MLB

Spring Training battles: for Giants, there will be a few

I’ve been sick for several days, which has led to snoring. Snoring led to consecutive mornings when I woke up at 5 am, looked over, and saw that the other side of the bed was empty. Seeing my wife suffering on our couch led to me deciding to sleep on the couch for the last two nights, out of guilt.

Falling asleep on the couch while staying up and watching TV by myself late at night is the best, because I get to wake up at 3 or 4 am, walk 20 feet and do the rest of my sleeping in bed. But sleeping on the couch for a full night doesn’t carry that kind of allure. Space restrictions (about 5′ 6″ of sleeping length available, while I’m 6′ 2″) become too difficult to ignore. Lack of support and an unfamiliar space engender restlessness.

Last night a combination of those factors led to some time awake at some point between 3 and 4 am, and instead of curling up and attempting to clear my mind, or reading stuff on my phone to make myself tired like a normal person, I started thinking about the Giants’ Opening Day roster. Specifically, the pitching side.

The Giants are going to carry 12 pitchers all year, unless they suffer a rash of injuries that would probably knock them out of playoff contention. The 13-man pitching staff they used much of last year not only disgusted old-timers used to pitchers throwing complete games and bullpens consisting of four men, five tops, but it also crushed the bench. That led to every position player getting pushed to their limit, and probably caused some of the injuries we saw late in the season.

And as I counted them off in my head (this actually led to me falling asleep rather quickly, so it’s my new cure for insomnia), I realized the pitching staff is set.

Starters

Madison Bumgarner
Johnny Cueto
Jeff Samardzija
Matt Cain
Jake Peavy

Relievers

Santiago Casilla
Sergio Romo
Javier Lopez
George Kontos
Hunter Strickland
Josh Osich
Chris Heston

OK, it’s not exactly *set*. A guy like Ray Black could come in and knock Bruce Bochy over with 102 mph fastballs (not literally) if either Strickland or Osich completely lose their touch, but that seems pretty far-fetched since Strickland proved himself with a very strong 2015 season and the Giants need a second situational lefty in their pen. Likewise, if Clayton Blackburn out-pitches Chris Heston, he could get the call as the long man.

Sidenote: the Giants have a Blach, a Black, and a Blackburn. They’re all on the 40-man roster, and they’re all longshots to make the Opening Day roster.

But as far as roster battles go, Heston vs. Blackburn isn’t a reason to head down to Scottsdale. Actually, Spring Training battles aren’t why you should head to Scottsdale in the first place. People make the trip so they can wear shorts 24/7 and let loose for a few days. Most fans don’t even pay attention to the games, which makes the prices they pay to watch exhibition contests seem even crazier, but I’d never advise against going to Arizona in March. Partying in warm weather is the best, and never let Canadians tell you otherwise.

The Giants have 10 position players we can expect to see on the Opening Day roster, barring injury.

Catcher

Buster Posey
Andrew Susac

2015 would’ve/could’ve/should’ve been a breakthrough year for Susac, but he fell behind early with dental problems in Spring Training and never got rolling. But he’s still the overwhelming favorite to be the backup catcher, unless he misses a huge chunk of time in March and Trevor Brown hits .350 or something.

Infield

Brandon Belt
Joe Panik
Matt Duffy
Brandon Crawford

They’ll carry more than four infielders, but that’s the point of this post.

Outfield

Angel Pagan
Denard Span
Hunter Pence
Gregor Blanco

Again, these are the guarantees (as long as the Giants don’t trade Pagan in the next few weeks). That means the Giants have three spots remaining, and here are the candidates (from most likely to least).

Kelby Tomlinson

He had an OPS+ of 112 (100 is considered average) in almost 200 plate appearances while hitting .303/.358/.404, which makes him the favorite among this bunch to stick around next season in a bench role. The Giants would love it if he could play some outfield, but it doesn’t look like that will happen. However, he’s already the backup at second and short, and the Giants will see if he can handle third in a pinch. That’s probably enough for a guy with some speed off the bench who proved capable against Major League pitching.

Ehire Adrianza

Yes, he’s still around, because Crawford can’t play 162 games and capable defensive shortstops are rarer than rainouts at AT&T Park. However, he was almost guaranteed to make last year’s Opening Day roster, until Matt Duffy outplayed him (and just about everybody else) in Arizona. Adrianza shows just enough defensive range and minor league offensive skill to look tempting, while making just enough mental errors when he gets to the majors to end up in Bochy’s doghouse. It’ll be interesting to see if they give him another chance this year.

Mac Williamson

Ever since his 25-homer season with San Jose in 2013, he’s been the one shining hope among outfielders in the system. Tommy John surgery in 2014 delayed things, but he got a little Major League experience in September. The Giants could use a right-handed power bat off the bench, and Williamson is athletic enough to play either corner outfield spot.

Jarrett Parker

Despite looking like Babe Ruth for a weekend in Oakland, the Giants have to be wary of a 27-year-old who struck out 32.5% of the time in Triple-A and in 38.9% of his plate appearances with the Giants in 2015. However, if the Giants are set on carrying five outfielders, and they don’t bring in any minor league free agents of note, Parker could start the year on the big league roster if he comes through with some dingers in March.

Free agent(s)

The Giants always seem to pull a rabbit out of their hat in this category. Gregor Blanco is the perfect example of a minor league free agent signing that worked amazingly well. Current veteran free agents still available include David Freese, Juan Uribe, Casey McGehee (OK, bad example), Marlon Byrd, Chris Denorfia, Jeff Francoeur, Matt Joyce, Nate McLouth, David Murphy, Skip Schumaker, Grady Sizemore, Drew Stubbs and Shane Victorino. A lot of these guys will get signed over the next few weeks — the outfield market in particular is taking forever to shake out, as Yoenis Cespedes (who could join the Nats very soon), Dexter Fowler, Austin Jackson, Will Venable and Alex Rios haven’t signed. It’s not known whether the Giants would consider signing anyone else to a Major League contract, but some of these players who are holding out for starting spots could be forced to sign cheaper-than-expected deals to become bench/utility players.

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