Giants mailbag: How will lockout impact top prospects?


If you woke up early on Thursday morning and watched Rob Manfred's press conference, you heard the preposterous claim that owning an MLB team is riskier and less lucrative than playing the stock market. You also heard that MLB will make a "good" offer to the Players Association on Saturday. We'll soon know if that claim was preposterous, too. 

There is hope that the sides get closer to a deal on Saturday, but not that much hope. The lockout has gone on more than 70 days at this point with very little progress, so you can be forgiven if you pushed baseball to the back corners of your mind. 

At some point it'll return, though, and there will be plenty of questions for the Giants to answer. Let's get to a few of them now, with a mailbag of questions from my Instagram followers (some of which were edited for clarity):

How much has this Covid + lockout period affected Ramos, Bart and others' MLB careers? -- pasqualeesposito0

That's an important question, and the best way to answer it is to point out that the Giants had Joey Bart join them three separate times last season to work with the coaching staff, Buster Posey and Curt Casali, and he was with them as a taxi squad member throughout the NLDS. The staff wanted Bart to get every extra rep and bit of knowledge possible, because prospects really have been hurt by the last couple of seasons. 

Bart is different from most because he got a taste of the big leagues in 2020, but the Giants would have much preferred that the entire year was spent getting minor league at-bats. Ramos, like every player who was ticketed for the minors in March of 2020, missed out on 400-plus at-bats. The lockout has impacted them in a different way. 

Remember, Ramos was the story of camp last spring and would have come in this year trying to force his way onto the big league roster. Every lost Cactus League game is a lost opportunity. Bart is ticketed to be the starting catcher, but a month after Posey retired, teams were no longer allowed to communicate with players on the 40-man roster, like the 25-year-old catcher who is trying to get up to speed. He's also going to miss out on a lot of bullpen sessions and meetings with his starting pitchers and opportunities to get to know new guys.

The caveat here is that every team dealt with this over the last two years, and I actually do think the Giants -- by having so many top prospects at the alternate site -- probably got a leg up on some other organizations. But there's no doubt that Bart, Ramos and others have seen their careers impacted by all of this, some of which was unavoidable, but some of which was caused by MLB. 

The guys further away from the big leagues are actually in a better spot. Minor league camp will start on time and Marco Luciano, Luis Matos, Kyle Harrison, etc. will soon be going through a somewhat regular spring at the sparkling new facility in Scottsdale.

When will spring training begin? -- eviegonzie

Not on Feb. 15, as it would have. One of the weirdest parts of Manfred's press conference on Thursday was the refusal by anyone to say spring training is being delayed. IT ALREADY HAS BEEN DELAYED. The Giants were supposed to report to Scottsdale Stadium in four days, and even if there's some miracle deal this weekend, all teams will be at least a few days late to camp. 

There's no sign of a deal being on the way, either. My best guess at this point from talking to people around the league and organization is that spring training starts in late February or early March, with a real chance that some April regular season games are lost. 

Are spring training games going to be canceled or will the minor leaguers play them? -- karen.d.79

Manfred did say on Thursday that spring games won't be played by minor leaguers, which is the right call, although I would love to cover a Cactus League game for this team:

Bailey C
Toribio 1B
Wilson 2B
Luciano SS
Schmitt 3B
Matos/Bishop/Pomares OF
Harrison SP

Some of the most exciting moments of spring training come when top prospects get in late in games. Anyway, if you have tickets to the Feb. 26 Cactus League opener you should probably make a reservation at the Topgolf in North Scottsdale. 

Starting catcher for the Giants this season? -- kitkat_kitty

Remember how many backup catchers Farhan Zaidi signed a few years ago? I wouldn't at all be surprised if this front office sniffs around some of the bigger names available, but they really should just hand the keys over to Bart and see what he's got. 

Do we go after another starter? If so, who? Or do we give in-house guys that last spot? -- das_fassbenda

Both? The Giants are definitely going to add at least one more starting pitcher, either via free agency or a trade, and they'll probably add two -- including one guy who can either be optioned to Triple-A or pitch out of the bullpen as a swingman. But they are big on rewarding younger players, so if a Tyler Beede or Sammy Long or Sean Hjelle looks like one of the best five, he'll get a shot at that last spot pretty quickly.

It might feel like it happened three years ago, but remember, around this time last year the Giants signed Aaron Sanchez to fill out the rotation. That pushed Logan Webb to the sixth spot if everyone was healthy, but Webb was their best starter in the spring and Alex Wood dealt with an injury. Expect a similar plan: Load up on depth and sort it out on the field. 

Top 10 Giants named Gabe? -- curtisrager

Fun fact I discovered because of this question: There have only been 12 Gabes to play in the big leagues and Gabe Kapler is the only Gabe to manage. As far as I can tell the only other Gabe in the organization is Gabe Alvarez, who does a great job running their minor league operations in Arizona. I'll call it a tie. 

With a universal DH does this add anyone to post-lockout plans? -- tbehn05

This calls for a deeper dive, which I will do very soon. But the short answer is yes, it definitely should. I think the Giants would prefer to rotate players in and out of the DH spot, but even that plan allows you to go out and get another bat now. 

If you'd rather have Darin Ruf as your DH most days, that's totally fine, but the DH spot does allow you to find someone to replace his at-bats in left field. It should give the Giants more flexibility in their search, too. The main need right now is a right-handed bat, but given that they'll need a lefty hitter as the DH most nights, someone like Kyle Schwarber makes a lot more sense than he would in a non-DH world. 

Do you think the Giants will add a big-time right-handed bat before the season? -- shockman

I do, and I've written extensively about options like Seiya Suzuki, Kris Bryant, Nick Castellanos and others. Suzuki, in particular, looks like a real target once the lockout ends. 

It hasn't been their way to get players who qualify as "big-time," but their payroll is well below where it should be and the market is flooded with right-handed options. This is the time to go big. 

What rookies are gonna make their debut this season? -- omvh_99

There are always surprises: Camilo Doval and Kervin Castro last year, for instance. I would guess we see another pitcher take the leap, perhaps someone like R.J. Dabovich, a reliever who struck out seemingly everyone he faced last year and is already in Double-A. 

Ramos is going to start the year in Triple-A, but he's on the 40-man now and has a shot to either hit his way into the big league mix or be the next man up when injuries strike. I expect to see Hjelle this summer, too. He's also on the 40-man

I'll give you a serious dark horse, too. What about Ricardo Genoves? The Giants don't have a lot of catching depth at the upper levels of the minors and Genoves has a lot of time in big league camp. Injuries could force them to push someone, and Genoves is slightly ahead of Patrick Bailey in terms of experience. 

How do I get over the emotional trauma of a player retiring without getting to say goodbye? -- smith.21

Look, I didn't get to say goodbye to Gordon Beckham either. It is what it is. 

(But the real answer is get tickets to the May 7 game and make sure they're refundable.)

Would the Giants consider bringing back Cueto? Pros and cons to that plan? -- rioscristian15

Johnny Cueto actually did indicate to some members of the staff late in the year that he would be up for a reunion, although obviously the Giants would have had to figure something out contract-wise instead of picking up his big option. He's still posting Instagram workouts in Giants gear. I don't see it, though. 

This front office inherited Cueto, but Zaidi and Scott Harris have proven they can find better bets on one-year deals. Cueto also isn't a fit in the bullpen, while some other free agent options would be. Cueto was a ton of fun to cover and hopefully he finds a team willing to give him a real rotation shot. Hopefully it's a team that visits Oracle Park, too. 

Do you think that our 2021 breakout players (Ruf, Rogers, Wade, etc.) can stay in form? -- alheinicke_28

Tyler Rogers actually broke out in 2020, his numbers just got ruined by one weird extra-innings outing. But yes, I do expect all three to be big contributors again. 

People originally thought that at some point hitters would figure out Rogers' delivery, but it just hasn't happened yet, so at this point you have to think it's all for real. He's deadly against teams seeing him for the first time, but even NL West hitters have trouble. As much as there was "Dodgers have his number" talk during the season, Rogers came back in the NLDS with four scoreless appearances. 

Ruf is a perfect fit for what this coaching staff preaches, and I expect him to get a long look early in the season. He might be the most underrated hitter on the team, although it's fair to point out that he's sneakily 35 already, so the Giants won't ride him too hard. 

Wade will face what Mike Yastrzemski did. The league adjusted to him and he had some trouble, although he still hit 25 homers. There's going to be some regression late in games simply because there has to be, but Wade is so serious about his craft and such a hard worker in the cage that there's no reason to think he can't build on last year's breakout. 

RELATED: Why Posey's retirement didn't shock former Giants star Clark

Is the home opener on April 8 still feasible or are we already beyond that? -- n_aa_omi

My bigger concern at the moment is missing out on a season-opening four-game series in San Diego. That's as good a trip as you can get on this beat. The home opener is still on track at the moment. MLB estimates that players would need to be in camp about four weeks before games start, so there's some time still. 

If/when this lockout ends, how quickly do you think Farhan and Scott start making trades? -- willbarnes35

It's going to be frantic, and I would expect the Giants to do a lot in the first few days after labor peace. The expectation in November was that they would use the trade market to fill some of their holes, and they've now had more than two months to play with whatever internal trade machine they've got. There's also some thought within the game that teams might have found a way to sneakily talk about deals, although nobody really knows. 

It doesn't have to be big deals, either. The Giants are really, really good at finding hidden gems and they've had plenty of time this offseason to dig deeper into the minor leagues to see if they can find the next Yaz or Late Night LaMonte. 

Who will be the Giants home run leader of 2022? -- myla25

Nelson Cruz? Kidding. If I had to put money down, I'd put it on Yastrzemski. He finished just behind Belt last year and I don't think he was ever really himself.

Will the 2022 season be the one where you eat a Dodger Dog? -- willhahn92


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