San Francisco Giants Preview

With the third team in the NL West, and the team that broke its' streak of winning every even year, I will be previewing the San Francisco Giants.  The Giants are in a bit of a weird spot right now, you feel like they are so close to true contention yet are one really bad stretch away from everything going wrong.  I think it is more of the former, as the Giants still have more than enough talent on their roster, it's just with the Dodgers in the division and everywhere else in the National League improving, the Giants have just been standing pat.

PROJECTED ROTATION: Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Cain
This group is pretty sound, with ace Madison Bumgarner once again leading the charge on the mound for the Giants.  After him, it is another pretty darn good pitcher in Johnny Cueto (Cueto's numbers were essentially equal to Bumgarner's), along with recently acquired Matt Moore from the Tampa Bay Rays.  Then, you have another addition from last offseason in Jeff Samardzija, who really came on strong to start off his campaign in San Francisco.  Finally, I like to give Matt Cain the benefit of the doubt due to past performance, but keep a close watch on Ty Blach and Andrew Suarez for the final spot.  There's also their second best prospect in Tyler Beede who is not far away.

BULLPEN: Mark Melancon (CL), Will Smith, Derek Law, George Kontos, Hunter Strickland, Cory Gearrin, Steven Okert, Josh Osich
I'm amazed how they can let Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla go, and they still have the look of a dominant bullpen.  Mark Melancon has been one of the best closers in baseball since the Pirates made room for him, and Will Smith is one of the best setup men (they traded away their former top prospect to get him and C Andrew Susac).  Law, Kontos and Strickland all pitched in at least 57 games and had less than a 3.10 ERA each, and Steven Okert is a young pitcher who has great potential.  Due to lack of position player depth, I'm giving the bullpen eight spots to Osich and Gearrin, but if someone stands out unexpectedly in the rest of the diamond, these two will be fighting each other for the last spot.

CATCHERS: Buster Posey, Nick Hundley
Buster Posey is the best catcher in all of baseball, and unless there is an injury, they are virtually set.  Nick Hundley started for the Rockies last year, and he will be able to spell Posey and/or allow him to play first.  Another potential option is to let the a pretty good third option at catcher Trevor Brown have a roster spot, and spend about half the season with either him or Hundley catching, Posey at first and Brandon Belt in left field.  It's not so good for defense, but it fills the void in left.  They also have journeymen Tim Federowicz and Josmil Pinto in camp, and prospect Aramis Garcia.

INFIELDERS: Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Eduardo Nunez, Kelby Tomlinson, Conor Gillaspie
Brandon Belt is becoming the heart of this batting order, and he will split time between first base and left field.  Brandon Crawford is quietly becoming a great shortstop as well, and Joe Panik was on a path to stardom at second base before injuries derailed his season last year.  Eduardo Nunez was the All-Star vote for the dreadful Minnesota Twins, but he really struggled in San Francisco.  Kelby Tomlinson and Conor Gillaspie are solid backups for the infield.  The Giants also have some intriguing non-roster invitees, including top prospect Christian Arroyo, Korean born Jae-gyun Hwang and veteran Jimmy Rollins.

OUTFIELDERS: Hunter Pence, Denard Span, Mac Williamson, Jarrett Parker
Last I checked, Angel Pagan is still a free agent, but at this point in time one would have to believe that the Giants feel comfortable with the duo of Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker for the left field job.  Hunter Pence, son of the new Vice President Mike Pence, is a great right fielder when he is not injured, and Denard Span is still a prolific leadoff hitter.  Gorkys Hernandez and non-roster invitees Michael Morse and Justin Ruggiano have a chance at a roster spot, but I think the Giants would prefer to give it to the pitching staff or a third catcher.

LINEUP: Span (CF), Panik (2B), Belt (1B), Posey (C), Pence (RF), Crawford (SS), Nunez (3B), Williamson (LF)

This group has spent a lot of time over the years on the disabled list, but when healthy this team is more than capable of contending for a World Series title.  Remember, they were the best team in baseball before the All-Star break, but a post-break collapse really destroyed their spirit despite making the postseason.  I like the Giants to at least contend for a spot, but with the Pirates looking to rebound along with the New York Mets, it won't be as easy.  I'm penciling them in for a spot, and I think 88 wins is a good plus/minus.