San Francisco Giants Season Preview – It’s An Even Year….
After a very active offseason in which the San Francisco Giants spent heavily in free agency, the expectations are high. The Giants missed the postseason last season; a season in which they finished 84-78 despite a multitude of injuries to their outfield and starting rotation. You can argue that winning 84 games with the lineup they were fielding at times is a worth accomplishment. However, when you have won three out of the last seven World Series titles, anything less than another trip to the Series is a failure. It’s no secret that the Giants have this even year streak of winning World Series titles going for them, and this number year just so happens to be 2016.
Starting Rotation –
Any good team knows that in today’s baseball, you can’t just have five starting pitchers. You need at least six starters and maybe even one or two more pitchers who can be stretched for multiple innings. The Giants learned this lesson the hard way last season, as they suffered injury after injury to their starting rotation and struggled finding capable replacements. The starting rotation had to be addressed this offseason. Well, you can check that box on the priority list. Out goes starters Tim Hudson (retirement) and fan-favorite Tim Lincecum (free agency), and in comes high-priced free agents Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Cueto and Samardjiza to give the Giants legitimate #2 and #3 starters in their rotation. Bringing in Cueto and Samardjiza to backup staff ace Madison Bumgarner gives the Giants a 1-2-3 punch that can compete with any other teams top 3 starters. Following Madbum, Cueto, and Samardjiza will be Jake Peavy and Matt Cain, both coming off injuries. Peavy has father-time working against him but can still pitcher you 5-6 solid innings, and Cain hasn’t been fully healthy since his marvelous 2012 postseason, but both are now fully healthy. If Peavy and Cain fall back into form, the Giants starting rotation will carry them a long way.
Despite the lose of key bullpen and member of the core-fore, Jeremy Affeldt, to retirement, the Giants bullpen remains as strong as ever. The Giants still have Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and closer Santiago Casillas, and now they get a full season of hard-throwing relievers Hunter Strickland and Josh Osich, both feature 95+ fastballs, something the Giants never had in past bullpens. Also gone is super-reliever Yusmeiro Petit, but in comes from the rotation Chris Heston, who filled in admirably as a rookie starter in the Giants make-shift rotation and pitched himself a no-hitter. Adding Heston to the bullpen is key for the Giants. His time as a starter last season will pay off dividends particularly for Peavy and Cain. Having Heston in the bullpen will allow Peavy and/or Cain to pitch all-out for 5-6 innings instead of being traditional innings-eaters like normal 4th and 5th starters are suppose to be. Instead of hoping for 6-7 good innings out of Peavy and/or Cain, get 5-6 stellar innings out of them and then get 2-3 innings out of Heston to bridge the cap to the back-end guys. George Kontos and Cory Gearrin round out what is expected to be another terrific bullpen for the Giants again this season.
The lineup construction might be the most potent this decade. The Giants added starting center fielder and legitimate leadoff man Denard Span in free agency. Span brings above-average defense in a needed position on the field in center fielder, and also is good for 20-25 steals with his speed. This moves incumbent center fielder and leadoff man Angel Pagan to left field and most likely batting 8th or even 9th in the lineup. While this can be seen as a slap-in-the-face, the regular Giants viewer has seen the rapid decline to Pagan’s game, and the switch to left and out of the leadoff spot had to be done. Span is the only addition to an otherwise potent starting lineup. Span will be followed by All-Star second baseman Joe Panik, who is healthy after finishing the season with a back injury. After Span and Panik comes the power. Going three-four-five will be All-Star catcher and MVP candidate Buster Posey, Kale-eating enthusiast Hunter Pence, and the baby giraffe himself Brandon Belt. All three have 25+ homer potential and with Span and Panik setting the table for them, there will be plenty of RBI’s to be had by them. Batting sixth will be All-Star and Gold Glove winner Brandon Crawford, who enjoyed his finest season as a baseball last year. Besides Posey, Crawford was the most consistent hitter in the Giants lineup last season. Seventh is Matt Duffy, who hopes to build off a terrific first full-season, one were he had to replace a franchise mainstay in Pablo Sandoval. Duffy proved both offensively and defensively that the Giants made the right decision in letting Sandoval walk to Boston [Red Sox]. The eight spot in the lineup gets tricky, as this can go either way with the pitcher batting 8th and Pagan batting 9th, acting as an extra leadoff hitter. Or the Giants can stay traditional and have Pagan bat 8th and the pitcher 9th. This will be a free-flowing spot in the lineup throughout the season.
The bench will see much needed depth this season, as position prospects are finally starting to reach that arc in their development. While the Giants will open the season with only one backup outfielder in Mr. Do-It-All 4th outfielder Gregor Blanco, prospects Jarrett Parker and/or Mac Williamson are big-bats who will both see action at the next level as that needed power bat off the bench. It will only be a matter of time before we see their names on the 25-man roster. While everyone in the Giants organization wanted highly-touted catching prospect Andrew Susac to win the backup catcher spot, it was Trevor Brown who earned the spot with his handling of the starting rotation. Susac is also recovery from a wrist injury he suffered late last season, and could very easily see himself back up in the major if Brown’s bat doesn’t come around. Lastly, Kelby Tomlinson and Ehire Adrianza will be the backup infielders. Both have experience at the next level, as Adrianza saw time as part of the 2014 team, and Tomlinson filled in nicely last season at second for the injured Panik.
Prediction – 95-67
This is probably the most complete team the Giants have had in a long time, and giving manager Bruce Bochy this many parts to work with is boarderline unfair and criminal. I expect the Giants to get back to their winning wise and finish in 1st place in a competitive NL West division. The Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t do much to improve their team this offseason and have an inexperienced first-time manager in Dave Roberts, and despite their bank-breaking offseason, I don’t believe in the hype of the Arizona Diamondbacks, especially after the season-ending injury to A.J. Pollock.
Like I said in the beginning, it’s an even year….