San Francisco Giants: 5 Players To Keep An Eye On In Spring Training
5 Players to Watch During Spring Training for San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants will begin Spring Training with a number of question marks when pitchers and catchers report in less than four weeks. The Giants feature a roster that includes a majority of the players who helped propel the franchise to a World Series title in 2012.
However, those Giants appeared different than the team that won just 76 games last season, a number that was good enough to help them finish in a third-place tie with the lackadaisical San Diego Padres in the mediocre NL West.
San Francisco’s projected everyday lineup this season remains mostly static in comparison to the 2013 squad, not including the addition of slugging outfielder Michael Morse, who is injury-laden and not a guarantee to succeed.
The Giants’ struggles during their championship defense were substantial. San Francisco ranked eighth in team batting average (.260), but failed to turn base runners into runs scored, finishing 21st in that category.
It’s seemingly foolish to think the same band of players can suddenly turn things around in the new season and collectively become a run-scoring machine. The Giants’ offense will likely average around 4.0 runs per game in 2014, forcing enormous pressure onto the their pitching staff, which was alarmingly hittable last season.
For the Giants to be successful this season, they need to execute fundamental aspects of the game, like moving runners into scoring position with less than two outs and preventing the big inning, in order to contend.
The Giants’ projected 25-man roster doesn't feature any significant voids in terms of personnel, although it’s arguable that sufficient talent is lacking. Spring Training grants future promise to certain players every year. For the Giants, the two most prominent storylines in camp will be which reliever snags the final bullpen spot and which outfield prospect is most likely to have a future positive impact.
The following slideshow highlights five Giants players to watch during spring training:
5. J.C. Gutierrez (RHP)
J.C. Gutierrez is a non-roster invitee who could contend for the final spot in the Giants’ bullpen this spring. He’s a powerful right-handed reliever that throws a fastball in the mid-90s. The 30-year-old Venezuelan native owns a 4.65 career ERA while striking out 8.0 batters per nine innings pitched. He sometimes struggles with his control and leaves too many pitches out over the plate, though. If he’s able to fine-tune his mechanics and consistently demonstrate the ability to hit the corners, he has a chance to be a formidable mid-to-late inning guy for manager Bruce Bochy.
4. Erik Cordier (RHP)
Erik Cordier has never pitched in the big leagues, but he’s a flamethrower that can hit upper-90s on the radar gun. The Giants don’t have a pitcher with that kind of arm on their roster, adding value to Cordier. He’s a minor league lifer at the age of 27. Cordier’s numbers are respectable, although not overwhelmingly impressive. He owns a 4.29 career ERA and 1.517 WHIP in eight minor league seasons. Like Gutierrez, Cordier often leaves pitches in the zone and needs to fine-tune his mechanics in order to become a legitimate big league reliever.
3. Gary Brown (OF)
Gary Brown has been a disappointment after being touted as one of the Giants’ best prospects in 2010. At 25-years old, Browns’ potential to develop into a starting-caliber center fielder has taken a hit. He owns a .767 OPS in four minor league seasons, but hasn’t flashed a consistent ability to hit top-tier pitching. He figures to begin the regular season with the Giants’ triple-A affiliate in Fresno, where he struggled to post a .286 on-base percentage with 13 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 558 official at-bats last season.
2. Kyle Crick (RHP)
Kyle Crick isn’t vying for a roster spot this spring, but he will arguably be the most intriguing prospect in camp for the Giants. The hard-throwing right-handed pitcher projects as a future no. 1 starter in the big leagues. He’s been dominant in three minor league seasons so far, registering an 11-7 record with a 2.31 ERA and 231 strikeouts in 187.0 innings of work. Crick could potentially see his first big league action at some point this season, but the Giants aren’t going to rush his development.
1. Mac Williamson (OF)
Mac Williamson has become the Giants’ best outfield prospect in the wake of Brown’s prolonged struggles. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Williamson is a gigantic power presence in the batter’s box. He’s quickly climbing the minor league ranks and figures to begin the regular season at double-A Richmond, pending an impressive spring performance. Williamson owns an .896 OPS in two professional seasons. He smashed 25 home runs and drove in 89 runs at high-A in 2013.