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Giants’ desire for positional versatility is on full display

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Why play players one place when you can play them every place?

SFChronicleSpringBall2021 Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants lost their Monday Spring Training game against the Kansas City Royals, but it was a fascinating affair. Not because the game was close — the Giants lost 6-1 — or because they played well. They mustered just four hits, ran through six pitchers, and, I imagine (which is the best I can do given that the game was not broadcast), generally weren’t a lot of fun.

But just looking through the box score is a bit of a kick, and a window into the Giants philosophies.

At first base, the Giants started LaMonte Wade Jr. Wade has played a little first base, even at the MLB level. But the emphasis is on “a little.” He is predominantly on outfielder, whose athleticism and lack of offensive prowess paint a player whose past, present, and future should be in the grass, especially on a team with roughly 17 players capable of playing first base.

If you looked at the Giants playing on Monday, and assigned them to a position, you likely would have put Wade in center field. But instead it was Austin Slater out there. The same Slater who has played all of 3.1 of his more than 2,000 career MLB innings in center field.

At second base we find Jason Vosler, signed to be a corner infielder. Vosler has played 24 of his 630 career Minor League games at second base. Over at third base we find his fellow namesake, Jason Krizan who, in his nine Minor League seasons, has made as many appearances as a pitcher (3) as he has as a third baseman.

With the possible exception of Slater, it’s unlikely that the Giants intend to use any of these players at these positions. Had they been prioritizing winning the games, those players likely would have been at different positions (or, more realistically, not playing at all). Even just swapping the Jasons, as well as Wade and Slater, makes for a much more conventional and comfortable lineup.

But it’s all part of the plan to build a versatile roster — to find players who can be spread all over the diamond, so the best lineup can take the field on any given day, in any given park, against any given arm.

None of this is surprising, except ... it’s kind of surprising. When Farhan Zaidi came aboard and immediately started preaching versatility, I presumed it would come solely in the form of signing players like Tommy La Stella, who can play a few positions across the infield. I didn’t imagine it would come in the form of trading for middle infielder Mauricio Dubón and immediately converting him to the combo meal of center fielder and third baseman, a mix about as common as putting maple syrup on your chicken noodle soup.

So that’s how the Giants found themselves with four fringe roster players manning four unfamiliar positions on Monday afternoon. The team is hoping that instead of finding good first basemen, or good third basemen, or good center fielders, they can simply find good baseball players.

It’s fun to watch. Even when the games can’t actually be watched.