The Giants entered last season with low expectations and nearly snuck their way into the playoffs. Can they crack the postseason this year? PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus' player projection system, doesn't like their chances.
PECOTA projects the Giants will finish the 2021 MLB season with a lowly 75-87 record, which would be fourth in the NL West. That also projects them as the fourth-worst in the NL and ninth-worst in all of baseball.
At least they're not the Colorado Rockies, who are projected to win just 60 games after trading Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals.
After looking at PECOTA's Giants projections for the 2021 season, here are three things that stood out.
The Yaz and La Stella Show
PECOTA clearly believes Mike Yastrzemski and Tommy La Stella will be the Giants' two best offensive players this season. Yastrzemski is projected to lead the Giants in WARP (3.4) -- which is Baseball Prospectus' version of wins above replacement -- VORP (26.5) and is tied with La Stella in DRC+ (117). La Stella is projected to finish second to Yastrzemski in WARP (2.3) and VORP (25.7).
For context, VORP stands for value over replacement player, and DRC+ means deserved runs created plus, which measures all of a player's contributions at the plate.
Yastrzemski was a serious NL MVP candidate in the first half of the season last year. He hit .297 with a .968 OPS and 10 homers in 54 games, finishing eighth in MVP voting. PECOTA projects him to hit .246 with a .783 OPS and a team-leading 23 home runs.
The Giants liked what they saw from La Stella so much last season with the A's and Los Angeles Angels, they signed him to a three-year contract. That's the longest in the Farhan Zaidi era. Between his two teams last season, La Stella hit .281 with an .819 OPS and five home runs in 55 games. He's projected to hit .273 with a .774 OPS and 15 homers, which would be the second-most in his career.
It's good to remember projections usually fall on the more cautious side. But it's clear PECOTA believes Yastrzemski and La Stella will at least be solid players this season.
Another good Gausman season
The Giants took a bit of a risk last offseason with Kevin Gausman when they signed the former top draft pick to a one-year, $9 million contract at the Winter Meetings. That paid off handsomely as Gausman clearly was the Giants' ace, and they re-signed him on the one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer this offseason.
PECOTA likes Gausman's chances to put together another solid season in San Francisco. He's projected to go 10-8 with a 3.39 ERA (down from 3.62) and have 169 strikeouts in 149 innings pitched. That would put him at 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings, the second-best of his career behind only last season.
Gausman also is projected to lead all Giants pitchers in WARP with 2.5. He was worth 1.7 last year. His 2.5 WARP is projected to be 0.6 points higher than the next-best Giants pitcher -- Alex Wood with 1.9.
Who's the closer?
Gabe Kapler has a big decision to make regarding his bullpen. Who will the closer be? PECOTA doesn't exactly know either.
Reyes Moronta and Tyler Rogers are projected to record 16 saves each, with Matt Wisler earning three as well. The Giants had five pitchers record a save last season, including three from Rogers. Kapler likes Rogers' funky arm slot and ability to pitch in different situations, but Moronta feels like the ideal candidate here.
Kapler said in December last year that the Giants are challenging Moronta to earn the closer role this spring. Moronta has a traditional closer profile with an upper-90s fastball and strong slider, but spent last season rehabbing from a shoulder injury. In 2019, he had a 2.86 ERA and struck out 70 batters in 56 2/3 innings. He has a 2.66 ERA in three big league seasons, and has struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings.
Look for Moronta to take control here, but it's clear the Giants still have a big question mark when it comes to their closer.