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If you've ever had the dream, there are certain players you should always root for. First, here's the dream: the lights are on, the stadium is packed, the bullpen phone rings, and the coach points at you. You're in. Forty thousand people scream. The game is on the line, you're on the mound, and you're not wearing pants. 

Other than that, it's a great dream. Perhaps your dream isn't about baseball; it's hockey, or mountain climbing, or a TED talk. You're still not wearing pants, but it's OK. (Your TED talk, in fact, is about the eco-social sustainability of a pantsless society.)

Somewhere in a misfiring corner of your brain, you still think, that could be me out there. That's why you should root for the fringe prospects, the 4-A guys, the guys shifting into their late 20s, the ones you hope are eventually labeled as late bloomers. The Marvin Benards and Gregor Blancos, the Chris Hestons and Jarrett Parkers.

You want them to live the dream for you: getting that call, taking that walk to the mound or batter's box, hearing that fulminous roar. That might be it: One appearance, one at-bat, or perhaps one week or one month pulling down that sweet per diem and, for your cousins in Alpharetta, ordering jerseys from the online store with your name on the back.

But youneverknow. As Blanco has shown, sometimes a week turns into a few months, and a few months turn into a couple handcrafted nuggets of bling on your fingers. 

Here are three guys sent down last weekend. They'll start the year in Triple A. They're all talented enough to be on the 40-man roster, but they weren't in the conversation for 25-man roster spots this spring. They're all at least 26 years old -- oh, how athlete years are the cruelest years -- and they're not forcing the big-league brass to make difficult decisions. Root for them. They deserve it.

Heston and Parker both had cups of coffee last year. Heston got into three games in September -- I suppose he's already lived the dream -- but Parker's cup was taken away by the busboy before he could even drop a sugar cube in it. I'll start with him first.

Jarrett Parker

Expected job on April 6: Outfielder for the Sacramento River Cats.

Most optimistic scenario: The first month or two, Parker hits like he did last year in AA and AAA combined (.276 / .368 / .462 in 442 at bats), and he's ready to step up to fill an injury hole at the big league level. (That's an optimistic scenario for him, not necessarily for the Giants.)

Least optimistic scenario: He continues to be plagued by strikeouts, which have come in nearly 30 percent of his minor league plate appearances. That rate only dropped a smidge in 2014, to about 25 percent. Unless he's the second coming of Adam Dunn, who sneezed 30 to 40 home runs a year and made tons of strikeouts acceptable, those K rates will be his albatross.

A scenario that has nothing to do with optimism or pessimism: Parker is a left-handed power hitter. That makes him a bad fit for Mays Field, but he might have more value to a team with a short right field porch, like Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. Parker is 26, so he won't be the centerpiece of a trade, but if he has a great half year in Sacramento, he could be an interesting component of a trade at the deadline.

Chris Heston

Expected job on April 6: Starting pitcher for the River Cats.

Most optimistic scenario: Heston has pitched well this spring, which is better than not pitching well. More of the same in the final 10 days probably means Heston will be the first starter called up if the Giants need someone who can give them multiple innings per outing.

Least optimistic scenario: When you're a fringe prospect who has already been removed once from the 40-man roster, there are many least optimistic scenarios. It's tough for a passed-over 27-year-old with neither big strikeout stuff nor pinpoint control to suddenly thrive as a big league starter. Think Kevin Pucetas, Joe Martinez, Ryan Sadowski, and Ryan Jensen, to name just a few from recent local history.

Cody Hall

Expected job on April 6: Late-inning reliever for the River Cats.

Most optimistic scenario: I'll bet Hall's chance of a call-up is better than Heston's. The short reliever carousel often spins wildly. Depending upon trades and such, Hall could be the first one to get on the Capital Corridor express, unless the Giants send an Uber town car. Don't do it, Cody. Train travel is good for the soul.

Who? Seriously. He's got one of those generic baseball names, like Garrett Jones or Joe Smith or Yangervis Solarte. I don't blame you for blinking and missing his ascent through the minors. He was drafted in 2011, but the numbers started to pop in 2013, which he split between High A and Double A. He allowed less than a runner an inning and the K/BB ratio began to expand. According to this, posted a few months ago, he's mainly about the mid-90s fastball with a slider that needs work.

That's fast! Yes, indeed. A 95-MPH average fastball is better than any reliever the Giants employed on a regular basis last year. But in the big leagues, crazy velocity and 75 cents will buy you the postcard that Bryce Harper sent to Hunter Strickland a couple months ago. "Hi Hunter," it read. "I'm touring Capitol Hill. Fascinating stuff. Congress, and all that. Guess what? I just found that ball I hit off you in October. Outta here (get it?), Bryce."   


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