March 28th, 2016

My spring look at the San Francisco Giants

There is something about the Giants Spring Training facilities in Scottsdale that makes it stand out from all the rest. It really is special. One of the older parks in the Valley Of The Sun, the home of the Giants is a constant sea of orange and black on game days. Some of the most passionate fans in baseball flock to the downtown Scottsdale area to take in the sights, sounds, scents and the special scene created in the area. Restaurants and watering holes do a fantastic business. Little carts carrying fans can be seen roaming the streets as the different types of food compete for everyone’s attention.
The park itself has every imaginable food and drink stand. A huge section in right field is devoted to fans that pay a premium to sit, eat, drink and watch the game with their friends. It really is a happening.

So while virtually every Spring Training venue in both Florida and Arizona get huge boosts in the month of March, an entire city gets lifted on its shoulders and is the focal point of the lives of thousands and thousands of fans, day in and day out. Even on off days, Giants fans mingle and munch along Scottsdale Boulevard in Old Town Scottsdale.

On the field, the Giants have produced another exciting roster for those diehard fans.
If they stay healthy, the Giants should be right in the center of the National League West pennant race.

Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto have assumed new roles in the rotation behind ace Madison Bumgarner. It gives the Giants a solid top three in their rotation. Their AT&T home park plays large for hitters, giving Samardzija and Cueto a comfort level. In the game I scouted, Jake Peavy was the starter. He had his cutter working well and provided some quality innings against a mixture of White Sox veterans and prospects.
Peavy has to stay healthy with a strong and pain free back, solid arm strength and confidence in his command. He needs to provide at least six solid innings a start and keep his team in the game.

I do think Chris Heston is going to be crucial to the Giants. If Matt Cain or any of the other starters should falter, Heston will be the man. He’ll be important to the club. Maybe sooner than later.

And that brings me to my biggest issue with San Francisco. IMO they don’t have enough pitching depth to weather a rotation storm.

One my favorite Giants prospects is Mac Williamson. He started in left field and had difficulty tracking balls hit into the high, bright Arizona sky. He started the spring hitting very well, but has tailed off. He didn’t make the opening day roster, but Williamson has power enough to break open a close game. I think we’ll see him in San Francisco before the season ends.

I was impressed with Kelby Tomlinson who played third base in this game. He flashed some very quick hands and feet on hard hit ground balls to third. His agility and reaction times were superb in this game. He did scuffle with balls hit in the air due to the high sky, but his range and arm strength are very solid at the hot corner. I think he can hit a bit as well. Will he have the power and batting average required of a third baseman? I really don’t know.

The catching situation is a bit of a concern. Buster Posey was scratched from the game and an official report on his condition may reveal nothing serious. But backup catcher Andrew Susac remains on the shelf. If he can’t go on opening day, Trevor Brown will get the call as the second catcher. He caught the game I watched and certainly served as a good shepherd for his pitcher.

To me, Brandon Crawford is one of the most underrated players in the game. He is an outstanding defender. And he can hit. He also hits with power. Few people outside of San Francisco ever talk about Crawford when shortstops are discussed. For me, he is one of the core players on the club and a very stabilizing infielder. One of his qualities is an ability to hit in the clutch. I really like Crawford. A lot.

My favorite of all the Giants is Hunter Pence. He’s a fan favorite as well. I was with the Astros during the time Pence was with Houston. He has awkward fundamentals, to put it mildly. But man, can he play. Hits well. Fields well. Is a team leader. Gets that impact knock. If he keeps his health this year, Pence could lead the Giants right through the postseason. He’s that good, and a bit underrated as well. Especially in fantasy drafts.

The new catalyst at the top of the order is Denard Span. He should be able to set the table for the bigger bats further down the order. Span has to use his speed and attempt to steal in order for the Giants to realize his value. The team isn’t loaded with power, so the “small ball” run creation model will be important. Along with Joe Panik and Matt Duffy, they provide excellent on-base guys for the thumpers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share my opinion of why I think the Giants are always contenders. Always in play. I believe they have the best manager in the game in Bruce Bochy. He knows how to handle his players. He knows how to handle pitching. He lets everyone play, using his entire roster and keeping them fresh. He is aided by an outstanding pitching coach in Dave Righetti, one of the best there is. To me, that combination is worth multiple victories every year.

Next blog: Colorado Rockies

Thank you for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

And please—introduce yourself to my new column at Todaysknuckleball.com. (there is no apostrophe in todays). I’ll be writing scouting reports for SportsRag.com that appear at Todaysknuckleball. I have a four part series running starting today on scouting. That will be followed by traditional prospect scouting reports. Thanks so much.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.