The Giants have a few position battles taking place during spring training, despite a largely set roster. A couple spots in the bullpen are up for grabs, as is the role of backup middle infielder.
Last year, Freddy Sanchez and Brandon Crawford were slated to be the everyday combo up the middle, but nagging injuries to Sanchez pushed the recently acquired Ryan Theriot into the starting job. While Theriot was a sufficient second baseman, the trade that brought Marco Scutaro to San Francisco forced Theriot back into his original role.
This year there is more stability in the position, but the fact that Sabean chose not to resign Theriot has left a hole to fill on the bench. Joaquin Arias played a substantial amount of games at shortstop and third base, but only four games at second base last year. He is expected to primarily back up Pablo Sandoval at the hot corner.
According to Chris Haft, four players have emerged as the leading candidates for the job.
Tony Abreu, 28, has been around the majors since 2007 and has major league stints with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Royals. In four seasons, Abreu has 464 plate appearances, while playing mostly second and third base. In the minor leagues, Abreu has proven to be a solid hitter with a .312 career average and 52 home runs in the last eight years. His experience should have likely merited him a guaranteed roster spot somewhere, but he finds himself fighting for a utility role in Scottsdale.
Wilson Valdez, 34, has been a backup infielder his whole career, playing more than 100 games in a season only once. He is also very well-traveled, having played on seven different teams since 2004. Valdez is a defensive specialist who has never had too much success in the batter’s box. He is a career .236 hitter and has homered just once in the past two years while taking over 500 at bats.
Kensuke Tanaka, 31, is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner in Japan while playing second base. He has been asked to play shortstop in spring training, where he has not fared well. By his statistics in Japan, Tanaka represents a decent offensive player, hitting at least .290 in four of the last five years. Of course statistics in Japan can be deceiving as the Giants found out with Tsuyoshi Shingo.
Brock Bond is someone that Giants’ fans should keep an eye on. Bond, 27, is reminiscent of Theriot in that he is a good offensive player, but possesses little to no power. During his six years in the minor leagues, Bond has amassed a career average of .315 with an outstanding .410 OBP, but has homered just four times in more than 2100 career plate appearances. Last year at Fresno, his .332 avg. was good enough for sixth in the Pacific Coast League among players with at least 350 at bats. Bond is getting a lot of attention because of his hot start in spring, but his below-average defense could prevent him from making the opening day roster.
This battle is surely one to pay attention to, and will likely take a significant amount of spring ball to decide.