2020 MLB Preview: San Francisco Giants

Welcome Back, Kapler; A Kid Who Grew Up An A’s Fan May Be Your Best Starting Pitcher

Ask Logan Webb if he liked the San Francisco Giants growing up in the town of Rocklin, outside Sacramento, Webb stops, smiles… and then doesn’t answer the question.

“I was an A’s fan,” he said during a chat with The Spitter during Spring Training. He then left the door open that there wasn’t a lot of love for the team that has made him a big-leaguer. “I didn’t like the Rangers more (than I didn’t like the Giants). Those were the 2010-2012 years and we were trying to make the playoffs.”

Butttttt, he adds, “I had friends who were Giants fans and they were always talking smack.”

Now, it doesn’t really matter who rooted for whom because everyone’s rooting for him to make it. “It’s pretty special to be able to have friends come from Sacramento to games,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”

The Giants hope Webb can be pretty cool, too. Actually, they’re hoping he can be the next Matt Cain, who was also pretty cool a decade ago. Webb certainly bears a resemblance on and off the mound. Webb is 6’1″ 223 pounds and features a fastball, curve and a changeup. Webb talked about the effort to get better.

“We’re working on adding some new little pitches, refining those,” he said. When asked what qualifies as “little” Webb smiled and said, ” little cutter action, refining my off-speed to be more of a slider than a curve ball.”

Madison Bumgarner is gone and so is retired manager Bruce Bochy. Kapler comes off two .500 seasons with the Phillies during which he used a lot of pitchers and learned on the job. He certainly showed he was unafraid to follow his instincts and computer-generated metrics. His undoing came when the Phillies spent a boat ton on outfielder Bryce Harper and didn’t improve a lick. To be fair, Washington won the World Series without Harper.

The Giants also have Jeff Samardzija (team-best 3.52 ERA among starters) and Johnny Cueto (only 13 starts in the last two years). Kevin Gausman (4.30 ERA) might work as a fourth starter. The fifth? Who knows. “Opener” and “committee” might be words used frequently this year when describing Giants games.

The bullpen had nine pitchers with ERAs under 3.00 in varying numbers of appearances. Doesn’t matter. The team lost seven of them. Replacing them is going to be huge. Sam Coonrod has a 96 mile-an-hour fastball that has eight-to-nine inches of run inside to right handed hitters. If he can figure out where it’s going he could be their closer.

For a time, “pretty cool” was San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, who used to be the team’s best player. Because of COVID-19 and fears about new, twin prematurely-born Posey baby girls getting the virus, he will not be playing. It could be to the Giants’ benefit. They have Joey Bart tearing up Double A who hit for average -.316 last year– and has 40-homer potential. In the meantime, they’ll rely on career minor-league Tyler Heineman who found something in Triple A last year, hitting 13 homers and batting .336. He gets on base and hits from both sides of the plate. He also throws out 38 percent of would-be base-stealers. Rob Brantley was in the Phillies organization last year, which was the previous home for manager Gabe Kapler and appeared in 126 games at the major league level. Brantley has the most big league experience but isn’t as good throwing out runners trying to steal (31 percent).

Last year’s feel good story, Mike Yastrzemski will try to continue to be solid and consistent. Pablo Sandoval will likely play first base for the time being since Brandon Belt is out. Brandon Crawford looked lost at the plate last year. We’ll see if he rebounds this year.

All told, there are 15 players with no major-league experience on this club. At least one of them has to be a good player, right? They could be the Miracle Mets. They could be a dumpster fire. Another .500 record for Kapler would be really surprising. As is, the loss of Bumgarner and Bochy is worth 20 wins easy. If Webb can give them half of those back, You’re still at 70 wins.

Coronavirus 60-game prediction: 24-36

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