2019 Season Preview: San Francisco Giants

2018 Record: 73-89 (Only 14 wins shy of my projected 87) (4th in NL West)

2018 Payroll: $205,665,348 (2nd in MLB)

2019 Projected Lineup:

  1. OF Steven Duggar – .250 AVG/6 HR/37 RBI
  2. 2B Joe Panik – .264 AVG/7 HR/45 RBI
  3. 3B Evan Longoria – .256 AVG/20 HR/69 RBI
  4. C Buster Posey – .295 AVG/8 HR/54 RBI
  5. 1B Brandon Belt – .253 AVG/19 HR/66 RBI
  6. SS Brandon Crawford – .260 AVG/14 HR/67 RBI
  7. OF Mac Williamson – .234 AVG/17 HR/50 RBI
  8. OF Chris Shaw – .225 AVG/5 HR/15 RBI

2019 Projected Rotation:

  1. Madison Bumgarner – 142 IP/3.74 ERA/1.15 WHIP
  2. Jeff Samardzija – 131 IP/3.98 ERA/1.26 WHIP
  3. Derek Holland – 139 IP/4.60 ERA/1.42 WHIP
  4. Dereck Rodriguez – 118 IP/3.58 ERA/1.13 WHIP
  5. Andrew Suarez – 160 IP/4.28 ERA/1.29 WHIP

Offseason Recap:

New head of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, decided to take a team full of holes and make very few moves over the past offseason. Zaidi resigned Derek Holland to the rotation, signed Drew Pomeranz to compete for the 5th rotation slot, and signed notable ambidextrous reliever, Pat Venditte, who has been unable to stick anywhere in the majors for long. In late February, the team strung off a series of notable minor league deals to former major leaguers in Cameron Maybin, Gerardo Parra, Stephen Vogt, and Yangervis Solarte. All four players will have a shot at competing for a major league roster spot this spring training, but at this point it is a long shot that any one of them gives a major contribution to the big-league club.

The biggest news for the Giants this offseason is what didn’t happen. They just missed out on landing star Japanese pitcher, Yusei Kikuchi, and star free agent, Bryce Harper. The Giants were in talks with both players up until the very end, ultimately being left as second thoughts by both players.

And finally, Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced in February this will be his last season with the club. There will be more to come later on Bochy’s storied career, but this notable announcement will likely push players to fight hard one last season for their beloved manager. However, will it be enough to lead the Giants into postseason contention?

2019 Season Preview:

After entering September at .500 and in playoff contention last season, the Giants won just 5 games that month, falling apart when it mattered the most. Crippled with injuries all season, manager Bruce Bochy said recently it was too much to overcome at the end of the season. However, if they stay healthy this year, he sees a contending team.

To start, the Giants lineup remains littered with aging players who have potential to have great seasons, but have been unable to put it all together over time or are past their primes. Last year, the Giants had the second fewest number of runs, ahead of just the Miami Marlins. This number will need to increase in order to rebound in 2019.

Buster Posey is still the star of their lineup. Posey is one of the best catchers of all-time, as he has led the Giants to three world series championships, won an MVP, and averaged 19 homers and 90 RBIs over 162 game seasons. However, he is entering his age 32 season, and while he still may be able to put together another great season, he is coming off a disappointing season. In 2018, Posey put together just 5 homeruns, 41 RBIs, and a batting average 22 points below his career average. His season was cut short due to injury, and injuries remain a problem for Posey as his past two seasons have been his fewest number of games played since 2011. Evan Longoria is another big bat in the Giants lineup with lots of potential, but may be past his prime. Longoria’s rWAR dropped for a second straight season, and he also missed time due to injury, playing in just 125 games, his fewest since 2012.

Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt comprise the next tier of the Giant’s lineup, as former All-Stars who performed below their potential last year. Panik and Belt each missed 50-60 games with injury and performed well below their career averages in almost every statistical category including batting average and rWAR. Crawford, who was one of the more reliable pieces in the lineup last season, playing 151 games, once again provided exceptional defense, and was a 2018 All-Star. However, his stats too saw a decline. His rWAR was just 2.6, off his career high of 5.5, and his RBI total was just 54, his lowest since 2013. These three players are all capable of hitting the ball at high levels, but will need to reverse trends in 2019 for the Giants to see success.

Rounding out the lineup is a dismal outfield. After missing out on the big target, Bryce Harper, the Giants are left with inexperience across the board. The Giants projected 3 outfielders of Duggar, Williamson, and Shaw have combined for 553 career plate appearances. None of the three are highly touted prospects, and this combination leaves a large question mark in the outfield, for what has historically been a weak spot for the Giants. Veterans Cameron Maybin and Gerardo Parra would add experience if they are able to put together a productive spring training and make the MLB club off minor league deals.

Pitching wise, the Giants will be without Johnny Cueto for most of 2019. There is a small chance he could return at the end of the season, but with a likely losing record at that point, it may be wiser to just rest Cueto until 2020. Madison Bumgarner will be a key piece for their rotation in Cueto’s absence. After two injury filled seasons, Bumgarner is just 29, still in the prime of his career, and a solid ace to lead the staff. However, the rest of the rotation leaves much to be desired. Continuing the injury theme, Jeff Samardzija started just 10 games after 7 consecutive healthy seasons. In those 10 games, he went 1-5 with a 6.25 ERA and a -0.7 rWAR. The Shark will need to step up big in 2019 to provide a reliable #2 option behind Bumgarner.

Derek Holland, Dereck Rodriguez, and Andrew Suarez round out the projected rotation. Holland pitched 171 innings last season, with a 3.57 ERA, but this was his first productive season since 2013, leaving many questions if he will be able to repeat this performance again this season. Dereck Rodriguez may well have been the star signing for the Giants in 2018. After signing a minor league deal, the son of Hall-of-Famer, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, posted a 2.81 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 19 starts last season. Entering his 27-year-old season, he is a candidate for a true breakout year in his first full season. Lastly, Suarez started 29 games for the Giants last season, but with a less-than-stellar 4.49 ERA, he will likely be competing with new signee Drew Pomeranz for the 5th spot. Pomeranz would potentially add experience to the rotation, and after a stellar postseason with the Red Sox last season, where Pomeranz pitched brilliantly out of the bullpen, he could continue this trend and return to All-Star form in 2019.

Lastly, the Giants bullpen will look to continue positive trends into 2019. Will Smith (2.55 ERA), Tony Watson (2.59 ERA), and Mark Melancon (3.23 ERA) will lead the back end of the bullpen after posting respectable 2018 seasons. After being the 11th best bullpen last season in terms of ERA, look for these three pitchers to lead the bullpen once again as one of the strong areas for the Giants this season.

Overall, if the team can stay healthy, they have potential to win a lot of games. However, with as many question marks as they have from the rotation, to the outfield, and of course the many players on their roster with injury issues, it will be too much to overcome this year. Despite playing motivated for Bruce Bochy’s last season and gaining a couple extra wins because of this, the Giants will win just 78 games.

Predicted Record: 78-84

Player to Watch #1: SP Madison Bumgarner

Closing out Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, Madison Bumgarner was on top of the world, and for good reason. After being honored with the NLCS MVP, winning Game 1 of the World Series with 7 innings and 1 earned run, and throwing a shutout in Game 5, Bumgarner threw a 5 inning, scoreless save in a Game 7, 3-2 victory, on just 2 days rest from his shutout. The Giants had won their 3rd World Series in 5 years, and Bumgarner became a legend with his WS MVP pitching performance and by chugging 6 beers immediately following the NLCS win. In the midst of this run, from 2011-2016, Bumgarner started at least 31 games every season, while never having an ERA higher than 3.37 (in 2012). Then in 2017, Bumgarner (who is also loved for his ability to chop down trees in his free time) injured himself in the most Bumgarner way possible: a dirt bike accident. After missing half of the season in 2017, Bumgarner again missed half of 2018 due to being hit by a line drive in his pitching hand, which broke multiple bones. Again, a freak injury. Despite all this, his ERA never climbed above that 3.37 mark, as he continued to dominate hitters when pitching around his injuries. In 2019, I predict Bumgarner avoids the freak accident, continues his dominant ways, and with a full season (still at only 29 years old), reminds everyone of his greatness.

Player to Watch #2: C Joey Bart

Talking about young, exciting players for the San Francisco Giants has been a tough topic as of late. With an aging roster and little minor league talent, last year’s “exciting player to watch” went to the eccentric Hunter Pence. However, this year Giants fans finally have a future. Enter Joey Bart. The Giants selected him #2 overall in the 2018 draft, and Bart already begins 2019 as the #22 prospect in baseball and the #1 rated catching prospect. Bart has a power bat, and in 45 games at Short Season-A Ball with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, smashed 13 homeruns. At 22 years old, the Giants will likely fast track his minor league career, with an MLB goal of late 2020 or 2021. Given this, I project Bart will start the season in High-A with the San Jose Giants. Giants fans should keep an eye on Bart as the next star in the Bay Area.

Manager to Watch: Bruce Bochy

Instead of giving a third player to watch, it’s only fitting to end the 2019 Giants preview focusing on the legendary Bruce Bochy. The son of a U.S. Army Sergeant, Bruce was born in France, eventually becoming one of only eight French born MLB players when he made his MLB debut in 1978 with the Houston Astros. After 9 MLB seasons with the Astros, Mets, and Padres, Bochy was hired by the Padres to begin managing in their minor league system. He began managing the Class-A Riverside Red Wave in 1989, bounced around various minor league teams in their system, and was eventually promoted to third base coach of the Padres in 1993. After manager Jim Riggleman was fired, Bochy became the manager of the Padres in 1995. He had much success with the club, managing the Padres for 12 seasons through 2006, winning the NL Manager of the Year in 1996, and leading the Padres to their first World Series appearance in 14 years in 1998, in which he was also the first foreign-born coach to reach the World Series.

In 2007, Bochy left the Padres and signed with the San Francisco Giants. In his fourth season, the Giants won their first World Series in San Francisco and their first since 1954 (when they were based in New York). That year Bochy also became the first European-born manager to win a World Series. However, that wasn’t enough for Bochy or the Giants as they went on to win three World Series titles in five seasons (2010, 2012, and 2014). With three titles, Bochy became the 10th manager All-Time to reach that mark, with the other nine all being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Since Jim Leyland retired in 2013, the active wins record by a manger has belonged to Bruce Bochy, and in 2017 he became the first manager in MLB history with 900 wins for two different franchises. Now, as Bochy’s historic managerial career comes to a close, he needs just 74 wins to reach 2,000 career victories as a manager, a mark only reached by ten other managers (all in the Hall of Fame). Thank you, Bruce Bochy, for a well-lived career dedicated to the game of baseball. Here’s to one last ride!

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Categories: 2019 Season Preview, Articles

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