SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants never called 2019 a rebuilding year, instead preferring to view it as more of a transition. A defining image of that plan might have come during batting practice a few days before the final out of the season, with no fans in the stands and few paying attention.
Brandon Crawford and Mauricio Dubon stood at shortstop and took turns fielding grounders deep in the hole. Crawford showed Dubon how he positioned himself for a backhand snag and twisted his body to make a strong throw to first. It's a play Crawford has made look easy in his nine seasons in the big leagues. It's one Dubon wants in his arsenal.
"I saw that play while watching him growing up," said Dubon, a Giants fan since he moved to northern California as a teenager. "That's the first thing I asked him when I met him: 'How do you make that play?'"
The two spent a few minutes alternating throws as a couple of veteran coaches looked on and smiled. One of these years, it may be the 25-year-old Dubon making that play for the Giants rather than the 32-year-old Crawford. More likely, they'll team up together next year to form a strong defensive duo in the middle of the infield.
Of all the finds this year, Dubon, acquired at the deadline from the Brewers, might have been the most exciting. He is young enough that there's still plenty of untapped potential, but savvy enough about the game that he's ready to play every day right now. Dubon is as likely as any current Giant to be part of the next true contender at Oracle Park, and on Opening Day next year, he may find himself once again sharing an infield with Crawford, Brandon Belt and Buster Posey as the core looks to recover from a disappointing 2019.
"We're going to continue to challenge Mauricio," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said. "He's going to have to come to spring training and earn that spot and there are still things in his game that he has to work on and refine like any young player, like any player coming up to the big leagues for the first time, but there's a lot to be excited about in terms of just his ability to put the bat to the ball, to limit strikeouts, to put the ball in play, hit with power. He showed some exciting stuff in the field, as well.
"We're going to continue to challenge him, and as we did this year and as I imagine we'll do a lot next year, we're going to create competition at these spots and guys are going to have to earn their roles and their playing time. He's no different but I'm really excited about the job he did this year."
Dubon hit .279 in a 28-game audition, with an OPS+ of 99, four homers, and five doubles. Defensively, he looks ready for either middle infield spot, and the staff was thrilled with the way he battled through at-bats and showed a strong two-strike approach. The Giants would like him to get stronger and felt the bat was knocked out of his hands at times, but that should come with age and more time with the big league training staff.
The competitiveness is something that can't be taught, and Crawford and Ron Wotus, who coached the infield, both spoke about how eager Dubon was to learn. Wotus was supposed to do infield drills with Dubon on the Wednesday of the final week, but the Giants ended up playing 16 innings the night before. When Wotus showed up the next day he decided to give the rookie a break, but Dubon was there, asking for additional ground balls.
Earlier in September, cameras caught Dubon and Posey having a long conversation in the dugout. Dubon said Posey taught him a lot about "how to be a professional and how to go about your business."
Everything happens for a reason in life. I was in July crying why I wasn't getting a shot, what else I needed to do, God always had a plan for me. Now I get to play for the team that I love in the city that I love with the guys I grew up watching 🙏🏽 https://t.co/Zir72M6ldv— Mauricio Dubon (@Mauriciodubon10) October 27, 2019
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The education will continue all spring, with Dubon coming in as the favorite to earn a starting job at second base. As he sat at his locker late last month and thought about how far he had come, Dubon smiled and shook his head. He's ready for what's ahead of him.
"Oh yeah, oh yeah -- I'm excited for next year," he said. "I keep messing with the guys in here, I'm like, 'Damn, I wish we had one more month to play.' It's going to be fun next year. You know what to expect and I'll work hard to stay here."