Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Giants are hoping for a big season from Brandon Belt
The San Francisco Giants' roster will be made up of eight starters, 12 pitchers and a backup catcher. That makes 21 out of the 25 potential spots on the team. The question then is who will earn those final four roster spots.
The main choices are Mike Fontenot, Brandon Belt, Brett Pill, Manny Burriss, Ryan Theriot, Conor Gillaspie or Gregor Blanco. That's seven players for only four spots.
I expect that Belt will make the squad, as he can play in the outfield and first base. He also should hit well in spring training against pitchers that are not fully in the groove yet. Belt is an excellent mistake hitter.
It is in the regular season where Belt struggled in 2011. His long loopy swing made him vulnerable to the hard fastball inside on his hands. He simply could not hit that pitch. When he tried to overcompensate, then he was fooled by soft stuff away.
The key for Belt in 2012 will be whether he can adjust to handle the hard stuff on the inside corner. Nevertheless, I do expect him to win one of the four spots out of spring training.
With Brandon Crawford at shortstop and Freddy Sanchez at second base, the Giants would be wise to carry two backup middle infielders. Crawford has never shown the ability to hit big league pitching and Sanchez is likely to miss time due to injury.
Two players I expect to see on the team are Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot. Fontenot can play second, short or third and has proven valuable as a utility man.
The recent acquisition of Ryan Theriot was an excellent move for the Giants. He was the starting shortstop for the Cardinals before they got Rafael Furcal in midseason. Theriot is a career .282 hitter and a good defensive player.
Theriot's reliability and versatility will make him a favorite of manager Bruce Bochy and Giants fans. He actually could beat out Crawford as the starting shortstop, but at worst will be an ideal platoon partner. Crawford is a weak hitter to begin with, but was abysmal against left hand pitching.
That leaves one roster spot and I believe it will go to Brett Pill. He is the best hitter of the bunch and can provide power off the bench. In Fresno last year, Pill hit .312 with 25 home runs and 107 RBI.
In a very small sample size of 50 at-bats as a September call-up, Pill hit .300 with two home runs and nine RBI. His OBP was .321 and his OPS was a very strong .881. Pill showed a good ability to make adjustments to pitchers and was significantly ahead of Belt in this regard.
The one thing that may work in Burriss' favor is he is out of minor league options. If he does not make the team, the Giants would need to expose him to waivers and he could be claimed by another team. As far as I'm concerned, that's a risk worth taking.
Burriss has absolutely no power and is not a strong hitter, with only one career home run in 584 at-bats. He hit only .204 last year with no home runs and four RBI in 137 at-bats. Compare that to Pill and you see why I prefer him as the 25th man. Burriss' OBP of .253 is also very poor.
Burris is only an average defensive player and the combination of Fontenot and Theriot make him expendable. He does have good speed, but tops out as a triple-A player best utilized as a late season call-up to pinch run.
Blanco is a long shot, but if the Giants decide to go with speed and defense for a fifth outfielder, he may have a chance. I actually see him as the first player recalled in the event one of the starting outfielders gets injured.
Gillaspie is also a long shot and has minor league options left. I like him and think he has potential, but at this stage of his career, he is unlikely to make the team.