Jaylin Davis

Giants Mailbag: What will starting lineup be vs. Dodgers on Opening Day?

Giants Mailbag: What will starting lineup be vs. Dodgers on Opening Day?

The Giants have had a quiet offseason, and they, unfortunately, chose the wrong day to finally make a bit of news.

On Thursday morning the team announced that left-hander Drew Smyly signed a one-year deal that essentially puts him in the rotation right now, and that two coaches had been added to complete the staff. The addition of Alyssa Nakken was a historic one and should have gotten a lot more attention around the game, but most of the baseball world spent yesterday digging through old videos and photos of Astros players looking for buzzers or wires. 

Here on this corner of the internet, we don't need to do that. The focus is on the Giants, so here's another version of the Friday mailbag, with plenty of good questions from my Instagram followers ... 

What systems are the Giants using to cheat and why isn't it successful? -- wolfmanzack

Thank you, sir, for getting into the good stuff right away. 

The Giants hit 48 homers at home in 2017, the year when most of this stuff allegedly happened. If they were cheating, they were even worse at it than they were at trying to score runs the old fashioned way. There's not much for Giants fans to be excited about these days, but at least you know your team was so bad at Oracle Park that there's no possible way they were cheating? 

Side note: I've spent a lot of time with video replay guys over the years and got to know the previous regime pretty well. It's insane how detailed their camera setup is and how much they're able to look at by clicking a few keys before and during games. MLB shouldn't be all that surprised that the Astros and possibly others started to weaponize the technology. 

Who will be our starting lineup on Opening Day? -- kitkat_kitty

First I'll ask who starts for the Dodgers that day, Walker Buehler or Clayton Kershaw? The outfield will look different against lefties and righties.

Assuming it's Kershaw, I'll go with Cueto, Posey, Belt, Dubon, Crawford, Longoria, Slater, Yastrzemski and An Outfielder To Be Named Later Who Probably Isn't Nicholas Castellanos. 

Will we get a good outfielder? -- conmantheman99

Well, Yaz will probably be in center. Other than that ... 

I know the Giants are still working on some things and they're cautiously optimistic, but short of a surprise strike for Castellanos or Marcell Ozuna, they're going young. They really go want to give one of these internal guys 300 at-bats to see what he can do. The early favorite for that role seems to be Jaylin Davis. 

Why don't the Giants move Posey to first base? -- carlosroman4

Despite the dip in numbers, Posey is still pretty valuable with what he brings defensively and by calling a game. I've never really bought the idea that he would start hitting homers again if he was the first baseman -- it's more than a decade of wear and tear that's taken the power out of his body, and that's not coming back -- and I don't think the Giants do, either. There's not a lot of "Buster to first" talk from this new regime. 

(What's the) reason for adding Nakken to the big league coaching staff? -- j.t._.hollis

In the initial press release, Gabe Kapler said Alyssa Nakken and Mark Hallberg would help promote a winning culture in the clubhouse, but more than anything, this is a support role. There's a lot that goes into day-to-day operations, and the Giants are using some of their vast resources to make sure that there are plenty of helping hands in the clubhouse, the batting cage and on the field. 

Maybe that means Nakken and Hallberg will throw BP or help get the field set up for drills. Maybe they'll be doing advanced scouting one day, or talking to a struggling player. Maybe they'll be hitting grounders to Mauricio Dubon and Brandon Crawford. We'll see how it all shakes out, but it's clear that Kapler wants collaboration and a lot of diverse voices in the room, and he wants that room to be more energetic from the first hour of spring training. 

And honestly, it doesn't really matter what Nakken's ultimate role is. This is a big moment for baseball and should be celebrated. She's more than qualified to be working in a clubhouse and plenty of other women are, too. Someone needed to get the ball rolling. Good for Kapler and the Giants for recognizing that and giving a strong candidate her big break. 

What prospects will we see this year considering a projected 71 win season? -- davidhammondbrownphotography

Projections aside, you'll certainly see Davis early on and possibly Chris Shaw, if you still count them as prospects. I wouldn't be surprised to see Joey Bart by May or June, and I think Sean Hjelle will get a shot in the rotation in the second half. Heliot Ramos is young, but he's on path for a September call-up, at the very least. 

You might also see someone we haven't heard of yet if the Giants are right about Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly and manage to Pomeranz one of those guys elsewhere. 

What's happening with the closer role? -- jacksonirwin

If the season started today, I think Tony Watson would probably pitch the ninth. Shaun Anderson has good stuff and he really seems eager to embrace the ninth inning, so he's probably your best bet right now to lead this team in saves, but experience usually wins out in March.

When Bochy comes back to manage Boston, does he have to give the farewell gifts back? -- rkwagner15

Can we take a moment to acknowledge the unfortunate timing of this scandal? If all of this happened in January of 2021, Bochy would almost certainly be interested in the Astros, Mets and Red Sox and he likely would get one of those jobs. The Astros drafted him, and there isn't a better fit out there for a team that has a loaded roster but desperately needs some stability and leadership. 

But Bochy has always been committed to taking a year off, spending time with his family, recharging his batteries and then seeing how he feels about retirement. He won't come back for any of these jobs in 2020, which makes the timing a bit of a bummer because he really does deserve another shot to manage in the postseason. 

As for the gifts, most of that wine was guzzled on long flights back from losing road trips. In all seriousness, Bochy was well aware of what that farewell tour meant and I think that's part of the reason he didn't want to make a big deal of all this. He knew he might get the itch again and that could be awkward after six months of being showered with love, but opposing teams were eager to honor him, so there wasn't much to be done. 

Will their rotation be stronger this year than last? I think so. -- jesseaflora

Well, they have 207 2/3 Madison Bumgarner innings to fill, but I actually agree with you. A healthy Johnny Cueto should be able to fill that void, and Tyler Beede and Logan Webb should be better than they were as rookies. The bar (last season's work from Drew Pomeranz and Derek Holland) that Gausman, Smyly and Tyler Anderson need to clear isn't all that high. 

The Giants were 13th in the NL with a 4.77 starters' ERA last season. Even without Bumgarner, they should be better than that. 

Farhan said last year that they would act like contenders until they weren't. Same this year? -- abwrites

His main rallying cry last year was actually that the Giants would try to be competitive as deep into the season as possible and win as many games as possible, and he's said the same thing this offseason. 

The Giants are realistic about what they are right now. They know they're not contenders, but they still want to be on the fringes of the race as long as possible and I don't think you'll see many -- if any -- decisions made by Kapler that scream "these dudes are tanking." The roster isn't very good so the team won't be good, but this isn't a race to the No. 1 pick by any means. 

What do you think the Giants record will be next year? -- scottboy_707

They went 77-85 last year, but as mentioned in a previous mailbag, there's no way they're going 13-3 in extra innings again or 38-16 in one-run games. The win total will drop just by regression in those two areas, and the roster also lost Bumgarner, Kevin Pillar, Stephen Vogt and others. 

At the same time, Kapler isn't going to be nearly as committed to struggling veterans and the Giants are going to use more platoons and openers and other methods to try to find small edges. That will help, and I really do sense that the younger players on the roster are energized by the changes and have a lot to prove. Throw it all together and right now I'd probably put them around 75 wins. 

How can one change the Giants' culture while Posey, Craw, Belt and Longo are there? -- velowhiz

I've written a fair amount about culture and energy this offseason and will continue to do so, but I wouldn't really blame it on any of the core players. Collectively, it got stale in the clubhouse, but all of those individuals are good clubhouse guys who show up and do their work every day. 

The culture is going to change because there's a new manager, a new GM, 12 new coaches and a collection of new players and prospects. Will it be better? We'll see, but it certainly will be different, and the organization certainly needed a jolt. 

[RELATED: Joey Bart named second-best catching prospect]

Niners or Packers? -- kfitz023

Niners, and I don't think it's all that close.

From the 2010, 12 and 14 teams, who do you think will make the Hall of Fame? -- bensalvi23

Love this question, and it's one we'll be talking about a lot as more of these guys retire. Bochy is a lock, but it's going to be complicated for some of his players. 

Posey seems like an easy answer, but he actually only has 1,380 hits and 140 homers. He's won every award you could think of and his career WAR (he's currently at 42.1) should ultimately compare favorably with currently HOF catchers, but I think he needs to do some compiling of raw statistics to swing some voters. Tim Lincecum was a shooting star but falls well short of the current standard for starting pitchers. 

I think Bumgarner will have a shot, because a lot of Hall voters love to reward big-game pitchers, but he has some work to do, too. He only has 119 wins, and while the days of 300-game winners or even 200-game winners are probably gone, he could use another 40-50 on the resume and a couple more All-Star appearances. Those things matter when a lot of older voters fill out their ballots, and Bumgarner and Posey will need to add some late-career stats to those early accomplishments. As much as they mean to the Bay Area, most of the voters are from other regions and won't be swayed by nostalgia when they get their ballots and start digging into the final stats these guys put up. 

Does the Pillar move symbolize a full-time starting role for Duggar? -- jackson._.dann

I haven't sensed that Duggar is at the top of the chart in center field, in part because the Giants just aren't sure if he can stay healthy. He's their best defensive center fielder, but he has a lot of work to do at the plate and the Giants want to see him get much better on the bases. Duggar is only 26, so there's no reason why he can't break out this season, but right now he's not headed for a full-time role. 

[RELATED: Giants' Bart named baseball's second-best catching prospect]

Which stadium other than Oracle has the best food! -- matt_twenty1

We talking press box or full stadium? Most of any beat writer's meals during the season take place in the media dining room and Oracle probably falls somewhere near the middle of the pack (there are a lot of nights where the main course is a suspicious-looking kind of fish). 

I think Philadelphia has the best press box food in the NL and it's easy to find a cheesesteak if you wander into the concourse, so they're near the top for me. The Padres have some really good concession stands and the Diamondbacks are better than you'd expect (in the NL West, the Rockies food is boring and Dodger Stadium's selections suck). 

The team that stands out though is the Mets. There's Shake Shack, obviously, and that gives them a huge edge. There's also a Fuku chicken stand for good spicy chicken sandwiches, and the general concession stands have the best chicken tenders in the league. The Mets are perennially a mess, but at least they got their tenders right. 

MLB free agency: What we learned about Giants at Winter Meetings

MLB free agency: What we learned about Giants at Winter Meetings

SAN FRANCISCO -- "We were jealous."

Those were the words of a rival executive after the Giants took on Zack Cozart's contract in order to get shortstop prospect Will Wilson, the No. 15 pick in this year's draft. The Giants made just two moves this week, but that one certainly caught the attention of many around the game, and it was one team officials couldn't stop talking about over the last couple of days of the Winter Meetings.

It was a creative move, one straight out of an NBA offseason, with the Giants using their financial flexibility to pry away a good prospect from an Angels organization that soon would give Anthony Rendon $245 million. This isn't the type of move that will sell season tickets, but I think it's the most instructive one so far when trying to determine how Farhan Zaidi and now Scott Harris will turn this around.

Ownership hired smart people to run the baseball operations department. Zaidi, Harris and the rest are trying to make the kinds of creative decisions that have been seen in places like Oakland and Tampa Bay for years, while flexing the financial power of a big market.

Eventually, that money will be spent on free agents. For now, it allows the Giants to add players in other ways. The ownership group was thrilled with the Cozart/Wilson move (the Giants completed the deal Thursday by sending lefty Garrett Williams to the Angels) and has granted permission to seek similar, and possibly bigger, deals.

In Wilson, the Giants get a player who was one of three or four in the mix when they took Hunter Bishop at No. 10 overall in June. They would have been happy to end up with Wilson, and now they have both young hitters. Cozart has a "ways to go," before being ready after shoulder surgery, Zaidi said. He added that there's "uncertainty there." But that doesn't matter.

A few front office folks surveyed this week said a big-market team would spend $20-30 million to get a mid-first-round pick like Wilson if that was an open market (draft picks are kind of getting screwed, eh?) and the 21-year-old enters the Giants organization as one of their top 10 prospects, according to multiple outlets.

"We're really excited about him," a team executive said. "We're not going to need three or four guys like that to turn this around, we're going to need eight or 10."

The Giants got a bit closer to that goal by being creative. Here are four more things we learned over four days in Scottsdale.

Positional Versatility

Where were you when the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft went to a fifth-round?! What a time to be alive.

In the first round of Triple-A drafting, the Giants added Brewers minor leaguer Bryan Torres to the River Cats' roster. It potentially was significant because it fits with the theme of the meetings. The Giants announced Torres as a catcher even though he played first base, third base and a bit of outfield last season.

Zaidi has talked in the past of how appealing it is to have players who can catch but also play other positions -- like Austin Barnes or Kyle Farmer did in Los Angeles -- and it seems the Giants will give Torres, a catcher earlier in his minor league career, that shot. Get ready to hear a lot of this.

Gabe Kapler repeatedly said this week that the ability to play different positions will be huge for prospects, even noting that it could help Joey Bart's value down the line. The Giants are planning this at the big league level, too, with Mauricio Dubon set for time in center. Kapler compared Dubon to the Phillies’ do-everything hitter Scott Kingery.

"From the perspective of looking at Dubon, the more capable he is at moving around the diamond, the more valuable he becomes to the San Francisco Giants," Kapler said.

The Giants want to mimic what the Dodgers do with guys like Kiké Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Max Muncy. Get ready to see box scores where a guy moves back and forth, potentially two or three times a game.

A Hint With a Core Giant?

On the same day, the Giants acquired Cozart, it was reported they were a runner-up for shortstop Didi Gregorius. Now, Cozart may not be ready by Opening Day -- Zaidi said it's possible he's out until deep into the first half -- and he may not end up on the team at all. The Giants added him just to buy a prospect.

But, Gregorius is a starting shortstop.

Signing Gregorius -- assuming that rumor is true -- would have installed a new starting shortstop right then and there. It's also interesting to note what Kapler said about Brandon Crawford during his media availability.

"Brandon Crawford at times has been a plus defender up the middle," Kapler said. "I think he still has that capability to be a plus defender at shortstop."

"At times" is not the most ringing endorsement of a three-time Gold Glove Award winner. Crawford surely is motivated to come back strong next season, but it's clear the front office is contemplating some major changes.

The Next Yaz?

The Giants are looking for a right-handed bat in the outfield, but some team officials believe they might already have the solution in-house. There's a lot of excitement about Jaylin Davis, who hit 35 homers in the minors last year but went just 7-for-42 in a September cameo.

The goal with the coaching hires was to unlock the potential that's inside a lot of these prospects, and the 25-year-old Davis certainly is going to be one of the top projects for Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele, Dustin Lind and the rest. The new regime believes there are some changes he can make to carry that minor league success over to his big league at-bats.

Zaidi said the Giants continue to look at other options in free agency and through trades. The Giants have been connected to Nicholas Castellanos, perhaps the best remaining fit, but the reports that they're the leading contender for his services are overstating it, per sources.

[RELATED: Winners, losers of MLB Winter Meetings]

Who Is Left Out?

The Giants added Kevin Gausman to their rotation, giving them a group that currently is led by five right-handers.

"I think we want to have balance," Zaidi said. "Obviously we've got Tyler Anderson, who we're hoping can be ready on Opening Day or at least early in the season. He factors in from the left side and (Andrew) Suarez and (Conner) Menez and some of our younger guys as well. But that's going to be an area we're going to keep an eye on in free agency as well."

This is where the fans will stop and note that, uhh, a man named Madison Bumgarner still is available. The Giants still are involved, but are expecting to lose him, possibly in a painful way. No matter what happens with Bumgarner, expect more changes to the rotation group.

Given the money that's flying around, $18 million is a very palatable salary for Jeff Samardzija, who had a nice season. He might be traded, and Johnny Cueto could have suitors, too. The Giants are excited about Tyler Beede and Logan Webb, but keep in mind that a year ago at this time Zaidi was saying he wanted Dereck Rodriguez and Suarez -- coming off solid rookie years -- to start the season in Triple-A as depth. Neither ended up as a rotation regular. Webb, the organization's top pitching prospect, will be on an innings limit next year, too.

So, here on Dec. 13, do not at all lock in a rotation of Cueto, Samardzija, Beede, Webb and Gausman, or even four of those guys and Anderson as the fifth. The Giants have more rotation changes on the way.

What are Giants' plans in center field after Kevin Pillar non-tender?

What are Giants' plans in center field after Kevin Pillar non-tender?

SAN FRANCISCO -- The decision to non-tender Kevin Pillar, like several others made over the past year, was not a popular one with Giants fans.

Pillar was a Willie Mac Award winner who did two things that fans could easily cheer: Hit home runs and make diving catches.

Go on Twitter and you'll find fans who say they won't attend a game next season and a weird contingent that believes Farhan Zaidi is a secret agent still working for the Dodgers. But all that anger ignores one key fact. The man who decided to move on from Pillar is the same one who acquired him a week into the season for two players who are no longer with the Blue Jays and one who had an 8.11 ERA in the minors. 

The Giants hired Zaidi to make good decisions, and there's no doubt that the trade for Pillar was a brilliant one. Zaidi believes moving on after one season is the right move, too, and time will tell if he's correct. 

What we know for now is that there's no going back, and there will be a new look in center field. In a conversation on Monday afternoon, Zaidi said the emphasis will be on adding production to the corner outfield spots. It's hard to find a good center fielder in free agency anyway, so the Giants will go young and go in-house.

Here's what that might look like in 2020:

The Favorite

Mike Yastrzemski got just 30 innings in center field last season because Pillar was an everyday player, but he generally looked comfortable out there, and he should. Yastrzemski actually has more minor league starts in center field (224) than any other position, and he has over 2,000 professional innings of experience in the middle of the outfield. 

Yastrzemski probably won't be climbing many walls or diving nearly as often as Pillar did, but he did a nice job in the corners last year and was worth seven Defensive Runs Saved in right field and eight overall. 

The Giants are fully confident that Yastrzemski can handle center field at Oracle Park -- the dimensions are shrinking a bit, too -- and if the season started today he would be their center fielder. 

The Young Guys

A year ago at this time, Steven Duggar was the Center Fielder of the Future. Duggar is still just 26 years old and is expected to be 100 percent for spring training after another season-ending shoulder injury. 

The Giants can't go into 2020 counting on much from Duggar, but they certainly are hoping for a breakthrough. If he improves his plate discipline and taps into his natural speed, Duggar could be the everyday center fielder. He's the organization's best defensive center fielder and would have been even if Pillar was brought back.

Jaylin Davis is another player the Giants want to take a long look at, although he has just 30 minor league starts in center field. Davis may see time out there in the big leagues, but he's more likely to benefit from the Pillar decision in a different way. With Yastrzemski set for lots of time in center, Davis -- a 25-year-old who hit 35 homers in the minors last year -- will have an opportunity to win at-bats in one of the corner spots. The same holds true for Austin Slater and potentially Chris Shaw. 

The Wild Card

When Zaidi traded a week of strong Drew Pomeranz relief appearances for Mauricio Dubon, he mentioned that one thing the Giants loved about Dubon was his potential as a super-utility player. On deadline day, Zaidi compared Dubon to Chris Taylor, but another Dodger could be a better fit. Kiké Hernandez mostly started at second base for the Dodgers last year but also made 43 appearances in the outfield, and Dubon is expected to shag plenty of fly balls next spring. 

Given where the roster is right now, Dubon is also the starting second baseman and a strong option to split time with Brandon Crawford at shortstop. But if he can handle center field, the Giants would have more of the flexibility they're seeking. They plan to be active in the infield market this offseason. If they add another middle infielder who hits right-handed, could you see that player at shortstop against left-handers with Donovan Solano at second and Dubon in center? 

The Future

When the Giants drafted Heliot Ramos in 2017, some scouts predicted he would move to right field. But the Giants have kept Ramos in center and there's no indication that he'll need to be moved next season. There were fears that Ramos would outgrow the position as he hit his early 20s, but he appeared slimmed down in the Arizona Fall League and the Giants will keep him in the middle of the diamond for now. 

[RELATED: Dickerson returns to Giants on one-year deal]

Now, Ramos is only 20 and doesn't even have 100 at-bats above A-ball, but the new regime wants to be aggressive with top prospects and Ramos will come to Scottsdale in February with a strong chance to earn a promotion to Triple-A. The plan is for Ramos to spend all, or most, of the season in Sacramento, but a September call-up seems likely and the Giants won't hold their No. 2 prospect back if the bat proves ready earlier than that. 

If you're looking way down the line, Hunter Bishop, last year's top pick, is also a center fielder. Bishop is likely at least a couple of years away, but he should start next season in San Jose.