Giants Talk

How Schmitt's role will be impacted by Giants signing Chapman

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The Giants are going young in their rotation, a plan that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi spoke passionately about Sunday. They have given Marco Luciano the runway to win the shortstop job after just 14 MLB games, and if Luis Matos eventually joins Jung Hoo Lee in the outfield, that group will be much younger and more athletic, too.

After years of trying to revamp the organization's minor league system, the front office wants to see homegrown players established themselves in 2024. But one who saw pretty regular time last year might find his path blocked.

The Matt Chapman signing will have the biggest impact on incumbent starter J.D. Davis, but if Chapman ends up staying all four years, or even most of them, the Giants will have to find another avenue for Casey Schmitt, who drew Chapman comparisons from rival scouts while showing off his glove in the minor leagues.

On a Zoom call Sunday, Zaidi said the Giants still are "really high on" Schmitt and have had conversations with him about the shifting landscape.

"One of the things we've talked about is being prepared for any role, both (in terms of position) and in terms of playing time," Zaidi said. "And one thing we've heard from young players -- and not just with the Giants, but around the game -- and I think it's objectively true, is that it's a challenge to break into the big leagues in any situation, but if you're doing that while having to learn new positions defensively, while playing maybe part-time and not being an everyday player because that's how the rest of the roster is constructed, those things make it even more challenging.

"Our conversations with Casey even before this deal happened were around being prepared for a variety of different roles because we think he can be a big-league contributor even if he's not the everyday third baseman."

Schmitt's versatility could be a key to grabbing a big league role in 2024, making him similar to another young shortstop, Tyler Fitzgerald, who also can move around the dirt and has the added tool of being a promising defender in center field. Early in camp, Schmitt, Fitzgerald and Luciano alternated reps at shortstop, and while Luciano has the early edge, Schmitt does have the highest defensive ceiling.

Schmitt mostly was a third baseman in the minors and the Giants still view that as his best long-term position, but he made 41 appearances at short and 19 at second last season. The advanced metrics have third as his best position, but short is the easiest way to get on the field this year since Chapman and Thairo Estrada will both be everyday players.

"Shortstop was a position I played until I was probably, like, 12," Schmitt said on Monday's Giants Talk Podcast. "And then I never played it again and then (in) 2022 I played it again in (High-A). It was kind of wild. I'm still learning it. For me, last year I was kind of not fully comfortable there, but I was learning it as I went. I was kind of learning it at the big league level, which was a little difficult for me, but I think it was definitely a good thing that I had to go through that because now I feel more prepared mentally and physically."

Schmitt had the perfect mentor a year ago and was close with Brandon Crawford, a four-time Gold Glove winner. He'll now go through drills with another four-time Gold Glove winner in Chapman, along with new third base and infield coach Matt Williams, who also has four of them.

The new mentors can only help, particularly with his preparation. Schmitt said he thought a lot about the mental side of the game in the offseason and thinks he'll be better positioned this time around.

"I think last year I didn't feel like I was maybe as prepared as I needed to be," he said on Giants Talk. "I think my defense and then the bat, it all just kind of suffered from that. But I think going into this year, now I kind of know what more is expected of me. It feels better that I'm able to move around the diamond like that, so now I feel a lot more confident in doing it."

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