One of the newest Orioles is an accomplished minor league hitter with power who has gotten just 72 at-bats over two seasons in the majors. He’s a former hockey player who grew up a diehard Red Sox fan living just outside of Boston. And even though he comes from the San Francisco Giants, a club across the country, he has ties to the Orioles. He can’t wait to reunite with some of the club’s players.
Chris Shaw, a 27-year-old, lefty-hitting outfielder and first baseman, was designated for assignment by the Giants on Nov. 20. Back in June 2015, they had drafted him in round one, No. 31 overall, out of Boston College. But after spending his entire pro career with that club, Shaw was claimed on waivers by the Orioles on Nov. 25.
Sometime shortly after New Year’s Day, he’ll leave his home in Lexington, Mass., and head for Florida to get ready for spring training. In the Baltimore clubhouse, he’ll see players he has previously played with.
“I actually know a good amount of guys that are or have been on the roster,” Shaw told me during a recent Zoom interview. “I actually lived with Ryan Mountcastle and Stevie Wilkerson in the (Arizona) Fall League in 2017. Played against DJ Stewart in the ACC and Richie Martin was on the Cape when I was playing there.
“It was awesome (in the AFL). I think Mounty was just turning 20 at the time and I was 22 and everyone else in the house - we had like seven guys there - we were all 22, 23. Mounty could not come out and partake in everything we partook in that fall league during that time. But it was fun experience living with those guys, so I’m excited to see them.”
In 2019, between Double-A and Triple-A for the Giants, Shaw filled up the stat sheet over 120 games. He hit .294/.360/.559 with 27 doubles, three triples, 28 homers, 94 RBIs and an OPS of .919. For his career on the farm in 524 games, he’s batted .279/.340/.520 with 109 homers and an .861 OPS.
He got brief chances late in the year with the Giants in both 2018 and 2019, and hit .153 over 72 at-bats. In the majors, he’s made 15 starts in left field and one at first base. In the minors, he’s made 232 starts in left field and 191 at first base.
He was the Giants’ No. 5 prospect in 2016 per Baseball America and was rated as high as their No. 2 in 2018.
Now he wants to show his new organization what he can do. It’s a fresh start.
“It’s something I look at really optimistically,” said Shaw. “It’s a new opportunity and it’s something where I feel like I’m going to be able to go in and show that front office and coaching staff what I’m capable of doing. It’s kind of something I’ve been hoping for a while now. You look at guys like J.D. Martinez and Justin Turner and these guys where things clicked later on in their career or the fact they got an opportunity a little later on. Those are the guys you look at and strive to be when you hit a point in your professional career.”
On his way to becoming a high draft pick, the kid born a few miles from Fenway Park had a big summer in the 2014 Cape Cod League when he led the league with eight homers. Many were tape-measure blasts that got him attention from the scouts.
“Prior to my sophomore summer when I went down to the Cape, I was kind of just known by the local scouts as a power guy that they tracked since high school or whatever,” Shaw said. “Had a good sophomore year at B.C. But that summer down the Cape kind of catapulted me into top 50 pick conversation.
“It was kind of a madhouse in a sense leading up the draft. You sit down with all 30 clubs and meet (front office) representatives. Once a week, I would have a three-hour slot and get as many (meetings) done as possible. There was a lot leading up to just playing the season and then I ended up breaking my hamate bone around April 1. Then there were a lot of question marks going into the draft. It was very nerve-wracking, but I was happy with the result and that was a really special night.”
Years before that, he would make the eight-mile or so trek to Fenway Park to watch his beloved Red Sox. He said he was not exactly like the Jimmy Fallon character in the movie “Fever Pitch,” but it sounds like it was close. And then he got a major thrill when the Giants played in Boston in September 2019. Not only did he get on the field at Fenway, but his hometown held a Chris Shaw Day at the ballpark.
“To take the field, not just be a spectator there, it was almost like a religious experience when you grow up there,” he said. “It is kind of like a cult - Red Sox Nation - when you’re growing up. It’s kind of crazy, I’m sure Orioles fans can relate. You’re a maniac in a sense and I was. I was that superfan growing up. But all my friends were. It’s incredible.”
Shaw said in recent seasons with the Giants he’s worked much more with analytics and data. He also has looked an O’s roster that already has several candidates at first base and corner outfield. Maybe it shows that the O’s liked him enough to still add him at spots where they already had talent.
“Anywhere you go in baseball, you will have competition,” he said. “I’m completely unproven and I don’t have a track record in the big leagues. Like probably other guys that are my profile on the roster have a history of hitting well at Triple-A. You like to come into any situation with the thought, ‘I’m competing for a chance here.’ That is all you can really ask for at the end of the day is to go out there and know the door is not shut the first time you step on the field. Nothing but optimism as far as looking at the roster and looking at all those things that are so far out of my control and in the future. I’m just really happy to be getting an opportunity to go play.”
Now, if he can make his way onto the Orioles roster, he could return to Fenway and again face his hometown team.
Check out my entire here with Shaw.