You may have noticed I’ve been splitting my time between covering the San Francisco Giants in Arizona and monitoring the San Francisco 49ers’ free agency exploits. Baseball is a much gentler sport than football in one way that is clear (baseball doesn’t necessarily shorten one’s life expectancy unless one becomes addicted to smokeless tobacco). One way that’s not quite so obvious is during cut days. When a football player is released, there is no safety net. Some move on and get picked up both other teams, but many come face to face with cruel reality. Most baseball players who are cut during Spring Training still get to play baseball, just not where they hoped.
More baseball in smaller venues with less luxurious travel and less money became the immediate path for 21 players today, who were either optioned to specific minor league teams or reassigned to minor league camp. The list:
Reassigned to Minor League Camp:
Tyler LaTorre (a late addition to this list)
Optioned to Minors
Jake Dunning (Triple-A Fresno)
Chris Heston (Triple-A Fresno)
Daniel Otero (Triple-A Fresno)
Sandy Rosario (Triple-A Fresno)
Ehire Adrianza (Triple-A Fresno)
Nick Noonan (Triple-A Fresno)
Roger Kieschnick (Triple-A Fresno)
Juan Perez (Triple-A Fresno)
Edwin Escobar (Single-A San Jose)
That leaves 38 players still on the Spring Training roster, but after committing 7 errors in 15 games and not hitting all that much, there’s another player we can knock off the list of players who have a realistic shot at making the Opening Day roster:
The Giants may choose to play around with these numbers at the beginning of the season and adjust them as they see fit, but let’s assume they keep two catchers, six infielders, five outfielders and 12 pitchers. Brett Pill will start the year on the disabled list after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus yesterday in San Francisco. Eric Surkamp is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. That leaves 35 players for 25 spots. Here’s how it looks to me:
Catchers: Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez
Note: Sanchez has been dealing with shoulder soreness ever since playing winter ball and was a late scratch before yesterday’s game against Team Japan. If he starts the year on the DL, the Giants could either choose from Guillermo Quiroz (MLB experience, good defense, no bat), Jackson Williams (good defense, no bat), or Johnny Monell (decent bat, passed ball machine). They could also check the waiver wire to see if Eli Whiteside becomes available for the 97th time in the last six months.
Mid-March prediction: Quiroz has played in parts of eight seasons in the Majors. Sparingly, but he has played. I don’t think it looks good for Sanchez. Lingering shoulder problems rarely just vanish. Quiroz is probably the guy here unless Sanchez can play through the pain.
Infielders: Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, Joaquin Arias, ???
Note: It’s between Tony Abreu and Wilson Valdez now, the battle between the old guy and the mystery man who the Giants still find intriguing. Abreu has played in part of one game all spring, but he’s on the 40-man roster. Valdez is a dependable glove at every position, but hits about as well as Ryan Vogelsong.
Prediction: The Giants seem to want Abreu to be the Arias of this year’s camp, and unless he has a tear in his quad he’s probably going to get back on the field relatively soon. With Crawford able to handle playing nearly every inning, Scutaro’s shortstop experience and Arias around, it doesn’t make much sense to stick with a defense-only option like Valdez. I see Abreu making the roster out of camp.
Outfielders: Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Andres Torres, ???
Cole Gillespie and Francisco Peguero are the last two contestants. If two of the four locks to make the club were hurt, this decision would be easier. Peguero has hit better, run faster and is the better fielder. But he’s also only 24 and the Giants may be hesitant to stick him in a spot where he wouldn’t get much playing time. Gillespie, 28, isn’t on the 40-man roster (which currently includes 39 players). The Giants wouldn’t feel bad if Gillespie collected mold on the bench until the occasional pinch-hitting opportunity or start on a getaway day game in Cincinnati or somewhere when it’s 115 degrees, but it’s hard to get past the fact that Gillespie’s bat has been really, really quiet. Like, .160/.222/.160 quiet since March 1.
Prediction: This is based completely off the time I’ve been here, which is a ridiculously small sample size and Spring Training stats don’t matter and I don’t anything anyway … but last year the Giants seemed to make roster decisions based at least partly on who looked good in Arizona. That’s why Belt and Blanco made the Opening Day roster and Sanchez nudged out Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside. With Blanco not hitting that much and Torres getting thrown out on the basepaths whenever he isn’t puking or nursing an oblique injury, I have a feeling Bruce Bochy keeps “Pegs” around and gives him a true shot to compete for time in left in April. Then again, Gillespie could get hot and Peguero could freeze up over the next two weeks. As far as bench battles go, this one is the most interesting.
Pitchers: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, George Kontos, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, ???, ???
Note: Jose Mijares has an impingement in his elbow, so he isn’t a sure thing. That’s good news for Dan Runzler, who has looked strong in six innings (1.50 ERA, 2 BB, 5 K). Yusmeiro Petit is only around to pick up innings, plus he has no options remaining. He won’t be around for long though, as he is not very good. Ramon Ramirez has settled down with one scoreless inning each in his last two appearances, but that’s after getting knocked around pretty hard up until then. Scott Proctor hasn’t distinguished himself as being worthy of an MLB comeback, and Jean Machi … I don’t know, he’s just Jean Machi. Chad Gaudin leads the team in innings and has a pretty ERA (2.38) despite being pretty hittable (13 hits allowed in 11.1 innings).
Prediction: Mijares finds his way back to health and the Giants make Gaudin this year’s Clay Hensley.
Predicted final cuts: Monell, Williams, Valdez, Tanaka, Gillespie, Machi, Petit, Proctor, Ramirez, Runzler
At the end of the month, feel free to laugh at these predictions as you see fit.