AnalysisNL West

San Francisco Giants 2021 Season Preview

Another offseason has come and gone and the San Francisco Giants are gearing up to play 162. The Giants have made plenty of moves this offseason, but have they made enough? What about the moves they did make? Were they any good? Let’s take a look to see where they are heading into 2021.

2020 Season in Review

2020 Record: 29-31, 3rd in NL West

Team MVP: Mike Yastrzemski

Team Cy Young: Kevin Gausman

2020 was a very good year for the Giants considering where many people thought they were going during Spring Training 2.0. Many people had the Giants finishing nowhere near .500, but they finished only two games under. With elite play from Donovan Solano, Brandon Belt, and Yastrzemski the Giants were able to put together an offense that put up 4.98 runs/game, good for the 8th best mark in baseball. Their pitching is where they really struggled, as they ranked 22nd in ERA+ and it certainly showed. Some would say the management was also an issue that may have caused this team to miss the playoffs, but that’s neither here nor there.

Off-season Review

Key losses from 2020: RHP Shaun Anderson, RHP Sam Coonrod, LHP Drew Smyly, LHP Tyler Anderson, LHP Tony Watson, RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Jeff Samardzija

Notable Free Agent Additions: C Curt Casili, 2B Tommy La Stella, RHP Nick Tropeano, RHP Anthony DeSclafani, LHP Alex Wood, RHP Matt Wisler, LHP Jake McGee, RHP Aaron Sanchez

Notable Trades: Acquired OF Lamonte Wade Jr. from the Twins for RHP Shaun Anderson

The Giants did a lot of adding this offseason, but no one move was all too flashy. I would call these moves notable in regards to the rest of the Giants roster. They lost a whole lot of pitching, including a few reliable starters and a very solid bullpen piece in Tony Watson. They did go out and sign many under the radar free agents, looking for that diamond in the rough like Farhan Zaidi likes to do. A lot of these guys were pitchers, since pitching was the biggest weak point for San Francisco in 2020. Curt Casali was brought in to give Joey Bart the extra year he needs in the minors before he truly is major league ready. Wisler, Sanchez, and McGee are brought in to retool the bullpen that desperately needed the help. Wisler will be a good middle reliever and an upgrade over the likes of Coonrod, who was sent to the Phillies in the offseason. McGee also will shore up the late innings in close games, another one of the Giants’ struggles last season. Sanchez may not find himself in the bullpen, but rather in a rotation that is starting to stack up quite nicely.

The most interesting of the Giants offseason signings, however, finds himself residing on the infield. Tommy La Stella was signed to a 3 year/ $18.75 MM contract and he can play second, third, and even a little bit of first. La Stella had a 127 OPS+ in 228 plate appearances in 2020 and the Giants are hoping to see that high OPS+ carry into 2021. The infield is a bit crowded with Longoria, Crawford, Solano, Belt, Dubon, and Flores already established on this Giants team. We could certainly see a lot more Solano at short and days off for Longo to get La Stella at bats day in and day out. With Jason Vosler also having an awesome spring, there is plenty of competition on the Giants infield. Even with Belt expecting to miss the beginning of the season due to an off-season surgery, it isn’t quite clear who is going to be in the opening day lineup. 

Two of the biggest impact signings were Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood. There were a lot of starting pitchers that walked this off-season in Samardzija, Smyly, Anderson, and Cahill. Wood may not be able to start the season when April 1st hits, but he will fill one of the holes that was left by the plethora of now former G-men. Wood’s last two years spent with the Reds and Dodgers weren’t exactly excellent, but a career ERA+ of 113 and FIP of 3.51 makes him a prime candidate to have a bounce back year in a brand new city. DeSclafani is also a great candidate for a bounce back season. He had a 103 ERA+ in his 5 years in Cincinnati, and had a great 2019 campaign where he pitched his way to a 120 ERA+, a 9.0 strikeout per 9, and 2.7 WAR. Working with Buster Posey is going to do wonders for his game, and the front office hopes they can get production similar to what they were able to get with Smyly or Cahill.

The bullpen as a whole looked to get better this offseason. Wisler and McGee should be significant upgrades over guys like Coonrod and Gott. Tropeano has looked nice this spring and seems like he can have an impact for the Giants this season. Getting Reyes Moronta back is going to be absolutely huge for the bullpen. Moronta missed all of 2020 with a torn labrum, but in his two previous seasons and change with the Giants, he has pitched to the tune of a 152 ERA+ and a 3.38 FIP. He will be a rock in that bullpen just as he has been in the past. Caleb Baragar has a lot of upside after having a pretty solid rookie campaign in 2020, same goes with Sam Selman; and this pair of lefties out of the bullpen can definitely give the Giants plenty of chances for good matchups. Jarlin Garcia was probably the biggest surprise on the 2020 Giants. In 18.1 innings, Garcia gave up ONE earned run. ONE. He certainly earned himself some more responsibility on this 2021 team as Kapler hopes he can replicate this success moving forward. The current most interesting reliever in baseball, Tyler Rogers, is hoping for a good season pitching from his submarine arm angle in 2021. He was a bit of a let down in 2020, but pitching from about a foot off the ground will always get you some decent results from guys who haven’t seen it.

2021 Season Preview

Projected Roster

Projected Lineup:

1) Austin Slater, LF

2) Mike Yastrzemski, RF

3) Brandon Belt, 1B

4) Donnovan Solano, SS

5) Buster Posey, C

6) Evan Longoria, 3B

7) Mauricio Dubon, CF

8) Tommy La Stella, 2B

Projected Bench: 

SS Brandon Crawford

IF Wilmer Flores

OF Darin Ruf

OF Alex Dickerson

Projected Rotation: 

SP1 Kevin Gausman

SP2 Johnny Cueto

SP3 Anthony DeSclafani

SP4 Logan Webb

SP 5 Alex Wood

Projected Bullpen: 

CL Jake McGee

SU Tyler Rogers

RP Reyes Moronta

RP Matt Wisler

RP Jarlin Garcia

RP Caleb Baragar

RP Sam Selman

LR Aaron Sanchez

I do want to point out that this is what I think a fully healthy roster should look like. This projection could be very different come opening day since there are a number of injuries that are expected to keep guys out of opening day. Belt and Wood are two guys to keep an eye on, if they cannot go opening day, I would say we could see Jason Vosler, who has had an incredible spring, and Nick Tropeano take their spots. There are also several guys who will have a role on the team throughout the season that may not crack the roster come opening day. I would expect guys like Wandy Peralta, Lamonte Wade Jr., and Camilo Doval to all be up and playing good baseball as well.

This offense can be potent if guys are able to stay healthy. Give Brandon Belt a fully healthy season and he is an all-star. Dubon has reworked his stance and he looks to have a better eye this spring, boosting his OBP. Austin Slater is the answer in left field that the Giants have been struggling to find. Mike Yastrzemski can put up the numbers of a top 15 player in baseball. I am expecting a monster season from the Giants most exciting player. It really is a tough call to think who is going to get the most playing time between Brandon Crawford or Tommy La Stella. Crawford can be very hot and cold and has been in San Fran his entire career, amassing 25.2 WAR along the way. Crawford had a not so good 2019, but outside of that year, has been a pretty average player if not slightly above average who plays fantastic defense. La Stella has the better bat for sure, and Solano can be shifted to short so La Stella can move over to second. This is what I think we may see a good amount of the time. Crawford will certainly get his at bats, and if Solano regresses super quickly, you may even see Crawford more than Donnie Barrels. If anyone loses playing time, I think it would most likely be Evan Longoria, since Solano and La Stella can both play third. In any case, all of these guys are going to get plenty of at bats, and Kapler can play around with the lineup to give the team some pretty favorable matchups.

The pitching looks to be much improved since last season. I’m excited to see DeSclafani and Wood come into this rotation and hopefully put up some impressive numbers. Logan Webb also looks to have gained a ton of confidence and control, only bettering his case as the future of the rotation. The bullpen also seems to be in much better shape with the additions of McGee, Wisler, and possibly Tropeano or Sanchez. It’s all going to come down to how the bullpen is managed, as that really seemed to be a talking point among some baseball fans when Kapler trotted out Trevor Gott to blow three straight games before looking elsewhere to close games. The bullpen certainly has the talent to be lockdown after the starters do their thing, but only time will tell here.

Record Projections

FanGraphs Projected Record: 77-85, 3rd place NL West

PECOTA Projected Record: 75-87, 4th place in NL West

Personal Projection: 81-81, 3rd place in NL West

This team is a lot better than a lot of people think they are. Yes, they play in a division with both the Dodgers and the Padres, but I still think that this team can play .500 baseball. FanGraphs has the Giants 4 games under an even record in 3rd place in this division. I think the Giants are the best of the rest in the NL West. The Dbacks and the Rockies certainly are not teams that anyone is expecting to make any huge run. I think these rankings really do show how dominant the Dodgers and Padres are expected to be. The Giants will be better against these teams than most people expect, good enough to push them to that even .500. PECOTA has them ranked below the Dbacks by about 4 games, I absolutely think this will not be the case, as I think the Giants are a much more talented team than Arizona. The Rockies have only gotten worse since trading Nolan Arenado and Coors will definitely play its role when the Giants visit Colorado.

The offense is largely the same, and looks to have even gotten better. The pitching looks to be much improved as well. Hopefully Gabe Kapler can make the right moves in games to help the Giants get to the .500 team I know they can be.

FINAL Thoughts

The Giants made a plethora of small moves, nothing that is going to rock the boat, but still moves with impact. They seem to have much more depth than they have had in previous years with Jason Vosler looking great in spring and some pitching pieces that may be up and down between Sacramento and San Francisco. The bullpen seems to have taken a good step forward, and the young guys now have some games under their belts. This team is going to be a lot more fun to watch then people think. When they give the Dodgers or the Padres a decent game come June or July, people are going to have to keep their eye on them; they might just have some fun.

Diego Franco-Carreno

@djfc22 on Twitter. Student at Boise State University c/o 2021. Math and baseball.

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