SAN DIEGO - Petco Park has been a house of horrors during much of the last two seasons, but for two Giants rookies, the first visit here was a positive one.
Left fielder Chris Shaw reached base seven times in the three-game series, continuing a mini surge. First baseman Aramis Garcia hit a solo homer in Wednesday's 8-4 loss to the Padres, his third in 30 big league at-bats. Those would have been positive developments at any time of the year, but against the rebuilding Padres, they perhaps gave the Giants a bit more hope going forward.
For two consecutive seasons, they have finished behind the Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks. The Dodgers look poised for a sixth consecutive NL West crown and have the farm system and financial power to keep a contender on the field for years to come, but the other two will face difficult decisions in future winters as Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and other contributors hit free agency. The general consensus around the game, though, is that the NL West won't necessarily get weaker. The Padres are viewed as having the best farm system in baseball, and they could become interesting as soon as next season.
The Giants got their first look at the latest star Padres prospect, catcher Francisco Mejia. The 22-year-old didn't do much damage against Giants pitching, but he has three homers in his first month in the big leagues and is touted as a future star. Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego's top prospect, is injured but should be up early next season. Luis Urias, also listed on the top 30 on many prospect lists, came up this month but was injured and didn't face the Giants. Those are three of nine Padres prospects listed on many top 100 charts.
This is a group that appears at least a year away, mostly because the pitching depth the Padres have is at the lower levels of the minors. But at some point, likely 2020, the Giants will have another significant road bump in the division, and they'll need their own youth to compete.
Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos and others should be here or getting close in a couple of years, but the class that went through Triple-A this season is the first line of defense.
The Giants would have loved to watch Steven Duggar patrol the massive center field here for three days, but Shaw and Garcia did just fine with their own defensive challenges. If a fan had not interfered Tuesday, Shaw likely would have robbed Franmil Reyes, another young Padre, of a two-run shot. Garcia saved Evan Longoria from an error Wednesday with a nifty scoop.
"He did a nice job, didn't he?" manager Bruce Bochy said of his catcher-turned-first baseman. "To go oppo here, that's impressive off a tough pitcher. He did a nice job for someone who doesn't have a lot of experience at first base. He threw out pretty good at-bats, too. He looks comfortable."
Both Shaw and Garcia do at the moment, and while they're almost certainly ticketed for Triple-A at the start of next season, they're showing that they're capable of contributing at this level, a nice boost late in a lost year. The Padres are coming, and the Giants will need their own young standouts to avoid getting passed.