Joey Rickard or Heliot Ramos? Donovan Solano or Luis Toribio? A slightly better chance at winning games this year or improving the odds of winning games in 2021? How about 2022 and beyond?
The Giants have never identified the playoffs as a goal for this season, preaching about progress and development at every turn. If there is a 2020 season, it would test that ethos immediately, forcing the team to choose between the now and the future right from the onset.
Early proposals that assume minor league baseball will not exist this season have suggested a 30-man daily roster and 20-man taxi squad that can work out at the facility, get regular at-bats and bullpen sessions. To keep players fresh, a new bullpen could be subbed in a day, taxi squadders getting the call-up. It would function both as a way to ensure rest and health for players who would face a grueling abbreviated schedule but also an avenue toward getting reps for prospects who wouldn’t otherwise.
Which presents the Giants with choices all over the theoretical 50-man squad: a fringe player who could help in doses this season or a young prospect who would lose a year of development without being around the team?
“We have to operate as if there are not going to be any other developmental opportunities this year,” Gabe Kapler said on “Chalk Talk @ Home” on Wednesday. “And for that reason, I think we have to look at our prospects — even if we’re not sure they’re going to make an impact on our major league roster in 2020, if we think they might in ’21 or ’22, and we think that their development is critically important to the health of our minor league system and our organization, we have to find a way to at least consider them getting reps in a stay-hot style of camp.”
Some are easier calls than others. The Giants would not waste a season of development for Joey Bart, who would make the cut. But how about a player such as Marco Luciano, a toolsy young shortstop who could be a phenom but maxed out at short-season Salem-Keizer last season and is three years away from legally drinking?
Asked specifically about Luciano, outfielders Hunter Bishop and Alexander Canario and shortstop Will Wilson, Kapler said they “absolutely” would be in consideration.
The Giants are going over names, trying to suss out possible roster constructions before spring training 2.0 begins — if it begins, that is, as the union and MLB fight over both health codes and divvying up the money on the table.
If it all comes together, how would the Giants’ 50-man extended roll call come together? With all the necessary caveats — a season has not been agreed upon, that 50 is just a proposal, there still would be about three weeks of another camp to settle roster uncertainties — let’s take a look. For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume there will be 25 position players and 25 pitchers. And let’s put away the 40-man roster issues as well, which MLB and the union would need to work out.
Catchers (4): Buster Posey, Joey Bart, Tyler Heineman, Rob Brantly
With a schedule that would be packed with few off-days but possibly several double-headers, catching depth would take on an added importance. Thus, the two battling for backup spots, Heineman and Brantly, both could make it. On an ordinary day, the Giants could dress two catchers and use the others to catch bullpen sessions. It’s possible they may want even further reinforcements for this reason, which would put 21-year-old Ricardo Genoves and the recovering Aramis Garcia in play.
First base (3): Brandon Belt, Wilmer Flores, Darin Ruf
Second base (2): Mauricio Dubon, Yolmer Sanchez
Third Base (3): Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval, Zach Green
Shortstop (3): Brandon Crawford, Donovan Solano, Marco Luciano
Several of these players can be swapped for other positions. It is hard to envision the Giants allowing Luciano’s development to stall for an entire season; even if he is rarely used, they would want him in-house, getting workouts and at-bats against top pitching while under the tutelage of major league coaches.
It would be hard for the Giants to swallow 19-year-old Luis Toribio and/or 21-year-old Will Wilson skipping a year of development. This is an unforeseen problem with the big-league depth the team’s front office acquired, but the line must be drawn somewhere as spots fill up. Also left out would be Cristhian Adames, Kean Wong, Chris Shaw and Abiatal Avelino, all of whom have shown varying degrees of promise.
The 26-year-old Green turned a lot of heads in February and March, and he and Ruf may offer real right-handed power that the Giants have craved for years.
Outfielders (10): Alex Dickerson, Hunter Pence, Mike Yastrzemski, Billy Hamilton, Jaylin Davis, Austin Slater, Steven Duggar, Heliot Ramos, Hunter Bishop, Alexander Canario
Ramos, while just 20, might have debuted this year even if it were a standard season. Bishop, just a year removed from being a first-round pick, is turning 22 next month and advanced, coming out of Arizona State. Canario, at 20, just sneaks in over Luis Matos (18), who’s just too far off to justify a spot.
This also would put Joey Rickard, Joe McCarthy and Drew Robinson, all of whom had impressive camp 1.0s, off the roster. While the Giants like each, none is a prospect any longer and none has established himself as an everyday major league option.
Rotation (9): Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly, Logan Webb, Tyler Anderson, Dereck Rodríguez, Seth Corry, Sean Hjelle
Corry and Hjelle, the two top pitching prospects in a system much more teeming with hitters, get the nod. Corry, a 21-year-old, was dominant last season (172 strikeouts in 122 2/3 innings), but with Class-A Augusta. He has the best chance in the system to develop into an ace, and the Giants don’t want to lose his momentum.
There are several relievers who could be stretched into starters, so the two classifications are fluid.
Bullpen (16): Tony Watson, Trevor Gott, Wandy Peralta, Sam Coonrod, Tyler Rogers, Dany Jimenez, Jarlin García, Rico Garcia, Carlos Navas, Andrew Triggs, Jandel Gustave, Shaun Anderson, Trevor Oaks, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Suarez, Tyson Ross
Those final five could be bullpen options or three-inning guys or have the length to augment their rotation. If flexibility were big for the Giants pre-coronavirus, it is enormous at the moment, with a rushed season prompting the need to be ready for anything. Six-man rotations? How about seven? Will starters be asked to pitch three innings at a time in the early going as they ramp up their workload again?
There would be much headache choosing among a real surplus of pitching talent. As it stands, Conner Menez would miss out on a long-man spot. Enderson Franco and Tyler Cyr, who impressed in spring training 1.0, also would be on the outside. Veteran Nick Vincent had a rough February and March in Scottsdale and would need to show more, while fliers like Sam Selman, Raffi Vizcaino, Jake Jewell and Luis Madero also would not stick. A wild card is Reyes Moronta, who was throwing before camp broke up and who had been on schedule for an August return.