Old pals Jung Hoo Lee and Ha Seong Kim pose for a picture at last night’s rainout. Photo credit: San Diego Padres Twitter/X account.

 

by DrLefty

SCOTTSDALE, AZ:  Well, I was going to write about how the Giants are doing this week in the Cactus League, but now it’s been so long since they’ve played a game that I’ve forgotten. They had a scheduled off day on Wednesday and then both their Thursday and Friday games were rained out, though they did get a couple of innings in on Thursday–enough to see an extremely impressive Kyle Harrison face the “Dodgers” (who brought none of their stars other than Will Smith). Anyway, the Giants had a big win at Scottsdale Stadium in their last completed game on Tuesday, so let’s go with that: They’re playing GREAT!

The Giants having had a mini “All-Star break” of sorts two weeks into the Cactus League season is the first example of “unfinished business,” my title and theme for this week’s Out of Left Field. I stole the idea from new Giants third baseman Matt Chapman‘s Monday press conference, at which he pointedly noted that he and manager Bob Melvin had some great years with the A’s before their cheap-AF owners decided to sell off the players (OK, maybe I’m paraphrasing a little). Chapman was traded to Toronto, Matt Olson and later Sean Murphy were traded to the Braves, and Melvin was “traded” to the Padres. Anyway, Chapman said he was happy to reunite with Melvin in an organization that cares about winning and isn’t afraid to spend money. (I guess everything’s relative, right?)

So beyond the interrupted spring training schedule and Chapman/Melvin’s interrupted path to glory, what unfinished business do the Giants have, now that we’re under three weeks away from the March 28 opener at Petco Park in San Diego?

 

Unfinished Business: Who’s on Short?

We know the storyline. President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi said “No thanks” to another year with franchise icon Brandon Crawford (who continued his media revenge tour this week with an interview on KNBR), early on anointing rookie Marco Luciano as the heir apparent whose time was now. But then Luciano’s spring training debut was delayed by a hamstring issue, and he’s off to a slow start (1 for 13 with two walks and eight strikeouts). In the meantime, and juxtaposed with Crawford signing a one-year deal with the Cardinals, two-time Gold Glove shortstop Nick Ahmed was signed–and is 5 for 8 with two homers so far. The addition of Chapman a few days after Ahmed arrived suddenly made it possible to dream on a very, very good left side of the infield.

Ahmed is a non-roster invitee, but if I were guessing today, I’d say he’s the Opening Day shortstop with Luciano headed to AAA to do…I’m not sure what. Hit, of course. But is it time for him to start preparing to play a different position? Meanwhile, the arrivals of Ahmed and especially Chapman almost certainly ticket Casey Schmitt for AAA, as well. Schmitt was 0 for 9 in the Cactus League and has missed a week of play with an ankle injury–and while he was out, the Giants signed a four-time Gold Glove winner to play his best position, 3B. If Luciano isn’t the answer at SS, and if Ahmed is likely a temporary one (and at 33 and having been slowed down by injuries and ineffectiveness, it probably is a short-term situation), will Schmitt spend a lot of time at SS in AAA, and if he does, where does Luciano play? Or do they keep Schmitt sharp at 3B because Chapman can opt out after this year, and…arghhh, this is getting confusing.

My take right now is that Luciano is not going to play SS for the Giants, maybe not ever. They should have him focus on hitting in AAA and maybe park him in LF or at 1B or something, let him learn an easier position. His injury history at just 22 years old is concerning, too. The new top-30 prospects list for the Giants shows that they have some tantalizing options at SS for the future–second-round 2023 pick Walker Martin (#5, a bat-first SS), fourth-round pick Maui Ahuna (#19, already being characterized as “the next Brandon Crawford” with the glove) or international prospect Aeverson Arteaga (#12, who had a rough 2023 but is still considered to be a plus-defender at SS). It may make sense to pivot on Luciano at SS and fill in the gaps for a year or two with Ahmed, Schmitt, and super-utility player Tyler Fitzgerald.

 

Unfinished Business: Roster Crunch

The business finally getting finished with Chapman puts J.D. Davis into limbo. Until Chapman’s arrival, Davis thought he was going to be the everyday 3B for the Giants, but now there’s no room on the roster for him at all. Yes, he can play 1B, but LaMonte Wade Jr. and Wilmer Flores are ensconced in a platoon there. He could DH, but that’s why they signed Jorge Soler. Somebody’s got to go, and while you’d assume it’s Davis, it could also be Flores, who creates the redundancy with Davis, and who might be even more appealing on the trade market because of his excellent 2023 season and good reputation as a clubhouse leader. But those are the same reasons why the Giants probably want to keep Flores, who’s been a Giant since 2020 and seems especially valuable with younger Spanish-speaking players like Thairo Estrada, Luciano, Luis Matos, and Camilo Doval around plus the addition of Soler.

In addition to having too many RH-hitting corner infielders now, the Giants have five (5) catchers on the 40-man roster, and most notably, Joey Bart is out of minor league options. Moving on to the outfield, the Giants have eight outfielders if you don’t count Soler (please, no) and do count Fitzgerald (who’s listed as an infielder but can play CF). Sending Wade Meckler to AAA seems like a no-brainer. We assume that Michael Conforto, Jung Hoo Lee, Mike Yastrzemski, and Austin Slater are sure things, with Soler and Fitzgerald as emergency backups, but that leaves no room for Matos, who came to camp in the Best Shape of His Life™ and has hit three homers in 19 ABs with just two strikeouts in Cactus League play. Now, Matos is still very young (22), and we know that Yaz and/or Slater will be injured soon. In fact, Slater’s back to DHing because he’s had a setback in his recovery from elbow surgery, and have I mentioned that the Giants already have a RH-hitting DH and that’s why they have to trade Davis?

Case in point: Here’s today’s lineup, and check it out–Slater DHing and Soler in RF!  Yeah, not good. We can’t have that in the regular season.

Unfinished Business: The Pitching Staff

This is the big one, and I saved it for last. As we have faithfully chronicled here at TWG, the Giants’ pitchers have been dropping like flies. Just since camp started, they’ve lost Tristan Beck to arm surgery, Keaton Winn had a setback with elbow pain, and 40-man pitchers Sean Hjelle and Kai-Wei Teng have been shut down with injuries. I also just saw that bullpen stalwart Ryan Walkerfelt a little something” in his pitching elbow and has been shut down. Now, other than Beck, the injuries are not at this point considered serious, and Winn is expected to be ready for Opening Day. And, on the good news front, Alex Cobb continues to make good progress in his rehab from offseason hip surgery and may be back sooner than expected. The Giants have not yet put him on the 60-day IL (which would mean he couldn’t return before May 27), suggesting they’re hopeful for a quicker return.

MLB.com had a new article out today predicting all 30 teams’ starting lineups and rotations for Opening Day. For the Giants, they predicted a rotation of Logan Webb, Jordan Hicks,  Harrison, Winn, and Mason Black. Assuming their optimism about Winn is well-founded, this seems like a pretty reasonable guess. So…that’s a rotation, and it could be good enough until Cobb, Robbie Ray, and Beck can return, but–there’s a lot of ways it could go wrong: Winn could stay hurt or one of the others could get hurt, Hicks might not be successful in converting to starting, one or more of the three rookies (Harrison, Winn, and Black are all rookies at this point) could falter. That’s a ton of risk. So the biggest item of “unfinished business” is, c’mon Zaidi, get another starting pitcher. A real one, not a guy from a dumpster (Spencer Howard or Daulton Jefferies or Ethan Small). There’s already enough uncertainty with Hicks and the three rookies. Whether by spending money or making a trade, get a real, proven, major league starting pitcher.

As for the bullpen…I don’t even know. I could only count five sure things before I saw the news about Walker. You figure they’ll add at least one lefty to complement Taylor Rogers, so maybe Erik Miller or non-roster invitee Amir Garrett. But beyond “another lefty TBD,” it’s a big black hole mystery at this point.

 

Unfinished Business: Your My26ManGuys™ Ballot

The deadline for this year’s contest is one week from tomorrow, March 17. Here is the ballot link …

You can edit your guesses later up until the deadline. I’ve already submitted my ballot, but I’m sure I’ll still be changing it up until then…because of all the “unfinished business” mentioned above.

 

Unfinished Business: The Lefty Family’s Trip to Scottsdale!

Yes, as you might have gathered from my “byline” above, we have arrived in Arizona, and I’m writing this from our hotel room just a few minutes’ walk from Scottsdale Stadium. I’m here with MrLefty, BrotherLefty, SisterLefty, and Brother-in-LawLefty. We already had the World’s Greatest Chopped Salad™ at Citizen Public House last night and are headed to the first of the two games we’re attending a little later this morning. The photo below was outside the restaurant last night just before we went into dinner.

Old Town Scottsdale (AZ) at sunset, March 8, 2024. Photo credit: SisterLefty

 

Our hotel is crawling with Dodger fans even though their ballpark in Glendale is a solid 45-min drive from here. Hey, is it our fault that the Giants play in a way cooler area? Go back where you belong!

 

Today’s Game

A’s at Giants, 12:05 p.m., Scottsdale Stadium

TV: NBCS-BA; Radio: KNBR

Kyle Muller vs. Jordan Hicks

Giants’ lineup is posted above. You don’t care about the A’s lineup because you won’t know who they are, anyway. I’ll take pictures and report back!  Lefty out.