5 San Francisco Giants Storylines to Follow During Spring Training
Five Questions Heading into San Francisco Giants Spring Training
As the San Francisco Giants head into the 2014 edition of spring training, they have two major goals: to prove that the core of the team that won the 2012 World Series can rebound and help the Giants compete for a division title, and to show that management has done enough to build around that core with young players and free agents to prevent another down season like 2013. The team found out the hard way last year that they didn’t have enough depth as the aftermath from two World Series trips in three years caused fatigue and injuries and there weren’t enough good players to come in and fill the vacated roles.
The Giants put a fair amount of effort into their offseason, signing veteran right-hander Tim Hudson to solidify the starting rotation and bringing in Michael Morse to fill the massive hole that existed in left field during 2013. After building up a huge amount of complementary pitching depth, the Giants should be able to have confidence that they can trust the next man up should they have health issues throughout the year.
After a year where nearly every player on the team struggled at some point or another, this year’s spring training will be important for everyone to prove that last season was a fluke and the Giants are ready to try to continue their trend of winning the World Series every other year. This year’s camp will be full of intrigue, and here are five of the biggest storylines that will come out of it.
5. Is Hector Sanchez Ready to be a Serious Contributor?
After breaking out in 2012 with a .280 batting average, Hector Sanchez came into last year’s camp injured and out of shape. He tried to play through prolonged shoulder soreness, but it ended up holding him back for the majority of the season. Once he re-emerged in early August, he looked much better both as a hitter and behind the plate. Though he may be adversely affected by the team’s efforts to make first baseman Brandon Belt a true full-time player this season, it’s still very possible that Sanchez could spell Buster Posey and allow him to either take the day off or shift to first. While Posey’s increased conditioning will be helpful in his efforts to avoid wearing down like he did last year, equally important is having a healthy Sanchez to fall back on when Posey needs a day off.
4. Who Will Win the Backup Infielder Spots?
Unless injuries affect things this spring, the Giants will face a tough decision as they assemble their bench. Presumably, they’ll keep Hector Sanchez as the backup catcher, Gregor Blanco as the fourth outfielder, and a fifth outfielder, likely Juan Perez. That leaves two backup infield spots, one of which is more or less guaranteed to the team’s most important bench contributor, Joaquin Arias. Neither Tony Abreu or Ehire Adrianza have options left, so the loser of the competition will have to be passed through waivers to stay in the organization. Abreu played well last season but struggled with injuries throughout the year. Adrianza has long been a top prospect but struggled to hit in the minors. He’s younger and has much more range at shortstop than Abreu, but doesn’t have nearly as much experience at second and third base as Abreu has. It should be interesting to see which player the organization values more.
3. Are Last Year’s Injuries Going to Carry Over into 2014?
Many Giants struggled with injuries in 2013, and the team’s two biggest free agent acquisitions, Tim Hudson and Michael Morse, dealt with rather serious ailments last year. Morse is said to be fully recovered from his wrist injury, but we won’t really know for sure until he gets on the field in games. Hudson is still completing the recovery process from his ankle surgery, and second baseman Marco Scutaro may be limited early on following finger surgery. As of now, it doesn’t seem as if these injuries will be issues, but we’ll have to see how the players react once they start playing every day.
2. How is the Bullpen Going to Come Together?
After a year where the Giants' bullpen underwhelmed for most of the year there is a major opportunity for competition. Closer Sergio Romo, left-handers Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt, and right-hander Santiago Casilla are the only pitchers who have firm grips on jobs with everything else up for grabs.
Righty Yusmeiro Petit, who impressed as a starter down the stretch last year, would seem to have the edge for the long reliever spot, though recently acquired left-hander David Huff could challenge for that job. Young right-handers Heath Hembree and Jake Dunning are the two most intriguing candidates for the remaining two spots, but pitchers such as Jean Machi, George Kontos, Mike Kickham, Kameron Loe, and Sandy Rosario will push them. If the young pitchers do not impress in spring outings, they will not be given any sort of leash. With the amount of major-league-experienced relievers the Giants now have at their disposal, there will be a high amount of accountability and little room for error in the back end of the bullpen.
1. Exactly How Much Has Pablo Sandoval’s Conditioning Improved?
It’s been rumored that chronically overweight third baseman Pablo Sandoval has lost up to 42 pounds over the offseason, and while he has yet to announce the exact number, he’ll certainly be in better shape than he was for most of last season when he struggled with injuries and conditioning issues. As he prepares to hit free agency at the conclusion of this season, Sandoval will be working hard to make a good impression, and it will be very intriguing to see just how committed he is to improving his on-field performance.
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