After their incredible run of three World Series victories in five seasons, 2016 was another playoff year for the San Francisco Giants, but ended short. The “even-year theory”— San Fran won three titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014— came to a thudding end when they fell to the eventual champion Chicago Cubs in the NLDS.
Since the anti-climactic Game 4, where the Giants blew a three-run ninth inning lead...at home, things haven’t changed for the better.
They entered 2017 with pretty much the same core plus free agent acquisition Mark Melancon (perhaps brought in to massage the closing hurt from Game 4), it was again a team set to contend but reliant on a familiar group of veterans.
Hardly into the new campaign, old players got hurt and there were no young players to be accounted for. The Giants’ years of noble dominance looks to have deteriorated into elderly mediocrity.
Players will always age, but San Francisco’s farm system looks depressingly thin at the moment.
They did graduate Christian Arroyo this season, a move done not out of necessity but one well earned; the 21-year old had a strong spring and then absolutely mashed (.446 average, three homers and two stolen bases) in 16 games for Triple-A Sacramento.
You can get relatively excited about 2014 first-rounder Tyler Beede, a future rotation member who could become quite effective in spacious AT&T Park. Plus he throws a cutter. I’m a sucker for a good cutter unless it’s being thrown to me in MLB The Show.
The system has some intriguing talent, especially in the outfield. Steven Duggar, Sandro Fabian, Heath Quinn and 2016 second-rounder Bryan Reynolds as well as converted outfielder and just recently called-up Austin Slater all show different sorts of promise.
What the system lacks is a standout prospect with eyes on an everyday position at the Major League level. 2015 first-round pick Chris Shaw could be the one to fulfill this promise.
Since being drafted 31st overall out of Boston College —as compensation for the Red Sox signing of Pablo Sandoval— Shaw has done nothing but hit, and hit and hit.
Low-A wasn’t much of a task for him, tough he was at the average age for the level. Nevertheless, he produced in his first action after being taken at the tippy top of the MLB Draft, hitting 12 home runs in his first 46 professional games.
He briefly stalled upon his 2016 promotion to Double-A, but picked things back up in 2017 and has gone from a ‘potential piece’ of the Giants future to someone who looks like a real contributor at the big league level.
His skyrocketing stock withstanding, the baseball minds behind San Fran’s organization have moved the first base-only player to left field, doubling up his eligibility.
This year was his first exposure at the position, but the outlook at first base is cloudy with a chance of Brandon Belt. Belt, 29, isn’t lighting the world on fire but is signed through 2021.
Shaw isn’t a five-star athlete, but he has dropped over 20 pounds in the past year and his more-than qualified glove has adjusted well to left so far.
After his stock started to make the higher-ups with the club take him a little more seriously, he split his time time equally at first and left for Double-A Richmond (18 starts at each position) and continued to perform dutifully.
He hit .301 with a robust .390 OBP, slugging .511 and displaying the power from the prototypical first baseman he longer is, with six home runs, 10 doubles and a healthy 26:18 K:BB ratio.
Hence his call-up to Triple-A. His first seven games there have all been in left field, as the organization prepares for him to occupy a spot that hasn’t had a full-time member since maybe Mike Morse and his 131 games played in 2014.
Promoted on May 23rd, Shaw’s first week at the ultimate Minor League level has gone off without a hitch. He’s compiled three multi-hit games en route to a .930 OPS, hit his first home run for the River Cats on the 29th and had four RBI in his May finale.
Oh, and all seven of his chances in the field have occurred without error.
The continued hot bat, weight drop and position change all point to Shaw manning left field in the maybe not-too-distant future for the San Francisco Giants.