Aubrey Huff

SF Giants’ 25-man roster decisions signal shift toward youth, offense

 

The Giants know they have the pitching to compete in the National League West. After announcing their Opening Day 25-man roster, it’s clear they want the offense to catch up.

Catcher: Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez

Eli Whiteside had an option left, which it seemed not many outside the organization knew about. He’ll go to Fresno. In the clubhouse he seemed to be taking it well, although it’s possible he already knew about the decision before coming into work today.

“That was really difficult. Whitey’s so well thought of, by all his teammates, myself, the staff,” Bochy said. “We do feel like we needed to get a little offense. We feel like the offense Hector could provide could help us.”

Chris Stewart was traded to the New York Yankees for right-handed reliever George Kontos.

“We did contemplate going with three catchers for quite a while,” said Bochy, who explained that Sanchez’s defensive improvement and offensive skills were the final factors that went into the decision.

In a somewhat surprising announcement, Bochy said Pablo Sandoval will serve as the team’s third catcher.

“I’m going to have Pablo catch a pen or two,” Bochy explained. “We don’t plan on catching Pablo, but he is the third catcher now. I have no problem putting him back there if I had to.” Here’s video of Bochy explaining Pablo’s (sort of) new role:

 

http://youtu.be/dIPUM0NVlfE?hd=1

 

Infield: Brandon Belt, Brett Pill, Ryan Theriot, Emmanuel Burriss, Brandon Crawford, Aubrey Huff, Pablo Sandoval

Pill’s going to be a right-handed bat off the bench more than anything else, tasked with improving the Giants’ chances against tough lefty relievers. After receiving the news this morning Pill seemed relieved and overwhelmed at the same time. He mentioned how he’d lost confidence this spring, and hadn’t gotten it back until receiving the news today.

I asked Bochy how much — if any — time Pill would spend this season playing third base or second base. Here’s Bochy’s response:

 

http://youtu.be/fn-pQYK6naE?hd=1

 

Another surprising part of the new makeup of this team: only three true middle infielders (and Ryan Theriot’s fielding wasn’t exactly impressive this spring). While Joaquin Arias came on late offensively and plays solid-to-great defense at every infield position, the Giants’ shift toward the offensive meant there was no room for him.

“Arias will be going to Fresno. He had a great spring. there was talk about him being on this club, we have him in our back pocket now in Fresno,” said Bochy, who noted that Arias would spend most of his time at shortstop, but would also play second and third.

Belt acted like he didn’t know his fate when talking to reporters at about 10:45 am in the clubhouse, but Bochy said he told Belt he’d be the team’s Opening Day first baseman on Tuesday night (when Bochy gave clues to reporters after the game against the A’s that Belt would probably make the roster).

Outfielders: Gregor Blanco, Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Nate Schierholtz

The Giants’ official release lists Huff as an infielder, but he’ll certainly see his share of time in left. Blanco’s contract was purchased by the Giants, a move that should surprise no one.

Pitchers: Jeremy Affeldt, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Santiago Casilla, Clay Hensley, Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez, Guillermo Mota, Dan Otero, Sergio Romo, Brian Wilson, Barry Zito

Dan Otero turned a brilliant spring into a roster spot. “We know we had Vogelsong coming back here soon,” Bochy said. “So we’ll have to make a change then.” Other than that, pretty much what everyone expected.

My biggest non-Falconer worry for this team, at least as it currently stands, is Ryan Theriot’s defense. However, while Theriot’s ability to catch throws isn’t exactly world-class that’s a pretty minor concern. And here’s the bright side (although this is just speculation on my part): if the Giants are only carrying three middle infielders, perhaps that means good things for Freddy Sanchez’s chances of coming back and contributing relatively soon. Again, I haven’t heard anything there.

The Giants’ offense in 2012 should be faster (Pagan, Blanco, Burriss) and a little more powerful (Hector Sanchez, Belt, Cabrera, Pill). Most notably, it should be quite a bit younger.

The average age of the position players on the 2012 roster: 27

The average age of the position players on the 2011 roster: 31

A lot of folks this morning were making light of how much attention was focused on the potential Giants’ reserves before Wednesday’s game, particularly as players like Pill, Justin Christian and others made their way in and out of Bochy’s office. In my opinion, this morning was absolutely thrilling and extremely fun to cover.

There’s a lot of attention on the way this franchise develops, builds and shapes a roster. Today’s announced roster was, in my mind, about as good as it could be after the Giants did almost nothing in free agency. With how aggressively they went toward youth and offense, I have a feeling this is going to be an extremely entertaining season (Pablo catching?!?!) — one that should end differently than the struggles of August and September of 2011, back when I first started seeing what life was like at AT&T Park behind the scenes. That seems like five years ago.

Will they get to the playoffs? We only have 162 games left to determine that fact, but one thing seems certain: the days of relying only on veterans is over.

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