Cameron Maybin

Giants' new role players must step up for team to have successful 2019

Giants' new role players must step up for team to have successful 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- Before you start reading this, knock on wood a couple dozen times. 

The Giants have stayed healthy this spring, and that's the first step towards being better than they were the last two years. 

But that could change at any moment. After all, Madison Bumgarner got hurt in his final start last spring. Whether it's next week or next month, the Giants will need to start dipping into their depth, and while this has been a remarkably quiet offseason, they have done a decent job of upgrading the back ends of the active and 40-man rosters. 

The 2018 Giants were bad, but the 2018 Sacramento River Cats were also bad, which gave the big league club little hope of finding adequate replacements when injuries popped up, or regulars became ineffective. 

That's one area where this year's team should be better, and if you're looking for a way Farhan Zaidi can automatically pick up a few wins in Year 1, look no further than last year's roster. This is some of what he has had to replace:

Gorkys Hernandez: Despite the homers, he had a .656 OPS in 451 plate appearances
Hunter Pence: He is beloved, but posted a .226/.258/.332 line in 248 plate appearances
Gregor Blanco: Also a #ForeverGiant, but he hit .217/.262/.317 in 203 plate appearances 
Austin Jackson: Had a .604 OPS in 59 games before he was salary-dumped
Kelby Tomlinson: Great dude, fan favorite ... slugged .264 in 152 plate appearances
Chase d'Arnaud: Great dude, great with fans ... had a .618 OPS in 100 plate appearances

The pitching staff was better, but the Giants still had a lot of appearances Zaidi believes can be more effectively replaced. Notably, Hunter Strickland, who was non-tendered, had a 3.97 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 49 appearances and Pierce Johnson had a 5.56 ERA in 37 appearances. This year's bullpen is deeper and the rotation is deep enough that Andrew Suarez won't be in it to start the year. 

Of all the players listed above, Hernandez (0.5) was the only one with a positive WAR. The rest combined for negative four Wins Above Replacement.  

[RELATED: How will Giants narrow bullpen options before Opening Day?]

Will Yangervis Solarte make better use of those spare infield at-bats? Will Travis Bergen or Trevor Gott be better than the relievers who were let go? Will Mac Williamson, Gerardo Parra and Cameron Maybin greatly outperform Hernandez, Pence and Blanco? 

We'll see, but the standard set in 2018 was not at all a high one, and improvement from the complementary pieces on this year's roster would help the Giants inch a bit closer to meaningful September baseball. 

Giants' starting outfield taking shape as Opening Day approaches

Giants' starting outfield taking shape as Opening Day approaches

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants were missing a couple of their regular infielders Tuesday night, but the outfield was one you very well could see in two weeks when the players take the field at Petco Park. 

If the season started today, Mac Williamson would be the left fielder and Gerardo Parra would be in right, flanking Steven Duggar, who looks ready for an everyday job in center and plenty of time atop the lineup

One thing could change all this: The Giants are still searching for a right-handed bat on the market. They were in on Adam Jones, per a source, but not all that high on him, and he's now a Diamondback. People within the organization do expect president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi to swing a deal before Opening Day, though.

"We've got to," one team executive recently said. "We need another bat out there."

Zaidi repeatedly has said deals still could get done as rosters are cut down. Until he makes one, though, here's a look at where the Giants' outfield stands:

Steven Duggar

Health was the most important thing for him this spring and his shoulder is at 100 percent.

The Giants haven't turned him loose yet -- he's not allowed to dive in the field and got thrown out on a would-be triple because he wasn't supposed to dive for the bag -- but Duggar has looked good and talks excitedly about lofty goals he has set for his first full season. 

Mac Williamson

The hope is that the 2018 March/April breakout is real. Williamson has hit just .207/.281/.379 this spring but is poised to get his first real extended opportunity in the lineup.

The Giants desperately need the right-handed thump. 

Gerardo Parra

Stand around the clubhouse and ask veterans why they're optimistic and you'll almost certainly hear them gush about Parra, a longtime NL West opponent. He has been strong defensively and gives the Giants a legit arm in right field. At the plate, he has a .866 OPS in 11 Cactus League games.

Parra is not the perfect fit because he adds another lefty bat, but he'll see plenty of time this season, and the Giants certainly need the energy he brings to the field and the clubhouse. 

Cameron Maybin

He has just six hits in 30 at-bats and got a DUI a couple of weeks ago. That's not exactly how either side drew this up. But Zaidi said the off-field incident will not be a factor, calling it "an unfortunate situation" that Maybin "took ownership of."

"The primary driver is going to be us evaluating whether he can help this team and help the organization," Zaidi said. 

Here in mid-March, the Giants view Maybin as their fourth outfielder, with a tentative plan to have him often sub for Williamson defensively late in games. They're hoping his revamped swing locks in late in the spring, and the at-bats have been better in recent days.

"I think he's working on his timing but as he kind of gets his timing and starts working the middle of the field, I think we could see him take it up another level," Zaidi said. "I don't think we've seen the best of him yet, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he does these last couple of weeks."

Austin Slater

A coach stood and watched Slater take BP the other day and talked of how desperately the Giants want the 26-year-old to figure it out. But he's at just .174 this spring with one extra-base hit. 

Slater is versatile defensively, has a great arm, and has worked on adding loft to his swing, so if he ever figures it out he could become a big part of the outfield mix. But for now he's just about a lock to get optioned back to Triple-A. 

Drew Ferguson

The Rule 5 pick was featured here this morning. He has a .476 OPS in Cactus League action. The Giants like his makeup and skills, but right now he's still got an uphill climb ahead of him. Ferguson could be kept as a fifth outfielder, but the staff also needs to figure out whether that's needed with Yangervis Solarte also an option for left. 

In an ideal world, the Giants could send Ferguson to Triple-A to play every day and work his way up. But that's not how the Rule 5 rules work.

"It's find a spot for him or lose him, so that definitely factors in," Zaidi said. 

Perhaps the new president can find a creative workaround as he tries to fit Ferguson in with veterans and guys who are out of options. 

The Rest

Chris Shaw was optioned out on Monday.

Right-handed bats Anthony Garcia and Henry Ramos are intriguing talents, but neither has had the big spring that was needed to crack the roster.

[RELATED: How Giants' spring training cuts so far could have role in 2019 season]

Long-term, keep an eye on Mike Gerber. He had a very impressive at-bat Sunday, shaking off a first-pitch fastball near his chin to deliver a big ninth-inning two-run triple off a hard-throwing Rangers lefty. Gerber has seven hits in 17 at-bats. 

Giants outfielder Cameron Maybin sorry for spring training DUI arrest

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USATSI

Giants outfielder Cameron Maybin sorry for spring training DUI arrest

Giants outfielder Cameron Maybin apologized Wednesday for his actions that led to him being arrested and charged on suspicion of driving under the influence last week in Scottsdale, Ariz. 

“I take a lot of pride in how I carry myself and how I conduct myself,” Maybin said to reporters. “So I’m very disappointed about the situation. I can’t talk too much about the details of how it went, but I was extremely cooperative and extremely respectful.”

Maybin also sent out a public statement on Twitter.

Maybin's Friday arrest became public Tuesday, but he said he immediately made the Giants aware of the situation. 

“The day I got in, as soon as I got in, I came to [Giants manager Bruce Bochy] and let him know what happened,” Maybin said. “I let Farhan [Zaidi, president of baseball operations] know the same day. I actually called him early that morning and let him know about the situation.

“I didn’t waste any time, I wanted to make sure I was completely honest about the situation.”

The 31-year-old was arrested at 2:22 a.m. when an officer saw him driving 55 in a 35-mph speed zone. Maybin took a breath test that showed a .142 blood-alcohol content, which is above Arizona’s legal limit of .08. 

Maybin wasn't in the Giants' lineup later Friday, though he did play against the Rockies on Saturday and the Dodgers on Sunday. The veteran has started slow at the plate this spring, and is batting .105 in seven games. 

[RELATED: Versatile Yangervis Solarte shows Giants he can add to outfield depth]

The Giants signed Maybin to a minor league contract in February. He said Bochy and Zaidi both told him the arrest will not affect his standing on making the team, and he's expected to back up Steven Duggar in center field.