According to MLB.com and SFGiants.com reporter Chris Haft, the Giants will probably carry five outfielders. They almost always do, so it’s not like this would be a surprise or change in organizational philosophy. Five outfielders is sort of the default around baseball.
It says something, though, that the Giants are unwilling to commit to five outfielders.
Bochy noted that carrying four outfielders is tolerable, as long as one of the infielders who's seeking a backup role also can play outfield.
This is similar to the three-catcher debate, in that the outcome is mostly assured, but it’s February, and we might as well bring up the possibilities as long as they are, too.
Which players in camp can play both the infield and outfield?
He has exactly three games of outfield experience, a total of 20 innings. It all came in the majors.
It produced a highlight that’s obligatory at this point:
So it’s settled. Based on one throw, Tomlinson can play the outfield. Right?
Eh, not exactly. We didn’t get a lot of chances to see him break on fly balls, and there has to be a reason why the Giants didn’t play him in the outfield after June 1, or why they didn’t get him innings in the outfield in Triple-A. He’s included in this discussion because it gives me a chance to share that video, but I can’t think the Giants would really keep a fifth outfielder off the roster because they’re so comfortable with Tomlinson’s versatility.
This is a true wild card, an actual, honest-to-goodness infielder/outfielder, and it’s not like he’s just faking third base and left field. He can play shortstop and center field, which would make him just about the most versatile players in the organization.
It’s nearly impossible to find a detailed scouting report from him over the last two years, so all we have are YouTube videos.
Sold! He can probably play the infield, at least in that Kelby Tomlinson and Eduardo Nuñez kind of way, where he’s good enough to stand at shortstop for a couple dozen games if you need him to.
Edit: We have eyeballs!
@mccoveychron for what it's worth at this time of year, he looked really good at SS today ... intriguing guy— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) February 20, 2017
It’s much harder to find video evidence of him in the outfield, but there’s a reason the Giants put him on the 40-man roster immediately after signing him as a minor-league free agent. If the Giants went with Calixte as a hybrid outfielder/infielder, they could do something like this:
C - Nick Hundley
INF/OF - Calixte
INF - Conor Gillaspie
Wild Cards - Any two players they want
Michael Morse. A third catcher. A 13th pitcher. The loser of the Parker/Williamson battle. Jae-gyun Hwang. Anyone. Two of the above. Calixte serving as the default backup in center and short would let the Giants carry an extra infielder or outfielder and engage in whatever roster chicanery they have in mind.
Gordon Beckham and Aaron Hill? You know they’re tempted.
Hwang has never played the outfield professionally, as far as I can tell, but he’s willing to try new things to make the ol’ San Francisco Giants.
Hwang began his career as a shortstop, but isn’t considered a candidate to back up there. He also brought a first baseman’s mitt and outfielder’s glove to spring training.
Makes sense. It’s one thing if he goes out there and wallops five dingers against a B-team or two. It’s another entirely if he does the same while looking better than Aubrey Huff in selected outfield innings.
Reminder that Huff played 63 games in the outfield in 2010, and the Giants won the World Series.
Hwang seems like something of an underdog to make the roster, based on stray comments and his willingness to play in Sacramento. If he could be the fifth outfielder and spare infielder, though, he would allow the Giants to carry that third catcher or 13th pitcher they’re always dreaming about.
Slater hasn’t played second base since 2015, but we’re not talking about his long-term future. We’re looking for players who can fake it in an emergency, and he certainly seems like the perfect Giants random success story to bother the rest of the NL West. Slater also like the perfect candidate to hit .400 in the Cactus League and get the Giants playing 3D chess when it comes to the roster composition.
Or he could allow them carry that third catcher or 13th pitcher they’re always dreaming about.
Games started at shortstop, MLB career:
Morse - 50
Tomlinson - 4
Calixte - 0
Hwang - 0
Slater - 0
Makes you think.
I don’t think any of these players are in the lead for a backup spot, but a strong spring from any of them (offensively and defensively) could allow the Giants to get creative. The Giants will likely go with the loser of the Parker/Williamson battle and a dedicated backup center fielder like Gorkys Hernandez, Justin Ruggiano, or Slade Heathcott. But if they want to build a hyper-versatile roster, Calixte is probably their best chance, with the other three pseudo-Zobrists on the fringes.
It’s not likely, but it’s at least possible. “At least possible” is all a baseball-thirsty person needs right now.