Gi­ants’ home­grown out­field thriv­ing

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Kerry Crowley

SAN DIEGO — If not for the suc­cess story of a Venezue­lan catcher-turned-third base­man named Pablo San­doval, the Gi­ants’ cur­rent drought would look much worse.

Thanks to San­doval’s 2012 Al­lS­tar nod, the or­ga­ni­za­tion has an oft-dis­cussed drought that’s even more alarm­ing. Since 1977 11th round draft choice Chili Davis ap­peared in the 1984 All-Star Game, no home­grown Gi­ants out­fielder has earned a spot on a Mid­sum­mer Classic ros­ter.

With the re­cent emer­gence of a slew of power-hit­ting out­field­ers at the lower levels of the Gi­ants’ farm sys­tem, the fran­chise has rea­son to be­lieve both dry spells will soon end.

The Gi­ants have used two of their last three first round picks on slugging out­field­ers, se­lect­ing Puerto Ri­can teenager He­liot Ramos in 2017 be­fore choos­ing Ari­zona State cen­ter fielder Hunter Bishop this year. Ramos was named a Cal­i­for­nia League Al­lS­tar this sea­son while Bishop could find him­self on the fast track to the big leagues in the near fu­ture.

Upon sign­ing his first profession­al con­tract on Satur­day, Bishop in­stantly joined Ramos as one of the top-five prospects in the Gi­ants’ sys­tem. The duo will re­main in the spot­light through­out their profession­al ca­reers, but they’re not the only out­field­ers Gi­ants eval­u­a­tors are ex­cited about.

Alexan­der Ca­nario, a 19-yearold cen­ter fielder from the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, has spent the early por­tion of the sum­mer mak­ing a state­ment at the plate.

“He’s got all the tools to be an im­pact cen­ter fielder or even right fielder at Or­a­cle Park,” farm di­rec­tor Kyle Haines said. “Even if he wasn’t in cen­ter field for some rea­son, he would have enough bat to im­pact the team as a cor­ner.”

MLB.com con­sid­ers Ca­nario the No. 9 prospect in the Gi­ants’ farm sys­tem and he’s proven de­serv­ing of the high ranking with an im­pres­sive display of power this year. In 12 Ari­zona League games, Ca­nario hit seven home runs and posted a 1.435 OPS be­fore earn­ing a promotion to Salem-Keizer, the Gi­ants’ short-sea­son af­fil­i­ate.

Ca­nario be­gan play­ing baseball with his brother at age seven in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and said in an interview last week that he idol­ized in­fielder Star­lin Cas­tro, who hailed from the same neigh­bor­hood, grow­ing up. He signed with the Gi­ants for $60,000 — the same amount as San­doval — in 2016 and said his time in the United States has helped him see that his dream of play­ing in the ma­jors is now within reach.

“It’s the recog­ni­tion that I’m

climb­ing the lad­der pro­fes­sion­ally,” Ca­nario said through translator and Gi­ants’ mi­nor league co­or­di­na­tor Gabe Al­varez. “And also, I know that my fam­ily is re­ally proud of the progress that I’ve made.”

The Gi­ants love Ca­nario’s bat, but some in the or­ga­ni­za­tion are even more im­pressed with the ad­vanced hit tool 18-year-old Jairo Po­mares has dis­played in the Ari­zona League this sum­mer.

Po­mares, a 2018 signee out of Cuba, fell in love with baseball as a child by watch­ing videos of Alex Ro­dríguez and Miguel Cabr­era and he could de­velop into the Gi­ants’ best Cuban-born player since in­fielder Tito Fuentes was a reg­u­lar starter in the last 1960s and early 1970s.

“We had one of our draftees that came in out of col­lege and he asked af­ter Po­mares’ at-bat, ‘How old is that kid?’” Haines said. “They told him his age and he said he has at-bats like a 30-year-old. He’s one of those guys that has such im­pres­sive at-bats for such a young guy and such an idea of what he’s do­ing at the plate.”

Haines said the left-handed hit­ting Po­mares is ath­letic enough to play cen­ter field, but could end up in a cor­ner out­field po­si­tion as he fills out and con­tin­ues to de­velop de­fen­sively.

“The bat has al­ways been a strong part of my of­fen­sive game,” Po­mares said. “De­fense was a weak­ness for me grow­ing up, but I feel like I’ve de­vel­oped a ton down here in that as­pect.”

Po­mares earned the sec­ond-high­est re­ported bonus of any Gi­ants’ signee in the 2018 in­ter­na­tional class as the $975,000 he re­ceived trailed only the $2.6 mil­lion the or­ga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to short­stop Marco Lu­ciano.

The Gi­ants be­lieve both Ca­nario and Po­mares have the po­ten­tial to hit for power at the ma­jor league level, but Lu­ciano is the in­ter­na­tional prospect with the best chance to break the ex­tended All-Star drought. At 17, he’s shred­ding Ari­zona League pitch­ing and is poised to sky­rocket when var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions re­lease their next set of prospect rankings.

At the be­gin­ning of the decade, the Gi­ants over­came their fail­ure to de­velop suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tional prospects and home­grown out­field­ers through tremen­dous suc­cess draft­ing pitch­ers and in­field­ers. Matt Cain, Tim Lince­cum and Madi­son Bum­gar­ner were all first round draft choices while Buster Posey, Bran­don Belt and Bran­don Craw­ford were all se­lected in either 2008 or 2009.

For­mer gen­eral man­ager Brian Sabean added many other key con­trib­u­tors through free agency and trades, but eventually, the Gi­ants’ home­grown talent pool was drained.

At the end of the Gi­ants’ 98-loss sea­son in 2017, the or­ga­ni­za­tion had a bot­tom-five farm sys­tem in baseball, cre­at­ing short-term and long-term issues for the fran­chise. The Gi­ants’ fail­ure to de­velop home­grown slug­gers in the out­field and sign suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tional prospects played a part in Bobby Evans’ dis­missal as gen­eral man­ager in 2018, but by that point in time the front of­fice had al­ready recom­mit­ted to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket.

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