Spring Training is winding down and so are the remaining roster spots. The team looks to be set in every position except for the final bench spot. The Giants must decide whom out of a trio of Mark Sweeney, Jason Ellison, and Lance Niekro to chose for that last spot. Ellison and Niekro are both out of options and Sweeney is in the last year of a 2 year deal.
The Chron seems to think that the last bench spot should be used on a speedy 5th OF type player, which among the three listed is obviously Ellison. I’m not so sure that I agree with that line of thinking. The Giants have plenty of OF options on the team already and could mix and match them in a few different ways. Bonds, Winn, Roberts, Klesko, Linden, and Feliz can all play outfield. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Frandsen log a few innings at a corner OF spot during the season either. Fred Lewis is waiting in AAA and could easily be called up at anytime in the season if injury strikes, or if the Giants need another outfielder.
Personally, what I like in a final bench player, who will mostly be used to pinch hit, is power. Having a guy that can come off the bench a pop a home run is a nice thing to have. This is why I think the Giants should give the last bench spot to Lance Niekro because his power potential is somewhat intriguing. Lets take a look at the players and some projections for each.
(1B/OF) Mark Sweeney
- What he can do: Sweeney is a perfect bench player on a deeper team. That’s not exactly the Giants and everyone knows that with the signing of Klesko, Sweeney looks to be the odd man out. His defense is nothing amazing but he does provide a veteran pinch hitter. I think Sweeney will be cut or traded before the season begins because he just doesn’t make sense on the Giants.
- What’s he done in ST?: Sweeney is only hitting a buck fifteen right now. Not exactly the best way to build a case for yourself.
- Projections for ’07: PECOTA has Sweeney at (.266/.349/.417) and ZiPS see’s a line of (.259/.349/.386)
(OF) Jason Ellison
- What he can do: Mr. Spring Training himself, Ellison is hitting like Tedd Williams so far this spring. It’s hard to believe this guy is almost 30 and he’s another example of the prototypical player that bounces back and forth between AAA and the majors. Ellison can play all three outfield positions but none exceptionally well as he seems to go into lapses of defensive bloopers. He’s fast but not a great base-runner. What Ellison does have going for him is that he is torching Spring Training pitching. Since he’s out of options the Giants either have to stick him on their MLB roster or risk losing him to another team through waivers. The Giants are shopping Ellison but despite his strong spring, I doubt anyone bites.
- What’s he done in ST?: Only putting up a line of (.487/.556/.590)
- Projections for ’07: PECOTA thinks Ellison can do (.281/.329/.392) and ZiPS (.293/.344/.397)
(1B) Lance Niekro
- What he can do: Play first and possibly know how to throw a knuckler. Like Ellison, he is out of options and the Giants may like his upside more than Ellison and that could factor into the decision making process. I like him as a pinch hitter that could hit the occasional long ball.
- What’s he done in ST?: Niekro’s had a a nice spring hitting (.385/.448/.731)
- Projections for ’07: PECOTA has Niekro projected at (. 266/.310/.458) w/ 11 HR’s and ZiPS has Neikro at (.278/.317/.474)
I think the Giants should give a serious look at carrying Niekro on the bench in 2007. In no way should he ever be a starter but I like him as a pinch hitter with pop. I don’t think Sweeney has a place and Ellison as a 5th OF is easily replaceable.
Neikro torched AAA last year when he went back down to Fresno, hitting 14 HR’s in just 152 plate appearances. The power is there. The knock on Neikro is that he’s a AAAA player and not a major leaguer and that may be true but the Giants should give him a good long look for ’07. I believe that he has the most upside between Sweeney and Ellison. Losing Ellison or Sweeney to check out Neikro a little bit longer is no big loss either. He could very well provide some cheap power off the bench.
Comment Starter: Sweeney, Ellison, or Neikro? You decide!