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Where Giants players who are out of options stand in spring training

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USATSI

Where Giants players who are out of options stand in spring training

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants had the day off Tuesday, which gave the staff a chance to step back and evaluate what's been seen so far. Roster decisions won't purely be made based on performance, though.

As always this time of year, it's important to pay attention to the options game. The players certainly know all about it, and they talk about it often. Young players who are on the bubble and have minor league options remaining know they're likely headed for Sacramento no matter what they do.

Those who have no options left know that they could be in for anything over the next three weeks. 

Here's a look at the Giants who are out of options, and where they stand halfway through the spring:

Trevor Gott

The former National has had an impressive start to his spring, striking out six in three scoreless relief innings. Gott is 26 and has had success at the big league level before, so the right-hander is the type the Giants would like to find a way to keep, but it's getting crowded in the race to fill out the bullpen.

Farhan Zaidi has proven effective at sneaking players through waivers, so perhaps he'll feel confident in his ability to do that here. 

Steven Okert

Early in camp, Bruce Bochy credited Okert for coming to Scottsdale in great shape, and he impressed the staff last year with a strong performance as a September call-up. The Giants plan to carry three left-handed relievers, but Will Smith and Tony Watson have two of those spots locked up.

Among the other players in the mix, Okert and Travis Bergen are in similar spots. Bergen isn't out of options, but he's a Rule 5 pick the Blue Jays would likely take back, and unlike Okert, he was added to the roster by Zaidi.

With Pat Venditte and Ty Blach also on the 40-man, this is one roster battle that could extend through the Bay Bridge Series. 

Chris Stratton

There isn't room in the rotation unless the Giants find a creative way to get through the first few weeks, and Stratton has shown enough at the big league level that you figure another team would claim him. You know there's a front office out there that would be eager to work with his spin rates.

The Giants could sneak Stratton onto the roster as the long man, but with Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez and a resurgent Tyler Beede around, perhaps they won't feel the need. 

Alen Hanson

Versatile in the field and solid from the left side of the plate, he looked like a good fit for a Zaidi roster. But then the new boss went out and signed Yangervis Solarte, a more accomplished utility type who recently added left field to his spring resume.

If the Giants go with a traditional bench setup --  two outfielders, two infielders and a backup catcher -- it's hard to see Hanson beating out Solarte and Pablo Sandoval, but perhaps they'll keep all three and go short in the outfield. 

Mac Williamson

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Speaking of the outfield, Williamson looks like a starter in one of the corners. He hit an impressive homer the day the Giants lost out on Bryce Harper and is one of the few ways to get more power onto this roster.

Barring something strange happening over the next three weeks, Williamson looks like he'll finally get his shot to hold down an everyday job

Should Giants be finding more starts for slugging Pablo Sandoval?

Should Giants be finding more starts for slugging Pablo Sandoval?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval took fly balls in left field during the spring. He caught a bullpen session. A year after starting at second base, he tried to keep that option open, too. 

The Giants' switch-hitter has embraced versatility over the last year, or tried to, in order to get extra time on the field, but thus far his role has been as traditional as it gets. He has made two starts at third base and one at first, and in both games of this series, he was the designated hitter. Otherwise, Sandoval has 17 appearances off the bench. 

That's the role that was expected as the Giants broke camp, but Sandoval has put his own twist on things: He has been more dangerous than any Giants hitter through a month, making a strong case that he should be more of a fixture for one of the worst lineups in the majors. 

"There's no real good way to do it except give Longo the occasional day off," manager Bruce Bochy said before Wednesday's 4-0 win over the Blue Jays. "The thing that I like about Pablo is he's able to sit and maintain his swing and go up there and give you a good at-bat, so whether it's Belt or Longo taking a day, Pablo will start occasionally. If you're talking on a daily basis, it's just hard to do."

Perhaps the Giants need to find a way, though. 

Sandoval's homer Wednesday, his second in two games in Toronto, left the bat at 112 mph (he later had an out at 111 mph). It was the hardest-hit ball of the season by a Giant, and by the end of the day Sandoval had a .333 average and 1.027 OPS. He would easily lead the team in OPS if he qualified, and he currently leads the Giants in doubles (7) despite starting just five games. 

The problem is that Sandoval can't really be anything but an emergency option at any position but first and third. First baseman Brandon Belt is the team's best hitter overall and locked into the lineup, although perhaps the Giants will give him more time in left to clear some playing time. The staff has shown no inclination to give Sandoval more time at third, where Evan Longoria has a .655 OPS and three homers. 

Sandoval enjoyed two days as a starter in Toronto, picking up four hits. But it'll be back to the pinch-hitting role when the Giants return home Friday, and it's a role nobody is doing better right now. Sandoval leads the National League with six pinch-hits, five of which have been doubles. He has scored three runs and driven in two as a pinch-hitter, repeatedly kickstarting late-game rallies. 

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"A lot of Pablo's hits are coming off the bench, too, so that works," Bochy said. "It's nice to have a batter sitting on the bench and when you need a big hit, he's ready to go. A lot of those at-bats come with men on base and later in the game, and I've got a pretty nice weapon there."

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Everything felt right. There wasn’t anything off with his swing, he wasn’t pressing mentally, and yet, he only had one hit in his first 17 at-bats. 

All it took was a home run on April 9 to get Heliot Ramos, the Giants’ No. 2 prospect, back on track. Since then, he's hitting .349 (15-for-43) with five home runs.

“I knew that I was doing everything right,” Ramos said on Tuesday’s Inside The San Jose Giants Podcast. “In my mind, everything was right. My confidence was good. My swing was good. I just needed the ball to get down. I just keep on swinging.” 

As he kept swinging, hits started to show up in the scorebook. What has been just as important, however, has been him not swinging. 

Ramos registered just 35 walks last season as a member of the Augusta GreenJackets and finished his first full season in the minor leagues with a lowly .313 on-base percentage. He worked all offseason tracking pitches longer and laying off breaking balls in the dirt while playing Winter Ball, and it has paid off big time. 

Through 18 games in High-A with the San Jose Giants, Ramos already has 14 walks and his on-base percentage is over 100 points higher than last season (.418).

“I can see the ball well right now,” Ramos said. “I feel good. I’ve been feeling good. I learned a lot from last year. I hope this is something that can keep going good for me.” 

Not only has Ramos shown improved patience at the plate, but the center fielder is also driving the ball all over the yard. He’s batting .262 with a .991 OPS, and 11 of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases. Despite being the fifth-youngest player in the California League at 19 years old, he’s second in home runs (5), fifth in slugging percentage (.574), fifth in on-base percentage, fourth in walks, and third in OPS. 

San Jose was supposed to be a preview of what’s to come for years in San Francisco this season with the duo of Ramos and top prospect Joey Bart. A fractured hand for Bart has derailed those plans, but it hasn’t slowed down the younger of the two. 

Ramos no longer has the protection of Bart hitting right behind him. The teenager is seeing more off-speed pitches and is now the primary threat offensively to opposing teams. And yet, he’s flourished at the plate. 

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Since Bart broke his hand on April 15, Ramos has gone 8-for-26 (.308) with two home runs, two doubles, three RBI, and four runs scored. He’s growing every game as a player, both mentally and in the box score, and it could all be thanks to a disappointing season where he hit .245 with 136 strikeouts in 124 games last year. 

“Stay positive,” Ramos said when asked what he learned from last season. “That was the main thing I learned. Stay positive and never give up. Keep working hard and everything’s going to be okay.”