Forty-seven players remain in Giants camp after their most recent string of roster moves, which included cutting 21-year-old lefty Kyle Harrison after three Cactus League appearances.
Harrison, who posted a 19.64 spring training ERA, got reassigned to minor league camp. A trio of upper-minors talent — infielder Isan Díaz plus starters Keaton Winn and Tristan Beck — got optioned.
Of those four, Díaz may have had the clearest lane to breaking camp, since he’s a left-handed hitting middle infielder. Beck and Winn impressed in their Cactus League showings, but San Francisco’s pitching depth made it practically impossible for either of them to crack the Opening Day roster.
Fifteen days before the Giants open their season in Yankee Stadium, their roster is almost completely set. Barring injuries, and depending on how they balance the roster, only a couple of spots remain up for grabs. The main gray areas: catcher and one spot in the bullpen.
The Giants entered the spring with enough talent to avoid most major positional battles. The most pressing, public competition is at the catcher position, but most everywhere else on the roster could have been penciled in from the start.
Since the Giants have two off days — March 31 and April 4 — in their first week of the season, they could potentially carry 12 pitchers and 14 position players to kick off the year.
If the Giants start the year with a 12-man pitching staff, that may leave just one spot up for grabs.
The presumed locks include Opening Day starter Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Ross Stripling, Alex Wood, Sean Manaea, Anthony DeSclafani, Camilo Doval, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Rogers, Jakob Junis, John Brebbia, and Scott Alexander.
That’s 12. Only two true relievers — Alexander and Taylor Rogers — are left-handed, but Manaea and Wood have relief experience and could be deployed in piggyback roles.
Assuming the Giants indeed go with a 12-man staff to start, there would be no more opportunities left. But if they go with an even, traditional split, the 6-foot-11 Sean Hjelle and Cole Waites remain as options for the last spot. The only other Major League pitchers left in camp — Thomas Szapucki and Luke Jackson — are expected to begin the season on the injured list.
Hjelle has impressed in Cactus League play, posting a 2.25 ERA in eight innings. He’s struck out 10 and walked none, flashing a fastball in the upper-90s. He has both starting and bullpen experience, which makes him an appealing option to cover bulk innings.
Waites, meanwhile, is recovering from a lat strain that pits him behind Hjelle in terms of progress. He’s scheduled to throw a live bullpen session this Thursday, meaning he’s nearing a return to the mound. Waites debuted late last season and has potential as a high-velocity arm in the bullpen.
A potential final in the bullpen appears to belong to either Waites or Hjelle.
Injuries to Luis González (back), Brandon Crawford (knee), Austin Slater (elbow), David Vilar (hip) and Mitch Haniger (oblique) could shake things up, but the Giants nevertheless have a relatively tight core in the field.
González is getting back surgery, requiring him to miss at least the first half of the season. Crawford’s left knee that bothered him for large stretches of 2022 has already flared up, but there’s reportedly optimism that he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
“We are just trying to get him ready for Opening Day,” manager Gabe Kapler said, via MLB.com. “We don’t see a lot of value in trying to stick him out there at shortstop and pushing him really hard. We want him to be ready for New York. We’re just going to have that mindset of getting him as physical and comfortable as possible for Opening Day.”
Haniger, likewise, should be on track for the start of the year, but obliques can be tricky. Villar’s hip injury isn’t considered serious, and the team has given him the inside track to the starting third base role. Kapler has also expressed confidence that Slater’s elbow neuritis won’t sideline him for the start of the season.
Assuming Haniger, Crawford, Slater and Villar are healthy enough by the end of camp, they’ll each be on the roster.
Those four, plus Mike Yastrzemski, Thairo Estrada, Wilmer Flores, Joc Pederson, LaMonte Wade Jr., Michael Conforto and J.D. Davis are surefire members of the team.
That leaves three open spots. Two if the Giants break camp with the 13-13 look between pitchers and field players.
Joey Bart, Roberto Pérez, Austin Wynns and Blake Sabol are still fighting to earn a role. Each has performed well in Cactus League play, but Bart’s arm strength, potential in the batter’s box and standing within the organization should make him the favorite.
Between Pérez, Wynns and Sabol, the Giants will need to choose between a Gold Glove veteran, a steady game manager who has earned the trust of the pitching staff and a raw backstop who has destroyed spring training pitching. Sabol, who has three home runs and a .476 Cactus League batting average, can also play the outfield, making him a versatile option.
Sabol also must remain on the 26-man roster for the duration of the season or be returned to Pittsburgh because of Rule 5 Draft restrictions. It’s unclear if San Francisco would carry three catchers, but their schedule to start the year may allow them to do so.
The more likely scenario is two catchers plus a middle infielder, given Crawford’s knee injury and a relative lack of depth behind him. Thairo Estrada filled in for Crawford at times last year and actually graded out better defensively there than at second, but more options up the middle would be helpful.
Candidates to fill that role include Brett Wisely, who has turned heads in camp, and highly touted prospect Casey Schmitt. Schmitt, a Minor League Gold Glover at third, has played shortstop and has collected two homers, two triples and a double in 26 Cactus League at-bats. The Giants plan to start him at Triple-A, but he actually has just as much experience at that level as Wisely (four games to five).
Wisely being a left-handed hitter could give him an advantage, but Schmitt is a more gifted talent and has played 40 minor league games at shortstop compared to Wisely’s 19.
Schmitt breaking camp with the team would certainly be a surprise. But when asked when the former second rounder could be considered a backup option at shortstop, Kapler indicated that it’s a real possibility.
“Soon, because he’s done it some,” Kapler said, via MLB.com. “He’s done it to the degree where people think he could do it, and he’s physically gifted enough to handle it. Some reps are going to be important and valuable, but I think he could be a reasonable depth option sooner rather than later.”
Injuries in the outfield — to Haniger, Slater, or otherwise — could open a path for veteran non-roster invitee Stephen Piscotty or the speedy Bryce Johnson (Luis Matos is also on the 40-man and has had a nice spring, but hasn’t even reached Double-A yet).
But based on where things are heading at the moment, the Giants will likely fill the final three spots either with three catchers or two catchers plus either Wisely or, potentially, Schmitt.