Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Newsletter Excerpt, March 29, 2023 -- "Season Preview, Teams #24 - #19"


This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

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19. San Francisco Giants (80-82, 728 RS, 756 RA, fourth in National West)

Having missed out on Aaron Judge and then pulling out of the Carlos Correa deal, the Giants built Cubs West, an expensive roster with no stars, just a lot of two- to four-win players. I can’t say they didn’t learn their lesson last year -- they did try to sign stars -- but the effect will probably be the same, a strong supporting case looking around for something to support. Michael Conforto, Mitch Haniger, Sean Manaea...none of these guys are top-five players on a great team.

So now the question is how good are Farhan Zaidi, Gabe Kapler, and their army of coaches. I believe the Giants have the ability to turn one-win players into three-win players, and to get five wins out of two two-win players by figuring out what they do best and putting them in position to succeed. I don’t think that’s enough. It wasn’t enough last year, and Buster Posey isn’t walking through that door. I’m stealing this from Prospectus’s Craig Goldstein, who said of the Cubs, “They’re like a meal made out of side dishes.” That’s the Giants, plenty of carbs and veggies, no meat.

The Giants’ winter underlines the need to develop your own core. They’ve done it before, of course; the three-time champions were largely homegrown and developed. There may be another group on the way in Kyle Harrison, Marco Luciano, Vaun Brown and more; last year was a rough year for the prospects in this system, and whether another core is coming hangs in the balance. It’s not too late for Luis Matos and Patrick Bailey to get back on track, and the Giants could really use at least one to do so. Every team needs to develop their own guys, because there’s never any guarantee that the free agent you want will sign with you, even if the money is right. Free agency isn’t the house’s foundation, it’s the expensive addition you tack on after the kids leave for college.

Of all 30 teams, the Giants have the smallest projected range.

The Upside: Kapler and Co. squeeze as much as possible from their platoons and matchups, while the free-agent pitchers stay healthy and the Giants beat out the Diamondbacks for third place at 84-78.

The Downside: Last year, but with the growing acceptance that the 2021 season was a bit of a fluke, and that the Giants just don’t have the talent base to compete with the Padres, Dodgers, and even the Diamondbacks as they fall to 76-86.

Random Player Comment: I’m struggling to find an interesting player. Blake Sabol was the fourth pick in December’s Rule 5 draft, taken by the Reds from the Pirates and immediately traded to the Giants. He’s 25, was a catcher in college, turned into a catcher/outfielder by the Pirates. He’s hit well at four levels since the pandemic, and appears set to make the Giants as the kind of third-catcher/fifth-outfielder/bench bat we haven’t seen on rosters in 30 years. It may only last until Hanigar and Austin Slater get healthy, but it’s fun to watch for now.

Mostly, though, he’s a Trojan. Fight on, Blake!