"Way Too Early" Roster Previews: San Jose
Because shots in the dark are kinda my bit
Photo Credit: Zachary Lucy / Four Seam Images via AP
Following my post last week on the Giants’ new (maybe) affiliate structure, I received a few responses along the lines of: “yeah, yeah, but get to the good stuff! Now that we know the teams [maybe], who am I going to see where?”
To which the only sensible response is: “whoa there, skippy! It’s waaaaaaay too early to begin trying to put together rosters. We have no idea if there’s even going to be a minor league season in 2021, or, if so, when it might begin or how! The pace of COVID vaccines is still largely unknown and the ability of minor league teams to host seasons with limited fans (or none) is extremely unlikely.” That’s the starting point of any conversation about 2021 minor leagues and for those who want to avoid getting out over their skis, it’s the ending point, too!
But I might as well face it: good common sense isn’t exactly my schtick! So with every conceivable caveat about how absurdly early it is to try to predict the future, with every possible hedge pointing to the vast quantities of requisite information necessary for informed guessing still MIA, well…. let’s launch in, shall we?
Starting today, I’ll take a look at the four full (sort of)-season affiliates and muck out a potential opening day roster for them in 2021.
First up, the new Low A San Jose Giants of the new Low A California League.
Let’s not bury the lede, here. If you’re interested in next year’s San Jose roster, your first and most fervid question is: Will Marco Luciano be here?
And that really is the biggie. This team is going to be packed with interesting names, I believe, but, with Luciano on the roster, it will instantly become the Appointment TV Franchise of the system. (I suppose “Appointment TV” is a pretty obsolete concept at this point, isn’t it? Have to scrub that one from the rhetoric library).
There’s a clear argument to be made to skip Luciano directly to High A. He simply dominated rookie ball in 2019, finishing in short-season ball. And after spending the summer taking daily ABs against major league ready arms, shouldn’t he be ready to dispense with Low A altogether? Pushing Luciano to A+ would also open up opportunity in Low A for a Ghordy Santos/Dilan Rosario middle infield that gives needed reps to two raw, high upside youngsters.
In my podcast with Baseball America’s Josh Norris, Josh noted that Luciano didn’t exactly shove it at the Alternate Camp this year, instead absorbing a lot of lessons from the Carlos Navases of the world. That might incline the Giants to start out Luciano’s 2021 assignment on a conservative note and let him bash his way up.
This fits with something that Alex Pavlovic recently reported about the organizational assignment philosophy in 2021:
Zaidi said a few weeks ago that the Giants would be somewhat conservative with their placements early in the year but then would be very aggressive with promotions.
Toss in the cold and wet spring weather in Eugene, and I’m going to weigh on placing Luciano in San Jose to start the year — but I wouldn’t recommend waiting long to get out to see him.
I’m penciling Marco in! Get ready for lift off!
But that’s not the end of the good news! It seems fairly certain that Luis Matos, who launched himself up the rankings in 2020 despite spending most of it locked down in an apartment complex in Scottsdale, will be taking the field next in San Jose as well. While Matos has certainly been impressing everybody in the organization with his fast development, he’s still played just five games in the US in his pro career (at the tail end of the 2019 AZL season). While the Giants would certainly be thrilled to see him hit his way out of the peninsula, an A+ assignment would be extraordinarily aggressive.
That means the Giants could open the year with one of the minors very best 1-2 hitting combos:
And if all that’s not enough, Low A makes sense for LHP Kyle Harrison’s pro debut as well. Historically, the Giants have sent highly drafted high school pitchers to Low A in their first full season (though Seth Corry did stay back in XST for a second year of short-season ball). Given the excitement surrounding Harrison’s Instructional League performance, there would seem to be no reason to hold him back, and again, the spring weather in Oregon isn’t the place you want your prized arm getting started. No, keeping the NorCal native close to home is the way to go.
That means San Jose should at least start the year with three of the team’s top five prospects (at least on BA’s rankings).
Finally, San Jose makes the most sense for Alexander Canario when he’s ready to play — which sounds like it should be in June. If he ends up overlapping at all with Luciano, that would give San Jose the potential for a truly explosive lineup.
The Rest of the Lineup
Don’t be blinded by stars though! There’s much more of interest in this lineup. For starters, we have another top 10 prospect in 3b Luis Toribio who, I think, fits comfortably in Low A to start the year. Toribio was part of the Summer Camp and spent the summer at the Alternate Site, but, as with Luciano, I’m skeptical of his ability to jump immediately to High A (obviously more skeptical for Toribio than Luciano). The same goes for sweet-swinging OF Jairo Pomares, who missed Instrux, reportedly due to visa issues. That’s a lineup with four players who fit comfortably in the top 15 of the system and a fifth ready to join the roster in the second month of the season.
Outside of that top group, the rest of the lineup should fill out with at least interesting prospects. All three of the high school hitters selected between the 3rd and 6th rounds of the 2019 draft should make the roster, and should see plenty of playing time. 3rd round pick Grant McCray and Matos might need to split time in CF/RF to make sure both get time in the middle of the diamond. Meanwhile, 6th rounder Dilan Rosario and 2016 IFA signing Ghordy Santos will likewise need to figure out how to split time at 2b while both spelling Luciano. Once Luciano moves on up, the pair should become the starting double-play combo. And 5th rounder Garrett Frechette might need to make some space at 1b for that obliterator of baseballs, Connor Cannon (presuming he’s recovered from wrist surgery in time to start the season).
Possibly the most controversial member of my lineup might be 22-year-old catcher Ricardo Genovés. Genovés got some time in at Low A Augusta in 2019 and some might feel that it’s a bit of a slap in the face for a talented backstop to still be stuck at the same level a year and half later. But A+ seems to me to be, without a doubt, the early-season province of 1st round pick Patrick Bailey in 2021 and Genovés needs more than just a backup role to hone his skills. So in my schema, back to Low A it goes for Ricardo (at least for awhile).
This is a lineup that should be able to generate some real offense for the hometown — at least as long as the stars remain in town. Expect the Giants to be aggressive about moving youngsters who prove they can handle the Cal League.
The Pitching Staff
After all the excitements of the position player group, the pitching staff is naturally a little anti-climactic — can’t have all the elite guys piled together at the same level. Plus, that’s naturally, I think, the experience of looking at the Giants’ system these days. Bats excite and delight, arms …uh…well hopefully they don’t ignite.
After Harrison, my projected pitching staff is something of motley crew, but there’s potential pitchers here or there to take an interest in. Prelander Berroa is probably a reliever long-term if he’s anything, but there are the traces of three distinct pitches to go with a fast arm and raw stuff. He had trouble throwing strikes in Salem-Keizer and represents the highest variance in this group. The opposite end of the spectrum would be the Giants’ 2020 5th round pick Ryan Murphy out of (Where the Hell is) Le Moyne College (Syracuse, as it turns out!). Murphy is a classic strike thrower with four distinct pitches and a solid idea of how to use them. The stuff doesn’t pop but he had a nice Instrux camp. And he’ll likely offer San Jose some reliability that they won’t have to stretch the pen on the nights he starts.
Trevor McDonald has shown extreme strikeout stuff in the very limited action we’ve seen from him since being drafted in the 11th round in 2019. You may recall that the FaBIO system absolutely loved him (well, he struck out basically everyone he faced in rookie camp). But as Josh Norris noted, his body type and arm angle don’t scream “starting pitcher.” And, yeah, he’s definitely got a point. This isn’t an arm action that looks like it’s going 100 times a night. This will be a big year for the youngster.
My final two envisioned starters are, first, former Mariners’ prospect Jesus Ozoria, who came over in the Tom Murphy deal in March of 2019. He posted impressive peripheral numbers in the DSL, but his domestic work with the Giants has been pretty middling thus far. And finally, I’m guessing a slot goes to undrafted free agent signing Will Jensen, the Pepperdine University senior who looked good coming back from Tommy John surgery.
In the pen, perhaps the most notable arm comes from Cuban Julio Rodriguez, who combines low- to mid-90s heat with a breaking ball that could be his meal ticket. Beyond Rodriguez, we find a group of mostly international signees who have worked their way up through foreign and domestic rookie ball and are hopefully ready for another step. The ginormous youngster Ivan Armstrong brings strength and size and some decent velocity, but hasn’t yet had great results. Wilkelma Castillo features one of the system’s better changeups, and the left-hander Juan Sanchez relies on his breaking ball. Speaking of Sanchez, this staff is extremely light on the left-handers, which is probably a good indication of how off-base it is. Undrafted UNLV Free Agent Haydn King does give them one more port-sider in the pen.
The Opening Day Roster
All of which leads us to this final roster for the Opening Day. And if it comes true, San Jose will be THE prestige affiliate for at least the start of the year, giving as big of a potential “future Giants” snapshot as any of the four affiliates.
Obviously, the further down the roster you go the more likely it is that there are multiple alternatives. Javeyan Williams, Kwan Adkins, or George Bell could be an extra OF rather than Harrison Freed, for instance, and there are many, many bullpen alternatives to choose from.
Next up, we’ll head north to Eugene to take a stab at what the High A roster might look like to start the year.
Winter League Updates
Not too much exciting going on with the Giants pitchers — unless you count Raffi Vizcaino’s contribution to this Gregory Polanco 10th inning walk off shot.
On the hitting side, everybody had a nice week. Jason Krizan broke up his 1 for 21 skid, while Rodolfo Bone, Ismael Munguia, and Diego Rincones all continued to swing hot bats. Rincones probably had the line of the week, going 4 for 8 with a double and a walk.
A four-team version of the Puerto Rican winter league — the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente — has begun in the last week as well. No Giants’ players are participating as of yet, though Heliot Ramos’s older brother Henry is participating and old friend Johneshwy Fargas is off to a torrid start, hitting .421 with four doubles so far.
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