Anthony Gruppuso, USA Today

Fantasy Baseball: 2017 San Francisco Giants Team Outlook

Senior Fantasy Baseball Expert Shawn Childs provides an in-depth look at the 2017 San Francisco Giants.

The Giants had their streak of winning the World Series every other year over the last six seasons ended in 2016, but they did make the playoffs with an 87-75 record. Their pitching staff allowed almost the same number of runs (631) as 2015 (627) leading a fourth-place finish in the NL in ERA (3.65). San Fran has regression in the bullpen leading to a 15th place finish in ERA (3.65) with 25 wins, 24 losses, and 43 saves.

In 2017, the Giants tried to fix their issues in the bullpen by signing CL Mark Melancon. They will no longer have the services of RP Santiago Casilla, RP Javier Lopez, or RP Sergio Romo who became free agents. OF Angel Pagan and SP Jake Peavy received their walking papers as well. The only other player added was C Chris Hundley.

San Francisco will have the same core of batters with a couple of minor changes. The left field position is up for grabs with Eduardo Nunez shifting to third base.

The starting rotation has a pair of aces (Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto) with two viable option as the third (Jeff Samardzija) and fourth (Matt Moore) starters. The last spot in the rotation looks to be an open competition with Matt Cain expected to be the favorite.

San Francisco will be in the playoff hunt again, but they do fall short in some areas when looking at the top teams in the National League. They need elite pitching with improvement in their bullpen to make a winning drive toward the World Series.

1. OF Denard Span

Span set a career high in HRs (11) thanks to growth in his AVH (1.434) over the last three seasons. This trend is to a point where low double digit HRs should be expected again in 2017. His walk rate (8.3) is just over league average while showing more life earlier in his career (10.4 in 2009). After striking out at the lowest percentage (9.5) of his career in 2015, Denard did have some regression last year (12.4). His success as a base stealer was a career low (12-for-19). His swing had losing value against lefties (.217). Span missed some time in July due to neck and quad injuries. Almost half of his power surge came in August (.336 with five HRs and 15 RBI over 110 at bats). His swing path still delivers too many ground balls (52.7 percent) while his HR/FB rate (9.2) was close to his career high set in 2008 (10.5). A neutral hitter with some value in runs while owning a 10/15 skill set.

2. 2B Joe Panik

Even with growth in his approach at the plate (K rate – 8.9 and walk rate – 9.5), Joe had a huge step back in his batting average (.239). His CTBA (.266) was well below his previous two seasons (2014 - .347 and 2015 - .350), which tells me his swing was out of time, or he had an underlying injury. Panik did miss about a month over the summer with a concussion after being hit in the head by a pitch. His AVH (1.640) did have growth while Joe hit well with runners on base (16 percent RBI rate). He struggled against both RH (.245) and LH (.226) pitching with all of home runs (10) coming off righties. Joe had a low batting average in May (.213) and September (.167). He hit a few more fly balls (37 percent). Over six years in the minors, Joe hit .294 with 22 HRs, 232 RBI, and 36 SBs over 1642 at bats. I like his swing, but a further push beyond 15 HRs would be a mistake by a Fantasy owner due to his low HR/FB rate (6.4). His low batting may lead to him hitting lower in the batting order, but I believe he’ll have a rebound in average. This added to his walk rate will give Panik a viable on base average (.378 in 2015).

3. C Buster Posey

Posey is one of the most stable catchers in baseball, but Fantasy owners struggle with his price point in drafts. His AVH (1.510) has been flat over the last two seasons after showing upside in 2012 (1.635). Buster continues to have a winning RBI rate (18) while getting plus at bats (539) for his position due to his ability to play first base. His CTBA (.329) was a step down from his last few seasons. He continues to be a better player against lefties (.312 with six HRs and 20 HRs over 157 at bats - .326 in his career with a .551 SLG). After the All-Star break, Posey only had three HRs over 248 at bats. His swing path was much weaker in 2016 leading to a rise in his groundball rate (48.6) while setting a career low in his HR/FB rate (9.8). Buster suffered a thumb injury in June and a minor back issue in August. Solid edge in runs, RBI, and batting average for a catcher, but he needs to find his power stroke to make a winning impact as a top four of five pieces to a Fantasy team.

4. OF Hunter Pence

Headed into 2015, Pence looked like the safest investment in Fantasy baseball with eight straight seasons with over 150 games played. In early March in spring training in 2015, Hunter suffered a broken bone in his left forearm leading to five weeks on the DL plus he finished the year with an oblique issue that led to another six weeks on the shelf. In 2016, he missed another 56 games with a bad hamstring injury. Over the first two months of the season, Hunter hit .302 with seven HRs and 36 RBI. His bat lost value when he returned from the DL in August (.247 with one HR and six RBI over 93 at bats). Pence finished the year on the uptick (.307 with five HRs and 15 RBI over 114 at bats). His batting average came up short against lefties (.256) while hitting seven HRs with 19 RBI over 117 at bats (.496 SLG). Hunter hit .302 against RH pitching with a decline in power (six HRs over 278 at bats). His K rate (21.5) was above his career average (18.6) in the last two seasons while having his highest walk rate (9.7) of his career. Pence still hits too many ground balls (54.8 – career high) with regression in his last three seasons. His HR/FB rate (15.1) fell in line with his career resume. In early February, Hunter battled a minor oblique issue. He has seven seasons with 20 or more HRs and on year with 100+ RBI. 20/80 type player with questions about his speed after only stealing five bags over his last 602 at bats.

5. 1B Brandon Belt

Belt has underperformed Fantasy owner’s expectation in almost every season in the league. In 2016, he had a huge step forward in his walk rate (15.9) with some growth in his K rate (15.9). His CTBA (.378) has been favorable in three of the last four seasons while his AVH (1.725) suggests over 25 HRs is just around the corner. Brandon had almost equal success against RH (.273) and LH (.279) pitching. Over the first three months of the season, he hit .300 with 10 HRs and 42 RBI. His bat faded in July and August (.232 with three HRs and 17 RBI over 181 at bats). His swing path changed leading to a career low GB rate (26.3 – 33.8 in his career) and a career-high fly ball rate (46.0). The lack of HRs (17) was due to a weaker HRs/FB rate (9.3 – 11.3 in his career). The Giants may hit him second due to his improved success taking walks, and he’s never had an edge in his RBI rate (17). I think he will have his best season of his career in 2017, which entails .280+ BA, 90+ runs, 25+ HRs, and 90+ RBI. If he finds his speed, he’ll add value in five categories.

6. SS Brandon Crawford

For the third straight season, Crawford had strength in his RBI rate (17). His success in RBIs in 2016 was due to a career high 437 chances, which offset the regression in home runs (12). His total base production (238) was a career best with improvement in each season in the league. Both his K rate (18.5) and walk rate (9.2) came in better than his career averages (19.5 and 8.5). He had almost the value against RH (.274) and LH (.276) pitching. Crawford has his best output in RBI in May (23) and June (23) while coming up short in April (two HRs and six RBI) and September (no HRs and seven RBI). His HR/FB rate (7.5) was more than 50 percent lower than 2015 (16.2) while having more balance in his swing path (LD/FB/GB = 21/43/36 – in 2015 = 19/48/33). Improving player who works as a middle infielder on a Fantasy team with the right team structure. I’d place my bet on closer to 20 HRs than 10 in 2017. A neutral hitter with 70+ runs, 15+ RBI, and 75+ RBI while chipping in with some steals.

7. OF Mac Williamson

After missing most of 2014 due to TJ surgery, Williamson was able to push his way through AA and AAA in 2015 to get a September call-up to the majors (.219 with one RBI in 32 at bats). His bat looked to have high upside in 2013 at High-A (.292 with 25 HRs, 89 RBI, and 10 SBs in 520 at bats). His K rate (20.9) was a slight negative with possible upside in his walk rate (8.5) in the minors. Over five years in the minors, Mac hit .287 with 61 HRs, 247 RBI, and 22 SBs in 1392 at bats. In 2016 at AAA, he hit .269 with 11 HRs and 42 RBI over 208 at bats. Williamson suffered a shoulder injury in late July in the majors leading to a month on the DL and no value in September (1-for-14). He did flash some upside over 53 at bats in July (.264 with four HRs and 11 RBI). Mac had some weakness in his K rate (26.7) in his short at bats in the majors. Upside player with a slow path to the majors due to injuries. He’ll compete for the starting left field job while offering upside in power.

8. 3B Eduardo Nunez

Nunez earned himself a starting job in the majors for the first time in 2016 thanks to a hot bat over the first three months of the season (.319 with 11 HRs, 32 RBI, and 18 SBs over 273 at bats). Fantasy owners knew Eduardo had speed based on his minor-league resume (.272 with 34 HRs, 324 RBI, and 135 SBs over 2802 at bats), but his rise in power was a huge bonus for those trolling the waiver wire in April. His AVH (1.503) was about the same over the previous two season (2014 – 1.529 and 2015 – 1.528), but it was disguised by short at bats. He had power against both RH (.295 with nine HRs and 50 RBI over 417 at bats) and LH (.265 with seven HRs and 17 RBI over 136 at bats). His bats started to fade in July (.234 with one HR and 17 RBI), but he continued to run (10 SBs). Nunez looked like a lost soul after his trade to San Fran (.237 with two HRs, eight RBI, and four SBs over 83 at bats) before rebounding in September (.313 with two HRs, 10 RBI, and eight SBs). His K rate (14.8) fell in line with his three previous years while his walk rate (4.9) remained short. The Giants signed him to a one-year deal worth $4.2 million so he’ll be motivated to get another contact. Not the ideal skill set to bat at the top of the lineup. He passed the eye test for me so 10+ HRs with 30+ bags should be doable if he keeps a starting job.

9. OF Jarrett Parker

Over six seasons in the minors, Parker hit .262 with 100 HRs, 362 RBI, and 93 SBs over 2409 at bats. He had a plus walk rate (12.2), but his K rate (29.4) has plenty of risk. The Giants have given him 176 at bats over the last two seasons leading to a .267 batting average with 11 HRs and 28 RBI. Jarrett continued to take plenty of walks (11.7 percent) with some fade in strikeouts (31.7) in the majors. His bat had no value against lefties (.108 with a HR, two RBI, and 15 Ks over 37 at bats). Parker has a massive CTBA (2.000), which gives him 30+ HR power with a full season of at bats. In a perfect world, he would work himself into a platoon role against righties. His high K rate does invite job loss.

BN. 3B Jae-gyun Hwang

The Giants signed Hwang to compete for a bench role in 2016, but he could leave the team if he fails to make the team in April. Over 10 seasons in Korea, Jae-gyun hit .285 with 114 HRs, 585 RBI, and 172 SBs over 4127 at bats. His best ball came over the last two seasons, which led to 52 combined HRs with 201 RBI, and 35 SBs. He had a league average walk rate (8.2) with a favorable K rate (16.6). Only a flier until we have more info.

Bench Options:

C Nick Hundley – San Fran added Hundley in the offseason to improve the catching depth. In the last two seasons in Colorado, he hit .282 with 20 HRs, 91 RBI, and five SBs over 655 at bats. This season he’ll add power off the bench.

IF Kelby Tomlinson – Over the last two seasons with the Giants, Kelby hit .299 with two HRs, 26 RBI, and 10 SBs over 284 at bats. A thumb injury cost him almost of the season. He’ll compete for a backup role utility role.

OF Gorkys Hernandez – The Giants added Gorkys in the offseason to hopefully take over the Gregor Blanco’s role on the bench. Hernandez has struggled in the majors (.205 with five HRs, 17 RBI, and eight SBs over 215 at bats). Over 11 seasons in minors, Hernandez hit .279 with 42 HRs, 390 RBI, and 234 SBs over 4073 at bats.

1. SP Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner has pitched in the shadows of Clayton Kershaw for his whole career. He’s pitched well against him while being an impressive player in the playoffs (8-3 with a 2.11 ERA and 87 Ks in 102.1 innings) with an even higher bar in the World Series (4-0 with one runs allowed over 36 innings with 31 Ks). His K rate (10.0) was a career high while improving in each of his last four years. Madison continues to throw strikes (2.1 walk rate). In his career, he has a 100-67 record with a 2.99 ERA and 1381 Ks over 1397.2 innings. Bumgarner holds an edge against righties (.220) and lefties (.178). Over his first 22 starts of the year, he had a 2.09 ERA with 170 Ks over 150.2 innings. His arm didn’t have the same life over his last 12 starts (4.02 ERA). His slide in August was partly due to weaker command (13 walks over 37 innings). His AFB (91.7) was much lower than his previous two seasons (2014 – 92.9 and 2015 – 93.0). Batters struggled with every one of his pitches (four-seam - .232 BAA, changeup - .229 BAA, cutter - .231 BAA, and curveball - .128 BAA). Don’t like the direction of his fastball, but he’s one of the better foundation aces in the game. 15+ wins with a sub 2.50 ERA and 225 Ks.

2. SP Johnny Cueto

The wood tick finish by Johnny in 2015 with the Royals (4.76 ERA, 1.451 WHIP, and 6.2 K/9) never emerged in 2016. Cueto threw the most first strikes (68.4) of his career leading to a career low in his walk rate (1.8). His K rate (8.1) was the second highest rate of his career. Johnny had an edge against righties (.224), but his stuff was a step back against LH batters (.255). Just like Bumgarner, Cueto had his worst month in August (4.38 ERA with six HRs allowed over 37 innings). He rebounded for great September (4-0 with a 1.78 ERA and 35 Ks in 35.1 innings). His AFB (92.6) was a career low (94.0 in 2014). Johnny had success with his four-seam fastball (.226 BAA), changeup (.214 BAA), curveball (.222 BAA), and slider (.244 BAA). He did struggle at times with his cutter (.267 BAA). Cueto was dominated at home (13-1 with a 2.47 ERA and 115 Ks over 131.1 innings). He’s now thrown over 200 innings in the last three years while posting an ERA of 2.64 over his last 1109 innings. Pitches in a great pitcher’s park with an outstanding resume. I just don’t if he falls into the workout ace category.

3. SP Jeff Samardzija

Samardzija threw the ball well over his first 11 starts (7-3 with a 2.84 ERA with 66 Ks over 43.1 innings) highlighted by an electric May (4-0 with a 2.08 ERA). He fell on his face over the next two months (6.21 ERA and 1.431 WHIP). Jeff rebounded for a plus August and September (2.86 ERA with 68 Ks over 69.1 innings). His stuff held an edge against righties (.225) with neutral value vs. LH batters (.272). His AFB (94.9) remains an edge. Samardzija was at his best with his slider (.164 BAA), curveball (.189 BAA), and split-finger (.212 BAA). He did get into trouble with his sinker (.322 BAA and .550 SLG). His walk rate (2.4) has been in a winning area over the last three seasons, but he lost his K rate (7.4) over the last two seasons (6.9 in 2015). Live arm with enough positives to expect a playable season. Possible sub 3.50 ERA if he regains some of his K ability.

4. SP Matt Moore

Moore had the identical lack of success (4.08 ERA) with Tampa and San Francisco. With the Rays, he had better command (2.8 walk rate) while allowing more HRs (1.4 per nine). With the Giants, he walked 4.2 batters per nine while setting a career high in his K rate (9.1). Matt had almost the same value against righties (.245) and lefties (.243). Overall, he pitched well at home (9-5 with a 3.36 ERA and 103 Ks over 112.1 innings). His failure came on the road (5.02 ERA and 1.500 WHIP). Moore struggled in May (7.36 ERA) and September (5.17). Over 17 starts from June through August, he had a 3.13 ERA. His AFB (93.7) was his best since 2012 (95.0). Batters only hit .231 against his four-seam fastball and .220 vs. his curveball. I’ve hung on to his minor-league resume (2.74 ERA with 769 Ks over 552.2 innings) too long. Matt needs to throw more strikes. His arm does have upside, and 2016 was a move in the right direction. Possible 3.50 ERA with 200+ Ks with more upside due to his home park.

5. SP Matt Cain

Cain was a great pitcher until 2013. He went 85-73 with a 3.23 ERA. Over the last four seasons, injuries have crushed his value (4.64 ERA). His walk rate (3.2) and HR/9 rate (1.6) have had risk over the last three seasons. Over his first six starts, Matt had a 7.84 ERA with six HRs allowed over 31 innings. He flashed his previous form over three starts in May (two runs, 23 baserunners, and 17 Ks over 21 innings). Unfortunately, Matt left his start on May 27th with a hamstring injury. He bombed in two outing (nine runs, 14 baserunners, and five HRs over 11.1 innings) followed by ten shutout innings with nine Ks. A back injury led to two more disaster outing (11 runs, 17 baserunners, and three HRs over 8.2 innings) before landing on the DL. His AFB (91.2) was a career low. Batters struggled to hit his slider (.225 BAA) and curveball (.217 BAA) while drilling his fastball (.317 BAA and .551 SLG). Veteran pitcher, but his window for upside is all but gone. Backend innings eater with plenty of disaster and injury risk.

6. SP Ty Blach

Over four seasons in the minors, Blach has a 45-31 record with a 3.53 ERA with 414 Ks over 599.1 innings. He did trip up in 2015 at AAA (4.46 ERA) leading to him repeating AAA. In 2016, Ty rebounded with a nice season at AAA (14-7 with 3.43 ERA). He has a low K rate (6.2) with excellent command (1.9). Over four appearances in the majors, Blach flashed upside (1.06 ERA with eight hits allowed over 17 innings). His AFB came in at 91.7. He features an improving slider and a developing changeup. Backend starter with low K ability with his best asset being his command.

7. SP Tyler Beede

Over three seasons in the minors, Beede went 13-18 with a 3.32 ERA and 239 Ks over 287 innings. His K rate (7.5) doesn’t offer an edge with questionable command (3.3). Tyler throws a low 90s fastball with his best pitch being a cutter. He wants to work both sides of the zone, but his off-speed stuff isn’t ready to offer an edge. Upside for sure and he’ll have chance to pitch in a very good ballpark.

8. CL Mark Melancon

Melancon had a great run in his four seasons in Pittsburgh (1.80 ERA with 130 saves). His walk rate (1.5) has been elite in his last four years while his K rate (8.2) came in line with his career average. Mark dominated both RH (.190) and LH (.221) batters. From May through August, he allowed only five runs over 45 innings (1.00 ERA). His AFB (92.3) was about the same as 2015 (92.2) while offering more velocity in 2014 (94.1) and 2015 (94.3). He threw a cutter (.210 BAA) as his number one pitch followed by a plus curveball (.132 BAA). Melancon did get in trouble with his low volume four-seam fastball (.438 BAA). If you’re looking for saves, he’ll be on one of the top choices in the league again in 2017, but he can’t match the top closing arms in Ks. More of the same with another 40+ saves expected.

9. RP Hunter Strickland

Strickland was projected to be the next closer in San Fran, but he missed out on his opportunity after some struggles in 2016. He stumbled out of the gate (4.82 ERA in April) and fell on his face at the finish line (7.36 ERA in September). In between, Hunter had a 2.03 ERA with 36 Ks over 44.1 innings. Just by looking at his innings pitched (61) to his appearances (72), you may notice he had some flaw in his arsenal. Strickland threw the ball great against righties (.197), but LH batters hit .270 with only 11 Ks over 74 at bats. His AFB (97.9) is electric with batters hitting .212 vs. his four-seamer. Hunter also throws a plus slider (.217 BAA) and show me changeup (.200 BAA over five at bats). Some of his failure in 2016 was due to a drop in his first pitch strike rate (56.8) leading to a drop in his walk rate (2.8 – 1.8 in 2015). Upside arm with closing ability once he figures out how to get lefties out at a higher rate, which he did in 2015 (.185).

10. RP Will Smith

It’s kind hard to believe Smith threw 69.8 first-pitch strikes, but he still walked 4.0 batter per nine. His K rate (10.7) was a step back from his previous three seasons. Wil started 2016 on the DL with a right knee injury that didn’t require surgery, which led to two missed months. After throwing the ball well in June (2.13 ERA with nine Ks over 12.2 innings), Smith struggled for the next two months (5.68 ERA). His arm returned in a big way in September (no runs and two hits over 8.2 innings with 14 Ks). On the year, Will held an edge over righties (.197) and lefties (.229). His AFB (92.9) was more than one mph lower than his previous two seasons. Batters struggled to hit his slider (.200 BAA), four-seam fastball (.212 BAA), and curveball (.222 BAA). Nice add by the Giants as he will add length to the bullpen. If he ever found his command, Smith would be closer-worthy.

References

Baseball America Prospect Handbook. (n.d.).

Baseball-Reference. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.baseball-reference.com/

Brooksbaseball.net. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.brooksbaseball.net/

Fangraphs. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fangraphs.com/

Roster Resource. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rosterresource.com/mlb

Rotowire. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotowire.com/

RotoWorld. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotoworld.com/


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