SF Giants Spring Training Stock Watch: Who Is Rising and Who Is Falling?
Spring training is a time of optimism and excitement as hope springs eternal. The San Francisco Giants are off to a good start in Scottsdale, Ariz., and their starting rotation has been outstanding.
Including split squad games, the Giants have a record of 9-5. More important than the record is the fact that the players are getting their work in and are on track to start the season in just over a couple weeks.
The Giants' roster is pretty well set, except for a couple of reserve jobs and bullpen roles. Outside of Marco Scutaro, who is nursing a sore back, all of the Giants' key players are in good shape, are healthy and appear poised to have good seasons.
Every spring there are surprises, both good and bad. Let's take a look at those players whose stocks are rising and whose are falling.
No. 5 Falling: Nick Noonan
Nick Noonan is a utility infielder battling for the final reserve-infield job. In addition, if Marco Scutaro is unable to open the season due to back trouble, there will be two jobs available.
Unfortunately for Noonan, he is unlikely to win either job.
Noonan reached the majors last year due to an injury to Scutaro. He got into 62 games and had 105 at-bats. Noonan played mostly second and third base. He is a solid defensive player, but his offensive production is lacking.
Noonan hit only .219, with an OBP of .261 and OPS of .499. He had only two extra-base hits, both doubles in those 105 at-bats.
This spring, Noonan has done nothing to distinguish himself, hitting only .222. He is fighting Tony Abreu, Ehire Adrianza and Brandon Hicks for the final one or two reserve jobs. At this point, Noonan trails all of them.
No. 5 Rising: Brandon Hicks
Brandon Hicks has played parts of three seasons in the Majors. He has some pop in his bat but has not hit for average in his big league career.
In 2012, Hicks played 22 games with the Oakland A's and got 64 at-bats. He hit three home runs, but only had an average of .172.
Hicks has been impressive in camp, blasting a home run off Clayton Kershaw. He's currently hitting .368, with an OBP of .478 and OPS of 1.268. In Hicks' 19 spring at-bats, he has seven hits, including five doubles and one home run. Those six extra-base hits lead the team this spring.
Hicks is now 28 years of age and should be at his peak. Even if he does not make the Opening Day roster, he has opened some eyes and made a very positive impression.
No. 4 Falling: Tyler Colvin
When the San Francisco Giants acquired Tyler Colvin to compete for the fifth outfield spot, it looked like he had an excellent chance to win the job.
Colvin has 1,076 career big league at-bats, while his main competition, Juan Perez, has 89. Colvin has much more power than Perez, with 47 career home runs. However, Perez is the better defensive player and has more speed.
Colvin has not had a big spring and will need to really turn it on if he is to make the team. Colvin is hitting only .222, with an OPS of .556.
No. 4 Rising: Edwin Escobar
In 2013, Escobar started the season with High-A San Jose and was promoted to the Giants' Double-A affiliate in Richmond. He will be 22 years of age in April.
Escobar has a good fastball in the low- to mid-90s to go along with a good curveball. He also has a changeup that is developing.
Escobar shows excellent poise for such a young pitcher and is likely the first starter to be called up if the Giants need someone to step into the rotation.
This spring, Escobar has pitched well. In six innings, he allowed only one hit and five walks, while striking out one. The walks are too high, but Escobar has done a good job pitching around that. He has allowed only one run in his three outings.
Escobar's ERA is 1.50 with a WHIP of 1.00. Opponents have only hit .056 off him, which has caught the attention of Bochy and Righetti. While only striking out one hitter, Escobar has been able to keep hitters off balance and get them to hit his pitch.
No. 3 Falling: Yusmeiro Petit
When spring training began, Yusmeiro Petit was slated to be the Giants' long reliever and spot starter. He earned the opportunity based on his strong showing in 2013.
In 2013, Petit appeared in eight games, throwing 48 innings and allowing 46 hits and 11 walks, while striking out 47. He even nearly pitched a perfect game last September.
Petit has pitched only five innings this spring but has allowed 14 hits and one walk while striking out two. His ERA has ballooned up to 12.60 with a WHIP of 3.00. Opposing batters are hitting .483 against him.
Petit has left the door ajar for other pitchers to potentially claim his job. One more bad outing and that door will swing wide open.
No. 3 Rising: Derek Law
Perhaps the biggest surprise in camp has been the performance of Derek Law.
A young relief pitcher, Law started the 2013 season playing in rookie ball, then advanced to the Giants' Single-A club in Augusta. He finished the year playing in San Jose, the Giants' High-A affiliate.
Law was extremely impressive in San Jose, striking our 45 batters, while walking only one, in 25.2 innings of work.
Law features a mid-90s fastball, along with a good slider and curveball. He has a unique delivery that also makes it tough for opposing hitters to pick up the ball. Law turns his back completely to the plate, then spins around and throws the pitch.
This motion is a little like Luis Tiant or Gene Garber, both of whom were very good pitchers in the major leagues.
Law has excellent command of his pitches. This spring he has impressed, throwing two innings and not allowing a hit while striking out two.
It will be a lot to ask of Law to move from High-A all the way up to the Majors, but Law seems to have the arsenal to do it.
It's more likely that Law will start the season at Richmond, but if he continues to excel, we could see him in San Francisco in 2014.
No. 2 Falling: Tony Abreu
Tony Abreu is battling Ehire Adrianza for the final utility-infielder spot. Both players are out of options, so the Giants could lose the one who does not make the Opening Day roster.
In 2013, Abreu had 138 at-bats, hitting .268, with an OBP of .301 and OPS of .743. He is generally regarded as a better hitter than Adrianza, but is not as strong a defensive player.
Abreu is 29 years of age, five years older than Adrianza. In addition, Abreu has a knee that has given him a lot of problems in the past.
Unless Abreu does a lot better than Adrianza this spring, he will be the one to get cut. Thus far in the spring, Adrianza has outplayed Abreu.
Abreu is hitting only .217, with an OPS of .435, while Adrianza is batting .263 and has a tremendous OPS of 1.037.
Abreu's best chance to make the roster appears to be if Marco Scutaro is unable to open the season and is moved to the disabled list.
No. 2 Rising: Ehire Adrianza
Ehire Adrianza has moved into the lead to win the Giants' second backup-infielder role. He has outplayed both Tony Abreu and Nick Noonan this spring.
Adrianza is a good defensive player and has held his own at the plate. In 19 at-bats this spring, Adrianza has five hits, four for extra bases. He is hitting .263, with an OBP of .300 and OPS of 1.037. He has two home runs and six RBI.
At the age of 24, Adrianza is more valuable than Abreu, who is 29, with a balky knee.
Look for Adrianza to be on the Giants' roster coming out of spring training.
No. 1 Falling: Marco Scutaro
Marco Scutaro was one of the heroes of the Giants' 2012 World Series title run. He was the MVP of the NLCS and was rewarded with a three-year, $20 million contract.
In 2013, Scutaro suffered a broken finger when he was hit by a pitch. He also was slowed by a bad back that appears to be a chronic issue.
Scutaro's back is ailing him once again, and he has yet to play in a spring training game. There is a lot of doubt as to whether Scutaro will be ready to start the season with the Giants on Opening Day.
No. 1 Rising: Pablo Sandoval
Pablo Sandoval is arguably the most pleasant surprise of spring training. He reported to camp after losing about 30 pounds this winter. He looks sharp and is playing much better defensively. In addition, his bat speed is quick and he's hitting the ball well.
2014 marks the end of Sandoval's contract, and he hopes to get a long-term deal completed with the Giants. The key is whether they can trust that Sandoval will remain in good shape if they give him a longer-term contract.
His improved physical condition should also help him stay healthier and avoid some of the nagging leg injuries he has dealt with over the years.
Sandoval is off to a hot start this spring, hitting .381, with an OBP of .417 and OPS of .940. Look for the Giants to complete an extension with Sandoval, in the three-year range.