The San Francisco Giants are hoping to return to prominence and the World Series this year. They seemed on the verge of pulling it off last year until their bullpen let them down against the Cubs. They are retooled and ready to make another playoff run. While the Giants are unlikely to surpass the Dodgers to win the NL West, they should still make it to the playoffs. If they do, however, it will start in Spring Training with these three key story lines to watch.[Jeff]
- The left field battle
The Giants have moved on from Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan, leaving left field up for grabs. Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker are the favorites, with Michael Morse and Justin Ruggiano as dark horse candidates. Parker is currently running away with the gig thanks to his hot start to Spring Training. The battle should be a back-and-forth all Spring Training, and the battle might not even end then.
- New look bullpen
The Giants moved on from their three bullpen stalwarts after one of the worst bullpen seasons in history. Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez have been key cogs of their World Series successes, and they now join Jeremy Affeldt as former San Francisco Giants. The Giants’ biggest free agent acquisition was super closer Mark Melancon, who will go a long way to shoring up the late innings. The move away from the aging vets will also put Derek Law into more high-leverage situations. Law quietly had the sixteenth-best ERA among relievers last year and should have continued success. Hunter Strickland should have an ERA around 3, even if he doesn’t take a step forward in 2017. The Giants’ late season acquisition, Will Smith, will also contribute big this season. The Giants rebuilt their bullpen in a hurry, and shouldn’t have a repeat of last year’s dismal efforts at the back-end.
- The Killer B’s – Blach/Blackburn/Beede
Spring Training gives us a look towards the Giants’ future, as Ty Blach, Clayton Blackburn and Tyler Beede are three of the best Giants’ prospects, and are all near-MLB ready. One or all of them should be taking over for Matt Cain sometime this year (my money’s on Blach). There’s a lot settled with the Giants, so there isn’t a ton to figure out for 2017. This storyline to watch is for the future of the franchise, and the future is nigh.