‘Here to play’: Top prospect Schmitt debuts vs. Nats

‘Here to play’: Top prospect Schmitt debuts vs. Nats

2:55 AM UTC

SAN FRANCISCO — Giants infield prospect Casey Schmitt is known for his glove, but it didn’t take long for him to show that he can make an impact with his bat, as well. 

Schmitt homered in the second at-bat of his Major League debut on Tuesday night, launching a solo shot to left-center field off Washington left-hander Patrick Corbin in the fourth inning to extend the Giants’ lead to 3-0 at Oracle Park.

Schmitt, who is ranked the Giants’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, hammered a first-pitch sinker from Corbin 420 feet out to left-center field for the milestone blast, drawing massive cheers from his sizable contingent of supporters in the stands. 

Schmitt, 24, is a natural third baseman, but he got the starting nod at shortstop on Tuesday, allowing the Giants to shift Thairo Estrada back to second base while Brandon Crawford continues to work his way back from a right calf strain.

Schmitt, the first position player drafted and developed by the Farhan Zaidi regime to reach the Majors, said Triple-A manager Dave Brundage called him on Monday to let him know that the Giants planned to promote him to the big leagues. The San Diego native immediately shared the news with his parents, who were expected to be on hand for his debut, along with 40 other friends and family members.

“Just excited,” said Schmitt, who will wear No. 6. “I’m really happy to get the call and to be up here and kind of be around everyone. It’s really special.”

To clear a spot for Schmitt on the 40-man roster, the Giants reinstated Darin Ruf from the injured list and designated him for assignment. Outfielder Cal Stevenson was also optioned to Triple-A Sacramento following Monday’s game.

A second-round Draft pick out of San Diego State in 2020, Schmitt has long been viewed as one of the best defenders in the Giants organization. He won the Minor League Gold Glove Award at third base in 2022, though he also impressed after sliding over to play shortstop in place of fellow top prospect Marco Luciano, who missed a significant chunk of last season with a back injury.

“The person he reminds me most of is [Cardinals third baseman Nolan] Arenado,” Crawford said. “The way he uses his hands and his feet, kind of how in sync they are together. That would be my best comparison, at least defensively.”

While he’s primarily played on the left side of the infield, the Giants recently started giving Schmitt looks at second base, giving him an added degree of versatility as he prepares to join the big league roster for the first time.

“Our roster right now has a need for someone who can get Thairo off his feet from time to time and move around, play a little shortstop for us, play a little second base, play a little third base when J.D. [Davis] needs a day off,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I feel like there’s ample opportunity for us to get him consistent playing time and not have him not in the lineup for too long.

“Casey is here to play for us. He’s here to help the Giants win and continue his development.”

While his calling card is his glove, Schmitt has also shown encouraging development at the plate in recent years. A right-handed hitter, Schmitt batted .293 with an .854 OPS and 21 home runs over 126 games between High-A Eugene, Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento in 2022.

Schmitt, who won the 2023 Barney Nugent Award as the Giants’ top newcomer in big league camp, hit .313 over his first 32 games with the River Cats this year and crushed his first home run of the season Wednesday.

“I feel like I’ve just been able to put quality wood on the ball and kind of go out and have fun and take what I can get,” Schmitt said. “I just tried to kind of stay within myself. When I found myself getting out of my approach, I just tried to channel it back in.”

Schmitt’s arrival will likely have ramifications for David Villar, who has been relegated to more of a part-time role now that Davis has seized the starting job at third base.

Villar, another right-handed bat, is hitting only .145 with four homers and 32 strikeouts over 95 plate appearances, though he returned to the starting lineup for the first time in nearly a week on Tuesday, batting sixth and serving as the Giants’ designated hitter against Corbin.

Kapler expressed confidence that Villar would get going at the plate, though the 26-year-old infielder could be in danger of being optioned to Triple-A Sacramento once Crawford is ready to come off the injured list.

“He’s still very much a valued part of what we’re trying to accomplish at the Major League level,” Kapler said of Villar. “I strongly believe that David is going to make a real impact on this roster. I can’t see the future, but he’s a guy that we’re depending on going forward.”

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