San Francisco Giants: 5 Things the Team Hopes to Bring with Them from Scottsdale
Spring training is always so illusory. It feels like baseball, smells like baseball, and sometimes even looks like baseball. However, it just makes March move that much more slowly.
It doesn't matter how good certain players are looking this spring. They aren't making the roster. And it doesn't matter how Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval are performing. We'll reserve judgment until April.
Spring training is a necessary exercise for players, but unless you are there, it's merely background noise to March Madness for baseball fans. What kind of team will show up April 6th? Here are five things the San Francisco Giants hope to carry back to San Francisco with them.
Buster Posey's Healthy Ankle
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All is well. So far. In fact, the news couldn't be any better regarding Posey. If you fell asleep last May and just woke up, you wouldn't even know he was gone. Posey's stats this spring don't even matter (.294, one HR). He has 17-at bats. Seventeen collision-free, pain-free at-bats.
Posey was the symbol of the Giants' miraculous uprising to World Champions in 2010. It's almost as if the celebration can now continue with Buster back. The potential dynasty that we all imagined coming into 2011 can now resume. Next time, Buster, please get out of the way.
Breakout Roster Candidates
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Spring training stats won't get anyone into the Hall of Fame. But they can get you a place on a big-league roster. This spring, with the 25-man roster will in flux, Gregor Blanco and Manny Burriss are making a case.
Burriss' spring is surprising. He's a guy we all like to root for, but also can't seem to get rid of. A subpar spring would probably have spelled the end for Manny. But with a .417 average and five SB through Wednesday, and with the most fragile second basemen in baseball—Freddy Sanchez's health in doubt once again—Burriss may find himself with one more "last chance." Nine lives indeed.
Blanco's success is more surprising. While Giants fans dreamed of Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols, the Giants signed Blanco to a minor-league deal in November. Overshadowed by new acquisitions Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan, Blanco has been a terror this spring, hitting .419 with nine SB in 10 attempts. While sample sizes this small should temper excitement, Blanco's speed and patience at the plate should win him a roster spot come April.
Brandon Belt's Power Stroke
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OK, power stroke might be overstating it. Belt only has 43 ABs this spring. But he's made the most of them, swatting three HR and four 2B. Belt with some pop would stand in steep contrast to the 2011 version who often seemed to be swinging a wiffle bat.
The elephant in the room of course is where Belt will play. Putting him in the outfield with Cabrera and Pagan seems the logical choice with Nate Schierholtz hobbling through Scottsdale. How long Bochy will let Aubrey Huff flail away this year is anyone's guess. In either case, it's time to give Belt a real chance.
Madison Bumgarner's Control
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Whenever I realize that Matt Cain is about to enter the final season of his contract with no extension in sight, I throw another dart at the Brian Sabean poster hanging on my wall. Then I remember Madison Bumgarner, the fact that he's not a free agent until 2029 (rough estimate) and that he may very well be the best pitcher on the Giants staff in 2012.
This spring, Bumgarner is sporting an other-worldy 15:1 K/BB ratio. He might be a young Tom Glavine. If Bumgarner builds on his great second half from last year, there are Cy Young votes in his future.
Melky Cabrera's .410 Average
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Nobody's hit .400 since Ted Williams in 1941, but the way Melky Cabrera's swinging it this spring, I say why not? In reality, the Giants would love to bottle up Cabrera's hot streak and carry it forward through September. He's raking in Arizona, and a season that even approaches .300/20HR/20SB would remove much of the discontent over this last offseason.