Giants Analysis

How Giants could fill Estrada void with rookies, potential trade

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SAN FRANCISCO -- When Casey Schmitt was called up from Triple-A on May 9, manager Gabe Kapler insisted that the young infielder would get a real shot to show what he could do.

"Casey is here to play for us," Kapler said that day. "He's here to help the Giants win and continue his development."

For as much as they have platooned and leaned on older hitters the last four years, the Giants really did commit to that plan initially. Schmitt kicked off his big league career by starting 13 consecutive games, joining Thairo Estrada and Mike Yastrzemski as the only Giants to reach double-digit consecutive starts this season.

While Schmitt's playing time diminished because of performance and Yastrzemski dealt with two hamstring strains, Estrada remained a consistent presence until he was hit by a pitch last weekend in New York, causing a fracture that put him on the IL. He still leads the team in plate appearances, and for most of the first half, he played like an All-Star.

The injury, which will sideline Estrada for four-to-six weeks, leaves a huge hole for the lineup and the infield, and for now, it's one the Giants will try to fill internally. On his Thursday appearance with KNBR, though, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi left the door open to adding infield help ahead of the trade deadline.

"Getting a little bit more offensive stability from the middle infield is going to be something that we take a look at," he said.

"(Brandon Crawford) has definitely been swinging the bat better after a little bit of a slow start in April, so that's been good to see. Some of the younger guys in the mix at second -- Casey, Brett Wisely -- we think those guys have a chance to be good offensive players.

"You always hope the solution comes internally, but we'll have to look at that as a potential area to go out and get some help."

Given some of their needs elsewhere, most notably in the rotation, the Giants would be in much better shape if they could fill the gap with their prospects, and Schmitt figures to get the first shot. With two lefties on the mound for the Colorado Rockies this weekend, he should have a chance to build some momentum heading into the break.

Initially, it looked like Schmitt would mostly cut into Crawford's playing time. He helped spark the turnaround in May, but since the start of June, he's batting .114 with no homers and 23 strikeouts to four walks. Schmitt started twice at second and once at short against the Seattle Mariners when Estrada went on the IL and did make a big defensive play behind Alex Cobb on Wednesday, but he was hitless in the series, dropping his OPS below .600 for the first time.

Earlier this week, Kapler said it would be "very much a read-and-react situation" at second base."It would be nice to see Casey get a run of playing time," Kapler said. "He's going to have to earn it."

While the adjustment from big league pitchers came quickly, the Giants still believe Schmitt will help them at the plate this season.

At the very least, he has provided them with solid defense, and when Wilmer Flores came off the IL last week, they kept Schmitt and optioned the more experienced Isan Diaz back to Triple-A. Schmitt had started just two of seven games on the previous homestand, but Kapler said he wasn't concerned about the lack of reps for a young player.

"The reason I think this is a good development opportunity for Casey is because I don't think (this role) is forever," he said last week. " I don't think Casey is going to be a once-a-week player that comes in for defensive purposes or pinch-hits for the next three months. It could happen, but I don't anticipate that."

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A few days later, Estrada's injury opened the door for both Schmitt and Wisely, who has a .528 OPS in the big leagues this season but has dominated during his stints in Triple-A. For now, the Giants are hoping one of them can run with the job.

"At this level, those opportunities are earned," Kapler said. "But those guys both have a chance to get reps there."

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