Andrew McCutchen will be your Opening Day right fielder. Hunter Pence will be the starter in left field, for what will likely be his last season as a Giant. Austin Jackson was acquired and will get a fair amount of time in center…but will he be the starter?
There’s no doubt that the outfield was a piece of concern in the offseason, which is why the Giants brought in McCutchen, Jackson, and former Giant Gregor Blanco on a minor league deal. But two weeks into Spring Training, things are still unsettled.
Three of the roster spots are settled. But a lot of things are unsettled.
Let’s start in center field. We don’t even know who will start there. Jackson has been billed as a super-sub or platoon player there. With whom? This week, you’d think that would be Steven Duggar, who has gotten a ton of much-deserved press.
Why #SFGiants’ Jeff Samardzija is a big fan of Steven Duggar. https://t.co/0loA5YWWsC— SFChronicle Sports (@SportingGreenSF) March 4, 2018
That’s just one of the many tweets I could have embedded. Duggar is batting .412/.474/1.000, with three home runs and two stolen bases on three attempts. However, 6 strikeouts in 17 at-bats is concerning, and no one expects that power to stick in San Francisco.
All this stated, Blanco is having a fine spring. He’s batting .538/.588/.1.077 with two doubles, one triple and one home run in 13 at-bats. He also has three walks against three strikeouts. Blanco, of course is a known quantity, and knows SF. He’s not as exciting as Duggar, but he is very capable. But he is also 34, and has struggled the past two years. And in the background, Gorkys Hernandez is still there, batting .250/.438/.583 with a double and home run of his own.
At least one roster spot will go to one of those three. (And I’m completely discounting minor league free agent Eury Perez, who had a 4-for-4 day this week, but is not a real contender). Perhaps both open outfield spots will go to that group, as the Giants do like having flexibility. But that said, there is another group of outfielders to discuss.
Jarrett Parker is out of options. He struggled last year, and just started to come around when he broke his collarbone. But the second rounder is popular within the system. Popular enough to overcome a batting line of .190/.292/.476 (with the mandatory one home run, also a double and triple)?
Last year’s exciting young outfielder, Austin Slater, is batting .266/.353/.467 with, yes, one home run. Many were penciling him as the main corner outfielder backup, and some still discuss him as a center fielder, although he’s pretty much just an emergency option out there.
But let’s talk Mac. Mac Williamson found an offseason batting coach, one who helped Justin Turner emerge off the Dodgers bench. He’s batting .375/.375/.833, with three monster home runs and two doubles in 10 games. He’s not walking, but who needs to walk when you’re showing that kind of power? Williamson, who has one option year left, looks like a different player this year, and feels like that bench option with power that every manager loves.
(Chris Shaw is also having a fine spring, batting .350/.409/.650 after losing weight to better handle the outfield this season, but he’s almost certainly headed to Sacramento to start the season.)
Mac is obviously the most exciting of the three when it comes to hitting this year, but would the Giants expose Parker to waivers? Can Slater’s skill start showing through again? And they are all still competing with center fielders and their positional flexibility.
It’s a good thing that McCutchen and Pence’s jobs are safe….
Oh, wait, Pence is 1-for-9 this spring, with four strikeouts and no walks?
Well, you know and I know that Pence is the Opening Day left fielder. But if his struggles continue into the season…the Giants have a lot of players who will be eager and hungry. And, at least two weeks into spring, performing quite well.
Good Prospect-ish Impressions This Week:
Kyle Jensen - Jensen has become the power player of the spring for the Giants, as he now leads the team with 5 home runs for the Spring over 10 games. This week, he was 3 for 6 with three home runs, also collecting two walks and two strikeouts. On the Spring, Jensen also leads the team with 7 walks against just 3 strikeouts. All this said, Jensen still isn’t very likely to make the Major League squad. Last year, the role Jensen is playing was filled by Chris Marrero. But last year’s team had an opening in left field. Jensen is batting as a first-base only player, which is not a very valuable roster spot. That said, Marrero had 7 home runs in 29 games last spring, and Jensen is at 5 home runs in just 10.
I would love nothing more than a Gael making the team after al these years. Plus, he's a great guy. It would be a great story. But there's a reason he's almost 30 and has 17 big-league games. Don't fall in love with spring-training homers. #SFGiants https://t.co/wEJAdJy7gS— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) March 6, 2018
Ty Blach - Blach was the only starter who got in two starts this week, so it might be easier to put him up there. That said, his totals are 7.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB and 7 SO. Blach was also the first Giants starter to stretch into the fourth inning this week. Blach’s line isn’t perfect, with a .242 batting average against being a touch high in comparison with his other numbers, but he is making a very strong push to get one of those starting spots this year.
Chris Stratton - Stratton’s ERA looks better than Blach’s (0.00 vs. 1.08) and a lower batting average allowed (.222), although he’s given up four hits and two walks in five innings of work. With only two starts under his belt (his third will be Wednesday afternoon), Stratton has even a smaller sample size than Blach’s small sample size, but Stratton is doing what he’s been needed to do when he’s been on the hump.
Bad Prospect-ish Impressions This Week:
Andrew Suarez - Suarez was on that next tier of starting pitchers under Blach, Stratton and Tyler Beede, but this week showed how far behind the others he is at this stage. In two separate long bullpen sessions, Suarez pitched five innings, giving up six runs on seven hits and four walks, with just four strikeouts. Suarez was a dark horse to make the major league squad (at best), but his spring looks bad even in that context.
Trevor Brown - Brown was Buster Posey’s primary backup in 2016, and while he was pretty much the definition of replacement player, he was pushed out by Todd Hundley last season. With heavy competition added in Hector Sanchez, he has not done little to regain his major league spot. This week, he was 0-for-6 with a strikeout, walk, and sacrifice fly. On the Spring, he’s got a .091 average and a .305 OPS. He’ll keep getting playing time just because he’s one of the catchers.
Tyler Herb - Herb’s appearances have been limited this Spring, and he got into just one game this week, but it was a doozy. He face eight batters, with the only out coming via strikeout. He gave up two hits and one walk. The other four batters? Two were hit by Herb’s pitches, the other two reached on errors. Herb’s numbers could have looked worse, since he left the bases loaded, but luckily none of those runners came in to pile on.
About Those Home Runs
Money quote from Bruce Bochy on all the Giants’ spring home runs— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) March 3, 2018
“I don’t know what it means.”
Thanks, Bruce. Much appreciated.
In the first two games of the week, the Giants continued a disturbing trend of the Spring with seven errors in those two games alone. Whatever the coaching staff said after that seemed to have mattered. The next three games (including a pair of split-squad games) were errorless, and they only had two errors in all over the five games of the week otherwise.
In all, the Giants have 21 errors this spring, which leads (trails?) all teams this Spring. But still, defense is a big topic around the Giants this spring.
Getting Ready For Spring
Get a load of the March view of the Giants’ farm team in the mountainous, icy reaches of….Sacramento?
Meanwhile, in Sacramento... https://t.co/s5fam9v9Go— Giant Potential (@giant_potential) February 26, 2018
I’m thinking that Sacramento heard Giants broadcasters talking about how weirdly cold it was in Arizona, and said “Hold My Beer”. Which, honestly, is a pretty Sacramento thing to do.
Mock Draft Madness
Although the MLB Draft has become a bigger deal in recent years, we’re not quite up to the point where we’ll see daily MLB mock drafts like we expect from the NFL and NBA draft hype. But we will see more and more mocks, and sometimes, quantity leads to …well, I won’t say less quality, but certainly more interesting viewpoints
From the day after the 2017 MLB Draft until recently, pitchers Brady Singer and Ethan Hankins had been the top two names almost every time. Especially after Hankins had a minor shoulder issue earlier this spring, that wasn’t going to continue. But this mock draft put out by Alex Giobbi of Minor League Madness feels a bit more like madness. At least it’s an accurate name.
It has three LHP going up top, with Shane McClanahan going #1, and Matt Liberatore going to the Giants at #2. Liberatore isn’t unrealistic for the Giants, but it gets crazier not long after with Ryan Rolison going #3. The only position player going in the Top 6 is SS Brice Turang at #4. Hankins and Singer are #5 and #6 respectively. Other names that have been discussed by our readers with the Giants are further down. 3B Nolan Gorman is at #7, SS Nander de Sedas is at #11.
Draft Slot Update
One more tidbit on the draft talk, with some free agents continuing to sign, the Giants’ 2nd round pick is now #44 overall. The furthest that pick could fall is to #47, assuming Mike Moustakas (Royals), Alex Cobb (Rays) and Greg Holland (Rockies) sign with new teams. The Cardinals (who made a QO to Lance Lynn) and the Cubs (who could lose Jake Arrieta) would only receive compensation picks between the second and third rounds. It’s been reported that Lynn turned down 2 years, $20 million from the Twins. There’s been some rumors that Moustakas could return to the Royals, but also rumors he could go elsewhere.
Garrett Williams Pipeline Interview
We’re not the only ones looking at prospects this spring. MLB.com has been going around the various camps and talking prospects. Jim Callis interviewed Garrett Williams, the Giants 7th round pick from 2016 and quietly one of their better pitching prospects. He talked about that one World Series game where he struck out 17 batters, and some of his development. It’s worth a read.
Monetizing Spring Training
My personal vibe, nothing more, is that star players are fed up with their practice time being monetized as spring training has become big business. And after this frozen free-agent winter, they’re feeling a bit emboldened. And if so, know what? They have every right. https://t.co/Uhs5FvWRhH— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) March 3, 2018
This kind of came from nowhere, but a quick thought from my uneducated head. The word choice for monetization echoes the commentary about the NCAA, and it’s a little hard to bring those concerns for Major Leaguers, who even on a minimum salary make more than enough to make baseball a year-round job, even if the wording in the contracts focus only on Major League Games for measuring pay.
That said, Minor League players are not paid for Spring Training. They get their rooms paid for at what is sometimes described as a 2-star hotel (this varies from team to team), and a stipend for meals that I last heard was $15 a day. But their salaries of a couple-thousand a month does not kick in until April. They also do not get paid for the offseason. They deserve more than that, especially if you want them to stay in shape.
I don’t want to speak for anyone out of turn, but I’m sure I’m not alone in sending my best thoughts and prayers to Tim Lincecum after the death of his brother, and that follows best wishes for him trying to restart his baseball career with the Rangers. The emergence of Tim Lincecum and his Cy Young years represented a change of guard, from the Bonds years to what would be a World Series Dynasty. I will never not like Tim, and not be thankful to him for what he did for Giants fans.
Giants agree 'in principle' to three-year extension with KNBR, possibly saving 'The Sports Leader' in the process: @BASportsGuyhttps://t.co/EJOrfr2kzi— The Athletic (@TheAthleticSF) March 2, 2018
Yep, this is the paid sports news site.
Still, a very interesting read by the guy known as Bay Area Sports Guy. The media landscape is changing around everything, but particularly sports. I’m very interested in how all this is changing, and so should you. For all the things that baseball’s advanced technologies have done right, online streaming still is an afterthought. I can’t believe that the non-KNBR Spring Training Broadcasts have minutes of silence between innings. Not commercials, nothing. As a fan, I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth (though when I tune in and don’t hear anything, it’s hard to tell if the stream is between innings or not working.). As a journalist, I can’t believe they haven’t made something happen to monetize it.
And that’s before the idea of streaming the games on video, and the ridiculous blackout restrictions that STILL exist. (Because Hawaiians can easily get to Giants and A’s games. And living in Iowa still results in 6 different team blackouts.)
The Giants deal with KNBR is small potatoes, and doesn’t hit all the topics I’ve mentioned. But it is very status quo. I wonder when we’ll start to see the media world change and get more in line with online. Sure, the At Bat app handles it now, but I expect it’ll change more and more.
NOT a Managerial Prospect
Chris Berman (guest) manages Giants in loss to Dodgers: https://t.co/jdozcmykNY via @sfchronicle— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) March 5, 2018
Last year, Will Ferrell made the big celebrity cameo. This year, Chris Berman in a less big one (in terms of scope).
Let’s take bets now: Who will be the 2019 celebrity cameo in Spring Training? If the Giants win the World Series this year, I suggest Taylor Swift.