We are a couple of weeks into the spring and so we have stats. Taken with a grain of salt of course…this is spring training and it’s still very early…but, SWEET, SWEET stats!
So, while we will attempt to not read too much into any of this there are a couple of interesting develops thus far:
- Steven Duggar is hot. It sure sounded like the Giants brass wanted Duggar to crack the lineup at some point in 2018, and it also sounded like the door was open to the opening day roster heading into Spring Training, and so in a great carpe diem moment Duggar has responded. The defense has been there. The bat has been there. He looks like the real deal so far. Slash line: .412/.474/1.000, plus 3 home runs. Pencil him in!
- Somewhat out of nowhere, Mac Williamson has reasserted himself into the conversation. I really thought after the 2016 season that he was well set up to join the Belt/Crawford/Panik/Duffy parade of homegrown lineup additions, but he never got a fair shake (in my opinion) and was always hampered by injuries. Now, he has tried to revamp his swing and reinvent himself, and if his early success continues there just might be a spot for him on the 25 man roster. Meanwhile, Jarrett Parker, who I thought had the inside track on the 5th outfield spot, has already struck out 14 times in 21 at bats, while walking 3 times and homering once. Compare that to Williamson’s .429/.429/.952 with 3 home runs (no walks and 6 ks is not great either, but not as alarming as Parker). Williamson will have to continue to rake: his addition to the 25 man roster would require some maneuvers to bring L/R balance to the force, and he may need some time in AAA to keep working on the swing change. But, I still love his ceiling far more than other options (i.e Parker/Hernandez/etc).
- Finally, it is too early to get excited about relief pitchers, but the contenders for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation have not disappointed with their early efforts. Ty Blach, in particular, has been outstanding, striking out 7 in 5 innings. If he could somehow take a step forward in his development, he may actually be the Giants 4th best starter. I’ve really been thinking of him as a bit of after thought (more of a long relief, spot starter role), but if this keeps up he could help steady the rotation significantly. Derek Holland has looked good, second only to Bumgarner in strikeouts with 8. Chris Stratton and Tyler Beede have not been as dominant, but very solid, and Stratton in particular seems to be approaching this camp with confidence.
This next week we will start to see more regulars ramp up, and it will be interesting to see if any of these early developments turn into substantial story lines.
Well, after relocating from Boston back to the Bay Area, having another kid, starting a new job, and finding a place to live, we’ve been quite busy. But, don’t worry baseballmonk has not gone away.
We’re just getting started.
Luckily this was a boring off-season. Ha ha.
No reason to go over the Lester spurn and the trades that weren’t.
Let’s break the team down into pitching and hitting, talk about the pessimistic and optimistic views of each, and make a couple radical suggestions. Here we go:
- The Pessimist: The Giants have no power, and will be the worst lineup the team has put on the field since the 2008-2009 wasteland years. Losing Pablo Sandoval, while good in the long run, will hurt this year and Casey McGehee isn’t going to make anyone miss the Panda any less. The high contact, average dependent lineup will be fun to watch on the rare occasions that it is working, but the lack of dingers will be painful. Finally, this team is not incredibly deep, and losing any combination of Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Angel Pagan, and Hunter Pence will be deadly.
- The Optimist: The Giants lineup is not what it was last year when it had home run potential up and down the order, but don’t freak out just yet. The Giants still have three guys with 25+ HR potential (Posey, Belt, Pence), a healthy Pagan, a full year of Joe Panik, and the ever improving Brandon Crawford. They don’t need McGehee and Left Field to be awesome just average and the runs will come.
- A Radical Suggestion: We keep hearing about how there is no way Posey is moving positions (and that’s fine), and that Brandon Belt will only play first base, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that the best possible lineup from a hitting perspective involves Andrew Susac catching, Posey at first, and Belt in Left. Or Posey in left =) It seems like a no brainer to give Belt 30 games in left, put Posey at first 25% of the time, and use the catching depth (Susac and Hector Sanchez) to the team’s advantage. If/when the Giants return to the playoffs, by all means use Posey behind the plate. I see this more as a way to pace Posey than a true position switch. Whatever they do, there is a lot of pressure on Brandon Belt to produce. Go get ’em baby giraffe.
- A Second Radical Suggestion: Ok, I have two for the offense. I know the organization has staunchly said there are no internal 3B solutions all off-season, but I think Giants fans have to root for the elevation of Matt Duffy to everyday third-basemen. Duffy gives the Giants a similar profile to McGehee (high average dependence and low power), but brings better range and arm to the position. Plus he’s a much better athlete, which pays off on the bases and in lineup flexibility. The good news about left field and 3B is that there is no one who is so deeply invested in that they can’t be moved for the hot hand or improved on in a trade, but if McGehee was truly the best option, then why not Duffman?
- The Pessimist: The Giants have 7 starters, but every single one of them comes with a significant question mark. How will Madison Bumgarner bounce back from a heavy post-season work load? What does Matt Cain have left after ankle and elbow surgery? Will the Giants get the Jake Peavy who sucked for the Red Sox and faded in the playoffs, or the stud they saw down the stretch? Tim Hudson is 40 and falling apart, can he even make 20 starts this year? Tim Lincecum has been average to bad for three years now, is he ever coming back? Yusmerio Petit is awesome, but can he start on a regular basis and don’t we need him in the bullpen anyway? And Ryan Vogelsong continues to be a great story, but isn’t he redundant on a team that already has several guys on the wrong side of 30? Oh and that bullpen. Yeah, it’s been great but they are another year older and the magic has to end at some point.
- The Optomist: Bumgarner’s a horse and history shows that if he is going to suffer ill-effects from the 2014 post-season epicness it won’t come until 2016 or 2017. He’s an ace. Matt Cain is finally healthy, good reports are flowing, and there’s another really good season or two left in that arm. He’ll be fine. Peavy doesn’t need to be as good as he was down the stretch, he’ll benefit from a full season in the NL and pitching in this ballpark, all he needs to do is make his starts and be the third guy. Tim Hudson will be a perfectly adequate 4th starter. The Giants can pace him with the depth (i.e. Vogelsong) that they have. Huddy will go out on top. Lincecum’s been working with his dad and has his mechanics down again. Plus he’s been one of the unluckiest pitchers of all time. It all evens out this year. Plus he’s the 5th starter and the pressures off. Petit will get to do his bullpen wizardry all year, and Vogelsong is here to caddy and fill in. The Giants will actually pitch better as a team in 2015 than they did last year. Oh, and the rest of the bullpen…they’ll be fine.
- A Radical Suggestion: For the record, I take the more optimistic view of the pitching staff. I feel especially confident about Bumgarner and Cain and think that excellent years from both of them will take the pressure off the back three and allow the Giants the freedom to figure it out. I also predict that Lincecum will have a good year. Not a great year, but a good one…good enough that he’ll make the decision to let him go a tough one on the front office. While I would love to suggest that Lincecum go to the bullpen (and for the record I still think this is a good idea), I think he’ll be a really good 5th starter. The real radical suggestion has to do with Vogelsong. In my opinion, the Giants never really figured out the closer role once Sergio Romo gave up the gig last summer. In some ways this worked to their advantage and created even more flexibility for Bruce Bochy. However, we all know that managers and players like consistency. I think Vogelsong should close. He’s got the mentality and he can still bring mid-90’s heat when he needs to. Plus, he’s already got the beard for it.
Well, there you have it. We now are doomed to a bunch of silly story lines until we get closer to final rosters and opening day. I do hope to post a few thoughts about this off-season and what it all means. But, let’s start the games huh!
Pitchers and Catchers have reported, spring is right around the corner, the rest of the team is on the way, baseball is back people! Time to start firing up the baseballmonk again.
To celebrate this grand occasion here are the 10 things I am watching as camp gets started:
- The Ankle: No body part is going to get as much attention during the baseball season as Buster Posey’s repaired ankle. Part of me wants to believe the dude is going to go on a rampage this year and prove that he is an upper level superstar. The other part of me (tempered by my physical therapist wife) knows that it’s going to be a process with some ups and downs. Either way, Buster will be sick of hearing about it by yesterday.
- The Contracts: Still nothing on the Matt Cain front. Still a possibility Lincecum and the team tear up the 2-year deal and go longer. My guess: nothing happens and we hold our breath next winter. But the question remains: will this be a distraction?
- The Lineups: It is obviously foolish to read too much into the lineups early in the Spring, but there is a lot to look out for from day 1. How will Bochy handle shortstop? A platoon? Crawford with some backups? What about right field? Is that Nate the Great’s spot? Or is Melky the favorite? Will Brandon Belt be in left? Or at First Base? Or in Fresno? Is Angel Pagan really the leadoff hitter? Can Melky Cabrera really be a middle of the order guy? How long before the team pulls the plug on Huff? Or will he bounce back?
- The Belt situation: The way I see it Brandon Belt has to have a huge spring, again, if he wants to start the season in San Fran. Even just a good spring means a ticket back to Fresno until someone gets hurt. It’s a shame, but I don’t see it playing out any other way.
- Brian Wilson: So far, positive reports abound. 2012 is going to be a fascinating year for B-Dub. He either cements his position as one of the best in the game, or quite possibly, he looses his job to Heath Hembree. Seems harsh but that’s how it is in baseball.
- Health: Goes without saying that this was an issue last year and it started in spring with Wilson and Ross. Every team needs to be healthy, but the Giants, especially, cannot afford a repeat of 2011. Ominous beginnings with Ryan Vogelsong straining his back.
- The Non-Roster Invitee Battle: The Giants have spun magic over the past few years with these invitations: Juan Uribe, Ryan Vogelsong, Guillermo Mota, etc. This year, in my opinion, there is really one guy to watch: Brian Burres. Will the Giants magic rub off on him?
- Barry Zito’s magic beans: Seemingly every year Zito shows up with a new trick, delivery, potion, mustache, you name it, that is going to be the secret to a resurgence. Every year he teases us with signs that the talisman has paid off, and then crushes our hopes with a strong dose of suck. This year he’s done something to his motion to get extra, late movement. Great! Now throw the ball in the strike zone please.
- But seriously, short stop: I’ve been writing about this all winter. I am concerned about Posey and Sanchez. I’m not confident in Huff bouncing back. I’m not blown away by our offseason acquisitions. But, to be honest, the one thing I am genuinely concerned about is shortstop. It may turn out fine, but it could be a disaster. Crawford, Theriot, Fontenot. Wow. Pray that someone has a career year.
- The Prospetcs: There really isn’t anyone on this list that is in danger of making the club out of the gate, but who doesn’t want to see how Gary Brown, Erik Surkamp, Heath Hembree, and others do this spring against big league competition. I hope they all do great.
Lots to watch for, tons to talk about and analyze, but no matter what baseball is back and that is what really counts!
here’s the list of the 22 players the Giants have invited to spring training. any thoughts?
obviously, belt is in there, who, along with crawford and mota, could be on the opening day roster if some things go right.
but beyond those guys who are you excited about? here are my three:
- Waldis Joaquin: actually was on the opening day roster last year. i still think there is some felix rodriguez in him yet.
- Tommy Joseph: he’s still a ways off, but a 19-year-old kid with crazy power=exciting
- Ryan Vogelsong: maybe we can trade him again for Jason Schmidt. seriously, though, perhaps he pulls a rabbit out of a hat and can be our “sixth” starter.
spring training invitees of interest, comment away!