San Francisco Giants
by Matthew Kikkert
2017 Record: 64-98 (5th in NL West)
2017 Payroll: $191,065,290 (6th)
Projected 2018 Lineup:
All player projections for 2018 from Steamer
- 2B Joe Panik – .280 AVG/.350 OBP/.416 SLG/2.6 WAR
- CF Andrew McCutchen – .272 AVG/.369 OBP/.475 SLG/2.8 WAR
- 1B Buster Posey – .297 AVG/.375 OBP/.459 SLG/4.5 WAR
- 3B Evan Longoria – .269 AVG/.326 OBP/.462 SLG/3.1 WAR
- RF Brandon Belt – .262 AVG/.369 OBP/.465 SLG/3.1 WAR
- SS Brandon Crawford – .259 AVG/.326 OBP/.415 SLG/3.0 WAR
- LF Hunter Pence – .265 AVG/.327 OBP/.434 SLG/1.2 WAR
- C Nick Hundley – .242 AVG/.289 OBP/.397 SLG/0.2 WAR
Projected 2018 Rotation:
- Madison Bumgarner – 207 IP/3.73 ERA/1.18 WHIP/3.3 WAR
- Johnny Cueto – 179 IP/3.92 ERA/1.27 WHIP/2.4 WAR
- Jeff Samardzija – 202 IP/3.81 ERA/1.19 WHIP/3.4 WAR
- Ty Blach – 115 IP/4.59 ERA/1.43 WHIP/0.7 WAR
- Chris Stratton – 154 IP/4.36 ERA/1.41 WHIP/1.3 WAR
As predicted, this offseason was a busy one for the Giants as they made moves to capitalize during the primes of key assets Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, despite having the second worst record in baseball from a year ago. Trades were made to acquire former superstars Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, filling a shaky carousel in left field and a third base slot previously filled by young prospect Christian Arroyo, who is now a Tampa Bay Ray. Austin Jackson was also acquired to move around the outfield off the bench. Jackson could be a sneaky good pickup for a fourth outfielder; he posted a career high batting average of .318 in 2017 with nearly 300 ABs.
Subtractions include inconsistent starting pitcher Matt Moore and outfielder Denard Span. While Span’s position will be filled nicely by McCutchen and Jackson, the back end of the rotation still looks iffy after Moore’s departure. The Giants were unable to find a fifth starter in free agency, opting to fill from within with Ty Blach and Chris Stratton.
We’ll start with the lineup, which appears to be a bright spot for the Giants going into the season. Surprisingly, they have not finished in the top 10 in the majors for runs scored since the Barry Bonds days back in 2004. With six all-stars in the projected lineup, this 2018 team could easily reverse that trend. Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, whom many see as risky acquisitions for the team given their already aging core, will add much needed power to a Giants lineup in 2018. While it may not be Giancarlo Stanton power, these two combined for a respectable 48 HRs and 174 RBIs in 2017. Brandon Belt (more to come later) will be moving from first base to the outfield in order to allow Buster Posey to play first base on a more regular basis. While this is a sensible move and Belt has some outfield experience, he will definitely be tested in the spacious AT&T Park outfield. Rounding out the lineup, longtime Giants Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford will be looking for bounce back seasons. While both still had respectable numbers, Crawford saw his batting stats drop across the board, and Pence posted just a 0.2 rWAR.
At the front end of the rotation, the Giants will be very solid as long as they can stay healthy. Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto both missed considerable time in 2017 with injuries, however when healthy are a formidable lead duo. However, the back end of the rotation is a big question mark. Jeff Samardzija, who will be 33 this season, can be counted on to eat innings (he has five straight 200+ inning seasons) and may be a prime bounce back candidate. Last year, Samardzija lead the league in losses (15) and posted a 4.42 ERA, however his FIP was 3.61, the lowest since his 2014 All-Star season. Look for him to post better numbers in 2018, adding another front-line starter for the Giants. Finally, Ty Blach and Chris Stratton will need to step into big roles. Both players are 27 years old and saw their first big league action in 2017. While neither player blew scouts away, they have looked alright in spring training to this point. Currently, they both have pitched in 5 spring training games, each with ERAs under 4. Still, the Giants will need to trade for a back-end starter before the deadline in order to really contend for a playoff spot.
Lastly, the Giants’ bullpen is nothing special, but also not terrible. Mark Melancon is usually a reliable closer, but he struggled in 2017. He posted a 4.50 ERA, and blew 5 save opportunities in 16 chances last season while missing time with an injury, but hopefully he can bounce back to his All-Star form, in which he had 4 straight seasons under 2.20 ERA from 2013-2016. Flame-throwers Sam Dyson and Hunter Strickland will both be candidates to post sub-3 ERAs, while Tony Watson and Will Smith will provide mid-inning security. Look for the Giants to be in the top half of bullpen ERA in 2018.
Overall, the Giants will improve their record from 64 wins by at least 20 games. While it may be a stretch to beat the Dodgers for the NL West crown, they will contend for a wild card spot once again. If they can acquire a rotational piece, they will solidify themselves further and have a shot at a playoff run in 2018.
Predicted Record: 87-75
Player to Watch: Buster Posey
You cannot do an entire article on the Giants without talking about Posey. The heart and soul of this Giants team, management would not allow a rebuild to begin just yet with such a strong core player such as Posey on the roster. He has posted a batting average of .280 or higher every year since 2010 and has averaged 20 homeruns and 93 RBIs throughout his career, placing in MVP voting 6 times and winning the award once in 2013. A future hall of famer, Posey brings both performance on the field and leadership in the clubhouse which can drive this team going forward.
Player to Watch: Hunter Pence
While Pence may be far from the player he once was, he is one of the most fun players to watch in all of baseball. I have been able to watch Pence play in person multiple times, and he never disappoints. The quirkiest player in all of baseball, from his batting stance, to the way he runs the bases, and his personality off the field, you just cannot help but like the guy. On the field, he has a chance of having a bounce back season, but off-the-field he has a 100% chance of being a fan favorite.
Player to Watch: Brandon Belt
Belt has always been an intimidating presence on the baseball field. At 6’4”, 235 pounds, he is one of the strongest players in baseball, however he has not been able to put together a breakout season in his 7-year career. In 2017, Belt posted his lowest batting average since his rookie season in 2011 (.241), but his BABIP was 50 points under his career average (.284 compared to .333), suggesting he was unlucky throughout the season. Despite this, he still hit a career high 18 HRs. Thus far in spring training he is off to a hot start, batting nearly .400, an OPS of 1.265, and 3 HRs in 34 ABs. Even though it is a small sample size, Belt may easily breakout into a key player in 2018; my prediction: .275, 25 HRs, and 85 RBIs.