The Giants’ roster began to come into focus as they put the finishing touches on their offseason this week, but there will still be a few spots up for grabs this spring. San Francisco will have 71 players in big league camp this year, including 29 non-roster invitees who could factor into various roster battles, particularly on the pitching side.
“We brought in some really exciting pitchers on NRIs, so I think some interesting competition could happen there,” manager Gabe Kapler said last week. “I think our position player group is fairly set. There's always going to be competition. We're going to create some of that competition and challenge our players with it.”
Injuries and other unforeseen events could inevitably throw a wrench in the Giants’ plans, but here's an early look at the 26 players who could be on the club’s Opening Day roster this year:
Catcher (2): Buster Posey, Curt Casali
The return of Posey and the signing of Casali means top catching prospect Joey Bart is likely ticketed for Triple-A Sacramento to start the season. The Giants were forced to install Bart as their everyday catcher last summer after Posey sat out the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, but the 24-year-old’s inexperience showed in his first stint in the Majors. After debuting in August, Bart batted .233 with 41 strikeouts and three walks over 33 games and endured lapses behind the plate as well. He should be able to draw all the reps he needs to refine his game in the Minors and should be ready to return to San Francisco at some point in 2021.
First base (1): Brandon Belt
Belt is coming off a career-best offensive season, so the only question will be whether he’ll be healthy for Opening Day. The 32-year-old veteran underwent heel surgery in October and will be limited for the first few weeks of camp. If Belt isn’t ready for the start of the season, the Giants will have Tommy La Stella or Wilmer Flores as options to fill in at first base.
Second base (1): Donovan Solano
Solano will likely draw the lion’s share of reps at second base, but the Giants also figure to mix in La Stella and Flores here. In 2020, Solano became the first Giants player to win a Silver Slugger Award since Posey in 2017 after batting .326 with an .828 OPS over 54 games.
Third base (1): Evan Longoria
Longoria has been an everyday player throughout his career, but he could lose some at-bats to La Stella at third this year, particularly against right-handed pitching. Longoria fared better against lefties (.859 OPS) than righties (.671 OPS) in 2020 and could benefit from more days off as he enters his age-35 season.
Shortstop (1): Brandon Crawford
Crawford has been a mainstay at shortstop for the last decade, but he’s entering the final year of his contract with the Giants, creating uncertainty about his future in San Francisco. Still, the 34-year-old Bay Area native proved that he still had plenty left in the tank after batting .256 with a .792 OPS and eight homers over 54 games in 2020.
Outfield (5): Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson, Mauricio Dubón, Austin Slater, Darin Ruf
The Giants’ outfield, which ranked fifth in the Majors with an .815 OPS last year per FanGraphs, appears mostly set, though center field remains a bit of a question mark. Dubón is the incumbent there after making the transition from the middle infield last year, but the Giants could also try to platoon him with a left-handed-hitting outfielder like Steven Duggar or LaMonte Wade Jr., who was acquired from the Twins in exchange for right-hander Shaun Anderson earlier this month.
Utility (2): Tommy La Stella, Wilmer Flores
The Giants coveted another left-handed bat for the infield throughout the winter, and they found a perfect fit in La Stella, who can play first, second and third base and is known for his elite contact skills and plate discipline. La Stella posted a .903 OPS against righties last year, leading president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi to predict that the 32-year-old veteran will set career highs in plate appearances in 2021. With no designated hitter in the National League at the moment, the Giants will have a harder time finding playing time for Flores this year, though he should still draw quite a few starts at first or second base against lefties.
Starting pitchers (5): Kevin Gausman, Johnny Cueto, Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez, Alex Wood
The Giants rebuilt their rotation by retaining Gausman on a qualifying offer and adding DeSclafani, Sanchez and Wood on one-year deals this offseason. The recent pact with Sanchez could leave Logan Webb as the odd man out, but Webb should still factor prominently in the Giants’ rotation mix in 2021, especially since the club plans to be mindful of pitchers’ workloads now that the season is set to stretch back out to 162 games. Tyler Beede is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but he could become a rotation option for the Giants at some point in May.
Relievers (8): Jake McGee, Matt Wisler, Jarlín García, Tyler Rogers, Reyes Moronta, Trevor Gott, James Sherfy, Dominic Leone
The bullpen could feature the fiercest competitions of the spring this year. McGee, Wisler and García should be locks, and Rogers and Moronta -- assuming he returns to his pre-surgery form -- likely have inside tracks for relief jobs as well. Gott is out of options, making him a good bet to make the Opening Day roster. That leaves Wandy Peralta, Sam Selman, Camilo Doval, Rule 5 Draft pick Dedniel Núñez and a large pool of non-roster invitees to compete for the remaining slots. Sherfy and Leone stand out among the non-roster players due to their significant Major League experience, but the Giants will have to clear spots for them on the 40-man roster if they want to carry them in their Opening Day bullpen. Caleb Baragar and Nick Tropeano will be stretched out this spring, but they could also draw looks as multi-inning relievers if they’re left out of the Giants’ rotation plans.