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Casey Schmitt wins annual Barney Nugent Award for spring training excellence



© Matt Kartozian | 2023 Mar 22

Tantalizing infield prospect Casey Schmitt was named the 2023 Barney Nugent Award winner on Friday, a symbol of recognition for one of the most exciting Cactus League performances in recent memory.

Schmitt, 24, hit .381 in spring training, recording two doubles, two triples and two home runs. His elite glove at third base popped on an almost daily basis.

The award is given to a player in his first big league camp “whose performance and dedication in spring training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit.” Players, coaches and training staff vote on it.

Previous Barney Nugent winners include Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos and Brett Auerbach.

Schmitt, who won a minor league Gold Glove for his work at third and shortstop last year, is expected to begin 2023 with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. But given his spring performance, experience at shortstop and MLB-ready glove, he could debut soon.

“He looks really close,” Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said during Thursday’s game. “The one thing we’d still like to see him work on a little bit, when you’re facing those quality right-handed pitchers at the big league level and see the breaking balls — yesterday he faced Jonathan Gray, who is a really good big leaguer and has a couple different looks to his breaking ball — I think getting acclimated to that is really the last step for him. But we’ve seen a lot of positives.”

The Giants drafted Schmitt in the second round of the 2020 draft out of San Diego State, where he served as the Aztecs’ closer and third baseman.

A rash of unfortunate injuries limited Schmitt to 64 games in 2021, but he earned two promotions last year with a breakout season. He hit .293 with a .854 OPS across the High-A, Double-A and Triple-A levels.

With Marco Luciano sidelined with a back injury, Schmitt filled in at shortstop for 40 games.

Then came spring, when Schmitt got a platform to impress big-league coaches and players.

One veteran in particular marveled at his defense.

“He looks different than a lot of infielders I’ve played with in the past,” Brandon Crawford said of Schmitt. “You can see that just when he’s taking grounders in practice, stuff like that. He moves a bit different, his hands just always seem to be in the right spot. Nothing against the infielders I’ve played with before. He just seems like he’s on another level.”