Photo credit: Disney/Pixar
After last week’s high point (see my last post), things pretty much went in the crapper for the Giants. On the field, the Giants’ record was 1-5-1. Johnny Cueto got beaten by Kershaw and the Dodgers in a game televised nationally. Heliot Ramos’s big game last Friday night had a nasty aftermath–a strained oblique from his showoff throw to the plate from right field–that ended his spring training early. Drew Smyly couldn’t get more than one out in his latest start. Shaun Anderson’s spring has been so terrible that he’s been scratched from today’s start in favor of extra side work in the bullpen. And, most sad/ominous of all, Tyler Beede left a game with a sore elbow and got grim MRI results.
Now, Beede was competing for the fifth starter spot and was not expected to be the staff ace or anything, so why does his injury sting so much? Kerry Crowley (and the Henry Schulman article linked* a couple lines up) pretty much nailed it: The 2020 season was designed by the Giants exactly for players like Beede–younger guys with potential that need development and plenty of opportunities in an environment where there isn’t much (any?) pressure to win. That was the point of 2020 and something the team and the fans could look forward to.
*Schulman’s article is a premium one for subscribers, but you can read it if you turn off your ad-blocker.
This week of Scottsdale sadness ended with the first round of player cuts yesterday. It was time. Opening Day is less than three weeks away, the Giants had 72 players in camp, and at some point they’re going to have narrow down who’s going to make the team. Surprises among the early cuts included Chris Shaw, who may be running out of chances with the Giants, and Jandel Gustave, who impressed in some September bullpen outings in 2019 but got off to a rough start in spring games. Other surprises included Sam Selman, a lefty reliever who was throwing well in Cactus League but may be crowded out by the numbers game (Tony Watson, Jerry Blevins, and Jarlin Garcia are all veteran lefty relievers who can’t be optioned), and Jamie Westbrook, whom I’d dubbed last week as one of my SleeperGuys™. Again, for Westbrook it may just be numbers–even with Shaw optioned and Westbrook sent to minor league camp, there’s a lot of competition for the outfield spots this year.
So where does all of this leave the Giants as they try to build an Opening Day 26-man roster? Let’s break this down a bit.
The top four are still Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman, and Drew Smyly. Beede, who seemingly had the inside track on the fifth spot, will not be opening the season on the active roster even if he avoids surgery. That leaves Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez, and Logan Webb likely competing for that final spot. Of the three, Suarez has, somewhat surprisingly, had the best spring, and it’s not close (6.2 innings, 1 BB/9 K, ERA 2.70, WHIP 0.75, average against .160). In an article yesterday, Schulman explained how Suarez, on the advice of the coaches, has ditched his two-seamer and is relying on his four-seamer (which is clocking at 93-94 MPH) in an effort to improve his splits against right-handed hitters.
In addition to those three returning pitchers, non-roster veterans Trevor Cahill (starting today for the Giants) and Tyson Ross will get a look.
OK, so Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria are sure things. So, it appears, are Mike Yastrzemski and Mauricio Dubon. Wilmer Flores has a guaranteed two-year deal, so write his name in pen, too. Alex Dickerson and Hunter Pence are on major league deals.
That’s ten, and the Giants must have at least 13. (Under the new 26-man roster rule, teams can carry no more than 13 pitchers.) One of them will be a backup catcher, and if you had to pick today, it sure looks like Rob Brantly’s the guy. (It’s not going to be Joey Bart. Just stop.)
That means the following players are still competing for two Opening Day spots:
Outfield: Jaylin Davis, Austin Slater, Steven Duggar, Billy Hamilton, Joey Rickard, Joe McCarthy (Mauricio Dubon)
Infield: Cristhian Adames, Yolmer Sanchez, Donovan Solano, Zach Green (Austin Slater)
The infield is a little easier. Only Solano is on the 40-man roster. So unless they really believe that Sanchez is going to start hitting, probably Solano gets the spot. It’s hard to say if Dubon will be the everyday second baseman with Flores playing off the bench or vice versa. But…Adames and Sanchez can’t be optioned, so–we’ll see about this one.
The remaining outfielder needs to be someone who can play center field, and I have to think Billy Hamilton has the lead at this point, especially since Duggar is (a) a lefty like Yaz and Dickerson and (b) not hitting at all this spring. Rickard and McCarthy have had nice springs so far, but Davis has not, really, despite lots of wishful thinking in his direction. With the exception of Hamilton, all of the outfielders have minor league options remaining.
There are some good possibilities here. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any Reed/Joe type surprises in the outfield on Opening Day.
This remains the messiest and hardest to peg, even after cuts.
Sure things: Tony Watson (assuming he’s healthy), Tyler Rogers, Trevor Gott (out of options)
Near-sure things: Jarlin Garcia (a lefty and out of options), Dany Jiminez (Rule 5 draftee)
Remaining possibilities: Andrew Suarez or Dereck Rodriguez (if not in the rotation), Shaun Anderson (who needs to get it together FAST), Trevor Cahill, Enderson Franco, Carlos Navas, Rodolfo Martinez, Sam Coonrod, Trevor Oaks, Tyson Ross, Jerry Blevins (plus 2-3 more, but this list is long enough)
Of the “remaining” list, the most impressive in spring (not named Suarez or D-Rod) have been Navas, Franco, and Martinez.
So there you have it, sort of. There are still a lot of dominoes to fall, especially depending on how the Giants handle the fifth-starter question (who and when) and how they move people around (Slater as an OF/IF? Dubon as an IF/OF?).
White Sox at Giants, 12:05 p.m. PST, Scottsdale Stadium (radio: KNBR)
Dallas Keuchel vs. Trevor Cahill
MrLefty and I, along with SisterLefty and her hubby, will be at today’s and tomorrow’s games (the home game of the split-squad tomorrow). You can expect a full in-person report thereafter. Lefty out (time for breakfast in Scottsdale!).