It’s Opening Day — in July!
At long last, Major League Baseball has returned. Thursday evening the Giants fell 8-1 to the rival Los Angeles Dodgers on national television to open the shortened 60-game 2020 season.
The Giants released their Opening Day 30-man roster Thursday morning, with a few surprising additions to the major league club.
MLB Rosters will fluctuate in 2020, as agreed upon in negotiations. Teams will be allowed to carry 30 players for the first two weeks, then rosters will be trimmed to 28 players for the next two weeks, then finally 26 players for the remainder of the season. This is by design, giving teams more flexibility early on.
The obvious, but not surprising omission
There will be no Joey Bart on the Giants Opening Day roster. It was expected, but the Giants made it official today. If Bart were brought up before the sixth game of the season, his service time clock would begin, even if the season is canceled the very next day due to Covid-19. There have been no indications as to whether Bart will be promoted shortly after that time period, but I imagine he will be with the club very soon.
Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi had this to say about potentially seeing Bart this season:
“We haven’t ruled that out at any point. Having guys like [Joey Bart] and Marco Luciano, and some of our other top prospects in Sacramento has really motivated us to create as competitive of an environment as possible for them. I’ve seen some concerns out there that the alternate sites are not going to provide the level of intensity that you would want to say that guys would get ‘competitive reps.’ Even as we conducted our camp over the last couple of weeks, the intrasquad games that we played, they were certainly ways to bring out a higher level of competition for the guys there, so I certainly wouldn’t rule out seeing him at some point this season.”
So who will replace Buster Posey? That job will be shared between journey-men catchers Rob Brantly and Tyler Heineman. Brantly is a veteran catcher who has bounced around the major leagues. Heineman is a rookie, switch-hitting catcher who has bounced around the minor leagues, having a cup of coffee with the Miami Marlins major league squad last season. He started Thursday night, going 2-for-3 and scoring the Giants sole run in his regular season San Francisco debut.
Loading up on pitching
Because the 2020 season is starting so quickly after summer camp began at the beginning of the month, teams will not have as much time as they would have if the season began normally in a non-Covid world. Both Giants hitters and pitchers performed well against the Oakland Athletics this week, but it’s the pitching staff that will need a little bit more time to get up to speed.
Johnny Cueto got the Opening Day nod against the Dodgers, pitching 4 innings while giving up five hits and a run alongside three strikeouts. Kapler believes that Cueto is the most ready of his starting five, and because of that, we should see plenty of bullpen usage for the first week or two.
In two preseason games against the A’s this week, Kapler used 18 pitchers in 18 total innings, a new pitcher each inning. This was by design, giving the Giants bullpen plenty of work as preparation for the role they will play early on. This pattern continued on in the opener, with five Giants pitchers slicing up the final five innings. Tyler Rogers was pegged with the loss during a five-run Dodgers seventh.
There are plenty of fresh faces on the Giants pitching staff this season. Right-handed pitchers Rico Garcia, Kevin Gausman, Dany Jimenez will join left-handed pitchers Tyler Anderson, Caleb Baragar, and Drew Smyly as the six newest members of the Giants pitching staff.
Anderson, a former starting pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, could serve as a long reliever for the Giants this season. Both Gausman and Smyly are expected to anchor down two spots in the Giants starting rotation. Jimenez and Garcia are two hard-throwing 26-year olds with plenty of upside in the bullpen.
Baragar though is the most intriguing arm of the six. The 26-year old has been in the Giants organization since 2016. Starting the 2019 season in Double-A, Baragar pitched a gem of a game in the Triple-A Championship with the Sacramento Rivercats. The 6-foot-3, hard-throwing lefty was certainly impressive in Giants summer camp this summer, and it earned him a spot on the roster.
Injuries to key players open opportunities for others
Both first baseman Brandon Belt and third baseman Evan Longoria were left off the initial 30-man roster and placed on the 10-day injured list, each with minor injuries. They should be back soon, but in the meantime, it presents an opportunity for guys like Joe McCarthy, Darin Ruf, and Wilmer Flores.
McCarthy, a career minor leaguer, was on the bubble prior to the Belt injury. A left-handed hitter who can play first base and outfield, McCarthy will serve as a depth piece at both positions. Ruf broke out for the Giants back in March during the first spring training, leading the team in almost every offensive category. Playing in Korea last season, Ruf is a very intriguing bat, who can hit for power, and play first base and left field.
Flores is a seasoned veteran who played a big role with the New York Mets for six seasons before joining the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, in which he hit .317. Flores really is a super-utility type player, he can play second base, shortstop, third and first base. He could play an integral role for the Giants this season.
- Catching prospect Chadwick Tromp turned heads this summer with an impressive offensive performance. Many believed he was roster-bound, instead of either Heineman or Brantly. Zaidi explained why Tromp was left off the roster.
- MLB and the players union announced an expanded playoff format that allows for 16 teams total to make the playoffs, compared to the standard 10-team playoff format. This gives plenty of hope to even more teams during the shortened 60-game season, and the Giants might just be one of those teams.
- There will be no minor league season in 2020, so minor leaguers, including top prospects like Bart, will work with the remainder of the Giants 60-player pool in Sacramento at the teams alternate site.