San Francisco Giants Baseball is Back

Feb 25, 2017; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) warms up before a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2017; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) warms up before a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /

Final preparations are underway as the roster appears set for the 2017 San Francisco Giants. The team heads right back to the desert to open against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Spring training provided a glimpse of future San Francisco Giants’ prospects awaiting to join the show. Though a couple of players will certainly find their way to San Francisco this season, questions remain in a few areas. Giants’ management addressed one pressing need with closer Mark Melancon during the offseason. Melancon has a good record from his time with the Washington Nationals.

The chief concern will be the pitchers in front of Melancon for save opportunities.

Last season, especially the second half, is now a distant memory. Summed up by a crushing defeat to the Chicago Cubs in the postseason, the even-year magic is gone. Bullpen struggles led to a closer by committee towards the end of the 2016 season for the Giants. The bullpen appeared ready for the postseason, but a ninth inning collapse exposed the flaws in the NLDS against Chicago.

San Francisco Giants
San Francisco Giants /

San Francisco Giants

Gone from last season are Santiago Casilla (Oakland Athletics) and Sergio Romo (Los Angeles Dodgers). Both were prominent pitchers in San Francisco’s championship years. The time to move on was now though for the Giants to rebuild the bullpen.

George Kontos will likely have a larger role in the Giants’ bullpen after a strong spring training. His role may prove critical in the beginning after the bullpen suffered a blow in camp. Will Smith looked to be the set-up man before Melancon would come in to close. But an injury to his arm required Tommy John Surgery and he will be out for the season. Steven Okert will likely be the lefty specialist out of the bullpen.

As expected, Madison Bumgarner gets the opening day start against Arizona. The starting rotation is set, and Matt Cain has a spot secured. The starting rotation appears primed for a big season with Bumgarner leading the charge. But two starters will be under the microscope in Cain and Jeff Samardzija.

Samardzija was impressive in his last two spring training appearances but has not found a comfortable rhythm in camp. Last season, “The Shark” showed brilliance when he got all his pitches going to frustrates batters. The wheels would fall off early when Samardzija could not find the strike zone resulting in deficits for the Giants. Perhaps with a full season under his belt in San Francisco, Samardzija will provide better consistency.

The same can be said with Cain as injuries from seasons past have kept the right-hander from performing at his best. Bochy and Dave Righetti can only hope Cain can find the form which helped produce championships. Cain edged out Ty Blach for the final rotation spot, but his spot is no guarantee. A string of poor outings could easily see Blach in the fifth spot should Cain falter.

Like Kontos, Albert Suarez could see long relief roles should starting pitchers Samardzija and Cain struggle. Cory Gearrin could also be another option to work a few innings.

As spring training suggested, San Francisco has a potential starter ready to make the jump when the opportunity comes. Tyler Beede made an impressive showing during camp and will start the season in Triple-A Sacramento. Should Beede continue making strides, he could likely be in the rotation next season.

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While pitching has been the staple for the Giants’ championships, the offense needs to make an early statement. Fresh off in earning a World Baseball Classic Championship for Team USA, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford look to contribute early. Denard Span began to heat up towards the end of spring training and hopefully will carry the hot bat into the season. Nick Hundley will backup Posey in the squat, but his bat could be pivotal. Hundley’s familiarity with the NL West could benefit with the first month containing division opponents.

Surely missed last season when out of the lineup, Hunter Pence is the x-factor in San Francisco. His presence makes a big impact on the team both offensively and defensively. Health will certainly linger as Bochy prepares the lineup card. Chances of giving Pence rest may prove difficult should the Giants want an early lead in the NL West. Bochy will likely give Pence rest when possible to prevent injuries.

Chris Marrero began making noise with his bat during camp. His offense earned him a spot on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Like the rest of the Giants’ hitters, Marrero cannot afford to have a power outage at the plate for a team struggling to produce runs in games.

Division opponents come early with Arizona, Colorado, San Diego, and Los Angeles highlight the first month. San Francisco started slow but caught fire last season in the first half as the team appeared destined to capture the NL West – Until the second half began and the rest is history.

Next: San Francisco Giants Notes 3/31: Team Heads Home

A new season is about to start, and the Giants’ organization is moving forward. Bochy will once again be juggling lineups and strategizing which pitchers to use against opponents from the bullpen. Maybe this will be the beginning of odd-year magic in San Francisco.