Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi made an appearance on the NBC Sports broadcast during the Giants’ loss to the Guardians last night, and he talked about four young players that have been performing well in camp.
Blake Sabol was a Rule-5 draft pick who was selected by the Reds and then immediately traded to the Giants. In 41 spring at-bats, Sabol carries a slash line of .341/.473/.659. Sabol has three homers, four doubles, and 11 walks against 13 strikeouts. Sabol has been an outfielder for most of his career but recently made the transition to catching. Manager Gabe Kapler has said that the Giants were expecting to use Sabol only as a catcher, but recent injuries to Mitch Haniger and Austin Slater might make the Giants deploy Sabol as an outfielder while carrying an extra catcher.
Sean Hjelle came into camp way down low on the depth chart. Hjelle is a former second-round pick and has been a starter for his whole career, and he posted a 4.92 ERA in Triple-A last season. Hjelle came into the spring with the hopes of maybe a mid-season callup to serve as an injury replacement but has almost secured himself a roster spot. After bulking up in the offseason by nearly 15 pounds, Hjelle came into camp with plus velocity and has found results, pitching 15 spring innings with an ERA of 1.80, and has struck out 18 batters and only allowed two walks. Hjelle will likely fill the Giants’ last bullpen spot.
Bryce Johnson came into camp as much of an afterthought. He got into some game action last season, seeing 18 at-bats in the bigs, but he only managed two hits. Not necessarily known for his hitting, Johnson has been more of a glove-first and speed-first kind of player. This spring, he has capitalized on his strengths, playing good defense in center field while wreaking havoc on the basepaths, being a perfect 12/12 on stolen base attempts. Johnson leads both the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues in stolen bases. Johnson has also flashed some hitting improvements as well, posting a slash line of .361/.442/.472 with four doubles and four walks to 9 strikeouts. With Haniger and Slater out, Johnson will likely fill the fourth outfielder spot and will look to make the most of his opportunity.
Casey Schmitt was presented with the Barney Nugent Award, given annually to a player who stands out in their first big league camp. Schmitt played very well in the spring, hitting a slash line of .381/.395/.667. Some may have been hoping that Schmitt would make the Opening Day roster, but he has only played 33 games above High-A and is currently blocked by David Villar. Schmitt also has some work to do, as he needs to lower his strikeout rate and increase his walk rate. If Schmitt forces the issue and comes out swinging (and taking walks) in Triple-A, he could find himself on the big league roster before too long.
Bryce Johnson will need to be added to the 40-man if he makes the Opening Day roster, and the Giants could clear space by adding one of Luke Jackson (recovering from Tommy John), Thomas Szapucki (arm neuropathy), or Luis Gonzalez (back surgery) to the 60-day IL. Active roster space can be cleared by adding Mitch Haniger and Austin Slater to the injured list.