes can be a double-edged sword, and San Francisco is preparing to take that risk to inject youth and excitement into the team.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi joined KNBR 680's "Murph & Markus" on Friday from Scottsdale Stadium, where he was asked what is different about this year's team in spring training compared to last year's squad at this time.

"I think one big theme for us this spring is giving opportunities to young players, allowing them to take a step forward," Zaidi said. "It's exciting, you put these guys in a position and you say 'sink or swim.' And sometimes they sink, that's going to have to be something we're prepared for, but there's a lot of guys in this camp that have been with the organization for a while, worked their way up the ladder and it's really time to give them an opportunity. There's always risk with young players, but there's a kind of palpable excitement in the air to see what they can do."

The Giants at times benefitted greatly from their youth last season, with rookies like catcher Patrick Bailey, infielder Casey Schmitt and left-handed pitcher Kyle Harrison providing an immediate boost after receiving mid-season promotions.

Fast forward to this season, and the Giants will continue to rely on the aforementioned players while featuring other youngsters like center fielder Jung Hoo Lee, shortstop Marco Luciano and pitchers Tristan Beck and Keaton Winn. Zaidi was asked if it's fair to describe the current state of the team as a "youth movement."

"I think so, especially on the pitching side," Zaidi added. "I've talked to [pitching coach Bryan Price] and Bob [Melvin], I think they'll echo this sentiment, so it's not just the people who have been around a few years and are homers for our young players, that always happens. But it's nice to have their perspective coming in and seeing some of these young kids on the mound, in their bullpens and the live BPs and seeing them get excited about those guys.

"I do think it's going to be a youth movement and that's one thing that I've learned in my time in San Francisco is that's what our fans really want to see, they want to see young guys coming up through the system, succeeding and becoming part of a winning team. And obviously, that's a formula that's worked here in the past and so this is going to be a big year for that."

The Giants made it a point of emphasis to get younger and more athletic this offseason, and did so by signing players like Lee and starting pitcher Jordan Hicks, but also acquired seasoned veterans like left-handed pitcher Robbie Ray, designated hitter Jorge Soler and backup catcher Tom Murphy.

Zaidi and the Giants believe a mix of youth and experience is paramount to the team's success this season.

"Absolutely, and I think that's where we're going to try and continue to create some insurance policies, some safety nets," Zaidi explained. "One position where we're very young, obviously, is at shortstop.

"We've got Luciano, we're certainly hoping he takes the ball and runs with it, Tyler Fitzgerald, don't want to leave him out of that group. Casey Schmitt's another guy who factors in there, but I think that's a position where we might bring in a veteran and maybe even on a non-roster deal to come in and compete and push these guys a little bit. I think we could see the same thing on the pitching side."

As Zaidi mentioned, the Giants dynasty of the 2010s won three World Series championships behind a homegrown core that featured the likes of Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt.

The Giants hope this next generation of homegrown talent can follow in their predecessors' footsteps.

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