Assessing Most Crucial Positional Battles in Spring Training For San Francisco Giants

By John Shea
Yusmeiro Petit
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants face relative uncertainty at a few distinct spots on their roster in Spring Training, and need to shore up their bench depth and pitching staff in order to contend in 2014. At the start of camp, the Giants have two bullpen spots available and an equal number of bench slots open. The most intriguing positional battles include competition for the final infield and outfield spots, and a contest between long relievers.

Yusmeiro Petit officially commenced the start of camp competition earlier this week as manager Bruce Bochy gave him the nod to start the Giants’ first exhibition game of Spring Training. Petit will compete for a possible long relief role in the Giants’ bullpen, and will be challenged by newcomer David Huff. Petit was mostly unimpressive in his spring debut. He allowed four runs on five hits in one inning of work.

At this juncture of camp, most players are simply re-acclimating themselves to baseball activity after a five-month hiatus, but it will be important for Petit to compete at a higher level if he’s going to make the Giants’ 25-man roster. Huff has yet to make his spring debut, but could potentially have an early advantage over Petit.

The other vacancy in the Giants’ bullpen concerns middle relief, a position of which could be had by a number of intriguing arms, although Heath Hembree is the clear-cut favorite to earn the job.

Hembree made his big league debut last season, refusing to give up a run in 7.2 innings of work. He struck out 12 batters and yielded just four hits. He made his first appearance this spring in a split-squad game on Wednesday, pitching one inning of relief against the Oakland Athletics, but allowed a walk-off wild pitch to suffer a loss on Friday.

Other candidates for the final spot in San Francisco’s bullpen include Derek Law, Erik Cordier, George Kontos, Jake Dunning, Jean Machi and Juan Gutierrez. The Giants certainly figure to boast valuable depth in their bullpen this season, although the fact that they’re dedicated to carrying five outfielders on the roster consequently means they’ll likely begin the season with a core of just six relievers.

The fight for the fifth outfield spot on the Opening Day roster includes Juan Perez, Roger Kieschnick and recently acquired Tyler Colvin. Perez was considered the early favorite before the club reported to camp because of his defensive prowess, but Colvin could potentially seize the opportunity. The Giants lack considerable pop off the bench, which makes Colvin an enticing option.

Colvin smashed 18 home runs for the Colorado Rockies in 2012 and also drove-in 72 runs, whereas Perez made his major league debut last season, and managed a soft .258 batting average with six extra-base hits in 97 plate appearances.

The most exciting prospect the Giants feature this spring is perhaps shortstop Ehire Adrianza, who launched a two-out, three-run home run in the ninth inning of the Giants’ spring opener. He collected another run-scoring hit on Friday, and has emerged as the favorite to win the Giants’ final infield spot. Adrianza made his major league debut last September, registering four hits, including a home run, and three runs scores in 18 official at-bats.

The 24-year-old is a career .248 hitter in eight minor league seasons, but came on strong in 2013. He posted an .851 OPS in 177 plate appearances at triple-A Fresno to earn a late-season callup.

Adrianza’s biggest competition is middle infielder Tony Abreu, who posted a .743 OPS with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 138 official at-bats for the Giants in 2013. San Francisco avoided arbitration with Abreu earlier this winter, signing him to a one-year deal worth $745,000. Guaranteed money doesn’t ensure that he’s due a roster spot, though, especially considering the performance Adrianza has sustained early on in camp.

John Shea is a San Francisco Giants writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @cutthroatpicks. “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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