Opening Day is less than one week away, which means it’s time to examine the Dodgers’ divisional competitors.
The True Blue LA staff will break down every team in the National League West on each day leading up to Opening Day.
Coming up to bat: the San Francisco Giants.
Looking back at 2018
The San Francisco Giants entered the 2018 season with hope and walked away with disappointment, to say the least.
They finished with a record of 73-89, landing them 18.5 games behind the Dodgers and fourth in the NL West. The Giants almost had the edge in the season series against the Dodgers, losing 10 and earning victory in nine.
Despite injuries in their starting rotation, their pitching was not the problem - though it could have used some improvement.
What was their biggest problem, you ask? Hitting.
Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria may have been the key to Giants’ offensive success, but they - like many of their pitchers - spent a considerable amount of time on the disabled list in 2018. And when they were healthy, they failed to show up at the plate.
In the entire MLB, the Giants finished second-to-last in runs scored (603), home runs hit (133) and had the fifth-most strikeouts (1,467).
Key additions and subtractions
The Giants did not experience a particularly notable offseason, despite the addition of Farhan Zaidi, the organization’s new president of baseball operations and former Dodgers general manager.
Those who have parted ways with the organization are outfielder Hunter Pence and Andrew McCutchen.
Pence, who played his last game in a Giants uniform on Sept. 30, entered free agency after his worst season to date. The Giants did not offer him a deal, but he did make the Opening Day roster for the Texas Rangers as a result of a busy offseason.
McCutchen was traded to the Yankees back in Aug. 2018, but the gap he left behind was still being felt.
With the departure of Pence and McCutchen, the Giants had two vacant spots in the outfield, needing to be filled as quickly as possible.
One move they made this offseason was the addition of outfielder Gerardo Parra, who had potential to fill in an outfield spot. He signed a minor league contract with the organization in mid-February, which included an invitation to Spring Training.
The Giants also took a chance by signing Yangervis Solarte to a minor league deal and trading for Connor Joe. These two youngsters are utility players, so they can fill in where it’s needed.
Madison Bumgarner will likely get the Opening Day start for the Giants after rumors of potential trades.
Bumgarner has had a turbulent Spring Training, with some highs and lows. He doesn’t seem to be the same guy as he was four years ago, but he might just be useful when it comes time for the July trade deadline.
Jeff Samardzija will also be in the starting rotation, coming off of a promising Spring Training.
In 19 innings, Samardzija has only allowed 17 hits and 6 earned runs in the Cactus League. It seems like his velocity is finally picking back up after his injury a year ago. Things seem to be going in his favor.
Johnny Cueto will probably not see time in big league ball this year. Cueto is still recovering from Tommy John’s surgery and just began his rehab program in February.
The Giants added the arm of Drew Pomeranz to the rotation, who did not have a successful season with his former team, the Boston Red Sox. His Spring Training was decent enough to get him on the projected starting rotation.
Derek Holland, Dereck Rodriguez and Chris Stratton were the three pitchers who joined the rotation last year when Bumgarner, Samardzja and Cueto were injured.
As the team’s best pitcher last season, Holland had a 3.57 ERA and 169 stikeouts in 171.1 innings pitched. The Giants have high hopes to see Holland improve this season.
Rodriguez, 26, was also a strong force on the mound for San Francisco, earning some votes on the Rookie of the Year ballot. He is having himself a decent Spring Training, pitching 13 innings and earning 10 strikeouts and 6 runs. It seems he is still getting warmed up for the season and will likely soon reach his maximum level.
Stratton will likely be pitching out of the bullpen to start the season. He has the potential and experience to enter the rotation if injury strikes their starters again.
This is what the starting rotation may look like to kick off the season:
Belt, Panik, Longoria and Brandon Crawford make up the Giants’ infield going into 2019. It seems to be a solid group, with the condition that they stay healthy and find a way to improve at the plate.
This leaves third baseman Pablo Sandoval in between a rock and a hard place. With a healthy infield and the addition of valuable utility players like Solarte and Joe (who is a Rule 5 pick), his role on the Giants is uncertain.
There was more uncertainty regarding the outfield situation in the bay, but things have gotten more clear leading up to the regular season.
Gerardo Parra, who is familiar with NL West action, had a strong Spring Training performance, earning his spot on the Opening Day roster and likely becoming the everyday right fielder.
In Cactus League action this year, Parra is hitting .325 with two home runs, four RBIs and a stolen base in 40 at-bats. He will likely get the start in right field to open the season for San Francisco.
Steven Duggar, who has been dealing with a rehab setback, is on track to get the start at center field. Duggar doesn’t have much power at the plate, so leadoff may be the best place for him.
Mac Williamson will likely be the one claiming left field on Opening Day.
Williamson gets the opportunity because he brings a right-hand bat to the mix - something the lineup desperately needed.
The Giants also recently signed a minor league deal with veteran outfielder Matt Joyce. Joyce looks to be the favorite for the fourth outfielder role to give the team some options.
With no surprise, Buster Posey will be the the main catcher for the Giants.
Aramis Garcia will be the backup catcher with the release of veteran catcher, Rene Rivera. Garcia will keep this role until Stephen Vogt is healthy and can make a return from shoulder surgery, which may be sometime this season.
Here’s what the Giants’ Opening Day lineup may look like:
|Steven Duggar - OF|
|Joe Panik - 2B|
|Evan Longoria - 3B|
|Buster Posey - C|
|Brandon Belt - 1B|
|Brandon Crawford - SS|
|Mac Williamson - OF|
|Gerardo Parra - OF|
The Giants are projected to finish last in the NL West, according to the Baseball Prospectus (PECOTA) projection. With their injury-prone team and bats getting older and older, I can see this happening for the Giants. This season is going to be about finding out what works and what doesn’t.
Schedule against the Dodgers
The Dodgers and Giants will face off in a 3-game set at Dodger Stadium beginning on Monday, Apr. 1. You can get your tickets to watch the oldest rivalry in baseball here.