San Francisco Giants: Will Justin Maxwell Earn a Roster Spot?

Heading into Spring Training, the San Francisco Giants only had one bench spot open on their 2015 25-man roster, with Travis Ishikawa and Gregor Blanco coming off the bench and assuming Joaquin Arias secures a bench spot too.

The main candidates for this last bench spot were Matt Duffy, Juan Perez, Brandon Hicks, and Ehire Adrianza (who had the greatest shot at earning that spot, since he was out of minor league options) at the start of Spring Training.

Given Hunter Pence‘s injury though, there might be two bench spots open now, if Pence starts the season on the DL and misses two to four weeks of the regular season. There is a possibility that he heals quickly and progresses ahead of schedule, leaving only one bench spot open, but it’s extremely likely that there will be two bench roster spots available heading into the regular season.

With Pence out and Blanco set to assume starting right field duties in Pence’s absence, there’s an open spot for a fourth outfielder. Therefore, one bench spot could be for a backup infielder, and one bench spot could be for a backup outfielder.

Ishikawa was seen as sort of a fifth outfielder with Pence healthy, given his limited experience in left field. However, with Pence out, the Giants might feel the need to add another experienced outfielder to the 25-man roster as insurance.

Perez is now more of a leading candidate for a bench spot with Pence out, but Gary Brown and Justin Maxwell have entered as candidates as well.

However, neither Perez nor Brown have really stood out so far in Spring Training.

Although he is hitting just .238 so far in Spring Training, Maxwell has shown the Giants why he might deserve that last bench spot.

Mar 5, 2015; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants center fielder Justin Maxwell (43) holds up the ball after a diving catch in the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs during a spring training baseball game at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Maxwell made his MLB debut in 2007 with the Washington Nationals. He’s also played for the Houston Astros and, most recently, the Kansas City Royals. Maxwell had his best season in 2012 with the Astros. In that season, he hit just .229 (not his best batting average in the seasons that he’s played), but he did hit 18 home runs and collect 53 RBI in 124 games and 315 at-bats. He also finished that season with a .304 on-base percentage and a .460 slugging percentage.

As mentioned before, Maxwell has hit .238 this spring, and he’s hit no home runs, three RBI, and has four walks and two stolen bases in 10 games and 21 at-bats. He also has a .333 slugging percentage and a .360 on-base percentage.

Maxwell’s batting average might not look that impressive, but he got off to a slow start this spring. He had one of his best nights so far on Saturday though in the second game of a split-squad, doubleheader. In that game, he hit a single in his first at-bat, and in his second at-bat, he hit an opposite-field triple that almost went out of the park.

According to Alex Pavlovic of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, here’s what Bruce Bochy had to say about Maxwell’s impressive performance on Saturday:

“He had a couple of really good at-bats today,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It looks like he’s getting more comfortable and getting his timing up there. He’s been making better contact the last two to three games.”

Maxwell’s offense has started to come along, but his defense has been impressive since the start of Spring Training. He has made some incredible plays in the outfield, and he has proven that he can play all three outfield spots, with left and right field being his strongest positions, which would be an extremely valuable skill for a bench player.

Maxwell has shown that he is excited to be a part of the Giants organization and has also said that he is willing to play any role that they need help with.

Maxwell is an intriguing option for a bench spot, but he will have to beat out other outfielders (Perez and Brown) and possibly some infielders (Duffy, maybe Hicks, Adrianza, and perhaps even Adam Duvall) to earn a spot. As of now though, he certainly has a shot, as no other player has truly proven to be above the rest.

So far this spring, Perez has hit .222 in seven games and 18 at-bats, and Brown has hit .200 in 11 games and 20 at-bats.

As for the infielders, Duffy has hit .348 in nine games and 23 at-bats (he has struggled playing shortstop though), Hicks has hit .235 in nine games and 17 at-bats, Adrianza has hit .222 in eight games and 18 at-bats, and Duvall has hit .154 in 10 games and 26 at-bats (he has struggled a little with playing third base and might get some action in the outfield soon) so far this spring.

Assuming Pence starts the season on the DL, which two players will earn roster spots out of this group?

Since both Perez and Duffy have options left, they might be starting the season in Triple-A. However, they both were key bench players for the Giants at the end of the 2014 regular season and in the postseason, and that could possibly give them both an edge in the race for a roster spot.

Hicks also has Major League experience and helped contribute to last year’s World Series victory early on in the 2014 season with his power and solid defense at second base, but unless he has a breakout spring like last year with the Giants, he also will most likely be headed to Triple-A.

Brown used to be thought of as the future center fielder for the Giants, but after a few poor seasons in the minor leagues, that thought has started to drift away. If Brown could reignite his bat though, he could possible earn that spot and would provide the Giants with speed and solid defense. It’s unclear if he can consistently produce on the offensive end though.

Duvall would provide more infield depth (and possibly some outfield depth if he looks comfortable out there) and power off the bench, but he hasn’t proven so far this spring, with his bat or his defense, that he deserves that last roster spot.

Mar 4, 2015; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Ehire Adrianza (1) hits a single during the third inning against the Oakland Athletics during a spring training baseball game at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Since Adrianza is the only one out of these candidates who is out of minor league options, the Giants will have to consider if they value him enough that they don’t want to risk waiving him and letting another team pick him up.

The answer to that question will help determine the race for one of the bench spots. If the Giants truly value Adrianza and believe that he can finally prove that he can consistently hit at the Major League level, then he will most likely earn a spot, if the Giants don’t want to lose him.

However, if one of the infielders gets hot at the plate and plays spectacular defense, then that could ultimately make the decision for the Giants and possibly even put Adrianza out of contention.

As for the other roster spot, as previously mentioned, that’ll probably go to an outfielder, unless Bochy decides to take two infielders with the thought that Ishikawa could be the fourth outfielder with Pence out for just the start of the season or if two infielders truly have stronger springs that the outfielders.

If an outfielder will earn one of the final bench spots, then it’ll most likely come down to Perez and Maxwell. It’s possible that Maxwell has gained a slight edge with his recent surge. Now, it’s time for him to really prove himself and snatch that last roster spot.