Eli Whiteside vs Chris Stewart
Eli Whiteside got hurt early this spring, and Chris Stewart has taken advantage of his opportunity, thumping out a .318/.400/.545 line in a handful of at-bats. His minor league track record indicates that he might actually be a bit better of a hitter than Whiteside, but not so much that you’d actually notice. Other things equal, I think I’d rather stick with Whiteside, based on such important intangibles as his devotion to the Greatful Dead, his physical resemblance to nerdcore rapper MC Chris, and his ability to function as Jonathan Sanchez’s security blanket.
My Ballot: Whiteside
Jeff Suppan vs. The Field
The last spot in the bullpen is still up for grabs and depending on how long Brian Wilson is out for perhaps a second spot is still open as well. I don’t know that we know a whole lot more than when the spring started. Jeff Suppan is the presumptive favorite, and he’s looked pretty bad – not unlike how he’s looked for the last few seasons. Guillermo Mota is the definition an adequate reliever – he hasn’t been great either, but his strikeout to walk ratio is at least nice to look at. Ryan Vogelsong has been the surprise of the spring – he’s earned himself the nickname “Vogelstrong” through some decent performances. I’d still like to see what Marc Kroon has, but he hasn’t pitched much and has been unremarkable when he has pitched. Dan Runzler has been inconsistent, and I’m not really sure what the org’s plans are for him anyway. He might be sent to stretch out his arm in Fresno regardless of his performance.
I think I’m pulling for Vogelsong to get the last spot. Unlike Suppan, he seems like he could still have some pleasant surprises left in his arm, and his contract situation would have more flexibility. Failing that, Mota would be the safe, unexciting pick. When it comes to relievers, unexciting is amongst the highest compliments.
My ballot: The Field
Brandon Belt vs Travis Ishikawa vs Aaron Rowand vs Nate Schierholtz
Finally there’s the last bench spot, which is the most controversial one, because there are some dollar signs attached to it. There are basically two spots for four players. Brandon Belt has made some noise in spring training, forcing Brian Sabean to make his own noises about giving him an opening day job. If this happens, it would be bad news for Travis Ishikawa, as there would be pretty much no role for him left on the team. If Belt starts the year in AAA, TI might have a shot at hanging around in defensive replacement/lefty pinch-hitter who isn’t Mike Fontenot role.
I don’t think Travis Ishikawa is going to finish the year as a Giant. That said, I’m still a little leery of starting Brandon Belt out in SF. A few extra months would give the Giants time to A) see if Belt’s 2010 was for real (he’s really only hit like that for one year) B) identify which of the veterans should lose playing time in his favor.
Increasingly, I get the feeling that the organization is going to have to choose between Nate Schierholtz and Aaron Rowand. I say this because it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep them both on the roster. The Giants already have five players that would serve as adequate starters in the outfield, two of whom can play center. The Giants do not need a bench spot to spend on outfield depth. What they do need is someone who can hold their own as a pinch-hitter, and/or someone who can relieve Pat Burrell from the chore of fielding fly-balls.
Arguments about Scheirholtz versus Rowand that revolve around who is the superior all-around ballplayer largely miss the point (I would say that it is probably Rowand). Neither of these guys are probably going to get enough playing time for their impact on the team to really be reflection of their all-around skills. Instead, if they are mostly going to be used as a defensive replacement, we should put a extra weight on defensive ability. And let me make this easy for you: if you’re choosing based on defense, always choose the younger player. Also, choose the younger player with a fantastic arm. Also, don’t choose the guy that has only hit the cutoff man a handful of times in the last three years.
I’m sure Aaron Rowand has a little good baseball left in him, and I know it will come on the Giants’s dime. But I just no longer see him as the best player for the role available.
My Ballot: Ishikawa (for now) and Schierholtz
Comment starter: what does your ballot look like?