Previewing the 2021 San Francisco Giants

Previewing the 2021 San Francisco Giants

A Giants season preview, questions

How could someone start a San Francisco Giants season preview without projections? Therefore, PECOTA projections were released in February. PECOTA projections have the Giants finishing the regular season 75-87, with a 0% chance at winning the division. However, take these numbers for what they are, projections. Although projections are fun, let’s take a minute to review the questions that can’t be answered, only projected, that will play a major role in the outcome of the 2021 San Francisco Giants.

The Questions

Pitching, pitching, pitching.

  • Will Gausman repeat his impressive 2020?
  • Can Johnny Cueto be the Cueto of old?
  • Can Desclafani establish himself as the team’s number three starter?

But can you do it twice?

  • Can Mike Yastrzemski continue to be an MVP candidate?
  • Is Donovan Solano really a Silver Slugger?
  • Which Brandon Belt will the fans get, first half Brandon, or second half Brandon?

Health, health, health

  • Can your body still handle 162 games, Buster Posey?
  • Why can’t Austin Slater stay on the field? He has so much potential.
  • Will gambles on injured pitchers pay off?

The questions are what makes a Giants season preview so much fun. Although no one has the answers to these questions, the San Francisco Giants could be a playoff team if the answers to all of these questions favor the Giants. However, you could say that about a lot of teams.

The San Francisco Giants had a breakout year in terms of offense. Recording top-five finishes in hits, doubles, triples, and batting average, and although close, unfortunately, no cigar. The Giants finished sixth in RBI.

With the starting lineup appearing to look very similar in 2021 as it did in 2020, expect much of the same. And don’t forget about the additions of Tommy La Stella and Buster Posey.

The Giants defense was abysmal at the start of the 2020 season. Although it did improve over the course of the season, don’t bet the house on Gold Gloves coming to San Francisco at the end of the 2021 season.

So there’s a very good offense and a middle-of-the-road defense. The difference-maker in San Francisco looks to be pitching. Although predictions are fun, pitching needs to be a primary point of conversation in this Giants season preview.

New Pitching Additions in San Francisco

San Francisco made no blockbuster moves in the offseason. Instead, Giants President Of Baseball Operations, Farhan Zaidi, elected to hand out one-year deals like mini snickers bars on Halloween.

A lot of flyers were taken on players such as Aaron Sanchez. Until this spring, Sanchez hasn’t pitched in the big-leagues since undergoing surgery to repair a torn capsule in his throwing shoulder in 2019. The 2016 AL ERA title winner is excited to get back on the mound. For the minuscule four million the Giants are paying Sanchez, Giants fans should be just as excited to see Sanchez taking the mound. Very nice low-risk, high-reward contract for the orange and black.

Another flyer was handed out to veteran starting pitcher Scott Kazmir. Sanchez not pitching since 2019 is laughable to Kazmir, who hasn’t pitched in a big-league game since 2016. Kazmir is a savvy vet that knows how to pitch. He is a three-time All-Star with a career ERA of 4.01.

Coming off a season of only 60 games, having six or seven starters will not cut it. Try eight or nine. Kazmir will serve nicely as a depth piece for San Francsico as manager Gabe Kapler is reintroduced to a full slated 162.

Here are three newcomers Giant fans should be most excited about.

The Starter

Anthony DeSclafani. DeSclafani, like a lot of people, would like to forget about 2020. He posted an ERA of 7.22 with 25 strikeouts and a teeth-grinding 16 walks in 33 and two-thirds innings of work. Giants fans are thinking, So why get excited about this guy? Although not fair to say, toss out 2020, and DeSclafani has been a reliable starter throughout his career.

Don’t forget. The Giants signed newly appointed opening day starter Kevin Gausman in the offseason of 2019. Much like DeSclafani, Gausman had just come off the worst statistical year of his career. The change of scenery worked wonders for Gausman. So, only time will tell if the “Gausman Project” will work the same on DeSclafani, but it’s something for fans to be excited about.

The Reliever

Jose Alvarez. The risk of taking a comebacker to the head is one of the scariest realities pitchers have to deal with. If taking one to the head is the worst thing that could happen, 2020 introduced Alvarez to the second worst thing. In other words, Alvarez took a 105 mph comebacker to the groin in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Astonishingly enough, Alvarez was able to finish the play and record the out before tumbling to the ground.

One word to sum up Jose Alvarez as a player, consistent. From 2015-2019 Alvarez never appeared in less than 64 games. His ERA never exceeded 3.88, posting a career-best 2.71 in 2018. Expect the Venezuelan born left-hander to be a key piece in the Giants bullpen in 2021

The Closer

Jake McGee. A day and night memory for Giants fans, the closer. In 2019, the Giants had an All-Star closer in Will Smith. In 2020 they, well, did not. The closer by committee San Francisco implemented last year didn’t work. Although Kapler hasn’t announced McGee as the team’s regular closer, signs point in that direction.

McGee has some experience, recording 45 saves in his career, and his 2020 stats scream closer. In 2020, McGee posted a 2.66 ERA, recording 33 strikeouts while issuing only three walks. McGee also keeps the ball in the yard, serving up only two long-balls in 24 appearances. The statistic that really jumps off the page is McGees 14.6 SO9. (Strikeouts Per Nine Innings Pitched)

A Returning Giant to Watch

Brandon Crawford: Crawford is already a household name in San Francisco, but why would the career .250 hitter, with minimal power and a fielding % that has dropped off every year since 2016, be someone to look forward to? Because he has everything to play for.

Crawford is a real Bay Area guy. Born and raised in California. A lifelong Giants fan that was drafted by his favorite team. Crawford came up through the Giants system’s ranks and won two world series titles with the club.

Crawford has said a lot of goodbyes. First, it was goodbye to Bruce Bochy and Madison Bumgarner. Next, It was goodbye to Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence. Entering the final year of his contract, the thought has to have crossed his mind. Could this be Brandon Crawford’s final season in San Francisco? Will Crawford make it to the end of the season as a member of the San Francisco Giants?

There’s a flip that switches when someone’s back is against the wall. It’s that fight or flight mentality. Crawford doesn’t want to leave San Francisco, and the Giants don’t have much shortstop depth. Although the shortstop market this offseason will be loaded, it’s not out of the realm of possibility Crawford plays his way back onto the Giants lineup in 2022.

San Francisco has a great short-stop prospect in Marco Luciano coming up through the system. At 19 years old, Luciano won’t be ready for a few years. Look for Crawford to make a serious push at remaining on his lifelong favorite team in 2022 as prospects continue to develop.

Closing Out the San Francisco Giants Season Preview

No more 60 game season. No more expanded playoffs. Baseball has weathered the storm, and the sun has risen in 2021. For San Francisco Giant fans, 2020 was bittersweet.  The Giants had a playoff birth slip through their fingers, bitter. The Giants were contending for a playoff spot at the end of the year, sweet. There weren’t many Giants season previews written for the 2020 season predicting San Francisco to be anywhere near the playoffs. Can the Giants continue to exceed expectations in 2021? Only time will tell.

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Players Mentioned

Brandon Crawford, Bruce Bochy, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, Jake McGee, Will SmithAnthony DeSclafani, Kevin Gausman, Jose AlvarezAaron SanchezScott Kazmir, Gabe Kapler, Tommy La Stella, Buster PoseyJohnny CuetoMike Yastrzemski, Donovan Solano, Marco Luciano, Brandon Belt, and Austin Slater,

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