Spring Battles: Infield

Cactus League play begins for our Gigantes in three days, and there are five roster spots open by my estimation… 3 bullpen, 1 infield and 1 outfield. You already know all about the Belt’s, Pagan’s and Lincecum’s of the world. Those guys are locks, you just cross your fingers for their health this spring. We’ve also profiled most of the kids like Crick in camp; most of those guys aren’t competing for a spot this year anyway.

I wanted to take a look at the other guys in camp, the 40-man and non-roster invites hanging around the complex this year. These are the players competing for the last spots on the roster, and one or two of them always seem to come out of nowhere to turn heads. In 2011 it was Ryan Vogelsong. Two years ago it was Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias. Last year it was Nick Noonan. Who will it be this year?

We’ll start by looking the battle for the reserve infield spot, and we’ll work our way through the rest of the positions this week.

Tony Abreu | Age 29

MLB: 611 PA, .661 OPS, 6 HR, 2 SB/4 CS

MiLB: 3386 PA, .806 OPS, 53 HR, 81 SB/45 CS

Outlook: Abreu seems to have a heck of a time staying healthy, but he does have the ability to hold his own offensively when he is on the field. He doesn’t have Adrianza’s defensive upside or youth, but I think his bat gives him a slight leg up in this battle. He’s out of options, so he likely won’t be with the organization if he’s passed over for the roster spot. His injury history makes him a risky pick out of camp, but I do think the Giants prefer his offense to the rest of these guys.

Odds of Making Opening Day Roster : 60%

Ehire Adrianza | Age 24

MLB: 20 PA, .708 OPS, 1 HR,

MiLB: 2899 PA, .679 OPS, 17 HR, 107 SB/40 CS

Outlook: You’ve got to love the kid’s defense and athleticism. By all accounts, he’s one of the best defensive players in the organization. But the Giants are really in a tough spot with Adrianza. Ideally, you’d like one more year to see what he can do offensively, but he’s out of options as well. If he has to go through waivers this spring, he’d likely have a long line of suitors waiting to put in a claim. He showed a lot of poise in his September cup of coffee last year, but that was just such a  small sample size. A sub-.700 career OPS in the minors doesn’t give me a ton of confidence in his offensive abilities, but I just have a hunch that he’ll be a contributor on a major league roster at some point. For the Giants? I really don’t know…

Odds: 50%

Nick Noonan | Age 24

MLB: 111 PA, .499 OPS, 0 HR

MiLB: 2896 PA, .700 OPS, 36 HR, 75 SB/24 CS

Outlook: Noonan was last year’s spring training surprise, but he’s got to beat out Abreu and Adrianza this season to get back on the 25-man. I thought he looked good filling in for Scutaro in April, but the league seemed to figure him out pretty quickly. I’d say his odds of breaking camp with the big club this spring are pretty slim.

Odds: 25%

Brandon Hicks | Age 28

MLB: 98 PA, .493 OPS, 3 HR, 1 SB/0 CS

MiLB: 2668 PA, .770 OPS, 91 HR, 69 HR/24 CS

Outlook: He doesn’t have much for an MLB resume, but he’s shown pop and the ability to play all over the infield in his minor league career. The Giants could really use some power off the bench, so I think he’ll get his share of looks this spring. Ultimately though, he’s probably a safe bet to start the year as a utility player in Fresno, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he sees some action in San Francisco at some point during the year.

Odds: 20%

Mark Minicozzi | Age 31

MLB: None

MiLB: 3140 PA, .784 OPS, 65 HR, 16 SB/16 CS

Outlook: 2005 draft pick and a career minor leaguer. He was in indy ball for a handful of years before he essentially had a walk-on tryout with Richmond in 2012 according to Baggs in an article last month. He’s no spring chicken, but he seems like he can handle the bat. It’d be a pretty cool story if he made it to the bigs some day, but he needs to get his foot on the ground in AAA first. He’s a very interesting guy to keep an eye on this spring though.

Odds: 10%

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15 thoughts on “Spring Battles: Infield”

  1. Another possibility could be the Giants keeping three utility infielders and only one utility outfielder, thus keeping Adrianza, Abreu and Arias. Perez goes down to Fresno and can be called back up if an extra outfielder is needed.

    While I could see this possibly happening, the issue became more complicated with the addition of Tyler Colvin.

    1. That’s definitely something they’ve done in the past, but I would bet on them going with a 5th outfielder this spring. Sabean and Bochy have both seemed to indicate that they’d like a 5th guy who can provide some defense. That will be my next post.

      I really like Adrianza, but I just wonder if his time has run out. He didn’t exactly surge to the majors (7 years in MiLB), but he looked very promising last fall. Of course, it could brome moot if Abreu can’t stay healthy.

    2. I agree with Kyle, the Giants have said repeatedly that they are going with a fifth OF, so that they can go to Blanco for defense late in games for Morse. I would be quite surprised if they change their minds, though that h happened before, like getting Molina back.

      I now expect Colvin to get the job, he is a legit power bat off the bench, Perez is great defensely, but unproven bat. Perhaps they are saving him to replace Blanco whe he gets too expensive for his role.

  2. I Just do not see Adrianza not winning the other spot over Abreu. I think Abreu is there just in case Ehire flops for some reason.

    You cannot just look at Adrianzas overall numbers and dismiss his chances. He has been young for his level for most of his career, very young, so he has been overmatched both by age as well as experience. See how he did in his first season, playing against guys his age and experience, he made very good contact. And I do not hold his time in EL against him, most lower tier hitters struggle there, but his defense is so good, I see him as blanco type in the infield instead, OK bat with great defense, which is great off the bench.

    1. I’m certainly not dismissing him, but I do have questions about his bat. Like I said, I think he can have an impact on a 25-man roster, and I do like his game… but knowing the Giants, I really believe a healthy Abreu wins the job (granted he outperforms Adrianza this spring). If Ehire wants to go out there and win the roster spot with flying colors, that would be great for both him and the team… I just don’t know. At this point, I’d still give the slight edge to Abreu.

      1. Didn’t mean to say you were dismissing him. You have him at 50%, second among the competitors for the job, very close to the 60% you have for Abreu, clearly not dismissing him, I agree. Sorry about that.

        What I meant to say was that you can’t focus on his sub-700 OPS during his MiLB career because he was relatively young for the league in most of his seasons. That you have to take other factors into the equation of whether he’ll be kept.

        I feel I know the Giants a bit too, after following them for over 40 years now, and Sabean generally does not let good of prospects who have been top prospects without giving them extensive playing time with the big boy team. And for Ehire, that’s this spring. I think that if he hits well enough to satisfy them, and not necessary a good batting line, but giving good ABs at the plate, he’ll win the job, even if Abreu outhits him and stays healthy. I think it is his job to lose.

        And one reason I think that is because the lineup is that much more improved over where it was last spring, meaning that the Giants can be more focused on defense on the bench. Both Belt and Sandoval should be counted on to be much better hitters this year than last. Plus, now there’s Morse in LF instead of Blanco/Torres. And I think Crawford is ready to bust out too. That means less emphasis on offense.

        On top of that, last spring, we were not aware of how much Scutaro’s defense has dropped. And Arias isn’t that good a defensive 2B, he’s only positive at 3B. And I don’t know how good Abreu is, but since most descriptions of him focus on his hitting, I’m assuming he isn’t that good either. Adrianza was considered major league good when he entered the minors. Plus he considers 2B his natural position, having played there all the time when he was an amateur. He should be great there too.

        Lastly, I think it’s pretty clear that Scutaro is near the end of his career, and the Giants are looking for a cheap replacement among their prospects. Noonan and Panik are obvious choices, but neither has done well enough in the minors to claim the spot yet. Adrianza, at minimum, clearly looks to be great defensively at 2B, and he has had some success as a hitter when his age is close to the mean league age. Unless he clearly stinks up the joint, the Giants will want to keep him around in case our other options don’t step up and claim it.

      2. I hope you are right OGC. Adrianza makes much more sense for the Giants than Abreu in the long-term, but I just get the feeling they aren’t looking at the long-term in this regard… otherwise, why would they have tendered Abreu a contract, knowing full well he was out of options? It just doesn’t add up to me, but I’ve also seen a couple of comments from both Baggs and Pavlovic that would seem to indicate the Giants favor Abreu. Pavs even said something to the effect of, “the Giants already have one excellent defensive SS, why do they need another?”

        I agree with all of your points here OGC, and I guess that is why I feel this is far from an ideal situation the Giants have with Ehire right now. In a perfect world, they could send him back to Fresno if he wasn’t ready to face MLB pitching. But, maybe I’m way off base and he is ready… he certainly didn’t look overmatched in Yankee Stadium. I guess we’ll just have to see how this thing plays out.

      3. I agree, it is not ideal. And that contract was a question mark in my analysis, so that is certainly a point in favor of your point of view. I did see the beats favor Abreu as well, and while they do have more inside information than we do, I find that they play the “Giants favor vet” angle more times than I care to see from them. I think that is a bias that they collectively carry and that misleads a lot of regular readers.

        About Pav’s “we have an excellent defensive SS” statement, I counter that none of the advanced defensive metrics have recognized that, and the Giants according to reports I’ve seen, have their own advanced defensive metrics that they use. So Crawford may be good with his defensive wizardry, but bad at his fundamentals, I don’t know how else to interpret the stats, as I’ve seen him field too, it’s amazing.

        In any case, I refer back to one of my points above, that the the Giants lack an excellent defensive 2B, if he’s on the bench, he’s not there to replace Crawford, great defense or not, the Giants need a capable 2B backup and Arias don’t play the position well, and neither does Scutaro.

        Plus he’s a righty and Crawford a lefty who has trouble with lefties, so he could become a nice platoon pairing with Crawford if need be in the future (I’m guessing no, because I believe in Crawford’s bat, but Brandon needs to show it this season). All those I believe are strong points towards why Adrianza should win the position, along with the fact that Abreu hasn’t had a full healthy season.

      4. Also, there has been talk by Bochy that Scutaro could be getting the late inning replacement arrangement, like Morse, to keep him stronger by not wearing him down. Usually changes like that are for defense, and Adrianza is the only one of the bunch of no options left who plays 2B well defensively (presumably).

      5. Lastly, my conjecture on Abreu getting a contract revolves around Sabean’s statement that there is a shortage of such players on the market. Given that the Giants don’t owe him the full amount if they cut him by a certain point (I forgot when, but that is what I recall), it could just be cheap insurance (and even if not, under a mil is cheap insurance for the Giants) in case Adrianza totally flops or if he gets injured (it does happen as we all know). And if Ehire wins the spot, since there is a shortage, it should not be too hard to trade off Abreu’s contract for a low-tier prospect from another team who needs such a player. Or at worse, cut him and see what happens.
        But I don’t know any better than you do, just my thoughts.

      6. Thanks for the feedback OGC, I’m enjoying this back-and-forth. Your points about Ehire are well-documented. This really has nothing to do with our argument, but on a personal note, I had all but lost hope in Adrianza as a prospect until this season. I actually feel pretty foolish about that now, but I just didn’t see much to get excited about, regardless of his defensive abilities. What I see now is a player who – as you pointed out – was playing at advanced levels at a pretty young age, and showing pretty adequate on-base skills in the process. I guess it seemed to me that he had been in the organization for so long, he’d started to suffer some “prospect fatigue,” as I believe Shankbone calls it. Just goes to show, you never give up on a player with raw talent, especially when that player is still young.

        Whether he wins the roster spot or not, I do think Adrianza can have a nice big league career. Heck, Andrelton Simmons only hit 6 HR in his minors career, and he’s already hit 20 in the majors. You just never know how a player will develop once he gets to the Show.

        Deep down, I think I want Adrianza to win this spot. I want to see what he can do with the organization that’s brought him up. My gut just tells me that might not happen.

      7. Gotta agree with Kyle here.

        The Giants have always taken he attitude that they will put the best team on the field for this year and worry about future years in the future. While Adrianza is an underrated prospect and very intriguing, he is not what anyone would consider a top prospect or someone who is indispensable now or for the future.

        If Abreu is healthy and has a good spring, I expect him to be on the roster as one of two reserve IF’s with Joaquin Arias. Not sure where that leaves Adrianza, who is out of options, but I guess they will either try to sneak him through waivers or trade him. Maybe someone suffers a mysterious injury late in spring training?

      8. Honestly, that wouldn’t shock me. The early reports on Scooter don’t seem real promising… but you’re right, anything can happen in the next couple months.

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