The San Francisco Giants have several non-roster invitees who have made the team in recent years. Juan Uribe, Andres Torres, Guillermo Mota, Ryan Vogelsong, Joaquin Arias, Gregor Blanco, Juan Gutierrez and Brandon Hicks all have World Series rings despite not being guaranteed a roster spot heading into camp.
The Giants have had at least one non-roster invitee make the team in each of the last seven seasons. So, which non-roster invitee will force the issue and make the 25-man roster for Opening Day?
Giants’ camp has several players fighting for what appears to be very few opening-day spots. At the moment, it looks like the only jobs available are a utility infielder, a fifth outfielder, one relief pitcher and maybe a battle at backup catcher.
As we look at the Giants’ recent history, however, it is clear that the Giants front office will use spring training to let players earn those spots. That is why so many players like Uribe, Torres and Vogelsong have found their way onto the active roster.
So let’s look at who might have a shot this season:
Kyle Blanks: The former San Diego Padre has enormous power, and has already homered twice in spring training. He has played both outfield and first base at the big-league level. In an interview with Andrew Baggarly, Blanks said his main focus right now is his health.
“I’m confident that if I’m out there, I’ll be able to contribute.” Blanks explained. “My past medical history is like a book. So I literally try to feel as good as I can every day and put my best foot forward.”
Conor Gillaspie: A former Giants first round pick in 2008, Gillaspie is back with the club looking to make the team as a utility infielder. His spring got off to an interesting start, making an error at third base and hitting a mammoth home run in the same inning.
Conor Gillaspie makes error on routine grounder to 3B. ?
Conor Gillaspie hits the Giants’ first homer of the spring.?
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) March 2, 2016
The Giants liked Gillaspie enough in 2008 to make him a top pick and might look to him once again to fill the backup third base role behind Matt Duffy. Giants fans, including baseball writer Wendy Thurm, describe what it would be like for Gillaspie to come full circle back to the Giants.
Conor Gillaspie is the new Adam Duvall is the new Nick Noonan is the new Conor Gillaspie
— Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) March 2, 2016
Grant Green: Green was the 13th pick of the 2009 draft by the Oakland Athletics. He made his major-league debut on July 8, 2013 and was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim three weeks later. Green played several positions for the Angels, and his versatility may be his best shot at making the club.
Ricky Romero: Another former first round pick, Romero was the sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. The 2011 All-Star owns a career 51-45 record in the big leagues with a 4.16 ERA and 622 strikeouts between 2009-2013. Injuries ended his time with the Blue Jays, and Romero was signed last season by the Giants. He pitched in Sacramento, the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, with an eye on coming to camp with the club in 2016.
Romero spoke to Giants beat writer Alex Pavlovic about getting a second chance with the Giants.
“I’m happy to be here,” he said. “To be able to get another shot with a team like this is humbling.”
Romero will most likely start the season for the Sacramento River Cats, but his MLB experience should help him if the team needs a starting pitcher at some point during the season. Manager Bruce Bochy also talked to Pavlovic about what having a guy with a track record like Romero means for the Giants.
“He knows how to pitch, he gives us depth,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Anytime you have a guy with his success and experience, that’s intriguing. The fact that he’s left-handed made us bring him back to see what he has.”
The beauty of baseball is someone in this group will have a major impact on the Giants in 2016. We just won’t know who until April.