Saturday, July 18, 2020

San Francisco Giants 2020 Season Preview



       The Giants had a dynasty to start the 2010s. 2010, 2012 and 2014 all ended with a new World Series trophy going to AT&T Park. But, by the end of the decade, the Giants were out of the playoffs three years in a row, manager Bruce Bochy had retired and AT&T Park is now known as Oracle Park. However, the Giants are still an old team, and a fire sale could happen very, very soon as the veterans either leave or regress.

       Offseason additions: OF Hunter Pence, RHP Kevin Gausman, LHP Drew Smyly, IF Wilmer Flores, OF Billy Hamilton, IF Yolmer Sanchez, LHP Jarlin Garcia, LHP Tyler Anderson, RHP Trevor Cahill.

       Offseason subtractions: LHP Madison Bumgarner, LHP Will Smith, OF Kevin Pillar, LHP Derek Holland, C Stephen Vogt, RHP Burch Smith, RHP Kyle Barraclough.

       Rotation
The Giants' Opening Day starter will be a former ace who has made just 13 starts over the last two years. September marked Johnny Cueto's return from Tommy John surgery, and the former Red will take over the Opening Day starter role from the departed Madison Bumgarner. In his last full season of 2017, Cueto had a 4.52 ERA with 136 strikeouts in 147.1 innings. A pitcher who has struck out at least 200 batters in three different seasons, Jeff Samardzija has lost his strikeout ability. Samardzija struck out only 140 batters in 181.1 innings, for a 6.9 K/9. Samardzija had a 3.52 ERA, his best since 2014. Samardzija's fastball allowed an average of .174 with a 2571 rpm spin rate. Former 4th overall pick Kevin Gausman signed with the Giants, after moving to the bullpen for the Reds last year. Combined for Atlanta and Cincinnati, Gausman had a 5.72 ERA with 114 strikeouts in 102.1 innings. The strikeouts helped Gausman finish with a good 3.98 FIP. Gausman's split finger had a whiff rate of 40.8%. Another newcomer, Drew Smyly, made his return to baseball last year after missing 2017 and 2018. Smyly had a 8.42 ERA for Texas, leading to him being released and signed by the Brewers, who released Smyly before he could play, so the Phillies stepped in. Smyly started 12 games for Philadelphia, with a 4.45 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 62.2 innings. Smyly developed a curveball, a slow pitch with very little spin (1950 rpm). He rejoins manager ex-Phillies manager Gabe Kapler in San Francisco. The Giants likely will not have a traditional rotation, with starters "piggybacking" off of each other. One of these guys could be former 1st round pick Tyler Anderson, finally freed from Coors Field. Anderson has a career ERA of 4.69, with 367 strikeouts in 397 innings. Anderson has an average exit velocity allowed of 86.5 mph in his career. Without many locks in the bullpen, the Giants could have more starters make the roster than any other team. Logan Webb, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the club's 12th best prospect, debuted in 2019. He had a 5.22 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. Dereck Rodriguez, son of Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, had a 2.81 ERA in his rookie year of 2018, but finished with a 5.64 ERA in 2019, with a 6.5 K/9.

       Bullpen
After Will Smith left, and Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon were traded at the deadline, and Reyes Moronta tore his labrum, Tony Watson is left as the only reliever who can be a realistic closing option. Watson, who has a career ERA of 2.81, had the worst season of his career in 2019, with a 4.17 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 54 innings. Watson has a career exit velocity against of 86.1 mph. Trevor Gott had his best year since 2015, with a career high 57 strikeouts and a 9.7 K/9. Gott had a 4.44 ERA with a 1.101 WHIP. Gott's fastball had a .190 average against. Submariner Tyler Rogers had a great debut, and is still credited as a rookie for 2020. He had a 1.02 ERA plus 16 strikeouts and 0.849 WHIP in 17.2 innings. Rogers allowed groundballs 70% of the time. Left-hander Wandy Peralta had a 3.18 ERA in eight games for the Giants last year. He appeared in 177 games over four years in Cincinnati. Sam Coonrod throws a high-90s fastball, and had a 3.58 ERA in 27.2 innings, striking out 20 batters. His fastball had a 31.3% whiff rate. Shaun Anderson moved from the rotation to the bullpen by the end of the year. Anderson struck out 70 batters in 96 innings. Anderson has a fastball with a 2495 rpm. Dany Jimenez can make the team after striking out 46 batters in 33.2 innings at AA last year, plus a 1.87 ERA. Ranked as the Giants' 29th best prospect, Jimenez is their Rule-5 pick. Andrew Suarez has 155 strikeouts in 193 career innings. Moved to the bullpen last year, Suarez posted a 5.79 ERA. Suarez's slider had an xBA against of .149. Non-roster invitee Carlos Navas had a 3.40 ERA in 84.2 MiLB innings last year, striking out 83 with a 1.098 WHIP. The 27 year old Venezuelan has not made his MLB debut yet.

       Catchers
After Buster Posey opted-out of the 2020 season, the Giants have a wide-open catching situation. Top prospect Joey Bart might be ready, but the Giants do not want to rush him, so the Giants will look to other non-roster invitees, with no catchers on the active roster. Switch-hitter Tyler Heineman made his MLB debut last year, hitting a home and going 3-for-11 in five games for Miami. He hit 13 home runs with a .336 average and a .990 OPS at AAA. Rob Brantly has appeared in five seasons for three teams since 2012, including the Marlins, like Heineman. While Brantly went 0-for-1 in the MLB last year, he hit .314 with an .866 OPS in AAA.

       Infielders
The first baseman is once again Brandon Belt, who has hit either 17 or 18 home runs in a season four separate times, but he has never hit more than that. Belt hit .234 with a .742 OPS last year, his lowest since his rookie year of 2011. Belt had four outs above average at first base. Wilmer Flores will get the second base job after having what would have been a career year in 2019, if he played in at least 120 games, instead of 89. Flores hit nine home runs, his lowest since 2014, but had a career high .317 average and .848 OPS. Flores struck out just 10.9 percent of the time. Three time Gold Glove winner Brandon Crawford hit 11 home runs last year, which was his lowest since 2014. Crawford had an awful OPS of .654. Crawford has regressed defensively, as he had -4 outs above average, after he had five OAA in 2017 and 2018. Evan Longoria, another three time Gold Glove winner, bounced back in 2019 after a weak 2018. Longoria hit 20 home runs, plus a .254 average and an OPS of .762. It was the 10th time that Longoria, probably the greatest Tampa Bay Ray of all time, had hit at least 20 home runs. Longoria had three outs above average, six more than he did in 2018. Mauricio Dubon, the 11th best prospect in the Giants' system. After being acquired from Milwaukee for Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black, Dubon took over at second base. He hit four home runs with three stolen bases, plus a .279 average and an OPS of .754. He had a low 4.5 BB%. Dubon can be a super utility player, and appear in the outfield as well as second base, third and shortstop. The Giants brought in Yolmer Sanchez, the 2019 AL Gold Glove winner at second base, on a minor league deal. Sanchez had a .656 OPS over six years in Chicago, topping out at 12 home runs, in 2017. Sanchez had an xSLG of just .320 last year. Pablo Sandoval can make the team after he posted his highest OPS since 2011 last year. Sandoval hit 14 home runs with a .268 average and an .820 OPS. Sandoval could just be a DH, as he is not a great fielder.

       Outfielders
Hunter Pence is back for his second stint in San Francisco after rejuvenating his career with the Rangers. Pence was an all-star for Texas in 2019, and finished the year with 18 home runs, his most since 2014, Pence's last all-star year. Pence hit .297 with a career high .910 OPS. Pence still has good speed, with a sprint speed of 28.5 ft/s last year. Mike Yastrzemski had a really good rookie season at age 28, hitting 21 home runs. Yastrzemski also had an OPS of .852 with a .518 SLG. Alex Dickerson was productive after coming over from San Diego. Dickerson hit .290 with an .880 OPS in 56 games, while hitting six home runs. He should have the starting left field spot locked up. Steven Duggar has appeared in 114 games for the Giants over the last two seasons. Duggar has a career OPS of .645, but had three outs above average in the outfield. Like Duggar, Austin Slater has been a role player over the last couple of years. Slater had an OPS+ of 99, almost at league average. Slater, who can play first base as well as the corner outfield spots, had a 28.3 ft/s sprint speed last year.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
SS Brandon Crawford (L)
RF Hunter Pence (R)
CF Mike Yastrzemski (L)
3B Evan Longoria (R)
1B Brandon Belt (L)
2B Wilmer Flores (R)
DH Pablo Sandoval (S)
LF Alex Dickerson (L)
C Tyler Heineman (S)

       Projected Rotation
Johnny Cueto (R)
Jeff Samardzija (R)
Kevin Gausman (R)
Drew Smyly (L)
Tyler Anderson (L)

       Projected Bullpen
Tony Watson, closer (L)
Trevor Gott (R)
Tyler Rogers (R)
Wandy Peralta (L)
Sam Coonrod (R)
Logan Webb (R)
Dereck Rodriguez (R)
Andrew Suarez (L)
Dany Jimenez (R)
Shaun Anderson (R)
Carlos Navas (R)

       Projected Bench
C Rob Brantly (R)
UT Mauricio Dubon (R)
IF Yolmer Sanchez (S)
OF Steven Duggar (L)
OF Austin Slater (R)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
42-56 record, 4th in NL West
Most home runs: Brandon Belt and Austin Slater (8)
Highest batting average: Wilmer Flores (.291)
Highest OPS: Wilmer Flores (.774)
Best ERA, starters: Tyler Anderson (3.03)
Best ERA, relievers: Trevor Gott (2.31)
Most innings pitched: Johnny Cueto (137.1)
Most strikeouts: Johnny Cueto (105)
Best K/9: Logan Webb (11.3)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 25-35
2018: 30-30
2017: 24-36
2016: 35-25
2015: 34-26

       Prediction
The Giants are a really bad team. While there are worse teams in the American League, squads like the Orioles and Tigers at least have some young players. The Giants are old, and washed up. It will take many years for them to get back to where they were at the start of this decade. I predict that the Giants will not only finish last in the NL West, but in the entire National League.

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