The final bullpen slot interests me. It comes down to Merkin Valdez, Erick Threets and Steve Kline, by default. Do you have a favorite or front-runner of the three? If it was up to me, I'd take Threets all the way. He worked hard to finally get to the bigs, and gained precious experience last year. He has looked great this spring, and with his youth and arm strength, he undoubtedly has the most potential of the three, not to mention that we're already carrying four right-handed relievers in Brian Wilson, Tyler Walker, Brad Hennessey and Vinnie Chulk.
-- Jeff P., Bay Area
Just a prediction: The season-opening bullpen will consist of Wilson, Walker, Hennessey, Chulk, Kline, Jack Taschner and Valdez. Keiichi Yabu, if he accepts a Minor League assignment, will be the first replacement if somebody falters or is injured. I could also see Yabu making the Opening Day roster over Valdez or Kline if manager Bruce Bochy decides he needs a long reliever on board. I share your enthusiasm for Threets, but the Giants face a difficult decision with him since he's out of Minor League options. I'm guessing that they'll try to sneak him through waivers.
Do you think it may be possible that the Giants are doing to Nate Schierholtz what they did to Todd Linden? Similarly to Linden in 2005 (when he hit .321 with 30 homers in 95 games in Triple-A at age 25), Schierholtz is the best power prospect the Giants have in the upper Minor Leagues. I fear that having him bounce up and down between the bigs and Triple-A could seriously derail his development. Personally, I would have him play in the outfield over Dave Roberts or Randy Winn any day. He's the closest thing to a 20-homer-per-year player that the Giants may have.
-- Andy D., Palo Alto, Calif.
I certainly hope that Schierholtz doesn't follow Linden's path, and that's no knock on Linden. I'd just hate to see Schierholtz's skills fall victim to atrophy through inactivity or insufficient development. You cited the element that could earn Schierholtz enough playing time to blossom fully: His power, which I think exceeds Linden's. As matters stand, however, Schierholtz will have to drive the ball consistently and clearly outplay one of the veterans to receive an extended opportunity with the Giants. A possible scenario: Schierholtz begins the season in Triple-A (he has a Minor League option remaining, unlike Rajai Davis and Fred Lewis), hits like Ted Williams and forces the Giants to replace an injured or slumping outfielder with him.
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Now that Barry Bonds is gone, I am curious about McCovey Cove and the Splash Hit. Do you think we will see even one Splash Hit this season? All those people in kayaks, yachts and dinghies waiting in the Cove for Splash Hits will be irrelevant from this point on, wouldn't you agree?
-- Charlie M., Grass Valley, Calif.
I'd like to think that a few intrepid mariners (not the Seattle kind) would continue to float their way into the Cove, just for the sheer fun of it. Although Bonds' departure surely means fewer Splash Hits, Randy Winn, who hit one in 2005, might be able to pump out a couple, and the aforementioned Mr. Schierholtz definitely has the potential to find the water.
I have been a Giants fan since April 1946. I have a satellite dish to watch the Giants, and what I see this spring is the worst team in the last 10 years. Please tell me what I see is not true.
-- John C., Cocoa Beach, Fla.
The last 10 years include three teams that reached the postseason and a couple of others that just missed. This ballclub, which lacks a formidable middle-of-the-order presence and proven pitching, is bound to suffer by comparison. But, given the garbage that fills most television programming, I'd continue watching the Giants if I were you.
Please tell your readers the truth. Brian Sabean has a plan. Dave Roberts, Ray Durham and Rich Aurilia will play every day until the trade deadline. They might be of value to a team in the playoff hunt. Sabean needs to get trade value for them, and hopefully gain some prospects in return. Only then will we see if Fred Lewis, Eugenio Velez, etc. can really play. Also, any idea if Madison Bumgarner, Tim Alderson, Jackson Williams or Wendell Fairley are on the fast track (see Tim Lincecum) or the traditional 2-4 year track to the Big Show?
-- Tim L., Atlanta, Ga.
I suspect that veterans such as Roberts, Durham and Aurilia will be vulnerable to benchings if they don't produce immediately. Then Lewis, Velez and the like would receive an extended look. If Roberts, Durham and Aurilia remain in the lineup until midseason, they probably will have played well enough to prompt some trade interest. But I doubt that any of them would bring top-notch prospects in return. As for the youngsters you mentioned, all indications are that their progress will be more traditional -- that is, gradual. Bear in mind that of the four Minor Leaguers you cited, all but Williams were drafted last year out of high school. They'll need more development than Lincecum, who (a) was drafted out of the University of Washington and (b) possesses singular talent.
Am I crazy? Here's a possibility: Ray Durham, Rich Aurilia, Randy Winn, Bengie Molina and Aaron Rowand each hits between 15-19 home runs. Rajai Davis, Fred Lewis and Dave Roberts combine to steal 90 bases. Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum win 14-18 games apiece. Brian Wilson saves 40. Giants win 90 games. Huh? It's probably what Sabean envisioned with all these guys.
-- Sam W., Palo Alto, CA
A nice person would say you've dreamed up a best-case scenario. Most others would say you're delusional. I'm a nice person.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.