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“Alluhring Strategy” Team Preview: 2017 San Francisco Giants

Rebuilding the ‘Pen and the Odd Year Playoff Curse

In this final team preview for 2017, we head across the Bay and examine the San Francisco Giants. After winning the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, the “even year magic” was broken as their bullpen couldn’t hold a 3-run 9th inning lead during the 2016 Divisional Series. The Giants Front Office set out to correct this problem come hell or high water, and it appears they got their man.

The 2016 San Francisco finished with a 87-75 record which was good for 2nd place in the NL West, 4 games behind 1st place LAD. They were arguably the best team during the first half of the season, but then injuries and their bullpen crippled them to nearly .500 baseball the second half and barely hanging on to a Wild Card spot. After another MadBum post-season masterpiece with complete game shutout against the Mets in the Wild Card round, the Giants were primed to continue the “even year” dominance. Matt Moore kills it in Game 4 with an 8 inning, 1 ER, 10 K to 2 BB effort and hands the ball over to the bullpen in the 9th only needing 3 outs to protect a 3 run lead. Five Giants relievers couldn’t get the job done and of course, Aroldis Chapman didn’t have the same problem in the bottom of the 9th. The Cubs go on to finish off a story-book playoff run that the “baseball gods” clearly supported in route to their first World Championship in 108 years.

The drought in San Francisco may only be two seasons, but Giants fans must have been wondering…”what if we had a real closer?” I think you would have felt pretty good then going into what would have been “winner-takes-all” elimination game with Johnny Cueto on the mound and MadBum looming if Cueto gets into any trouble. As mentioned above, #1 priority this off-season was to lock up an Ace Closer regardless of cost. They might not have gotten any of the sexy names, but what they did get is a three-time All-Star Closer that led the league in 2015 with 51 saves and led the league in 2016 with 67 games finished. Mission Accomplished…and then the Giants took off the rest of the Off-season. Will putting all their eggs in one basket be enough?

 

Key Off-Season Transactions

Additions:

  1. Mark Melancon CL
  2. Nick Hundley C
  3. Jae-gyun Hwang 3B/SS

 

Subtractions:

  1. Sergio Romo
  2. Santiago Casilla
  3. Jake Peavy
  4. Javier Lopez
  5. Chris Heston
  6. Angel Pagan
  7. Ehire Adrianza
  8. Gregor Blanco

 

As mentioned in the opening section, the Giants were very intentional on their strategy this off-season. #1 – Sign a top notch Closer. #2 – Clean up the roster of some dead weight. Melancon could add 4-5 wins in the regular season and more importantly instill confidence in the post-season.

I’m not sure there were any guys they let walk or cut that they should have cut. Romo, Casilla and Lopez were important parts of their three Championships but are all now in their mid-to-late 30s.

I would like to have seen them solve their LF situation, but perhaps they will just wait until the trade deadline to get the right guy. Korean Free-agent signing, Jae-gyun Hwang, is an interesting addition but I’m not sure how he will fit in. He is primarily a 3B/SS and those positions are locked in and he’s not been officially added to the 40-Man roster. He is having a fantastic Spring and could force the Giants to bring up sooner rather than later. He is hitting .356 with an OPS of 1.108. He leads the team in HRs (5) and RBIs (15).

 

Projected Opening Day Roster Notables

Lineup

  1. Denard Span (L) / Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
  2. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
  3. Buster Posey (R) C
  4. Hunter Pence (R) RF
  5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
  6. Eduardo Nunez (R) 3B
  7. Joe Panik (L) 2B
  8. Jarrett Parker (L) / Mac Williamson (R) LF
  9. PITCHER

 

Key Bench

  1. Nick Hundley – primary backup catcher
  2. Aaron Hill – utility INF
  3. Conor Gillaspie – 3B/PH

 

The health of Hunter Pence of Eduardo Nunez will likely determine how potent this offense will be in 2017. The Giants believe in having a stacked rotation and scoring enough runs to keep the pressure off them. They should easily get over 700 runs scored this season and therefore exceed 4 runs per game giving their rotation the needed support to win a large percentage of games. Power really isn’t their game considering none of the guys on their projected lineup exceeded 20 HRs last season. On the other hand, all 8 starters listed above could/should crack double digits and will create enough extra-base hits to drive in runs. Span has definitely lost a step at 33, but speed really isn’t their game with only Nunez considered a “base-stealer.” That being said, there are quite a few guys that could could swipe some bags if given the green light and if the situation was right. Panik, Crawford and reserves, Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson, could all reach double-digit steals this year. Last thought…do the Giants really like Jarrett Parker in LF? Sure he could hit 25 HRs in a full season, but it would likely come with 200 Ks. I expect there be an upgrade here prior to the playoffs.

 

Rotation

  1. Madison Bumgarner LHP
  2. Johnny Cueto RHP
  3. Matt Moore LHP
  4. Jeff Samardzija RHP
  5. Matt Cain RHP
  6. *Ty Blach LHP

 

Bullpen

  1. Mark Melancon (R) CL
  2. Hunter Strickland (R) 8th
  3. Derek Law (R) 7th
  4. Steven Okert (L) LHS
  5. *Will Smith (L) Injured or would have been 8th

 

The Giants have one of the best rotations in baseball but it is not without question marks. Madbum and Cueto are about as good as it gets as a #1 and #2. Many would say that Jeff Samardzija is the #3, but he is too inconsistent for me. This is likely why he has been on 4 teams in the last 3 years. There is no questioning his stuff, but his command and inconsistency makes him a wild card and better suited as the #4. Couple that with Matt Moore’s impressive outing in the NLDS and overall solid contribution to the team after acquiring him mid-season from the Tampa Rays. Although his walks increased, his overall statistics were better across the board once he hit the National League and I believe that he will enjoy pitching for an entire season knowing he is in a playoff race. Unlike Samardzija, Moore’s biggest knock has been health related and I believe he can and will regain his command and be a solid #3 for the Giants this season.

We can all agree that they solved their Closer issue, but what about the rest of the bullpen that blew 30 games last year. Well as mentioned above, the old core guys are gone, but some of the young guys that remained were part of the melt down during the second half of last season. Will Smith was acquired late last season and was supposed to be a major cog during the late innings, but he is now officially out for the season with an upcoming Tommy John Surgery. This leaves Hunter Strickland and Derek Law as the primary setup guys in high-leverage situations. Although they were both partially responsible for the collapse last season, they both overall had good seasons. I attribute the melt down to fatigue as Strickland had 72 appearances in only his 2nd full MLB season and Law had 61 as a rookie. I expect them to both be back to early season form and have great seasons in 2017.

 

Key Spring Training Position Battle

5th Starter – Cain vs. Blach

It appears that the organization is intent to give Cain every chance to start the season as the #5 starter despite clearly being the inferior pitcher this Spring. I assume its a loyalty thing here as he as posted a team worst 37 hits allowed and 23 runs allowed this Spring. I think if rookie-eligible Ty Blach came out this Spring and pitched lights out, he could have won the job. He was better than Cain, but wasn’t dominate. I personally give him a leg up based on his masterpiece against Clayton Kershaw to put the Giants in the Wild Card at the end of last season. He could still make the team as the long-reliever, but I expect him to start the season in AAA in order to keep him stretched out for an April call-up. It won’t be long before this spot goes to top prospect, Tyler Beede.

Left-Handed Specialist — Okert vs. Osich

Okert clearly out-pitcher Osich this Spring and has locked up the primary LHS but Osich likely makes the team as a 2nd lefty option and middle innings reliever. Okert could be a key to the bullpen this season to try and neutralize lefty sluggers in the late innings. He could also fair well in strikeouts and holds for those in fantasy leagues that value middle relievers.

Utility Infielder — Hill vs. Tomlinson vs. Hwang

As mentioned early in this piece, I’m not sure how Hwang will fit in and he could fill this roll at some point this season. However, I have to believe the Giants will primarily use veteran Aaron Hill in this position as he can play all four infield positions and can provide leadership and the occasional clutch power stroke. Tomlinson has proven to be a valuable asset as he can also play in the outfield. I do expect to see him up throughout the season to cover injuries, but to start the season with a healthy club, Aaron Hill should be the man.

Prospects to Know for 2017

 

  1. Tyler Beede RHP (late 2017 — Blach and Okert probably would have been in this section, but I have already covered them so I turn to the organization’s undisputed top pitching prospect. Beede finished the 2016 season in AA, but the 23-year-old should spend the first half of this season in AAA. He features a plus fastball and change-up as well as a major league ready cutter and curve-ball. He improved over the past season in keeping the ball down and cutting down his walks. If he continues to show progress in these areas, it will be tough to keep him down during the stretch when some of the veterans could use a break and to control their usage.
  2. Andrew Suarez RHP (late 2017) — If they don’t want to rush their top pitching prospect, they may give their most polished pitching prospect a shot. His best pitches are his fastball and slider but they are not plus pitches like Beede. His command is his best tool, but he does throw what projects as a MLB average curve-ball and change-up to mix in with his better offerings. One compliant is he throws “too many” strikes and the team would like to see him miss a few more bats. If he can develop that over the first half of the season, he could see a call up this August or September to spell an injury or rest. 

Fantasy Targets

  1. Brandon Crawford – He has a lot of fans in the clubhouse including Team USA during the World Baseball Classic. He will get overlooked with the young shortstops all the rage. He went #225 overall (Round 15, 16 team) in my MLFB draft this past week. If I didn’t already have Correa, I would have snagged him. He might not have any one impressive stat, but he will fill out the score card. He has a chance to have a line something like this…25 2Bs, 10 3Bs, 20 HRs, 85 RBIs, 10 SBs and .275 avg. 
  2. Matt Moore – I was targeting him in the same draft, but someone reached for him at #148 (round 10). I was expecting him to be there in Rounds 15-18 and he would be a great value there as his move to the NL should revitalize his career. If he stays healthy he will put up great numbers for a fantasy 4th or 5th starter.

2017 Team Outlook

  1. Can then get the ball to Melancon with the lead? I believe the answer to this is YES! As mentioned earlier, I like the young guys Okert, Law and Strickland to be productive and cut down the 30 blown saves by at least half, if not better.
  2. Will the outfield stay healthy & be productive? I believe the answer to this is NO! I don’t trust Span to be productive at age 33. At don’t trust Pence to stay healthy. I love Pence when he’s playing, but history tells us you need to have depth in the Giants outfield. Parker/Tomlinson/Hernandez combo in left-field is just a placeholder until they can pull off a deadline deal. Last year it was the bullpen, this year the outfield may be the team’s achilles heal.
  3. 2nd Place in NL West at 90-72, Wild Card berth — If this looks familiar, well, it is. I see the regular season unfolding similar to last but I think they should finish with a few more wins. Unfortunately, the Dodgers probably will too. The good news: this breaks the odd year curse of missing the playoffs. Breaking the even year magic could pave the way to a new odd-year dominance. With the improved bullpen and outstanding rotation, they could match up well against the Cubs or Nats in the Divisional Series.

 

 


Bryan Luhrs

Major League Fantasy Sports
Writer & Contributor
Real Deal Dynasty Sports
Owner, League Developer & Executive Commissioner

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

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Our guests this week are Ron Shandler, and Bilal Chaudry. Ron is FSTA Hall of Famer, and one of the pioneers of fantasy baseball. You can find his work at ronshandler.com. Bilal is a veteran owner in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and frequent radio guest.

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