Most Disappointing San Francisco Giants Players in Spring Training so Far
At this point in the spring, players are focused on getting their work in to be ready for the start of the season. Unless you're a rookie or marginal player trying to land a job, statistics are largely meaningless.
With more than three weeks remaining before the start of the season, there is still plenty of time for a player to find his groove.
Spring training in 2015 for the Giants has already been more eventful than last year. Manager Bruce Bochy underwent a heart procedure and right fielder Hunter Pence broke his arm when he was hit by with a fastball from Cubs prospect Corey Black.
Pence is expected to miss six to eight weeks, which will place his return sometime into mid-to-late April. His string of 383 consecutive games, the longest current streak in baseball, will come to an end.
As the defending world champions, the Giants ideally want a quieter and less eventful spring training.
On the positive, Matt Cain and Tim Hudson, who are both returning from surgeries, look strong and have suffered no setbacks.
However, there are players who are off to slower starts than is ideal. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of time for those players to get on track.
Let's take a look at five players who have had sluggish or disappointing springs thus far.
Relief pitcher Sergio Romo has battled shoulder soreness this spring. He finally threw batting practice to live hitters for the first time, earlier this week.
Romo's shoulder problem has limited his throwing and he is behind the other Giants pitchers. With a few weeks to go before the start of the season, Romo has a lot of catching up to do. Otherwise, he could find himself opening the season on the disabled list.
Romo's signature pitch is his slider, which puts a greater strain on his shoulder. As the primary right-handed setup man for closer Santiago Casilla, the Giants need a healthy Romo.
In 2014, Romo had a roller coaster of a season. He started off well, but he ran into trouble and lost his closer job to Casilla. After going through an extended rough patch, Romo pitched very well late in the season and into the postseason.
The Giants are hoping the mild soreness that Romo experienced earlier in the spring will not be a recurring issue. At 32, Romo will need to prove he has the resilience to pitch effectively on a regular basis.
Nori Aoki was signed by San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean to play left field. Unfortunately, the injury to Hunter Pence has necessitated a move by Aoki to right.
Right field at AT&T Park is very tough, and it will undoubtedly take Aoki some time to get comfortable there. When Pence returns, look for manager Bruce Bochy to move Aoki back to left.
With Pence out of the lineup, look for Aoki to hit in the leadoff spot in the San Francisco batting order. Center fielder Angel Pagan will be moved down and likely start the year batting third.
Aoki is a good contact hitter and has the patience to see a lot of pitches, which is ideal for a player at the top of the order.
In 2014, while with the Royals, Aoki hit .285, with an OBP of .349 and OPS of .710. He had just one home run, drove in 43 runs and scored 63. Aoki has good speed and stole 17 bases last year.
This spring, Aoki is off to a very slow start. He has only one hit in 16 at-bats, an average of .067.
Aoki does have a proven track record of success and getting on base. Over his three-year Major League career, Aoki is hitting .287, with an OBP of .353. The slow start is nothing to worry about yet, but the Giants will need Aoki to at least achieve his career averages this year.
Aoki will not provide anywhere near the power and RBI that Michael Morse did last season. However, if he can get on base, score runs and play good defense, the departure of Morse via free agency will not be felt as acutely.
Santiago Casilla assumed the closer role in late July when Sergio Romo struggled. Casilla pitched extremely well last year and earned 19 saves.
In 2014, Casilla worked 58.1 innings, allowed only 35 hits and 15 walks while striking out 45. Casilla had an ERA of 1.70 and WHIP of 0.85, both career bests.
Casilla has not been nearly as effective this spring. He has appeared in four games and thrown a total of five innings. Casilla has allowed six earned runs on seven hits and a walk. Opposing batters are hitting .333 on him and his ERA has ballooned to 10.80 with a WHIP of 1.60.
Although it is too early to sound the alarm, Giants manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti would like to see Casilla back on track before the end of spring training.
The injury to Hunter Pence has given Justin Maxwell a golden opportunity to make the Giants' Opening Day roster.
Maxwell is a non-roster invitee and has played parts of six seasons in the big leagues. His best season was in 2012, when he hit 18 home runs and drove in 53 runs as a member of the Houston Astros.
In 2014, Maxwell played in only 20 games with the Kansas City Royals, getting 40 at-bats. He hit only .150 with no home runs and three RBI.
Maxwell does possess some power from the right side of the plate. That's something the Giants can definitely use.
Maxwell has not made the best of his chance, thus far. He has only one hit in 12 at-bats for an average of .083. Maxwell's OBP of .267 and OPS of .350 also must improve substantially.
Maxwell is battling Travis Ishikawa and Juan Perez for one, or perhaps two, reserve outfield spots. He is on the bubble and must produce, as the Giants will also need to clear a spot on their 40-man roster for Maxwell.
Hunter Strickland was a September call-up last year and was extremely impressive. In nine appearances, Strickland threw seven innings, allowing no runs and five hits while striking out nine. He was a key contributor down the stretch for the Giants as they made their run at the playoffs.
Strickland has a power arm and features an upper-90s fastball. He impressed manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti so much that he was included on the Giants postseason roster last year.
However, once the playoffs started, opposing hitters found some vulnerabilities in Strickland. He did not have optimal command of his slider or changeup, so hitters sat on his fastball.
Big league hitters are not impressed with straight fastballs or velocity. It is movement and location that consistently gets opposing hitters out. Strickland struggled in the postseason, as he allowed six home runs in only 8.1 innings of work. Strickland's postseason ERA jumped to 7.56. He was clearly shaken.
Arriving in Scottsdale this spring, the hope was that Strickland had overcome his propensity for allowing the long ball.
Unfortunately, Strickland is still having problems. In five innings of work, Strickland has allowed six hits and two walks while striking out four. Strickland has allowed two home runs and four earned runs, overall.
Opposing hitters are batting .300 off Strickland. He has an ERA of 7.20 and WHIP of 1.60.
Strickland still has a chance to make the 25-man roster, but he will need to string together several strong outings over the remainder of the spring. More likely, he will open the season in the minors, as the Giants will want him to improve the overall command of all his pitches.
All San Francisco spring training stats courtesy of the team's official website.
All 2014 regular season stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.