San Francisco Giants: 5 Under-the-Radar Players to Watch in Spring Games

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2017

San Francisco Giants: 5 Under-the-Radar Players to Watch in Spring Games

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    San Francisco Giants infielder Kelby Tomlinson.
    San Francisco Giants infielder Kelby Tomlinson.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The San Francisco Giants have won three championships since 2010, largely on the strength of their homegrown core.

    As much as they've benefited from the likes of Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, however, they've also relied on unlikely heroes.

    With that in mind, here are five under-the-radar players in Giants camp who are worth keeping an eye on, including a pair of strikeout-specialist relievers, a third baseman from across the Pacific and a journeyman outfielder with favorable splits.

    None are guaranteed a spot on the team's Opening Day roster, but all have a chance to be the next unsung Orange and Black contributor.

David Hernandez, RHP

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    Hey, not sure if you've heard, but the Giants bullpen was a liability in 2016.

    San Francisco addressed the issue by signing All-Star closer Mark Melancon over the winter. The Giants also waved goodbye to former closer Santiago Casilla, setup man Sergio Romo and lefty specialist Javier Lopez.

    That leaves a number of bullpen vacancies. Most will be filled by incumbents, including Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, Will Smith and Cory Gearrin. There could be a spot or two open, however, depending on how the roster shakes out. 

    Enter David Hernandez, a veteran with strikeout capabilities who's in camp as a non-roster invitee.

    In 487 career innings with the Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks, Hernandez has averaged 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings with mid-90s heat. 

    He also owns a 4.10 career ERA and has walked 3.8 per nine. There's a reason he's an NRI.

    Still, after logging two scoreless innings this spring, Hernandez has at least an outside chance of sticking in San Francisco's remade relief corps.

Neil Ramirez, RHP

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    Staying with the bullpen theme, the Giants could also give a look to Neil Ramirez.

    The 27-year-old righty bounced between the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins last season and finished with a 6.00 ERA.

    On the plus side, Ramirez owns a 3.09 ERA in his big league tenure and has averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine in 81.2 innings.

    So far in the Cactus League, he's struck out three in two shutout frames.

    Like Hernandez, he'll have to dazzle to seriously enter the Opening Day discussion for San Francisco. So far, so good.

Kelby Tomlinson, INF

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    It seems strange to suggest a guy who's hit .299 in 106 games for the Giants over the last two seasons is flying under the radar.

    Still, bespectacled Kelby Tomlinson is easy to forget among a group of backup infield hopefuls that includes high-profile non-roster invitees Jimmy Rollins, Aaron Hill and Gordon Beckham, among others.

    Tomlinson has options remaining, which could hurt his chances of leaving Scottsdale and packing for AT&T Park.

    The 26-year-old has gone 3-for-11 with a triple, two RBI and a run scored this spring, however, and has the defensive flexibility to man second base, shortstop and even the outfield in a pinch.

Jae-Gyun Hwang, INF

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Speaking of the infield, the Giants have an intriguing dark horse vying for playing time at the hot corner.

    Speedy Eduardo Nunez is the presumed starter at third base, with wayward prospect and recent postseason hero Conor Gillaspie in line for backup duties.

    Korean import Jae-gyun Hwang is seeking to upend the depth chart after inking a minor league deal with San Francisco.

    The 29-year-old Hwang slashed .285/.349/.433 with 114 home runs in 10 seasons with the Korea Baseball Organization. If his KBO stats translate stateside, he could be the steal of the offseason.

    That's a big "if," obviously. Thus far, though, Hwang is 4-for-9 with a double, a home run and four RBI in the Cactus League.

    "You can see with your eyes he has a great swing," Giants skipper Bruce Bochy said, per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, "a swing that will work well here."

Justin Ruggiano, LF/CF/RF

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    The Giants didn't sign or trade for any notable outfielders this offseason, choosing instead to plug the hole in left with an open competition.

    Jarrett Parker has jumped out to an early lead with four hits, a pair of home runs and seven RBI. The 28-year-old lefty swinger has extreme splits, however, and could use a right-handed platoon-mate, or at least a complementary backup.

    There are options, including fellow farmhand Mac Williamson and former Giants hero Michael Morse. Here's another name to keep tabs on: Justin Ruggiano.

    The 34-year-old journeyman has hit almost 30 points higher against lefties in his career and hit 18 home runs in 2013 with the Miami Marlins.

    He's also logged innings at all three outfield positions, meaning he could provide versatility in a fourth- or fifth-outfielder role.

    Ruggiano isn't a sentimental fan favorite like Morse, as McCovey Chronicles' Grant Brisbee outlined, but he may be the more practical choice.

           

    All statistics current as of March 2 and courtesy of MLB.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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