Giants Mailbag: Which position player will have breakout 2022 MLB season?

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Giants Mailbag: Next player primed for breakout in 2022? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

In exactly seven weeks and one day, the Giants are supposed to host the Cincinnati Reds at Scottsdale Stadium. Maybe? Hopefully?

That's all we have at this point of January, hope that MLB and the MLBPA come together at some point and agree to a deal that allows for spring training games to happen on time. If they do, it'll be the official start of a new era for the Giants. 

For the first time in over a decade, they'll report to Scottsdale without Buster Posey leading the way, a topic that'll dominate those early days under the sun. Posey's retirement remains the biggest story of the offseason for the Giants and will continue to color a lot of what happens in 2022, and his presence was certainly felt when I asked social media followers for questions for our latest Giants Mailbag.

Here's a run through those questions, starting with No. 28, of course ... 

How do I get over the emotional trauma of Buster leaving without getting to say goodbye? -- smith.21

On this week's Giants Talk we discussed New Year's resolutions for the whole organization and Cole Kuiper brought up properly celebrating the 2010 team, which got robbed of a 10-year-reunion. The Giants will need to do the same with the 2012 team, so it seems likely they will try to get Posey and friends to Oracle Park at least twice this summer? That would be a great opportunity for fans to show their appreciation for Posey. 

What's the most important add: Big bat or a No. 1/No. 2 starter? -- jhoop_10

The clear No. 1 need for me at this point is to add another bat, and specifically, to add another right-handed bat. It's simplistic to just use one game to tell a story, but in this case I think it works. Go back to Game 5 of the NLDS, when the Giants assumed they would be seeing a lot of Julio Urias -- they were right -- and check out the lineup: Posey hit third and Kris Bryant hit fifth. We know Posey isn't coming back, and there's a decent chance Bryant ends up elsewhere. 

The Giants will be just fine at the start of the year with this rotation, and honestly, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood had long stretches of 2021 where they pitched like All-Stars. But they need some balance for their lineup. The only right-handed batter on their roster right now who got more than 300 at-bats last year is Wilmer Flores, and they prefer for him to be in a part-time role. 

Is the Giants re-signing Kris Bryant even a possibility anymore? -- haileyllanez

Ahh, a perfect segue to our next question, and it was one a lot of people asked. Farhan Zaidi made it very clear after the NLDS that the Bryant move was an "all-in" push for 2021, and he didn't seem particularly optimistic about a reunion.

"He's going to have a long line of suitors," he said in October. "So we'll just have to see how that develops."

A lot has happened since then, though, and I think most of it has actually helped make a reunion more likely. The Giants weren't going to hold off on other business all offseason as they waited for Bryant, but they've filled most of their pitching holes and done so relatively cheaply, and Posey's retirement a few weeks after that end-of-season press conference has made Bryant's right-handed bat even more appealing.

Other potential big-market suitors like the Dodgers (Chris Taylor) and Mets (Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar) have filled their need in other ways. When you look at Bryant's remaining market and what the Giants need, it makes a lot of sense for the sides to reconnect whenever this lockout is over. 

Do you think the KB rental for Kilian and Canario can now be seen as a loss? -- pasqualeesposito0

There were probably some rumbling stomachs in the front office when Caleb Kilian threw six perfect innings in the Fall League championship game, but the Giants shouldn't have any regrets. Bryant had his struggles in September, but there's no doubt that he helped them reach 107 wins and win the NL West, and he was one of the better players in the NLDS as the Giants nearly advanced. 

Let's all promise to never turn this into another Beltran-for-Wheeler. The Giants absolutely should have gone for it in July and Bryant was the perfect fit. It's a move they needed to make and one they should not shy away from making again given how deep their farm system now is. 

Marco timeline? -- luciano.memes

Marco Scutaro will be part of any 2012 reunion the Giants have, and hopefully someone with the organization has a sense of humor and long memory and Scutaro gets his very own celebration on a Monday.

Marco Luciano had a .577 OPS and one homer in 36 games after his promotion to High-A, so expect him to start 2022 back in Eugene, with a promotion to Double-A Richmond at some point. That should put him in line to push to reach the big leagues in 2023, when he'll still be just 21 years old. 

What's left on the Giants offseason to-do list? What positions are they in need of? -- jasonautry

As mentioned above, they need another right-handed bat or two, and if Bryant isn't the choice they should probably find someone who can give them some innings at third behind Evan Longoria. They still need a fifth starter, and then a sixth starter, and then a seventh, and so on. Expect them to try and add a lot of pitching depth once the offseason resumes. 

You could also make the argument that they need a second baseman, but ... 

Which 4A player do you see breaking out this year? I think it's Thairo Estrada/Jaylin Davis. -- zwick.josh

I think you absolutely nailed it. The other day I was thinking about how the Giants could theoretically still go big at second base, but the more I thought about it, the more I kind of just settled on, "I think they should play Thairo Estrada a lot and see what happens." 

Zaidi feels the same, as he mentioned after the season that Estrada and Steven Duggar were two young players the Giants need to get in the lineup more often. With Donovan Solano likely gone for good, there's a runway for Estrada -- who had a .813 OPS last year -- to take over as the main right-handed partner for Tommy La Stella.

Is Tyler Beede going to be healthy for the start of spring training? -- jack.l.ramage

Beede went on the IL with a lower back strain in August, but said via text that he's going to be ready to go whenever this all restarts. He might be the most intriguing pitcher in camp, too.

He's still only 28, and this is what he was doing the last time we saw him in the big leagues before Tommy John effectively wiped out two seasons:

Any new Covid safety protocols at the ballpark for the 2022 season? -- joexdobz

It's too early to know, and not just because of the lockout. MLB, the Giants and the City of San Francisco will wait and see where Omicron takes us. There's no doubt there's an appetite from businesses to get back to normal -- as you've seen nationally the last couple of weeks -- but this city has always been extremely careful, so I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of last season's rules remain in place in April. I wouldn't expect anything additional, though. 

Who will be the ace and now face of the Giants? -- grill_chill_repeat

There's no doubt the Giants want Logan Webb to be their ace and believe he will be, and he looked ready for it in October. One thing that stuck me as I watched all of that was just how unbelievably popular he became with the fan base over the final few weeks of the season. The cheers for him and Camilo Doval really stood out, and a hot start to 2022 should set Webb up to be one of the faces of the franchise moving forward. 

Brandon Crawford was approaching Posey last year in terms of reactions from the crowds, and he and Captain Belt certainly enter 2022 as the focal points for fans and the media. If there's a FanFest, they get the best time slot on stage. The door is open for a new generation to start taking over, though. Maybe Joey Bart finally starts to make his mark?

When will Manfred resign? -- owen.watson

Here's the thing about Rob Manfred: Every time he's trending because of something ridiculous MLB has done, it takes all of the spotlight off of 30 ownership groups. I think he's done a horrible job as commissioner. I also think he has 30 bosses who are thrilled that he takes all of the public heat. He's not going anywhere. 

As a top-tier team, is it time to change our mindset and spend on a few elite free agents? -- jscottybriggs

Above everything else, what stands out to me about Zaidi and Scott Harris is their discipline. They have a very clear vision of the correct way to build a roster and operate a franchise, and they don't stray from it. You even saw that with their splashiest move, when they waited until the very last second to acquire Bryant for an extremely reasonable price.

So ... they're not going to spend just to spend. They weren't going to throw $100 million at Kevin Gausman and they won't overpay to bring Bryant back, and it's hard to argue with the results so far. But I do think there's a tipping point.

This is still a big market and it's still extremely expensive to spend a night at Oracle Park, and it's not really fair to the fan base to sit in the middle of the pack when it comes to payroll and constantly churn through players that those fans are supposed to fall in love with. Gausman's contract would have hurt at some point, but he also became a fan favorite, and that stuff should matter. 

This front office is mostly going to stay away from big deals, but I do think that at some point they're going to have to make a few moves that feel uncomfortable and find their version of Mookie Betts. They saw in the NLDS how incredibly valuable that can be. 

Is there a possibility Heliot Ramos makes the opening day squad? -- _woahwah_

The Giants will let him take his best shot in Scottsdale again, but the current plan is for him to get more time in Triple-A. Ramos had a .254/.323/.416 slash line across two levels last year, which is very promising given his age, but never forced the Giants to think about his big league debut. 

Even if he has -- another -- huge spring, it'll be hard to crack the rotation unless there are a couple of injuries. The Giants have Mike Yastrzemski, LaMonte Wade Jr., Austin Slater, Darin Ruf and Steven Duggar set to return in the outfield, and that's before you even get to the likelihood of adding another veteran when free agency resumes. 

Is there a possibility that the 2022 MLB season gets delayed? -- edh_510

Everyone always assumed that February would arrive and the two sides would see spring training approaching and they would get serious about making a deal, and that's where I've been for the past month. And then this week the major stories in baseball were that there's been absolutely no progress and that MLB Network let go of the sport's biggest newsbreaker -- Ken Rosenthal -- because he's been mildly critical of the commissioner in the past. 

I still think opening day arrives on time, but I'm less optimistic about that than I was a week ago. What a mess.

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