Safe and Sound: Michael Morse, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco
On the Bubble: Gary Brown, Tyler Colvin, Roger Kieschnick, Juan Perez
Not Likely: Javier Herrera, Mac Williamson
After a 2013 season which saw the left and center field positions become platoons with disastrous results, the San Francisco Giants hope to have much more stability in the outfield this year. Along with right fielder Hunter Pence, who became literally the most stable player in Giants history by being the first player in franchise history to start all 162 games of a season, the team hopes to have center fielder Angel Pagan and free agent acquisition Michael Morse at full strength after both of them struggled with injuries during 2013.
Pagan will look to bounce back after missing a large part of last season with a hamstring injury. With him being injured, the Giants saw exactly how valuable he is as Gregor Blanco, Andres Torres, and Juan Perez struggled to provide consistent offense at the position.
If healthy, Morse could provide a power-hitting presence in left field that the Giants have not even come close to having since Barry Bonds departed the team in 2007. The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder has incredible strength, and he hit 31 homers for the Washington Nationals in 2011. A wrist injury limited him last season, but he still hit 13 home runs in just 88 games. If Morse is back to full strength this year, his potential is unlimited.
In addition, the team will have the luxury of having Blanco, who has been a starter for a large portion of the last two seasons, as their fourth outfielder. In addition to his ability to provide great defense at all three outfield positions, Blanco will be an asset off the bench due to his ability to be a weapon on the basepaths and provide a lefthanded-hitting presence.
The only real position battle among the outfielders will be for the fifth spot, which is expected to be battled for by Perez, Tyler Colvin, Roger Kieschnick, and Gary Brown. Perez goes into the spring as the favorite for the spot, having established himself as a spectacular defender last season and emerging as an offensive threat during September.
With that said, the lefthanded-hitting Kieschnick also has a shot, despite being unimpressive during his initial big-league stint at the tail end of last season. He worked with Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis during the offseason and has the potential to provide a legitimate power presence off the bench. However, he does not have the ability to play center field like Perez does.
Colvin conceivably could combine the skill sets of Perez and Kieschnick to fill the spot as well. The 29-year-old left-handed hitter has decent power-hitting potential, and he can play all three outfield spots as well as first base. However, he must prove he is over a back injury that held him back last season, and he also probably needs to put up a great performance in the spring to negate Perez’s defensive ability and Kieschnick’s potential as a power hitter.
Brown, the Giants’ 2010 first-rounder, is a darkhorse candidate for the last outfield spot. Aside from a brief midseason power-hitting surge, Brown struggled mightily in his first season at Triple-A, finishing with a .231 average. Though there are now questions about his ability to ever be a major-league starter, Brown is probably ready to contribute now as a defensive replacement and as a pinch runner, so if he is the best performer of the group during the spring, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him make the Opening Day roster.
To provide depth during the early weeks of spring training, 28-year-old Javier Herrera and 23-year-old prospect Mac Williamson will be part of the squad. Herrera, who is in his first major league camp with the Giants after making his way back into affiliated baseball last year, had a great season in Double-A last year and could be a player that the Giants consider for a callup this year if the team is affected by injuries.
Williamson, who broke out at High-A San Jose last year and made himself arguably the organization’s top position-playing prospect, will soak in the experience of his first big-league camp. He is likely targeted for Double-A this year, where we’ll get a real idea of exactly how good of a prospect Williamson really is.