San Francisco Giants 2021 Season Preview

 

       Looking back on the Giants\’ season, it wasn\’t too bad. Yes, they finished under .500. But, they had many surprising breakout players, and nearly made the playoffs, something was not even in reach entering the season. They didn\’t win the offseason like the rival Padres, but the Giants made a lot of solid additions to make their team better for 2021, which is what you want if you are a Giants fan. They won\’t beat out the Dodgers or Padres, but I have been impressed with their rebuild.

Offseason additions: LHP Jake McGee, IF Tommy La Stella, RHP Anthony DeSclafani, RHP Matt Wisler, LHP Alex Wood, LHP Jose Alvarez, RHP Aaron Sanchez, C Curt Casali, IF Jason Vosler, RHP Nick Tropeano, RHP Zack Littell, RHP Dominic Leone, RHP John Brebbia, LHP Scott Kazmir (!).

Offseason subtractions: LHP Drew Smyly, RHP Trevor Cahill, LHP Tony Watson, RHP Shaun Anderson, RHP Sam Coonrod, RHP Jeff Samardzija. 

2020 Trade Deadline summary

Acquired: LHP Anthony Banda.

Traded: none.

2020 record: 29-31

2020 placement: 3rd

2020 WAR leader (batter): Mike Yastrzemski

2020 WAR leader (pitcher): Kevin Gausman

Starting Pitchers

When the players who received qualifying offers were announced, Kevin Gausman stood out. Gausman was really productive for the Giants in 2020, but it was also his first good year in a long time. Alas, Gausman accepted, and the Giants have at least one more year of him. Like I said, he was really productive last year, as he had a 3.62 ERA while striking out 79 in 59.2 innings. His split-finger was better than ever, as batters had a 49% whiff rate with a .097 average and a .139 slugging versus the pitch. Johnny Cueto is back for his sixth season in San Francisco, although two of those years were heavily limited by Tommy John surgery. 2020 was his first full year back, and Cueto had a 5.40 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 63.1 innings. His 4.83 xERA was a small step up, but still not great. Cueto, who has drastically changed his repertoire since his prime, has seen his fastball raise in velocity from before TJ in 2018. The Dodgers brought back Alex Wood to be their fifth starter last year, but he instead spent most of the season in the bullpen. Wood allowed nine earned runs in 12.2 innings, while striking out 15. Wood allowed 17 hits with a 1.816 WHIP. His sinker had a 91.2 mph average velocity, its highest since 2017. Another example of Giants bargain hunting was when they signed Anthony DeSclafani. He had a 3.89 ERA in 31 starts in 2019, but never got it going last year. DeSclafani had a 7.22 ERA with just 25 strikeouts in 33.2 innings. He had a 6.53 xERA, and his fastball had a .484 average and an .871 slugging against. DeSclafani\’s slider actually improved, with a 35.2 percent whiff rate and a .190 average against. 24 year old Logan Webb had some highlights last year, like when he allowed two runs over seven innings against the Diamondbacks. But, the season was mostly a negative for Webb, who had a 5.47 ERA with 46 strikeouts and a 1.564 WHIP in 54.1 innings. So far through Spring Training, Webb has struck out 10 batters through six scoreless innings. 2016 AL ERA king Aaron Sanchez has been really bad since then, and did not pitch in 2020. For the Astros and Blue Jays in 2019, Sanchez had a 5.89 ERA with 115 strikeouts in 131.1 innings. Making a comeback is Scott Kazmir, the veteran lefty who has not pitched in the MLB since 2016, when he had a 4.56 ERA in 26 starts for the Dodgers. Kazmir could make the bullpen.

Relief Pitchers

The main weakness of this team is the bullpen, and that is pretty clear. Their best option to close right now is Jake McGee, who has been in the NL West for the past five years. He followed four rough seasons in Colorado with a much needed revival with the Dodgers. McGee struck out 33 batters in 20.1 innings with a 2.66 ERA and a 0.836 WHIP. McGee had 41.8 K% and a 3.8 BB%, and a .186 xBA against. However, batters hit the ball hard when they hit the ball, with a 92.3 mph average exit velocity, and a 48.8 hard hit percentage. The Giants claimed Jarlin Garcia off waivers from Miami before the season, and they have to be satisfied with the early results, as Garcia allowed one earned run in 18.1 innings (0.49 ERA) with a 0.982 WHIP. Batters went 3-for-27 with a just one extra base hit against Garcia\’s fastball, although it had a very low whiff rate of under 12%. The Giants may have made the value move of the offseason, scooping up Matt Wisler for just over $1 million. Wisler was sneakily great for the Twins in 2020, with a 1.07 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 25.1 innings. Batters had a 3.6 barrel percentage and a .164 xBA against him, as well as a .272 xSLG. Wisler\’s primary pitch is a slider, which he threw over 83 percent of the time last year. Batters went 11-for-77 against the pitch. One thing that really sets the Giants apart is their surplus of left-handed relievers. Jose Alvarez is a great example of that. Batters have just a .664 OPS against Alvarez in his career. He also has a 3.59 career ERA. Alvarez was one of the few successful Phillies relievers last year, before he was hit by a comebacker. In 6.1 innings, he allowed one run with six strikeouts. In 2019, Alvarez limited batters to an 86.1 mph average exit velocity. Submariner Tyler Rogers had a great introduction to Major League Baseball in 2019, but had a 4.50 ERA in a league leading 29 games. Rogers allowed just one barrel in 86 batted balls, for a 1.2 barrel percentage. He also walked just 4.9 percent of batters. In his short career, Rogers has an average exit velocity against of just 85.3 mph. Reyes Moronta had a great start to his MLB career, but did not pitch for about 18 months after shoulder surgery. When we last saw him in 2019, Moronta had a 2.86 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 56.2 innings. His big issue was a 13.1 BB%. Sam Selman had a 3.72 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 19.1 innings, which does not seem great, but he was able to limit batters to an 85.1 mph average exit velocity, and a .271 xSLG. I wrote more about Selman, as well as Matt Wisler here. The final spot in the \’pen is up for grabs, and the handedness of the pitcher matters a lot. The question is if San Francisco thinks Nick Tropeano rebranded himself after striking out 19 with a 1.15 ERA in 15.2 innings for the Pirates last year. He did have a 9.88 ERA in 13.2 innings for the Angels in 2019. Wandy Peralta limited batters to an 85.6 mph average exit velocity last year, and had a 3.27 ERA in 27.1 innings. 2016 9th round pick Caleb Baragar is also a lefty, and had a 4.03 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 22.1 innings last year, his rookie year. One of Webb and Sanchez is also an option.

Catchers

Buster Posey opted-out of the 2020 season, and it allowed the team to get a good look at 2018 2nd overall pick Joey Bart. Bart struggled at the plate, hitting no home runs with a .609 OPS in 33 games. Now Posey is back, and Bart will return to the minors. The former franchise icon has not been an above average player since 2017, and he had his worst season yet in 2019. Posey hit just seven home runs in 114 games, with a .688 OPS. His 16 K% was his highest by far in the Statcast era. The Giants brought in a more offensive-capable backup in Curt Casali, which in 2017 would have been a weird thing to say, when Posey won a Silver Slugger and Casali played in nine games coming off of a .609 OPS season. He was a member of the Reds last year, and had an .866 OPS. Casali also had a 15.1 BB%. 

Infielders

2020 saw Brandon Belt finally transition from good, but nothing special, to a very good hitter. Belt, who somehow has never hit 20 home runs, hit nine last year, with a .309 average and a 1.015 OPS. He also had a .597 xSLG with a .427 wOBA. One thing that Belt has been able to do consistently is walk, which he did at a 16.8 percent rate in 2020. That raised his OBP up to .425. Donovan Solano followed up a breakout 2019 by winning a Silver Slugger. After August 10th, Solano was hitting .458 with a 1.137 OPS. He slumped the rest of the way, but still hit .326 with an .828 OPS. One place for improvement with Solano is walking, something he did just 4.9 percent of the time last year. Three time Gold Glove winner Brandon Crawford has had bad offensive seasons in recent years, but his .792 OPS and 116 OPS+ were career highs. He had just a .326 OBP, but his .465 slugging was also a career high. Defensively, Crawford rebounded after a down 2019, with four outs above average. The worst hitter in the infield last year was actually Evan Longoria, the three-time all-star. Still, Longoria was not bad, with seven home runs, a .722 OPS and a 97 OPS+. Despite a .254 average, Longoria had a .280 xBA. He also had a 91.7 mph average exit velocity. Defensively, the three time Gold Glover had six outs above average, but was not a finalist for the award. The Giants have a really good backup infielder in Tommy La Stella, who can start at second and third base. In 55 games for the Angels and A\’s last year, La Stella hit .281 with an .819 OPS. La Stella is elite at not striking out, with just a 5.3 K rate. He walked over double that, with an 11.8 percent walk rate. They even have another good backup utility infielder in Wilmer Flores, who in his first season as a Giant, had a career best 125 OPS+. Flores hit 12 home runs in 55 games, with an .830 OPS and a .515 slugging. Since 2015, Flores has just a 12.8 K%. Another option is Jason Vosler, who was signed to an MLB deal despite having zero MLB games of experience. At AAA in 2019, the now-27 year old hit 20 home runs with an .890 OPS.  

Outfielders

After what he did in 2020, Mike Yastrzemski is now the best player with that last name to play in the MLB. Wait, why is there an angry mob of Bostonians outside my door with pitchforks and torches? Well, Yastrzemski hit 10 home runs with a .297 average and a .968 OPS. He had a .492 xSLG with a 13.3 BB%, but struggled defensively, with -5 outs above average while splitting time between center and right field. The Giants may have something with Alex Dickerson, who had a 102 OPS+ over 107 games in San Diego, but has a .913 OPS in 108 games with the Giants. In 2020, he hit 10 home runs with a .298 average and a .947 OPS. Dickerson had a 90.9 mph average exit velocity and a .494 xSLG. He also hit .358 with a .679 slugging against fastballs. Mauricio Dubon came through the Brewers system as a shortstop and second baseman, but he is now a center fielder for San Francisco. He hit four home runs with two stolen bases, a .726 OPS and a 101 OPS+ in 54 games last year. He had six outs above average, with one at second, and the rest in center. Former Phillies first baseman Darin Ruf returned from the KBO and had a career season while mostly playing left field. Ruf hit five home runs with an .887 OPS and a 143 OPS+, the latter two being career bests. He also walked 12.9 percent of the time. The final spot is between Austin Slater and Steven Duggar. Slater has a massive advantage, after hitting five home runs with eight stolen bases, and a 15.4 walk rate. He also had a .303 xBA with a .540 xSLG. Duggar is a more reliable defensive option, but in his career he has an OPS of just .630. Duggar was awful in 21 games last year, going 6-for-34. 

Projected Rotation
Kevin Gausman (R)
Johnny Cueto (R)
Alex Wood (L)
Anthony DeSclafani (R)
Logan Webb (R)
Projected Bullpen
Jake McGee (L)
Jarlin Garcia (L)
Matt Wisler (R)
Tyler Rogers (R)
Reyes Moronta (R)
Sam Selman (L)
Jose Alvarez (L)
Aaron Sanchez (R)
Projected Lineup
2B Donovan Solano (R)
1B Brandon Belt (L)
RF Mike Yastrzemski (L)
C Buster Posey (R)
LF Alex Dickerson (L)
3B Evan Longoria (R)
SS Brandon Crawford (L)
CF Mauricio Dubon (R)
Pitcher
Projected Bench
C Curt Casali (R)
IF Tommy La Stella (L)
IF Wilmer Flores (R)
OF/1B Darin Ruf (R)
OF Austin Slater (R)

Projection

The Giants are better offensively than people give them credit for. But that pitching staff is terrible. There are by no means at the end of their rebuild, and that is not a bad thing. But, what is a bad thing will be their team this year. I predict they will finish in 4th place, missing the playoffs. 

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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