Conor Gillaspie's 2016 campaign will likely be remembered for the offseason heroics he produced during the Giants' postseason run. His regular season came with far less fanfare, as he finished with modest numbers over 205 plate appearances. Gillaspie was mainly used as a pinch-hitter, but he did get some run as a starter when Matt Duffy was injured and ultimately traded. While his numbers don't jump off the page, the veteran third baseman did alter his approach at the plate which led to a significant improvement over his poor 2015 totals. The biggest change can be seen in his swing. Gillaspie stopped trying to pull the ball, dropping his pull rate from 46.9 percent in 2015 to 37.2 percent last season. The alteration led to a more even batted-ball distribution, more hits and a 10.3 percent increase in hard contact. Gillaspie's new approach at the plate could land him a spot on the major league roster out of camp.
Giants' general manager Bobby Evans said that Gillaspie has the early edge to win the backup third base job heading into spring training, Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area reports. The Giants signed their 2016 postseason cult hero to a one-year deal this offseason with the plan to have him backup Eduardo Nunez in mind. The fact that he is left-handed gives him an edge over his competition so that manager Bruce Bochy can give him spot starts when a righty is on the mound. Evans noted that Gillaspie will still have to earn the job this spring over other third base options such as the recently-signed Aaron Hill or Korean Baseball Organization All-Star Jae-Gyun Hwang.
Gillaspie agreed to a one-year, $1.4 million contract with the Giants on Wednesday, avoiding arbitration, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. He signed a minor league contract with the Giants last offseason, returning to the organization that drafted him with the 37th overall pick in 2008. Gillaspie was the hero for San Francisco in the Wild Card Game, but he hit just .262/.307/.440 with six homers and one steal in 101 games during the regular season (205 plate appearances). The 29-year-old will provide depth in the corner infield again in 2017.
Gillaspie will start at third base in Wednesday's Wild Card round matchup with the Mets. Gillaspie will man the hot corner Wednesday night with fellow infielder Eduardo Nunez still sidelined with a sore hamstring. Gillaspie will hit eighth in the Giants' batting order against Mets starter Noah Syndergaard.
Gillaspie got another start in place of Eduardo Nunez (hamstring), going 2-for-2 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored in Thursday's 7-2 win over the Rockies. With just three games left in the regular season it is looking more and more likely that Nunez will not be returning to the lineup. If that is the case, then Gillaspie would split the remaining starts at third base with the newly-signed Gordon Beckham. With the Giants scheduled to face lefties both Friday and Saturday, Beckham would likely see starts over Gillaspie if Nunez is unable to suit up.
Gillaspie homered and drove in a pair in a 2-for-5 game Tuesday against the Rockies. Gillaspie has been playing sparingly in September and should be expected to yield most of the at-bats the rest of the way at third base to Eduardo Nunez. He has showed solid power this season, with a .423 slugging percentage and six home runs in 193 plate appearances. As the rare left-handed batter at third base, Gillaspie gives the Giants a nifty bench option.