An Underrated Factor as the Giants Weigh Trade Deadline Decisions

SAN FRANCISCO -- The biggest question for the Giants -- buy or sell -- wasn't even a question a month ago, or just about every day since Farhan Zaidi took over in November. 

The organization was in a world of hurt at all levels, and for about eight months, much of the talk at Oracle Park centered around how to make this team competitive in 2020 and good by 2021. But a couple of funny things happened along the way to the Great July Sale of 2019. 

The first one is obvious, and has been in front of your face for three weeks. The Giants are suddenly good. After sweeping the Rockies and taking three of four from the Mets, they're entering this week at .500, 2 1/2 games out in the Wild Card race. 

But the second factor is one you might have missed unless you really go deep with your fandom. Seemingly just as quickly, the Giants have built a farm system that looks respectable, and that will matter as Zaidi and Co. put together a deadline plan.

The Giants still need plenty of future help, but they're not quite as desperate as they were on Opening Day, and Zaidi no longer should move anything that's not nailed down in order to bolster the system. Much of the next core already appears to be on the way. 

Joey Bart (ranked 19th) and Heliot Ramos (68) were joined by shortstop Marco Luciano (71) and outfielder Hunter Bishop (98) on Baseball America's most recent top 100 list, giving the Giants four top prospects on a rankings list that often has included just one player from the organization. 

Luciano in particular has changed the upside of the farm system. Just 17, he's hitting .344 in rookie ball with eight homers in 96 at-bats. It's early, but if his development continues he could be a franchise-altering prospect, and he's part of a crowd coming from rookie ball and Salem-Keizer. The strength of this system is at the lower levels. 

The  Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, a short-season team, won the Northwest League's first half title for the first time by going 25-12. Bishop, this year's first-rounder, is there already, along with other intriguing prospects like 21-year-old Franklin Labour (14 homers in 33 games) and 19-year-old Alexander Canario (eight homers in 27 minor league games this summer). 

Bart and Ramos lead a San Jose team that has some pitching starting to emerge with Sean Hjelle, Jake Wong and others. The Double-A roster is a bit barren, but Triple-A Sacramento -- a disaster in recent years -- is in first place and already has sent Shaun Anderson, Tyler Beede, Mike Yastrzemski, Conner Menez, Zach Green and others to the big league roster. 

If you take a step back, this is a farm system that's looking like a normal one again, and that certainly should change the math for Zaidi. 

For most of this season it seemed he needed to trade not just Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith and Sam Dyson, but also guys like Pablo Sandoval, Kevin Pillar and Reyes Moronta. When Zaidi traded Tom Murphy for a 20-year-old lottery ticket, that seemed like a good template, because the Giants came into this season needing as much minor league inventory as they could get. Things have changed quickly, and the system's rise has matched the big league club's surge.

There are certainly still plenty of holes. The Giants need more young pitching (who is the future ace of this staff?), could use an outfielder or three much closer to the big league level, and have a huge hole when it comes to middle infield prospects. 

But this front office has proven fully capable of finding contributors -- Alex Dickerson, Donovan Solano, etc. -- and pushing younger players, and it turns out the previous regime left the cupboard a bit fuller than we thought. Add it up and the Giants aren't nearly as desperate at the deadline as they once were. 

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