Friday, March 27, 2020

2020 Pre-Season Profile: San Francisco Giants


The San Francisco Giants sent Bruce Bochy off to retirement in 2019 with an unexpected run at a possible playoff spot.  What can be expected of the Giants now that their legendary leader has moved on?

#24 - 5th in NL West
MIH: Steven Duggar
MIP: Dereck Rodriguez
PTW: Tyler Beede
FP: Madison Bumgarner will be traded to the Brewers mid-season.

2019 Results
#19 - 77-85, 3rd in NL West

I had a lot of things wrong in my predictions for the Giants last season.  After bringing in new GM Farhan Zaidi, the general expectation was that a rebuild would start immediately.  Two things changed that plan: Bruce Bochy announcing 2019 would be his last season, and the team actually playing pretty good for most of the year.  The fact that the team played well is kind of head scratching all things considered.  I predicted their Most Important Hitter last year would be Steven Duggar, who only played 73 games and is starting 2020 in the minors.  I said their Most Important Pitcher was Dereck Rodriguez, who had a terrible season and is fighting to stay in the rotation starting 2020.  Tyler Beede got a decent amount of playing time in 2019 but didn't break out, and now he is out for all of 2020 with Tommy John surgery.  Everything I thought needed to happen for the Giants to have some success last year didn't happen, and they had more success than anyone expected.  Even ace Madison Bumgarner, who everyone thought was going to be traded mid-season, ended up riding out the rest of 2019 with the Giants before hitting the free agent market simply because the Giants were trying to contend.  Never underestimate the magic of Bruce Bochy.

Additions / Subtractions

It is rare that the change of manager can so greatly alter a franchise, but Bochy had been around for so long and had come to define who the Giants were that his retirement is the biggest subtraction of the offseason.  Replacing him is the young, energetic, analytics-driven (everything Bochy isn't) Gabe Kapler, fresh off his failed managerial gig with the Phillies.  The other big subtraction was the inevitable departure of Madison Bumgarner, who signed with division rival Arizona.  The additions this offseason resemble a team starting a rebuild, as the Giants brought in a bunch of veterans looking to rebound and possibly be traded mid-season.  So enter starting pitchers like Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly, and Tyson Ross as well as Giants legend Hunter Pence returning to the Bay Area.  Possibly the most interesting addition for the team is the return of Johnny Cueto, who was out for almost all of 2019 with Tommy John.

Most Important Hitter
Mike Yastrzemski

One of the best stories of 2019 on any team was the story of Mike Yastrzemski.  With a name like that, it is hard to hide the family relation.  The grandson of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski, Mike made his debut in 2019 which everyone paid attention to, mainly because of the family connection.  Then, something unexpected happened; he was really good.  Mike finished the season with a .272 average, 21 homers, 55 RBI, .518 slugging, and a 123 OPS+.  His 2.8 WAR was third on the Giants behind only Jeff Samardzija and MadBum, making him the best position player on the team, all this in only 107 games.  Having played himself into the Giants long term plans, little Yaz is now entering 2020 as the everyday centerfielder.  However, the question is can he repeat his production?  If his sophomore season is anything like his rookie year, the Giants just found yet another gem to be a foundational piece moving forward.

Most Important Pitcher
Jeff Samardzija

Let's not kid ourselves, this is a rebuilding year for the Giants.  With Bochy gone, no one expects to see the miraculous run of 2019 again.  With that said, a lot of veterans are going to be playing for what a possible trade mid-season.  The most likely candidate for that is Jeff Samardzija.  Samardzija is entering the final year of his 5 year, $90 million deal he signed with the Giants, and outside of one injury-plagued year, he has really pitched well for them.  Last season, he was their best player in terms of WAR.  Now he is entering his age 35 season and a walk year.  A solid 2020 campaign might bring about one more decent payday for Samardzija as well as a possible mid-season trade to a contender.  I think he gets traded regardless, however how much he brings back is dependent on how well he performs.

Prospect to Watch
Joey Bart

As the Giants have taken a downward turn the last few seasons, one positive has been the replenishing of a depleted farm system.  The Giants had now prospects in the top 100 just a few short years ago.  Now they have five prospects ranking among the league's best, and the top of the list should make a splash in 2020.  Joey Bart is a former #2 overall pick in the 2018 draft and now the 14th best prospect in all of baseball.  This catcher is really the whole package.  He can hit, has power, and has the potential to be a Gold Glove caliber defender behind the plate.  The face of the Giants franchise for the last decade has been catcher Buster Posey, however look for him to move to another position so Joey Bart can become the new face of the Giants for the next decade.

2020 Prediction
5th in NL West

Last season, Farhan Zaidi was brought in to rebuild the Giants from the ground up using the new age model that teams like the Rays and Dodgers have mastered.  That plan was stalled for a year after Bruce Bochy had one last heroic run in him.  Now that he is retired, look for the full rebuild to take shape.  The Giants are not competing this year, but they are headed in the right direction.  I was not a fan of Gabe Kapler in Philly, but I think he fits well in San Fran.  He is like the Jason Kidd of MLB.  You could see him being a good coach/manager, but you don't start him off with a star-studded, win now roster.  You start him with a young rebuilding roster.  The Phillies were Kapler's Brooklyn Nets, and the Giants are Kapler's Milwaukee Bucks.  He can learn and grow along with his roster.  I like what they are doing, but it won't lead to success in 2020.

Fearless Prediction
Half of the Giants' Opening Day lineup will not be on the roster by the end of the season.

One of the biggest problems with a rebuild is the veterans that are still under contract that block the young prospects from getting experience.  The Giants are filled with that problem, especially on the infield.  Players like Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, and even Buster Posey are entering their mid-30's likely not to be on the roster when the Giants are ready to compete again.  In a true rebuild, players like these get traded when they might have maximum value.  That could very well be mid-season for most of these players, especially Belt, Crawford, Longoria, and others like Hunter Pence and maybe even Johnny Cueto.  Something needs to happen to make room for both Joey Bart and Buster Posey in the lineup.  I see a lot of roster movement and turnover in 2020 for the Giants.

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