SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Some weighty roster decisions will be included in the Giants' cargo next week when they travel to the Bay Area for their final Spring Training exhibition games.
From the lineup to the bench, roles are likely to stay open for competition when the Giants play their Triple-A Sacramento affiliate in the state capital on March 24. The three-game Bay Bridge Series against the Oakland A's, set for March 25-27, also is likely to serve as a proving ground for players whose immediate future hangs in the balance.
Front and center among the unresolved issues is center field. The range of scenarios that appeared possible when camp opened remain intact. Rookie Steven Duggar could win the job outright, or the left-handed-hitting Duggar might platoon with Austin Jackson, a right-handed hitter. Sending Duggar back to Sacramento for more seasoning is another possibility.
Optioning Duggar would open a second backup spot for what's expected to be a five-man outfield contingent. Manager Bruce Bochy has emphasized that the club will not carry six outfielders on the 25-man Opening Day roster.
San Francisco also must select a utility infielder from among a crowd of candidates.
As part of February's Spring Training preview, MLB.com took an early guess at what the Opening Day roster will look like. Here's a second attempt.
Catcher (2): Buster Posey, Nick Hundley
No need for changes here, though if either player is sidelined, the Giants know that they can call upon Trevor Brown for help.
First base (1): Brandon Belt
Belt looks assertive both at the plate and in the field, demonstrating his full recovery from the concussion that sidelined him for the final 51 games of the 2017 season.
Second base (1): Joe Panik
Panik's solid Cactus League performance prompted Bochy to assign him leadoff duties, at least against right-handed starters.
Third base (1): Evan Longoria
San Francisco wants Longoria in there when it counts, which explains his infrequent Cactus League appearances, as the club ensures that his left foot and heel are sufficiently whole before he plays regularly.
Shortstop (1): Brandon Crawford
Crawford looks ready to capture his fourth consecutive Gold Glove Award.
Utility (4): Mac Williamson, Gregor Blanco, Kelby Tomlinson, Pablo Sandoval
If Williamson continues to hit, he'll unseat Gorkys Hernandez, who was a 25-man finalist in the first forecast. So was Tomlinson, who can't afford to relax lest he be supplanted by Chase d'Arnaud or Josh Rutledge.
Outfield (3): Hunter Pence, Jackson, Andrew McCutchen
This assumes that the Giants decide to give Duggar regular activity at Triple-A until he matures a little more offensively. Once that happens, Duggar will become San Francisco's center fielder, quite possibly for a long time. Jackson then would become a super sub, receiving ample playing time in left and right field to relieve Pence and McCutchen, respectively.
Starting pitchers (5): Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Stratton, Ty Blach
The only possible surprise would be to install Blach temporarily as the fourth starter. That would give him three April appearances against the Dodgers, a team he's comfortable facing. But Stratton may have clinched the No. 4 spot with his strong spring.
Relievers (7): Sam Dyson, Cory Gearrin, Derek Law, Josh Osich, Hunter Strickland, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon
Watson, acquired since the original roster prediction was made, is a lock to make the team. He also would be likely to serve as a co-closer with Dyson if Melancon, who admitted feeling mild discomfort in his surgically repaired right forearm, needs a break or is sidelined. Steven Okert was on the original list but has been optioned to the Minors.
Source: MLB | Chris Haft | March 15th, 2018