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 scrimmage notes: Plan hasn't changed for hard-hitting Joey Bart

Giants scrimmage notes: Plan hasn't changed for hard-hitting Joey Bart

SAN FRANCISCO -- Life went on at Oracle Park on Wednesday afternoon, even if Twitter wouldn't allow much of the press box to capture it. The Giants played another intrasquad game, seven innings this time, and there was a clear standout among young position players. 

Five days after Buster Posey bowed out of the season, Joey Bart continued to show why it's hard to believe he's not one of this organization's two best catchers. Bart had the strongest batting practice of anyone in the afternoon group, repeatedly crushing balls deep into the bleachers in left and then showing off his two-way game when Team Orange faced Team Black. 

The front office and staff have been adamant that Bart has more to work on and isn't in the mix for Opening Day. But perhaps the veterans on the club are sending a subtle message.

Two days after Evan Longoria praised Bart, Wilmer Flores said this when asked which young Giants has impressed him: "I really like Joey Bart's approach. He can hit the ball hard. He has really impressed me. I didn't get to see him in spring training but I'm getting to see him now. He's really got some pop."

Bart also struck out twice Wednesday, and afterward it didn't sound like the entire day had moved the needle at all. Manager Gabe Kapler said the Giants still have a "really strong conviction that Joey's best path to being an excellent major league player is through more repetition and a little more time to develop."

"I think it's important to remember that a lot of the best players in baseball become as good as they are through repetition, sometimes sitting in the dugout and watching games unfold, sometimes watching them from behind the plate and getting lots of reps in the batter's box and time with coaches," Kapler said in a video conference with reporters. "We just see Joey as a player who can really benefit from more reps in the batter's box, more opportunities to gameplan and more opportunities to work with some really great player development and major league coaches (in Sacramento)."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

--- We're eight days from the opener, so all reps are important. It certainly stood out, then, that right-hander Carlos Navas was stretched out and he struck out five in 2 1/3 innings, allowing just an infield single to Heliot Ramos. Navas had a good year with Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento last season. While he primarily has been a reliever in his career, he has always been a multi-inning one. That's a good fit in 2020. 

"I think the way that I would describe Carlos right now is dependable and professional, predictable," Kapler said. "I think you need pieces like that in your bullpen. I think you need pieces like that where the staff and his teammates really believe in him on a major league roster. He's making a nice push. Obviously there's a way to go but he's doing a really nice job for us in camp so far."

--- It's all about versatility this season, and even more so in future years. Here are some of the positions we saw Wednesday: Austin Slater in center field, Joe McCarthy at first base and then right field, Luis Toribio at second and third, Mauricio Dubon in center and then at short, Mike Yastrzemski in center. 

Dubon had the defensive play of the day, going deep into center to run down a Tyler Heineman line drive as he ran onto the track. He looked very much like someone who has been playing the outfield his whole life. 

"He did what a good outfielder is supposed to do, (got) that first step, he got it real quick," Flores said. "The rest is history because he's got the speed to do it. I thought he got a great read on that ball. He looked really good out there ... he'll be fine, because he's so athletic. If you can play shortstop like he does you can play center field."

--- The Giants made it official: Their secondary camp will be in Sacramento, as expected. It won't be open to reporters or the public, although hopefully they have a camera up there capturing some of the action.

[RELATED: Can Dickerson repeat last summer's hot streak for Giants?]

--- Rule 5 pick Dany Jimenez had a good day on the mound and Kapler said his last two outings were more encouraging than his spring ones. 

"Dany has shown well his last two outings and is making a nice push," Kapler said. 

--- Trevor Cahill continues to miss time with a nail issue. He looked like a lock for the 30-man roster a couple weeks ago, but he's running out of time to get back on the mound. 

Brandon Belt (sore heel) is progressing well and will start running soon. 

Field to Table: How to perfect Oracle Park chicken tenders at home

Field to Table: How to perfect Oracle Park chicken tenders at home

It’s your favorite time of the week, where Field to Table brings you your favorite ballpark foods that you can make from home. This time, it's a personal favorite: Chicken tenders.

And before you ask, yes, they pair well with wine. Just ask Rich Aurilia, who once again joins the gang as a guest judge to determine who makes the best tenders.

You might want to put your money on Giants insider Alex Pavlovic, he’s the tender king.

Here are the recipes they used:

Kelli Johnson (deep fried)

-Chicken breasts
-Salt and pepper
-Cayenne Pepper
-Garlic Pepper
-Bread crumbs
-Cooking Oil

Alex Pavlovic (air fried)

-Chicken breasts
-Bread crumbs
-Salt and pepper

Anthony Garcia (oven baked)

-Chicken breasts
-Bread crumbs
-Gluten-free almond flour
-Olive oil
-Garlic powder

Kelli really wants this one, but per usual, Pavs comes out of nowhere and surprises us with some special details. He added TWO types of french fries and multiple sauces. 

What a savage.

And that’s fair, you must have at least two sauces to dip tenders in or you’re doing it wrong.

Who was the winner? Well, check the clip above to find out. And come back to check out the recipes from other Oracle Park favorites including the Crazy Crab sandwich, the ballpark pretzel and helmet nachos. Oh … and pizza.

Receive $25 off a $100-or-more order on by using the promo code "NBCSPORTS"