SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants potentially face some of their most difficult final roster cuts in recent memory. The club's decision-makers seized upon Thursday's scheduled off-day to take a break from the constant evaluation process that will resume Friday when San Francisco entertains Cleveland in Cactus League play.It's too early
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants potentially face some of their most difficult final roster cuts in recent memory. The club's decision-makers seized upon Thursday's scheduled off-day to take a break from the constant evaluation process that will resume Friday when San Francisco entertains Cleveland in Cactus League play.
It's too early to declare a winner in the competition for the left-field vacancy. Educated guesses can be hazarded that Jarrett Parker will secure the job. But Mac Williamson still has time to assert himself further.
Contenders for bench roles include the Giants' glut of non-roster invitees who happen to be respected Major League veterans -- James Beckham, Aaron Hill, James Rollins, Michael Morse and Justin Ruggiano. Don't forget Chris Marrero, who has hit a team-high four home runs, and Korean infielder Jae-gyun Hwang, who possesses intriguing skills.
Kelby Tomlinson has proven he can handle a utility role, but the presence of multiple players who fit the same profile is forcing him to scramble for a job.
Thus, if San Francisco opens the season with a 12-man pitching staff and with catcher Nick Hundley, outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and third baseman Conor Gillaspie being virtually assured of bench roles, once the eight regular position players are added, two roster spots remain available for at least eight candidates.
Many of the aforementioned veterans are believed to have clauses in their contracts that will enable them to leave the Giants and become free agents on or around March 28, the date of San Francisco's final Arizona exhibition game, if they're not assured of being on the Opening Day roster.
"I think a lot of us are in the same situation, and it's a new situation for pretty much all of us," Morse said. "We're fighting every day for a chance to break camp with these guys. It's a different feel. It's tough, man. I have a better appreciation for the guys who come in like this. You gotta fight every day in spring."
Here's a look at the position players who must fight the most:
Why he'll make the team: Beckham can play second base, third base and shortstop. As a former regular with the White Sox, he has the aptitude to perform off the bench.
Why he won't: Beckham is a .240 career hitter who has exceeded .250 in only three of eight big league seasons. The Giants probably want reserves with more thump.
Why he'll make the team: Like Beckham, Hill has extensive experience playing around the infield. However, he has a little more pop, sporting a .267 career batting average with 161 homers.
Why he won't: Hill would have to be unexpectedly and overwhelmingly outperformed. Right now, that doesn't seem likely. His chances of being a Giant when they begin the season on April 2 are strong.
Why he'll make the team: Hwang's power appears genuine and he's capable of making difficult plays. Though he has room for improvement defensively, he seems to have the aptitude to make the necessary adjustments.
Why he won't: As is the case with many teams, San Francisco values player inventory. They try to avoid losing players to trade or free agency. Hwang, it's believed, would accept an assignment to Triple-A Sacramento, where he could continue adapting to U.S. baseball.
Why he'll make the team: Marrero could force his way onto the Opening Day squad if he continues to clear the fences regularly. Even many of his outs have been recorded on hard-hit balls.
Why he won't: Marrero has played in 1,083 professional games. Just 39 of those were in the Majors. Typically, valid reasons exist for that kind of ratio.
Why he'll make the team: Morse would give the Giants a big-time power bat off the bench, a commodity they have lacked for years. He also could give first baseman Brandon Belt an occasional rest.
Why he won't: Morse has appeared in 104 Major League games since spending 2014 with San Francisco. It remains to be seen whether age or injuries have thrown off his swing.
Why he'll make the team: Though Rollins lacks significant experience anywhere but at shortstop, his performances so far at second base indicate that he can be a utility man. "He's an athlete, and athletes can make plays anywhere," Giants right-hander Player Page for Matt Cain said.
Why he won't: San Francisco likely would ask Rollins to pinch-hit often. Though Rollins commands universal respect, his career .130 average off the bench doesn't inspire confidence.
Why he'll make the team: Ruggiano is what the Giants want -- an experienced performer who has power, can cope with a bench role and can play regularly in short bursts.
Why he won't: Ruggiano's batting .067 (1-for-15) in Cactus League games so far. As competent as he has been, San Francisco will want to see more right now.
Why he'll make the team: Tomlinson is a known commodity who has helped the Giants in the past. They value his versatility and diligence.
Why he won't: San Francisco might decide it wants a bigger bat or a more experienced player. Tomlinson also has a Minor League option remaining, so the Giants won't lose him through waivers if they opt to send him to Triple-A.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.