Giants

Giants' Derek Holland vows that Dodgers won't win NL West in 2019

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USATSI

Giants' Derek Holland vows that Dodgers won't win NL West in 2019

The 2019 season hasn't yet started (for 28 teams, at least), and the Dodgers have already wrapped up their seventh straight NL West crown.

At least that's how pundits see things shaking out this year.

Fangraphs projects that the Dodgers will win 93 games and win the division by 12 games over the Rockies. CBS Sports asked five of their writers to predict the NL West standings and all five have the Dodgers on top.

Giants starting pitcher Derek Holland doesn't want to hear it.

"That's the thing people need to understand, it's awesome to see how we're the underdog and we're taking advantage of that," Holland told NBC Sports Bay Area's Amy G during the Giants-A's broadcast on Monday night. "Nobody is picking us to do anything, they've already crowned the Dodgers, they voted that they're going to be the champs. Yeah, that's not happening. We're definitely going to make some noise."

Holland told Amy G that the players in the Giants clubhouse have a lot of confidence in themselves.

[RELATED: Sizing up Giants' competition in West]

We appreciate Holland's belief in his squad. In order to back up his words, the Giants are going to have to overcome low expectations. Fangraphs projects them to finish in last place, and all those same five CBS Sports writers have the Giants in the cellar.

Hey, if the Giants do shock people and dethrone the Dodgers, it will be one hell of a story.

Buster Posey feels healthy, but Giants are still waiting for results at plate

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Buster Posey feels healthy, but Giants are still waiting for results at plate

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Nolan Arenado came to Oracle Park last week with no home runs, and as surprising as that was, it was even more shocking when he went the first three games of the series without doing his usual damage against Giants pitching. But Arenado hit a homer on Sunday, and then promptly went deep Monday and Tuesday in San Diego. All he needed was one to open the floodgates. 

That's not exactly the kind of breakthrough Buster Posey is picturing. Asked about players like Arenado, Posey smiled.

"I'd love to hit three in a row," he said.

Posey would settle for one isolated blast at this point. He hasn't taken a long trot around the bases since last June 19, when he took Dan Straily deep. That's 62 appearances, including 17 this season that have come with a repaired hip. The streak of 229 at-bats without a homer is the longest of Posey's career and fourth-longest among non-pitchers currently. 

Manager Bruce Bochy has remained patient, keeping Posey in the heart of the lineup. Bochy doesn't exactly have a bunch of options for that spot, anyway, but this goes deeper. The only manager Posey has ever known believes he will find his old form, or at least most of it. 

"It's only going to get better with him," Bochy said. 

Posey has tried to keep that mindset, although he admitted you can be challenged mentally when you look up at a scoreboard in the second half of April and see zero homers and just one RBI. 

"You feel a responsibility to your team to drive in runs when you're hitting in that part of the lineup," said Posey, who is batting .196. "At the same time, what's past is past. I know from experience that if you harp on that stuff there's nothing positive that can come from that."

It has for most of April been a struggle to find signs that what's ahead will be more positive. Posey is swinging at pitches outside the strike zone at the highest rate of his career, and his contact rate is the lowest of his career. That has led to a strikeout rate (19 percent) that's seven points above his career average. Posey has pulled just 23.3 percent of the balls he has put in play this season, the lowest rate in the Majors, according to Inside-Edge.

Perhaps all of this is in part because of a change in the way pitchers are approaching the former MVP. It's still a small sample, but Posey is seeing fastballs just 58 percent of the time, which also is the lowest rate of his career. Only three of his hits have come off non-fastballs. 

The Giants are aware of the numbers, but they prefer to focus on the moments when it all clicks. Against the Padres last week, Posey hit two balls at 107 mph in one game. On Wednesday night, he smacked a double off the center field wall in the ninth inning. Those moments have been too spread out, though. 

"I'll feel it for a few games and then I'll kind of lose it," Posey said. "I think it's just a matter of staying positive and understanding that it's a process."

Posey said he's trying to stay even-keel, and he's not thinking about ending the home run drought. "When you force things you get a little big and you lose some of that quickness," he said of his swing. From a physical standpoint, he believes he's pretty close to back to normal.

That's the other factor Bochy is leaning on. Posey is not far removed from major hip surgery, and he has been his old self defensively. Even if the bat isn't there, that has allowed Bochy to comfortably keep his star in the lineup, leading a pitching staff that's carried the team. Posey was off Thursday -- a day game after a night game -- but could play all three games in Pittsburgh this weekend. Bochy said he hasn't needed to sit Posey with a "cranky" hip this season.

"We're getting close to how we normally would work him," Bochy said. "He's bouncing back from these games and is feeling pretty good."

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos' advancement 'really encouraging to see'

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos' advancement 'really encouraging to see'

Heliot Ramos looks more like a college safety playing football than a center fielder in the minor leagues. From his beard to his build, this isn't your average 19-year-old. 

Giants farm director Kyle Haines agrees.

“The physical tools are obviously there," Haines said on Tuesday's Inside The San Jose Giants Podcast

Ramos, the Giants' first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, is listed at 6-foot-1 and 188 pounds. In person, it appears his muscular build appears even thicker, and at his young age there's still plenty of time for growth. His stature and potential turned the Giants on to draft him No. 19 overall, but it's his growth at the plate this season that has the franchise so excited. 

All offseason, Ramos worked on reading off-speed pitches better and laying off balls in the dirt while playing Winter Ball. Last season, he finished with a disappointing .313 on-base percentage. This year, Ramos is up to a .414 on-base percentage and has 11 walks to 13 strikeouts.

His ability to track late movement has stood out to Haines early in the year. 

“Those are characteristics that you usually see out of veteran hitters, and that was really encouraging to see that he’s started to acquire that skill," Haines said. 

Through 13 games, Ramos is batting .250 with 1.005 OPS for the High-A San Jose Giants. He's tied for the California League lead in home runs with four, is fourth in RBI (nine), fourth in total bases (26) and fourth in OPS. 

After starting the season 1-for-17, Ramos has 10 hits in his last 27 at-bats, good for a .370 batting average during that stretch.

“We’ve seen a huge advancement in his approach at the plate and I think that’s why you’ve seen the homers spike up a little bit," Haines said. 

It's hard to remember just how young Ramos is. When the Giants drafted him, he was only 17 years old and yet, he made a public goal of wanting to reach the major leagues in three years. Joey Bart is the talk of the Giants' farm system for all the right reasons and appears to be on the fast track to the bigs. But Ramos isn't too far behind. 

“He’d be a sophomore in college. He’s two years younger than Joey Bart," Haines reminded us. "We talk about Bart’s fast movement and then you stop and you’re thinking, ‘Hey what a minute. Heliot’s two years younger than what Joey is.’ It’s really encouraging to see … it’s exciting.” 

[RELATED: Bart, Ramos' San Jose Giants debut shows promise]

Ramos is the fifth-youngest player in the Cal League. He'll be a teenager all season long. The Giants, and fans alike, are seeing potential turn into production in only his second full season in the minors.