The good news from 2017? The Giants will have the No. 2 overall pick in the June draft. The bad news from 2017? Only by losing 98 games a season ago -- their most L's in the season since 1985 -- did the Giants earn that draft slot.
Normally, when a team craters to such an extent it signals a rebuild. Not so with the Giants, though. They've spent the winter fortifying the roster, and thanks to the efforts (in tandem with hope for better health up and down the roster), San Fran looks like a wild-card contender in the NL this season.
Now let's break it down a bit further ...
- 2017 record: 64-98, fifth place in NL West (minus-137 run differential)
- 2018 depth chart: Click here
- 2018 schedule: Click here
- 2018 Fantasy outlook: Click here
- Joe Panik, 2B
- Andrew McCutchen, RF
- Buster Posey, C
- Evan Longoria, 3B
- Brandon Belt, 1B
- Hunter Pence, LF
- Brandon Crawford, SS
- Austin Jackson, CF
Probable bench: Gorkys Hernandez, OF; Nick Hundley, C; Jarrett Parker, OF; Pablo Sandoval, INF; Kelby Tomlinson, INF
- Madison Bumgarner, LHP
- Johnny Cueto, RHP
- Jeff Samardzija, RHP
- Ty Blach, LHP
- Chris Stratton, RHP
Closer: Mark Melancon, RHP
Setup: Tony Watson, LHP; Hunter Strickland, RHP
Middle relief: Sam Dyson, RHP; Cory Gearin, RHP; Steven Okert, LHP
Long relief: Julian Fernandez, RHP
Most notably, the Giants this offseason swung trades for third baseman Evan Longoria and outfielder Andrew McCutchen and signed center fielder Austin Jackson to a low-cost contract. Those would be sound additions for almost any team, but they especially make sense for the Giants. Here's why ...
- Giants' third basemen in 2017: .216/.268/.300
- Giants' right fielders in 2017: .255/.306/.364
- Giants' center fielders in 2017: .257/.327/.391
While center field wasn't that bad last season, third and right were complete sinkholes for the Giants. So what can expect in terms of the new faces in San Fran? Via our fantasy projections for 2018, here's a look ...
- Longoria is projected to hit .278/.327/.440 with 17 home runs. He also graded out as a defensive asset last season.
- McCutchen is projected to hit .277/.356/.489 with 27 home runs.
- Jackson is projected to hit .305/.365/.445.
I'll take the under on Jackson's forecast, but even so he still figures to be an upgrade in center. Longoria and McCutchen, meantime, should be massive upgrades over what the Giants got from third and right a season ago. Given the baseline in place, the Giants should enjoy a lot of marginal gains thanks to these targeted additions. Along those same lines, the addition of Tony Watson directly addresses the glaring need for a quality left-handed reliever. Given all this, Bobby Evans had one of the best offseasons of any GM.
Health and durability will be key
The underlying indicators suggest that the Giants last season should've been a handful of games better than their miserable 64-98 record. As well, NL innings leader Jeff Samardzija suffered from some bad luck in 2017, and he should enjoy some ERA improvement on those grounds alone. Beyond all that, the Giants will be banking on better health in 2018.
Last season, Madison Bumgarner of course missed roughly three months after a dirt-bike accident. Closer Mark Melancon had elbow and forearm problems throughout the year. Brandon Belt was waylaid by a concussion in the second half, as was Joe Panik. Hunter Pence went on the DL with a hamstring strain. Assume a full season from Bumgarner and better health from Melancon, and that's a clear path toward improvement on the injury front.
Elsewhere, Buster Posey is coming off a season in which he managed just 826 1/3 innings behind the plate. That's his lowest catcher workload since 2011, when he suffered a season-ending injury in late May on a collision at the plate. This is all to be expected from a catcher who's now in his thirties, but the Giants need Posey to hold his ground when it comes to being able to be a high-volume catcher in 2018.
The Giants need health and durability because ...
Well, this is key for every team, but it's especially the case for the Giants. That's because they have one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball, and as such they're going to be light on in-house solutions should roster needs arise. So maybe they can take on questionable contracts via trade to address those needs? Well, the Giants are committed to staying under the competitive balance tax threshold this season in anticipation of next winter's loaded free agent market. They're right up against it now, which means they don't have much latitude to take on salary. When trading for players under long-term contracts, you need to send good prospects the other way if you don't want to take on the financial obligation. Again, though, the Giants don't really have any good prospects.
As noted above, injury concerns could crop up, and the back of the rotation could wind up being a liability. The Giants have to hope none of that comes to pass because they'll have serious problems in coming up with reinforcements.
The schedule may be tough
This might not be in the Giants' favor. The NL West last season yielded three playoff teams in the Dodgers, Diamondback, and Rockies, and those three teams figure to be relevant again in 2018. Thanks to the unbalanced schedule, the Giants will play 57 games against those three clubs. By extension, the NL West has only one team, the Padres, that isn't angling to compete. In 2018, that's a point of distinction given the widespread tanking trend around the league. As well, with the addition of Eric Hosmer and a lot of high-ceiling youngsters in place and on the way, the Padres could make modest strides this season. Throw in four interleague contests against the champion Astros, and the Giants figure to have one of the tougher schedules in the NL.
If the Giants are going to make the postseason, then they'll need to improve upon their 2017 record by, say, 18 games or so. That's a tall order. However, thanks to those targeted additions and the hope for better health, the Giants may be able to hit that target. I'd put them slightly behind the Cardinals and Brewers in the wild-card fray, but the Giants figure to be in the mix.