It’s January, which means it’s a slow month for baseball news. Many of the biggest free agents have signed, the winter meetings are finished, and the major transactions are wrapped up. Except for a waiver claim here and a minor league free-agent signing there, the Giants are ready to go for Spring Training.
So how is the roster shaping up, anyway? The good news is that you’ll recognize most of these players. The bad news is that they’re all a year older, and that could be a big deal.
Catcher: Hector Sanchez, Buster Posey
Hector Sanchez is back to play backup catcher and (possibly) Lincecum’s caddy, just like in 2012. Hector is a perfectly adequate backup catcher, and he just turned 23, which means there’s a decent chance he turn in to something more very soon. His defense could use work, as could his pitch recognition. A 52:5 K/BB ratio will have to improve before he becomes useful on offense.
Posey, as you may have heard, is coming off a campaign that ended with an NL MVP award and a World Series title. He turns 26 in March, and it’s easy to forget that he has essentially two full seasons worth of plate appearances in his career with a 146 OPS+. If he hits .314/.380/.503 in 2013 – exactly his career line, but a decent regression from his 2012 season – he’ll be just fine.
Infield: Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Joaquin Arias (likely on OD roster); Nick Noonan, Brett Pill, Conor Gillaspie, Ehire Adrianza (on 40-man).
There’s a lot of questions in this group. Start with the easy one: Pablo Sandoval is going to hit, he’ll probably hit well, and he might hit very well. Two hamate injuries limited Pablo to only 442 plate appearances in 2012, and the lucky thing about hamates is once you break them, doctors take them out so you can’t break them again. It isn’t out of line to expect an increase in Panda’s power output in 2013.
Brandon Crawford hit unexpectedly well in 2012, and fielded extremely well. Expect the latter to continue in 2013. If he hits .250 again like he did last year, he’ll be valuable enough to justify his spot in the starting lineup. His margin of error is pretty small, though.
Marco Scutaro hit .362/.385/.473 in 268 plate appearances after coming over from the Rockies, and then hit .328/.377/.391 in the postseason, including winning the NLCS MVP Award. He obviously won’t hit that well over the course of an entire season. His career line is .276/.340/.378, which is essentially Freddy Sanchez minus some singles and plus some walks. If he hits that he’ll be a perfectly fine starter. I hope Bochy won’t bat him second, but I suspect he will.
Brandon Belt…ah, Brandon. His 116 wRC+ looks pretty good (and it is), but it was only 8th out of 13 first basemen with 450 PA in the National League. That said, he plays good defense and he’s an alright baserunner. A poor man’s John Olerud, if you will. He turns 25 in April, and there’s a good chance that he builds on an encouraging 2012. If he can increase his slugging just a little bit – go from hitting .275/.360/.421 to .275/.360/.450, say – he’ll be an extremely valuable player.
As for the rest, Joaquin Arias will go into the season as the designated utility infielder/defensive replacement. He’s got two skills that make him valuable to this team: he can play second, short, or third, and play all of them well, and he can hit left-handed pitching. We may see him in a sort of quasi-platoon with Brandon Crawford.
That likely leaves one roster spot available for a bench infielder. Nick Noonan is my favorite to get that spot. He’s still relatively young (he turns 24 in May), he plays second and short, and he had a decent year in Fresno last year (97 wRC+). I predict Conor Gillaspie will be gone by Opening Day. He’s out of options, he’s not a good enough fielder to play third, and he’s not a good enough hitter to play first. He could see some time as an end-of-the-bench guy on an AL team, however. Ehire Adrianza is at least a year away. His glove is sublime, but he had a 64 wRC+ in Richmond this year. And I think we all know Brett Pill’s limitations. He’s old, he doesn’t walk, and he only can play first, left-field shenanigans notwithstanding.
The Giants could sign another infielder on the free agent market. Miguel Tejada Ryan Theriot is still available (LOL ROYALS) and likely would sign for cheap. I’m not the biggest Theriot fan, but it’s hard to argue with bringing him back to take the Aubrey Huff Memorial Cheerleader Roster Spot for 2013.
I’ll be back later this week with a look at the outfielders, and pitching will follow that.