San Francisco Giants: Non-Roster Invitees with Best Shot to Make 25-Man Roster

Jacob ShaferFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2017

Infielder Jimmy Rollins.
Infielder Jimmy Rollins.Elsa/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants enter spring training with uncertainty in the outfield and an open competition for the backup infield spots.

That's good news for fringe players, including non-roster invitees hoping to make an impression in the Cactus League.

Generally, NRIs are prospects getting their feet wet or middling journeymen chewing through inconsequential exhibition innings. Occasionally, though, they force their way into the conversation and on to the 25-man roster.

Here are four non-roster hopefuls from this complete list (via MLB.com) with a fair-to-realistic chance of breaking camp with the big club and heading to AT&T Park for Opening Day.

 

Mike Morse

OK, Giants fans. Watch this, a few times if you want.

Feels good, right?

Mike Morse spent one season with San Francisco in 2014, but he left his mark on the final installment of the team's even-year title trilogy. Nothing can erase those warm, beautiful memories.

Can he help the Giants this year? That's debatable.

Morse turns 35 in March and played just six games last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hasn't put together a productive season since he shed the orange and black.

The Giants have an open competition in left field between unproven youngsters Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson, with speedy Gorkys Hernandez also in the mix. 

In an interview with the Giants' flagship station, KNBR 680, general manager Bobby Evans indicated Parker and Williamson might not both make the roster. Williamson has options, Parker does not.

"Yeah, I don't know that I want both of them to be on this club," Evans said. "I really would rather one guy take the job and then maybe one of the veteran guys or other non-roster invites to manage so that he's the second part to the puzzle."

The idea of the plodding Morse as a semi-regular outfielder is a stretch. He could stick as a power bat off the bench, though, and add a boost of sweet nostalgia. 

 

Justin Ruggiano

If the Parker/Williamson experiment fizzles, Justin Ruggiano is another option to take reps in left field.

The 34-year-old saw limited action with the Texas Rangers and New York Mets last season and owns a .258/.322/.439 slash line across parts of eight MLB seasons. 

Journeyman Justin Ruggiano could challenge for playing time in left field.
Journeyman Justin Ruggiano could challenge for playing time in left field.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

 

He hit 18 home runs for the Miami Marlins in 2013 and grades as an above-average defender in left.

The Giants have spun unheralded outfielders into gold before. Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres both started out as non-roster invitees and became key contributors to championship teams.

That doesn't mean they'll strike pay dirt with Ruggiano, but expect him to get a long look. 

 

Jae-Gyun Hwang

Speedy Eduardo Nunez has the inside track on the starting third base job, with wayward former prospect and 2016 postseason hero Conor Gillaspie in line as his primary backup.

San Francisco added an intriguing wild card when it signed Korean import Jae-Gyun Hwang to a minor league deal with a spring training invite.

The 29-year-old Hwang slashed .285/.349/.433 with 114 home runs in 10 seasons with the Korea Baseball Organization and is apparently a pretty accomplished bat flipper (don't tell Madison Bumgarner).

If those offensive skills translate stateside, it's easy to imagine Hwang not only making the 25-man roster but also pushing Nunez for playing time. 

The Giants hope Jae-Gyun Hwang's KBO numbers will translate to MLB.
The Giants hope Jae-Gyun Hwang's KBO numbers will translate to MLB.Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

If Hwang doesn't make the big club out of spring, he intends to stick it out.

"A lot of people assume if he doesn't make it, he's just going to run back to Korea, but that's not his mentality," Hwang's agent, Han Lee said, per Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News. "I've told him it’s very much possible he could start at [Triple-A] Sacramento, and if that's the case, he'll just have to work his way up."

 

Jimmy Rollins

If the Giants carry five outfielders, which is possible, they'd have room for only two backup infielders. 

Kelby Tomlinson has hit .299 in 106 games for San Francisco over the past two seasons and can capably man multiple positions. Orlando Calixte is another option on the 40-man roster.

Don't sleep on veteran Jimmy Rollins, though.

The 2007 NL MVP and Bay Area native is returning to his roots for one more run. It's possible he's done. He turned 38 in November and slashed .221/.295/.329 in 41 games with the Chicago White Sox last season.

If he indicates signs of life in Scottsdale, however, the Giants sound keen on having him on the field and behind the scenes.

"That's great veteran depth for us," Evans said of Rollins on KNBR, per Daniel Mano of the Mercury News. "His presence in the clubhouse and if he's coming off the bench it just gives us strength and [manager Bruce] Bochy options on days to give guys rest."

   

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.