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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Giants off to nice start in Cactus League

After the way things have gone the last season and a half, it's seemed like an eternity since the Giants been playing games with as much interest that's surrounded the first weekend of Spring Training. After adding Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson concocted with optimism that the core of their ballclub will stay on the field this year, and you have the recipe for an enthusiastic fan base.

It's strange how time can both seem drag on during some periods and to fly during others. It was a slow start to an offseason with a lot of question marks for the Giants, like waiting out the Giancarlo Stanton saga and dealing with the slowest moving and quietest free agency period in recent memory (maybe ever). Then they added 'Longo' and there was still some question as to what else they would do. After the McCutchen trade and their lone free agent acquisition in Austin Jackson, which felt like last week, time has flown and I think it's because a lot of people (or maybe I'm just speaking for myself) were very stoked for the spring to start. Now all of the sudden the squad is three games deep into Cactus League play and we have actual baseball to talk about. For the most part, that talk is all good, as we've seen a few things this team can feel encouraged by. 

Now unfortunately for game analysis sake, I was out of town and unable to listen to the games this weekend on the radio, but you can bet that I was scouring the web for everything Giants related while not out and about in Southern California the last few days. Again, I only got to hear a little bit of the end of Sunday's game, the wrap up and Marty Laurie's postgame show, and pretty much everyone around the club is excited about what's going on in Scottsdale. First off, I want to start in center field, and while the newest Giant and expected opening day starting centefielder, Austin Jackson, has yet to make his spring debut, the prospect that was probably discussed most this offseason has certainly been the center of attention. Stephen Duggar led off the first game of spring, and ended up going 1-3, that hit being a 2-out, 2-run double. The 24 year-old didn't play in Saturday's game against the Dodgers but was right back out there Sunday coming in after Gorkys Hernandez drew the start, and ended up launching a 2-run jack in the 9th inning. The guy who was going to be the centerfielder before the Jackson signing is showing early on that even though the Giants did bring in the veteran Jackson, Duggar still very much wants to be in the running for a roster spot as well as still being an integral part in center field.

He wasn't the only young Giants' outfielder who's had an impact in the teams first few games. Mac WIlliamson, at 27 years-old and still pretty young, isn't quite considered a prospect at this point of his career, yet whether it's been injury or the inability to find a spot to play, he's not been the player that many were hoping and expecting him to be. He's gotten himself off to a pretty nice start in exhibition play though, as he's in the running for one of the Giants expected 2 outfield bench spots. Assuming Duggar stays healthy and proves his first couple of games have not been a fluke, you'd have to imagine him locking down one of the roles. He's looked better than his biggest competitor, Gorkys Hernandez, plus has more upside than Hernadez as well as the left-handed bat to counteract Jackson, but of course we have 4 weeks of baseball between now and opening day. Because of their ability to play center field, it's likely that either Duggar, Blacno or Hernandez get will get a spot, so that would leave only one spot open for two of those three in addition to Williamson, Jarrett Parker and Austin Slater. So far, again, in the infant stages of spring training, Williamson has been the second most impactful of the bunch aside from Duggar, as he too has gone 2 for 5 with has a jack along with 3 RBI in his two games.

Perhaps the second most talked about prospect this offseason and one of the ones most teams were requesting in trades aside from top prospect Heliot Ramos was 24 year-old slugger Chris Shaw. However, with him being the teams biggest power prospect, who some consider in over a decade, will be getting a long look this spring too, but the Giants won't even think about stunting his growing potential to play once a week as a backup behind Hunter Pence or Andrew McCutchen. The only real way he makes the team is if something happens to Pence/Cutch, which would open up a spot for him to have more of a regular role which is not the way anyone wants this kid to make his big league debut. 

There have been other positives as well, like Buster Posey shaking off a tweaked ankle and starting off his spring nicely with a few RBI's and a double on Sunday as well as the Giants' biggest offseason acquisition, Andrew McCutchen, getting on the board with an RBI and a run scored in Sunday's game as well. Other newcomers Evan Longoria is still searching for his first hit after a couple of games and Austin Jackson won't play until early March with Boch intending on delaying his start to ensure his legs are well rested and not overworked this spring. 

With the lineup plating 10 runs on Sunday there were plenty of other guys who've had some impact early on with the bat, but as far as the pitching side of things, things too have been so far, so good. The big questions surrounding the starting rotation are the 4-5 spots, expected to be manned by Chris Stratton and Ty Blach. Blach opened up the Cactus League with 2 scoreless frames, and Chris Stratton followed him up in game two with a couple himself along with 3 punch-outs. Ace Madison Bumgarner made his spring debut Sunday, and it was bittersweet as the left did surrender 3 runs (2 earned) in his 1 2/3 innings of work but recorded all of his outs via the strikeout. The lefty reported to camp in what he said is the best shape of his career, and ready for a big workload early on after missing 3 months last year because of the infamous dirt bike accident then returning and not quite pitching up to his capabilities afterwords. 

On the relief end, the Giants haven't yet used any of the guys who are locks to make the roster out of spring, although hard-throwing lefty Steven Okert put himself on the radar with a nice outing in relief of Stratton on Saturday throwing 2 scoreless frames with 3 K's. Then the Giants second highest rated pitching prospect and a guy who's trying to make a case at knocking Ty Blach out of the fifth spot, Andrew Suarez, relieved the projected fifth starter on Friday with 2 scoreless frames and 3 strikeouts of his own.

It's not surprising that the Giants will take it slow with Mark Melancon and Will Smith as both guys had season ending surgery's last year and are just hopeful to be on the opening day roster with a clean bill of health. However, I am a little surprised we've gone three games without at least a Derek Law, Sam Dyson or Cory Gearin sighting as the Giants' still have roles to be determined as far as who will get the ball from the starting pitchers to their closer, Melancon.

It's great though, live baseball is back, albeit just exhibition wise. All that means is that we're within weeks of opening day, and as long as things keep building off thee first few games here, then the excitement for 2018 in San Francisco should continue to grow moving forward. Of course, the word we always heard during spring, but particularly this one for the Giants, health will be the major objective. Whether it's working guys back like Melancon, and Smith, or keeping guys fresh while still getting them reps, like with Jackson, Crawford, the bullpen and Johnny Cueto, Bochy's focus will be to make sure the core group is ready to go on March 29th in LA. The expectations are going to be big for this team once the seasons starts and they have the ability to meet them, but they'll need all hands on deck in order to do so.

Extras: Due to Brandon Crawford and Austin Jackson both being rested until at least March 1st, it won't be for another few days at least until we get an idea of what lineup Bruce Bochy will consider but he has started toying around with some things. On Sunday, Duggar was followed by McCutchen in the 2 slot, Posey in the 3-hole and Longoria hitting cleanup.

One guy who's spent plenty of springs in Scottsdale, made his return after a few years in the Grapefruit league. Pablo Sandoval hit an absolute bomb on Friday and he really could be a "secret weapon" of sorts for Bruce Bochy with the hope takes to his new role as a super utility of sorts (even perhaps catching some innings). I mean this is a guy who's been an all-star, a World Series MVP and has had a lot of success in this league and in this yard. If he's in shape and earns around 400 at-bats then he's going to have himself some numbers at the of the year.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Kevin NIles said…

    That's funny you mentioned Sandoval cause I haven't heard his name really one time since last year. I honestly think the Giants would have been fine keeping him at third base and could have used Chris Arroyo in a package for a real center fielder like Yeilich or someone of that elk. Longoria's a nice glove still, but is he really that much better than Panda at the plate at this point? Yellich is in his mid-20's and could have been someone to build around instead of Longoria who may only have 2-3 good seasons let yet we're on the hook with him for 5 more years? I liked the Giants offseason overall, but I have a feeling they could have made a better trade than longoria that would have helped down the line too.

  • At 2:36 PM, Blogger SFGiants Blogger said…

    Yellich would have been a great add if the Giants had a deeper system. He would have cost them 3 or more of the top-10 guys in their system and probably their top prosepct Heliot Ramos. I think the Giants felt better off keeping as many of their prospects as possible with the idea of upgrading in-season in the area they felt needed the most attention.

    Also, counting on Pablo to man third base, who hasn't been a relevant, consistent starting player since '14, would be asking a lot and probably would have backfired. Longoria is coming off a down year, but he still has a gold glove, and you can pretty much assume he'll knock at least 20 out and drive in 80. You can't say the same for Pablo.

  • At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Beer League HR Champion said…

    Wow Tim Lincecum really didn't learn from his last abbreviated stay in the AL West? Why would he choose the Rangers when the Giants had interest and other teams like the Dodgers who will be competitors and actually pitch in a division and league where he had his success? That one kinda baffled me, I really hoped we'd get him so I could were my #55 jersey proud again this summer. I think him in the fifth spot or a bullpen role woulda been just fine w/me.

  • At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Beer League HR Champion said…

    Obviously I mean WEAR my Timmy jersey, not were... Stupid Iphone corrections make no sense sometimes?

  • At 12:36 AM, Anonymous East Coast Giants Fan said…

    Hey I just came across your site for the first time. I'm in the east coast but grew up in Bay Area and Giants have been my team all my life. Being in the east coast though, I don't get the Giants coverage on the radio or TV like you guys get in the bay area, so I'm thankful for these sites like yours that keep me informed on the little things going on in spring training. Like I never even heard of Miguel Gomez before reading your tweet and post about how he's raking better than any other batter in the camp. I thought it was gonna be Kelby Tomlinson and Panda as the backup IF's. But it sounds like this Gomez guy can rake and we know the Giants could still use all the offense they can get even with Macutchen and Longoria coming aboard.

    Great to see Mac Williamson is hitting well too, didn't know he was changing his swing either so thanks for the insight. I remember going to the Mets Giants game in NY last season and seeing Mac in batting practice and that guy looked so impressive. I'm rreally rooting for him to be our 5th outfielder. I say let the kid Duggar get the shot in center, at least to platoon with A-Jack. Giants need some under-30 guys to help out this year and provide some youthful energy. If Pence goes down again with his hamstrings or whatever else has hurt him the last few years I think Mac looks ready for a decent size role if opp. presents itself!

    Also if you could maybe help get our forum going again and add some of your links to your posts, that would be so awesome! The link is my user name/handle so just click that. Thanks a lot "Giants Baseball Blog", you guys are one of the best IMO!

  • At 11:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So I see there are still a bunch of solid pitching options out there in free agency. I know the Giants are on the brink of going over the luxury tax line or whatever that is but you think they'll maybe just go all out and sign a Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb to really enhance the chances of winning this year. They definitely made some nice upgrades and moves, but I think they're still behind the D-Backs. Lynn or Cobb or someone like that I think would put them up there with AZ, maybe even surpass them. And also it would put them up closer to LA, even though I don't think anyone will stop LA this year, not even the Cubs or Nats.

  • At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Any chance this Kyle Jensen dude makes the team? Never even heard of this guy before a week ago and this guy has 5 jacks alaready in 10 at-bats? If they're really going to try to put the best 25 guys onto the roster, there's got to be a spot for him somehwere right? Why is NOBODY talking about him. Everyones talking about Duggar and Mac Williamson, but Jensen's lookin like Babe Ruth reincarnated right about now!

  • At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Big Time Timmy Jim said…

    I'm a little worried about our boy Hunter Pence. I thought with his upkeep of his body and his diet that he'd be a candidate to perform well into his 30's. Yet he's about to turn 35 and he's looked quite finished over the last year and now this spring. He's hitting .067 so far and I know it's only practice games but still, no other regular is doing as bad as he is, not even close. I think they should seriously consider having Jensen on the club and give him a shot in left while making Hunter their 4th outfielder since he can play the corners well. I really hope he proves me wrong but I don't think the guy is an everyday player anymore and he seems to be just getting worse. Maybe playing just a couple times per week would keep him fresh and better off? What do I know though, I trust Boch will do what's best for the squad.



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