Giants

Fantasy baseball 2020: Rankings, sleepers for Giants, A's this season

Fantasy baseball 2020: Rankings, sleepers for Giants, A's this season

Baseball is back, with MLB's Opening Day scheduled for July 23 and 24. Before we know it, bat flips will make everyone furious in a fanless ballpark. Even better, countless amounts of people are about to spend way too much money on a game they have no control over. 

We're of course talking about fantasy baseball, which will be much different this year. 

Everything about the game changes this season. Instead of a 162-game marathon, this will be a 60-game sprint. Instead of pitchers embarrassing themselves in the batter's box, the NL has adopted the DH this year. That could have a big impact on both the Giants and A's. 

So, what does this mean for Giants and A's players? First and foremost, the experts like the A's more than the Giants, a whole lot more. The A's have 11 players ranked ahead of the Giants' top player when it comes to fantasy baseball going into the season.

We looked at both Yahoo and ESPN's fantasy rankings for the top 250 players ahead of the upcoming season. Here's where the Bay Area's best rank, each team's sleepers and more. 

A's top-ranked players 

Matt Olson: (ESPN 51, Yahoo 89)
Matt Chapman: (ESPN 53, Yahoo 71)
Marcus Semien: (ESPN 57, Yahoo 72)
Liam Hendriks: (ESPN 89, Yahoo 91)
Ramon Laureano: (ESPN 98, Yahoo 92)
Khris Davis: (ESPN 103, Yahoo 150)
Sean Manaea: (ESPN 165, Yahoo 173)
Frankie Montas: (ESPN 198, Yahoo 111)
Stephen Piscotty: (ESPN 214, Yahoo N/A)
Mark Canha: (ESPN 226, Yahoo N/A)
Mike Fiers: (ESPN 250, Yahoo N/A)
Jesus Luzardo: (Yahoo 149, ESPN N/A)
A.J Puk: (Yahoo 165, ESPN N/A)

Giants top-ranked players

Jeff Samardzija: (Yahoo 249)

That's it ... 

Brandon Belt (299) ranks in ESPN's top 300, and Tony Watson (257) and Mike Yastrzemski (261) both made Yahoo's top 300.

A's sleeper

All the hype on the A's pitching staff is around Luzardo and Puk, and understandably so. They are two of the best left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, and should be AL Rookie of the Year candidates. 

If Luzardo and Puk can stay healthy, they quickly can become Oakland's aces. But Luzardo still hasn't joined the A's after testing positive for the coronavirus. That brings us to perhaps the A's current ace. 

Montas at 111 and 198 feels low. The 27-year-old went 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA over 16 starts last season. He was suspended 80 games, but wasd dominant when on the field. The big right-hander struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings, and has been praised for the shape he showed up to Summer Camp in. 

There's a real chance Montas establishes himself as a star this season, and can finish the year ranked much higher than he currently is. 

Giants sleeper

Evan Longoria couldn't have started off last season much worse. He hit just .212 in March/April and .215 in May. That number rose to .241 in June, but between July and August, he was back to his All-Star self. 

Longoria hit .400 with six homers and 12 RBI in just nine games in July. Then in August, he hit .345 with four homers, 20 RBI and a .901 OPS. Over 31 games combined in July and August, the Giants' third baseman hit .359 with 10 home runs, 32 RBI and a 1.065 OPS. 

With Buster Posey out, Longoria will be relied upon as a veteran leader. Gabe Kapler will platoon his lineup nearly every game, and Longoria should be one of the only everyday players. If he's the player he was last summer, the Giants have a star.

Division foes

This is your reminder the Los Angeles Dodgers really did trade for Mookie Betts. Along with Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers might have two of the top five fantasy players in the game.

Nolan Arrenado and Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies might be in the top 15 as well, and San Diego Padres infielders Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado could find themselves in the top 25 or 30. That doesn't even bring us to Madison Bumgarner. 

The former Giants ace now is in his first season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. ESPN ranks MadBum as their 110th-best fantasy player, and Yahoo has him lower at 136. 

Oakland will face plenty of star power in the AL West, too. Mike Trout always will be near the top of rankings, while fellow two-way Angels star Shohei Ohtani is a fantasy anomaly. The Angels also added Anthony Rendon, who could be in the top five. 

Love them or hate them, the Houston Astros are full of stars, with a long list of highly ranked fantasy players. Joey Gallo will hit dingers for the Texas Rangers, and maybe a healthy Kyle Lewis will live up to his potential for the Seattle Mariners. 

No matter what, though, it's hard to find a team with as many fantasy stars as the A's.

Giants return to Oracle Park with more than 10,000 cutouts in stands

Giants return to Oracle Park with more than 10,000 cutouts in stands

Giants closer Trevor Gott lost control of a 96 mph fastball in the ninth inning Tuesday night and watched from the mound as it sailed over catcher Tyler Heineman's glove and hit the backstop. Back in the broadcast booth at Oracle Park, Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper chuckled.

"President Bush didn't even flinch," Krukow cracked. 

The ball hit the net about five feet from cutouts of the late President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara, who were longtime Houston residents. This is what baseball looks like in 2020, a year with no fans. 

The cutout programs have become popular with MLB clubs, and at every stop on the three-city road trip, the Giants saw plenty of them. The Dodgers are filling up their lower deck and outfield bleachers, with cutouts of celebrity Dodger fans getting prime seats behind the plate. The Rockies filled the first three rows behind the plate with cutouts of former Rockies players and creepy mascot Dinger. 

The Astros took an odd and random approach, filling two sections right behind the plate but leaving the second through fifth rows open in an adjacent section that was clearly visible on TV broadcasts. They filled one section down the right-field line, a couple of rows behind the dugout, the Crawford Boxes in left field and two sections right behind the home bullpen. The rest of the park was mostly empty. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

It was all a little confusing, especially for players who have plenty of time before and during games to look around. 

"I don't really understand what they're trying to do. They have random sections in the outfield empty and then they have random sections completely full, and then they didn't fill up behind home plate," outfielder Austin Slater said. "And then the Rockies only went with ex-players and they had like 10 or 15 Todd Heltons in there, which was kind of odd. I think the way that we're doing it is probably the best, just fill up as much of the stadium as possible, starting with behind home plate and go from there."

That's what the Giants are doing at Oracle Park, with the help of a fan base that remains passionate even in what so far is another losing season. When the Giants return home tonight, they will see 5,459 additional cutouts that were installed earlier this week, bringing the total to 10,205. 

The lower deck is pretty much completely filled behind the plate and down both lines, with cutouts spilling over into other sections, too. Another round of installations is happening Monday and Tuesday, with the Giants approaching 13,000 cutouts that have been installed or requested thus far.

[RELATED: Battle of Bay takes on extra meaning this year]

It took some getting used to, but players are on board with the program, with both Slater and outfielder Hunter Pence recently saying that they do help when you're standing on the field in an otherwise empty park. 

"Psychologically it does help to have the cardboard cutouts, as many as we do," Pence said. "For whatever reason, just knowing that the fans are excited to see themselves as a foul ball goes that way or whatever is the case, you feel kind of the spirit of the people."

Battle of the Bay has extra meaning for Giants, A's in short season

Battle of the Bay has extra meaning for Giants, A's in short season

Trevor Cahill knows all about the Battle of the Bay. The right-hander was drafted by the A's in 2006, made it to the big leagues three years later, and spent three seasons in Oakland before getting dealt. In 2018 he returned to the A's for 20 more starts, including a solid one in a win over the Giants. 

This time around, Cahill is on the other side of the rivalry. It won't be the same without fans jawing at their Bay Area counterparts, and Cahill, after his Giants debut Wednesday, recalled how intense some of those matchups used to be. 

"When I came up with the A's the Giants series was a big one," he said. "You could feel that excitement because my rookie year we weren't in a playoff race, so that was the matchup every year. Oakland fans always came out. It was exciting."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

The first three of six matchups will be played at Oracle Park this weekend, with more than 10,000 cutouts in the stands instead of fans. But in an odd way, the games might be more meaningful than ever. 

Because of the shortened season, the Battle of the Bay makes up 10 percent of each side's schedule, the equivalent of 16 games in a normal year. These matchups will go a long way toward deciding each team's fate, and right now they're headed in different directions. 

The A's enter with the best record in the American League (13-6) and a four-game lead in the AL West. At 8-12, the Giants are last in the NL West after a 3-7 road trip. They need a quick turnaround to keep hope alive of grabbing a spot in the expanded playoffs. 

The Giants are at least set up well from a starting standpoint, with Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman and Logan Webb. But they'll face Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea, getting a close-up look at what is perhaps the biggest difference for the two organizations in the coming years. 

The A's built their lineup around the Matts -- Chapman and Olson -- and as good as those two are, the Giants don't have to squint too much to picture a day when perhaps Marco Luciano, Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop can give them a similar homegrown blend. But the starting staffs are wildly different, with the A's boasting a young and super-talented group.

Montas, acquired in a trade with then-Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, is 27 and a Cy Young candidate. Luzardo, 22, is one of the game's most exciting prospects. Manaea is off to a brutal start, but the 28-year-old has a track record of big league success already. Left-hander A.J. Puk, another top prospect, will join the group if he can ever stay healthy.

[RELATED: Slater, Solano's injuries expose Giants' offense in road loss]

The Giants have Webb, 23, locked into their long-term rotation, and he's off to a good start, but Gausman will be a free agent at the end of the year and Cueto at the end of 2021. The rest of their mix consists of Cahill, Tyler Anderson, Drew Smyly and Jeff Samardzija, with the latter two currently on the injured list. There's a decent chance none of those four are around next season. 

The Giants have Sean Hjelle, Seth Corry, Tristan Beck and others on the way, and they drafted Kyle Harrison and Nick Swiney in June, with hopes that both are top-end starters. For now, though, they're piecing the rotation together, often a day at a time. 

It's the biggest difference between the two sides right now, but this weekend it might not matter. Webb has thrown well all year and Gausman and Cueto are coming off their best starts. Gabe Kapler will need all three to step up this weekend because the pitching on the other side looks tough, and the Giants can't afford to give up any more ground.