NBC Sports

Five players to watch as Giants kick off spring training

NBC Sports
  • Programming note: Download and subscribe to the brand-new Giants Talk podcast, hosted by NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic and Cole Kuiper, featuring weekly appearances from legendary Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper.

Giants manager Gabe Kapler sat down in a comfy chair on a deck at Scottsdale Stadium and warned reporters that, while he would attempt to answer any question, most of his time Wednesday was spent getting an up-close view of bullpen sessions.

That meant watching newcomers Anthony DeSclafani and Matt Wisler, Rule 5 pick Dedniel Nunez, ace Kevin Gausman, funky reliever Tyler Rogers, and about a half-dozen others. Kapler said it was a really good first day.

"Everybody is in good spirits," he said.

Everyone is happy and healthy on Day 1, but over the next six weeks the intensity will ramp up, roster battles will heat up, and the Giants will surely deal with some adversity.

Before that starts, let's take a positive spin around camp and highlight five players to watch as the Giants kick things off, as discussed on the debut episode of the Giants Talk podcast.

Download and subscribe to the Giants Talk Podcast

Buster Posey

For more than a decade now, this has been the case. But when Posey addressed the media on the first day of camp as he always does, he wasn't asked much about what happened on the field. He was asked about the health of his family, how he followed the Giants after opting out of the season, and whether he had any doubts as he came back. He was also asked if he had thought much about this potentially being his last camp and season in orange and black.

 

"Yeah, sure, it's gone through my mind," he said. "I think for me, my biggest goal this year, as cliche as this is, is to just go one day at a time and try to focus on what needs to be accomplished for that day."

Posey can focus on the details, but for Giants fans it'll be impossible not to think about the big picture. This is the last guaranteed year of Posey's contract and he turns 34 in a few weeks. It's possible this is the end for him. It's also possible this will be the start of a second act. 

We'll get early indications of where this is all headed during camp, and at the start, Posey looked strong. Kapler said he spoke to Posey in the morning and they anticipate him getting 50-60 at-bats to get ready for the season, which would be a slight change. Posey hasn't had more than 40 spring at-bats in six years. 

Joey Bart

He'll always be linked with Posey, but that's not the reason Bart is listed second here. Right now, Joey Bart's story is purely about one thing: How will he react to a rough debut in 2020?

One of the things the Giants love most about Bart is his competitiveness, and he had a whole winter to think about what went wrong and work on quick fixes. The Giants need to see a better approach at the plate, and that'll be honed in Triple-A to start the year. Curt Casali was signed to back up Posey. Kapler said Bart was "professional" and "accountable" when the two spoke after the Casali deal. 

"(He) feels like this is going to be an opportunity for him to improve and be ready the next time he's called upon at the major league level," Kapler said last week. 

There's no timetable right now for Bart's return to the big leagues, but the Giants aren't going to hold him back if he's tearing up Triple-A. That push can start in Scottsdale, where Bart is a .368 hitter in two springs with an OPS over 1.100.

Alex Wood

Bart caught last year's newcomers and Posey will break this year's class in, including Wood, a longtime Dodger. At his best, in 2017, Wood was an All-Star and Cy Young candidate. Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris are betting big that the lefty can get close to reaching those heights again, with the hope that Anthony DeSclafani and Aaron Sanchez follow the Gausman-Smyly path, as well. 

Wood is the rotation's only lefty, and of the newcomers he's probably the one least-suited to a short-innings role if it comes to that. The Giants need quality innings out of a pitcher who has made just nine starts the last two years. Their faint playoff hopes might depend on it. 

 

Jaylin Davis

When Davis' name came up on a pre-spring call with reporters, Zaidi admitted that the outfielder probably didn't get a fair shot last year. Davis made the opening day roster but was sent to the alternate site after just 12 at-bats. He never came back, with Kapler citing a need to make more contact.

"Every once in a while I'll look through our team and player stats and he was 2 for 12 with a homer," Zaidi said. "For an established player, nobody would bat an eyelash at that. When you're a less proven player, sometimes your early season performance is under too much of a microscope. I agree that he hasn't really gotten an opportunity. To be fair, that was a function of other guys stepping up."

The Giants did just fine in the outfield last summer and they appear to be set this year. But that doesn't mean Davis can't force the issue. He's a 26-year-old with a 35-homer season in his recent past, good speed and a solid glove. If Davis finds his groove, he could earn a much longer look under that microscope.

RELATED: Kapler calls McGee "nice candidate" to be Giants' closer

 

Kervin Castro

The first time a Giants official praised the 22-year-old who has never been near the top of prospect lists and hasn't even pitched 100 professional innings, it was mildly interesting. The second time it happened, the eyebrow was raised a bit higher. When it kept happening after that -- well, it was a sign that we should all start paying attention.

Castro was put on the 40-man roster in November because he was so good in the instructional league the Giants were afraid of losing him. After he threw a bullpen session last week, Kapler compared Castro to a former All-Star closer.  

"Just from a delivery standpoint and maybe from a physical standpoint, it made me think about Keith Foulke," he said. "I'm pretty excited about him."

Castro has a three-pitch mix: a fastball that has touched triple digits, a changeup, and a 12-6 curveball. Kapler praised Castro for his maturity and said he's someone who is throwing like he'll be "a Major leaguer at some point in the 2021 season."

Sounds like someone we should watch this spring, right?