For Part 1, click here.
It has been a mini-project of mine to acquire as much thought from Giants prospects, focusing on the prospects who are not included in the 60-man roster pool, about their opinions about the cancelation of the 2020 Minor League season, their thoughts on potentially playing in Indy Ball if given the chance, and their development in their game throughout the off-season.
In the first part of this mini-series in case you have not read it yet, I’ve talked to Giants prospects Najee Gaskins, Harrison Freed, P.J. Hilson, and Trevor McDonald. For the next part of the mini-series, I’ve made a priority to add more pitchers to the fold as the first part only featured one pitcher (McDonald). All of these players (except for Kanoa Pagan) are the first time that I ever formed a connection with and it’s really fun to talk to all of them.
Leading off is Cole Waites, the 19th round selection of the Giants in the 2019 MLB Draft. He’s been named as the pitcher with the Best Fastball in the 2019 Giants draft class by Baseball America. He’s had his control issues but the big takeaway is that he’s posted a really good 34.6% strikeout rate in the Arizona League last season. Here is his take on the cancellation of the season.
“I’m not really surprised about it. It sucks that we don’t get to play but it is a good opportunity for minor leaguers to work on their craft more. Just treating it as an extended offseason. I personally have been able to work on my slider more and make more velocity gains with my fastball.”
When I asked about what changes he’s made to gain more velocity on his fastball, Waites told me that he’s made changes to his mechanics, particularly how his lower half works. Waites has topped 98 MPH before but with his new mechanics, he’s now topped 99 MPH, as he usually sits in the 94-97 MPH range, with room to reach triple digits with mostly 99% spin efficiency. But more importantly for Waites, his new mechanics helped him a lot in terms of consistency and comfort in throwing his entire repertoire in the strike zone and has allowed his fastball to have more rising action than ever before.
He’s also tinkered with the grip of his slider in terms of “what to feel with my hand as I throw it”, Waites noted. When I asked Waites about his thoughts on the potential of playing Indy ball, here is what he said.
“Probably not. Like I said before, I need to work on my craft as much as I can in a controlled setting. Having Rapsodo every time I’m on the mound is crucial for me. This is because I can see what the ball did and how it correlates to what I felt. Its tough to do that while playing a season. Obviously, playing allows me to compete but I continue to compete in live at-bats. I need to use my resources here at home while I can. I have all the trust in the world in the guys that run my training program and i need to utilize them.”
Waites has been putting in the work in the Full Count Baseball Facility in the state of Georgia, where he’s also been facing several Minor Leaguers with each having at least a couple of years of pro ball experience. He’s noted that the feedback that is coming from the hitters that he’s faced were crucial for him as it’s another valuable resource for him, aside from the technology (Rapsodo, high-speed cameras) and the amount of coaching that he’s received in the off-season (ranging from the coaches in the facility to the Giants athletic trainers, strength coaches, and pitching coordinators whom Waites has constant contact with). In his opinion, he’s “getting more out of staying at home” rather than play this year.
Look for Waites to set the world on fire in 2021 as he’s more than ready to face Minor League hitting and reach the Majors as soon as he can.
The next prospect that I talked to is Luis Amaya, a lefty reliever who had a successful 2019 in both Augusta and San Jose, posting more than a strikeout an inning on both levels. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs wrote about him in his Honorable Mentions in the 2020 Preseason Prospects List.
“Amaya also has a sneaky fastball. It’s only about 91-92 but he hides the ball well and it sneaks past hitters. His 11-to-5 curveball is average.”
Amaya is a Venezuelan, so I asked my friend Juan Barajas to translate for me once again (like all of my Latino interviews). Here is Luis’ take on the topic.
“Of course. I miss baseball, but it’s something we as players do not control. I do respect the decision, staying home, and I’m doing all I can from here to stay in shape.”
Amaya has three pitches in his disposal, a low-90s fastball, slider, and changeup. In the offseason, Amaya’s working on commanding his secondaries better, locating it down and in the corners with both his slider and changeup to surprise hitters.
Amaya doesn’t have any technology to help him see his pitch metrics like Rapsodo or Edgertronic (in fact, Amaya does not have any idea of those). However, the Giants coaches are keeping tabs on him regularly and both Amaya and the coaches have a system this off-season where they would send the coaches his videos, and the coaches would analyze and relay their feedback to Luis.
When I asked Luis about his terrific 2019 in both Augusta and San Jose, he said it was a good year for him because he learned a lot. Luis has never played full-season ball up until last year. He specifically mentioned learning more in San Jose because he learned from several veterans on the team last year. The biggest thing that Luis has learned last year is to stay ahead of the count on hitters, using his secondaries to stay ahead. “A lot of bad things could happen (if I’m behind on the count) not just for myself but for my team. So it is better to stay ahead and on top of the hitters.”, Luis noted.
Luis is currently in Arizona, keeping himself safe in his home away from the spike of coronavirus cases in the state while keeping in constant touch with his family. I see Luis as quite realistic with his mindset and is aware of his abilities. When I asked about his expectations in the 2021 season, Luis replied “It’s God’s will, and whatever the team decides, I’ll work harder than ever to keep the team satisfied with my work as a lefty reliever.”
Next up is Javyean Williams, the 22nd round selection of the Giants last year. Notable for his speed, he stole 18 bases last season out of 20 attempts for the Arizona League squad. Here is his take on the topic at hand.
“Honestly, it’s a bummer because not playing baseball for a whole year isn’t fun at all. But it also gives some guys a little more time to perfect their crafts they’ve been working on. It sucks for me though because all I wanted to do was play baseball.”
When I asked about him with regards to the strides that he’s made to his game this off-season, Javeyan mentioned that he’s primarily working on getting stronger by tucking in more muscle and getting more explosive. Even though Javeyan has not faced any live pitching as of this moment, the Giants coaches gave him a Blast Motion unit, gave him a workout plan, and check on his progress every week.
He saw his time in the Arizona League as a great learning experience and has kept in touch with most of his fellow 2019 draftees since they are all in quarantine, like the rest of us. He considers Najee Gaskins, Nick Morreale, Taylor Rashi, and Nick Avila as his best mates. He’s also taken up tennis in his downtime, playing it with his girlfriend to pass time. (Honestly, pretty sad because I am a big tennis fan as well.)
As an African-American man, I asked Javeyan if he ever experienced any racism on the field. He’s faced once on the field but never in public.
“Actually, yes. One time when I was playing select baseball, I tried to run out a ball but I got called out and as I was on the way back to the dugout the shortstop told me to get my black behind back in the dugout. It came close to a scuffle but my coach grabbed me and calmed me down.”
Up next is Kanoa Pagan, the 19th round selection in the 2019 Draft from Mission College. I interviewed Kanoa last year after he got drafted and I got another chance to speak to him once more.
“It has sucked to lose that first full season/spring training but now it’s up to us to use this time off to come back even stronger. Realistically, we will never have this much time off again in our careers so I’m trying to make the most of it and put on some weight and fine-tune my off-speed especially.”
Kanoa’s been working in the Nick Sanzeri Program since college and he’s become a second father for the young right-hander. “Nick Sanzeri is one of the best things that has happened in my baseball career. The man has helped me a lot and he’s like a second father to me. Its been great to have his advice, support, and help. And with him living down the street it’s easy and convenient to get over there and work”, Kanoa said
As for the things that Kanoa’s worked on in the off-season, he’s been working on his strength and his flexibility, with workouts and throwing programs provided by his facility and also from the Giants coaches, who is keeping in touch with him throughout the quarantine. Aside from getting more comfortable with his fastball and curveball, Kanoa’s has adopted a splitter as his potential third best pitch. He’s struggled with pronating his hand on a changeup grip and he felt that he tunnels his splitter to his fastball much better.
Kanoa is one of those guys who would love to throw in Indy ball to get some innings to his pocket. If he won’t however, he’s fortunate enough to have enough pro baseball players in his facility to run simulated games and face live hitting.
Next up is Aaron Phillips, the 9th round selection of the club in the 2017 Draft. Aaron pitched primarily in the San Jose Giants rotation last year and looked poised to play in Richmond this year. The former St. Bonaventure product has this to say about the cancellation of the season.
“As someone that loves the game, it’s tough to go through an entire summer without playing. The only good thing is that I get to spend extra time with my family that I didn’t expect. This is the first summer I’ve been home since high school so that part of it is a positive.”
I asked Aaron about the things that he’s worked on in the off-season. “I’ve been trying to use the time off to my advantage so that I come back better after all of this. Focusing on flexibility and mechanics so that I can repeat every pitch consistently.”, Aaron said. Specifically, he’s mentioned that he’s working with his legs more and with his hip mobility to lessen the breakdown of his mechanics deep in his starts. However, he did not mention any tinkering with his grips, sticking with his fastball-curveball-changeup combination but throwing them more consistently is his goal.
Aaron’s been aided with a throwing program that the Giants coaches provided to him, and can face live hitting because his brother plays college baseball and he knows plenty of players in his neighborhood. He’s also hoping there will be a Fall League this year so that he “wouldn’t play anything else this year besides something associated with the Giants.”
Last, and most definitely not the least, is Garrett Frechette, the 5th round selection in last year’s draft and is a Jim Callis favorite. Here is his take on the matter at hand.
“I’m really disappointed. I felt like I was ready to go for this season mentally and physically but all that happened was out of my control so now I just need to take each day to get better!”
I asked Garrett about the specifics of his mental and physical improvements in the off-season. Here is what he said about it.
“Mentally, being able to visualize what I want and where I want to be in the coming months and the future. Then physically, getting stronger and more flexible so I can prolong my season avoiding injury and things like that.”
Garrett told me that the Giants provided him with workout videos and is in constant touch with him. When I asked about his other improvements in the off-season, Garrett mentioned that he’s doing a lot of work in improving his defense in both first base and both the corner outfield spots, working with his fundamentals and his arm strength. Hitting-wise, Garrett’s been working on his approach and pitch selection so that he can stay in the zone better and avoid chasing pitches.
Garrett’s been facing live pitching during the quarantine as well, facing names like Connor Lunn of the Cardinals and Ian Clarkin of the Cubs. Also, the facility has a Trackman unit that helped him a lot with his swing, especially on his exit velocities.
When I asked him about his experience playing in the Arizona League last year for his pro baseball debut, Garrett told me that it “was a blast” and he “enjoyed playing everyday it”. “Being able to wake up and play baseball everyday was a dream and a blessing and (it) pushes me to work even harder to make it permanent.”
If nothing pops up in the fall, Garrett would participate in Indy ball because that is his way to get better at baseball.
I hope you liked this two-part series of my interviews with Giants prospects.
My takeaways are as follows:
– There are two sides of the coin in the topic: one is the people who are disappointed with the cancellation because they need reps while the other treasures this plenty of time to focus on their craft that they otherwise would not get in a normal season.
– The Giants coaches are in constant contact with all of their prospects during the quarantine. Pretty notable that most, if not all, hitters received a Blast Motion kit while pitchers did not receive any pitching tech like Rapsodo or Edgertronic. I don’t know why is that but if I have to guess, it’s because of the limited available supply of Rapsodo units and some pitching facilities do have one.
– These prospects are split between playing in Indy ball and not. Just like the minor league season cancellation, some view it as getting more competitive reps while some view it as “I feel I can hone my craft better in a facility.”
All in all, the most important thing for these prospects is that they will be ready once the minor league season comes back in 2021. They are refreshed, improved, and are ready to showcase the things that they worked on during this difficult time.
What are your takeaways from this series? Just leave a comment and tell us! I am primarily doing Giants content currently but I am looking to divulge to more prospects on other teams for Prospects Worldwide.
Follow us on Twitter! @ProspectsWorldW