The Major League Baseball season is quickly approaching its start for the 2023 season, and teams are a little over a week into their Spring Training games. Every team has a bunch of guys who are hoping to make the opening day roster – some are locks, while others have to impress at every opportunity in order to make it to the regular season.
The San Francisco Giants are no exception to trying to figure out their roster and who is going to be there on March 30th when they take on the New York Yankees in New York. I’m going to try my best to predict who the Giants will have on their roster to start the season and who could possibly shake things up from my predictions.
I do truly think the catcher spot is Bart’s spot to lose, despite what some are saying. Bart has shown some steady improvement at the plate despite his egregious strikeout rate of 38% in 2022. Bart is an excellent defensive catcher and honestly, that should be more than enough to keep him on the roster and in the starting lineup.
Sabol is interesting, as he is a Rule 5 Draft selection, so he does need to stay on the active roster or be offered back to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sabol has appeared to quickly win over the clubhouse, especially the pitching staff. He is also a left-handed hitting catcher who had a .859 OPS in 2022 between AA and AAA. I like Sabol to make this roster and have an impact throughout the year.
The biggest competition to Sabol is going to be Austin Wynns. He was with the Giants last season and was well-liked by the team, but he is currently not on the Giants’ 40-man roster, so that also puts him at a disadvantage. We absolutely could see Wynns during the season, I just don’t think it’ll be on opening day.
The infield feels pretty set in stone and I don’t expect any surprises here. I have Wade Jr. included in the infield section, as he is expected to be the primary 1st baseman for manager Gabe Kapler this season. The rest of the infield should shape up as follows: Estrada at 2nd, Crawford at SS, and Villar at 3rd.
Now JD Davis and Wilmer Flores are going to be getting plenty of at-bats, but those four infielders should be the primary guys at each position. I think Flores is going to be starting just about every day with the way Kapler uses his platoons and the versatility that he provides defensively around the infield. JD Davis is also a good option at both corner infield spots, so if Villar doesn’t pan out the way they are hoping or LaMonte is needed elsewhere, Davis can easily play either of those spots.
No matter what the case, these six guys should take up the infield roster spots come opening day. The only potential mix-up I could see happening would be Isan Diaz having an out-of-this-world spring and playing his way onto the roster. Even in that case, I’m not sure we lose one of the guys listed here, but Diaz can absolutely make some noise this season.
Another position group that feels pretty set in stone. The outfield should not have many surprises. The omission of Luis Gonzalez may be a little shocking to some, but the truth of the matter is that he has option years remaining and Farhan will not hesitate to use them. The Giants signed Haniger and Conforto this offseason to start every day, so that’s what they are going to do. That leaves a spot in center field that belongs to Mike Yastrzemski. I don’t expect a ton of stray from those three in the outfield as Joc is going to be the everyday DH but technically plays the outfield, so I included him here.
Starting Pitchers (6)
Starting pitching also shouldn’t have a whole lot of shock value either. Logan Webb should be one of the best pitchers in baseball, especially if he can recapture what he had in 2021. Webb has all the skills he needs to be a Cy Young candidate and I expect him to show off his skills again in 2023. Additionally, Alex Cobb should have a great year with an improved defense behind him this year. Cobb had a 3.73 ERA last season and a FIP of 2.80, so with an improved defense behind him, the numbers imply that his ERA should drop and his numbers should look a bit better.
The Giants also added a couple of new arms in Manaea and Stripling and I expect both of them to start and perform well. Manaea had a rough year last year in San Diego but San Francisco has had a ton of success developing sinkers to be an extremely effective pitch (Logan Webb throws a sinker as his primary pitch). Stripling has also always been a very solid pitcher in his career sporting a career 109 ERA+ and a 129 ERA+ just last season. He has a great pitch mix that the Giants can take and elevate as they have done with pitchers in recent years.
Lastly, we have Wood and DeSclafani, who have been around for a couple of years. DeSclafani only pitched 19 innings last year, and those innings weren’t exactly the easiest to watch either; but in 2021, he was fantastic. “Disco” put up a 130 ERA+ in 31 starts and had two complete game shutouts, so if he can stay healthy, there’s no reason he can’t put up similar numbers, whether that be in the rotation or the bullpen. Wood should be a beneficiary of the pitch clock, as he moves pretty quickly on the mound. He should be able to operate as normal while everyone else has to take time to adjust to the limits. Wood had an ERA of 5.10 last season, but a FIP of 3.76, so he should also benefit from a much better defense. I expect him to put up numbers similar to his 2021 campaign where he had an ERA+ of 108.
The first four guys I have on this list will absolutely be on this roster and will make a lot of relief appearances in 2023. Doval is going to be absolutely electric and the Rogers twins have one of the most fun stories in the bigs as they now share a bullpen. Brebbia was the appearance leader for the National League last year, so he’ll get plenty of chances again this season. Junis also shouldn’t have a problem making this roster, as he has shown the Giants he can be an effective option both in the bullpen and for a spot start when needed.
The last two bullpen spots are where there is the most room for switches and mix-ups. Luke Jackson would absolutely be on my predictions if he wasn’t supposed to start the year on the IL. I feel that Scott Alexander, Thomas Szapucki, and Sam Long are in a three-horse race for these last two roster spots. Alexander has big-league experience and was very good at the end of 2022 for the Giants, so I think he easily has one of these spots. That leaves one spot between Long and Szapucki, and I’m giving the nod to Szapucki for one simple reason: he’s out of options. Long still has a minor league option, so I fully expect Farhan to take advantage of that, much like I think they will with Luis Gonzalez. With a good spring, however, I do think Long can come in and take this final spot.
That’s the beauty with roster predictions, however, it’s fun to be wrong and have a guy pleasantly surprise you. I would love to see Isan Diaz fight for and win a roster spot on the infield, or Luis Gonzalez make sure he is on the roster come opening day because you simply can’t leave him in the minors. I personally am a huge fan of Sean Hjelle, who I didn’t mention in this article until now, but I would be over the moon to see him pitching for the Giants all season long.
A season is still 162 games and teams never use only the 26 they start with every year, so here’s to hopefully seeing everyone play and play well for the Giants in 2023.
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