Austin Slater

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

SAN FRANCISCO -- Early in camp, a Giants veteran looked at a group of young players sitting at a card table and joked that he didn't recognize half the guys in the room. That's no longer the case. 

The Giants, after two more rounds of cuts, are down to 39 players in big-league camp, and most of them are familiar to fans. We have hit the point of the spring where guys who were seriously fighting for jobs are seeing that dream end, so as we did last week, let's take a look at who got cut and who might return at some point ... 

March 14: Outfielder Austin Slater and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte optioned; right-hander Derek Law and infielder Zach Green reassigned to minor league camp.

It was a disappointing spring for both Slater and Venditte, who were in races for a backup outfield job and bullpen spot, respectively. 

Slater hit .185 in 12 spring appearances, with just one extra-base hit. The staff asked him to make some swing changes in the offseason to add more loft and hopefully tap into his raw power, but it continues to be a work in progress. More than just about anyone, Slater really could use an everyday role in Sacramento to try and continue to figure out the new swing. He's just 26, offers positional versatility, and could help balance the lineup from the right side, so a breakout would solve a lot of the big league roster's bench issues. 

Venditte was the first free agent signing of the Zaidi era, but he never got on track, allowing seven runs in six appearances. Even at 33, he had a minor league option remaining, so he seems a good bet to shuttle back and forth this season as the Giants embrace some of that Dodger way of handling a pitching staff. At the very least, the switch-pitching thing continues to be remarkable. 

Law was knocked off the 40-man just before camp, but came in optimistic about the way he was throwing. He made just four appearances, allowing a pair of runs. Law's future is murky. If he can get untracked and find that 2016 form, the Giants would be thrilled to add him to the mix. But he's off the 40-man now, so the road back will be a long one. 

Green, 25, was an interesting addition, and he had a nice month, posting an OPS over 1.100 in 23 plate appearances and hitting a couple of homers. It'll be fascinating to check Sacramento's box scores early in the season. Will Zaidi keep giving shots to guys like Slater and Ryder Jones who have been with the organization for a while, or will newcomers like Green jump the line? Green hit 20 homers in the high minors last season and could soon be the next man up at the corner infield spots. 

March 17: Outfielder Mike Gerber and infielder Levi Michael reassigned. 

Anonymous to most fans, these two are guys to keep an eye on.

Gerber was the first player Zaidi acquired for the Giants and they got him through waivers, and onto their Triple-A roster. He had eight hits in 19 spring at-bats, and might have had the plate appearance of the spring, shaking off a head-seeking fastball from a tough Rangers lefty to line a two-run triple into the gap as the Giants nearly pulled off a wild comeback a week ago. He's an outfielder who can play all three spots, and simply has good plate appearances, which is something lacking in this organization. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him get a shot in the outfield this summer. 

[RELATED: Giants top prospect Bart awarded for impressive spring]

Michael played three infield spots this spring and has handled the outfield in the minors. He has always been a high OBP guy in the minors, and reached at a .400 clip in limited action this spring. Does that sound like the type Zaidi might want on the roster? Yep. 

The Giants will carry 13 pitchers more often than not, and might need a third catcher at times. Anyone with versatility -- Michael, Breyvic Valera, Alen Hanson, etc. -- will have a leg up when decisions are made. 

Giants' starting outfield taking shape as Opening Day approaches

Giants' starting outfield taking shape as Opening Day approaches

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants were missing a couple of their regular infielders Tuesday night, but the outfield was one you very well could see in two weeks when the players take the field at Petco Park. 

If the season started today, Mac Williamson would be the left fielder and Gerardo Parra would be in right, flanking Steven Duggar, who looks ready for an everyday job in center and plenty of time atop the lineup

One thing could change all this: The Giants are still searching for a right-handed bat on the market. They were in on Adam Jones, per a source, but not all that high on him, and he's now a Diamondback. People within the organization do expect president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi to swing a deal before Opening Day, though.

"We've got to," one team executive recently said. "We need another bat out there."

Zaidi repeatedly has said deals still could get done as rosters are cut down. Until he makes one, though, here's a look at where the Giants' outfield stands:

Steven Duggar

Health was the most important thing for him this spring and his shoulder is at 100 percent.

The Giants haven't turned him loose yet -- he's not allowed to dive in the field and got thrown out on a would-be triple because he wasn't supposed to dive for the bag -- but Duggar has looked good and talks excitedly about lofty goals he has set for his first full season. 

Mac Williamson

The hope is that the 2018 March/April breakout is real. Williamson has hit just .207/.281/.379 this spring but is poised to get his first real extended opportunity in the lineup.

The Giants desperately need the right-handed thump. 

Gerardo Parra

Stand around the clubhouse and ask veterans why they're optimistic and you'll almost certainly hear them gush about Parra, a longtime NL West opponent. He has been strong defensively and gives the Giants a legit arm in right field. At the plate, he has a .866 OPS in 11 Cactus League games.

Parra is not the perfect fit because he adds another lefty bat, but he'll see plenty of time this season, and the Giants certainly need the energy he brings to the field and the clubhouse. 

Cameron Maybin

He has just six hits in 30 at-bats and got a DUI a couple of weeks ago. That's not exactly how either side drew this up. But Zaidi said the off-field incident will not be a factor, calling it "an unfortunate situation" that Maybin "took ownership of."

"The primary driver is going to be us evaluating whether he can help this team and help the organization," Zaidi said. 

Here in mid-March, the Giants view Maybin as their fourth outfielder, with a tentative plan to have him often sub for Williamson defensively late in games. They're hoping his revamped swing locks in late in the spring, and the at-bats have been better in recent days.

"I think he's working on his timing but as he kind of gets his timing and starts working the middle of the field, I think we could see him take it up another level," Zaidi said. "I don't think we've seen the best of him yet, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he does these last couple of weeks."

Austin Slater

A coach stood and watched Slater take BP the other day and talked of how desperately the Giants want the 26-year-old to figure it out. But he's at just .174 this spring with one extra-base hit. 

Slater is versatile defensively, has a great arm, and has worked on adding loft to his swing, so if he ever figures it out he could become a big part of the outfield mix. But for now he's just about a lock to get optioned back to Triple-A. 

Drew Ferguson

The Rule 5 pick was featured here this morning. He has a .476 OPS in Cactus League action. The Giants like his makeup and skills, but right now he's still got an uphill climb ahead of him. Ferguson could be kept as a fifth outfielder, but the staff also needs to figure out whether that's needed with Yangervis Solarte also an option for left. 

In an ideal world, the Giants could send Ferguson to Triple-A to play every day and work his way up. But that's not how the Rule 5 rules work.

"It's find a spot for him or lose him, so that definitely factors in," Zaidi said. 

Perhaps the new president can find a creative workaround as he tries to fit Ferguson in with veterans and guys who are out of options. 

The Rest

Chris Shaw was optioned out on Monday.

Right-handed bats Anthony Garcia and Henry Ramos are intriguing talents, but neither has had the big spring that was needed to crack the roster.

[RELATED: How Giants' spring training cuts so far could have role in 2019 season]

Long-term, keep an eye on Mike Gerber. He had a very impressive at-bat Sunday, shaking off a first-pitch fastball near his chin to deliver a big ninth-inning two-run triple off a hard-throwing Rangers lefty. Gerber has seven hits in 17 at-bats. 

Giants set to open spring training with plenty of positional battles

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Giants set to open spring training with plenty of positional battles

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants on Monday morning were part of a pair of transactions that seemed odd on the surface. While Stephen Vogt is preparing to take a physical and sign a minor league deal with the organization, Nick Hundley signed a similar deal with the A’s

Why not just bring Hundley back? Farhan Zaidi wants flexibility, on the field and off, and that made Hundley a less-than-ideal fit. Signing him for a third straight year would have locked the Giants into their catchers on Feb. 11. With the group currently in place, it would be a shock if any catcher spends the entire season backing up Posey, as Hundley did. 

It’ll be a different kind of camp for the Giants, and as they look to become younger, more athletic and more versatile, we might see some roster permutations that would have looked out of whack under the previous regime. As players prepare to take the field at Scottsdale Stadium for the first time, here’s a look at some of the competitions that should heat up … 

Outfield: Assuming Steven Duggar doesn’t have any setbacks, there are two starting spots to be won here, in left and right. Bryce Harper certainly could take one of them, and even if he chooses another team, the Giants likely will add a veteran. But they traditionally go with five outfielders, so currently there may be four spots up for grabs. The Giants really would like to take a long look at Drew Ferguson, the Rule 5 pick who must make the roster or else he must be offered back to the Astros. Mac Williamson is out of options and has the longest track record of big league success. He’s currently a favorite to start in one of the corners and could land in the starting lineup even if Harper is added. 

Backup catcher: Buster Posey expects to be ready for Opening Day, but he’ll be slow-played in April, so this is an important spot. Aramis Garcia is the frontrunner after a nice September — remember, he can play first base, too — but there are plenty of veterans who will be given a shot this spring to win the job, which would allow Garcia to get more minor league at-bats. Cameron Rupp has had big league success and Vogt, if he can get his shoulder back to 100 percent, is a two-time All-Star who can play first and has dabbled with the outfield. Rene Rivera was signed Friday and the Giants still could add another veteran to the mix. 

Fifth starter: Madison Bumgarner will start Opening Day and it’s a pretty good bet that Drew Pomeranz and Derek Holland will follow in some order. If Jeff Samardzija is healthy, he’ll be in the rotation, but the Giants could ease him into the regular season. That leaves Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez, both of whom had long stretches of dominance as rookies. On merit, they deserve to be in the rotation at the end of camp, but Zaidi has been open about limiting their innings early on. One could end up in the bullpen, or perhaps back in the minors for a few weeks. 

Last spots in bullpen: Did you remember that Josh Osich, Roberto Gomez and Pierce Johnson made the Opening Day roster last season? There’s always a surprise with the bullpen, and the Giants have plenty of candidates in camp fighting for that spot on the line in San Diego.