An update on the race for the Giants' two backup outfield spots
Two spots to fill
SCOTTSDALE — There was one thing missing when the Giants announced their first round of spring cuts on Monday afternoon: Outfielders.
All of the guys who reported to camp last month are still around, and there’s a reason for that. While some are long shots, the Giants are pleased with the competition they’ve seen, and they feel they’re deeper in the outfield than they’ve been in years. Bruce Bochy used 13 different players in left field last season, nine in right, and six in center. He likes what he has seen from the guys vying to give the lineup a bit more stability this year.
“You look at all of our outfielders who are here and they’re all still in the mix,” Bochy said.
The opening day lineup will have Andrew McCutchen in right, Austin Jackson in center and Hunter Pence in left. Here’s a look at the others vying for the two bench jobs:
The 34-year-old looks has looked like a 24-year-old while running the bases and handling three outfield spots. “We’ve all gotten older but he looks exactly the same as when he came in (in 2012),” Bochy said. Blanco appears poised to repeat his 2012 spring, winning a job as a non-roster invitee. He’s 8-for-18 with a homer, two triples and two doubles. Given Blanco’s history, skill set, and personality — “His enthusiasm just brings life to the clubhouse every day,” Pence said recently — it’s hard to imagine him leaving the desert without one of the two jobs.
He does a lot of what Blanco does defensively, except as a right-handed bat. Hernandez is just 5-for-27 this spring, but he’s coming off a good second half and he has Bochy’s trust. With Pablo Sandoval likely set as the power pinch-hitter, it’s possible that the Giants will keep two defense-first outfielders. Bochy anticipates getting Jackson off his legs as much as possible, and the Giants may eventually decide to replace Pence late in games.
The 27-year-old has been one of the stories of camp, crushing the Cactus League with a revamped swing that he learned from the instructor who helped turn Justin Turner into a star. Williamson is batting .378 with four homers. He has a minor league option remaining and that will come into play no matter how many bombs he hits in Arizona. At the very least, Williamson has impressed a staff that has been down on him at times the last couple of years, and he looks like the guy in this group who is best suited for a full-time look if a veteran gets hurt early.
He is out of options, so this is the most important spring of his life. It’s not going as he had hoped at the plate. Parker hit a long homer over the weekend and had an RBI double on Monday afternoon but he has 17 strikeouts in 33 at-bats. This is a front office that hates losing inventory, though, so you can bet Bobby Evans will try to find a way to keep Parker and Hernandez — also out of options — in the organization no matter what the opening day roster looks like.
He’s often a forgotten man, with much of the attention going to younger prospects. But the Giants have not forgotten that Slater hit .282 as a rookie and showed a simple swing that should continue to play at the big league level. Slater is 4-for-23 this spring and he has minor league options remaining, so he has work to do over the next couple of weeks if he wants to open the year at Dodger Stadium.
The highly-touted center fielder has been as advertised defensively. If you polled the starting pitchers, Duggar would be on the opening day roster. He has shown solid plate discipline and the power is coming along. Duggar has a .300/.400/.733 slash line here, but the front office still may want him getting daily at-bats in Triple-A for a few weeks, given how many he missed last year. Either way, it won't be long before he's the starter in center field.
The power hitter has shown an ability to adjust and spray the ball the other way his spring, and he dropped some weight in order to get quicker in left field. Shaw hasn’t looked out of place in the outfield at all, and he’s batting .286 with two homers at the plate. That makes for a nice spring, but the plan was always to have Shaw spend much of this season developing in Triple-A.