New Giants infielder Brett Wisely to get long spring training audition
Giants will give new infielder Wisely long look this spring originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Most landmark moments in a player's career are easy to see. The first MLB call-up is celebrated, with family members and friends getting flown into town and shown on the broadcast. The ball from a first hit or strikeout is immediately taken out of play and thrown into the dugout to be authenticated and put in a case. When a player homers for the first time, clubhouse employees rush to the bleachers to try and work out a trade for the keepsake.
But for minor leaguers who are on the bubble, one of the most important moments comes away from the spotlight. Nov. 15 was the deadline last year for prospects to be added to the 40-man roster ahead of the annual Rule 5 Draft, and it was a nervous day for players around the country.
Some, like Marco Luciano, knew they would be added. Most others knew they would get passed over. On deadline day last year, Tampa Bay Rays prospect Brett Wisely didn't quite know which boat he would be in, but he had a feeling it would be neither.
"I was talking to my mom and I was like, 'I've got a weird feeling that I'm getting traded today.' She was like, 'Don't say that, don't say that,' " Wisely recalled Tuesday. "I was like, 'Something just seems weird.' "
Wisely is a Jacksonville native who went to Gulf Coast State College in Panama City before being selected in the 15th round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the Rays. With one trade, he went from the team that plays closest to his hometown to one that's about as far as it gets.
Five minutes before the deadline to protect players last November, Wisely got a call from a member of the Rays front office.
"I've got bittersweet news," Wisely was told. "You're on the 40-man, but not with us."
The Rays have done such a good job of developing young talent in recent years that they almost always need to make small trades to clear some of the backlog and make sure they're not coming away empty-handed. Before the Rule 5 deadline, they made three small trades, sending out prospects who were Rule 5 eligible and getting back players with a different timeline.
The end result for Wisely was a move across the country, but also an incredible opportunity.
Of the six infielders the Giants plan to carry on the Opening Day roster, three -- Wilmer Flores, J.D. Davis and David Villar -- are right-handed hitters who primarily play the corners. Wisely and Isan Diaz are both on the 40-man roster, hit from the left side, and play both middle infield spots. Whether because of fit or injuries, the Giants likely will need one of them to take on a pretty significant role at some point.
Manager Gabe Kapler said both infielders will play "a lot" this spring. One of his early spring lineups will have Wisely at short and Diaz at second.
"We think that they're going to make an impact on our club, maybe early in the season, perhaps a little bit more in the middle of the season," Kapler said. "I just don't think that there's any question that those two guys are going to be instrumental to our success in some way."
While the 26-year-old Diaz has 145 games of MLB experience with the Miami Marlins, Wisely still is relatively inexperienced. Because his first full year as a professional was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, he has just over 1,000 professional at-bats, but the Giants saw enough to be intrigued and carry him on the 40-man roster all offseason.
Wisely has a .284/.364/.471 slash line in the minors and posted a .820 OPS last year, with all but five of those games coming in Double-A. He hit 19 homers in 2021 and 15 last year, stealing 30-plus bases each season. He describes himself as someone who likes to play hard and make life hard on the opposing pitcher.
"I'll be out there fighting for seven pitches," Wisely said.
That would fit right in with the group the Giants have built, and in describing Wisely, Kapler said one thing that really stands out is his intensity in workouts.
"I think he has a chance to be a solid defender at both shortstop and at second base," Kapler said. "He's very intense in the cage and swings hard. He really gets the most out of every rip he takes. I think we, collectively, have a lot of confidence in him. I don't think that's a secret."
Wisely is just 23, young enough that he listed Brandon Crawford and Joc Pederson as players he grew up watching. Kapler said he will be aggressive in finding enough off days for Crawford this year, which could make Wisely and Diaz a roster fit at some point in the summer. That's a big difference from the situation Wisely was just pulled from.
The Rays are overflowing with young middle infield options, one reason they were able to part with Wisely as the Rule 5 Draft approached. But Wisely never viewed it as being blocked.
"They always told us you're not just playing just for the Rays, you're playing for all 30 teams. If I played good enough, maybe another team would pick me up and I would have a shot with them," he said. "The way there's so much talent there with the Rays, I would just try to pick up on a lot of things they were doing, too. I'd take groundballs with Wander Franco and pick up on what he was doing. I was really close with Curtis Mead and seeing him go about his day made me a better player. I would just try to pick up on what other players were doing."
If that leads to MLB success, it will be a nifty bit of accounting for the Giants front office. Wisely was acquired for outfielder Tristan Peters, who joined the Giants a few months earlier when they shipped reliever Trevor Rosenthal to the Milwaukee Brewers after just 12 days with the organization. An injury kept Rosenthal from ever pitching for the Giants or Brewers, but for the cost of less than two weeks of rehab, the Giants ultimately ended up with a young infielder who ranked among the top 30 prospects for a Rays organization that churns them out.
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That move was a shock to Wisely and his Florida-based family, but it should give him a much cleaner path to the big leagues. That won everyone over, even mom.
"She was in shock. A mom wants her kids to be around and close to home, but she immediately said, 'We're definitely going to come see you," Wisely said, smiling. "She's already planned plenty of trips to come out, so she's happy in the long run."
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