Three takeaways as Giants release initial MLB Summer Camp player pool

Alex Pavlovic
NBC Sports BayArea

The Giants were the last team standing, which is usually what you want when it comes to Major League Baseball. Unless you're just dealing with a ton of unexpected paperwork.

As the Giants settled new contracts with Pablo Sandoval, Billy Hamilton, Yolmer Sanchez and Trevor Cahill, the rest of the teams around the league released player pool rosters. Finally, just before noon Monday, came word from the Giants. 

The initial list is just 51 players, leaving wiggle room to add nine more either before camp begins Friday or before the opener July 24. One of those spots will likely go to Hunter Bishop, a top prospect who is quarantining after a positive COVID-19 test. The rest we'll find out over time, but for now, here are three initial takeaways from the roster release:

The Giants Are Going For It 

Look, the Giants are not a contender on paper, and they certainly will enter the 60-game season as a likely pick to finish fourth or fifth in the NL West. But they also feel strongly that a sprint to the finish gives them a chance, and the roster reflects that. 

On a Zoom call with beat reporters, Farhan Zaidi joked that he always talks of being competitive deep into the season as the Giants rebuild behind the scenes. 

"We're 100 games deep," he said, smiling. "I think the gravity of every win and loss is going to be felt."

With that in mind, the Giants leaned towards immediate help. One of the many discussions they've had internally in recent months was how much they could benefit in future years from filling their player pool with prospects while NL West counterparts prepared for a playoff push. But ultimately the Giants had just three -- Joey Bart, Marco Luciano and Heliot Ramos -- who stood out on the initial roster, and many of the spots went to veterans who can fill gaps for Gabe Kapler right away. 

Joey Rickard, Abiatal Avelino and Zach Green stood out as older minor leaguers who can help fill platoons if there are injuries, but the pitching staff is where you can really see the strategy. It includes Andrew Triggs, Carlos Navas, Rico Garcia, Trevor Oaks, Tyler Cyr, Sam Selman, Wandy Peralta and Cahill, along with more familiar names. It does not, for now, include Sean Hjelle or Seth Corry. 

The Giants wanted to make sure they were covered on Opening Day and for two months. They don't seem inclined to let Bart, Ramos, Hjelle and other more advanced prospects get their work in. Chris Shaw and Melvin Adon were left out altogether. 

Manager Gabe Kapler plans to go heavy on platoons and fill most of the initial innings with short relief outings from guys who have big league experience. While Bart is not really in the Opening Day conversations, veterans like Sandoval, Sanchez, Hamilton and Darin Ruf are. The Giants will add more prospects in the coming weeks, but the initial roster was heavy on guys who have already played in the big leagues. 

"We're going to start the 2020 season in a pennant race," Kapler said. 

There Are Cuts Still To Come 

Tyler Beede was placed on the 45 day IL and Enderson Franco was outrighted, but Zaidi still needs to clear out some space before Opening Day. 

Sandoval, Sanchez, Hamilton, Cahill and Ruf all look like strong bets to make the team and none are currently on the 40-man. A second catcher is needed, as well. Others like Oaks and Triggs could make the expanded bullpen, leading to two more spots being cleared. 

If you thought Zaidi was busy last year, wait until you see how many minor moves are made to clear spots before July 24 and in the weeks that follow. An early hint of some coming moves was given Monday when Shaw, Adon, Jandel Gustave, Kean Wong and Jose Siri were left off the list despite being on the 40-man. It's possible a couple of those guys could end up in San Francisco, but from here, it looks like the Giants had some DFA candidates stay home. 

Stay Healthy, Buster

You know what stands out when you look at the list the Giants sent out Monday? They have one catcher -- Buster Posey -- who is on the 40-man roster, and he's the only one of four coming to camp who has been a regular starter in the big leagues. There's no Stephen Vogt or Nick Hundley in the wings this year. The Giants are counting on Posey playing as close to 60 games as his body can handle. 

Tyler Heineman and Rob Brantly will compete for the backup job -- both would be good fits behind Posey -- and Bart is waiting in the wings, but a ton of this season's success hinges on the man they will all be playing behind. That's been the case for most of the last decade, but there's no margin for error this season. Zaidi said the Giants plan to carry just two catchers, filling in the majority of their extra roster spots with pitching depth.

[RELATED: Hunter Bishop tests positive for coronavirus]

They plan to go without a traditional five-man rotation and will use openers at times. It's likely that many games will be filled by having several very different types of pitchers go two innings at a time. Posey will try to guide all of this, and he's still being counted on to provide offense for a lineup that didn't make big additions in the offseason. 

Posey hasn't started more than 100 games behind the plate since 2016. He won't have to get anywhere close to that number this year, but in a season that likely will be full of injuries and stints on the COVID Injured List, the Giants are placing a lot of their hopes on their longtime star being able to carry a heavy load. 

Three takeaways as Giants release initial MLB Summer Camp player pool originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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