Giants

Awards season reminds us how far Giants fell in 2017

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USATSI

Awards season reminds us how far Giants fell in 2017

SAN FRANCISCO — It was revealed Thursday night that Giancarlo Stanton is this year’s National League Most Valuable Player. The rest of the MVP ballot shows why the Giants are chasing Stanton so hard this offseason. 

Led by Stanton, 22 different players were listed on NL MVP ballots, which have 10 spots. Two of the top five finishers — Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon — were Rockies. Four different Diamondbacks got votes, led by third-place finisher Paul Goldschmidt. The Dodgers had five players listed on ballots, including rookie Cody Bellinger, who arrived a couple of days after Christian Arroyo and finished ninth in MVP voting. 

The Giants? They didn't have a single player receive an MVP vote, continuing a theme during awards season. 

The team built around pitching did not have any players listed on the five-person Cy Young Award ballots (full disclosure: I had a vote). There were no Rookie of the Year candidates, either, and Bruce Bochy was out of the Manager of the Year running sometime in early May. The 2017 season was the first since 2007 in which the Giants didn’t have a single player listed for any of the four major awards voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America. 

The lack of award-season love is a reminder of how deep the hole is, but it’s also a sign of how much help the Giants need from their stars in order to dig out of this hole. This isn’t as simple as fixing the center field defense and upgrading the bullpen. 

Buster Posey had a good season, but his 12 homers, 67 RBI, .861 OPS and 4.3 WAR (ranked 17th in the NL) didn’t get any love at the end of a 98-loss year. Posey had been listed on at least one MVP ballot every season since 2012, when he won the award. This is the first year since 2007 that the Giants did not have a player listed on an MVP ballot. 

The organization has had similar success in the Cy Young balloting, with Tim Lincecum winning twice and Madison Bumgarner finishing in the top 10 in each of the previous four seasons. A dirt bike accident cost Bumgarner any shot of getting votes this year, and also likely cost him a third Silver Slugger Award in a season that started with two homers on Opening Day. Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto finished fourth and sixth in the Cy Young voting last season, but Cueto had a similarly forgettable season. 

Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase

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AP

Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase

Tim Lincecum was back on a mound Thursday, trying to prove to teams once again that he still has a little bit of magic left in his right arm. 

The former Giants star held a bullpen session for scouts Thursday in Seattle. The event was closed to the media, but Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that between 25 and 30 scouts were in attendance. 

And Lincecum may have some of his velocity back. According to Heyman, Lincecum was sitting between 90 and 93 miles per hour. 

Lincecum last pitched in 2016 with the Angels. In that season, his fastball averaged just 88.4 miles per hour. In nine starts with the Angels, Lincecum was nowhere near what he once was and went 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA. 

The Giants planned to be at Lincecum's showcase, according to Insider Alex Pavlovic. 

Over nine seasons with the Giants, Lincecum posted a 108-83 record and a 3.61 ERA. He won back-to-back National Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, was a four-time All-Star and led the league in strikeouts three times. 

Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul

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USATSI

Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul

SCOTTSDALE — Catchers are usually the only position players to hit on the main field during the first few days of spring training, but Austin Slater snuck into a group Thursday to take a few cuts. With manager Bruce Bochy leaning against the back of the cage, perhaps Slater’s session will serve as a reminder: I’m still here, don’t forget about me.

The 25-year-old broke through last summer before injuries halted his progress. As Slater focused on getting healthy this offseason, Bobby Evans focused on overhauling the outfield. That has left several familiar faces in precarious spots, and Slater finds himself fighting for a fifth outfielder job a year after batting .282 in his first 117 big league at-bats. 

At the same time, he’s trying to balance competition with health. He wants to push for an Opening Day job, but also is very aware that he needs to back it down at times as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

“You want to prove that you can play here and win a job, but (the staff) stressed health over everything,” he said. “It does no good to push and then start the season on the DL. For me, health is the most important thing. I feel like if I’m healthy I can prove myself. There’s nothing I can prove on the DL.”

Slater originally tore his groin on July 8 and the Giants thought it would prove to be a season-ending injury. He worked his way back ahead of schedule, though, seeing limited action before sports hernia surgery the last week of September. “They went in there and cleaned up the groin,” he said, smiling where others might grimace. The procedure kept Slater from playing in the Dominican Republic as planned, although that might have been a blessing in disguise. 

The Giants were aggressive with their winter ball plans because so many young players got hurt during the season. But Jarrett Parker lasted just 24 hours before being sent home with a health issue. Christian Arroyo’s hand swelled up soon after he arrived, and he headed home. Ryder Jones immediately got food poisoning and lost 12 pounds in just over three weeks before player and team decided a mutual parting would be beneficial. 

Slater stayed home throughout, living in the Bay Area and rehabbing. The Giants told him to focus on his rehab instead of lost at-bats and then come out and try to win a job in Scottsdale. By mid-November, he was hitting again. By Thanksgiving, he was on a regular lifting and running schedule. In late January, he felt like his old self again. 

For the Giants, that means a versatile option in a new-look outfield. Slater had a .290/.343/.430 slash line going before his first injury and he’s working to tap into more power. As Bruce Bochy pointed out Thursday, Slater has a long history of putting up numbers at every level. 

“He really did a nice job of figuring out what it takes to play in the major leagues, and he has a tendency throughout his career to just get better,” Bochy said. “You have to love his right-handed bat. He’s got some pop. I think he can play all three outfield positions, so he’s in the mix.”

The Giants have Andrew McCutchen in right and Hunter Pence in left and Austin Jackson as the third guy, and Bochy’s preference is to have a true center fielder as his fourth outfielder. That leaves Slater fighting for the fifth job, alongside many others. No matter what he did last year or does this spring, Slater has options remaining, and that will come into play. A year after using 13 different players in left field, the staff is intent on having greater depth at the Triple-A level. 

Slater is a Stanford product who spent the offseason surrounded by Giants fans. He knows the math after the offseason moves.

“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “It just adds some great guys to learn from, and there are still outfield spots to be won, so it’s not discouraging, it’s encouraging. I didn’t expect them to keep an open roster spot for a guy with 120 at-bats. We’re trying to win a championship here.”