Lost boys: Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, Michael Morse.
New pieces: Casey McGehee, Nori Aoki
The Giants decided not to pay up for Sandoval, which is probably a good play in the long run, but hurts them in the short term. Sandoval’s productivity and ability to do amazing things with shitty pitches made him a valuable part of the lineup. As unsexy as it seems, adding Casey McGehee to replace him at 3rd was pretty much the only option on the table. Losing Michael Morse to the Marlins was another blow to the power part of the lineup. Replacing him with Nori Aoki doesn’t provide any power relief, but it does add speed and better defense. With the offseason’s power outage, the Giants will have to rely on speed and their ability to consistently get runners on base if they hope to still be playing in October.
C: Buster Posey
Buster Posey is my favorite name in the world. I wanted to name our new dog Buster Posey but his name was already George and he was clearly a George. Buster Posey the human who is the Giants’ catcher has a friendly face and calm demeanor. He seems like the kind of golden boy I should hate, but he makes Giants fans feel steady. And steady is what Giants fans need after losing the powerful switch-hitting Pablo Sandoval in free agency to the Red Sox.
1B: Brandon Belt
“This will be Brandon Belt’s year.” This is a thing that Giants fans have been saying for the past 4 years, but as long as none of his teammates throw a ball at his head during practice, this will be Brandon Belt’s year. Brandon Belt is 11 days older than my sister. My sister has a job where she sometimes calls me after a shift and says things like, “They pushed on his abdomen and his aorta burst,” or “Guess what we got in the lab today? A human foot!” Anyway, Brandon Belt has gotten to the point where he can hit lefties about as well as righties, so I expect big things from him this year.
2B: Joe Panik
Last year the Giants had a problem. Their second baseman, Marco Scutaro, had just 11 at bats before being sidelined the rest of the season with a chronic back injury. It was looking like the team would need to platoon at the position for the whole year, but a funny thing happened in June. Joe Panik joined the team as its everyday 2B, hitting .299 June – September. Panik’s plate discipline over the course of those months was pretty impressive, and I look forward to seeing what the kid can do in a full season.
SS: Brandon Crawford
Brandon Crawford is the defensive cornerstone of the Giants. Makes acrobatic plays at short and has some offensive power upside (10 HRs in 2014). In 2013, Crawford was hitting around .200 vs. lefties. In 2014 he was hitting well over .300 against them. If the trend continues, we might see a few more splashes over the right field wall from Crawford in 2015.
3B: Casey McGehee
The hot corner is a sore subject for Giants fans. Despite his heft, Pablo Sandoval was actually a very good defensive third baseman. He ranked third in 2014 in fielding % at the position, and his offensive productivity will be missed. Casey McGehee is not a perfect replacement for Panda, but he’s better than some of the alternatives that were on the market. My guess is he’ll hit around .250 or .260 and maybe hit 10 HRs. Not a lot to get excited about, but the Giants do have a history of taking mediocre players and turning them into champions. (See also Cody Ross.)
LF: Nori Aoki
It was nice having Michael Morse as a rental. Although he was borderline terrible defensively, he supplied some much-needed power in the Giants’ lineup. With Morse signing a two-year contract the Marlins, the GIants had to look elsewhere for an outfielder. Nori Aoki doesn’t give the Giants power, but may offer the next best thing — speed. He should be a threat to steal 15 to 20 bases and hit upwards of .275. This year the Giants need pesky baserunners, and Aoki should help.
CF: Angel Pagan
Angel Pagan will be the center fielder until he inevitably has a season-ending injury sometime in the next few months. Pagan’s health and production will be a huge factor for the Giants’ 2015 season. When Pagan is healthy, he’s a decent lead-off hitter who is always a threat to steal bases. If he can’t hack it, Aoki will take over.
RF: Gregor Blanco
With Hunter Pence about a month from being able to return, expect Blanco to see the majority of the workload. Blanco is probably best known for his diving catch to save Matt Cain’s perfect game, but he’s also a speedy baserunner who should steal 15 bags for the Giants this year.
The Giants bench leaves much to be desired. If any of the starters get hurt, there won’t be much to patch things together with. Mostly scrawny dudes no one has ever heard of.
Bumgarner was the indisputable hero of the 2014 World Series and is a legitimate contender for the NL Cy Young Award (though probably only if Kershaw has a suboptimal year). He’s the biggest piece of the Giants team right now, and all good and bad things will likely be because of him. My girlfriend wanted me to also include the fact that Madison Bumgarner once dated a girl named Madison Bumgarner.
Matt Cain used to be a horse, but now he is a pony. Poor little pony. We’ll find out pretty quickly what toll his recent Injuries and surgeries have taken. He’s had 4+ ERA seasons the past 2 years, but if he can stay healthy, look for a regression back to the mean and maybe a ~3.75 ERA. UPDATE: As I write this, I’m reading that Cain will likely miss his first start due to forearm tightness. He has an MRI scheduled. The last surgery he had was to clean out some “elbow chips.” Hoping this doesn’t end up being a new Doritos campaign.
Hudson is getting a little long in the tooth, but it hasn’t really mattered much. His command is still good and he gets a lot of ground balls. He’s another injury-ridden part of this pitching staff, and as such is also a question mark.
The Giants added Peavy to their roster at the trade deadline in 2014, and he helped bolster their rotation a little bit. He was terrible in the postseason, but he still bought a cable car to add to his weird collection of gimmicky transportation. UPDATE: As I write this I’m finding out that Peavy is experiencing some nasty back problems and will miss his first start.
Vogey’s stoicism and work ethic have gotten him 2 championships. He had 32 starts in 2014 with varying results. Vogelsong will give you plenty of innings, but you never know what kind of innings he’s going to give you.
Let Timmy smoke. Let Timmy grow his moustache. Let Timmy grow his hair long. But let Timmy back into the starting rotation? We’ll see. His mechanics are still too wonky to let him have the kind of control he needs for someone who has lost a ton of velocity. If he can take some pointers from Hudson, he might still have a future as a starter, otherwise look for him to provide middle relief.
If there’s a bright spot for the Giants this year, it might be that they still have a pretty solid bullpen. Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Jean Machi, Yusmeiro Petit, Sergio Romo, and closer Santiago Casilla will all have to put in work to support an iffy starting rotation.
The 2015 Giants look pretty underwhelming. But so did the 2010 Giants, the 2012 Giants, and the 2014 Giants. So who knows. Bochy and Sabean are magicians, but they can only do so much.
The Giants’ farm teams are pretty depleted. That’s kind of the cost of winning year in and year out, though. I can see this being a year where they bring in some new prospects at the trade deadline. (My guess is they’ll be sellers, not buyers.)
With the up and coming Padres (what??) making moves left and right, the NL West all of a sudden has another contender. But then again, the Dodgers were early favorites last year and that didn’t work out like they hoped. If the Giants have a .500 or better record by the trade deadline, I will be shocked. I love them, but I’ll be very, very surprised.