San Francisco Giants
2017 Record: 64-98
Last Place, NL West
Team ERA: 4.50 (16th)
Team OPS: .689 (30th)
What Went Right
After a good but un-Buster Posey-like showing in 2016, Posey was back to being Posey in 2017. Among catchers with at least 400 plate appearances, the five-time All-Star was second only to Gary Sanchez with his .861 OPS. After some unluckiness from a BABIP perspective in 2016 led to an ugly .239 average, Joe Panik rebounded in 2017 to hit .288. Eduardo Nunez batted .308/.334/.417 for the Giants before being shipped to the Red Sox at the trade deadline for a couple prospects. The 4.42 ERA hides what was a terrific season from Jeff Samardzija. The veteran right-hander put up a 3.60 FIP, 1.14 WHIP and 205/32 K/BB ratio over 207 2/3 frames. Only Corey Kluber, Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw had a better K/BB ratio than “Shark’s” 6.41 mark. His overall numbers were pretty pedestrian, but Chris Stratton improved his standing with the club by holding a 2.27 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 39 2/3 innings across his final eight starts. He had a pair of 10-strikeout games during that stretch.
What Went Wrong
At the top of the list would certainly have to be Madison Bumgarner suffering a strained AC joint in his left shoulder in a dirt bike accident in late April, an injury that cost him nearly three months of action. The Giants were already off to a poor start at 6-10 when MadBum went down, and in all likelihood this probably wouldn’t have been a winning team regardless. However, they certainly seemed doomed when their ace went down. The pitching disappointments don’t end there. Johnny Cueto was limited to 25 starts due to blister and forearm issues and held an unsightly 4.52 ERA. Matt Moore stayed healthy for 31 starts, but he never found any footing, finishing with a 5.52 ERA. Closer Mark Melancon battled a forearm issue all year and eventually had surgery in September to repair his pronator muscle. On the hitting side of things, Hunter Pence’s OPS barely cracked .700 (.701) in what was easily his worst ever offensive season. Brandon Belt had a solid .823 OPS and hit 18 homers over 451 plate appearances, but he had another campaign end early due to a concussion.
**Will Madison Bumgarner be his old self in 2018? Bumgarner posted a 3.43 ERA and 73/16 K/BB ratio over 84 innings after returning from his shoulder injury. That’s good, but a step down from what we’ve been accustomed to. His velocity crept back up slowly but surely as the season went along, but it was down a bit again for the second straight year. Betting against a competitor like Bumgarner is risky business, but with all the innings piling up for him over the years and coming off a season with a shoulder injury, not to mention him being on a team with a questionable offense, it’s fair to question whether the upside with MadBum is what it once was.
**Johnny Cueto was fantastic in his first season in San Francisco. His second season in the Bay? Eh. Cueto was limited to 25 starts in 2017 due to blister and forearm issues, and he put up a pedestrian 4.52 ERA over those outings. The veteran right-hander’s velocity has been tumbling in the wrong direction, and a flexor tendon injury can sometimes be a precursor to Tommy John surgery. The risk associated with Cueto now should be baked into his cost in fantasy drafts next spring, but will he be worth it?
**Closer Mark Melancon battled a pronator muscle strain in his right forearm for the bulk of the season and finally had surgery in September. It’s not a common injury for a pitcher, but Melancon is slated to resume throwing in mid-December and is expected to be 100 percent for spring training. Melancon posted a 4.50 ERA across 32 appearances when he was able to take the mound, but he had a 29/6 K/BB ratio over 30 innings and his velocity was fine. He’ll be the Giants’ closer if healthy, but Sam Dyson – who proved to be a solid acquisition from the Rangers – will be on standby again if Melancon encounters more bumps in the road.
**Does Hunter Pence have anything left in the tank? You used to be able to count on 150+ games and great production from Pence every year, but now neither of those things are very good bets. Pence played 134 games this season, which was easily his highest total in three years, but he still missed about a month of action due to injury. As far as the production goes, well, it wasn’t there, as Pence managed a lowly .701 OPS and 86 OPS+. Pence no longer runs anymore, and he’s averaged fewer than 12 home runs over the last three seasons. He’s also going to turn 35 just after Opening Day next year. The three-time All-Star’s days as a mixed league asset may very well be in the rear view mirror.
**Brandon Belt in 2017 continued to display excellent patience at the plate and also make a lot of contact for a middle-of-the-order hitter. He also was well on his way to his first 20-homer season before suffering yet another concussion in early August. It was the first baseman’s fourth known concussion, which is obviously a troubling trend. Belt has always seemed to be on the verge of a big breakthrough for fantasy owners but has never been able to do it even as his production has been consistently good. A major reason for that, of course, is that he plays in the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the game, and that won’t change anytime soon since he’s under contract through 2021. The good news with Belt is that, as should be the case with Cueto, the risk with him should be baked into his cost on draft day.
Team Needs: A big bat for the Giants is a must. A left fielder certainly would make a lot of sense, and the Giants have been connected to a few of the big bats that could be available, from Giancarlo Stanton (if he’s traded) to Justin Upton (if he opts out). They might also consider a third baseman, but Christian Arroyo should be given a chance at an everyday job sooner rather than later.