SF Giants Spring Training Competition:
Third First Baseman/5th Outfielder: Austin Slater, Darin Ruf, Jason Vosler, Joe McCarthy, Jason Krizan
Favorite: Austin Slater
Biggest Competiton: Darin Ruf
Longshot: Jason Vosler, Jason Krizan, Joe McCarthy
If Austin Slater did not have such an extensive injury history, he’d be locked into a platoon with Alex Dickerson in left field. However, Slater’s breakout 2020 season is undermined by an elbow injury and a history of regressing after injuries. A strong start would quell those questions quite quickly.
If that’s what happens, Darin Ruf will have an uphill battle to stick on the roster. Brandon Belt, Tommy La Stella, Wilmer Flores, and Slater all have extensive experience at first base. Ruf’s below-average defense in left field makes it hard to envision him playing over Dickerson or Slater. Had the National League finally adopted the universal designated hitter, it would be easier to envision the Giants forcing the issue. For now, though, it seems like something will have to give. Belt is recovering from an offseason surgery and could miss the start of the season. If that’s the case, Ruf could easily slot into his spot on the roster until he recovers. Still, that crunch will have to be addressed at some point.
Even if Belt begins the season on the injured list, Zaidi and company could prioritize youth. If they do, Joe McCarthy, an organization favorite since he was acquired from the Rays at the 2019 trade deadline, could get another chance to prove himself against MLB competition. Jason Vosler, on the other hand, was one of the top minor-league free agents available this offseason, and the Giants signed him to a major-league contract. He’s excelled at Triple-A and can handle the infield corners defensively with limited experience at second base.
There is an outside shot the Giants could prioritize positional versatility, which would open the door for Jason Krizan. Signed to a minor-league contract this offseason, Krizan can handle both outfield corners and everywhere on the infield except shortstop. In 2019, he spent the majority of the season at the Mets Double-A affiliate before a strong stretch of play to close the year at Triple-A. He posted a solid .275/.358/.469 triple-slash with 46 extra-base hits and more walks (50) than strikeouts (45) between both levels.