San Francisco Giants
2016 Record: 87-75
Second Place, NL West
Team ERA: 3.65 (4th)
Team OPS: .728 (20th)
What Went Right
Brandon Belt managed to avoid more concussion issues this season, playing in a career-high 156 games and easily setting a new career high with 655 plate appearances. The first baseman led the Giants with 17 home runs and saw his walk rate go through the roof, as he finished with a career-best .394 on-base percentage. The arrow continued to point up with Brandon Crawford’s offense, as he set new career highs in batting average (.275) and OBP (.342) while also finishing fourth among shortstops with 84 RBI. Much of his production came with the Twins prior to a deadline deal, but Eduardo Nunez was a fantasy league-winner with his .288/.325/.432 batting line, 16 homers, 67 RBI and 40 stolen bases. Madison Bumgarner continued to roll along, putting up a career-best 2.74 ERA and 251 strikeouts while finishing with a career-high 226 2/3 innings. The Giants’ two big pitching investments from last winter worked out quite well. Johnny Cueto was magnificent with a 2.79 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 198 strikeouts, while Jeff Samardzija was solid with a 3.81 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 167 punchouts.
What Went Wrong
The Giants had the best record in baseball in the first half before stumbling badly after the All-Star break and barely squeaking into the postseason as the NL’s second Wild Card. The biggest cause for their problems was a leaky bullpen that featured a major league-leading 30 blown saves. Santiago Casilla was the primary closer for much of the year, but he led the league with nine blown saves and lost his job late in the season. Veteran starters Matt Cain and Jake Peavy both looked toasted, putting up ERAs of 5.64 and 5.54, respectively. Hunter Pence had an .808 OPS when he was on the field, but he battled injuries for the second straight season, finishing with just 106 games played. Joe Panik had some injury issues, too, and was very disappointing at the plate with a lowly .239/.315/.379 batting line. Matt Duffy was unable to build upon his fine rookie season, hitting just .253/.313/.358 for the Giants while battling an Achilles problem. He was traded to the Rays at the deadline and eventually underwent season-ending surgery on his heel.
*Matt Moore showed flashes of brilliance after arriving in San Francisco at the trade deadline, striking out over a batter per inning and nearly throwing a no-hitter. However, he also sported a 4.2 BB/9 rate in his 12 outings with the Giants, had a couple terrible starts in September and ultimately finished with the same 4.08 ERA he put up in Tampa Bay. However, while the left-hander can be frustrating to own in fantasy leagues since he’s prone to inconsistency, he’s set up quite well for success in 2017. Moore gets to pitch his home games in the most pitcher-friendly park in the league and will get to face a pitcher instead of a designated hitter for a full season for the first time in his career.
*Eduardo Nunez didn’t even have an everyday job at the beginning of the 2016 campaign, but he ended the season as a top-20 fantasy hitter. The 29-year-old has always ran quite a bit, so him netting 40 stolen bases shouldn’t have been a total surprise given that he bested his previous career high in plate appearances by 257. The 16 home runs was the real shocker, though, as Nunez has never shown that kind of power before and hits a lot of balls on the ground. That total is certain to drop in 2017 – perhaps significantly – with him calling AT&T Park home for a full season. Just four of those dingers came after the All-Star break, as Nunez fell to a .244/.297/.357 batting line in the second half after a .321/.347/.489 line in the first half. Nunez is slated for regular at-bats in 2017 and will certainly have value, especially from a stolen base perspective, but some regression here is a given.
*Buster Posey batted .288/.362/.434 with 14 home runs and 80 RBI in 2016. It was a fine season and one that was good enough to rank Posey No. 2 among fantasy catchers. However, it was also the worst full offensive season of Posey’s career. Given that he’ll be on the wrong side of 30 on Opening Day next season and has logged a ton of innings behind the plate, it’s reasonable to think that Posey’s best offensive days are behind him. The four-time All-Star and former NL MVP remains the best bet at the catcher position for fantasy purposes, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him drop back a round or two in drafts next spring.
*Who will open next season as the Giants’ closer? The ninth inning was a huge headache for manager Bruce Bochy in 2016, as the Giants blew a whopping 30 saves. Former closers Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo will be free agents this offseason, and even if one or both of them are brought back, it seems likely to be in a setup role. Hunter Strickland has been pegged as a future closer given his makeup and stuff, but he hasn’t missed as many bats as hoped and has looked shaky at times when thrust into high-leverage situations. Derek Law looks like a keeper after a fine rookie season, but it’s highly unlikely Bochy would be comfortable throwing him into the ninth inning on a regular basis. Most likely, the Giants’ 2017 closer isn’t on their roster yet. The good news for them is this winter’s free agent class of closers is pretty robust, with elite stoppers Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon hitting the market.
*Top pitching prospect and former first-round pick Tyler Beede could get a look at the major league level at some point next season. He had a nice bounce-back campaign in 2016, putting up a 2.81 ERA with 135 strikeouts over 147 1/3 innings at Double-A Richmond while showing improved velocity after it dipped in 2015. Some question how much upside Beede has, but he could be intriguing in the pitcher-friendly environment of AT&T Park.
Team Needs: The Giants might be the best bet of any team to land a marquee closer this offseason. They were connected to both Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon at the trade deadline. San Francisco will also be in the market for a left fielder, with Yoenis Cespedes representing a possible target.