Pivotal spring awaits for SF: Part 1
So, with that being said, we'll take the next two posts to sort of recap how things went for the Giants this winter, what the team is currently looking like and projected to be come opening day. I honestly don't see them as a serious World Series contender as currently assembled, but at the same time, their starting pitching is premiere and they really are a move or two away (or a huge breakout or two of their own farm players) from being right up their with the Cubs and
The Giants held their first full-squad workout over the weekend in Scottsdale, marking the beginning of a long journey that they help ends up netting them their 4th world tittle since 2010. However, this team has a lot of work to do and after a relatively quiet offseason, they're going to be banking on a lot of their returnees to both stay on the field actually produce up to their career norm. The first name that comes to mind in terms of staying on the field is Hunter Pence. He's arguably their 2nd most important hitter and missed large chunks of time last year with DL stints and didn't really seem like himself for much of the second half. Hopefully those hamstring woes are behind him and he gets that production back along the lines of the ~.280/25/90/.800 line that's been his career norm. It's not only Pence though. The Giants need to really spend the spring figuring out what sort of lineup will be optimize ability to produce runs without having many home run hitters on the roster. They were unable to bring in that big thumper or proven bat for left field that would have been penciled into the middle of the order and instead will open the season with Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson (with Justin Ruggiano and Mikey Morse both in camp trying to earn a job).
Speaking of healthy, another guy like Pence who missed ample time in '16 was Joe Panik and he'll be watched closely during spring to ensure he's 100% ready to go come April. In terms of production, I'm sure the Giants' brass would like to see more average and speed from center fielder Denard Span. Eduardo Nunez had some ups and downs after his trade over from the Twins and hopefully his further learning of NL pitching will result in better, more consistent production. When Nunez first came over, he was touted as an improving, explosive player with quick bat-speed, slightly above-average pop and great base-running abilities.Well, his power was almost non-existent after the trade and pretty much the only area in which he did live up to his reputation was his ability to run. Span, on the other hand, just never really got it going from the start. He had a few little bursts which helped make his season ending numbers bearable but he left a lot to be desired from Giants fans and I'm sure management after they just gave him a 3-year deal
The pitching is by far the teams strength and is the unit that they're banking on helping them overcome the lack of power and speed in their lineup. The starting rotation, as long as Matt Cain can contribute at least at a fifth starter level, should be up there amongst the best rotations in the game. Matty Moore is fully healed and in his prime and some believe this guy could be in the Cy Young hunt one of these years and he certainly showed it down the stretch. This is a possible walk year for Cueto so I expect him to be on his game, and I'm really hoping Jeff Samardzija figured out his mechanical issues this winter because even with that guy losing his release point seemingly every other start, he still has good enough stuff to get by as a better than average pitcher. Imagine what will happen when he gets that delivery down on repeat? Look out! On the same token, he's 32 years-old and something has to give here sooner than later. His stuff is so much better than the .500-type pitcher with a mid-4 ERA he's been putting up lately, so lets hope this is the year he out it together.
Most importantly, by far though, was their addressing of their closer situation, and they did a very good job at filling that glaring hole. The number of teams that needed to add a closer vastly out-number the amount of available, high-end closing option. Because of that, it was far from a sure thing that the Giants would find their guy, although I think we all knew they would do something, some way or another. Thankfully, they were able to come to terms with Mark Melancon on that nice 4-year deal in December and he alone is going to cause a positive ripple effect throughout that bullpen. They did just that in obtaining the second best closer on the market (IMO). I mentioned early on how 28 year-old Kenlyy Jansen would have been rad in a Giants uniform with that nasty 99-mph cutter (which makes him arguably the top closer in the NL right now) but he was never really an option as he was returning to LA all along. Therefore, Melancon was the best choice in my opinion, just cause he's so consistent, and seems like his stuff will age well throughout the deal. I just didn't want to endure Chapman and his nonchalant approach, plus we saw in the October how teams can get to him when he's not on 100%.
Now, they got a closer, but they weren't able to fill their void left in left field. I kind of get what their "hopeful" vision is, but the Giants just can't produce outfielders and for a team with championship aspirations I don't really get just rolling the dice on two guys when they had the money to upgrade. I mean, I like Mac Williamson and Jarret Parker, but I don't want to just hand them the jobs. If they fail then teams have the Giants at a disadvantage knowing they're desperate for an outfielder come trade time if the duo doesn't work out.
You might be saying to me, well Trevor, Joe Panik got playing time and became a starter. Joe Panik was a late-season call-up to take over for the injured Freddy Sanchez, he wasn't given the job out of spring that year. He "earned" the job by not being fazed down the stretch or in October and hasn't relinquished it yet. Same with Duffy, who impressed during the '14 run after being a late-season call-up and then just ripped away the starting 3B job from Casey McGehee in '15 (SF never get's Matty Moore if not for that season by Duffy). I'm not saying Mac/Parker aren't going to be a regulars someday. Parker has that Barry Bonds type surge pop where he can hit 7 homers in a week and Williamson, with that defense and pop and arm, have each shown glimpses, but neither have grabbed the bull by the horns and forced their way into the order, a la Joey Panik. And it's not like they've lacked for opportunity because Pence and Pagan were both shelved for significant time last year...
Part two coming in next two days!!!