The Giants hit rock bottom last year, finishing dead last in the National League West with a 64-98 record. For the usual class of the NL, this outcome was obviously unacceptable, triggering multiple changes this offseason. In a flurry of moves at almost all organizational levels, San Francisco made a big statement to the rest of league; the Giants are ready to return to their championship form sooner rather than later.
Although Bruce Bochy retained his job as skipper, the front office started to reshape the coaching staff. San Francisco great Dave Righetti transitioned from pitching coach to a front office role, replaced by Curt Young. They weren’t done there: Matt Herges took over as bullpen coach, Jose Alguacil is the new first base coach, joined by former bench coach Ron Wotus at third base, Hensley Muelens moved from hitting coach to bench coach, and Alonzo Powell and Rick Schu were brought in as hitting coaches.
On top of these coaching moves, the Giants bolstered their roster as well. After being turned down by NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, general manager Bobby Evans had to look elsewhere for talent. Stocked with one of the worst farm systems in the league, the club didn’t have much to work with, but were able to add Rays slugger Evan Longoria, Indians outfielder Austin Jackson, and former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen this offseason.
Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik should once again man the middle infield without much of a competition, as both are decent enough hitters.. Panik had his worst season in the field as a pro but his total body of work suggest that 2017 was an aberration, and he should return to his Gold Glove status in 2018. Crawford once again had a great defensive season, earning his third Gold Glove of his career.
Hopefully, these additions can give enough support to an already talented pitching staff. After a relatively tumultuous season for Madison Bumgarner, where a dirt biking injury cost him a significant portion of his season, the lefty looks poised to return to greatness in 2018. Johnny Cueto was the talks of various trade negotiations in the past year, but he’s another starter who seems poised for a bounce-back season as he hopes to return to his 2016 form. Jeff Samardzija is another pitcher that needs to rebound if the Giants want to make some noise in October next year, as the righty has had a few less than impressive seasons as of late. A bright spot for the Bay Area last year was pitcher Chris Stratton, the 27-year-old appeared in 13 games last year and showed enough potential to warrant some optimism for 2018.
As talented as the Giants rotation is, their bullpen could use some work, ranked 19th in bullpen ERA in 2017. The league has started to move towards the bullpen as the strength of their pitching staffs, as six of the ten 2017 playoff teams ranked in the top 10 of bullpen ERA. Mark Melancon was one of the few bright spots in the Giants bullpen until 2017, where he nearly tripled his ERA and his strikeout to walk ratio by over 20%. Hopefully, for the Giants, he can return to his pre-2017 form as the teams closer.
Will Smith looks to return as the setup man to Melancon and will likely be better than the team’s setup pitchers last year, who sported an over 6.00 ERA. Besides Smith and Melancon, it’s a mishmash of some young arms like Roberto Gomez, flamethrower Julian Fernandez, Joan Gregorio, and Reyes Moronta, among some others. Chances are one if not more of these players become regular contributors in the bullpen by midseason.
Looking at the lineup, Giants fans should have plenty to be excited about. Here’s a look at what the 2018 Giants batting order could look like:
That is at least three new impact players in the middle of the lineup, which can turn around a teams offensive ability in a hurry.
Evan Longoria has been saddled with a losing team for most of his career, but hopefully, those times are over for the California native. 2017 was a down year for the third baseman, batting .261 with 20 home runs, but any help at third base will be useful. Last year Giants third baseman was dead last in batting average, on-base, OPS, OPS+, home runs, and slugging percentage at .261/.268/.300. Longoria would crush these numbers even during his worst years and is a Gold Glove-caliber fielder as well.
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Andrew McCutchen and Andrew Jackson should have similar effects on the lineup as well, as the Giants 2017 outfield also sat at the bottom of the league in offensive production. Jackson should take over the centerfield job, and McCutchen will likely move to a corner outfield spot.
The first base spot should be boring, with fan favorite Buster Posey landing the job, but things could get interesting if Brandon Belt finds his way into the mix. A wayward curveball to the head ended the lefties season early with a concussion while the 29-year-old was having a pretty decent. Belt has not been able to stay healthy in his career but is a plus defender and a good enough hitter when healthy. If he finds a way to avoid the injury bug this year, don’t surprised if the 6’5” Belt finds his into the starting lineup by summer’s end.
These offseason moves have made the San Francisco a popular pick for a team that can make some noise in the Fall, but at what cost? The average age of the new look Giants is a league-high 28.3 and the second highest payroll in baseball at $193 million. Apparently, the front office thinks these moves can propel them to take advantage of the small championship window ahead of them. To compete with the likes of the NL champions LA Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and new look San Diego Padres in the brutal NL West, these moves were an absolute requirement.
Team Award Winners
Madison Bumgarner, as previously mentioned, should have a rebound season in 2018, assuming he can stay away from dirtbikes. The former World Series MVP is ensured to be the team’s best starting pitcher, but could also challenge the likes of Kershaw, Scherzer, and Syndergaard in the NL Cy Young race as a dark horse candidate.
Out of all the new position pieces added to the Giants this year, Longoria should have the most significant impact. The former Tampa Bay Ray has been around forever, but he only 32 years old. This change of scene will likely energize the ‘wily-vet’ and help him return to his glory days.
Record Prediction: 82-82
81.5 is the over/under for the Giants record from Bovada, which would be nearly a 20 win jump from 2017. However, that isn’t as crazy as it seems, with the additions of talented sluggers and the high likelihood bounceback of at least part of the staff, 82 wins is a very realistic goal for the Giants in 2018.
The Giants have made some significant moves to build a great lineup that should complement its pitching staff perfectly, but the lack of even an above average bullpen will hurt them. Only three teams made it into the playoffs with a 16th ranked or worst bullpen: the Astros, Rockies, and Nationals. All of those teams had elite starting pitching and a top-five offense, and the Giants won’t produce that type of firepower in 2018 on offense and from their rotation. This paired with an extremely tough division schedule will likely keep the Giants out of the postseason in 2018.
Article by: Maxx Hotton
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