A Chat with De La Salle High Coach David Jeans
Sharing some inside scoop on newest Giant Kyle Harrison
MLBPA Communications @MLBPA_NewsAll remaining issues have been resolved and Players are reporting to training camps.
It looks like we’re finally going to have some baseball back in our lives soon. Nobody knows for how long or how successfully. If a “full” season is managed it will be a brave new world of weirdness and experimentation not seen since the weird old days of 19th century ball. Personally, I’m something of an aficionado of 19th century baseball so I’m ready for it! (if you want to read a great book, try “59 in ‘84” by Edward Achorn). I know folks have a lot of different opinions about this return — the way it came about, the wisdom of trying it in the first place, the chances for success. Personally, I take a “gather your rosebuds while ye may” approach. We have no idea when or if there will be a “safe” or “normal” world again, and trying to fall back into the rhythms of our lives is a natural impulse. Looking for the pleasures that give us meaning and joy. The game may have to be shut down again in days or weeks or months, but while the sun is shining, let’s try to do what can be done as safely as possible. And, hey, as others have noted this crazy schedule is the best thing that’s happened to the Giants’ chances for success this year!
Basically, if this guy is happy, I’m happy!
Bob Nightengale @BNightengaleSpring training will start July 1, with the 60-game regular season starting the weekend of July 24-26. Play ball.
See you soon, BCraw!
Of course, here at There R Giants we focus on the distant horizon and not the front stoop. We may assume that with these negotiations (apparently) ended, MLB will begin to turn its attention to things like the future of the minor league system and the need for development in 2020. We’ll have to see where those paths lead in due time. By Sunday afternoon the Giants will need to have their extra 20 players (over and above the 40 man) for the taxi squad named. I would imagine the Giants will announce soon whether they plan to use Raley Field in Sacramento or Excite Ballpark in San Jose as a practice site for their taxi squad and maybe there will be some action to cover in the coming months.
In the meantime, let’s get to know one of the newest Giants a little better, shall we? Through an internet acquaintance I was introduced to Kyle Harrison’s High School Coach David Jeans this week, and he was nice enough to chat with me a bit about Kyle’s time at De La Salle High School.
On Monday, I wrote about the types of pitchers that the Giants development staff seems to be looking for and had some thoughts on how they might try to develop those guys. The first thing I found out about Harrison is that he’s eager to be a part of the process. As Coach Jeans notes, in High School his staff tries hard not to overwhelm their kids — still growing into pre-adult bodies — with the kinds of granular biomechanical information I talked about yesterday. “We want our kids to compete with what they have,” Coach Jeans said.
But with High School now behind him, “[Kyle’s] ready to be a pro” and begin the process of taking all the data and knowledge the Giants’ developmental staff has to offer and using it to help him improve. “I think he has a lot of upside on that part of the game. He’s very coachable. You tell him to do something and he changes something right away. He can feel it. He has a sense of his own body.”
That ability to take in instruction and use one’s athleticism to manifest results in the body is a trait that often can separate the talented pitcher from the big leaguer. Success in the majors depends on being able to make adjustments from inning to inning and sometimes pitch to pitch that demands an incredible understanding of one’s own physique. “Kyle’s had a feel for that since his sophomore year. He [was able to improve] his two-seamer because he physically matured and he can feel it better. But get him with pro guys and he’s gonna be off the charts…he dials down the mechanics and keeps working I think you could get 3-4 mph more out of him.”
That pro mentality should fit well with a player who has been dedicated to improving himself throughout his high school career. Coach Jeans expects his players to put in work for a program which often competes for state and national championships. With his training coordinator Mark Wine, De La Salle puts together a four-year weight training program for kids. “We learn how to lift as Freshman and our Sophomore year we get better at it where our technique is good and we start building intent. And usually the last two years kids put on some serious gains.” Kyle was included in that group, progressing from a slight, skinny left-hander throwing 81 mph to a maturing senior throwing 93/94 by the time his career was (prematurely) ended.
The work in the weight room definitely showed up on the field, where Harrison was almost literally unbeatable in his High School career. In his 2+ seasons with De La Salle varsity, Harrison went 21-1 with a microscopic 1.19 ERA (according to MaxPreps), striking out 192 batters in 124 IP and holding batters to a .137 batting average.
But the numbers aren’t really what makes Harrison special for Coach Jeans. “The biggest thing the Giants fans are gonna get out of Kyle is that he’s a winner. You know, he wants to win. He doesn’t necessarily need to light up a gun or strike out every hitter or do whatever. First and foremost he’s a winner.” Harrison and his teammates did a lot of just that at De La Salle. The 2018 team (Harrison’s Junior year) was ranked #2 in the Nation and #1 in the state of California (as rated by Cal High Sports). “But the year before we might have been a little better,” Coach Jeans says. That team was rated #2 in the US but only #2 in California. “We always argue which team was better.”
Remember Madison Bumgarner telling the national media he wasn’t nervous about appearing in his first World Series game at 20 because he’d already been in the North Carolina High School State Championship game? That’s the kind of winning mentality that Kyle Harrison brings to the Giants. “[The Giants are] looking for some young arms to help them win and get back to the top... And Kyle will be a good piece for them for that.” Between his high school and Team USA experience Harrison knows what it’s like to compete against the best of his age group and succeed.
Interestingly, as he starts his journey as a pro he’ll have some friendly faces around to help with the transition. Armani Smith, part of the Giants 2019 draft class out of UC-Santa Barbara was a Senior on the De La Salle team when Kyle was a Freshman. At De La Salle the Senior players are responsible for teaching the incoming Freshman how to work in the weight room and mentoring them in the expectations that the coaching staff has for their team. So seeing a friendly face to look up to in his newer, bigger, better training facility should help him taking this big new step. And the Giants have another recent De La Salle alum among their development staff. Michael Brdar, the Assistant Coordinator of Minor League Hitting is a former starting SS for Coach Jeans (Class of 2013). Having some familiar faces around can’t hurt the process! Kyle also has a family member he can consult on the rigors of being a big league athlete. His grandfather Skip Guinn, had a three year big league career, appearing in 35 games for the Braves and Astros. So Kyle has a goal to shoot for to get family bragging rights!
You may wonder if the Bay Area product is familiar with a lot more of the Giants — and Giants’ history — as well. I asked Coach Jeans if Harrison (who moved up to the area from Orange County after High School) was a Giants fan. “Well….I think he is now!” he laughed! Here’s hoping that he becomes a full-fledged Forever Giant before his career is over.
You can watch my entire chat with Coach Jeans below:
And I should note that by happenstance, Coach Jeans was also interviewed for a piece by Dalton Johnson which you should also definitely check out!
On this Day in History
Haven’t had a lineup challenge in a while. Name the team and the year!
2011: Eric Surkamp came off a short trip to the DL to throw six shutout innings, leading Richmond to an 8-0 win over Erie. Surkamp was enjoying a breakout year. His ERA, with this effort, lowered to 1.74. He’d end the year with a league-leading 2.02 ERA and finish second in the league with 165 strikeouts (a 4:1 K:BB ratio in 142.1 IP). That would earn him a big league call-up and six starts in the Giants rotation that September. Unfortunately, that 2011 promise was never fulfilled. The following year would be lost to Tommy John surgery and Surkamp would never recapture the glory of 2011. The Giants would DFA him in December of 2013.
2013: Royel Astacio’s two-run triple with two outs in the 9th lifted the DSL Giants to a come-from-behind 9-8 win over the D’backs. The Giants had been put in a hole by starter Jonathan Loaisiga, who surrendered five runs in just two innings. Loaisiga would pitch in 13 games that year (2.75 ERA, 40 K in 68 IP) before succumbing to the first of the injuries that would keep him off the field until 2016. During that stretch, the Giants would release him in the spring of 2015, but he would ultimately resurrect his career with the Yankees, rising to become their #2 prospect and spending time on the Yankees staff in both 2018 and 2019. Ironically, the save in this game would go to an even bigger lost opportunity for the Giants, with Luis Castillo pitching a scoreless 9th to earn his 6th save. Castillo would have just an 0.64 ERA in 27 games with a 34 to 3 K:BB.
2019: Alexander Canario homered twice and drove in four runs to help push the Orange to a 9-2 victory over the A’s. Canario had been ticketed for Salem-Keizer before a shoulder injury late in extended spring caused the Giants to hold him back for a return to the AZL. Canario wasted no time in displaying his discontent with the situation. With this performance he had homered four times in the first six games (while hitting .400). He would add a homer in each of the next two games and pick up three hits with a double the game after that. And with that the Giants concurred that Alex didn’t belong at the rookie league level anymore and sent him on his way to the great North Woods. The total damage in 10 games, a .395/.435/1.000 line with six homers, eleven XBH and 41 total bases.
Amidst all the excitement of yesterday’s news the Giants also signed two more Non-Drafted Free Agents to add to the system. So far they haven’t added any of the players I suggested (though I stand by my choices as excellent additions to the system!). But they did get two pretty interesting kids this week:
Auerbach gives the Giants the type of versatility they’re seeking as he can play C, 2b, 3b, and everywhere in the OF. He had an excellent summer on the Cape for Brewster last year. Where and when we’ll see these guys play is still a mystery. But at least there are finally stirrings of baseball in the air finally!
Again, the process of making the sausage to get to yesterday’s agreement was unpalatable and not necessarily satisfying, and it’s entirely possible (if not probable) that the results will go awry before we get to the end of this journey. But I look forward to another day when I get to watch this, and I will never take a pitch of it for granted!
More Buster in my life is a good thing!
As I say above, there’s lots still to decide and find out about how the prospects fit in all of this. By Sunday at 3 pm the Giants will have identified 60 players who can be part of their team to start the year (we’ll parse this list on Monday). Does Joey Bart make the squad? Sean Hjelle? Heliot Ramos? We shall see. And for those who don’t, what’s the next step? Such a confounding, confusing year.
But speaking of the sausage making, JJ Cooper once again wrote a brilliant piece yesterday on MLB’s antiquated paradigm of treating their players as “seasonal employees.” It’s a must read and I leave you it!