Folks, spring training is nearing.
The San Francisco Giants don’t have many big positional battles to watch, as their starting lineup is pretty much set.
However, there are three particular players that, with a big spring training, could break camp with a bigger role than originally expected, or force the Giants to potentially make a move.
Let’s reveal the three:
The Giants signed Torres to a one-year, $2 million deal in mid-December. This was surprising to many pundits because San Francisco already had an extremely similar asset already on their roster in Gregor Blanco. They both don’t hit for power, have speed and play tremendous defense, but their bats are a bit shaky.
Ideally, the Giants would’ve preferred to a pair a right-handed power bat with Blanco. However, a lack of surplus money hindered them from chasing someone like Scott Hairston, for example.
Torres does occasionally show flashes of pop. He did post a .479 slugging percentage with Giants in 2010, but looking back, 2010 is an outlier in the power-hitting department for Torres, as he never compiled a slugging percentage greater than .350, except in 2010 and 2009 (only 152 at-bats).
At the moment, Torres is projected to platoon with Blanco in left field. So, unless he’s absolutely nonexistent in spring training—not entirely out of the question—he can only improve his status on the roster.
With low expectations and a low-risk factor, Torres and the Giants are where they were roughly three years ago. In 2010, no one expected him to evolve into their leadoff man, total an OPS of .823 and ultimately fuel San Francisco’s World Series run. He did, and general manager Brian Sabean was crowned the king of bargain deals, which has become a trend.
Three years later, they’re in familiar territory.
Will the end result be the same? Time will only tell.
Hector Sanchez found himself on the bench for the majority of the playoffs, receiving just 13 scattered at-bats. Obviously, this doesn’t come across as a surprise. When you’re playing behind Buster Posey, there simply aren’t enough at-bats to go around.
However, the Giants may be forced to make a decision if Sanchez has a good spring.
See, he will eventually be too good to be a backup. There aren’t many switch-hitting catchers that can smack the ball around the field like can, and he’s only going to improve with experience, as will his flawed defense.
A good rule of thumb is that if he can catch the Giants’ staff, he can catch any staff in baseball. Yes, it should be noted that he caught Barry Zito more than anyone else, and to be sure, Zito isn’t the hardest pitcher in the world to catch. Sanchez did, however, occasionally catch the wild Tim Lincecum, who constantly bounced pitches in front of home plate and in the dirt.
If scouts can no longer use Sanchez’s defense as a flaw against him, there’s little reason why he should continue to serve as a backup. Continuing to do so wouldn’t be benefitting him or the Giants.
Further, Sanchez’s value is almost at its peak point. At 23 years old, he’s still young and has a contract that would fit into any team’s payroll. In fact, Sanchez isn’t arbitration eligible until 2015, and can’t become a free agent until 2018. These two things—age and friendly contract—would certainly appeal to his suitors, and the Giants would have all the more leverage in trade discussions.
One thing to keep in mind—Eventually, Buster Posey will shift over to first base. Whether that’s in two years or five years is up for dispute. Still, the Giants shouldn’t give this side note much value because whenever the change occurs, Sanchez will be in his mid to late 20‘s, his trade value would be diminished and the Giants would be better off keeping him.
As for the short-term…
Having two capable catchers is a good problem to have, but it could also spell doom. It’s highly unlikely that the Giants trade Sanchez in the spring, but come the July trading deadline? That’s where you might see some action.
The Giants have been collecting spare bullpen parts all offseason mainly to add depth, and perhaps strike gold in one of them. Of their additions, Chad Gaudin has the best chance to break Scottsdale with the big club.
Of course, Gaudin will have to prove himself in spring training, as his track record isn’t very alluring. In 10 years in the majors, he has a 4.63 ERA, and since 2010 he has compiled a 5.16 ERA.
At 29 years old, though, Gaudin’s career is far from over. His fastball averaged out a 92.4 miles per hour in 2012, a career-high, but opposing hitters hit .333 off it.
Perhaps Gaudin smooths out the kinks in his sinker during the spring, which would give him a nifty repertoire of a fastball, sinker and slider. The slider has always been a reliable pitch for Gaudin, but compounded with another effective off-speed, and suddenly he’s no longer a lost cause.
The final bullpen spot isn’t all Gaudin’s, however, but he seems to be the current favorite. If he does break camp with the Giants, he won’t be expected to do much. However, surpassing expectations is why he’s on this list.