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Play the kids: Crowded IL offers homegrown youth to seize opportunity



Photo: Robert Edwards

Seven weeks into the Bob Melvin era, it’s easy to be pessimistic about the 2024 campaign. The season has been rife with underachievement and disappointing results. Any exciting flashes have been quickly overshadowed by frustrating losses highlighted by a scuffling offense and a bullpen that lacks structure in the middle innings.

But even the most jaded of pessimists must admit that declaring a season effectively over before Memorial Day weekend is premature, especially with MLB’s expanded playoff system and an expected surge of health to be coming over the summer.

Even if you have checked out on postseason aspirations for this Giants team, there is still plenty to look out for. A flurry of injuries to position players has left the usually steadfast Farhan Zaidi with no choice but to call up a slew of the Giants talented prospects. Although the numbers in AAA haven’t jumped off the page like those of other organization’s most prized projects, fans have been clamoring for an injection of youth and flare since the franchise has toiled in mediocrity for two full seasons. Farhan Zaidi joined Tolbert and Kolsky on Thursday afternoon, discussing the team’s perception of its own performance, the sudden injury bug, and the exciting injection of youth that has come of it.

Play the kids. Tom Tolbert asked Zaidi why the Giants haven’t been able to develop homegrown position players during his tenure.

“It’s a fair question. I’d say it’s a couple of things. You have to not just develop these players, but give them opportunities to grow and fail. We’ve had a lot of veteran players. We’ve been active in free agency. When you go out and sign those guys, it’s not going to be as easy to create pathways for your younger players.”

Whether or not it’s what he wanted to do, Zaidi has now been forced to pivot away from veterans like Nick Ahmed and Austin Slater, both currently shelved on the injured list. Big ticket offseason signings like Jorge Soler and Jung Hoo Lee are inactive with ailments of varying degrees. And Michael Conforto is dealing with a hamstring pull that pumped the brakes on his great start to 2024. So up come the kids.

“In the meantime, the silver lining is the opportunity that a lot of these young guys are getting,” Zaidi said. You figure it’s going to happen at some point during the season, but you don’t necessarily expect a full line change to happen like we had.”

Heliot Ramos, Luis Matos, Casey Schmitt and Marco Luciano headline the shipment of replacements eager to show their worth. All three have already played in Major League games, but none has grasped an every day role despite considerable hype surrounding their development.

But Ramos, Matos, and Schmitt seem to be hellbent on making the decision of who to send down when the Giants’ lengthy infirmary registrar shrinks a hard one. Ramos has collected nine hits in 29 big league at bats. He’s doubled twice and drove in five runs. Matos has a smaller sample size, but a similar impact. He’s picked up four major league hits in just over a week this season, highlighted by a three run home run on Monday night against the Dodgers, further endearing himself to a starved fan base. Schmitt has been impactful as well, clubbing a walk off double in Sunday’s victory over Cincinnati.

“Guys like Ramos and Matos are guys we were hoping would get a chance to come up and help us out,” Zaidi continued. “We’re relying on them heavily right now, and they’ve produced some really good results.”

There is also an intangible benefit this wave of youth brings. Giants fans haven’t seen a star homegrown position player since Brandon Crawford earned such status. Energy, athleticism, and a confident flare are far from a bad thing, and each of these prospects brings that. Come out to the yard for that reason, if nothing else.