Nick Noonan reestablished himself last season with the Fresno Grizzlies. Now the 23-year-old infielder is getting another chance to break camp with the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants released veteran infielder Wilson Valdez Friday (along with reliever Ramon Ramirez) and brought back Noonan from their minor-league camp after optioning him to Triple-A Fresno on March 15. He’s in the lineup playing third base in today’s Cactus League game.
In fact, Noonan is the only healthy backup infield option left in camp. (Besides Joaquin Arias, who is assured of a roster spot.) Free-agent pickup Tony Abreu has been dealing with a leg injury all spring and the Giants reassigned Japanese import Kensuke Tanaka, who was struggling defensively, to Triple-A Fresno on Thursday.
Speaking with the team’s beat writers in Scottsdale, Ariz., Giants vice president Bobby Evans hinted that Noonan could be the favorite.
“We’ll continue to look at him,” Evans told CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly. “It does bode well for (Noonan) if Abreu can’t get healthy.”
It’s also possible the Giants could sign an infielder off the waiver wire or as other teams trim their rosters before Opening Day.
(What about Brock Bond, who was hitting .435 when he reassigned to Fresno? Bond got called up for a split-squad game Tuesday and suffered an abdominal strain. Terrible timing.)
Noonan is solid defensively at shortstop, his natural position, and has the versatility to play second and third base. Following two sub-par years at Double-A Richmond that took him off the prospect radar, the former first-round sandwich pick hit a respectable .296/.347/.416 for the Grizzlies in 2012. A left-handed hitter, Noonan showed vast improvement turning on fastballs, even against lefty pitching. He’s hitting just .186 this spring but has only struck out once in 45 plate appearances.
In other notes:
*** The Giants reassigned catchers Johnny Monell and Jackson Williams to Triple-A Fresno on Thursday. Williams has already played 183 games for the Grizzlies over the past three seasons, and it would appear free-agent Guillermo Quiroz has moved ahead of him on the depth chart. Monell is known more for his bat than his glove.
*** Ramirez’s unexpected release (he has two World Series rings) probably means free-agent Chad Gaudin has locked up a bullpen spot.
*** Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Scott Proctor has a July 1 “out” clause in his contract. Which implies the 36-year-old reliever would start the season in Fresno if he doesn’t make the big club.
*** The Grizzlies’ season opener is April 4 at Chukchansi Park and the team is holding media day on April 3. Based on past experience, we’ll probably get the final roster shortly before that.