The Giants are back at the Cove… tonight!
Sure, nothing up to this point counts, but it’s still a worthwhile exercise to look back on the month of baseball that consumed us in Arizona. I thought it might be kind of fun to give out a few awards from Giants spring training, giving us a chance to look at some of the best (and worst) performers in camp.
As a team, the Giants finished 17-10-1, one of the better records among Cactus League and all NL teams. That matters diddly, but it sure looks better than, say, getting knocked around the block all spring. While the rotation came out of the gate very strong, it was the offense that picked up and carried the team (while the pitching really struggled) through the final couple of weeks in the desert. That was culminated by three Giants big flies in yesterday’s Cactus League finale, including a supposedly mammoth grand slam from the unheralded Jarrett Parker, and a walk-off job by in-shape Hector Sanchez. Of course, the one time I REALLY want to watch some game highlights, the cameras weren’t rolling yesterday! If you’ve been able to find any footage of that Parker HR, please, let us know!
Anyway, onto the individual awards…
Camp MVP: Buster Posey
Happy birthday Buster (for real)! Posey was dialed in at the plate almost from day one of camp. He finished with a .419/.479/.581 line in 43 AB, with 2 HR and only 2 K. The highlight was an opposite field grand slam against San Diego on MLB Network. Buster’s been a pretty slow starter throughout his short career, so let’s hope this spring will jumpstart his season. Buster Posey, MVP… doesn’t that sound nice?
Camp Cy: Madison Bumgarner
No-brainer here. Just like Posey on the offensive side, this is what you want to see from your ace going into the regular season. The numbers might not be real, but the sliders and curves certainly are, and there were some nasty ones coming from the left hand of Bumgarner this spring. He didn’t give up an ER until his 5th and final start, and was mostly unhittable throughout Cactus League play. A 1.19 ERA in the hitter-friendly desert? He’s only 24, but the established vet looks ready for his finest year yet.
These three were in direct competitions for roster spots, and they stepped up to the challenge. Hicks was the biggest longshot of them all, but he and his .381/.491/.762 (3 HR) spring mark look like they’re headed for a spot on the Opening Day roster. It’s one thing when you’re hitting dingers against minor league scruff, but when one of the pitchers you take deep is Clayton Kershaw, people take notice.
Perez had to play even better to win a spot when the Giants signed Tyler Colvin before camp. Although no official announcements have been made, it would seem that Perez won the job in a landslide. We know all about his defense, but the kid hit .311/.391/.574 in a team-high 61 AB. He hit 2 HR, stole 4 bases, but his most impressive stat to me is the 7 walks he drew this spring. If he can show that kind of plate discipline during the regular season, he could be a very useful 5th OF.
Adrianza was the surprise player over the first few weeks of camp, hitting for extra bases while looking like a seasoned vet in the field. His bat cooled off for a while, but he was able to get his average back to .255 (47 AB) by the end of Cactus League play. He hit his 3rd HR of the spring last week, a pretty impressive feat for a kid who showed no power to speak of in seven minor league seasons. He’ll be on the squad on Opening Day, and I think the Giants are excited to see what they have here. Nice work, Ehire.
Pence: 58 AB, .362/.393/.724, 5 HR – Hunter hit some absolute moonshots this spring. Here’s one of the most powerful RHH in baseball, even though he’ll never get the credit of the elite players. Think he’s going to slack off after signing the biggest contract in his life? Think again!
Sandoval: 54 AB, .278/.328/.463, 3 HR – Pablo showed up in great shape and was an impact player in almost every spring training game he played. Will he be a Giant next year? I can’t answer that, but he does look ready to have a big year in 2014.
Sanchez: 47 AB, .340/.347/.532, 2 HR – For all the talk about Sandoval’s offseason conditioning, Hector came into camp looking very good and was a steady performer all spring. His walk-off HR in yesterday’s game was the cherry on top. If he’s healthy this year, his presence should really help this team.
Hudson: 19.1 IP, 3.72 ERA, 10 BB, 12 K – Hudson had some bumps along the way this spring, but I thought he fared just fine. He remained healthy, and that’s really all you can ask for a 38 year old pitcher this time of year. I’m excited to see what he brings to the table this season.
Huff: 8 IP, 1.13 ERA, 1 BB, 6 K – Acquired from the Yankees just before camp opened, he got a late start this spring due to some shoulder stiffness. Once he got going though, Huff looked very comfortable out there. DrB has raved about his changeup, and I can see why after watching a couple of his outings. He looks to be a second swing-man option in the pen, and he may start some games if Vogelsong falters.
I will say this: If I listed out all of the players that could have been included in the “good” and “bad” categories this spring, there would definitely be more falling on the good side. But not everyone had impressive springs.
Lincecum: 19.1 IP, 6.52 ERA, 5 BB, 11 K – Timmy is a tough one to evaluate. When a guy has been in as many spring camps as he has, you really don’t get too hung up on the numbers. But obviously, you’d like to see him fare a little better. I think the most disheartening thing about the whole ordeal is that you’re really not blown away when you see an ERA like that from Lincecum anymore. He still has high aspirations for 2014, and the Giants need him to pitch better.
Cain: 15.2 IP, 7.47 ERA, 6 BB, 13 K – Cain was more inconsistent than he actually was bad. He didn’t allow a run in his first two Cactus League starts, but got hit pretty hard in his final two. He snapped off a few devastating curves in one of the outings I saw. Again, hard to evaluate a guy like this in spring.
Casilla: 7.2 IP, 7.04 ERA, 4 BB, 3 K – There’s something about middle-relief pitchers in spring training. They don’t ever really seem to pitch very well. Javy Lopez is a notoriously poor performer in March, but he always seems to fall right back into place once the season begins. Casilla is coming off an injury plagued year, and his spring performance wasn’t one to write home about.
Colvin: 31 AB, .194/.219/.419, 2 HR – Colvin had a rough spring. His deal was voided by the Orioles, and he just couldn’t really stay healthy enough to show much with the Giants. He only had 6 hits, although 2 of them went the distance. I’m not sure his options situation, but I don’t see him making the team out of camp.
Do I really need to delve into this group? Scutaro only appeared in one game; Vogelsong posted a 9.00 ERA in 19 IP; Abreu hit .179 before the organization released him; Romo (while not using his slider regularly) was hit harder than just about any other pitcher in camp.
There were quite a few exciting prospects in Giants camp this spring. Most of them were sent packing very early, but these two stuck around and earned plenty of praise from the coaching staff. Law is headed to San Francisco with the team, and may still earn a 25-man roster spot. If you had to pick two prospects whose stocks were really on the rise, it’s hard overlook Law or Susac, whose HR against Texas a couple weeks ago was Buster Posey-esque. I also considered Edwin Escobar for this group, but Esky didn’t quite make the cut.
The “Best Story”: Mark Minicozzi
You could also call this the “camp stud” award. Minicozzi didn’t have the best spring statistically, and he was eventually cut from major league camp. But he certainly opened some eyes with his play at the plate, and he took nearly all of the playing time at 1B when Belt was out with the flu. I love this guy, and he’s got one of the coolest stories around. For you to be sitting in the stands one day, then signing a professional contract the next – that takes skill, but whole lot of charisma and determination. I think he’ll make his MLB debut this year, be it in September when rosters expand, and maybe even earlier if there’s an injury. Moral of the story, folks: don’t underestimate the “old” guys schooling young pitchers down in AA!