More Spring Talk

It’s still winter at my house, but dang if I don’t have spring on the brain (almost every waking second) these days. Lots of people calling to the uncertainty facing the Giants as pitchers and catchers get ready to report to Scottsdale at the end of this week. I’m doing my best to steer clear of the negativity. I’m big on positive thoughts this time of year, folks. Personally, I’m excited to get this squad rolling. Lots of people to prove wrong this season, so let’s get to it!

We’ll keep this brief, but I wanted to mention a few things I’ve had on my mind lately. If you scan over to the right, you’ll see I posted some questions on Twitter earlier today (mostly so I wouldn’t forget them).

Question 1: How long is Vogey’s leash? It’s hard not to love Ryan Vogelsong because of what he’s done for the organization. His story is awesome, just plain awesome. But you either stopped watching altogether in September last year or you’re in some serious denial if you don’t remember his velocity dipping significantly down the stretch. A quick look at Brooks Baseball today showed what we all thought: Average fastball velocity of 92+ in September and October 2012, dropped to 87 in August and 88 in September 2013. WBC hangover? Rust from the injury time off? Only he knows, but I’d sure feel a lot better about some 90’s this spring. Something a little more like this…

Back to the question. If Vogey just doesn’t have it anymore (which is a very relevant question in my mind), does he still get the 5th spot in the rotation? What if Yusmeiro Petit or David Huff out-perform him? At their peak, Vogelsong is head and shoulders better than those two. But I don’t think we’re talking about peak performances anymore.

My take: I think Vogey would have to really, really fall apart (or never actually get going) to lose his spot this spring. The Giants wouldn’t have promised him the job if they didn’t think he could do it. Worst case scenario, he starts the year on the 15-day DL to see if the kinks come out, with Petit taking the #5 spot. Best case scenario, Vogey comes back well-rested and makes us forget this conversation even happened.

**Update**: I posted this question to Baggarly in his weekly chat this morning. Also told him I had a hunch the WBC played a much bigger role than we anticipated. His response: “I agree on the WBC. I think he’ll be given a bit of leash because that’s Bochy’s MO. But it’s all relative to the alternatives. If someone else like Escobar is blowing off doors, then I think Vogelsong’s leash would be shorter.” I’m starting to get the impression that Baggs’ thinks pretty highly of these kids. He mentions Escobar and Derek Law a ton. Said he’s most excited to see Law’s power curve in camp. Hearing things like that gets me pretty excited, as I believe Baggs’ views are often a strong reflection of the organization’s.

Question 2: Will there be a surprise competitor in the bullpen race?

There are at least two relief spots open heading into camp, maybe three if you include Petit and the long-man role. At this point, there are too many guys to count that are vying for these spots. I’ll have some profiles up in the next couple of weeks so we can keep everything straight. The obvious favorites (in my estimation) are Jean Machi and Heath Hembree, but George Kontos and Jake Dunning will get some long looks. Machi looks like he’s slimmed down, and he’s been working away as the closer for the Venezuelan team in the Caribbean Series.

Ok, maybe he hasn’t slimmed down THAT much…

So, any surprises? Everyone’s talking about Derek Law. I’d love to see him break through. Love it. But I just don’t think the front office is ready to promote a kid from High-A to the bigs in the span of one offseason. The two guys I’ll be paying special attention to this spring are Rafael Dolis and Adam Reifer. Dolis throws very hard, but the statistics don’t match the scouting report. Reifer was on the verge of breaking through with St. Louis a couple years ago, and allowed 19 hits in 41 innings pitched at AAA last season…yeah, reread the first part of the sentence and let it sink in. He’s also had a tough time controlling the strike zone as a pro. I found a grainy video of him, must have been from the minors a few years back. Tops out around 93 with the fastball – I’d heard he throws harder than that. Either way, he’s my sleeper this spring.

Just for fun, I’ll throw Erik Cordier’s name into the ring as well. Just how hard does he throw?

That’s it for now. We’ll get to some more topics later in the week, as we wait out the final days until the beat writers start hitting us left and right with camp stories. As Chris Berman likes to say, “tick-tick-tick, tick…”