SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For a team without middle infield depth, an unlikely candidate is emerging: Brett Wisely.
Wisely, a 23-year-old super utility player, has already impressed the club in Scottsdale. Giants manager Gabe Kapler described him as a “grindy at-bat.” His home run against San Diego on Tuesday still hasn’t left orbit. And he’s learning new techniques at shortstop from Brandon Crawford.
“That’s my pick for player of the camp,” catcher Joey Bart said. “I love that guy. He plays so hard. He’s kind of under the radar. I heard some really good stuff about him, and the swings I’ve seen him take and the work I’ve seen him do is good.”
Wisely, Isan Díaz — or both — projects to help the Giants early and often this year. Behind Brandon Crawford and Thairo Estrada, the Giants need a left-handed hitter to provide depth.
Early in camp, Wisely has made himself a legitimate candidate.
“I just want to prove to myself that I can compete at a high level,” Wisely told KNBR. “Just kind of have fun with it. First big league camp, just kind of enjoy what’s going on. You just want to pick the brains of some of the best players in this locker room, see what I can do to improve my game, because they’re here for a reason. It’s fun to see how they do it.”
Born in Jacksonville, Wisely grew up playing shortstop and idolizing Derek Jeter. The Tampa Bay Rays drafted him out of Gulf Coast State College (Panama City, FL) in the 15th round of the 2019 draft as a second baseman.
His versatility and defensive acumen has allowed him to reach Triple-A in just two full pro seasons (2020 was canceled due to the pandemic).
Last year for the Rays’ minor league affiliates, Wisely posted an .820 OPS while hitting 15 home runs and stealing 32 bases.
The Giants acquired Wisely in a slew of shrewd front office moves. First, they signed injured reliever Trevor Rosenthal for cash. They cut ties with him for next to nothing when it was clear they weren’t in contention, trading him to Milwaukee for outfield prospect Tristan Peters (Rosenthal got injured again and didn’t pitch).
Months later, San Francisco then flipped Peters to Tampa Bay for Wisely. In short: the Giants started with nothing and ended with a promising super utility player, losing essentially nothing along the way.
Wisely has impressed. Bart recently told bench coach Kai Correa that Wisely is his pick for the annual Barney Nugent award given to the most outstanding player in his first big league camp. Previous winners include Brett Auerbach, Heliot Ramos and Bart himself.
“Pretty cool to hear that from Joey,” Wisely said. “He’s been in the league a little bit. Really cool. I didn’t know what that award was.”
Bart’s comments came shortly after Wisely’s first home run of the Cactus League, a shot into the right field upper deck. He said the game plan was to anticipate fastballs, and he was able to time one up.
The Giants view Wisely as a shortstop first, second baseman next, Kapler has said. But in the minors, Wisely has played just 19 games at shortstop compared to 156 at second. He’s also spent significant time at first and third.
Wisely has been mostly working out at shortstop, but may get some reps in the outfield. He said he’s still getting used to the footwork at shortstop and has been learning from Crawford.
“It’s pretty cool to pick his brain about the infield,” Wisely said of Crawford. “Especially shortstop. Because he’s a gold glover, one of the best to ever do it.”
Wisely and Díaz are the only two left-handed hitting infielders besides Crawford and first baseman LaMonte Wade Jr..
That makes their skill sets potentially appealing for a club that values depth and platoon optionality.
“I’m up for anything,” Wisely said. “I’m more of a utility. If it’s shortstop, I’ll work hard and see what I can do at that position. I’ve played there a good amount, so I’m kind of getting used to it. The footwork is just a little bit different over there.”