The 25-man has been pretty set for most of the spring, but roles and spots have been clearing up one by one. Not in chronological order, but these decisions have been made:
- Hector Sanchez beat out Andrew Susac for the backup catcher spot: honestly, I think it was more Hanchez showing he was capable of being the backup again than it was "beating out" Susac. It helped that Susac had all sorts of issues during spring. But I think the Giants wanted Hector to not sit on his laurels and to get into shape and come into camp ready for war.
- Travis Ishikawa appears to have won a spot as left-handed pinch-hitter: honestly, I think the Giants didn't want to embarrass one of the heroes of the last championship, enable him to be on the field to receive his ring. We have had a number of bad breakups with other heroes - Renteria, Uribe, Wilson, now Sandoval. Plus, he has described the hurt he felt when he received his first ring for the 2010 championship off the field, since he was sent to AAA. On top of things, our lineup is lacking in power, especially with Pence out, and Ishi provides strong LH power.
- Tim Lincecum secured his rotation spot: I think it is similar to Hanchez, but he was at least penciled into the rotation, awaiting Bochy's OK, which he recently did after Lincecum's last start. Regular readers will know that I wasn't too worried about his spot, I expect a sub-4 ERA from him this season, and a sub-3 ERA would not surprise me. As I noted, he maintained a 3.11 ERA over 18 starts last season, so if his father can enable him to extend that out that consistency to 32 starts, he would be very good.
- And Maxwell won a spot: it was pretty clear when Perez got sent down to the minors, but his hitting appears to have won the day for him. It helped that the Giants have no RH power off the bench (Susac could have filled that role). And he most likely would not have won the role if Pence were not on the DL. In fact, his roster position will be up in the air once Pence returns, though it is not clear who else might be on the cutting edge along with Maxwell (Ishikawa? MI?) when Pence returns.
All in all, it looks like another Giants reclamation project working. One study of managers found that hitters joining Bochy's teams on average adds about one WAR to their hitting. The article linked notes what Bam Bam did with Jason to help him be more successful as a hitter. It appears that their technique is to isolate the exact batting mechanics prior good prospects used to be successful as a major leaguer and build repetition off of those mechanics. Would explain their success with guys like Uribe, Huff, Burrell, Blanco, Arias, picked up off of the junk heap and suddenly productive.
I was shocked that Gary Brown was DFAed. Then I looked at the players who could have been DFAed on the 40-man roster. Each cut hurts. That's what I've been saying for much of the off-season, we have a nice set of prospects on our 40-man, not all were performing well, but they all had qualities that still gave hope that they could turn things around and contribute at the MLB level. I still think Brown could something.
I don't expect another team to pick him up. He hasn't really done anything since San Jose that would attract a team. Thus I think he'll end up back with the Giants, as he has no rights to reject being sent to AAA and declare free agency yet. He has seemed to take bad news poorly, leading to poor performances, from observations I've seen from other Giants fans. Hopefully he puts the chip on his shoulder and play his way back onto the 40-man, like Brett Pill did before.
There were maybe two other players prospect hounds might have thought waivable. One would be Jarrett Parker, and I'm a bit shocked he was kept over Brown, but at least he has been showing some power and speed, Brown hasn't shown very much. Chris Heston is the other. But clearly the Giants see something that his minor league numbers don't show. Some is showing up this spring, as he added on weight and velocity, and pitched well this spring. And they kept him over Kickham, who was DFAed earlier and picked up by the Reds.
Remaining Roster Battles
There are two main battles left before Opening Day: MI utility and last bullpen spot.
This is between Jean Machi and George Kontos. Both have done well in the majors, with both have conspicuous failures.
The major negatives for Machi are his poor October in 2014 and dwindling K/9. For an experienced closer in Winter League, he was surprisingly beaten up on in October. In four of seven appearances, he gave up runs, and in a fifth, he gave up a hit to the only batter he faced, and in the sixth, it took him 13 pitches to walk and strike out the two batters he faced. So, really, he had only one of seven good appearances, it was his first appearance of the playoffs, and he got out the one guy he faced. Then he mostly stunk up the rest of the playoffs. Thank goodness for the Core Four.
And his K/9 has dropped. Admittedly SSS because he's a reliever, but in 2013 he had a 8.7 K/9 and that fell to 6.9 K/9 in 2014. And it sits (SSS!!!) at 6.0 K/9 this spring. And his BB/9 rose as well, leading to his K/BB falling from a stellar 4.25 to an OK 2.83.
The odd thing is that his strike% and swinging-strike% were virtually the same for both seasons. And, in fact, both are very good, 64% strikes and 20% swinging strikes, both should lead to a 3-something ERA generally. Given reliever's SSS, probably his two seasons combined is a better view of his abilities. Still, he was pretty bad in the playoffs.
In addition, he was very lucky in 2014, with a .237 BABIP vs. a more normal .303 in 2013.
Kontos himself have similar negatives and positives. He had more good playoff appearances (he was shut down in the first series in four appearances), but his overall pitching line is nothing to smile at either, not that good overall. Still, SSS. His K/9 also fell. Part of that was because he partied too hardy after the 2012 Championship and did not perform as well in 2013. Still, his K/9 and K/BB were pretty much the same in 2013 and 2014, only the results were much different, poor in 2013, good in 2014.
And he has the same oddity as Machi of being able to throw strikes at a very good level. 66% strikes thrown, and 19% swinging strikes are normally great numbers to have from your reliever. Giants love relievers like that. Plus here, he's a bit better than Machi, a combo like that should have a low 3 ERA, that extra 2% strikes makes a big difference.
In addition, which I think is the difference maker for me, Kontos is only 30 YO for the 2015 season, whereas Machi will be 33 YO. I have to think the Giants are working on a trade of one of them before Opening Day in order to get some value for him and not lose him for nothing through waivers.
However, there has been no talk at all from the beat writers about this, so who knows. Both are still pre-arb, so the other team would not have to take on that large a contract, making it likely that a team would pick him up via waivers, should he get DFAed. And perhaps teams are waiting for that. And perhaps the Giants were waiting for a team to come out of spring training needing a reliever and willing to give up a mid-level prospect to get our reliever (or more, you never know, Machi has pretty good stats on the surface, if you look at his MLB stats only).
At first I thought it was Adrianza vs. Duffy, but recent reports make it seem like Arias is in play as well. Apparently, the Giants like Duffy so much that they are looking to make a trade in order to keep Duffy on the MLB roster and, even if they are unable to do that, the beat writer expects his stay in the minors to be relatively short. And I've noted my beliefs that Adrianza will figure out hitting up here at some point and do well, and thus it looks more like it's Duffy vs. Arias right now, and if so, it looks like Arias who is on the trading block.
Arias don't have a lot of positives, however. In particular, he has almost no defensive value, he's been at below average at every position except for 3B, and he's not even close to average at any other position. But his offense, which once gave him a lot of value, has dropped significantly over the past two seasons from his stellar 2012 season with us. OPS down, ISO down, SLG down, OBP down, the only good thing is his contact rate is still very good. OPS+ fell from 97 to 79 to 67. He appears to have coasted since 2012 and/or teams have figured him out, but either way, he's not been that valuable to us the past two seasons (technically, he was valuable in 2013, but only because of his great defense at 3B, not for any other reasons). Some people reach their prime in this age range and then fall precipitously.
Meanwhile, Adrianza is considered a defensive whiz at SS, better than anyone in the farm system right now, and the only true SS outside of Crawford. Overall, his advanced defensive metrics are all pretty stellar for the most part, bringing to mind the strong defensive value that DeRosa was suppose to provide. On top of that, unlike Arias, he has some patience in his bat, see the walks (8! vs. only 7 K's) he got this spring (speaking of which, doing much better than Arias as well, though not still not good, to be fair), which with his good contact rate, generally leads to a nice OBP. He's also got some speed to him, which is partly also because he's much younger, he's only 25 YO this season, Arias is 30 YO.
Some have been down on Adrianza this spring (if not for a long time), but I haven't. He was showing some sign of life in his bat just before he went on the DL, hitting over .300 over roughly a month. He has shown the ability to not only hit but hit well (i.e. getting walks) in the minors when his age caught up some with the league. People forget that he was usually very young for the league, even though he wasn't that great a hitting prospect. People forget that the Giants have promoted him steadily in the minors, then kept him on the roster last season when they ran out of options, and never DFAed him. All the beats note that if he was waivered, he would be snatched up quickly, so he's in some demand.
Lastly, I see his floor to be a Blanco type bench player: hit OK, walk a lot, enough power to keep pitchers honest, while playing at 1-2 WAR level defense at multiple (infield) positions. That's valuable production off the bench, and frankly, is a more reliable replacement for a starter over the short term, because offense can be up or down due to the BABIP gods, but defense is generally very steady, and as I've shown with my study of winning with defense, good defense means that you can still win with weaker offense. To top all that off, if he does figure out the hitting part, he could be a steady productive starter in the infield (2B, 3B, SS), so even a Zobrist type of utility starting player. All good reasons to keep him.
I would be very happy with Adrianza and Duffy as our MI bench players. I like both players and think if they ever get a chance, could be a starter for us. I would have been happy with the two of them manning 3B for us in 2015, but now that we have McGehee, I look forward to what he can do for us, and if for some reason he don't work out, easy to shuffle in the two youngsters in and see what they can do. And the two of them balance each other out. Adrianza is the fielding whiz, Duffy is the better hitter and probably better base stealer, though both are good runners because of their speed.
And if a trade could not be worked out, I would be OK with Arias being DFAed and eating his contract, in order to get Duffy on the roster. And frankly, given his poor 2014 and poor spring so far, probably nobody would claim him nor sign him as a free agent, so we could end up stashing him in AAA. And perhaps that is the Giants thinking as well, keeping Arias in April, then bringing up Duffy, at which point, most teams are settled in their rosters and unwilling to take Arias on waivers, allowing us to place him in AAA, that would explain that last statement from Baggerly regarding how the Giants might handle Duffy.
So, the roster is shaping up thusly:
Lineup (probably): Aoki, Panik, Pagan, Posey, Belt, McGehee, Crawford, Blanco (and once Pence returns, bats 6th and pushes others down). And I can see Maxwell starting in place of Blanco vs. LHP, in which case, like Pence, he would bat 6th.
Starting Rotation (probably this order, but apparently it's up on the air again): Bumgarner, Peavy, Cain, Hudson, and Lincecum
Bench: Sanchez, Ishikawa, Maxwell, MI1, MI2 (probably Adrianza and Duffy, ultimately)
Bullpen: Casilla, Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Vogelsong, Petit, and Machi/Kontos (leaning towards Kontos, but he might be easier to trade because of his relative youth)
Go Giants!!! Back2Back!!! Team of the 201 Decade!!!