As Spring Training winds down, the San Francisco Giants have some very serious decisions to make with regards to their 2017 Opening Day roster. Let’s take a look at the 25 players likely to make the roster when the Giants break camp. [Jeff]
Catcher (2): Buster Posey, Nick Hundley
Posey is the face of the franchise, but he turns 30 this week. Last year he started 37 games at catcher, and he will likely get up to 45 to preserve his legs. Posey posted his worst full-season OPS+ last year, with his numbers down across the board. He may be on the downswing of his career, but he will start behind the dish until he can’t. Nick Hundley gets the nod over Trevor Brown thanks to a hot Spring Training. Brown is under team control until 2021, so he is the future backup. The Giants will likely keep him in AAA to get him constant reps.
First Base (1): Brandon Belt
The San Francisco Giants’ secret superstar is the only real first baseman the Giants will carry on their roster. Belt topped 150 games for just the second time in his six-year career, and posted his best OPS in the process. He doesn’t get a lot of fanfare because he’s a power hitter that ends up with a ton of doubles thanks to being a lefty in AT&T Park… He probably leads the planet in getting AT&Ted. Belt got a contract extension through 2021 last year, so he’ll be around for a while. The Giants can carry just one player here because several other players can cover first in a pinch. Posey is the de facto backup here.
Second Base (2): Joe Panik, Aaron Hill
On a team with one of the best batter eyes in baseball (Belt), Joe Panik blows Belt’s BB-K rate out of the water. Panik was one of two players last year who walked more than he struck out. A back injury derailed Panik’s 2015, and a concussion cost him a month in 2016. It’s a bit soon to call Panik injury prone, but he may be headed that way. Aaron Hill is the quintessential Giants bench bat (over the hill afterthought).
Third Base (3): Eduardo Nuñez, Hae-gyun Hwang, Connor Gillaspie
Nuñez will start at third on Opening Day, but Hwang will likely take over if there is an injury basically anywhere else. Nuñez is who Bruce Bochy thought Joaquin Arias was, a talented, speedy Swiss Army Knife. Hwang may just take the job outright, as he has hit the ground running in Spring Training. Nuñez will obviously get the first crack at it, but Hwang could be the better hitter. Gillaspie will give the Giants a lefty bench bat, something that would otherwise be missing.
Shortstop (1): Brandon Crawford
The Handsomest San Francisco Giant ™ had a down 2016 at the plate after a breakout 2017. Nevertheless, he isn’t going anywhere, since he’s one of the best defenders in all of baseball. Like first base, the Giants won’t carry a true backup thanks to the versatility in other places.
Outfield (4): Jarrett Parker (LF), Denard Span (CF), Hunter Pence (RF), Gorkys Hernandez (OF)
Parker was winning the battle against Mac Williamson, even before Williamson went down with injury. Michael Morse was a dark horse left field candidate here, but he, too, went down with injury. Parker has been made the left fielder by default. That’s fine, as Posey will shift to first more frequently this year, with Belt moving to left. That will leave Parker around 120 starts. Span is on the back nine, but he still has good enough table-setting talents. Pence, MLB’s former iron man, is hoping to exceed 110 games for the first time since 2014. Don’t look now, but Pence is suddenly pushing 34 years old. With injuries to Williamson and Morse, Gorkys becomes the #4 outfielder by default.
Starting Pitchers (5): Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Cain
No surprise here, the same five guys they went with last year. MadBum and Cueto are one of the best one-two punches in all of baseball. Moore was a mid-season acquisition last year who had mixed results. Samardzija is hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 2016.
Matt Cain hopes to make it to July before being replaced by Ty Blach.
Relief Pitchers (7): Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, Steve Okert, Cory Gearrin, Josh Osich, George Kontos, Mark Melancon (closer)
The Giants completely overhauled their bullpen, saying goodbye to Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo. They, along with Jeremy Affeldt, were the core of the Giants’ dominant bullpens in their three World Series runs. The same bullpen failed them last year. Law was quietly one of the best non-closer relievers in all of baseball last year, and Strickland wasn’t too far off of him. Newcomer Mark Melancon will close it out, and they’ll need him to just be league average to be incredibly better than Santiago Casilla last year. An injury to 2016 mid-season acquisition, Will Smith, keeps him off the 25-man. It may be a UCL tear, which means Tommy John, which means a lost year for Smith.
There’s not many surprises with the San Francisco Giants 25-man roster. They had only a few positions up for grabs, and those were resolved via injury. They’re hoping to make it to the playoffs in an odd year for the first time since 2003.