3 key takeaways from Giants Spring Training

March 20th, 2020

Spring Training ground to a halt last week, with Major League Baseball suspending baseball operations in response to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. MLB announced Monday that it will comply with the recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and restrict events of more than 50 people over the next eight weeks, meaning Opening Day will be pushed back further.

In the interim, the Giants will be left to ponder several unanswered questions about what their team might look like when they finally reconvene for the start of the 2020 season. The indefinite delay has created plenty of unknowns, but here’s a refresher on three things we learned about the Giants over the first four weeks of Spring Training:

Most of the rotation is set, but the fifth starter remains up in the air
Before Spring Training was officially put on hold, manager Gabe Kapler announced that veteran Johnny Cueto would start for the Giants on Opening Day. Jeff Samardzija will pitch the second game, followed by Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly in some order. That leaves only one open spot in the Giants’ rotation, with no shortage of candidates to potentially fill it.

, who came into camp as the favorite to round out the starting staff, will be sidelined for the next 12 to 18 months after opting to undergo Tommy John surgery. He was already expected to miss significant time after being diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor in his right elbow.

, who is rehabbing from left knee surgery, could benefit from the postponement.

Rookie hadn’t been considered a lock for the Opening Day roster due to his expected innings limit for 2020, but those workload concerns could ultimately be nullified by the delayed start to the season. Trevor Cahill, Andrew Suárez, Dereck Rodríguez and Trevor Oaks have also been mentioned by president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi as possible rotation options, so the Giants will have a wide range of arms to assess whenever they’re allowed to return to the field in an official capacity.

Darin Ruf, Zach Green turned heads with their displays of power
and , two non-roster invitees, emerged as unexpected standouts for the Giants this spring. Ruf hit .429 (12-for-28) with nine RBIs, including three home runs, over 14 Cactus League games, while Green batted .438 (7-for-16) with three homers and 10 RBIs over 11 games.

Ruf, 33, hasn't played in the Majors since 2016, as he spent the past three seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization, where he crushed a total of 86 home runs for the Samsung Lions. The Giants will have to determine whether Ruf's performance is more than a small-sample mirage, but if they believe his power will play in the big leagues, he could end up snagging a spot on the Opening Day roster as an outfielder or backup first baseman.

Green, a 26-year-old corner infielder, likely faces a tougher road to a roster spot, as the Giants have other players on the 40-man roster who could help back up third baseman Evan Longoria, including Wilmer Flores, Donovan Solano and Mauricio Dubón. A former third-round MLB Draft pick of the Phillies, Green is coming off his second hip surgery, but his Cactus League surge suggests that he might be close to breaking through after dealing with multiple setbacks earlier in his career.

Dubón is a viable option in center field
The Giants’ depth at second base, where they have non-roster invitee Yolmer Sánchez, Solano, Flores and Dubón, freed up Dubón to play all over the diamond this spring and draw some reps in center field. After watching Dubón make a few appearances in the outfield, Kapler came away convinced that the 25-year-old prospect could form a key part of the Giants’ center field rotation this season.

"I can really, legitimately, see him playing center field quite a bit," Kapler said earlier this month. "I think earlier in camp I was saying we're going to take more of a wait-and-see approach. I think at this point he has demonstrated he can play center field. He can play shortstop for us."

Dubón appeared at shortstop, second base, third base and center field before Cactus League play was suspended, likely foreshadowing his role as a super-utility player for the Giants this year. The Giants could also turn to players like Mike Yastrzemski, Steven Duggar and Jaylin Davis to help fill the void in center field left by Kevin Pillar, who was non-tendered in December.