The San Francisco Giants season kicks off in just four days, when they host the Miami Marlins on April 8. And so far I’ve made it this long in the preseason without any articles predicting what the Opening Day roster will be.
That trend will continue today, not because I’m a chicken who doesn’t want to look foolish again (though I am a chicken who doesn’t want to look foolish again), but because the Giants have already made most of the roster decisions. At this point in the spring it’s less interesting to make roster predictions, and more interesting to simply talk about what decisions remain.
So let’s do that.
The Giants have 34 players left in Major League camp, after the somewhat surprising decision to option Kervin Castro and Jakob Junis, and the reassignment of many Minor League players.
That number needs to be trimmed to 28 by Friday, and while there are still decisions to be made, it’s pretty easy to get there.
Let’s look at the 34 players:
Right-handed pitchers (10):
Carlos Martínez (non-roster invitee)
Left-handed pitchers (6):
Brett Auerbach (non-roster invitee)
Tommy La Stella
LaMonte Wade Jr.
Six names need to be taken off that list between now and Friday. So how do we get there from here?
We can start by pretty easily removing the two non-roster players left in camp: righty Carlos Martínez and do-everything-seriously-everything-but-listed-as-catcher Brett Auerbach.
I fully expect Martínez, a two-time All-Star who is still just 30 years old, to play a sizable role on the roster this year. But he signed a Minor League contract, talked openly about his willingness to play in the Minors, got a late start at camp, and has yet to appear in a game. We might see him soon, but not April 8 soon.
Auerbach, who was one of the best stories in the Minors last year, has been one of the best stories in camp, as he’s hit 4-16 with a home run, 2 triples, and 2 walks. But as remarkable of a story as he would be if he made the Opening Day roster, it’s in no way realistic. He has one year of Minor League play under his belt, and has never appeared at a higher level than High-A ... he’s still in camp because you should carry more than two catchers for as long as you possibly can, and keeping the guy who can also play the infield or the outfield maximizes flexibility as the team rests up veterans before Opening Day.
So that brings us to 32 players, and we can knock off two more names by eliminating the two position players who will start the season on the 15-day Injured List: Evan Longoria and LaMonte Wade Jr.
Now we’re at 30 names, and need to eliminate just two players.
Let’s consider the breakdown. Of those 30 remaining players, 15 are pitchers and 15 are position players. There are no pitcher limits until May 1, when rosters shrink to 26 players with a maximum of 13 pitchers, so technically the Giants could go with 15 pitchers and 13 hitters. Or, if they want to maximize platoon advantages, they could go with 15 position players and 13 hitters. But let’s assume they split it down the middle, with 14 of each.
The position player battle would seem to come down to the four AAAA infielders: Thairo Estrada, Mauricio Dubón, Luke Williams, and Jason Vosler. On paper this seems like an easy pick: Vosler has been the worst of the four in Spring Training, he’s been the worst of the four in his MLB opportunities, and he’s the least versatile of the four, as Dubón and Estrada can play shortstop, and Dubón and Williams can play all across the outfield. Add in that neither Dubón nor Estrada have options remaining, and Vosler seems like a very clear odd man out, even if he’s the most natural third baseman in Longoria’s absence.
Now for the pitcher. The Giants have done a lot of surprising things with their arms over the last few years, so this becomes a little bit harder to predict, but there are three clear candidates from where I’m sitting (which is in an office chair my neighbor gave me, 409 miles away from Scottsdale, so why are you listening to me again?): John Brebbia, Sammy Long, and Tyler Beede.
There are myriad reasons to think both Brebbia and Long are good pitchers, though they struggled in 2021. Some time in AAA could probably benefit both of them, and they have the options. We’re running in much shorter supply of reasons to think Beede is a good pitcher — he was awful last year in his return from Tommy John surgery, and has struggled in Spring training — but he is without options. The Giants might be waiting until closer to Opening Day to try and sneak him through waivers, or they might simply still be deliberating whether or not he’s a player worth keeping around.
This one feels less straightforward than the position players. My gut says that Long is optioned, though it’s still unclear what the end game is with Beede. It’s hard to see him getting enough opportunities in the first three weeks of the season to earn a spot in the May roster when things are trimmed. But the Giants won’t want to cut their losses if they still see something special in Beede’s arm, and it’s entirely possible that they’re still thinking about his spring performance two years ago.
It would also be very Giantsy to put Beede (or Dubón) on the Injured List if they don’t want them on the roster but don’t want to designate them for assignment. It’s a game they’ve played before, and a game they’ll play again soon.
Either way, regardless of how you see those last two decisions unfolding, the Giants Opening Day roster is mostly set. There won’t be any big surprises, barring that trade for Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani that I keep hearing about.