Three takeaways as Giants release initial MLB Summer Camp player pool

Three takeaways as Giants release initial MLB Summer Camp player pool

The Giants were the last team standing, which is usually what you want when it comes to Major League Baseball. Unless you're just dealing with a ton of unexpected paperwork.

As the Giants settled new contracts with Pablo Sandoval, Billy Hamilton, Yolmer Sanchez and Trevor Cahill, the rest of the teams around the league released player pool rosters. Finally, just before noon Monday, came word from the Giants. 

The initial list is just 51 players, leaving wiggle room to add nine more either before camp begins Friday or before the opener July 24. One of those spots will likely go to Hunter Bishop, a top prospect who is quarantining after a positive COVID-19 test. The rest we'll find out over time, but for now, here are three initial takeaways from the roster release:

The Giants Are Going For It 

Look, the Giants are not a contender on paper, and they certainly will enter the 60-game season as a likely pick to finish fourth or fifth in the NL West. But they also feel strongly that a sprint to the finish gives them a chance, and the roster reflects that. 

On a Zoom call with beat reporters, Farhan Zaidi joked that he always talks of being competitive deep into the season as the Giants rebuild behind the scenes. 

"We're 100 games deep," he said, smiling. "I think the gravity of every win and loss is going to be felt."

With that in mind, the Giants leaned towards immediate help. One of the many discussions they've had internally in recent months was how much they could benefit in future years from filling their player pool with prospects while NL West counterparts prepared for a playoff push. But ultimately the Giants had just three -- Joey Bart, Marco Luciano and Heliot Ramos -- who stood out on the initial roster, and many of the spots went to veterans who can fill gaps for Gabe Kapler right away. 

Joey Rickard, Abiatal Avelino and Zach Green stood out as older minor leaguers who can help fill platoons if there are injuries, but the pitching staff is where you can really see the strategy. It includes Andrew Triggs, Carlos Navas, Rico Garcia, Trevor Oaks, Tyler Cyr, Sam Selman, Wandy Peralta and Cahill, along with more familiar names. It does not, for now, include Sean Hjelle or Seth Corry. 

The Giants wanted to make sure they were covered on Opening Day and for two months. They don't seem inclined to let Bart, Ramos, Hjelle and other more advanced prospects get their work in. Chris Shaw and Melvin Adon were left out altogether. 

Manager Gabe Kapler plans to go heavy on platoons and fill most of the initial innings with short relief outings from guys who have big league experience. While Bart is not really in the Opening Day conversations, veterans like Sandoval, Sanchez, Hamilton and Darin Ruf are. The Giants will add more prospects in the coming weeks, but the initial roster was heavy on guys who have already played in the big leagues. 

"We're going to start the 2020 season in a pennant race," Kapler said. 

There Are Cuts Still To Come 

Tyler Beede was placed on the 45 day IL and Enderson Franco was outrighted, but Zaidi still needs to clear out some space before Opening Day. 

Sandoval, Sanchez, Hamilton, Cahill and Ruf all look like strong bets to make the team and none are currently on the 40-man. A second catcher is needed, as well. Others like Oaks and Triggs could make the expanded bullpen, leading to two more spots being cleared. 

If you thought Zaidi was busy last year, wait until you see how many minor moves are made to clear spots before July 24 and in the weeks that follow. An early hint of some coming moves was given Monday when Shaw, Adon, Jandel Gustave, Kean Wong and Jose Siri were left off the list despite being on the 40-man. It's possible a couple of those guys could end up in San Francisco, but from here, it looks like the Giants had some DFA candidates stay home. 

Stay Healthy, Buster

You know what stands out when you look at the list the Giants sent out Monday? They have one catcher -- Buster Posey -- who is on the 40-man roster, and he's the only one of four coming to camp who has been a regular starter in the big leagues. There's no Stephen Vogt or Nick Hundley in the wings this year. The Giants are counting on Posey playing as close to 60 games as his body can handle. 

Tyler Heineman and Rob Brantly will compete for the backup job -- both would be good fits behind Posey -- and Bart is waiting in the wings, but a ton of this season's success hinges on the man they will all be playing behind. That's been the case for most of the last decade, but there's no margin for error this season. Zaidi said the Giants plan to carry just two catchers, filling in the majority of their extra roster spots with pitching depth.

[RELATED: Hunter Bishop tests positive for coronavirus]

They plan to go without a traditional five-man rotation and will use openers at times. It's likely that many games will be filled by having several very different types of pitchers go two innings at a time. Posey will try to guide all of this, and he's still being counted on to provide offense for a lineup that didn't make big additions in the offseason. 

Posey hasn't started more than 100 games behind the plate since 2016. He won't have to get anywhere close to that number this year, but in a season that likely will be full of injuries and stints on the COVID Injured List, the Giants are placing a lot of their hopes on their longtime star being able to carry a heavy load. 

Why Giants GM Scott Harris wants Joey Bart to learn another position

Why Giants GM Scott Harris wants Joey Bart to learn another position

Buster Posey still is mulling over his plans for the 2020 MLB season, but the Giants do have a young catcher on the cusp of the majors in Joey Bart. The top catching prospect was expected to start the season in Triple-A Sacramento, however, with the minor league season canceled, Bart is a part of San Francisco's 60-man roster. 

That doesn't mean he will start in the big leagues, though. No matter what Posey decides, the Giants don't want to force Bart up

Before the No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft makes his debut, general manager Scott Harris would like to see two key parts of development grow for Bart.

“A couple of developmental priorities for him will be first to improve the game calling," Harris said Thursday on KNBR's "Murph & Mac" show. "Not that we’re at all concerned about his game calling, I just think there is a critical mass of games you need to catch at the minor league level before you’re fully prepared to call a game in the big leagues."

Bart actually called games at Georgia Tech, something that even Matt Wieters wasn't allowed to do from the sam college coach. Harris is right, though. Calling games is a skill that catchers must continue to grow and the Giants hoped that would happen for Bart in Sacramento. 

The second part to Harris' answer might be even more important for Bart and the Giants.

“The other thing we talked about quite a bit is we want to expose him to other positions on the field," Harris said. "Not because we are concerned about his catching at all, we already think he is a plus receiver and thrower, but because one of the main tenants of our developmental philosophy is versatility.

"We want to give our major league manager as many opportunities as possible to get our best bats in the lineup. We think the demands of the catching position are such that that it is a benefit of both the player and the team to be able to play multiple positions.”

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Since the Giants drafted Bart, he hasn't played anywhere on the field other than behind the plate. The same goes for his college career. Learning a new position would have been a perfect opportunity for Bart in the Arizona Fall League, but he fractured his thumb hitting in the AFL.

Now Bart will have Summer Camp to learn a new skill, making the name of spring training 2.0 that much more fitting. He will be in camp with Patrick Bailey, a fellow catcher who the Giants took in the first round of the draft this year. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Giants had Bailey work on another position as well. 

[RELATED: Why Bart, three Giants pitchers are intriguing Kruk, Kuip]

Versatility is the name of the game for the Giants and the rest of baseball right now. Bart currently is lacking it, though that soon could change. He has a strong arm behind the plate and moves well for his 6-foot-2, 238-pound frame. It will be interesting to see if the Giants simply hand him a first baseman's mitt, or if he learns another position like third base or the outfield.

“The more that Joey can move around, the more options that his major league manager is going to have to get his bat in the lineup, and I think that’s really important for his career and for the future of the Giants," Harris said. 

Bart could find his way to a major league game during this 60-game season. The Giants will make sure they feel he is 100 percent ready first, though. There's no doubt he holds a key to San Francisco's future success, and there's no reason to rush and open that door too soon.

Matt Duffy gives 'never say never' answer to future Giants reunion

Matt Duffy gives 'never say never' answer to future Giants reunion

The Giants have brought back many players for a second rodeo in the past.

Hunter Pence was their latest example this past offseason when the Giants signed the two-time World Series champion to a one-year contract, and he certainly won't be the last player to come back for Round 2 in San Francisco. Perhaps there could be another reunion for a fan-favorite in the future. 

"Never say never," Matt Duffy said Wednesday to KNBR's Mark Willard. 

Duffy, 29, signed with the New York Yankees on June 28. He signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers, but they released him before announcing their 60-man roster for Summer Camp. New York quickly swooped in and signed the infielder. 

The Giants called to "check in" over the offseason as well. But there is no reunion in place. At least, not yet.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"We did have some dialogue with the Giants this offseason, but it just didn't seem like the interest was there and as mutual as some other opportunities," Duffy said. "But yeah, like I said, never say never."

Duffy made his big league debut with the Giants in 2014, and instantly became a fan-favorite. He hit .267 over 34 games that year, then starred as a rookie the next season. Duffy finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting after he hit .295/.334/.428 with 28 doubles, 12 homers and 77 RBI in 149 games.

Unfortunately for Duffy, that has been his only full season in the big leagues. In 2016, Duffy was hampered by an Achilles injury and played in 70 games for the Giants. Then on Aug. 1, 2016 the Giants traded Duffy with prospects Lucius Fox and Michael Santos to the Tampa Bay Rays for left-handed pitcher Matt Moore.

[RELATED: Posey, Belt face inevitable risk amid coronavirus pandemic]

Duffy played 21 games for the Rays in 2016, but underwent season-ending Achilles surgery and missed the entire 2017 season. He hit .294 for the Rays in 2018, and only played in 46 games last year. 

Injuries have hampered Duffy throughout his career. However, if healthy, Giants fans certainly would welcome a reunion in the future.