1. Who will claim the bench roles?
With most of the roster set, this might be the main area of competition for jobs this spring. Gregor Blanco will be the fourth outfielder, but beyond that the Giants’ bench is undefined – and relatively inexperienced. Andrew Susac is coming off wrist surgery and will have to fend off Trevor Brown for the backup catcher job. The Giants’ deep rotation ideally will allow them to carry a five-man bench this season instead of an extra reliever, so the remaining spots are contestable between infielders Ehire Adrianza and Kelby Tomlinson, outfielders Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson – and a potential spring training surprise candidate.
2. Can Pagan make a smooth transition?
Manager Bruce Bochy made it official recently that offseason addition Denard Span will be the Giants’ center fielder and leadoff hitter, supplanting Angel Pagan in both roles. Defensively, Pagan has been a below-average center fielder in recent seasons, slowed partly by nagging injuries, so a move to left field, where there is less ground to cover, could benefit the 34-year-old. Pagan takes a lot of pride in being a center fielder, though, so the bigger question may be how willingly he embraces the position change. Pagan hit just .262 last season and will be a free agent after 2016, so he does have an incentive to produce.
3. How will the bullpen look?
There is some turnover here because of the departures of Jeremy Affeldt (retirement) and Yusmeiro Petit (free agency). The Giants may already have found Affeldt’s successor in Josh Osich, a hard-throwing left-hander who like Affeldt can be used against both left- and right-handers. He will join other core relievers Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla – who returns as closer – while George Kontos and Hunter Strickland appear to have roles secured. That likely leaves competition for one spot, with candidates including Mike Broadway, Cory Gearrin and Ray Black, who throws a 100-mph fastball.
4. Where will Tim Lincecum land?
This technically isn’t a Giants question since Tim Lincecum is a free agent, but fans surely will keep an eye on where the two-time Cy Young winner and longtime franchise favorite lands this spring. Lincecum reportedly is going to hold a showcase for teams in Arizona later this month with hopes of landing a starting job. The Giants have indicated it won’t be with them – their rotation is set – but they, too, are following his movements. Should he sign with another Cactus League team, it could make for a strange moment this spring: The Giants facing Lincecum in another uniform.
5. Can they stay healthy?
It could be the key question for the Giants, and the one that gives them the most pause given the memory of last season. The injury bug hit them almost immediately last spring, when Hunter Pence suffered a broken forearm in the first week of Cactus League games and set a tone for the rest of the season. The Giants believe they’ve assembled a contender this year, partly because they have players like Pence, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Matt Cain back healthy. They’d prefer for it to stay that way.