Bring Your Own Bat and Ball…
There might be a lot of grumbling this spring about Sabean not bringing in much of that ever-elusive “depth” he’s always talking about, but I will not be among that crowd. Do I know the Giants will be an improved bunch this year? Nope, I don’t. Do you? Not likely.
But I’ll admit that I’m downright giddy over the organization introducing its non-roster invites to MLB camp yesterday. You probably know the scoop by now… Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Ty Blach, Derek Law, Andrew Susac, Mac Williamson… they’re all coming. Joe Panik, he’s in too. With Esky Escobar, Kendry Flores, Gary Brown and Angel Villalona all on the 40-man roster already, that’s over half of the organization’s top 20 farmhands headed to play Cactus ball with the big boys. Add in Hembree, Kickham and Adrianza, and you’ve got arguably 70% of the top 20 in MLB camp, playing alongside Posey, Pence, Bumgarner, and Cain. The reinforcements are coming soon, ladies and gents.
Crick and Blackburn are headed to MLB camp after only two full seasons of pro ball, while Blach and Williamson are coming to the party after only one… let that sink in for a minute.
You can find the whole list of non-roster invites here, there’s 26 of them in all. Let’s sort things out a bit. Aside from the kids who have us foaming at the mouth, the Giants are bringing back a few former 40-man DFA’s in Dan Runzler, Sandy Rosario and Chris Heston. I really don’t know why Runzler is still in the organization… I thought Josh Osich would’ve been a nice look from the left side this spring. Oh well.
Sticking with the pitchers, Bochy’s kid and Santiago Casilla’s brother are coming back. The younger Casilla would be a nice story, coming back from some major arm injuries a couple years ago. Cody Hall was another notable name that probably deserved a shot, but the Giants went with the trio Jason Berken, Rafael Dolis and JC Gutierrez, all of whom have some MLB experience. Dolis is 26, with a fastball that once popped triple-digits, but you’d never know it from his stat line. I really don’t know much about Gutierrez, but he did appear in 53 games between Kansas City and the Angels last season. Might be someone to keep an eye on.
A couple of other thoughts on the pitching invites: Looks like Mitch Lively earned his spot with a nice winter ball campaign. Good for him. I think it’s a requirement that each team has one former MLB pitcher who’s looking to make a comeback in camp. That’s tall Kameron Loe for Los Gigantes this year. Finally, you may remember the three relievers the Giants signed a while back (Casey Weathers, Andrew Carignan, Adam Reifer). Of that bunch, only Reifer got the invite… maybe Carignan is still rehabbing his arm? Either way, Reifer is the longshot I’m quietly watching here. He throws hard, he’s from San Dimas (my mom’s hometown), and he allowed only 19 hits and 11 ER in 41 IP last year! Former Cards’ farmhand. Keep that guy on your radar, just in case.
On the positional side, you’ve got one headliner (Susac, Panik, Williamson) and a bunch of role players/long shots in each group. Obviously Guillermo Quiroz, Jeff Arnold and Ben Turner are in camp to help catch all those arms, but all three have pretty solid defensive profiles. Posey and Sanchez are the only two catchers on the 40-man right now, so those guys might want to make an impression… maybe there’s a spot open.
Speaking of making an impression, it’s pretty cool to see Mark Minicozzi and Javier Herrera, elder statesmen of the Flying Squirrels getting their due this year. Both are former indy league vets who clubbed Eastern League pitching last year. I’m sure Juan Perez has a decent claim on the 5th outfielder job, but I’m excited to see what Herrera offers out there. Baggs had a sweet story about Minicozzi’s path back to the organization. He (Baggs) kept calling the guy an outfielder, but Minicozzi actually spent most of the year playing infield in Richmond.
Brandon Hicks gets a look as well. Does he have the goods to beat out Joaquin Arias? I was hoping we’d get to see Mario Lisson, the former Royals prospect who’s hitting moon shots in Venezuela this winter. Only so many invites to a party of this stature though.
All in all, a pretty intriguing group I’d say. Who’s the next Torres, Blanco or Arias? Is there a Vogey in this group? There are a couple roster spots to be had, and some great stories to follow. One month until the battery-mates arrive at camp. Cactus League play is coming into focus. Good things are on the horizon, folks, and I sure as heck can’t wait to find out what’s in store.
(Lance Iversen/The Chronicle)