Giants

Here are five reasons to be optimistic about the 2019 Giants season

Here are five reasons to be optimistic about the 2019 Giants season

SAN FRANCISCO -- In just about every way, this has been a brutal offseason and spring for the Giants. 

There were deaths, firings, and the announcement that the manager's tenure is nearly over. They came up short on Bryce Harper after months of speculation. There were off-field issues all the way from the ownership suite to the outfield. The biggest acquisition thus far has been a new scoreboard that might not be ready when the team returns from Scottsdale. 

It is fair to be a salty fan right now, and oh man, do I hear you guys on Twitter. Write a story about a promising 22-year-old pitcher, check the mentions, and you'll see someone raging about the lineup's lack of pop. Write about new technology the team is using on the field, log back in, and you'll see someone angry about an underperforming right-hander. 

But Opening Day brings hope, and it's only a week away. So here are five reasons to be optimistic about the 2019 Giants ...

Starting Five

The last time Madison Bumgarner didn't have a fluke injury, he was worth 4.8 WAR. Two years ago, Jeff Samardzija led the league in innings and had a 2.5 WAR season. Derek Holland found new life last year and was one of the best left-handers in the NL. Dereck Rodriguez never let up, posting a 2.81 ERA as a rookie. Drew Pomeranz was worth 3.9 WAR to the Red Sox just two years ago. 

Sure, there are things that could go wrong with any of these guys, and there are some red flags in the peripherals for a few of them. But on paper, the Giants have a group that potentially could be one of the best in the National League, with Andrew Suarez, Chris Stratton, Tyler Beede, Shaun Anderson and others on deck. 

The starting pitching alone should allow the Giants to be much more competitive than they've been the last two years. 

More of Reyes Moronta

Did you know Reyes Moronta allowed just 34 hits in 65 innings last year, setting a franchise record for fewest hits allowed per nine innings? He had a remarkable season, set back only by a propensity to walk batters early in his appearances. Moronta has looked just as sharp this spring while working in his changeup, and he gives Bruce Bochy one of the best weapons in the league. 

At some point this season, especially if the Giants trade Will Smith, Moronta should start his reign as closer. It's a role he wants, and one he looks ready for.

A Full Season of Steven Duggar 

The young center fielder has had no setbacks after shoulder surgery and looks poised to take over as the leadoff hitter. A full season of Duggar should finally fix the organization's long-running defensive issues in center, and give a big boost to the pitching staff.

And the ultra-competitive 25-year-old isn't here to just get his feet wet at the plate; he wants to steal 30 bases, and he certainly has the skill set to take a run at Angel Pagan's San Francisco Giants record of 15 triples. 

The Breakout

In Los Angeles, Farhan Zaidi helped discover Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and others. Will a current Giant follow that path? 

Beede had a huge spring and could pitch his way into the rotation. Mac Williamson is poised to get his first extended run as a starter and is hoping to build off of his pre-concussion 2018 numbers. Travis Bergen looks like a keeper. Perhaps someone else tears it up in Sacramento early on and gets a look in the big leagues.

There are few things more exciting to a fan base than the player who comes out of nowhere to perform like a star -- remember when we all discovered Rodriguez last summer -- and Zaidi has a history of helping guys figure it out. 

[RELATED: Giants' new role players must step up for team to contend]

Nostalgia

I almost went with "Paul Goldschmidt got traded so the Giants should win at least, like, six more games," but that does actually play a part in the final reason. 

The Giants could have traded Bumgarner ... they didn't, and he'll take the field with a healthy Buster Posey on Opening Day.

They could have traded Joe Panik ... they didn't, he looked great this spring and will once again team with Brandon Crawford for strength up the middle.

Unlike other teams, the Giants kept their core together (in part, to be fair, because they have so many immovable contracts) and it's not unreasonable to expect a lot of better performances. 

Evan Longoria looks like his old self this spring. Brandon Belt was on pace for 30 homers before his appendix flared up last year, and you figure one of these years the Baseball Gods will let him stay healthy for six months. Posey will no longer be in pain in the fifth inning every night.

This is a group that is older, with more toddlers and gray hairs in the clubhouse, but it is also mostly the same set of players that was a ninth-inning meltdown from potentially beating the eventual World Series champion Cubs 29 months ago. Maybe there's one last run in them, especially with players already rallying around the fact that this is Bochy's last season. 

Maybe not. 

But in March, isn't it much more fun to be optimistic?

Watch Buster Posey end homer drought with three-run dinger vs. Pirates

Watch Buster Posey end homer drought with three-run dinger vs. Pirates

Welcome back to the Home Run Club, Buster Posey.

Posey hit his first home run of the 2019 season Sunday in Pittsburgh. The deep fly to dead-center field was a three-run shot that gave the Giants a 3-2 lead over the Pirates in the fifth inning.

According to Statcast, the three-run homer came 107.1 mph off Posey's bat with a 24-degree launch angle, and traveled 409 feet. 

Not only was it the Giants catcher's first homer of 2019, it was his first in 236 at-bats. He last went deep on June 19, 2018, with a solo shot off Dan Straily in a 6-3 win over the Marlins. 

Clearly, Posey was relieved.

With the drought over, Posey has completed a piece of history. The Pirates were the last team he hadn't homered off since entering the league in 2009.

Posey is just the seventh Giant -- including pitcher Madison Bumgarner -- to homer this season.

Giants vs. Pirates lineups: Dereck Rodriguez looks to end four-game skid

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USATSI

Giants vs. Pirates lineups: Dereck Rodriguez looks to end four-game skid

The Giants' long, frustrating road trip continues on Easter Sunday in Pittsburgh. 

Dereck Rodriguez takes the hill as the Giants look to snap a four-game losing streak and avoid a sweep against the Pirates.

Rodriguez has faced the Pirates only once in his short career. On Aug. 12, 2018, the right-hander allowed one earned run over seven innings in a 6-1 win over the Pirates. This will be his first time pitching in Pittsburgh. 

[RELATED: Giants willing to talk about trading veteran relievers]

The Pirates will start righty Chris Archer, who's 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA in two career starts against the Giants. 

Here are the full lineups for Sunday's Giants-Pirates game at PNC Park:

San Francisco Giants (8-14)
RF Steven Duggar
LF Gerardo Parra
C Buster Posey
1B Brandon Belt
3B Evan Longoria
SS Brandon Crawford
CF Kevin Pillar
2B Joe Panik
RHP Dereck Rodriguez (2-2, 3.63 ERA)

Pittsburgh Pirates (12-6)
SS Cole Tucker
RF Melky Cabrera
2B Colin Moran
1B Josh Bell
C Francisco Cervelli
3B Jung Ho Kang
CF Bryan Reynolds
LF Jason Martin
RHP Chris Archer (1-0, 2.00 ERA)