We’ve started our annual Depth Chart Discussions, re-branded as Playing Time Battles for 2016. You can catch up on every team we’ve covered in the Playing Time Battles Summary post or following along using the Depth Chart Discussions tag.
Exciting, nail-biting position battles for the Giants are nowhere to be found. Buster Posey is the starter behind the plate, and working around the horn from first base to third base, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford and Matt Duffy will fill out the starting spots in the infield. Prior to signing Denard Span in early January, an intriguing starting battle could have been in the cards in the outfield, alas, the starting spots are sewn up out there, too. Span will slot in center field, Angel Pagan will man left field and Hunter Pence will handle right field duties. The lineup battles for the Giants are reserved for, um, the reserves. Standard mixed-leaguers are unlikely to garner much value from this piece, but large mixed-league gamers and NL-only gamers might find some names to file away for watch lists.
Last year, Panik was healthy enough to play in just 100 games. The young second baseman suffered from a spondylolysis, which Andrew Baggarly described as a stress fracture, of the L5 vertebra in his lower back (and, coincidentally, an injury this article’s author has actually dealt with himself). His back is reportedly structurally fine, and there’s no word of him requiring extra rest to maintain his back’s current good health. That said, if he’s handled with kid gloves for maintenance purposes, the utility infielder who is on the club could see a little more playing time than the typical utility man.
Ehire Adrianza is the least fantasy relevant — read, completely irrelevant from a fantasy perspective — option who’s battling for the utility job. Through 260 plate appearances in the majors, he owns a .211 batting average with one homer and four steals. He doesn’t move the needle in a single category, and his minor league track record doesn’t suggest that will change.
In 2015, Kelby Tomlinson played 54 games for the Giants and recorded 193 plate appearances. He hit a BABIP fueled .303 without the batted ball data to support a repeat of his bloated BABIP, but he’s speedy and has sported high BABIP marks in the minors so a total collapse is unlikely. He used his above average speed to steal five bases in nine stolen base attempts in the majors, but he stole 21 bases in 30 stolen base attempts at the Double-A and Triple-A level in 97 games combined before reaching The Show. He also stole 49 bases in 61 stolen base attempts at the Double-A level in 2014. If pressed into extra duty, he could be a source of speed for NL-only gamers.
The other name to keep an eye on is non-roster invitee and former highly-touted prospect Hak-ju Lee. Lee missed nearly the entire 2013 season, and he’s recorded an ugly .212 batting average in 628 at-bats (717 plate appearances) at the Triple-A level in his two seasons since returning from the knee injury. The young shortstop’s walked in a healthy 10% of his plate appearances during that same time frame, but he’ll likely struggle to stay above the Mendoza Line if he’s on the parent club. When he is on base, though, he can wreak some havoc with above average speed. He stole 20 bases in 23 stolen base attempts last year in 96 games. His profile isn’t quite as attractive as Tomlinson’s, but he’s at least got some stolen base potential in his back pocket.
Sticking with the theme of a lack of battles, Gregor Blanco is a near lock for the fourth-outfielder gig. He’s tallied two WAR or more in each of his four seasons with the Giants and is capable of playing each of the three outfield positions. He’s hit .260 or better and stolen no fewer than 13 bases in each of his years in San Francisco. The left-handed hitting outfielder isn’t a total slap-singles hitter either, and he’s hit 23 homers in 1,780 plate appearances since 2012. Something in the neighborhood of 350-400 plate appearances, a .260-.270 batting average, five homers and 12-to-16 stolen bases is well within reach for Blanco — especially when factoring in Pagan’s penchant for missing time (133 games played last year and fewer than 100 played in 2013 and 2014).
Prospect Mac Williamson could earn the fifth outfielder job, but it seems far more likely the Giants will get their young outfielder regular at-bats in the minors. He is a veteran of under 600 plate appearances in the upper minors, after all. A potentially intriguing option who could land a spot on the team is non-roster invitee Kyle Blanks. The big man has played 185 games in the outfield in his big league career and 94 at first base.
Belt’s season was ended shortly after the third concussion since his college days, and while Belt has indicated he’s not panicking, he was dealing with concussion symptoms a couple months after suffering the brain injury. Concussions posed problems for Justin Morneau in his career, and earlier this month, Joe Mauer revealed that lingering symptoms from concussions occasionally blurred his vision at the plate the last two years. It would be reckless to state Belt will have problems at the plate as a result of his latest concussion, but it’s fair to wonder aloud how he’ll bounce back since he hasn’t taken a meaningful plate appearance since his last concussion. With that in mind, Blanks’ positional versatility could appeal to manager Bruce Bochy and the Giants. The 29-year-old can put a charge into the ball and has hit 33 homers in 933 plate appearances (that’s a 20-plus homer pace for a 600 plate appearance season). The power has come at the expense of a 29.5% strikeout rate, and his power is attached to a low batting average (.241 in his career) as a result. Daily gamers should note that Blanks has hammered southpaws in his career (.192 ISO, .342 OBP, .344 wOBA and 122 wRC+) and has been even better since 2013 (.225 ISO, .370 OBP, .385 wOBA and 150 wRC+ in 181 plate appearances). It’s hard to envision Blanks having any season-long value — even in NL-only formats — but GPP value in daily games is attainable.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.