Friday, January 26, 2018

Your 2018 Giants: NRI to Spring Training

As reported by the media, the Giants invited a number of players (commonly called NRI or "non-roster invitees") to spring training.  If you subscribe, Melissa Lockard wrote a good account of the players at The Athletic (suggest you try anyway, the tweet that I got this link from noted the unlock symbol on it).  Here is the list of players (via Alex Pavlovic):
  • Tyler Cyr, RHP
  • Jose Flores, RHP
  • Dereck Rodriguez, RHP
  • Jose Valdez, RHP
  • Madison Younginer, RHP
  • Andrew Suarez, LHP
  • Hector Sanchez, C
  • Trevor Brown, C
  • Justin O'Connor
  • Orlando Calixte, SS
  • Chase D'Arnaud, IF
  • Alen Hanson, IF
  • Kyle Jensen, IF
  • Josh Rutledge, IF
  • Chris Shaw, LF/1B
  • Steven Duggar, CF
As I noted, I suggest you try the link for Melissa's article, she goes over their history very nicely.

ogc thoughts

I don't have time to go over everyone, so if you want that, Ms. Lockard's article is great for that.  Following are my random thoughts.

Welcome Back Hector, Here's Mr. Brown

Hector Sanchez returns back to the fold, after playing for the Padres last season and killing us with his bat.  He alone probably helped them greatly in reversing their record against the Giants in 2017 vs. 2016.  He is battling for a third catcher's spot behind Posey and Hundley (who we resigned in December, I believe, if I haven't reported on it yet here) with Trevor Brown.  With Tomlinson and Pablo the incumbent (and likely) IF bench players, he is basically battling for Pablo's spot.

I think the Giants still like his bat, and I guess he missed the organization, one would think another team would have given him a better chance to make the team.  He's depth for the Giants at C, in case anything happens.

Similarly for Trevor Brown, battling for third catcher spot, but he has a different set of assets.  He can play multiple positions in the field, like 2B, and thus offers flexibility on how he can be used off the bench.  Not so good bat though, he did pretty poorly in his second try at AAA last season, I wonder if he battled any injury.

Agree with Pavlovic on Top Three

Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw, and Andrew Suarez are the three main attractions of these NRI, though.  Duggar is coming in looking to get a piece (or all) of the starting CF position on Opening Day.  I would guess that he does not get that piece, and instead start in AAA, where he can push the question with a good April/May.  I think while Sabean demurred on Jackson starting in CF, I think that they will play him and see what he can do first, plus give starts to the other two bench guys (probably Parker and Williamson if AJax is starting.

Shaw will not beat out Pence for LF, but will get to showcase what he can do for the Giants, before settling in for his first full year in AAA.  He could come up early in the 2018 season if Pence is as done as some believe (I don't, he was hitting like vintage Pence in the last 2-3 months of 2017; his problem is staying healthy and coming back when his bat's not ready).  Assuming he does well in AAA in 2018, he should get September call-up, and be ready to battle for starting LF position, since Pence will be a free agent (and likely to retire, he just got married, he and his wife have a multitude of non-baseball activities going, he just seems ready to move on).

Suarez is battling for one of the two rotation spots currently held by Stratton and Blach (Stratton in ink, Blach in pencil).  Theoretically he's up for the long relief spot, but I think the Giants will want to keep him regularly pitching in AAA instead.  I would not bet against Suarez doing well enough to win one of the starting spots, most likely Blach's spot, making Blach the long reliever.

Yes Cyr

Out of the rest, I would keep an eye on Tyler Cyr.  He was the closer for Richmond last season and did great there:  2.19 ERA, though in spite of his high WHIP of 1.419, but great 10.4 K/9 and good 2.85 K/BB.  He has been mostly above 10 K/9 over his MiLB career, missing by 2 K's for San Jose in 2016, and I find that very encouraging for him to continue to strike out a lot in the majors when he makes it up here. 

He will be 25 YO this season, and could be the AAA closer for 2018, with the possibility of making the majors at some point during the season should there be injuries or poor performances by guys with options.  He is not likely to win a job in spring as the bullpen is full right now - Melancon, Dyson, Smith, Strickland, Gearrin, leaving only one spot - and he would need to beat out Law, Okert, Osich, Moronta, Slania, Snelten.  Plus, his performance in the AFL was not all that good, suggesting he still has things to learn as a pro before reaching the majors. 

He's here mainly to catch the notice of the Giants major league coaching staff, as well as the front office.  Only 25 YO, I can see him knocking on the door in 2019-2020 (26-27 YO seasons) for a role, if he can keep on doing what he's been doing in his rise up the minor league ladder.  He grew up a Giants fan, and has an interesting background.

Wrenzie noted "He got three pitches in his repertoire, all with very good potential. "  and "With three potential plus pitches in his pocket, Cyr is still learning to throw quality strikes consistently though he might only have average at best command but the nastiness that helped him have more than a strikeout an inning will serves him well in the Majors."  And he's got good velocity, Wrenzie noted his "four-seam fastball can reach 95 to 96 MPH". 

He was the closer for the Flying Squirrels in 2017, but was also the GreenJacket's go-to long-relief guy too in 2016 (per GiantsPotential).  GiantsPotential did a nice short profile on Cyr in 2016, covering some of his history (he grew up here and went to Skyline; more interestingly, only started pitching in college, so his background is similar to Crick, only at older age). 

If he figured out what went wrong for him in the AFL, and can put in a great spring training, I would not be surprised if he wins the long relief role.  Right now, Blach, Beede, Suarez, and Heston are the main competitors for the last rotation spot and the long relief spot (Stratton would either have to pull a BWeez - he was inked in to start season with team but face planted - or get injured, to not keep the #4 starting rotation spot).  If enough of them falter while Cyr pitches as well as he did for Richmond, he could end up the long reliever, which would allow Bochy to also use him in short relief situations as well, and see how well he is pitching. 

But that's not likely to happen.  I don't expect the Giants to use Beede or Suarez in long relief, so if Blach or Heston wins the #5 spot, I expect the other to be the long reliever, barring a face plant.  Plus, I would not be surprised if Suarez wins the last rotation spot, which probably means Blach is the long reliever (a role the Giants saw him as handling well) and spot starter, while they work with Heston in AAA.  So a lot would have to go bad for others in order for Cyr to win that spot in the spring.

Thus, I would keep an eye on him.  He could force the issue with a great start in 2018, as whoever wins that last bullpen spot will have options and could be sent down so that the Giants could take a look at Cyr.  He has been a bit wild during his career, not not overly so, especially since his K/9 is so high, that it keeps his K/BB high, for the most part, as well. 

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