Final Exhibition Cancelled; 25-Man Roster Set

No, we don’t have baseball today, as the final tune-up game of the spring was cancelled due to rain. That’s probably a good thing, and here’s two reasons why: 1) The Giants seem to have left their bats in Arizona (not a problem, they’ll be there to pick them up on Monday!). 2) The toilets are overflowing in Oakland. Yeah… Billy Beane, men amongst boys, right? Ok, I shouldn’t knock Billy for that – stuff like that really falls on the owner. But come on! You’ve won two straight division titles, and you can’t even get a fully functioning plumbing system? I know one man who wouldn’t stand for that kind of nonsense… his name is Brian. 

Anyway, enough about that. No baseball today, but we do have a finalized 25-man roster! There weren’t any major surprises, but I’ll admit I really wasn’t sure who would get the final bullpen spot (in Jeremy Affeldt’s absence). Turns out it went to JC Gutierrez, who I tagged with a whopping 25% chance of making the Opening Day roster back in February. Just goes to show, you NEVER know what might shake out during spring training. Gutierrez pumps a 95 mph fastball and has big league experience, so he’s the guy for now. The real question is, how long will he last?

No, I wasn’t shocked that Gutierrez got the final spot over Law. I’m not really all that bummed either, to be honest with you. Law has the goods, as he proved to the world over the past month. When he does get to the Show someday, he’ll be a fun one to watch. But he’s never pitched above high-A, and most guys just don’t jump from the California League to the Major Leagues overnight. So Law was assigned to AA this afternoon, which I think surprises me even more than the news of him not making the MLB club. I thought for sure the organization would want him close by in Fresno. Richmond is a long way from the Bay Area, but Sabean has already made it clear that he’d jump a guy straight from AA if he thought the player was ready… so this isn’t a setback for Law in the least.

Speaking of the minor leagues, Conner Penfold apparently has the lowdown on the Giants farm clubs, and has rosters posted for all 4 full-season affiliates over at his site. No official rosters have been released yet, but these definitely look like the real deal. They also make my early spring roster projections look somewhat silly, but I was prepared for that. You can be darn sure I’ll be working on some reaction pieces to those minor league squads in the next couple of days.

Anyway, you shouldn’t be surprised to know that Brandon Hicks and Ehire Adrianza made the Opening Day roster. That was all but settled when Scutaro had another flare-up in his back and Tony Abreu was released. For the record, I gave Hicks a 2 in 10 initial shot at making this club about 6 weeks ago. Silly me. Hitting .400+ will definitely up your odds.

You might have been a little shocked to hear that Abreu is now headed to Fresno. Apparently he cleared waivers last week.

What about that final outfield spot, you ask? Juan Perez had that bad boy locked up three weeks ago. Tyler Colvin is headed to Fresno, while Roger Kieschnick was DFA to make room for one of Hicks or Gutierrez. I wonder if Roger will clear waivers and end up in Fresno too. I honestly couldn’t tell you. But jeez, it just goes to show how quick your window can close. He’s a good athlete, and I think he’ll have a MLB career at some point. How long it lasts, well, that obviously might not be up to him.

So here you go, 25 men to don the orange and black on Monday evening in Phoenix. Take a good, long look at this group. Does it inspire confidence? That’s your call. We all have our own opinions. But I can tell you this… that group will definitely change as we move throughout the season. Heck, it may only look like this for two weeks. We really can’t tell at this point. As long as the core players don’t change (get injured), I think the Giants will be in fine shape.  Either way, spring training is over folks, and another regular season is here. We made it!

Giants (25) 

C (2) Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez

IF (6) Brandon Belt, Joaquin Arias, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Hicks, Ehire Adrianza

OF (5) Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, Michael Morse, Gregor Blanco, Juan Perez

SP (5) Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong

RP (7) Yusmeiro Petit, David Huff, JC Gutierrez, Jean Machi, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo

*From Joe Ritzo: 12 of the 25 are former San Jose Giants. That is so impressive to me. Let the experts put the Giants farm system in the bottom third of the league all they want. When nearly 50% of your MLB roster played at your high-A affiliate, you’re doing something right. The Giants know it, I know it, and you know it. What else is there to say?



Cactus League Wrap: The Cove Chatter All-Camp Awards


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.

The “Eye-Openers”: Brandon Hicks, Juan Perez, Ehire Adrianza

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.

The Good: Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, Hector Sanchez, Tim Hudson, David Huff

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.

The Bad: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Santiago Casilla, Tyler Colvin

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.

The Ugly: Marco Scutaro, Ryan Vogelsong, Tony Abreu, Sergio Romo

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.

The “Kids Who Can Play”: Derek Law, Andrew Susac

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!

2014 sf giants, spring training, arizona, photo

Tuesday Morning Catch-All

**Edit: Kevin Frandsen is officially a free agent: Just how desperate ARE the Giants for a middle infielder?

Only two more Cactus League games left… wow, where is the time going?! I really don’t feel like this spring has drug on like some in the past, but maybe that’s because we haven’t actually seen the full starting lineup play together yet. The Giants seem like they’ve been on a mission from day one of camp, as they’ve trimmed their roster frequently and aggressively. We’re down to what, 29 guys now? At the moment, odd men out appear to be Law, Gutierrez, Colvin and Scutaro… with Scutaro obviously starting the season on the DL, and Brandon Hicks getting the final roster spot.

Andrew Susac gets the start behind the dish in today’s game, which happens to be Bumgarner’s final start of the spring. As Baggs tweeted out earlier, this is a great opportunity for Susac, but I also wonder if the organization isn’t trying to show the kid off a bit. Yes, Posey is playing 1B today, and Hector Sanchez is getting a day off, but the timing is a little odd in my opinion. I’m probably just reading into it more than I should. Either way, today should be a great chance for Susac to show off his spring progression.

Another note from the game today: Mike Morse is playing LF and batting #2. That’s pretty significant to me, as Morse really hasn’t spent much time in the field this spring. He swung the bat very well against the Angels yesterday, but you really have to wonder if he’s healthy enough to play every day at this point. Between Morse, Scutaro and Pagan, the Giants seem like they’ve been babying a few of these guys so far. After last year, we definitely don’t need anyone going down before the season even starts, but you have to wonder if the rust will carry over into April. In Scutaro’s case, what was even accomplished in 2 AB this spring?

Getting back to Morse… Baggs had a story up last night about options for the #2 spot in the order while Scooter is out. Belt, Morse and Crawford were a few of the names thrown around. I think he mentioned Arias as well. Morse got the nod yesterday, and they’ve penciled him in there again for this afternoon. Now I certainly don’t know everything in this world, and I would defer to Bruce Bochy’s knowledge of his players 100% of the time… but I really don’t see Morse as a good fit for #2 in a lineup. Yes, he can be a high average guy when he’s healthy, but he’s never had a great OBP. I watched quite a few Seattle games last year, and the dude is definitely a hacker. To me, Belt seems like a much better fit for the #2 spot than any of the others in consideration.

What else is on tap today? How about the “Sandoval Talks,” as I like to call them. Look, this is a very touchy subject for people. It’s a fanbase divider, without a doubt. Pablo is a fan favorite, and a genuinely likeable guy. But come on, is the organization really supposed to just give him any amount of money he wants? The comments from his agent about training 24/7 and never having weight problems again are laughable, but I guess that’s what an agent is supposed to say.

I want to make this clear: I am a big fan of the Panda, and I would be sad to see him go. But the organization has to stop shelling out major contracts at some point, especially for a player who’s been very inconsistent for the past four years. Believe me, I know there are 100 valid arguments to make in both parties’ favor at this point, but I’m not sold that Pablo Sandoval is a $100M player yet. I do have a caveat though: if the organization really has no desire to get creative in replacing Pablo at 3B (i.e. shifting Buster/Crawford/Susac), then I guess you might as well pay the man… because you’re going to have one heck of a time finding steady production from the free agent market. But, if you’re willing to explore every possible option, including the obvious internal switches, then hold your ground. If Panda wants the big money, he’ll have to earn it… and maybe, just maybe he’ll help get you back in another pennant chase while he’s earning it.

Ok, it’s probably time to wrap this thing up. Looking back, it feels like I’ve taken on a very negative tone in this post. That was not my intention, and I apologize if you’re a bit put off by it. But there have been a few things on my mind lately, so I figured it was time to share them. Believe me, I’m VERY excited for the season to get started. I’m also jacked for the minor league seasons to open as well. I want to start talking prospects again!

Just one more thing… Speaking of prospects, I do have a quick bit of news to share. Joe Ritzo was reporting on the Giants High-A squad yesterday in Arizona, and he tweeted out the lineup. Apparently Chris Stratton had a very nice outing, inducing tons of grounders in 5 solid innings. But something else caught my eye: Joe had “Chavez” listed as the Giants DH. I sure as heck couldn’t remember any Chavez from the farm system, so I asked Ritzo about it. Turns out it’s Matt Chavez, an independent league guy the Giants picked up over the winter… He’s a Burlingame kid, former USF Don, and was drafted in 2010 by the White Sox (as a pitcher). He’s 25, so definitely not a young guy. But a pretty interesting story no less. Here’s the link Joe sent me, give it a look if you have time. Could we be looking at another Daniel Nava story here?

I think that’s about all for today. Thanks for checking in. Before you know it, the Giants will be playing at AT&T this weekend. That, my friends, is a very good thing.

Decisions, Decisions

There will be plenty to talk about, as we get closer to the Giants leaving (Thursday) and returning to Arizona (Monday). So I’ll try to keep this one short, but I wanted to jot down a few thoughts and do a little weekend roundup.

First, the big news: Tony Abreu is out, put on release waivers. The Giants had to eat a quarter of his salary, or something like that. Big whoop. I did have some hope for Abreu. When you look at his minor league pedigree, you see a guy who could be an asset at 2B from an offensive standpoint. But the guy just isn’t consistently healthy or productive. That seems to have plagued him his whole career. Regardless, Adrianza definitely looks to have the inside track for the primary reserve IF spot now.

I imagine will see two more roster moves before game-time tomorrow. The first will be Scutaro to the DL. If the Giants hold true to their word, then this weekend was supposed to determine Scooter’s fate. Well, I didn’t see him out there, unless he was hiding. The second move should be Brandon Hicks on the 40-man. With Abreu off, that’s an easy switch. We’ve talked about this already, but Hicks should be the guy to grab the extra roster spot if Scutaro is DL’d. Then it’ll be a 3-way battle for playing time between Arias, Adrianza and Hicks at 2B as the regular season gets going. Maybe there’s a trade in the works to patch things up? I doubt it.

The other big decision resides within Bruce Bochy’s bullpen. Heath Hembree is out, while Derek Law is technically still in. If you listened to Bochy during his in-game interview with Kruk & Kuip on Friday night, it sounded pretty clear that the coaching staff wants to carry guys who can go multiple innings in relief, at least to start the season. That bodes very well for Yusmeiro Petit and David Huff, who are both out of options, and both happened to pitch lights-out on Friday.

Speaking of lights, I don’t know if anyone else caught that tweet from one of the beat writers Friday night against Oakland. It was something to the extent that the lighting in Scottsdale was less than ideal. It was pretty apparent to me that the hitters weren’t picking up the ball well at all (on either side). When Petit blew an 88 mph fastball by Yoenis Cespedes, it was all the proof I needed. I’m not trying to make any bold statement here, but it’s just another reason why you have to take spring training stats with a grain of salt. Both Petit and Huff helped their causes that night, regardless of the circumstances.

So, it would seem that there’s really only one bullpen spot up for grabs with a week to go until the season starts. As it stands, the Giants will likely open up with the core four of Romo, Casilla, Affeldt and Lopez, plus the righty-lefty swing combo of Petit and Huff, who should actually add some versatility in April. If both guys pitch well, that’s great. But both are out of options, so keeping them both on the 25-man initially seems like kind of an extended tryout to me. Maybe they give it a few weeks, and if one is floundering they can let him go in favor of a guy like Hembree.

Who gets that final bullpen spot then? I would guess Jean Machi, but George Kontos, Dan Runzler and Law are technically still in the running. Personally, I’d go with Law. Get a little funky youth in there! If not, we’re looking at a big time veteran bullpen, but I think that will be ironed out as the year goes along.

I’ve gotten a little long-winded again. Let’s wrap it up. Lots more to talk about this week, as I said. I’ll try to get to the Pablo talk, as well as a little pre-season prediction nonsense. I don’t know about all of you good people, but I’m sure ready for Opening Day. Tried to watch a couple innings of the Australia game last night, then thought better of it. But hey, at least the regular season is underway!

Say it Ain’t So, Marco

Word on the street is Marco Scutaro is “50-50” for starting the season on the DL, and the Giants are going to make that decision by the end of this weekend. I can’t even begin to tell you how shocked I am by this news… just kidding. The only way this was a surprise to you is if you take everything the coaching staff says at face value. Most of us around these parts don’t, and I think we were all prepared for the possibility of Scooter breaking camp on the DL. My question is, are the Giants prepared to replace Marco for the first (who knows how long) part of the season?

If Scutaro can’t go by Opening Day – and I’m guessing he won’t – it’s looking very likely that 2B will be a carousel of sorts. Who gets the first shot? Two weeks ago, I would have told you that guy was Ehire Adrianza, hands down. But Adrianza has cooled off pretty significantly with the bat since opening up camp on a tear. My money is on Joaquin Arias at moment, with Adrianza and Brandon Hicks or Tony Abreu seeing some time as well.

To me, it makes perfect sense to give Arias the first look at second if Scutaro is out. The dude isn’t going to light the world on fire, but I think he holds his own out there. Obviously, his greatest value in the past has been subbing in for Pablo Sandoval in late innings, but Pablo really hasn’t shown me any reason to believe he’ll need to be subbed out this year. It’s one thing if the Panda gets hurt, but as long as he’s healthy, he’s a 9-inning guy at the moment.

So, what does the Opening Day lineup look like, sans Scutaro? Here’s my guess:

Pagan CF

Belt 1B

Sandoval 3B

Posey C

Pence RF

Morse LF

Arias 2B

Crawford SS

That’s a lineup I’m perfectly fine with. Bochy has hit Belt #2 in almost every one of the games he (Belt) has played in this spring, and I’m almost certain that’s where he’ll be in Scooter’s absence. That should be a nice spot for Belt, but if he can’t hack it, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Crawford get another shot there as well. He’s looked pretty good in past stints in the 2-hole. Heck, maybe Bochy would even think about switching Pablo and Belt in the order… I can’t think of many 2-hitters better than Pablo when he’s hot, as it seems he is this spring.

The other big question for me at this point is, how much will we see Scutaro on the field this season? I’m sure my take is a little different than some, but I honestly don’t care if he misses the first half of the season. I really don’t. When did Scooter have his biggest impact as a Giant? 2012… down the stretch. When did Freddy Sanchez have his greatest impact? 2010…down the stretch. Edgar Renteria, remember him? Dude played 72 regular season games in 2010, the final year of his contract. If the core players in this offense stay healthy (Posey, Pence, Sandoval, Belt), and the starting pitching rebounds, I’d much rather have Scutaro back, well-rested, for the stretch run than watch him lumber around in pain all season. Can the offense hold up without him? I certainly think they’ve got enough thump in there right now, but you obviously wouldn’t want any of the other key guys to go down.

Ok, let’s wrap this up. We’re about 10 days from decision time, and that infield position still looks like it’s up for grabs. If Scutaro hits the DL, it’s two spots… With 3 guys vying for those spots, the staff will have to ask themselves how much they trust spring numbers. At the moment, it’s Hicks sitting pretty at .394 (33 AB), Adrianza cooling to .194 (31 AB), and Abreu not showing much at .179 (39 AB). Do you trust this group? Is it time for a trade? My guess: Scooter hits the DL, Adrianza and Hicks get big league jerseys, Abreu hits the road. Arias starts the opener. It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out from now until then.

Afternoon Prospect Talk

Sorry for the long(ish) delay in posts recently. I’ve been feeling a little under the weather, and my mind really just hasn’t been that focused on writing lately. I’ve still been watching and listening, however, as we’ve had a few opportunities to see the Gigantes on TV over the past week. As we speak, the skipper and his green St. Patty’s Day cap are out to present the lineup… teaser, Marco Scutaro is in there. Two weeks until Opening Day, will Scooter be ready to go?

**Scutaro doubled down the line in his first AB. Looks a little stiff, but nothing wrong with the ol’ man’s bat.

Tyler Graham and Jarrett Parker are also in the lineup against the Angels today. This could be a nice opportunity for Parker to show something with his bat.

We seem to have hit the lull of Spring Training. Problem is, there seems to be a new hitter dinged up every day. Scutaro, Pence, Morse, now Pagan. At some point, you’d like to see the club run out its “projected” everyday lineup before the season begins. I’m not saying I’m alarmed or anything at this point, but it’s definitely a situation worth keeping an eye on.

Ok, let’s talk about the kids. released its Giants Top 20 list today, and I have to say it looks much better than it has in recent years. Of all the major prospect rankings, I usually take MLB’s with a grain of salt, as it always seems like something is off. Now, though, with the combination of Mayo, Cahill, Callis and Pleskoff, they seem to be right on cue.

First 5: Crick, Escobar, Mejia, Susac, Arroyo – Hard to argue with the “big 3” at the top, but Susac’s progression is evident. I’m not sure any player’s status was boosted this winter as much as Cool Andy’s.

Next 5: Blach, Stratton, Blackburn, Williamson, Law – Look at the love for Blach! I’d love to see Mac sitting top 5 on the mid-season list, but he’ll have to do a lot. And how about Law? I’m telling you, I deliberated for so long this fall in giving Law a top 10 spot… thought I’d be laughed off the block. Look at him now!

Final 10: Hembree, Gregorio, Agosta, Panik, Ryder Jones, Brown, Kickham, Osich, Mella, Flores – Gregorio’s stock seems to be on the rise. I’m not sure if Brown or Kickham will make the mid-season update, as I’m looking for Matt Duffy and Luis Ysla to find their way in. Still, this is a nice group, and even MLB said it: this might be the deepest crop of pitchers in the majors.

Callis added a “bonus prospects” section on his blog, to round out at top 25. So the bottom 5 looks like this: Kieschnick, Perez, Adrianza, Bandilla, Cody Hall. Steven Okert also made it as a “deep sleeper” in the system, or a first-man-out kind of deal. Personally, there are a handful of guys I like more than these bonus players (Duffy, Ragira, Villalona, Stephen Johnson), but I think this should be further proof to some of us that the Giants have some very interesting players farther down in their system than what meets the eye.

Finally, let’s talk about Susac, who I haven’t had a chance to comment on after his standout performance last week. One day left in big league camp, the kid gets his first start and puts on an absolute show. The home run was something to behold, and I had literally just said to myself, “ok, 2-0 count, let’s see what he does here…” Michael Kirkman serves one up, KA-BOOM.

There have been a few folks comparing Susac’s bat to Posey’s lately, and I don’t think they’re too far off. That was my impression when I first caught Andrew in the AFL a few months back. The stances are almost identical, but it goes beyond that. Just a quiet approach at the plate, similar leg kick, level inside-out swing, and the ability to take the ball to the deepest part of the park. Buster is obviously a rare talent, but I think Susac is giving us an idea about what he can do at the bat when he’s healthy. I don’t think he’ll ever hit .300, but I do see a 20-HR or two in his future.

Another catcher who Susac reminds me of: Mike Zunino. That home run off Kirkman on Thursday? Very similar to some of the moonshots I watched Zunino hit in AAA last season. Gets ahead in the count, looks for something up, and just destroys it. Easy to say, hard to do, but you see what’s happening here. I’m comparing Susac, a 2nd round pick, to a couple of guys taken among the top 5 picks in the draft. Susac and Zunino have a long way to catch Posey, but I do think both of those guys could have solid MLB careers. For Susac, it’s all going to be about staying healthy.

Updated Camp Battles (Part 3): Bullpen

But first, let’s play a little catch-up on the last few days…

Monday: L Cubs 3-2 | 5 perfect innings (7 K) from Matt Cain, who’s on a mission to get back to the top this year. Rough game by Tony Abreu, who committed a throwing error and a mistake on the basepaths.

Tuesday: W Reds 8-5 | The bats came out, Buster’s 3-run blast leading the charge. Ehire Adrianza kept it going, hitting a right-handed HR.

Wednesday: W White Sox 4-3 | Hector Sanchez plays 1B, the beats all write about it, people freak out… Positional flexibility is a good thing to have. Nice day for Hector, starting the winning rally in the bottom of the 9th. Noonan tied it with another big double; Arias won it with a single. 

Today: The Giants face Texas under the desert lights, their first evening game of the spring. Andrew Susac catches Ryan Vogelsong, and it sounds like Joe Panik and Bryce Bandilla will be on the bench. Susac was reassigned to minor league camp yesterday, but Bochy wanted to get him a start before he (Susac) left camp.    

Bullpen battle: Two middle-relief spots still up for grabs, and I wouldn’t say anyone has necessarily run away with anything yet. Machi is probably a safe bet for one of the jobs, but the other one looks wide open at the moment. We’ll do this post a little differently than the previous ones, as there are still quite a few guys contending. Instead of trying to project the odds, we’ll just look at each of the players left in camp at this point. I’ve tried to keep up with all the recent cuts, but please let me know if I’ve added or left anyone off the list.      

Jean Machi: 4 G, 4.1 IP, 4.15 ERA, 4 H, 0 BB, 3 K | Pre-Spring: 75%

Outlook: Machi’s spring numbers aren’t the shiniest, but Bochy has used him in save situations three of his four outings. He’s earned the save all three times, and I’d think he’s still a frontrunner for a roster spot.

Heath Hembree: 3 G, 2 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1 H, 2 BB, 2 K | Pre-Spring: 65%

Outlook: It was brought to my attention on DrB’s site that Hembree hasn’t seen much action lately. That being said, I would think he’s in line to pitch tonight. He’s had two good outings and a terrible one so far. Entering camp, I thought he had the inside track at a roster spot. I’m not so sure anymore.

George Kontos: 4 G, 4 IP, 4.50 ERA, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 K | Pre-Spring: 55%

Outlook: Not the best performance in camp, but not the worst either. I guess I’m just not that impressed with Kontos. If he doesn’t improve some during the final weeks of camp, I have a hard time believing he’ll get the spot.

Derek Law: 2 G, 2 IP, 0 ERA, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K | Pre-Spring: 40%

Outlook: Law hasn’t been used much in game action this spring, but the Giants are definitely still keeping an eye on him. I’d love to see him win the job, but I still think Fresno is the Opening Day landing spot. He’ll be a Giant at some point this year, though.

Jake Dunning: 4 G, 4.1 IP, 2.08 ERA, 5 H, 4 BB, 3 K | Pre-Spring: 45%

Outlook: Unspectacular results from Dunning so far, but he’s certainly still in the mix for the final roster spot.

Kameron Loe: 4 G, 7 IP, 3.86 ERA, 9 H, 2 BB, 1 K | Pre-Spring: 25%

Outlook: I could have included Loe in the long-relief list, as the coaching staff has stretched him out a couple times. The most experienced member of this group is certainly getting a long look, and he seems to fit in well with the team, but I’m not sure it’ll be enough to win a job.

Erik Cordier: 4 G, 4 IP, 0 ERA, 1 H, 4 BB, 6 K | Pre-Spring Odds: 30%

Outlook: Cordier’s arm has been as electric as advertised this spring, but I think the staff would like to see him cut down on his walks before they make him a major leaguer.

Dan Runzler: 4 G, 3 IP, 3.00 ERA, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 K | Pre-Spring: 25%

Outlook: Runzler came to camp with some altered mechanics, but he still looked very wild in the televised outing I watched last week. 

Juan Gutierrez: 4 G, 4 IP, 1 H, 4 BB, 3 K | Pre-Spring: 25%

Outlook: Fellow NRI Rafael Dolis was out of camp quick, but Gutierrez keeps hanging around (at least to my knowledge). He’s yet to allow a run, but a walk an inning probably won’t cut it.

Adam Reifer: 3 G, 3 IP, 3.00 ERA, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 K | Pre-Spring: 20%

Outlook: I called Reifer my camp sleeper this spring. As far as I know he’s still in camp, but he’s definitely not very high on the depth chart. Like all of these guys, it’s so hard to get a read after only three or four appearances. That’s how it goes this time of year, and why the guys on these lists have to do anything they can to get noticed. 

Updated Camp Battles (Part 2): Long Reliever

Updated Camp Battles (Part 2): Long Reliever

This might be the most wide-open battle in camp at the moment. With the front runners struggling early, a couple of dark horse candidates have emerged as real threats to win the long-man spot.

Yusmeiro Petit:  12.60 ERA, 5 IP, 14 H, 1 BB, 2 K | Odds: 60% (80% pre-spring) | Trending: Down

Outlook: Petit had a job to lose this spring, and so far he’s heading that way. While it’s a very small sample size, he’s been very hittable in almost all of his outings. There’s still time to iron out the wrinkles, but I don’t think he’s guaranteed the spot by any means unless he shows some improvement.

David Huff: 9.00 ERA, 1 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 K | Odds: 50% (40% pre-spring) | Trending: Stable

Outlook: His odds of making the team have risen, but that’s more an effect of Petit’s struggles than Huff’s performance. The lefty made his spring debut over the weekend, and looked a little rusty after missing some time to shoulder stiffness. He’s nothing spectacular, but the Giants like his versatility. He’s definitely in the running for this spot if he can show some consistency in the next few weeks.

Edwin Escobar: 1.50 ERA, 6 IP, 1 H, 5 BB, 1 K |Odds: 40% (N/A) | Trending: Up

Outlook: Ideally, the Giants would like Escobar to start the season in AAA, a stop he’s never experienced before. That’s probably still his likely destination, but Esky isn’t going away without a fight. He stepped up big in his start against Clayton Kershaw last weekend, working through some control issues and only allowing one run over 3 IP. I didn’t even include him in my pre-spring battles series, as I honestly didn’t think he was in the running for this spot. He’s definitely in the mix now.

Jose De Paula: 0.00 ERA, 4 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 4 K | Odds: N/A (25% pre-spring) | Trending: Up

**Update: Assigned to minor league camp.

Outlook: Offseason waiver claim wasn’t really even in consideration for the long-man spot when camp opened (I had him in the bullpen group as a lefty specialist). Four appearances later, De Paula’s got some folks talking about him. He features a 92-94 fastball from the left side, as well as a hard breaking ball and a nice changeup. In the outing that I watched, he was filthy for two innings. Lefties are very valuable out of the bullpen, so watch out for this guy going forward.

Jason Berken: 4.50 ERA, 6 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 3 K | Odds: N/A (N/A) | Trending: Stable

**Assigned to minor league camp.

Outlook: Another guy who wasn’t really in the mix when camp broke. He’s not flashy, but Berken has MLB experience, and was solid in 3 IP against LA over the weekend. Like I said, this spot is wide open at the moment right now, and stranger things have happened. Don’t forget about him.

Mike Kickham: No stats | Odds: N/A (25% pre-spring) | Trending: Down

**Assigned to minor league camp.

Kickham hasn’t appeared in any Cactus League games yet, although I think he’s pitched an inning or two in “B” games. I don’t recall what injury had been holding him back, but I’m curious to see what his stuff looks like this spring. Sounds like he throws a cutter now, but you can’t win a job from the bench, so he needs to get going.

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