On Friday the San Francisco Giants eliminated two players from contention to make the Opening Day roster, optioning infielder Nick Noonan and outfielder Roger Kieschnick to Triple-A Fresno. Though neither of these cuts were overly surprising, they do give us a better idea as to who the primary candidates to win the up-for-grabs spots on the Giants’ bench are.
Of the two, Kieschnick probably had the better chance to make the Opening Day roster. The 27-year-old outfielder had reached the big leagues during the tail end of 2013, and though he struggled during his time in San Francisco, there was hope that he could work out his kinks and come to spring training with a chance to push for a spot.
Despite the fact that he went 2-for-5 with an RBI in Thursday night’s game against the Texas Rangers, Kieschnick struggled mightily at the plate this spring. Over his previous 10 Cactus League games, he had gone just 1-for-18 while striking out nine times. It’s worth noting that Kieschnick did hit a home run in the Giants’ “futures” game, which did not count as an official Cactus League contest, but regardless his performance was not enough to earn him a big-league role.
Now that Kieschnick is out of the picture, the battle is between Tyler Colvin and Juan Perez for a roster spot if the Giants do indeed decide to keep five outfielders, as general manager Brian Sabean said they would coming into spring training. Colvin hasn’t played since March 4 and has been limited to five Cactus League games because of sore legs, so he presumably will need to get back into the lineup soon if he plans on contending for a spot. Perez, meanwhile, has struggled after getting off to a hot start this spring. He’s 1 for his last 13, and he had a costly miscue in left field this week that put a damper on his otherwise superb defensive skills.
Of course, with second baseman Marco Scutaro’s durability issues, it’s possible that the Giants will ultimately decide not to keep a fifth outfielder and keep an extra infielder instead. We saw last year that injuries definitely can change the team’s plans, as they planned on keeping five outfielders but ultimately decided to carry a third catcher in lieu of a fifth outfielder as backup catcher Hector Sanchez struggled with a shoulder injury.
Noonan’s demotion further emphasizes that the infielders who are serious contenders for spots on the Opening Day roster are Tony Abreu, Ehire Adrianza, and Brandon Hicks. Hicks has been on fire at the plate and Adrianza has displayed a decent bat in addition to his superior skills in the field. However, Abreu has gotten more at-bats than both of them. He hasn’t exactly taken advantage of the opportunity, hitting .200 while being limited to second base defensively, but with more big-league experience than Adrianza or Hicks he may still have a good shot at making the team.
It should be interesting to see where Noonan stands once this roster battle is over. He had some good moments during 2013 and held his own this spring, hitting .273 while also seeing action at second, third, and short. He still seems to be rather far down the depth chart at the moment, but if the Giants ultimately end up keeping two among the previously mentioned group and lose either Adrianza or Abreu, who are both out of options, Noonan could end up being the first infielder the Giants call on if they need another player.