Every year, crazy things happen in spring training. Guys you’ve never heard of suddenly become home run monsters. Pitchers on the fringe somehow dominate. It’s a world of possibility, and any sort of craziness can happen.
Do you remember Mark Minicozzi? No? Neither do I. I had to ask a friend what his name was. He’s the guy who hit 5 home runs in Cactus League play in March of 2014. Remember now? Ya. I don’t either. And I was in Scottsdale that year.
That’s the point. Spring training stats don’t matter. Teams aren’t watching results. They search for players who have the swing to fit their ball club. Or are willing to take pitches when it’s called for and not just go up there hacking trying to prove their worth.
The Giants have some open competitions, but the roster is basically set. Pitching is still a question and we don’t know exactly who will man center field. So let’s look at some wacko things that might upset the apple cart this spring.
- Chris Shaw hits at least 5 homers and everyone is clamoring for him to make the big club. Last season at AAA Sacramento, Shaw appeared in 88 games. He had 18 HR’s in 360 plate appearances. That’s a homer for every 20 trips to the plate. Even if Shaw wins the Barney Nugent Award, he still starts the season in the minors.
- Steven Duggar plays well enough to break camp with the big club. The Giants decide to platoon Duggar and Austin Jackson in center field during the month of April. He’s on his way, starting the Cactus League 2-for-5 with a double and a homer.
- Hector Sanchez has a great spring like he did in 2014. That season he was 16-for-50 (.320 BA) with 3 homers and he drove in 16 runs. During the 2014 regular season, before Hector was knocked out with a concussion in late July, Sanchez batted a measly .196 with 3 home runs. A huge difference. I’m not saying the past will repeat itself, but it’s important to remember that last year’s Willie Mac award winner, Nick Hundley, is already the backup catcher.
- Someone gets injured. I know, big whoop. That happens every year. The wild prediction here is that an impact veteran goes down and is forced to miss the start of the regular season. Again, I’m not wishing ill will on our beloved Giants, but I’m predicting the starting lineup is missing a veteran name we expected to see.
- Pablo Sandoval makes the club and starts the season in the big leagues. He’s been working on his play at first base to be more versatile as a bench player. Bruce Bochy loves his veterans, and Pablo seems to enjoy playing with the Giants. I think he has a hot spring on the heels of how last season ended. Sandoval finished 2017 on a 5-game hitting streak, including a walk-off homer to end the season. That being said, I think he falls with a thud when the season starts.
- Ryder Jones hasn’t seen the field yet this spring and I can’t seem to find a reason why. That’s not going to stop me from predicting he has a great spring and is breathing down the neck of Sandoval for his role on the bench. Alas, the Giants will probably go with the vet, but it’s interesting to note how Jones has performed during spring training in the past. He was in camp the last 2 years and went a combined 11-for-26 (.423) with 2 homers and 2 doubles. If this becomes true again, at some point, Jones should be with the big club again this season.
- Hunter Pence adapts to playing left field and looks as if he’s been out there for years. Not only will he show some quickness and agility we didn’t think was still there, Pence will also pick it up with the bat this spring. Infused with new energy from a new position, it says here that Pence will be rolling with the bat as spring winds down and jump out to a hot start in the regular season.
- Jeff Samamrdzija takes a few lumps and fans get anxious. Shark has had issues with the long ball in the past and I think that crops up early in Cactus League play. Fans will be on edge, especially if the young pitchers have good camps, but Shark will absolutely stay the number 3 starter. I’m not predicting he fixes the problem, just that it pops up.
- Chris Stratton named #4 starter, Andrew Suarez named #5. In a surprise, Suarez will crack the Giants rotation, forcing Derek Holland to accept an assignment or get released. Ty Blach will start the season as a swing man, giving the Giants a long man if needed. Tyler Beede won’t struggle, but the coaching staff will be so blown away by Suarez that they feel there is no choice but to stick with him and let Beede get some more minor league work.
OK, maybe not every prediction is wild, but I am going out on a limb on a couple of these. Frankly, we have no idea what will happen, we rarely do, and that’s the fun in watching these battles play out during spring training.
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32 days until Opening Day!