On March 11, the Giants left Scottsdale Stadium and headed west, driving about an hour for an exhibition with the Texas Rangers on the other side of the valley. They won 6-4. Before heading for a scheduled day off, manager Gabe Kapler announced that Johnny Cueto would be his Opening Day starter at Dodger Stadium.
Sixteen weeks and two days later, the Giants will get back together. Camp restarts Friday at Oracle Park, with players coming through in waves and practicing social distancing.
It's been well over 100 days since the last official workout, but the Giants will try to pick up where they left off. This week we'll take a look at their position groups, giving a reminder of which players were in camp, which ones are joining, and which ones are fighting for jobs. Up first, the catchers:
A full year-and-a-half removed from hip surgery, Posye looked strong this spring, and Giants people were excited about the possibility of some of his old production returning. It's hard to know what 60 games will mean for him, though.
Kapler can give Posey plenty of DH days to try and keep him fresh, but with the Giants viewing themselves as being in contention, they're going to want Posey behind the plate as much as possible, guiding a pitching staff that won't have a true rotation.
Posey turned 33 during the hiatus, but perhaps he'll be energized by a 60-game sprint. Years ago he got used to catching every pitch of the postseason, knowing he could rest in November. He should be able to push himself this year without having to worry about catching 110-115 games.
If the Giants truly are going to stay in the race, they really could use a bounceback. Last year Posey had an OPS of just .688 and he has just 12 homers the past two seasons.
Brantly played just one game last year for Kapler's Phillies. He followed Kapler to San Francisco and will compete with the next player on this list to be Posey's backup. Brantly has experience in that role, having played 126 MLB games since 2012.
His best season was his first, when he hit .290 with three homers and eight doubles in 100 at-bats. A left-handed hitter, Brantly had a .404 OPB last season in Triple-A for the Phillies.
The Giants plan to carry two catchers on their initial 30-man roster, with the possibility that a third could travel as part of a three-player taxi squad (one of the three players has to be a catcher). It seems likely that Brantly and Tyler Heineman will take those two spots in some order.
Like Brantly, Heineman is a non-roster invitee who could provide balance behind the plate. The 29-year-old is a switch-hitter and made his debut last season, going 3-for-11 for the Miami Marlins.
Heineman spent most of last year at Triple-A for the Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks, and he put up strong numbers. In 73 games he hit .336 with a .400 OBP and 13 homers, which tied his career-high.
Like Brantly, Heineman didn't get very many at-bats (16) before spring training shut down. This is one of those where you figure Farhan Zaidi, Scott Harris and Kapler have a pretty good idea of who the front-runner is to back up Posey, but Heineman and Brantly will have another three weeks to state their case.
The most dangerous catcher at the plate this spring was the 23-year-old who was taken second overall in 2018. Bart had seven hits in 16 Cactus League at-bats, including two homers and a double. He was sent to minor league camp just before the coronavirus shut things down, and the plan was for him to spend the start of the year in Triple-A.
Bart was a near-lock to debut at some point this season, and while the Giants don't have him in their Opening Day plans, he still could find his way onto the roster in a couple of ways. There are going to be injuries and -- unfortunately -- players who test positive for COVID-19, and Bart should be the next man up after Posey, Brantly and Heineman. If the Giants get off to a rough start, it's also possible they decide to give Bart a cameo in September in preparation for 2021.
In the meantime, here's a video of what Bart in the big leagues might look like:
A non-roster invitee this spring, Tromp was not on the initial player pool list the Giants released, but nobody leaves Aruba just for fun:
Tromp is 25 and it's rare that catchers reach minor league free agency that young, so the Giants were happy to add him as organizational depth in the offseason. He dealt with some injuries as a Cincinnati Reds prospect but had a .286/.389/.610 slash line in 26 Triple-A games last season.
Tromp was going to provide depth in the upper levels of the minors this season. Now he figures to spend most of the next three months in Sacramento, where the Giants will play intrasquad games and three young catchers will be counted on to help keep veteran pitchers sharp.
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The Giants announced Wednesday afternoon that they have signed their first-round pick out of North Carolina State. Earlier in the day, MLB.com reported that Bailey would be part of the player pool.
There's been no official word from the Giants, but it makes a ton of sense for Bailey, now one of the organization's top five prospects, to work out all summer with big leaguers. In an odd way, Bailey might be in a better spot than normal top draftees.
Bart got 181 at-bats for Salem-Keizer in 2018 and Hunter Bishop got 85 last year. Bailey will miss out on those reps, but he'll also get to spend some time at Oracle Park with the big league club and then two months in Sacramento, where he can potentially get intrasquad at-bats against established big league pitchers instead of 19-year-olds. The Giants also can immediately begin work on his swing and his receiving.
This should set Bailey up to begin next year with High-A San Jose and try to follow Bart's path of reaching Double-A in his first full season.
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