At first glance, it should be easier for Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris to put their roster together if MLB returns in July. Instead of having 26 spots, they should have about 30 at first. Instead of worrying about young players with options and veterans with opt-outs and overflowing position groups at Triple-A, they'll likely have a 20-man taxi squad that can hold just about everyone who was in a tight competition in Scottsdale in March.
But there's a complicating factor, one the front office and coaching staff is discussing quite often.
The likelihood is that even if the big league season returns, the minor league one will be canceled. It might make more sense, then, to have a top prospect like Joey Bart on the expanded roster or taxi squad rather than a veteran. It might even make sense to have guys like Hunter Bishop and Marco Luciano in camp so they can continue to get reps in 2020, even though neither has even played in A-ball yet.
On Wednesday's episode of "Chalk Talk at Home," manager Gabe Kapler said the Giants are examining every possibility.
"We have to operate as if there are not going to be any other developmental opportunities this year," Kapler said. "And for that reason I think we have to look at our prospects and say, even if we're not sure they're going to make an impact on our major league roster in 2020, if we think they might in '21 or '22, and we think that their development is critically important to the health of our minor league system and our organization, we have to find a way to at least consider them getting reps in a stay-hot style of camp."
The expectation is that a camp full of secondary players would include scrimmages to keep players in shape, and prospects would certainly benefit from those games, even if they're overmatched at first. In that sense, it's a no-brainer to have Bart involved either on an expanded roster or a taxi squad, and right-hander Sean Hjelle and outfielder Heliot Ramos both seem to be good fits, too.
Both were headed for late-season debuts in 2020 with the possibility of being a big part of the 2021 mix.
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The more fascinating question comes further down the roster. Luciano is just 18, but he's a top-20 prospect in the minors and has a chance to turn into the best young player the Giants have produced in a decade. It might make sense to stash him in a taxi squad camp all summer and let him spend months working with older players and the quality coaches who end up there.
Bishop, 21, is more advanced after playing three years at Arizona State, and he also would benefit from the reps.
The flip side, of course, is that there's a roster limit on how much the Giants can do here. Having Ramos and Bishop in a camp environment means you're sending home a more experienced player who could fill in when there are injuries to the big league roster. The Giants might have to choose between carving out that taxi squad spot for Hjelle, who was expected to spend most of the year in Double-A, or a veteran who could step into the bullpen right now if needed.
Asked about the youngest players -- Luciano, Bishop, Alexander Canario, etc. -- Kapler said they absolutely will be under consideration for a 50-man roster. The front office, coaching staff and analytics staff regularly submit and vet names, and Kapler said that roster would be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Going super-young might not help in 2020, but the Giants weren't expected to be good anyway, and this could lead to big advantages down the line, pushing the Giants' best prospects ahead of those from organizations that filled their rosters and taxi squads with win-now choices. The Giants could have a huge advantage for 2021 and beyond if their top prospects don't miss the year and instead move quickly.
"Sometimes you get a minor league player like that that really flies through the system," Kapler said. "Somebody coming to mind for me is Juan Soto with the Nationals and how he just kind of dominated level by level and kind of flew through the minor league system. You never know who that is going to be.
"Do we have a Juan Soto in our system? We don't know, but the one thing we do know is we have to do everything we can to continue to get our minor league players reps if we can."
Giants could add top prospects on expanded roster when MLB returns originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area