Depth Charts: LF
A small detour from the plan
Photo Credit: Yordano Carmona
Friends, I am a flip-flopper. Know this about me and be kind. I plan ahead, I really do! I lay things out beforehand with spreadsheets and logistics and methodology and all. But somewhere along the way, I can never resist the urge to tinker. To nudge. And before too long, my beautiful plans lie in ruins. I’ve been resisting as best I could, but today, we have reached peak flip-flop with my depth charts.
Not to drop any spoilers, but I had originally included a name or names in the LF charts that you won’t see here today, and that had floated LF higher up the lists. But a last second change has left us with a thin looking position that I can’t fully justify being above the 2b lists (which you will recall, we passed some time ago).
The good part about all of this is that quality flows downwards in the OF, from CF to RF to LF — that’s how the terrific 1970/71 Giants OF wound up with, essentially, quality CF prospects in all three positions producing a total of 30.1 fWAR over the two years (still my all-time favorite Giants OF, shoutout to Ken Henderson-Willie Mays-Bobby Bonds!). The Giants system has a glut of OF, and, if the top prospects all deliver on their promise, somebody really good is likely to land in LF when it all sorts itself out. So this, like 2b, is something of a floater position that can drift up and down as an organizational strength depending on where guys like Hunter Bishop or Heliot Ramos or Will Wilson end up settling in (which is in itself probably just a fantasy as Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris dismantle the entire concept of positions and why am I even doing this? oh my god I need to back out of this entire series gracefully whatamIevenwhatohgawwwwwwwd……..
Sorry about that little breakdown in order. Really, sorry! The responsible parties have been dealt with. Chucked out. Won’t happen again! Promise!
Anyhoo, today, we’re going to discuss a position that isn’t exactly replete with glamor names (now that I’m removed at least one) and is a little shy in prospect sex appeal. That’s ok! Remember, the future will turn out differently than we imagine it. Guaranteed. But, while we’re waiting for it to reveal itself, let’s dive into a whole lot of under the radar dudes and give them their moment in the sun.
Ranking the Prospects!
Yeah, this is a weird-ass depth chart. But I do appreciate the ability to focus for a moment on Jairo Pomares, who has really become the forgotten prospect of the Giants system. Two years ago at this time, Giants prospect fans were eagerly anticipating the debuts of the two shining jewels of the 2018 J2 class: Marco Luciano and Jairo Pomares. And, oh yeah, there was also that guy Luis Matos who was interesting. Eighteen months later there is a Matos-shaped hole run through the reputation of Jairo Pomares. In the stampede to throw reveries at Matos’ potential, we’ve forgotten all about an 18-year-old who hit .368/.401/.542 in his pro debut in the AZL, after taking two years off from the game going through the process of defecting from Cuba. True that 17 K to 1 BB ratio in a late-season promotion to the NWL is on the ugly side. But Pomares’ history isn’t of a crazy-free swinger; playing in Cuba’s National 15 and Under league, he had 16 walks to just 6 K while finishing sixth in the league with a .383 average. So I wouldn’t paint him with a broad brush stroke of “can’t manage the zone” just yet. He’s got a beautiful left-handed swing that’s short and simple and repeatable, and a history of hitting. Two weeks in the NWL isn’t going to define him in my eyes. He’s almost certainly not fast enough to play CF, as he did in the AZL, but Pomares has one of the genuinely above average hit tools in the system, and that’s something that will take you a long way in the game. So, stop forgetting about this guy, Giants’ fans! Get out there to San Jose and show some Jairo-mania! Seriously, I almost made this rankings just 1 player long because Pomares is the prospect to know out of this left-fielder group.
Speaking of being forgotten, Sandro Fabian was once a top 10 prospect in this system! Now people are using his baseball card to line the bottom of their bird cages. Life comes at you fast! I’ve written about Fabian before here, but let’s just say here that he’s another of those guys who was really damaged by the lost 2020. Before the entire industry lost a season, Fabian had struggled through two lost years of his own. At least one of those was due to health questions as he missed nearly 2/3 of the 2019 season following offseason surgery to correct a thyroid issue. The $60,000 question for Fabian is how much that thyroid problem affected him the prior year, when he suffered through a miserable .200/.260/.325 campaign in San Jose. The 2020 season should have been Fabian’s opportunity to answer that question. But, alas, the opportunity never came, and so here we are asking the same old questions with him. This year, he’ll need to build on his excellent final six weeks from 2019 and show us that he’s still the player he looked to be back in rookie ball, way back in 2017. Fabian’s always been more a sum of his parts player than one who impressed you with his tools. And that’s the type of player who can’t survive too many lost years. Go out there and show ‘em you’re still the guy, Sandro!
You may have guessed from my lead in that I originally was going to talk about Hunter Bishop in today’s post. Well, we don’t have Hunter here today, but we do have something of a poor man’s Bishop in Armani Smith, another OF who really gets over-looked in this OF-rich system. Smith adds to a growing sub-genre of Giants prospects: dudes who look like they should be playing football. You’ll frequently hear baseball fans say of foreign-born players: “if he were born here we would have lost him to football.” Amazingly, the Giants are somehow building a whole collection of players who weren’t lost to football, led by Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop. Smith isn’t quite as crazy big and fast as Bishop, but “built like a linebacker” plays a regular role in his scouting reports. At 6’4”, 215 lbs of pure muscle, he’s powerfully built, athletic, and fast, and it all plays on the baseball field.
Also like Bishop, Smith struggled to hit in his first two years at UC Santa Barbara, before exploding his junior year. He combines a legit 75 power tool (some amateur scouts put an 80 on his raw power prior to the draft) with a solid eye at the plate, but, again like Bishop, struggles to fill some holes in the swing that lead to big strikeout numbers. There’s a serious lottery ticket at play here though. If Smith can keep improving on the changes to his bat path that led his development leap in 2019 (at both UC Santa Barbara and Salem-Keizer), he has the power and athleticism to go on a Jaylin Davis-sort of breakout this year.
I spoke about Victor Bericoto in the 1b Depth Charts as well, and it’s still to be determined which of these two spots he fits at best. (Parenthetically, that’s true of Garrett Frechette as well, but I feel more confident in Bericoto’s ability to stick in LF than Frechette’s). He did play some LF in the DSL in 2019, and seemed to end up at 1b due more to the depth of the OF rotation on that squad than his inability play the position. With two full squads in the AZL, we should get a better idea in 2021 whether he has a path as an OF or is stuck trying to make his mark as a R-R 1b. He has the plate discipline this organization covets, though, and has shown an ability to make contact.
Franklin Labour fits solidly in today’s theme of prospects who’ve been unfairly forgotten. You may remember Labour from such ditties as….that time he went crazy in the NWL and hit 10 HRs in a three-week period! Labour not only led the Northwest League in home runs, despite not playing in the league the second half of the season, he was the league’s lone player to reach the double-digit mark. And he did it in the season’s first 19 games. He ultimately bashed 14 homers with Salem-Keizer before getting a July promotion to the Sally where things….didn’t go so well (.215/.282/.299). Labour’s the kind of player whose value is going to come from mashing, so he’ll need to prove he can punish pitchers every step of the way to keep climbing the ladder.
If Armani Smith is the “poor-man’s version” of Hunter Bishop, consider Kwan Adkins the cheap, knock-off version you buy from the crazy guy with his wares laid out on the sidewalk in midtown Manhattan. The former Northwestern State (LA) product is as raw as can be, and the Giants signed him for just $2,500 as a 30th round draft choice. But he impressed observers in the AZL with his pure power, including hitting a shot Eric Longenhagen guesstimated as 450’ to the opposite field. Adkins also fits in the “dudes who look like a football player” category, as he actually was a WR on Northwestern State’s football squad. Trying to be a two-sport athlete is, perhaps, the reason he never found much statistical success in college (nor, for that matter, so far in pro ball), but pure power and athleticism is always the kind of raw material that will get development folks interested, and Adkins has plenty of both.
Once again, the initial impulse from looking at the Depth Charts is to exclaim: that’s a lot of guys! Not all of these guys are LF, but the org has gotten really deep in the OF and there’s is an obvious spillover/push-down effect. In Sacramento alone you’ve now got Steve Duggar, Skye Bolt, and potentially Heliot Ramos competing for CF reps. Someone is getting pushed to RF which then puts pressure to find space for (the currently injured) Jaylin Davis or Luis Basabe or LaMonte Wade, Jr. So it goes throughout the system and once again careers will hang in the balance. If Fabian can be described as a once top prospect whose star has dimmed thanks to health and production issues, how much more does that apply to Heath Quinn? And both will likely be competing for reps with Rule 5 pick Vince Fernandez, former UC Riverside star and Big West Player of the Year who has flashed huge power for years in the Rockies system, but also struck out 172 times with Lancaster in 2018. Yep, we are fully stocked up on our “wind turbine” prospects who combine giant power with constant breeze of swings and misses. As we’ve seen at other positions, not all of these guys are going to find spots on rosters.
But let’s focus briefly on a few guys who really haven’t gotten their fair share of love from There R Giants. Carter Aldrete is, of course, a Legacy Giant™. Both his father Rich and uncle Mike were formerly prospects in the Giants system, and Mike was a big part of the division winning 1987 Giants. Carter, yet another Arizona State product (see, I’m sneaking Bishop references in constantly today, regardless of his absence), combines solid power potential — he was near the top of the Cape Cod League leaderboard with 5 HRs — with an intriguing multi-position flexibility that include both OF and middle IF capabilities.
George Bell, son of former Blue Jay George Bell and brother of A’s OF prospect George Bell, is another player with some intriguing power. His performance however, has been highly inconsistent thus far in his career. He looked like a potential dude in his AZL debut in 2018, and then very much didn’t the following year at the same level. Richgelon Juliana was once described by Baseball America as the best defensive OF in the system but he hasn’t hit much at all as a pro. Javeyan Williams (Southern University) and Najee Gaskins (St. Cloud State) are both low-round, small-school players whose primary asset is their speed. There isn’t a ton of pure speed in the system, which makes both of them interesting guys to have on roster. Gaskins produced a surprisingly productive debut season in 2019 that included more BBs than Ks, a .927 OPS, and 19 SB in 21 attempts. If you asked me who I’m most curious to watch in 2021, it would take me awhile to get to Gaskins’ name, but I am most definitely curious to see if Najee can follow up on that impressive start at a higher level.
But getting the opportunity to do so is going to be difficult. The San Jose OF is almost certain to be stacked to the gills with bigger names like Matos, Pomares, McCray, Labour, and at some point in June, Canario. The next three weeks in Scottsdale is going to be a tremendously meaningful time in many of these players’ lives. Let’s hope all of these guys are making a strong impression even as we speak.
Previously on “Depth Charts”
Notes from the Alternate Site
As Melissa Lockard and I discussed in this week’s podcast, the Giants and A’s Alt Site groups are playing a series of scrimmages to keep game sharp through out the month. Stockton is treating these as a black box from which no information shall be allowed to escape (the big meanies!). But Sacramento has welcomed fans and media to the two scrimmages per week being played at Sutter Field, and helpfully posted plenty of video on their social media site.
Wednesday’s scrimmage provided plenty of reasons to get excited. Alex Wood threw three shoutout innings (though Scott Kazmir’s day wasn’t so productive) and Will Wilson kept his strong spring going with a solo home run.
I’ve been highly resistant to the idea that Wilson could make the leap from Rookie ball to Double-A, but he’s starting to make a believer of me, and clearly the Giants’ hopes for him are sky high. And speaking of hitting his way into a higher league, Heliot Ramos just continued to pile up the spring hits. Heliot clearly has no interest in packing his bags and heading east to Richmond.
Other lines from the game:
Arismendy Alcantara, HR
Jason Vosler 2-3, 2b, R, HBP
Joe McCarthy 2-2, RBI, SB, R
Steven Duggar, 2b, R
Alex Wood 3 IP, 0 R, 2 K