By now we’re all well aware of the fact that the 2020 MLB season is going to be weird. There are oddities and quirks galore, from the 60 games, to only playing nine other teams, to — gasp! — a universal designated hitter, to starting extra innings with a runner on second base.
There are roster building oddities as well. Prior to reporting for a second Spring Training on July 1, teams get to select 60 players to make up what MLB is calling the “Club Player Pool.” It amounts to the 60 players that the team wants to use during the season, for practice or for games.
That essentially means the 40-man roster plus 20 or so people (adjusting for those who might be on the Injured List).
Now, here’s where it gets funky. The Giants can have 30 active players on their team when the season starts. On the 15th day of the season that number drops to 28. On the 29th day it drops to 26, where it stays for the rest of the year.
With the exception of three taxi squad spots, everyone not on the roster will be at the team’s “Alternate Training Site,” which I’m assuming will be the San Jose Giants facility.
At the alternate training site the players can have an extended spring training, workouts, and scrimmages, and stay ready should the Giants need them. From there, roster machinations continue as normal: while the team can pull any players from the 60-player pool onto the active roster, the player must be added to the 40-man roster. If the team signs or trades for new players, they have to replace others from the player pool.
So who will be in the player pool? It feels fruitless to try and predict the 60 players, so let’s instead look at some trends and things to expect.
But first, let’s hit get some context by looking at the 40-man roster:
Giants current 40-man roster
That’s 42 players. Beede, Garcia, and Moronta are all on the 60-day IL, meaning the Giants do have room to add one more player to the 40-man roster before they have to start kicking people off.
Garcia and Moronta are scheduled to return from their respective injuries in early to mid August, so they very well may be part of the 60-player pool. Beede, who had Tommy John surgery in March, certainly will not.
Now, onto the players not on the 40-man roster who we might see ...
Veteran Opening Day candidates
The most important names that aren’t on the 40-man roster are the the veteran non-roster invitees who are competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
The first name that jumps off the list is Pablo Sandoval. Barring injury, Sandoval will surely be among the 30 players selected to suit up on Opening Day.
But Sandoval is far from the only notable name. Darin Ruf went 12-28 in Spring Training, with 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 3 home runs. Billy Hamilton almost feels like a roster necessity when you consider the extra innings rule. Yolmer Sanchez won a Gold Glove the last time there was baseball. Those players will not only be in the player pool, but will be threatening to displace some of the names on the 40-man roster.
While people can argue back and forth about what order to rank the Giants top prospects in, most people agree who the top four are, in some order: catcher Joey Bart, shortstop Marco Luciano, and outfielders Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop.
It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see either of those four on the Opening Day roster, but according to a report from NBC Sports’ Alex Pavlovic, all four will be part of the 60-man player pool.
Bart could force the issue and make the roster later in the season, but make no mistake about it: this is a developmental move. The Giants want to make sure their top prospects are getting important reps, and feel these players are good enough to be benefitting from facing MLB talent every day at the alternate training facility.
The Giants currently have only one healthy catcher on their 40-man roster. That obviously won’t do. The team is going to need at least two catchers on the active roster, and a few more in the player pool for safety. Rob Brantly and Tyler Heineman were the favorites in March to backup Posey, so it’s safe to assume they’ll be in the player pool, joining Bart.
If the Giants think Garcia will be good to go sooner rather than later, he may be there. They also had Chadwick Tromp and prospect Ricardo Genoves in Spring Training.
A currently unsigned player or five
We know that Farhan Zaidi loves to churn, churn, churn. And while the Giants haven’t been allowed to make moves the last few months, he’s surely been thinking about the moves he wants to make.
Yasiel Puig is unsigned. So is Russell Martin. So are Andrew Cashner, and Arodys Vizcaino, and Aaron Hill, and yes, Scooter Gennett.
He may not opt for names that big, but Zaidi will likely find a few new faces to bring to San Francisco or San Jose. Michael Reed and Connor Joe, anyone?
High upside bats
With a short season and a designated hitter, expect the Giants to prioritize a few guys who could get hot and mash dinger after dinger for a week. It’s time to play the variance game. You may see that in free agency with a player like Puig, and you’ll almost surely see it with camp names like Zach Green.
We’ll know soon enough who the Giants are bringing with them on their quest to do wild and crazy things in 2020. It still doesn’t quite feel right, but I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t excited.