San Francisco Giants' Spring Training To-Do List
The Giants made several key moves designed to bolster their roster and give them the best chance to challenge for the division title. As we saw in 2010 and 2012, once in the playoffs, anything can happen.
Spring training is upon us and hope springs eternal for the Giants and every other team in the majors.
In addition to making sure they're ready for the start of the season, the Giants have a few important decisions to make. Let's take a closer look at some of those key areas of focus for the Giants this spring.
All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
No. 5: Decide on a Reserve Infielder
The Giants' infield is set with Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, Marco Scutaro and Brandon Belt. The top reserve utility infielder is Joaquin Arias. This leaves one more job available.
The final reserve infield spot will likely come down to Tony Abreu, Nick Noonan or Ehire Adrianza.
Barring injury, Abreu looks to have the edge. He is the most experienced, with parts of five seasons in the big leagues. In addition, Abreu is the most accomplished hitter of the three players battling for that coveted job.
In 2013, Abreu got 138 at-bats and hit .268, with two home runs, 14 RBI and 21 runs scored. His OBP was only .301, but his OPS was a solid .743.
Abreu battled a balky knee last year, and if that flares up again, it could open the door a lot wider for Noonan or Adrianza.
Defensively, both Noonan and Adrianza are better than Abreu. However, there is a large gap offensively, with Abreu holding a sizable edge.
Noonan had 105 at-bats with the Giants in 2013. He hit only .219, with an OBP of .261 and OPS of .499. Noonan is a career .266 hitter in 2,610 minor league at-bats.
If Noonan wants to win the job, his hitting must improve.
The same can be said about Adrianza. His career average in the minors is only .248. He will need to prove he can hit major league pitching if he has any chance of winning a job.
No. 4: Find Their 5th Outfielder
The Giants' top four outfield jobs are set. Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan and Michael Morse are the starters, with Gregor Blanco the fourth outfielder.
However, one additional spot is up for grabs. Juan Perez will battle Roger Kieschnick for this spot, although Perez looks to have the inside track.
Perez is a superior defensive player and his speed is an asset on the bases in the late innings.
In 2013, Perez split time between San Francisco and Fresno. In the majors, Perez had 89 at-bats, with an average of .258 and an OBP of .302. His OPS was .650, which needs improvement.
Kieschnick got an opportunity with the Giants last year but did not impress. In 84 at-bats, Kieschnick hit only .202, with an OBP of .295 and OPS of .521. He managed only one extra-base hit with the Giants.
A potential wild card who could throw a wrench into the competition is Mark Teahen. The Giants signed Teahen to a minor league contract, but if he impresses, he could win a job. Teahen has experience playing first base, third base and in the outfield.
Teahen, who is 32 years of age, has not played in the majors in the past two seasons. Giants' manager Bruce Bochy values versatility, which could help Teahen win a job.
Look for Perez to open the season with the Giants, as his late-inning defense will make the difference. Perez will enable Bochy to remove Michael Morse late in games to upgrade the defense.
No. 3: Solidify the Final 2 Bullpen Spots
Bruce Bochy is a master at utilizing his bullpen. Looking forward to the 2014 season, the Giants have four solid relievers in place. Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez handle the left side, while Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo are two right-handed pitchers.
Yusmeiro Petit will most likely be the Giants' long reliever and spot starter. Petit pitched well last year and earned this job. If Petit struggles, look for the Giants to promote either David Huff or Edwin Escobar.
Barring injury or total ineffectiveness, there will be two relief jobs available.
Heath Hembree is in line for one of these spots, and only an implosion would cost him the opportunity.
The final relief job will most likely come down to a competition between Derek Law, George Kontos, Jean Machi and Dan Runzler.
The Giants like to have three left-handed relievers, so Runzler has a chance. He will need to develop a lot more consistency and reliability to win this job. Runzler often looked untouchable, but there were bouts of wildness and regression mixed in.
Law, Kontos and Machi are very close at this point. Of the three, whoever throws the ball the best in the spring will have the inside track for the roster spot.
No. 2: Sign Pablo Sandoval to a Contract Extension
Pablo Sandoval reported to spring training in far better shape than he was at any point in the past few years. Sandoval is in a contract year, which undoubtedly was a factor in his conditioning.
Sandoval is slated to make $8.25 million this year and can become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
If general manager Brian Sabean and Sandoval can come to an agreement on a contract extension now, that would be ideal. It could also save the Giants some money. If Sandoval has a big year, his price will skyrocket.
If the Giants offered a three-year extension in the $36 million range, hopefully Sandoval would accept.
In 2013, Sandoval played in 141 games and had 525 at-bats. He hit .278 with 14 home runs and 79 RBI. Sandoval had an OBP of .341 and OPS of .758.
Sandoval has the ability to be a .300 hitter, as he was earlier in his career. He could also hit over 20 home runs and drive in 100 runs.
Injuries have plagued Sandoval over the past three years. With his new svelte look, the Giants and Sandoval are hoping that the injury bug will miss Sandoval entirely in 2014.
No. 1: Get the Starting Rotation on Track to Start the Season
The San Francisco Giants will go as far as their pitching will take them. In each of the Giants' two world championship seasons, it was their pitching that ultimately set them apart from the rest.
The starting pitching struggled in 2013. Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti are counting on it to be much improved this year.
Brian Sabean signed veteran Tim Hudson to a two-year deal this winter. Hudson is coming off a major ankle injury, but appears to be on track to start the season.
Madison Bumgarner was the top starter for the Giants in 2013. He threw 201.1 innings, allowed 146 hits and 62 walks and struck out 199. Bumgarner had an ERA of 2.77 and WHIP of 1.033.
Outside of Bumgarner, the remainder of the Giants' staff had down years. The fact that the Giants' starters have logged so many innings during their championship runs in 2010 and 2012 caught up with them last year.
Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong all struggled mightily in 2013. Now, with a full winter to rest and get into even better shape, these three are poised for a positive rebound this season.
The Giants expect at least 30 starts from each starter, so good health and consistency are a must in 2014.