Patience with Hwang is the best option for San Francisco Giants

Brewers Giants Spring Baseball

San Francisco Giants third baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang throws to first base during infield drills prior to a spring training baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday, March 19, 2017, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

So in preparing a blog post about decision the Giants have to make in cutting down to their Opening Day 25-man roster, I stumbled upon a blog post about last year’s final cutdown.

According to McCovey Chronicles:

“Also sent down? Chris Stratton (aka The Only Good Starting Pitcher In Camp), Mike Broadway (The Best Reliever In Camp), Ty Blach (About As Good As Josh Osich), and Clayton Blackburn (The Next and Future Prospect). None of the six non-roster invitees made it, either. Farewell, Connor Gilles–Conor Gillas–you know who I’m talking about.”

Everyone wants to see prospects get their shots. But sometimes, it’s better to wait.

Let’s take a look how those projections from last year’s spring worked out.

Stratton: After posting a 1.80 ERA last spring, Stratton went 12-6 with 3.87 ERA in Triple-A Sacramento. He posted a 3.60 ERA in 7 appearances for the Giants in his September call-up.

Broadway: Posted a 3.94 ERA in 29.2 relief innings in Triple-A before posting a 11.81 ERA in four September appearances for the Giants. He was released after the end of the season and signed with the Nationals.

Blach: Went 14-7 with a 3.43 ERA for Triple-A. He went 1-1 with a 1.06 ERA in four appearances (two starts) during the Giants’ postseason run last season and made the team’s playoff roster. He is in the running for a rotation spot this spring.

Blackburn: Went 7-10 with a 4.36 for Sacramento and did not make a big league appearance.

Oh, and that Gilles- Gillaspie guy? He opened the season in Sacramento, but was called up to the major league club by late April and spent the rest of the season with the Giants as a quality backup and performed some last-season and postseason heroics.

The moral to this look back Memory Lane is that more often than not prospects coming off a solid spring don’t always translate into instant big league season. In fact, more often than not, they don’t. And the best thing to do with prospects coming off a hot spring is to send them to the minors and call them up when necessity calls for it or when they’ve shown they ready for it.

Look back at 2010. Buster Posey hit .315 that spring and everyone wanted Buster on the big league roster. But the Giants only like to keep rookies on the big league roster when they are going to play, and the Giants had a veteran catcher in Bengie Molina.

So Buster went to Triple-A. He got called up in late May, went on to win Rookie of the Year and help the Giants to their first World Series title in 54 years.

The very next spring, everyone wanted Brandon Belt to make the big league roster after hitting .282 with power that spring. The Giants granted the fans their wish and kept Belt on the big club, forcing Aubrey Huff to play in the outfield.

But Belt hit .192 in 17 games before being sent to the minors before April was over.

Now, let’s fast-forward to this spring and the case of Jae-gyun Hwang.

Hwang had enjoyed a very nice spring, and that’s a good thing. Hwang won the the Barney Nugent Award given to the player “in his first big league camp whose performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit.”

Hwang has enjoyed a very nice spring. He’s hit .349 with 5 homers and 15 RBI. But hitting in Arizona doesn’t not always equate into hitting in San Francisco, and we’ve seen many players struggle to make that transition.

Hwang is not your normal 21-year-old rookie. He’s a 10-year veteran in Korea, hitting .330 with 26 HRs and 104 RBI last season.

Still, it’s not the majors. So it’s not a terrible idea to take time to assess when Hwang brings to the club. That’s what the Giants have done this spring. A third baseman by trade, the Giants have played Hwang at first base and left field this spring as they hope he can be right-handed option who could spell Belt at first or Jarrett Parker in left.

The Giants came into this spring with their Opening Roster lineup pretty much set, at least in the field, when Belt is at first, Joe Panik at second, Brandon Crawford at short and Eduardo Nunez at third base.

Hwang was brought in to provide some depth this season and as possible option to start in 2018. Christian Arroyo is another option there.

So it is not unwise for the Giants to go with Nunez at third with Gillaspie and Aaron Hill in reserve, and send Hwang to Sacramento to start. If things continue to go well, we might see Hwang in San Francisco by Memorial Day or Fourth of July.

That’s not what the fans want. If they see a prospect, especially one who has not experienced any failure in the bigs, they want them playing – even starting for the Giants. That is, until that player fails in the bigs, then they want to see the next prospect.

But patience is a virtue. And good things come to those who wait.

 

 

 

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