Posted on March 4, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Despite winning three World Series titles in the last decade, the San Francisco Giants had a truly disastrous season in 2017. However, the Giants were one of the most aggressive teams during the offseason, making it obvious that they’re going all-in on the 2018 season. But will the moves they made be enough to get them back to the postseason?
San Francisco’s rotation was middle of the pack in the National League last year, which was impressive considering all the time ace Madison Bumgarner missed due to injury. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija also had subpar seasons based on their track record. If those three can stay healthy and have bounce-back seasons in 2018, the Giants should be in good shape and have a rotation that can keep them competitive in the NL West.
However, rotation depth behind those three remains will be a question. Chris Stratton and Ty Blach are the favorites for the two remaining rotation spots. Both showed plenty of promise last season, particularly Stratton. Prospects Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez also provide rotation options.
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If at least one of those youngsters can separate themselves, it could allow Blach to move to the bullpen full time. Of course, no matter how you slice it, the Giants will be lacking experience toward the back end of the rotation, which could be a problem, especially if Cueto and Samardzija don’t improve after last year’s disappointing campaign.
San Francisco’s bullpen was mediocre in 2017, and if that’s going to change, they’ll need closer Mark Melancon to have a bounce-back season. Melancon was one of the best closers in the game before coming to the Giants. However, he had two separate stints on the DL last season. Even when he was healthy, he posted a 4.50 ERA with five blown saves, as batters hit .301 against him. He’s the key to San Francisco’s bullpen being reliable this season.
Aside from Melancon, the Giants have Hunter Strickland and Cory Gearrin, who are both coming off exceptional seasons in 2017 in setup roles. Sam Dyson is still around also, giving the Giants someone besides Melancon with experience as a closer. However, outside of Strickland and Gearrin, no one in San Francisco’s bullpen stood out last year, so they definitely have some questions to answer heading into 2018.
The Giants scored the second-fewest runs in the majors last season, which is why the team was proactive in reshaping their lineup during the offseason. The biggest additions were Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. Both are former all-stars and should provide some support for Buster Posey, who was one of the few hitters in San Francisco’s lineup who didn’t have a disappointing season in 2017.
The trio of Posey, Longoria, and McCutchen should make for a formidable middle of the lineup. However, how good the Giants are offensively in 2018 may be determined by their stalwarts. Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Joe Panik all had subpar seasons in 2017, at least based on what they’ve done in the past. Age is starting to become an issue for guys like Pence and Crawford, which could explain their disappointing numbers last year. Nevertheless, the Giants will need at least a couple of those guys to bounce back and provide support for Posey, Longoria, and McCutchen.
There’s almost no chance of the Giants repeating last year’s abysmal record of 64-98. But that doesn’t mean the Giants are going to be able to return to the playoffs. Age is a serious concern for San Francisco. Even their major acquisitions this winter are players on the wrong side of 30 and in their decline. Baseball is becoming more of a young man’s game, and the Giants may learn that the hard way this year. Even if they stay in good health, look for the Giants to finish 81-81. This team is more or less average across the board, and their record will reflect that.