Spring training is about 1/3 of the way over (still 3 full weeks left until regular season play), and I’d say at this point we’ve got some major storylines taking shape. How about we do a little rundown, quick hits style?
Regulars Heating Up
Essentially every starting position on this club was secure heading into camp, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the regular players have come along slowly so far. We are beginning to see most of them in action now. Still no Pence, Romo or Cain, but Hunter is ticketed to be out there tomorrow as far as I know.
As far as performance goes, Belt is the only starter who doesn’t yet have a hit, though he’s only logged 5 AB. Posey hasn’t had one since the spring opener, but his swing has looked crisp in the few times I’ve seen him so far. Duffy has sure squared a few balls up, but he’s only got a 1-11 to show for it. The hottest regular to this point has been Joe Panik, who is now 6-16 with 2 doubles and a 3-bagger. Joe looked locked in on Tuesday night (the CSNBA game), no doubt a tremendous sight to see.
How’s that Rotation?
Bumgarner, Peavy and Samardzija have each taken the ball twice in Cactus play thus far, while Johnny Cueto was slapped around a bit in his unofficial Giants debut yesterday afternoon. Can I admit I don’t know as much about Cueto as I thought I did? I knew he varied his look from time to time, but I had no clue he had such a complex mound routine he has to maintain. Has he always been this way, or has he added more deception as he’s gotten older? Either way, there’s no reason to fret over a rough Arizona outing (Bumgarner had one against Cincy on Tuesday), but the pitch Cueto served up to Cargo sure didn’t look like it had much sizzle on it.
This isn’t meant to be a knock on Cueto at all. I’m still so excited about him in this rotation I can’t even explain it. But it’s clear he has bugs to work out just like everyone else. I tell you what, even if the Giants don’t quite get a vintage performance out of their $130M man this year, I’m really getting the feeling they could get one from their $90M man Samardzija. Shark’s performance against the Dodgers was downright dominant. The Giants haven’t had a starter who could hump their fastball up like that guy does in quite some time, and Samardzija sure looks like a guy with something to prove this year… Am I the only one seeing that already?
What about Cain? Do the Giants rush him back? My gut says no, and it really makes more sense not to. Regardless of the circumstances, you’re talking about a guy who just wasn’t very good last season. We know how much pride Cainer has, but the organization isn’t going to put him on a mound if they aren’t 100% confident in his health and stamina. Chris Heston tired down the stretch last year, so it’s easy to forget he made 30 starts. He was also the 2nd most reliable starter the Giants had in 2015, and from what I’ve seen of him early on, I think he’s out to show that he’s no one-year wonder. I, (like some others) say Cain starts on the DL, and Heston gets some time in the rotation.
This is the fun part of spring training. It’s even more fun when the spots guys are fighting for are of the reserve variety. So far, I have no clue who’s going to win those last bench spots, and it’s not because players aren’t stepping up. Quite the opposite, really, as the organization did a great job bringing in depth at every position this offseason in my opinion. Between guys like Kyle Blanks (who’s already homered twice in only 7 AB) and Grant Green (7-21 with 6 RBI), the competition for these bench jobs is pretty fierce. I don’t see that changing.
I’m no expert and so much could change by April, but here’s my early spring take on the roster battles. At this point I’d say Kelby has a job locked up. Finding playing time for him might be the hardest part once the regular season begins, but I think the team could break camp with him as their only viable middle-infielder on the bench and be just fine. It’s not like Adrianza is having a poor spring at all. It’s just that their skillsets are similar. Ehire might have the slight advantage on the defensive side, but it’s not enough to offset the fact that Tomlinson’s a much better hitter.
I’m loving the fact that no matter which way the Giants go, there’s really not a bad option out there. Ok, that may not be true. With so many potential reserve bats showing up, I’d be a little miffed if the team decided to open with an extra pitcher. I’m over short benches!
Who do I like for those reserve spots? Well, I’ll admit I’m actually partial to the idea of carrying 3 catchers. Trevor Brown looks like a fine defensive option, and Susac’s bat needs to be in the lineup more this year. I don’t think that’s out of the question. Otherwise, the guys who’ve stood out to me so far are Gorkys Hernandez, Jarrett Parker, and Blanks. I wouldn’t sleep on Green and his utility profile (I’ve always liked him), nor would I rule out Gillaspie. Even Ramiro Pena and Hak-Ju Lee are interesting players. Seriously, when’s the last time the Giants had THIS many options in camp?
Kids in Camp
Speaking of talented players in camp… anybody else notice that NONE of the prospects have been reassigned yet? We’re 10 games in and the full boat of them is still hanging around the big league camp. That’s not a coincidence; these guys can play!
Look, it’s no secret that Christian Arroyo is the #1 prospect in the organization. It is one of the best-kept secrets of the organization though that Arroyo is the next Giants homegrown star. I personally don’t feel he’ll be anything less. 20 years old, in his second MLB camp, and he already looks like a big leaguer. Krukow was comparing the kid to Jeff Kent on KNBR Wednesday morning. Think about that for a second. Where is he going to play? Heck, I don’t know, but those things do have a way of working themselves out. But I do believe, and you can quote me on it, that Arroyo will be a Giant in 2016 if he’s healthy. He’s that good.
I hope folks are starting to get an idea of why Mac Williamson is my clear cut #2 prospect in the system right now, though I’m sure know most of you reading already realize the kind of potential he has. Mac really doesn’t have a lot of minor league experience (only two full seasons) under his belt. What he’s done in that time is impressive. His .370 average in the AFL last year? Impressive. Through 9 games, he’s the team leader in hits and average, and he’s certainly making Bruce Bochy’s decision to keep him in Sacramento harder. Look, I’m not saying the Giants should just send Angel Pagan down the road. I have no beef with Pagan whatsoever. But I do believe Mac has the type of power to change a game (as he’s shown)… and the best part is, he’s not just a power hitter. At some point this season, he, like Arroyo, will force the front office’s hand. I’ll be excited for that day when it arrives.
It’s also hard not to be excited about the plethora of hard-throwing arms in Giants camp. I’m loving the positive press these guys (Black, Gardeck, Smith, Law) are getting. It won’t be long before some of them are right alongside Strickland and Osich in the big league bullpen.
A very underrated aspect of the system is the starting pitching depth that’s showing up in camp right now. Between Clayton Blackburn, Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, and Adalberto Mejia, the Giants have four arms ticketed for Sacramento that have all had some early success this spring. Many of us have been underwhelmed by Stratton so far in his career, but the organization continues to show faith in him. When you consider that Beede and Chase Johnson are likely headed for AA, with Sam Coonrod not far behind, you start to get a sense of just how much coverage the team has if guys like Cain and Peavy (or others) miss time. Not to mention, guys succeeding at the upper minors usually make for solid trade chips as well.
All right, I’d say that’s enough talk for one night. At the moment, things are looking up in Giants camp. If Pence gets out there tomorrow and proves healthy, things will be looking WAY up. We’ll check back in on all of these topics a couple weeks from now. For the time being, let’s hope for continued good health as the regulars continue to ramp things up. The bench battles will no doubt be worth following all spring too. As always, thanks for reading, and go Giants!