The long wait for Giants baseball finally is over. After less than a month of spring training games and over a four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Opening Day is here with Johnny Cueto taking on Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
In what is sure to be the weirdest baseball season in recent memory, anything can happen over 60 games. Can the Giants and their ever-changing lineups compete with the Dodgers in the NL West? How many young Giants will make their MLB debuts? Just how unconventional will manager Gabe Kapler get?
Alex Pavlovic and Dalton Johnson sat down and came up with five bold predictions for the Giants' season this year. Former Giants pitcher and current NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Shawn Estes also reacted to each prediction, which you can watch in the video above. Here are their bold predictions, starting off with a familiar face who made a big change.
Brandon Crawford bounces back
Pitchers always are well ahead of hitters in spring training, and the splits have been even more extreme during this accelerated ramp-up in July. Giants pitchers struck out 20 of their teammates in one recent shortened sim game. But Brandon Crawford has been an exception.
Crawford has had command of the strike zone throughout, and he's lining balls into the gaps on a daily basis. He opened up his stance this spring and that seems to have helped. The staff is committed to finding him more days to rest a body that gets beat up every season, and Gabe Kapler will find more favorable matchups for the left-handed hitter.
The shortstop has been searching for two years for the form that made him an All-Star starter in the first half of 2018, and at least in these sim games, he looks to have found some of it. Now 33, Crawford has gone under the radar, but he sure seems like the veteran most likely to blow past his 2019 numbers. -- Pavlovic
Joey Bart leads Giants catchers in home runs
Kapler and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi have praised Bart for his professionalism and approach at the plate from spring training through Summer Camp. They won't say when the top prospect is headed for San Francisco as a big leaguer this year, but it's safe to assume it will happen at some point.
Simply put, this sure looks like a major league catcher.
Bart, 23, doesn't even have 100 at-bats in Double-A. He did hit 16 homers last season, with four of those coming in his 22-game stint with the Richmond Flying Squirrels in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League. Giants fans are ready for Bart, and his power will be on full display once he makes his debut. -- Johnson
[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
Mauricio Dubon leads team in CF innings
On the day the Giants decided to non-tender Kevin Pillar, Zaidi, in a phone conversation, ran through a bunch of the obvious choices to fill that void in center. And then he mentioned Mauricio Dubon, and I could tell how excited he was to see Dubon try the outfield.
In March, Dubon looked like he wouldn't be overwhelmed. Four months later, he looks like a natural, and the Giants never really filled that void in free agency or with a trade.
Dubon seemingly has spent more time in center than on the infield during workouts, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him duplicate what the Dodgers did in Zaidi's final year there, when their three main center fielders were Cody Bellinger (mostly a first baseman in the minors) and utility guys Kiké Hernandez and Chris Taylor. -- Pavlovic
The Giants find their Drew Pomeranz
Let's continue on some Dubon talk. All it took was four dominant appearances out of the bullpen from Drew Pomeranz -- after failing as a starter -- for the Giants to acquire Dubon from the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline last season.
Now Dubon figures to be the Giants' ultimate Swiss Army knife and an integral part of their future. Can the Giants swing another move in such a short season?
Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris will have only 36 games to evaluate this team before the Aug. 31 trade deadline. That's not an easy task, but the front office set themselves up nicely by signing pitchers Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly and Trevor Anderson to one-year contracts.
If any of those three start strong while the Giants are out of contention, San Francisco should be able to make a deal that makes fans excited for the present, and maybe more importantly, the future. -- Johnson
Tyler Rogers will lead NL relievers in WAR
I'm all in on the submariner, who was dominant in September, had a really strong camp and has continued to be filthy during Summer Camp.
Rogers will serve as a closer at times and an opener other times. Gabe Kapler calls him a Swiss Army knife, and he'll use Rogers often and in high-leverage situations. He'll rack up some saves, maybe even some two-inning ones, and I also think he'll end up with a few wins since he should come into quite a few games that are tied.
Only three of the top 10 NL relievers last year in WAR were full-time closers. The rest soaked up innings effectively, piling up a few saves and wins. I think we're going to look up in two months and see that Rogers has filled the back of his baseball card, and done so with a very low ERA. -- Pavlovic