Well, we are now one week into Cactus League games and about halfway through camp. Opening Day is 25 days away, and we know what the number 25 reminds us of.
Now, don’t start with me. Love him or hate him, #25 IS and always will be Barry Bonds. His number is even retired now.
So what have we learned from camp so far? Here’s a list, in no particular order.
- Reyes Moronta may not make the Opening Day roster. He hasn’t appeared in a game yet, and all I’ve heard from beat writers is that the Giants are unhappy with his conditioning (translation: he didn’t lose weight in the offseason like they asked him to) and that his velocity in his bullpens has been unimpressive. Weight issues aside, Moronta is trying to come back from a very serious injury for a pitcher–way worse than Tommy John surgery, on the relative scale. We could always hope he’d come back as good as new, but it’s never been a sure thing. Thus, it’s good that the front office has done a very thorough job of stocking the 40-man roster and spring training camp with bullpen options. More on that point in a minute.
- It’s sure looking like the battle for the last position player spot on the 26-man roster is coming down to LaMonte Wade Jr. vs. Jason Vosler. The Giants said from day one of the offseason that they wanted another left-handed bat. They got a good one in Tommy La Stella, but they could definitely use another lefty-hitting outfielder. They passed on signing Jackie Bradley Jr. and traded for Wade, instead. So Vosler would seem to be the odd man out, right?–Well, maybe not so fast. Vosler’s been the hitting star of the Cactus League for the Giants so far (6 for 13 with 3 doubles and a triple), and, notably, he started in left field in the Giants’ game against the Royals yesterday. As far as I can determine, yesterday was the first and only time in Vosler’s entire professional career that he’s ever played the outfield. That says to me that the Giants are seriously considering whether they can squeeze Vosler onto the roster even though they have six veteran infielders already. Also helping Vosler’s case is Wade’s .125 batting average so far in the Cactus League.
- The postponement of the AAA season (starting date back to May 6 now) puts several of the Giants’ best prospects in a temporary no-man’s-land. Remember how Joey Bart and Logan Webb were supposed to go play/pitch regularly in AAA, potentially to re-emerge in the majors by June or July or so? Well, now they may be cooling their jets at the Alternate Site, playing intra-squad games for a month instead. They could stay in Arizona and play in the minor league spring training games that will happen in April, but the Giants will need players at the Alternate Site who could be called up in an emergency. Bart and Webb are both in positions that could have emergencies.
- Early camp injuries and ailments are going to make our (my) My26ManGuys™ ballot a game-day decision. For example, Brandon Belt is just starting baseball activities after a lingering (non-COVID) illness. Jaylin Davis played for the first time yesterday after nursing a sore knee; Austin Slater has a sore hamstring. Evan Longoria has played but is battling a flare-up of his chronic plantar fasciitis. Belt’s situation in particular may influence whether Vosler makes the Opening Day roster.
- The Giants are 1-3-2 in the Cactus League after the first week. Other than Vosler, Wilmer Flores, and some great ABs by La Stella, the hitting hasn’t been much to write home about. The pitchers have been much more interesting, and Johnny Cueto had a great first outing yesterday, striking out 4 in two innings of work and reportedly hitting 94 on the Scottsdale Stadium radar gun. Alex Wood is the only other prospective starting pitcher who has appeared yet, pitching a scoreless inning against the White Sox on Thursday, unless you want to count Webb’s nice inning versus the Dodgers on Tuesday night (got Betts to pop up and struck out Seager). We have yet to see Kevin Gausman, Anthony “Disco” DeSclafani (he starts today), or Aaron Sanchez (who was signed after camp opened, so he may not be caught up yet). We also have not seen top prospect Sean Hjelle.
- There’s been a lot of buzz since camp opened about uber-prospect Marco Luciano, but Heliot Ramos continues to show why he’s been one of the Giants’ top prospects ever since he was drafted in 2017 and has landed on numerous top-50/top-100 prospect lists. Still just going into his age-21 season, Ramos is the most likely of any prospect, with the possible exception of Camilo Doval, to make his major league debut for the Giants in 2021.
- In addition to signing Jose Alvarez (see below), the Giants also signed former Marlins slugger Justin Bour, who most recently played in Japan, to a minor league deal–so minor, in fact, that he didn’t even get invited to major league camp.
- This year’s Rule 5 Guy, Dedniel Núñez, has impressed so far. Veteran catcher Curt Casali said this after catching him on Friday night:
Curt Casali on Dedniel Núñez: "His slider is absolutely ridiculous. It's a wipeout pitch. One of the best I've seen. I'm really excited for him."
Interestingly, Núñez said he's always viewed his upper-90s fastball as his best pitch.
— Maria I. Guardado (@mi_guardado) March 6, 2021
- If you want to read an optimistic, future-facing look at what the Giants are doing right now, check out this article by Mike Petriello.
Ohhhh, that bullpen (or rather, that entire list of pitchers)
This is too big of an item to put on a bullet list. The Giants have a s**t-ton of pitchers in camp, and they keep signing more. Just yesterday they finalized a two-year deal (or one year + team option, to be precise) with lefty Jose Alvarez, who pitched for Gabe Kapler in Philly. Alvarez missed most of 2020 with a “testicular contusion” sustained in a game, and you men might not want to Google the video of how that happened to him. Anyway, it already seemed like the Giants had plenty of lefty options for the bullpen (Jake McGee, Sam Selman, Wandy Peralta, Jarlin Garcia, Caleb Baragar, and camp surprise Sam Long). Even if you knock Baragar off the list because he’s being stretched out as a starter at his own request, that’s still a lot of lefty relievers in a new era where the three-batter rule makes “LOOGYs” somewhat obsolete. To make room for Alvarez, the Giants DFA’d #ForeverGiant Jordan Humphreys, who was promptly grabbed by the Padres.
So besides all these lefty relievers, there are the righty relievers: Moronta, Matt Wisler, Núñez, Tyler Rogers, Doval, and some other non-roster guys. And to further muddy the waters, there is a bunch of starting pitchers who could get bullpen spots as depth or swingmen: Nick Tropeano, Shun Yamaguchi, Scott Kazmir. I’m also leaving off guys like Conner Menez, Kervin Castro, and Gregory Santos, all of whom are on the 40-man roster but likely to be in the minors this year.
How they are going to turn this unwieldy list into a five-man rotation and eight-man bullpen by April 1, I’m not sure. But I think Grant Brisbee nailed it in a column this week: look at who has minor league options and/or opt-outs in their contracts (Yamaguchi, for example). To give non-subscribers the tl:dr version:
- On the 40-man and out of options: Matt Wisler, Jake McGee, Jarlin Garcia (where IS he?)
- Non-roster invitee and out of options: Scott Kazmir, Anthony Banda, Trevor Gott, Dominic Leone, Silvino Bracho, Jimmie Sherfy
- Could/will lose if not on the major league roster: Núñez, Yamaguchi, …?
Early take: Wisler and McGee are the “big” free agent signees, so they’re in. Kazmir and Banda have a shot at making the roster. The other four non-roster guys…meh. Núñez definitely may be worth taking a chance on. I don’t know if they’re so excited about Yamaguchi that they’ll give him a spot just to keep him from opting out. It’s a very crowded field.
Biggest News of the Week
This came not from the Giants but rather from California Governor Gavin Newsom, who announced that outdoor sporting events could start allowing limited numbers of fans in as of April 1, subject to local restrictions. Assuming the city and county of San Francisco agree, the Giants might either be able to have 8000+ or 13000+ at their April 9 home opener, depending on whether San Francisco remains in the red tier (where it is now) or moves into the orange tier (possible if last week’s metrics continue). This is very exciting news! Although fans have seen the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium in 2020 and 2021, the last time any Giants fans were in Oracle Park was on Sept. 29, 2019, for Bruce Bochy’s farewell. TWG picture from that day for nostalgia’s sake.
Giants at Reds, 12:05 p.m. Mays Time, Goodyear Ballpark
Anthony DeSclafani vs.Noé Ramirez
Radio: KNBR; TV: MLB.TV (Reds broadcast)
Here are the lineups (from MLB.com). I can’t find a list yet of everyone scheduled to play today.
And oh, look, there’s Wade and Vosler both in the lineup–and Vosler, who’s known primarily as a 3B/1B, is playing 2B today. And Wade playing 1B(?). Yep. They’re definitely trying to sort things out between Wade and Vosler. Glad to see Ramos in the lineup, and it will be nice to see Wilson play SS.
Enjoy this lovely Sunday. Lefty out.