Schmitt provides spark, homers in 2nd Major League at-bat

May 10th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants infield prospect is known for his glove, but it didn’t take long for him to show that he can make an impact with his bat, as well.

Schmitt homered in the second at-bat of his Major League debut on Tuesday night, launching a fourth-inning solo shot off Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin to help lift the Giants to a 4-1 win at Oracle Park.

Schmitt, who is ranked the Giants’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, hammered a first-pitch sinker from Corbin 420 feet out to left-center field for his first career hit, drawing massive cheers from the 40-plus friends and family members who flew in from San Diego to pack the stands for his debut.

The group featured four generations of Schmitt’s family, including his 84-year-old maternal grandmother and his baby nephew, who was being cradled by Schmitt’s father, Dan, when he went deep.

The 24-year-old Schmitt became the youngest Giant to homer in his Major League debut since Will Clark accomplished the feat as a 22-year-old rookie on April 8, 1986. The Giants replayed Schmitt’s blast on the scoreboard when he returned to the field to play defense in the top of the fifth, resulting in another standing ovation from the fans in attendance.

“That was crazy,” said Schmitt, who added a hard-hit single up the middle in the sixth to finish 2-for-4 with an RBI. “I didn’t know what to say. It felt like I was in a movie. It’s stuff that I’m never going to forget.”  

Schmitt, the first position player drafted and developed by the Farhan Zaidi regime to reach the Majors, is a natural third baseman, but he got the starting nod at shortstop on Tuesday, allowing the Giants to shift Thairo Estrada back to second base while Brandon Crawford continues to work his way back from a right calf strain. Schmitt's night on defense was fairly uneventful, though he initiated a 6-4-3 double play to help right-hander escape a jam in the third.

“He’s a very exciting player,” said Webb, who struck out seven over seven innings of one-run ball. “I feel like every night he has a chance to do something pretty cool, whether that be on defense or on offense. I think that in general can provide a spark for a team. I’m excited to see him up here. Hopefully it’s just the start to a long, great career.”

A second-round Draft pick out of San Diego State in 2020, Schmitt has long been viewed as one of the best defenders in the Giants organization. He won the Minor League Gold Glove Award at third base in 2022, though he also impressed after sliding over to play shortstop in place of fellow top prospect Marco Luciano, who missed a significant chunk of last season with a back injury.

“The person he reminds me most of is [Cardinals third baseman Nolan] Arenado,” Crawford said. “The way he uses his hands and his feet, kind of how in sync they are together. That would be my best comparison, at least defensively.”

While he’s primarily played on the left side of the infield, the Giants recently started giving Schmitt looks at second base, giving him an added degree of versatility now that he’s in the big leagues.

“Our roster right now has a need for someone who can get Thairo off his feet from time to time and move around, play a little shortstop for us, play a little second base, play a little third base when J.D. [Davis] needs a day off,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I feel like there’s ample opportunity for us to get him consistent playing time and not have him not in the lineup for too long. 

“Casey is here to play for us. He’s here to help the Giants win and continue his development.”

While his calling card is his glove, Schmitt has also shown encouraging development at the plate in recent years. A right-handed hitter, Schmitt batted .293 with an .854 OPS and 21 home runs over 126 games between High-A Eugene, Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento in 2022.

He had only one home run over 32 games with Triple-A Sacramento this year, but Kapler said he wasn’t surprised to see Schmitt leave the yard on Tuesday.

“I think he’s going to hit for power,” Kapler said. “I think he’s going to be a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter with power. It’s not a surprise. We saw enough of that in Spring Training to know it’s in there. He’s a pretty strong individual.”  

Schmitt’s arrival will likely have ramifications for David Villar, who is hitting .151 with 32 strikeouts over 86 at-bats and has been relegated to more of a part-time role now that Davis has seized the starting job at third base.

Kapler expressed confidence that Villar would get going at the plate, though the 26-year-old infielder could be in danger of being optioned to Triple-A Sacramento once Crawford is ready to come off the injured list.

“He’s still very much a valued part of what we’re trying to accomplish at the Major League level,” Kapler said of Villar. “I strongly believe that David is going to make a real impact on this roster. I can’t see the future, but he’s a guy that we’re depending on going forward.”