For the first time since 2009, the San Francisco Giants go into an odd-year Spring Training without a title to defend. This year finds the Giants in transition, with a new look bullpen. The Giants are one of the best teams in baseball, and fans have high expectations. Here are five bold predictions of how the season will play out.[Jeff]
- The Giants will have the best rotation in the NL West
This one isn’t too hard to picture. The messes in San Diego and Colorado means that at worst the Giants are third in the West. The Diamondbacks are upstarts for the crown, as well. The Kershaw-led Dodgers are the odds-on favorite to lead the division. However, the Giants have two of the top five pitchers in the NL according to MLB.com. If Matt Moore breaks through and if Jeff Samardzija bounces back, the Giants are poised to take the crown. If Matt Cain can regain some sort of form, or if a young gun can step in and help out, the Giants could topple the Dodgers for the crown.
- Brandon Belt will hit more than 25 home runs
This doesn’t exactly sound Herculean, but since Barry Bonds’ 2007 retirement, a Giant has passed 25 dingers just twice. In 2013, Hunter Pence hit 27, and in 2010, Aubrey Huff hit 26. Belt had a .199 ISO last season, an .197 ISO in 2015, and a .206 ISO in 2014. Of every player to amass 600 PA with an ISO over .190, only Belt didn’t break 20 home runs. Of the 47 players who met that criteria, only five did not pass 25 home runs. Belt gets AT&Ted a lot, so he will do his damage on the road, but he will become the third Giant in the last 10 seasons to pass 25 home runs.
- Matt Cain pitches his last inning as a Giant… before the All-Star Break
Matt Cain is easily the weakest link in the Giants’ otherwise relatively strong rotation, after being the teams’ workhorse for ages. He’s hit a sharp decline and the Giants only have this year committed to him. They have several MLB-pitching prospects in the minors, and may phantom DL Cain to put him out of his misery. Or a real DL stint could end his San Francisco Giants career. There’s zero chance he pitches in San Francisco in 2018, and he won’t even make it to the All-Star Break.
- The San Francisco Giants will have more ninth-inning comebacks than last year
Well… Not exactly bold:
The Giants were 0-62 when trailing after 8 innings last season. They just came back in 9th and beat Reds 6-4 on Chris Marrero's 3-run HR.
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) February 24, 2017
- Jae-gyun Hwang overtakes Eduardo Nuñez as the starting third baseman
The Korean import has already blasted a monster home run this Spring Training, and he was the only real potential offensive contributor this Hot Stove. That is, unless you consider every old infielder and Michael Morse on minor league deals “potential offensive contributors.” The Giants snagged Nuñez last season amid his breakout season. Then they went out and got Hwang, who primarily plays the same position as Nuñez. Bruce Bochy’s obsession with having a super utility player on the bench (Joaquin Arias and Mike Fontenot) makes the move likely. The move is incredibly in character with the team’s glory days and would provide the Giants with a more malleable infield situation.