Now that the Giants are definitely not going to sign Yoenis Cespedes – they were always not going to sign Yoenis Cespedes, but since he's on another team, I can say it out loud without being accused of being a killjoy – their primary outfield options are set. The starters are Angel Pagan, Denard Span, and Hunter Pence, with Gregor Blanco acting as a fourth outfielder, platoon guy, injury replacement, and dapperness specialist:
But, as always, the Giants will probably want a fifth outfielder on the roster, because like a bunch of spoiled jerks, they want things like "roster flexibility" and "insurance" against "injury." Who are the candidates to be that fifth outfielder? Why, there are several!
Kyle Blanks will probably be on the Giants for several minutes this year before getting injured. There's no way to tell when those minutes will come – will he have a hot spring training and break camp with the team before injuring himself, or will he suffer a mild injury during the spring that lingers until he comes back in July, goes through an extensive rehab, and then re-aggravates it after less than a week? There's really no way to tell.
When healthy, Blanks has good power, though it seems like, considering his frame, he should be able to hit for more power than he does. He does not get on base especially well. He is decent defensively and an average baserunner. Overall, when healthy, which he almost assuredly will not be for most of the year (his career high in games played in the majors is 88), he is an excellent option for a fifth outfielder. One caveat: since 2013, he's mostly DHed, and when he's played the field he's generally been at first base. But if Travis Ishikawa and Michael Morse can play left, Kyle Blanks can too. Excelsior!
However, since the team will have to piece together a roster with entirely healthy players, we have to consider some other options. Options such as:
Mac Williamson put up a good year in the minors last year between AA and AAA, and eventually got called up to the majors when concussionmania started running wild in September. He's a similar player to Blanks in a lot of ways, really: while not nearly as injury-prone, he's a good all-around player and an excellent athlete with a strong frame that last year didn't lend itself to quite as many home runs as you would expect. Still, he's a fantastic defender with a great arm, he couldn't have performed any better in the AFL, and he's right-handed, which helps with roster flexibility.
Jarrett Parker's problem is strikeouts. There is no way around it; I emphasized then when I wrote about him last year, and even with his sparkling performance in September, they were still an issue. He struck out 32.5% of the time in AAA, and in the majors (SSS alert), that went up to 38.9%. I won't definitively state that it's impossible to succeed with that plate approach, but it seems, at least, fantastically unlikely. On the plus side, he's got great power, he's good defensively in the outfield corners, and he can fake it in center, though you probably don't want to start him there. But as a lefty, it's tough to see him getting the call before Williamson, if only because the fifth outfielder's primary job would be spelling Blanco, and Bruce Bochy would probably want a righty for that.
He can technically play the outfield! I don't want the commenters rising up in revolt because I failed to mention Brandon Belt at a point when I could have mentioned Brandon Belt, so here I am, mentioning Brandon Belt. Please don't hate me.
Grant Green plays thirty different positions, and one of them is the outfield. The Giants value that versatility, and he's always been at least a decent hitter in AAA. Although that hasn't translated to the majors, it has translated to his getting chances, and that could certainly happen for the Giants.
Lollis had a great year at three levels of the minors last year, got called up to the majors twice to be the last man off the bench, and was the last man off the bench. He's another lefty, also good defensively, and would presumably be used sparingly if at all in the majors. The team likes his makeup and all-out style of play, and is presumably wary of his spotty pre-2015 minor league track record. Lollis was DFA'd when the Giants acquired some guy no one remembers in August or September or something, but he re-signed a minor league deal, and will be an option for the team this year.
Gorkys! His name is Gorkys! He was pretty good in AAA last year for the Pirates and earned a call-up to the majors, where he received almost no playing time but was still very valuable in that his name was still Gorkys. Still, his overall minor league track record isn't especially impressive: a career .713 OPS and not a lot of stolen bases since hitting the high minors. Still, his name tool is off the charts, and that's gotta be worth something, right?
Moncrief is a refugee from the Indians system, where he spent two years as a pitcher in rookie ball before moving to the outfield. Since then, he's been a solid if underwhelming minor leaguer; he had a couple of nice years in A+ and AA before plateauing in AAA. Is it possible he figures things out and gets a shot in the big leagues? Sure! It's not especially likely, though.
Hunter Cole is the designated Deeper Prospect Pull Who Will Not Make The Team Anytime Soon But Did Well So I'm Covering My Bases Here. Between A+ San Jose and AA Richmond last year, he hit .301/.358/.474, and while his defense is reportedly a work in progress, he had a fantastic breakout year. After moving up to Richmond, he played exclusively outfield, so it looks like his days of playing second base are over. Hunter Cole: remember that name, unless he turns out to be bad, in which case file it away with Thomas Neal.
Other than not being an outfielder and not being close to the majors, Arroyo's a slam dunk here. There are a lot of ifs here: if Arroyo does as well in Richmond as he did in San Jose, if the Giants are desperate for another outfielder, and if they teach him to play a competent outfield, then this is a possibility. But since the Kelby Tomlinson-as-super-sub idea hit the snag of "Kelby Tomlinson isn't good at the outfield" in instructional league, Arroyo, while a dark, dark horse, has one more fairly improbably path to the majors this year.
Darren Ford is fast, and that's what he's good at. In our modern world, having a skill is important.
And there you have it: the candidates to be fifth outfielders for the Giants, from the very likely to the very unlikely. Will any of them be the next Barry Bonds? Probably. Let's all count on that,.