Here are 3 Giants to keep an eye on for rest of spring
This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Greetings from Giants camp, where we’ve officially reached the halfway point of the spring. While most players remain in early stages of building up their stamina and getting back into game shape, it's safe to say there are a few guys who are beginning to generate buzz for the progress they’ve shown in Cactus League action and on the backfields at Scottsdale Stadium.
Here are three Giants to keep an eye on over the final few weeks of Spring Training:
1. Sean Hjelle, RHP
The 6-foot-11 Hjelle is hard to miss, but he’s been described as “a real standout” by manager Gabe Kapler due to his offseason work and his pitching performances in camp thus far. After adding 15 pounds of muscle to his lanky frame, Hjelle has flashed an uptick in velocity this spring, with his sinker climbing into the 95-96 mph range, up from the 93.8 mph he averaged last year.
The Giants have seven capable starters in Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Ross Stripling, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Sean Manaea and Jakob Junis -- who’s also drawn rave reviews from the club’s coaching staff -- but they know they’ll need more options to handle the attrition that inevitably arises over a 162-game season. Hjelle, 25, is likely to open the season at Triple-A Sacramento, but if he shows he can sustain his velocity bump and his ability to attack the strike zone, he should get plenty of chances to establish himself as a Major League starter in 2023.
“He’s in a really, really, really good spot,” Kapler said. “He tried to put on muscle this offseason. He did that job. I think he’s more coachable than he has ever been. I think he’s responding well to cues. I think he has conviction in what he’s doing. I think it’s fine to not get too far ahead. But we see him as a guy that’s going to make important starts for us this season.”
2. Stephen Piscotty, OF
Piscotty, a former Amador Valley High School (Pleasanton, Calif.) and Stanford standout, is one of several Bay Area natives in Giants camp after joining the club on a Minor League deal. The 32-year-old outfielder was hampered by injuries over his last two seasons with the A’s and batted only .190 over 42 games before being released last summer, but he’s healthy now and aiming to rediscover the form that made him a big league regular earlier in his career.
While he’s off to a promising start at the plate -- he entered Wednesday batting .400 (6-for-15) with three RBIs over his first six Cactus League games -- Piscotty will likely have a tough time cracking the Giants’ outfield mix, which already includes Michael Conforto, Mitch Haniger, Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater and Joc Pederson. Still, he could end up forcing himself onto the depth chart if he continues to produce in the coming weeks.
“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. We’ll see how long he can stay there. That’s going to be a big determining factor for me, personally.”
3. Marco Luciano, SS
Luciano, who is ranked the Giants’ No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has been limited early in camp after suffering a low back stress fracture while playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic, but he’s beginning to take ground balls at shortstop and hit on the field, spurring optimism that he might be able to play in some exhibition games before the end of the spring.
“He’s taken some of the biggest steps forward of anybody in camp,” Kapler said. “He came in, obviously, still rehabbing, but he’s physical. He’s athletic. He’s in a great frame of mind. He’s enjoying camp in a way that I have not seen in the past. He’s very engaged. He’s smiling a ton, really coming into his own, and it’s super exciting for the organization. Whether or not he gets into a Cactus League game for us remains to be seen. But he’s trending in the right direction.”