The San Francisco Giants are getting ready to kick of their 2012 Spring Training in Arizona. Pitchers and catchers report on Saturday, with position players scheduled to report the following week. There will be many players and positions to keep an eye on during Spring Training, including offseason acquisitions, young prospects and non-roster invitees.
The starting pitchers that will be returning in 2012 are Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito. This is the rotation that should be set on opening day, as it is doubtful that Eric Surkamp will impress enough during the spring to force any of those five out of their place in the order. The bullpen will once again consist of Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Guillermo Mota, Sergio Romo, Dan Runzler and Brian Wilson. Pitchers not likely to start the year in the majors are Hector Correa, Steve Edlefsen, Clay Hensley and Danny Otero.
In the infield, Brandon Belt will be competing with Aubrey Huff and Brett Pill at first base, a situation that will likely continue all year unless Belt really starts tearing the cover off the ball and never stops. Freddy Sanchez will return as the everyday second baseman, with Emmanuel Burriss available to spell him. At shortstop, Brandon Crawford is expected to earn the everyday role, but Burriss, Mike Fontenot and new acquisition Ryan Theriot are around to be the middle infield platoon, with minor leaguers Conor Gillaspie, Charlie Culberson and Ehire Adrianza waiting in the wings as potential breakout stars. Third base is set with Pablo Sandoval, of course. The only real wild card in the infield at Spring Training will be Angel Villalona, who has not been in the Giants organization, or in the United States, since 2007.
At catcher, all Giants fans and front office personnel are hoping that Buster Posey will return to form. He will have Chris Stewart, Hector Sanchez and Eli Whiteside duking it out all spring in hopes of becoming his major-league backup.
In the outfield, Belt will again be fighting for a spot in the lineup, as he will be trying to get playing time in left field. New Giants Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera are expected to be fixtures in the everyday lineup and Nate Schierholtz seems ready to be penciled in as the starting right fielder. The minor league outfielders on the 40-man roster are Tyler Graham, Roger Kieschnick and Francisco Peguero.
The non-roster invitees for the Giants are, of course, the true x-factors in Spring Training. We all know what happened with Ryan Vogelsong last year and likely every MLB team is hoping for a potential Vogelsong to come out of Spring Training in 2012.
The Giants have invited pitchers Travis Blackley, Brian Burres, Jake Dunning, Justin Fitzgerald, Austin Fleet, Stephen Harrold, Heath Hembree, Andrew Kown, Mitch Lively, Shane Loux, Jean Machi, Ramon Ortiz, David Quinowski, Wilmin Rodriguez, Seth Rosin, Shawn Sanford and Matt Yourkin.
Non-roster catchers consist of Tommy Joseph, Andrew Susac and Jackson Williams. Joseph and Susac have been turning heads in the Giants' minor league system and, behind Sanchez, demonstrate how much depth the franchise has at this position.
Non-roster infielder invitees are Joaquin Arias, Chris Dominguez, Nick Noonan and 2011's first-round draft pick, Joe Panik. Non-roster outfielders are Justin Christian (who Giants fans may remember had a terrific catch in Colorado last season), Gregor Blanco, Juan Perez and the system's number one prospect, center fielder Gary Brown.
It's going to be an exciting Spring Training with a lot of different questions left to be answered.
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