Position battles in minor league camp

As the Giants look to finalize both their major league and minor league rosters this week, prospects are fighting for jobs throughout the organization. We take a look around the horn at the catching situation, who's benefiting from Rohlinger's big-league adventure, and some of the outfield options.

The Giants hope to make the majority of their roster decisions by Wednesday. Heading into the final few days, here's what we know.

Catcher

The decision-making at this position was driven by the club's desire to have Pablo Sandoval work with Steve Decker this year to hone his work defensively.

"He's got a chance to be a front-line catcher at the big league level," said Fred Stanley. "He's a switch-hitter who's got some power. He's an RBI guy who puts the ball in play. He's going to be with Decker and he's going to learn to catch."

With that decision made, first-round pick Jackson Williams is ticketed to open the year with the very young club in Augusta, while Adam Witter will get a shot at semi-regular playing time in Connecticut. Todd Jennings, a second round pick in 2003 who has hit just .206 in parts of two campaigns with the Defenders, and Dayton Buller, who is coming off missing last season with an injury, are fighting for the other job there.

The Triple-A job will be split between Guillermo Rodriguez, who disappointed in big-league camp this spring, and whichever of Eliezer Alfonzo and Stephen Holm doesn't open with the Giants.

Outfield

The situation in the outfield for Augusta has been muddied by a pair of injuries to selections from last year's draft. First-rounder Wendell Fairley has struggled with minor shoulder and oblique injuries this spring and will open in extended spring training, as will Taylor Creswell.

With those two out of contention for opening day, Thomas Neal is the only lock in the GreenJackets' outfield.

"Garrett Baker and Thomas Neal are having the two best springs. Neal is having a great spring," said Stanley.

It will be worth watching to see if Neal, 20, can stay healthy this year after missing much of last year with shoulder surgery. He has the mix of talent and baseball knowledge to emerge among the Giants' better outfield prospects.

In the mix with Baker and Neal are James Simmons, Casey Bond and Shane Jordan, who posted an .805 OPS in his debut with Salem-Keizer last year. Baker still has an opportunity to make the San Jose roster.

Michael McBryde and Bobby Felmy will start the year in the San Jose outfield with Baker, Antoan Richardson and Tyler Graham in the mix for the third slot.

"On-base percentage with us is a huge thing for [McBryde]. I'd like to see about 60 walks or 70 walks out of him. He's working on pitch recognition and understanding the strike zone. As of right now he'll hit leadoff.

While Ben Copeland and Eddy Martinez-Esteve will start in the corners for Connecticut, center field is still a wide open question mark.

Infield While Augusta's infield is pretty well locked in with Andrew Davis joining Angel Villalona, Nick Noonan and Charlie Culberson, there are still many questions above them.

Matt Downs may move back over to second base in San Jose to accommodate Ryan Rohlinger's return to the minor league complex.

"We have no idea what's happening at third base right now," said Stanley. "The only one that is locked in is David Maroul at Connecticut."

Juan Ciriaco may be looking at a utility role in the San Jose infield, but still has an outside shot at opening with Connecticut. While second baseman Travis Denker was optioned to Fresno, it appears likely he will actually open the season as the Defenders' second baseman.


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