Five biggest questions facing the Giants entering the 2019 season

Five biggest questions facing the Giants entering the 2019 season

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants will enter the 2019 season with a "nobody believes in us" mentality. That was made clear throughout the spring, and starter Derek Holland doubled down during the broadcast Monday night. 

"Nobody is picking us to do anything," he said. "We're going to definitely make some noise."

That's the way a team should enter the season, but it's also more than fair for fans or the media to question this roster's ability to hang around deep into the season. There were holes the previous two seasons, and not many were filled over the winter.

Here are five big questions for the Giants as they prepare for Opening Day:

1. The outfield

The Giants had mostly regular starters in Monday's lineup, but Connor Joe was in left field and Michael Reed was in right. The thing about those two is that, well, they weren't even Giants a week ago. That's the state of the outfield right now. 

Steven Duggar and Gerardo Parra are set, but Mac Williamson may be in limbo after a rough spring and the team is basically holding open auditions in the hours before the opener. 

It all could have been so different. The Giants finished second in the race for Bryce Harper, but as this season begins they're exactly where they were at the end of last season: Wondering how they'll get production from the outfield. 

2. Will they deal or go for it?

Farhan Zaidi has worked to build depth at all levels, but the easiest way to really add young controllable talent is to trade some big names. Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith and Tony Watson are among those who could bring back a haul before the July 31 deadline, and perhaps veterans like Brandon Belt and Jeff Samardzija will rebuild their trade value in the first half.

But what if the underdogs go out there and stay in the race for four months? If the Giants are within striking distance of a postseason spot, would they still tear down? 

With Bumgarner and Smith, there's some urgency. Both will be free agents at the end of the year, so if the Giants manage to rally and make Bruce Bochy's last season competitive, Zaidi will be faced with a difficult decision.

The right move for the future would be to reload the farm system, but that could lead to a disappointing final stretch for a Hall of Fame manager and veteran roster. 

3. The outfield

Duggar looks ready to grab the leadoff spot, but he's still a relatively unproven player with development ahead of him. There's no guarantee that he breaks out this season. Parra, the other one locked in, had an OPS+ of 82 last season while playing half his games in Coors Field, and in an ideal world the Giants would have him in a fourth outfielder role. 

And those are the two outfielders the Giants feel good about. 

The front office might start the season with Joe and Yangervis Solarte, two natural infielders, seeing most the time in left. There's no understating how dire the situation is in the outfield. 

4. Health

Players have made a habit this spring of saying something along the lines of, "When did 30 become old?" While you should see some of these guys bounce back statistically, it's also realistic to expect some injury issues to continue. That's just the reality when you're a few years past that 30th birthday cake. 

The Giants stayed remarkably healthy this spring, but at some point that will change and we'll get a true sense of just how much depth they've added. The pitching staff would be fine even with a few key guys on the injured list, but the lineup is stretched thin as is, and extended absences from two or three regulars would lead to the same offensive issues that derailed the 2018 Giants. 

5. The outfield

Let's be real here. We could have filled all five of these slots with concerns about the outfield. 

The problem isn't just the confusion at the big league level, it's also that there doesn't appear to be an obvious solution coming down the tracks.

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Austin Slater reworked his swing in the offseason and had a bad spring. Chris Shaw is repeating Triple-A for a second time, and if Zaidi didn't see a spot for him now, you wonder what his future holds. Williamson's role is suddenly murky. Drew Ferguson had a terrible spring and was returned to the Astros. Mike Gerber could be a nice find, but he'll start the year in Sacramento. The Giants didn't see much from Henry Ramos and Anthony Garcia this spring. 

Zaidi will continue to discuss trades and work the waiver wire, but at some point the Giants will need to develop their own outfield solutions, and they don't appear much closer to doing so than they were at the end of last season. 

Giants digging hole with first-inning woes, and they might not have solution

Giants digging hole with first-inning woes, and they might not have solution

PITTSBURGH -- Madison Bumgarner was mad at himself for digging too big a hole Friday night, and he certainly did just that. But as the Giants move past the 20-game mark, it's clear that it's another part of the team mostly digging the holes. 

The Giants are the only team in the Majors without a run in the first inning and they have scored first just six times in 21 games. When Bumgarner gave up four in the bottom of the first Friday, that was all it took. The Giants had not, of course, done any damage in the top of the inning. They would lose 4-1 on their first night with the Pirates. 

The first-inning woes have been there since the first at-bats of the season. The Giants are 6-for-66 in the first inning, and all six of the hits have been singles. They have just two walks in 21 first innings and have struck out 21 times. 

"Not scoring early again, that's making every game an uphill climb for us," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

Friday's script was familiar. After an 85-minute rain delay, Steven Duggar opened the night by striking out. He is 3-for-17 while leading off games, with seven strikeouts. Joe Panik, who is batting .193, also struck out and Buster Posey, batting .217, grounded out to second.  

Bochy said the staff is talking about changes that can be made, but they are limited by their personnel. Kevin Pillar also brings speed, but he's batting just .167. Gerardo Parra is at .224. Up and down the lineup, there is nobody hitting, or reaching base at a rate that screams "put me up near the top of the lineup!"

"There's not a lot that you can do at this point," Bochy said. "These are our guys and you can move them a spot or two. But wherever you hit in the order, those guys have to come through. You look at the back end of (Pittsburgh's) order and they did a pretty good job in the first inning."

Bumgarner retired the first two batters he faced before walking third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who entered batting just .130. Josh Bell singled and Francisco Cervelli hit a two-run double. The exit velocity barrage continued a bit longer, and singles by Pablo Reyes and JB Shuck made it 4-0 before the rain drops on the dugout seats had even had time to dry. Bumgarner threw 38 pitches in the inning. 

"They weren't all bad pitches but a lot of them were," he said. "You've got to give those guys credit. With two outs and nobody on, to score four, that's hard to do even in batting practice."

[RELATED: Marte, Gonzalez collide violently]

The first-inning blip was the only one for Bumgarner, who has always had a good time in this park. In his next five innings he allowed just two singles and struck out six. 

But the damage had been done. It was an uphill climb, and as they've done for most of a month now, the Giants didn't approach the summit.

Watch Pirates' Starling Marte, Erik Gonzalez collide violently vs. Giants

Watch Pirates' Starling Marte, Erik Gonzalez collide violently vs. Giants

There was a really scary moment in the top of the eighth inning between the Giants and Pirates on Friday night.

Giants infielder Yangeris Solarte popped a ball up between second base. Pirates center fielder Starling Marte and shortstop Erik Gonzalez converged on the ball and collided violently in center field.

Both players stayed down for several minutes. The Pirates' trainer raced out to check on both players and had to keep switching between Marte and Gonzalez since both were in considerable pain.

[RELATED: Duggar robs Musgrove of extra bases]

Gonzalez was able to walk off on his own power, but a cart was brought out to take Marte to the clubhouse.

The Pirates have yet to release an injury update on the players, but let's hope both players didn't suffer any type of serious injury.