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Monday, April 24, 2017

Minus their ace, SF has plenty of issues

It started on opening day when the Giants lost game they had in their grasps in the 9th to the D0Backs with their new ace closer on the hill, and ever since then, things just keep popping up that don't seem to go the Giants way.

The most pressing and more recent bit of bad news to hit the Giants was ace Madison Bumgarner's left shoulder injury sustained doing non-baseball activities (riding dirt bikes in the Colorado mountains to be exact) and expected to keep him out until roughly the all-star break. I've heard time-table ranges from 8-10 weeks in the very best case scenario, up to 16-24 weeks. The rough part is that it's his pitching shoulder so my guess would be something closer to the ladder. Essentially, there's a 50/50 chance we may not see MadBum take the hill again in '17 but I'm gonna hold out hope. This, aside from maybe losing Posey for an extended period of time, was the very last guy the Giants wanted to see hit the DL, and the scary thing is, the injury involves his left shoulder. I'm not trying to be a downer or look at the glass half-empty, but I don't think the Giants can really count on much from their left moving forward, at least for the foreseeable future. He's gonna miss at least a month before he can start even tossing a ball again (if things go well), then will have to build up his strength, then face hitters, then go on an assignment in the minors until he's finally ready to rejoin the staff. I'd be very happy if he came back strong and ready to go, even if we have to wait until after the all-star break.

The Giants are not winning any tittles without MadBum (unless they strike lightening in a bottle with Ty Blach or make some miraculous trade for another ace which just doesn't seem likely), so if they need to sacrifice 12-15 weeks in order to get him back to 100% and on the field for the stretch run then so be it.

Aside from the horrible Madison Bumgarner news we received just a couple days ago, the happenings on the field aren't making that pill any easier to swallow. The team has now sunk to 6-13 and aside from MadBum's rough situation, the second most pressing issue is the left field play. I know, surprise, surprise. right. We here at this site mentioned this multiple times in the winter how there were options out there in the Giants price range who would have been upgrades to guys like Parker, Marrero, Hernandez etc... but I don't want to beat a dead horse. I was hoping Melvin Upton would come in and provide depth or at least a spark but he went down with a torn ligament in his hand this week, likely ending his brief stay in the Giants organization. The other name down in the minors who is making his way back and probably would have won a job out of spring had he not gotten hurt is big Mikey Morse. Now back and supposedly healthy, he's in Sacramento and a good week could put himself up on the big club getting regular looks in left. In fact, if he hits two big flies in a game down up in Sac, it would'nt surprise me to see him swap places with Chris Marrero the next day. That's how bad the Giants need offense.

I just don't think the Giants are ready to make a deal of any kind quite yet, whether it be another starter or someone to solidify left. I mean, if MadBum needs to end up missing 4 months, they could use this year as more of a "see what you got" season and assess some of their younger guys. It's really hard to mail in a season like that with a payroll the Giants have and the expectations the fans have grown to demand, so I don't think we'd get there unless they really run into some bad luck.

Are the Giants as bad as they've shown to start the year (6-13)? No, I don't think they are. However, I also don't think they're much better than a .500 team with the roster they have. Without MadBum, the rotation is still decent enough to win, but far from the strength they were, leaving the lineup needing to pick up the slack

Now, don't run for the hills yet, or switch over into full football mode with the NFL Draft coming up this weekend. After all, we're not even 1/9 of the way through the season, and the Giants will hit a streak and get back in the mix. They still stand just 5 games back of first in the West and there still have been some positives. Brandon Crawford is hitting, Eduardo Nunez is flying around the field, Buster Posey looks ready to break out at any time and Joe Panik is starting to get more steady back into his game. The team is just still missing that one real big bat that can change the out scape of a game with a big homer at any given time. Pence and Posey used to be those guys but they just aren't, at least not yet this season. I was hoping this was the year Belt's power would really be on display but he's looked like typical Belt so far. Some power, just enough to tease you, but then he'll strike out 3 times the next day and go into a mini slump.

The Giants team has been an enigma to say the least, but something will give and I'm guessing sooner than later. I hope like heck they don't need to become sellers this season because I just don't think they have that many shots at ring with the core of those six mainstays: Bum, Craw, Belt, Posey, Pence and Panik. Now there will be plenty of trade options out there should Bobby Evans feel he's just a player away from righting the ship, but I think this team needs multiple new bodies. Obviously a LF'er, and preferably another starter, now especially with Bum shelved for months, and I still think they could use some more experience in middle/late relief. I know it's April 23rd and we're 3 weeks into the year but the Giants need help and it's quite apparent which areas they need help in. If they don't get some sort of help and these guys in tow don't pull a 180 by June, then it could be sellers time for the first time in nearly a decade in San Francisco come mid-summer.

Extras: I wrote this articled extremely late after a long day of work, so if there are any grammatical mistakes or stupid spelling errors, please forgive me. I will proof read it Monday morning but I just wanted to get some things off my chest after they got shut out in Colorado of all places on Sunday night... Mired in a sea of bad play and losing baseball, changes will be on the horizon though. Hot prospect and the teams best hitting prospect, Christian Arroyo, has been slaying it at AAA Sacramento and there are plenty of Giants fans begging for his promotion and for him to take over at third then move Nunez to left to lengthen the lineup. I'd be all for that if things don't shape up here in the next week or so and Aaroyo keeps raking. Other than that, we'll just have to sit tight and hope things turnaround. The Bumgarner issue was just such a tough one to take in though because he's the face of this team and it's tough to see them doing much if he's sidelined for a huge amount of time.. Well, I think you guys get the point; things aren't going well, things need to improve, reinforcements may be on the way and of course, we won't be seeing their best pitcher any time soon.

Ahh, what a time to be a Giants fan (sigh)!
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Friday, April 14, 2017

MadBum still winless, SF finalizes Upton deal

If you didn't think you'd ever be saying that Matt Cain would be leading Madison Bumgarner in wins again, well you'd have been wrong. The Giants enigmatic fifth starter got in the win column with a strong outing Wednesday night, but the team fell to 0-3 when their ace takes the hill as Madison Bumgarner and the Giants lost the opener vs. Colorado on Thursday.

Madison Bumgarner has gotten some pretty bad luck, as the team just isn't scoring for him when he's out there. Thursday marked the big left-hander's third start of the season, and unfortunately he fell to 0-2 after surrendering 3 runs over 6 innings to the Rockies. He definitely didn't have his type-A stuff, but pitched well enough to win most nights, but the Giants just couldn't muster anything offensively. Granted, they were without two of their better hitters, as Buster Posey is still on the 7-day concussion DL and Brandon Crawford was out of the lineup dealing with a family tragedy. Without their 4-5 hitters the Giants just couldn't sustain any sort of rally and nobody really stepped up with that big hit the team really needed. Usually MadBum helps himself out in games like these, but even he had trouble against Jon Gray and the Rockies bullpen. It really is a shame too as the Giants were primed to keep their winning ways going after Matt Cain broke through with a victory on Wednesday night, a start that probably earned Cainer another few starts in the rotation.

Speaking of Cain, he looked about as good as you'll see him these days on Wednesday and that is significant. He's been around so long that we forget he's only 32 years old, although he's pitched more like a 39 year-old the last couple seasons. That's not young in baseball terms, but 32 is certainly not ancient, and still within a players "prime years" (age 27-32). Plus with someone like Cain's track record, you have to give him a shot because you never know if and when he'll re-discover himself. Hopefully Wednesday was the start of that process, but I'm hardly ready to determine Cain as "back" like many people were anxious to do after his most recent start. It was a nice showing, yes, but he still showed is inability to get deep into a ballgame and appears to have about a 5 or 6 innin limit right now before he really loses it. That's not necessarily a bad thing though for the Giants, especially from the fifth starter and someone who's limiting the damage like Cain did Wednesday. What really reminded me of vintage Cain though was not just his outing on the mound, but his big double at the plate as well. During his best years, he was much like MadBum in the sense he could hurt you on both sides, and we saw that for the first time in recent memory Wednesday.

Giants finalize Upton signing: Speaking of offense, I have to say, I'm pretty stoked about the Giants most recent signing. On Wednesday, the Giants finalized their low-risk, potentially rewarding minor league agreement with Melvin Upton and the outfielder has reported to extended spring training in Arizona. The timing really couldn't be better for the Giants, as they've struggled to get production out of their outfield as a whole to start the year, but especially left and center field, two areas where Upton can definitely help out. The plan for the 32 year-old outfielder is to have him get some reps at extended spring training, then report to AAA Sacramento, but it wouldn't surprise me if his stay in Sac is short lived. Heck, if he tears it up in extended spring and the Giants feel like he can offer and upgrade in left then they may just bring him directly up from Arizona sometime next week.

Upton is coming off a somewhat down year at the plate last season (.238/20/61/.693 with 27 steals) but he will bring in a few things this team is in desperate need of; power, speed and defense. He won't hit for an average much higher than .250, but he's still got some explosive power in that bat, can still steal a base when needed and can still play the outfield at a gold-glove caliber level. With the Giants' struggles in left field, and Denard Span battling some recurring hip issues here early on, it's easy to see why the Giants were interested in someone like Upton. They simply haven't gotten anything, production wise, out of left and center field thus far. Between Span, Parker and Marrero, I think they're hitting in the low-.200's with a grand total of 5 RBI and zero home runs. I would definitely like to see Upton given a shot at taking the left field job sooner than later, that's for sure.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Giants trending up but Posey hits DL

The Giants have looked much more like the team we expected coming in over the last two days. They salvaged the series in San Diego with a win behind Johnny Cueto then opened up their season at home with a win over the D-Backs behind a gem from Matt Moore.

The victories over the last two days have moved the team back within a couple of games of .500 at 3-5 but now they'll face a new challenge, at least for the next week or so. If you watched the home opener Monday, then you saw that pitch that hit Posey square in the helmet in his first at-bat and you probably thought like I did immediately; please don't be one of those concussions that cause nasty recurring symptoms that impact his 2017 season. Well, we won't know it's impact on Posey for at least a week, as the Giants placed him on the 7-day DL with concussion symptoms, although they are saying he's fine and it's just a precaution. The Giants have become all too familiar with concussions in recent seasons after it ended Brandon Belt's 2015 season and then hampered Joe Panik's '16 season after causing him to miss a month of play. Needless to say, the Giants have had some bad luck with concussions over the last couple of seasons and now it's struck a player that they can least afford to lose. Also, because Posey catches everyday, it puts him at further risk to where a foul tip off the mask could cause his symptoms to return. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a couple starts at first base when he is activated for that very reason.

It really does come at a bad time for the Giants too. They seem to be getting their 2017 legs underneath them the past couple of games and look primed to take off from here. The starting pitching has been pretty solid from the get go, although a few mistakes were really magnified in Arizona, but Matt Cain looked very bad in his first start on Friday and as we talked about in our season preview, I doubt he's going to have the leash he's had the last couple seasons. He's in the final year of his deal and each time he takes the mound from here on out could be his last attempt to get right, at least here in San Francisco. In fact, I'd give him till the end of April, and if the Giants aren't seeing any positives or any sign of him turning things around, it wouldn't surprise me to see them make a move. Everyone else has been pretty solid though. Jeff Samardzija will start Tuesday night, coming off an outing which didn't look all that great in the box score, but if you saw him throw, you saw the stuff was definitely there. He got burned by a couple location mistakes and the light Arizona air, but I expect him to keep the ball in the yard at AT&T. Cueto and Bum have looked pretty solid, and Matt Moore just threw a gem on opening day Monday, so the rotation is definitely picking up steam in week two of the season.

So, the Giants have started to claw back from their 1-5 start. Brandon Crawford likes primed for a career year and I'm getting good vibes from Eduardo Nunez, but the big questions coming into the year have yet to be answered. Besides Matt Cain's instability in the fifth spot, the play in left field as well as performance from their middle relievers are still very much in question. I believe Giants left fielders went 1-15 to start the season, with a bunch of strikeouts, and the bullpen has already cost them at least one ballgame (although Mark Melancon was largely at fault in that one as well). Also, another spot to watch is center field and Denard Span. The leadoff hitter missed most of the first week of the season after his hip flared up on Opening Day. It's the same hip that caused his 2015 season to get cut way short and he got operated on the winter before last season. It's also what many believe to be the cause of Span's down '16 season as he wasn't really moving like he did in years previously. Now hopefully his hip holds up because the Giants already have one outfield spot potentially needing to be addressed.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Interview with Razzball

We've done a few pre-season interviews with the fantasy website Razzball.com. I know the season has technically started for most teams including the Giants, we were a little late on this one and I wanted to share it with you guys anyway.

They did a hole write-up on the Giants and their fantasy prospects over at their site and I'll post a link below with the full article. I'm gonna post a couple Q and A's from out part of the article. Definitely check them out if your a fantasy baseball gamer!

M@: The Giants lineup is filled with reliability. Well, in years past it’s been that way. Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Denard Span…they’re mainstays. One name missing? Hunter Pence. In standard 5×5 leagues I’ve always been a Pence fan as he brings a high floor and a medum ceiling, perfect for drafting right outside the top 50. However, 2016 wasn’t as kind to Pence and that reliability as he tried to recover from injury. What should we expect from Pence in 2017, a rebound to his old form or another step down into his twilight?
Trevor Cole If there’s ever a guy to bet on continuing to produce well into his thirties it’s Hunter Pence. This guy keeps himself in top shape and adheres to a strict diet in order to continue being successful late in his career. Yes ’15 (freak injury getting hit by pitch and breaking his arm) and ’16 were injury-ridden for him and he hasn’t torn it up this spring like I’m sure the Giants were hoping, but entering his age-34 season, I think he still does have plenty left in the tank. As long as he avoids a freak injury, I’d guess around a .280/20/80/15 slash line with an OPS up around or above .800 would be his ceiling. Again, if he has a DL stint or two those numbers will drop but if he gets his 600 at-bats, the numbers will be there.

M@: The name not mentioned above that might carry the highest ceiling, somehow, is the trade deadline addition last year, Eduardo Nunez. Out of nowhere, at age 29, he posted a .288/73/16/67/40 slash line. The average seems repeatable based on his history, but the outburst of power/speed is less consistent. At the end of 2017 is Nunez above or below the line of .270/75/12/60/35?
Trevor ColeNunez had a great, out of nowhere first half with the Twins, however, once he arrived in San Francisco, it took him a good while to get going. When he did towards the end of the year in September, he hurt his hamstring and was out of the lineup a lot and missed most of the postseason as well. He’s a guy many are predicting to build off last season but I’m not so sure. I do think he’ll hit for a decent average (above .275) and he’ll steal his bases, but I don’t think the power will be there like it was in the first half of 2016. He only hit 4 long balls after joining SF in July, but as I said he finished strong with a .313/2/10/8 slash line in September despite missing over a weeks worth of games. Depending on where Bochy hits him in the lineup (and that could change daily) will determine his RBI/run opportunities but I expect his average to be around .300 with 10-15 big fly’s and 30 stolen bases come the end of the year.

I'm not going to re-post the whole thing, so for the rest of the article and Q and A session click the link here!

Now hopefully the Giants and Johnny Cueto can get right vs. the D-Backs and put that disappointing opening day loss behind them!
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Sunday, April 02, 2017

2016 problems carry over in SF '17 opener

Well guys, that was a big letdown to say the least. Opening day 2017 came and went for the Giants Sunday afternoon, and they let one getaway, much like they did to end the 2016 season in the playoffs.

The Giants cruised through the first 5 innings, as it was the Madison Bumgarner show. He was striking out D-Back hitters with regularity and inducing weak contact to the tune of 5 perfect frames. Not to mention, he helped himself bit time at the plate by hitting 2 jacks in the game. However, with a 3-0 lead and perfect game in-tact heading to the bottom of the sixth, it was all downhill for the Giants. Madbum had a rough 6th inning as he got put into the stretch for the first time and left the ball up to a few hitters who did not miss. The D-Backs ended up tying the game in the 6th but MadBum gave the Giants the lead back in the 7th with his second home run and finished off his night with a strong 7th inning. Take away that rough sixth, and you couldn't have asked for a better outing from MadBum.

However, the Giants bullpen, as I predicted over the winter, throughout spring and in our season previews, didn't do much to improve their mid-relief and set-up corps from last years squad. Yes they did get themselves what they hope will be an ace closer but it didn't even happen for Melancon on Sunday afternoon either. Derek Law surrendered the lead in the 8th, only for the Giants to reclaim it in the 9th, only for Melancon to cough it right back up in the bottom of the inning and ultimately blow the save. It was uncharacteristic to say the least for Melancon and certainly not what you hoped for out of the Giants bullpen as a whole to start the 2017 season. It was an eerily similar feel to the way things were going at the end of 2016 and all we can hope is that it was just opening day jitters. Yes, this pen is better than last year's bunch, just because they have that clear-cut ace closer, but nobodies invincible and Melancon is human (as Krukow eluded to in the postgame show). Still, it's the bunch between the starters and Melancon that still has me worried.

There's not much else to say about the game, it was a disappointment. Besides Bumgarner being his typical awesome self, the Giants got nice outputs from Eduardo Nunez, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford that helped them put together their runs aside from MadBum's jacks. They played good defense and scored enough runs to win most nights (5), so this one falls on the pen, which allowed 7 hits and 2 runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Anyway, I don't wanna beat a dead horse, and I'm staying optimistic that things will improve as guys settle in. Melancon probably had the juices flowing at an extra-high level being it his first regular season appearance after signing the biggest contract of his life and joining a new team. Also, it was Derek Law's first opening day in the bigs so I'm sure his adrenaline was in overdrive as well and that should mellow out in the coming days. Hopefully things get better in the coming days as the adrenaline wears down but it also wouldn't completely surprise me to see inconsistency continue to haunt the middle relief and set-up corps in this bullpen.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Friday, March 31, 2017

2017 San Francisco Giants Preview

Well folks, that time has finally come, opening day is just a few short days away and the butterflies are already starting with me. While this team has plenty of question marks heading in, they still have their solid core that's been a main part of 2 out of their 3 championships and like they've shown so many times, you can just never count them out.

Here's a look at the projected opening day roster as well as some rough estimate stats based on past performance, health and age. We'll also give our expectations for 2017 as far as where they'll end up, what/who they may end up needing to trade for and really what we expect to go down throughout the 2017 season. It's not an even year, which has worked out so well for the Giants 3 of the last 4 times, but this team should still be a contender nonetheless and may be a player or two away from really making a push for a fourth ring in 8 seasons.

Projected lineup with projected slash line (all stat predictions are based on players playing a full season and not taking into account any injuries):

1. CF Denard Span- .282/8/51/.741 21 SB (solid spring, hopefully rebounds from sub-par '16 season)
2. 1B Brandon Belt- .276/22/68/.848 (primed for his first 20+ HR year & Giants need pop)
3. RF Hunter Pence- .281/18/79/.818 (huge key, has to stay on the field for this lineup)
4. C Buster Posey- .303/19/85/.840 (another guy needing to improve off mediocre '16)
5. SS Brandon Crawford- .285/15/86/.779 (has gone from offensive liability to solid run-producer)
6. 3B Eduardo Nunez- .278/16/65/.765 25 SB (hopefully builds off '16 breakout and stays on the field)
7. LF Jarrett Parker- .255/12/48/.735 (will likely share LF but should get majority of ab's vs. RHP)
8. 2B Joe Panik- .262/10/51/.715 (like Posey and Span, Giants hoping '16 was off-year)

Again, these numbers are projecting everyone stays healthy for the season, which we know is highly unlikely, but it will be fun to look back at the end of the year and see how close we actually come. Parker is the one real wild card as he could end up getting a ton of at-bats and running away with the job, or he could find himself in an old fashioned time share with Chris Marrero or even Michael Morse down the road... I really want to see Panik's resurrection in 2017 as I think that would be a huge shot in the arm for the offense. They need his .300 bat back and not the .237 he hit in 2016... Bochy will likely use Nunez in the 2-slot vs. left-handed pitching but seems to be favoring Belt there vs. righties this spring, so I expect that to carry over into the season.

Projected Rotation, set-up man and closer:

1. LHP Madison Bumgarner- 17 W, 3.02 ERA, 220 IP, 217 K's, 1.07 WHIP
2. RHP Johnny Cueto- 16 W, 2.97 ERA, 210 IP, 189 K's, 1.10 WHIP
3. LHP Matt Moore- 15 W, 3.55 ERA, 202 IP, 179 K's, 1.27 WHIP
4. RHP Jeff Samardzija- 12 W, 4.04 ERA, 209 IP, 166 K's, 1.29 WHIP
5. RHP Matt Cain- 5 W, 5.38 ERA, 105 IP, 74 K's, 1.45 WHIP

RH- Derek Law- 80 G, 2.57 ERA, 72 IP, 70 K's, 1.02 WHIP
CL-Mark Melancon- 76 G, 1.75 ERA, 46 S, 74 IP, 68 K's, 0.89 WHIP

The only uncertainty out of this bunch really is Matt Cain. The only reason he's being given a shot at retaining the 5th starter gig is because of his huge price tag in what is his final year of his contract. However, if he struggles out of the gate, I don't think the Giants are going to give him as much rope as they have the last two seasons. Ty Blach and Tyler Beede are waiting in the wings and many feel both are better options right now than Cain and it's hard to disagree with that. Hopefully Cainer bounces back but after a few seasons trending down and all the innings he's thrown the last decade-plus, it seems highly unlikely. As far as the pen, we've talked about how the roles are still undetermined, outside of Melancon closing and Law most likely setting him up, but should become more clear as we get a few weeks into the season.

If your looking for more about the bench and bullpen, we've talked a length about those spots in the last two posts so just scroll down, but overall, this is how we see the roster shaping up and things shaking out throughout the 2017 season. I do think the Giants will do what they have to do to make another playoff run, and if that means making another big deadline deal or two then so be it. The team's core is right in the prime of their career's and they only likely have another 2 or 3 real runs left with this core bunch before free agency and age take factor. I think this team, because of the rotation and strong closer can win 90 games, but they do need the offense to be respectable at least. It's not a high-powered offense by any stretch and will need to string together hits and base-runners in order to score runs.

I do not expect this team to look this way come August however. I think someone else will be in the fifth starters spot and something will have to give in left field. They're going to start with a platoon or Parker and Marrero, at least that's my guess, and hope one takes the reigns, but if neither step-up something will have to get done. Whether that's Michael Morse coming back or going out and trading for a bigger bat, they need offense out of that position and not just another .260 hitter with a below-average slugging percentage. They need run production out of that spot.

While this team is capable of 90 wins, I think they'll come in just under that. I see them going 88-74 and earning a postseason spot, most likely as a wild card. I think the Dodgers still have the slight edge, coming off the brink of a World Series appearance last fall and should be hungry to get back. However, if the Giants stay healthy and that bullpen works itself out between that outstanding rotation and Mark Melancon, then it's going to be one helluva race in the West in 2017.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Giants bullpen roles still undecided

The Cactus League has officially come to an end as the Giants arrived back in the Bay Area Wednesday. They ended up going 16-16, which means absolutely nothing, but they had some guys really standout and present themselves as options, if not for the opening day roster, then certainly down the road.

The three big things you really hope for each spring is that your squad gets their work in, shows at some point they're ready for games to start counting for real and most importantly, avoids any sort of injury, especially long-term. While the Giants didn't have anyone in their starting lineup or rotation hit the shelf, they did lose their left-handed set-up man for the year. Will Smith's injury was especially unfortunate for the Giants who are still trying to figure out in what order they're going to get the ball from their outstanding rotation into the hands of their new ace-closer on nights their starters only go 5-6 innings. We talked at length about the bench and how it really could shake out in a number of ways to open the year and the bullpen really is in the same boat. Obviously Melancon will be manning the 9th inning, but that's the only role with any certain clarity in the Giants bullpen right now. My guess is Derek Law will open as the primary set-up guy, maybe sharing with Hunter Strickland to see who emerges. Then come the question marks.

Right-hander Neil Ramirez had somewhat of a standout spring with 16 K's in 9.2 innings of work while allowing just 10 base-runners and sporting a 3.72 ERA and I believe deserves a spot in middle relief. The former first rounder sported a 1.44 ERA through 50 games his rookie year with the Cubs in 2014, then ran into some injuries which have set him back the last couple of seasons. George Kontos will to be slotted into mid-relief as well and didn't have a bad spring himself, finishing with a 4.50 ERA, a solid 0.9 WHIP and 15 K's over 10 innings. In fact, if you take away the two long-balls he gave up (that probably wouldn't have been home runs in 90% of MLB ballparks), then his numbers would have looked as good as any reliever beside Melancon. Speaking of whom, the new closer showed he's ready for Opening Day by not allowing a run and only 7 base-runners in 9 innings.

The best non-closer showing of any reliever, right or left-handed, in the hunt for a bullpen slot was Steven Okert. The big lefty pitched well in his brief stint in 2016 and looked un-hittable at times this March, finishing with 0.96 ERA and 7 base-runners allowed in his 9 innings of work. With Smith's injury, Okert has set himself up as the front-runner to take on the primary left-handed role in the bullpen, but Bochy could decide to go with the more seasoned Josh Osich. However, Osich was one of the hardest hit relievers this spring, giving up 13 hits and walking 9 batters in his 9 innings (2.36 WHIP). If Smith's injury happened a month prior than it did there would have been a few options out there on the market but at this point, unless you would like to see them lure Javy Lopez out of retirement and the NBC Bay Area booth for one more go round.

One of my favorite young arms on the 40-man roster and a guy who finds himself in a conundrum these final days of exhibition baseball is Ty Blach. He's shown the ability to pitch well in relief, and pitch well as a starter. The Giants have a big decision on what they want to do with him. My guess is he makes the roster, just on the sheer amount of work that Boch and Rags had him do this month. He threw the third most innings of any Giants pitcher this spring, and for the most part was pretty impressive. I don't think they would have kept him out there so much if they weren't planning on him being a big part of their 2017 plans. However, if they don't feel like he'll get enough work as the long-man or second left-handed option out of the pen, then management may feel better starting him in Sacramento. There he could get regular work in the rotation and on call for Matt Cain if he struggles out of the gate or (fingers crossed) something happens with one of the other starters. I think that if Smith hadn't gotten hurt then Blach would have definitely started in AAA and waiting in the wings on Cain, but now I think he's going to make the roster because the Giants need him. If they want to put their best 25 guys out there and I think there is a fairly significant drop-off from Blach to Osich. Blach's impressive relief outings, his dominance in a start vs. LA down the stretch then his work in the NLDS last fall  alone have that kid ready. Then he iced the cake with a solid spring showing in my book.

So, with the exhibition version of the Bay Bridge series looming with the A's, it will be some of these guys' final chance to show Bochy they deserve to stay with this squad when they head back to Arizona to open up against the D-Backs. So, like I did last post breaking down the bench options for the Giants, I'll go ahead and put up who I think should fill out the Giants bullpen based on a mix of past experience, performance this spring and potential moving forward.

CL: Mark Melancon
SU: Derek Law
RH: Hunter Strickland
RH: George Kontos
LH: Stephen Okert
RH: Neil Ramirez
LH: Ty Blach

Notes: We're just a few days away from the opener, and like we always do about this time, we've got our Giants 2017 preview and predictions on the way. We've already begun working on it and hope to have it up Thursday as well as our divisional predictions for the rest of the National League. Opening Day is sort of an un-official holiday in my book, it's easily my favorite day of the year and if your reading this then it's likely right up there for you as well. I could go on for days about spring performances but in the end they really are meaningless and I'm about ready for the real thing to begin... Only about 72 hours and counting folks...
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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