The Ukiah Daily Journal
Giants' Piscotty signs up for `developmental' approach
When Stephen Piscotty met with Gabe Kapler before spring training, the Giants manager had a question for his prospective outfielder.
“How good do you think you can be?”
The direct inquiry is part of Kapler's transparent managerial style with players and a frequent element of their pre-spring player plan meetings. Piscotty, 32, responded just as frankly.
“My response was that I can return to my best form from early in my career,” Piscotty said. “I don't doubt that I can still do that. That's my goal, to get there.”
It has been a while, though, for Piscotty, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee. While he posted OPS figures north of .800 in three of his first four seasons in the majors, including a career-best 27 homers in 2018, his first season in Oakland, he owned a sub.600 OPS when the A's released him midway through last season.
What drew Piscotty to the Giants was more than their proximity to his native Pleasanton and his former home in Oakland. He said the club sold him on a “developmental” approach, rather than one make-orbreak shot at the Opening Day roster, and he's in it for the long haul, willing to accept an assignment to Triple-a Sacramento if necessary.
“That's become my goal,” he said. “Contribute to the team at some point.”
What drew the Giants, and a few other teams, to Piscotty was one month in Louisville, Kentucky.
“What I saw,” Kapler said, “was a healthy player.”
When he was released by the A's last August, Piscotty was at a crossroads.
In five seasons since being traded to Oakland, in part to be closer with his late mom during her battle with ALS, Piscotty had logged six separate stints on the injured list. He dealt with a knee, an ankle, a wrist, and finally, for the early part of 2022, a sprained left calf. But by August, he was beginning to feel like himself again.
Unlikely to sign on with a major-league club at that point, Piscotty could either wait until next season and see what was out there — his release was softened by his guaranteed $7.25 million salary, plus a $1 million buyout — or he could seek out an opportunity in Triple-a.
“I'm so grateful I played that month,” Piscotty said. “It was a decision to make. It was on the table to maybe just see what would happen if I didn't, but I'm really glad I did because I got a lot of things turned around.”
In 24 games with the Louisville Bats, the Triplea affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, Piscotty hit five home runs and drove in 14 runs, both equal to his totals in 42 games with Oakland. A small sample size? Against minor-league pitching? Sure, but don't tell Piscotty.
“I could feel it,” he said. “When you make contact with a ball and it goes, you know it's still there.”
Observing from across the Bay, Piscotty came to admire the Giants' hitting approach. His work this spring with hitting coach Justin Viele has already yielded results, he said. Rather than “swaying” with his back hip — a bad habit that makes his swing “too long and loose” — he wants to use it as a “solid rock,” which he hopes will produce more low line drives with backspin, rather than lofty fly balls.
“It's cleaned up so many other things that I was trying to do and couldn't really seem to in years past,” Piscotty said. “Those are my favorite adjustments, when you focus on one adjustment and it cleans up x, y and z.”
While the stated goal goes against a prevalent ideology these days, that more fly balls equals more home runs and launch angle is king, Piscotty said, “I guess you could say I tried it and it didn't work.”
Between Michael Conforto, Mitch Haniger, Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater, four outfield spots on the Opening Day roster are locked up. The Giants are likely to carry at least two other players, Lamonte Wade Jr. and Joc Pederson, with extensive outfield experience, as well, but Kapler said it's unlikely they would go into the season without a fifth outfielder.
With Luis González (back) ruled out for the remainder of the spring, could it open a lane for Piscotty?
“I believe in the upside and the ceiling because it's pretty high,” Kapler said. “My evaluation is we have a healthy player who for the first time in a while is kind of at his best physically, and we'll see how long he can stay there. That's going to be a big determining factor for me, personally.”