Sunday, February 19, 2017
Spring Training Update: Thoughts on a Crowded Roster
As the Giants signed player after player long after their offseason needs appeared to be met, we commented on the difficulty in sorting out the purpose of these transactions. Do the Giants just want bodies to put on the field when several regular players are away playing for Team USA in the WBC? Are they genuinely trying to create competition for regular season roster spots? Are they just being nice to guys they like by giving them a shot? Only Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean know for sure. The main purpose of this post is to express some things I don't want to see come out of this crowded spring training roster.
Before I get to the main point though, let me just say that the Giants have a strong track record of bringing in minor league free agents and having them make major contributions to championship teams. Andres Torres, Gregor Blanco and Ryan Vogelsong are all names that if we did not know them, the Giants probably don't win even one championship this decade, let alone 3. So, if the Giants want to bring in a minor league FA or two to compete for the last couple of spots on the roster, hey, something very good might come of it! On the other hand, when those guys were brought in, there really weren't any obviously better options or even ones as good. There were truly open spots on the rosters. Ryan Vogelsong even started out in AAA and only came up as an injury replacement.
So here are some things I don't want to see coming out of spring training:
1. I do not want to see Mac Williamson optioned back to AAA. Now, I admit Mac Williamson is not a sure thing. He's a big guy with a big swing and he may have too much swing and miss in his game. But Mac Williamson has potential to be something really special. His size and athleticism make him one of a very few hitters in the organization with the potential to hit 30 or more HR's while playing half his games in AT&T Park. Both Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean have talked about the difficulty in signing established power hitters because of the ballpark and of the need for the Giants to develop their own power from the farm system. It is now time to back up those words with actions. Give Mac his chance! Yes, I understand you have to have a backup plan, but there's a guy who will be playing in Sacramento named Austin Slater who will be ready to take his chance by midseason.
2. I do not want to see Kelby Tomlinson optioned back to AAA. Kelby may not be too impressive looking in an uniform, and he admittedly doesn't have a lot of pop in his bat, but Kelby has proven to be as tough an out as anyone on the roster over the past 2 seasons. If you need a pinch-hit to keep an inning alive late in the game, I can't think of anyone I'd rather see at the plate than Kelby. Plus, he can play multiple positions. We know enough about both Kelby and the guys who are competing for the reserve IF role to know the alternatives are not going to give you significantly more than what Kelby has to offer.
3. I do not want to see Conor Gillaspie released. It was not just the postseason last year. Conor Gillaspie made major contributions during the regular season too with a .262/.307/.440 slash line with 8 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR in 191 PA. He also upped his defensive game at 3B to become an asset there. Again, I don't see spring training performance as a legitimate reason to give away Conor's role to someone with a long enough track record to know that they are not going to be better and probably a lot worse over the course of a full season.
4. I do not want to see Gordon Beckham win a roster spot just to humor Buster Posey and I do not want to see Aaron Hill win it for, well, for Veteran Savvy! Jimmy Rollins? I'm not sure where to even start. No thank you!
So, barring injury, that sets 3 of a potential 5 non-pitching roster spots that are currently open. Here are some things I would be OK with:
1. Jae-Gyun Hwang wins the starting 3B job. Hwang is a potential game-changer that I could be happy with. The Giants obviously see something in Hwang. If he can provide what Jung-Ho Kang gives the Pirates(hopefully without the off-field drama), then by all means, put him out there. That could force Eduardo Nunez into Kelby Tomlinson's role and that kind of depth would not be a bad thing. I happen to think the Giants might get more out of Nunez by trading him in that scenario, but yeah, I could live with him moving to the bench.
2. Justin Ruggiano and Michael Morse win the 2 backup OF spots. This would make Gorkys Hernandez the odd man out and I really like Gorkys, especially the way he plays defense in CF. But if Ruggiano makes it through spring training fully healthy and shows he can play CF and hits 6 dingers and the Giants want his RH bat off the bench, I'm OK with it. Likewise, if they think they have room on the roster for Michael Morse to do nothing but PH, then I'm OK with that too. I just don't want to see Morse or Ruggiano displace Mac from what I think should be a starting gig in LF.