The fourth in a six-part series that previews the upcoming season for a team we haven’t heard much from in over three months. Here is a look at the middle infielders, corner infielders and catchers. Who are these guys?
After a break to learn the initial pool with which the Giants will be working, the biggest roster questions may loom in the outfield.
First and foremost, how is Hunter Bishop? The 2019 first-round pick is the first known Giant to contract COVID-19, quarantining in Arizona for the next two weeks until, if all goes well, he can be placed on the 60-man roster. The Giants said he is “improving” and has minor symptoms, Gabe Kapler having talked to him Sunday, and by all accounts he’s expected to be OK. It would be great for the Giants and much greater for Bishop and his family for the Serra grad to be able to shag fly balls in a few weeks.
Any next question will pale in comparison, the sort of clumsy transition sentences that will become commonplace in baseball stories during a pandemic. Nonetheless: Who’s playing center field, and is Yasiel Puig involved?
Billy Hamilton is not on the 40-man, but he will be at camp 2.0 and expects to run his way onto the roster. Mike Yastrzemski could see some time in center, as could Mauricio Dubon, whose athleticism the Giants love as they will throw him anywhere. Otherwise, Steven Duggar, who was 4-for-21 before being demoted to minor league camp, will be around, though he has not proven he can hit major league pitching.
The Giants are more set on the wings. Left field will be a platoon of Alex Dickerson and Hunter Pence, two injury-prone sluggers who destroy right and lefty pitching, respectively. If Hamilton is in center, Yastrzemski would be the right fielder. The Giants love Jaylin Davis‘ tools, though last year’s trade addition was having a rough camp before it broke. Other options include Joe McCarthy, whose plate discipline is well-regarded, Austin Slater, who was so solid last season before coming apart in September, and Joey Rickard, who was 7-for-18 in camp.
This offseason, the Giants nontendered Kevin Pillar so they could get at-bats for the Duggars and Davises of the world. Yet, the youth they have wanted to experiment with did not look great in limited February and March time. With more prolonged struggle, would that open the door for Puig?
“It wouldn’t surprise me if, as camp moves on, we get all the way up to 60 [in the pool] just on internal options,” Zaidi said Monday, signaling they hope their unproven talent can prevail before they check on free agents.
Other names to know:
Heliot Ramos: Here’s betting you know the name. The top prospect was included in the pool, too valuable to leave at home, even if he is 20 and has only played 25 games at the Double-A level. In a normal season, a Ramos appearance would be expected for a July or August breath of air, perhaps a late-season display to fans that the future is brighter than the present. This season that possibility is more remote. With the crush of outfielders, injury and/or ineffectiveness would have to couple with Ramos tearing up the Sacramento scrimmages for him to debut in a 60-game season.
Darin Ruf: The 33-year-old was beginning to see some outfield reps when the pandemic took hold, his bat too loud to ignore. But the NL picking up the DH, as well as complementing Brandon Belt at first, would allow Ruf to see some playing time without testing his legs in a corner-outfield spot.
Drew Robinson: The 28-year-old non-roster member was invited to camp 1.0 and seen as a depth piece probably set to play all over in Triple-A Sacramento. Sadly, there may not be space for him this year, and he was left out of the initial pool.
Jose Siri: The March pickup from Seattle had not seen time with the Giants yet, though he came over with the blessing of hitting coach Donnie Ecker, who coached Siri in Cincinnati. The 40-man member is now on the outside looking in, though, and is a DFA possibility.