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4 Takeaways From SF Giants 5-2 Loss in Spring Training Opener

SF Giants infielder Donovan Solano (7) throws to first against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at Scottsdale Stadium. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
SF Giants infielder Donovan Solano (7) throws to first against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at Scottsdale Stadium. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
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SF Giants, SF Giants Spring Training, Conner Menez
SF Giants starting pitcher Conner Menez (top) pitches against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at Scottsdale Stadium. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

The SF Giants kicked off spring training with a 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. An anemic Giants offense managed just two hits, one by Buster Posey and Wilmer Flores, but did consistently threaten Los Angeles by working six walks. Still, while the Angels tended to work their walks in bunches, scoring two runs off free passes, the Giants’ walks were far more spread out and played a big role in San Francisco leaving 12 runners on base.

Of course, the final result is far from the most important facet of any preseason game. With several players vying for the final spots on the Giants Opening Day roster, the front office and coaching staff were watching every player closely.

Here are a few takeaways from their first game.

SF Giants Spring Training Opener Reactions:
1. Aces Wild

Conner Menez began the day with erratic control, walking two of the first three batters, and that set the tone for a day full of pitchers struggling to consistently find the plate. It’s not a huge surprise. While pitchers tend to be better acclimated to high-level competition than hitters early in the year, many of those on the mound showed the difference between replicating previous velocity and previous command.

The majority of pitchers struggled to find the plate consistently. The Giants’ first three pitchers, Menez, Zack Littell, and Jay Jackson all could place their breaking ball but had very little feel for their fastball. Littell and Jackson allowed two runs a piece and Littell will take the loss.

Sam Wolff had the reverse problem, spiking his breaking ball on one pitch while inducing some whiffs on his heater. James Sherfy and Sam Long were the most impressive pitchers of the day, with Long inducing soft contact and striking out Brennon Lund on a perfectly placed 97 mph fastball.

Young Tyler Cyr has been a sleeper in the Giants farm system and has an outside chance of cracking the Opening Day bullpen but got off to a rocky start on Sunday. Cyr walked three, allowed a run, and could only get two outs before Kapler induced a new spring training rule that allows a team to end an inning early when their pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches.

SF Giants Spring Training Opener Reactions:
2. Platoon Challenge

Manager Gabe Kapler was one of the most aggressive managers in MLB history playing platoons in 2020. On Friday, though, with southpaw Jose Quintana slated to start, Kapler started both Alex Dickerson and LaMonte Wade Jr, left-handed hitters with a history of struggles against same-sided pitchers. Perhaps the Giants had planned to start Wade and Dickerson regardless of the opposing starter, but the Giants have rarely operated without a lot of calculation under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.

Kapler may want to play platoons all across the field, but with two fewer roster spots than last season and an inconsistent starting rotation, the Giants are likely to have far less roster flexibility. Players like Dickerson, Wade, Wilmer Flores, Darin Ruf, and Austin Slater will probably have to face same-sided pitchers far more often in 2021 than they did in 2020. The Giants may utilize the preseason to help them contemplate which player is best suited for those circumstances.

SF Giants Spring Training Opener Reactions:
3. Up-the-Middle Options

There remain many questions about the Giants’ backups behind Mauricio Dubón in centerfield and Brandon Crawford at shortstop. The Giants kicked off their preseason schedule by slotting Dubón in at short and Wade in center. Both have experience at those spots, but Wade has rated poorly by most metrics, with scouts offering similar skepticism.

Wade clearly lacks great range in center and took some questionable routes but got to every ball he should have. His arm, however, was quite inconsistent. Scouting reports have been high on his potential in right field, so that shouldn’t be a long-term concern.

Dubon projected to be a strong defensive shortstop and showed off that potential in 2019 but struggled a bit last year before acclimating to center. On Sunday, he whiffed on a routine grounder between his legs for one of the Giants’ two errors.

It was not a banner day for the Giants’ other options up-the-middle, but Wade and Dubon will get plenty of opportunities to prove they can offer that versatility.

SF Giants Spring Training Opener Reactions:
4. Spot the Prospects

2020 first-round pick Patrick Bailey grounded out and struck out in two at-bats but showed his strong plate discipline in his second trip to the plate.  2019 second-round selection Logan Wyatt grounded out in an uneventful at-bat. Top prospect Marco Luciano also subbed in at shortstop and held his own on a couple of chances. Luciano also grounded out in his lone at-bat.

With minor-league camp delayed as MLB plans the minor-league season, prospects like Bailey, Wyatt, and Luciano should spend more time with the big-league club than usual. Fans should be excited to see all of them challenged against top-flight competition.

Next. 6 SF Giants Spring Training Competitions to Watch

The SF Giants are now 0-1 in the MLB preseason and will face off against the Texas Rangers tomorrow, March 1st, at 12:05 pm Pacific Standard Time.

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