One of the biggest spring training storylines for the San Francisco Giants are who the five outfielders will be that make the Opening Day roster.
The San Francisco Giants have some decisions to make in the outfield before the start of the 2020 season. Mike Yastrzemski is the only outfielder locked into a starting gig, while the competition for the other two spots is fairly wide open.
Most teams have five outfielders on their active roster, so there are also two bench spots up for grabs among the outfield contingent. The competition for those spots will be one of the most intriguing storylines as spring training progresses.
The additions of Hunter Pence and Billy Hamilton near the end of the offseason further complicated the outfield situation. Pence was signed to a major league deal, so he will almost certainly make the roster, while Hamilton is a non-roster invitee who will have to claw his way onto the team.
The one positive, or negative depending on how you look at it, is that the Giants have a lot of options for who will fill out the final outfield spots.
They have younger guys like Steven Duggar or Jaylin Davis who might represent the future. They also have veterans like Hamilton or Darin Ruf, the former providing speed and the latter providing power.
That only scratches the surface, though.
With so many options, manager Gabe Kapler and the front office are going to have some tough decisions to make once rosters need to be set.
In the meantime, let's take a swing at predicting who the five outfielders will be for the Giants on Opening Day.
Mike Yastrzemski seemingly came out of nowhere to hit .272/.334/.518 with 21 home runs and 55 RBI as a rookie last season. Now, the Giants are expecting him to be one of their biggest offensive producers in 2020.
We'll see how he handles the high expectations, but there is no doubt he will be starting for the team at the beginning of the year. The bigger question is where will he be starting?
Yaz played a lot in right field last season, but he has shown he can play all three positions fairly well. He's probably not ideal as a center fielder given he is not super fast and does not have a particularly strong arm, but he could be serviceable there in small doses.
We will likely see him a lot more in one of the corner spots, but depending on how things shake out, he could begin the season as the team's primary center fielder.
In probably the most revered move of the offseason, the Giants brought back Hunter Pence on a one-year deal. He had an All-Star year with the Texas Rangers last season, and will now bring his revamped swing back to San Francisco.
Beyond the nostalgia, the Pence signing made sense from a roster standpoint. Last season, he tore it up against left-handed pitching with a .327/.378/.636 line against southpaws.
That makes him an ideal platoon candidate with left-handed hitting Alex Dickerson in left field.
Pence was signed to a one-year, $3 million deal, so he will almost certainly make the team. The signing may have been in part a strategic ploy to win some good will from the fanbase, but Pence will also make the Giants a better team in 2020.
Last season, Alex Dickerson was seemingly able to ignite the offense single-handedly during the Giants summer hot streak. Injuries cooled him off, but if he can stay healthy in 2020, he can be an offensive catalyst once again.
His health is a big question, though.
If he does end up platooning with Hunter Pence in left field, then that will take some pressure off of both guys who have dealt with their fair share of injuries.
If neither has to play every day, it stands to reason that those extra days off will go a long way toward keeping them healthy throughout the season.
Those are the three outfielders that seem like locks to make the roster. Now we will venture out into uncharted waters to predict who will nab those final two bench spots.
He may not hit very well or have any power, but boy can Billy Hamilton run and play some defense.
Essentially, he is a better version of Steven Duggar, who I think will start the season in the minor leagues to see if he can prove something offensively.
It stands to reason that either Duggar or Hamilton will have to make the team because the Giants need a strong defensive center fielder. Both guys can handle the position, whereas there are question marks surrounding Mike Yastrzemski. The Mauricio Dubon center field experiment is also still too green to expect him to be a regular option.
While Hamilton's speed makes him a weapon on the base paths, he does not get on base at a high enough rate to regularly take advantage of his wheels. He makes up for that to a point with the runs he saves on defense, and that could be enough to earn him a spot to start the year.
If Hamilton tanks offensively, the Giants can simply cut him and call up Duggar to see if he's found his swing in the minors.
For now, Hamilton is too great a weapon to not at least experiment with to start the year. He may be another lefty in a lefty-heavy outfield, but it is a worthwhile trade-off for his other skills.
For the final projected outfield spot, it was a toss-up between Austin Slater and Jaylin Davis. In the end, Slater gets the nod because of his versatility. He can play outfield, first base, and the team has had him take grounders at other infield positions as well.
Last season, when the Giants were hot during the summer, Slater was tearing the cover off the ball in the minors. Once he was finally called up, he played a significant role in helping the team offensively.
Unfortunately, he really struggled towards the end of the year, but if he can find some consistency then he would be worth having on the bench and possibly as a starter if he's swinging a hot bat.
Plus, his ability to play in both the infield and outfield fits with the modern desire for as much defensive flexibility as possible from players.
Slater just needs to have a solid spring to win a spot on the team. He does not needing to prove himself to the same extent that someone like Davis does.
So there are my picks for the five outfielders I think will win a spot on the Opening Day roster.
However, there are a few other players worth mentioning who may start the year on the outside looking in, but could make their way to San Francisco at some point in 2020.
Outside looking in
So far, Rickard has had a hot spring as a non-roster invitee, getting six hits in 12 at-bats, including three doubles and a triple. If he can keep that kind of production up, he could hit his way onto the roster, possibly replacing Slater.
Ruf has shown tremendous power in the Korean Baseball Organization the past few years. He has hit one home run so far this spring, and he may have to hit quiet a few more to make the team. He can play corner outfield and first base, which is good from a versatility standpoint, but it's his power that will need to win him a spot on the roster.
Shaw possesses power as well, but has not proven it as of yet this spring. He will need his bat to ignite. Otherwise, he will start the year in the minors once again. His two stints in the big leagues have left quite a bit to be desired, so his future on the team is in question.
These guys still have an opportunity to make the team, but they will need to go out and earn it. Regardless, the outfield competition will be an interesting storyline to keep an eye on for the rest of spring training.