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  • The Giants brought in Farhan Zaidi to orchestrate a much-needed rebuild in San Francisco, and so far, the analytical baseball wizard hasn't done much. But the aging veterans from the Giants' World Series run from a few years back could still provide value to the club, if mostly via trade.
By Gabriel Baumgaertner
March 27, 2019

2018 finish: 73-89, Fourth in NL West

SI's 2019 Prediction: 62-100, Fifth in NL West

Key additions: OF Gerardo Parra, LHP Drew Pomeranz, INF Yangervis Solarte, LHP Derek Holland (re-signed)

Key departures: OF Hunter Pence, OF Gregor Blanco, RHP Hunter Strickland, C Nick Hundley

Projected Lineup

1. CF Steven Duggar

2. 2B Joe Panik

3. C Buster Posey

4. 1B Brandon Belt

5. 3B Evan Longoria

6. SS Brandon Crawford

7. LF Mac Williamson

8. RF Gerardo Parra

Bench

C Erik Kratz

INF Yangervis Solarte

INF/OF Connor Joe

OF Michael Reed

Projected Rotation

1. LHP Madison Bumgarner

2. RHP Jeff Samardzija

3. LHP Derek Holland

4. RHP Dereck Rodriguez

5. LHP Drew Pomeranz

Bullpen

LHP Will Smith (Co-Closer)

RHP Mark Melancon (Co-Closer)

LHP Tony Watson

RHP Sam Dyson

RHP Reyes Moronta

RHP Nick Vincent

LHP Travis Bergen

RHP Chris Stratton

Injured List: RHP Johnny Cueto (out for season)

Movin’ On Up! The Giants were forgettable in 2018, but Dereck Rodriguez was a revelation. The son of Hall of Fame catcher Iván Rodríguez, the younger Rodríguez befuddled opposing hitters over his first 19 MLB starts: he compiled a 138 ERA+—a better mark than Zack Greinke, Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard—and a remarkably low 3.9% barrel rate. Rodríguez's skill set is suited for the cavernous AT&T Park, he induces a ton of soft contact despite a low strikeout rate (6.8 per nine innings). For the Giants to succeed in 2019, Rodríguez will need to help stabilize a creaky rotation that won’t have Johnny Cueto because of Tommy John surgery. There is a chance for regression—his BABIP (.257) is suspiciously low and the advanced metrics aren’t fond of his spin rates—but the Giants need promising young talent and Rodriguez looks the part.

Sell! The oft-injured Brandon Belt never became the hitter that the Giants expected, and he became even less desirable last year after his walk rate declined. Long revered for his batting eye and his line-drive swing, Belt’s walk rate decreased by four percentage points in 2018 and he posted his lowest OBP (.342) in any season when logging at least 100 games. Belt still plays the bunt well at first base and is, at the very least, a stable enough presence in the lineup. But it’s hard to imagine that the front office wants to pay the remaining $34.4 million they owe him after he missed a combined 108 games over the past two seasons.

Appreciate This Man! Joe Panik has never been a model of health, but he’s hit over .450 in the spring and remains a complete, if unremarkable presence at second base. Still, there is something to be said for a guy who, according to a rival scout, “should have his face on the carton of vanilla ice cream.” Panik wasn’t an asset at the plate in 2018—he logged a career-low 77 OPS+ in 102 games—but he seldom strikes out and remains a defensive stalwart at second base despite seemingly limited range.

A Modest Proposal From Joe Sheehan: When the Giants hired Farhan Zaidi away from the Dodgers, it was seen as an acknowledgement that they needed their own young, smart GM to oversee a rebuild. In four months since taking the job, though, Zaidi has done...nothing. He’s made one trade, acquiring a reliever who was later designated for assignment. The biggest free agent he signed was Drew Pomeranz. Zaidi neither moved the Giants closer to the playoffs in 2019, nor closer to them in 2022. With Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria, Zaidi doesn’t have a core that can challenge the Dodgers, but he does have one that can dominate the in-season trade market. A healthy Bumgarner—something we haven’t seen for a full season since 2016—could swing the AL East, NL East, or NL Central races. By dealing him this summer, Zaidi will add desperately needed talent to a fallow Giants’ farm system.

MLB.TV Rating: 4.0

The Giants get a small boost because it’s worth it just to look at AT&T Park, but this team will be borderline unwatchable if injuries afflict any of their core players. New team president Farhan Zaidi might be the brightest executive in baseball not named Brian Cashman, but he’s inherited a roster full of bloated legacy contracts and a shallow farm system. It’s unclear whether Buster Posey will resemble his old self after returning from a hip injury, and Madison Bumgarner is a prime midseason trade candidate with his contract due to expire at the end of the season. Shortstop Brandon Crawford remains a joy to watch field grounders at shortstop and the team is banking on surges from power-hitting outfielder Mac Williamson and the speedy Steven Duggar. The problem is that it’s totally unclear whether Williamson or Duggar are everyday big leaguers. If the team stays healthy, manager Bruce Bochy is capable of milking a few extra wins out of his side in his last year at the helm of the team. Even then, this team probably maxes out at 78 wins.

Scout's Takes

A rival scout analyzes the Giants as they head into the 2019 MLB season. 

What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?

Outfield production. They don’t have a single established outfielder on this team. They need an impact bat in the outfield. They’ve got Mac Williamson, Steven Duggar and Cameron Maybin running around. These are not proven quantities out there. That’s why they were in on Bryce Harper.

Who is the most overrated player on the team?

Brandon Belt. He has had a broken swing from the beginning — it’s the same mechanical swing that he’s had from Day 1. It’s not his fault that they decided to pay him. His swing just isn’t conducive to power. Teams have the book on him and he can’t make the adjustments.

Who is the most underrated player on the team?

Brandon Crawford. Offensively, he’s been up and down. Defensively he is the truth. He’s such a cool customer, his gait never changes. He’s so focused.

What young player(s) is/are on the cusp of stardom?

Dereck Rodríguez is going to step up. He’ll pitch his way up to even more prominence in that rotation. He’s got a ton of moxie and a big arm. You can tell he’s been in a big league clubhouse his whole life. He wants to dominate every time out. He’s got a chip on his shoulder since he didn’t work out as a position player and had to move to the mound.

What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?

Mac Williamson. He’s a brute strength guy that they’ve been waiting on and he’s been given every chance to break through and he can’t get it done. They’re wishing on him and it just isn’t going to happen. He can’t slow the game down and he panics with two strikes. He doesn’t have a ton of confidence hitting behind in the count and waves at bad pitches.

Who gets the most out of his talent?

Joe Panik. If you had a gallon of vanilla ice cream, his picture would be on it. He has no flash nor flavor, but he’s consistent, makes contact, uses the whole field and understands his role. He looks in shape this spring and he’s played really well.

Who gets the least out of his talent?

Mark Melancon. He came here to fill the void in the bullpen that Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla left, and he’s been a complete bust. He’s healthy now, so we’ll see, but at this point he’s such a disappointment. He’s got a big fastball and a big curveball, but he had a ton of injury troubles so he can’t spin it quite as well.

Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?

Will Smith has got a little hop at the end. The velocity isn’t really mindblowing, but the quality of his pitches is so high.

Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?

Buster Posey. He always hits for a high average and he’s done such a great job with the staff. The hip situation has sapped his power, but they still rave about the baseball player that he is. I’m surprised they didn’t pay somebody to take Belt so they could move Posey to first.

Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?

Pablo Sandoval. He looks healthy. The power isn’t the same, but he’s still got his instincts at the plate. Power guys don’t want to hit in that park, so they don’t have many guys on this team that make you go ‘oh!’

Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for.

Madison Bumgarner and Crawford. Crawford stabilizes the middle infield and Bumgarner is still the best postseason pitcher on the planet even if his stuff is different. He didn’t pitch much last year coming off an injury. It will be interesting to see what he has for

the full year.

Name the guy (or guys)on this teams that you would never want in your clubhouse.

Drew Pomeranz. He’s always hurt and I don’t want that to rub off on other players. He can pitch, but he just can’t stay healthy.

Whose effort could use a jolt?

Evan Longoria. He changed leagues, he changed surfaces and I loved him when he was in Tampa. I thought it was a great signing, but you have to do so much when you change from turf to grass, from good air in Tampa to dead air in San Francisco. He should have a bounceback year, but he’s gotta work hard.

Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?

Posey and Bumgarner. Posey is a complete professional hitter. I’m excited to see him healthy again. He couldn’t explode with his lower half last year. I watched him shoot Blake Treinen out of the yard a few days ago on a good slider. He’s by far their best offensive player when he’s right, even if that’s not saying much for this team right now.

Who don’t you want in that situation?

On the mound, probably Jeff Samardzija. He’s got the mentality to overpower everybody at all times. He was never able to corral that as a starter because he’s so used to going hard. In a game situation, he can’t harness his emotions well enough. At the plate, it’s Belt. He just doesn’t do it for me.

Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?

Joey Bart, the catcher, even if he’s not under the radar. He'll able to extend Buster Posey’s availability and gives protection in the lineup. He’s a true two-way guy who’s physical behind the plate and really mature for his age. Some think he should be there now, but there’s no need to rush him. He’s got a chance to be the full package.

Is the current manager one that you would hire to run your club?

Bochy should’ve retired after last season instead of waiting until the end of 2019. He’s given them everything that he could possibly give that team. I’m ready for him to be an adviser. I don’t want him to drop dead on the job. He works so hard and has no quit in him, but he needs to ease up. It’s time. There’s no need for him to be going through a rebuild. Get a fresh manager in there.

What is the ceiling for the team this year? What about the next three years?

Last place this year. I don’t see anybody falling back to the pack with the exception of Arizona, so maybe they can get to fourth place next year. I don’t see them being any better the year after. Farhan Zaidi has a ton of work to do and needs to put his stamp on the team in his first year as team president. There is so much to do and every other team in the division is built to win sooner than San Francisco.

Emptying the notebook

Will Bumgarner get traded? Where will he be once the trade deadline comes along? A lot of people thought he’d be traded in the offseason. I think the Yankees would spend for him and the Cardinals probably would too. He’ll be a hired gun. … And while the team isn’t much, the Giants still play their games at the most beautiful park in the game and the history is still there.

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