Complete San Francisco Giants 2015 Spring Training Preview

Dan MoriCorrespondent IFebruary 16, 2015

Complete San Francisco Giants 2015 Spring Training Preview

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    Madison Bumgarner and Bruce Bochy with the World Series and MVP trophies.
    Madison Bumgarner and Bruce Bochy with the World Series and MVP trophies.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The San Francisco Giants won their third World Series title in five years last season. The victory cemented manager Bruce Bochy's ultimate entry into the Hall of Fame.

    The celebrations and the victory parade in downtown San Francisco were epic moments for the city and Giants fans everywhere.

    General manager Brian Sabean could not celebrate for too long, as the business of baseball keeps moving forward. Sabean had to retool the Giants roster, which he did, albeit without making a real big splash in the free-agent market.

    We are only a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. Let's take a detailed look at how the Giants stack up for the 2015 season. 

    All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

    Contract data courtesy of baseballprospectus.com.

Offseason Recap

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    Casey McGehee replaces Pablo Sandoval at third base.
    Casey McGehee replaces Pablo Sandoval at third base.USA TODAY Sports

    The San Francisco Giants entered the offseason with five free agents, Pablo Sandoval, Michael Morse, Jake Peavy, Sergio Romo and Ryan Vogelsong.

    Of these five, only two, Sandoval and Morse, departed.

    General manager Brian Sabean went hard after Sandoval, but in the end, the Kung Fu Panda opted to sign with the Boston Red Sox. As reported by CSNBayArea.com, the money was close, but Sandoval wanted a new challenge.

    Sandoval was fresh off a great postseason and was the World Series MVP. He signed a five-year, $95 million contract with Boston. There will undoubtedly be the initial honeymoon period, but if Sandoval does not produce, or gets woefully out of shape, this has the potential of not ending well for him.

    If Sandoval struggles, the Boston media and fans will not be as forgiving as the media and fans of San Francisco have been to him. Nevertheless, the Giants will miss Sandoval's enthusiasm, exuberance and clutch postseason performances.

    In 2014, Sandoval played in 157 games, the most of his career. He hit .279, with an OBP of .324 and OPS of .739. The Panda had 16 home runs and 73 RBI. That RBI total was a bit low considering Sandoval had 588 at-bats and hit in the heart of the Giants batting order. 

    Morse signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Miami Marlins. In 2014, Morse quickly found a home with the Giants, as he fit in well with the team and the fans also liked him.

    The Giants will miss Morse's power, as he clubbed 16 home runs and drove in 61 runs, in only 438 at-bats.

    Morse was a defensive liability in left field, however. That factor, along with Morse being injury prone, likely made Morse too big a risk for the Giants to bring back on a two-year deal.

    The Giants were able to retain their other free agents, as Peavy, Romo and Vogelsong all will return.

    Two key additions will be joining the Giants for the 2015 campaign. Casey McGehee will replace Sandoval at third base and Nori Aoki will replace Morse in left field.

    After spending the 2013 season in Japan, McGehee returned to play for the Marlins in 2014. In 616 at-bats, McGehee hit .287, with an OBP of .355 and OPS of .712. He has four home runs, but drove in 76 runs. Outside of the lack of home runs, McGehee's numbers were very similar, if not better than Sandoval.

    The Giants traded a couple of mid-level minor league pitching prospects for McGehee. He just agreed to a $4.8 million contract for the 2015 season, thereby avoiding arbitration.

    McGehee was named the 2014 NL Comeback Player of the Year. He should provide solid offensive production, albeit without the same power as Sandoval. He is also a decent third baseman defensively. 

    Aoki signed with the Giants as a free agent and will start in left field. He is a completely different player than Morse and can help the Giants in several different ways.

    While Morse's main asset was his power and RBI potential, Aoki has speed, can get on base and is a better defensive player. We shall see if these assets can offset the loss of power with Morse gone.

    In 2014, with the Royals, Aoki hit .285, with an OBP of .349 and OPS of .710. He had only one home run and 43 RBI, but did swipe 17 bases.

    Aoki signed a one-year, $4.7 million deal, with a club option for 2016. He also gives the Giants another lead-off hitter, in the event of injury to Angel Pagan. 

    The Giants also made a serious run at starting pitcher Jon Lester, but were unsuccessful. He ultimately signed a six-year, $155 million deal with the Cubs.

    The fact that the Giants missed out on both Sandoval and Lester gave them more money to spread around to players like McGehee, Aoki, Peavy, Romo and Vogelsong.

    Since the Giants did not saddle themselves with any huge contracts, it should give Sabean more flexibility to make deals at the trade deadline and also following the 2015 season.

Injury Updates Entering Camp

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    Tim Hudson had surgery on his ankle in early January.
    Tim Hudson had surgery on his ankle in early January.USA TODAY Sports

    Heading into training camp, the San Francisco Giants have five players who are major injury concerns. 

    Matt Cain had elbow surgery in August to remove bone ships. After making 30 or more starts in each of the previous eight years, He made only 15 in 2014.

    As Cain was working towards recovery, his ankle flared up and he had a bone spur removed in late September. Michael Hurcomb reports on CBSSports.com about Cain's progress and his outlook for spring training.

    The Giants need Cain to be healthy, strong and productive. His successful return is one of the main keys to the Giants' 2015 season.

    Another starter, Tim Hudson also had ankle surgery this winter. The surgery was to remove bone spurs in his left ankle, the same one that was injured in 2013.

    Hudson's surgery was in early January and at the age of 39, one must wonder just how quickly he can recover.

    Hudson had an outstanding start to the 2014 season, but as the year progressed, he faded. Hudson will turn 40 in July and this is likely his final season. It will be interesting to see if he can make a successful return from the surgery and maintain his effectiveness over the entire season.

    Offensively, the biggest injury concern is center fielder Angel Pagan. He played in only 96 games in 2014 and 71 the year before.

    Pagan had back surgery in September and a balky back is always problematic. Pagan is a dynamic catalyst at the top of the Giants batting order, so when he is out of the lineup, he is sorely missed. 

    Pagan has two more years left on his contract and the Giants can only hope that he can stay healthy.

    Hector Sanchez will battle Andrew Susac for the backup catcher job. Sanchez suffered multiple concussions last year, as foul balls rocketed off his catcher's mask.

    Susac likely has the inside track on the job because he played well in the latter part of the season. In addition, if Sanchez suffers more concussions this season, his career will be in jeopardy.

    The final player the Giants have injury concerns about is Marco Scutaro. After being a major contributor to the Giants' 2012 world championship run, Scutaro played in 127 games in 2013 and was an All-Star selection.

    Unfortunately, back problems cut his season short and he did not sufficiently recover to contribute in 2014. Scutaro played in only five games last year.

    In December, Scutaro had spinal fusion surgery and while the Giants designated him for assignment, they will retain him and see him through the rehab process, as reported by the Associated Press on ESPN.com.

    Realistically, it will be a minor miracle to see Scutaro playing again in a Giants uniform.

Coaching Staff Preview

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    Giants third base coach Tim Flannery retired to devote more time to his family and his music.
    Giants third base coach Tim Flannery retired to devote more time to his family and his music.USA TODAY Sports

    The San Francisco Giants have had a rare continuity within their organization. It starts at the top with Brian Sabean, the longest tenured general manager in baseball, with over 18 years with the Giants.

    Manager Bruce Bochy is entering his ninth year as the Giants' manager. He has led the team to three World Series titles in the past five seasons. 

    The Giants coaching staff is also filled with veteran coaches. Pitching coach Dave Righetti will be in his 15th season with the Giants. He teams with bullpen coach Mark Garner, who is entering his 12th season.

    Bench coach Ron Wotus is the longest tenured in the Giants organization, with 26 years of service. He has been coaching in San Francisco for the past 16 years ans also coordinates the defensive positioning of the fielders. The Giants do a lot of shirting in the infield and it is Wotus who is directly responsible for that.

    Batting coach Hensley Meulens enters his fifth season and the assistant hitting coach, Joe Lefebvre, will be in his 20th season with the Giants. Lefebvre has had many different jobs within the organization.

    Bill Hayes is in his 15th season with the Giants and will take over coaching first base. Roberto Kelly likely moves from the first base coaching box over to third base. Kelly is in his seventh year as a coach in San Francisco and replaces Tim Flannery, who retired.

    The one major change to the coaching staff is with Tim Flannery. He coached third base for the Giants for the past eight years. Flannery, who is a close friend of Bochy, has retired.

    Henry Schulman reports on sfgate.com why Flannery has decided to step down. Flannery explains his decision and this is a must read for all Giants fans. Flannery will be missed, as he was a favorite among both the players and fans.

    Coaching data provided courtesy of sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com/coaches.

    The strength and continuity of the Giants coaching staff is a major reason things function smoothly in San Francisco. Bochy is one of the best managers in baseball and he is surrounded by good people.

Lineup Preview

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    Buster Posey leads the Giants into 2015.
    Buster Posey leads the Giants into 2015.USA TODAY Sports

    The starting lineup for the 2015 Giants seems fairly set, barring injuries or any surprises.

    The Giants batting order will look something like this:

    • Angel Pagan         CF   .300 / .342 / .731 / 3 HR / 27 RBI / 16 SB
    • Joe Panik              2B   .305 / .343 / .711 / 1 HR / 18 RBI
    • Brandon Belt        1B   .243 / .306 / .755 / 12 HR / 27 RBI
    • Buster Posey        C     .311 / .364 / .854 / 22 HR / 89 RBI
    • Hunter Pence        RF  .277 / .332 / .777 / 20 HR / 74 RBI / 106 Runs
    • Casey McGehee   3B  .287 / .355 / .712 / 4 HR / 76 RBI
    • Brandon Crawford SS .246 / .324 / .713 / 10 HR / 69 RBI
    • Nori Aoki              LF   .285 / .349 / .710 / 1 HR / 43 RBI / 17 SB

    Included are the individual player stats from the 2014 season.

    The only real competition for jobs appears to be for bench spots. A key is whether the Giants opt to go with 12 or 13 pitchers.

    Typically, the Giants will carry 12 pitchers. However, they play 23 games in 24 days to open the season, so there is a very real chance they will carry 13 pitchers.

    Giants manager Bruce Bochy will most likely not want to overtax his pitching staff early in the year, especially with Tim Hudson and Matt Cain both coming off surgeries. If the Giants carry 13 pitchers, that leaves only four open roster spots for position players.

    The Giants bench will likely include:

    • Gregor Blanco   OF  .260 / .333 / .707 / 5 HR / 38 RBI / 16 SB
    • Joaquin Arias    Inf   .254 / .281 / .581 / 0 HR / 15 RBI
    • Andrew Susac   C     .273 / .326 / .792 / 3 HR / 19 RBI
    • Travis Ishikawa OF  .274 / .333 / .731 / 2 HR / 15 RBI

    If the Giants opt to go with five reserve position players, Matt Duffy will likely make the team. Ishikawa beats him out for the last roster spot, if the Giants opt to carry 13 pitchers. Ishikawa is a proven pinch hitter and Duffy also has minor league options remaining.

    In order to be a productive offense, the 2015 lineup will need to build more rallies, play some small-ball and hit in the clutch.

    The Giants lost a lot of power when both Michael Morse and Pablo Sandoval departed in the free-agent market. The pair combined for 32 home runs in 2014, whereas their replacements Aoki and McGehee hit only five. 

    Both Aoki and McGehee have higher on-base averages than their predecessors. The Giants will need to make that count in terms of more productive rallies.

    A key to the 2015 season will be the emergence of Belt. If he struggles or has another injury plagued season, it will be very tough for the Giants to generate enough offense to consistently compete. 

    Belt will be 27 years of age in April and is entering his fifth season in San Francisco. Now is the time he needs to step it up.

Starting Rotation Preview

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    Madison Bumgarner is the ace of the Giants pitching staff.
    Madison Bumgarner is the ace of the Giants pitching staff.USA TODAY Sports

    The Giants have seven potential starters for only five spots. This depth is a good thing as other than Bumgarner, the other projected starters are all over 30 years of age. In addition, both Matt Cain and Tim Hudson are coming off surgeries.

    Here is the projected starting rotation for the Giants:

    • Madison Bumgarner  18-10 / 2.98 ERA / 217.1 IP / 194 Hits / 43 BB / 219 K / 1.090 WHIP
    • Matt Cain                   2-7 / 4.18 ERA / 90.1 IP / 81 Hits / 32 BB / 70 K / 1.251 WHIP
    • Jake Peavy (SF stats)  6-4 / 2.17 ERA / 78.2 IP / 65 Hits / 17 BB / 58 K / 1.042 WHIP 
    • Tim Hudson                9-13 / 3.57 ERA / 189.1 IP / 199 Hits / 34 BB / 120 K / 1.231 WHIP
    • Tim Lincecum            12-9 / 4.74 ERA / 155.2 IP / 154 Hits / 63 BB / 134 K / 1.394 WHIP

    Included are the individual player stats from the 2014 season.

    Outside of Bumgarner, there are major question marks with each of the other four starters.

    Cain and Hudson are both coming off surgeries. In addition, Hudson is 39 years of age and one must wonder how much gas he has left in the tank. He started the season very well, but struggled in the second half and postseason.

    If Cain and Hudson can return, stay healthy and have good seasons, it will go a long way towards solidifying the Giants' rotation.

    It will also be interesting whether we see the Peavy we saw in San Francisco after the trade, or if he reverts to his performance in Boston. Peavy was dreadful over the first half of 2014, but was rejuvenated after the trade to the Giants.

    Peavy rejoined Bruce Bochy, who was his manager during Peavy's best years in San Diego. Peavy was also energized by the playoff chase and quickly became a fan favorite.

    Can Peavy continue to pitch well over the course of an entire season, or will he revert to his poor performance over the first half of 2014?

    In Boston, in 20 starts last year, Peavy went 1-9, with an ERA of 4.72 and WHIP of 1.427. In 124 innings, he allowed 131 hits and 46 walks, while striking out 100. Peavy will be 34 years of age in May and it remains to be seen if he can continue the stellar performance he had in 2014 with the Giants.

    Lincecum is also a major question mark. He pitched well early on, even throwing the second no-hitter of his career against the Padres in June. Over the summer, he lost his command and confidence.

    Lincecum was so bad that he was pulled from the rotation and largely became a forgotten man in the bullpen. Lincecum is at the end of his contract, so it will be important for both he and the Giants that he have a good year.

    It is unrealistic to expect all of the questions surrounding the projected starting rotation to be answered positively over a long season.

    This makes the retention of Ryan Vogelsong extremely important, as he started 32 games in 2014. He will likely start the season in the bullpen, as long as Hudson and Cain are ready.

    However, look for Vogelsong to be the first pitcher called upon if the Giants need another starter.

    Yusmeiro Petit is another fall-back option and has done a good job as a long reliever and spot starter. Petit is so valuable as a long reliever that he will only be called upon to join the rotation if something bad happens to two of the Giants starters. 

    By retaining Vogelsong, general manager Brian Sabean added much-needed depth to the pitching staff. The Giants have some good young starters working their way through the minor league system, but none are ready just yet.

    Under Bochy, the Giants have typically relied on good pitching and defense. If their starting rotation holds up, the Giants will once again be in the thick of the race for a postseason berth.

Bullpen Preview

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    Santiago Casilla will open the season as the Giants closer.
    Santiago Casilla will open the season as the Giants closer.USA TODAY Sports

    One of the strengths of the Giants in their three world championship seasons has been their bullpen.

    Look for the Giants to carry 13 pitchers to open the season, which means eight relievers will make the 25-man roster. San Francisco will play 23 games in the first 24 days and the extra arm will be needed.

    The Giants bullpen will likely include:

    • Santiago Casilla      3-3 / 1.70 ERA / 58.1 IP / 35 Hits / 15 BB / 45 K / 19 Saves / 0.857 WHIP
    • Sergio Romo           6-4 / 3.72 ERA / 58 IP / 43 Hits / 12 BB / 59 K / 23 Saves / 0.948 WHIP
    • Jeremy Affeldt         4-2 / 2.28 ERA / 55.1 IP / 47 Hits / 14 BB / 41 K / 1.102 WHIP
    • Javier Lopez            1-1 / 3.11 ERA / 37.2 IP / 31 Hits / 19 BB / 22 K / 1.327 WHIP
    • Jean Machi               7-1 / 2.58 ERA / 66.1 IP / 45 Hits / 18 BB / 51 K / 0.950 WHIP
    • Yusmeiro Petit        5-5 / 3.69 ERA / 117 IP / 97 Hits / 22 BB / 133 K / 1.017 WHIP
    • Ryan Vogelsong      8-13 / 4.00 ERA / 184.2 IP / 178 Hits / 58 BB / 151 K / 1.278 WHIP
    • George Kontos        4-0 / 2.78 ERA / 32.1 IP / 24 Hits / 11 BB / 27 K / 1.082 WHIP

    Hunter Strickland will also get a long look, but it's likely the Giants will want him to get a little more seasoning and refine the command of his slider and improve on his change-up.

    Strickland was a September call-up and impressed with his high-velocity fastball. He appeared in five games and threw seven innings without giving up a run.

    However, opposing hitters quickly adjusted to Strickland and learned to sit on the straight fastball. Because he lacked command of the slider and off-speed pitch, Strickland struggled in the postseason. In 8.1 innings of work, he allowed six home runs.

    Watch for left-handed reliever Steven Okert. He began 2014 at High-A San Jose, then was promoted to Double-A Richmond. In a total of 68.1 innings of work, Okert allowed only 57 hits and 22 walks, while striking out 92. His ERA was 2.11 and he had a WHIP of 1.156. Okert's 24 saves led the Giants' minor league system.

    Okert also was extremely impressive in the Arizona Fall League. He appeared in 10 games, tossing 12 innings. He allowed only five hits and a walk, while striking out 17. Okert allowed just one run, for an ERA of 0.75. His WHIP was also dominant at 0.50.

    It's likely the Giants will move Okert to Triple-A to start the 2014 campaign, but he may be able to force himself on to the big league roster to start the season.

    Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti are masters at having the bullpen ready. The Giants bullpen should be strong and a major asset to the team.

Prospects to Watch

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    Kyle Crick is the Giants' top starting pitching prospect.
    Kyle Crick is the Giants' top starting pitching prospect.USA TODAY Sports

    Although unlikely to break camp on the Giants' 25-man roster, five top prospects to keep an eye on are starting pitcher Kyle Crick, reliever Steven Okert and outfielders Gary Brown, Mac Williamson and Daniel Carbonell.

    Crick is the prized starting pitcher in the Giants' minor league system. He is still a year of two away, but has a live arm and good stuff.

    In 2014, Crick played for the Giants' Double-A affiliate the Richmond Flying Squirrels. He impressed with 111 strike outs in 90 innings of work. However, control was an issue, as he also walked 61.  In order to make it to San Francisco, Crick will need to improve his command.

    Okert was discussed in the previous slide and is the heir apparent to Javier Lopez or Jeremy Affeldt from the left side. We may even see him in San Francisco later this year.

    Brown was originally ticketed to stardom by the Giants brass. He was the 24th overall selection in the 2010 amateur draft. However, Brown has struggled with consistency at the plate.

    Brown has excellent speed and is a fine defensive player. The question is whether he can hit enough to make an impact for the Giants.

    In 2014, in Triple-A at Fresno, Brown had 536 at-bats. He hit .271, with and OBP of .329 and OPS of .722. These are rather pedestrian numbers for the offensively-charged Pacific Coast League. Brown did steal 36 bases, but was thrown out 20 times. 

    Brown is 26 years of age and the time is now if he hopes to have a productive Major League career.

    Williamson is the Giants' best power-hitting threat in the minors. Unfortunately, he needed elbow surgery in 2014 and had only 85 at-bats this past season. He played a DH role and will need to prove that his arm is healthy enough to play the outfield in 2015.

    In 2013, his last full season, Williamson hit .292, with an OBP of .375 and OPS of .879. He also belted 25 home runs and drove in 89 runs in 520 at-bats. This was accomplished in San Jose, so look for Williamson to open the 2015 season in Richmond.

    If Williamson still has trouble with his arm, look for him to be moved to first base, or be used as trade bait with an American League club.

    Carbonel was signed by the Giants in June of 2014. The Cuban national played 21 games with San Jose. In 93 at-bats he hit .344, with an OBP of .390 and OPS of .928. He also impressed in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .314, with an OBP of .368 and OPS of .854.

    Carbonel is still likely a year or two away, but is a prospect worth watching.

Position Battle Predictions

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    Andrew Susac impressed after his call-up in late July.
    Andrew Susac impressed after his call-up in late July.Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    The Giants' are a veteran team with a fairly set roster. The main position battle will be for the backup catcher spot. Hector Sanchez opened the 2014 season with the job, but repeated concussions cut his season short. Andrew Susac was called-up to San Francisco in July and did a very good job backing up Buster Posey.

    Susac impressed with how he handled himself behind the plate and with his adjustment to Major League pitching. He looked like he belonged.

    In 88 at-bats with the Giants last year, Susac hit .273, with an OBP of .326 and OPS of .792. He had three home runs and 19 RBI. More importantly, his defense was solid.

    Due to the concussions, 2014 was almost like a lost year for Sanchez. He had 163 at-bats, but hit only .196, with an OBP of .237 and OPS of .538. He had three home runs and 28 RBI.

    Susac is the front-runner for the job and Sanchez will need to have a big spring to win it back. Sanchez must also avoid additional concussions, as his career is in jeopardy at this point.

Giants Preseason Summary

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    Bruce Bochy celebrates and shows off the World Series trophy at the Giants victory parade.
    Bruce Bochy celebrates and shows off the World Series trophy at the Giants victory parade.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The San Francisco Giants have won three world championships in five years. The team suffered some key losses with the departure of Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse, but the remaining players from 2014 and the pitching staff is returning intact.

    In addition, with Bruce Bochy, the Giants have one of the best managers in baseball. He knows how to get the most out of his p;layers and put them in the best position to succeed.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres have improved themselves and shown a willingness to spend big money. With a relatively quiet winter in terms of player acquisitions, one must question whether general manager Brian Sabean has done enough.

    Sabean has proven that he can build a championship roster and deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt. He also has been able to make some key deals at the trade deadline to put the Giants in a position to win in all three of the Giants' championship seasons.

    Although this is not an even numbered year, you cannot count the Giants out. They have proven that if they can get into the postseason, they have what it takes to get the job done.

    On paper, especially in the national media, the Giants get very little respect. However, they are once again World Series champions and nobody can take that away.

    The key for the 2015 season will be good health and the successful return of Matt Cain and Angel Pagan. If the Giants can get the pitching they need, they will be in the hunt for a playoff berth all season.

    2015 promises to be another exciting year. Hang on and enjoy the ride!

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