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SF Giants' 2024 season preview and predictions

 We've reached the finish line of spring training and it's time for the games to start mattering. The Giants are a much different team than the one we saw report to camp six weeks ago. Did they add enough over the winter and spring to catapult them into playoff contention? What are some keys to success this season? We'll get into all that and more in the 2024 season preview.

A winter that started out a little slow and concerning for Giants' fans, really came into form in the spring and was capped beautifully by a Blake Snell signing just over a week before opening day. The Giants are indeed a much improved team from the one we saw in 2023, just how much better they become will rely a lot on three big things.

Three Keys to 2024

1. Health

Of course, you can say this about every team in baseball and in any sport. In order for them to reach their end-season goals, they'll have to have had stayed relatively healthy throughout the summer. But for the Giants I've highlighted perhaps the five most important players who would be detrimental if lost for any extended period of time. Not surprisingly, it surrounds pitching and defense.

Logan Webb- This is a pretty obvious one. Even with Snell in town, he heads up the rotation and the quality of innings he provides this team really cannot be overlooked or replaced. As long as he avoids missing a handful of starts, you can pretty much pencil him in for around 200 innings and a sub-3.50 ERA.

Blake Snell- The exciting thing about the Snell signing was that it gives the Giants a 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation that can go up against anybody. Snell may not give them as many innings as Webb, but they absolutely need him out there for 28+ starts. As long as he hits that mark, with this improved defense and throwing in this ballpark, he could find himself back in the Cy Young conversation, and the Giants will need that. Plus he's got plenty of incentive to do it.

Patrick Bailey- Not quite the star power as the two names above him, but we saw what kind of impact Bailey has on the pitching staff last year. That should only get better in year two. And although his offense waned down the stretch last season, he showed a knack for clutch situations. Tom Murphy presents a nice offensive option behind him, but there aren't many in the game that have as much impact behind the plate as Bailey. His presence back their is crucial to this team's success.

Thairo Estrada- Estrada was the Giants' most consistent bat for much of last season. We saw the offense kind of crumble last year when he was shelved in July with his wrist injury. He also provides strong defense up the middle. A lot of people around the club view him as a potential all-star second basemen this year. The Giants also just don't have much middle infield depth, so if he were lost for significant time, your looking at a huge drop-off with whoever fills in for him.

Jung Hoo Lee- Much like Estrada, they don't really have another guy who could fill in at center behind him long term. At least in the field. They have some corner options in both the infield and outfield, but up the middle, there aren't a whole lot. Also, Lee's deployment at the top of the order gives the team identity and stability. 

2. Improved outfield production

The Giants had one of the least productive outfields in baseball last season, in both facets of the game. Their overall defense was well below average, and everyone out there battled injury and/or had really down years.

Jung Hoo Lee was signed to come in and hopefully provide instant upgrade both in center field and at the top of the lineup. It remains to be seen how quickly the KBO star adjusts fully to MLB level pitching, but his glove should provide an upgrade right off the bat. If we're judging by spring training, I'd say his bat skills are translating quite well (.414/485/.586 slash line in 33 plate appearances). Not expecting that production level in the regular season, but anything .275+ with a .350+ OBP would be acceptable.

The corners are going to have to produce much better than they did last season. They'll need at least one of Michael Conforto and Mike Yastrzemski to step it up from last year. Big seasons out of them would be great, but all I'm asking for is them to perform closer to their career averages.

Conforto played in 125 games and had brief stretches where his bat looked good, but ultimately had a rough season at the plate and in the field. There is hope that now that he's fully recovered from his shoulder issue from 2022, and won't have the rust of missing a full season, he'll be primed to return closer to his career standard. What that looks like is a slash of .253/.353/.457 and 20+ home runs. That would be huge.

Mike Yastrzemski just has to stay healthy. He's had hamstring and shoulder issues that sidelined him for big chunks of time last season. When he was out there though, he was their best outfielder. He's a gold glove caliber right fielder which makes up a little for the mediocre offense. If they could get 140 games around his career line of .240/.330/.460, with his glove, that would work. If they got something closer to the '19/'20 version of Yaz, that would be epic.

If one of those two corner guys aren't cutting it, there's 22 year-old Luis Matos knocking on the door, and he absolutely will get a chance.

3. The youngsters have to emerge

Speaking of Matos, he's one of three 22 year-olds who really could have sway in how this season goes for the Giants. The other two are Kyle Harrison and Marco Luciano.

Harrison looks like he'll be the only one to start the year on the big league roster, and he's going to be thrown into the fire quickly, taking the ball in game two in San Diego.

The signing of Snell and hopeful early return of Alex Cobb does take some of the pressure off Harrison, but the Giants strength has to be their starting pitching, and Harrison has to not only stick, but produce like he's capable of. 

Matos, coming off perhaps the most impressive spring of any Giants' hitter, has gotten stronger in the offseason and I have a really good feeling about this upcoming year for him. As I said, he's just laying in wait for an injury or a prolonged slump until he gets a shot and once that happens, I expect him to be here for good this time.

Luciano is the real wild card though. His early spring performance was downright abysmal, but he finished off on a high note. Nick Ahmed may be the the teams shortstop early on, but the plan is for Luciano to take that job eventually. If he does and he can perform at the level he's capable of and they're hoping, it would be adding big power to a premium position.

If the Giants want to reach their potential as a team, they're going to need to rely on production from at least two of these three guys, if not all three.

Now, obviously if the Giants want to be a playoff team, much more is going to have to go right than the three areas I mentioned above. These are just of the most importance in my view. 

The area I didn't mention, but nevertheless holds incredible importance, is the bullpen. They have their ace closer, and some nice 7th and 8th inning guys, but the one area that's a little up in the air are those last few arms rounding out the group.

They have some nice intriguing options like Daulton Jefferies, Juan Sanchez, Landen Roupp, Erick Miller and Spencer Howard. Maybe not household names but guys who have thrown well in spring and have earned a shot. 

Opening Day Roster Projection

Catchers: Patrick Bailey, Tom Murphy

Infielders: LaMonte Wade Jr., Wilmer Flores, Thairo Estrada, Nick Ahmed, Matt Chapman

Outfielders: Jung Hoo Lee, Michael Conforto, Mike Yastrzemski, Jorge Soler (DH), Austin Slater 

Utility: Tyler Fitzgerald

Starting Pitchers: Logan Webb, Blake Snell, Kyle Harrison, Jordan Hicks, Keaton Winn

Relief Pitchers: Camilo Doval, Tyler Rogers, Taylor Rogers, Luke Jackson, Ryan Walker, Erick Miller, Landen Roupp, Daulton Jefferies

IL: SP Alex Cobb (late April ETA), SP Robbie Ray (July ETA), P Tristen Beck (2nd half ETA)

Final Take/Prediction

From top to bottom, this roster is much better than the one they put together the last two years. Of course, a lot rides on how this rotation rounds into form with Snell coming aboard and both Cobb and Robbie Ray eventually coming back from their injuries. If in July, we see a rotation of Webb, Snell, Cobb, Harrison, Ray/Hicks and they're all healthy, this team could be a major problem down the stretch.

Last minute additions of Jorge Soler and Matt Chapman really took the offense up a notch or two. This team lacked reliable, everyday bats in the lineup last year and fixed that to some degree by bringing in three this offseason. All of them will occupy key spots in the top half of the batting order. Instead of Joc Pederson and Patrick Bailey hitting fourth and fifth, we'll see a lot of Soler and Chapman. That should make a difference.

The defense has a chance to be strong. Conforto is a bit of a question in left, and if Luciano eventually takes over short, he's going to have to be more than just a powerful presence at the plate. He's going to have to defend in order to keep that job. Other than those two, however, they're solid to above average all across the diamond.

They have depth. They have the starting pitching (once everyone is out there). They have some young pieces coming up and some solid veterans leading the way. Sure, they are in a tough division, maybe the toughest in baseball, but unless things go terribly wrong, they're going to be in the hunt for a playoff spot. I would consider it a major letdown if this group wasn't able to reach October.

I think their win total ranges from 83 on the low end to 92 on high end. I'll go with 87-75 and they make it in as the second wild card team. If they do make it in, we all know how dangerous they could be with that rotation (health permitting, of course).


Anonymous said…
I'll say 86-76. Excited about the season for sure just still have some worries about the lineup. Confident in Soler, Chappy, Estrada and Flores but I don't think any of them are all-star level hitters. Maybe Soler if he hits a bunch of jacks. Hoping Lee is legit but we don't know yet. Agree we need Matos and Luciano to be for real and pump up this lineup pretty quickly.

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