With this pivotal date looming, the final weeks of spring training are kicking into full gear. Only a few remaining spots are available for too many qualified candidates, and unfortunately, many deserving players will be left off the Opening Day roster.
Be it injury, lack of experience, underwhelming spring performance or overwhelming competition, several players will be disappointed come April.
Here are the five players who will be the toughest to see absent from the Opening Day roster.
San Francisco had high hopes for Kensuke Tanaka.
And with 46 plate appearances, the team has given Tanaka every chance to find his groove at the plate during spring training. However, he has largely struggled, posting a meager .233 batting average. Coupled with a lack of power (one double, no home runs), it is becoming increasingly unlikely Tanaka is the answer the Giants are looking for in regards to infield depth.
The most troubling part of Tanaka's performance has been his defense. He has committed seven errors in the infield this spring—far too many for a team that utilizes a small-ball strategy—or for any team, for that matter. The Giants' tight defense in the playoffs elevated them above opponents such as the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers.
One element working in Tanaka's favor is the lack of alternatives to fill the spot previously held by second baseman Ryan Theriot.
Still, utility infielder Wilson Valdez appears to be in the best position to snag the remaining roster spot. Although slogging through an average spring training (.259 batting average in 27 at-bats), the versatile infielder has seven seasons of major league experience under his belt.
The 26-year-old Johnny Monell has proven himself worthy of major league playing time this spring. Unfortunately, it is unlikely the up-and-coming young catcher will be given that opportunity just yet.
And not from lack of production this spring. Monell's numbers: .500/.550/.778
Returning backup catcher Hector Sanchez has endured spring training woes relating to his weight, spotty offensive performance and health. He is currently playing with an injured right shoulder, which has caused concern in the Giants' camp. As reported by John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Manager Bruce Bochy said there's "some concern at this point" about whether Sanchez can be the No. 2 catcher behind Posey and mentioned Guillermo Quiroz, who has played 103 games for five big-league teams, and Jackson Williams as possible replacements.
Although the role of backup catcher may in fact be opening up, Monell appears to remain the club's second choice. Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News writes: "The leading candidate if Sanchez can't go would appear to be Guillermo Quiroz, a 31-year-old, 13-year pro who has spent just 103 games in the big leagues, 56 of those with Baltimore in 2008."
I still expect Sanchez to be available April 1st, and it is highly unlikely the Giants will carry three backup catchers on their roster.
Monell is simply too inexperienced, and needs his defense to improve in order to be given the nod to join the Opening Day roster. However, his stellar offensive performance this spring training is a sign of good things to come in the youngster's future.
Ramon Ramirez served the city of San Francisco well as a late-season pickup from the Boston Red Sox in 2010. The right-handed reliever was an integral part of the Giants' playoff run, providing bullpen support to an already strong set of arms.
However, with only one bullpen spot up for grabs on the Giants' 2013 roster, Ramirez has simply been outperformed by his competition throughout spring training.
In six innings of work, Ramirez has posted a 12.00 ERA along with a 2.167 WHIP—hardly the kind of numbers needed to make a push onto the regular-season roster.
Additionally, other bullpen candidates have stepped up. Veteran reliever Chad Gaudin has amassed an impressive 2.19 ERA in 12.1 innings of work this spring. Gaudin also has major league experience, eliminating an edge Ramirez may have had over the competition.
There are other contenders for the spot on the roster as well, which ultimately works to Ramirez's disadvantage. Dan Runzler, Jean Machi and Scott Proctor remain in the running.
One upside for Ramirez? Jose Mijares and his lingering elbow issues may leave him on the disabled list at the season's outset.
Francisco Peguero is enjoying a breakout spring training, enough to put him on the Giants' radar for years to come.
However, there is simply no place for the 24-year-old outfielder.
The spot Peguero is fighting for is a place in the left field rotation, which already includes returning starter Gregor Blanco and former Giant Andres Torres. In addition to the presumed platoon-mates, the Giants need another outfielder to come off the bench to pinch-hit and play the field in later innings.
Despite Peguero's impressive spring training, this role is better suited for the more veteran Cole Gillespie. Both players have done well this spring:
Peguero: .385/.400/.513 in 40 plate appearances
Gillespie: .306/.390/.472 in 41 plate appearances
"Brett Pill's knee injury left this pair to compete for the backup outfield vacancy. Peguero (.385 batting average, five strikeouts in 39 at-bats, .913 OPS) clearly has outplayed Gillespie (.306 average, 10 strikeouts in 36 at-bats, .862 OPS). But the Giants' braintrust might decide that Peguero, 24, needs to play every day at Triple-A while Gillespie, 28, is more suited for pinch-hitting and reserve duty."
This spot is still very much up for grabs, but I give the slight edge to Gillespie. Either way, both players deserve a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Poor Brett Pill.
Pill was in the process of making a strong case for himself not only as an everyday presence on the bench but as a viable option to take over the left field position.
Then he had to get knee surgery.
As of March 13th, via Andrew Baggerly of CSNBayArea.com:
Knee surgery for Brett Pill tomorrow. He'll be out at least three weeks.— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) March 13, 2013
This injury opened up the gates to newcomers Cole Gillespie and Francisco Peguero but closed the door on the possibility of Pill making the Opening Day roster.
Pill's absence in April lessens the power potential and pinch-hitting experience on the Giants' bench. With a lack of offensive depth on the bench overall, this could be a blow to San Francisco. Luckily, a small blow: Pill should only be out for a few weeks, as reported by ESPN.