Fighting Hard for That Last Outfield Roster Spot
The competition is fast and furious for the San Francisco Giants’ 5th outfield roster spot. Assuming that all of Hunter Pence, Denard Span, Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco are healthy enough to go on opening day, that realistically leaves only one more spot for what has proven to be four very real contenders.
Right now Mac Williamson, who will be 25 in 2016, is the top performer of the four guys who have a reasonable shot at that last roster spot. He’s currently hitting .344 with a 1.195 OPS in 12 games. He’s hit four home runs already this spring.
Jarret Parker, who hit so well in his September call-up last year, is hitting .267 with a .833 OPS and two homers in 10 games. Parker will be 27 in 2016, and his skill set is extremely similar to Williamson’s, except that Parker bats left-handed, so if Parker and Williamson end up with roughly the same spring numbers, I would expect Williamson to get the call since he’s18 months younger and thus has more potential upside.
CF Gorkis Hernandez (age 28) is also playing extremely well, batting .346 with an .875 OPS after 11 Spring Training games. With Pagan and Blanco almost certain to make the roster, I would think the Giants would want more power out of the 5th outfielder spot than Hernandez can provide. Thus, I expect him to start the regular season at AAA unless someone is hurt, or Williamson and Parker both really cool off.
Kyle Blanks (29), whom the Giants signed to a minor league deal specifically for his right-handed power, is batting .400 with a 1.500 OPS, but has played in only four Spring Training games, suggesting that he’s probably dealing with an injury. If so, his chances of making the team out of Spring Training are slim, and he’ll have to get healthy and perform at AAA to get called up later in the season.
Blanks looks like a guy whose reputation as a major league hitter has suffered playing most of his home games in San Diego. However, his career home OPS (.770) and road OPS (.707) don’t tell that story. However, with 33 home runs and 77 extra base hits in 933 career MLB plate appearances, I can state with greater confidence that he’s definitely got major league power.
Even if three of the four relative youngsters start the season at AAA, all are reasonably likely to play in the Show later this year if they perform at Sacramento. With all of Pence, Span, Pagan and Blanco at least 32 this year, it defies expectations that the Giants won’t need help to deal with injuries before the season is over.