The slate is wiped clean. The start of the MLB regular season is here and the San Francisco Giants are undoubtedly ecstatic over the conclusion of Spring Training, as the defending World Series champs scuffled during Cactus League action, finishing with a 13-21-1 record. The end of Cactus League play also means the finalization of teams’ 25-man Opening Day rosters.
But Spring isn’t always about wins and losses, just ask Giant ace Madison Bumgarner, who earlier said that spring is used to get prepared for the regular season.
Although Manager Bruce Bochy would have liked to see the Giants play better throughout Cactus League games, he has to be pleased with how his team took two-of-three from the Oakland Athletics during the Bay Bridge Series, which completed Spring Training action for the respective teams.
While Spring Training is a tuneup for the regular season, it is also used to determine which players will make the 25-man Opening Day roster, a decision Bochy, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Brian Saben, and newly-Appointed General Manager Bobby Evans just recently finalized.
Of course, the trio had several easy decisions to make when deciding on which players would make up the opening day roster. But, as roster spots began to fill up, difficult decisions needed to be made, especially concerning players once considered prospects within the San Francisco system.
Gary Brown, who was drafted by the Giants with the 24th overall pick of the 2010 MLB First-Year-Player-Draft, was designated for assignment after being removed from the San Francisco 40-man roster to make room for outfielder Justin Maxwell, a non-roster invitee to camp that earned his way onto the 25-man Opening Day roster after hitting .347 with 15 RBI. Brown was subsequently claimed by the Cincinnati Reds and was optioned to AAA.
Another former San Francisco prospect that was designated for assignment was Ehire Adrianza. The 25-year-old slick fielding shortstop was in a battle with infielder Matt Duffy for one of the last spots on the opening day roster. Several analysts believed that Adrianza would remain with the Giants to start the season because Duffy, unlike Adrianza, still had options available that would allow San Francisco to send him down to the minors without another organization having the opportunity to claim.
Duffy, though, simply outplayed Adrianza during Cactus League action, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound infielder slashed .361/.400/.639 with three home runs and 15 RBI during his first trip to big league camp. Comparably, Adrianza slashed .224/.345/.286 with four RBI.
Even with the Giants opting to keep Duffy, Adrianza still had a chance to make the 25-man Opening Day roster. But, San Francisco plays 14 straight games to start the year and the organization decided it would be best to carry 13 pitchers to start the season, instead of the usual 12.
If Adrianza clears waivers, there is a chance he could still work his way back into the Giants’ future plans. Although, he will have to improve his hitting, which is what has hindered his progress through the San Francisco organization.
While the surges by Duffy and Maxwell to become members of the San Francisco Opening Day roster were unexpected, one prospect that many analysts thought would break camp with the Giants will instead start the year honing his craft for AAA Sacramento.
Catcher Andrew Susac, 25, is rated by some analysts as the Giants number one prospect and was expected to leave spring training as the back up to All-Star Buster Posey. But injuries limited Susac’s availability during spring and San Francisco decided to go with incumbent Hector Sanchez, who also serves as Tim Lincecum‘s personal catcher. It is important to note that Sanchez is also 25 years old and is a very capable MLB catching option. There were even rumors discussing the possibility of the Giants carrying three catchers during the season, something that could still be a possibility later in the season.
Despite beginning the year in Sacramento, Susac is expected to make his way back to the Giants fairly quickly.
The San Francisco position player portion of the Opening Day roster consists of catchers Posey and Sanchez; infielders Jaoquin Arias, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Casey McGehee, Joe Panik and Duffy; and outfielders Nori Aoki, Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan and Maxwell.
It is important to note that outfielder Hunter Pence and infielder/outfielder Travis Ishikawa will begin the season on the 15-day Disabled List. Pence will miss approximately the first two weeks of the season while recovering from a non-displaced fracture of his left ulna, just above the wrist. Ishikawa, who hit a monumental three-run home run to send the Giants to the World Series, was placed on the DL with back discomfort. Changes to the position player portion of the roster will occur with the return of both players from the DL, meaning Duffy or Maxwell could have short stays with San Francisco.
In a somewhat surprising move, San Francisco decided to start the year with 13 pitchers on the Opening Day roster. Of the 13 pitchers, seven have experience starting, which could be extremely beneficial to a team that has 14 consecutive games to start the season.
The starting rotation will consist of Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Lincecum with Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmiero Petit available, if someone should falter or is injured. Bullpen stalwarts Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla will continue to anchor a reliable pen with Jean Machi and George Kontos being afforded the opportunity to showcase their abilities as well.
The Giants also have one relief pitchers starting the year on the 15-day DL. Erik Cordier will begin the season on the DL and is expected to be sent to the minors was he is eligible to return.
While it is important for players to make the Opening Day roster, it does not always dictate who will play the most significant role in an organization’s success. Remember, 2010 saw Posey start the year in Fresno, but by the time the end of the season rolled around he was claiming a National League Rookie of the Year trophy and helping lead the Giants to their first World Series title since 1954. Someone new to the 2014 Opening Day roster could make that type of impact as well.