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Five lingering questions Giants need to answer during camp

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As the Lombardi Trophy-shaped confetti was falling in Glendale on Sunday night, the Giants sent out a 38-second video on their social media accounts. The caption was simple: "Our turn ..."

It's officially baseball season, but it's not like the Giants have been hiding in the shadows since that final game in San Diego last October. There has never been a winter in which they spent more time in the national consciousness, but nothing quite went according to plan. 

Aaron Judge will report to camp this month in Florida. Carlos Correa will, too. The Giants instead will welcome Michael Conforto, Mitch Haniger, Taylor Rogers, Ross Stripling, Sean Manaea and Luke Jackson to Scottsdale Stadium, and they are hopeful the infusion of talent gets them back into playoff contention and brings fans back to Oracle Park. 

It'll be months before we know whether either is realistic, but there still are questions to be answered over the next six weeks in Scottsdale. Here are five that are front of mind as pitchers and catchers report:

Are The Catchers Ready?

One of the only roster spots truly up for grabs this spring is the backup catcher job, with two-time Gold Glove Award winner Roberto Perez likely entering camp with an edge over Austin Wynns. The Giants will be in much better shape if the winner is a true backup, though. 

Joey Bart's rookie season was a roller coaster. He struggled so much early on that he was sent back to Triple-A, but a hot August -- .328 average, three homers -- gave a glimpse of what he's capable of. Over the final month, the average dipped down to .172.


The Giants need to find some upside on this roster, and if Bart can show real improvement and firmly grab that everyday job, they'll have a stronger lineup in 2023 and a brighter future. 

Perez hit 24 homers in 2019 but has batted .171 in three seasons since and dealt with injuries. He has a reputation for being excellent behind the plate and in calling games, but the Giants need more from their catching group in general in 2023. They'll be in rough shape if the whole position is hanging around the Mendoza Line. 

Did They Make The Right Call?

At the end of the season, Brandon Belt was pretty sure that he would be gone, but there was still a glimmer of hope that he could have one more reunion. Evan Longoria was unsure about his future but also hopeful it would be in San Francisco, and the Giants seemed likely to bring him back even if they didn't pick up his option.

Ultimately, Farhan Zaidi decided to move on from both. The Longoria run ended early in the offseason and he landed where he wanted to, staying home with the Diamondbacks. There never was a serious push to bring Belt back, and he ended up in Toronto. 

The Giants decided to pivot to younger options at the corners, with David Villar lined up to win the job at third and LaMonte Wade Jr. set to start at first. Both bring a lot of upside, but also risk. 

The Giants had to get younger somewhere, but a team that was undone by defense in 2022 is now counting on two relatively unproven defenders at key spots. The staff believes Villar can be a good defender at third with more work there, and Wade showed flashes in 2021. 

"LaMonte, [when] healthy, is going to be a good defensive first baseman for us," manager Gabe Kapler said this month at FanFest. "I've said that for quite some time. He hasn't really been healthy for us, but when he's been on the field and playing first base, he's been pretty good."

Kapler will sleep a lot easier if Villar and Wade grab the corner jobs, allowing J.D. Davis and Wilmer Flores to move around and also be used as impact bench bats. Both Villar and Wade will come into camp in line to start, and the Giants will feel better about their chances if they take advantage of the opportunity and dominate the Cactus League season.

Who Can Help This Season?

None of the top prospects will break camp with the team, but they still have a lot to prove in Scottsdale. 

Kyle Harrison is headed for Triple-A, but a strong camp -- the early returns are very positive -- could line him up for a debut in May or June. Third baseman Casey Schmitt also could put himself in position for a summer call-up if last season's breakout carries over. 


The main knock on Vaun Brown has been that he has been old for every level, so the Giants are curious to see how he handles more advanced pitching. A 2023 debut isn't out of the question if he repeats his 2022 success. And speaking of outfielders, remember Heliot Ramos? The former top prospect had a rough year in Triple-A and the big leagues in 2022 and needs to force his way up this time around, but he's still just 23 and is coming off a good offseason. 

Cole Waites got a taste of big league life last September, and Tristan Beck and Keaton Winn were added to the 40-man over the offseason. R.J. Dabovich will be in camp, too. All could see action in 2023, with Waites being a real option to win a job in camp.

The Giants hope their veteran additions can lead them back to the postseason, and a couple of the prospects could add life to that push over the summer. And if the season stalls again, it'll be time to turn everything over to this group for good. Either way, the next six weeks are a good opportunity for all the young guys to show what they have. 

Are They Healthy?

It's fair to point out the vast difference between signing off on a $350 million deal and doing so with a two-year contract. But it's also fair to point out that the Giants walked away from the biggest contract in franchise history at a time when they continue to place bets on players who have spent far more time on the IL than Carlos Correa.

Haniger and Conforto are the lineup additions, but Haniger has played more than 100 games just twice in the big leagues and Conforto missed all of 2022 because of a shoulder injury. At FanFest, Kapler spoke glowingly of Conforto and said his throwing progression is "building up."

"Every time I talk to our medical staff they say the same thing, which is that every time he throws he looks better," Kapler said. 

The Giants need a healthy Conforto in left field on Opening Day, allowing Joc Pederson to be the everyday DH. They need Haniger's right-handed thump for six months. They need a 36-year-old Brandon Crawford to return to something close to his 2021 form after he dealt with some injury concerns in 2022. They need their rotation intact, and they really could use a productive Anthony DeSclafani. Kapler said he had an "awesome" offseason.

"Last year was not a healthy season for him," he continued. "I think we're all ready to put that behind us and he's ready. This is as physically ready as he has been since he has been a Giant."

Every team hopes to get out of camp in good health. For an older roster that desperately needs to build some momentum in April, it will be particularly important. 

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Are The Vibes Good?

This is a tough one, because it's hard to measure and it's also hard to not be positive in spring training. The days are shorter, the sun is shining, the tee times are booked and everyone is about to start the year with the same record.

There's no doubt, though, that the vibe was just a bit different last year than in 2021. The lockout certainly didn't help, but the hunger wasn't quite the same for a group that shocked the industry by winning the NL West in 2021 -- after veterans predicted in camp that they would. 

Looking back on last season, members of the clubhouse say the feeling in the room was just different, just a touch off. Logan Webb has been open about it publicly, saying last season that the group might have gotten complacent, and then mentioning at FanFest that he hoped to see a more driven group this season. 

"If we can all click, if you all feel the same way and you want to win and that's 100 percent the main goal, you always have a chance to do that," Webb said. 

Players and coaches have been raving about the work ethic and character of the six free agents Zaidi signed. It should be a strong clubhouse, and the Giants are hopeful that they fly home on March 25 with the right attitude, one that once again helps them surprise the rest of the league.

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