Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
Really, this is the biggest story of the spring for the San Francisco Giants. So, uh, buckle up?
The Battle to be the Next Ryan Theriot sounds like the world's crappiest reality show. But it's a great reality show for us, and we live in a confetti-filled bubble anyway, so this can only be exciting. Drama! Intrigue! Betrayal! Peanuts! Whoa, yeah, peanuts, over here. Sweet. And I'm pretty jazzed to see who the Giants pick for the last spot on the roster because that's the kind of thing people talk about in February. Normal people in our abnormal world, anyway.
We'll have to start with the assumptions first, as usual. We'll assume that Andres Torres and Hector Sanchez are locks for the bench, as is Joaquin Arias. That leaves us with two open spots, and I'm about 85 percent sure that Brett Pill will be the anti-lefty deployment off the bench.
One spot left. Ooh, ooh, if this is really like a reality show, we should make them fight for something. The Golden Splinter, or the Amulet of Mike Benjamin. There should be challenges and obstacle courses, and one of them should have to make out with Flavor Flav. SFG Productions has a blank canvas, here.
The ostensible contenders for the 25th man on the roster:
He's out of options, and he's not without value as a lefty bat off the bench. He's only 25 -- not exactly a prospect, but a player who might not have hit his peak yet. Of course, he can't field. And that peak isn't so alluring to make a team lose their senses. But I think his strikeout-to-walk ratio and increasing home-run rate in Fresno make him at least interesting. As interesting as a guy with a .786 OPS in the Pacific Coast League can be, at least.
Gillaspie wins the "Most Likely To Be Traded For A 22-Year-Old Reliever In A-Ball Before The Season Starts " award, which is a pretty horrible award. The food at the banquet is leftover Arby's, and it's held at a Lion's Club. You probably don't want to win that award. Pretty sure Gillaspie doesn't have a choice, and at the end of the spring, there will be a team that can use a guy like him. Or he'll clear waivers and get to explore Fresno for a third straight year. Like, really explore Fresno.
There was a little confusion when the list of non-roster invitees was released and it didn't include Abreu. He wasn't on the list because he's on the 40-man roster because he was claimed off waivers, so the odds are excellent that we'll see him at some point this year.
As the permanent Theriot of 2013, though? Depends on what the Giants are looking for. Abreu is a switch-hitter, and you know that kind of thing batters their corn dog. And while he's not fleet afoot, he's almost certainly faster than Gillaspie. As a pinch-runner, a team could do worse. His experience at short gives him a leg up on Gillaspie because positional flexibility is an important thing. Abreu gives it to the Giants, and Gillaspie takes it away. The difference between them offensively isn't that great, either.
You've seen me rail against the Giants in the past because they've put too much stock in spring-training performances. When it comes to Tanaka, though, the alternative is Japanese stats. Tanaka hit .300 in a league in which the average team hit .252. What does that mean? Seriously, I have no idea. I'm asking you. What does that mean? Tell me, please.
So the alternative to parsing those stats is to see Tanaka dig in against A-ballers and non-roster flotsam, and pretend like you can make a big deal out of the results. That's probably a preferable alternative, really. The Giants will get a month to scout Tanaka, and they'll base their decision on what them eyeballs can pick up.
Of course, we're all pulling for Tanaka down at the home office, because he is saying all the right things:
Luckily, Giants bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu is fluent in Japanese and English, and was happy to interpret for a few minutes. I learned that Tanaka fell in love with the Giants in 2010, and actually attended Game 1 of the World Series as a fan.
""Lincecum, Lee," he said.
Sanchez. Uribe. KERBOOM. And now we're in a happy place. That's all it takes. Tanaka is a master of positive associations. He might have a P.R. person giving him these morsels to feed to us, they're so good. But they're effective, so I'm in. I'm a pullin' for Kensuke Tanaka.
There's a catch, though. From the same article:
Tanaka is willing to try shortstop, but it looks like he’s pretty much limited to second base – which might make him less than ideal for a utility job. Still, he’ll be given every chance to show he can play other positions.
With Arias already under contract and on the team, I'm not sure how crucial this is. It puts Tanaka behind Abreu, but ahead of Gillaspie. But Tanaka was rooting for the Giants in Game 1 of the 2010 World Series. So you can see how conflicted we should be.
For now, my uneducated power rankings go like this:
1. Tony Abreu
2. Kensuke Tanaka
3. Conor Gillaspie
But I'll keep an eye on it throughout the season to see what the scuttlebutt is. Possibly even the rumblings.