The San Francisco Giants began the annual process of trimming their spring training roster on Thursday morning, optioning first baseman Angel Villalona to Triple-A Fresno and reassigning pitchers Clayton Blackburn, Ty Blach, Chris Heston, Jose Casilla, Kyle Crick, Sandy Rosario, and Rafael Dolis, catchers Jeff Arnold and Ben Turner, infielder Joe Panik, and outfielders Mac Williamson and Javier Herrera to minor-league camp.
None of these roster moves were shocking, but there are a few things we can take away from them. First of all, it’s somewhat of a disappointment that we didn’t get to see the Giants’ most prominent starting pitching prospects in any official games. Crick, Blackburn, and Blach, who are all considered to have big-league potential and starred at Class A San Jose last year, were limited to appearances in either the Giants’ intrasquad game or their B-game against the Chicago Cubs, which took place on Monday morning. With that said, those three still have an opportunity to make appearances in today’s game before reporting to the minor league complex tomorrow, and it’s very likely that all of them could end up pitching in the Giants’ “Futures” game on Sunday at Scottsdale Stadium.
Also, it was a little bit surprising to see Panik, the team’s 2011 first-rounder, cut this early into camp. The general assumption has been that the 23-year-old Panik will be promoted to Triple-A this season, and with starting second baseman Marco Scutaro’s health issues, it’s a distinct possibility that the Giants will need reinforcements at the position during 2014. However, with him being sent down after receiving just three at-bats in big-league camp, it’s clear that the organization is placing a higher priority on evaluating infielders such as Ehire Adrianza, Tony Abreu, and Nick Noonan than it is getting Panik ready for a possible in-season call-up.
Though it’s purely a procedural transaction and is not indicative of what will happen come opening day, it’s interesting to see Villalona getting the assignment to Triple-A. He was called up to Double-A midway through last season and flashed some spectacular power potential, though his batting average after being promoted was just .235. Many insiders with ties to the Giants system felt that Villalona was likely destined for Double-A once again. Things can certainly change, though; in fact, Adrianza has initially been optioned to Fresno in the past two spring trainings and then ultimately ended up in Double-A. With Villalona having been outlasted in big-league camp by career minor-leaguer and spring training standout Mark Minicozzi, don’t bet on him making the jump just yet.
Other than the aforementioned players, every move was completely expected. Arnold and Turner were in camp to catch bullpen sessions before games started, and with the decrease in pitchers there’s no longer a need for them. With that said, they’re probably make a few more appearances for big-league split-squad games when additional catchers are needed to warm up pitchers in the bullpen or between innings. The same goes for Williamson and Herrera, who are prime candidates to serve as late-inning defensive replacements in those contests.