Outside of a couple new faces, the San Francisco Giants look almost exactly as they did last season and why not? They are coming off their second World Series win in three years and their third title in five years.
Of course, this season isn’t exactly like the previous ones as their once-stellar rotation suddenly has a lot of questions around it while their aging bullpen is showing signs of wear. Add to this the fact that Tim Hudson is the only starter in the rotation that has an ERA under 5.65 this spring while the majority of their bullpen guys have ERAs well into the 6.00’s, 7.00’s, and 8.00’s and there’s a lot of concern over whether the Giants can compete with the likes of Los Angeles and San Diego, much less make another World Series run.
Batting Average: 10th
After a couple of mediocre seasons, Belt has looked closer to the top-25 prospect he was billed as when he came up. In 2013, Belt hit 17 homers, 39 doubles, drove in 67 runs, and scored 76 while boasting a .289 BA. Last season he was limited to just 61 games but still managed to hit 12 homers in just 214 at-bats.
This spring he looks back at 100 percent, batting .354 with three homers, two doubles, two triples, eight RBI, and 10 walks in just 58 plate appearances. A healthy Belt should hit in the upper-.200s with ~20 home runs, 35+ 2B, and 70+ RBI. He’s a decent fielding first baseman and may see time in the outfield with the Giants intent on giving Buster Posey more starts at first.
Ishikawa has found his way back to San Francisco after stops in Milwaukee, Baltimore, New York, and Pittsburgh over just the last three seasons. He’s a decent fielder who can play first and outfield but isn’t much of a hitter.
Panik had a nice rookie campaign, batting .305 with a .711 OPS, 13 extra-base hits, 18 RBI, and 31 R in 269 at-bats. In the minors, the former first-round pick batted a career .296 and showed a good ability to draw walks, limit strikeouts, and hit for extra bases. He has a bit of speed and a solid glove and, at just 24, is still growing into a Major League infielder but there’s already a lot to like.
Arias is a decent singles hitter but he’s primarily here for his glove and versatility. Arias can play anywhere in the infield and has been a very serviceable utility man for the Giants the last three seasons.
3B: Casey McGehee
McGehee hasn’t flashed that 20+ HR power we saw in 2010 since that season but he had a good run with the Marlins after missing all of the 2013 season. McGehee batted .287 with a .712 OPS, 34 extra-base hits, 76 RBI, and 56 R while playing a solid third base. He doesn’t have the same pop as Pablo Sandoval gave the Giants but a healthy McGehee can certainly replicate the rest of Panda’s stat line and make his loss less painful.
Crawford is a terrific fielding shortstop but also had his best offensive season last year, hitting 40 extra-base hits, driving in 69, and scoring 54 runs. He doesn’t hit for a good average and strikes out a lot but he’s developed a good ability to draw walks and get on base. His 10 triples and 10 home runs last season make him a unique threat at the plate and, at 28, he’s still maturing as a hitter.
Duffy is doing everything he can to make the Opening Day roster, batting .389 with two homers, three doubles, a triple, and seven RBI in just 36 spring at-bats. In the minors, Duffy showed a good ability to hit for a high average consistently while adding a good amount of extra-base hits and stealing as many as 25 bases in a single season. He’s never been in Triple-A but he did get a September call-up last season and would give the Giants even more versatility with his ability to play anywhere in the infield.
Over the last three seasons, Posey is averaging a .314 BA, .878 OPS, 20 HR, 88 RBI, 34 2B, and 70 R. He rarely strikes out, walks a ton, and is a strong defensive catcher. He saw some time at first last year and may do so again this season which could help his longevity. Posey is one of the best hitting catchers in the league and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Susac was called up for 35 games last year and wasted no time as he hit three homers, eight doubles, and drove in 19 runs in just 88 at-bats. Now that’s efficiency. A top-100 prospect entering the season, Susac doesn’t hit for a high average but is great at drawing walks and limiting strikeouts and has good pop for a backstop. With Susac breathing down Posey’s neck, it may be time to move Posey to first permanently and let the 25-year-old develop.
Sanchez is your run-of-the-mill poor-hitting catcher but he plays good defense and has been reliable the last three seasons for the Giants.
Angel Pagan has been limited to just 167 games over the last two seasons and while his numbers have stayed on par with his usual full season production, the Giants desperately need him to stay in the lineup, especially with Hunter Pence entering the season with an injury. Pagan batted .300 last season with 26 extra-base hits, 56 runs, and 16 steals in 383 at-bats. He always does a great job of getting on base and limiting the strikeouts but the Giants need their leadoff man to stay on the field in 2015.
Nori Aoki is another great on-base guy who rarely strikes out but his numbers haven’t been as impressive the last two seasons as they were in his 2012 rookie campaign. In 2012, Aoki batted .288 with 10 HR, 37 2B, 81 R, and 30 SB. Last year he batted .285 with just one homer, 22 2B, 63 R, and 17 SB. The move from Milwaukee to Kansas City certainly affected his stats but it’s hard to expect another 50 extra-base hit season from the 33-year-old.
Gregor Blanco is a pretty straight-forward player: he’s a singles hitter who does a good job of getting on base, limits the strikeouts, and can steal 15-20 bases a season while playing a serviceable outfield. He’s a solid-but-not-great player and will likely end up on the bench once Pence is healthy.
Hunter Pence is expected to miss the first month of the season which is a big blow to a lineup that lacks in the power department. Pence has now hit 20+ home runs in seven straight seasons, hits 30+ doubles regularly, drives in 90-ish runs a year, and steals 10-20 bases. He’s not a great fielder but plays with reckless abandon and is one of the best producers this team has had over the last two seasons.
Madison Bumgarner capped off another great season with an epic post-season run and has solidified himself as the Clayton Kershaw of the Bay Area. Over the last two years, Bumgarner is 31-19 with a 2.88 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 9.0 K/9 to 2.3 BB/9. He’s consistently healthy, limits baserunners, doesn’t give up a lot of home runs, and will continue to vie for the Cy Young award for years to come.
Tim Hudson is an ageless wonder, reaching the All-Star game last season at the ripe age of 38. Hudson pitched 189 innings last year, the most he’s put up since 2011, and posted a 3.57 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. He walked just 34 batters last season and gave up just 15 home runs. He’s become even more of a finesse pitcher than he was before and it’s clearly working. It’s rare to say this but this is a 39-year-old that we don’t need to worry about.
Matt Cain was limited to just 15 starts last season and put up another disappointing campaign. After boasting a 2.93 ERA and 1.10 WHIP between 2009 and 2012, Cain is 10-17 with a 4.06 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 1.2 HR/9 over his last 45 starts. He’s allowing too many home runs and has already surrendered four runs in 3.2 innings this spring. We’ve already seen Tim Lincecum fall from Cy Young winner to complete dud, we may be seeing it again with Cain.
Jake Peavy was struggling badly in Boston last year, going 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA and 1.43 WHIP but saw his entire season change drastically after he was sent to San Francisco. In 12 starts with the Giants, Peavy went 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, allowing just three home runs in 78 innings after giving up a whopping 20 homers in 124 innings with the BoSox. Peavy has always been up-and-down and difficult to gauge but clearly Frisco is a good spot for him. Of course, he’s already given up nine runs and 19 baserunners in 12 spring innings so it’s anyone’s guess which Peavy we’ll see.
Tim Lincecum won two Cy Youngs and put up a 2.81 ERA and 1.17 WHIP between 2008 and 2011. Since then, Lincecum has posted a 4.76 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 539 innings. He’s been consistently bad since leading the NL in losses in 2012 and his 10 runs allowed through 13 spring innings thus far don’t encourage too much optimism.
Ryan Vogelsong had a decent year after a miserable 2013 that saw him put up a 5.73 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. Still, his 4.00 ERA and 1.28 WHIP from last season has him on the outside looking in at the rotation. He had a shot to land a starting job but has surrendered 14 runs and four homers in 17 spring innings thus far, pitching even worse than the other has-beens he’s competing with.
Santiago Casilla is a stellar reliever, owning a combined 2.10 ERA and 1.13 WHIP since 2010. He was solid as the team’s closer after replacing Sergio Romo, saving 19 of a possible 23 games while boasting a 1.70 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. There’s no reason not to rely on him again this season, even with his eight runs allowed through nine spring innings.
Sergio Romo had one of the worst seasons in an otherwise stellar career last year, blowing five saves in 28 opportunities while putting up a 3.72 ERA (second-worst in his career). He’s still a very reliable veteran who should excel moving back to a set-up role but he’ll need to keep the ball in the park after allowing a career-worst nine home runs last year.
Jeremy Affeldt has been a very reliable lefty for the Giants since coming over in 2009 and remains a good guy to have well into his 30s. He made 62 appearances last year and put up a 2.28 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He does a good job of limiting baserunners and almost never gives up a home run. He may be old but he’s as good a lefty as you’ll find.
Javier Lopez is another veteran who has been very good for the Giants but struggled with his control last season as the lefty specialist allowed 11.9 baserunners per nine innings. That’s a big concern when you’re only out there for a one or two batters and, at 37, you have to wonder if he can be reliable this season.
Hunter Strickland has been lights out in the minors since converting from a starter to a reliever, putting up a 0.86 ERA and 0.71 WHIP in 2013 and a 2.09 ERA and 0.80 WHIP last season. He’s been striking out a ton of batters since converting to a late-inning role and does a stellar job of keeping runners off base. While everyone around him is old and likely on the downtrend in their career, Strickland is here for the long run.
Yusmeiro Petit was invaluable for the Giants last year, stepping in as a spot starter and being very reliable as a long reliever. Petit made 12 starts and 27 relief appearances, putting up a 3.69 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and striking out 133 batters to just 22 walks. The only blemish on his season was the 12 home runs he surrendered in 117 innings but he’s a great guy to have with so many questions in the rotation.
Offense: C+ to B-
Starting Pitching: C+ to B-