With just four weeks before the likely start of the regular season, I think it’s close enough to make a safe projection for the Opening Day. So far the team has been very lucky with the injury bug, with the only notable injuries being pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery and Mike Leake’s freaky wrist injury that might not even delay his season at all.
Starting Pitchers (5): Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, Zac Gallen, Luke Weaver, Mike Leake
The starting rotation was roughly set going into Spring Training, although an injury to Leake’s non-throwing arm puts his Opening Day status in doubt. With the start of the season delayed for at least two weeks, that’s enough time for Leake to make a full recovery. The team will need to fill innings during the season for starts. The rotation overall is very much middle of the pack in baseball without a true #1 starter and a couple guys who could be a #2 guy down the road in Gallen and Weaver. Bumgarner will anchor the rotation as a 10-year veteran and be the Opening Day starter. However, the team’s chances will be determined by how well Ray bounces back in 2020 along with how much value the two young arms will provide.
Relief Pitchers (8): Archie Bradley, Hector Rondon, Andrew Chafin, Alex Young, Merrill Kelly, Yoan Lopez, Junior Guerra, Kevin Ginkel
Kelly has a no option clause in his contract and Alex Young is too talented a pitcher to keep in AAA. The teams has plenty of option for players who can provide multiple innings out of the pen between Kelly, Young, and Guerra, which helps the team be able to stagger innings and not overwork the back-end of the bullpen throughout the season. Bradley, Chafin, Ginkel, Rondon, and Lopez will most likely work the late innings out of the pen and will be trusted to take leads and finish the game.
Catchers (2): Carson Kelly, Stephen Vogt
Kelly will be the team’s primary catcher, likely taking 60-65% of the starts behind the plate. With the ability to impact the game in every facet behind the plate combined with the ability to provide an above-average bat has Kelly approaching All-Star status. Stephen Vogt is almost the opposite of Kelly, known more for his bat than his glove. Vogt doesn’t possess a strong enough arm to make much of an impact in slowing down the opposing running game, but gives the team a quality LH bench bat to spell Kelly for the other 35-40% of games.
Infielders (7): Christian Walker, Jake Lamb, Ketel Marte, Nick Ahmed, Josh Rojas, Eduardo Escobar, Ildemaro Vargas
I have Vargas making the roster as an out of options player on the 40-man roster, especially with the Leyba suspension. Marte, Ahmed, and Escobar are somewhat entrenched at their respective positions, although Walker may have to fend off Lamb for ABs at 1B again. Given that Walker is a superior defender and baserunner vs. Lamb at the position without much of a dropoff from Lamb’s best full season as a hitter, I don’t know if Lamb will get enough ABs to stay sharp. Rojas was one of the last guys in on my prediction, but given what he did last year and a promising batted ball profile, I think he offers more value than Trayce Thompson and Jon Jay.
Outfielders (4): David Peralta, Starling Marte, Kole Calhoun, Tim Locastro
No surprises here, although the outfield is a little bit thin at the MLB level. The team has options on their 26-man roster for depth from their pool of infielders, with Ketel Marte and Rojas playing a significant amount of games in the outfield last year. If healthy, expect to see Peralta, Marte, and Calhoun each make at least 130 starts with Locastro taking up the other games as a decent backup who can play all three outfield positions competently and can provide a spark with his penchant for getting beaned by pitches.
The last cuts were Trayce Thompson, Kevin Cron, Jon Jay, and Jon Duplantier. I think Thompson provides a skill set to the bench as a right-handed power bat in the outfield, but Peralta and Calhoun were not awful vs. LHP last year although the former has had his struggles in the past. I could see Thompson making the roster in that capacity given how left-handed heavy the bench is on this projected roster. Kevin Cron is another possible fit for that role, but given that Walker and Lamb are fighting for ABs at 1B, it’s tough to imagine Cron getting a chance there.