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2016 Fantasy Baseball: San Francisco Giants Team Preview

2015 Season in Review

The San Francisco Giants hung in the  playoff hunt for the majority of the 2015 season but ultimately could not overcome their injuries and ended up finishing eight games back of the first place Dodgers. Key everyday contributors Hunter Pence and Joe Panik both missed a significant amount of time last year, and the Giants midseason acquisitions such as Marlon Byrd and Casey McGehee didn’t do much to pick up the slack with their underwhelming production. Even with the injuries and iffy starting pitching, San Fran was competitive for most of 2015 and could have made a play for a Wild Card spot had the NL Central not been such a dominant division. The Achilles heel of their ballclub was no doubt that starting staff; however, after a few tweaks to the team’s roster, the Giants once again look like a threat to the National League power structure.

2016 Projected Lineup

Denard Span CF

Joe Panik 2B

Buster Posey C

Brandon Belt 1B

Hunter Pence RF

Brandon Crawford SS

Matt Duffy 3B

Angel Pagan LF

Pitcher’s Spot

Being able to pencil in Denard Span in the leadoff spot really does wonders for lengthening the Giants lineup. He is one of the top contact hitters in the game with a 91.2% career contact percentage and a miniscule 9.5 K% in 2015. Span will assume the role of Angel Pagan who had been at the top of the Giants order for two of their last three World Championships. Pagan has often been injured in recent years and performed well-below an effective level in his 133 games last season, so Span stands to be a huge upgrade for the ballclub.

San Fran’s roster may be sorely lacking in superstar talent — with the exception of Buster Posey who is by in large the best all-around catcher in baseball — but what it lacks in All-Star talent, it makes up for in balance. The Giants have an above league-average bat in terms of OPS at every position with the exception of Pagan, and the addition of Span should help counteract some of the regression they are likely to see out of youngsters Joe Panik and Matt Duffywho both exceeded expectations in 2015, and possibly Brandon Crawford as well who enjoyed a breakout campaign last year with 21 bombs.

2016 Projected Rotation

#1 Madison Bumgarner

#2 Johnny Cueto

#3 Jeff Samardzija

#4 Jake Peavy

#5 Matt Cain

Madison Bumgarner is the clear number one on this pitching staff having averaged 210 innings, over 200 strikeouts, and a 3.05 ERA since the age of 21. However, the rest of the Giants’ starting rotation was a bit more dicey heading into the offseason. The front office signed both Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to fall in behind Mad Bum, and providing the two acquisitions have a return to form in 2016, San Francisco may very well have turned a weakness into a strength.

Prior to last season, Cueto and Samardzija could have topped the pitching rotation for any number of teams in the big leagues, but an up and down finish for Cueto and an overall rough campaign for Samardzija brought the price down on both starters. The Giants were able to get two pitchers with upside for essentially the same price they would have paid for Zack Greinke and can now mix and match to piece together the bottom of their rotation. The club can definitely pencil the three guys at the top in for 200+ innings, so it is the four and five spots where the coaching staff is going to have to get a bit more creative.

Veteran pitcher Jake Peavy is a bulldog and figures to slot in as the number four starter, making former club ace Matt Cain their number five. Both Cain and Peavy spent time on the disabled list last season limiting their innings totals to 60.2 and 110.2 respectively, but sophomore pitcher Chris Heston made an impressive debut in his rookie season and will likely find himself in the rotation at some point during the season. Heston put up a very respectable 7.14 K/9, 3.24 ERA, and 53% ground ball rate in 177.2 IP in 2015, and even tossed a no-hitter against the National League Champion Mets back in June. He struggled quite a bit down the stretch for the Giants, but the decline in velocity and rise in walk rate can be attributed to some arm fatigue for sure. Cain’s staggering decline from his dominant seasons of 2009-2012 makes him the most likely candidate to be replaced by Heston, but the sophomore pitcher will most definitely be seeing his fair share of starts with some injury concerns for Cain, Peavy, and Johnny Cueto to a extent.  

2016 Projected Bullpen

CL Santiago Casilla

RHP Sergio Romo

LHP Javier Lopez

RHP Hunter Strickland

RHP George Kontos

LHP Josh Osich

The job of San Francisco Giants closer still belongs to Santiago Casilla. Casilla was 38 for 44 in save opportunities last season, which was a career high for the veteran. He saw a pretty big drop off in his ground ball rate, dipping from 56.3% to 46.5%, but he also saw a 2.68 boost in his K/9 rate. The next in line for that role will likely be Sergio Romo, though Hunter Strickland is worth keeping an eye on as well. Strickland has electric stuff, but his 8.77 K/9 pales in comparison to Romo’s 11.1 mark. Javier Lopez, George Kontos, and Josh Osich were also very effective out of the Giants’ pen, but none of them figure to find themselves as the ninth inning option. Still, this was a dominant bullpen in 2015 and is definitely a strength for San Francisco moving forward.

2016 Projected Prospects

Christian Arroyo is the only Giants prospect rated in MLB.com’s Top-100 this year. Ranked #82 overall, Arroyo isn’t expected to join the team until the 2017 season and is blocked at shortstop by All-Star Brandon Crawford for the time being. San Francisco’s top pitching prospect, Tyler Beede, has electric stuff but has struggled with command in Double-A, so he figures to be a couple years away from the big leagues as well. One minor leaguer in the Giants farm system that can make a difference this coming season is Clayton Blackburn. Blackburn had a 2.85 ERA in 123 innings in Triple-A last year and posted a 7.24 K/9 rate with a 2.34 BB/9 rate. He will likely be the first guy called up to the show to fill in for injury and could really contribute down the stretch.

2016 Season Outlook

Provided the starting squad stays healthy for the majority of the season, the San Francisco Giants are a very scary team. They were the second best offensive club last season in WAR behind the Toronto Blue Jays and only improved by adding Denard Span into the mix. It’s a long, unrelenting lineup that now has the pitching to back it up, and the bullpen to keep them in games until the very end. Grant Brisbee of SB Nation figures the additions of Cueto, Samardzija, and Span over subtractions of Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, and Nori Aoki should equal out to about eight wins. As with all ballclubs expecting to contend in this upcoming season, the Giants chief concern for 2016 is injuries. Span obviously passed his physical to join the club, but he has had his fair share of injuries in recent years, and the same goes for Cain and Peavy as well. Then again, it is an 2016 and we’re all very familiar with what the Giants like to do in even numbered years.

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