The San Francisco Giants are faced with a difficult decision concerning the final infield spot on their 25-man roster. Prospect Ehire Adrianza has turned some heads in Spring Training, but he isn’t a versatile enough defender to fit manager Bruce Bochy‘s prototype off the bench. In fact, Adrianza has played just one game away from shortstop in eight minor league seasons.
The 24-year-old middle infielder has begun taking ground balls at second base in camp but remains a long shot to make the Opening Day roster simply because of his lack of experience at various positions on the diamond. The Giants already possess a super utility man in Joaquin Arias, who can play four infield positions, including first base. The team wouldn’t be asking Adrianza to suddenly become a mastermind on defense, but he would be required to play multiple positions, ideally second base and shortstop.
The most likely scenario at the end of camp involves Tony Abreu earning a roster spot, which would enable the Giants to dangle Adrianza in trade talks. The team wouldn’t gain a valuable asset in exchange for Adrianza, though. He’d likely net a durable high class-A bullpen arm at best. Unloading Adrianza via trade would free up future opportunity for highly coveted in-house prospects like Joe Panik and also provide some sense of stability to players at the bottom of the depth chart like Abreu.
It’s also possible for Adrianza to return to the Giants’ farm system if he clears waivers and isn’t signed by another team. The likelihood of that happening has been diminished by a strong showing in camp. The Venezuelan native has registered a .979 OPS with three extra-base hits and four RBI in 15 official at-bats this spring. His performance doesn’t scream ‘must-have’, but he’s demonstrated the ability to rake, which should entice at least a few ball clubs if he is designated for assignment.
San Francisco isn’t entirely impressed with the skill-set Abreu provides. He managed a .268 batting average with 17 extra-base hits in 138 official at-bats in 2013 while also posting a .981 fielding percentage. The Giants signed Abreu to a one-year, $745,000 contract to avoid arbitration during the offseason. The fact that he’s guaranteed big league money makes him the obvious choice to be the Giants’ final infielder. He wouldn’t earn a massive amount of playing time at the bottom of the big league roster, but he would likely be used in key pinch hitting situations. Abreu has collected 20 hits in 72 career pinch hit situations with four extra-base hits.
Adrianza was thought to be the primary challenger to fight Abreu for a roster spot at the beginning of camp, but Brandon Hicks has now emerged as the most practical alternative option. Hicks has minimal big league experience, registering a microscopic .133 batting average with three home runs and eight RBI in 90 career at-bats, but has been impressive in camp. His primary position is shortstop, although he can also play all three base positions. Hicks has recorded a solid .400 batting average with five extra-base hits, including a home run, in 15 at-bats this spring.
Abreu remains the favorite to earn the Giants’ final infield spot, and it’s become increasingly probable for Adrianza to be shipped out via trade. This particular positional battle has yet to be determined, specifically because of Hicks’ recent explosion at the plate.