What Gabe Kapler's looking for in Giants' spring training competitions

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What Kapler is looking for in Giants' camp competitions originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The theme of Gabe Kapler's first camp as manager of the Giants was competition. The Giants competed for roster spots, they competed more during drills and bullpen sessions than in past years, they even had a leaderboard in the clubhouse highlighting a daily standout on the bases. 

A lot of that will remain as Year 2 kicks off, but when Kapler looks down at his roster, he won't see nearly as many spots up for grabs. 

"I think our position player group is fairly set," he said last week. "There's always going to be competition and we're going to create some of that competition and challenge our players with it, but I do think our position player group speaks for itself a bit."

Assuming the Giants carry 13 position players on opening day, they have maybe just one spot that's even slightly up for grabs. They have both of their catchers already and six infielders, with Tommy La Stella joining last season's core, and the starting outfield isn't hard to figure out. The Giants are eager to get a look at LaMonte Wade Jr., though, and it's possible he could work his way into the mix this spring if he looks like he can handle center defensively.

But even that might be a stretch. The Giants do have five capable outfielders in Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson, Mauricio Dubon, Austin Slater and Darin Ruf. Barring a move with Ruf or injury concerns with Slater -- right now the elbow is fine, Kapler said -- it's hard to see where Wade or a similar player fits in. 

The rotation is a similar story, with four veterans in place and Logan Webb the clear frontrunner for the fifth spot. The Giants still are looking for depth there, but right now there's nobody on par with Webb, who had a rough 2020 but has opened eyes in early bullpen sessions. 

"He has looked fantastic so far," Kapler said. "He's in very good physical condition, but one of the things that we challenged Logan with was to execute his changeup for a strike consistently. This pitch has been really impressive so far in bullpen sessions."

Webb having a good spring would leave just one area of the roster where jobs are up for grabs. Over 60 games last year the Giants used 16 relievers, and they figure to shoot past that number in 2021. Right now they're headed for eight relievers on the opening day roster, although that could be increased if they decide to take advantage of the early off days in the schedule. 

"I think there's going to be a spot or two, depending on what happens for the rest of this offseason or for the time leading up to camp, in our 'pen," Kapler said. "I think some interesting competition could happen there."

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Veterans Matt Wisler, Jake McGee and Jarlin Garcia look like the locks right now, with Tyler Rogers, Caleb Baragar and Reyes Moronta right behind them. Trevor Gott is out of options, which would get the Giants to seven relievers. Kapler said he's eager to get a look at a deep class of non-roster invitees, and the Giants also have 2020 holdovers (Sam Selman, Wandy Peralta), a Rule 5 pick who must make the team or be returned to the Mets (Dedniel Nuñez) and three young right-handed flamethrowers (Camilo Doval, Kervin Castro, Gregory Santos) who were added to the 40-man roster and come up repeatedly when team officials are talking about what excites them about 2021. 

The competition for bullpen spots looks right now like the only true one in camp, although injuries can change the math quickly. Right now, the Giants are healthy, allowing Kapler to focus conversations on a group of pitchers who have mostly reported early to get a head start on six weeks of scrutiny. Kapler said they're off to a good start. 

"The bullpen sessions that I've seen so far since I've been here in Scottsdale have been pretty impressive," he said. 

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